September Long Weekend

The long weekend was planned to be a team effort with a fair few people to help get the roof over our van.

The weather however had different plans. A few days before the trip we were forecast to get up to 45mm of rain over 3 days. That put a bit of a dampener on our free labour lol.

By some freak change in the weather we only ended up getting about 15mm of rain (almost all on the Sunday night), so it actually ended up a nice weekend.

On the Friday night we swung past my sisters house for some more scrap tin, then to Shan’t parents house to pick up the wood for the annex. We stayed the night there and were off to the block bright and early on the Saturday.

I started smashing things out and getting the frame up, by the end of the day I had the tops frame roughly up with half pieces leveled and property in.

Shan took a bit of time in the morning to head to Balingup with the kids, they picked up 6 black walnut seedlings from one of the Facebook group members in exchange for a few things I had grown. She also had a few kangaroos, cockies and various other things that Nic loved to play with.

While they were out I had a minor incident and managed to drop the top of the pole I had just shortened on to the van. I didn’t think much of it, put a peice of tin over the tiny crack and weighed it down with some bricks. More on that later…

We have a second fire drum now and found that having 2 fires is way nicer than 1. Means that you can keep the front and back warm at the same time. Nic helped make sure we had plenty of well stacked wood for them.

Both the kids slept well and I was the first up in the morning, it wasn’t long before the frame was all together, level and secure. Next up was putting some tin on.

We’ve been collecting tin for a while so I figured I would have enough to do most of the roof. I didn’t however consider that I have 3 meters between the beams. Most of my tin is in 2m lengths.

I still had 6 pieces that were long enough, I think we will need 16 in total.

During Sunday I managed to get the front right quarter up before the rain that had been promised all weekend finally came. From about 2:30 it came down fairly hard for the rest of the day.

That gave me a chance to check on my swale over in front of the cabin. I did dump a little bit of water from the rainwater tank to exaggerate the effect, it was pretty fun to see the water rising. My levels aren’t quite right, but there was at least 10m of water in it without it being more than about 3-4cm deep in any one place.

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That night was when my little log on the roof incedent came to fruition. Shan and I were toasty and warm in bed with the kids asleep (in the ‘kitchen’) when out of nowhere we heard what sounded like a down pipe gushing water.

The ‘down pipe’ was in the cupboard above our bed and was where our roof full of water decided to drain. I drilled a few strategic holes in the roof and think I’ve made it so that it will all stay drained.

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The half of the bed that was soaked had been Shan’s, but she made a convincing argument that she needed to be on the other side because of many ‘reasons’ that I’m sure would be impossible to articulate.

The following morning I used the last 2 pieces of tin to cover the back right of the van where the crack is. But we’ve left towels and containers under the main drill hole just in case that isn’t enough. We’ve also moved the mattress in hopes that we have a dry place to sleep the next time we’re down.

A few of our plants are starting to take off, our little guild around the pomegranates is doing well. In that section there are 2 pomegranate, an apple, an avocado, some sweet potato, gooseberries and parsley with a few nasturtiums starting to come up as well. The only one that is struggling is the apple which looks like it’s been getting chewed on pretty hard by the kangaroos. I had meant to track down some wire to protect it but didn’t end up having time.

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The lemon tree isn’t doing very well, but I’m still hoping it makes it. We’ve got a few dozen lilly pillys coming up in the windbreaks that we planted, but it will be a while before we know how many will make it.

On the Monday, not long before we left, I decided to a aerate the ‘compost’ from the composting toilet. It was a job that I was a bit nervous about. Stirring up a big bucket of poo isn’t high on my bucket list.

It actually wasn’t bad at all, very minimal smell and nothing recognizable as poo. The only thing that gave it away was the pieces of toilet paper that are half broken down. We’ve now got 2 full buckets. Once we get 2-3 more then we can combine them into a heap up on the hill to one day be perfect to fertilise the non-edible trees on the top of the hill.

All in all it was a super productive weekend. We need a few more like it I think. But for now we’re on the lookout for more (longer) tin.

