Wednesday, July 25, 2012

All grown up

 December 2011

Remember these guys? Our last batch of chickens are now 32 weeks old, which is around 7-8 months of age. They started laying at the end of autumn, so we've been lucky to have an egg-glut through winter. Between the new guys and their parents, we average around 10 eggs a day!

Is this guy trouble?

Above is "trouble" the only rooster we decided to keep from the batch. He's not exactly trouble at all. In fact he's absolutely a dream, as far as roosters go. He looks after his ladies and always makes sure they eat before he does. Even when the other roosters pecked the girls away from the food, trouble always made sure he saved his food for them.

Sarah has since renamed him Tony Stark, aka: Ironman/Avengers style. He is a utility bred, black Australorp, Australia's only recognised breed.

We ended up with 7 girls and 6 boys out of the 13 that hatched. Do  you remember lucky last?

I'm feeling clucky for chicks again

And indeed they were lucky as they almost didn't hatch out of the egg. We called them Omega 13, because they were the last to hatch out of 13 chicks. I really thought they were going to be a boy because they've always been so lanky. But I was wrong...

Not so lanky any more

Lucky last, Omega 13, turned out to be a girl! She is the one most likely to stray from the group. Maybe because she's the only white hen in a flock of black ones? All her brothers which turned out to be cross-colours like her, weren't as nice-tempered as Omega.

It wasn't a hard decision to dispatch them. Because once trouble/Tony became lead rooster, flock life became a breeze.

Guess who?

The above hen is the only one (apart from Omega) now, who has a slight colour variation. She has a chestnut hackle. I'm guessing she's likely a cross between her Australorp father and a New Hampshire mother. Can you guess what Sarah decided to name her?

From this particular batch of chicks, I learned crosses with Isa Browns leads to very unruly (unrooster-like) boys. Roosters shouldn't be aggressive, unless you're breeding the game variety. Roosters should put their flock first, which also means respecting those who bring the food - us. The boys which came from the Isa Brown and Australorp crosses, were not very nice in temperament or how they treated the hens. One in particular (psycho boy) hen-pecked absolutely everyone. His favourite victim was trouble/Tony, because the girls loved him and the other boys respected him.

When psycho boy turned on Dave, as he was leaving the coop, that was the last attack he was allowed to make. He became Indian butter chicken, for dinner. Mmm...yummy.

So if finances allow from now on, we'll stick with the Heritage breeds.The Australorps in particular, seem to be very domesticated.

So placid is this particular flock in fact, I was able to round them up into their coop, by myself, without a flutter or a squark! Which I put down to our not harassing them and Tony Stark's adoration of lovely ladies. He loves on them all day long, even when he's not after the score.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ponds of water

One of the strategies we adopted early, was cutting a swale halfway down the lower front slope, to divert water coming down towards the house. For the most part, this strategy has worked extremely well. Or at least it has when we've had time to dig better trenches.


Above is a picture of what happened in our first year living here, with no swales to divert the water away. It was our first summer storm and all that water ran down to the front of the house, where it pooled, before it could get away.


We've since erected retaining walls and a garden, as seen in this photo today. This was repaired after the subsequent flood in 2010-11. The flood itself, wiped out a large chunk of this garden, and we're still moving the silt (and mulch) which got dumped underneath.

And in case you're wondering (because I know you are) that is a rock statue made with the various bits of rubble we've been collecting to build the drystone retaining wall with, out the back. David always likes to do interesting things with rocks, so I cannot take credit for it.

Despite the flood, as we've been able to work at digging the swales above, the water has been less of an issue near the house. In fact, it's quickly becoming an asset. But first we've had to adopt several strategies, fashioned from the three valuable lessons the flood showed us - water brings life, shapes the earth and has a relationship to plants.

Cana lilies, pruned foreground~
not pruned in the background

Here is the very top of the garden where the water used to spill down towards the house. We planted a natural barrier of cana lilies on small earth mounds. It's not designed to stop the water overflowing from the swales, but rather to slow the speed at which the water spills over.

As the trees, shrubs and ground covers grow bigger in the garden below, the cana lilies will probably be shaded out and have to be replaced with more shade loving plants. With regular pruning of the cana's and dropped where they are now though, there's always a constant source of decaying humus for gravity to take down to the plants below.

