TIMBER and fire futures

Hi All,

First I want to talk to you all about something…many of you may have noticed that my posts occasionally appear to have been written in the past and then suddenly you will see a bit added that is somewhat random and may not have much to do with the post in general. Let’s just say for curiosities sake that I have invented a Serendipity Farm time machine. I have put flux capacitors, twiddley knobs and all sorts of weird and wonderful hoozamagigs that I am not going to explain because hey…I might want to manufacture them and make a bit of pocket money at some time in the future. Just a little aside here…it would be a good thing if we keep this little secret between ourselves because otherwise I may suddenly “disappear” and not be posting any more (courtesy of the C.I.A. or some other “interested party”…). Back to the time machine. Now this thing DOESN’T run on plutonium by the way…apart from me not having a ready access to it and having no idea how to manufacture it from raw materials (nor in fact having any desire to do so as I was born with a brain…) it is being run on an entirely sustainable and renewable source of energy (let’s say something along the line of Tesla coils…) and that I am able to hop my posts from one day back and then forwards and that I take avail of this sometimes. Let’s just say that because it is a whole lot more interesting and romantic and gung-ho than the actual truth and for the sake of your sanity (and I would probably have to kill you if you found out…) you just accept that OK? There…that wasn’t so hard was it? A suspension of disbelief is all that it takes…you all watch television don’t you? All of that was to lead into me spending the morning of Monday doing manly things with Steve. No…I wasn’t spending “Labour Day” drinking beer in the shed, scratching my private parts and watching football…I was out doing some hard physical labour and toting logs while Steve cut them up with the chainsaw and then split them with the log splitter. And before you say ANYTHING about how come I am talking about Monday and it is actually Saturday? Remember… the time machine… (Wink wink…)

I had been up for just over an hour before I took this shot of the sunrise…what am I going to do when daylight savings stops next month?!

An early morning lumberjack with his challenge

As you can see these trunks are right next to my compost bin and Pingu’s house…

Steve has already cut his tree on the other side and is now cutting his wedge hole

Sorry these are dark but I was hiding behind a tree MILES away from this and zooming in for you to see…this is the wedge cut

Steve is using his block splitter to knock a wedge shaped bit of wood into the chainsaw cut. He has already cut the front of the tree and now he is tapping the wedge into this cut to slowly tip the tree where he wants it to go

TIMBER!

Now I have been trying to stall this tree felling event for a while now. I am a natural worry wart and Steve is a natural gung-ho manly man who likes to get stuck in before he engages his brain sometimes. After having a chat with some manly friends who both said “Piece of piss”…which is a masculine Aussie colloquialism for “Easy peasy” with regards to chopping down the 2 smallish trees and with everyone scorning my obvious “girly” fears, Steve was able to isolate an actual date (Labour Day) to get me to assist him in cutting down these trees. When I say “assist”, what I mean is hide behind a VERY large tree as far away from the actual event as possible taking pictures. Just another quick note here…we don’t recommend that anyone do this with the minimal safety equipment that Steve had on. Get yourself some good safety gear before you do this but for today’s little effort, Steve decided to go nude… (Sigh…). Both Steve and I have undertaken and completed our chainsaw licenses through our Certificate 3 in Horticulture and both of us know about tension, compression and how to read wood. In saying that these trees were a very easy and predictable drop and they were both stone dead. I would never allow Steve to cut down live trees because they are totally unpredictable with how they are going to react. Wait till they die and THEN cut them down :o). Ok, now all of that safety (or lack therein) has been discussed let’s get down to what we did. I took lots of pictures but as it was pretty early (7.30am) some of them are quite dark. Because I was being a sooky la-la and hiding behind a large tree the stupid flash kept going off and making the picture even darker so you will have to bear with me, but here is the progression as it happened…(oops…maybe I should have put the first 7 photos here…but you get my drift…)

The Lumberjack is fashioning himself a rudimentary chopping block (I feel like David Attenborough doing a commentary…)

It looks like Steve is gesticulating at me in a most Italian and derogative way but it’s just my early morning photography…I am not all that good at the best of times but this is BEFORE my first cuppa and I can’t be held responsible for my actions

