Bredbo Valley View farm - providing quality education in Permaculture and sustainable living practices.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time to pick a fight

Just when you thought it was safe to post your latest Blog update you come across this I urge anybody reading this to follow the link and read the article.

Monsanto is already the ugly big brother of modern agriculture. My personal belief is that their patenting genes related to food production is immoral and unjustifiable. If we, as a society, allow this behaviour to continue we risk affordable food production in to the future.
So please read the article and leave a comment – I don’t want this to go unchallenged!

Forget the election

You all know my favourite thing in life is food. And there is a lot going on in the world of food at the moment. The political parties are biffing it out over who has an agriculture policy, and surely food security and bio security go hand in hand. The intensive pig farmers are trying to get people to boycott Coles and Woolies pork and shop at the farmers markets because of the debate over sow stalls – I say bring it on, for once the intensive guy’s are doing something I agree with. I bet Michael Croft at Mountain Creek wished he had as many pigs as us ready for the markets.
There is a lot out there affecting our food security. Various media reports have suggested that the world will approach peak Phosphorus by 2033, some disagree saying we will be able to reduce our dependence on P before then and can stretch out our supplies for a few more years. Problem with these things is you can never fully understand the way they derive their figures – does this include worst or best case population growth? They are talking about recycling human and animal waste to capture P and send it back to the farmers. The flaw in this argument is that only 50% of food crops grown are actually consumed and that means you only delay the inevitable - not stop it. And unfortunately with current agricultural methods we can not survive without it, our whole sustainable agriculture model depends on P.
It’s back top the same old question – what’s the definition of sustainable?? Is it being able to replace enough nutrients in the paddock to allow continual harvests or is it an holistic approach of managing the soil; it’s nutrients, microbial and fungal communities, the moisture and carbon content and the structure above and below the surface so that farming improves the overall soil health not degrades it.
I think Dick Smith has the right idea, bring the root cause of the problem to the fore. Population, what is a sustainable population?? By definition it’s a population that has no net effect on the landscape. I’ve heard the arguments form the business leaders – no population growth means no increase in productivity, which translates to no huge amounts of money in their big fat pockets. But the true cost of trashing the planet isn’t paid for by them – we pay for it, our taxes pay for it and the third world suffer for it.
I received an email from a like minded soul recently, he asked me if he could write a guest post for the Blog; he’s sent the following –

Guest Blogger Dan Grifen
Sustainability Through the Consumption of Things Conserved
"In other environmental issues we tell people to stop something, reduce their impact, reduce their damage," - US Ecologist Gary Nabhan

Since the beginning of the green movement, there has been a rise in the number of organizations and businesses that are doing their part in the promotion of sustainability through conservation. As human beings, we're told to reduce our carbon footprint, consume less unhealthy foods, and spend less time in the shower! But let's take a minute to step back and look at this from a different perspective; one that Gary Nabhan strongly suggests.

Gary Paul Nabhan, phD., is a Arab-American writer/conservationist whose extensive farming work in the U.S./Mexico borderlands region has made him world renowned. Specifically speaking, Nabhan is known for his work in biodiversity as an ethnobotanist. His uplifting messages and attitude towards life and culture has granted us access to multiple beneficial theories including his latest of eat what you conserve.

According to The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, about three quarters of the genetic diversity of crops has been vanishing over the last century and that a dozen species now gives 90% of the animal protein eaten globally. In accordance, just 4 crop species supply half of plant based calories in the human diet.

Nabhan claims that by eating the fruits and vegetables that we are attempting to conserve/save, we're promoting the granular dissemination of various plant species. But this goes beyond what we typically buy in supermarkets, particularly because of price and abundance. We must remember to try new things and immerse ourselves in the very concept of diversity. Keep in mind- the benefits of splurging for that costly fruit/vegetable supremely outweigh the cons. Not only are you promoting biodiversity and further eliminating the needs of farmers to remove rare, less purchased crops off their agenda, but you're also effectively encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Agriculturist Marco Contiero mentioned that "biodiversity is an essential characteristic of any sustainable agricultural system, especially in the context of climate change. . With sustainable crop efforts being lead by the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) and the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) the duo plans to provide a more sustainable crop that can withstand natural disasters, avoiding food shortages like Haiti is experiencing. Contiero goes on to state "We need to ensure this is the basis for the future…" – This is exactly what Doug Band, the CGI, and the IRRI are doing by engaging in sustainability efforts.

So remember, next time you're in the supermarket picking out a common variety of navel oranges or strawberries, turn your attention to something that's a bit more exotic in nature. The same goes for salads/salad ingredients; shop outside the norm, picking spices and vegetables that you wouldn't normally incorporate into your everyday diet. During such economic downtime it isn't always easy to maintain the same level of grocery shopping intrigue, but we must also not forget that in this sundry of foods we can find fun!

Dan Grifen – Supporter of all things green and progressive.

Dan rightly identifies the problems we are creating by ignoring biodiversity – and it goes deeper. Genetically manipulating animals so that we exclude the effects of natural evolution is another problem. Our environment has changes significantly over the past decades. People insist on intervening in the natural evolution of both plants and animals to adapt with the new, evolving effects of a changes climate, ultimately this can only lead to the extinction of these species due to their inability to adapt. Now I could go on and on about this, but if you look at this video from Landline you’ll see where we could be headed. .

Lots more stuff to talk about - lots of rain as well.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Snowy Hills
Back in July I wrote and didn’t post -

Well, the brass monkeys are working overtime here in Bredbo and I’ve been too soft to face the cold of the computer table to up date my Blog – yes, I take total responsibility for the lack of communications.