If you aren’t into the more techy side of things you can stop reading here, it’s mainly me just documenting my confusion.

I’m also keeping a very close eye on my batteries, if anyone has some insight I would love to hear the advice. The dual battery system in the car was in it when we got it so I’m not 100% sure what the various sensors and switches do. We’ve had issues with the aux battery not charging and have had to swap the 2 around to make sure they both charge. When we left to go back to Perth they were both saying they needed charge (main on 12.3v aux on 11.8v). When we arrive they both still said they needed charge (main holding at 12.8v which I thought was fully charged and aux at 11.9v). It’s now Wed arvo and with normal driving the main is reading 12.79 and charged. The aux is 11.94v and obviously still needing charge.

With the car running the main battery is at over 14.3v, I just can’t seem to get the power into the aux battery. I’ll give it until the weekend with what I think is the bypass for the dual battery on. Otherwise I may need to swap them out again to keep the aux in good condition.

Reading and watching videos can teach you a lot, but when it comes to real world troubleshooting things get trickier.

With what we’re planning I will be the ultimate jack of all trades. It’s a great adventure.

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Strawberry Topping, Beetroot, Apple Sauce and More

Over the weekend we got up to a bit of canning, it was half planned, half massively expanded because of cheap produce.
All of the recipes that we used are safe for water bath canning so you don’t need any special tools, just a pot of boiling water to keep the result on the shelf for at least a year.

Sorry there are less pictures than normal, I am having some phone issues and lost any photos that weren’t posted on facebook.

It all started with;

Beetroot
Paul, our next door neighbour loaned us one of his raised garden beds for the winter because we were having issues with Nic pulling out seedlings and he’s not a winter gardener.
He is looking to put in his summer crops next weekend so we harvested a big bucket of beetroot. I managed to open up my finger while cleaning them, but it was a nice clean cut and is healing fine.

We always try to start with a USDA approved recipe and then adjust based on our tastes (when we are sure it’s safe to do so). Beetroot is something we’ve been preserving for 3-4 years now so we’re getting more comfortable with the recipe changes.
http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/pickled_beets.html

We had enough beetroot for about a quarter of what is in the recipe, that was our base to which we added some extra cloves, the peel of half an orange as well as a tablespoon of mustard seeds.

A big challenge is judging how much liquid is going to be needed, it varies depending on the size and shape of the beetroot. I did roughly twice as much liquid as the scaled down recipe suggested to have enough for each jar. I always seem to have either way to much of not quite enough.

We need to wait a couple of weeks before they are ready to eat, but i’m quietly confident that these will be our best beets yet.

Strawberries
Shanelle noticed a place up the road who were selling less than perfect strawberry for $5/shopping bag, I honestly couldn’t see any problems with 95% of them and they would be perfect for canning. I would guess it was about 3-4kg worth.
We still have strawberry jam from last year so we decided to do something different this year.

Strawberry's

Strawberry Syrup/Topping
http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/berry_syrup.html
Was our recipe and we stuck to it, hardest bit we pressing the juice out because I didn’t have the right tools, just a strainer/sieve and a spoon, but still got 90% of it. The mushy mess that was left over is for Harry to munch on.
It ended up delicious, we’ve used it on chocolate pudding, ice cream and pancakes already. Way better than store brought.
Shan thinks we should do a bit less sugar next time (she said it was a bit sickly after a few pancakes), but it’s supposed to be a sometimes food so I don’t mind that it’s a bit over the top.

Apple and Strawberry Puree
While I was doing the strawberry’s, Nic decided to start helping, so I put him to work peeling, coring and slicing apples.
Obviously I needed to load the new ones on for him, but he was actually very helpful. Smashed through 3 bags of apples that Shan got from the spud shed for $0.49/kg.
We added 50% strawberries and 50% apples by very rough volume to a pot and used a hybrid reciepe somewhere between apple sauce (see further down) and the below.
http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/fruit_puree.html
Next time we probably won’t add as much water as we did, but Harry has been loving it with his weet bix and as a snack.

