A tree change from Brisbane to Tasmania leads to a new life and a thriving organic garden
In Youngtown, on the outskirts of Launceston in northern Tasmania, husband-and-wife team Doris Rosenkranz and Chris Beaver have created a large, productive organic garden called LillyPilly Farm.
It’s 2.2ha of organic paradise: fruit trees, raised vegetable beds, alpacas and five rescue dogs. Doris says this is just the beginning. She has plans to enlarge the productive garden and build a cat boarding facility. Six years ago, Doris and Chris were living busy lives in Brisbane. Tired of city pressures and with Doris’s mother and sister in Launceston, they decided to make the move south. Doris says she too had lived in the area some 30 years ago, so northern Tasmania seemed a natural spot to build a new life.
While looking at acreages, she received the call every parent dreads: her son was fighting for his life in hospital. Nathan had been king-hit while celebrating his bucks night.
She flew home, all thoughts of a new life in Tasmania banished. As their son gradually recovered, Doris and Chris returned to the idea of a quieter life.
“We realised how fragile life is and our son’s trauma reinforced our desire to leave our frenetic corporate lifestyle behind and live a life that’s more in touch with nature,” says Doris.
The pair returned to Launceston, found the property they’d been looking at was still on the market and bought it, then began the process of relocating to LillyPilly Farm and changing their lives.
Starting a garden
The garden, which is fully organic, has raised vegetable beds intermingled with cottagey flower plantings for the bees. Doris and Chris have built protective structures around fruiting plants to ensure they’re able to harvest a crop without the birds getting there first. Apricots, cherries, peaches and blueberries now grow in a big wire fruit cage beside a netted raspberry and large strawberry patch.
Rows of citrus are enclosed in a temporary polyhouse over winter to protect them from the cold. There are some apples as well and Doris plans to add more to the orchard, along with chooks to help with organic pest control. After just a few years, the plants are all growing and bearing well in tip-top condition. The secret, says Doris, is worm wee from their huge worm farm and regular applications of liquid seaweed. They also use alpaca poo.
The garden is heavily mulched, says Doris, as mulch helps turn bad soil into good. “I mulch constantly with mulch from tree loppers, straw, cardboard, paper; every scrap from the kitchen goes to the garden — in fact, anything I can lay my hands on.”
After almost three years of intense mulching, weeds have diminished and the soil has improved so now it stays moist even after weeks without rain.
The pair are harvesting far more produce than they can eat so a lot of what they pick is bartered with neighbours and friends.
Despite these achievements, Doris and Chris have more to do. The focus at LillyPilly Farm this past autumn and winter has been the soil.
“We’re adding minerals to the soil to correct deficiencies we noticed in our vegetables this past summer and digging in the green manure crops we grew through winter,” says Doris.
“We’re concentrating on getting the right mix of bacteria and nutrients as well as continuing to add nutrients from the worm farm and manure from the alpacas as the crops grow.”
Another priority is to get a watering system into the garden by the time summer comes around again. As planting gets underway after winter, Doris is concentrating on growing heirloom and heritage varieties to see how they perform.
“Growing these old varieties just feels right and fits with my complete change of lifestyle,” she explains. “In my busy corporate life in Queensland, it was all about the latest of everything: new house, new gadgets, new everything. Truth be told, I was very wasteful.
“But since moving here, I have become mad on recycling, using old, retro and salvaged materials as much as possible,” she says.
Around 15 different heritage tomatoes have been planted this spring and eight varieties of garlic are up and growing. The seed-grown tomatoes are going into beds prepared last autumn with manure, paper and a bale of hay on top to keep the weeds at bay and encourage the army of worms that help prepare the soil.
It’s not only heritage vegetables that have caught Doris’s attention. She’s also planting heritage fruit varieties, particularly berries. They are extending the raspberry beds as they love to eat raspberries and had a huge demand for organic raspberries last season. Raspberries do well in Tasmania’s cool climate, which is also free of fruit fly.
“We’ve planted ‘Williamette’ raspberry canes, which last century were the most widely planted raspberry variety in the world, and I’m also trying ‘Lloyd George’, which was introduced in 1919,” says Doris.
Doris has also tracked down a purple raspberry, which is an intriguing hybrid between the European red and North American black raspberries. She’s also planted ‘Pink Neika’. These join the very productive ‘Chilliwack’, ‘Autumn Bliss’ and ‘Heritage’ varieties. Husband Chris, who is passionate about strawberries, has another 60 runners in pots ready to plant out into the garden at LillyPilly Farm soon. Excess strawberries are sold to their local organic grocer.
Building an organic garden from a paddock has been hard work, says Doris, but as she wanders in the garden with bees busy among the cottage plants, looks at the alpacas grazing in the paddock, picks a fig and sees the cat boarding facility nearing completion, she says it’s all been worth it.
“I have a life many people would do anything to have. Five years ago, I dreamed about what we have created now — a return to a more authentic lifestyle — and, though it has been a tonne of work, particularly in the past two years, challenging and stressful, it’s amazing to me that from an idea something has been created and now exists in the real world.
“Despite life’s challenges, we count our blessings every day on so many different levels and I’m excited to get going on the next edible experiment!”
Doris and Chris are keen to share what they’ve achieved. LillyPilly Farm at 28 Redwood Crescent, Youngtown, is open January 10–11, 2018, from 10am to 3pm. Entry is $8, supporting Brightside Farm Sanctuary in the Huon Valley (brightside.org.au). For more details on the garden and to confirm open garden details, call 0408 018 066.
For more information
Visit the farm’s Facebook page.