Cock a doodle DON’T!

Hi All,

As you can most probably tell by the title of this post…our growing rooster population has reached climax and needs to be dealt with post haste. Our neighbours appear to be avoiding us and with a house situated closer to the hen coop than ours is, I dare say I would be making night time raids with my strangling hands on if I were Frank…it’s time to get brave again and wield the hatchet of doom. A couple of the roosters will be no problem to dispatch. They are greedy, nasty and have started to mistreat the hens and so they will be dispatched, minced and turned into dog food. Earl will get to eat them one way or another! Big Yin will remain…sorry Frank but 1 rooster can hardly be construed as a flock…little red who lives somewhere in a giant conifer with his 4 non-conforming sisters will need to be dealt with very soon as he has started to make his voice heard before 5am. It only gets light here around 7am so you are holding your own sword of Damocles above your head little Red! After we dispatch our 2 greedy guzzling rapist roosters and little red we will have to consider Big Red. He is a lovely rooster…appears to have his head screwed on straight (unlike the majority of rooster kind who appear to be born with only a rudimentary brain stem that constantly signals EAT EAT EAT much like a European mother…), is respectful (at the moment) of Yin and doesn’t show any signs of being a rapist. Like dealing with the feral cats…that makes it SO much harder when you are dealing with a reasonable creature rather than something unlikeable. I guess that is what it means to live in the country. Sometimes you have to act and react in ways that your urban cousins might find irksome…you yourself might find irksome…but the word “irksome” is in and of itself a terribly urban word! Death is something that you have to get used to when you decide to live with animals and death by your own hand is right up there with some of the tougher decisions that you have to make.

This pile of debris has been sitting on our “Fire Site” (aren’t we lucky? We get a small patch of earth dedicated to setting things on fire…) for about a month. Its very satisfying to set fire to a heap of nasty blackberries and old rose canes

Nothing like a nice big blaze to get the fire plane out having a bit of a look…

The fire was starting to die down in this photo and we have since removed all of that banana passionfruit from that poor long suffering shrub. It’s a hebe!

this is to show all of you planning on planting out Pittosporums just what happens when a fire is almost out and you throw a freshly cut Pittosporum sapling onto the dying embers…I would never have thought that anything could go up like Pittosporums can. There are so many people planting them out all around their houses and this should show you why that is a very VERY bad idea!

