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.

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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);

Loquat Seeds and Canning Salsa

While we wait for the baby to arrive we aren’t heading to the block much. So over the last few weeks we haven’t been getting to do much homsteady stuff. A few things I did manage to get done are picking up a heap of free treated pine for our veranda, plant a ton of seeds and cuttings and can up some home made salsa.

We have a couple of Loquat trees growing up the road from us so I went down and grabbed a big pile of dried up fruit, a bit of time spend pulling the seeds out and I ended up managing to put over 350 seeds in pots (9 to a pot).

The blackberry that I kept in Perth from last years cuttings is now big enough to take more cuttings from so I did up a few pots with them, I also did a few sage and rosemary because both needed a prune.

We’ve had a lot of rain lately and it seems like it’ll be a cool end to the summer so I pruned our nectarine tree down from about 11ft tall to about 6ft. Its a very hard prune but I’m determined to train it so that all the fruit is within easy reach.

It also means I had a tone of good prunings to get a heap more cuttings started. I did 10 pots, each with about 30 cuttings in them.

I’ve heard that the success rate of them will be pretty low, hopefully we get a few successes out of it given the sheer volume that have been put in.

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Another result of the rain and cooler weather is that the volunteer tomatoes have started to split, I cleared everything I could off the vines and ended up with a few kg of usable ones, I popped next door and cleared up some of their excess tomato’s and capsicums.

Add a few chilli’s from the freezer and a couple of onions and we have a pretty basic salsa that is safe to can. We ended up with 7 half pints and 1 pint.

Tastes pretty good, but next time I think I need to add more tomatoes and cook out the liquid a bit more. But the learning is half the fun.

In the time it has taken me to get this blog post up, Shan has had the baby, Harrison was born on 15th of Feb, pretty exciting for Nic to have a little bro.

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I’ve used a bit of the time I had off work to get some Pomegranate seeds into the ground. Our next door neighbor has a tree hanging over the fence of his new place so I picked a nice one and split the million seeds over 8 pots. I also put in a few Peach’s, Plums and Apples.

One of my pet peeves is people freaking out about seeds not being true to type. Every variety of fruit that you buy in the shops was originally started from a seed. No the seeds from that fruit likely won’t be true to type, but how are we meant to find the next great thing that is more drought tolerant, pest and disease resistant and even tastier without more people putting seeds in the ground to just find out what they are gona get. The granny smith apple was started from some apple cores left by the river.

Imagine what would happen if 1 in 50 people in Australia got 10 seeds to germinate (less than 2 apples worth) then lets say only 1 in 20 of those seeds actually make a nice fruit (the info I’ve seen puts the numbers closer to 1 in 4), we would have 220 thousand new varieties of fruit in Australia. All of which would be more locally adapted than just about anything we currently have. /end rant on starting seeds

We’re def getting a lot of seeds in the ground. I don’t think they will be ready to plant out by spring so I’ll probably be over summering them next year for planting out in autumn 2018, it’s a long slow process, but it will be worth it in the end when I can produce 50-100 of my own variety of fruit trees for the cost of running the sprinklers rather than $10-30 a piece.

A Few Days Canning

With Shanelle due in the next few weeks we’re trying to put as many easy meals away as possible, with that in mind we’ve spent the last few days preserving whats in the garden for later as well as freezing some meals.

In all we’ve ended up with 3 half pints of Rhubarb for apple pies, a lasagna in the freeze and one for dinner tonight as well as 5 pints of Potato and Leek Soup.

The Rhubarb was fresh harvested from from the garden, this is the first year that we’re using more than a couple of stalks. But we harvested a fair bit this time around.

The variety that we have doesn’t turn red so we added a bit of food colouring just to make it a bit more aesthetically pleasing.

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We used the below recipe from their free printable book.

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

Next up Shan did her Lasagna’s, I didn’t get any pics or details but it’s her standard recipe i’m pretty sure.

