Chris and I have been listening to a podcast called Permaculture Voices for a couple of years now. On on of the episodes there was a great quote which went something like “you’ll overestimate what you can achieve in a year and underestimate what you can achieve in five years”. Neither of us can remember who said it but it’s been a year since we arrived at Sollys Hill Road so it seemed like a good time to reflect on what’s happened this last trip around the sun.
Perhaps the main thing to acknowledge is that we are actually doing what we left Alice Springs to do – running a small farm business on a piece of land which is on the way to being ours.
With a few cash loans and a more than a few dinners from our respective families aside, we are also managing to live from what we’re selling. It’s not yet enough to sustain us long term (we will need new thermals and work boots before next winter, that’s for sure), but with a few extra customers we should be getting close to a half respectable turnover at the end of this financial year. Getting those customers and building a solid relationship with them isn’t trivial but it seems very possible from where we’re at now.
Here are some of our main achievements since we got here:
- Finding and buying a beautiful block on which to create our regenerative farm;
- Laying a 6x12m slab in the existing shed;
- Building a mushroom grow room out of hebel bricks and an old airline cool room – the grow room has lights, misters, hanging racks, ventilation and an evaporative air con;
- Learning how to grow oyster mushrooms including making all our own spawn and redeveloping the mushroom production processes we’d read about so they work here where we live;
- Setting up a microgreen production rack and working out process of reliably growing a variety of different microgreens;
- Substantially improved mushroom and microgreen growing techniques and reducing our input costs;
- Establishing a customer base here in the Clare Valley and selling to the Barossa and into Adelaide too;
- Getting a fortnightly spot at the Barossa Farmers Market and getting a market stall going there and at the Sevenhill Producers Market;
- A house renovation project which involved removing two internal walls, removing a set of French doors and replacing it with a window, rewiring the lounge room, demolishing an open fireplace, polishing the living room floor boards, rebuilding the kitchen, re-cladding the front of the house, rebuilding the front wall of the house, installing some extra windows and a combustion heater and removing a crappy lean-to….;
- Made some preliminary diversion drains to harvest rainwater into the dam;
- Flattening an area ready to install a hoop house;
- Experimenting with growing rocket commercially in wicking beds;
- Experimenting with raising rabbits;
- Hosting our first film crew (we should be on the telly early next year…);
- Improving our communication with each other heaps;
- Getting an awesome logo designed (thank you Peter Fong);
- Keeping good financial records so we can now start working out our actual cost of production;
- Hosting lots of our excellent friends travelling through from Alice Springs (and elsewhere);
- Starting our first veggie garden;
- Planting 100 x mulberry cuttings and a 100 x fig cuttings and;
- Drafting a holistic goal and started thinking about our holistic context.
What we thought we would have done but haven’t:
- Got out of the house enough to meet a group of amazing like minded people (we know you’re out there);
- Got a detailed contour map of the farm and written an incredible farm plan;
- Built a undercover work area for mushroom and microgreen production;
- Integrated animals into our farming practice;
- Built a hoop house;
- Built a lab for spawn production;
- Turned over heaps more money;
- Any personal creative projects and;
- Got household chooks.
We did also make a pretty amazing small human – Sylvia – who is now seven weeks old. So although part of me is frustrated at all the things we didn’t do, I think we actually got a fair bit done. Actually, we got heaps done and we sat and pondered the future of the farm over a cup of tea and scones quite a lot too.
I think the next twelve months will be a combination of consolidating what we’re already doing and selectively adding some other enterprises into our business mix. And probably a few more rounds of scones too.