Skip to main content

Market Garden

An Indefinite End to Birdsong Delivery Runs

By Market GardenNo Comments

For those of you who receive Birdsong’s weekly updates, you have already read that we have changes on the horizon, and that Rick has been spending far more time engineering than farming over the last 5 months or so.

Now we’re at the point where we hardly have any of our own produce to sell, and it’s just not worth doing delivery runs which are primarily made up of items we have bought in and don’t put much of a mark-up on. I’m getting far fewer delivery orders than we’ve had in the past. We also expect to be making multiple trips to NSW this year and Rick has asked that I suspend delivery runs indefinitely.

I will still deliver this Friday 17th March, but after this we will be pick-ups only, until further notice. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Toowoomba Parkrun…or ParkWalk

By Market GardenNo Comments

Have you heard of Parkrun? It’s a weekly, free, timed 5km run/walk/jog that takes place every Saturday morning, worldwide. Here in Toowoomba, we have a few branches, Queens Park being the largest.

This month ParkRun are wanting to promote the fact that you don’t have to be able to run to join in! The name can be a little misleading. I had never tried to run 5kms in my life when I started. You can walk the course with friends, or with your dog, or alone listening to music…whatever works for you. Or maybe you’d like to be able to improve your fitness and want to give something new a go and work up to being able to jog/run the course. It’s such an encouraging and diverse group of people with all ages and fitness levels.

Initially, I was kind of roped in by my son (pictured) who had friends that regularly attended Parkrun, and so he wanted to join in. Two of my girls wanted to come along, one of whom we thought had to have adult accompaniment. So I joined her. Well, I NEVER expected we would become regulars ourselves, or that I would willingly give up quiet Saturday mornings at home to go and run 5kms with 400 other people! But it was kind of addictive. Maybe it’s the fact that your times are tracked, so if you choose to, you can keep trying to improve and get new PB’s. Maybe it’s the great community spirit they’ve got going on there, and getting to catch up with friends who also participate.

You certainly don’t need to be an athlete to join in. To take part in Queens Park ParkRun, all you need to do is show up on the Lindsay St side of Queens Park, just before 7am (6:45am is ideal) any Saturday, and look for the group of people gathering (some will be in orange vests). The course consists of two laps around Queens Park, and it’s beautiful (especially right now while all the Carnival flowers are still in bloom).

Parkrun are always looking for volunteers, so if you want to take part without actually completing the course, you can sign up as a volley, and do anything from being a marshal along the course, to scanning barcodes as participants come through the finish line.

Birdsong After the Rain

By Market GardenOne Comment
It’s a jungle out there!
In the 7.5 years since we bought this property, this is the first time this garden bed has flourished.
It’s taken about 2 years, but the greenhouse is finally planted out.
Retractable shade netting, instead of the poly-film we originally intended to use.
The citrus grove
Inside the stone fruit/apple orchard
Rick bought an array of unusual varieties of apple, that should thrive in our climate.
The trees are only a couple of years old, but fruiting heavily already.
Another apple tree
Looking back down at the market garden from the top paddock
Not willing to budge! The broody duck refuses to get out of the way for her friend, who also wants to lay in this nest.

We live in what is typically a drought zone. Excellent bore water, but very little rain to speak of. This last month of rain has really beautified our area, so I got outside to ‘take a picture, it’ll last longer’, as the saying goes.

For Tash

By Market GardenOne Comment
Tash and some of the children at Bella’s fairy garden party

This is what I shared at Tash’s funeral. I want to post it here, for more people to get a glimpse of her life and how she shared it.

“I am so thankful God placed Tash in our family, and for the 34 years we were blessed to spend with her. 

It’s been said that children are an excellent judge of character. Some people are just magnets for them. Tash was one of them. I remember one day she joked about taking my 5 year old Archie, home to live with her. His eyes lit up and he exclaimed “Yeah! I wouldn’t miss my mummy.” 