Apple Sauce
Last but not least was the apple sauce with the rest of the apples. This is another one that we’ve done in the past, but Harry’s love of food destroyed our stock of it. Hopefully now that he is on to more solid stuff he won’t gorge himself on all of it.

Not a bad effort for a day in the kitchen. It’s days like this that I 100% agree with Shanelle that we need a bigger kitchen.
And probably a bigger stove, and an urn for instant boiling water, cheese cloth or similar to get the juice out better, more head space above the stove, a label maker for the jars, probably a dehydrator.
Hmm, we’ve got a bit of a shopping list if anyone wants gift ideas for the kids birthday =p

It always feels good when you can turn a few $ worth of in season produce into a value added product that can be stored in the cupboard until it’s needed.

End Result

Rabbit Nuggets (Popcorn Rabbit)

We had a rabbit that had been sitting the bottom of the freezer since February, I felt like a home grown feed so we decided to do something a bit different.

Kentucky Fried Rabbit (KFR), although I guess you could change things up and do it with chicken for a substandard product =p

We’ve done it once before but we changed up the seasoning this time around, and will probably keep changing things up every time we do it because we don’t really measure.

It was a bit easier do-boning this time as I hadn’t already spent a few hours killing, gutting skinning. I think the fact that it was still half frozen may have helped as well because some of the meet seemed to pull fairly neatly off the bone.

It was a team effort for Shan and myself, although Harry decided to lose his mind a bit half way through so I finished it up.

I cut the meat into squares aiming for about 2cmx2cm (although they varied in shape a lot in both size and shape).

The crumb was a bit of a guess, I vaguely remembered when I was at shot show the guy from ‘Hunt, Catch, Cook’ had done it was paprika, so I used that as a bit of a base.

My rough recipe (with guidance from Shan on what works) is as follows, enjoy my incredibly vague units of measurement;

  • 2 parts breadcrumbs
  • 1 part plain flour
  • a couple of mm of Paprika, although I probably should have added a bit more
  • couple of decent shakes of ‘Italian seasoning’
  • bit of garlic salt

Nice and easy, dunk the pieces of meat in egg then into the crumb. chuck them into a frying pan with a cm or so of hot oil.

Mix them around for a few minutes until then look good then onto a plate with some paper towel to soak up some of the oil.

Served it up with some mashed potato, carrot, corn, beans and peas. Nic loved his so much that there were no nuggets left by the time I got there to take the pic.

Every time I cook with a meat rabbit (compared to wild rabbit) I’m amazed at how much you get from it. I ate way more meat than I needed to and it was comfortably enough for Shan, Nic (who though rabbits nuggets were about the best thing every) and myself with a big container of it for lunch at work the following day.

If you are on the fence about wanting to eat rabbit then I highly recommend it like this, you really can’t go wrong. Anything fried is always a hit.

Weekend Double up 2/2

The second of my 2 weekend out getting our veranda started.

This weekend I managed to get all of the posts up, it was a bit of a challenge on my own, but the tractor helped a lot.

I only managed to bump the van with 1 of the poles as I was trying to maneuver it in so not a bad result and no damage done.

It’s just barely starting to look the part, hopefully for next visit I will have lined up some wood and I can start getting the roof on.
I’ve given in an got myself a new chainsaw, it’s another cheapy, but with the way they get treated I’d rather buy 5 $200 chainsaws than 1 $1,000 one. Hopefully it does me well for a few more years. The $100 ozito did me for almost 2 years and survived several trees falling on it, we’ll see if the Chinese Sthil rip off does any better.

On the Saturday morning I was woken up by a kookaburra on the front step of the van. Wasn’t a bad way to get up on a chilly morning, when I opened the door I noticed that I had a few other visitors, a sheep and her lamb were having a feed just up from me. They freaked and bolted as soon as they saw me so I didn’t manage to get a picture. They were pretty ratty looking, but I’m happy for them to help keep the grass down.

I’ve fixed the toilet shed and added a ton of bricks to the roof so hopefully it doesn’t flip again, I’ve also labeled all of the trees that I’ve planted so that in 10 years time I know where they came from.

