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?!!!


  1. It all sounds very exciting! I would feel a bit awkward when swapping, not knowing whether I was expecting too much in return for my stuff? At vege swaps I've done before (at PermaBlitz meetings) I've just given everything away, really, and been lucky enough to take a few different things home!

    I had a garlic fail this year, only getting one lonesome garlic head from all the cloves I planted... too much rain, not enough sun, too much neglect, not enough... something! Oh well, next year...

  2. That looks wonderful! I'm a bit far away to participate (Ryde), but it looks like such a fun event!

    I planted garlic for the first time this year (under the roses) and yielded about 150 bulbs. I couldn't believe it was that simple!

  3. Oh guys, I am so proud to know you! What a great community event you have organised. Your positive thinking is so infectious,well done.
    Our garlic has been delicious too and I am planning a huge garlic bed for next you said, once you have grown your own , nothing tastes better.
    ps. insurance getting closer and your visit getting closer!! Will keep you posted, sorry it is taking so long....who knew that an insurance man could be terrified that someone could get killed milking a goat!(that and other weird and wonderful things I would never have thought of , nor would the goats)

  4. I'm so glad the swap was successful. It tickles me pink hearing about things like that, and the fact that so many people came through for you can only indicate it's going to get bigger and bigger!
    Well done, and good luck with your garlic. Poo to the imported stuff.

  5. Totally inspiring. Well done with the swap. We need more of that sort of thing happening all over the place.We have had a great garlic harvest this year but are still a bit nervous due to the continual wet weather. So far so good.

  6. Congrats on the Crop and Swap success.
    Next year I'll have an update on my brother's "growing purple garlic from seed" story as he hopes to have bulbs with corms in them after his next (3rd) harvest of them. He is going to gift me with some of these corms so I'd best learn about successful garlic growing or he'll be disappointed in me if I let them fail or die. They are very pungent already after only 2 seasons. I have a few russian garlic corms of his to plant next season. He warned me to be careful as they can run wild over time if not thinned regularly! I told him I live on 100 acres so where's the problem!

  7. well I am in on the garlic takeover. Garlic does not grow well here - too hot and humid, but I try every year.

  8. What a fantastic story about the swap!
    I grew a grand total of 3 garlic plants last year (impressive, hey?) but I hve a few more planted now, but next year I'll be in with your garlic challenge. I want to grow a whole lot more!

  9. garlic is sooooo cool guys! we eat heaps and the fresher the better .... we should all have braids of the stuff hanging in our garage! i'm with you on this one .... even across the distance .... believe me .... we'll be planting heaps of it too! xoxoxo maggs and clan!

  10. Well I read this post with great interest. We have a similar market that we call The Black Market. I love it! Ours is a little more informal than yours, we meet at different people's houses and swap or sell because some people don't have gardens. Feel free to check out my post on the Black Market.
    I loved your post and I identify with your mood. I always come home on a high after one of the markets (unless I have all the kids in tow, then I just run after them and talk to no-one).

    Thanks for the interesting post. I popped over from The Little Black Cow.

  11. Thanks everyone, what a fine group of garlic growing enlistees! great to hear so many of you are growing it.

    Kim, if that insurance man gives you any more trouble, you should send some of your meanest goats round to his place and sort him out... we all know how dangerous they can be, especially in packs!!!

    Linda, great to hear about your food swap, love the name, I will definately check it out... ahhh, kids, We know the feeling.

    Frog dancer, our garlic count is usually underwhelming too. How about a friendly grow off. lets see who can grow the most.

    cityhippiegirl, here here to the poo on imported garlic! It's liberating saying Poo to things.

    thanks for reading guys!

  12. China garlic.. ahh, all the resteraunts use it and charge you premium for their mains. I dont buy any food China, all that organic efluent fertiliser a bit rich for me!

    I have been sprouting China garlic and planting it in Warrimoo over the years. I know have 4th generation garlic! Guess its ok to call them ozzie now???


  13. Me...!!!! I didn't plant nearly enough this year...and despise having to buy it...

  14. I gave up on store bought garlic quite a while ago because it wa so often rotten, and started buying the stuff in jars - not fresh, but they would at least be producing it from relatively fresh garlic, right :P
    Last year I planted my own, and now have enough to last us a few months. And it tastes great!

  15. I harvested our first garlic attempt last month - I planted 35 cloves (aussie and organic, half purple / half white) and 32 of them grew - Whooopeee! OK, all but one of them are pretty small, much smaller than the imported shop ones, buy there's no way I would buy those. I was kind of surprised as we've had so much rain (upper mts) and little sun, I wasn't sure if they'd work at all. Its great to have garlic again!
    Definitely doing it again next year.

    Hoping to get to one of your swaps too!

  16. SO how does it actually work? Do you just wander along and when you see someone's stuff that you like, you say "hey, I've got this, wanna swap?" and then negotiate amount etc?
    It's agreat idea, I think I will try it!

  17. Hi K,

    Yep you’ve pretty much got it. the swaps are arranged individually. It seems to work well. People are always generous, and there's no problem with saying no to someone either. Often people might say, “oooh I like your tomatoes is there anything of mine you might like”, an so on. Its still early days so the book of swapping etiquette is still being developed. It’s still Lots of fun just having a go!