Monday, 22 September 2014

Rock and roll

Some people dream of sports cars, whilst others dream of large houses and overseas holidays. I however dream of excavators. There are times here when a small 4 tonne excavator would be really handy.

The skies have been mostly clear and sunny in the past week, so the excavations continued – all by hand of course (thus my dreams of a small excavator!). The excavations are however, creating a flat site for both a machinery shed and a small wood shed. It is amazing just how much clay material can be moved by hand from one location and placed in another over the course of a day.

The farm is located on the side of a mountain, so any reasonably flat site has to be dug out of the side of the hill. The highest point the excavations are about a 1.8m (6 foot) drop from the natural soil level to the ground. All of that clay is being used to make new garden beds, so nothing is going to waste here and the new flat area is starting to look really good and expansive.

The excavations continued this week
Rocks are used in these new garden beds as retaining walls. Many years ago, I got the idea for using the local rocks as a retaining wall after seeing that the historic hill station gardens in the area used their rocks this way. The best ideas are always other peoples and I had a lot of rocks about the farm and was wondering what to do with them, when it occurred to me that they were an untapped resource. Fast forward to today and with many hundreds of metres (feet) of rock walls about the place, rocks are in a bit of short supply now. I’m only really ever half joking when I suggest that the farm has hit peak rocks!

Rock walls used as retaining walls
Incidentally, the two rocks in the bottom left hand corner of the photo have now been rolled up hill to form part of that retaining wall. It was no easy feat because they certainly weigh more than I do. Oh yeah, an excavator would be really handy!

I’d been thinking of ways to move some of the larger rocks about the place whilst I was reading the comments section in last week’s blog entry. Tip of the hat to Lewis, because he mentioned the origin of the term Skid Row which was actually a timber roadway that timber was skidded along back in the day, possibly pulled by bullock teams. This got me thinking about how to roll a very large rock down the hill using timber as a guide rail. That is sort of important here because being on the side of a mountain, rocks which roll out of control down the hill can quickly gather momentum and squash fruit trees and even solar panels. Ouch!

I’ve heard it said that with the right lever, you can move anything.
A very large rock rolled downhill with the help of timber
A wrecking bar being used to lever the large rock into position in the rock wall
We now interrupt this blog for an important chicken community service announcement. Pan the camera to the chicken enclosure where the author is sitting typing this week’s blog entry on a laptop with a somewhat surprised expression on his face.

Beep (the actual words spoken have been censored due to legal advice)! Right in front of me, two young local parrots attempted a smash and grab raid on the food in the chicken enclosure. I couldn’t believe it. All was going well for the two rapscallions and much food was quickly consumed. Unfortunately for the two mischief makers, their small brains didn’t quite provide them with the intellectual grunt needed to be able to navigate their way out of the enclosure again through the open door.
Rosella and companion trapped inside the chicken enclosure
A rescue operation was quickly mounted involving leather riggers gloves (very necessary as their beaks are lethal), eye protection and a towel (a very useful tool too, according to the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy). They were easily apprehended because as they flew past in distress, I simply threw the towel (pun intended) on top of them. At that point the offenders were decamped to the east and thus were now outside of the chicken enclosure free to ponder the errors of their evil ways.

Rosella being released. Not quite the white dove of peace!
We now resume normal programming. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, more rocks and an excavator would be really handy.

Earlier in the week, I also did what I call borage bombing an area. This involves removing almost a hundred cuttings at a time of the plants from a weed infested area of the forest and bringing them back here to act as companion plants, bee food, chicken feed and all round general soil conditioners.

Borage collected from the local forest
What was interesting though was that I noticed this week that a few established borage plants were displaying their normal blue flowers but there were also some unusual purple variants too.Who knows what this means?

Borage plant with both blue and purple flowers
As both the air and soil temperature has risen in the past week, the fruit trees have continued to break their dormancy and the photo below shows some Asian pears and a Gala apple tree producing their leaves and blossoms. You can also see the chickens happily scratching around in the background too.