Succession planting, is natures original blueprint for building resilience into degraded systems. We're just duplicating that here. The cana lilies offer some protection to the younger plants below (from running water) then once the trees and shrubs grow, they'll provide shade for a more diverse range of delicate plants to grow in their place.

Early 2010

But of course, water plays an important part, and digging our swale trenches over the seasons has become another lesson in water management.Since swales (trenches) are rarely even when digging them by hand, we noticed water pooling at certain points. Noticing these pools, we came up with the idea to make a series of ponds.

The above picture is very early days - see all that exposed dirt! There's also two pear trees, and notice the log in the very front of the picture. I will speak about the role of that log later.

 Late 2010

There's quite a lot of difference 11 months later when the summer rains arrive. We have a full pond and it's irrigating everything around it.

Middle of 2011

As the seasons passed, we started to add more plant material, as the shallowness of the ponds could easily evaporate quickly in summer, just as quickly as they could fill. To the left of this image is new lomandra grass to prevent soil erosion, and to the right of this image, you can see the shade of the pigeon peas we planted to shade the ponds.

The pigeon peas were a bit of an experiment, since we noticed they built up microbes in the soil wherever they were planted. They've done wonders for this little patch too.

This morning we saw a flock of 30 or more cockatoos, in the area, feeding from some of these (now fully grown) pigeon peas. The little wrens and finches love to bathe in the ponds and then perch on the branches of the pigeon peas too. Many a bird in these parts (including the larger ones) use these ponds multiple times a day.

Early 2012

The above image is a better portrayal of what the pigeon peas look like now. Although their long branches hadn't quite reached over the pond yet. The reason these ponds keep their water without draining away (apart from evaporating in summer) is they're built on a natural clay shelf.

Way back when we first noticed the water pooling as we dug the trenches, there were certain places which took weeks to dry up. These were the clay layers. There are sandstone shelves as well, along the same strip of trench, which absorb pools of water much quicker.

Middle of 2012

This is what the same pond looks like today. There's quite a lot of overgrown, dead grass, but this is all part of nature's succession planting at work too. This grass, when left to it's own devices, is capable of creating topsoil within a few seasons.

Leaving the long strands of dead grass to naturally clothe the naked slope, means I don't have to purchase mulch to clothe the earth. When I was planting my trees on the slope yesterday, instead of pulling the grass, I folded it over, to act like a barrier as I poured soil on the top. When you pour soil on a slope, it rolls down it without a barrier to stop it.

Well that decaying grass was awfully helpful yesterday. And remember that log I referred to earlier?

Looks can be deceiving

Here it is 2 years later. Not much to look at huh? Well it's a wonderful haven for skinks (small lizards) to get to the water's edge without being gobbled up by a carnivorous bird. I saw some skinks recently - running as quickly as they could to the water's edge and then darting back to the safety of this rotting log.

These logs came from one of the trees that were removed during the building of the house. Fallen trees are also part of nature's succession planting. I figure when we remove them, we have a duty to keep them on the property to carry out the rest of their natural decaying process. Fungi, lizards and other insects use rotting logs as part of their life cycle too.

Front yard 2012

The picture above, takes in the cana lilies (front, right) the pigeon peas in front of the ponds (centre, left) and that grass line on the left side, which runs from the lilies past the pigeon peas, is where our swale/trenches divert water away from the house, which is to the right (the house that is).

It's nice to know while we're protecting our dwelling and family from deluges of water, we can create valuable habitat for the animals and ecology, utilising that resource too.

Apart from the plant material (and the cana's were a gift that just keeps on giving) we didn't have to purchase a whole lot to duplicate nature. Everything was done with a hand tool - including a wheel barrow) and the pigeon peas were even planted from seeds on the property.

New plants

Yesterday when I planted that tree, along with another and some more lomandra grass - I was starting to move the plants up the slope (above the ponds). While it's not a lot of fun carting dirt up hill in a bucket, it's comforting to know when these plants become mature, they will be assisting in stopping soil going down hill with a storm!

Of course it doesn't end there - no - what would a garden be, if it didn't keep on growing. We have plans to build another pond near the existing ones.

Future pond

Not much to look at now, with all the unkempt grass, but this is where our next pond is going to be dug. The red earth is the existing trench we made, which will now be turned into a pond.

