Spring Planting - Spring Weather ...lots of photos!

There are three weeks to go until we start harvesting for our CSA!!  Even though it has been a grey, cold Spring with lots of rain, most crops are growing well and thriving.  The greens and onions are loving the weather and we have managed to get on top of the weeds during the sunny days. And the polytunnel tomatoes are flowering and setting fruit.

Lettuce and herbs growing in Mandala

Lettuce and herbs growing in Mandala

Tomatoes for the Christmas boxes coming along in the Polytunnel

Tomatoes for the Christmas boxes coming along in the Polytunnel

Salanova lettuce

Salanova lettuce

Zucchini mulched and gaining size with the few warm days we have had - still covered at night for extra warmth and late frost protection

Zucchini mulched and gaining size with the few warm days we have had - still covered at night for extra warmth and late frost protection

Frosty morning late October

Frosty morning late October

The eggplants and capsicums have been held a few extra weeks in the greenhouse while Peter and my visiting nephew Aleix constructed a new polytunnel.  Getting the plastic on in between the wild winds we have had (70km gusts for days!!!) was a challenge but it is ready for tomorrows planting!!

We are growing eight different varieties of capsicum this year -  white, yellow, orange, red, purple, brown and of course green - bell shaped and the Italian longs.  We are also growing several varieties of "frying peppers' who's flavour is enhanced through a quick toss in a hot pan. Some are sweet and make a great addition to pastas, salads and sandwiches and some like the 'Pimiento de Padron' may have a bit of a bite...one of their endearing attributes!  Others can be pickled to enjoy through the Winter.

And we have extended our eggplant varieties as well to include more heirlooms known for their lack of bitterness.  These are great to put on the barbecue or over a fire as well as using them in ratatouille, stir fries and curries.

Eggplant ready to plant out in the field

Eggplant ready to plant out in the field

Capsicums ready for transplanting

Capsicums ready for transplanting

Polytunnel being built in Front Paddock

Polytunnel being built in Front Paddock

new (recycled) polytunnel almost completed and ready for planting this seasons eggplant, capsicums and chillies

new (recycled) polytunnel almost completed and ready for planting this seasons eggplant, capsicums and chillies

The snow peas we want to harvest for Christmas are looking good.  And while the carrots have germinated, we expect them to take off with more warm weather. The beetroot are happy with the cold.  And the potatoes and first bean planting have just started emerging from the soil.

We have been using Biodynamic 501 (ground quartz crystal) which helps plants to tighten their pores (ward off fungal diseases) and supports their use of light!! We hope this will help the tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, and cucumbers ward off any fungal diseases during this moist and cool Spring. And have continued to use Biodynamic 500 when we incorporate green manures to help the transformation from organic matter into hummus.

Snow peas and carrots for the Summer Share

Snow peas and carrots for the Summer Share

Applying BD501 in the early morning - Kale and bok choy growing well

Applying BD501 in the early morning - Kale and bok choy growing well

Manadala Fruit Trees, Herbs and Flowers

Manadala Fruit Trees, Herbs and Flowers

Chicken tractors working through the market garden

Chicken tractors working through the market garden

While we attend to the crops, our CSA for the Summer (15 weeks from 30 November - mid March) is filling up with members purchasing their shares through our online shop.  There are 20 CSA shares still available for Wednesday pick up - the Friday/Saturday pick up option has sold out. If you wanted the Friday/Saturday option, you can join for Wednesday and send us an email to go on the wait list for Friday/Saturday.  If a space becomes available, we will let you know. 

We have had many families making small pickup co-ops to share the weekly vegetable collections.  Some have used the Facebook group TRANSITION FARM CSA to find each other.  If you would like to find other families to share the weekly vegetable collection, and use facebook, please find the group and ask to join.  There may be other CSA members in your area. We have members in Balnarring, Merricks, Red Hill, Frankston, Langwarrin, Mt Eliza, Mt Martha, Dromana, Rosebud, Rye, Blairgowrie, Sorrento and Portsea...I could be forgetting a suburb. 

We have a few work share volunteers joining us for the summer share.  A few more would be great!  Our work share volunteers commit to working with us one day a week throughout the 15 week season.  In exchange for their help, they learn alot about our ecosystem and market gardening techniques and leave each week with a box of vegetables.  We have loved working with our work share volunteers and have also loved seeing them branch out...some have started their own market gardens!!  There is more information here...

This season we are focusing on growing higher quality crops - better tomatoes, bigger capsicums, a larger variety of greens and herbs.  We are excited by the variety we are growing and by the challenge of continuing to harvest tasty food grown using biodynamic principles.  We have chosen to try and grow better -as opposed to growing bigger- and are trying to ensure that our precious resources are preserved and enhanced throughout. 

