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.

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.

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.

Mowing the grass, making jam and cleaning up beer.

After a bit of medical trouble we ended up at the block earlier than expected and I was given orders to take it easy.

This weekend was our last days that we could have fires before summer so we needed to do our last bit of clean up and had a mini bonfire with a few of our helpers.

I spent a fair few hours pulling out blackberries, I’m still determined not to poison them but am keeping them in a patch about 5m wide. I’ve cleared a path 1-2m wide around them and am pulling out any canes that try to make a run for it.

All the pruning over the last few months has lead to a lot of new growth and tons of healthy looking flowers, hopefully we will be getting a feed in a few months time.

A few weeks ago Kelvin got himself a lawn mower and has been slowly mowing our 2-3acres of grass.

The grass is growing way faster than expected and we have a few areas well over a meter high. I helped out along the fence line by blading a row with the tractor, although I feel like the lawn mower would do a better job of keeping it down for a few months. I may need to get a slasher, or work out a way 2 attach 3-4 lawn mowers to the tractor.

While I was doing that Shan worked on putting together the car port frame that mum picked up for free.

I needed to see of the tractor would fit and got a massive shock when I went back and saw that a swarm of bees were starting to set up home on the canopy, they provably would have left on their own but I sped things up a bit by putting a smoldering branch nearby to smoke them off. The pic I got didn’t do them justice but it’s a bit intimidating have 100’s of bees in your face.

The tractor fits perfectly but we still need to work out what to roof the carport with so that it can’t blow away but still keeps the majority of the rain out.

For the Friday night mum and kelvin had a few friends over so we had a fire up their end and managed to get through almost a bucket of wood.

The following day we had Tessa, Ryan and Lucus as well as Oscar and his shitbox rally team mate so the fire was at our end.

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Ryan was a great help loading up and driving a heap of tractor loads of wood down to camp while I worked the chainsaw.

I dropped a few trees that need to come down for the driveway and cut most of them into manageable sized pieces. Our cutting and clearing efforts came to an abrupt end when the chainsaw got stuck in a falling tree.

Looks like I’ll be needing a new bar and chain sooner than expected.

I managed to get 3 more mulberries and 3 grape vines planted. I think the mulberries will be my #PlantedForBill trees although our whole property is based on his work so it seems weird to say that just a couple of trees are for him.

My slightly older mulberries, avocados, figs and lemon grass as well as the parsley all seem to be taking off with the spring heat, assuming we can get them through the first summer we should start getting some fruit next year (at least from the mulberries). We’re also already getting tons of strawberries from around the caravan.

We had a good big fire to relax around Saturday night, the weather is getting better and it was a beautiful night.

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Sunday morning Ryan and I cleaned up a few shade trees around our camp, they were hanging way to low and needed a pretty up, they will be perfect for the warm summer nights that aren’t far away.

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Oscar had a play with the tractor and found a pedal that I had never noticed before. He deduced that it was a did lock but that it didn’t work. A little while after he went home I decided to see if I could get it working. I put the tractor against a stump and got 1 wheel spinning. Pressed the pedal and like magic the second wheel was spinning as well. It will come in very handy for the times that I just can’t quite get enough traction.

My spinning efforts did a bit of a number on the track so I used it as a chance to get better at working the bucket and blade. A few more days on it and I think I’ll be competent.

Got a bit of shooting in Saturday arvo and Sunday morning as well, always good to get less experienced people some trigger time to remove the stigma and mystery that firearms seem to have. Pretty sure Dan and Ryan both had some fun.

When we got home our neighbor mentioned that the spud shed had strawberries on special which lead to our next project (Tuesday night by the time we got to it). Making this years strawberry jam.
My biggest struggle is getting it to set right because I refuse to use pectin, but this batch seems to be pretty much perfect.

I also had to clean up a lot of glass, it’s a lesson to make sure your beer is finished fermenting before bottling. This was a brew that I bottled early so that it would be ready for the wedding. It was pretty average to drink. And now this.

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New Tractor

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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.

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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.

City Living

Quick update on the Perth homestead. We had 6 baby rabbits born 11 days ago but are down to 4. 2 were very much runts from day 1. I put 1 down when he was refusing to feed and the other died on one of the cold nights.
The 4 that are left are doing great, they are actually bigger than normal for this young. Looks like all 4 are straight white.
We’ve found white are harder to sell but they all taste the same to me.

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I’m breeding the black female again today to see what her kits are like.

I had been holding off brewing so that I could do a beer because I’m almost out after dads visit but never seem to get around to it. I gave in and am going to do a quick sugar wine, hoping that there is some cheap fruit at the spud shed and I’ll put some sort of flavor through it next weekend.

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I set up the wishing well that dad built, it has what I’m fairly sure was a nasturtium in it which should look good overflowing in front of the window. It’s got a bit of transplant shock at the moment.

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Mum and Kelvin are back out the block trying to clear a path and I got a few pics of some of the trees that went in a couple of weeks ago, everything is looking pretty healthy.

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Long Weekend With Dad

It took a while to get this out because it was a huge weekend, got heaps done and we’re improving in leaps and bounds.

My dad was over to visit for a few weeks so last weekend I took the Friday and Monday off so that we could spend some time on the block.
We were weighed down with everything that we wanted to take out, so much so that dad needed to carry a few things on the way out from Bunbury and mum had to bring a few things out that were left behind at her house.

We now have seating and a fire pit as well as a few good sized fire extinguishers that I managed to pick up for free I also have a ton more bamboo for marking as well as a heap more pillows blankets and a spare mattress.

