Anyway, the lunch was held in a local pub which was being restored. It is a beautiful old timber Victorian era pub which had unfortunately succumbed to a fire at some stage in its history and the building had long been derelict. The restoration works on the pub were nowhere near complete at that time, and so lunch was held in the old stables. The fungi infused food was prepared in a separate food van, whilst the insides of the stables were dark and quite cold. It was almost a medieval scene as the winter cold radiated from the floor and the lights along the walls sat in sconces. Long tables were lined in cloth and benches were provided to sit upon.
The editor and I knew nobody at the truffle day, and so we chose an empty bench and table to sit at. The dining hall soon filled up with hungry people. Two gentleman eventually sat opposite the editor and I. Introductions were made and pleasantries were exchanged. And we have been good friends ever since.
In a strange coincidence, our new friends were also beginning to set up a small holding not too far away from where we are. However, to this day I am in absolute awe of what they have achieved. Their vision is nothing short of epic. And their house is a truly original design.
Last weekend the editor and I visited their farm and assisted with planting 150 (of 240) tree lucerne (Tagasaste) plants. Our friends intend to use the trees as cattle fodder in future years. This is a good thing as that tree is one of the richest sources of protein in the plant world. More importantly, that tree will provide green feed during a hot summer when the paddock forage is yellow and dry. I’d never planted more than 30 trees before on a single day before. It was an epic challenge.
The editor and I are both used to a hard day of physical work, but after six hours of drilling planting holes and hammering in metal stakes (we call them star pickets) I was exhausted. I jokingly (maybe!) remarked to one of the gentleman that: “Mate. I don’t work this hard for myself!” Of course that is not entirely true as long term readers will be aware. Eventually the 150 trees were planted and the sun had yet to set. The neat rows of new trees looked fantastic in the setting sun.
Of course, the job was made particularly difficult as the new seedlings had to be protected from the local population of rabbits and kangaroos, both of which require different types of tree protection. A closer photo shows the various tree guards placed around every single tree.
I almost forgot to mention it, but our friends live in a
shed. The word shed is perhaps a misnomer as the shed in question is not just any old shed. The shed is the size of an aircraft hangar,
except maybe bigger. It really is an impressive shed and it has a footprint of about 1,000
square metres or 10,760 square feet. And they live in a beautiful home created at one end of that
|A slightly closer photo shows the various types of tree guards placed around every single tree|
Inside the shed are all weather growing spaces that I can only dream about. The rate of growth for the plants grown inside that shed is at least five times what I observe here.
Observant readers will note in the photo above, that to the immediate left of the view, there is a rather large avocado tree which was planted at about the same time as the avocado tree here, but is about five times as large as the one here!
There are many beautiful and thoughtful places inside that shed too which makes a delightful place to while away a few hours drinking wine and talking rubbish with good friends. Some of those places are also used to store their produce.
|There are many beautiful and thoughtful places inside that shed and it makes a delightful place to while away a few hours drinking wine and talking rubbish|
The location of that farm on top of an extinct volcano ensures that they receive more winter sunlight than the farm here. The extensive vegetable parterre soaks up that additional sunlight and I have to add that their vegetables – like here – also enjoy a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.
The farm has a diverse collection of farm animals and that means lots of animal manure and the vegetables in those garden beds reflect the good soil health.
|The vegetables in those garden beds reflect good soil health from extensive applications of diverse animal manures|
The cauliflowers in particular were huge and I witnessed the cows greedily munching away on a particularly choice bit of cauliflower.
Surrounding that vegetable garden is a large number of mature olive trees that were rescued from an olive grove. I used the word rescued because the owner was intending to rip out all of the olive trees. I’m impressed at how many of those relocated olive trees actually survived the process.
Of course, they have to grow a lot more vegetables than I am used to seeing because they raise and process a lot of their own meat. They recently added ducks to the menagerie.
At the other end of the shed away from the house, live milking cows and chickens. The cows are surprisingly inquisitive creatures and they are always checking out everything that goes on about the place.
