April 2023 Newsletter
Cooler winds, fresh mornings and evenings growing darker earlier.... April has definitely arrived. Maybe you have not slowed down yet in the garden because you are busy seed saving and sowing winter veggies. Or maybe you have finished all your major tasks for the start of the season. Whichever it is, we have articles in this edition which will get your mind thinking, a few more tasks you maybe had not thought about and a few recipes to try. I am still picking raspberries and for this I am grateful, especially on some of these colder days.
The next Produce Share for the 3 Rivers Hinterland is this Friday 14 April at Duns Creek and then on the 28 April at Anambah.
Click on the heading to go straight to those articles or make yourself a brew, sit down and make yourself comfortable for this month's read.
If you would like to contribute to the newsletter or have a notice or event you would like to submit, please email it to email@example.com
Melissa Fogarty (Newsletter Editor)
We are almost ready to share the whole year with you. How exciting. We have our AGM in October, another workshop planned for November and then it is Christmas party time.
Purple Pear Farm
Four Acre Farm
Maplewood Permaculture Farm
Dianella Animal Sanctuary
Living Smart Festival
We are in the process of updating the growing guide on the website. Stay tuned for more in this space soon.
Sow: Asparagus, alyssum, bergamot, billy buttons, broad beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, calendula, carrots, cauliflower, celtuce, chives, coriander, cornflowers, delphinium, echinacea, everlasting daisy, hollyhocks, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, onion, parsley, parsnip, peas, poppy, potatoes, pyrethrum, radish, rhubarb, rocket, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, spring onion, swede, sweet pea, tansy, thyme, turnips.
Other jobs to do:
Gather autumn leaves for compost and ground cover
Clean up cages and trellises from beans, tomatoes etc. Cleaning is important to remove diseases.
Take the ferns off the top of the your asparagus, feed and mulch
Start seed saving spent plants
Water deeply veggies and trees and maintain mulch cover
Weed regularly and remove them before they go to seed
Take hardwood cuttings now and store wrapped in the fridge or in moist sand
Remove rootstock growth from fruit trees, considering turning it into your own root stock
Ensure trees fruiting continue to receive good water
Remove fallen leaves from fruit trees in the case they are harbouring disease
Pot up or plant out your winter flowering annuals such as pansies
Plant spring flowering bulbs such as jonquils, freesias and ranunculus
Watch out for mildew on roses
Continue sowing winter crops
Prepare soil for the bare fruited trees you have on order
Sow your garlic
Divide your perennial flowers such as daylillies
Harvest and preserve your bounty if you cannot eat or share it
Take stock of your tools and begin listing which tool tasks need to be completed
Review what has been successful or otherwise over the spring and summer season
Purple Pear Farm have generously invited Hunter Organic Growers and Permaculture Hunter for a day of Indigenous food. The Slow Foods Hunter Valley Group has installed a Bush Tucker Garden in the grounds at Purple Pear and the garden has thrived through drought and flooding rain. They would love to see people come and look and be part of a discovery or reawakening of the flavours and textures of our food heritage.
Purple Pear Farm, HOGS and Permaculture Hunter are excited to welcome Bec Morris from Range View permaculture to give us some firsthand insight into these first nation’s food plants and their uses.
Bec has a deep passion for permaculture, Aussie native plants, Bush Tukka, connecting to country and integrating Aboriginal Lore into all aspects of her life. She is generously looking forward to sharing her culture, having a yarn and paly with us all at Purple Pear Farm.
On the day, we intend to prepare some of the plants into a finished product for sampling. An exciting opportunity arises to have a discussion on the sovereignty of these foods and how we can perhaps avoid exploitation by colonial thinking on possession and marketing of these important plants and processes.
Linda from Oz Tukka will join us on the day for the conversations and have their plants and products for sale..
We ask that you be here at 10am for morning tea with a 10.30 start with tours of the garden and a talks by Bec and Mark, before we break for lunch and launch into an afternoon of making, sampling and discussion.
Principles in Action - Accept and Apply Feedback: Resilience
Each month, Will from Maplewood Permaculture will be sharing an example of permaculture principles in action from their farm. The principles are integrated concepts, illustrating how they apply several in concert when decision making.