Pears and apples breaking their dormancy
Spring is a beautiful time here at the farm. The air is cool, the sun is warm and the green is gentle on the eye. The daffodils, jonquils and snow drops are all happily enjoying the early warmth and sun. The herbage has turned a very deep green colour and it is really pleasing to look at too.
Daffodils, jonquils and snow drops enjoy the early spring sunshine
A golden rule here is: that no soil shall be left exposed to the sun. In the photo above you’ll notice that there is a very dark brown patch below and to the right of the shed. This is because I’ve distributed a 50/50 mix of woody mulch and mushroom compost over the excavated fill. Generally my editor bars me completely from talking about soil, but given that she is currently elsewhere, I thought that it may be worth mentioning that this mix of toppings helps establish top soil quickly by providing both feed, bacteria and fungi which are all vital elements in a healthy top soil. There are already very hardy plants planted into that mix which hopefully will establish themselves over the next few weeks before the really hot weather kicks in.

This past week has been a mix of both cloudy and sunny weather with temperatures most days were in the very low 20 degrees Celsius (68’F). The temperature outside here at about 7.30pm is 11.6 degrees Celsius (52.9’F) and so far this year there has been 583.4mm (23.0 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 580.6mm (22.9 inches).


Morgenfrue said...

Wow, that borage looks completely different than ours (Borago officinalis). Are they in the same family or do they just have the same name?

Those rocks... Whoa.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks for the great story about the bull. Did you end up getting any of the meat? It sounded like a very sizable bull. Clearing the deer out would have been quite a valuable service.

The kangaroos tend to clear out the wallabies, which is an invaluable service.

I'll share a story from here. Somehow, a feral white goat joined a mob of the local grey forest kangaroos. As they are both herbivores and eat the same diet, they get along famously. Both kangaroos and the white goat hurdle fences with ease too. Every now and then you'll see - usually in the valley below the mob of kangaroos and the one white goat grazing in an open paddock. If they're disturbed, they'll retreat into the forest, so they are a happy mob and usually are left untouched.

The weather has been awesome here today as I had to go into the big smoke for a couple of hours work and to pick up a whole lot of supplies. I try and make as many stops for supplies in the one trip as possible. The sun was shining and the weather was mild. 24'C (75.2'F) in the city and 17'C (62.6'F) back here.

Spring is lovely.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Morgenfrue,

Yeah, the plants are in the same family as boarge. They may even have hybridised to this area.

I used to think that they were of the comfrey family, but a local guy from the seed savers group actually identified them as a member of the borage family after I misidentified them.

They are interesting plants because I keep reading that borage is an annual plant, whilst these seem to be a perennial. They also exhibit most of the benefits of that species too. They are prolific self seeders plus they are fantastic companion plants for the citrus fruit trees. All 300+ fruit trees here have at least one of these plants and in the past week as things have warmed up they are all starting to put on new growth. It was a big project getting them established as it saves a whole lot of effort in weeding (reducing the grass) around all of the fruit trees.

Thanks for your thoughts about the rocks too! Rocks are good.



Stacey Armstrong said...

Morning Chris,

I may not catch your cut-off this week! As I expand my winter crops in the garden the more time and thought I have to put into harvesting and storing them. The rains are beginning here which means the end of tomatoes and squash around here. Do you grow squash in your annual beds?

Any tips on chainsawing would of course be welcome. I have considered finding a less fearsome saw for around here that I could use very carefully in an emergency. Although a cross cut saw or kindly neighbour would also work after a storm too! My partner also volunteers with the fire department and emergency services here. He has spent quite a few weeks and weekends at courses, as I recall the airbrake course was the least favoured. The chainsaw course you did sounds like it had a lot of cross pollination opportunities though!

Our house and fire wood storage is at one of the highest points on the property. But it doesn't look like we have quite as much rise to contend with as you. I am observing how you manage steeper exposed hillside as I have one area that Is cut out of the hillside that will need to be planted. We do not have as many lovely rocks as you. When I find or dig bigger rocks out they are prized items and I do a lot of wheelbarrowing, I am actually considering tagging one "for zone one use only" because they all seem to congregate down at our barn.

I have a question about the deep mulch system in your chicken enclosure: do you add any moisture to speed up the composting?

