A simple campaign to rid Bega’s Littleton Gardens of dirty cigarette butts is working, as spring takes hold and new growth claims its place.
Volunteer Gardener’s Geoffrey Grigg and Marshall Campbell erected handmade “Bin Your Butt” signs throughout the garden three weeks ago.
“We’ve seen an 80% reduction in the amount of cigarette butts littering the lawn and garden areas,” Geoffrey says.
“The number of cigarette butts being dropped or left behind was starting to get people down and make it hard to use and love this space, and cleaning it all up was a big part of our work.”
The recent addition of the Aboriginal ‘Biggah Garden’ prompted the action.
“This is Yuin Country and we need to treat it with respect,” Geoffrey says.
“The response from smokers has been very positive, no one has raised a concern or issue, once you point it out to people you start to see a change.”
The volunteer green thumbs would love to see the same response spread across the town.
“Everywhere you go you find cigarette butts, we just need to be more mindful of our actions,” Geoffrey says.
New signs will be displayed in the Garden shortly to update the message and maintain the momentum, and Council will soon add designated ‘but out’ bins to existing garbage bins.
With one problem solved the next is being tackled – bindies!
“It’s a big job, but we’ve been pulling them out by hand and trying to avoid the use of chemicals, this is a food garden after all,” he says.
A big crop of various edible greens are thriving in the spring sunshine throughout Littleton’s garden beds – lettuce, spinach, warrigal greens, lemon balm, and coriander, a donation from Bega Valley Seed Savers.
“People are invited to take a few leaves for lunch or dinner, that’s why the plants are here, just carefully pull leaves off from the base or stem so that the plant can keep growing,” Geoffrey says.
“As the weather warms up people will start to notice tomatoes and basil come through, and it won’t be long before we are eating strawberries.”
Geoffrey and Marshall tend to the garden each Wednesday and Thursday and invite people to stop for a chat.
“If you have any questions about the plants, how to pick them, how to cook with them, or if you have plants and time to donate, let us know,” Geoffrey says.
*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council
The new owner of the River Cottage Australia property at Central Tilba on the New South Wales Far South Coast is a 36-year-old single builder from Sydney looking for a place to put roots down and call home.
Tristan Diethelm says he is comfortable with the price he paid for the famous TV set but wouldn’t reveal the final figure.
“Considering it was River Cottage, I am sure I paid a bit more, but opportunities like this are rare,” Tristan says.
Reportedly listed for $895,000 in late April, Tristen told About Regional that the 9-hectare property was a dream come true.
Host Paul West has also moved on, his young family settling into Newcastle in recent months.
“We’re keen to get back to the South Coast in the next couple of years, especially as Otto gets ready to start school,” Paul says.
“I was so busy with the show, I needed to reconnect with family and take some time out and keep a low profile.”
The new owner of the property says he is keen to carry on the principles Paul put in place.
“I want to tap into local food and the community, that’s part of what attracted me in the first place,” Tristan says.
Currently living in and renovating a terrace house in Paddington, Tristan has plans for the Punkalla Tilba Road property.
River Cottage will be open for holiday rentals in time for spring 2017.
“It will be a place where family, friends and I can escape to, but I will be listing it for holiday rentals on Airbnb soon,” Tristen says.
All the animals that starred in the show alongside Paul were sold off late last year, the veggie beds remain and have continued to produce under their own steam, indeed a carrot from the River Cottage garden has become somewhat of a trophy for locals.
“I’ve pretty much bought the place as is,” Tristan says.
“Most of the furniture and what people saw on TV comes with the property, so it will feel like a River Cottage experience to fans of the show who want to stay.”
Being handy on the tools, the new owner also sees great potential in some of the property’s other buildings.
“The bedrooms in the house need a little bit of work, and the old dairy and silos could perhaps be turned into further accommodation,” Tristan says.
The vendor in the sale wasn’t Paul West, the property was owned by British TV production house Keo Films.
David Galloway, Executive Producer and Director of Programmes at Keo says, “After several seasons making the show and watching Paul grow the property it was a hard decision to sell.”
“Unfortunately without a TV commission, it was a business decision in the end.”
Up until tonight (July 3) the show was only available on pay TV and DVD, but SBS will screen all 64 episodes weeknights at 6pm, opening the show and the South East of New South Walse to a whole new audience.
“Who knows where that may lead to in terms of future programming,” the Keo TV boss says.
“For Keo, River Cottage Australia was a hugely successful venture, with four seasons airing on Foxtel’s Lifestyle Channel.
“It also gave the company a production base in Australia from which other highly successful Keo formats – like Struggle Street’ (SBS) and ‘War on Waste’ (ABC) have been produced,” Mr Galloway says.
As the new owner of the property, Tristan Diethelm chuckles as he confesses to only watching the first series of River Cottage Australia.
“But I’ve been looking for a property outside of Sydney for a while, there’s a buzz about the South Coast at the moment and I’ve been scanning the area for about a year,” he says.
