Monday, 25 August 2014

Break through



The German Field Marshall, Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke, or “Moltke the Elder” to his mates, was attributed with the following quote: “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. This quote is so appropriate when applied to all of the systems (water, firewood, solar etc.) at the farm here. No systems at the farm have actually completely failed, it is just that in the real world none of them actually work like you’d think that they would when you set them up in the first place.

A good example of this sort of failure is that person could read all about firewood, however nothing quite prepares you for the realities of harvesting, storing and then using the stuff.

Firewood is used here to: dry clothes during winter; cook food; heat the house; provide hot water (when the sun isn’t shining); as part of the fermentation process; allowing small dogs to slowly cook their brains; and assisting with germinating seedlings.  As you can see firewood has multiple uses and it is a crucial resource.

However, there are so many different opinions about firewood around these parts that it is hard to know what to do and where the truth lies. Some locals advised me that the local trees are rubbish for firewood. The council advised me that it would be better to truck firewood in from the endangered River Red Gum forests up north, where some of those trees can be up to 600 years old and are very slow growing.
Yet on the farm here, there are tens of thousands of trees and they can grow at a rate of 1 metre (3 feet 3 inches) per year and often much more in a wet year. A years worth of firewood can be sourced from as little as four trees.

It is always cheaper and more efficient to use a local resource so over the past four years I have been learning to live with the local firewood as a fuel source. This has meant confronting the realities of the fuel source and adapting the systems here based on what was observed and learnt. Every year I have had to change some aspect of the firewood systems.

After many years of observation and experimentation, I can state that the local trees produce exceptionally good firewood, however, the systems at the farm for firewood were complete rubbish. This is what I’ve learned so far:

·         In this corner of the world, there were some eucalyptus species which were able to be burnt green. Green refers to the fact that a tree could be felled, cut and split into firewood logs and then burnt straight away. The pioneers felled these species in preference to all others and burnt them. Those species are now gone and are remembered only in historical accounts.

·         So, in order to utilise the remaining eucalyptus species for firewood, firewood logs have to be stored for at least two years. This process is called seasoning the firewood and it allows time to reduce both the sugars and moisture content of the logs. It is those two factors which prevent the timber from burning in the first place. It is the trees natural defence against bushfires. Interestingly too, it seems to make little difference if those firewood logs are left out in the rain during this lengthy process.

·         For a few months prior to burning the firewood logs, they should be kept out of the rain so that they are completely dry. Dry old firewood burns more efficiently and hotter, producing less smoke and using far less logs.

·         If you want to utilise firewood sourced from your own trees here, you have to plan and act many years in advance.

That’s all very interesting, but what has it got to do with this week’s blog? Over the past few weeks, I’ve mentioned that the farm is on the side of a mountain range and I’ve been excavating a flat site to install a new water tank. Well, that flat site will now include a small shed for firewood storage. The reason for this is that I’ve come to the conclusion that there is not enough storage here for firewood that is out of the rain.

With the excavations, this week was something of a break through!

The break through came towards the end of the excavations a few days ago when a path had been completely dug out behind the existing water tank.

A breakthrough in the excavations. A new path has been forged.
The excavations have been an interesting project because when I started it, I only had a vague idea of what I what I was trying to achieve. I knew that I wanted more water storage capacity, a second pump and a shed for storing firewood. However, once I started digging and moving clay – by hand – ideas began to form and the initial plans were quietly ditched. It takes a lot of time to come up with those ideas as to how all of the different systems will be arranged.

Comprises are always part of these sorts of projects and cost is always a consideration. With this project: I’ve reduced the number of new water tanks from two to one; I’ve worked out a way to reduce the small off grid solar electric systems from two to one; two smaller sheds will replace the single larger shed; and the layout of the water tanks has changed so that they are more accessible and do not have soil placing pressure on the walls of those tanks (the soil pressure can potentially tip the tank over).