Just as an aside...I have been really enjoying all the animal anecdotes that trail through you and Lew's conversation. I interrupted an owl on chicken reconnaissance at the neighbours a couple of evenings ago and the long anguished call it let out was quite unsettling. I had no idea owls could even make a sound that harrowing!

Sun is coming up. There is no rest for the wicked!


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

No worries, I usually put a new blog post entry up on Monday evenings, so no hurry!

The differences between areas is a really fascinating thing to observe. You know, even here the locals who live off the mountain have a longer growing season but there are downsides too because all of their citrus died in the recent heavy frosts, whereas it was pretty light here.

As a comparison, the autumn rains would start here about mid to late April (which is your October), but the tomatoes hang on the vine until early June (which is your December). They fruit much later though and I wouldn't see any fruit until about early February (your August). A greenhouse would be a good idea, but tomatoes need - I believe - 6 hours direct sunlight per day to set fruit properly and the farm is over shadowed by the saddle ridge on the mountain with the morning sun.

I've struggled growing pumpkins and squash here and I'm not really sure why? They happily grow in the area, but usually in warmer micro-climates than here. I'd be interested to hear what sort of conditions your squashes grow in. I've tried both raised beds and in the garden too. Probably not enough water during the really hot weather here? Dunno.

No worries. They sell electric chainsaws now - that might be worth thinking about for pruning etc. Actually the size of the bar and engine etc, doesn't make as much difference as simply just keeping the chain ultra sharp. Good on your partner, top work! It is a sacrifice for the community.

Rocks are good, but plants really hold a steep cutting together. I try to use long lived species, but prolific self seeders are good too. Sorry to hear that your place has also hit peak rocks - what a hassle! Rocks are good. They'd be good in zone 1 too as you'd think they'd hold a bit of extra heat so as to extend your growing season.

The deep litter mulch is out in the elements so it captures whatever rain falls or seeps into it. It is probably about a foot deep in places and it holds moisture for most of the year. I reckon it is easier to move around the stuff when it is slightly drier. There is really no smell at all from it, but it is a cold composting system which takes a few months to turn into rich black loamy soil.

Owls can make the most blood curdling sounds when you least expect them too. Do you know what sort of owl it is? There are three types of owls here (boo book, masked and barn owls) and I rarely see them, but virtually every night you'll hear them. Once a barn owl landed on the strawberry enclosure and I had the camera with me, but the thing just wouldn't focus properly...

Thanks, the animals bring a great deal of entertainment and joy to me which is why I share the stories. It is raining here now - I'd been digging trenches to connect up the three water tanks - and there is a wallaby below. They don't seem troubled by the rain, however, you'll never see a wombat in the rain, they're way too clever for that!

Do you get much wildlife at your place?



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Sounds like you suffer from the dreaded "Excavator Envy." I think there's a 12-Step Program. Or, it can be treated with drugs with only two or three pages of possible side effects. :-) Around here, all the old guys seem to suffer from "Tractor Envy." A related condition.

@ Stacey - I stumbled on a catalog from DR Power . com. They have some nifty tools that run off a charger and re-chargable lithium batteries. I think I'm going to spring for the weed string trimmer AND the chainsaw pruner. It's supposed to handle up to 6" limbs. For the "light" tasks I have around here, I think it will suit me. My neighbor / landlord / friend, who knows about these things, says DR is a good company.

At the risk of stirring up the Editor :-) , what do you do, Chris, with that clay soil? I also suffer from heavy clay soil. Just work in a lot of rich compost?

Ah, chickens. Last night we re-enacted the parable of the Good Chicken Shepherd. In the pouring rain. I went out to lock up the chickens a little earlier than I should. Two of the young hens are VERY curious, and if I go out too early, two of them come running out to see what's up. Usually, I can get them into the house, but last night one decided to be contrary. So, after chasing her around the chicken yard, through the brush in the rain, I finally lost all patience and thought "Fine! She can just spend the night out and see how she likes it." A few hours later I relented, took the flashlight out into the rain (did I mention the rain?), found her huddled under the henhouse, drug her out and returned her to her sisters. Rejoicing all around and much slaughtering of fatted calves :-). As near as I can tell, she's fine, this morning. Do I think she learned a lesson? Probably not. Evil ways, indeed. But I have. It's pointless to try and put the hens in too early.

