Episode 280. The Home Front

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 29th of November 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

This episode is about what’s going on here at Highclere, Tasmania. If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment on the transcript over at https://worldorganicnews.com/280. And big shout out to Vicky who did just that this last week. I hope the answer helped and thanks for asking!

To the home front!


Nothing gives us a clue to the season like the animals. Two hens went broody, one hatched 13 chicks, the other nil. The chicks are now a couple of weeks old and growing their true feathers. Mum has harboured them well and all 13 have survived, so far. Scurrying around in front of, beside and behind her, they look like small fighter planes buzzing around the mothership.


The ducks started earlier than the chooks to go broody but with nil success. Still we are receiving duck eggs for our consumption even if the nests are resulting in a 31 day “rest” for the sitting duck.


Whilst the chooks and ducks have been sitting earlier this year than others, the raspberries are about three weeks behind where they usually are. They were, sporadically, flowering and fruiting during all of last winter and this may have bumped the main crop back or they just started late because of the extremely wet winter. No matter, we will be harvesting raspberries in late January if not earlier.

Apples And Pears

The apples and pears flowered as per the normal schedule but during the wettest part of the Spring. To that end, and the slightly cooler effect the rain brought with itself, bees were noticeably absent through the flowering period. I did spot some bumblebees and a very few honeybees a fortnight ago but I am not expecting a bumper crop this year. This is a shame. Nothing tastes as good as an apple picked straight from the branch. Especially on a coolish morning.


The pigs have been doing a heraclean job over the last two years. Areas where they have been working their magic the soils are much improved. Even the areas where I was in error and left them on a piece of ground for too long. Along the boundary between the pigged over area and the non pigged is a distinct colour difference. The pigged area is a much deeper green, right up to the electric fence line. I did wonder if the fence may have been the cause of this but I doubt it. Never hurts to check. The deeper green is only on the pig side of the line not equidistant on both sides of the electric fence line. So I concluded, the pigs were responsible. 

Salt has been procured, a butcher’s saw and a couple of 200 litre barrels, all ready for the conversion of pork to ham and bacon. We also have a sausage machine on the mixmaster so that’ll be fun too. 

Blue Corn

Last Sunday I ran the ride on mower or as it is more dramatically called by North West Mowers and the John Deere Company, the “lawn tractor” over a ten by eight metre patch in preparation for the Blue Corn. I followed this up with a minimum tillage rotavation to about 3-5 cm in an attempt to knock out the perennial grasses. I doubt it will have worked but it should slow them enough to get the corn up and photosynthesising. It needed to be in by 1 December and I had it in on the 25th of November. That night we received 24 mm which was wonderful. It should be harvestable in late March/early April. This variety, Hopi Blue, has been selected for ripening into a cool damp autumn, so that’s the North West of Tasmania to a tee. I grew this variety in the Blue Mountains which once had a similar summer climate but doesn’t any more. I am therefore hopeful for a good harvest. Most of the seed will be saved to expand the area under blue corn next summer. I’m seeing a Fukuoka rotation with Blue Corn and winter spelt with some buckwheat and chickpeas but time will tell.


To the east and down hill from this corn patch is the winter spelt. My first time growing this, it has been an education. It has done all the things I expected. It looks magnificent with the seed heads now protruding above the mass of vegetation. This, as with the Blue Corn, will be mostly saved for sowing next Autumn/Winter depending upon the seasons.


This I planted from cheap chook food wheat.It has grown ok and is on an area where the pigs have never worked their magic. The soil is thinner than the rest of the block and grey in colour not the rich red of the rest of the place. This grew ok and I’m tossing up with the idea on simply slashing the patch after over sowing with buckwheat. Buckwheat is rapidly becoming my go to seed for fill in jobs. It seems to do best on less than ideal soil conditions and is quick. Six weeks quick, in fact. The seeds will self sow where they stand and concentrate phosphorus according to the older sources. 


These are in two patches. On the thinner soil, they have done ok. More seed as a percentage of leaf compared with the other patch. This second patch has produced large amounts of leaf as well as a good seed return. This second patch on the rich red soil has produced so much organic matter as to smother any weed competition. These I shall oversow with buckwheat to start the Fukuoka cycle. In Autumn spelt will follow.


These are an experiment based upon the idea that we live in a mediterranean climate and these are a quintessentially mediterranean crop. Depending upon the source, they grow themselves or they are nearly impossible to grow anywhere. Time will tell. They are in beside the blue corn with some possibility of nitrogen transfer to the corn. Both the chickpeas and the blue corn are easily watered should this be necessary. The chickpeas need a prolonged period of dryish sunny weather which we’ve received each summer we’ve been here. From four to eight weeks over the summer. We’ve just been declared to be in La Nina event again this summer so the dryish period should be at the longer end of the range. On the question of forecasts, the bureau is pointing to 80-90% warmer day time and night time temperatures. This should benefit the corn and the chickpeas but may not be ideal for the buckwheat. We shall see.


In the areas in between the grain patches are mixed species of improved pastures. These have been tending towards a more leguminous mix but still plenty of ryegrass too. I’ve these areas wide enough to run the sickle bar mower through to create a cut and drop mulch. Where these areas are not so strongly established, I’m putting pumpkins. A variety known as Jack Be Little. These are small pumpkins that fit in the palm of the hand. Many fruits on each vine, easily stored, good pig and chook feed and apparently pretty good eating for humans. Very attractive to look at too. They may be a good cash crop to sell out the front of the place in a little stand. 

Hopefully this has inspired some of you to pick your favourite crop or crops and get your hands into the soil, or over the soil anyway. Remembering that Nature layers but rarely digs. My aim, hope and fervent desire is to set an example, an example to change people’s mindsets by growing as much of our own food as possible. Let’s show them what can be done. We only need to convince one of ten to move from consumption to production to hit the Bill Mollison tipping point.

If you’re ready to make the leap into growing your own food in an integrated animal supporting/supported way go to the website: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/ and you can obtain a free copy of The ChangeUnderground No-Dig Gardening System.

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.




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