Jan 24, 2012

Bob, Jack and planting TREES!

Yesterday I got to start doing something great a little sooner than I thought I would. PLANT TREES! And I thought I'd share how I came to be doing this.

One of the first locals we got to know here in Nanango was an old bloke name Bob, he is mostly retired but restores wood ovens and sells them on Ebay as a hobby. We bought our stove from him before we even moved into our new place and he kept it in his shed for us until we were ready for it. He and his wife Elaine are really nice people, Bob is a real character, bubbling away with passionate political views and an opinion on everything.

When Bob learned I was into gardening he said he would take me to meet a friend of his who knows a lot about what was best to grow around here. I thought it was the kind of flippant thing you say to someone and never plan to follow through on, but then the other day Bob calls me up and takes me out to see Jack.

Jack had 30 acres a ways out of town on the edge of the forestry, he was a generous gardening guru. Within seconds it became clear we were on the same page, we talked about the importance of staying organic and working with natural systems, and the good feeling from a days work in the garden.  "I hope you're ready for hard work Ian, ya can't be homesteadin and be afraid of hard work. Bob and I are 60 years old and still going."

Then we started a tour of his vegie garden and orchard, I had a note pad and started writing down plant names. Hardly anything was the kind of thing you'd find in the supermarket, there were Cherimoya Custard Apples, White Sapote, Cherry Guava, Feijoa Trees, Jaboticaba and on and on. Jack was plucking fruit from the trees as we walkad and passing it to me to sample, everything was delicious. 

As we walked Jack would drift effortlessly from details on planting, to saving water, to quoting George Washington (who described the Cherimoya as, "the fruit of the gods") and Greek philosophers, to jam preparation and propagation. I was loving every second of it, and then it got even better because Jack started giving me stuff. I came home with 4 plants, and seeds for Asparagus and Carob Trees. Jack and his wife Liege were generous to a fault, and invited Vicki and I back to visit again soon.

So now I had some planting to do. I had already earmarked a spot for my Orchard/Food Forest, its down the hill a ways, where the water runs down towards the neighbours dam. It is a bit further away from the house than I would like, but fitting in around animal paddocks and following where the water was going ended up being stronger factors. 
The site.
Man I'm getting good at digging holes I tell ya, 
I think I've dug more in the last month or so than in my whole life before.
The trees, some manure and some compost tea.

My supervisor stopped by :P

I also planted a couple of mulberry cutting from my dad further down the hill the other day, that makes 5 trees in the ground so far. The one remaining plant I brought back from jacks is a Monstera Deliciosa, it needs to be planted up against some rocks or a tree trunk, I'm going to think about where I want it a bit longer before putting it in.


Jan 23, 2012

The "Real" world interrupts, but we're not listening.

We have been very busy over the last few weeks getting our little farm set up. The biggest job has been fencing. With the horse and sheep on the way we need dog proof night paddocks and if we want the grass to survive in them there needs to be enough to allow some rotation and resting time for each one. The fencing is hard yakka, aching muscles are the order of the day, but for now I'm still enjoying the manual work.

Meanwhile there have been some rumblings along the few remaining links we have with the world of commerce. Vicki has had her hours reduced and it seems questions are being asked about my teaching hours by senior bean counters at the Tafe. It has been another year of disappointingly low enrolment numbers in the course I teach for. There is no malice, mistreatment or hostility involved at any point, its just the way these things go, a familiar pattern where budgets (people) are inevitably squeezed. Both Vicki and I are blessed with having great people to work with, when there is work.

So what does this mean?

Well in the short term not much, in both cases it is factors beyond our control that will take time to sort themselves out, and it could all amount to nothing. My work at the Tafe in particular seems to be under some kind of threat constantly and yet still keeps kicking along year after year (so far). So there is no point rushing off in a panic until things become clearer.

That said, I can't help but muse about what I might do if these jobs disappear. There are definitely no art jobs to speak off out this way. I have noticed there is no art education either (Tafe, Uni, etc), maybe I could put some signs up on noticeboards (noticeboards are a big deal in the country :P ) offering tuition for kids or something. We will be going to the local markets for the first time in about a week and I'm keen to see if there are any opportunities there. The Nanango markets are quite big, and almost every local I talk to goes to them. I don't really want to run a stall or anything, but I'm wondering if there are already people selling art, then they might be willing to sell some of ours as well on commission.

Then there is also the possibility that I walk away from commercial art completely. If so then I'd like to do something where I'm helping people and can feel good about my contribution at the end of the day. One thing you notice in the country is a much higher percentage of older folk, maybe I can get some work doing home help or similar, conveniently it also seems to be an area where they are often short staffed and looking for new employees.

For now though its just a case of steady as she goes. We only have meagre requirements for living. We also have more money set aside to spend on the farm set up. It feels counter intuitive to be spending large amounts of money when your income is shaky, but we just have to make sure the spending is focused on things that will save us money in the long run.

I suppose we could be moaning about this and crying something like, "Why now just after we moved?!?" But the truth is we feel more like, "Phew, at least we managed to move before this happened." If we were still in the suburbs this could have so easily become an excuse for procrastination. But we know from long experience that hanging out for some time when everything is stable and you have lots of money while working in commercial art is a fools errand. We are here now, we love it here, and we are going to make it work.