I will have to look into Borage. Hadn't even considered it. Comfrey, yes, Borage, no.

That's quit an interesting story about "The Goat That Thought It Was a Kangaroo." Sounds like a children's book. Put a picture of it up on the web. It will go viral, surely bringing wealth, power and fame :-).

Owls around here, too. Have never seen one, but hear them, at night. Sometimes I sit on the front porch in the dark and hoot back at them. Sometimes it's good to live by oneself with not any neighbors close. Such behavior would probably get me a one way ticket to Bedlam. :-).

Interesting seeing all your trees bursting into bloom. A couple of weeks ago I noticed a splash of white on my apple trees. Did a very big bird poop on it? No, a branch or two had burst into bloom, quit out of season. I also had some Rosemary I'm rooting do the same thing. I looked around on the net, but just found some very dense stuff about hormones. Signs? Miracles? Wonders? OMENS? (cue up the spooky music.) Halloween IS coming. :-).


Stacey Armstrong said...

Hiya Chris.

Another early morning missive from the coast of British Columbia! I agree with you, I find the variations in growing from place to place an endless source of interest. I think it may feed back in to always tinkering with the parts of the garden I feel like I have some control over as well as knowing that I need to be thinking about the margins being pushed as the climate continues to weird. Having tomatoes growing outside here is always a bit of a gamble. I find if I grow the smaller and earlier varieties I have a bigger chance of actually eating sun ripened fruit. Our first big rain in the fall usually means the onset of tomato blight and other moulds. If I pick them now and wrap them in paper I can eat tomatoes until December. We also enjoy a lot of different preserves made of green tomatoes so there really isn't a lot of waste. Just as a point of interest, we received well over 30mm of rain in the last twenty four hours.

I have grand plans to do some systematic ( amateur - scientific) tomato growing with my daughter once she is a little older. I want to test a few different mulch, pruning, and watering systems to see if I can improve my chances with the outside tomatoes. There are other people in my area doing similar trials with some interesting results. A local seed company is already selling some localized tomato varieties that seem to fair better in our fall weather.

As for the squash...I also have more successful years than others. This year we hauled a lot of the material from a section of the chicken enclosure to a newly created garden area. I planted my squash indoors in large pots a couple weeks after the tomatoes. They were transplanted out in May. I have had the best luck with a smaller squash variety called Delicata. I did water them once a week through the driest part of the summer. Six plants produced forty-five squash this year. That is a record for me and I don't know that it will ever be replicated!

I am fairly certain it was a Barred Owl that took me by surprise the other night. We see owls quite often and I have interrupted them hunting my chickens just before dusk. They are such quiet fliers compared to the other birds around here. I did see a Cormorant for the first time this weekend just passed, a very elegantly shaped black seabird. The wild life in my immediate area is mostly birds. We do see the occasional raccoon and mink and the deer population is quite large.

@Lew thanks for thinking of me. I have been eyeing up a cordless whipper snipper similar to the one you linked to. It would be very handy for parts of my place that are getting away from me due to time constraints. Were you thinking of blazing trails with it through the neglected orchard you mentioned previously?


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Definitely! Yeah, they've got that around these parts too. The incline is just a bit steep for tractors for my comfort levels so, it wasn't worth considering. I almost bought a grillo mower, but they were so expensive that I just learned to live without. Yeah, medication would have helped a lot! ;-) Too funny. Actually, I really did ask a whole bunch of people what the best way to go was here and it all sounded too expensive for my tastes.

Yeah, I second your comment about those battery powered tools. They really are light weight and easy to use.

You know I love talking about soil! It's no hardship to be sure. hehe! A quick check to see whether the editor is around. All's clear.

