21 December 2010
Following on from the 'systemic collapse' I understand to be coming, a few people have questioned the inevitability, and some have suggested technology will save us. The technology they think will magically appear (just in the nick of time) is a new form of dense portable energy. I too am an optimist but will continue to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. As Ayn Rand said "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality".
It is that time of year when the invitations all come at once for the seasons feastings. On Sunday we had a glorious long table lunch with fine foodie friends in town, with way too much good food and wine. Yesterday I paid for my lack of restraint with a hang over. Moving cattle and doing farm chores 'whilst under the weather' is not something I want to repeat, and the real weather was freezing too. You have no idea how loud a cow can impatiently bellow into your ear when waiting to be moved!
Today a new Wessex Saddleback pig arrives. She is an older 'pet' of traceable genetics we don't have. I will introduce her to Carl our boar and hope that romance blossoms and piglets ensue. I did promise the owner we wouldn't eat his pet, and added that we would try and breed her though :-) She really needs to pass on her genes and fulfil her biological imperative.
17 December 2010
A couple of things happened this month that will literally change my life (for better or worse?).
Firstly I have been awarded an Australian Rural Leadership Scholarship. This was an unexpected honour as I truly thought my ideas and practises were too 'unconventional' for such an esteemed organisation. I am grateful to Dr Lesley Fitzpatrick, CEO of the ARLP, for her efforts in getting this rather odd shaped peg into a round hole. Leslie and her team partnered me with the most generous sponsors, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. The ARLP course is a 59 day residential, in 6 sessions, over 17 months - I'll keep you posted.
The other 'happening' has been the launch of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA). I had a hand in writing the manifesto and have become the national spokesperson. It is early days, but we plan to revolutionise the way way food is grown, distributed and consumed in Australia. We do this on a voluntary basis and not because of some blind adherence to an ideology, but because the world is sleep walking into a disaster and we offer a viable and palatable alternative. "Fortune favours the prepared" and we plan to prepare Australia in advance of the systemic collapse which will happen in the next 20 years or so. If you think 'systemic failure' is alarming - it is, and the best way to move forward with confidence is to gain knowledge and apply that knowledge. It is only with the application of knowledge that power is generated.
The AFSA has a positive or 'carrot' vision for the future, but in case you need the stick for motivation, read this energy bulletin, particularly the dot points and the executive summary. Yes it is very scary, which is why we, as a nation, must start adaptation as soon as possible (mitigation being impossible). Most people don't like adaptation aka change (I love it), but change is the one constant in life and it is coming - ready or not.
Over the years many people have been left scratching their heads about our farming decisions and systems. I can only say that we have been aware of the need for change for a few decades, but knowing that change is required is only part of the issue. What to change and how to go about it were stumbling points, and it has been a steep (and expensive) learning curve. After a decade of practical farming and experimentation, we believe we have most of the answers on how to sustainably feed and water humanity, and we hope to share these ideas and practises with as many as possible.
There is nothing very radically new in what we are doing, just an eclectic collection and combination of the most effective and efficient food production systems. In essence, next year, we want to share what we have been learning with as many people as possible, basically so they can take and apply the ideas that work in their circumstances. This means we will slowly evolve over the next few years into a teaching and demonstration farm for small scale and resilient food production systems. Many of the systems will be suitable for domestic backyards and community garden production.
So big changes ahead for 2011 and much more hard work. Anybody willing to contribute voluntary labour to our; fledgling, not for profit, hands-on, information dissemination, food for all project, will be warmly welcomed into the fold.
7 December 2010
Following on from 'the end of the world as we know it', Kelly Tranter and in a recent ABC on-line piece she wrote quoting Donella Meadows - an excellent systems thinker:
"…the new world trade system was explained to me. It is a system with rules designed by corporations, run by corporations, for the benefit of corporations. Its rules exclude almost any feedback from any other sector of society. Most of its meetings are closed even to the press (no information flow, no feedback). It forces nations into positive loops "racing to the bottom," competing with each other to weaken environmental and social safeguards in order to attract investment and trade. It's a recipe for unleashing "success to the successful" loops, until they generate enormous accumulations of power and huge centralized planning systems that will destroy themselves…"
This is where our food system finds itself, and I sincerely hope that the self destruction does not come at the expense of the people and our planet. However unless we are prepared with viable alternatives for the imminent massive dislocation, it will.
So how do we feed the planet's people once the inefficiencies of industrial agriculture become self evident to all? Look to Cuba and Russia for inspiration. Havana, with a population of 2.3 million grows 50% of her food within the city limits. The balance of food is grown within 50 kilometres of the city.
Leonid Sharashkin of the University of Missouri tells us that Russian backyards contribute 2.3% to GDP worth US$14 billion, 35 million or 66% of the population are involved and the land used is only 6% of agricultural land. So 6% of agricultural land produces 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of vegetables, 87% of fruits, 59% of meat, 49% of milk! Care to guess why the figures for potatoes are so high? Vodka! But it goes to show what can be achieved by a people in crisis when 'the system' fails them.
And what does the other 94% of agricultural land produce? Commodities. At some point we will realise that commodities are not food for the people, but an economic tool for subjugation and domination. So Russian commodity wheat takes up a large share of that 94% of Agricultural land, and contributes very little to their food security and nothing to their food sovereignty. Worse still Russia's decision this year not to sell their wheat on the international market due to the fires, meant that the price of wheat jumped 20% overnight. This price increase had nothing to do 'efficient market mechanisms' sending clear price signals, because the world was and is experiencing a glut of wheat for the first time in a decade. It was pure speculation that caused the price rise.
So speculation pushed up the prices of wheat and breads and also dragged up the price of other grains as well. This is no big deal for us in Australia, if the price of our bread increases by 30 cents a loaf we won't even notice. However if you are one of the one billion people who go to bed hungry every night, and are trying to live on less than $2 a day, it is a disaster.
Simple trading markets are a very efficient mechanism for exchange of goods and services. They are stable, reliable and they work remarkably well. As a species we have probably been trading for over 100,000 years, trading things like flints for salt, and so simple trading is innately understood. Speculation however produces nothing of value and I believe there are areas where it should be disallowed. Things we should not speculate on are at the base of the pyramid of human needs: air, water, food and carbon.
Anyway both Russia and Cuba were thrown into crisis by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the people would have literally starved had it not been the for the ingenuity of the people. Industrial (and speculative trading) agriculture failed them when faced with the sort of systemic issues we will face in a few short years. So we need to study these success stories, learn from them, adapt them and by application relearn to feed ourselves.
No it won't be easy, there will be pain and much effort involved, but we are up to the challenge of developing a better, more equitable and resilient food system than the one we had been sold by corporate interests. The point is that in the next decade or so we will no longer have the choice but to adapt to the collapse of industrial agriculture.
Here endth the rant.
3 December 2010
Well it is officially our wettest year on record. Our rainfall records go back to 1884 and our wettest ever year was 1453mm in 1956. 1957, the year following, recorded a mere 460mm so it is swings and roundabouts. This year we are at 1495mm and counting, so we should break 1500mm before years end!