In a climate where it seems like we are lurching from one issue to another, we need to consider ways to bring resilience to our communities. It is our ability to accept and apply feedback that is perhaps the most integral permaculture principle of all.
Accepting and applying feedback, and participating in self-regulation. These principles of permaculture are significant to master. Natural, organic, systems self-regulate according to environmental feedback all the time. It is how we arrived at this moment of time, observing flora and fauna well-adapted to the conditions of their environment. The systems around our gardens do the same, such as dying back or not fruiting, we must accept this feedback and build it into our ever-changing analysis of our site, working on better understanding the characteristics of the garden that lead to the outcome. It is from that vantage point that we can go about making the least change for the greatest effect.
The opposite approach is one that has plagued gardening for a long time. It is the brute-force, human dominant urge to forge ahead with a plan, and employ (usually non-biological) resources such as pesticides, mountains of inputs such as fertilisers and lime to drag the garden into what the gardener wants it to be, despite what the plants were saying. Thankfully, this is changing and this closed mindset is opening up to possibilities.
There are countless examples of designs, relationships, and other endeavours that have failed due to a closed mindset. By this, I mean an inability to recognise a mistake, failure to see potential for improvement, or refusal to swallow the fact that accepting another opinion will make our own idea better. When it comes down to it, all of these - inability, failure and refusal - are limits imposed by our own thoughts, and can be overcome.
The lens we view the world thorough is shaped by many factors, many outside of our own control. We can of course take off the glasses. Many industries, particularly the education sector, now frequently reference a growth mindset. Coined by researcher Carol Dweck, the term is about looking forward, learning from mistakes and accepting failures on the path to achieving a goal. It is your mindset that is often the only difference between a situation that you consider having been successful over one that, left as it was, remained a failure. Had you kept refining the ideas behind the failure, eventually you may have been successful.
Resilience is ingrained in the ethics and principles of permaculture, a movement really about two things; stewarding our planet regeneratively (Earth Care) and building resilient cultures (People Care and Fair Share). Each of these requires a mindset focused on potential. I use this word carefully, in preference to other words such as growth, problem-solving, or solutions, which are frequently used within the permaculture lexicon, because they are words that are symptomatic of, and contribute to, the situation of global unease we find ourselves in. Instead, I think potential gives us the space we need.
Unchecked growth is not ideal, and describing a situation or context as a problem, is to begin from a place of deficit. In practical terms, we need to refrain from seeking to ‘fix’ things about our property, and instead see a supposed weakness or problem as a group of elements that hold potential. That boggy spot is actually a powerful combination of gradient, water movement across the landscape, soil profile, perhaps shade, vegetation, and more. Observation and analysis allow you to reframe the problem into all of its potential giving elements.
Putting it in action, define your decision making process. Formal or informal, a scaffold of questions that you ask yourself before implementing a project in the garden might include asking what the needs of the new element are. What procedures, allow you to gather feedback and develop new iterations? This comes through your powers of observation. Have you simply given yourself time to think about thinking?
Once you’ve started a project or design, it is vital that you continue to self-reflect and apply feedback throughout the implementation process. Knowing when to stop and when to redirect time and energy is an important skill. We’ve all been there when unseasonable weather has arrived unannounced, and we were stuck with the decision on whether to proceed, or change our plans to suit the unexpected event. Despite the overwhelming positivity of a growth mindset, it is also a mindset of absolute realism. Being able to recognise when something is futile is different to just giving up, and will be of great value to you in the long run.
So, a growth mindset is an important tool to have and use effectively. Accepting and applying feedback is ultimately how patterns in nature evolve, and therefore is a significant principle to grasp. Enjoy your mistakes and know that each failure is a step towards success - if you look for how to improve.
Will, Maplewood Permaculture Farm, April 2023
That Herb Guy - Weeds Part 2
Each month, Mike our President will be sharing information with us about herbs.
This time it's about weeds. When I lived in the Blue Mountains my herbal friend David would walk around my backyard pointing out various plants and telling me how useful they were. They were weeds he was talking about- Fleabane, Shepherd's Purse, Dandelion. Every time I would drive up and down the Blue Mountains Coreopsis and Evening Primrose would line the Great Western Highway. We are surrounded by them but are they a curse or cure?
