We have a strong commitment to looking after our land, to never take more from it than it can give and always give back more than we take. Now some of you might just right me off as an old hippy or an environmental zealot and if so, that’s a badge I’ll wear with pride, but to me, looking after our land and working with mother nature instead of against her just makes sense.
When we started, the Hot Chilli kids and I made a commitment: we would grow everything organically and to use second hand and recycled materials wherever we can; and we’ve stuck to it.
So we grow all of our chillis organically in soils we make ourselves in our raised beds. They are no-dig beds, which means we never turn them over preferring to replenished them each year with compost and organic fertiliser to keep them rich and healthy. From dead compacted soils, we now have soil teaming with worms and microbes that help break down the organic matter and improve the health of our soils.
We don’t use synthetic fertilisers preferring to use compost, organic fertilisers and worm castings that we make ourselves, or should I say our worms do. We also don’t use synthetic insecticides and weed controls preferring to use more organic solutions. We only use rain water from our tanks so there is no chlorine or fluoride and we mulch, mulch, mulch in order to conserve water, which is essential when you are on tanks. She only gives you so much to work with each summer.
And because we do this, our chilli patch repays us each year smashing out 100s kilos of chillis that are beautiful to behold, fresh and nutritionally packed, flavoursome and with a fantastic heat. I strongly believe that's because of the soils we grow them in. It's all about the soil! If you look after your soils, they will look after you. And not just that, Mother Nature does a lot of the back-breaking work for you. Hot Chilli Husband and Son might disagree with that a bit.
But there is still so much more we want to do this year. We will be planting out part of our orchard so that we can eventually use all our own fruit in our products, we want to experiment with companion planting more as a means of attracting more beneficial insects into the patch to help with pest control and improve pollination. We also want to experiment with green manure (and no it’s not what you think it is – I don’t run around chasing the cows with a jug) to keep improving our soils. I won’t list all the projects I have in mind because if Hot Chilli Husband and Hot Chilli Son read this, they may just do a runner on me. I just wish I had enough time and hands to do all of the projects I have in mind.
We have also been committed to using recycled materials as much as possible. From recycled hardwood fence palings to keep the rabbits and roos out and redgum sleepers for the beds, to second hand water tanks, baths for the worm farm and more. I’ve been amazed what we have been able to find. I love hunting for the next ‘thing’ knowing I’m giving something another chance to be useful. Not always successfully though! Very proud of myself, I once bought a roll of hessian online on eBay for weed suppression only to discover it was a massive roll with about 200m of hessian. I'm not joking. It weighed over 2 tonne and took a forklift to load – I know that because that’s the limit of my trailer and it killed the suspension. Anyway, I got it to the farm only to discover I couldn’t get it off the trailer. So we had to drag it off with the tractor, only to realise I then couldn’t unroll it. Well I wasn’t going to admit defeat was I, so I then had to cut through every layer with a Stanley knife and yes, that took a very long time with many a blister. I eventually used it all, but I’ve never lived it down. So a tip for all you would be recyclers, go for it – but double check what you’re getting yourself into or have a good excuse ready; and get yourself a very strong trailer just to be sure.
So in the coming months I’ll be posting a series of blogs about what we’ve done, how we did it and what we are doing now including improving our soils, setting up your irrigation, how to make your own natural fertilisers, maximising your compost to suit your needs, worm farming, natural pest control, pollination and a range of other projects.
Now we are not horticulturalists and we don’t profess to be. We just love what we’re doing, were committed to it and we’re prepared to roll up our sleeves and just give it go.
I hope you find something of use to you and your projects in these blogs, or you just enjoy watching our progress. I know I’ve loved the journey so far (except the 2017 hessian debacle) and I look forward to being able to share it with you.
I’m also open to new ideas, so if you have any suggestions for us or you would like to hear about something in particular then please let me know.
And remember, if you look after your soils and work with Mother Nature, she will look after you!