“I am keen to nurture the property and would love to be working in the area down the track.
“There’s the beach nearby, a rural lifestyle, and a beautiful little town, it ticks so many boxes.”
While he lives in Sydney Tristan says he doesn’t feel like he has a hometown.
“My Dad is a yachtsman and we spent a lot of time sailing the world when I was young, so I am looking for a place to put down some roots,” Tristan says.
“And if Keo wants to film another series one day, I’d open up the property again for River Cottage.”
*Photos supplied by Julie Rutherford Real Estate, with photography by Kit Goldsworthy from Tathra (internal and some external photos) and Josh McHugh from Bermagui (drone aerial shots).
The colder months are here and our region really feels it.
Life retreats only planning to stir with the first rays of spring, but don’t you retreat from your vegepatch or orchard, there are things to be done and still food to grow.
First a bit of observance – with a cuppa and sitting in the sun in the middle of the garden to peruse some of the issues that came up last season.
Some thought starters…
Do you need to rearrange the beds? What beds worked well last season and what didn’t? Do you need to put in a green manure crop to reinvigorate a bed where plants didn’t really thrive?
Take the time to really see what went well and what didn’t.
Start to make a list of some of those jobs you’ve been putting off in the garden…
Clean up the old summer beds and compost all that you can. You have been feeding and improving your garden for a while now so it’s good to keep what you’ve grown in the system.
Remember to collect fully grown seedheads from the best plants, dry them out and store in airtight containers.
Fork and aerate beds, reinvigorate with dolomite, potash and your favourite type of fertilizer, mine is my compost with added chicken manure from my girls.
Mulch all the beds again, I use slashings from the farm, rotted bales from the produce store and sometimes grass clippings if they don’t contain seed heads.
Plant out winter crops – brassicas, rocket, parsley, peas, chives, onions, garlic, silverbeet, spinach, coriander, all the root crops and don’t forget the broad beans!
Have you thought about what flowers to plant around your patch?
I have lots of geraniums, nasturtiums, marigolds, chrysanthemums, salvias and daisy family around mine. Someone is guaranteed to be flowering all through the year. The good bugs will thank you and help you control the bad ones.
Keep on top of any pests – aphid, white moth, cabbage moth, snails, and slugs all appear around this time of year before the harsher temperatures make it difficult for them.
For the ‘slimers’ I put ash around my seedlings to protect them, for aphids and moths a small amount of mild eco-detergent mixed with water in a spray bottle helps. The key is to be consistent, once is usually never enough!
Feed the citrus – cow/chicken manure, some potash, and a little Epsom salt, and mulch them.
Rake up leaves from deciduous trees and compost them, or better still put them into the chicken yard and let them play around in the leaves and turn them into compost for spring. Most deciduous trees are ok, but research your trees toxicity to chickens first if you have any doubts.
Planting more fruit trees?
Bare-rooted stock is now in and autumn is a great time for planting out. Remember to plan where your trees will work best and how you’re going to manage them throughout their (and your) life.
Clean up under all your fruit trees.
If you’re growing stone fruit or any of the pomme (apples, pears, etc) family get some help from the chickens in cleaning up. It is fine to leave the ground bare under the trees for a couple of months.
Start to think about how you’re going to prune for next years crops. Plus how are your tools going? Maybe an afternoon of cleaning and sharpening is in order?
Look for dead or dying branches to remove. Your first prune of the year should be the apricots – June is the usual time for this group. Wait till it’s very cold and all leaves have dropped to prune the rest of your orchard, that’s mainly so you can easily see next year’s fruiting spurs.
If your fruit tree has wooly aphid, scale, or sooty mould then it is usually a sign the tree is not doing so well in its root system, or rot has set into the heart of the tree.
You’ll need to make a decision, whether to save the tree or cull and start again. Often the tree is failing because of an issue within itself – just like us!
Keep up the watering, this time in the afternoon, when it is a little warmer.
A lot to consider, you might need more than one cuppa!
The Eurobodalla food economy is pushing forward – like a pumpkin vine that sprouts from a compost heap.
“Growers are outgrowing the farmers market,” says local food advocate Kate Raymond.
“They need more avenues through which to sell at a high enough margin to keep doing what they’re doing.”
In recent years, the river town of Moruya has seen increasing numbers of market gardeners, spurred along by the community of people around the SAGE Farmers Market.
Shoppers gather like sprinters in the 100-metre race at the Olympics each Tuesday afternoon at 3 in Riverside Park waiting for the bell to ring – a signal that sales can start.
“Small-scale farmers are establishing businesses and creating a flourishing local food system,” Kate says.
“It’s a movement whose time has come.”
The river flats and volcanic soils of Moruya have a proud agricultural heritage that in their day supported large numbers of vegetable, dairy, and beef growers. For whatever reason, those practices all but died out but there is a growing sense ‘that day’ has come again.
