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Magical Christmas Unicorns really do exist! Seriously, I met one last Thursday evening. It was a real pleasure to meet a real live Magical Christmas Unicorn, but unfortunately for me the pleasure was short lived. You see the editor also met the (actually I should have written: my) Magical Christmas Unicorn and in a gallant display of gentlemanliness I introduced the Magical Christmas Unicorn to the editor, and that was that because my Magical Christmas Unicorn was then gone. Alas for me!
The local pub up here in the mountain range is a delightful business establishment. The quality of the food is good and the pub serves locally sourced beers, ciders, and wines. What more could you ask for? About once per fortnight the editor and I will visit that pub and enjoy an excellent meal and sample a random local brew. It is always a mystery to me as to what locally brewed beers will be on tap and the editor prefers the local apple ciders. The pub has a lovely atmosphere and occasionally we even say hello to some of the other locals who we are acquainted with.
The building of the pub looks to me as if it was constructed in the 1930’s and indeed, consulting my local history books, I note that the original timber building was the “Oriental Hotel” which was destroyed by a kitchen fire in 1931. The clinker brick building that I see today which is known as the “Mountain Inn” was built on the ashes of that much older Oriental Hotel. The interior is very charming with furniture and finishes dating from that Depression era and there are even pressed metal ceilings. Best of all it doesn’t have multiple huge television screens on every wall glaring down on us and interrupting the natural flow of the conversation between the editor and myself. And that conversation covers a lot of ground including: Magical Christmas Unicorns!
During the course of the previous Thursday night at the pub, the editor casually observed that in recent times we had moved to visiting the pub on weeknights rather than weekends. This was a fascinating observation which was the result of the much larger crowds at the pub on the weekends and our dislike of the busier atmosphere. Both the editor and I are accountants and of course we realise that crowds make for profitable weekends, however, regular locals keep food and drink establishments operating and covering their costs during the long cold winters.
I blame the Magical Christmas Unicorns because we really didn’t think about that issue any further. And so, without further ado, I introduce you – the readers – to the Magical Christmas Unicorn:
|Magical Christmas Unicorns as they appeared to me at the local pub Thursday night|
Honestly, adding vanilla to pale ale to produce a Magical Christmas Unicorn is pure genius. The beer tastes like creamy soda! And the demented deer/unicorn with a curiously dripping ice cream on its head only adds to the intrigue and mystery of the brew. The other day out of sheerest curiosity I went to the brewer’s website and witnessed sad tales of lament from many sad – and fortunately not local people – about the lack of supply of this magical ale. Alas for me, I understood their sad tales all too well because I had to witness the editor consume this most delightful of beverages whilst I was handed her local apple cider. It was a good apple cider and a gentlemanly swap, but it wasn’t a Magical Christmas Unicorn was it?
Later as the cider / unicornless haze lifted, I recalled that I had recently received a flyer in my local Post Office box calling for local attendance at a meeting to discuss how to deal with the massive influx of tourists who descend upon the mountain range each weekend in autumn to see for themselves the magic of the colours of the leaf change. Leaf change is when the deciduous trees turn from green to their autumn reds, yellows and oranges. The organisers of that meeting must have had some political clout because a representative from the local council, the police, and even the states roads body were to be present.
The leaf change is a spectacular thing to see, however I don’t travel to that more fashionable end of the mountain range during those weekends because it is feral busy. So many people in clean city vehicles driving up the main road in that more fashionable part of the mountain range, causing grid lock. There are so few parking spaces that I have seen more than a few vehicles which have attempted to park next to the very large drains along the sides of the roads, and have unfortunately driven / fallen into them. Alright I confess to a small amount of Schadenfreude whenever I see that unfortunate turn of events, and to be totally honest I do wonder how those stricken vehicles were eventually extracted from the rather deep drains! It is an impressive recovery feat, I mean it’s not like recovering articles from the Titanic sitting at the bottom of the ocean depths, but still, those stricken vehicles were on some remarkable and intriguing angles!
I wonder if it has occurred to the people who organised that community meeting that what they were seeing with all of the leaf change tourists was Population Pressure in this usually very quiet and very unpopulated mountain range. Population Pressure is defined as “the frequency of mutual interference per capita per day resulting from the presence of others in a finite habitat”. That is a fancy way of asking the hard question as to how many people annoyed you today? And clearly in a small mountain range, an unusually huge quantity of people, who are not very skilled at driving and parking in the country, are annoying the local residents. And I wondered to myself just how many people have annoyed you – the reader – today?