It's important to remember when digging ponds, there are some very important ground rules you need to observe. In the beginning when I wrote about the three valuable lessons the flood showed us - water brings life, shapes the earth and has a relationship to plants...well they also signify the rules to keeping water on your property. It has a relationship to many elements and it needs to be observed as such.

Water brings life, but it also has an effect on the earth, which is why you need to introduce the plants to manage that relationship. We learned not to dig the ponds too deep - we aren't growing water lilies and it's always important to surround the pond with plants. Why is that?

This is a very involved answer, to which I can only point you to read Peter Andrews two books again (Beyond the Brink, and, Back from the Brink). Water has power to displace the mineral composition of earth underground, this is why we don't dig too deep - we don't want our ponds causing issues lower down the slope. But the plants are also a filter to avoid a lot of mineral imbalances from beginning in the first place.

Water, earth, plants; they are symbiotic as a whole. To view any of these without the other, is messing with the natural balance nature put in order. And my passion is learning from nature, not displacing it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gardens around the world

Since my birth in the 70's I've come to know Australia as one of the driest continents on the planet - rain wise. But we aren't without a system that has learned to utilise such little reserves. Nature has found a way to conserve water, and it's actually very good at it.

I can mention two Australian authors who seem to grasp this concept best: Peter Andrews, and Jackie French. I could go on (and on and on...) about these two people, because they seem to get what many of us miss - you cannot garden successfully, if you don't know how the Australian landscape works.

Both Peter and Jackie have their experiences embedded in the bush, and guess what most of Australia comprises of? Yep, the bush! And guess where I live? We are surrounded by bushland and at first it seemed very inhospitable, but what I was to learn is most of that magic to do with the Australian landscape, is happening underground.

We think of the earth as solid, and quite rightly, it is; but there's also a lot of activity going on down there. Earthworms are aerating the soil, and weeing too! If you've ever marveled at a worm farm, feeding it scraps and getting magic worm castings and wee at the end: then you're starting to get it on a small scale. But right underneath your feet, are millions of worms, and the one thing that will kill them is exposure to sunlight.

Digging with purpose

Yet what do most gardeners do when they're growing plants? We dig! And I'm an expert at digging, we've done so much earth moving by hand here - only most of it has moved clay layers. This is where the earthworms don't live. They prefer topsoil layers instead (the first 40 centimetres or so) and because of this, it makes them very vulnerable to enthusiastic gardeners.

Do we never dig? Well of course we dig, but the less we dig top soil layers, the better. Because topsoil accommodates moisture producers: worms and their wee! This wee also feeds micro-bacteria active in the soil, and as the bacteria goes through it's own natural life cycle, it adds humus and moisture to the soil too. Sunlight is the natural killer of micro bacteria, so do as little digging as possible.

 Fungi on the surface indicates micro-bacteria underneath!

Therefore, the less we mess with the topsoil layer, the better it is at producing lifeforms which produce moisture: without copious amounts of rainwater to do it. But where does water fit into the picture - if at all?

Both Jackie French and Peter Andrews believe "plants" are the answer to how our landscape uses rainfall wisely. Jackie surmises the more layers of plants there are above the surface, the more leafs there are to catch very small amounts of moisture (less than rain). With the aid of gravity, these millions of leafs collect the moisture and drip them to the ground underneath.

Perhaps this is best explained by collecting rainwater from roofs. The more roof there is for rain to fall on, the more rain is captured in the tank. This is how nature best utilises minimal rainfall too - it plants a bigger roof. Or at least it does if we stop cutting plants down. Peter Andrews also views plants as having an important relationship to how Australian Landscapes move water.

Our house back in 2008
lots of roof area but need another tank! 

His is a more technical explanation which is why I would recommend reading his two books (Back from the Brink, and Beyond the Brink) for further definition. If I may give a crude summary myself, plants defy gravity and act like nature's pumps. The further their roots go down below the surface, the more access to moisture they have. 

Anyone who has ever constructed a "wicking bed" would know exactly what Peter is referring too. Plants wick up water from below the surface, without unearthing worms and micro-bacteria to do it.

What does this have to do with gardens around the world? When news of a drought in the US comes to mind, I start to wonder if these are the stages of change, which fashions it into a landscape similar to Australia's? As Peter Andrews surmises, Australia had a thriving eco-system, until man brought fire and farming to the delicate balance.