Today I went out and harvested our leeks, they aren’t as thick as store brought but they do the job. They were grown from seeds that I saved last year which feels pretty good. I’ve got a few seed stalks drying so I should get a few seeds for next year as well.

The soup was ridiculously easy, especially because we still have our own chicken stock frozen from a few months back.

We’ll just need to add some cream and heat when we want a feed. We were going to do this batch in quarts, but turns out all our quart jars are still full of rabbit stew =p With all the food that we’re putting away I think we’re going to need more jars very soon, I originally didn’t think we’d use the quart jars very often, but I think they will be more handy than expected

Our Potato and Leek soup recipe was from;

http://www.sbcanning.com/2011/05/canning-leek-and-potato-soup.html

Pretty productive couple of days managing to put away 6-7 good meals and the rhubarb for deserts, a good chunk of it was from our own backyard as well which is a huge bonus.

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Christmas Week Diary

I’ve decided to do something a bit different for this update and if it works out well I’ll do it for longer trips going forward as well. Its more like a diary entry for each day I’m here which this time around should be about a week. Let me know what you think of it as one big post or if you think it would work better as a separate post for each day.

Day 1 28/12/16

wp-image-956091587jpg.jpgI was on the road fairly early and arrived before lunch. Dragged the few things I had with me into the van then decided to get started putting up our toilet block. We have everything we need apart from bulk sawdust to set up our very basic composting toilet so the people that are to posh to push in the bush will have a more civilized place to go. I still need to print off a little instruction paper to include in there, I think our biggest issue will be people using it to pee, but they should get used to it fairly quickly.

wp-image-763610240jpg.jpgIt went together easier than expected and the only issue I had was that I’ve put the roof on backwards so the eve doesn’t go over the door. I’ve decided that it will work out for the best because the eve will be on the downhill side so it should be easy to set up some rain catch for washing hands.

That was basically when things started going wrong. I went and grabbed Kelvin’s lawn mower to mow the area that the toilets are going, couldn’t get her started. Went back and grabbed my mower and a snapped the pull cord on it.

I decided to start by cleaning up a tree that was already fallen, unfortunately it had a part up the middle that was full of rocks and dirt. I devastated my new chain and sent sparks everywhere. I sharpened it to the best of my ability and went back to it.

Unfortunately, the best of my ability is very average, my saw was still fairly blunt and was now pulling counterclockwise.

It took me well over a tank of fuel to drop one of the big (possibly Jarah) red trees. Between the hard wood, blunt saw and my lack of tree dropping skills it was pretty exhausting.

wp-image-2146487673jpg.jpgI asked on our Facebook group how to sharpen the saw to get it cutting straight and got a fair few opposing and confusing responses. In the end I think I actually asked the question wrong in the facebook group. If a saw is turning counterclockwise should I sharpen the Black or Yellow teeth?

wp-image-1818159239jpg.jpgFor the rest of the day I basically just plodded, planted some sweet potatoes at what Kelvin calls the 3 sisters and drank a few beers.

Day 2 29/12/16

It was fairly early when I got up so decided to spend some time cleaning up the blackberries. Its an ongoing job but I’m determined not to poison them all and just keep them in a smallish patch with nothing but brute force. Hopefully it works out well and we will get a few good feeds from them in the next few months.

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Next I threw everything I needed for dropping and moving trees in the tractor bucket and headed up the hill to drag a few trees out of the way and keep dropping more.

In the way up I drove over a tiny stump which clipped the grade blade. It must have hit just right because it snapped the pin that holds it all together and broke the blade off the tractor.

I decided to leave it for now and just get back to work, i’ll need to take it back to Perth and weld it back together.

I spent ages sharpening and testing the chainsaw to get it cutting better, I found that lowering the rakers way lower than the instructions said to helped a lot but it still def cuts in an anticlockwise direction.

