Our February permi8 gathering at Helen's was arranged weeks in advance and contained the caveat "not if it's raining". Of course most years we'd think it funny she even bothered to mention rain for a February event. "Not if we're under ember attack" or "not if it's over 40 degrees" is probably more like it! So when the email came through at lunchtime saying "Still on! Not too wet", with 60mm in our rain guage since the previous night and buckets still falling, I did wonder.
However, just as Helen had assured us, by the time those who braved it were gathered at the entrance of her property, the rain had stopped and we were treated to a lovely gathering that was practical, social and educational.
We first heard how Helen's family came to live in the Indigo Valley and the farming that they've done there. We checked out Helen's enormous vegetable patch by "dry creek" (flowing very nicely at present, thank you!). It's not so common to have a vege patch quite a long way from the house, but in terms of the microclimate, this is an obvious choice. Soil type and depth, shade in summer, protection from wind and frost and relative flatness of the site all contibute to the patch's success. We harvested gorgeous sweet corn (many other permi8 people found this year a poor one for corn, us included, but not Helen), snow peas, zucchini, tomatoes and tree onions.
We moved closer to the stream, where Sandy gave a talk on worm farming and the use of worm castings as an alternative to fossil fuel based fertilizers.
At Helen's house we dined in the open air, catching glimpses of the Indigo Valley as it appeared and disappeared in the mist. You could have sworn it was the middle of winter with the lush green growth across the Valley, the low clouds and mist and the wetness of the air and plants. But no, it was warm and muggy.
As usual the shared permi8 spread was a feast of home-grown and home-made goodies. We ate the sweet corn we'd just picked - Helen zaps them for three minutes in the microwave in their husks - as well as the masses of other offerings.
Helen's father, Paul, shared with us his analysis of weather from records he has kept since 1951 when he first arrived at the property. The discussion turned to the BOM (bureau of meteorology), La Nina/El Nino and the effects of the Indian Ocean dipole. [If you haven't already seen it, check out the Vic DPI's 'climate dogs' series of animations that explain these influences on our weather in a way that is simplified but therefore digestable, and also entertaining.]
So thank you Helen for hosting and to those who were able to come and contribute. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, not to mention the armfuls of Helen's excess corn, elephant/Russian garlic, apples and tree onions that many of us took home.
A postscript to our visit - this week's Living Lightly article in the Border Mail was written by Helen about millipedes, permaculture and the permi8 group. If you missed it in the paper, you can read it here.