The site will hopefully look like this:

A rough plan of the excavated area

I’ve also had to scrounge around the farm for more rocks with which to build the rock walls for the new garden beds which are a result of all of the soil from the excavations. There is both an upper and lower rock wall which you can see in the photo:

Upper and lower rock walls showing the excavated fill
In other farm news, the blackberry enclosure is continuing and a few new posts have been installed. The recycled steel gate has now been correctly installed and a simple latch mechanism keeps the gate shut when required. I’m really interested to see how this fencing system works because I recently caught Stumpy the wallaby sitting on top of a raised garden bed eating all of the vegetables, whilst squashing those that weren’t eaten.
The blackberry enclosure continues to expand
This week has been mostly sunny and the first of many daffodil flowers bloomed. Also the echium plants have begun their long flowering cycle. The bees here love the echium flowers, whilst the smaller birds hide during the day in their dense foliage.
The first daffodil flower of the season

Echium flowers which are great food for bees as well as being shelter for smaller birds such as robins and fairy wrens
The farm is in a thick cloud right now and it has been raining for most of the day. The temperature outside here at about 7pm is 7.5 degrees Celsius (45.5 F) and so far this year there has been 554.8mm (21.8 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 542.2mm (21.3 inches).

19 comments:

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Ahh, you are lucky that your predecessors had such great plans to develop hydro power in your area before costs rose too much. Hydro is good, but the dams eventually silt up. Mind you, we'll both be long gone by then!

They installed a huge hydro electric scheme here too, but it suffers during the drought years: Snowy Mountains Hydro. There just aren't that many rivers here now that aren't utilised by people for one reason or another.

Tasmania has huge reserves of hydro and most of the countries water reserves are also there and there is (I believe) a 300km (about 190 miles) long DC cable between the island and the mainland to bring hydro grid power here.

Yeah, given how much rain you get, your coal probably has higher moisture content like ours here.

Distraction is a good strategy, so you should send those environmentalists to check out our coal fired powered stations. They are apparently some of the dirtiest on the planet which is a real achievement.

Yeah, the fish ladders are amazing. They install them here over weirs and falls etc. They really work, it would be great to see one in action though. I used to work for engineers that were designing and installing them. The trout populations are declining here because of the higher annual temperatures though. A mate of mine in Ballarat is seriously into aquaponics and he grows trout, but the summers are brutal on them. He is slowly starting to switch to local fish varieties though.

Thanks! I enjoy swapping stories about the different areas that we live in too. There are many similarities though. I'll try and get a photo of the Redwood forest here over the next few weeks. It is a freaky place to visit because it is so different from the rest of the surrounding forests.

Yeah, no electric heating on solar at all due to the sun being lower in the sky at that time of year. However, A/C is not only possible, I know of many people that use this - not here though. I also know of a guy that charges a Mitsubishi i-Miev using his off the grid solar electric system. Mind you it is twice as big as the one here and he is much further north so the winter daylight is much longer and the summers are less extreme.

Heat is a problem here, but last summer there were only 10 days in excess of 40'C degrees (104'F). It becomes a question of just getting through those days more than anything else.

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

LOL. Well, you know what Bobby Burns said: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft agley.." (Often go awry.) Yup. Never ceases to amaze me how some simple little task snowballs and takes up three times more time than estimated!

The first daffodil of your year. How exciting! We won't see our first for months.

On bees: I have a patch of fennel and noticed the other day that the pollinators were really working them over. There was some kind of very small wasp, two or three varieties of bumble bees and two or three varieties of honey bees.

That extinct eucalyptus may still be lurking around, somewhere. I'm sure you've heard of your own Wollemi Pine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wollemia

I've always been interested in people who go out in search of "old" roses. They scour old church yards, back gardens, pioneer homesteads, etc..

I've been thinking about solar for the chickens. To run the light in the winter, heat the water. Maybe electrify a bit of fence.

Also, I think I've mentioned that my landlord is not enamored with the idea of installing wood heat in this place. Faulty chimneys, etc.. There are outside wood furnaces that can be purchase. I haven't looked into it, but I'm sure some kind of electric blower is involved. Another chore for solar. Just hooking up to the grid seems to be defeating the purpose. And, it wouldn't work very well in a power outage. Over here, there was quit a craze for pellet stoves. Don't hear about them so much, anymore. I guess the owners figured out in a power outage, that electrical augur to feed the pellets wasn't of much use. My propane stove also uses an electric blower. But, in a power outage, it still warms up the living room, quit nicely. And, I can do minimal cooking on it.

Heard my landlord/neighbor use an interesting term I hadn't heard, the other day. "Cackle Berries" for chicken eggs. :-) Lew

artinnature said...

Firewood! Today we awoke to the sound of chainsaws and chippers...long story short we have another load of free mulch and three BIG loads of free Red Alder firewood. Red Alder is really good stuff for burning and easy to split. I'm feeling a bit spoiled, wondering when this amazing flood of fossil fuel subsidies will grind to a halt.

