Monday, 30 June 2014

Don't speak too soon

Last week, I wrote: “probably won't cool down much more overnight due to the cloud layer”. As soon as last week’s blog entry had been published the thermometer started to drop. Eventually it settled on about 2 degrees Celsius (35.6F) and as the dark of the early evening settled in, it was probably a little bit cooler than that.

The stars put on a good show that night, with the Milky Way being clearly visible as a twisting streak of cloud light across the sky. Even the Large Magellanic Cloud was visible as a much smaller cloud of light. Still it was a cold clear night – for here anyway.

The next morning, the beginning of a week-long storm rolled in. The morning found me inside pretending to work, looking outside at the storm. By about mid-morning, I went outside because I couldn’t believe it. It was actually snowing. Nothing settled on the ground, but it was definitely snowing.

Snow is a bit novel Down Under, so I rugged up and jumped into the trusty old Suzuki and drove up to the ridge on the mountain range doing a bit of snow chasing – purely for research purposes, of course. The main ridge of the mountain range is about 300m (about 1,000ft) above the farm so I’d expect it to be about 3 degrees Celsius (5.4F) cooler than here and there’d be a good chance of snow settling on the ground. Again, purely for research purposes, I took the camera along and here is what I saw:

Oh yeah, the research also included a cappuccino and a very excellent pear and cinnamon crumble muffin at the local café / post office / general store along the way. Truly, it was a hardship that had to be endured, purely for research purposes, of course.

On the way back I spotted this road sign and added a photo of it because outside of Australia, people have probably never seen this particular road warning sign (wombat)!

Anyway, I estimated that I’d be up and back within 40 minutes and no one would be the wiser. A cunning plan! Needless to say, that I’d completely under estimated the impact of the high winds and recent rainfall on the trees here and my path back to the farm had been cut off because of the very large trees which were now lying horizontally across the road about 2 kilometres (1.24 miles) south of the farm. Not good.

So, I drove right around the mountain range and approached the road from the northern end only to again get within 2km (1.24 miles) of the farm on the northern side. This was due to more fallen trees.

It was at this point that I realised that heading out on a really windy day like that – purely for research purposes – without the chainsaw and recovery gear was a really dumb idea.

Fortunately, I was rescued by a neighbour who was out clearing trees off the road with his chainsaw and using his vehicle to drag the cut logs off the road. I was also fortunate enough that he brought up a spare pair of overalls, gloves and hard hat. That’s how I ended up hauling trees off the road for an hour or so. The hard hat was a particularly good idea as a small branch fell on my head at one point. Trees were literally falling down around us as we hauled logs off the road.

Needless to say, the lesson to be learnt here is that in dodging work – for research purposes – you may just find yourself – through no fault of your own – having to do even more work!

Breaking chicken news: 9 of the 14 chickens are now happy to use the new vestibule exit into the orchard. Egg production is still only about 1 egg per day and it is Araucana and the Silkie_chickens who are providing these. In the colder weather, I leave a layer of their bedding straw on the floor of their shed so they have an area to scratch around in on cold wet days.

The excavations are continuing too and you can now see the flat area where the new water tanks will be sited. Another stump was removed during the process of the excavations too. You can see in the photo the soil line on the stump itself. The stump was like the iceberg that sunk the titanic and the axe was used quite a bit that day.

Due to the continuing wet and cold weather, in the past few days the under-cover firewood storages were completely refilled too. The firewood had been cut 3 years ago and despite being quite damp, it burns very hot.

Right now outside it is 6.5 degrees Celsius (43.7F) at about 6pm. So far this year the farm has received 424.6mm (16.7 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 385mm or (15.5 inches).

Some of the animals here love the wet weather. One of them is the Kookaburra. This bird is very similar to a Kingfisher and has a huge and very sharp beak which they regularly sharpen on the trees. You definitely wouldn’t want him to take a peck of your hand. He loves the wet weather because the worms and grubs come to the surface of the soil for a bit of a breather and then he swoops in and eats them. Kookaburras are also very partial to tree frogs (which spend an awful lot of time on the ground given that they’re meant to be tree frogs). The bird lives in a small family unit and they keep a close watch on each other and call out with a distinctive laughing call when danger is lurking close by. They are amazing flyers and can speed through thick forest as if there were no obstacles in their way (the x-wings of the bird world, apologies for the dorky reference!). 

I like having them at the farm here as they’ll call out when there is something unusual going on and it would be unwise to ignore their message. They also catch and eat snakes, which is fine by me.


Jean Petty said...

Love your new blog -- I have put it on my favorites list.

Cherokee Organics said...

HI Jean. Thanks very much and glad to hear that you are enjoying it!

. josé . said...

I'll echo Jean - great to be able to read your blog weekly. I've been following you on your posts on PRI (I got my PDC online from them last year) and on the ADR. (Where I search for your comments on weeks I can't follow the full threads.) But I look forward to your weekly notes.

I figure I'm a few years behind you. I half-moved to my homestead about two years ago (from California) and last month made the move complete. My citrus and guavas are yielding pretty well already (though they are smaller than yours) but most of the fruits - and all of the tree nuts save the Macadamias - are still in the early growth years. At least there's the garden :)

I keep thinking of putting up my own weekly progress blog. Finding yours (thanks to the tip in this week's ADR) increases my resolve.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi José .Thanks for the comment.Great to hear that you got an online PDC. It is a very good idea. Yeah, there are weeks where I can't get through all of the comments on the ADR too, so that is part of the reason I'm including more details about the farm here.

