grown & gath­ered

Get your hands dirty and dis­cover your in­ner farmer with this sim­ple guide to grow­ing, gath­er­ing and rear­ing pro­duce in your own back­yard – it’s eas­ier than you think!

Real Living (Australia) - - OUTSIDE -

MANY OF US DREAM of throw­ing in the towel and liv­ing off the land, but what if you could do it all al­ready, in your own back­yard, whether it’s in the city, the ’burbs or the coun­try? Au­thors of Grown & Gath­ered Matt and Lentil Pur­brick are pas­sion­ate about a tra­di­tional, pre-in­dus­trial food sys­tem that they be­lieve is a mind­ful, sus­tain­able, bal­anced and nour­ish­ing way to eat and live. Here, they pay it for­ward by shar­ing their small-scale farm­ing knowl­edge so any­one can have a go.


We have mul­ti­ple chicken houses and each bird has its cho­sen perch in its cho­sen home. They go into their houses on their own at dusk – we just lock the door be­hind them and open it in the morn­ing. Our bird houses have floors so that foxes can’t dig un­der them, and they can also be moved around. Chick­ens love a high place to roost, whereas ducks will sleep on the floor. In the wild, fowl don’t nor­mally form groups larger than 20 birds, so we pro­vide enough pens for them to repli­cate this be­hav­iour. It is thought that they can’t eas­ily re­mem­ber more “faces” than this, so when more than 20 birds are forced to roost in one space the peck­ing or­der breaks down, caus­ing stress and fight­ing. Please choose poul­try and eggs that have been raised on small farms – look for the terms “pas­tured”, “pas­ture-raised” or “bio­dy­namic”.

To keep them healthy, happy and pro­duc­ing abun­dantly, all poul­try re­quire free ac­cess to: grain, pulse and seed mix; sea­weed meal and un­re­fined salt; clean, fresh wa­ter; wa­ter for wa­ter birds (ducks, geese); food scraps.

A place to lay This has to be large enough for them to qui­etly hang out in, have nice thick, clean straw on the bot­tom, and be a lit­tle pri­vate – some­thing with a top and sides and a small en­trance is per­fect – so that they feel com­fort­able and safe. Twenty birds will hap­pily share one lay­ing nest; in fact, they usu­ally do in the wild. If they don’t seem to be get­ting the point, leave a golf ball in the lay­ing box to en­cour­age them to lay in that spot. A


We keep bees more for the plea­sure of the ex­pe­ri­ence than the bonus of honey and bee pollen. Bees pol­li­nate nearly ev­ery vegetable and fruit that we grow, so en­sur­ing they’re around is com­mon sense. Bee pop­u­la­tions are un­der threat from chem­i­cal-based agri­cul­ture, so keep­ing them to main­tain the health of the species is im­por­tant.

Try an old-style hive We have a top bar hive which is easy to work with. We’ve seen the best re­sults when the bees are ini­tially given an inch or so of foun­da­tion comb on each bar to build off, to en­sure they build straight. The top-bar hive is in­tu­itively de­signed to sup­port the nat­u­ral be­hav­iours of the honey bee, rather than to max­imise honey pro­duc­tion. We’d pre­fer the hap­pi­est bees, than the big­gest honey har­vest.

Lo­ca­tion is ev­ery­thing Set your bees up in the shade with a clear take-off and land­ing path en­sur­ing the most ef­fi­cient flight path, and there­fore the most en­ergy for honey and pollen col­lec­tion. Avoid fac­ing the en­trance to­wards well-used paths, or you’re likely to end up with un­nec­es­sary con­tact. Also avoid fac­ing your hive due south in the South­ern Hemi­sphere or due north in the North­ern Hemi­sphere. East fac­ing is best as the morn­ing light gets your bees buzzing early. Collect bee pollen, but not too much We collect bee pollen by leav­ing a pollen catcher at the hive en­trance for a day and collect enough to last a cou­ple of weeks.

Don’t har­vest too fre­quently or too

late Some­times we rob the honey stores – but never take more than a third – be­tween sum­mer and early au­tumn, and then we leave the bees alone with plenty of time to stock up for win­ter. When we rob the hive, we’re al­ways very care­ful not to break the hon­ey­comb or ex­pose any honey, be­cause bees will stick to it and that’s that. Done right, har­vest­ing honey causes zero deaths. As soon as we have fin­ished har­vest­ing, the bees just get straight back to work as if noth­ing has hap­pened. Happy hive, happy keep­ers.