We're also in need of a wood shed, we have an abundance of firewood now but only tarps to keep it dry.

Re: "Field Modifications" I'm a landscape designer and that's what we call changes to your "perfect" design that you only realize isn't perfect when you start building it. Very common, your "Genius loci" is saying "put your plans on hold there a minute, how about we try this instead?".

Cheers from Cascadia

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis. Yeah, too true! How could something start off so simply only to end up as some sort of epic project? Bigger than Ben Hur!

Great to see that you have lots of different insect pollinators in your garden. If the European honey bee populations decline, there are other species waiting to fill in the void, but we just won't get the reliable honey production. How good is fennel? Is it bronze or green fennel? I eat the leaves, but haven’t tried the bulb yet.

The funny thing is that those Wollemi Pines can be easily purchased at nurseries. They collected the seeds by helicopter from the remote gorge. It was quite the adventure. Did you know that the fossil records for the tree were found in Antarctica just before the live tree was discovered. The botanists pouring over the fossil records only just missed out on naming rights for the tree.

Yeah, they do the same thing here for old varieties of fruit trees too. Apparently there were something like 7,000 varieties at one stage. I met the guy in Tasmania who owned the nation quince collection and he was an interesting guy to talk to. He got me into making the apple cider, although his stuff was much better than the rough stuff here.

A small solar system is a great idea. I'll cover that in the future (after the first shed goes up), so hopefully we can chuck around some ideas? Solar stuff is much cheaper in the US. I know some people here that order their solar equipment via the US.

Propane is a reasonably clean and easy to use heat source. How cold do your winters get?

Ha! Like the cackle berries. Very funny!

Hi Klark,

Mate, you are spoilt, no doubt about it! Well done and a truly excellent freebie score. Yeah, the wood shed is now a necessity. I haven't tried tarps, but my neighbour uses them and they seem OK. How do you anchor your tarps in the wind?

I like that terminology, many thanks. It is really nice to have the time for a project to slowly evolve into something useful. Respect for working in landscaping too, everything about it from the design to the implementation is hard work. Still, when the systems work perfectly here, it is a pleasure. The funny thing here is that the plants take stuff all of my time, whilst the infrastructure eats about 90% of the resources.

Cheers from Down Under (spring is early here as it was sunny and warm today).

Chris

Morgenfrue said...

I wish we had a wood stove, the house I grew up in had one, and we had a good solid power outage every winter (weather related), and it kept us warm. So did handling the firewood of course! We had several open sheds along the back of the house, which my father designed and built. It was a roof on a frame, and had hooks screwed into the frame at appropriate intervals, which you could hang the metal grommets of a tarp on. That way the shed could be opened completely to allow for ease of stacking, but the wood was protected from rain and snow by hanging a tarp across the openings.

Here in Copenhagen where I live (in a flat, so no woodstove), we have district heating. I think about 90% of Copenhagen is supplied by the district heat network, some portion of which is heated by incineration of garbage. At the moment a seemingly bottomless resource. On the rare occasions we lose power (unlike where I grew up, the lines are subterranean), I haven't noticed heat loss, but last winter the network itself went down and we came home to a quite chilly flat and no hot water. That was the first time I experienced that here! I very much prefer a backup system, one of the reasons I insist on a gas range, but being dependent on city heat with only blankets and wool clothes as a fallback bothers me, especially since we have small children.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Morgenfrue,

Yeah, wood heaters are great to sit around on a cold winters night. A mate just installed a massive Esse wood oven in a truly massive shed (epic may be an appropriate description) and we all sat around the oven a few weeks back watching dinner cook and talking rubbish.

Power outages during winter would be no laughing matter at all.

The open shed with the tarps hung over the openings is a great idea and would work brilliantly. Top idea.

Unfortunately, the steel shed here will have to be well sealed against summer bushfire problems. I haven't quite got my head around the fine details of the shed yet. Time will sort it out.

Subterranean power lines are a good idea for all sorts of reasons. They haven't put them in here - even though trees and power lines are seldom a good mix - because the cost is too prohibitive. They simply cut the power on high fire risk days to these areas. Thus the advantage of off the grid electricity.

Is district heating some sort of massive boiler and hot water hydronic arrangement? It sounds very clever and efficient having a large system. However, as you say, there are inherent risks in such a centralised system. How cold does it get during your winter?