Been extremely busy doing both farmers markets and doing Slow Food things. The Joel Salatin evening at the ANU was a success despite the useless MC. 108 people then did Joel's 2 day course at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms. It was simply inspirational and you will see changes on our farm soon.
Open days have been a sore point with us this year. Basically it has been too wet, we have water running in places I thought impossible, and the place is a mess as we are building a 10 kilowatt grid interactive solar system, Aquaponics systems, wicking beds and more, with trenches open everywhere (now full of water). But rest assured we will be resuming open days next year on a regular, possibly monthly, basis complete with farm shop and sausage sizzle (really good sausages too).
Tonight I have a 'discussion' with a panel of eminent scientists about the compatibility of Slow Food and Fast Science sponsored by the Australian Academy of Sciences and the French Australian Association for Science and Technology. This will be fun!
The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance is slowly gelling into a coherent voice for food policy changes in Australia. With the best of intent Joe Ludwig (minister for ag.) has convened a corporate and industrial group of heavy hitters - namely coles. woolies, the NFF, the Grocery council of Australian and others. In short Joe has assembled all that are wrong with the system and is asking the problem makers to solve themselves against their vested interests, so it is doomed to fail and tinker at the margins. Tinkering at the margins will not solve the systemic problems our food system faces.
Currently we are sleep walking to disaster. In 1940 it took 1 calorie of oil to produce and deliver 2.3 calories of food to a table - a calorie is but a measure of energy after all. Today it takes 7 to 8 calories of oil to produce and deliver 1 calorie of food! Blind Freddy can see we have a problem. Now couple this with peak oil that the oil producing nations have agreed we reached in 2005 (yes the debate is over). Remembering that consumption is accelerating and it took us 100 years to reach peak oil, but we will exhaust all remaining known reserves in 20 years! So there you have it, the end of the world as we know it.
Certainly the end of the industrial food system as we know it is nigh. So what will we do, how will we feed ourselves? Luckily all the systems and technology already exist to feed the projected 9.6 billion people on the planet, so stay tuned ;-)
17 November 2010
We are back at the EPIC farmers markets this Saturday and should remain there from now on. Stand 68 if you are interested http://www.capitalregionfarmersmarket.com.au/
Also for those of you who haven't booked for the Joel Salatin talk at the ANU next Wednesday, I suggest you get your skates on and book soon as tickets are selling fast. Book here http://www.milkwoodpermaculture.com.au/courses/details/23-salatin-talks-canberra
14 November 2010
This link shows where Australia will be in 2050. Basically I posted on ABC's "the drum" a month ago that it is likely that Australia's population will be a shade under 50 million in 2050. This was based on projecting the 2007 pop increase figures at 1.8% pa compound. Seems the above report agrees with me.
My analysis was done in the context of food security and the fact that Australia produces enough feed for a population of 50 million today (Oz exports 60% of her food), but with climate change and water issues it seems likely that Australia will have difficulty feeding itself under the current conventional system.
29 October 2010
About two months ago I blogged of the perils of increasing antibiotic resistance. Today someone with a little more gravitas is saying the same http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/40512.html This is very scary stuff for those of us who think and care.
I have been reading some great books lately, one is "The Town that Food Saved" by Ben Hewitt. This is one of the most balanced and well written books on food sovereignty I've read in a long while. It helps if you have your head around some of the issues before diving in, but nonetheless a first class effort. I've exchanged emails with Ben and I hope he is contemplating my offer to get him out on a speaking/book tour. He is currently writing a book on food safety that will be out mid next year.
The carbon farming conference was uninspiring to say the least. All I have to say is that snouts are lining up at the trough of the incentives to be. Bureaucrats and academics are in clover, as this is a 'growth area'. More staff and more research dollars are in the offing. Maybe it's a rare case where 'greed is good', but I have my doubts.
The most inspiring people there were the cockies themselves. One old bloke in particular has been 'water spreading' (a diffusion process that takes the energy out of the water, slowing it down and allowing it to penetrate in the arid flat areas he farms). He has doubled his carrying capacity, his pastures have improved to 100% ground cover, and the species composition in his pasture has jumped from 47 to over 350 species!! And it is costing him $9 per acres. And he can do 250 acres in a day! If he wasn't so down to earth and real, you'd have to nominate him for sainthood or president or something - he deserves a bloody medal anyway. Oh and his system - no government incentives necessary ;-)
25 October 2010
Off to the Carbon Conference in Dubbo this week where I'll be trying to figure out what the power players have in mind for our soil carbon. I confess to having an overt agenda which is to kill any suggestion of a speculative or derivative market for soil carbon. To let the speculators in will drive the volatility of the market with farmers (and the planet) being the losers. We shall see.
Then off to Bairnsdale in early November for an Organic Conference where I will be meeting up with several people who are working on food sovereignty issues and 'networking'.
The farm is looking great at the moment, all green and all animals glowing good health - all bar our bull Yabba who appears to have a wasting disease of some sort. I've had the vet out and she did a thorough examination and took blood samples which all came back as normal. I suspect he has a cancer of some sort. So now it's time for a new bull.
Carl our Wessex Saddleback boar is returning home next week to join with our sows. He has been travelling the region for the last few months doing "drive by matings". He's visited 3 farms and his piglets are already on the ground and doing well, but his dalliances off farm has mean we are way behind in our pork production. Still we are sharing the genetics around.
Rain. well what can I say but that it's been a fantastic spring. So far this year we have had nearly 1150mm which is the most rain we have seen in this region for many many years. Our long term average rainfall since 1854 is 890mm, but since 2002 we have averaged under 700mm. All the creeks are flowing and have been since June, and our water fall is still running. The pent up fertility of the farm has exploded following the rain and now warming temperatures - it's just amazing. I still get a buzz out of spring, but this one is special.
Speaking of waterfalls into the big dam, our recirculating trout system is working well. The 500 trout are nearly plate size and I'll start harvesting soon and will fire up the smoker.
Briana (youngest daughter) has been raising Australorp chicks to improve our egg supply. We seem to have become a home for geriatric chooks who now lay infrequent but very large eggs, so the youngsters are much needed. I won't tell the old chooks and cockerels that I have ordered a new chicken plucker and that as soon as it arrives our supplies of chicken stock will improve.
The Llamas desperately need shearing. They are beginning to look like dope smoking, doe eyed rastas, complete with dreadlocks. Fortunately the time is approaching when they will have their biannual visit to the hair dresser, and have a pedicure while they are there.
I have decided to breed the Maremma dog and bitch, and bond their issue with chooks and sheep. This will be a first for us, but I have read all there is on the subject and believe I know what to do and when.
Our 10 kilowatt grid tied solar system has had official approval, so now I'd better get my act together and dig the trenches and finish the structure for the 36 x 290 watt panels. The inverters arrived last week, so its all happening.
