Monday, 23 February 2015
The northern half of Australia was hit this week by not one, but two tropical cyclones (Marcia and Lam). Cyclone Marcia was declared a category five cyclone which is about as strong as a cyclone gets. Both cyclones have caused significant damage with the extent of that damage only becoming clear over the past day or so.
Down here in the south eastern corner of the continent, the mornings this week started hot. By lunchtime the clear blue skies and unrelenting sunshine made it even hotter. And by evening the heat simply carried through into the next day. And that pattern continued for four days in a row. Needless to say that this week has been a total write off for work around the farm. Still, I’m not complaining as I haven’t had to deal with a category five cyclone, which even washed a Great White Shark up onto a beach. Fans of very dodgy B grade horror films would have called this tropical cyclone a “Sharknado” – nuff said.
Dodgy humour aside, the weather really has been hot and humid here this week and the weather station read out says it all: 38.1’C is equal to 100.6’F
|Weather station readout yesterday afternoon|
The spiders are thoroughly enjoying the continuing hot weather and I captured this photo of a golden orb spider, lurking on her web between two veranda posts with the sun setting in the background:
|Golden orb spider with sun setting in the background|
Despite the heat, the farm is still looking quite green for this time of year, and as I have plenty of water to spare, the vegetables, herbs and flowers are all growing very strongly:
|Blue skies reign supreme over the farm|
The house has ceiling fans installed in every room, but no air conditioning. Instead, to keep the temperatures inside the house pleasant on a hot day, the house is very well insulated. The insulation works to resist the transfer of heat from the outside. However, that means that during very hot days, I have to be careful to avoid heating the inside of the house any more than is absolutely necessary. There are plenty of simple things a person can do to achieve this, and one such idea is doing your cooking outside. The photo below shows a tray of biscuits happily baking away outside in a portable electric oven (solar powered, of course) whilst the thermometer next the oven shows the temperature in the shade is 34.9’C (94.8’F).
|Biscuits baking in the portable oven whilst the air temperature in the shade is 34,9’C (94.8’F)|
The heat has provided a bumper crop of blackberries in this part of the world and the picking this morning produced not only several interesting bites from the very unpleasant march fly insects, but also several kilograms of berries. I’ve been picking blackberries for a few weeks now, freezing them and hopefully by mid-March my order for jam bottles will be available from the supplier and I’ll turn all of that frozen fruit into yummy blackberry jam. I’ve completely run out of glass storage bottles here!
|Blackberries picked this morning|
It is hardly surprising that this week was hot, because the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo ran from Friday to Sunday. The expo is great for small holders as it has all sorts of things relevant to that type of farming. I’ve been to other farm field days dedicated to broad acre farming and I spent ages walking around going: what does that large green machine do? The Seymour expo on the other hand is just right and I look forward to the event every year. This year was particularly notable as I must have looked like I know what I’m doing because on several different occasions people asked me what my opinion of this or that was. On the downside, that expo is always hot and the sun is unrelenting.
Now, Seymour is a town which is about an hour and half drive north of the farm. If you head north from here, you’re heading inland and as you do that it just gets warmer. So, I’ve devised a sneaky way of dealing with that heat: Get there as the gates open early in the morning and leave before lunchtime.
The other great thing about the expo is that the local poultry association has a chicken sale. You have to get there early to grab the choicest chooks though!
So Friday morning found both my lady and I eagerly waiting at the gates to the expo near the head of the queue in a long line of people. Apparently the organisers were having technical difficulties with their cash registers which were eventually resolved through the use of an extension power cable. You could feel the tension in the air from the people waiting in line as the technical difficulties were being discussed inside the ticket booth. Queue jumpers were politely sent to the back of the long line. And what was really fascinating was that I only spotted a single individual with their head buried deep in an electronic device as everyone else was either quietly waiting or chatting to other people in the queue.
Once inside the expo grounds, we made a bee line to the poultry shed to assess our potential chicken (chook) purchases. What surprised me was that over the past few years there has been chookflation (the technical term for ever increasing prices of chickens). Only five years ago a chicken would cost you around $15 to $20 each. Nowadays, they are upwards of $50 or more per chicken. I’m unsure whether the chookflation is a result of increasing demand for chickens or decreasing supply of chickens because I’ve heard several different theories espoused over the past few days.