Both cows have bred calves.
However, the award for the most inquisitive farm animal there has to go to the pigs. The two sows are huge and pigs have a sort of suction cup face which snuffles anything and everything. Nothing is left un-snuffled by those suction cup faces. In the next photo you can see the two sows enjoying left over whey from the most recent round of cheese making.
It is a relief to see that their canine collection is as motley a collection of canines as my lot here. Of course that description excludes the working maremma farm dog which earns its keep and avoids most of the sillier canine activities.
|It is a relief to see that their canine collection is as motley a collection of canines as my lot here|
Also many thanks to our friends for allowing me to write about their lovely farm.
Now back to Fernglade Farm…
Just in case anyone was unaware of what a five year old tree lucerne plant looks like, here is one of the species behind the chicken enclosure - look for the tallish tree with white winter flowers:
|A five year old tree lucerne plant is located just behind the entrance to the chicken enclosure here|
This week I began upgrading the small 12 Volt off grid solar power system (we’ll call it the 12V system from here on). I originally set up that small 12V system so as to test the feasibility of solar power at this farm. The system seemed to work, and nowadays that 12V system runs garden lights and water pumps for part of the garden.
The upgrade came about because when I went to the solar stuff shop the other week, I noticed that they had a special clearance on 12V solar panels. I thought that I would help myself to one of those ultra cheap 12V solar panels. Unfortunately, once you purchase a solar panel, you sort of have to then do something with it because solar panels are not small and I am not allowed to stockpile stuff.
With that in mind, the editor and I constructed a custom made solar panel racking so as to hold three 12V solar panels on the wood shed roof. That wood shed roof faces west which is not optimal for solar in the southern hemisphere. Of course, a west facing roof is not a problem for us clever types who can construct their own customised racking for the three solar panels. A prototype of the racking was constructed.
The custom rack was then mounted onto the roof of that west facing wood shed. The solar panels were lifted onto the racking and then bolted into place.
|The custom rack was then mounted onto the roof of that west facing wood shed and the panels were bolted into place|
Then we watched the sun move across the panels and discovered to our absolute horror, that each solar panel threw shade over the solar panel behind them. Any shading at all on a solar panel will stop the panel from producing useful electricity. So, as well as being not so clever as I thought - and you can ask the editor about this - I was apparently very grumpy to boot. The whole construction had to be pulled apart and the solar panels again lowered to the ground.
After a huge amount of hours, the racking was then adapted so that the three 12V solar panels now faced west. This means that they will only charge with the afternoon sun. I don’t believe that this will be a problem for the 12V system which requires very little electricity to operate, but time may inform me otherwise.The temperature outside now at about 10.00pm is 7’C (45’F). So far this year there has been 432.0mm (17.0 inches) which is more than last week’s total of 401.6mm (15.8 inches).
|The racking was modified and the three solar panels now face west for the afternoon sun|
As usual, I then had to dig a trench in which to lay the cables connecting up the solar panels to the batteries. For some strange reason, I always seem to be digging somewhere about the farm.
|A trench had to be dug so as to connect up the 12V solar panels and the battery|
As you can see in the photo below, the sun was shining strongly that day and even though it is only less than three weeks past the winter solstice, those 12V solar panels were producing plenty of power!
|Less than three weeks out from the winter solstice and the 12V solar panels were producing plenty of power|
Best of all, the house solar panels that same day produced their best ever July winter output of 11.4kWh for that day. That result is the culmination of seven years of trial and error testing and a huge amount of work every single year. And you know what? Over winter there will be days that won't achieve even 10% of that result. Solar power is a very sobering energy source.
|The house solar panels that same day produced their best ever July winter output of 11.4kWh for that day|
And I would like to finish the blog with some flower photos:
|This penstemon flower was sheltering from the frost underneath a pungent mint geranium|
|The African daisy's are enjoying the occasional rain storm|
|Chrysanthemum's look like the sort of flower that an alien would develop|
|The shade loving hellebore's are about to produce their winter flowers|