In this issue we have a report on the General Meeting at Tocal and the Christmas Gathering at Peacock Grove.
Report General Meeting Tocal College 12th November 2010.
Report by Loo Boothroyd.
Danny commenced the meeting by thanking everyone for their generous work and commitment over the past 6 months.
Fred Fetherston introduced a discussion on further reflections on "Making Biodynamics Happen" as a follow on from Manfred Klett's talk in Adelaide last year.
The discussion opened with the theme of 'manuring'... what it is that helps a plant to grow ... the preps, manure and compost.
Some of the points that came up in discussion:
• Ross commented on the need to check whether the soil is appropriate for your crop first.
• Fertilise to nurture the soil
• Susan commented on the actual meaning of the word "manure"
Reflections on 2010.
• Connection between humans and animals
• Danny talked about the value of the preps days for both him and his family, how he has taken home knowledge, products and plants which have been of benefit to his garden. He also said his wife is more interested in the plants and the kids get out more into the garden... it's something they all share.
• Greg said when he and Susan went for an extended trip they needed to de-stock the farm as his son was not able to look after the animals. They felt without the animals there was a loss of soul on the farm and they have since started to restock.
• Danny commented on the importance of diversity in the garden so there is always something different to eat in the vegie garden
• Warwick and Eris moved to Largs 6 months ago renting a house that had been treated with Roundup. They have given it a good turning over with cow dung and vegie scraps.
• Crushed eggshells are very effective as a deterrent for snails and slugs
• Alison said how great it is to live on a biodynamic farm and get involved with the garden and chooks
• Sandra H. talked about biodiversity in the chook pen with a bower bird making its nest in the pen collecting everything it could find which is blue
• Sandra N. talked about an eco garden in Terry Hills where the owners have come from a conventional farming background where chemical fertilisers have been used. They saw that chemical fertilisers quickly acidified the soil and that the micro organisms couldn't adjust. This also led to acidifying people's food, whereas plants should be alkaline forming in the body. Furthermore when plants are grown in soils fertilised with chemicals such as superphosphate it affects the next generation of plants
• Danny – alkaline foods are important in fighting cancer
• Eris – children can be encouraged to eat fruit by making it more fun, such as putting fruit salad through a food processor and then putting it in ice block containers. This has worked well with her grandchildren
• John – Cornerstone Café at Organic Feast provides a sense of community a place where people can chat, share ideas etc. HBG also provides a wonderful sense of community and he especially values the preps group
Ideas for 2011 Calendar.
• Pasture Development
• Animal Handling ... connection to BD
• Electric Fencing / cell grazing / crop rotation / pasture management
• Good farming practice
CHRISTMAS GATHERING AT PEACOCK GROVE.
4th December 2010 REPORTED by SUSAN SCHMIEDTE.
Despite a very wet morning, about 40 members turned up to celebrate together at Peacock Grove. The talk was mostly done indoors, rather than on foot and in the Grove, but Chris and Gloria's story about how they got into biodynamics, growing olives and raising beef was accompanied by the drumming of the rain on the shed roof, and we were pleased to be in the dry.
Gloria and Chris Peacock own and care for 150 acres at Gosforth situated on a bend of the Hunter River nestled amongst surrounding hills. The land comprises low-lying rich alluvial soil and higher ground with less fertility.
Despite knowing that olives prefer well-drained soil, they originally chose the richer but low lying land to plant their first olives. 500 were planted by loving hands. As the trees showed their dislike of their wet feet, they were quickly retrieved and replanted in the higher ground, with how much love this time I am not sure! This event cost 200 trees but much valuable experience was gained.
The remainder of the higher ground was then deep ripped and chicken manure and rock phosphate was applied. The trees were planted in raised beds to help with drainage, and to consolidate the minimal, precious top soil. After re-settling the uprooted trees and planting up to 2,000 trees again by hand, the plans to have a 6,000 tree grove were permanently shelved.
A third of the trees are table olives which have to be hand-picked, (350 Kalamata and 350 Manzanilla) and the 1300 are for oil (Frantoio 300 and Koroniki). The Frantoio produce milder flavoured oil compared with the much stronger Koroniki. The oil variety can be mechanically harvested, but processing needs to occur within 24 hours of picking for optimum taste and quality.
Gloria and Chris joined the Hunter Olive Association, where they met Pia Lingren (and Greg), whose enthusiasm for Biodynamics got them hooked! They attended the next Learner's Course, joined the HBG and Peacock Grove Biodynamic Olive Grove was born!
