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If I had to use a word to describe the particular housing estate that the editor and I found ourselves in, I feel that that word would be: aspirational. Honestly from the street, you could smell the debt. The editor and I had parked the little three door dirt rat Suzuki vehicle in front of a huge two story house. That house was just one of many huge houses in an outer suburban housing estate. Of course if anyone chanced to miss the little dirt rat Suzuki, the neighbours certainly wouldn’t have failed to notice the bright yellow trailer.
Perhaps it would have helped matters if I’d dressed for the occasion. But I hadn't. Then again perhaps not, as even the dullest rats know that status is earned by not caring about status.
The editor and I sauntered up to the door and I pressed the buzzer so as to notify the residents of our presence. The door to the over-sized house opened and the owner took stock of the two people standing on his doorstep.
The very long dead Chinese master of strategy, Sun Tzu, recommends taking the initiative in uncertain circumstances. So I took the initiative and said in my most masculine and rural voice: “G’day mate. We’re here to pick up the water tank”.
The owner was clearly uncomfortable with the concept of selling his water tank because, rather than directly responding to me, he looked past me and about the streetscape as if taking in the scenario and checking to see whether the neighbours were observing this transaction. It was all very strange and uncomfortable.
He quickly recovered his wits and without introductions or even a handshake, he instructed the editor and I to meet him at the garage (of course we were not regarded as being worthy of a welcome into the house). The man quickly retreated into the house and the front door closed. The editor and I were unperturbed and we casually walked to the garage door and waited as instructed.
The whirring noise of a motor announced that garage door was soon to be raised to its full height. As the garage door was raised the editor and I could see the water tank that we had agreed to purchase from the man. The editor and I were happy with the water tank as it was in excellent condition and most importantly, very cheap. As the agreed $200 price changed hands, the man then said to us almost apologetically: “My wife wanted to sell the water tank”. I was acutely uncomfortable at the man’s shame at having to sell something and so the only reasonable reply that came to my lips was: “Right”. Whatever that means!
The editor and I decided without communicating the fact, to take charge of the situation, and as we moved to take physical possession of the water tank, the man said: “Do you need a hand with that?” Fortunately I’d already had time to assess the man’s capabilities in that regard: “Nah mate, we’re right from here. See ya round!” The man then closed the garage door and that was the last we saw of him. The water tank was easily manhandled and secured onto the bright yellow trailer and away we went with a second hand water tank for about a third the cost of a brand new water tank.
I was surprised that the man was so concerned about his loss of status at having to sell an unwanted item. Who cares about status? I certainly don’t and I’ve observed that rats, mice and other rodents are shrewd creatures because they couldn’t give a fig for status, and only tend to concern themselves with outcomes.
There is much truth in the saying “rat cunning”. This week I have been pondering the audaciousness of our rodent friends because they have managed to yet again to break into the supposedly rodent proof chicken enclosure. When that chicken enclosure was constructed two years ago, the editor and I went to extreme lengths to ensure that the rodents would be forever kept out. Steel and concrete were used in all sorts of cunning (or so we thought) ways in the construction. However, despite our best efforts, the rodents have outwitted us yet again and have simply burrowed a tunnel around a very deep concrete lined trench and after that feat, they then navigated under a very thick concrete slab. It is a very impressive feat.
|Our rodent friends have yet again broken into the rodent proof chicken enclosure|
It has been a while since I posted a photo of the happy chickens enjoying their deep litter mulch in the supposedly rodent proof enclosure. Anyway, here goes:
|Happy chickens enjoying their deep litter mulch in the supposedly rodent proof enclosure|
Neither the editor nor I have the slightest shame in selling any item here on the farm that serves no purpose. Everything is up for regular review (note to self: I must remember to keep working hard!). I imagined that we really didn’t have much on the farm that wasn’t being used. Anyway, sometimes things are so large and in front of your nose that you don’t notice them anymore. And such was the case with the old small wood heater in the cantina shed.