Our family is close and Tash especially, was a family girl. As an aunty, she was incredible. Working full-time, with a half hour drive to work each way, every day…and yet she still had the love and energy to pour out on cultivating friendships with my children. She would have them for sleepovers, build lego together and take them to lego exhibitions, at one stage was having nerf wars with them, would make crazy movie trailers with them, wrote a book for them and would play board games with them. It was beautiful how when my youngest would see Tash, he would run up to her and jump into her arms for what he called a ‘koala cuddle’. 

While so many of us grow old and boring, Tash never did. She was fun, and never seemed concerned about what other people thought of her, or like she was trying to prove anything.

Her last weekend spent in Toowoomba was just such an example of her love for family. We spent a good portion of Saturday playing board games together, then Tash took some of my children for a sleepover. I had Bella for Sunday, so she could spend the day running around with her cousins. 

Tash loved a party…a themed party in particular! Looking through the photos, I had to smile at her karaoke party, mafia party and her 80’s themed 30th. It wasn’t just her own birthday parties either. One year she organised a beautiful fairy garden themed party for Bella, where all her friends were able to make their own mini fairy garden to take home. Looking out at all of you who are joining us now to celebrate Tash’s life and seeing the beautiful floral themed outfits, reminds me of one of Tash’s parties.

Parting with Tash reminds me of a verse, Isaiah 40:6-8 All flesh is grass, and all it’s loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it. Surely the people are like grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of the Lord endures forever. None of us know how long we have on this earth, and our days pass by so quickly. What are we doing with the time we’ve been given? Tash is like a flower picked in her youth before she had the chance to fade.”

Time to Shine

By Market GardenNo Comments

So much has happened in our region and country in the past 12 months.

The drought, the fires, and now the virus. Bad news abounds.

But no matter what we face, it’s time to shine. Time to be the one who’s still smiling, who offers hope, who sees someone in need and stops to help and who lives not in fear, but in peace. Someone who works on the solution rather than being overwhelmed by the problem.

For Rick and I, our hope is in Christ, Jesus. The bible refers to “a peace which surpasses understanding” and that’s what we experience in Him. Life can throw all sorts of curve balls, but we choose to trust Him and live in His peace. It’s an awesome state to be in. I’ve really felt it in the past during times like when Rick told me he wanted to quit his full time engineering job and start farming. He suggested borrowing money to set up Birdsong, and I honestly thought we could lose the property if it failed. But I prayed and chose to trust Jesus. Property or no property. And now, 3 years into running Birdsong, it’s doing quite well.

Then there was 2018, when Rick broke his neck (C1) in a chainsaw/tree lopping accident, and I sat in emergency beside him, while he was strapped to the bed and we waited to hear from the spinal team in Brisbane whether his fracture was stable. One doctor told me that theoretically, Rick should have been dead after that accident. But I wasn’t scared, and chose to trust. Many wonderful friends and family were praying for Rick’s healing, many friends and even Birdsong customers supported us with meals, offers of farm help and much more. There was no need to fear. Many people were praying, and a year later, we can’t even tell he ever had the accident. He’s healed.

One more amusing example was our engagement. Many of you probably don’t know that Rick and I never dated before we married. And it wasn’t an arranged marriage by our parents either. I’d met Rick’s mum at church, and she invited me to a prayer group her son Rick was holding in his home each week. I had no idea who he was, but my cousin Steve was going, so I went along with him. Months later, after attending this group each week, I was going to bed and heard God speak to me. He told me I was going to marry Rick. I actually cried myself to sleep with the shock. I hadn’t been expecting that at all! I asked Him what I should do and He didn’t say anything. ‘Ok, I won’t do anything then’, I thought. I had no doubt that God had spoken to me, and that He was perfectly capable of bringing this to pass without my interference. So I kept up life as usual, and about 6 months later, Rick turned up on my doorstep. As it turned out, he’d rode up our street  couple of times that morning, and then turned back, not sure if he was game to say what he wanted to say! He eventually got to the front door, knocked and I answered. He asked if I wanted to go out for coffee, to which I answered that I didn’t drink coffee (then realised that was a stupid answer…haha). So we arranged to meet up at a place I was housesitting later that week. 

