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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,5De 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.
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).
That's it from me this time