It’s that time of year again – the sun is shining, the temperatures are soaring, and the idea of berry-topped muesli, pancakes, EVERYTHING is suddenly looking very appealing. So, we’re getting daily calls and emails asking when our delicious blueberries will be ripe for the picking.
While we’d love our season to start earlier and run longer, sadly Mother Nature has other plans! Our precious crop of blueberries won’t be ready for picking until mid December (we’ll definitely keep you posted) but here’s a sneak peek at what’s forming on the branches right about now… Excited? We are!
By the way, we’ve been working hard on our veggie patch and should have some homegrown goodies for sale alongside our berries this year. Hands up if you’d like fresh, organically grown tomatoes, rainbow chard, herbs and garlic? We should have a bounty available for pickers this year, grown at Misty Valley Farm and Little Hill Farm, just 10 minutes down the road.
In between pruning, fixing netting and building a mega new veggie patch, we occasionally get some time off! Recently, we managed to take a Friday out to visit Margan Estate in Broke. We went for a cooking workshop and lunch hosted by chef Michael Robinson, but the highlight was touring the amazing biodynamic kitchen garden that feeds Margan’s restaurant with up to 90% of its produce.
Freshly harvested rainbow radishes
The food philosophy behind the fine dining restaurant at Margan is very much paddock to plate, so a huge one-acre patch – including a fruit orchard and a gorgeous chicken coop – has been set up to supply the busy kitchen. When we visited, we harvested cherry-sized radishes in rainbow colours, and wandered through rows of fennel, kale, carrots, strawberries, micro greens, leeks, broccoli and more. Chefs tend to prefer small veggies and leaves – they look prettier on the plate – so it’s a tough job (managed by one very energetic woman!) planning and maintaining this garden to ensure there are dainty vegetables available every day of the week, plus tiny micro greens to display in miniature white pots on each table.
A dainty dish of local lamb and veggies from the kitchen garden
We were totally inspired by the garden – not only did it look gorgeous, everything was grown with care and following biodynamic principles. If you haven’t heard of biodynamics, it’s a method of organic farming that focuses on soil fertility and considers all aspects of agriculture as one. It follows an astrological planting and sowing calendar and involves some out-there fertilising methods – think burying cow droppings in a cow horn! The end result is environmentally friendly farming practices, healthy soil and amazing produce. We follow biodynamics as much as we can at Misty Valley Farm and, of couse, we never use chemicals on our berries.
We highly recommend checking out Margan Estate – and we’ll keep you posted on our own veggie patch as it progresses.
This week on the farm, we’ve been readying our site for our new vegetable patch, just outside the blueberry orchard. We were originally going to move the blueberry bushes that are outside the netted area into the netted enclosure, but are running out of time as at least some of them have started flowering, and they are overgrown with grass and weeds. So we’ve decided to keep them where they are and incorporate them into the veggie patch for now. The plan is to grow strawberries under the blueberries here as a (delicious) living mulch.
These bushes are much happier without the weeds and ferns beneath them
We spent the last few days clearing the first hedge of ferns and trees that had self-sown in that area. We will be moving our chickens onto the tilled area so they can scratch it up, fertilise it and hopefully eat the weed seeds, then we’ll cover it with a thick layer of lucerne to break down until spring, when we will start sowing our vegetables. In the meantime we need to get into the enclosed area to prune, weed and mend the netting before the next season.
Autumn is a beautiful time on the farm and most mornings we’ve been greeted with a thick blanket of mist hanging low over the grass. It’s easy to remember how the farm got its name when you see this!
Misty mornings on the farm
And, last but not least, our latest news is that we have welcomed three milking goats to the farm! It’s been a while since we’ve had any animals around apart from the chickens, and we’ve missed it. These goats came from a farm where there was not one blade of grass for them to eat. They emerged from the trailer and started nibbling the grass immediately. At the moment they are very happy and we will be keeping them close to the house for a while to allow them to adjust to us and their new home before we move them to one of our paddocks. We plan to coax them close to the house each afternoon to keep them safe, and as they are creatures of habit they should get used to the routine fairly quickly. They’re already very tame and enjoy our pats. We won’t be attempting milking until they have kids. Their names are Heidi, Clara and Polly.
The new girls, Heidi, Clara and Polly.
Confession: we intended starting this online journal months ago, but as so often happens, busy-ness pushed this little project to the backburner. But, there’s no time like the present!
Those who visited the farm last season would have noticed it was our busiest season ever – we entered the online fray and word spread like wildfire! This year we have so many projects and plans to make visiting the farm in 2014 even better.
As the cooler weather sets in, we’ll begin pruning the blueberry bushes to encourage new growth and fruit, and keep them in check (they’re raising the netting roof at the moment!). We’re also working on a new, extra-big veggie patch and have been planting carrots, garlic and winter greens in our existing garden beds.
Our biggest project at the moment is finishing our little shed/cottage. If you visited to pick berries last season, you would have spotted the cute blue shed that we’ve converted into a one-bedder, complete with rustic corrugated iron walls, leadlight windows and chandeliers. Well, in the last month Graham has built a fantastic pergola around the shed and on the Mother’s Day weekend we started making a screen to enclose one end of the pergola with old garden gates and a window. We plan to grow a passionfruit vine on the large piece of reinforcing mesh facing out, and a wisteria vine over the entire pergola to make it a cool, private place to sit in summer. We’ve even installed a chandelier, complete with solar lightbulbs, to light the space by night! By spring, we hope to open the shed as a self-contained B&B, as we’re so ideally located to the vineyards and other Hunter attractions. We’ll be updating you all on the progress here on our blog, so stay tuned…
Graham’s pergola handiwork – it was a huge job! We’ll plant a passionfruit over the rio on the left
Fitting the old gates together is a little like playing Tetris
That’s all from Misty Valley Farm this week! We’ll keep you posted with more happenings at the farm over winter. Let us know what you think of Graham’s handiwork in the comments below.