He arrived there looking very preoccupied with thought. Before long, Rick took the plunge and asked me if God had told me who I was going to marry (by the way, we didn’t personally know anyone who had got engaged this way, it wasn’t at all the norm).

“Yes” I answered.

“Have you met him yet?” he pursued.

“Yes” I answered.

A smile came across his face as he then asked “It’s me isn’t it?” 

“Yes” I answered again. The funniest part came next, when Rick wondered aloud “But do you even like me?” I really hadn’t give him any indication, as I was intent on letting God bring to pass what He told me He was going to do without any manipulation from me!

So we were engaged that night, Rick rode straight off to my parents place to ask my Dad’s permission. I was 20 and he was 21…and we were married about 3 months later.

I clearly remember the shock from one of my friends as she said “But how do you KNOW?” (referring to marrying someone so unexpectedly like that, or knowing that it was God that had spoken to me). It’s that peace which ‘surpasses understanding.’ I had no doubt in my mind, even though for most, it looked like madness.  And that was almost 16 years ago 🙂

I love how constant God is, “the same yesterday, today and forever,” the bible says. So no matter what’s going on in the world or how messy life gets, He is still faithful, still listening, still ready to forgive and to offer His love, hope and peace to His children.

For Those Who are Looking for Farm Work (Why we’re not hiring)

By Market GardenNo Comments

Requests for work on our farm are becoming quite regular! Sometimes it’s backpackers turning up on our doorstep asking if there’s work available, but more often it’s people calling to introduce themselves and see if there’s any work going here. Many times it’s from people who are genuinely interested in working on an organic farm, and it’s great to see the interest out there and that people are being proactive looking for employment….

But, I don’t think it’s clear from our website (how most job seeking people find us) that we are a very small, family run market garden. The market garden is actually only about 1 acre in size and not generating enough work (or income) to support employees. Rick sometimes even works full time engineering hours on top of the farming, because the market garden is not often a full time job…and because he gets a lot of help from the children and I 🙂

Rick takes care of crop planning, garden bed prep, mineral applications and sowing. The children do a lot of weeding and some harvesting, and I take care of all the sales/orders, packing, a lot of the correspondence and most of the harvesting. And the great thing about this, is that we know what’s going on, right from seed to sales and can provide a higher level of customer service because of that. I remember reading in a market gardening book how beneficial it is, for example, for the farmer to be the one selling his produce at a market, and not just an employee. When people are shopping at a farmers market, it’s generally because they care about where their food came from, how it was grown, etc. And they often want information about the more unusual varieties, how they might use/cook certain produce and the like. The farmer and his family know these things, but a seasonal or temporary worker probably doesn’t.

So, the fact that there’s not enough work here for an employee is the main reason we don’t hire, and the other is that although the market garden provides enough income to keep us going, it’s not enough to warrant paying an employee. We laughed last year at tax time when we discovered our taxable income is technically below the Australian poverty line! We certainly never feel poor, and the massive tax deductions involved with the first few years of setting up a business had a lot to do with the tiny taxable income, but you get the point…it’s not worth hiring anyone when we’re this small!

If you are reading this and you are looking for work in the Toowoomba area on an organic farm, you could try Birchgrove Farm. They specialise in the best chicken eggs you can get in our district (even growing organic produce to feed to the chickens!) and they also sell various beautiful organic greens at the Sunday PCYC markets. I know they were setting up worker accommodation on site, so obviously they hire from time to time. I hope those of you looking for work can find it, but I just wanted to mention on our website here, that we’re not hiring (might save some of you the trip out here to ask!)

Market Gardening- What About Food Waste?

By Market GardenOne Comment

Many of you have seen it on the ABC’s War On Waste series. Or you’ve seen it with your own eyes and through your own research….modern agriculture practices, combined with stringent supermarket criteria, produce a LOT of food waste.

