Some of the trees here are massive. Near the recently constructed wood shed is a medium sized Eucalyptus Obliqua tree which most likely germinated after the 1939 bushfires. That dates the tree at about 75 years of age. There are many trees here that are much bigger and older again, but this particular tree is the one of the largest trees close to any buildings on the farm.
|Big tree close to the newly constructed wood shed|
A week or so ago, there was a bit of lively discussion amongst the commenters about all things relating to Eucalyptus trees. One point that was raised was that Eucalyptus trees have a habit of dropping limbs without warning. Well, I’m not saying that the particular discussion put the “kiss of death” on my brand new wood shed and water tank – but it was a close thing.
One morning I awoke to see this (and it wasn’t even remotely windy, just wet):
|A large limb fell from a nearby Eucalyptus tree almost destroying the new water tank|
Looking at the above photo of the tree that is still standing, you can get a good feeling for just how high that branch fell from! I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be underneath that branch when it fell.
It was a bit of a week of dramas because not only did the chainsaw and push mower both decide that crucial parts would break, but two of the dogs disappeared off into the forest one cold night.
There are no fences here and the orchard backs onto tall Eucalyptus forest. The dogs rarely leave the clearing that is the farm. Mostly the here dogs patrol the forest edge, sit in the sun enjoying themselves, keep the wildlife off the orchard during the day, and have a good bark to alert me of the presence of a person unknown to them. My expectations of the dogs’ behaviour are certainly not onerous and they themselves perform useful functions on the farm and everyone seems to be generally happy with the arrangement.
Toothy the dog is a long haired Dachshund which is a breed that was bred to scent, chase, and flush out burrow-dwelling animals. Toothy is also originally a rescue dog from the Lost Dogs Home and I was originally unaware of this particular breed trait. Well, there are plenty of animals in the surrounding forest that enjoy living in burrows. Burrow dwelling animals here include wombats, foxes, snakes and rabbits. With the exception of the rabbits, the other three animals could easily injure, maim or kill a long haired Dachshund. And, Toothy knows that risk.
Toothy, being the intelligent creature that he is minimises his risk during such extra-curricular adventures by employing some friendly dog muscle to back him up. This is where Poopy the very large Pomeranian comes into the story.
Pomeranian breeds are generally intelligent dogs, with an unusual and perverse streak of wilfulness. They also tend to be quite courageous beyond their stature – some may even say foolhardy.
It was a lovely late Autumn day and the sun was shining and there was not even the hint of a breeze. The call of the burrow became too much for Toothy and somehow he convinced Poopy to go a-hunting off and away into the surrounding forest.
Both Poopy and Toothy know, based on past experience that they’ll be in serious trouble if they head off into the surrounding forest on a long dog adventure. That is why they are never allowed out of the house together. But somehow on that sunny afternoon they managed to get their first opportunity in years outside together and so off they went. It was like a scene from the film “Top Gun” where the maverick pilot is explaining his unrepentant actions away to a superior officer: “I saw my opportunity and took it”.
Once realisation had dawned on us, there wasn’t much we could do but wait for their return. It was the usual weekend afternoon: bird calls, trail bikes and the distant sound of the occasional gun shot. The sun eventually set and the clear night skies caused the temperature to drop to as low as 1.4’C (34.5’F). A massive shooting star even fell from the sky into the valley below leaving a smoke trail behind it whilst it broke up into several chunks.
Then at about 8pm, Poopy returned looking very dispirited and with a limp. Needless to say he was immediately nabbed and thrown into the dog enclosure where he skulked into his kennel looking very dejected. The cheeky minx wanted his dinner too. I don’t think so!
Toothy on the other hand was nowhere to be seen. Given Poopy’s general hang-dog vibe and Toothy’s absence, I concluded that Toothy had come to an unpleasant end somewhere out in the forest. It didn’t help that calling for him by his name didn’t produce any sound or his presence. And the forest was unusually quiet that evening except for the nearby call of a very large Powerful Owl.
I started to get a bit concerned at that point and got into the car a drove around the nearby roads on the off chance that I could hear a distressed dog call. A few dogs in the valley below were incessantly barking and the occasional fox and cubs call could be heard somewhere off in the forest, but Toothy has a distinctive voice and that was as absent as he was.