Now it’s time for the second, smaller trunk to be felled. By now I was more blase about Steve’s abilities and was only half a mile away (but still behind a tree…it doesn’t pay to get TOO cocksure…)

Hey…I actually got this one falling! Action shot (another tick from my “must do before” list…)

Admiring a job well done…not a single tap was flattened…no hens fell in the wayside and Pingu is entirely 3 dimensional and the compost bin lives to feed the possums another day

Ok that was a lot of photographic documentation and I am tired and need to head off to get a cup of tea now after all of that exertion… ok, back now and ready to tackle the rest of this post. We have a wood burning stove that doubles as a hot water system in winter and that requires regular food or it doesn’t work. A pretty simple concept and something that we are well aware of. My “trick knee” has been telling me that winter is going to be a hard one this year. Our elderly neighbour Glad told us that you could tell how hard a winter was going to be by the brightness of the cotoneaster berries. They are flame red this year so perhaps they are trying to tell us something. Never let it be said that I ignore nature’s signs because I have most definitely learned to do so at my own peril. I figure we are due for a very cold dry winter and as such we are going to need enough firewood to keep the stove operating effectively for the winter and most probably up to about October when it starts to warm up a bit and the last frosts occur. Over winter I use the wood stove extensively for drying clothes in front of, heating the entire house, cooking all sorts of amazing things and lots of staple foods like bread and for heating our hot water. It is very efficient and doesn’t need an incredible amount of wood to heat up the top plate and the water so if we don’t need to cook anything in the ovens we only need to keep it “ticking over” and we use very little wood in the process. We are learning all about this old way to cook and by the end of this year we should have a good handle on just what it takes to get our stove to do what we want it to do. There are all sorts of knobs and things on the stove to open and close flu’s and to direct heat all over the place. Steve, being the technology genius, has taken it on himself to “learn the ways” of the stove. I hope he teaches me because apart from being good at lighting fires (past life) I have no idea about how to get this baby working well.

This is how close those trunks were to my compost bin…

Steve and I have both commented that there is an optical illusion going on in this photo. The area where these trees fell is nowhere NEAR as big as it looks in this photo. Lots of delicious wood for warm cosy fires in the freezing cold winter so I can wear tee-shirts when it is stormy outside

The hens were all going ballistic to be let out before Steve started up the chainsaw. Chainsaws = grubs so the hens weren’t particularly upset when he started it up but as soon as he started to use it on the tree they all took off inside their coop. Here they are coming out very VERY slowly to look at the carnage…

It doesn’t take our courageous girls long to get curious and come out to see what is going on

Here is what the fallen sentinels looked like from the deck (Note we haven’t planted out the Claret Ash yet Nat…we did learn at least 1 thing from James…that was plant in the autumn…

Most of you will be aware that Steve recently had a haircut. His hair was previously pretty long for him and had been dyed blond a long time ago and gave him a decidedly gypsy swashbuckling look. Once he got his hair cut he looked like a different man. He had said that he wasn’t going to get his hair cut until we finished everything that we were going to do on Serendipity Farm. Once he realised that his hair was going to tangle up on a daily basis (welcome to my world!) and that he was going to have to brush it (shock horror!) and that we are most probably going to be working on getting Serendipity Farm “finished” for the rest of our lives he decided to bite the bullet and get it cut. Now that he has had it cut it needs to stay cut and with our frugal life I told him that I was going to cut his hair…here is what he thought of that…