A while back I purchased 25 IBCs (intermediate bulk containers) and have decided to cut them all in half and turn them into wicking beds to grow vegetables. This will give the family roughly 50m2 of growing area and will be enough for me to play with the concept. Wicking beds are an Australia innovation by Colin Austin which are an extremely water efficient way to grow vegetables. When coupled with aquaponics I suspect they are part of the answer to food self sufficiency.
That's enough for now, it's nearly light and time for some work.
13 October 2010
Your food decisions do make a difference http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2010/10/12/3035936.htm
10 October 2010
Here's something I think is original and along the lines of 'for every action there is and equal and opposite reaction'. If a food is artificially altered to extend it's shelf life, consuming it will probably shorten your life. I think it's a reasonably succinct rule, and if you can think of an exception to this new rule, please let me know - bearing in mind the exception does not necessarily disprove the rule.
And by the way, the Southside Farmers' Markets is relocating to a slightly bigger but less social location at Woden Valley Basketball Stadium, Irving Street, Woden. The day and times remain the same, Saturdays 8 to 11:30. The new location will commence trading on November 7.
I confess to having mixed feelings about the new location. On the plus side most of the vendors will be inside under one roof with only the truck based vendors outside. On the negative we lose the courtyard and the convivial atmosphere it generated, and the location is not as obvious as being on Hindmarsh drive. We will go with the flow, but I am not sure this change is necessarily for the better.
29 September 2010
Not taking food seriously? Read this http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/taking-food-seriously/
18 September 2010
This is the sort of statement by scientists that really gets up my nose. "Aquaculture genetics researcher Dr Dean Jerry from James Cook University says genetically modified food has the potential to play an enormous role in addressing food security problems around the world, particularly in breeding crops and livestock that are resistant to pests." ABC News online 17/9/2010
What's wrong with it? Well for a start Dr Jerry is quoted as an expert OUTSIDE of his area of expertise. What the hell would an aquaculture geneticist know about food security? Probably nothing, but he repeats the corporatist dogma that GMO's have a place to play in food security, and the ABC gives him cred because he obtained a PhD in some narrow field of endeavour.
The fact is, according to the FAO, that the world produces enough food to feed 12.1 Billion people right now. So it is not a quantitative problem, but issues of equity, distribution use and waste. So even if, and this is highly unlikely, GMOs could up production by 30% and mean the world could potentially feed 16 billion people, the systemic failures would mean that 1 Billion people would still go to bed hungry. To quote one clinical definition of insanity, the GMO proponents would be doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.
17 September 2010
Three posts in one day is a record, but I couldn't let this one pass by http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/09/17/3015176.htm?section=justin
Basically the world is changing before our eyes when Treasury admits that GDP is a flawed measure of prosperity. This admission and shift may seem insignificant to most Australians, but is in fact revolutionary. The collective single bottom line profits of private enterprise (GDP) are not and never have been a measure of social and environmental progress. I think the following saying was a Cree American Indian prophesy and sums it up well, "Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find money cannot be eaten."
17 September 2010
Two posts in one day - something is up, and that's Slow Food - Fast Science. This is a discussion/debate around the collision of philosophies - one localised around food sovereignty, the other around multinational corporate privatisation of our food systems eg. GMO's.
Anyway this event is on at The Academy of Science, December 3 at 5:30pm, and I will be speaking against the creeping theft of our food system. This event is free, but early booking is strongly recommend as this event booked out quickly in previous years. For bookings call: Tel: (02) 6247 5027 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
17 September 2010
Joel Salatin in Canberra for one night only!
Joel will be in Canberra giving a public talk at the Copeland Theatre ANU, in the evening of November 24. Seats are limited and I am confident they will sell out at $15each. If interested email email@example.com for bookings/ details.
For those of you that don't know I am a big fan of Joel Salatin, author of half a dozen books, star in the movies Food Inc. and Fresh, and exceptional farmer. I will be attending a 2 day course with Joel held at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms after his public talk. Joel has a new book which is due for release at the end of this month titled 'The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer' - sounds just like me doesn't it?!
10 September 2010
What to change the food system? This is how http://www.grist.org/article/food-do-you-have-the-balls-to-really-change-the-food-system/#post-a-comment Several easy to apply lists of instructions.
And diversity is the key! http://www.agforinsight.com/?p=289 If you want to keep the food supply going, buy rare breed meats, and heirloom vegetables and grains.
Here's a very scary thought for you - sorry. Due to the sub-clinical use of antibiotics in the intensive animal raising industry, scientists are warning that in ten years we will be back to pre antibiotic times! Think about this for a minute, a world where antibiotics don't work any more. Hospitals will be where you go as an absolute last resort, because chances are you will not come out alive. So for no other reason than self preservation; STOP EATING ANIMALS FROM FACTORY FARMS!
8 September 2010
It's nice when one of the major influencers in the world reverses a strongly held position and agrees with you. I'd love to think I had a hand in changing George Monbiot's opinion about the evils of eating meat. Perhaps he secretly reads my blog ;-) Anyway here is his newly considered opinion on meat eating as published in The Guardian titled I was wrong about veganism: Let them eat meat - but farm it properly should you be interested in what a thought leader thinks. Basically he has moved from Vegan to qualified meat eater - eating meat from farms like ours.
As much as I admire any person who can reverse a strongly held and very public position, I am still a bit shocked that someone of Monbiot's calibre still thinks about issues in terms of black or white - he even mentions that the evils of meat eating "seemed to be a black and white case." Life is far more complex than 'four legs good, two legs bad', and as I have repeatedly opined; it's not so much what you do that matters, but the complex interrelationship of who, what, why, when, where, and how. If all we did was teach our children to ask these simple and linked questions on matters of importance, the world would be a better place.
5 September 2010
We've had another 45mm of rain since I wrote yesterday, and still it drizzles.
Forgot to mention I had a phone call from The West Australian newspaper on Friday. They were interested in my opinion on the cloning of cattle. The poor science writer got an earful about cloning of food animals equalling zero biological diversity and it being a huge threat to our food security driven by economic maximisation at the expense of all else. I think she got the message, but if anyone in WA sees the article could you forward it to me please? Because you never know - and here's why.
No names, no court marshal. Another science writer, from a prominent national broadsheet, told me the following story after we had completed an interview. The senior science writer was preparing a story on frogs as the canaries in the environmental coal mine. The writer had finished the piece, ran out of time, and asked a sub editor to proof read it to check the article all made sense. The sub editor read the piece and said, words to the effect, "it's great, but I don't understand, what do tadpoles have to do with frogs?".................. No this is not a joke.
So the moral of the story is; you can never tell if your 'news' is coming from people who know what they are talking about.
4 September 2010
Apologies to those who sent me emails in the last two weeks, I didn't realise that I wasn't getting them all. I rearranged my email accounts with a certain formerly publicly owned national carrier and they lost one of them. Anyway all fixed now and I'll respond over the weekend.
Rain amazing and ongoing! It's so wet I can't get across the paddocks in the 4WD, even travelling on foot is a problem, luckily the quad bike with it's floatation tyres still works. Anyway we received 132mm in August and have had over 70mm in the last 12 hours, yet still it rains. I am seeing water flow where I didn't think it possible. So far this year we have had over 870mm of rain - roughly our annual average since 1884 when records began.