Noticed that we have a few acacias growing well, they are about the only thing I could see in our area with flowers for the bees.

They have been specificly id’d as;

Acacia Longifolia (Sydney Wattle) and Acacia Mearnsii

Which I’m told are dreadful weeds from the east coast. I particularly like the A. Longifolia, I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of seeds fell into some hot water then got thrown around by accident.

It would be a tragedy to have some nitrogen fixing bee forage which is happy in degraded soil appearing in a few areas that are barely growing onion grass at the moment.

This coming weekend I’m swapping a few fruit trees with people I’ve met on Facebook. It’s great to find people that have different plants that they want to trade, gives me new material to learn to propegate some different things.

If you’re in the Perth area and are after; Lilly Pilly, Mulberry, Pomegranate, Willow or anything else that I’ve mentioned starting a lot of in the past let me know what you have and I’d love to work out a swap.

Weekend Double up 1/2

In a bit of an unusual turn of events we had about 8 weeks without being able to get out to the block followed by 2 weekends in a row out there.

This is the first of those weekends.

When I arrived I noticed a bit of damage, the toilet shed is on it’s roof and our van lost a piece, but everything can always be fixed. I also dropped off a ton of tin and pvc pipe, it should be enough tin to finish the tractor shed and enough pipe to run the gravity fed water supply for the van (including the shower).

 

I started off with a very optimistic list of jobs that I wanted to get done including starting to dig the lower swale so that I could plant out the apple and apricot that I have temporarily in the ground in Perth. After how slowly I got things done on the first weekend that has been removed from the to do list for now.

The main job now is getting the caravan poles up for the annex.

The annex will have 9 posts, 3 behind the van and 6 in front of the door, the roof will go over the top of the van giving us a bit of a buffer from the summer sun and also making it much easier to catch the water off it.

I’m doing a bit of an experiment with the poles. I’ve read a lot of articles about the best way to preserve the poles ranging from cement to oil to random chemicals that I probably don’t want to touch.

I decided that it was worth doing a bit of a test. We are putting in a range of poles that have been;

  • Fire/Heat Treated x2
  • Fire/Heat treated with engine oil x2
  • Engine oil x2
  • Cement x2
  • Just dirt x1

The most controversial I think is the fire treatment, it is based off a very old japanese method called Shou Sugi. In particular using this method to preserve pole wood has had mixed results so I figure its worth seeing how it works out for us. You can read a little more below;

https://permaculturenews.org/2016/12/05/shou-sugi-ban-preserve-wood-using-fire/

The others are more conventional and will be interesting to see the results.

My bet is on the combination of fire treatment with the engine oil but i’m curious to hear other peoples opinions, feel free to comment below or on the facebook page/wherever else you like.

So far I’ve managed to get 2 of the poles up and finished all the oiling/burning. I will probably give them a quick re-oil before I put them up next weekend.

 

As always we had other things going on at the same time, Oscar spent some time sighting in his new scope on the .303, he managed to put a nice hole into my brand new shooting frame and a 1 in a million shot (at least for his rifle) shot out the wire that was supposed to hold the targets.

 

The pomegranates are looking pretty good, they seem to have survived the transplant shock, the avocado and various under story plants in the little guild are looking pretty happy as well. The lemon tree ins’t looking very happy, but there are still a few green branches so hopefully it will come back in the spring.

 

I had a bit of fun lighting the fire over the weekend, w always have multiple methods of lighting a fire at the block and I generally have a few methods on me at all times, but 8 weeks with about half a meter of rain made things pretty tricky. Lucky I had the mapgas torch as a backup. It helped keep things toasty over the chilly weekend.

 

The dam is holding a little bit of water, but the driveway is holding almost as much =p

 

I’m also nearing the end of my PDC, just have my final assessment and design exercise to go. It’s not due until Christmas, but i’m hoping to get the vast majority of it out of the way in the next month assuming there isn’t to much else to distract me. But as the people who know me would be aware, there is always something going on to distract me.