Woolworths made a step in the right direction, with their The Odd Bunch vegetable/fruit selections. We used to buy them before we went organic, and were pleased to see that at least some of the stranger or undersized looking produce items were making it to the shelf!

But what about in the market garden setting? What food waste do we produce, and what do we do with waste?

For starters, we create very little food waste. You can never predict exactly how many lettuce will sell, or how many people will want cauliflower next week, but you can get a rough idea and plant accordingly. Rick puts a decent effort into crop planning (his engineer traits come out in this- you should see the spread sheets!) and as a result our production is fairly well suited to customer demand.

Sometimes there will be a glut. Right now it’s cos lettuce, most likely because it’s winter and people aren’t really eating cold salads and aren’t used to using cos lettuce in any other way. What do we do with the surplus?

Generally one of three things:

-Feed the sheep. The sheep LOVE lettuce, cabbage…even pumpkin as we discovered this week. And as we’ve not had decent rain for months, our paddock is quite depleted of pasture. The surplus lettuce are saving us from buying lucerne for the sheep.

  • Feed the chickens and ducks. Man can not live by bread alone, just as the fowl can’t live bye grain alone. They adore greens, and are daily the recipients of extra or damaged produce. Thanks to all these greens, our eggs have beautiful rich orange yolks, and the fowl are in good health.
  • Return the crop to the soil. I used to struggle with this as it seems like waste, when you’ve been brought up not to waste food! But there’s nothing wasteful about enriching your soil. Sometimes we even grow a green manure crop, purely to mow back into the soil and boost the soil structure and nutrient levels. Presently we have a half a row of overgrown bok choi and mesclun mix. Rick actually likes it when this occurs, because we started out with heavy black clay soil. It was like trying to dig into a big block of modelling clay. Organic matter was desperately needed to remedy this soil, and 18 months later, here we are with completely different soil structure. It makes sense that if you are constantly removing produce from the soil, that you should also be often giving back to the soil.

Rick is also a big fan of doing any trimming of veg (beet greens, brassica leaves etc) at the harvest site, so all those greens go right back to the soil.

The only time food ‘waste’ leaves our property is when I offer it for sale as pet greens, or on odd occasions might sell seconds cabbage for sauerkraut.

A completely different story to mass agriculture isn’t it? And as for undersize or unusually shaped produce, we’re finding that we have less and less of that as our soil improves, but what we do have can still be used. If I have a few cabbages that are undersized, I can ask a customer if they mind having 2 smaller cabbages rather than one big one. Or I can add a few extra beets to the bunch if they’re little. It’s a small enough business that we can talk directly to the customers about their produce and work together to reduce the chance of food waste.

Earth Day 2018 and a big thank you to those who are helping us reduce plastic waste!

By Market GardenNo Comments

It’s interesting timing. I was just thinking this past week that in the approximately 18 months we’ve been operating, we haven’t had to order more plastic bags and containers. At the start Rick bought a couple of boxes of tomato punnets and various sized bags for packing produce. You’d think after all those orders we’ve processed, we’d have needed more plastic.

BUT, we happen to have a wonderful clientele that are more than happy to have their veg orders packed into cardboard boxes, which can be recycled. It’s only small items like beans, cherry tomatoes and the organic dry goods we sell that we’ve been using plastic packaging for. And I hope as time goes on we’ll find sustainable and practical solutions for those items…so we can eradicate the plastic altogether.

April 22nd is Earth Day, and I want to thank you all for helping Birdsong Market Garden reduce plastic waste by accepting your orders in cardboard boxes 🙂 It must be thousands of plastic bags that are not in local landfill, because you’ve been so cooperative with sustainable packing options.