It may take another 200 years, but will more and more gardens around the world, begin to look like Australia's natural climate of drought? By drought, I guess I'm saying a reduced level of rainfall - because when you look at what happens underneath the soil (when it's protected) there's a heck of a lot of moisture available.

I want to show something my garden unearthed yesterday. I was putting some trees in the ground (did I mention I love planting trees!) and found a little bit of magic happening, where I least expected it. First I want to show you where I found it...

 North facing, front slope

This is the very front of our property. We don't mow during winter because the seeds feed the birds, plus it saves us money if we only pay for fuel when mowing during the growing season (mostly summer). It's also kind of risky getting on the slope (yes, there's a slope under all that grass) with morning dew and the possibility of slipping.

Yet because we don't mow, we get to see what the grass does for the landscape. Looks kind of dry at first glance, doesn't it? But as I was planting a tree, I had to push some of the long grass to one side - it was then I found...

 Hidden treasure

Here was moss and a delicate fern growing underneath the grass, on the slope which happens to get the most sun exposure on our property. To be more precise, this exposed dirt was a ledge with the grass growing over the top - creating a little umbrella over it. I knew there were merits to conserving moisture when you added mulch to bare earth - but who'd of thought of natural mulch (ie: uncut grass) to be a moisture preserver?

It's also a smaller version of what trees do on a much grander scale. Trees create shade to preserve moisture.

The natural landscape is a wonderful teacher. Look to what is working and duplicate it. I suppose I've been subconsciously doing this with my vegetable growing too, such as it is! I don't grow a lot of vegetables, simply because with our conditions they don't live very long. Yet, nature (and I) have been finding ways...

Weeds are natural mulch

I put this silverbeet in around May-June, so the tail end of Autumn, early winter. It's taken them ages to get this big. Why? Because it was still dry and sunny when I put them in the ground, so they were planted within the shade of a tree. Plus they had to compete with the weeds I had growing (chick weed). I wasn't going to pull them, otherwise I'd have to purchase mulch in a bale to cover the ground with.

Ultimately, with a reduced amount of sunlight, cooler temps and having to compete with weeds for nutrients, I've had to wait longer for my silverbeet to grow. The alternative however, is to put them in full sun, buy mulch and transport water to them on a regular basis. And they tend to get eaten by every pest active in the growing season, that loves the same conditions. I figure if I'm going to grow vegetables, I have to work with what I have - not what I don't.

But nature has more tricks up the sleeve when it comes to weather extremes. Think specifically of plants which grow on vines - they have the uncanny ability to be planted underneath the shade of a tree, with the added advantage of sprawling vines which can seek out the sunshine.

Fruit from the Choko vine

Choko's are one of these hardy vines. They get planted in mostly shade, but they climb to the top of one of our chicken coops. Of course, choko's can taste pretty bland all by themselves. They make excellent carriers of flavour though. I've made choko chutney, plus this pie...

Almost apple pie - with choko!

It's basically a short crust pastry we've filled with choko (treated similar to stewed apple - just add sugar and cook) plus we've added a rolled oats crumble like topping. It was delicious served with fresh cream.

Pumpkin variety: Kent or JAP (Just a Pumpkin)
ready to roast in the oven

Don't look past these two hardy plants (Rosemary and pumpkin) when it comes to a lack of water in the garden either. We've had both growing in exposed positions, copping all the heat of summer while still only living off natural rainfall. Roasted in the oven with garlic and butter, we're enjoying delicious soup during the colder months.

While I may have learned to adapt to Australia's drought like conditions, growing up, I now realise there's still so much to learn about what's happening beneath the ground, and in all those shady places I'm yet to discover.

I have more to write on this subject, and hopefully with an update on the ponds we dug last year. It's amazing how much life can be sustained on such small amounts of water.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Love in small packages

I've been out of the loop lately, because my Hunny Dave had his wisdom teeth out on Monday. We paid for it ourselves because we don't have private health insurance. Sadly, we are not secret billionaires, we just save what we can for unexpected costs.

Of course, anyone who's had their wisdom teeth out would know, there's a radical change of diet involved. The awful fast before the operation itself, then the daily meals of soft foods afterwards - but he's doing really well on the soft foods, because it's winter here and perfect soup weather! Overall, I think he's recovering as well as, if not better than could be expected.

