"Our interaction with nature can be either a chore to achieve a result,
or a ritual for connection, presence and transformation
Timothee Roi Diers (my friend, and wise dude)

12 June 2015

Well, the Dark MOFO fires, feasting, weird, wild and wonderful events are getting going all over town, as I sit by the fire writing to you dear readers! I'm not complaining - I'll have a wander around the events and be thrilled and proud and astonished with the rest of the people in the coming days. But for now, its just you, and me, and garden talk. And a glass of Cuban rum (thanks Elias). And some home made pork sausages a bit later, braised with vegies on the wood heater. Mmmmmm.

Stacks of sawdust

Here are a couple of towers of power. Sawdust from our tree milling episode at Easter time, stacked in wire cages, layered with urea in one stack and blood & bone in the other. We'll make a couple more stacks with different additives: molasses, and wallably / rabbit guts when we have them (sorry to the vegetarians, I don't wish to upset you, but for us its an ethical choice to eat meat that we raise ourselves or shoot on our property).

Anyway, back to the sawdust. Its a wonderful resource for making pathways in gardens (over old carpet), or using as substrate for growing delish edible mushrooms such as shiitake or oyster mushrooms. In our case we're experimenting with ways to turn it into a useful compost in situ. It may take a long while, as sawdust is extremely high in carbon, and so needs alot of nitrogen added, or time, or  both really, to break down. But for a few hours work making some experimental stacks in an out of the way spot, we can watch what happens with the different treatments over time.
A few days after my sister and I made this blood & bone laced stack I noticed a hole. Some critter has been investigating the carbon / nitrogen ratio too . . . probably a quoll.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the 'control' stack, which is just sawdust piled up. Eventually fungi will invade, maybe sprout some fruiting bodies for the bandicoots to eat. Stay tuned for an update in 12 months!

Marvellous microgreens

I'm doing an awesome project with Lissa from Sustainable Living Tasmania at the moment out at Rokeby and Clarendon Vale, running workshops with school students and adults about growing and cooking healthy food. The project was initiated by Mission Australia, and we're right in the middle of it.
One of the activities we're doing with the school groups is growing microgreens. These are teeny tiny plants that we grow in punnets or trays, to be harvested when they're just a week or so old. Not quite like sprouts, where we eat the whole thing, roots and all. Think fairy salad, and delicious tiny zaps of flavour and nutrition.

I started growing microgreens a few years ago, and got a bit inspired. I made up kits with seeds, soil, punnets and instructions for family Christmas presents. I made some 'how-to' notes, which you can download HERE.
Since my early enthusiasm I've grown them on and off - mostly peas and sunflowers which are simply stunning as microgreens - and really cheap. I use the sunflower seeds that I buy in 25kg bags for the chooks: they don't miss the odd tablespoon here and there. Its been good to revisit some of the other vegies as microgreens with the kids from Rokeby High and Clarendon Vale Primary. This week we used the microgreens that they had grown in the classroom to make a SUPER SALAD. We harvested the micros, grated some carrot, finely chopped some celery and spring onion and a leaf of mint, and mixed it all together with a dressing made with oil, red wine vinegar and a bit of Lissa's incredible back yard honey. And some pink salt! The kids (mostly) loved it, even some of the ones who were all "yuck" and "I don't eat salad" at the beginning. The entrepreneurial among them are keen to grow some more to take home or to sell to the teachers at school.

Paddock to Plate Expo

Another event that is being put on by Mission Australia in the Clarence Plains area is the Paddock to Plate Expo on Monday 22nd June. We've pulled together an all star cast to present a range of fantastic workshops for student groups and community people. Check out this stellar lineup:

Gardening advice:   James Da Costa from Hobart City Farm
Composting:            Claire Burnett from Groovy Native Permaculture
Worm Farming:        Fin Fagan, from Fin and Cara's place
Get, swap, sell:        Lissa Villeneuve from Sustainable Living Tasmania

In addition to all this dazzling talent, I hear that Bridget from Urban Farming Tasmania will be there with seeds. Come on down! Its open for all from 12.30pm.

Rhubarb rhubarb, and friends

As we approach the shortest day, and experience the deep cold of winter, its tempting to move garden activities indoors and focus on fireside browsing of seed catalogues etc. But there are still many useful things to do outdoors on cold, still, sunny days. Its the perfect time, while plants are dormant or at least slowed down, to divide and plant perennials like rhubarb, asparagus, globe artichokes, and bunching perennials like chives, garlic chives, shallots, and even garlic bulbs that escaped harvest last year.
I wrote about how to lift and divide rhubarb crowns around this time last year. Click HERE to go down the wormhole to the info in last year's newsletter. I'm going out to visit the generous fimbarista Roz tomorrow morning to help lift and divide some of her impressive rhubarb bounty. She's promised to let me take a few extra crowns away, which I'll be bringing along to divide and give away at . . .
The Dunalley Mid-Winter Pumpkin Gala Day!  Sat 20th June.
Its gonna be great fun. 10am - 2pm at the Dunalley Neighbourhood House.

Book review

This book is an updated version of David Murphy's original book "Earthworms in Australia". Its chock full of advice based on real experience and obvious passion. When I read the earlier version of this book (borrowed from Fin, thanks!) I was immediately fired up to start some large scale worm farming at our place at Bream Creek. Now we've got a big stockpile of horse poo ready to get turned into amazing rich biologically active worm castings.
David describes ways to foster and farm both compost worms, which we usually have in worm farms, and also earthworms, which live in the garden.
Something I particularly liked from my reading of this latest book is the distinction between the runoff water from a worm farm (often called "worm wee") and true vermicast solution. The 'worm wee' has filtered through castings, uneaten worm food, decomposing organic matter etc. True vermicast solution has been carefully made by mixing pure worm castings with water, and stirring over time to keep it oxygenated and to boost the bacterial population. I'll still use the worm wee . . . but also make a regular batch of vermicast solution as ax extra boost for the soil ecology.

Totally vegan delights

To help make up for my wallaby guts comments up the top, here's a workshop all about vegan food. Offered by fimbarista Sharon, the workshop includes cooking together in a small class and eating lunch. Click HERE for all info and bookings.
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