Anyway, the next day as the haze from the Magical Christmas Cider (hey dude where's my unicorn) lifted, I had the opportunity to sweat some (a tiny little bit anyway!) of that delightful drink out of my body. We began excavating the soil behind the wood shed. That area had never been completed and the cutting into the side of the hill is very steep so we have chosen to implement an engineering solution: Rock Gabions (see below). Here is what the cutting into the hill looked like before excavation:
|The cutting into the hill behind the wood shed before this week’s excavations|
We must be getting soft in our old age as we only managed to excavate and shift soil by hand for about 5 hours that day, but eventually the first stage of that excavation was eventually completed:
|The first stage of excavations into the side of the hill by hand were soon completed|
In the process of those excavations we removed a huge rock, which we were able to (barely) roll out of the way. Observant readers will see that in the next photo below all of the excavated soil has been used to construct a ramp leading down off this terrace and into the orchard.
|In the process of those excavations we removed and moved a huge rock|
Later that day – after a good lunch of course – the construction of the steel Rock Gabion cage was commenced. A Rock Gabion cage is basically a square steel wire cage which is used to hold rocks. As the wire cage is square and contains rocks, it becomes enormously strong.
|Later that day the construction of the steel Rock Gabion was commenced|
Once the Rock Gabion was completed, it was then placed next to the excavated area and it now only requires to be filled with rocks. Unfortunately, we have long since passed peak rocks and so will have to travel a bit further afield to collect enough rocks to fill that wire cage. And don’t fear, another Rock Gabion will be placed on top of this Rock Gabion once it is completely filled with rocks.
|The completed Rock Gabion was placed into the newly excavated area and now only awaits being filled with rocks|
For many years I have seen street art on a wall in Melbourne that looks uncannily like Poopy the Pomeranian (who every clever person knows is truly a Swedish Lapphund). Well last week I took a photo of the street art before it was accidentally painted over:
|Is this street art Poopy the Pomeranian?|
Poopy the Pomeranian has made a huge strike for the Resistance this week as he continued the ongoing canine Bone Wars (TM) by bringing back a dead kangaroo paw to chew on.
|Poopy the Pomeranian in a remarkable bit of scavenging sources his own bones to chew on|
It is still early days in the berry season here, but the strawberries which are planted in – less than fluffy optimal conditions – are producing larger quantities of sun ripened berries this week.
|The strawberries are producing good quantities of fruit in the stronger sunshine this week|
Other berries are starting to become ripe this week and I noticed that the red currants looked delicious on the shrubs today. Most of the black and red currants here get converted into wine – and it is an excellent tasting wine.
|I noticed that the red currants had just started to become ripe today|
The potatoes are going feral and are just about to start producing flowers. As a potato plant produces flowers, you know that they are beginning to produce yummy tubers in the soil. As a general rule, the potato tubers are ready to dig up at the end of the season, two weeks after the plant has turned yellow and died.
|The potato plants are just about to produce their first flowers which is a sign they are beginning to produce tubers in the ground|
I spotted the first unripe raspberry a couple of days ago. I have never before successfully grown raspberries so I’ll be really interested to see what the fruit tastes like.
|I spotted the first unripe raspberry a couple of days ago|
The blackberries are also producing huge quantities of not yet ripe berries. The berry bed has been so successful that there are plans afoot over the winter to extend the recently completed berry enclosure!
|The blackberries are also producing huge quantities of not yet ripe berries|
The very wet and cold winter and spring has decimated the apricot, plum, cherry and pretty much all other stone fruit in this corner of the world. I tried to source a good quantity of apricots from another orchard much further north than here (and thus in a warmer climate) but they too have had to deal with serious losses of fruit. Over the past few days I have reconciled myself with not being able to preserve any stone fruit at all this season.
|This Anzac peach tree is starting to slowly recover from the very wet and cold winter|
Not all fruit trees are silly enough to produce blossoms when the spring conditions are very wet, cold and basically rubbish for stone fruit trees. The many olive trees here have just started to produce flowers this week:
|The many olive trees here have just started to produce flowers this week|
And some trees such as the sugar maple in the next photo below, really love the very wet and cold conditions this spring. Those trees have responded by putting on huge amounts of growth. A sugar maple tree can generally be tapped for proper maple syrup after about 10 years of growth.
|Some trees such as the sugar maple in the next photo below, really love the very wet and cold conditions this spring|
I thought that the many readers who are shivering through an intense week of very cold wintery conditions in the Northern Hemisphere might enjoy some of the photos of the masses of flowers which I grow here at the farm for my own enjoyment but more importantly for the benefit of the many birds and insects that live and eat in those flower beds:
|Masses of colourful geraniums grow below the many raised vegetable beds|
|A smoke bush, a lemon scented tea tree, and a wallabied persimmon are all looking good|
|Looking across the bed of culinary and medicinal herbs shows a riot of colour and shape|
|The European and Californian poppies are all putting on a good show this year|
|And poppy-gate continues with even more poppy and corn flowers this week|