The Merrin's Patch

Derek and Denise Merrin (We) have owned a 3 acre block on Mount Tamborine for the past 20 years. We keep active in a range of pursuits following retirement from demanding professional working lives, we grow fresh food for the table/Green Shed, go fishing, maintain and plant out a rainforest, manage small business interests, do a bit of travelling and we Bridge at the local Bridge Club. 

We have always enjoyed growing fruit and vegetables, and raising chickens even when we were suburbanite's living in Brisbane 30 years ago. In 1992 we decided that the stressful business life was not for us beyond a period of time and certainly not through to the official retirement age of 65. So the block was bought in 1992 as an early retirement project; rejecting the opportunity to make any more money than what we necessarily need for a comfortable healthy life. 

From about May 1993, we planted 700 protea flower bushes, and sold small commercial quantities of flowers directly to the public and florists through to about 2003. This was done whilst we were still in full time work, and mainly living and working 100 km away in Brisbane. From 2003 we retired from full time work, and carried on with our flowers, started to restitute some old avocado trees, and built a kitchen garden with recycled netting. This allowed us to grow a small mixed crop of vegetables for the kitchen table, as we were sold on the value of eating fresh home vegetable product for healthy living. We also built a cute hexagonal chicken house of brick and Lysaght metal roofing, which could accommodate up to a dozen laying chickens. As we are keen conservationists, possibly fanatically so; we use various recycled biological degradable material for composting, and use natural elements to fertilise our kitchen garden (e.g. the chicken poo and skeletal fish bodies etc, that we accumulate from our natural interests). We can say with confidence we have never dumped or placed in a waste bin any decomposable material in over 20 years, and we have never had to æbuy inÆ heating fuels, as this also comes from our various rainforest trees. 

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In the Kitchen Garden, Denise grows a wide variety of crops including, Cabbage, Lettuces, Broccoli, Snow and Snap Peas, Spinach, Potatoes (in summer) in the raised timber framed beds constructed there (refer to picture of Denise with the cabbages in the Kitchen Garden). á From about 2007, when the Global Financial Crisis hit, we needed to protect our diminishing investments from withdrawals to maintain our lifestyle, and so decided to grow a wider and larger range of crops, now into a bigger unnetted open area of about half an acre. This area is planted out with hardy crops that are less likely to be damaged by moths, caterpillars, grass hoppers, grubs in general with a focus on Rhubarb, Potatoes, Carrots, Chinese Spinach, Silverbeet, Spring Onions, and Sweet Corn. (refer to picture of DerekÆs tunnel protected lettuces and potatoe lifting) 

The main points of interest in the growing of vegetable's on Mount Tamborine is the combating of natural pests, and these are many and persistent. 

Lettuces: We claim that we can grow lettuces all year round; both in the half acre open patch as well as in the kitchen garden (mainly in summer to combat the amazing array of summer pests, being slugs, grass hoppers, caterpillar's, lawn grubs, etc.). In autumn, winter and spring we plant quite a lot of lettuces out in the open, only to be raided by Hares, Satin Bower Birds, Wood Ducks etc. As we have said above we grow all year round and do everything that is necessary, particularly tunnel netting (Refer picture of netting), to combat these guys. We estimate we grow over 3000 lettuces a year, of which at least half are fed to ducks/slugs and friends (æpinched byÆ might be a better description), and the other 1500 are generally picked early after quick early growth and eaten by us and or supplied to the Green Shed as mixed small lettuces in a bag. The bag sometimes has up to 5 small lettuces of various varieties (we try all varieties at various times of the year) and these are sold at the shed for $3/bag all year round. 

Rhubarb:  We grow and supply to the Green Shed all year round. We on Mount Tamborine have a great warm temperate climate with a little chill in the winter, and rarely have dry 34 C+ heat waves in summer. So the Rhubarb grows very well in the autumn and spring, and we fuss over them over the chill period and hot summer (July and February we find the most demanding), when there is minimal growth. However, we still try to maintain a small supply to the Green Shed so those customers who must have a Rhubarb fix can get it. 

Potatoes:  Again we try to grow these for supply all year round. However, potatoes are incredibly difficult to grow in the summer, and we have to accept light crops to get some into the Green Shed, particularly February and March. We specialise in Dutch Creams, and these are much valued by our Green Shed customers, as our bags are usually sold in the first hour of trading, and we never have left over potatoes at the end of Green Shed trading. The main problems with potatoes (other than fungal rot in the summer) are witchery grubs, and Brush Turkeys (and the very rare hard frost in winter). The witchery grubs eat holes into the potatoes, and if you have many of them you end up with most potatoes physically damaged. The good news here is that they are quite easily elliminated, by the picking of them from the soil at tillage and harvesting, and giving pockets of them to the chooks, easy! But the Brush Turkeys, they are another matter. In the early days of open space cropping, we lived in harmony with these guys, they did turn over some loose materials in composted areas, but never the potatoes -----until, I left some out on the lawn to dry one day, and they got the taste for it. Prior to the taste testing we only saw one or two of these guys, and all was well. Within a week we had up to 10 of them in our potatoe patch and despite the placement of physical barriers 200 potatoe plants were turned over and destroyed in one week. 

Most of the other 25 or so fruit and vegetables we do in smaller quantities, mainly for our own table, and the excess is sold through the Green Shed. The various peas are grown in winter in the Kitchen Garden to keep the pesky King Parrots from podding and stealing our lovely garden peas within, and grow cabbages there as well to keep the white cabbage fly at bay. 

The Green Shed provides us with about $100 per week in spending money. Happily, with the advent of the GST in 2000, our accountant declared us a æhobby farmÆ, with no further need to report income as small as $5000 per annum, so the ready cash maintains our lifestyle that we planned in 1992, mainly because of our efforts and the Green Shed.