 

Recent Rabbit Failures

I always tell myself that I’m as happy to share my failures as I am to share the successes, but I realised this afternoon that my biggest failures in the last few months I haven’t even mentioned on the blog or facebook group.

My struggles/mistakes lately seem to be largely around the rabbits.

It started (although I didn’t realise it at the time) when we processed the last batch of rabbits I think we did a batch after the post below but the most recent time I mentioned it was;

https://quinsgunnado.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/pressure-canning-rabbit-stew/

I always make the mistake of letting the rabbits grow out a bit too much, they end up pretty well adult size by the time I usually finish culling the last of a litter. In this case, one of the black babies must have been particularly big. Because I mistook the black breeding female for a baby and left the ‘baby’ in the cage.

I killed my breeding female and didn’t even know.

When dad was over I bred the black female in hopes of getting a nice looking litter to sell rather than eat. They had a lot of issues and didn’t really seem to do the job very well, but I just put it down to them having a bad day. 4 weeks later (when ‘she’ should have been due) nothing had happened, no nesting, no fur pulled out, no babies.

I decided to have a closer look, that’s when I realised my mistake, I had a black male rather than a female, he will have to go when I feel like a nice slow cooked stew.

Unfortunately my mistakes didn’t end there. I decided to breed the white female, things went much smoother with the breeding and about 3 1/2 week later she was showing all the signs that babies were on the way.

Unfortunately, things went downhill from there. She had her babies on a Thursday night/Friday morning which is pretty standard when I breed them on a Sunday (rabbits are very exact about their cycles). The Friday was raining heavily and winter was finally setting in so it was icy cold.

I checked on them Friday after work and there was a dead baby outside the nesting box. Things like that happen and I wasn’t too worried to start with, but then I felt inside the box to check on the remaining babies.

There was a leak in the roof that I hadn’t noticed and water was pouring in and soaking the nest and babies. I was starting to get pretty wet but spent the next half an hour trying to make the hutch water proof again, I managed to stop 90% of the water.

I reached into the hutch and felt that there was at least one baby and it was still moving, but I didn’t want to spend long with my icy hands stealing their body heat so I went inside and hoped for the best.

The following morning I went out and checked on them, I convinced the female to come out of the nesting box with a bit of basil bribery and went about checking on the babies. There were no babies in the nest, I’m guessing they died in the night from the cold/wet and the mum ate them (not unusual either).

As you can see, we’ve made some mistakes and had to bear the consequences, but we’ll keep on learning from our mistakes and trying to do better. I’ll give the female a few weeks break and probably breed her again in mid August for a mid September batch of babies, they will be nice and big for Christmas.

I considered giving up on the rabbits after everything that has happened, but between the very high quality fertiliser and delicious meat they are definitely an important part of the homestead and worth continuing with.

I’ll try to remember to include the mistakes we make along with our successes because it’s more important that we and other learn from our mistakes than from our successes.

June Update

When I first started writing I didn’t think there had been much happening, but has actually been quite a bit, we just haven’t managed to get out to the block to get things done out there.

Shan managed to score an Apple and Apricot tree for me to dig out, they have been temporarily planted in the front yard so that they will hopefully survive until we head to the block. I have no idea of the varieties, but I figure at the very least they will provide animal feed or some cider apples.

I also decided to re-do my second set of soil tests. I’m a bit worried that I had to much soil in the jars originally so they couldn’t separate properly, I put half the dirt from each sample and put it into it’s own jar then added the 2 amounts together. Ended with less clay than I originally calculated, but is (I think) much more accurate.

It’s looking very likely that we can build a dam on the hill as well as possibly around our caravan but not so much towards the bracken area (although the bracken is where our spring is). So I might need to do some thinking on exactly what we should do.

I’ve worked on my metalworking skills for a few jobs. First up is a target frame so that we don’t need to rig things up with sticks and rocks. I think the rule will be that if anyone shoots the frame or pegs then they owe a dollar to the block fund. Next up is a swing around BBQ for over the fire. It currently has a hook and a grill, it will also have a plate added before we install it.