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Birdsong Farm Tour, Saturday April 28th

By Market GardenNo Comments
[nectar_cascading_images image_1_url=”7504″ image_1_offset_x_sign=”+” image_1_offset_x=”0%” image_1_offset_y_sign=”+” image_1_offset_y=”0%” image_1_rotate_sign=”+” image_1_rotate=”none” image_1_animation=”Fade In” image_1_box_shadow=”none” image_2_url=”7726″ image_2_offset_x_sign=”+” image_2_offset_x=”0%” image_2_offset_y_sign=”+” image_2_offset_y=”0%” image_2_rotate_sign=”+” image_2_rotate=”none” image_2_animation=”Fade In” image_2_box_shadow=”none” image_3_url=”7191″ image_3_offset_x_sign=”+” image_3_offset_x=”0%” image_3_offset_y_sign=”+” image_3_offset_y=”0%” image_3_rotate_sign=”+” image_3_rotate=”none” image_3_animation=”Fade In” image_3_box_shadow=”none” image_4_url=”6784″ image_4_offset_x_sign=”+” image_4_offset_x=”0%” image_4_offset_y_sign=”+” image_4_offset_y=”0%” image_4_rotate_sign=”+” image_4_rotate=”none” image_4_animation=”Fade In” image_4_box_shadow=”none” border_radius=”none”]

Finally, we’ve got a farm tour happening!

We can thank Simple Living Toowoomba for getting us organised with that.

When: Saturday 28th April, 10am-Midday

Where: 118 Boundary St, Cranley

Cost: $5 per adult. Children are welcome, just keep an eye on them. I hope to have the lawn tamed before the day, but at the moment it’s long and we do get the occasional eastern brown snake! Cost includes light refreshments after the tour.

What: A walk around the market garden with Farmer Rick, and a chance to see how we go about Nutrition farming and ask lots of questions 🙂

RSVP: Please email Michele at to book in for the tour.

NOTE: If it rains, the tour will be cancelled, as our garden becomes a sticky black-clay mess! Also, you might like to wear enclosed shoes (unless you like to earth-out).

And yes, you can purchase produce on the day if you like.

One of those Days

By Market GardenOne Comment

5am, time to get up. But where I’d normally get into the routine happily, with no dramas, today I felt like crying…or vomiting. All of a sudden the enormity of the tasks hit and the stress that comes with it.

Rick wants to aim for the markets this weekend, which is a good idea, but the actual work it takes to prepare for that is messy. Waking to the prospect of more harvesting and market prep was a sobering thought. If that was all we had to do, then it would be simple. But it’s not. There’s 6 children to organise and care for (they do a lot to help, but they are still young and need some motivation!), endless farm chores, food to prepare etc. Maybe I shouldn’t list everything off or I’ll get overwhelmed again!

From 5am-8pm I don’t really stop moving or working, except sometimes for half an hour in the arvo to lie down and read for a while…but that is usually interrupted by a child coming to ask a question or complain about one of their siblings to me.

Rick seemed to recognise the problem straight away, just by looking at me. I hadn’t said a word about what was wrong, I was just getting ready to go out and harvest when he gave me a hug and said “it’s ok, you don’t need to harvest anything or work out there.” Then he offered to pack orders for me today etc. What a relief! He feels this way sometimes too, but he’s a lot better at just sitting down and stopping for a while until the motivation comes back.

We live such a blessed life…loads of wholesome food, sunshine, fresh air, family, friends etc. But it is also a LOT of work…and we like work, but sometimes it gets overwhelming.

I’ve been reading Grow, Hunt, Cook by Rohan Anderson. He’s a guy who left his office job and deteriorating health and moved to a property where he and his family could live off the land and produce food for themselves…he talks a lot about the supermarket culture, and how detached people are from their food. Most people have no idea how much effort goes into feeding a person, or how long some produce takes to grow…or how long it takes to process! Especially with meat you find this. People are happy to eat meat, but not to pay much for it, generally. But there’s a lot of work in raising an animal and butchering it. And it’s pretty hard to look into the eyes of a sweet ewe for example, and then take it’s life. I can’t do it still. I can help butcher, but not with the actual kill. Picking up a roast at the supermarket totally detaches you from the time, effort etc that goes into that roast.

Anyway, now I’m rambling. I just thought this post might help people see some of the time and energy that goes into producing real food…and the realities of living this dream 🙂

Where We’re At

By Market Garden3 Comments

Winter is definitely not as I originally pictured it for this year! When Rick first started the market garden he’d had the (fleeting) thought that maybe winter would be our off season when we work on other projects/jobs etc.