And this is how happy he was when I told him that I was only joking…

I decided today that I am going to only post once a week now. I figure that familiarity breeds a bit of contempt. With our studies taking up more of our time and with our newfound efforts in the garden at Serendipity Farm we have a lot less time to do what I have been doing for 8 weeks over the holidays. I love posting for the blog but am starting to find that my posts are starting to contain very similar things. I started the blog as a way to keep in the loop with family and friends interstate and I think that my daily long posts appear to have been doing the opposite thing to keeping in touch. I get the sneaking suspicion that some of my “constant readers” are not reading many of my posts. I know how easy it is to hit “delete” when my inbox is too full in the mornings and I don’t want Serendipity Farm to become something that is easy to delete. I look forwards to my weekly posts from some of my blog subscriptions and think that a week on Serendipity Farm will yield a much rounder and more fulfilling post for you all to read. I haven’t run out of words I just want to remain relevant to family and friends and be something that they look forward to receiving so you will get a post from Serendipity Farm on the weekends now. It will contain everything that we have done through the week and lots of photos to describe it. Today we will be taking out another tree and no doubt that will be in next week’s post. This will be my final daily post for Serendipity Farm. The time that I spend here typing out posts I will pour straight back into the garden. Steve and I have a renewed energy and drive to get stuck into the garden now that the weather is cooler and we can burn some of the piles of debris that are littering the landscape.  Our new study course is also giving us a lot of impetus towards directing our efforts into our sustainable future here on Serendipity Farm. When you are trying to set up a permaculture based sustainable lifestyle for yourself the initial processes are the hardest and we figure we had best get stuck in now and make it happen. With our trusty Earl nibbled pig skin copy of “Creating a Forest Garden” in hand and a new appreciation of looking at small chunks and dealing with them on a regular basis rather than being overwhelmed by the big picture, we are going to affect change here and when spring gets here we will be ready for it. That doesn’t mean that I won’t allow myself the odd intermittent post…I am somewhat addicted to posting and it is a bit like when your children leave home (or live in one of your homes away from you…) and suddenly you miss the little buggers so don’t be surprised if you get the odd mid-week post to salve my need to type or I might have to channel it all into a book somewhere. We are noticing small trees growing where we have cut the grass consistently in the back paddocks and left it lying on the ground to act as mulch. We are seeing native heath flowering, wallabies visiting and are starting to think about how we can redirect the massive problem of storm water that thunders down our steep sloping block to our advantage. The more we learn the more excited we get about being able to apply these principles to our own situation. Steve whipper snipped the teatree garden area yesterday. Prior to our arrival on Serendipity Farm just on 16 months ago the area was covered in forget-me-nots up to our knees and a massive invasion of Periwinkle (Vinca major) that was taking advantage of a series of fallen spindly teatree (Melaleuca alternifolia) to climb out of the sea of forget-me-nots and reign supreme over the invading hoards. The whole area was a sea of blue and purple and whenever anyone walked through this area they emerged out the other side covered in sticky forget-me-not seeds and usually after at least one trip incident thanks to the tangle of thin Vinca stems. We have been pretty consistent with whipper snipping this area. We wanted it to return to a state where native wildflowers could return and native grasses and we are starting to see that since the competition from the exotic weed species has been reduced, the native plants are starting to return let’s just call this a short term seral community thanks to nature and her never-ending desire to reach equilibrium.  It’s an exciting time for us here and with renewed energy and a desire to get “stuck in” we should be able to really make a difference over the coming autumnal period and into winter on Serendipity Farm. We have quite a few overgrown shrubs and small trees to tackle and while the weather is conducive to working outside and the trees start to lose their leaves and return to a dormant stage it is the perfect time for remedial work and removal of dead, diseased, dying, deformed and in our case “demented” foliage, branches and most probably entire shrubs that have overgrown exponentially and are trying to move to Glad’s place next door by osmosis.

If you look REALLY hard up against the side of the shed you might be able to see, just behind that blue tarpaulin, our first stack of wood that we cut