-12.9 Degrees Celsius – cold enough for me. No hot water for morning showers all this week and last, the water in the washing machine was still frozen at 6pm the other night and we couldn’t wash the kids uniforms – the poor old Cook thought her brand new washing machine was busted. But it’s warmed up now, it was only minus 8.9 over the weekend – lucky us.

It’s even been to cold to chase of foxes with out ugg boots and beanie, suppose I should wear more, but my luminous white body is well camouflaged against the frosty grass and the shock and awe I reap on the fox - if it doesn’t kill him it’ll have him in therapy for years.

So when I left you all the Jeep was sitting in Pambula awaiting a new power steering pump and the trailer was outside Bega awaiting me to pick it up. Since then the Jeep is back on the road – just another example that a combination of lick, spit and a whole lot of Gaffa tape will fix anything. Of course this time I also needed to use super glue, my spit just ain’t doing the job these days. I managed to get down to Pambula and pick up the Jeep, grab the tailer and drop it off home, stop for a pee and get back to Canberra for an appointment before noon that day – which is quite an achievement for the old girl.

Unfortunately the Jeeps long term prognosis is not good. The radiator is showing signs of failure and I have to keep a close eye on the fluid levels, the gauges are all failing and I’ll really not sure what’s going on half the time – with the car. But the game changer happened the other day when one of the kids closed one of the back passenger doors and the front passenger door fell off. It gets really cold driving down the foggy frosty Monaro Hwy with an inch gap around the door. So sadly we are on the hunt for a replacement for the old girl.

I’ve got a step closer to getting prepared for the spring arrival of some bees. I have purchased a stack of timber to build my first boxes, Monika and her partner form the bee club came out the other weekend to help – but it was too cold to stand outside and use power tools so we opted for a cuppa in front of the fire.

School holidays are her and that has to be the Cooks favourite time of the school calendar – skiing starts when they go back, always a highlite for the term.

The Cook spent a week in Adelaide; I think the kids have just about recovered. The work load doubles for everybody when so goes and the cooking takes a noticeable down would spiral consistent with the amount of time she’s away. And don’t ask about school lunches – luckily the kids like (maybe now ‘liked’) vegemite. And I’ve got to find a better way of telling if shop bought ham is off as well.

And as usual with the drop in temperatures comes the colds, Harry and the Cook have both been suffering bad coughs and a nasty tummy bug. Luckily Ben and I stayed far enough away not to become infected.

I tried to do some fencing last weekend, but every time I bent a piece of wire it snapped – a good indication it was just too cold. I managed to get some done this weekend, the pigs are now totally surrounded by pig mesh netting – now I just need to get the electric back on and put in a few more steel posts and we should be right again.

Forward to now.

Snow has fallen on the mountains yesterday and for most of the day it was better spent inside. We had periods of rain, hail and ice and bitingly cold winds. Not that this allows us to rest, there was still pigs to do, things to fix, fences to check and general day to day jobs to do. One of my favourites is the weekly trip to the dump, never go there with out running into somebody and being ski season it’s a full on mission impossible just to get across the highway to get there. I swear it’s only two hundred metres down the road and takes half and hour.

We had a visit from James last week. He spent a few days helping out around the place, we managed to do some fencing, put in a corner post and steel posts – I’d recently purchased one of those pneumatic post drivers – why I didn’t do that sooner I’ll never know. The amount of time and effort this one tool will save is just mind boggling.

Other things that have been happening – we’ve picked up more roosters, and this time it wasn’t my fault. The cook was responsible this time – which takes some of the pressure off of me.

We had an NSF working party and put in a leaky weir to help slow down the water travelling down one of the erosion gullies. It took us all of two hours to collect the rocks from a non conservation site and an hour and a half to build. I still have to get some gravel to make a bed for the overflow and get some reeds during the spring to line the edges.

We also bought in a load of round bales of straw for the pigs. They weight about 500 kg each, getting them onto the trailer myself is a bit of a challenge but I’ve managed so far. It’s about a quarter of the cost of getting square bales from the feed store so well worth the effort. The biggest part of the cost is the transportation; thankfully we’ve found somebody whom delivers at a good rate.

I thought Belle the cow was going to calf the other day, her udder has enlarged and she seems to have dropped her belly. I found her on her own in the paddock, she ran off when I approached, but there was no sign of a calf when I looked around. I am hoping that it hasn’t come yet, but I’m still concerned that she may have lost it.

The horses have been causing problems, a brumby from next door has taken up residence with our three and continually leads them astray. About eleven last night the dogs started barking, I got outside just in time to see the horses galloping down the road towards the creek. The brumby keeps pushing the gate open somehow and letting everybody out. I think they spent five minutes helping themselves to the pig’s bread before they headed off as well.

I still haven’t had time or the space to start my Bee Boxes either. I have the timber, the tools and the screws – but alas not the time. I’d better get a move on before spring arrives, I may have to take some time off shortly to get stuck into this.

What’s bugging me?

I like to catch up on Landline every Sunday – but I don’t always get to. A couple of weeks ago they had a very interesting article about Samoa and how they are trying to convince the locals to eat more fresh food from their gardens and stop importing tinned food. It’s hard to believe that people would choose to eat tinned carrots over fresh, or spam over fresh fish. The change in diet has had many effects on the population’s health and well being as well as a dangerous reliance on imported food.

But it’s not just a problem in Samoa. We are selling off our agricultural land to foreign interests who are farming and exporting the produce with no return benefit to our economy or food security. It’s not just the fact that they own vast tracks our best land; they are also buying up the water. With the MBDA Draft plan out after the election, which rumour has it includes a 90% reduction in irrigated agriculture in the basin over the next twenty years, it’s hard to see the logic in this. Surely it’s in the Governments best interest to restrict the ownership of rural land and secure thousands of rural jobs by making these countries import food from our farmers?