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Book review: Greenhorns

 

Greenhorns: 50 dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement
Edited by Zoë Ida Bradbury, Severine von Tscharner Fleming and Paula Manalo
Published by Storey Publishing

A few years ago, a young graduate and aspiring farmer with the spectacular name of Severine von Tscharner Fleming began profiling new American farmers. What began as a documentary film project has, in the ensuing years, grown into a thriving network with the mission of recruiting, promoting and supporting a new generation of agrarians. Drawing on the diversity of their members, the Greenhorns network utilises “avant-garde programming, video, audio, web content, publications, events, and art projects that increase the odds for success and enhance the profile and social lives of America’s young farmers.”

North America, like Australia, has an aging farming population. As a majority of farmers drift into their late 50s and early 60s, the absence of a new generation of aspiring farmers taking on the responsibility of food production has furrowed brows in farmers’ organisations for some years. The recruitment of “millions of rough and ready protagonists of place to care for our ecosystems and serve our country healthy food”, a “critical meeting of minds, bodies, and land”, forms the foundation for the Greenhorns work, it is not just a new crop of farmers they seek. Rather, it is the transformation of the food system into one that nourishes communities through a model of farming that is ecologically sound, locally-focussed and small(er)-scale.

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Free box: growing vegies with salvaged materials

Newly planted seedlings in the salvaged vegie bed.

Living in a rented house, we’ve been slowly, subtly expanding the reach of our potted garden over the under-utilised spaces of the strata. Sophie recently spotted a broken produce crate in hard rubbish, and we thought it was time to set-up a herb and leafies bed in a sunny corner.

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Upcycling Pallets: the urban timber source

I’m a long-time admirer of pallets and am regularly delighted by the possibilities they offer for reuse and transformation into other useful objects once their life as a pallet is ended. Likewise, I’m often surprised by the quality of the timber used. I’ve used a red cedar pallet to make a light-weight bike crate, and a couple of years ago used another pallets to bang out an extremely rustic stool. I’ve been pondering some other pallet-based carpentry projects, and have gathered together some inspiration below. It’s especially exciting to see some craftspeople using rough-hewn materials with such elegance. The examples of intelligent reuse are seemingly inexhaustible, so I’ll update this post whenever I have the time and energy!

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Upcycling pallets: how to make a bike crate

Sophie's Belleville, with finished crate affixed

Since Sophie purchased her snazzy new bike, a three-speed, step-through ladies’ Trek Belleville, replete with racks on the front and back, she’s been in need of a receptacle to make those racks all the more user-friendly.

This seemed like a perfect opportunity to hone my fledgling carpentry skills as well as implement my passion for upcycling. Some time ago, I’d spied a pallet abandoned outside a shop at the end of our street. The soft, silvery wood looked to me like red cedar, so partner-in-craft Jeremy and I returned later to collect it. Lightweight and easy to work, a bike crate sounded like the perfect use for such fine timber!

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From Plagues to Plate: Eating locusts and grasshoppers

Grasshoppers kick back on the warrigal, Glandore Community Garden

The air around our legs clattered with the tumbling bodies of locusts, their gleaming translucent wings bursting outwards as they hop through the grass. While at our urban community garden plot grasshopper populations have been noticeably high, in the browning stubble of paddocks on the eastern side of the Adelaide Hills the numbers still indicate the population spike that comes from good rains and plenty to eat. Indeed, with the recent plague, there’s been a surge in discussion about the possibilities of eating those that feast on our farms. Walking through these farms on a Sunday afternoon, I was reminded of the description of John the Baptist, as a gentleman who “wore clothing of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:6).

While that introduction alone is enough to get John invited to headline a permaculture skillshare, the Judeo-Christian tradition has further references to hopping cuisine. Articulating the ancient Hebrew holy laws regarding food, the Old Testament book of Leviticus reminds the faithful that there are “some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat, those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest” (Leviticus 11:21-23).

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How to make fennel cordial

After acquiring a copy of Lynda Brown’s The Preserving Book, Jeremy promptly developed a rigorous program of regular DIY preserving workshops, hosted by our very own contender for South Australia’s smallest kitchen. (Despite its size, our kitchen’s generosity of spirit, if not space, seems infinite, with successful cheese-making workshops as well as daily cooking duties completed with cosyness and ease).

With a parade of syrups, cider, champagnes and cordials, the DIY Preserving Autodidactory program has been largely successful, although not always in the direction intended. Adapting one recipe for mint cordial, Jeremy also brought a selection of other herbs (fennel, lemon verbena) to test in the same proportions as the mint. The highlight, even better than the original mint, was fennel: sweet, punchy and ever-fresh.

Finished, homemade herbal cordials, complete with labels courtesy of Giles

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House of the Rising Bun: Baking with sourdough

The rising of the dough

After nail-biting excitement of cultivating a sourdough starter, with only the subtlest of indications that the primordial swamp of rye flour and water harbored intelligent life, I thought the best way of testing the starter was to bake with it. For this, I adapted Yoke Mardewi‘s recipe for Pain au Levain, “an easy but delicious bread for your first attempt”.

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