And while I ponder concepts that seem highly managed, I also continue to be amazed at the intricacy of the natural system and inspired to work within it.

Integrated Pest Management...Lady bird in the chervil!

Integrated Pest Management...Lady bird in the chervil!

The bees drinking their honey...and capping virgin comb.  The bees are enjoying the abundance of nectar this season,  We have housed a swarm and are converting two langstroth hives into warre boxes - 4 warre hives on the farm all thriving!!

The bees drinking their honey...and capping virgin comb.  The bees are enjoying the abundance of nectar this season,  We have housed a swarm and are converting two langstroth hives into warre boxes - 4 warre hives on the farm all thriving!!

Peter and I continue to share photos of the farm and thoughts on farming on instagram (@ transitionfarm  and @transitionfarm_robin ) and facebook.  We wonder if home gardens are having an easier time with the frosts and wind.  Here's hoping you have fruit setting, greens thriving and beans and potatoes popping out of the ground!!

Spring 2016!!

Tomato and Capsicum Seedlings - Sept 2016

Tomato and Capsicum Seedlings - Sept 2016

It's Spring time here in Australia.  The frogs have awoken.  The days are getting longer.  And when there is sun, the warmth is welcome!  Our seeding for the next season began in August.  Tantalizing seed packets arriving in the mail, the excitement of germination and daily growth,  the joy of seeing green manures incorporated and soil being readied for planting...Spring is definitely in the air!

Summer vegetables and herbs - September 2016

Summer vegetables and herbs - September 2016

Winter Green Manure Crops covering the farm - August 2016 - We work on covering as much of the farm as possible when our Autumn crops are pulled out - to keep the soil covered and to feed the soil life in preparation for Spring/Summer plantings.

Winter Green Manure Crops covering the farm - August 2016 - We work on covering as much of the farm as possible when our Autumn crops are pulled out - to keep the soil covered and to feed the soil life in preparation for Spring/Summer plantings.

Chicken Tractors working their way through the Winter Cover Crops - August 2016

Chicken Tractors working their way through the Winter Cover Crops - August 2016

garlic plantings AUGUST 2016

garlic plantings AUGUST 2016

We finished our Autumn/Early Winter season in late June.  2015-2016 was our fourth full growing season.  While our CSA members were disappointed by our decision to take the Spring off from harvesting, we found the time spent reevaluating the farm goals and the farm plan to be extremely beneficial.  Not only did we find the season to be smoother and more efficient then the first three seasons, we also produced the highest quality and tastiest food to date!

The "Market" style CSA pick up was a great success with CSA members loving the vegetables on display.

The "Market" style CSA pick up was a great success with CSA members loving the vegetables on display.

On reflection, the first three years of any new business is a flurry of learning and experimenting, perfecting your trade and understanding your market.  For us as farmers, it was also about building soil, working on the intense weed pressure we had with "new" land and learning what grows well here...with the unique natural forces and resources available.  The vitality and flavour of the crops grown last season were a great reward for not only giving the land extra time in the Spring but also the hard work we had already put in.

View the 2016 weekly CSA shares.

A randomly selected CSA share. 

A randomly selected CSA share. 

In May, we were nominated by one of the country’s top chefs to enter the Delicious Produce Awards for 2016.  Our Brode Galeux d’Eysines pumpkin was honoured as one of the Victorian state winners in the "From the Earth" category.  In July, we advanced to the national judging with the results being revealed on Monday 12 September.  We have been invited to Sydney for the announcement.

This is the first time that our produce has been judged not just on appearance but on TASTE while our sustainable farming practices and ethics have also been taking into consideration. 

Close up picture of our Brode Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkin - selected as a State Winner for the 2016 Delicious Produce Awards.

Close up picture of our Brode Galeux d’Eysines Pumpkin - selected as a State Winner for the 2016 Delicious Produce Awards.

The late Autumn and early Winter were spent planting hedge rows in the market garden.  The diverse indigenous hedgerows throughout the farm provide great habitat for native flaura and fauna as well as hot beds for soil microbiomes.  What we needed though was more wind protection throughout the intensive market garden.  These rows are single species natives and herbs chosen for their habit and nectar.  As they mature, our crops will greatly benefit from the wind protection as will the diverse pollinators and insect predator who feed on nectar.

hedgerows being planted in our market garden sprinkler rows - pic. correa alba, planted may 2016

hedgerows being planted in our market garden sprinkler rows - pic. correa alba, planted may 2016

Rosemary propagation for more hedgerow plantings in the market garden - August 2016

Rosemary propagation for more hedgerow plantings in the market garden - August 2016

Winter Lemons - August 2016

Winter Lemons - August 2016

In addition to the hedgerows, we also changed our irrigation system and reworked our growing beds to be all the same length.  These changes should help make our market gardening much more efficient as well as allowing us the ability to better facilitate the all important task of crop rotation.