Despite the shitty saw I managed to drop and start cleaning up heaps more of the trees, there are only 3 left to drop which I’ll hopefully get done tomorrow.

wp-image-800052358jpg.jpgIt’s amazing how much higher the sun is in the sky now, it really heats things up a lot more and the previously shady area that we had been leaving the esky is now in full sun from about 11am, not ideal for the little amount of ice I have.

While it was hot I decided to get on the tractor and keep picking up dirt for my new shooting mound, unfortunately on the first bucket of dirt I managed to get the tractor well and truly bogged, that stopped that job pretty quick.

wp-image-184918988jpg.jpgTristan has decided to come out for the night so hopefully it will be easier to pull out with a car helping as well, definitely a tomorrow job though because its turned out to be a pretty warm one.

I managed to put 2 “new” cords on my lawn mower, unfortunately the only thing I could think of to use were guide ropes which turns out aren’t strong enough to do the job and both broke before I even had the mower started.

I guess this is pretty much the farm life, shit breaking and spending more time fixing them than actually getting shit done.

I went for a walk up to the very far corner on the steep part of the block, I had still never been all the way there, it wasn’t anything special but at least I can say I’ve walked most of the property now, I’m pretty sure there are parts in the bracken that I still haven’t been.

Tristan arrived at about 7, we enjoyed some of my home canned rabbit stew and a few beers.

Day 3 30/12/16

While Tristan was sleeping I managed to dig/drive the tractor out of where it was bogged with only about half an hour worth of work so at least that problem was solved quicker and easier than expected.

First up we decided to try out the new shooting mound that I’ve slowly been building and try a few games to blow the cobwebs out of his little .22, I think Tristan may have needed a bit more of a warm up or his only goal was to make sure it was no longer a hostage situation regardless of how it turns out for said hostage, but I’m happy enough with how I did.

The above was with .22 at about 45m on an A3 sized target.

Next up we headed up the hill to drop the last few trees along the driveway line, it kinda looks like a tornado has cut a path around the hill knocking everything over but hopefully we will get some good pole wood as well as plenty of firewood and a lot of brush so that I can try my hand at hugelkulture some time soon. Tristan had a go at dropping one of the smaller trees, but I  don’t think being an arbourist is in his skillset =p I would have taken a picture of the final stump but it was a little too embarrassing for all involved.

It was starting to get warm so we decided to head down into the bracken to continue the never ending job of pulling blackberries. The path around them is looking pretty good and Tristen has cleared out some of the bracken in the area as well.

wp-image-511539785jpg.jpgBy now we were getting hungry and it was looking like Tristan was about to fall over so we headed back to the van for some lunch.

Next up we did a little more shooting before heading up the hill with the tractor and chainsaw to start bringing down the best of the firewood, over the course of an hour or so we managed to collect up a pretty good pile.

We finished the day with another shooting game, it looks like Tristan must have gotten into his grove because the second round this time on a half A4 target for each of us he managed to beat me. Not bad for either of us given the size of the target once again at about 45m.

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Day 4 31/12/16

Tristan headed home first thing this morning, unfortunately he got about 400m down the service road (about 100m past our property line) and thought he was lost so needed a bit more of a guide back to the road. After spending about 10min laughing to myself about him getting lost I decided to try to save my avocado seedling by setting up my olive barrel waterer on it, although I may already be to late. It should have enough water to keep the area damp for the next week or so, hopefully when mum and Kelvin are out there they can dump more water in and give it longer.

I spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon sitting in the tractor moving piles of dirt from inconvenient places onto the new shooting mound, its really starting to look the part, well over 2m tall at its highest and about 8m wide and 4m deep. I just need to put a few more logs along it to discourage erosion and it will be all done. It should be safe and big enough for some of the non-shooters that we have been teaching out here.

I’ve included flagged markers at 25, 50 and 60 meters. I do potentially have space to push it out to about 80m but we’ll see if it’s necessary later. The picture below is taken at 60m and the white square is a piece of placard that is probably 50% bigger than A3.

wp-image-512859624jpg.jpgMy plan is to build a little shooting area at each of the flags so that people can comfortably lay down or sit, I’ll probably try to border the area with plants that discourage fly’s and ants because there are a lot of both along the range area.