Here's a new trend for you, the farmer as superstar. Newsweek magazine has identified what a few of us have been discussing for a bit over a year; that the celebrity chef's days are numbered and the media focus will shift to the start of the food chain. With Fred Harden of Regional Food Magazine we have been exploring the possibility for a TV series in Oz on farmers as heroes for the environment and your plate. It is slowly coming together, but something will be happening and coming to the small screen near you - well maybe the not so small screen if you have been stimulating the Chinese economy by purchasing a 55inch flat-screen TV.
A few months ago I applied for an Australian Rural Leadership Program scholarship, and I have been short listed. To be honest I had to shoot myself in the foot when the application form asked "which commodity sector best describes your enterprise". I could only respond by saying they were asking the wrong question and that our farm produces food and not commodities. Furthermore (I went on to say) turning food and agricultural produce into commodities has been and remains the cause of decline in rural Australia. I guess I just didn't get it when I read "How to win friends and influence people". Anyway the 18 month scholarship is fantastic and something I would very much like to do. Now if only I can manage to convince the panel that I am not an absolute ratbag..............
My good friend Chris Curtis of Food for Friends has a website touting for business at http://www.foodforfriends.com.au/ Chris has been doing this for a few years and I have been known to help out on his stall at Eat at Handmade - which is on next weekend btw. So if you want good clean and fair food served at your next function, be it for 10 or 100 people, give Chris a call.
I promised myself I wouldn't mention the election, but I must. One of the election promises of a potential Labor government was by Tony Bourke, and he promised to form a food policy group if re-elected. Great I thought, until I read that the only people and organisations to be invited into the inner sanctum where corporate and government apparachik and industrial factory food producers and sellers. Wonderful if your desire is for group think around the single bottom line and food as commodity with consequential race to the bottom.
Anyway I have been thinking about various food policy issues for a few years, more so after I was asked to formulate policy to be presented via the senate last year. So I rang Clive Hamilton to talk through the possibility and pit falls of creating an alternative food policy institute, one based around the concepts of good, clean and fair food and the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Clive's experience with setting up The Australia Institute proved and will prove invaluable in helping to achieve this goal. Bearing in mind this is a 3, 5 and 10 year objective, so more on this later, but there will be a call for help as the plans start to take shape.
Oh and my father has joined the 21st century with a bang and acquired an iPad. This is his first real foray into computers and the web, and given that he was born before the wireless was invented, it is a huge leap forward. He may even read this blog, and then I will be in trouble ;-)
19 August 2010
And you think you're a wage slave? http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/08/19/2987128.htm?section=justin This old world style slavery exists today as a direct result of corporate and industrial agricultures single bottom line race to the bottom. If you think it is different in Australia consider one of my neighbours; he works 7 days a week and 12 to 14 hour days for a return that is roughly the average wage. So he earns less than $8 per hour for his efforts - no holiday pay, no sick leave, no penalty shifts or over-time, and stuff all superannuation to retire on. The fact that he has a choice to leave the farm and work elsewhere means he is not a slave - or is he?
5 August 2010
Attended a great talk at the ANU last night by Pavan Sukhdev " What is the world worth: Putting nature on the balance sheet.". Normally I would consider a banker who participates at the Davos meetings a potential enemy of humanity and the earth - I'd be wrong. He is establishing base line data and lobbying for valuing balance sheet "externalities" aka environmental system services.
Pavan has realised that economics is a subset of a subset of a subset of the environment. To put it another way if you took the world's 3,000 largest businesses, 33% or 2.25 T for Trillion US dollars of their profit is directly due to ecosystem services and yet ecosystem services are off balance sheet. So their greatest capital asset is not anywhere to be found in their accounting. Let's make this personal, imagine paying income tax year after year and not disclosing 33% of your gross income, all of which would be taxed at the highest marginal rate if you had declared it, what do you think would happen when the ATO eventually caught up with you? You'd be taken to court, fined and probably receive a goal sentence. So what happens to corporations who effectively do this? Nothing.
To be fair to corporations, the commonly accepted and legal measures of economics and accounting rules are single bottom line, as they are for GDP. However things that are off balance sheet are externalities and these "externalities" just happen to be part of our common wealth. This in turn means we are all subsidizing the private profit of corporations and businesses, and yet we haven't been asked if this is something we want to do.
It gets worse folks, the vast majority of these 3000 world's largest corporations would go broke without the subsidies their "off balance sheet" capital provides. Think of the biggest corporate names on the planet; most are financially non-viable without their off balance sheet subsidies. So we (our common wealth) are propping up the world's largest corporations by our implied consent for them to leave ecosystem services off their balance sheets. This is known as privatizing profits and socializing losses.
What has all this got to do with farming? Farms and farmers are where the rubber meets the road. We are humanities infer-face with the natural world. Eating (which requires food farms) is an agricultural and consequently environmental act. Farmers know we must account for ecosystem services, or we will go broke, because our land will cease to provide. We may not have the technical language of exclusion of the dominant economic rationalist paradigm, but we know we can't extract from the air, soil, water and fertility without accounting for it. We may not have ecosystem services on our balance sheet, but it is always on our minds. We know we can't apply poisons to our own farms without consequences. This is nothing new to us. And yet farmers are increasingly marginalized by the agribusiness mentality of using off balance sheet capital for private purposes.
When a farmer decides to spray poisons on his or her fields, s/he has been sucked in by the off balance sheet approach to accounting. There is no difference in my mind to a farmer poisoning a field or taking futures contracts for wheat to increase short term economic gain, and illegally pumping water from the river to irrigate a field. Both are privatising profits and socializing the losses, the first two just happen to be legal. You don't think an Australian farmer taking a futures option on their wheat crop is socializing losses? Then read this and weep http://frederickkaufman.typepad.com/files/the-food-bubble-pdf.pdf
3 August 2010
Forgot to add this http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2010/s2965415.htm I say a few words and there are pictures of me and my pigs by Sarina Locke of the ABC.
3 August 2010
A national food policy for Australia? http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/08/03/2971922.htm I sincerely doubt it! How can you have a national food policy that only consults the big agribiz players? This proposal is flawed in that it excludes the future production of food based on decentralized and localized supplies. Localisation is something the 'major players' in the food distribution chain desperately want to avoid as they simply can't do it even if they wanted to, which they don't. And a localised and short supply chain is a given for the future of food.
Food Security? Well if diesel gets to $3 a litre in the next 5 years, and a truckie blockade of our major cities ensued, which was preceded by food price rises due to transport costs, all major cities in Australia would run out of staples in two days and of all food in 5!! Think food riots won't happen in Australia under those conditions? Think the conditions improbable? We'll see soon enough.
Food security when one agro-chemical company controls 90% of commercial food seed genetics? "We now believe that Monsanto has control over as much as 90 percent of (seed genetics). This level of control is almost unbelievable." So says Neil Harl, agricultural economist at Iowa State University who has studied the seed industry for decades. This sort of power over our food supply would be considered a joke if it wasn't so serious and real.
