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
I 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.
It 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.
I 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?
For 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.
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.
It’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.
Tristan 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.
By 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.
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.
My 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.
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.
Hopefully 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.
I’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.
I 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.
My 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.