Actually, I've been dumping the clay - which starts off as lumps but breaks up into smaller particles very easily - into the new garden beds. That's what all of the rocks are about - they're stopping the whole lot sliding down the hill. I place a thick layer of mushroom compost and composted woody mulch on top of that and let nature do its thing. Interestingly, after about one year, the clay goes from light brown to a dark brown and retains a lot more moisture. After two years, the woody mulch turns into a rich black loam and the clay underneath is darker as well. There are also white strands of fungi all through it. I suspect the colour changes because of all the bacteria and worm poo, but I'm not sure really. I should dig a few sample holes and post some photos to show the process in action?

No need to work it in if you can wait a year or two. If you can't wait, then nothing beats digging compost or composted woody mulch into clay. It just a lot of hard work digging! Carrots and parsnips are also good at breaking up heavy clay too.

Great chicken story. They go to bed when they are good and ready here too. High summer that can mean well past 9pm (It’s about 6.40pm now)... Glad to hear that you found her, they do learn, slowly. Nice to hear that you are getting some good rain there.

Yeah, borage works the same here as comfrey. I'll try and find out what the sub species of this lot is and post a link. I noticed the comfrey died back over winter but it seems to be bouncing back now. I bought about 60 comfrey cuttings off ebay during winter and they still seem to be dormant, hopefully it wasn't a dud buy.

I honestly don't know what I'd do with power and fame. It is your idea, you run with it. I've read that children's books are a lucrative market - look at the Australian entertainers: The Wiggles. They ain't broke.

Yeah, you definitely don't want to go on that journey for sure. I'd never thought about hooting back at them. I'm not sure I could willingly replicate the blood curdling scream anyway... That might bring the neighbours around for sure.

Yeah, that is the million dollar question that no one seems to want to talk about and believe me I asked people. Last year, I had an almond tree that refused to go deciduous, rhododendrons flowering in early winter, mulberry fruit in winter, crab apples producing tiny fruit in winter. My gut feel is that the fruit trees are adapting to a warming climate. What do you reckon?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

Greetings from Down Under! Yeah, after a while, you really start seeing all of the different micro climates about your place. You can change them too with rocks and plants. How good is green tomato chutney? Yum. I eat that instead of tomato sauce.

Glad to hear that you ripen them inside to December, that sounds about right. The old timers here used to pull the plants out of the ground roots, vines, fruit and all and then hang them upside down in a shed. The fruit will then continue to ripen!

August and September so far have been unusually dry, but last night I got 34mm which refilled all of the tanks. More on that story in next week’s entry though. Glad to hear that you received some decent rain too.

Sorry to hear that you get tomato blights and moulds, that's not good as it shortens your growing season. What sort of soil do you grow them in? I rotate the raised beds every year and grow mustards in them during winter (might be a bit hard for you depending on how far you are from the coast) and spring too. They apparently fumigate the soil?

You know, only the cherry tomatoes will ripen outside here too. I find most of the people that grow larger tomatoes this far south grow them in poly tunnels and get them started in midwinter. None of the seeds here inside the house have germinated yet, so I'm starting to get a little bit nervous as this was the first year I saved seed. Oh well.

Adding composted woody mulch (they need a high carbon soil) and some good manure will certainly help. Some of the locals bury the tomato plants as they grow just like potatoes. It freaked me out to see that, but they're of the same plant family. I don't know about pruning and will be very interested to hear about your trials. Yeah, local varieties will help the most. Have you thought about saving your own seeds? The ones I saved from last year was a full month earlier than all of the other plants.

I plant them very densely - which keeps them both cooler and warmer when needed, but the sun is probably much more of a problem here than up your way.

Thanks for the info about the squashes. The chicken litter sounds like a great idea as well as growing smaller varieties too. What an excellent haul!

That's a good looking owl, it is very similar looking to the barn owl here. Your chickens were quite lucky to have survived the owl. They're efficient and quiet hunters. I have to supervise the chickens when they're out in the orchard because otherwise something will come along and eat them. The wedge tail eagles are never far away and there are always stories about foxes around here. There was a small litter of them about 2km away from here and you sometimes spot the cubs playing around in the forest. They're fast.