Before the fast for surgery began on Sunday night however, I promised to make him something yummy. Something that would see him through the radical diet shift period. I think my lemon tarts went down a treat!

These were inspired by another blog I read (you know who you are) and an abundance of lemons on my tree. I merely made a short crust pastry and filled it with lemon butter. I will cover the pastry here and how I made it, but will leave the lemon butter recipes for the filling, for you to find one you like.

I made this one, from Rhonda's down to earth blog for these tarts, because it used more butter and eggs than my recipe called for. I thought it would taste nicer, but found the smaller quantities of lemon,  diluted the flavour I so adore. That doesn't make Rhonda's recipe faulty, it may be perfect for those who cannot tolerate highly acidic food. But next time I will stick to my own lemon butter recipe, because I like lemon that makes your hair curl flavour, LOL.

Feel free to look for other recipes for lemon butter/curd available on the net too. It's important to pick one you like, because these tarts are fiddly enough to warrant a super delicious filling.

On to the pastry and how I made the shells. - I used a regular 12 cup muffin pan. Measuring the individual cup base with a ruler, it was around 5cms. The cutter I used was around 7cms. This worked perfectly.

The recipe itself is straight forward:

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125g) shortening
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
squeeze lemon juice

This is my basic rich short-crust recipe, but it's important to note I do change it. I use regular salted butter, instead of using the shortening and salt. Why didn't I just write that? Some people prefer shortening or only have unsalted butter, so I write the basic recipe for people to select what they like.

Dry ingredients go into a bowl, cut the cold butter up and rub into the flour until like fine breadcrumbs. Add the wet ingredients, combine until a dough forms. Add extra moisture if it's too dry, but only a little at a time. Knead a little, then place in the fridge for five minutes. When ready, roll out.

Roll to about 5-6mm thickness and cut circles with the cutter. You'll have leftover pastry. If you have an extra muffin pan (I only had one) make more shells. You could easily make another twelve.

Grease your muffin pan and gently place the pastry circles inside, making sure to centre it as much as possible. Gently press the pastry to the contours of the pan and try to lengthen the height of the walls without tearing holes. When baked, the pastry will expand a little.

Bake in a preheated oven 180 degrees Celsius (170, fan forced) for about 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then use a butter knife to gently lift out the pan, onto a cooling rack.

I made my lemon butter filling after the pastry shells were cooling. So they had about 30 minutes to cool. I found the warm lemon butter (as opposed to cold out of the fridge) easy to spoon into the shells. Each shell took about a tablespoon and a bit of lemon filling.

And they make the perfect bight-size portions! Alas there were only 12, but most of them managed to make it to the next day. They're nice warm, but they're also very nice once they've had a day in the fridge. So give them a day if you can!

If I make these again, I will try putting a chocolate button on the bottom of each shell, before filling with the warm lemon butter. They should melt slightly and taste that little bit more special.

So that's my small package of love for my Hunny, before enduring surgery on Monday. He liked them very much.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Comments on Wordpress

Just a quick update on Wordpress. I have been able to start commenting as "Chris" from Blogger again.

I replaced the email address in my Wordpress Account. I asked Dave if I could use his email, because I wasn't going to generate another one, just to gain access to comment on Wordpress blogs.

He agreed, but unfortunately, replacing emails didn't work. I wasn't happy considering Wordpress now had two emails locked into their system, which they advised me to do to rectify the situation. I then decided to visit Gravatar (Globally Recognised avatar) separately to Wordpress and found I could delete my old email address from there too.

It still didn't work! But it must have been a time delay, because a few hours later I was able to comment as "Chris" from Blogger again in Wordpress blogs. So I got to work around their new policy changes, to allow me to comment as a Google Account on Wordpress Blogs. Am I happy? Not entirely.

I won't go into it now though, as I still have some issues to work out with Wordpress.  As they resolve (or don't) I will write more.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A trip to the nursery

The more time I spend away from the computer, the harder it is to get back online. Life is such an amazing place to experience what living is all about. But to hear what the wider world has to say, I come back online.  And why do I want to know what the wider world has to say? I guess it's curiosity and the drive to connect with something larger than myself.

But this post is really about my trip to the nursery for some plants.

Actually, the story starts 24 hours before then - because it was our free mulch day at the Council tip. When we were meant to collect our mulch, I decided to start weeding the front garden to receive it directly - it saves double-handling the mulch that way. So engrossed in my weeding and pruning branches that were blocking walkways however, Dave decided not to break my stride and volunteered to collect the mulch without me.