Oh and Tony Burke is on record as a supporter of GMO's and big agribiz btw.
1 August 2010
A great article (as sometimes happens in Harper's Magazine) about the outrageous Food Bubble http://frederickkaufman.typepad.com/files/the-food-bubble-pdf.pdf that I strongly recommend. In essence the same banking and financial system that brought you the GFC has starved to death several hundred million human beings, and sends 1 billion to bed hungry every night. "Why haven't I heard about this" you ask, "and why haven't the killers been arrested for crimes against humanity?". Well, a) there is lots of money to be made, and b) the lives of billions in the third world doesn't matter to our parochial press. Or as Stalin once coldly observed, "One death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic." This same logic makes a hundred million or more deaths irrelevant.
This has all the hallmarks of the corrupt and systemic failure of our economic rationalist nirvana, what a shame Master Chef has finished - we'll each need at least 2 grams of Soma to replace it, such is our brave new world.
30 July 2010
This scary stuff folks http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/29/2967430.htm it has the makings of a science fiction disaster film. The 'knock-on' effects of a collapse of the phytoplankton populations is hard to imagine. And for those that don't want to believe climate change is happening, and our globe is warming, read this http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/29/2967433.htm?site=news
We are not witnessing climate variability, we are in deep do-do. My eclectic gathering of the latest research is indicating that we have passed the point of no return. Whilst our politicians play games during the election, I can't seem to get bushfires, Nero and fiddle music out of my head.
28 July 2010
Forgot to say that the farm is great condition at the moment as we have had 660mm of rain for the year so far. The ground is wet everywhere and I had trouble getting the stock trailer up to the yards to load the steers. I even managed to bog our 4WD tractor when taking a load of hay up to the pigs, which gave Sarina Locke from ABC Radio National a good laugh. Sarina was interviewing me about our free range pigs when we walked past the bogged tractor - she took photos to prove it, as it's been nearly ten years since this sort of thing happened.
28 July 2010
OK, 4 more Belted Galloway steers have joined the food chain and it's the first time I have used the Picton abattoir for our cattle. Transport issues have been resolved for the time being and feel the self interested need to support the small service abattoir closest to me. Yes it adds another 180 kilometres to the round trip, so food miles suffer, but the alternative is to depend on the Woolworth's contracted Cootamundra abattoir for our "private kills". Since Coota has stopped doing private kills for sheep, no doubt cattle will soon follow.
The up side of my investigations is that the abattoir at Young will be reopening (date unknown) and will be accepting private kills for pigs, sheep and cattle. If we decide to use the abattoir at Young, it will reduce our food miles by 180 km. However we will wait and see how things pan out.
So back to Fiji. No we didn't do the resort 'thing'. We rented a small house and car for two weeks on the Coral Coast near the major resorts. We were 200 metres from the beach and elevated with panoramic views of the coast and surf breaking on the reef. Some of the best coral on the coast was within walking distance. Temperatures ranged from 18-20 at night to 24-28 during the day. It is the dry season so it only rained lightly on a few days.
The dry season - Ha! High rainfall, high humidity, tropical temperatures and volcanic soils means when they cut timber fence posts and put them in the ground, the fence posts grow! The fertility of the place astounded me. Over 90% of the population still grow most of their own food.
Having a car at our disposal made all the difference. We were able to visit Suva and see my old home and school, revisit a few childhood memories - which were surprisingly accurate as the last time I visited Fiji was 40 years ago as a 12 year old, so much so that I didn't need a map to find anything. We also spent time at various farmers markets in the towns and went up the Sigatoka valley which is known as the salad bowl of Fiji. Lautoka reminded me of Suva 40 years ago and was the town I enjoyed the most.
The politics? Well let's just say I disagree with our Government's possibly well meaning but ignorant and patronising position. The Fiji government is not a democracy, at this stage it is probably best described as a benevolent dictatorship, but our version of democracy (the one true God) is not the panacea for Fiji.
Fiji is trying to rectify the legacy of a colonial past (one I lived through) and they have a long way to go to clean up the mess the British left them with. CSR's indentured labourers did not go home come independence and now 4 Indian families own 80% of the businesses in Fiji. It seems racist to us, but in fact is a clash of cultures. One is tribal and communal, the other mercantile and individualistic. Superimposing our version of democracy on this situation is not helpful and in fact is counter productive and will most likely end in real bloodshed. The only people who are suffering from our actions are the ordinary people. The Chinese are becoming major players in Fiji and they don't care about a country's internal politics, just it's resources.
In short I don't know who in Foreign Affairs is advising our politicians on Fiji, but they should be taken out and publicly flogged for incompetence. We have been throwing our weight around in the Pacific as if we know best. It may even be well intended, but Australian arrogance is all that shines through and leaves a bad after-taste.
22 July 2010
Back on deck after a short break in Fiji where I grew up - more on this later. We returned home to 87mm in the guage and all the dams overflowing and our creeks running. The ground is at field capacity and has been for weeks, so any more rain becomes run off. The soil moisture is such that I bogged our 4WD tractor as I was taking a big bail of hay up to the pigs. And it was on the track that I considered bog proof. Seems I need more experience of the farm in this wet state :-)
All the animals were well looked after in our absence by our lovely neighbours which enable us to get away.
To all our patient lamb customers, the wait is nearly over. Since I haven't been able to get a refrigerated transport company to go from Picton to Yass, I'll be doing it myself! I'm waiting for Darren and Megan (our butchers) to give me the nod, and then there will be lamb and mutton back on the menu.
We are running very low on beef too. We will endeavour to supply our existing orders and then we will be out until mid August. No supply issues with our Belties, only a timing issue. We weren't able to get our steers to the abattoir before we left for our break, and this means they go on Sunday. So after a 3 weeks of dry ageing, more beef will be available mid August and we should have a reasonably stead supply until New Year.
Pork? If I could supply the demand for our pork, I'd be a happy man. Unfortunately our Wessex Saddleback pork will remain in limited supply for the rest of the year.
24 June 2010
Well an eventful 24 hours with our first female prime minister taking the mantle, but I thought this quote might bring us back to earth - literally.
Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932)
This is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent on the leaves. By leaves we live. Some people have strange ideas that they live by money. They think energy is generated by the circulation of coins. Whereas the world is mainly a vast leaf colony, growing on and forming a leafy soil, not a mere mineral mass: and we live not by the jingling of our coins, but by the fullness of our harvests.
31 May 2010
Fantastic rain over the last few days, 70mm of the gentle soaking variety. It's also been warm enough for pasture growth and this should see us through until spring.
We took delivery of 500 trout on Saturday. They are in a hybrid recirculating/flow through system that uses our large dam as a biological filter. In essence the water is pumped out of the dam into a 2500 litre fingerling tank and back into the dam at a different point. The water is also oxygenated and the whole set up uses less than 120 watts to run. So in 6 months time there will be trout on the menu.