But then books started coming in the mail with titles like “The Winter Harvest Handbook.” About a year ago Rick had designed a new kitchen to replace our 1980’s one, which is starting to fall apart. When winter harvest books started arriving, it became apparent that a new kitchen wouldn’t be coming this winter! But that’s ok, there’s no rush and in the first year of a new business, taking a season off isn’t such a wise plan.

So throughout winter the planting continued. The harvesting continued. The veggies kept selling. And more and more ideas and projects sprung up, just like the seedlings in the garden.

One is the strawberry patch. We’ve planted three rows, 3 different varieties, all of which are long season. We’ve just started harvesting the odd few now, though it appears we’re competing with the local wildlife for them! Maybe one day there’ll be enough to sell, but with 6 strawberry loving children, don’t get your hopes up!

The herb patch also came this winter. What is that ugly white barrier, you say? I know it’s daggy, but the morning after hares invade and devour your whole coriander crop, your first thought is not on the aesthetics, but on how you can quickly protect what remains with what you have on hand! And it’s worked, so that’s something. Actually, the barrier may have been the second thought. First thought was that Rick’s got a lot of live target practice hopping around out there.

Anyway, the new crop of coriander is up, and safe 🙂

And this is the proposed tomato patch for this spring/summer. We’ve got a decent variety of colours and sizes coming in the tomato department this year. I’m so looking forward to it, because the surplus is what I make our tomato sauce, tomato paste, canned tomatoes and more out of. And it all has a much better flavour than the supermarket versions, as it’s come from homegrown tomatoes.

The trellis hasn’t gone up yet, but now that our supports have arrived that won’t be far off…especially as the tomatoes will need to get in the ground soon. Those seedlings are huge!

The other unexpected factor this winter has been the warm temps. Looks like our mulberry tree thinks it’s spring already. And we still have a few cherry tomatoes fruiting from last summer!

Working through the winter season has been a good thing after all…the second half of the market garden is almost full now. Rick’s a machine and prepares row after row each week (and then thinks he hasn’t achieved much)! We have our surprises and set backs, but over all this venture is turning out beautifully.

Introducing Mizuna

By Market GardenNo Comments

Ever tried mizuna? In this market gardening journey we’re discovering lots of veg that we previously either hadn’t heard of or hadn’t tried.

Ripe and part of our present produce list, is mizuna. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a lot like rocket, but I find it slightly more peppery than rocket.

Nutritionally, mizuna contains molybdenum, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, and selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, pyridoxine, thiamin and riboflavin.

And what do you do with it? Like rocket, it’s pretty versatile. Most often it’s used raw in salad mixes with leaves of more subtle flavours. But you can definitely be creative with this one. You can saute it alongside other greens as a side dish (Rick’s favourite use of it!), add it to soups, risottos, pasta dishes and stir frys.

It’s one of those plants that can be eaten at whatever stage you like too…you can sprout it, grow microgreens, or eat the baby mizuna leaves…or use the mature leaves (we’re harvesting the leaves when they’re mature).

So if you’re wanting to try something new, give mizuna a go!

Sourcing Local Produce in Toowoomba

By Market GardenNo Comments

As Local as it Gets

We are very blessed in Toowoomba to be right next door to a vast array of vegetable farms. The Lockyer Valley is just full of them.

BUT, with the ever growing food-miles-consciousness, some are looking for produce that’s so close it’s practically on their doorstep…in their own backyard. And looking for produce that’s not only spray-free, but grown in soil that’s also not subject to overspray from nearby conventional farms.

This is where we can help. Birdsong Market Garden is only 8.9kms from Grand Central, Toowoomba…about a 13 minute drive. Close hey?

Our neighbours are not farmers, and therefore are not spraying anything nasty that could possibly waft onto our veggies.

Our soil has been analysed and is in the process of remineralisation (the minerals, microbes etc have already been added to the soil, but the assimilation can take time…already we are seeing great results!).