Warrigal Greens, Tetragonia tetragonoides W Cabbage, NZ spinach. The photo was taken at Forster while on holidays. I saw it along a path going down to the sea. Now I grow it as a vegetable in a garden bed. This plant has a remarkable history attached to it. Captain James Cook who is also is credited with his conquest of scurvy on his voyages. None of his crew on his discovery voyage to Australia succumbed to scurvy. Scurvy killed people and whole crews could be decimated. Warrigal Greens played an important part in saving the lives of his crew. At every land fall Cook would send some of his crew to collect leafy green vegetables. These would include Warrigal Greens and these would be boiled and served up to the crew for breakfast and dinner. The seeds are still sold seed catalogues. It was a sort after vegetable in the early 1800s as a spinach substitute in the U.S.A and Europe. Use it next time you make Spanikopita; or a leafy salad or lasagne.
Nettles, Urtica dioica
Stinging Nettles are best collected with gloves on. These were sold in English markets in the 18th C. A very useful plant in times past. A lamp oil was extracted after the seeds were crushed; the fibrous stems were used to make linen; the roots yielded a green dye and the leaves were used medicinally.
Aborigines and European settlers both made use of the leaves for rheumatism. Other uses include increasing egg production by adding dried and powdered Nettle to their feed. As a companion plant it increases the oil content of Peppermint. Add the plant to compost or make a spray for sick plants.
Recipe for Nettle Spray from Companion Planting in Australia by Judith Collins pg 92.
Pack your container ¾ full with Nettle
Fill to the top with water. Rain water if possible.
Allow to stand in the shade for a week
Dilute on use- 1:10
Use regularly during spring and Summer.
Shepherds Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
Shepherds Heart, Badman's oatmeal, Shepherd’s Bag, Pepper and salt, Lady’s Purse, known by many names each a description of the flat seed pouches. The name Clappedepouch is Irish and refers to the past practice of Lepers who would beg alms by having a pouch on the end of a long pole. My herbalist friend David would point this out to me as being a medicinal herb. It has been used to stop bleeding, for use in kidney and bladder conditions. It’s edible too. The leaves are highly nutritious and Chinese farmers have cultivated a larger leaf variety to eat. The seeds were used as food too. The leaves have a cabbage flavour and they can be cooked. Or add fresh to your next salad or stir fry. The tops can be eaten and have a spicy flavour. If you feed this to chooks it can turn the yolks to a bright olive colour with a strong flavour. Shepherd’s Purse is an ancient food and found in the diet of Neolithic Man. It is a serious weed but it can absorb excessive salts in the soil and make them available to plants. It indicates soil low in calcium and very high in magnesium and other minerals, low in humus and moisture, salty but with good drainage. Warning; don’t eat it if you’re pregnant.
There is so much more to write about Nettles, Dandelion, Warrigal Greens and other weeds.
So weeds; are they a curse or cure?
By Mike Lorraine (President)
The Delights of Dandelion
This common plant is a great addition to any garden. It is often regarded as a pest by lawn growers, but it is full of minerals & vitamins, and many benefits for health. Bees love the nectar & pollen-rich bright yellow flowers, which are also used in some biodynamic preparations. There are plenty of uses for the flowers that you can find on the internet. We eat the inner leaves chopped into salads made with red cabbage, chickweed, parsley, young sweet potato leaves, mint or whatever you can find. They can also be steamed with other greens. Dandelion leaves are regarded as ‘a bitter’ which indicates they are helpful with digestion, kidneys and liver function. The long tap root has benefits too. It helps to break up the soil, reaching down deep and draws up nutrients. Pat Collins suggests that growing dandelion will heal and improve poor soils. She uses it in her naturopathic treatments.
Look carefully at your dandelion to make sure you’re not confusing it with one of the flat weeds, also the bane of lawn growers.... Dandelion has ‘toothed’ leaves usually, a jagged edge. Smooth leaf without hairs, coming out of the centre of the rosette. Often red at the base of the leaf. Flat weed usually has a leaf with little hairs, and is wavy or smooth along the edge. Dandelion flowers grow on a hollow stem, with one flower only per stem. It is usually a flower about the size of a 20c piece. The seed head is our familiar dandelion clock – a big ball of fluff. Flat weed flowers grow on a solid branching stem and usually have a few flowers per stem, in my garden, these are smaller than the dandelion flowers. Bees still benefit from them regardless.