The Slow Food Australia AGM and congress was on over the weekend which has revealed the middle management is in crisis. The local convivia are strong, the international association is strong and growing, and middle management is floundering. Whilst the local and International have no doubts about their respective roles in the scheme of things, the national association has lost it's way. As much as I dislike 'the great man theory of history' and prefer the collective decision making model, in this case there is a desperate need for leadership of the national organisation. The many battles for good clean and fair food in Australia can only be won by having some form of national association due to our federal system of government. We need local, state and federal representation. Unfortunately I was unable to be at the national congress, but will see what can be done to help as the dust settles, but hopefully good people will have stepped into the breach in the meantime.
25 May 2010
Our beef supplies are in great shape. Three steers are being cut up after extended dry ageing, and the butcher is impressed. Darren is hard to impress and doesn't give compliments, the best we can usually manage is "It's all right", so when he says "it's good", you know it's special. I'll be picking up the meat on Friday so it will be available at the markets this coming Sunday.
The mutton and lamb are ready to go! It's now just a case of coordinating he abattoir, refrigerated transport and the butcher. All being well we will have delicious mutton and lamb on the menu. A word of caution about our lamb. The ram lambs are entire (have testes) and this produces a strong flavour. Those of you that are used to insipid whitish lamb meat with no flavour, I suggest you buy someone else's product. Ram lamb is more akin to full bodied goat - but different.
This weekend is the Slow Food national congress and Australian AGM. As usual I need to be in three placers at once. I have a friend arriving from Tasmania on Friday evening to help with the house renovations for a week, on Saturday night we celebrate my brothers birthday, and the congress runs all weekend. It never rains, but pours. Speaking of which we are receiving mizzle as I write, with 6mm in the gauge. Mizzle is what I heard Jackie French term that state between mist and drizzle - basically a mist that falls.
22 May 2010
Our 10 kilowatt grid interactive solar power generation system is under-way. The site has been levelled and two 6 metre shipping containers arrive in two days time. The shipping containers will have the solar panels mounted on top, and the inverters inside. Steel beams will link the two containers to provide the extra space required for the panels. The reasons for using shipping containers to house the system are; it's temporary and relocatable, our existing roofs face the wrong way, we can place the installation near the meter box and power pole, it gets the panels off the ground and offers protection from amorous or itching cows, houses the inverters and keeps them dry and secure, and offers the farm secure and dry storage as a bonus. Anyway over the next month the system will take shape and when commissioned will mean we are generating surplus green energy.
7 May 2010
Well the three steers that joined the food chain look magnificent on the hooks, with perfect fat cover for extended ageing. My butcher received all the offal this time (some times the abattoir 'forgets' to send us our offal). So sliced liver, heart kidneys and ox tails will be back on the menu soon.
I was invited to talk to the management/ steering group of the New and Emerging Industries Division of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). As you can imagine I thought this was akin to entering the lions den or enemy territory, after all this is the organisation that is supportive of GM crops and part funded by industrial agriculture. Interesting that they are located next door to the office of the Gene Technology Regulator.
Anyway I was pleasantly surprised at the gathering of small businesses and farmers, all experiencing similar bureaucratic hurdles designed for mega corporations. Native/indigenous food growers sat beside crocodile meat farmers and olive oil producers, an eclectic mix to say the least. So where do we fit into this group? Well we do and we don't. We are not a new industry as we represent traditional small scale mixed farms of yesteryear. We aren't even an emerging industry, but a re-emerging industry which is why, with tongue in cheek, I call myself 'a born again farmer'. It will be also be interesting to see if the Slow Food movement take up the bat for traditional farms with RIRDC, and I suspect I've already stuck my hand up for the job - whatever it is. However to paraphrase Einstein, the problems face by the group will not be solved by the same level of thinking that created them, and given that the group is operating from within 'the system', I have my doubts. And so much for me keeping a low profile.
Speaking of not maintain a low profile, why is it that I can't say no to intelligent women? I'm sure there's a Darwinian explanation, but we won't go there. Rosslyn Beeby, the science and environment writer for the Canberra Times, is coming out to the farm today. Something to do with the imminent federal budget and consequent analysis/ post mortem. I'm interested in the process, but have told Rosslyn that my crystal ball tells me that there will be nothing in the budget for the small environmental responsible farmer. However being an ex farm girl I suspect that Rosslyn just wants to visit the farm to talk to the pigs :-)
4 May 2010
Three more magnificent steers joined the food chain yesterday and they will ensure our supply of beef remains uninterrupted for another few weeks.
On Sunday after the markets we went to a magnificent long table lunch hosted by friends that lasted 5 or 6 hours. Some of the regions best cooks (and a French chef ot two) did their thing with our pork and beef - there were other foods as well including; crème caramel, home made apple cider, mead which we received on our recent trip to Tassie, many magnificent wines, prawns from the south coast, a rabbit terrine, outstanding salads, and so much more. There was only 12 of us and we were all extremely well fed by the end. I ate and drank way too much and felt it the next day ................
But the thing that I liked the most was the transformation of our beef heart. It had been cubed and marinated in an Asian marinade for 12 hours (will get recipe and post here), then put on skewers and bbq'd with some chopped coriander leaves sprinkled on top - fantastic!!! So for those of you that turn your noses up at offal, you really have no idea what you're missing. We also ate the last of our bull Yogi. It was his porterhouse that had been sitting in the freezer for waaay too long and I thought it would be mediocre at best. But no, Yogi's porterhouse was sensational and made several dishes which melted in the mouth. Yogi was much honoured in the eating and his genetics live on.
More restrictions on where we can get our animals killed have happened. The Cootamundra abattoir no longer takes private kills for lambs and sheep. This means I will have to go to Picton with the lambs and mutton which adds another 2.5 hours to the round trip - not good for the animals or me. If Picton ever shuts down we are stuffed and will have to break the law and start killing on farm. Frankly this would be a better result for the animals, and because of the very small numbers involved, there will be no environmental issues and food safety/hygiene would improve!
There are butchers with mobile coolrooms that will kill and butcher on farm, but is illegal to sell this meat. Just another way the agroindustrial complex is forcing out the little guys, and platitudes notwithstanding, the mentality is still "get big or get out" as far as governments and bureaucracy is concerned too. Not to mention three layers of government all wanting their pound of flesh (pun intended) if we were to kill pigs, sheep and cattle on farm.
Speaking of killing on farm, our aquaponics and aquaculture venture is under way. The first system will be a flow through system on the house dam. Basically we will pump water from deep in the dam into tanks containing trout, and back into the dam. This simple system should raise about a thousand trout a year. Now we can't sell you the trout as fillets, but we can sell you the trout live, then because I am a nice guy I will kill and gut it for you. This way we circumvent all the regulations designed for industrial fish farms because if you buy a live fish, what you do with it after that is not any government instrumentalities business! However the down side is that you will have to visit the farm to buy very fresh fish. I plan to do the same with meat birds too, and call it an act of civil disobedience in defence of good clean and fair food if you will, but it is absolutely outrageous that a small farm wanting to process and sell 100 pasture raised free range birds a month is subject to the same regulations and fees as a factory farm that processes 100,000 a week!