We are off into the garden again today. Yesterday we removed a patch of Osteospermum daisies. My father would be turning in his grave…”what did you pull them out for…they were bloody flowers you stupid woman! And you call yourself a horticulturalist…” Osteospermum daisies, when allowed to run rampant for 20 years are a terrifying thing. Some of them were over 2 metres long and had covered vast areas. Now that we have removed them we now need to ensure that the large areas of uncovered earth are covered as quickly as possible. We are thinking about using a green crop to add some much needed nitrogen to the soil and allowing it to reseed as it sees fit. Some native grass seed might also be a good idea. Unlike the side garden that we demolished last week, this area of the garden has been totally untouched for a very long time. It has tree cover (large Eucalypts) and undercover trees (mainly Syzygium luehmannii /Lilly pillies and some overgrown Pittosporum) with very little shrubby growth because of a lack of light. We have been opening the area up to light, now we have cleared the soil of weedy overgrowth we are going to get a massive influx of weed species, notably forget-me-nots (OH what a fitting name!) unless we act now to ensure that we get groundcover and grassy species that we want in the area. We are intending on opening this area up to planting with edible plants of all sizes. We have been researching species that will cope with our conditions. We have an extended dry period over summer that can last for up to 3 months and in winter we get plenty of rain. We are lucky because we live on a steep rocky slope and directly next to a large water source which keeps the temperature on site from delivering us frosts so we can grow things here that people slightly inland from us can’t. We keep coming up against problems associated with our lifestyle choice. Penniless hippies can’t just head out to the local nurseries and buy up big on edible plant species and so we have to grow our own or find a cheap source (read “barter”). Some of the more interesting and international species we are going to have to source but anything easy to grow we will be doing it ourselves. We have collected walnuts (Juglans regia) from 2 local sources and some of them have started to sprout so we should get at least some walnuts to plant out in a couple of years. We already have some chestnut trees, some hazelnut trees (with more stratifying) and 4 loquat japonica that we sourced from seedlings growing on an embankment. We always have our eyes open for sources of seed and cutting material for our edible food forest, preferably those that have had hard lives and that will find living on Serendipity Farm heaven (much like the animals that move in…). Having been in horticulture for quite some time now we are under NO false apprehensions that this is going to be an easy job. We just know that it is something that we should be doing. Food security is definitely something that all of us should be thinking about. If we can plant some olives, some nut trees, some fruit and a good vegetable, herb and spice selection then we can minimise future shortage problems and can free up the system for those people who can’t grow their own food. Idealism doesn’t enter into it. Next on the agenda is minimising our reliance on fossil fuels. My next goal is to save up for a wind turbine for the property. Tasmania is a very windy island. Some of it is to do with our politicians and their overinflated egos but most of it comes from us being an island on its way to Antarctica girt completely by sea and as we spend most of our year under cloud cover, solar is NOT the way to go. I shake my head whenever I see people installing solar panels in Tasmania. Our friend (who must remain anonymous) is completely off the grid. Not because she wants to be, but because at only 15 minutes inland of Launceston city, power, phone and water infrastructure are simply not available to her and so she relies on a mobile phone, an enormous tank (for rain water collection), 2 dams (for garden and animal water) and solar panels with a massive bank of batteries. She told us that solar energy is very overrated when it comes to a place like Tasmania. Her house is completely free of vegetative cover and a check on Google Earth shows it’s pretty much free of vegetation for about 2 acres around her house. You would think that a large bank of solar panels would deliver consistent power but Glen (her partner) has had to retrofit their wood fire to heat water because there simply isn’t enough power generated to allow them the luxury of hot water. Even in summer the system doesn’t deliver all of the family’s needs. Wind turbines are most DEFINITELY the way that Tasmanian’s should be aiming to deliver their future power.  I found this wonderful creation and can’t wait till power generation can be delivered consistently and reliably by artistically balanced systems like these…

http://www.treehugger.com/wind-technology/enessere-wind-turbine-sleek-works-any-direction.html

How beautiful is that? One day we will be given a choice with how we power our houses and we will be able to choose to go off grid and save the government billions in infrastructure costs. Until then, we are going to have to do what we can to minimise the costs as they appear to be growing exponentially! I might even have to make my own! Hey…I have instructions you know…

http://www.instructables.com/pages/search/search.jsp?cx=partner-pub-1783560022203827%3Anpr2q7v5m6t&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=wind+turbine

Good old Instructables…not only do they tell me how to make a rubbish bin out of coke bottles, how to knit myself a pair of slippers and how to make cheese but they tell me how to use quantum physics to make myself a wind turbine…man I LOVE that site :o)… (Now I just need an Instructable to explain quantum physics to me and I will be A-OK!)

This is the view from the pathway behind the garden on the side of the house. Everything that goes dormant is losing its leaves and the grass has turned from a dull brown to green again. This garden was full of the most overgrown Diosma plants that I have ever seen. Steve and I took 2 days to remove them. We have just cleared out this garden so that we can start planting out my cold climate shrubs (some of which are in the photo off to the right)

This photo was taken from the same position but looking back the other way. We have been doing some serious removal of vegetation of late and it is starting to pay off

The garden over to the right of this photo is the garden we just cleared out so that we can plant. Hopefully the rain refrains until we can plant out my poor long suffering cold climate shrubs.

Looking down from the deck over the lawn and garden towards where I took the first of the “garden photos”. Isn’t that maple lovely?

Same spot but facing the other direction towards the river…I think this maple is paying us back for saving it from a massive overgrowth of jasmine when we first moved here 2 years ago. It was totally engulfed by it and we didn’t know if it was going to live it was so bare of leaves.

