There’s a forecast for snow here today…but I’m calling it spring regardless! I may be curled up next to the fire and I may be sipping on a hot cup of wild blueberry tea (thanks Mom!) but the signs are all around – spring has arrived in earnest now.
Remember those willow buds that were just poking out two weeks ago? Look at them now!
We closed out August with a great weekend workshop in Lyttelton on Local Food Resilience – facilitated by permaculture educator Robina McCurdy. The workshop guided us through a participatory analysis of the local food systems in the Harbour Basin. It was a hugely interesting – and very practical – workshop and gave us the chance to meet some more like-minded folks. I was particularly pleased that Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) was a major theme throughout the weekend – Robina presents the CSA model as one of the key elements of sustainable local food systems. Really great to see that the conversations are happening, even though CSA as such hasn’t taken off in New Zealand…yet.
One of the lovely people we met at the workshop was Jon Foote – a permaculture designer based in Dunedin. After hearing a bit about what we were up to, Jon was kind enough to come and visit us at Toi Toi Manawa. A short walk around the land with Jon sparked all kinds of interesting discussion and new ideas for what might be possible here. The fresh perspectives were great to hear and most gratefully received. Jon’s got all sorts of good ideas and we’re really looking forward to following his work as he moves ahead in his permaculture career.
The following weekend, we had some more new faces here – this time in the shape of the New Zealand Parkour Association (NZPA). A small group came to spend the weekend doing instructor training. In trade for their use of the space, the group volunteered work time with us each day – what a great help! We got lots of rocks and logs moved, greenhouse materials shifted, and big sheets of plastic folded and stored away – all jobs that would have taken Andy and I ages on our own so we sure were appreciative! We were asked to give a food workshop for the group one evening – so we shared a little bit about our eating habits, shopping routines, and the various values and considerations that affect them. We also shared some of the bits and pieces we’ve been learning about nutrition from the work of folks like Kay Baxter. And capped it off with a little cooking workshop for a dinner of bean burritos. Yum!
Perhaps the biggest changes over the past couple of weeks have taken place in our main garden. Since I last wrote, we have finished building the propagation house and are well into seeding in it (leeks, onions, lettuce, cabbage, peppers, celeriac, etc.).
At the same time, we are working at preparing the soil in the garden so that when the time comes, we’ll be able to plant there too. That’s meant: removing the black plastic that we had covering the space, measuring out the area and planning the exact placement of beds, doing another sweep of weeding (primarily of couch and dock) and renting a rototiller to prepare the soil. In addition, Andy has begun seeding down clover in the main pathway – the purpose being to suppress weeds and to provide a source of high-nitrogen mulch. This carpet of green is already appearing for us! And now that the rototilling is done, we’ve begun raking our beds into shape too. It feels great to be checking these things off of the list and to be enjoying the great sense of anticipation that comes with springtime.
Another advantage of springtime is the appearance of all sorts of edible weeds. We’ve been happily discovering lots of chickweed, miner’s lettuce and dandelion on the property – all edible and with solid nutritional value. Andy and I harvested a basket of dandelion leaves the other day (they’re nicer before the flowers come), gave them a wash and used them in a quinoa salad and an omelet. Delicious and nutritious! They’re also a welcome source of greenery in this time of the spring when our cultivated greens aren’t yet ready. Thank you nature!
We’re very lucky to still have the time to sneak away for the odd off-farm adventure. This past weekend we went for a hike at the nearby Rakaia Gorge. This is a beautiful place with a well-developed walking track that traverses the edge of the gorge – and only a twenty minute drive away!
So there we have it. Spring is really and truly springing and I am relishing in that fact. It is a season of hope and of reinvigoration. And that feels good.