It was World Environment Day today, and the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens held its annual TreadLightly EnviroFest.
Last year was the first time I attended, and I had a wonderful day exploring all of the stalls and activities, and listening to the speakers. I learnt a lot and I came away with a lot to think about.
This year was a bit different, and I went with Juniordwarf, Lil Sis and Mum. Despite the winter weather, we had a great time. Juniordwarf was very excited to be able to take his Aunt and his Nanna to show them his favourite place in the Gardens, the ‘Cold House’ (technically the Subantarctic Plant House, but it’s about four degrees (Celcius) in there, so his name is perfectly apt).
I caught some of the amazing Peter Cundall’s talk on growing vegetables in Tasmania.
This gentleman is an absolute inspiration. I remember seeing him on TV when I was much younger in the days of Gardening Tasmania, and used to watch him regularly when that show morphed into Gardening Australia.
I own a beautiful first edition copy of his Year Round Gardening book, published in 1985 (which I was able to find in a second hand bookstore after lusting after the copy held by the Library) and I enjoy reading his articles in Organic Gardener magazine.
I missed most of what he actually said about growing veges (other than that cauliflowers need the trace element molybdenum and beetroot needs boron and that you should sow beetroot seeds yourself, not buy seedlings).
What really got my attention was the man himself. He is 84 years old, but you’d never know it. He said that there was nothing wrong with him at all and the last time he went to the doctor for an illness was over 40 years ago.
He puts his good health down to a healthy lifestyle – most specifically gardening, which is all the exercise he needs (he asks ‘did you ever see a happy jogger?’), and growing his own food.
I compared myself to him. I lead a rather unhealthy, overweight, sedentary lifestyle, and rely almost solely on others for my food supply. This winter I’ve been constantly sick and have felt rather uninspired and, well, just bleh. Yet here was someone more than twice my age bursting with an energy and enthusiasm I can only dream about.
It certainly gave me something to think about, because I’ve noticed when I’ve made a real effort to improve my diet, such as focusing on fresh, non-processed ingredients and cutting out things like wheat, alcohol and coffee, it’s made a noticeable difference to how I’m feeling, my attitude and energy levels.
And that begs the question why haven’t I stuck with it, if it’s made me feel that much better. I don’t know the answer to that and it’s something I intend to work on.
But that aside, back to the Festival, the other speaker I saw was Paul Healy, who writes about sustainable gardening and raising chickens in the Mercury's Saturday Magazine. He breeds Barnevelder poultry, and he brought a couple of these beautiful birds with him to the Festival. Juniordwarf was a bit wary of them, so we didn’t get too close, even though they are apparently a very placid bird.
Last year I listened to all of Paul’s talk on sustainable gardening and other issues around food and the environment, and got a lot out of it. This year I only heard a bit of what he had to say, but that was still interesting.
He was talking about the principle of feeding the soil, rather than feeding the plant. He said that if you feed the plant, you are forcing it to take in everything you give it, regardless of what it actually needs whereas if you feed the soil, the plant will take what it needs and leave what it doesn’t need. He said plants have a sort of intelligence in the sense that they ‘know’ what they need.
I’ve heard a lot of people say to feed the soil. I never really knew why, but this made perfect sense.
Paul referred to a book called The Living Soil, by Lady Balfour, published in 1943, which he says is the soil ‘bible’ and should be your first port of call for more information about this type of gardening. It is out of print, but the State Library has a reference copy.
The other thing I didn’t get to find out as much as I’d have liked to today is Peak Oil, which is an issue that doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention in the climate change debate, where everyone seems to be focused on the proposed carbon tax.
It’s an issue that really frightens me when I think about the implications, but I won’t go there today – it’s a whole other blog post, or more. I might even rant a bit. I don’t think I’ve done a ranty blog post yet.
In the mean time, I think it’s time to use the inspiration from today to actually do something.