Anyway, I picked up two Isa Brown and two Blue Laced Wyandotte chickens. The average cost of those four chickens was $38.75 each. Chookflation indeed!
|One of the Isa Brown chickens and two of the Blue Laced Wyandotte chickens|
Economics aside, I introduced the new chickens to the flock that same afternoon and to my absolute horror, the two new Isa Brown chickens proceeded to attack the boss chicken and her enforcer sidekick. Both the boss and enforcer were stalked around the enclosure and quickly humbled by the two new Isa Brown interlopers. This was not a good situation. The two new chickens then started systematically picking fights with every other chicken in the enclosure and won. It looked as though a new order would soon be established in the chicken collective!
The new interlopers hadn’t counted on Big Plymie, the very large Plymouth Rock chicken who normally has a very pleasant disposition. Unfortunately for them, she was having none of that foolishness from the newbies. Big Plymie simply stalked out into the centre of the chicken enclosure – looking very angry that her important chicken business had been interrupted and took on all four new chickens at once – and won by fighting and pecking them into submission. At one point she even jumped on top of the new Isa Browns and grabbed their head in her beak. Honestly, Jackie Chan could not have done better and harmony was quickly established in the chicken collective. Big Plymie having assured all the other chickens of her superiority, simply went back to her chicken business.
|Big Plymie brooks no nonsense from the new comers|
Just in case anyone is in the area next Saturday 28th February, I’ll be at the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Festival in Woodend between 10am and 4pm. It is held in the park opposite Bourkies Bakery (which does the best vanilla slices in the state, and not a bad Moroccan Lamb pie!) and I’ll be representing the Riddells Creek Seed Savers group. Come and say hello! Also on that day in the area the Macedon CFA is holding its annual flea market at nearby Macedon which is a big event. Strangely enough, the 70/80’s rock band ‘The Eagles’ are also playing at nearby Hanging Rock. There must be something in the water? The forecast for the day is 31’C (87.7’F) and sunny with late showers!
How did I get here?
Designing and building a house that was constructed to resist damage from fire would be a daunting prospect for most builders. Fortunately, I had an ace up my sleeve.
In early September 1666, a fire broke out in Pudding Lane in London, which over a few short days destroyed 13,500 houses and displaced more than 200,000 people of all ranks and stations, such was the destructive force of the Great fire of London. The heat was so great during that firestorm that it melted metals which required temperatures of between 1,100 °C (2,000 F) and 1,650 °C (3000 F) in order to melt.
In the aftermath, the authorities decided that buildings should be constructed with walls made of brick and stone and not wood. Thus our cultural preference for brick buildings was born. And that was also the beginnings of the new profession of surveyors. It is interesting to note that in the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires, I saw roadside guard rails which are made of very strong steel twisted as if they were merely ribbons.
Anyway, having built and repaired houses in the inner city, I understood the issues relating to maintaining fire rated walls between your house and the neighbour’s house. So, I set out to work within the regulations and design a house that utilised the sort of fire rated walls that normally divide apartments.
Unfortunately, no one had actually designed and tested either windows or a roof that met the exacting new bushfire design standards – which is a kind of weird situation, so I was able to build only so much of the house before having to ask the awful question: what now?
To be continued…
The temperature outside here at about 8.00pm is 12.3 degrees Celsius (54.1’F) at 99% humidity. So far this year there has been 105.6mm (4.1 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 104.2mm (4.1 inches).
Monday, 16 February 2015
The Fourth R
Reuse, repair, recycle. Well, I reckon that there is a fourth “R” word: Maintain.
Yeah, alright sure the word “maintain” starts with the letter “M”, but that probably is the only real reason why that particular word wasn’t included along with the original three. Just because it doesn’t fit is no reason to exclude it!
It’s been really hot this week at the farm. The heat has meant that very hard outside work has had to take a break and instead, I’ve been focusing on maintenance activities.
Even the bees reckon that it is hot here. Early one evening, Scruffy – who incidentally happens to be the best behaved dog here – and I, went for a walk to investigate how the bees were coping with the heat. The bee colonies at the farm are only a few months old. The extreme heat of last summer caused the wax inside the original hives to melt and the original three bee colonies swarmed and departed for cooler parts of the nearby forest. I now have two new bee colonies and they are located on the farm so that they receive only morning sun and afternoon shade. Those two new bee colonies appear to be coping with the heat quite well and in the photo below you can see the left hand side colony has forager bees happily coming and going, whilst the right hand side colony has worker bees on the front of the hive box happily getting some fresh air, before returning into the hive.