We don’t be­lieve ev­ery­one should be a farmer. But we do be­lieve ev­ery­one should grow

some­thing, no mat­ter how small. Grow­ing things is one of the most sat­is­fy­ing and ground­ing hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties there is. It re­minds us that we can ac­tu­ally feed our­selves. And that’s a won­der­ful re­al­i­sa­tion to ex­pe­ri­ence. Sun, soil, wa­ter: The rule of three For plants to grow, three things need to be right: sun, soil and wa­ter. The three in­ter­act and sup­port each other, and you sim­ply can’t have a thriv­ing gar­den with­out per­fect­ing all three. If you give your plants an op­ti­mal en­vi­ron­ment, they will grow faster, pro­duce more and pro­duce for longer. Mas­ter sun, soil and wa­ter and you’re most of the way there.

1. Sun – lots of it Most veg­eta­bles and flow­ers love full sun. The more sun they get, the more en­ergy they have to metabolise the nu­tri­ents in the soil and grow. Not only that, but the tem­per­a­ture of the soil has an enor­mous impact on the speed and vigour with which your plants grow. There­fore, where you lo­cate your grow­ing area is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant de­ci­sion of them all. You want to iden­tify the area that gets the most sun: a north-fac­ing site is ideal in the South­ern Hemi­sphere. If the sun­ni­est spot is right in the mid­dle of your yard, then that is where you want to lo­cate your grow­ing area. Don’t ex­pect things to grow if they’re stuck in the shade.

2. Soil – clos­ing the loop A good soil is teem­ing with life, nu­tri­ent dense, deep and free drain­ing. Luck­ily, with the ad­di­tion of just three in­gre­di­ents you can turn any soil into a liv­ing, breath­ing home for your plants, rich enough to feed them and struc­turally strong enough to sup­port them and al­low for rapid growth. Those three things are ma­nure, worms and com­post. Like sun, soil and wa­ter, ma­nure, worms and com­post are an in­ter­re­lated fam­ily, and it is only to­gether that their true value is fully re­alised. 3. Wa­ter – plants drink when you drink When was the last time you drank no wa­ter all day and in­stead spent two hours drink­ing in your sleep? Plants aren’t so dis­sim­i­lar to us in their needs and our phi­los­o­phy is to treat them like we treat our­selves. We eat, they eat. We grow, they grow. We drink, they drink. Be­cause, just like us, if our plants get stressed, they have a far greater chance of get­ting sick, and that means re­duced yields. In our gar­den, the plants drink when we drink: noth­ing overnight and lit­tle bits lots of times through­out the day, cre­at­ing a mois­ture zone right around their roots – right where they need it, when they want it. As a guide, in our vegie patch in the ab­so­lute peak of sum­mer, we wa­ter ev­ery hour on the hour from 8am un­til 5pm in three-minute bursts. How you achieve the “lit­tle bits of wa­ter lots of times” ef­fect is up to you. We use au­to­matic timers. R

The fear fac­tor Matt and Lentil say that un­less you’re tak­ing away their honey, bees are quite docile, so don’t fear them and ob­serve their be­hav­iour be­fore har­vest­ing.

Space to roam Our birds eat less of the grain we of­fer them when they have more space to self feed, choos­ing in­stead to for­age and scratch across the land for green plants, wild seeds and in­sects. In a back­yard sit­u­a­tion, just let them roam as much as...

Dust for land birds (chick­ens, turkeys) If th­ese birds don’t have ac­cess to dry earth to bathe in, it is im­pos­si­ble for them to groom and you will surely end up with lice and mite prob­lems. Again, it doesn’t need to be a huge space, just en­sure they...

A new leaf on life Pas­sion­ate about sea­sonal eat­ing and sus­tain­able liv­ing, Matt & Lentil share their tried and tested tech­niques for pro­duc­ing di­verse whole­foods, like grains, meat, dairy, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and veg­eta­bles in your own gar­den –...

You’re good to grow… Th­ese are just the ba­sics to get you started in your own yard, for more – like how to build your gar­den, what to grow when, plus more on an­i­mal food, worm farms and gath­er­ing food from the wild – buy Grown & Gath­ered by Matt &...

Reap­ing the re­wards Matt & Lentil plan and man­age their yearly plant­ings so that they al­ways have some­thing ready to har­vest now and al­ways have some­thing grow­ing up to har­vest next.

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