Its Saturday already…where is autumn going?! I was going to have just about everything planted out by the end of autumn and at this rate I had best work 24/7 to do it. We spent the morning sorting through all of our potted plants, separating them into piles of “maples for the front garden”…”Fran’s cold climate deciduous shrubs etc.” for the side garden and those plants that will have to be repotted and hang about in a pod until we can sort out what to do with them. Some of them will be planted out in the 1st paddock area behind the house. We have plants to extend the dogs run up into this area and where dogs are concerned…the more trees the better! We bought some Larix decidua a couple of years ago…40 to be exact. What on EARTH would anyone want with 40 Larix decidua (larches) you might ask? Well…we were going to graft them. We had a source of some very nice scion wood at the time and were assured that we could use Larix decidua as rootstocks but on closer inspection the union would only be short lived at the best…we no longer pay much attention to our “source”! Needless to say, we have a fair pile of Larix decidua wanting to stretch their feet despite giving a Larix away to every visitor that we get…”Here Jehovah’s Witnesses…we don’t want your pamphlets but we would like to give you one of these fine Larix decidua’s…could you please tell the Mormons to head on up and take a couple as well?”…sigh… so we are going to take our Larix decidua’s that life handed to us and make Larixade. More accurately, a Larix grove. We have some amazing conifers in our collection and most of them will find their way onto the property somewhere. We will have that amazing conifer vista one way or another Christi ;).

Heres where my mass planting of shrubs will be most prevalent. The chickens are doing their bit to soften up the earth ready for planting. Now I just have to hope that the rock problem that is all over the property doesn’t manifest itself in this bit!

This next set of photos is to act as proof that we actually are studying our Diploma of Landscape Design…Here you can see the theodolite, the staffs and the tripod used to house the theodolite needed to take horizontal and vertical levels. What you DON’T see is the amount of algebra and trigonometry that I had to learn to facilitate understanding all about triangles etc…truly terrifying!

Here you can see Nick our lecturer (with his permission) and Steve setting up the tripod ready for the theodolite to be set up so that we can take some levels. We are in the process of learning about vertical levelling because we already learned about horizontal levels in our last Diploma. The area that you can see here is adjacent to the Polytechnic where we occasionally have a lecture. We study from home and wouldn’t have it any other way!

You can count yourselves as VERY lucky to see this picture. I HATE having my picture taken let alone showing anyone else so this is one of the very VERY few online photos of me. Again, its just here to prove that I actually am doing what I say I am doing…now I just have to convince Nick that I am doing what I am doing and I am half way there! You can also see that autumn has hit home hard here and I was the only one dressed warmly enough to be out in the field.

After lugging pots back and forth, weeding the pots, pruning off any dead bits and thinking about them all (by far the hardest part of the equation…) we managed to reduce our potted specimens by half. Now all we have to do is set aside a day to pot out the lovely weeping maple collection that we amassed 3 years ago and get stuck in digging mole holes all over the side garden to plant out all of my gorgeous cold climate shrubs that have been just hanging on for this day. I want to ensure that this area is mass planted to give it the best chance of surviving and becoming relatively self-sufficient. We found plants that we didn’t remember we had as well as some that we had given up for dead that have returned to the land of the living. I just know that once I plant out everything in my cold climate section (which is a terrifying event that will take at least 3 days) I am going to want more. Andrew of Red Dragon nursery fame got me addicted to cold climate shrubs. Now I have something that is going to make the side garden something quite special. Lots of beautiful scented flowering shrubs to perfume the air and no doubt they will be ecstatic to get their feet out of their pots and into the earth. Once we plant out the maples (I need to agree to doing this first as to be honest…its really Steve digging the holes and so I need to humour him by letting him get his babies into the ground first…) and all of the shrubs, ground covers, bamboos, bulbs and perennials in the side garden we will be left with quite a substantial amount of pots left to work out what we want to do with them. Earlier on in our horticultural career we both went a bit mental about collecting. Steve has several Chinese elms that we have NO idea what we are going to do with. We have a really big collection of conifers that will need to be planted or given away. We are trying to reduce our potted plants down as far as we can to minimise excessive summer watering. We have done really well to reduce our electricity reliance (and bill…) and minimise water usage but potted plants tend to die if you don’t keep them hydrated. We had a long hot summer that was also very dry. Very little rain (we were starting to wonder what rain was for a while there) and it became very apparent that we were using too much precious water on our potted plants. When plants are mass planted in the ground they are more able to survive extended periods of water stress. Potted plants can die in a matter of hours depending on how lush their leaves are. We no longer want anything that is going to become possum or wallaby fodder in our garden. When it comes to edibles, we are going to get creative. If the possums want to scoff garden plants then it’s bad luck to the garden plant. It needs to be able to survive here to stay here.