We found Effel Doocark’s nest! It wasn’t easy as she is a crafty old minx but she made the mistake of revealing herself at lunch time yesterday just after we had taken a break from our studies and were tossing a bit of bread to Pingu over the deck railing when I noticed her amongst the bread scoffers. She has been sighted over the last week and then almost immediately she disappears without a trace. We decided that we were going to follow her the next time that we saw her and thus began the saga of the Doocark hunt. Our prey was a worthy opponent. She knew almost instantly that she had been spotted and set about a most impressive array of defensive action based on subterfuge and decoy. She waited until she thought that I wasn’t looking (my covert mother ability to look out of the corner of my eye when I was staring straight ahead didn’t let me down) and as soon as she started running off in her hilarious hen gate down the pathway leading to the area of garden where we had suspected her of bunkering down I alerted Steve who was hiding on the bottom step of the deck stairs. He took off after the crafty old minx who was rapidly receding into the distance and she suddenly veered off to the left which is most definitely NOT where we thought that she would be nesting. On inspection Steve discovered that she was employing guerrilla tactics and was attempting to divert our attention away from the true direction that she wanted to take (the crafty old hen!) and he spent the next 20 minutes sneaking from large agapanthus clump to agapanthus clump to disguise his presence. Effel kept spotting him and taking evasive action but eventually her need to get back to those rapidly cooling eggs took over from her desire to evade and she ran full pelt back to a massive clump of overgrown driveway lining agapanthus right near the gate at the front of the property! Steve lost her then and was just about to come up and admit defeat, whilst isolating where she might be, he hadn’t managed to spot her from that point and so I came down and we set about Effel isolating in earnest. We got a couple of old teatree branches and started to lift up the agapanthus fronds and poke around inside them. They are most interesting things when they have been stuck in the same place for years and small ones grow on top of larger ones with long aerial roots draping to the ground and in amongst one of these ancient monsters Effel was sitting as still as a statue. She never moved once even when she knew that she was rumbled. That wily old hen had led Steve a merry dance for 30 minutes all over Serendipity Farm and so we decided that she deserved her peace and quiet and pretended not to have noticed her and headed off elsewhere. Effel must make that long upwards (our driveway is very steep and is enough to deliver a mild dose of “winding” to anyone unfit and overenthusiastic enough to climb it quickly) journey at a full run (because that is the only way that Effel knows how) to get a drink and some food because there are no food or water sources anywhere near where she has nested (apart from the Tamar River). What a brave old girls she is and how tenacious is her need to find somewhere away from any predator’s and despite her giving us nothing but jip I totally admire the old girl. I might even take her a bowl of water and a scoop full of seed down to the bottom of the driveway today to reward her for her tenacity. Here is a little newsflash courtesy of that Serendipity Farm time machine that I am able to use to go back and forth in my posts. When taking some grain down today to Effel, we heard squeaking and managed to count 6 babies. It is so cold today that we decided to rehouse Effel in the shed with her babies, knowing what a bad mum she is and not wanting any of the poor little things to perish in the cold down next to the gate right next to the Tamar River and the wind. We can see that we have a few little blue Wyandotte’s like their mum in the group and when we got the dog carrier that Earl arrived in and headed down to collect Effel and her babies we found not 6…not 7 but 12 babies! Effel and her babies are now safely ensconced in Pingu’s old cage in the shed until Effel’s babies are big enough to survive curious cats (about 2 weeks old) and “the masses” (as we shall call them until they start to be more than fluff balls and develop a bit of character…that is apart from “Owl face” who Steve has already named). We give away 7 hens and we gain 12 babies…No wonder we are overrun with chooks and are only able to find 1 egg a day at the moment…the hens are taking advantage of the 4 acres of overgrown shrubs, trees and massively invasive weed species to tunnel themselves impregnable fortresses. I have noticed that every single nest that we find has been situated right in the middle of a blackberry bush. Now that there are 3 roosters crowing on Serendipity Farm and they show no sign of attempting to destabilise the existing governor (Big Yin) they are taking their harems to various different areas on Serendipity Farm and setting up all sorts of covertly created nests. The hen problem is rapidly approaching the feral cat problem, indeed one day the hens might just deal with the cats for us as there won’t be any room left out there in the jungle for the cats to live in.