The award winning farmers market that has been the backbone of the SAGE initiative has created an appetite and an industry that requires more.
“A farmers market once a week can’t service everyone who wants to eat locally grown food and local farmers need to reach more customers,” Kate says.
An increasingly common sales avenue for farmers around the world is to sell their products through what is known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
A CSA is a farm share program, where the consumer and the farmer enter into an agreement of goodwill to exchange money for food. Consumers pledge to purchase the anticipated harvest well in advance.
“A farmer can plan their crops with greater confidence knowing that they will sell what they grow and sell it at a fair price,” Kate says.
“By supporting the farmer in this way, the customer receives a box of fresh seasonal produce every week, delivered to their door.”
The idea springs from frustration with the dominant and most familiar food distribution system – the supermarket, which mostly excludes local and small-scale growers from their supply chains, leaving local farmers no option but to sell directly to customers.
Woven into the arrangement is a sense of shared risk between the farmer and the consumer, which takes the CSA model beyond the usual commercial transaction we are used to.
If the season is difficult or hit by extreme events, pickings can be slim which impacts the quality and amount of produce a customer receives in their weekly box.
The skill, passion, and beauty of these small communities was showcased to 17 countries across Asia and Eastern Europe.
Local people and their flair for food, the environment and each other became the star of the show – and generated terrific goodwill and prosperity beyond the TV production houses.
“There is no doubt the filming of 32 episodes of this national and international show has had a positive impact on the region in many ways,” says Sarah Cooper, Business Assistance Manager, Eurobodalla Shire Council.
“Aside from the immediate economic benefit that comes with a full TV crew filming for 3 months each year, there will be long-lasting effects,” Sarah says.
“The increased tourism in and around Tilba with visitors wanting to sample the ‘River Cottage Australia’ life has been a huge economic boost for the region and will be for some time.
“It’s been a four-year partnership with Council and the community, we will miss the show.” she says.
Paul West speaks with Ian Campbell about his plans for the future:
Paul West laughs as he remembers meeting viewers from Hungary on the main street of Central Tilba.
“If you have an eye for natural beauty, great communities, and that true regional character, then this is the best part of Australia,” Paul says.
The cooking and gardening program has also made a number of skilled locals ‘famous.’
As the show moved along Paul needed to call on expert advice, drawing on CWA cook Nelleke Gorton, farmer and felter Tabitha Bilaniwskyj-Zarins, Erica and Nic Dibden from South Coast Cheese and Tilba Milk, and mobile butcher Matt Christison, among many others.
Matt says the show has changed him.
“It’s been a huge buzz, the crew made me feel so welcome – they are great people.
“I was gutted when I heard the news, I will miss it. The Cooking School especially has been very satisfying,” he says.
Matt’s profile on the show has been good for his own business, which he’s very grateful for.
“Other’s have been inspired too, there are a lot more mobile butchers out there now,” Matt says.
While the show featured the recipes and gardening tips you’d expect, it was also known for showing regional life in all its colours, including the slaughter of farm animals.
As the one firing the gun and often cutting the throat of an animal, Matt says the reaction of viewers was interesting.
“I am very proud of that work,” Matt says.
“We showed how it can be done naturally and humanely.”
On the flipside, Matt says he’s disappointed his butcher jokes were cut from the show.
“I cracked every ‘meat’ joke there is, none of them made it to air,” he laughs.
Kelly Eastwood is another of the names tied to show reflecting on the positive impact it’s had and making new plans for the future.
Kelly says she’ll take the next month off and rest before jumping into anything new.
“There are lots of opportunities for good food here and I’ll be writing my cookbook over summer,” Kelly says.
“I believe so much in this region and I just want to show it off to the world.”
For Paul West, his wife Alicia, their 2-year-old boy and baby due early next year, River Cottage Australia lives on in many respects.
While the show might be hibernating, Paul’s passion for food is awake and kicking under the banner of Triangle Farm Tilba.
Over the last couple of months, Paul has been turning a grassy paddock on the Princes Highway, opposite the Dibden’s dairy farm, into a market garden.
“When you are making a TV show you do more TV making than you do food growing,” Paul says.
“Now that the TV show isn’t on the horizon, I want to do more food growing.
“I’ll be growing a variety of chemical free vegetables that I hope to sell into the Bermagui and Tilba farmers markets, and maybe I’ll get down to Bega as well, and supply a few hospitality businesses,” Paul says.
A pop-up food stall is also part of Paul’s thinking, but he’s keen to get the garden producing first.
“Tilba sits atop a region that is colloquially known as the triangle,” Paul explains.
“It’s the trio of villages – Bermagui, Cobargo, and Tilba, they make a triangle on the map.”
Paul says the name Triangle Farm is also a nod to the triangle being the strongest shape.
“And the three points [of a triangle] also symbolise produce, place and people – the three most important elements in food,” Paul says.