Among the more experienced seed-savers in South Australia are “The Gnomes” – Vegie Gnome and Flower Gnome to their friends - who inhabit Gnomesville high in the hills above Lenswood in the Mount Lofty Ranges, where the cool winter temperatures are just right for raising berries of all sorts. As it turns out, it’s Flower Gnome who’s the berry grower, and today we were lucky enough to be invited up there with a handful of other seed savers to pick silvanberries, boysenberries, youngberries, raspberries, loganberries and red-currants. Strawberries and blackberries are either finished or yet to fruit. Pine needles from the nearby commercial pine plantations are added to blood-and bone and compost to boost the acidity of the acid-soils so loved by the berries.
Gnomesville is a 3 acre block with its own dam (supplying water for the sheep who graze alongside the chickens outside the kitchen garden) and rainwater tanks to provide water for the kitchen and the gnomes’ personal use. Solar photovoltaic panels on the roof offset energy use in the home, and solar hot-water heaters on the roof reduce reliance on mains power for water heating. Wood fires fuelled with fallen timber from around the property provide warmth during the long winter evenings when the gnomes snuggle inside and entertain themselves from the vast and diverse collection of wall-to-wall books.
The kitchen garden is fenced off to keep the hens and sheep on the outside, and contains nearly every herb, vegetable and fruit tree known to man. An elderberry tree out in the chicken yard was the source of the elder wine that we drank with desert made from ricotta cheese and berries, along with dried figs and fresh raspberries.
The sun shone, the air was crisp and clear, and the surrounding vineyards, grazing lands and apple, pear and cherry orchards provided a many-shaded green contrast to the darker eucalypts and pine forests. Eighteen years of effort have gone into Gnomesville and, as in all gardens, Mother Nature provides endless change and challenges to mix in and enjoy the outdoors and fresh produce together. We picked our own berries, and purchased fresh farmhouse cream and honey that the gnomes had purchased in bulk from local suppliers. A wonderful day!