Our little nursery is still coming along well, we’ve got a few more avocado’s, mulberry’s and a ton of other bits and pieces growing up nicely.

I’m also almost finished the lecture part of my PDC, i’ll have to start doing up my formal design soon.

Hopefully next month we will get to the block to keep on building things up, or at the very least chilling around the fire.

Dad’s Trip

My dad was over for a couple of weeks to see all his new grandchildren, we decided to put him to work on a few jobs while he was here.

We spend 3 days at the block and got a few thing done.

First up we needed to plant up a little guild that I had been growing out at home. Apple (brought years ago and some how has been self pollinating since we got it), Avacado grown from seed, a couple of Gooseberry’s that Shanelle’s Dad grew for me from cuttings and a ton of sweet potato slips which by some magic had already started to put on  decent feed.
They were all planted out around the 2 Pomegranates that we put out a couple of months back.

The sweet potato’s were harvested and turned into mash to have with Sausages and eggs for dinner. Although the picture was an afterthought so it doesn’t look very pretty =p

Next up on the planting I planted out another few hundred/thousand Lilly Pilly seeds. The plan for this batch is to make a windbreak along the shooting range and also in a few years time they will block the sun out of the shooters eyes in the afternoon. At the moment from about 2-4 it’s near impossible to use a scope from either the 25 or 50m positions because of the glare. The area will one day be paddocks for livestock so the trees will make decent shade as well as provide some food.

Throughout the few days we were regularly watering everything with water from the bore hole. It seems like the flow has picked up. We only managed to drain it 2-3 times and several times we were filling up 20l containers as well us buckets. I’ve taken a sample of the water for testing, although i’m not really sure where to take it. I used some to test the ph with the pool test kit but the range is way to narrow. The only info I got from it was that it is more acidic than tap water but I can’t tell by how much because the bore sample is below the test range.

The next day or so was all up on the hill building more of the driveway. Dad and I took in turns on the tractor slowly pulling dirt up the front entrance. Shan took a ton of pics on the first day when we were getting it pretty much to the required depth. Then on the second day we made it wider.

We’ve hit a bit of interesting sheet rock, the tractor blade and bucket were just skimming over it so I had a run with the mattock. When to hit it hard enough it seems to shatter and cover you with something like glitter. It is big hard and heavy, you can also flake see threw shards off of it. I’m guessing it must be some sort of quarts or possibly granite in the way some of it comes away in flat sheets. I couldn’t very good pictures of the pieces I broke off but I’ve put the word out a little to hopefully find someone that knows what they are doing to ID it for me.

Every time we do more work on it, it looks more like a real driveway, almost looks as good a quality as the ‘main’ road that we will join to.

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At one point while dad was tractoring I decided to spend some time making sure the entrance to the driveway was less likely to wash away. I decided to put in my first little swale to hopefully keep the majority of the water from wash straight down into it. 15+ acre block and the first swale I put in is only about 15cm deep lol. Nick was a great help with it and had fun digging.

I spent a little bit of time with Nick helping me neaten up the other end of the driveway, I also walked it a couple of times with a GPS and the final length looks like it will be 300m, not a bad sized front yard

We forgot to get pictures of it but Dad and I spent the last afternoon and morning before we went starting to put a roof on the tractor shed. we had put the tin aside for the caravan annex but that job seems to be regularly getting delayed due too to many other things to do. We only had the tin for half a roof, but hopefully soon it will be covered and I won’t need to put a tarp over the tractor every time we leave which will save a bit of time and the start and end of our trips.

Dad also decided to show me how to sharpen a chainsaw blade. He started with the chain that I wrecked over Christmas. It was an almost new blade that I managed to put through a hidden pile of rocks and dirt so it was cutting so real weird angles.
About an hour later he had literally filled off half a dozen teeth. It was hilarious watching him get frustrated with it, I think i’m up for a new chain, lol.

Easter Weekend

It was a busy time leading up to Easter. I managed to find a 25 year old lemon tree that needed a new home.