It is interesting because I grow guavas here too: feijoas and strawberry guavas. I've read that Macadamia's require at least 10 years before the production of the first nuts (about 4 years each here). They are exceptionally drought and heat hardy - like most Australian rainforest trees. It will be very interesting to hear how your farm is going. Please do blog and send me a link as I'd be very interested to check it out. There is so much to learn.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Always a joy to see a new post, here. It's always a wonder to me that the seasons are reversed from here. Your first snowfall. How exciting. I always look forward to our first snowfall. We really don't get all that much in my part of the Pacific Northwest. Glad I'm retired and can just sit on the front porch and watch it come down. Not like when I had to throw myself out into the stuff and drive in it.

On my chicken front my 8 Wyondotte chicks stopped eating this week. After eating like horses and scarfing down a bowl of feed, night and morning. No help on the internet or in any of my (many) chicken books. Even my Goddess of All Chicken Wisdom (Debbie) didn't have many suggestions. Except to let the little guys out of the coop and have their first walkabout. My pen is an old horse breaking corral full of all sorts of veg. Lots of cover.

I had to remove and put them back in the coop by hand as they just didn't seem to get the idea. But, they wandered about with curiosity, pecked at a bit of gravel and got a few greens. Some pecking order was established with my three older hens. After about 8 hours, they were all huddled against the side of the coop. I guess they had enough of the big wide world for one day. It seemed to do the trick. They are back to eating again. I'll be letting them out every few days.

Since I didn't get my act together and get in a strawberry bed or plant blueberries this year, I've been looking around for U-Pick places. No strawberries in this county but a couple of blueberry farms will open up next month. So expensive in the stores. I've got plenty of blackberries (the bane of my life), but I want variety. Then I remembered that there was an overgrown strawberry patch over at my neighbors who passed away. So, I went to check it out. At first, all I could see was foliage of one sort or another. Then a flash of red ... I pulled out about a quart of berries, half of which I gave to my landlord / friend who inherited the place. I guess the strawberries will produce all summer. So, every couple of days ...

The two things I worry most about living here is heat and water. My heat is propane (getting more expensive all the time) and our water comes from a recreational campground. Too long a story to go into here as to how that all came about. The chimneys are bad and the landlord doesn't want me to put in wood heat. So, there are constraints. My age and strength, it's rental and, I don't have much money. But I love living here. Think I'm in the happiest living situation I've ever had. I always seem to muddle through whatever disaster presents itself. Well, onward. After our hottest day so far this year on Monday (92 F), it's in the low 70s, today, with a nice overcast and breeze. Perfect for working outside. So, I'd better get out ... Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis. I always enjoy reading your comments too.

Just out of interest, why is the Books reference in your handle? Did you previously run a book store?

Haha! Yeah, snow is much more enjoyable to watch than to be out in. It hasn't settled on the ground here for about 4 or 5 years now, so is about the same as rain, albeit a bit colder.

Nice to hear that you have a go to person for all things Chicken! That is a good observation too, as some chickens just seem to be more curious than others. They all learn by observing the other chickens though. 11 chickens will use the vestibule now.

Your chickens sound like they're in a good paddock! Glad to hear that the chicks are eating again too. Chickens that don't eat soon end up under weight and not very healthy and possibly very dead. I worry for the chickens here that go broody for about 3 weeks. Some of them occasionally never recover.

You are correct too in that it is part science and part art in working out how often to let the chicks out. They always surprise me.

Glad to hear that you sorted out some strawberries. Fresh strawberries are to kill for. A friend of mine likes to visit over summer to help pick them and I noticed last year, the picking went sort of like this: one for me; one for me; one for me; one for me; and so on! hehe!

Blueberries are good too and they seem to be ready here in January (your July?). Blackberries are good too (thornless varieties here), but you are right in that nothing consistently produces fruit like a strawberry. I envy you your fresh strawberries! Nice work.

Yeah, propane is expensive here too. I have a backup LPG (liquified petroleum gas) tank for those rare days when it is both warm and cloudy. i.e. you can't run the wood heater and there is no solar hot water. It is almost $90 for a 45kg tank delivered so I avoid using it like the plague. It doesn’t take long to get through – if you use it.

Water here is from above ground water tanks. The original village here was abandoned due to lack of water during the summer. The local creeks run underground so perhaps a well could be dug, but I'm not there yet. The Aboriginals used to dig wells all about the country because they knew what they were doing.

Chimneys can always be cleaned, although the soot is carcinogenic. When I used to live inner city, I had a chimney sweep clean up the chimneys in the place I lived which was built around 1890. It was amazing to watch and learn.

Seasoned timber can help to clean a flue, but if there is a lot of soot in the flue in the first place then it could catch alight too. One house up here has a bit of a history of chimney fires because they are probably consistently burning unseasoned timber. It takes about 2 years to season local timber here. Even longer is better.

I hear you about the money! But, I also hear you about how great a time you are having. I also muddle through whatever disasters strike here.

The wind last night was feral again and a tree fell down in the middle of part of the orchard. I'll post a photo on next week’s blog.

Cheers mate!