Christmas 2017

I didn’t get as much time out there this year as last, but I still had 2 nights to get a few jobs done.

As friends and family already know, I’m starting a new job in about 3 weeks time, we’re moving from Perth to Collie, we will be about 90min closer to the block, so I’ll hopefully get more time out there. It also means that I need to curb back a few of my hobbies, our neighbour got our chickens (so that we can still get free fresh eggs until we leave) and someone should be picking up my breeding pair of rabbits in the next week or 2.

In preparation for moving I loaded up the trailer with as much as I could, I also finally got up the effort to add the tool box to the front which gave me even more storage space, everything I could think of that I don’t need at home and that could be handy at the block. A fair bit of wire, wood, Jerry cans, concrete, render, blinds as well as a tonne of recently collected sheets of tin.

We had Christmas at home and then with family in Bunbury, on the way past Mandurah I swang in and grabbed a Christmas present for myself (semi block related) a compound bow, rangefinder, kukri and a few other hunting toys.

I spent most of boxing day at shan’s parents before heading out in the afternoon. By the time I was unloaded and had set all the tin and ladders up to get the roof on, I only got one peice on before it was dark. But it was all ready for the next morning.

I started bright and early, it was a great cool morning, actually had a lot of fog which is a bit unusual for Summer,  first minor complication hit straight up, the tin needed to be 3m long, preferably a bit more to give a good overlap, all the pieces I had laid out the night before were actually 2995mm, so close, but no joy. Thankfully I had some more that were 3.4m, bit of overkill on the overlap but the job got done.

Next up I had planned to get a bit more of the veranda done (had the additional wood on the trailer), however I quickly realised that the screws I had been using for the roof were too short and I had nothing bigger.

I laid all the timber out to make sure I did have enough but couldn’t do much more. I did add a couple of extra support posts in the middle, i’m not sure if they were 100% necessary, but they will make it extra solid and I had the cement/wood available to do it.

Next up was pulling the tractor out to fix the clutch. My brother in law in is much more competent than me with metalwork so I asked him to fix the clutch, a bit of bending and a bit of welding later it looks almost new. Thanks again Cam, I may have a bigger job for him some time soon that i’ll need to pay him for, but i’ll leave that for later.

As per normal the tractor battery was flat and it needed to be jump started, I also still had the trailer attached to the Patrol. I decided that I could squeeze myself into some tight gaps and jump the tractor, unfortunately I couldn’t quite fit. I needed to reverse out and was focusing on the trailer, I managed to swing the side of the car into a tree. It doesn’t look that bad, but pretty disappointed in myself for screwing up. It’s a perfect example of why we have the older Patrol rather than a newer Pathfinder as Shan would prefer. No need to feel too bad if the Patrol gets dinged up.

In the end I needed to pull the battery off the tractor and charge it separately anyway. After the mini drama of starting the tractor, fixing the clutch was super easy. Only dodgy part was using a bent nail as a split pin, but I’m sure most farmers would have done that at some point.

For lunch I decided to have a play with my bow. It seems to be sighted in at 50m, we also have our 50m shooting range already set up so it worked out well.

I feel like I did reasonably well for my first time playing with a bow. I managed to break 1 arrow, no idea how, but it scared the shit out of me. I also managed to put 1 arrow straight through the entire mound. Out of the 20-30 shots only 1 went all the way through so i’m guessing it must have just hit a lucky section in the mound.

After the fun I needed to get back to work, I headed up the hill to work on the stumps. Over the course of the trip I got 3 out and dug around a couple more. Very slowly but slowly getting there. Hopefully when we live closer I’ll get more out sooner.

The following morning my focus was mainly on the bracken end of the property. With mum and Kelvin being away for the past 4 months or so the bracken is making a comeback, most of it isn’t as thick as it used to be, but some parts are getting back to 6ft tall. I had a bit of fun trying out my new kukri re-cutting one of my trails that I haven’t used in about 6 months.

The kukri seems to care less about what part of the blade you use compared to the bolo machete that we already had, but that also makes it easy to pay less attention than you should. I was lucky on one swing that I only cut through my glove and took a chunk of skin off my knuckle. It could have been very slightly different and I may have lost a finger.

When I finished the path I made my way over to the blackberries. As expected the blackberries had fruit on them, more of a surprise was that one of the big fig trees had fruit also, we have never seen fruit on it before. If we’re lucky we might get to harvest some before the animals get it all.

I spent a few hours pulling/cutting back blackberries, I also pruned back some of the figs that seem to be taking over almost as much as the blackberry in some places.

As I was starting to think about heading home I got a message from donut that he and Scott had a job nearby and they were swinging past to see me. The visit gave me the break I needed and after they left I got back into it and got about 80% of the patch looking respectable.

Our ‘bore’ still, just barely, has water in the bottom of it, probably only 3-4cm deep, but it’s something. The pomegranate guild is coming along nicely, the only thing in it that may not make it is the apple tree, I’m surprised at how well the gooseberries are doing in the summer heat with very infrequent water, the avocado is also starting to love life.