With the fire pit set up and keeping us toasty as well as having a gas bottle for the van it’s starting to feel like home.
We’ve got a couple of hot water bottles that kept the bed toasty all night, they were still warm in the morning.
We realised that we need a second kettle. We have potable and non-potable water and don’t want to use non-potable water in the kettle, that means Nicholas’s bath and our hot water bottles eat into the drinking water quickly. But we still had plenty and will get a second kettle soon.
It’s all the little things that will take a long time to get right.

The fire extinguishers were a great find and I packed a ton of them into the lancer, the guy said if I ever need more then to let him know. They are out of date so he was going to be charged to dispose of them but from testing a few they still seem fine.
I picked them up on my way to work and was pretty stoked with myself cruising around with several dozen in the car including on the back seat.
I must have hit a bump which knocked a pin out of one, then went around a corner to fast which bumped it against the door. A few seconds later the car was full of powder and I was trying to pull over without crashing. When I got to work I looked a bit like a ghost, but at least we have extinguishers all over the house in each car as well as a heap at the block.

One of my main jobs for the weekend was getting some ground cover planted around the van so that we didn’t need to compete so much with the grass. I sent a ton of runners from my strawberry patch at home into pots and ended up with about 40 plants spread over 3 pots. They fit nicely around 2 sides of the van, then I threw a thin layer of parsley seeds over the top of the turned soil. Hopefully some of it takes and our grass problems will be kept to a minimum. It looks like the cold is finally slowing down the growth of the grass, so my fear of 12ft high grass may be premature.

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I also took down 2 mulberries, an avocado, a fig, a pineapple top and some large clumps of lemon grass along with almost 100g of parsley seeds for around the van as well as to overseed some areas that had been burned recently by a well meaning family member.
All of the plants were from our owns backyard from cuttings taken at a community orchard up the road. Its still only a very small dent in the planting but it feels good to be getting some perennial food growing out there.

This weekend is going to be all about getting as many new cuttings started as I can. I’m expecting to lose a lot of what I plant to weather and wildlife but if I plant enough we should be fine.

On our first night out when I was giving dad the grand tour of our block he managed to find some solid hollow logs for a project that he was wanting to do.
He turned 2 logs into 2 lamps one for me and one for Emma. A few coats of varnish and they came up pretty good.

It was a bit of a rowdy night on the Friday, a bottle of some very unique honey bourbon disappeared, and some very potent vodka left us hearing banjos and sleeping well.

On the Saturday we had great weather and got to check out the local market and get some Indian for a late breakfast.
Then it was off to look at a tractor at a friend of a friends place, couldn’t pin him down on a price but he seems like he’ll be good about it and we might have the one once he finds his replacement.
I had my first go driving it back up to the house, all was going well until I had a bit of a brain fart and forgot that I needed to put my foot on the clutch to stop it. On a narrow track with nowhere to go. Very nearly put a set of forks through the back of the Patrol. Very good way to learn a lesson is from a close call. Could have been way worse.

Its seems like it runs well, hydraulics look good to an untrained eye and no major rust or leaks that I could see. Didn’t check the PTO but it is less risky dealing with mates. Owner said it loses water so he just tops it up before use. Even if there are issues it will likely still be the right price, and I have a personal heavy diesel mechanic who needs me for property letters so I’m sure we can work it out.

Mum and Kelvin stayed out on sat night and a few friends of theirs from the park came out to relax by the fire for a while.

There was a little rain that night which kept it pretty warm but by lunch time on Sunday it was raining pretty steady.

Shan went into Donneybrook to meet a friend and Dad spent most of the morning cutting firewood and finding bases for his lamps.
I spent some time planting my trees and walking some parts of the property that I still hadn’t been over much, I found a few tracks and animal sign right up the western corner which I had thought was pretty empty. There are way more rabbit tracks all over the western half than we’ve seen previously so I’m guessing they have been breeding. I really need to get a .22.

Mum and Kelvin spent most of the morning trying to widen the track in. They are looking at a portable unit for them to stay in while they’re on the block, but it will need to go on a flatbed and is 3 meters wide. Our road in was previously 1.5-2m wide. They have pushed it out to about 2.5 for most of it but it’s very unlikely that they will get the 3m that they need. At least we can fit cars down it without a worry now.

Dad ran out of chain bar oil not long before mum and Kelvin got bored so we all ended up slowly marking more of the main driveway in. We used all the bamboo that we had carried up and went back to camp for a coffee and to grab some more just as the rain was setting in. We messed around with tarps for a while but dad ended up just turning it into some rain catchment and we all hung out in the van to stay warm and dry.

We planned to leave early on the Monday but after a few hours of on and off rain while we struggled to keep the fire roaring. Nothing productive was getting done and we decided that we might as well head back. We grabbed some chilli dogs for dinner, ended back in Perth at about 7.

It was a great weekend as always, very slowly we’re turning bush into a homestead.

Keeping on Planting

Just a quick update on what we’re up to.

I’ve got a few more seeds in for various trees. The best time to plant a fruit tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.
Put in a lot of cherry seeds as well as peaches, nectarines and plums. They have all been cold stratifying for the last few months so hopefully we get some positive results. Cherry’s were the main thing this time around with almost 50 seeds in a pot, hoping to get 8-10 trees but I’ll be happy with even a couple.

The olive barrel irrigation experiment is done, the second try lasted 2 weeks, 6 days and about 12 hours. Very slightly short of the 3 week goal but close enough for me.

On the Perth homestead front I bred the white female rabbit today, the black female should be giving birth some time soon assuming the breeding took. They are both pretty much new mums so its the trickiest litters to get through.