It worked out well, David arrived with the trailer of mulch (twice in a day) and we had cleared areas in the garden beds to drop the mulch. Stepping back after all that work, we were amazed at the transformation!

Garden in the afternoon

Was this our yard? Truly it was hard to believe after three years of building a retaining wall and a few rough seasons (including a flood) to really test the soil and plants that managed to survive, it was finally coming into it's own. A full day peeling back layers of weeds and with the smell of freshly laid mulch, you know, it was inevitable I would start thinking about new plants...

Aptly called the mezzanine garden

There were patches in the garden that needed filling. Some things I pulled from elsewhere in the yard, and transplanted, but it was clear I needed more plant species. Different plants for different jobs, but hopefully all contributing to a banquet for the native animals which pass through our yard. Animals such as this beautiful pair...

Shot edited
because it was taken through the kitchen window

This kangaroo mum we affectionately named "Twitchy", and she has a lovely story to go with her. We first noticed her frequenting our yard a lot as a young joey. She stood out from any others we saw, because she never seemed to have a mum. We think the mum may have been killed, because poor Twitchy had a scar on her leg (not visible in the picture) and was constantly shaking her head from side to side. Hence the name, "Twitchy".

She always found solace in our yard, because it kept her hidden from the street and many of the roaming domestic dogs had easier yards to gain access to. We knew nature could be harsh, so we had no expectations for Twitchy, but our hearts always leaped when we saw her distinctive leg scar and her characteristic twitching.

Needless to say, when she brought her boyfriend around and then her own little bundle of joy, we felt so privileged to see first hand, what nature could achieve against the odds. And our yard is connected to that lifeline for the animals. It's why when I start dreaming about plants, I know how important it is to pick the ones that help.

So back to the trip to the nursery, where this story was meant to begin...

I travelled 30 minutes to find a nursery I knew sold tube-stock, more importantly native tube-stock. There were closer nurseries, but many sold the trendy plants in season and often as advanced specimens. Which isn't good if you want them to acclimatise to heavy clay - it's best to buy them young as tube-stock.

Grevillea Lanigera Lutea
for nectar feeders

I had a wonderful time in the nursery, I took about an hour, carefully reading each label to make sure the plants I would purchase could grow in our conditions. I drove away with $150 worth of plant material afterwards. Was that too much? Was I eating into the family budget? Would we still be able to afford the wisdom teeth surgery David needed in a few weeks time? All relevant questions and no wrong ones, but then I realised something always seemed more important than getting plants in the ground.

It's just life really, on a limited income, you can only spend so much. But we hadn't spent money on plants for a long time. And if I'm honest, the animals which travel through our yard as they go about their lives, are a lot more interesting to watch, than some of the discussion forums I occasionally read. Of late in Australia, everyone seems to be talking about the new Carbon Tax.

I'm no scientist, but I observe the garden with great intrigue and delight. I notice when there's plants around, the animals come. When there's plants around, the air is fresher. When there's plants around, there is food to eat and shade to sit under. Plants generate life like no-other living creature I know of. There's more power in plants than a Carbon Tax, and that's all I'm going to say about it.

I love my garden for everything it is, and everything it's not. It's a completely honest space that shows many amazing things. When I drove away from the nursery, I dreamed of new joey's I would meet in the future, new birds in the spring and bees humming their nectar chores. Of weeds I would pull and mulch I would lay, rocks I would haul and walls I will build...

A bare canvas for plants

When I think about participating in those discussion forums, it doesn't take me long to realise what's really important. A kangaroo will hop by the window with her joey in her pouch, teaching it to nibble at the grass. A kookaburra will swoop from the roof and catch a skink. All these truly amazing things, happening right outside my window. How lucky am I to call this our garden?

We certainly feel very privileged, but it's also about seeking what you're really passionate about. I didn't know we'd have all this to look forward to when we signed the contract on this piece of land. Sometimes when you're looking at the work or juggling bills, the garden seems the least important thing in the world. Yet, when you think about it, where is life without the trees and the plants? What more comfort can be found fixing something else?

I know comfort, when my hands are dirty and a new tree is going into the ground. That is my passion. It's why I do everything I do.