Thats it for us for 2017, it was a big year. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get the driveway done. But we have set up our roofing, toilet, some rainwater catchment and got a few more trees in, next year will be bigger and better than ever.

Block goals for 2018 are:

  • Driveway finished
  • Gravity water to the van (real showers finally)
  • Van decking
  • Wood heater for the van
  • Solar for the van to run a fridge full time (funds pending)
  • Build the swale between the big tree near our van and at least half way to the cabin (50m).
  • Plant out at least half of the seedlings from my nursery (at least 150 to plant)
  • No doubt many more things that will pop up along the way.

Broken clutch, stumps and starting the deck

Thanks to a quickly arranged meeting in Collie on Monday we decided to double up and have a second weekend in a row down the block.

My main goal for the weekend was to get a few stumps out along the driveway, I spent a good 5 hours on Saturday morning with the mattock, shovel, chainsaw, sledgehammer and tractor. All for a grand total of 1.5 stumps removed.

It’s always disheartening seeing how much work goes into clearing a small area, but it will be worthwhile in the end.

My stump removal exploits were suddenly stopped when the clutch in the tractor fell to the floor and stopped doing anything.

Thankfully I was in a relatively clear, although kinda steep and very uneven area. My first thought was that a split pin had snapped and it would be a quick fix. However once I had a look it turned out to be a snapped rod, I decided there was no point worrying about it up on the hill. As I was getting up the clutch was nice enough to swing up and split my lip, normally I wouldn’t care, but I’m hoping to look presentable for the meeting, thankfully it was 95% healed up by Monday, I don’t think anyone would have noticed.

My solution to driving it down was pretty much the good old fashioned, “if you can find em, grind em” , it was a very slow 1km (in and out of the trees) back to camp.

I pulled out the broken (and due to the drive down very bent) rod. Not sure if it will be a repair job, but I’m leaning more towards it being a replacement job. Thankfully, my brother in law is pretty handy with a welder, so I’ve left it with him. Thanks heaps Cam, I’ll owe you another load of wood.


Shan helped a bit with the digging, but most of the time I was up there she spent looking after the kids and when she had a few minutes free mowing the lawn around our caravan, she was pretty happy with her patch of shorter grass.


After some lunch we decided to pick a new job, it’s one that I wasn’t really planning on doing this weekend but it seemed like a good one to do as a family and let us stay in the shade a bit more. We started leveling and cutting out notches for the deck, I think i’m starting to get fairly good at cutting in the shape for the timber, for mature chainsaw work it looks pretty neat. It’s a slow and steady job to try to keep things as close to square and level as we can when working with our own logs.


I also spent about half an hour digging the ‘bore’ out a bit deeper, it’s getting fairly low and starting to be a mosquito breeding ground, if frogs get in there it’s to deep for them to get out, I’ve dug it out so the 1 side is a steep ramp, hopefully that makes it a bit easier for wildlife (frogs to eat to Mossie larva) to use and will give us a bigger collection area when the water level comes back up in autumn.

Shan decided that she needed a better shower, in the medium term we’ll have a real shower in the caravan but at the moment we don’t have pressurised water, so she got herself a little solar shower, it’s nothing fancy, but she said it’s the best shower she’s had out there.

Last time we were here Oscar and I collected a ton of acacia seed (a bucket of seed pods), I spent a few hours each night this time splitting the pods and collecting the seeds. In autumn I’ll scarify them and hopefully end up with a few more of these bee loving, nitrogen fixing natives around the place.

Sunday was more decking as well as pulling some blackberrys, it was due to be a 35c day and we were pretty much out of good food (there’s always plenty of pasta, rice ect, but not what you want for lunch on a toasty day) so we headed into Bunbury at about lunch time.

It was a quick and relatively unplanned trip, but turned out to be reasonably productive.

By complete chance I ran into one of the Facebook members on Monday, he had seen my name and I mentioned that I had just come back from my block. He put 2 and 2 together and asked me if I was from Quinsgunnado. Not gona lie, it made me feel at least slightly famous =p it really shows that it’s  small world, you never know how people will link up.

Our next trip will probably be over Christmas, or depending on how a few things work out we may have to cancel that trip, but we’ll see.

Fire Breaks and more Roofing

It started off a fairly standard weekend, heading down out with a loaded up trailer on a Friday afternoon.

But this time turned out to be a little different. About half way there we were stopped for one of Nics many toilet breaks. I was going over the nights to do list in my head. Then suddenly I realised.

I didn’t have the keys to the caravan.

We were already an hour from home so there was no turning back.

We always try to live by the motto 2 is 1, 1 is none. Our backup for the block is mum and Kelvin’s cabin.

This was going to be a pretty good test of that, thankfully one of the keys we had opened the cabin. They have a lot of the same things as us, pots and pans, cups, cutlery. They also regularly have the other grandkids out there so some of the kid specific stuff is there also.

Oscar came out on the Saturday, he tried to pick the lock, but didn’t have much luck, I did have bolt cutters, but the challenge to see what we needed sounded like more fun.