That’s a bit easier to see isn’t it? That cage covered with the blue tarpaulin was where Pingu lived for a while when Earl broke her leg. She is now living in the old duck enclosure most happily in transition between this cage and moving in with the rest before winter. The cage shown here is now cram packed full of Effel and 12 little blue wyandotte fluffballs…the cutest little things that you ever saw. Notice the hens in the background pecking insects (mainly termites) off the wood that we cut from our felled trees. Sustainable living involves using nature to clear out your pest species. Our hens scoff their weight in insect life every day and if they EVER let us know where they are laying eggs, they will just about pay for themselves on Serendipity Farm…Steve did find a nest with 17 eggs in it (thank GOODNESS Houdini didn’t decide to sit on that one!) the other day and Effel had 14 eggs (all hers) all up in her nest so there are some enormous clutches of eggs around here…

Here is our pile when we chainsawed a few more logs to top the pile up. This pile is now safely in the wood shed up behind the house that used to be the boat shed. We are saving up our wood futures and just like Fry said from Futurama…

Fry:  It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long the  grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter while the octopus mooched off his  girlfriend and watched TV. Then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and  the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a racecar. Is any of this getting  through to you?”

I am sure that there is some sort of lesson in there for you lazy bollocks feeding from the grid while we slave for our wood, but I am starting to think that perhaps Fry might be right!

Steve was going to make a chair but decided to make himself a nice chopping block from these stumps and I dare say they will be well used by the possums climbing into my compost bin…

We are off now to cut down the first of 3 trees that need to be removed from the garden in front of the house. I realise that we may be taking habitat from wildlife but if any of these trees fall they will be taking OUR habitat and so it is survival of the fittest at the moment and we have to remove these old dead trees before nature and winter do it for us. Now that we know that Effel isn’t ensconced in the blackberries where we are going to fell these trees (yes we are WELL aware that felling trees into blackberries might result in difficulties later on when we need to log these trees but this is the lesser of all of our considered evils as anywhere else would result in massive flattening of existing shrubs) we can drop them with impunity. 1 of the trees will fall into the jungle area that we haven’t dealt with yet. Hopefully none of the feral cats are hunting birds in there when we drop the tree…

Note the hens have gone from being somewhat scared of the chainsaw to totally ignoring it because it is the heralder (if there is such a word) of delicious insects and even when we have cut up our logs, we still have limbwood (in the foreground) and kindling wood to cut up…nothing is wasted in our trees

Steve wanted me to take a couple of pictures of his shed for him. He tidied it up the other day and it won’t stay in this state for long (indeed Effel and her 12 babies are making short shift of the ‘nice and neat’ and rendering it ‘hay filled and smelly’) and he wanted it documented for posterity and where better to put something for posterity but a post? (Yeh I KNOW that was lame…I would say punny, but you can have your own opinion on that)

Here is the last of the numerous photos for the day. Steve’s shed was still tidy and Effel free…We had yet to load all of that wood into the trailer and take it up to the wood shed and unload it and I wasn’t full of soup like I am now  (lets just stop while I am ahead)

I forgot to add a site to one of my posts in the last few days (too many words in my head and my muse is Billy Connelly…) and because we are finding all sorts of really valuable websites and databases about water wise xeriscape plants I would like to actually share this one with you. It’s no fun living somewhere where the sun kills EVERYTHING that you plant out and that water is something you actually have to think about. I would imagine that some inland areas of Australia are right up there with the Kalahari desert and the dry canyons in America but there is ALWAYS a solution people…you just have to think outside the local nursery box. Sometimes you might have to buy some seed and grow your own (like we do) if you want something that the local nursery selling bog standard phormiums, pittosporums and cordylines haven’t even heard of let alone stock. Don’t you love how anyone these days thinks that they can run a nursery? The same problem exists with Health Food Shops.  Here is a great Australian website and sorry to all of you wonderful readers elsewhere in our big beautiful world but you are just about to find out how WE feel whenever we hunt for information pertinent to what we are interested in and have to wade through all sorts of mental arithmetic involving seasons (you are the reverse of US not of you by the way…) Here it is… we are using it to compile a basic list of plants that are pretty much guaranteed to grow in our local conditions. If you look hard enough you will notice that these plants are even trademarked and so you may even be able to communicate with your local nursery because they may have a book “somewhere” with these little babies listed…now you just have to use hand signals to get them to understand what you want…

http://www.floraforfauna.com.au/

It’s a little bittersweet to sign off now for the first time where I am not almost immediately thinking about my next post. Hopefully the quality and content of my weekly posts will make up for them not being every day and that all of you dear constant readers will be able to settle down on the weekend to a nice long letter “from home” over a cup of tea and some toast. See you all next Sunday morning (Aussies) as I will be posting the post on Saturday night. I am off to help Steve cut up the tree that he just felled…but that, my dears, is another story…