The only place this produce travels before you get it is from our back paddock to the cold room (less than 100 meters), and it travels there on a harvest cart that Rick pushes along by hand. Most produce is stored in the cold room for a maximum of 7 days, and then it is replaced with a fresh harvest. The exception to our 7 day rule is long storage crops like root veggies which obviously can live happily in the cold room much longer.

If you are a cafe/restaurant looking for local, seasonal, organic produce, we can help. Or if you are simply someone wanting to buy nutritious farm gate produce in the Toowoomba area, we can help.

We’re open every afternoon from midday-6pm (except Saturday) and you are welcome to drop in, check out the produce and find out more. Contact details are on the home page 🙂

Plastic Free July

By Market GardenNo Comments

How you can make a diference at Birdsong

As you’ll see in the photos, we’re definitely not purists in our waste reduction efforts.

But we’re getting there. Reusing glass bottles, making our own beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap, using eco mesh bags for some of our produce, and reusable stainless steel straws for smoothies are some of the efforts we’ve adopted.

But then there’s the market garden. That gets a little harder! We have a handful of plastic-free customers who we are happy to accommodate, and would be happy to see more. But as a business, do you know it can be hard to buy packaging that is eco-friendly, and yet not so expensive that is pushes the price of the produce up?

We do have several sizes of paper bags, but these are only good for certain items. Anything too moist, and it disintegrates the bag! And there’s a lot of energy/water etc that’s pretty much wasted in the process of making paper too.

We also have cardboard boxes (and often reuse boxes that we received mail or other items in for veg orders).

We also have reusable mesh produce bags from which are available for sale for $2ea here. These are strong, washable and breathable. The reason Rick chose these over cotton bags is because there’s actually a lot more of a negative environmental impact in the production of the cotton bags. And the cotton wears out faster.

For Plastic Free July, we are now offering 1 free reusable mesh produce bag for every $20 you spend 🙂

Rick and I have talked about how to incorporate more use of eco friendly packaging. We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas! At the moment I can handle transferring peoples produce into their own bags, but as the customer base builds and we get busier, it’s too time consuming to do this.

But right now, the best ways you can help to reduce waste with your veg at Birdsong is to BYO box, green bags, eco produce bags…and, to let us know if you are happy to have your veg packed loose into a box for you to repackage yourself at home.

So for us, Plastic Free July is a great time to ponder these things and see what you all think too!

In Season: Red Russian Kale

By Market GardenNo Comments
[fancy_box image_url=”6661″ color=”Accent-Color”]Growing up, I don’t think we ever ate kale…I doubt I’d even heard of it. Now it’s all the rage, and when you see how versatile and nutritious kale is, it’s no wonder why.

Kale is a winter crop, and even thrives on light frosts (so it’s loving our garden right now!).



Ever heard of the Dirty Dozen? It’s a list of the 12 most risky fruits and vegetables to buy conventionally. They are the ones with the highest numbers and concentrations of toxic sprays. Kale is on that list. As a matter of fact, up to 55 different chemicals have been found in varying degrees on conventionally grown kale (you can check it out at

We grow it organically here and the only pest we find on it is aphids, which are gently washed off in a bubbler with water. It’s like giving the kale a soft spa bath in pure water. This means the kale is ready to use straight out of the fridge, whereas conventionally grown kale comes with the advice to be washed and then swished in a saline solution for 10-15 minutes to remove dirt, fungicides and chemicals!

How do you use Kale? I love to just slice it up and saute it in butter with zucchini, rainbow chard, carrots or whatever else is in season and in the fridge! Then add some salt and pepper and you have a very tasty green side dish. A classic French variation is to add some garlic and balsamic vinegar to the mix….mmmm, this is making me hungry.

Otherwise you can slice or puree it and add it to soups.

Or smoothies.

Or use it raw in salads…or chopped up in frittatas, quiche or savoury muffins.

Or make yourself some kale chips.