Overall,the main things that we were missing were;

  • A kettle (we have 2 in the van but mum took hers with her to victoria)
  • The kids baby bath (it’s great for adult baths also)
  • The inverter (no power was a bit inconvenient although there was a tiny bit of solar lighting and a phone charger in the car)
  • The tractor battery (I had to pull the second battery from the patrol which we didn’t need because there was no inverter =p)

Not too bad really, a couple of things that we can do to make things easier for next time. The major one being, leave a key in Bunbury so that we can swing by there in case it happens again.

One of my big jobs for the weekend was putting in the fire breaks, realistically, if any fire came through my breaks would do nothing except maybe divert a grass fire into the trees. But I used it as a chance to get better at the more detailed use of the tractor bucket and blade.

It started off fairly thick and long grass in the cleared areas.


Ended up looking pretty good, cleaner than what most of the neighbors have. The bush area (where the break is least useful) was pretty easy as it was basically just pulling all the leaves away.


Over the past few weeks we managed to track down a few more pieces of long tin for the caravan roof, they are now up, and we have a full 6x3m undercover area to keep the sun off us. Just 5 more pieces and the whole roof will be on. While doing it I managed to fall/badly jump off the ladder and Land on a brick, twisted my ankle pretty good, but managed to walk it off.

The last showy job was using some of the smaller tin to finish up the roof for the tractor shed.  It still needs a ridge cap and of course some walls, but it’s almost to the point that we don’t need the tarp.


Apart from that, Oscar spent some time putting holes in things and I spent some time pulling blackberries, digging stumps and just general observation.

Oscar tried to mow some of the longer grass around our caravan, but 1 lawn mower wouldn’t start and the other didn’t have fuel. Must remember to bring some with us next time.

The bore is almost dry at the moment, but it’s still only shallow so when it gets a bit drier I’ll spend some time getting it a bit deeper.

A lot of the plants are suffering already, it seems like the kangaroo pressure is higher than normal this year, it also seems to have dried out a bit quicker than normal.

We have also managed to track down a source of food grade IBC’s for a decent price, can get up to 1 every 2 weeks which is way more than we can handle at the moment, but should make a few of the water based projects a bit easier.


When we got home, we had all the normal jobs, the rabbits had managed to break their waterer (again), while I was fixing it I noticed something fluffy at the back of their feeder, unfortunately, one of the baby’s had managed to crawl inside it, once in there was on chance for him to turn around and get back out. If you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes, this prize was drowning in food.

We have a few personal things that are putting a few plans up into the air at the moment, but we are planning to get out for a week over Christmas. It’s looking like that will be the next big update.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.—ball-recipes-br1123.html

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.


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.

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);

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.


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.


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.


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.

New Tractor


I’m a real farmer now, we picked up our tractor last Saturday morning. An old ford with a bucket and a blade. It is 2wd with 8 gears 4 low and 4 high.

The hydraulics on the bucket don’t seem great (it moves really slow) but it will do the job. The owner said it leaks water but overnight it only lost about 100ml so it doesn’t seem to bad.

I managed to drive it down the service line, there was a tricky part but once I had powered through it I think the track is actually a bit flatter than when I started.

As soon as I got it actually on the block I wanted to start playing and working out how the blade and bucket were. I bladed a grassy area a few times to flatten it then decided to try to scape away the top few inches of grass and soil with the bucket.

That was where my problems started.

After a few meters of scraping I noticed I was bogging down. Not wanting to stop I put it into 1 low and went half throttle. Unfortunately with a few hundred kg of water logged dirt on the front and I think the angle of the bucket a bit to low I just dug in and sank the back wheel.


I figured if I just lifted the bucket I would drive out of it. That wasn’t to be the case.

15 min after getting there I was down to the frame with the fully raised back blade now resting on the ground with a full bucket of dirt.

14215719_1478183375531549_678402992_oAn hr or so emptying the bucket, digging the tyres and under the frame along with some well placed pavers and a good few tugs from the patrol and we managed to drag/drive it out.

At least I have a pretty good idea of what its limits are now, and clearing grass in a wet and boggy area is past the limit.

I flattened a few paths with the blade, pushed a few logs around so they are easier to cut up for firewood, collected a ton of firewood and had a general good time learning how to drive.

One of mums ongoing jobs has been clearing bracken near their cabin, I gave her a machete to get the job done a bit quicker than the little axe that she was using. I finally got around to sharpening it for her so she went from blunt for the last few months to razor sharp, needless to say she came to our camp 20min later with a cut hand. It wasn’t to bad luckily but shows the need to pay a lot of attention when using dangerous tools.

She has managed to make a pretty good dent in the few acres of bracken, but there is still a lot to go. While she’s been doing that Kelvin has been working on his annex/verandah.

I had a good walk along the driveway and marked about 30 trees that need to come down. Hopefully when Kelvin finished his varandah he’ll start cutting them down.

A few of the trees I planted at the start of winter are starting to show a bit of life. Hopefully they make it through spring and will be giving us fruit/herbs in a few years. Rabbits seem to be the main thing that are killing trees so far, but after the guys next door shooting what sounded like 100 of them hopefully they will be less of a problem for the next few months.

The next time we get out there will be for my bucks party so hopefully I’ve cut up enough wood for the night, depending on how much fun we have that will probably be the next update.