Advertisements

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kym
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 22:12:51

    Well I, for one, will miss your posts but I understand completely. I would have been hiding behind a tree too Fran lol. I think it very sensible of you 🙂 I am off to Narrogin on Wednesday with Bruce. He has an interview for the Wagin job. I only work a half day so thought I would go with him. If I see you know who I will you know what him lol. I have a million thoughts going through my head at the moment, all of them involving if I move to Wagin…. Oh well we will wait and see.

    Reply

    • narf77
      Mar 18, 2012 @ 07:55:15

      “Movin out to the country”…there are only a few differences with moving to the country
      1. Everything costs more
      2. You can get where you are going a lot quicker but you pay more for your fuel (see point1)
      3. Everyone knows your business and you are no longer an anonymous person in a large mass of more people
      4. You get more space for your buck and you get more trees (er…thinking about it…Wagin doesn’t have all that many trees…) you get more “dirt” there :o)
      5. Life is simpler. You don’t have as many choices because the country has conveniently removed them all for you (not many shops…not many restaurants etc.)
      6. You seem to have more time when you live in the country. I don’t know why but you do
      7. If you see “you know who” give him a big hug and a kiss for me lol! Just make sure that he doesn’t know who you are
      8. Good luck, fingers crossed and everything positive being sent your way :o)
      9. Let me know how it all goes and we might both be country dames soon
      10. I am adicted to posting so the odds of me not posting for entire weeks at a time are slim and next to none so I will most probably be “closet posting” within a few days

      Reply

  2. Pinky
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 23:04:50

    We will still all be here Fronkii, waiting with bated breath for your next post dont you worry about that. So glad you found Effel and her dozen babies! Maybe its time you castrated the bigYin and his male offspring?

    Reply

    • narf77
      Mar 18, 2012 @ 07:49:37

      err….castration for roosters?! I think that perhaps you are using a euphamism for “cut off their heads?”…either way that isn’t an option. We might have to start giving some roosters away (then their new owners can cut off their heads or castrate them to their hearts content). Houdini’s 7 at the moment appear to have 3 – 4 roosters in the bunch and goodness only knows how many of Effels 12 are boys. All I know is that we are going to have to start thinking about the situation pretty quickly…

      Reply

  3. Roz Takes
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 10:54:57

    Don’t think there is much chance of seeing “you know who”. I never see him these days, not since he got on the Council.
    What has happened to Steve’s posts? I miss the music.
    Good luck with your studies. I wait for your next post.
    Bye the way could that tree you were wondering about be a Camphor Laurel?

    Reply

    • narf77
      Mar 18, 2012 @ 13:19:30

      Hi Roz…no fooling you eh? :o) Kym and her hubby Bruce are off to a job interview in Wagin as her hubby is going for principal of the Wagin school. Robert very rarely contacts the girls or Stewart either so don’t feel alone in that one. Camphor laurels don’t grow down here very well and they are rare as hens teeth so I don’t think that is what they are and after checking out the leaves they are not Camphor laurels. I think they are some sort of poplar. Steve got shirty with no-one viewing his sight all through the week and decided to put his site on hiatus for a little while. We spent the day rehousing Effel and her 12 babies in their new outside area and are having a day off from studies. Cheers regarding your wellwishes with our studies. It’s not hard to get into them as they are interesting and pertinent to what we are doing this year unlike last year where they were boring! (Sorry Nick if you are reading this but you KNOW how I feel about AutoCad…). I doubt I will be able to go a whole week without posting. The blog feels like my baby and I have years of frustrated writer spilling out all over the place. It might be post or explode! Have a great week and see you next Sunday morning 🙂

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: