Two weekends in a row going to Hobart..... will I ever live it down! But it was certainly worth it both times. This time it was the Botanic Gardens Spring Fair, formerly the Tulip Festival but now so much more. I met Erica at the gate and we checked the programme.... Paul Healey was about to talk in the vegie patch so off we went. We sat on the edge of one of the plots you see on Gardening Australia, along with maybe 50 other people of various ages, shapes and varieties.....
I thought Paul would be talking about his Barnvelder chooks, of which he is an expert and a passionate enthusiast but instead he talked about vegetable gardening. He talked about how we are all responsible for the state of the world and how we can change what we do and make a difference. Paul calls a spade a spade. There was no airy fairy introduction, and what he had to say should have been recorded and broadcast to every one who eats.
He talked about designing house blocks for food growing. He revealed his childhood in North Melbourne and how his grandfather got him started on organics. There was a wonderful vision created of the transformation of his street in an industrial zone into a food paradise, when Greek and eastern European families moved in, bringing backyard milking goats, olive trees, grape vines and tomato plants, as well as the joie de vivre that comes with cultures whose greatest aspiration is to share food with friends and family.
We heard about the Greek man who removed all the metal sheeting from the massive shed on the block next door to Paul in Melbourne, and used the frame to grow every imaginable climbing fruit vine, filling the concreted space under it with seats and a BBQ, laughter, sharing and eating..... and no doubt drinking the home made wine from his grapes.
He talked about worm farming vs composting..... about worm farming as a better way to turn everything into something wonderfully versatile and nutritious for the garden.... about carbon and how hot composting emits all kinds of things we should be trying to remove from the atmosphere..... about how not to be in such a rush and that hot composting is simply, once again, man's synthesized use of a slow natural process, to produce instant results and now is found to be, surprise surprise, not what its meant to be.
He talked about starting small in your food growing life, about not growing in lines but in the jumble that I am always going on about as being the only way to produce vegetables naturally, without needing to use any form of pest or disease control. He mentioned families working in the garden and learning to use unmechanised ways of doing things, such as a weighted chaff cutter instead of a mulcher..... about what I call "reality fitness".... working in your garden instead of the gym.
It was a talk of passion and enthusiasm and hope. And after more than half an hour, just when I thought he was about to wrap it up, he said "But what I am going to talk about today is....." and Erica and I looked at our watches and decided we had enough to absorb from Paul already and wandered off...... filled with admiration and ideas and stories and so so glad we had bothered to go to that tiny corner of the world on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon and hear Paul delve into deep pockets of thought.
Erica said she wasn't going to stay long at the fair..... well she stayed for 3 hours and we had the best time! We bought unbelievably cheap Tasmanian native plants from Wild Seed Tasmania. We bought vegetable seedlings from Pete's vegie patch, we had lunch on the lawns, watching, listening and feeling the power of the Taiko Drummers and I NEARLY bought a bag of Dutch donuts..... if only Erica had not been there! We wandered the gardens filled with tulips, and other colour and gazed silently at the spectacle of the conservatory, artistically filled with every imaginable orchid, in full flower.