We also continued to spread the word about CSA farming and our biodynamic practices through an article in Better Homes and Gardens (China)...we haven't actually translated the article yet so we can only guess at all the content... and Robin giving an interview for Justin Russell's podcast Studio Rustica

spreading the word about csa farms april 2016 edition of Better Homes and Gardens (China).

spreading the word about csa farms april 2016 edition of Better Homes and Gardens (China).

Fruit trees - pruned and pasted with a biodynamic tree paste which nurishes the tree - August 2016

Fruit trees - pruned and pasted with a biodynamic tree paste which nurishes the tree - August 2016

Blooming Apricot!

Blooming Apricot!

And so as we step on to that Spring express train, enjoying the fruit blossoms and busy bees and seed germination and the smell of compost and sinking our hands deep into soil, we are very grateful for all the support of our CSA members past and present.  Without you, we wouldn't be the growers we are today.  Our CSA harvest begins in December.  There will be a CSA newsletter going out in the next week with details.  We will send another general newsletter when the shares are available in our online shop.

Hope you too are enjoying your season!!

CSA Summer Share 2015-Week #12 (25 March/27-28 March)

CSA SUMMER SHARE WEEK #12 The last week of the Summer Share...Thank you for your support of our farm and growing endeavours.  You have been a vital part of our continued desire to grow nutrient dense food for our community in a sustainable way. We look forward to the next 12 weeks of our CSA season.

NOTES ON WHAT'S GROWING Tahlia Gregori, the intern that has been working with us for the past three months leaves next week.  She has been a fantastic intern and we wish her the best in her growing endeavours!

We have started harvesting the first of the Autumn broccoli crops.  If you did not receive any this week, you will next! All of the brassicas love the cool nights we have been having and the rain has been welcome, too.  We have also started harvesting our third zucchini planting.  We hope that it will be able to ward off powdery mildew and keep growing until the frost. The next corn planting will be ready next week.

The sweet capsicums are still coming on.  If you are receiving more than you know what to do with, you can slice them and freeze them to use in stir-fries and sauces through the winter!

We will have lettuce this week and next and then there will be a gap in the head lettuce.  We have planted many other greens so that this gap will hopefully not be felt in the boxes.  The lettuce seed does not like to germinate when it is hot.  We do several things to work around this but had three weeks of lettuce not germinate in the glasshouse.  The current lettuce seedlings are doing well but not even in the ground yet.

All of the Autumn brassicas are glowing and the parsnips and turnips are growing well.  The transition into Autumn is always softened by the great flush of Summer vegetables still enjoying the warm soil.  The bean picking Tuesday was not as heavy as summer weeks.  There will be more beans next week.

The tomatoes are starting to succumb to summer disease.  We are still picking though! The cherry tomato crop is still producing for “Pick Your Own” during farm pick up times!  Please bring your own containers. Limit a 1 kilo bucket per family.

Farm pickup is 2-5pm Fridays and 8-11am Saturdays. Box pickup is available at other times by appointment only.  Cherry Tomato picking is only available during farm pick up times.

NOTES ON STORING THE HARVEST Please check out our Vegetable & Fruit page on the website to find tips on maximizing the life of your veggies.  We envisage that many of the vegetables you are receiving this week will last for two weeks with careful attention to storing upon arrival. Although we do wash all the greens after harvest, we are washing to take the heat out of the plants and wash away some surface dirt, not to prepare them for consumption.  We also spray a seaweed/herb brew about every ten days.  While this will not harm you, it does have a taste. We do suggest washing your produce prior to eating.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX The following are the items harvested this week.  Items and quantities in your box may vary depending on your harvest day and the total harvest of each crop.  The boxes are completely governed by what is ripe and ready for harvest and how much of it there is.  We endeavor to divide the harvest fairly. 1/4 share: 5-7 items   1/2 share: 8-10 items   Full Share: 10-12 items
Beans Bok Choy Red Cabbage Capsicum Carrots Chilies Coriander Lettuce Spring Onions Sweet Potatoes Tomatoes Watermelon

Extras Broccoli Cherry Tomatoes Chilies –   'Pimiento de Padrons'. Eggplant Melons Zucchini

RECIPE SUGGESTIONS

Roasted Sweet Potato, Sweet Capsicum and Carrot Soup - An internet find soup with delicious flavour Watermelon, Feta and Toasted Pumpkin Seed Salad Tassajara Warm Red Cabbage Salad - This is an adaptation of a fantastic Tassajara Restaurant recipe Broccoli, Capsicum, Carrot and Bok Choy Stir Fry - This recipe can include ay protein source - tofu, chicken, beef, mung bean sprouts. We made it with onions, capsicum, carrots, broccoli and bok choy and it was delicious! Bok Choy Salad - Crispy and delicious with roasted veggies and crunchy Asian noodles

You can search our recipes by looking for the key ingredients on our website recipe page

Please note - Photo is a randomly selected full share box.