The house here is - unlike most Australian houses - very well insulated. However, there is only so much you can do without a heat source. If I haven't run the wood heater for a few days and there was no strong sun (solar hot water - which can run into the radiators if required), then the house will get down to 11'C (about 5'C outside).

I like having multiple systems from which to choose from. Even late winter the sun produces a lot of solar hot water. Around the winter solstice though, there is no chance of solar hot water. It was about 15'C here today and about 20'C in Melbourne.

Cheers

Chris

Morgenfrue said...

Hm, yes, I can see that the woodsheds would not work in your environment. What is the construction of your home? You've mentioned the metal fire shutters several times - I'm guessing it's not a wooden building then?

The house I grew up in was wood, wood siding, wooden decks on both sides, non-metal roof. It was an incorporated semi-rural area with lots of about an acre in size, rather heavily wooded. We operated on defensible space principles, but if a forest fire got that close, fire shutters and woodsheds wouldn't make any difference!

I am actually not really sure what the technical details of district heating are. I expect you are correct about the boiler aspect of it - all I know is that hot water both to the radiators and to the taps comes through pipes under the city streets. In Danish it's called fjernvarme (literally "remote heat").

Our winter temps average around freezing or just above, but in a cold winter we can have periods of day temperatures around -5 C. Typically damp, chilly, and quite windy, at least a few incidences of snow every winter, with snowcover only a few days at a time - although in a hard winter we can have snowcover for several weeks because of continuous frost. When our heat cut out last winter, we'd been away during the weekend and had left a window open to air out (oops!) so it was 15 C inside. Not unmanageable, but not very cozy either!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Morgenfrue,

Well, there are wood sheds up here, however they just don't seem up to the job of surviving a bushfire – from my perspective - as they are a massive fuel source. The firewood gets almost kiln dried in them during the summer heat. I have a vague idea of the design, but it should be interesting to see how it progresses. I really welcome suggestions and thoughts as this sort of protection comes down to the fine details.

A well maintained timber structure can survive a bushfire here better than a standard brick veneer home, simply because they are better sealed and there is less thermal mass. It takes about 4 minutes to reduce a house to a smoking pile of ruins in a bushfire and the fire front may still not have passed by during that time.

The house here has a timber frame, but all external surfaces are covered with fire rated surfaces (both inside and out). They're the sort used in apartment blocks and commercial buildings as dividing walls. The Great Fire of London has cast a long shadow on the building industry – even in Australia. The roof of the house is steel but underneath, it is covered with thick plywood and a fire blanket. All the openings have steel and mineral rock wool of the sort found around blast furnaces.

The construction, seriously did my head in. Fortunately, having built in the inner city before, I had a good understanding of fire rating rules, design and construction. That may have been a bad thing though...

The house, property and surrounds sound lovely. Timber is a beautiful material to build in.

You wouldn't be able to build that house here, although it is worth mentioning that there are not many houses up here in the forest that are built to the standard of this particular house. It isn't a guarantee of survival though.

The defensible space is a great idea, although I'm never certain if people understand what defending against a wildfire actually means. It certainly makes me a bit nervous. There is about 80m clearance from the riskiest corner of the eucalyptus forest here.

Your district hot water heating system sounds like an exceptionally good idea.

-5'C is very cold!!!! Brrrr!!!

It is about 8'C degrees on average warmer here during winter than where you are. Copenhagen is 55.6'N latitude so that equivalent here would be way off the southern coast of Australia (the bottom of Tasmania is about 44'S). Even the bottom of New Zealand at Invercargill is about 46.4'S. The house here is 700m above sea level at 37.5’S, so that translates to a climate similar to the bottom of Tasmania at around sea level. For every 100m you climb, the climate shifts 1’S here. Hope that makes sense?

You'd get the nicest summers though! Very pleasant, I'd imagine?

Cheers

Chris

Morgenfrue said...

Yes, our summers are very mild. 30 C is considered a heat wave here, although of course we don't have AC, fans, or heat moderating architecture. Part of it is the humidity as well.

I think people tend to not take defensible space seriously. The closer you are to a fire dept the less urgent it seems, I guess - but there is a difference between calling the fire dept out to an isolated structure fire, and expecting them to risk their lives defending a building surrounded by brush and thick wood when it is threatened by a wildfire. They may not even try to save it, or at best will drop a little water from a copter or bomber plane.

LewisLucanBooks said...