The raccoons look like little bandits with their eye patches. Sharp teeth too. Minks look to me like ferrets, which are occasionally kept as pets here. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with deer loose in the orchard, they're not far from here, but I've never seen them this high up in the mountain range - possibly due to the lack of above ground water in the forest? Dunno, the wildlife here can all make do with very little water.



LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Stacey - Oh, I don't think I'll be doing much bush whacking in the abandoned orchard. I'm one old guy who has way too much to do at my own place :-). It's not on the market, but I hope someone moves in, over there, and starts keeping it up.

Yo, Chris; Thanks for the soil tips. I'm all for amending the soil and letting nature and time do the work for me!

On tomatoes: This year, I just picked up one each of two heirloom tomato varieties from the local nursery. One, the San Marzono, did very well. Lots of tomatoes. Early ripening. It was in a one quart pot when I got it and it just took off. And, it had been quit neglected in the pot for too long.

The deer had been nipping at it. Not a lot of damage. Just sampling, I guess. But I still decided to pick the fruit green. Put it in a sack with a banana and they are ripening right up. I will save seed. Or, maybe buy some as a back up.

One thing I know about squash is that you have to be careful not to plant too many "vine" crops, too close together. Pumpkins and squash are the worst offenders. Lots of weird crosses. Corn varieties too close together can also be a problem.

I don't know what to think about the plant weirdness. When I pointed out the out of season blossoms to my landlord / friend / neighbor, he didn't comment, but looked a little startled. I got the feeling he had never seen such a thing before. And, he's lived up here, all his life. Even lived in the house I live in for many years. In fact, he planted those dwarf apple trees, 40 years ago.

Maybe it's because they were pruned for the first time in many years. Just a light, initial pruning last February. More serious stuff this coming year.

Well, the next three days are supposed to be a bit dryer. I need to do a last lawn mow of the year. Or, more like weed mow. Most of the grass has died back. If I don't, I'll be sorry :-). Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, there is only so much you can do. Mature fruit trees can shrug off the competition with the grass anyway.

Thanks. There is a huge area under cultivation here so you get a lot of practice at working out when you need to intervene and when you can let nature just do its business. Both orchards are less effort every year. It is setting the systems up in the first place which takes all of my time.

I was sorting out and cutting firewood today and also cutting the saplings for the blackberry enclosure. Hard work and the sun is starting to get more intense as the year progresses. Tomorrow marks the first UV high day of the season and Sunday it will get to 28'C (82.4'F). How is the weather going up your way?

Great to hear about your tomato success. Wow, that one must be really hardy plant to bounce back.

The bananas are a good idea for ripening. I've read that the tomato fruit has all of the necessary sugars when they're grown to their full size regardless as to whether they're green or otherwise (red, yellow - YUM and orange). I checked out the photos for San Marzono and they look really good. Have you tried full size tomatoes up your way?

Yeah, the local seed savers group are forever discussing the difficulties with cross pollination of pumpkins and squashes. Mind you, with the exception of mustards, I've let the brassica plants go feral here and you get some truly strange plants. Although, a lot of them grow true to type. One of the seed savers group is a lovely Australian – French dude. He has a really pleasant accent, plus he’s been at growing his own stuff in this area for 30 years. I mentioned one day that I’d like to grow some melons and he just laughed at me, so it probably is a no go fruit.

Do you grow corn? I'm trying the painted mountain variety this year. The rain lets me down with corn and also the wallaby - like your deer - just likes nibbling the stalks.

Yeah, I get the same reaction like when I mention the general plant weirdness: I can't hear what you are telling me, la, la, la. Then there is no response at all. Weird....

Yeah, I don't quite know about the pruning because some of the fruit trees here were pruned and some weren't. The rhododendrons definitely weren't pruned and the wildlife avoid them like the plague as they are quite toxic.

Hey, they're not weeds, they're herbage! I read a story by an Australian horse breeder by the name of Peter Andrews. He's an interesting guy because he cottoned on to a lot of interesting Down Under farming tricks through pure observation. He's had a tough time of it too. Some of the techniques are pretty useful like slowing water movement across the landscape and growing a diverse range of plants. All stuff that the Aboriginals were doing for millennia before he turned up. Anyway, he visited a horse breeder in the UK who took great pride in the sheer number of plants in his paddocks. Peter unfortunately for him, mentioned some of the weeds in the paddock to the farmer and scored a lecture because the farmer thought that there wasn't enough diversity in the weeds. This Peter started looking at the world differently.