The soil in the olive grove has Horn Manure (BD 500), Horn Silica (BD 501) and Manure Concentrate applied regularly. Clover and Cow Peas are planted between the rows and spoilt lucerne hay and native forest mulch used as mulch. The two main pests in the grove are Black Scale and Lace Bug: the former is controlled with Eco-oil, and the Lace bug is sprayed with Natrasoap. These sprays have been effective only when they are repeatedly sprayed at regular intervals, and this is of course quite labour intensive. Gloria commented that regular observation is very important.
Another constant job in the grove is slashing to keep the weeds around the base of the trees down, so that the sprinklers can work. Because of the raised beds, Chris slashes between rows with a slasher that travels on sleds, & a regular slasher is used to run parallel to the raised beds the remaining area around each tree is kept down with a brush-cutter.
Compost is made on the property, is applied to the trees and then mulched with newspaper and mulch, preferably sugar cane as it lasts longer.
The trees are irrigated with above-ground sprinklers, and this system is used to fertigate the trees, mainly with 'worm juice", "fish emulsion" and 'natra-kelp' with BD preps. Christopher is pleased that he can supply rain water, run-off from the farm, to the trees and cattle from the large dam in the middle of the property. This is despite the fact they have Hunter River frontage and a water licence.
The oil is processed off the farm, but is bottled, labelled and marketed on site. The table olives are processed in small quantities as they ripen, by hand on the farm. Peacock Grove oil and olives have won several awards at the Hunter Olive Association's annual competition, which attracts competitors from all around the nation as well as New Zealand.
Chris went on to talk about the cattle (11 cows and their calves and 1 bull), that are cell grazed on about eighty acres, comprising high ground and low alluvial ground. Inspired and supported by John Priestley, Karen Newby and Michael Winchester and many others, they have gained lots of knowledge from these generous folk and of course, the patient cattle themselves. A beautiful Friesian named Bertha started them on their bovine journey, but due to needs to milk and then mastitis issues, they decided to stick to beef cattle and chose Herefords. Each paddock is fenced, has its own water supply and mineral licks and Rock Salt are provided in trailers with covers that can be easily moved with the cattle. Sulphur is used externally when cows present with rubbed areas and seaweed solution is added to water troughs for general health.
Chris keeps a close eye on the growth of the calves, regularly recording weights, ages and mating dates. Calves are usually sold at 360kgs/9 months. They are processed through the Organic Kill at Kurri Kurri Meatworks and most sold privately. With animal welfare in mind, Chris would like to start a campaign to legalise home-kills.
Pasture Improvement includes regular applications of Horn Manure (BD500) and Horn Silica (BD501). Also Lime and Dynamic Lifter is applied to paddocks, as indicated by the results of regular soil tests.
A good number of members braved the weather and were treated to a detailed look at Chris's equipment and a demonstration of how his flow-form works and how he sprays his 500 and 501. They then went to look at the progress of the next olive crop which has the makings of an excellent crop. They also saw evidence of the lace-bug infestation which is also in abundance this year thanks to the wet weather. Finally the group were shown how the licks and minerals were administered to the cattle.
After a very enjoyable and varied lunch, there was a "garlic huddle" with lots of exchange of experiences, sharing of info and comparison of bulbs, etc. We were also treated to a presentation by Alison Newman, from the Prep Group, sharing her drawing reflections of the monthly moods and changes in the Prep shed – it seemed to be a result of many hours of personal devotion, commitment and enjoyment. Well done Alison!
The day was a wonderful social, festive and informative occasion and again we thank Gloria and Chris for their generous hospitality.
Happy New Year
From Eris Faul (The punch we had at the Christmas Gathering)
Makes approximately 11 litres (serves about 22 people)
1250ml boiling water
1/2 cup rapadura (or raw) sugar
4 English Breakfast teabags
4 sprigs mint (or peppermint teabags)
125ml blackcurrant syrup
625ml pineapple and orange fruit juice
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup fresh grape juice
6 passionfruit (or tin pulp)
1 x 2L bottle of dry ginger ale
2 x 2L bottles of lemonade
2 cups finely chopped fresh fruit salad (or tin)
2kg Ice cubes
1. Put the boiling water, sugar, teabags, mint and blackcurrant syrup into a saucepan; slowly bring to boiling point, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
2. Put aside until cold then remove the mint sprigs and teabags.
3. Stir in the fruit juices and pulp of the passionfruit, chill thoroughly.
4. When needed, stir in dry ginger ale and lemonade.
5. Add the fruit salad and ice and it is ready to serve.
Hunter Biodynamic Group PO Box 68 East Maitland 2323
Chair: Danny Woodland 49965500 Preps: Margaret Bruvel 4938 5435