Saturday, June 26, 2010

Agroecology at home and abroad

February harvest from inner-city patch: tommy toes, chillis, green peppers and spaghetti squash

Apparently in February, while I was in Uganda, my partner was trying valiantly to eat his way through the spaghetti squash (Cucurbita pepo) harvest. I planted a few in early spring and by January they were threatening to take over the garden.

Nick Romanowski in his amaranth patch, March 2010.
In March I went to Grains and Grasses workshop run by Nick Romanowski on his property in the Otways. In the pic above, Nick is in his amaranth patch showing us different varieties.
Chestnuts drying on rack at Nick Romanowski's

Romanesco zucchinis at Nick Romanowski's place
These amazing zuchinis apparently keep well for months out of the fridge due to their thick, tough skins. I think the variety is Romanesco.

Autumn on the swale
On the swale, there has been good growth on the nurse trees, especially the tagasastes. We had to irrigate regularly throughout the long dry summer.
Good growth on the swale, Autumn

The compost tea system has been scaled up to a 1000-litre tank, purchased from eBay. On the advice of a local compost tea expert, I'm now using fish hydrolysate instead of seasol in the additives (fish hydrolysates are fish parts digested into liquid form by natural enzymes at cool temperatures). I also invested in a good backpack sprayer with a nozzle that sprays relatively large droplets and adjustable pressure to keep the pressure low. We had enough tea to spray all the trees on the swale, including the nurse trees, as well as the other 20-odd fruit and nut trees on the property.

View of the compost tea tank from the top: the blower is attached to the side of the tank. The blower hose enters the top opening and coils through the tank, blowing air into the tea. The tea bag is suspended in the tank. Additives, including the fish hydrolysate, are added directly to the tea through the opening in the tank.
Chip ready to be spread out over the back of the dam.

Another big job that my partner and I undertook was applying chip (chip from trees felled on the property) to the back of the dam, and planting it out with native (mostly indigenous) shrubs, grasses and groundcovers.
With the help of my dad on his tractor, nicknamed Nigella (don't ask), my partner and father spread the whole lot over the back of the dam in just one afternoon.

The plantings have taken longer, and we've been doing 50-odd plants each weekend. We source most of the tubestock from an excellent local reveg nursery, Peninsula
Bushworks. Species include hop bitter pea (Davesia latifolia), Knobby club rush (Isolepsis nodosa), Australian indigo (Indigofera Australis), Poa labillardieri, Poa poiformis, and Lomandra longifolia.

Plantings on the back of the dam.

Eating from the patches
In May I harvested some horseradish from the Peninsula herb patch, planted a year or so ago, by digging around the root and breaking off a piece. I wasn't sure what to do with it so I tried grating it and adding vinegar. Oh boy was it good - we had it with steak, and added it to potatoe salad and then the rest disappeared on sandwiches. It was really hot and so very tasty.

Horseradish going strong, May 2010.
The stalwart Jerusalem artichokes turned on a bumper crop again, so much so that I decided to leave most of the tubers in the ground, and will just dig them up as needed, rather than freezing them like I did last year. We've been eating them raw, sliced thinly in salad with rocket, which now grows wild all around the compost heap pretty much all year round, as well as in soups and risottos.
Jerusalem artichoke and rocket salad
Apart from the Jerusalem artichokes, rocket, potatoes, and herbs, there has been little coming out of the patches, mostly because I've been busy with study and a new job. But we did get an amazing tamarillo harvest from the tree in the inner-city patch which my partner turned into chutney.

Tamarillo chutney, ready to be put in jars.
Tamarillo chutney

I've updated the links section with some new websites, including a US Library of Congress bibliography for wild edible plants that includes links to some great websites on the subject. I've also been reading the US Union of Concerned Scientist's report, Failure to Yield, about GM crops, and have been checking out some of the excellent news stories in Raj Patel's feeds.

UN on board with agroecology

Courtesy of Raj Patel's news feed comes that story that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter is about to release a series of reports urging a rethink of current mainstream agricultural policies in favour of agroecology.

Another issue being tackled by de Schutter is the increasingly rapid pace at which developed countries are buying agricultural land in the developing world. Apparently these large-scale acquisitions have accelerated since the 2008 global food price rises, and are on an upward trajectory.
"Between 15 and 20 million hectares of farmland in developing countries have been the subject of transactions or negotiations involving foreign investors since 2006. This figure is equal to the total area of farmland in France and to a fifth of all the farmland of the European Union. The land which has been most in demand is that which is close to water resources and can therefore be irrigated at a relatively low cost in terms of infrastructure, and land which is closest to markets and from which produce can be easily exported. Among the main target countries in sub-Saharan Africa are Cameroon, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,5
China is said to have acquired 2.8 million hectares in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to create the world’s largest oil palm plantation (New Zealand Herald, 14 May 2009)." (Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter: Large-scale land acquisitions and leases: A set of minimum principles and measures to address the human rights challenge, December 2009, UN General Assembly).
De Schutter's 'minimum principles' to guide such acquisitions are designed to protect the food security rights of local people. One of his ideas is that in relation to land investments in net food-importing countries, agreements should be put in place providing that a certain minimum percentage of the crops produced on the purchased land be sold on local markets, and that this percentage may increase, in proportions to be agreed in advance, if the prices of food commodities on international markets reach certain levels.

That's it from me this time
Marie Antoinette

1 comment:

  1. Hi M/A ... Maria Antoinette - I put the slash as well ... eh, I can't really call you MA! I met your MA in Perigor, France and she told me about your studies and experiments. I too am 'into' ecology, the ethics concerning 'climate change', life Cycle Analysis and the development of a 'new way' to 'look' at what's around us in the form of growing 'stuff' and food and etc. Anyway, you get the pic. I met someone while we were selling old library books for the development of projects in Africa (not that I have these projects up high, one should really 'projecting' there where you are. That'll 'help' Africa more, etc.)together and she's also into this. Even deeper - she's researching garden weeds that can be eaten! Since I met your mom, I told her that I am doing a weed lawn, I was putting weed all over in my garden - no more lawn moving = waste of electricity + power. Now I am going to go too for those edible weeds! But I am taking it a step further. It must be local weeds! I am not importing weeds from say Australia, etc. What do you think of the diverse diversities on earth? Should we leave it like this or do you think diversity 'sec' will be the issue in future? Should we sustain what we have or contribute to increasing diversification? Ok, I got a fig tree from the Amazon in my garden and have figs every year ... and it takes the -20 degrees Celsius we have in winter ... do you think I should cut it and go for local edible weed only? I mean, what's the point? Food or food that is diversified by itself locally?

    Anyway, regards to your mom + I'll work through your bloq. Maybe we even talk later, ok?

    My site re that 'ethics' I talked about =

    its called 'CODE INOX' - I don't want to go back into nature, I only want to have a responsible life with whatever, but it must be natural and good! (Goes for love too, I now realise! Anyway, that! see?)

    Argo Spier