CSA Summer Share 2015-Week #11 (18 March/20-21 March)

CSA SUMMER SHARE WEEK #11 We started harvesting the leeks this week!  Perfect soup weather with the nights cooling down and the coming of the Autumn equinox. In France the 'Galeux d'Eysines' pumpkin is mostly used for soups, sauces and preserves such as pumpkin butter because the texture of the cooked fruit is very smooth. One of the tastiest pumpkins!

NOTES ON WHAT'S GROWING The next plantings of sweet corn and beans are not ready for harvest yet. The broccoli is heading up...unsure if it will be ready for next week but definitely the following.  The red cabbage is forming heads as well - Enter the Autumn brassicas! The third zucchini planting has many small fruit so we hope to able to start harvesting zucchini again next week.

Amidst tending the brassicas, curing sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes cured for a few weeks are sweeter then those straight from the ground!), harvesting all the potatoes and storing onions and seeding more greens and roots for Autumn, we are preparing areas of the farm for the green manure crops we LOVE!  These crops make a winter blanket, protecting the soil from the wind and rain of winter while providing all of the soil microbes roots to continue to feed on.  Then in Spring, they become the soil’s salad - a mixture of nutrient rich grasses, legumes and herbs which build the humus layer in the soil and feed the plants throughout the season. It is wonderful to watch the farm slowly transition from tired crops, to bare soil, to sprouting green growth.

Peter and I have been taking lots of pictures of the farm and posting them on instagram.  There are small thumbnails on our website home page.  You can click on these to see them bigger.

The cherry tomato crop is still producing for U-picking during farm pick up times!  Late summer is a great time to see the farm with late blooming sunflower rows, 2m high corn stalks, Autumn brassicas, beans, Autumn peas germinating, the pumpkins ripening, chickens in the buckwheat green manure crop...It looks fantastic and abundant!  Please bring your own containers. Limit a 1 kilo bucket per family.

Farm pickup is 2-5pm Fridays and 8-11am Saturdays. Box pickup is available at other times by appointment only.  U-pick is only available during farm pick up times.

NOTES ON STORING THE HARVEST Please check out our Vegetable & Fruit page on the website to find tips on maximizing the life of your veggies.  We envisage that many of the vegetables you are receiving this week will last for two weeks with careful attention to storing upon arrival. Although we do wash all the greens after harvest, we are washing to take the heat out of the plants and wash away some surface dirt, not to prepare them for consumption.  We also spray a seaweed/herb brew about every ten days.  While this will not harm you, it does have a taste. We do suggest washing your produce prior to eating.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX The following are the items harvested this week.  Items and quantities in your box may vary depending on your harvest day and the total harvest of each crop.  The boxes are completely governed by what is ripe and ready for harvest and how much of it there is.  We endeavor to divide the harvest fairly. 1/4 share: 5-7 items   1/2 share: 8-10 items   Full Share: 10-12 items
Basil Beetroot Capsicum Carrots Chilies Leeks Potatoes Pumpkin Silver beet Spring Onions Tomatoes

Extras Cherry Tomatoes Chilies –   'Pimiento de Padrons'. Coriander Eggplant Lettuce Melons Radishes Silver beet Watermelon

RECIPE SUGGESTIONS Carrot and Leek Soup Creamy Pumpkin Soup Breakfast Slab Pie - This is a hearty silver beet pie recipe that works great for afternoon picnics, breakfast in the car, Saturday dinner. It is from from Deb Perelman who shares loads of great food at www.smittenkitchen.com

PASTA WITH SWEET CAPSICUMS I find that sometimes the simplest of recipes allow each ingredient to be savoured. Ingredients 2 sweet capsicums sliced thinly into strips 2 cloves of garlic olive oil fresh basil leaves, ripped roughly salt and freshly ground black pepper Shaved Parmesian cheese Pasta of your choice (penne, bowties and angel hair really hold the flavours of this sauce) Method 1. Prepare pasta according to instructions 2. Put a generous jug of olive oil into a fry pan over moderate heat. 3. Add crushed garlic and sliced capsicums.  Fry until the capsicum is soft and slightly carmelised. 4. Add to pasta with fresh basil, salt and ground pepper and parmesian cheese.

You can search our recipes by looking for the key ingredients on our website recipe page

Please note - Photo is a randomly selected full share box except fot the whole pumpkin (full shares received 1/4).