"Mr Fukuoka believes that natural farming proceeds from the spiritual health of the individual. He considers the healing of the land and the purification of the human spirit to be one process . . ."
Preface to One Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka

13 August 2015

Hello everyone! I'm feeling quite buoyant at this moment because I've just spent a lovely half hour hand weeding the small spinach plants, with the sun on my back. Ahhhhh. This wild changeable season, as winter and spring tussle it out, is very good for provoking gratitude when the sun appears and the temperature rises above about 10 degrees! It might be raining by the time I finish and send this newsletter (its an all day on-off affair).

Hand weeding in the sun, while not incredibly efficient, is a meditative, satisfying process for me. I love how my eyes tune in to patterns of stem and leaf, and the quiet tearing sound as weeds are pulled from the ground, and the rhythmic movement of pull, shake off the soil, throw into a tub.

Wasn't the snow fun! Brought out the child in many of us, I'm sure. We had snowman (and then snow-koala) building and snowball throwing with Arthur and Henry and family next door. And a quiet couple of days as jobs were cancelled around the place. Lovely. Thank goodness we had a good stockpile of dry split wood.

Obligatory Snow pics

We have to do this. First snow settling all over Hobart, right to the beaches, in nearly 20 years. I know the interwebs were FULL of snow pics . . . but here are just a couple.

Fimbarista Jess sent in this cute one (at right) of their scarecrow girl, smiling through the chilly white stuff! You may remember we featured Jess and Tom's garden in a newsletter back in December last year. Looks like scarecrow girly has survived the seasons very well!

Below left are our chooks, seen through the snow clad branches of the Japanese plum tree. The blossoms on this tree opened just a week later. Not sure if those early ones will set fruit!
Finally, the lemons (above right) had little meringue caps. Very sweet looking! The tree doesn't seem to have suffered any damage from the cold weather. A bit of snow is not likely to damage things too much - its hard frosts that will cause more problems. If you have plants (eg perennial chilli, passionfruit, cape gooseberry) that have been 'burnt' by frosts, its a good idea to resist pruning off the dead bits for now. We can expect more frosts to come, and if you prune the plant you'll just expose more healthy leaves and stems to the ravages of jack frost.

Didn't we have a loverly time . . .

Last Saturday a lovely bunch of gardeners gathered to help celebrate 7 years of FIMBY unfurling. Archie and Tino (below) came in style in the chariot pulled by their mum on her pushbike. Mum Hazel was one of our FIMBY staff for a few years and a treasured team member. After some serious feeding of the rabbits and chickens, the boys amused themselves with potting mix and pots on the deck, then took home some seed mix and a spray bottle so they could water the seeds gently.
The rest of us ate yummy food that everyone bought, drank plum syrup with soda water (it looked very snazzy!) and some nice wine, and talked talked talked gardening. Happy days! We mixed up some soil blocker mix too, and swapped seeds of a few tomato varieties. A big thankyou to all the old and new faces that came along. It was wonderful to have Juliet there - without her there would be no FIMBY!

Weed wars

Today is the first time in ages I've done any focused weeding in the garden (most recent efforts have been spent on the big garlic patch at the farm). Most things that are growing at the moment are big enough to rise above the chickweed and other usual suspects that have been chugging away through winter.

The home garlic patch is in a bed that last year grew cabbage and red onions. I discussed strategic weeding in our Oct '14 newsletter.
Its interesting to see now (in the photo above) the difference in the weed burden based on the two approaches back then. The area that had the red onions, that was kept pretty weed free, has far fewer weeds now compared to the area above it where the cabbages sailed above their sea of green. I haven't weeded this garlic bed at all, except for pulling out lots of pea seedlings that volunteered from the pea straw. I pick a green brekky for the rabbits each morning, and have been grabbing handfuls of chickweed, which they love, from all over the garden. I do need to get onto the weeds in this patch - as the days lengthen and things slowly warm up, the weed growth will surge, and garlic has slim leaves and isn't very competitive. I'll definitely try to get onto the weeds before they flower and set seed. Here's hoping for another patch of sunshine that coincides with a spare half hour in my diary!

Book review

This is a revered and important book, as much about philosophy as farming practice. Mr Fukuoka pioneered his style of "do-nothing" farming over decades at his family farm in Japan. It doesn't really mean do nothing - its all about astute observation and careful timing of sowing and other key interventions. His winter grains and rice are grown without cultivation, without flooding the fields for most of the growing season, without pesticides, without imported fertilisers, and still yield at least as well as crops grown nearby with conventional methods. Even for us folks not planning to grow rice, there is so much to learn here.
In the words of Wendell Berry, who wrote the preface to this edition: "Mr Fukuoka has understood that we cannot isolate one aspect of life from another. When we change the way we grow our food, we change our food, we change society, we change our values. And so this book is about paying attention to the relationships, to causes and effects, and it is about being responsible for what one knows.

I'm about to embark on another re-reading, which I do every coupla years. I'm always moved and inspired by what I read. Highly recommended.

Sneak preview!

Here's a glimpse of some of the exciting things happening at the Rosny Child Care Centre this week. FIMBY garden fairies Fin and Michael have been installing garden beds, following a design we did last year in collaboration with the kids and parents who use the centre. There will be heaps of growing beds for vegies, herbs, berries and fruit; hidden mushroom gardens; chooks, worms, compost, rainwater collection, log fences for balancing on, and much more! The children are watching us work through the glass doors which will open out onto this sunny front patch once its all finished. I wish I could show you pictures of them - they are so funny! You should have seen them when the truck arrived - excited! They are documenting the process with photos, and love to show us the photos they are taking  . . . every 5 minutes.

We'll have a planting day with the families who use the centre in a few weeks, and hopefully remember to take some photos so you can see the lovely finished results.

Gnarly Kiwi

THIS is why we recommend you don't let your kiwi vines twirl and twist around wire trellis etc. The gnarly bit of wood you can see in the picture, which is horribly deformed by the wire trellis and fence, started out as a slender twisty tendril, looking for things to twine around. To prevent this sort of problem, you can loosely tie growing vines (same for grapes) to the front of your supporting trellis. In summer once the flowers have formed, cut off the curly twisty ends of long vine branches. Leave about 8 - 10 buds on the branch to have laterals next year to play with and to bear fruit. Be ruthless!
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