19 April 2010
In spite of being determined not to do markets on long weekends, I will be going to the markets next Sunday. Elizabeth will have a much needed day off and I will be on my Pat Malone. Consequently I will bring in a limited amount of beef packs, so those we rang, please confirm you will be coming or I won't bring in your orders. Mince and sausages will be available but in lesser quantities too.
Traditionally the ANZAC day long weekend is when the region lights the fires and turns on the heaters, but it won't be happening this year I suspect due to predictions of balmy days and nights for the next week - we shall see.
Sheep work today. We'll be sorting out those we keep and those that go into the weight gain mutton program. These girls will be fed high quality hay and my "secret supplement" of seaweed, dolomite, lime, sulphur, copper sulphate and Fermaphos (basically a phosphorus/salt and molasses powder). The addition of a small amount of Fermaphos is a slight variation on Pat Colby's dry lick mix with the salt and molasses being an attractant. I don't like adding molasses to lick mixes, but this is such a small amount <0.1% of their diet and is really for the smell.
Have made a start on the aquaponics systems and took delivery of 24 IBCs on Saturday. The IBCs (1000 litre intermediate bulk containers) will become the grow beds and fish tanks for the trial system. Still fine tuning the system itself, but will start putting system number one together soon.
Still no piglets!!
14 April 2010
Yesterday an uplifting story, today a cautionary tale http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/14/2872311.htm And well may you wonder why we don't use herbicides!?!
13 April 2010
An uplifting story about an eccentric http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2010/04/12/2870334.htm
Yes his example is extreme, but Mark is making a point and we agree the system is broken.
The pork has come and almost gone with only a few packs left. I have no idea when there will be more either as some sows seem to be having phantom pregnancies. Beyonce was meant to have her litter by now and hasn't. The other girls are all in various stages of 'being in pig' and I await with interest the results.
Beef will be back on the menu this weekend, and we will be calling those with orders to confirm. Due to our freezer malfunction we have been on a beef free diet for over a month and I look forward to the great taste of good clean and fair beef again. With winter approaching we'll be dusting off those osso bucco recipes and other slow cooked wondrous offerings. A change of diet to flavoursome casseroles is one of the things I love about winter, the aromas fill the house all day and it is a joy to come in from the paddocks to salivation inducing aromas.
2 April 2010
According to some I have just committed suicide. I erased my facebook presence! No worse actually, not only have I died in their opinion, but eliminated all trace of my very existence. No, actually I have a life - a real one.
28 March 2010
The first batch of much awaited pork sold out yesterday, but don't panic, there will be more the weekend after Easter. If you missed out yesterday, it was merely product of two factors; where you were on the list, and how much pork we could bring in the freezers in one go. So there will be more the Sunday after Easter.
As for quality and taste of the pork? Well I received a text message late last night - seems some could wait no longer, "Pork cutlets magnificent. Puts the Giaconda Chardonnay to shame........." Showing much wine ignorance here, but I assume Giaconda Chardonnay is good? OK I just did a search and it appears that the wine is very good indeed, so now I'll have to go and buy some to see just how good it is ;-)
I'll see some of you at the markets after Easter. No, I am not having a break! I must do some renovation work around the house before divorce proceedings are instituted.
24 march 2010
We were sent the following video by a friend http://vimeo.com/8239427 and if you were wondering what Holistic Management is all about it is worth watching. About an hour of Allan Savoury showing how using livestock appropriately can reverse environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change. Big claims I know, but doable.
18 March 2010
Just a quick update on our meat supply status.
Pork. The long and much awaited pork will be available for collection on Sunday 28 March.
Beef. More steers have joined the food chain earlier than anticipated due to our freezer malfunction. These will be available on Sunday April 17. Again, my apologies to those who missed out 2 weeks ago, but this lot looks every bit as good as we are having a great autumn.
Lamb. I'm not happy with the size and condition of the lambs so are leaving them a bit longer. Basically they have been scouring due to the extended green flush we are having, so I have added dry hay to their diet to help. When they are ready the sheep ear marked for mutton will go too.
It appears we might be having an intern from McGill University with us for 6 weeks in July/August this year. McGill requires their environmental science students to do an intern-ship over their summer break, and Hannah asked if we would oblige. She is particularly interested in ecological agriculture and needs a project to report on, so we have decided to finalise planning and commission our Aquaponics trial for the farm. Hanna can help, monitor and record progress, eventually writing it all up in a report. Should be a fun learning experience for all, and my daughter Katina who is studying environmental science at Canberra Uni can contribute during her winter break.
We should be commissioning our 10 kilowatt solar grid interactive system at the same time, so Hannah will have lots to observe and take in.
BTW I commend to you the following lecture if you are in the region. Lord Martin Rees will be addressing "Challenges for the next 50 years" a public lecture at the Shine dome (Aust Academy of Science dome) Thursday 25 March 5:30pm. You will need to book by ringing Savita on 02 6201 9462 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Hope to see you there.
11 March 2010
Elizabeth and I had a short 4 day break in Tasmania last weekend. We left our daughters minding the farm, used our card points to fly and car hire (complete with carbon offsets) and stayed with a good friend at Kingston Beach near Hobart. We saw much of the south travelling down to South Port and took in the Taste of the Huon. The food was great, the weather kind, the people friendly, the farming land exceptional, scenery magnificent.
We came home to 100mm in the rain gauges, the waterfall falling and the creeks running. I have to say that our farm is as green as the greenest parts of Tassie right now. The morning after our return our whippet Millie decided to take on a big rabbit (an eastern grey roo) in the house paddock and required 20 stitches to her flank. She's a lovely dog, but stupid! Roos can out run most animals but not a whippet so it stood to fight, the roo managed to grab Millie and tried to give her a disembowelling kick, which is their final defence against dogs (the other is to drown them in a dam), the roo missed the gut but caught Millie's flank. So after a trip to the vet, and $250 later, she is fine. Has she learnt anything from the misadventure? She's a whippet! I'll just have to keep her on a lead until I am sure there are no roos around.
Disaster struck just before we went away and one of the commercial freezers died and much prime Belted Galloway beef has become dog food! Just the thought of my dogs eating 6 week dry aged, grass finished, Belted Galloway eye fillet, scotch and porterhouse is probably enough to make some of our foodie friends weep! The bad news is that some of you who had orders with us will now need to wait another 6 weeks for the meat - humblest of apologies, I can assure you this was not part of the plan!
1 March 2010
The cupboards are bare! We have sold out of beef and only have a few sausages left, all the pork that is due week after next is sold, and the lamb and mutton won't be ready for at least 6 weeks. We will have nothing to sell in a few weeks time.
More beef will be joining the food chain Sunday week, but allowing for a 4 week dry ageing, it's 7 weeks away. I seriously misjudged the demand for our beef this cycle and will do better in the next few months. Sincere apologies to those of you who prefer to buy our meats. It's some consolation to know that the cattle are looking fantastic and enjoying the grass that followed the rains.
