Well, 2017 has come bearing down upon Brisbane with a hot, humid and unrelenting wave of summer stifle that has slowed the pace of even the most seasoned summer garden warriors. As far as growing is concerned, there's not much to do except hunker down behind a wall of green manure and wait it out. Apart from complaining about the heat, we have been busy creating new places to grow food and we're stoked to share the latest news and a few photos of the progress on the Murarrie State School plot.
In the last post we mentioned that Murarrie State School had granted us a generous amount of school yard space to set up some garden beds that would be used both to demonstrate to the kids how food is grown and provide a large amount of food for the Forkhay Project to distribute to the community. Since then we have come up with a concept for the space and begun the transformation of what was a lifeless patch of sand and sad looking grass into worm heaven.
In December last year we managed to commandeer a bobcat that was up at the school for a few hours to help us shift an old unused shadehouse frame from across the other side of the school into a spot next to our garden bed where it will begin it's new life as a seedling nursery. Lifting and maneuvering the frame into place was an absolute mission but with Gav, Ben (the school principal) and myself helping the bobcat driver we got it in with only some minor cosmetic damage. Nothing a crowbar can't fix anyway.
The following weekend we organised a dump truck to drop off a full load of premium organic compost from Brisbane Soils. I had contacted them earlier in the week and the owner Luke loved the idea of helping kids learn how to grow food so much that he gave us a ridiculous discount and delivered the stuff himself for free (cheers Luke!). With the help of Kev, Ben, Louis, Megan and Tim we installed some sleeper edging on the lower sides of the bed and raked/barrowed/shovelled the pile of compost into a roughly 10x4m garden bed about 300mm deep. That should be plenty enough space to get started and will allow for some crop rotation.
The crew had a break over Christmas with myself and Linda ending up doing some volunteering at the Woodford Folk Festival, always a great time up there. January has been a slow but steady pace and we have managed to get the rest of the school bed edged up, a fence installed to stop (or at least slow) the chooks and a terrace or two to help with the erosion of the exposed embankment. This weekend we are planning to innoculate a bunch of green manure and seed the school bed in the hope that it will sprout a crop of nitrogen fixing legumes and finally bring life to this desolate and forgotten corner of the school ground. Once this crop has matured we will chop it and turn it into the top layer of the garden bed to break down and deliver it's payload of nitrogen and organic mass to the soil. Hopefully by mid to late March we should be ready to start planting veges! Hoorary!
In other news, I have spent my Saturday mornings over the last month at Northey St City Farm doing a crash course in permaculture and picked up some great techniques for compost making, worm farming and no dig gardening which I am planning on passing onto the Murarrie School students once we get some compost bays set up. It was also a good chance to network with some other keen young gardeners and urban farmers around Brisbane with a few locals keen to come and help out at Forkhay.
I am also stoked to have been invited to be a part of the panel conversation on the progressive vision of agriculture and food production at the RENEW FEST 2017, happening in Mullumbimby in May. It should be a great opportunity to share our experiences in Brisbane with Forkhay and to learn from other groups that are also trying to push back against the tide of supermarket dominance in our food industry.