Combustion Stove Cooking and Tractor Shed Walls.

Thanks to a friend we have plenty of flue to finish up the chimneys to the combustion stoves. Now we’re cooking with wood.

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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.

New Chickens, Sweet Potatoes and Bamboo.

We got 5 new chickens this weekend and had our first egg in the time it took us to get home. Hopefully we’ll get a few good years out of them and we can go back to giving eggs away to friends and neighbours.

We also started some sweet potato. A glass of water and a sweet potato should give us a dozen or so sweet potato plants. We’ll probably need more but we’re starting slow because we’ve never grown sweet potato before.

Yesterday morning I went down and collected another load of bamboo, I’ve stripped the leaves off half of them and will finish the rest some time in the next week or so.

The bamboo is great for marking the contour lines at the block as well as garden stakes and the most important, roasting marshmallows. The leaves form a part of the deep litter in the chook pen so that it doesn’t become the standard dirt pit.

I tried to get an updated pic of the baby rabbits but they decided to start kamikazeing out of the hutch, I don’t think any were hurt but I gave up after a few minutes of wrestling them and getting bitten by mum.

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.