Farm Foundations, Bee hotels and the Effects of Bushfires.


So much to do, so little time.

So many newsworthy events since my last blog. On a personal front, things are really coming together on the Eco Green Spirit Farm and we are making exciting progress towards building a sustainable, low-waste permaculture farm. We have planted around 30 trees around the land’s perimeter, cut and prepared 800 bails of hay, and acquired beehives. We donated 150 bails to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal to farmers in need. There is currently no permanent structure on the land, so in the spirit of repurposing and recycling, I bought a funky retro 1970s caravan for weekends when my family goes up to South Gippsland to put farm foundations in place. All things old can be made new! The kids are loving the old-school laminate interior and the rustic charm.

 My kids are busy little helpers on the farm, constantly being productive, learning new permaculture techniques, and this weekend saw them building a bee hotel! They are very aware of the decline of bee populations worldwide and my daughter asked how we could help “save the bees.” You can help certain varieties of bees find a place to nest by setting up a bee hotel in your own backyard. These hotels make great nesting homes for bees that are not honeybees but rather good little pollinators. This is great way to attract pollinator bees to your flower or vegie garden. These types of bees live alone and not in hives, so they are less likely to sting (unlike those defending the hive). My kids constructed a bee hotel out of bark, twigs, pinecones, and blocks of wood. Anyone can build a bee hotel and is easier to make than a bird house and makes a great family bonding project. You can just use a wooden box filled and compartmentalised with a variety of materials like twigs, leaves, stems and pinecones. The bees will nest in the hollows, cracks and holes, as this is a safe haven to rest between pollination runs.

 We also made a quad shed from repurposed wood pallets found on the side of the road, discarded and left in front of industrial estates. Week by week we are planting new flora, making plans for a shed including ( including a honey extracting room, permaculture chemical free farming, olive oil extracting space and a hay shed); working out the logistics and creating two paddocks for future livestock.

 Mature 10-year-old olive trees will be harvested before Easter (roughly 30 trees, and later infant trees). We are also pleased to announce an Adopt an Olive Tree program. I thought this might be a great idea to help visitors to EGS Farm really get involved and connect to their food and the processes that yield produce. By adopting a tree, you will have the tree named after you, and you get to access its produce once a year. The tree grows along with its namesake, and you get to follow it and track its progress through to maturity. It makes a beautiful sentimental gift for a loved one or to mark a birth or special occasion.

 Spending so much time outdoors, camping and prepping the farm has seen me being bitten like crazy by little critters in the evenings. I am really against using chemical based insect repellents, but I needed something effective. I researched natural insect deterrents and came up with an insect balm stick that works instantly, and my friends have tested and given rave reviews. If you need a natural alternative, try out my Insect Repellent Balm and let me know what you think:

 Waste not, want not.

Growing up, our parents used to pick wild greens from our gardens and local farm paddocks. These were typically considered weeds and discarded. But Greeks call them “horta” and always found good use for them, like in the old country. These make a great side dish, summer salad or can be used as a substitute for spinach in Spanakopita. Just pick, rinse thoroughly, boil, strain and serve (dress with olive oil, salt and lemon). I found many specimens of wild greens or “weeds” on our farm including wild rocket and dandelions. Did you know dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin K, and vitamin C, calcium and potassium? This humble weed! Workshops on wild green foraging and preparation are coming soon.

 Fire season has really taken its toll on our coasts and regional areas.

 Victoria, NSW, ACT and the beautiful country towns across the country have suffered profound loss and damage. If this is not evidence of the reality of climate change then I don’t know what is. The profound drought is being exacerbated by climate change; extremely dry fuels and soils; and escalating heat that is increasing bushfire risk. Bushfire conditions are now more dangerous than in decades past, and the hazards to people, animals and property has significantly increased. Scientists predict 'fire weather' will progress to become a more frequent and severe phenomenon without substantial and quick response to cut down greenhouse gas emissions.

 Experts believe that due to enhanced evaporation in warmer temperatures, the land and vegetation dry out quicker. In recent years, our country has also experienced a drop-off in cool season rainfall across mainland southern Australia, and this transformation is related to climate change. Over recent decades, these conditions of less rainfall, quicker evaporation and dryer vegetation have contributed to an increase in dangerous bushfire risk. We are just beginning to see how severe these impacts are for the land, the animals and us. It is devastating.  

 Ravaged by the bushfires, families, homes, our precious fauna and delicate ecosystems have suffered immeasurably. Many animals were left injured and homeless. Wondering how I can help, I adopted a beautiful Kelpie girl that was left without a home after the bushfires. Roxy, the new addition to the family has given our home a new dynamic. If you are considering a new pet, rather than going to a breeder, please consider adopting an animal that has been left without a family from rescue shelters. These dogs and cats are pre-loved, typically house trained, and do very well in a warm family environment. Roxy offers spades of affection and settled into our family with ease. She was left homeless after the November fires in NSW, as were many farm dogs. Pets Haven Foundation, where we found Roxy, is doing an incredible job re-homing displaced animals:

 It has been so heart-warming to see the people of Australia (both young and old) offer anything they can to the bushfire appeals in terms of volunteering, monetary needs and other kinds of relief. We really are a nation with a big heart. Inspired by the hardships of families that have lost everything to the bushfires this summer, I was moved to write a song “She Burns.” This song is currently in production and will be available on iTunes soon. The proceeds of the song’s sales will go to bushfire victims (with a small percentage going to production costs). Watch this space….

 Wishing you a happy rest of summer, patience for back-to-school time. Please keep a lookout on our Facebook page regarding the date of our February beach clean-up. We can always use more helpers of all ages and it’s a great activity for families who want to contribute to the good of the environment.

 Signing off,

 Maria Faki.