That Patch of Dirt?

For the first time, I read an email from Bec H with horror. She was starting up a vegie co-op with a difference. And it was going to involve me.

I’m sure Bec H won’t mind me telling you that It has long been a dream of hers to start a vegie co-op up here, as there are so many local producers. And really, take a look at her garden – you can gauge the level of her enthusiasm

(and now, take a look at mine. Even more sadly, you should know that I am enthusiastic too).

However what with one obstacle and another, a commercial co-op never seemed like a very practical and easy thing to do. So she’s opted for the personal touch.

Instead of a retail co-op, we’re having a private one, in which the members – 5 of us in total – plant our patches according to a monthly planting schedule. When the produce is ready, we split it evenly between us. This saves us from trying to plant everything and anything, and the focus will hopefully increase our rate of success (fear not for me my friends – I believe there is a biscuit/chutney backup scheme in place should my yield…well, not yield. I’m sure the rabbit in the burrow in my vegie patch will be relieved to hear this).

The Rabbit Burrow

Fortunately for us, we have the wonderful organic gardener extraordinaire Mel P. on board, leading us to vegie self-empowerment. Mel’s gardening success is so legendary, her seedlings at markets never fail to sell, and are said – not by her – to have one of the highest success rates of growth after replanting, around.

IMG_4578So, shouldn’t I be paying to have her advice on a monthly basis?! And what am I going to be able to give her from my garden that she doesn’t already have?!!!

Oh, the pressure.

So this is where it begins, this month (excerpts from Bec H’s email):
“Plant your own supply of salads and herbs. Each of us are to grow our own lettuces and herbs. Mel suggests planting the following every 3-4 weeks (me: what!!! No ‘plant & forget’?!!):
Lettuce- loose leaf mix,
lettuce – Cos
mizuna/Tatsoi (salad greens)
spring onions
pak choi
basil (plant some now, then in Dec and again in Feb)
parsley (plant some now, then in Dec and again in Feb)

And to quote Bec H further – “I bet you’re now thinking, gee let’s stop there, isn’t that enough?! Nah ah.

Food to share
This is where the pressure starts. We need to grow these things to share. How we actually share them I’m not quite sure of yet, but we’ll work that out later.

Bec C
Tomatoes, 1 variety (doesn’t matter which one)”

* End of email excerpt.

When I read my list, I burst out laughing. Bec H has obviously never seen my one and only watermelon. Much to my excitement, a couple of years ago it began growing in the vegie patch – I thought I’d planted pumpkins, so there you go. I watched it grow, as it climbed and hung itself off the bean fencing structure. I then watched it grow through the hole of the grid type fencing wire, until half was on one side, and the other half on the other. I was fascinated. It grew to about the size of a rockmelon, until it disappeared over two days. I never even got a taste. Something ate my mutated undersized watermelon, and I hope it enjoyed it, because it was my one and only.

And now I need to grow a supply for 5 families.

Well, nothing like a bit of pressure – I don’t want to be voted off as the weakest link (although my emergency backup plan may see me furtively skulking down the aisle of the local vegie shop, filling my trolley with melons).

So, looking at my dried, non-active patch of dirt and pulling out anything – which was almost everything – that looked dead, I rolled up my sleeves and hit the cowpats. Hard. The wonderful thing was that Thomas did too. There he was, 5 years old with his arms full of dried cow shit. Watching him throw them over the fence towards me, I couldn’t have been prouder… until he started throwing them at me (I guess it was too good to last).

With a wheelbarrow full of mounds of cowpoo, I then had the task of bashing it down into more compostable sizes. Very therapeutic, unless it’s a stinking hot day.

I spread it out on the patch. One and a half wheelbarrow loads of poo still only covered half of the patch, but I decided it was enough to start with.

DSC_1791I then covered it with a couple of layers of newspaper, with no doubt highly toxic non-organic ink (thank you Simon). After which, I was distracted. By exactly what, I can’t remember. But it would have been presented in the form of a child, I have no doubt. So I left the vegie patch.

Of course, the winds were quite high that evening. And by morning pretty much all of the uncovered, unsoggy light-as-wind paper was strewn across the garden.

Where I left it, while I dashed into town to buy some sugar cane mulch to weigh it down. Back out I went, to gather and re-lay the newspaper across the dried out roughly chopped cowpoo. There was a refreshing breeze, so the boys and I had to engage in a game of ‘throw the mulch onto the paper anywhere’ to give it some weight so it couldn’t blow off again. What fun. No really, it was! (it was only later that Bec H imparted the highly useful tip of ‘soaking the paper before laying it down’… Yes, thanks Bec. Got that now).

24 hrs later, I’m happy to report it’s all still there, even after massive winds! I’ve even fertilised and mulched around the fruit trees. I am officially on a roll. Now, if only for some water to flatten it all down. (And see – here I am, back to the topic of the weather yet again. Still no rain. One month on the waiting list for the water truck!).

And some seedlings. They might help too. Mel, I’m heading over.

I’d forgotten how satisfying gardening can be. Now, to actually see something grow? How exciting.

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About Bec C

I made the tree-change move from Sydney to my husband 'Dougal's' old family property on the mid-north coast several years ago, but only since the birth of my first son have I really lived here. In between raising 2 young sons, I am trying my hand at sustainable farm management... 'Trying' being the important word. Whilst the ability to pat my steers gives me much satisfaction, I love the fact that every morning I awake to space and open sky... even if it is 5am.

10 thoughts on “That Patch of Dirt?

    • Mel, one of our co-op members, Laura, reckons her cauliflowers were worth about $200 each, given the amount of time she’d spent watering them, tending to them, protecting them from cabbage moths / the sun, etc. Home delivery’s sounding pretty tempting.

  1. At some time in the very distant future (it only took me 4 years to grow a decent watermelon), I would love a picture of you all devouring your CROP of watermelons, and your “face full of satisfaction and watermelon juice.” I’m certain the taste will no doubt justify the hours of toil. sweat and cursing. Keep shovelling the cow shit Bec – I just read “it’s not the destination, but the journey that matters most”.

  2. There sounds like plenty of jobs for me Beccy, when I arrive shortly! How about gardening advice???? As long as I am there for the Harvest! “Beccy’s Farm” for me; not “Harris Farm!”.

  3. Very impressive effort to stay in the game Bec with such high brow talent surrounding you! Looking forward to finding out whether all that shitty groundwork produces the goods! Good luck!

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