Friday, June 1, 2012

A grey day

Today I can't see the mountain. Cold, steel-grey clouds hover in front of her, shrinking my view to next doors ugly shed, and making the Stringybark trees at the top of our hill look like scrawny, menacing ghosts with afros.

The wind isn't strong, but it still drives the incessant drizzle under the hood of my raincoat and into my eyes. I can't feel my fingers but there are hundreds of tiny greens and flowers yet to be picked. Trouble is, many of the flowers we're meant to be gathering have been damaged by the rain, and slugs have been feasting on the greens. But we can't stop, the order has to be picked before it's time to meet the school bus.

The crosne we'd nurtured all summer, and had been counting on as a big autumn crop, were mostly eaten by mice, this after our potatoes were terribly affected by blight and what was meant to be a good source of cash flow for the garden, and a staple food for our family, was reduced to a few tubers we had to scrounge from the earth. Some expensive lucerne I'd bought for mulch was laden with weedy grass seeds turning every bed I'd mulched into a nightmare. I'm struggling to work out how I can look after the garden and nursery plants, harvest, pack and deliver, run market stalls, do the book work and take care of the family.

Days like this I think really hard about what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, if I should be doing it at all, or just find a nice cosy, warm salon and start cutting hair again.....

Is my concept of a small garden that feeds my family and a few others, and is a testing ground for unusual crops, a mistake? Is it possible for us to turn 5 acres of less than ideal soil into a business, while sticking to my perhaps impossible, idealistic gardening philosophies? Things get quiet in winter too, people aren't as keen to be gardening, and we are grateful for the hardy souls who brave the weather to come to market.

All of these worries weigh me down on the cold, grey, dreary days.

But then then cloud lifts and our majestic mountain reveals herself. And if we're really lucky she'll be wearing a veil of snow.

And the worry lifts from my shoulders.

I met last week with a woman who has a food growing, community building vision, and the incredible insight and energy she needs to implement it. I spoke with another friend who is off to tour food growing farms and gardens in the States and offer her labour in exchange for experience. I am surrounded by encouraging friends and family, incredible fellow stallholders and customers (and a lot of wonderful friends in the virtual worlds of twitter, facebook and instagram). I really believe that we can achieve something here, albeit more slowly than we'd like, and perhaps with some compromises.

I don't want machines on our land. I won't use poison on slugs or rats. I dream of growing grain to feed our chickens rather than feeding them with sacks of stuff from who knows where, so that I can take our glorious weed fed eggs to market on a regular basis. I want more people and less machines to grow good food with minimal inputs. I want to experiment with crops to find those that produce delicious, appetizing food while resisting pests and diseases and requiring minimal water and nutrient. I want to collect and grow weird, fantastical, exciting edible plants and watch brilliant chefs weave magic with them. I want to be in a position to employ like minded people for a good wage, and to learn with them.

Some days it all seems too hard, but then I think of the menacing smells of peroxide and hairspray, do a kale tasting with my four year old in the garden, while the seven year old steals carrots, wipes them on her clothes and eats them on the spot, and feel I thankful at how life has evolved.