I’ve enjoyed some great videos online about dandelions, making syrups and concoctions from the flowers, dandelion coffee substitute from the root. Have a look yourself.
Ref- Pat Collins: The Wondrous World of Weeds, Understanding Nature’s Little Workers (New Holland Publishers, 2017). Also her earlier books on Eating weeds, using plants for medicine etc
By Barbara Nudd (HOGS Member)
Dandelion Root Tea
Dandelion is cholagogue. It promotes discharge of bile, and clears your liver and gall bladder.
To make dandelion root tea I like to harvest my root at in autumn. The plants are going to store all their energy in their roots at this time in order to overwinter.
First you need to harvest the dandelion by digging around the plant so you can pull the roots out whole. Pull the roots apart or cut them apart as they can sometimes be knotty.
Wash the roots.
Chop them up into small pieces which will fit into your cup or tea diffuser.
Roast them at 45mins at 170C. (Shorter or longer depending on how you cut them.)
Be sure to check drinking dandelion root tea is suitable for you before consumption.
Bush Regeneration and Managing your Weeds at home
at Heidi's place
The morning started about 10am with a sign-in and welcome by Mike.
Amy, the Guest speaker, gave us an insight into bush regeneration and then spoke about some principle steps for bush regeneration.
Look at the structure, eg., where what natives; example the biggest tree is a Casuarina ..? but is it more common along the coastal area, it is out of place here?
Look at the history of the place, eg., what was the land used for?
Find out more using Trees In Newcastle
Here are some general points on where to start with regeneration.
Check what is there, weeds are usually more showy and stronger than natives (Use NSW Weedwise)
Do not over clean, keep benefits for animals, wind protection and moisture retention in mind
Consider how to ‘weed’, do not rip out large roots, it disturbs the soil too much, hand weed small plants, use poison (where necessary) for large plants/invasives (cut and paste/ drill)
Make ‘Habitat Stacks’, they are a way to provide refuges for insects and small animals
After the talk, we split in two groups to do some work on Heidi's property. One group worked at the front to do some cardboard sheet mulching and the other group did some restoration work along the creek.
After one hour of heavy sweating we ate lunch together and Amy shared some of her most useful books.
There was also a lot of chatting and sharing of information and garden goods, we even got to taste some Jaboticaba! (https://www.yates.com.au/how-to-grow/jaboticaba/)
Heidi was an easy going host, she has a big block but also lots of enthusiasm and knowledge!
People did bring some weeds, however we run out of time and have to consider another session on weeds
By Gerda Maeder (General Secretary)
Now is the time many summer fruits and vegetables are providing the seed we need for the next season of growing. To help you in the journey of protecting seed and seed saving your local seed library can be super helpful.
"The Seed Library benefits individuals and the community. You can obtain free seeds for your garden and help build a collection of seeds for others.
Sharing seeds through the Seed Library will help preserve rare, tasty and heritage varieties for gardeners in our community. Through the return of successful seeds, over time a collection adapted to local conditions (climate, pests, soils, etc) can be achieved, strengthening the biodiversity and food security of our local community.
Growing from the Seed Library is a great way to teach children about the life cycle of plants, while learning new seed-saving skills yourself."
From the Newcastle Seed Library Website
The Newcastle Seed Library website has a great series of videos about seed saving.
The Lake Macquarie Seed Library has a face to face event about seed saving on 29 April at Cardiff Library
The Maitland Seed Library is a partnership between Maitland Libraries and Slow Food Hunter Valley. They hold pack and chat sessions.
The Singleton Seed Library is an initiative between Singleton Library an Slow Food Singleton. They hold regular programs about seed saving.
The Muswellbrook Shire Seed Library aims to encourage people to grow healthy food, reduce costs and become active in the garden.
Seed libraries are usually always accepting donations of seeds. Please contact them to find out how to donate to your local seed library.
Some books we use are:
The Good Growers are located in Lorn near Maitland. They are Harriet, Jo and Pepper (the dog). They have the pleasure of growing delicious produce in a lush, poplar-lined paddock at Lorn Rose Farm. This fertile floodplain is filled with turf farms and horses, where we’d love to see more food grown.
They are teeny tiny, but ever-expanding, growing seasonal food using natural inputs and no nasty stuff.
