Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ask Your Neighbour for some Sugar!

The First ever Crop and Swap

Now that a few weeks have passed and the dust has settled on our very first local community food swap, we can take stock of its success in a more level headed and objective fashion, without getting all swept up in the giddy pandemonium of positive community spirit that might otherwise blurr our judgement.... Objectively speaking, the first ever Crop and Swap was bloody fantastic! Absolutely Amazing! Awe inspiring! and sooooo much fun!

As we arrived at the community hall to set up, the golden shafts of sunlight were just beginning to warm the  cool mountain air, and it looked set to be a beautiful day. Inside the hall we set up the Crop & Swap banner, a registration desk, a circle of hessian sacks on the floor (the swapping circle), tea and coffee, and a resource table (where locals could bring magazines, tools, or any other resources to share).

We had no idea how many people to expect and thought a modest 25 or so would attend. By 9:30 people started to arrive, and by 10:30am, we had over 80 people in the hall, bringing all manner of home grown and home made produce. Baskets full of garden greens, mulberries, macadamia nuts, mushrooms, seedlings and seeds, beetroots and bread, jams, eggs, honey and even cheese! we met so many fantastic people, and it was fascinating seeing what people brought to swap.

At the end of a hard days swapping

Swappers had come from all over the mountains and even as far as eastern Sydney. The atmosphere was honestly electric, and it was simply a pleasure watching others make swaps, get chatting, exchange numbers and begin building a vibrant community network before our very eyes.

ok, ok, pass me lettuce leaf to dry my eyes, while I mop up the oil spill of community mojo before someone slips over and blows all our public liability. I'll stop wobbling on and on about how wonderful it was, and get down to the nitty gritty; How did it work and what was swapped?

After everyone registered, they chose a mat in the swap circle to display their produce, and then grabbed a tea or coffee, had a chat, and spied on what others had brought to swap.  At 10:30 the swapping began, and people made swaps independently with one another.

Our own swap mat started with broad beans, macadamia nuts, silver-beet, nasturtiums, two dozen eggs, three bottles of worm wee and bunches of parsley. We brought home a super yummy medlar fruit sauce, baby garlics, snow peas, Thai mint and rosemary seedlings, kefir, heaps of mint, oranges, sage, rocket, dwarf beans and baby spinach. Swapping with neighbours beats shopping at Coles any day of the millennium!

What is most exciting about being involved in a local food swap is the way it reinvigorates the connections between neighbours, builds local knowledge, and makes a community more empowered by sharing skills, resources and of course, good food, which is a common bond for us all. Just about everyone walked away thinking, "Right! what can I bring next month that is knock your socks off amazing" or "wow, I'm going to have a crack at growing that in my garden", or atleast, "mmmm... that home baked apple tart smelled delicious"...(that's what I was thinking). We all felt motivated to be more resourceful. But most important of all,, was the fact that it gave us the opportunity to share what we had with others, and without getting all mushy, it seems to me, that in a society where we have more than we need, sharing is oddly something we seem to do less often than we should. Its true what they say, that the fun is in the giving. I think this is why the Crop and Swap will hopefully continue to be a success.

Sorry, pass me another lettuce leaf........
Gourd Almighty!

Our next Crop and Swap is only a week away, and we have been busy preparing our produce. Today Jo made jars of raspberry and Logan berry jam, and in the garden, our carrots and beets are ready or plucking, as well as potatoes, silverbeet and lettuce. But our prize swapping item for this month is our crookneck zucchini! They look totally out of this world! With yellow warty looking skin, they may at first seem less appetizing than the regular zuke. But they taste great, and are incredibly productive. Crookneck Zucchini are one of the most prolific zucchini's and grow as a bush instead of rambling along a clumsy vine like some uncivilised courgettes tend to do.

the crookneck's in the patch

Jo's raspberry and Logan jam

Our beets have been growing particularly well in the raised mounds.

The Garlic Wars

Garlic is glorious! It tastes fantastic, keeps you and your chookens super healthy (just add it to their porridge), and wards of vampires and fair weather friends. But Alas, there simply isn't enough of it grown here in Australia, and we are doomed to purchase foreign garlic from the other side of the world that has been fumed with fungicides, and is months, if not years past its used by date.
our hard neck garlic

I don't know if you have experienced the same, but the store bought imported garlic has recently taken a major nose dive. More often than not, upon cracking open a fist full of garlic, we have found it to be mouldy and rotten. Home grown garlic stores incredibly well for 6 or more months, so it makes one wonder how old our imported garlic is....

Well, we have a plan. Our aim next February is to plant as much garlic as our garden will hold, after the equinox, as is the tradition. I became very excited recently when one of our hard neck garlic bulbs went to seed last week. With dreams of replanting the seed and becoming a major global exporter of garlic from our very own front yard, I started to become deluded with garlicky grandeur,  only to find out after some research that they rarely grow true to type from seed, and even if they do, it takes 2 years before you can harvest them. bugger!

 Needless to say, we can still plant the bulbs, and in time, our plans of world garlic domination may one day still become a reality. Garlic is easy to grow. Prepare the soil before planting with compost or manure. plant the cloves about 10cm apart, pointy end up, about 5cm beneath the soil. There are many varieties, but are largely divided into soft neck and hard neck varieties.

We are looking for volunteers to enlist in our guerrilla garlic war. So if you too are sick of bad imported garlic, join the ranks and plant some garlic in your patch this Autumn. Who's with us?!!!