Here is the building where we study in Launceston. It has the dubious honour of being called “G Block”…we spent the first year and a half of our horticultural career sitting in the classroom on the right before we were able to study from home. I LOVE studying from home :). Its the very best way to study so long as you are disciplined enough to make sure that you do what is required of you. I think being mature aged students has given Steve and I an edge for the discipline needed to put the time in each day to make sure we study what we need to for our meetings. I hated sitting in a classroom with other students because everyone learns at their own pace and if you can pace yourself, you are not wasting your, or anyone elses time.

Steve took this photo this morning. It was dead still outside and the smoke from our rekindled wood stove was drifting down the slope and into the garden…he titled it “smoke on the water” being the old rocker that he is but I know for a fact that it never made it to the water…it kind of hung about until it dissipated into the ether leaving  that amazing early morning smell of warm future possibilities that only wood fire smoke can do

This is a sweet potato thief. I was showing him my wonderful sweet potato and he lulled me into a false sense of security by being cute. I relaxed my grip on my sweet potato for 1 second…and he grabbed it and ran off! Steve was NO help whatsoever…he was laughing hysterically as Earl zoomed all over the place with me in hot pursuit…Bezial tried to help but as Earl only had a boring sweet potato his heart wasn’t in it and he soon stopped and returned to his nice warm seat near the fire leaving me to try to catch the canine equivalent of a racehorse on steroids… I got my sweet potato back after a long chase and a stint under the bed…it was full of doggy toothmarks and even though I scrubbed it really REALLY well…it still tasted suspicious when I steamed it…

I have been hunting for all sorts of plants (especially trees) that will serve as foundations for the garden as well as having edible or medicinal properties. This garden is going to be cram packed with edible specimens…so many that the possums and wallabies may even send themselves to an early grave in their efforts to consume a small proportion of its bounty! We have plans to remove a large hedge of Photinia x fraseri ‘Robusta’ that was allowed to engulf the fence between the church and our property. We will be planting grape vines, kiwifruit and various other edible low shrubs and vines along this fence to replace the hedge. Thank goodness that we chose to study horticulture before we inherited Serendipity Farm because otherwise we would have had no idea how to make all of this work. When problems arise, we know where to look to attempt to solve them. Apart from constantly being tired these days, we are gaining a degree of satisfaction that we hadn’t been able to gain before. I love country living. I just wish that Earl would settle down like Bezial did so that we could let both dogs out with us when we work in the garden. One day they will be able to walk freely around, but until Earl learns that chickens + teeth = “BAD DOG!!” it’s only going to be a pipe dream. Have a really great Sunday everyone. Enjoy yourself doing something that makes you happy and make sure that whatever you are doing is worth it. See you on Wednesday when we will have (probably) managed to get The Odo Life (our alternate blog) up and running with its first post and you can all check out what Serendipity Farm looks like from inside my head…if you are game that is! 😉

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kym
    May 19, 2012 @ 21:03:14

    Well I love the wind turbine, just lovely. Watched an interesting show on wind turbines, the humungous ones, a while ago. It was causing some people to be quite ill, so bad that they were leaving their farms. That naughty dog with your sweet potato! He needs a cattle prod lol, a few zaps might sort him out. Lots of work to do with all those plants Fran. You should see if there are some young horticulture students who would like some “hands on” experience. Or some backpackers who need some accommodation for a night or two…. 🙂 I’m off to the Paws Walk tomorrow, weather looks like it will be perfect. Will try to sort out my google chat/talk (which one?) if I get time. Otherwise maybe you could take pity on me and join skype, its free 🙂 = . Have a great day too x

