Ahh, autumn, ‘tis the season for the smell of: wood smoke! Occasionally on a fine sunny day on a weekend during the seasons of autumn, winter and spring I can look down into the valley below from this eagle’s eyrie and it can look as if every man and their dog are having a burn off. In fact sometimes I wonder whether Tolkien’s mythical land of Mordor had as many fires as can be seen around these parts during some weekends.
The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted that the coming summer here will be an El Nino summer, which may possibly mean hotter and drier conditions, so I (and whole lot of other people) have been wisely collecting and burning off accumulated combustible materials in the surrounding forest and burning them off. The theory behind the burning off is that should a wild fire sweep through the area, there will be less combustible fuels, therefore any fire will be at a lower temperature and the very old eucalyptus trees (which can reach several hundred years of age) will have a far greater chance of surviving the fires. The birds, marsupial bats, sugar gliders, possums etc. only live on the very large and very old trees because they have hollows. As an interesting side note, hollows on the very large and old eucalyptus trees are created because branches have dropped off them at some stage in the past. Such events are an opportunity for a diverse range of animals and birds to set up house in the eucalyptus trees. It is interesting to note that very young eucalyptus forests are very quiet forests!
|Smoke from many burn offs rise up in the valley below|
One thing that eucalyptus forests produce in humungous quantities is quality firewood. And Scritchy the boss dog at the farm here often takes advantage of that produce as she exerts her perquisites. This means that she can “cook her head” on cold nights in pole position on the toasty tiles in front of the wood fire.
|Scritchy the boss dog “cooks her head” in pole position in front of the wood fire|
Observant readers will also note that not only is a Scritchy cooking, but there is also a tub of yoghurt happily cooking away, as well as 50 litres of various future brews bubbling in that excess forest heat.
If the dogs here ever had to scramble for raw survival, I suspect that they’d be alright. For example, Sir Scruffy who is the largest dog here and is fed only as much as the much smaller Scritchy the boss dog is getting fat despite numerous farm border patrols throughout the day. Each of those farm border patrols requires much energy and can occasionally involve a confrontation with a 6 foot plus Kangaroo/s which is no small thing for a dog. The additional food source is a mystery which will probably remain unsolved (although I have my suspicions).
Anyway, I’d been thinking about dog food recently as I’d realised that I work in the money economy for one month just to purchase a year’s supply of dog food. This seems an extraordinary amount of my time, so I‘ve recently been investigating other peoples current experiences with dog food. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet (and thanks Pam also for your experiences!), I’ve now commenced the slow process of learning to produce dog food here.
It is worth mentioning that for some staples which I don’t grow at the farm (grains etc.); I usually purchase bulk quantities and store them in the kitchen and cantina. I’ve been cooking food since I was about 12 years old, so I’m a bit of an old hand in that area. Cooking is actually a joy for me. However, one product that I did not previously buy in bulk was organic rolled oats, but the good folks at the CERES Brunswick grocery store helped with that lack:
|Poopy the Pomeranian looks on with approval at the bulk purchase of organic rolled oats|
The first experimental batch of dog biscuits went into the wood oven this week. All I can say is that the dogs thoroughly approved of them.
|The first experimental batch of dog biscuits are on the cooling tray waiting for the ultimate test|
A replacement and brand new water tank turned up at the local supplier this week. It is worthwhile mentioning that I breathed a huge sigh of relief to see a brand new water tank waiting for me at the suppliers. They were very good about the whole situation as the original water tank which I originally attempted to pick-up from that supplier last week was clearly faulty and would not have lasted very long at all!
The brand new water tank on the bright yellow trailer was almost as big as the car itself!
|The new water tank is safely back at the farm on the back of the bright yellow trailer|
Water tanks are very large, very heavy, very slippery and very round. That makes them very awkward to move from one spot to another. After what seemed like an hour the editor and I managed to manoeuvre the new water tank around to the back of the new firewood shed. And there it sat.
|The new water tank was moved around to the rear of the new firewood shed|
Very observant readers will notice that the gable ends (the high up bits on the side walls) of the new firewood shed have been installed. Over the next day or so, I also installed steel guttering which collects any rain water which falls onto the roof of the new firewood shed. That rain water is then channelled withn the steel gutters into a single hole (the technical term for the hole is called a pop) where it falls and is transported into the new water tank via plastic pipes.
|The new water tank is installed and waiting to collect the next few drops of rain fall|
As it is now only less than two weeks out from the official start of winter, I thought that it would be interesting to revisit the tomato beds. The tomato fruit are still hanging on the vines and you can see just how much fruit is still to be picked. It is also possible to observe that the vines are slowly dying on the right hand side of the garden bed as that is the side that receives the cold winds. Any unpicked fruit will be brought inside over the next few weeks to slowly ripen.
|Tomatoes are nearing the end of their growing season here – two weeks out from winter|
It is the absolute latest time here for bulb planting for this year. For some reason a few months back, I had a sense that the local Riddells Creek Daffodil farm, which sells many varieties of bulbs, was perhaps going to close over the next year or two, so I went crazy and just bought all sorts of weird and wonderful bulbs. It was the planting bit that proved to be the hardest part about the bulbs, so I devoted a couple of hours to planting the bulbs out throughout the garden and orchard. Some of the bulbs such as the Ixia’s and Spraxia’s were tiny and the bloke at the farm had sold me tens of dozens of the bulbs. Anyway, after vowing to never purchase another bulb ever again, they were all somehow planted and all was good.
How did the house get
|A big box of hard bulb work|
Living in an unfinished house with no lights is kind of fun. It is sort of like camping with construction materials in your living room and oh yeah, no lights! So it was in October 2010, when huge stacks of fire rated plaster, bags of insulation and miscellaneous tools were littered throughout the living area. And the internal walls of the house were very pink – due to the fire rated plaster. I must say that the pink walls weren’t working for me as a colour and I don’t recommend it. Hehe!
|The living area of the house had building materials and equipment as well as the more expected items|
That month I also began installing the very thick 15mm (0.6 inch) fibro-cement sheets that form the supporting deck for the verandas. It is a very solid material as well as being reasonably moisture and fire retardant. If you look carefully at the photo below, you’ll notice that there is a steel flashing that sits just under the bottom of the lowest weatherboard. The fibro-cement sheet neatly slots under that steel flashing to give a weather and fire resistant join between the walls and the veranda deck. The funny thing about each stage of the construction of this house is that you had to understand exactly how all the details meshed together neatly well in advance of construction.
|The fibro-cement in the veranda decks were starting to be installed|
And, another steel flashing was installed under that fibro-cement decking sheets along the edge of the veranda. This was so that another fire rated wall slotted neatly into that and protected the area underneath the veranda.
|The outer edge of the veranda deck shows further use of steel flashings under the fibro-cement|
The garden and orchard weren't neglected as even 5 years ago, daffodils popped their heads out of the ground!
|A few daffodils bravely popped their heads out of the ground 5 years ago|
It is also funny looking back at the orchard at that time as the fruit trees were very small. Even the chicken enclosure didn’t exist back then. At that time it was merely a roof over a steel water tank and I used that roof to collect water which was could be used in the construction. Unfortunately, the steel water tank in that system always leaked, despite my best efforts at repair and it eventually was cut up into many discs that are now the raised garden beds that you see today!
|The orchard is looking very small and very young, and a steel water tank exists where the chicken enclosure is today|
The temperature outside here at about 8.30pm is 10.5 degrees Celsius (50.9’F). So far this year there has been 285.6mm (11.2 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 274.6mm (10.8 inches).