Peter Andrews on weeds

What happens if you don't mow?



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Had to make a trip into town, today. The Little Smoke? The Very Tiny Smoke? :-) . I hauled back 200 pounds of feed for the dog and chickens. Time to get a bag ahead for each, in case of snow or being flooded in. Had a 10% off coupon for any purchase and wanted to do it today, as the place is a zoo on weekends. And, it's going to be nice this weekend and I'd rather work around the place then go to town. I also picked up the long planned for heated chicken waterer. No more chipping ice for "the girls" this winter.

But, the weather ... We had our first "Pineapple Express" (called so as it originates near Hawaii) of the year. Also called an "atmospheric river." It's like a fire hose aimed at the west coast. We had rainfall totals of 1" - 4" in different locations. Cathy, Maid of Oregon probably got it good. But, it might relieve some of the drought in N. California and help with some of the fires.

The Pineapple Expresses can cause some flooding, but they usually keep moving through. It's the big storms that come in off the North Pacific and stall that really cause problems. And, you never know where there's going to be problems. We live in an area with lots of rivers, streams and valleys. Depending on where the storm stalls, that's where the problems going to be.

Our last big round of flooding, the storm stalled over the Boisfort Valley. Lots of farmland and farmsteads were washed out. Livestock loses were terrible. If the storm had stalled over the Big Hanaford Valley, downtown Centralia would have gone under. I've seen a picture from 1933 where there was 3 feet of water from one end of Tower Avenue (the main drag through Centralia) to the other. I am so relieved to be out of the flood plane.

Well, in the abandoned orchard, the deer really beat down the grass. It's the blackberries that are the problem.

Tomatoes: Think I'll stick with the smaller varieties, due to our iffy growing season. And, any I plant next year will be well fenced from the deer. I haven't grown any corn in years. But, it's on the list. One place I lived I grew some miniature corn, but kept it well away from the sweet corn. That I dried, ground and turned into corn bread and corn pancakes. I'd like to grow miniature corn, sweet corn, popcorn and maybe some indian corn. That's the multi-colored stuff.

Peter Andrews video on weeds was fascinating. I'll have to check out some of his others on YouTube. Your place always looks neat as a pin. Mine, not so much. :-).

What happens if I don't mow? LOL. Well, I'm neurotic, you know. I'm always fretting that I'm not doing enough to keep my landlord / neighbor / friend happy. Which, rationally, isn't probably the case. And I imagine the mail delivery lady (quit an old crank who've I've managed to thaw out) gives me disparaging looks when my lawn gets to long.

There's a lot of what we call "orchard grass" about the yard. It has this thick root ball that grows 5 or 6 inches above the ground. It's taken me two years to get it all knocked back in the dogs pen / backyard. Mowing also keeps the blackberries down. And, it just gives me a feeling of accomplishment when I have one of the sections (there are four) looking tidy. No worries. Other then more natural stuff like soap, ammonia or bleach, I don't use any poisons around the place. Other then the occasional wasp spray.

There will always be weeds around here to take over. If this place were empty for a year, it would look just like the abandoned orchard across the road. Nature always bats last. :-). Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, I avoid picking up supplies on a weekend too. Very wise, enjoy the amenities whilst other people are at work.

The people that sold me the water tank asked me not to pick up the tank on a Saturday morning... Just sayin.

Coupons are good. It brings to mind the free song: "If it's free, it's for me, and I'll have three". 200 pounds will keep you going for quite a while. I usually buy chook feed in 80 pound lots which lasts quite a while.

It had never occurred to me that the chicken water could even get frozen. Wow, do you get many frosts and snow falls?