We got a lot of cheap apples, pears and lemons (from the tree) so we did a lot of canning apple pie filling, apple sauce, apple and pear pie filling and lemon butter as well as both lemon and lime juice. I did n’t actually get a chance to get a pick of all the food together, but there was a lot, we actually had to buy more jars.

The recipes we used were roughly from the below, although we made a few changes for a combined apple and pear pie filling and also did some different thicknesses of the apple sauce so that Harry has some baby food ready for when he starts eating.

https://www.freshpreserving.com/apple-pie-filling-recipe-%7C-canning-apple-pie-filling—ball-recipes-br1123.html

http://www.sbcanning.com/2015/08/pear-pie-filling.html

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/applesauce.html

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/lemon_curd.html

http://www.pickyourown.org/lemonjuice.htm

The Easter weekend was planned to be a big burn off weekend. We were going to burn out all the stumps along the driveway. However, because the govt is always trying to help we were denied a permit to burn.

They were fine to give us a permit before the 14th or after the 17th bit insisted that we hadn’t had enough rain to burn over a long weekend.

We made the best of it and worked on a ton of the other jobs we have going. We had plenty of people out there so our new toilet got a good workout, now we just need some rain to fill up the new handwashing station.

First up, I needed to get the lemon tree into the ground. Nice deep hole and as well watered in as we could do. I’m hoping it makes it survives, we’ve done the best we can. It left my trailer with a very unique unsquare look =p

Oscar and Donut stayed out with us 1 of the nights and we decided to try digging out a few stumps. 3-4hrs digging and pushing with the tractor shovels and mattocks later we had managed to get 2 of them out and decided that was enough of that.

The stumps we removed mean that the caravan end of the driveway is starting to look the part.

IMG_20170416_134443

We rewarded ourselves by testing out some safety gear and doing a bit of a penetration test on some plate steel. The result was, that if you get shot in the eyes by a shotgun at 15-20m then your eyes might be okay with most of the safety glasses (although your face will be wrecked). Even at 50m nothing could hold up to the .22. The best results were with the ugly ass goggles, but an even better result is to not be on that end of the firearm. In the penetration test (308 at 50m and the 303 at 20m) the 308 well and truely outperformed, but both left a nice mark. It was interesting fun. We also got to introduce my 2 young cousins to firearms, they seemed to enjoy putting some holes in the paper and trying to outshoot each other.

I spent a bit of time digging deeper holes for my soil samples. I still have my first results, but I’ve been told that the clay generally starts more consistently at about half a meter. If breaking the mattock is anything ti go by I think we do have more clay a bit deeper. Results at the end of the post.

Kelvin has a habit of meeting random useful people in his travels. He managed to stumble upon a pig farmer who had some fire fighting gear. He suggested that we could use the gear to try to dig a bore. It’s more suited to very sandy soils but we figured it was worth a try. we ended up digging almost a meter deep with the shovel then got about half a meter further with the water pump. Not very deep for a bore, but it’s currently filling itself up with reasonably clean and clear water, it smells a little anaerobic, but should be great for the plants. Rough numbers for the flow rate was 6 buckets of water (when full) then it refilled in about 2.5 hours so about 50l every 2 hours or about 300ml/minute. Far from record breaking, but it’s a great start and should help us get a bit more water on the plants. I still need to work out what I’ll do for pumping it, but for now buckets are doing the job in the exposed hole and we have the pipe in deeper for when we do have a pump.

Over the course of the weekend I managed to spend a bit of time up on the road side of the hill cutting in the part where the driveway goes to the road. It took a lot of work but I feel like i’m slowly getting better at controlling the bucket and taking off nice thin scrapes of dirt. It probably still needs about 3-4 hours to get it to the right level, but I figure it’s better to take it nice and slow rather than rush it and end up screwing it up.

We ended the weekend with Shan’s family coming out to the block for lunch and an Easter egg hunt as well as a few tractor rides.