I've always thought that if I lived in a wooded area with not too many possible escape routes, say, a dead end road, I'd look into building a small underground fire shelter. Something like a tornado shelter. If I couldn't evacuate, I'd grab all the animals I could and head underground til the fire front had past.

All hypothetical at this point in my life :-) Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Morgenfrue,

The differences between climates are fascinating and I believe that people eventually acclimatise to their local environments. On this continent, people have managed to live in every environment which is indicative of just how hardy humans are.

Here, the first really hot summer’s day knocks me out (my genetic heritage is from both the lowland and highland Scottish) and I retreat into the house to sit under an overhead ceiling fan, whilst surfing the net or reading. However, by the end of summer, 30'C feels like a cool summer’s day and I welcome it.

It is when the air temperature - in the shade - exceeds the body temperature that it really starts to become challenging. Still, I can't complain as the winters here are mild and fresh food grows outside for most of the year.

Ah, humidity can make the environment feel much hotter than it actually is. My understanding is that European winters are low in humidity, whilst the summers can be quite high? It is the exact opposite here. The winter can be in the 90%+ humidity and some summers days can occasionally be as low as 10% humidity.

I'll include the weather with the mid-January to mid-February blog so you'll get a feel for just how extreme it can get here. Mind you, on the other hand I would struggle with -5'C!

The photos over time will show the herbage yellowing off, however it will bounce back sometime in March or April. It takes a very long time to get a feel for an environment and that is the point I’m trying to show. Every climate and location has its challenges.

Exactly! That is well earned knowledge about defensible space. How did you learn that?

I volunteered for a few years as a fire fighter here at the local brigade and the first thing they told me is not to expect any help at the farm if a wildfire hits. They told me in no uncertain terms (and also why) they simply won't turn up. All of their reasons are good too. It would be nice if other people understood the issues though.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Just wanted to firstly say that I respected your honesty and feel the same.

No worries and yes, an underground shelter/bunker is an excellent idea. However, I may have mentioned my dramas with the local council? Well they like to get a fee for all of the building works in the area.

However, the last I checked, no company manufactured a tested and complying bunker that was even remotely affordable for domestic use. Building surveyors would therefore not sign off on the building permits and local councils would therefore not sign off on the planning permits. There are commercial bunkers, but they will cost a packet.

If I was to install a bunker of my own design (which incidentally is not a complex structure), I'd be in trouble with the local council and would possibly be fined and ordered to demolish it. If I survived that assault, I'd be possibly required to obtain a building permit with a building surveyor - who wouldn't provide me with one because I couldn't afford to test the structure (the test costs approximately AU$50,000 each and may have to be done a few times).

Finally the whole mess may also possibly void my insurance.

Honestly, the crazy legislative merry-go-round does my head in...

But yeah, an underground shelter/bunker would be a very good idea! hehe! Oh well…

Glad to hear that it is all hypothetical at your end as I wouldn’t wish this predicament on anyone.

PS: I went to visit the Californian Redwood forest yesterday and captured some video, so can hopefully share it with you. I'm sure your trees are much bigger again, but they were quite impressive here!

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Can't say I'm not looking forward to the time when building code department's rising enforcement meets declining effectiveness, due to The Decline. I've noticed that due to budget crunches, our local building departments are having a reduction in staff numbers.

I can get on line and see satellite pictures of my patch. They're pretty blurry. Of course, now that the world is going drone crazy, I think the situation will only get worse, before it gets better.

In this county, especially the eastern hills section, it's a little looser. General consensus is you stay on the right side of any neighbors so there will be no complaints. It's better if you don't have children, as some dogooder will declare Little Johnny abused if he has to use outdoor plumbing. Forget any improvements you make as contributing to resale value. I've heard of people who, say, buy a place with an old trailer on it, that's maybe had some extensions built on, long ago. They maybe put a real foundation, under it. Then a few years later, replace the back wall with substantial construction. I think the intent is to do things slowly and not change the footprint of the structure, as seen from space.

Our septic requirements are pretty outrageous in this county. Forget building one of you're own. No matter how much thought you put into it or the amount of expertise you have. And, they've got to have all kinds of high tech warning systems, these days. You're looking at $15,000 - $20,000. I've always thought that it's the brother-in-law of the building inspector who installs these systems :-).

I occasionally blame our education system for some of this nonsense. One can be "over the top" Green. We have a local (up in Olympia) university called Evergreen. One of those "write your own course of study / no grades" places. A lot of those young people graduate with degrees in Environmental This or That, and end up working for local governments. That can work in you're favor (sometimes) if you want to put in a composting toilet.