After I returned home, I grabbed Poopy and put him on a lead, grabbed some provisions, a compass and headed off into the surrounding forest to see whether we could track Toothy. Poopy was instructed to go find Toothy and he took me to a couple of wombat holes which I’d previously been unaware of. He even sat down near one wombat hole surrounded by tall trees with an understory of ferns and continued his unhappy look. All Poopy really wanted to do was go home back to his warm kennel, and maybe some dinner. So we trudged back home through the cold, dark tall forest dejected and accepted the fact that Toothy had come to a nasty end.
It is worth mentioning that wombats are the equivalent of an armoured personnel carrier because they have a very hard plate along their spine. Wombats live in burrows and they have never been troubled by dogs or foxes because they can use their hard plates to simply squash foxes or dogs against the roof of their burrows. The average wombat is a formidable creature and it is little wonder that they are spread right across this continent.
After what had seemed like hours searching for the recidivist dog Toothy on a very cold and dark night, I went to bed feeling pretty unhappy that I would no longer enjoy his companionable presence.
At about 1.30am, the little tip rat (Toothy) decided that the surrounding forest wasn’t really as nice as a warm hearth, a good meal, dry clean fur and companions and decided to make his presence known by stomping around on the veranda and waking me up. I was truly glad to see that he made his way back home again.
|The prodigal dogs return, Poopy and Toothy both return for a solid feeding and warm bed|
Back to farm news. Now that the firewood shed has been completed and is about 5/12th full of firewood, I commenced building the rock walls around that shed. Some of those rocks weighed more than I do, and they act as a retaining wall between the machinery shed and the firewood shed.
|Construction starts on the retaining wall between the machinery shed and the firewood shed|
In the photo above, you can see that I’ve recently also obtained several security screen doors for the forthcoming reconstruction of the chicken shed and enclosure project. The screen doors were purchased at the local tip shop for about $25 each and one of them would have originally cost many hundreds of dollars to produce! I was quite astounded when I stumbled across that particular security door and wondered why the person would have originally disposed of it? Still, it is their loss as it will look very impressive on the chicken run (and most importantly, it will be reasonably rat proof)!
Over the weekend I also had to travel to a nearby town to collect the corrugated sheet steel for the forthcoming chicken shed and enclosure project. A bulk lot of the recycled sheet steel was available for purchase there, and given the difficulty of obtaining second hand steel for the recent wood shed project, I thought that it would be best to strike whilst the iron is hot, as they say (no pun intended).
|Corrugated sheet steel waits to be installed on the forthcoming new chicken enclosure and run project|
As the new chicken run and enclosure has yet to be commenced many of the current chicken system failings are only too obvious to me. The recent heavy rainfall has caused the deep litter mulch in the chicken run to become very congealed due to excessive quantities of chicken manure (nitrogen and phosphate). Chickens like to scratch and at the same time produce a nitrogen rich fertiliser, so to rectify this problem, I dumped a half cubic metre (0.7 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch into their run today. Hopefully (soil geek alert!), excellent soil will eventuate.
|Half a cubic metre of woody composted mulch was brought into the chicken run today|
Very observant readers will note that in the photo above, Scritchy the boss dog – who is very unimpressed with either Toothy and Poopy and his bitten them on many recent occasions just to let her displeasure be known – is circling around the chicken run doing her best to assist with the application of woody mulch. Big Plymie the very large Plymouth Rock chicken looks as though she wants nothing more than to eat Scritchy the boss dog and that is pretty much how life on a farm goes. Also, is it my imagination or do chickens always look mildly angry?
I don’t usually mention this but at least one day per week of my time is spent reducing the amount of fallen forest litter in and around the surrounding forest. It is a big job. Given the uncertainty surrounding recent predictions for the forthcoming El Nino, the state government has this week commenced a very large burn off within the nearby forest and that is perhaps the first within my memory. Even some of the larger land holders are taking cleanup action.
|Today a large land owner on the edge of the forest here below commenced a massive burn off|
Plants always tend to adapt to changing environments and climate and it is interesting to note that one of the rhododendron plants here has produced several stunning flowers on the eve of winter. They usually flower in spring.
|A rhododendron plant has unusually produced a flower on the eve of winter|
Apologies everyone, but I’ve written so much on this week’s blog that I’ve run out of writing time so we’ll get back to the house construction thread on next week’s blog. Promise!
The temperature outside here at about 8.45pm is 7.2 degrees Celsius (45.0’F). So far this year there has been 310.6mm (12.2 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 285.6mm (11.2 inches).