Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Golden Valley Farm

image When Alex and Gina bought this land a few years ago it was nothing but a paddock; no house, no garden. Now it is the most picturesque of market gardens, nestled in Golden Valley, only a short drive from the Cygnet main street. Alex built the house himself then began building himself a future and an income, from scratch and with very little money.

 

image Today the small business is not even 2 years old and yet it feels so right. Alex thinks about how to get by with hardly any inputs in order to maximise what he gets out. Its all organic and worked by hand, because he sees his apple orchard neighbour up the road spending his days sitting on a tractor, dressed in plastic from head to toe and breathing through a massive mask and Alex says that is not for him.

Alex has fine tuned the use of various hoes and he walks his garden beds daily, hoe in hand, swiftly and easily removing even the tiniest weed, constantly sharpening the blade. Everything is planted with the hand held hoe in mind and the paths are the width of a larger hoe. Alex looks healthy and vibrant and loves his work.

image

  Being new to food gardening he seeks knowledge from near and far but he also experiments with growing times and methods, avoiding the use of plastic poly tunnels and other aids that would complicate things at this stage.

image

 

 

His rebuilt, old shed has been made into a potting shed by replacing the north-facing walls with windows from the tip shop and half of the roof is glass too. This is my kind of potting shed and I am green with envy..... but I have a plan!

image Dotted about the garden are large buckets, each with a stick nailed to an old tin, inside, and watering cans. Into the buckets goes seaweed, collected on one of his delivery runs, and water from his dam. A dash of this seaweed liquid is added to a watering can which is filled up with water. New seedlings are given this tonic once they are a couple of weeks out of the ground, and it helps get them quickly established. A thorough addition of dolomtie, gypsum and garden lime are regularly added as well as home made compost blended with rotted rabbit manure, from a local source.

image From the very beginning he has used no chemicals. The paddock has systematically been covered in "sheets" of hay bales, laid side by side and end to end for 2 months or more. Once removed, he tills the section with a small, hand tiller. Here in the photo are 2 sections, one being done with hay and the other with plastic. The hay will have added to the soil life when the bales are removed, whereas the plastic will have killed much of the microbial life in the top 2 cms. It is a lot of work to keep shifting the hay bales and they get very heavy and begin to decompose when the weather is wet, so he reluctantly decided to trial the plastic. A third option he is trialing is woollen carpet but it too has problems.

image After hearing all Alex had to say and looking over his beautiful land some of us sat and had a picnic in perfect weather, in a perfect setting.

You will find Alex outside the Cygnet market, 1st and 3rd Sundays from 10 - 2, selling his fabulous vegetables and being a charming fellow!

2 comments:

Phil said...

Good for him. It takes a dedicated person to willingly hop into a life where you work like crazy and generally don't get paid enough for the important role you're playing. I have great respect for market gardeners. Kudos!

Brian Smith said...

We visited Alex and Gina in February and we were just as impressed as the blog author (and visitors) seem to be. Keep up the good work. We wish you success and happiness. Brian and Heide