I also hear stories from Eastern Washington and Idaho, where in some counties, if you go to the Courthouse in search of a building permit, they look at you as if you were from Mars. They have a hard time finding the appropriate forms (they're asked for them so infrequently) and there doesn't seem to be a fee schedule. They think $10 or $20 is about right. Of course, these may be mythical tales from some imagined Utopia :-). But, enough of my rant against Fascist Bureaucratic Building Departments.

Well, it's raining here. According to the Weather Guy, it's our first fall storm. Nothing major, predicted, just a typical fall weather system. I did notice this morning that the jet stream is dipping deep across Eastern Washington and Idaho into the Midwest and then swoshing back up into Eastern Canada. Very severe weather predicted, there. When we get that kind of jet stream action in the winter, it usually indicates a polar front being pulled down from the north.

Just saw a woodpecker in my apple trees. One of the little guys. We also have a much larger woodpecker. A real honker about the size of a crow. Saw one of those last spring making short work of a rotted stump on the other side of the pasture. Too lazy, right now, to look up the species names. Lew

Cathy McGuire said...

Hi, Cherokee -
Good post - I'm just about to contact my usual supplier for my annual cord of wood. I went through a real learning curve about what constitutes shelter for wood (for several years, in a rain forest vacation cabin, even completely covered in tarp just produced interesting mushrooms and ruined wood). I've held long discussions about what is "seasoned" wood with various dealers (my definition is: I can burn it this year ;-)) I've done a bunch of my own splitting, but back & hips are making that harder recently - so I really value good cords of ready wood!! My woodstove is cheap, without a pretty window to look through, but I can cook on it and it heats the place just fine, so I'm content.

On building and having to adjust plans, you seem to do a much better job than I do! My new covered chicken pen has been an evolving project, compounded with delays due to energy level (I'm sure you can relate!)Friends helped me get the plywood roof on last week, but I was short about 21", so I said, "make that on the lower end, since I can finish it myself" but of course other things (like butchering) got in the way... and today, for the first time in weeks we're getting a light drizzle... so I just got drenched trying to prevent the tarped-over area from becoming a pool of water and collapsing the roof! :-\ I come up with some imaginative curses for myself under these circumstances. ;-} But I'm really grateful for the rain! Oregon has been too hot and dry this year!!

Kutamun said...

Gday mate , know what you mean about the firewood ...gotta get the wood cut up soon after the tree falls and then stack it properly to keep the ants at bay ...i stack it away from the house against a fence and sit sheets of corrugate on top with some wood on top to stop it blowing away ...
26 inches in the north east so far , though i am getting that distinctive drought feeling ... But you never know !
Mike Tyson must have been an avid reader of Moltke when he said " everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face " ...cheers Kuta '

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Too true! Sometimes I reckon those departments are seen as income generators rather than actually adding any real value to the community.

You are lucky that things are a bit loose, although not annoying your neighbours is also the number 1 rule here too when it comes to avoiding complaints.

Mind you, the building system is so over regulated here that I'd have to get a permit to construct, say a chicken shed or a firewood shed that exceeds 107.6 square feet...

Wow, those costs for the septic systems are about double what you'd pay here. Wow! I smell a rat somewhere... The worm farm here was about $10,000 installed from memory and the council made me double the size of the leach trenches at the last minute too.

It is nice to know that there is somewhere that has a common sense approach. My thinking is that if it is a shed, then you are responsible to ensure that it stays upright and it is your problem if it doesn't.

Not too many years ago, you could build a shed up to 538.2 square feet without a permit here, but they keep tightening the restrictions.

Glad to hear that you are getting some early autumn rain. How good does the area smell after the first rain following a dry spell?

Gee, it would be good to tap into that woodpecker energy somehow to get rid of the old stumps here! hehe! Please send one over.

Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ll pick up the new water tank and drag it back here in the trailer. It is like having a giant sail on the back of the car, so hopefully it is all OK as the supplier is about 20 miles away. Unfortunately the weather bureau is predicting a storm here tomorrow, so hopefully I can get it back here, installed and filled so that I can catch some of the rain – all without getting too wet from the rain. It is going to be touch and go…

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Cathy,

I shouldn't laugh, but it is funny because you inadvertently practiced hugelkutltur with your firewood! Rain forests are a tough area as they keep their organic matter above ground – which just happened to be your firewood. I almost ended up in rainforest here which from hindsight would have presented quite a few difficulties.