They focus on improving the mineral balance and biology of our soil, which feeds our plants and ensures they are strong enough to withstand pests and disease without the use of sprays that have the potential to damage the ecosystem.
Build your own box Picky? Choose exactly what produce you’d like on a week-by-week basis and we’ll harvest it fresh for you!
Join their produce subscription! 10 weeks with extra value for your commitment. Next block on sale end of March.
Shop open 3pm Monday - 7am Wednesday Pick up from Lorn Rose Farm Thursdays between 3pm-6pm. Delivery to the Newcastle area on Thursday evening. At this stage we can only deliver within select postcodes.
They also have an egg subscription!
Making the most of Basil and preserving Pesto
Ingredients Oil - usually olive oil Roasted nuts - can be pine or macadamia etc Parmesan cheese - or other salty cheese Garlic, peeled Lemon juice Salt
Method Follow your favorite pesto recipe. I'm a bit loose with mine, I blend Olive oil, roasted pine nuts, chopped parmesan cheese, a bit of fresh garlic, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Once I have that into a paste, I add basil leaves and extra olive oil if needed to keep it moving in the blender.
I then put this into silicon muffin tins (mini/normal size) and freeze it for a couple of hours. Once it's frozen, transfer the pesto rounds into a zip lock bag and return to the freezer. I de-frost as needed and they last for months.
By Bec Evans (Website Manager)
Wild Spinach and Fetta Salad
Refer to this Month's article - Weeds Part 2
Ingredients 2 Tablespoons olive oil 2 Tablespoons vinegar 1 Teaspoon wild fennel seeds 2 large firm tomatoes cubed 5-10 olives 250gm fetta cheese, cubed 2 + handfuls of Warrigal Greens leaves.
Method Mix the olive oil, vinegar and fennel seeds in a jar Refridgerate until needed. Make a salad with the other ingredients. The leaves can be cut in half or left whole depending on the size of them. Add the salad dressing when ready to serve.
From Wild Herbs of Australia and New Zealand Pg 129
Farmgates, Markets and Consumer Support Agriculture (CSA)
In Our Hands Family Farm Gate
13a Giles Street, Seaham @inourhandsfamilyfarm
Earth Market Maitland
First and Third Thursday mornings of the month Maitland City Mall @earthmarketmaitland
Raymond Terrace Farmers Markets Second and Fourth Thursday mornings of the month Raymond Terrace Rectory @farmersmarketraymondterrace
Rainbird Farm and CSA
3327 Nelson Bay Road, Bobs Farm
The Good Growers CSA
229 Gelnarvon Rd, Lorn
CSA Shop open Monday 3pm to Wednesday 7am
Community Gardens are a great opportunity to talk to the gardeners about what makes their community garden special and to get your hands dirty.
LARGS Tuesdays 9:30AM - 1:30PM Please contact Evelyn on 0419492016 for the address and more information
MEDOWIE Wednesdays 9:30AM - 12:30PM 6 Waropara Road Medowie, within the Medowie Baptist Church grounds, behind the Church building
MEREWETHER 1st Thursday 5PM-7PM 3rd Sunday 8AM - 10AM Townson Oval/Mitchell Park, Merewether
MUSWELLBROOK Sundays 9-11am Penguin Community Garden Wilkinson Avenue, Muswellbrook
NEWCASTLE 1st Sunday of the month 9AM - 2PM Fig Tree Community Garden 20 Albert Street, Newcastle
SINGLETON 1st & 3rd Sunday of each month Singleton Community Garden 42 Bathurst St, Singleton
WARATAH/MAYFIELD Wednesday mornings Hunter Multicultural Community Garden 2A Platt St, Waratah
If you are part of a community garden, meet up or event then please send us a message so we can share with the Hunter Valley community. Find your local community garden here
Current Committee Members
President - Mike Lorraine
Vice President - Nestor Gutierrez
General Secretary - Gerda Maeder
Treasurer - Tracey Evans
Public Officer - Barbara Nudd
Membership Officer - Melissa Fogarty
Agenda and Minutes Secretary - Karen Miller
Newsletter Editor - Melissa Fogarty
Event Coordinator - Tracey Evans
Website Manager - Bec Evans
Social Media & Publicity - Chiala Hernandez
Tea & Coffee - Jennifer Richards