|the new bee colonies are coping very well with the recent heat|
The heat has also meant that the zucchini (courgette) fruits are putting on some serious size. Those fruits are true monsters and one particular fruit is now larger and heavier than even Toothy the long haired Dachshund who also happens to be in the photo.
|Toothy the long haired Dachshund avoids the monster zucchini fruit|
The heat seems to agree with the spiders and this week has been particularly noticeable because the local species of Golden Orb spiders appear to be all over the place.
|Golden orb spider clings to a wormwood, whilst she is building her web|
Back to maintenance: I spent a day filling in gaps around various windows and doors. I mentioned a few weeks ago, that originally covering the battery room door was a fire rated electric roller shutter was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time, but in reality was actually quite a dumb idea because if the power system shut down for any reason, I couldn’t actually get into the battery room. And believe it or not, this event actually happened, twice. The whole lot was replaced with a stainless steel mesh door. However, removing the roller shutter left quite a few holes and gaps in what ostensibly looks like a weather board wall, but in reality is actually a 90 minute fire rated wall. The almost commercial specification fire rating on the wall is a bushfire requirement. Gaps and holes in such a wall are probably a bad thing. Anyway, those gaps and holes are now filled and painted. Observant readers will note that in the photo below Scritchy the boss dog and her mate Toothy show just how hot it was this week, I don’t believe their tongues could possibly hang any further out of their heads.
|Scritchy and Toothy supervise the filling of various gaps and holes in the fire rated wall|
The windows and doors at the front of the house also had all of their gaps filled and painted too. The photo below shows that the front door has been sealed to the wall but the window above Scruffy (him of the well behaved dog status) was yet to be done.
|Scruffy supervises the filling of various gaps at the front of the house|
As far as I am aware, the house is now completely sealed.
The new steel stairs have been installed on the house and they have received their final paint coats. Surprisingly the under coat and top coat metal paint actually cost more than all of the steel itself! All up that project has now cost a bit over $400, but I have also constructed another set of stairs for the cantina shed (which were installed a few weeks back) and I also have enough scrap steel and paint to build a future garden bench seat. Oh yeah, plus there is just enough heavy duty steel plate to do some much needed future repairs on the wood heater. I must confess I’m not looking forward to doing that job.
|the new steel stairs have now been installed and painted|
Whilst I’ve been running around maintaining things, the small trailer for the go-kart which I use to bring wood and rocks back up the hill received a coat of paint. I built that trailer about a year ago because I got sick of using the wheelbarrow to bring timber and rocks back up hill. A go-kart is a perfect vehicle on steep slopes because the centre of gravity is so low that it never feels like it will tip over and roll down the hill. As you can see in the photo below the trailer can hold either two dogs or a whole lot of timber.
|the go-kart trailer has received a freshen up coat of paint and both Scritchy and Toothy look on with approval|
I have plans to replace the go-kart arrangement with an electric skid steer trolley and was recently offered two small DC motors towards this future project.
The weather follows a very unusual and unpredictable cycle here. However in this part of the world, a hot and dry spell can sometimes be followed by a very heavy tropical rain storm. This week was no exception – the photo below says it all:
|Incoming heavy summer tropical rain storm|
All of the animals, birds and insects at the farm appreciated the decent rainfall with the abrupt change to cooler conditions. I caught a photo of a southern brown tree frog sheltering on a timber garden bench next to an LED garden light. The clever frog was eating every single insect that was attracted to that LED garden light.
|Southern brown tree frog hunting insects attracted to the LED garden light|
At the local seed savers group meeting last week there was a bit of discussion about garden pests. I happened to mention that over the past few years I’ve been growing lots of flowering shrubs as well as providing a safe water reservoir for birds so that now a family of wrens spends the entire year here bouncing through the cottage garden all day long eating whatever pests happen to be unlucky enough to be spotted by their ever watchful gaze. Take that you green spawn of a cabbage moth! Anyway I had the camera handy the other day and took a photo of the fast moving blue wren and his harem:
|Blue wren and one of his ladies in the self-seeding carrot bed|
A regular commenter, Stacey from British Columbia asked the other week whether I had stockpiles of scrap with which I constructed the various projects about the place. Well, this week I pegged out the corners of the new wood shed and in the background you may notice that I have a few piles of stuff. Now the word “stuff” here really refers to the sort of things that a person uses to make projects happen. I don’t keep a lot of stuff here, but there is just enough stuff to avoid having to run off to suppliers to get supplies.
|the site for the new wood shed has been pegged out and there are some piles of stuff in the background|
I also have to apologise to another regular commenter here: Lewis. Sorry mate, but I advise you to skip the next paragraph and whilst you are at it, avoid the next photo too. I’m sure you won’t see them.
