"Harmony Farm", Black Mountain Road, Kuranda, North Queensland, began in winter 1968, (without a name).
My life began in South Africa where I was first a lawyer and then a farmer. Politics persuaded me to leave and educate our three children in New Zealand. There I met up with many organic growers and then started a health shop where I could sell their produce. My little organic garden was summer-productive only and I longed for more sunshine. With two children settled at universities, I set off for North Queensland with the third. My husband, an engineer, stayed to earn superannuation.
I had little money but chance took me to Kuranda where land was dirt cheap. I bought an on-site bus (very old) no power, a small tank and water from the Barron River. There was no vegetation, as the bulldozer had stripped my four acres.
The Primary Industries analysed my soil and found it very deficient. In fact they told me that I would never grow anything worthwhile to eat.
Power and a pump started my organic growing in earnest. Carting water ½ km. from the river was horrible. The top soil had long gone from my sloping land. Contour ditches were dug with a small plough. Grass cuttings from road edges were gathered for mulch - a horrible job which went on till the Shire took to poisoning. Free chicken manure from the Tablelands was composted and soon healthy pawpaws and bananas were bearing fruit. I had to sell something to live, but 12 lb pawpaws were not popular.
Meantime, I had a house built and my husband moved into civilisation. There were tree stumps scattered over the land, too difficult to shift, so we planted a sugar banana sucker beside each stump. Over the years these bore fruit with dolomite and mulch. Rain provided water. The bananas sold well. My orchard etc. was built on free sawdust from the Kuranda Mill and free horse manure. The latter I collected weekly from race horse stables in Mareeba.
Gradually the fertility improved. It has been a long hard battle. My four acres is now covered with vegetation but it was a very gradual process. Most plants were grown from seeds and cuttings. When I saw beauty in my orchard, I named it "Harmony Farm". The birds and butterflies had come to join the organic plants.
When rare fruit trees became available in 1978, I gingerly bought some seedlings. These joined my thriving seedling oranges and grapefruit etc. I have no irrigation system, so watering has been and still is a chore using hoses from the many taps my husband installed. Lots of bananas were cut down for mulch when sales fell off. Just as well, as I am now not keen on cutting and carting many bananas. I grow them for myself, friends and the birds.
My hobby farm is beautiful. I marvel that organic growing could make a paradise out of what was a barren block. There was not a bird to be seen or heard in 1968. Now they are everywhere. For the birds, I grow many bottle brushes etc. but they also share my fruit.
Growing rare fruits is exciting and it has been a thrill to enjoy first fruiting. Some have died, perhaps the cold, but some love the shade and mulch of my tropical garden.
Organic gardening means no chemical sprays, so fruit-fly and sucking-moth take their toll. The birds help and so do bats.
Plants growing in harmony without any poisons or chemicals are great companions. Caring for them keeps me healthy. At 75 I am still stimulated by their diversity and beauty. Permaculture is a trendy word I prefer not to use, but basically that is "Harmony Farm".
My plan was always trees and perennials where possible. Buffalo couch seeded itself from the soil. I tried establishing legumes but only desmodium took off up my trees.
Mowing in the early days was done by my husband, who died 12 years ago. Now the mowing is much less, as the trees have spread and gradually more have been planted.
From one plant of Heliconia and one of different gingers, I now have big clumps of these planted in all the odd corners and slopes. The leaves make wonderful mulch. Over the years, I have bought straw mulch but that has brought in many weeds. I hope now to spend the mulch money on having the gingers etc. cut down yearly and carted round for mulch.
As I am a vegetarian, I can almost live off my fruit and vegies, a great saving as money is scarce. I only sell a little fruit, the money goes on blood and bone, dolomite and seaweed for the plants.
Organic growing was unheard of when I came to Kuranda in 1968. I had been very active in the New Zealand Organic Society. So in 1970, I started a Healthy Soil Society. We met monthly at a garden or farm where organics were practised. At first there were only a handful of enthusiasts but the numbers grew. I also wrote a bi-monthly magazine which circulated through health shops. There are now so many magazines on organic growing with glossy covers that I have stopped production.
Over the years, "Harmony Farm" has been an inspiration to many organic growers, not only in North Queensland, but down south where people wanted to know how to make a go 'on a shoe string'. For 12 years I have exhibited fruit and a few vegies at the Cairns Show and have a collection of champion ribbons. My object was to show that fruit can be grown organically without blemishes and be of show standard. My average is 10 Firsts, 10 Seconds and some Thirds.
I hope to plant a few more rare fruit trees if I find trees that will grow here. Our winter nights are chilly. If I do, a few macadamias will have the chop; no great loss as some years the insects decimate all the flowers.
Healing my little bit of planet has been hard work, but the result has been worth it. I hope my lovely garden full of hundreds of different trees, shrubs and flowers will long be a testimony to how eroded clay soil can be rescued for posterity.
|Margorie Spear showing some of the prizes |
and fruit at the Cairns Show, 1990
DATE: September 1990
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