Loads of options! So this winter, why not give this green nutrient powerhouse a go? 🙂

And the Reality Is…

By Market GardenNo Comments

Most people enjoy honesty. Maybe they’re even relieved by it. So many blogs especially, will highlight the high points of someones life, achievements or whatever. But what’s going on behind the scenes?

Well, sit back, relax and have a glimpse at what this week at Birdsong Market Garden was like…

School holidays are here, we homeschool and so the children are with me all the time anyway. But it’s sweet to have a break from lessons. Contrary to what so many people seem to think about there being a lack of socialising for homeschoolers, we’re inundated with people at times. School holidays especially. Sleepovers, visits and the like…it’s all happening. So on top of our 6 little farmlings, we had my niece 2-3 days a week while my sister works in town. Then there were friends having sleepovers and friends visiting from out of town and friends coming for dinner. Friends are a blessing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s busy! About 2 days ago I just crashed. All I’d wanted these school holidays was a day off, but instead it’s been lots of extra work, and I’d broken out in a very itchy rash, had to avoid dairy…blah blah blah. Anyway, that morning I just dropped on the couch and let the family fend for themselves for a while. I was pooped!

We also had neighbours dropping in to give us surplus mulberries, and another more distant neighbour coming in search of fertile light sussex chicken eggs. Animals bring people together, I can tell you that! I was able to give her some fertile eggs, though couldn’t guarantee their light sussex purity as we have 4 very effective roosters on the farm, and only one of them is a light sussex. She noticed our lone duck (his mate was eaten by a fox ages ago) and so came back several days later to say she knew a guy who wanted to pass on his 4 ducks, who were making too much of a mess of his yard. He wanted chooks instead. So I contacted him and we did a trade. His 4 ducks (one of whom is sitting on eggs) for 4 of our hens. We’ve got loads of hens, and two of them are sitting on eggs, so there’ll be even more soon!

Rick has been building the propagation house…our seedling nursery. This will be a huge help in freeing up ground space during the seasons. Instead of a plant needing say, 12 weeks in the ground, it can spend the first 6-8 weeks of it’s life protected in the propagation house, and then move into the paddock. While it’s in the nursery, something else can be occupying that space in the paddock…maximising crop varieties and yields. Building this poly-tunnel has been a big job. Primarily because it’s huge and often needs an extra set of hands. We’ve been so blessed to have a friend of Rick’s offer to help now and then in exchange for some produce. Big help. But he has his own life and own children, so most of the time when Rick needs help, he calls on me. And having 6 children, loads of animals and homeschooling etc, I’m not often just sitting around looking for something to do. So there I’ll be, cooking lunch or something, and Rick will call me to come and give him a hand with the propagation house, or hold some steel while he cuts it. It’s incredible how much Rick has been able to do alone, but sometimes he needs help.

Technology, ah, technology. We live in just the right location to miss out on luxuries like NBN and even ADSL. And mobile networks other than Telstra. So for the three years we’ve lived here, we put up with little reception and VERY slow internet speeds. Then came the business and Rick wisely said we need some reliable service. So a good portion of the holidays was spent sorting that out. It should have been simple, but porting a mobile number turns out to be very messy when you’ve forgotten that the old account was in your husbands name and not your own. I spent days on and  off the phone between our old and new providers trying to get it sorted. But now I can actually receive calls and hear the person on the other end properly. And use internet that loads pages at a reasonable speed. One day I got a photo of our 6 year old asleep at the computer. She’d literally dropped off while waiting for her Reading Eggs page to load! That’s how bad our internet used to be.

Every day more equipment for the market garden arrives. It’s all coming together slowly. We’d been all geared up to get a shade net over the whole plot to filter the hot summer sun and make working in summer that little bit more bearable. Then we got the quote back. Gulp. It was about $20k more than we expected! So Rick the DIY king, now plans to order the materials and do it himself. He’ll try just about anything!

That’s a bit of recent life at Birdsong for you. Today is Rick’s birthday, and he’s spent it working on the farm, with the exception of a quick trip to the Meringandan Pub with me for lunch.