Soil sample results

Assuming I’m reading my results correctly it’s looking a lot better than the previous run. It seems that up on the hill (once you get well into the subsoil) it’s basically all clay. It should work well for a couple of small dams up on the hill. There probably isn’t enough catchment for the dams all year around but with a solar pump from the new bore we might be able to get some nice high water.

It’s a bit of a pain that the wettest area of the property seems to have next to no clay even with the deeper sample, but we can always work with what we have.

Family Block Weekend

My sister, brother and his wife decided to fly over for an extended weekend to see the couple of new arrivals on this side of the country.

We also managed to get out to the block 3 days in a row. I call it a block weekend, but by the third day it was just Andrew, Kelvin and me.

It started on the Thursday night with me and Andrew breaking snatch straps to try to get the very heavily loaded trailer secure. First thing on Friday all 7 of us were squeezed into the car, with Nicole and Haylee climbing in from the front door to the back because we were to loaded up to open up any other doors. Andrew ended up between the kids in the middle seat.

We went straight to the block (sucking down over half a tank of fuel due to the weight in the trailer) so that we could plant out a couple of Pomegranates that I dug out of someones yard the week before. One of them has baby Harry’s placenta buried under it, hopefully it will do well and we’ll be eating from it for a long time to come. We also dumped off the rest of the tin, guttering, wood, tractor blade as well as the sawdust for the toilet before heading back into Bunbury.

The following day Andrew and Kelvin came with me to Donut’s place, he had half a trailer load of bricks for us. Not sure what we’ll use them for yet, but i’m sure they’ll come in handy. Most of us headed back out to the block to drop them off as well as have some lunch and get a bit of work done. Donut and his son also came out for a visit and to help with the planting.

We planted a couple of big patches with parsley (throwing handfulls of seeds to let the strongest survive) as well as 3 long trenches of lilly pillys. The lilly pillys are from a tree that hangs over out fence in Perth. It’s a variety that is about 10-15m tall so it is ideally suited for the block. Feed the wildlife as well as build up the soil. Even if 1 in 50 of the seeds grows they will be way to close together so i’m sure we’ll be taking out the weaklings and transplanting a few more around the place.

We have also finally finished our toilet block. For such a simple system it has taken a long time to get all the pieces out there and ready. Basic composting toilet (no wee’s) so no more digging a hole in the bush. I printed off some instructions to hang up when we’re there next, but it’s pretty simple.

While we were doing the above, Kelvin, Mum and Andrew managed to get some plumbing together for a makeshift rainwater catchment. It needs some tidying up and a few bits and peices, but it’s a start in being able to get some water stored out there.

Before heading back to Bunbury I managed to do a quick walk around to grab some soil samples. I’m hoping to have enough clay in the ground to put a few dams around the place. I’ve added the results of the soil test to the end of the post.

Day 3 wasn’t really planned, but Kelvin and Andrew were keen to get back out there so we headed out to start getting some more of the driveway done.We had been there about 5 minutes and Andrew was helping me move the very first log when he decided to drop it on my leg, hurt a lot, but took a few days before it looked it’s best but the pic below should give you an idea.
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We spent most of the day moving the last of the logs off the hill, cutting the stumps (which were already starting to coppice) at ground level and pilling up leaves, brush and low quality logs around them. The very last log was particularly huge, it will probably end up being a nice long seat along the front of the caravan veranda.

All but about 2 of the stumps are loaded up and ready to be lit on fire. The next time i’m out the fire restrictions will be over and i’ll be able to light them up, hopefully they will burn deep enough into the ground so that I can run the blade over them and clean up a nice flat driveway.

The soil test has been a bit of a learn as I go kind of thing and i’m still not really sure what i’m looking at or if i’m reading it right so if anyone disagrees with the results please let me know because I am very happy to learn. I have also asked for advice on the results in the pdc that I’m doing and was told that I should have taken the sample at about 1m deep so I’ll probably need to redo the test, at least I will have a comparison at about 30cm deep as well lol. The 6 samples are from the below locations on the block.

Sample Map

I think the results should be read as (click pictures to see it bigger);