More pork will be on the menu too, but this is 6 to 8 weeks away too, and will be limited.
All in all I can safely say that demand exceeds supply and we are very close to our very own 'limits to growth'. I'll will have to explore options of supplying more people with good clean and fair food. We can't expand, so it may be a co-op model of like minded producers. Perhaps something along these lines www.foodconnect.com.au ? I'll be meeting with Robert Pekin the founder of food connect this week to explore the possibilities.
16 February 2010
This is Nirvana! All our dams are full and overflowing - I have never seen this. The water falls are still running, no erosion evident anywhere (except the driveway), the ground springs underfoot, it's "all good". A week of warm weather coming up and the pastures will grow very fast and take us through winter. In the last 2 weeks we have received 231mm of rain, most of it the gentle soaking variety. Life is beautiful again :-)
14 February 2010
It's 5:30am and it's been raining all night, beautiful soaking rains and it's still going. Another 50mm overnight and for the first time since the January 2003 bushfires (7 years) our top dams are really filling! Of course we have been drought affected for most of that time, but I suspect it was the fast growing regenerating bush that was sucking any and all ground moisture out of the system. The lack of ground moisture meant the our land has rarely reached field capacity (saturation point) in 7 years, but now it has and run off has started. The big house dams water fall has been running continuously for 36 hours and she's nearly full. Haven't seen the big dam full since 2001 - here's hoping.
Off to the farmers' markets now to see our wonderful co-producers :-)
13 February 2010
January was a very dry month for us and we ended up with 3mm in the rain gauge. My eyes involuntarily chased those storms around the horizon but they seemed to fall anywhere and everywhere but here! In comparison February is being oh-so kind. We received over 50mm of good rain last night with more promised over the weekend. This last rain has arrived on the back of an earlier storm/rain event so we have now had over 120mm so far this month :-) The storms that delivered much of the rain earlier this week also took out the power long enough for me to consider getting out the generators, but the power came back on before they were needed.
Here's an observation to confirm the importance of ground cover on soils. With the arrival of heavy rain a few days ago (30mm in 25 minutes) when our pastures are traditionally sparse, there might have been an erosion issue or two. Well there was, but not in the paddocks: parts of our driveway now resemble the Grand Canyon! Reminds me of a joke I heard years ago. Some Australian farmers are doing an agricultural tour of the US and took time out to fly over the Grand Canyon. The Aussies are amazed by the scale of things when the pilot says, "Bet you boys ain't got nothing like this back in Australia!" One of the farmers replies with genuine sympathy, "Nah mate, nowhere is our erosion this bad."
The point being our driveway which lost lots of soil and gravel has no ground cover, is not as steep as the paddocks which lost no topsoil because they had good ground cover. The drive also has culverts, wash ways and pipes under the road to divert water and minimise erosion, but still it lost a great amount of gravel. A pity there isn't a plant I know of that would grow on the drive and hold it all together. I'd much rather grow plants than spend $1,000 on a bobcat for the repairs!
12 February 2010
It's been over a month since I updated this blog, and feeling somewhat guilty - where to start?
In late January the family had a fantastic 6 day houseboat play on the Hawkesbury and loved every minute of it. We did nothing but potter around exploring, read, swim, canoe, eat drink and sleep. The farm was well cared for again by our wonderful neighbours. This is how it works on farms all over the country, you don't get a break unless someone steps in to do the work. Anyway this was probably one of the last family holidays we'll have, as my eldest has started her Environmental Science degree and youngest is in her final year of school.
We are supplying meats (beef and pork) to the Corinbank Festival Banquet. This was somewhat of an unexpected honour, and I have been asked to address the gathering on good, clean and fair food and issues. They almost weren't going to get the pork as we were thrown into crisis by the closure of yet another abattoir - one we don't use.
The Burrungong Abattoir at Young unexpectedly went into the hands of the receivers two weeks ago. Even though I felt sorry for the hundreds of workers who lost their jobs, I thought, 'no problem for us,we don't use them'. Wrong, big problem as this latest of a great many closures in the last decade and the system is severely stretched. The trouble is the abattoirs users had to be absorbed by the system, so a lot went to the abattoirs I use at Cootamundra and Picton. But abattoir capacity wasn't really an issue, but transport is.
As it stands I am getting special treatment from one of the drivers of the refrigerated vans, who delivers our meats back to my butcher in Yass. A big favour really as Yass is not on 'the run'. Anyway instead of his usual run of 15 butcher shops, he's now doing 25 and initially said he could no longer help. Mad panic set in as I rang every transport company and butchers contact and all said no they don't go to Yass or Canberra. I even tried the coastal abattoirs, but they no longer come to Canberra. I was saved at the eleventh hour by my original driver who had heard around the traps that 'this bloke was trying to get meat back to Yass and it was having a hard time'. He took pity and has offered to resume meat carting for me - I am most grateful.
The seriousness of the situation is that if no refrigerated transport was found it put our entire Wessex Saddleback pig and pork enterprise into question. I even started investigating buying a truck or mobile coolroom to do the transporting myself! It serves to illustrate just how precarious the existence of small enterprises like ours are. We operate in an environment that is 100% geared up for the 'get big or get out' mentality of industrial agriculture. This a direct threat to our (Australians) food sovereignty and right to choose.
The maremma dogs are settling in well, I only have to cure one pup of wanting to carry chickens around in his mouth. No physical harm is done, but a slobbered on traumatised chicken doesn't lay eggs! Otherwise they are delightful dogs.
Probably the best beef we have produced has been ageing for 4 weeks and will be ready next week. We have started selling some beef in Sydney via an upmarket butchery, Hudson Meats. I have always said we don't want to supply Sydney due to the food mile factor, but it turns out that when we use the Picton abattoir, the food miles are less to Sydney than to Canberra. You have to see the prices they must (and can) charge in Sydney to stay in business. However we are receiving excellent feedback about the beef from arguably Sydney's best butchers, and the owner of the stores is a former chef.
The raw milk and cheese campaign is progressing well. Talking on an entrenched bureaucracy complete with old paradigm rusted on is not my idea of fun, but someone has to do it. My submission will not be arguing with their science, even though it is demonstrably flawed, that is being done by others. I will tackle the faulty logic of the paradigm which FSANZ is stuck in - wish me luck :-)
That's probably too much for this post - more soon.
7 January 2010
Happy New Year to all. I have nothing to say really except that way back in 1974 when I was stretching my metaphysical consciousness at the tender age of 16, I really didn't expect to be alive in 2010. So every day above ground is a good day :-)
Well to start the year off with our future in our hands please read this The article perfectly encapsulates what I know to be happening. I vaguely remember reading The Limits to Growth way back in 1977 when I was at the ANU (well I didn't spend all my time trying to impress women and drinking too much), so I have probably plagiarised all Dennis's ideas over the years and not realised it. Anyway if you really want to know what the future holds, read the transcript of his address, and I believe it should be required reading at every secondary school in years 11/12.
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