September update

Bumblebees, blossoms and goslings!

September brought the vernal equinox and the start of Spring! We are still desperately awaiting rain, but we have had two or three misty, drizzly days that usually characterise Spring. Although stressful, it has taught us the importance of conservative water usage. All the more reason to farm regeneratively, building healthy top soil, that can store more water!

Mulching

We have investigated some mulching and composting techniques and are currently on the hunt for wood chips! We will lay these throughout the orchard this year so that they can firstly mulch the area but also start to decompose and build up the top soil and micro-organisms in this area for planting next year.

IMG_7074
Our Orchard with bird netting to protect young figs, peaches and apricots

Chickens

The chickens have done a great job in their mobile tractor of aerating the soil around the fruit trees which can help break any disease cycles. We have already seen a lot of fruit on our trees compared to last year!

Goslings and grazers

We had great excitement last week when our goose hatched 12 goslings! The very proud Mom and Dad have been incredible parents. We have cooped the young family around their nest, which Mommy Goose cleverly chose to lay right by the house for protection! The aerial predators (and ground predators, such as Elliot!) are less likely to interfere close to the house. We have ordered another poultry net as they are going to quickly outgrow their little nursery. Geese are great animals to have on the farm as their input costs are very low. They are purely grazers, eating grass at rapid rates. They then kindly redistribute the grass, along with micro-organisms, in their poo which fertilises the area. We feed our geese some seed, especially during winter, and now for the Mommy Goose to build up some weight again. A goose sits on eggs much longer than a chicken and they can lose up to a third of their constitution in the 30 – 34 days of brooding! The little family will soon be moved around the orchard with a mobile poultry net, mowing the lawn for us and fertilising. Our other female goose is still laying so we are waiting to see if she will start to sit soon too. We have one hen on eggs too, due to hatch in the next 10 days. So spring is a very exciting time. Watching these tiny little babies grow, and the natural instincts of the parents, really does fill one with such hope! When surrounded by goslings and chicks, the world is really not such a bad place and we consider ourselves truly blessed! But it also shows us the power and beauty of nature and natural systems. We can help protect those babies but the Mom and Dad will do a way better job than we could ever. We should follow their lead. When man and the natural world work together, as we have been designed to do, incredible things can happen!

Market Garden

Our market garden is coming along really well. The first 6 beds are sprouting with radishes, carrots, lettuce and rocket. We have just planted our next 6 beds with the same to produce a continuous supply of these vegetables as they become ready for harvest. As we are farming regeneratively, our primary aim is to build topsoil so all farming activities are to benefit the soil and micro-organisms that make everything happen. To do this, we needed to do a bit of work preparing the area for planting as the land was very compacted. We first used a roto-tiller to pull up the grass that was left on top of the soil to decompose over the last few months. Using a broadfork style implement, we dug deep into the soil to soften it, but not turn the soil. Turning soil, such as through deep tilling, brings all the good bacteria and fungi to the surface where they immediately begin breaking down organic matter. This is great for growing in the short term but in the long run, it is detrimental to soil health by not building topsoil as well as some loss of bacteria in this process and a release of carbon into the atmosphere. Part of regenerative agriculture is the process of farming carbon, ensuring the carbon is deposited into the soil. This aids plant growth as it is a necessary ingredient for photosynthesis but also prevents carbon being released into the atmosphere. On a large scale farm, the release of carbon through tilling (including that it is usually done with machinery that have their own carbon releases!) is a major contributor of environmental damage. (click on the pictures for descriptions)

Photos (clockwise from left): the market garden sprouts; the seeder – seed is added to the clear hopper. As the seeder is pushed through the bed, the front wheel creates a furrow, seeds are dropped in and the back wheel gently covers them again; the seedling nursery and microgreens; beds before planting with beds after seeding below showing the close spacing; more sprouting!

Back to the broadfork – The broadfork is a brilliant tool! Similar to a large garden fork but with the handle is just below chest height, the actual fork part has a wide bar for standing on and long thin tines. Through careful technique and shifting of body weight, the tool breaks up the soil but, without the hard muscle work, it is not an exhausting activity. We used a homemade version similar to the Roebuck Fork (check out this cool farm in New Zealand http://www.roebuckfarm.com/). Layers of our homemade compost (using garden matter and cow manure) were piled on top of the beds so that planting is a no-dig activity so as to not disturb the soil too much. The seeding machine was rolled up and down the bed to get correct spacing of seed, in a dense arrangement, and the rest of the growing is up to God! Much of the research for our market garden has been based on the work of Curtis Stone http://theurbanfarmer.co/.

We have also planted loads of onions and are in the process of planting potatoes to provide a winter crop. Our subsistence veggies are also producing beautifully. Another example of the beauty and bounty of nature! We have more spinach than we know what to do with (luckily for having 16 geese who make light work of this yummy green though!), peas, swiss chard, carrots and waiting in the wings are butternut, pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, edible flowers, parsley, mint and coriander.

Photo above: the round bed with onions and herbs last month and this month

Lots on the go, with lots of lessons being learnt in the process!

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