Sunday, November 22, 2009

We've started to eat this crop of garlic

We've started to eat this year's crop of garlic and we are very pleased with the quality. We eat heaps of garlic because of its flavour, it's especially delicious with eggs, roast beef or lamb, cooked with pasta and greens, in fresh tomato sauces, and with potatoes or beans.

We will keep at least four or five bulbs a week for us to eat on the farm, and about half of this harvest for planting next season. The rest, mostly the biggest bulbs, will be sold at farmers markets (starting next Saturday at Churchill Island) where the hardneck varieties are always popular.

Garlic or allium sativum, adapts to the local soil, and does well when it is replanted in the same space in the garden for several years. For best results, I'm told that it's good to plant garlic which originates in your region – so keeping seed from year to year is the way to go. The majority of the garlic we planted this year was bought-in so it will be interesting to see if there's much difference next year when we use our own cloves.
Did you know that China produces around 70% of the world's garlic and is driving many garlic producers out of business?
For at least 10,000 years, humans have enjoyed garlic. From ancient China, Egypt and India, through Biblical times and Greek and Roman cultures, down to the present, people have used garlic to treat a variety of illnesses including cancer, heart disease and leprosy, as well as infected wounds and dysentery.

Modern research shows that garlic is a powerful antibiotic, provides at least three beneficial effects for the heart, helps eliminate lead and other toxic heavy metals from the body, has anti-tumour properties, and said to be useful in treating leprosy and AIDS. It's our garlic's wonderful flavour, however, that keeps us growing and eating it.

You can grow garlic, too. Look for decent size bulbs at a local farmers market, hang it up until autumn and then plant it when you set out other bulbs like daffodils and tulips. In around six months you'll harvest your own and will have your own culinary delight.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Garlic almost ready for harvesting

Our first crop of garlic is just about ready to harvest and we will probably have our first sales at the Chuchill Island Farmers' Market next Saturday (November 28).
It takes a long time to grow and takes heaps of weeding but the end result looks pretty good. The latest burst of hot weather has set it up well and we won't be watering the crop anymore (at least not the main varieties). We may have to keep the water up to our late Californian variety to ensure the bulbs fill out properly - but everyone tells me to be carefull not to over-water as this could affect keeping qualities.
We should be selling our French, Australian white and Australan purple striped garlic right through to the end of January and then the plan is for the late Californian to be ready. (But the way it's growing I think the late Californian will be ready to harvest within three or four weeks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Burn, Burn, Burn

On the farm we are getting ready for summer and what is usually seen as the fire season. I must say I find it rather pathetic that we now appear to have autumn, winter, spring and the fire season. Climate change may be upon us but most of our challanges come from brain dead people. I agree fully with the comments on the Friends of Bass Valley blogsite at

On our property we have our three fire pumps ready and I'm equipping a couple of trailers for some rapid response around the farm.

The sad thing is that if we get a wildfire around here it will most likely be deliberately caused by: an arsonist from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (or Parks Vic) desperate for a 'controlled burn' to show that they are doing something; an arsonist from the CFA who gets a buzz from starting fires and then being called to put them out; an arsonist who just has no reason to be alive; dickheads on trail bikes riding through the bush or dumb mongrels flicking cigarette butts out of their car window.

It's much easier to live with the results of a natural disaster created by nature - lightning stike etc - but it something else to come to terms with a disaster caused by a deliberate act.
If Parks Victoria has any intention of conducting a burn in the Grantville Flora and Fauna Reserve, I suggest they talk to us first!! It it gets away on them they can expect a bit of trouble.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Food production or houses - why choose houses!

Australia's ability to produce enough of it's own food is coming under massive pressure - which is weird when you think about how efficient our rural sector has been over the years. The latest onslaught has been from the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Glen Stephens, who is urging State Governments to chop up more land for housing – and (here in Victoria anyway) that land is usually prime farmland which feeds Australia.

And the Federal Government is still doing nothing to check the impact on farmers of the flood of cheap frozen vegetables from China.

Quite apart from the health risks and the unfair competition from food which does not meet the same standards demanded by regulators here, the imports are threatening to drive many farmers out of the industry.

Huge tonnages of Chinese produce have been dumped in Australian supermarkets in the past year even though similar produce meeting higher standards is grown by Australian farmers.
It's no wonder farmers are giving up!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New flock of chooks arriving soon

We have a new flock of 300 Isa Brown point of lay pullets arriving at the end of this month so I'm busily selling off the last of our oldest flock of hens to people who want them for their backyards.
The last 100 will go on Sunday to a young guy who is setting up his own egg farm on his parents' property.
From then I'll be able to clean out the two mobile sheds, fix one of the skids which needs a bit of repair work and get them ready for the new girls.
I usually like to leave the sheds empty for a couple of month betwen flocks but we will need maximum production during the Christmas holidays when Phillip Island sinks under the weight of all the tourists.
We plan on a production level of around 600 dozen a week from mid December until the end of January - which won't leave time for much else!
So I'm getting as many farm inspections and audits done as soon as possible because it will be even more like a madhouse here than usual once the festive season hits us.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Conducting farm audits

I'm often asked what's involved in carrying out audits on farms or other regional businesses. There's a whole heap of questions tangled up there because it totally depends what the audit or inspection is for and who requires it to be undertaken.

I don't get involved in financial audits – my focus is on environmental audits, organic certification, food safety, compliance with the Egg Corp Assured program, accreditation for the Free Range Farmers Association and most recently, compliance inspections for the Victorian Farmers' Markets Association. I also organise and conduct flora and fauna surveys to provide species information for a variety of clients. (Don't know how much good it does but at least people will now what was here before the poor buggers went extinct). Unfortunately most people around here don't understand (or care) about biodiversity - it's all about chasing dollars.

The most demanding and time consuming audits I undertake are those environmental audits which require certification to ISO 14001. If the business is conducted on several sites, the audit could easily take days and possibly weeks, involving heaps of paperwork, soil sample analysis and checking through prior land use.

Thankfully most inspections/audits can be completed in a few hours and usually in under an hour if it's a simple compliance issue for a specific purpose – such as VFMA or FRFA accreditation.

I try to only work within Victoria because I have too much to do here to undertake many inter-state audits. But it's all interesting, seeing different approaches to how businesses are conducted.