    Reply

    • narf77
      May 20, 2012 @ 07:13:54

      lol you are a MOST persistant woman! Have a great time on the 1 000 000 paws walk…our boys won’t be going as aside from it being 50km away from us, can you imagine the sweet potato thief and his youthful exuberance and peoples opinions about American Staffies? Not worth the agro :(. No backpackers… no young horticulture students (knowing what we know about “young horticulture students” they are the LAST people we would let in our garden! ;)) Have a great walk with your boys and I hope you get to sit on the BIG COUCH 🙂

      Reply

  2. christiok
    May 20, 2012 @ 00:55:41

    What an honor, to be addressed directly in this blog! And your vista IS beautiful, Fran…the hillside, the river, the wood smoke. “The amazing early morning smell of warm future possibilities that only wood fire smoke can do.” The elegant sentiments of a fellow morning person.:) Solar power is a cruel joke around here, too. I looked into it several years ago. I, like Kym, think the wind turbine design is exquisite. And if Earl’s ears weren’t soooo dang cute I don’t know if I’d love him. But they are. And I do. Thanks for sharing your wonderful life.

    Reply

    • narf77
      May 20, 2012 @ 07:25:04

      Earl is an enigma. He came to us at 17 weeks, a gangly youth of a dog with his little nose pointed down and covered in scars. We bought him from an interstate dog kennel and it was more than obvious that Earl had been shoved in the “too hard” basket to sell. The seller was aiming for blue pups with a massive size and Earl is just “normal” for his breed. He is boistrous, occasionally manic, has broken 2 windows in a single day through his crazy antics and our older boy Bezial is somewhat scared of him. In saying that, I have NEVER met a more loving dog. He sleeps in our bed every night at our feet. He will lick anyone who is sad. He watches us and follows us and seems to want to do everything he can to be with us. He gets very sad when he thinks he has done the wrong thing and there is nothing sadder than a curled up big dog trying to be as small as he can because he his sad… Earl loves us forever now. Bezial has had his nose put out of joint because prior to Earl he was the most spoiled dog on the planet. He hasn’t lost anything apart from our undivided attention and that smarts! What you see in that photo of Earl is what you get…very intelligent, quick, always up for a game and waiting for someone to chase him. He is a pretty boy with cute ears and many times, people are scared of him because he looks the way that he does. Its so very sad that this breed has been denegrated in the press the way that it has. I just need to remind everyone here that its NOT the dogs that are the problem… its the owners who do horrific things to them to make them aggressive. If you put down a dog for biting someone…the owner should be put down a well because to get that dog to that point, it has been to hell. Ok, enough of the defense lol…thankyou for your comments about our property. If you had seen it when we first got here you would have been as terrified as we were! This is after 2 years of weed removal and we havent even gotten really started yet! We really want to get an edible food forest and garden where we can produce an enormous amount of food going. Lots of olive trees, nut trees, fig trees, edible fruit vines intermingled with interesting trees like Moringa oleifera which is an AMAZING tree for food, oil, medicine, just about anything to be honest. This whole blog event was to share what we are doing and hopefully encourage or inspire people to do the same. That, plus the need to get all of these pesky words out of me! 😉 Have a fantastic Sunday. I can’t see past the deck this morning because the fog is so very thick…it will have rolled down the river soon to pester Launceston and it will be a glorious sunny chilly day. We had to let the fire go out so we can clean out the flu and the ash box and without its delicious early morning warmth I am really appreciating how much we take it for granted. See you soon 🙂

      Reply

  3. Kym
    May 20, 2012 @ 20:58:33

    Well what about tourists looking for that “authentic” country feel get away. They get to eat your lovely meals, see your lovely view and property and help with all those things “country” 🙂

    Reply

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