Thanks, that description of your weather helps provide an understanding of your area. Is the west coast of Oregon wetter than Washington or does it depend on the year? I took a look at Google Earth last night over the west coast to get a feel for the terrain and coastline. It is very impressive up your way. Heading north into British Colombia was even more amazing with all of the islands and fjords. If you look at Australia from Google Earth you can see just how much of the continent is desert. The prevailing summer NW winds blow in here from the centre of the desert. The winter winds are from the SW. I'd be pretty happy with a pineapple express rainfall dump during summer.

Blackberries can take over quickly, how are your machete skills?

Yeah, the smaller varieties of tomato are a safe bet - even here it is too cold for the larger varieties.

Yeah, I tried the bantam corn, but am now steering in the direction of the Indian corn - which is what I believe to be the painted mountain variety. Lots of colours in the cob but perhaps not so much sweetness.

Yeah, Peter Andrews is a good communicator as he can take complex subjects and explain them minus the jargon. Plus he walks the talk, so he is trialling all of this stuff on a farm up north from here.

Thanks too. The threat of bushfire always ensures that the place stays clean and neat. A guy I know west of here lost all of his wood piles to a bushfire last year, although the house was OK which was good.

You're probably right, they're probably happy to lease the place out. It sounds quite bucolic! I could tell you a story about the local postie here too, but we are currently at a stalemate so let’s, just let that one lie. Must be something to do with that job affecting their personalities...

Yeah, nature would take over here quickly if all of the people somehow disappeared too! Was that a cricket or baseball reference? I can't imagine that you'd know anything about the game cricket? It is big stuff over here, you know.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Lets see. Frosts and snowfalls. I write stuff on the calendar .. and save calendars from previous years. I keep thinking I ought to chart it all out on something I can hang on the wall.

Looking at last years calendar, I had my first light frost October 9th and the first really hard frost on the 29th. I see there was a week long cold snap that started November 18th. Also a note to myself to get sealed up by November 1st. :-). Looks like my last frost was March 23d of this year.

We get these "arctic outbreaks" from the Fraser River Valley up in BC. Cold air flows south. It gets down in the "teens" and low 20s (F) and can hang on for a week or more. Those days will be clear as a bell with a lot of sun. But, the sun does not warm :-). And, it's "too cold to snow." It's when we transition in or out of those that we're likely to get snow. 3-5 times a winter.

Those times are such a grind. Staying warm ... keeping the animals in good health. The old dog that came with the place, Beau. I've started bringing him in to sleep in the laundry room when it falls below freezing. Such a good dog! Never makes a peep and has never made a mess on the floor.

I don't know about the Oregon and Washington coasts. They seem equally wet, to me. And, yes, they are spectacular. Rocks make interest :-). The southern Washington coast is a bit boring. Flat and sandy. But, lots of interesting river areas. The northern Washington coast is a lot more interesting. But, inaccessible. If you look at a map, you'll notice that the highways detour around a large chunk of the coast. That's the Quinault Nation and they don't let anyone on their land.

A bit further south are the Muckleshoots. A much smaller reservation with a casino. They've just arranged some land swap with the State, as, due to rising seas, their bit of turf is washing away. But, I digress ... :-).

My machete skills are non-existent. Probably cut off my leg :-). I'll stick with easily controlled pruners. I think I've seen two or three machetes around here. As with so many other tools, I'll spot something, but be in the middle of some task, and then never get back to where the item was.

By miniature corn I meant ... miniature corn. :-) Not Bantam. You see the miniature stuff, mostly, in Chinese food. I grew it once. Like baby animals, it's "cute."

Bucolic and cheap! We're on a long loop road off a small highway. Sometimes I work in the yard and not a single car goes by for hours. That may change next year. They are planning some major work down on the highway and will use our loop as a detour. They've been talking about it for 3 years, but some prep seemed to be in the works, this last summer.

I'm afraid all sports are lost on me. Of course, I know what Cricket is. But, I was always the fattest little kid in whatever grade level I was in. "Last picked for the team" and all that. So, I've always had a lack of interest and aversion to any kind of organized sports. So it goes. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

It's wildlife central here tonight! It's feral out there, I got some great photos but the video camera has gone to the place where all rubbish video cameras go. Apologies, but technical difficulties are taking up my time this evening, so I'll respond tomorrow.