I've heard of people inoculating their rotting timber with shitake (YUM!) and oyster as well as edible other mushrooms.

It is a very true too observation on your part. It takes a long time to understand how all of the systems work in your particular area. Logs will start to rot here within about 2 to 3 years if they are left on the ground. I've now started putting them on old paint tarps and feed bags. It seems to work, sort of anyway. The soil underneath them is rich and black and gives me hayfever so it must be good stuff.

Yeah, sometimes I'm a bit dodge on the firewood that is being sold here. Some locals were telling me that the suppliers don't season the firewood like they used to. I have no experience with purchased firewood though. It is interesting to hear that it is a subject that requires discussion in the first place up your way - as it shouldn't really require that discussion at all.

It is nice to watch isn't it? Plus if you can cook on the heater too it is even better. Sometimes the house here smells of freshly baked bread. It is focaccia night tonight!

As a small tip, I use a 9 tonne electric log splitter to split most of my timber - that requires splitting. It is very good, very cheap and uses very little power. I have a manual splitter and a whole lot of axes but try to save my arms, back and shoulders from the jarring. Getting older is a bummer, I hear you.

Ah well, each new project you learn more and more. The truth is I've been mucking around with houses as a hobby for over two decades now, so you learn a thing or two along the way. The problem is people always ask me: how long will it take? I only really know how long the project will take when the job is finished! Half of the time, I have no idea really and just sort of give it a go.

Well done with the butchering as that is something that I have never done. How did it go? A mate of mine butchered his own pig and barbequed it – and as a mostly vegetarian – it was without doubt the best pork I’d ever eaten.

I'll bet your imaginative curses weren't very lady like? Hehe! Well done too, there is often a bit of potty mouth here when things go completely askew or I discover a wallaby sitting on a raised vegetable bed eating my vegetables!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

G'day Kutamun!

Yeah, so true too. I find that it is easier on the chainsaw to cut up the timber when it is green and clean too.

Yeah, the ants get into the timber here too. A few years back I was almost wiped out by a falling tree that was termite riddled. It was a close call and I only had a few seconds warning. Hey, where did that loud crack sound come from????

Hey, do you get those bull ants nick named "jumping jacks"? The ones here will bite you and then spray the skin with formic acid so you end up with a chemical burn which takes a few days to recover. Needless to say, I'm making the area more unpleasant for the little blighters.

The timber on the ground here gets full of scorpions, skinks and Portuguese millipedes and they all tend to break the timber down over a few years or so into soil.

The corrugated iron is a good strategy. There is a lot of it about the place too. What is interesting is that it is much thicker than the zinc alume they sell these days. Speaking of the wind, how windy is it tonight? A storm is coming…

26 inches is a good year so far for rain. Yeah, I'm getting that drought feeling again too because the August rainfall was much lower than last year and far below the average. It feels to me more like September than August, but that is just my perception. Generally August is hard to get around the place because it is just so wet and damp, but not this year...

I really enjoy hearing about all of the good work that you are doing up your way. Everything that you are writing about, I'm observing here too. Well done.

PS: Have you ever been to the Seymour Alternative farming expo?

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; And, Hi! Cathy. I left a post for you over at Green Wizards . Org on my observations of your slug problem.

Hmm. What did it smell like when we got the rain. It's smellin' like Fall! A bit of a nip in the air. It brought the slugs out so I was running about with my spray bottle of ammonia.

Sometimes I think about how in The Decline, we'll be creating our own, kind of new, Mythos. In my mind I create names for people. Some day we'll sit around the campfire and tell tales of Cathy, Maid of Oregon, and her chicken house. :-).

Some friends who know what they're doing helped me build mine. Out of mostly salvaged material. Needed to buy a few hangers, but that was about it. It's backed up against a pre-existing, large garden shed, so that was one wall we didn't have to worry about. We ran out of time, so I was faced with roofing the thing, myself. Nothing I had ever done, before. There was a few old bundles of tab asphalt shingles, laying about the place. So, armed with a few tips on "putting on roofing" from the Net, I tackled the job. Doesn't look to bad. A bit wonky in spots. But, it doesn't leak!

My 8 Wyondotte chicks are now 18 weeks old. Time to start mixing in layer feed with the flock starter. Sometime over the next month, they should start laying. Pretty exciting! Lew