I ran out of ice completely last night so I finished up the last of my cold food for lunch, nothing but tins and jars for the next few days. Although it’s looking like I’ll probably head home Tuesday (3rd Jan) so I should be fine to live off them for a few days.

Mum and Kelvin dropped by in the arvo with a bit of a care package, some chicken and well as beer and scotch, it’s all about the priorities, it is new years eve after all.

While they were here I got Kelvin to give me a hand loading the tractor blade into the back of the car, it’s lucky I packed light because the thing is huge even after I pulled it apart.

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They also left their mobile WiFi and tablet so I’m spending the evening starting the online pemaculture design certificate course that I signed up for last week. It officially started yesterday but I haven’t even gotten through the prelim material yet.

wp-image-141148705jpg.jpgHopefully before I go to bed I will at least be finished going over/watching the prelim stuff so I can start catching up on the official course when I get home.

Day 5 01/01/17

I felt asleep at about 8 o’clock last night so def didn’t see the new year in. It meant I was up bright and early this morning and up on the hill with the tractor at about 6:30.

I managed to push out a few huge burnt out/rotten stumps that I had been a little worried would be hard to burn or cut out.

The main job today was to collect up a heap more firewood and start collecting post wood to build our annex.

After lifting a few of the logs onto the tractor I realised it would be much easier (and I could move much bigger pieces) by tying them to the back of the tractors hydraulics, then I could lift the front of the log off the ground and pull them around and down the hill. I managed to get 3 nice straight poles between 5 and 9 meters and another 3 that are 3-4 meters. All but 1 are jarrah I think, thicknesses ranging from about 5-10 inches so good size to hold the roof up.

Around lunch time I managed to break the throttle on the chainsaw and decided to have some lunch, a beer then head down to the blackberries, they are fairly under control at the moment so I decided to try to turn the patch into a keyhole garden.

wp-image-1413519927jpg.jpgI’m not sure if it will work with how quickly blackberries grow and how invasive the runners are but its worth a try. After a bit of a break during the worst of the heat of the day.

wp-image-1039577811jpg.jpgI pulled the chainsaw apart, thankfully the tension spring thing for the throttle had just come off so it was a pretty easy fix, since I had it apart anyway I gave the insides a bit of a clean out as well. Working better than it has all week now.

There are about 6-8 good sized pieces of pole timber as well as a few loads of good firewood still on the driveway line, hopefully I’ll get it all down tomorrow.

Day 6 02/01/16

Up bright and early and on the hill pulling out more poles and firewood. At about 10 o’clock it was already starting to get stinking hot. Shan ended up in Bunbury at her parents house since Saturday so I decided to pack it in a bit early. I spent the next couple of hours packing up and making sure all the plants had been watered, I was heading back to Bunbury a little after 12.

The final result was several tons of firewood and several tons of pole wood that will come in very handy over the next few months/years.

wp-image-1657297902jpg.jpgMy sister went into labour this morning and her third kid was born at about 10:30. We’ll hopefully swing by and see her before heading back to Perth tomorrow.

I generally think of myself as a bit of an asocial person and thought it wouldn’t be a problem to spend a week largely on my own, but it was surprising how much I actually wanted to chat to people after only a few days, especially at night or in the heat of the day when I couldn’t work.

I got a fair amount done in my time at the block although I always wish that I got more done.

By my guess there is about a half a day more work to go bringing down poles and firewood from the driveway line, then we need to burn out the stumps (when we’re aloud to have fires again) and I can smooth out the line (once I fix the tractor blade). Our toilet block is pretty much ready, just need to mow the area and put a few cement pavers down for the floor. A bit of sawdust and we’ll be up and pooing.

Very big week, I’ll be happy for a hot shower and a few hours on the couch.