That small wood heater was taking up a huge amount of floor space and we’d only used it two or three times in about seven years. It was the sharp eyed editor who actually noticed the small wood heater and suggested removing and selling it.
|A small wood heater was removed from the cantina shed|
The flue (a triple layered steel chimney) which protruded through the roof of the cantina shed left a giant hole in the steel roof sheeting which had to be repaired. Fortunately we had a spare sheet of grey roof sheeting to hand and that was used to cover the hole in the roof. In the photo below observant readers will note that the replacement sheet is a slightly different colour than the original steel corrugated roof sheets. The strong UV sunlight over summer tends to fade colour paint on any steel corrugated roof sheets.
|The roof of the cantina shed was repaired where the flue from the wood heater used to be|
Of course, removing the flue for the wood heater also left a hole in the plaster inside the cantina shed ceiling.
|Removing the flue for the wood heater also left a hole in the plaster inside the cantina shed|
Observant readers will note in the photo above that just underneath the corrugated steel roof sheeting that there is a very thick fire blanket. This is a commercial product and not usually seen on domestic buildings. I was originally able to cover the entire roof of that cantina shed with a fire blanket because I had a left over roll of the stuff from the construction of the house, and that left over stuff was enough to do the entire roof of the cantina shed. It is also a very good insulating material. There is also a layer of wool insulation batts between the plaster and the underside of the fire blanket.
To repair the hole in the plaster I screwed in a small section of marine grade plywood.
|To repair the hole in the plaster I screwed in a small section of marine grade plywood|
Then a repair section of plaster was screwed onto the plywood and the joins were soon filled with plaster bog. Plaster bog as long term readers may know, hides a multitude of sins!
|A repair section of plaster was screwed onto the plywood and the joins were soon filled with plaster bog|
We also dug more holes this week with the hand auger. The holes will be used for treated pine fence posts so as to extend the tomato enclosure. Of course as the case may be, sometimes when digging holes you can hit a floating rock which has to be broken up, if you want any depth to that hole.
|Sometimes you find rocks when digging post holes and they can be broken up|
Soon all of the holes were dug. However we ran out of time to cement the treated pine posts into the holes and that will have to happen shortly.
|Soon all of the holes required to extend the tomato enclosure were dug|
Most of the fruit trees have now gone deciduous and they are all enjoying plenty of chilling hours. Chilling hours are defined as air temperatures below 7’C / 44.6’F. If fruit trees don’t get enough chilling hours, then they will happily grow, but they may not set fruit. And every fruit tree has different requirements as to chilling hours.It is also important to note that the chilling hours do not have to be consecutive.
I have observed that if some fruit trees have been put under considerable stress during the summer, they may not go deciduous. Walking around the orchard this evening I noticed an apple tree (in the next photo below) which had been severely punished by a very naughty wallaby. That apple tree has failed to go deciduous. Past experience has shown me that such fruit trees will generally not produce any fruit the following summer.
|This apple tree has failed to go deciduous|
Oh! The native birds here are very well fed and generally pretty happy with the conditions. I spotted this Kookaburra the other day. The laughing call of the Kookaburra is unmistakable and the bird in the next photo below was sitting on a kiwi fruit support keeping an eye out for any grubs or other insects.
|I spotted this Kookaburra bird the other day|
The mandarin trees are recovering from a wallaby attack a few years ago, but despite that, they have produced some very tasty fruit:
|The mandarin trees are producing some very tasty fruit|
Nothing beats the lemon trees for fruit at this time of year. Two of the lemon trees (Eureka and Meyer) are almost a decade old now and they are producing huge quantities of fruit. In previous years I have really struggled to know what to do with the huge glut of lemons (they were converted to lemon wine). In recent months I have been trading the lemons with a café in Melbourne for huge quantities of their used coffee grounds and the occasional coffee or lemon and coconut muffin. That is what I call rat cunning!
|The lemon trees are producing vast quantities of fruit|
I am using the huge supply of used coffee grounds as a fertiliser in the orchard. I simply throw the coffee grounds onto the ground in the orchard, and any trace of them disappears within two weeks.
Walking about the farm I notice that despite just having had the shortest day of the year this past week, there are still plenty of flowers to enjoy:
|Tagasaste or Tree Lucerne are in flower|
|Some of the earlier rocket is producing flowers – and yummy leaves. I stagger the planting of that annual|
|Rosemary is still in flower and the blue flowers look great|
|This buddleia has escaped the vandalism of the wallabies and is producing great smelling flowers|
|The nicest flower of all is a Toothy flower|