It is blackberry season here and I love them. I don’t care what anyone says (Lewis, I told you not to read this paragraph!), but they are the easiest to grow berries. I eat them fresh and make jam from them too. They are the best tasting berries and the canes keep giving year after year. Yum!
|1.5kg or 3 pounds of blackberries picked fresh today|
How did I get here?
The Country Fire Authority (CFA) which is responsible in this state for fighting all fires outside of the inner Melbourne urban area had said that our land was too risky to build upon. Unfortunately, I had committed everything I had into building a small house on this very block of land, but the refusal for permission to do so was a real bummer, despite the zoning legislation saying that I could build a house and also despite previous discussions (prior to Black Saturday) with the CFA which indicated that they would give the green light for the permission. The CFA unfortunately had the final word on the matter and that was apparently that. Permission to build was denied.
Honestly the whole thing gave me a headache and what was worse was that both my lady and I were volunteer members of the CFA working with the local brigade and giving our time to the community and that organisation free of charge. It is worthwhile remembering that there are more active CFA members in just this state than all of the people actively employed in the Australian military and that tells you something about the fire risk.
There was no avenue to appeal the CFA decision either. So we had a brainstorm session here and decided that given the entire process was a legal process as distinct from a common sense process, we engaged the services of a specialist bushfire consultant to review the CFA’s decision.
Yes, they actually really do have people and organisations here that are specialist bushfire consultants. It goes without saying that they were expensive, but a thorough analysis was performed, a lengthy report was prepared, then the whole lot was delivered to the CFA for consideration.
The CFA in turn was delighted that a specialist consultant was happy to take responsibility for the decision and sometimes that’s how things go. The specialist consultant deemed that the house be designed and built to the highest bushfire specifications: Flamezone. The CFA then gave the green light to proceed with the approval process.
Honestly, I had no idea what they were all talking about – at the time – but had the approval paperwork (which was by now several hundred pages long) in my hand, so simply got on with the job and started building.
To be continued…
The temperature outside here at about 9.00pm is 14.4 degrees Celsius (57.9’F). So far this year there has been 104.2mm (4.1 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 74.4mm (2.9 inches).
Monday, 9 February 2015
One wombat to rule them all
It’s like having a feral piggie running around the orchard at night. Plus, that little piggie has friends, quite a few of them in fact. What on Earth am I talking about? Fatso, who is King of the wombats here at the farm, that’s what I’m talking about.
He’s a big wombat and usually camera shy, so it was very exciting the other night when I managed to capture a photo or two of Fatso, King of the wombats here, who just happened to be enjoying himself munching on some choice herbage.
|Fatso, King of the wombats here, ambling into view|
|Close up photo of Fatso, King of the wombats here|
I occasionally take the camera with me on walks at night so as to take photographs of the wildlife. You never quite know what you may see. Unfortunately that night, I also had one of my dogs with me and Fatso was a bit nervous about all of the attention. He soon quietly went off about his wombat business elsewhere – not too quickly though, for he displays a general air of disregard for humans and their foolish activities – but he did leave quickly enough that he was soon lost to sight in the surrounding forest. He’s cool and he knows it.
Today the trailer received the final coat of bright – in your face – yellow paint. I reckon that the trailer is looking good and hopefully it lasts for another decade or more. The trailer can’t be used for a week or two whilst the paint cures in the heat of the summer sun. The longer I leave the paint to cure without damaging it through use, the harder the paint surface will end up being.
|The trailer has now received the final coat of bright yellow paint this morning|
The new set of steel stairs is nearing completion this week and I’m hoping to be able to install them this afternoon. You may remember from last week’s blog that the four treads (or steps) had been constructed. This week I cut the heavy duty sides of the stairs (known as “Stringers” for the more technically inclined) from the 5mm (0.2 inch) sheet of steel plate which was purchased for this purpose last year. That sheet of steel plate was so heavy I could barely move it. I’m grateful for the assistance of the editor who drew up the design for the sides which gave me all of the angles and measurements. It is nice to be merely the grunt labour on this particular project as the sheet of thick steel plate had to be cut correctly the first time around (leaving no room for mistakes).
|Cutting the thick steel plate in order to make the sides of the new steel stair case|
I didn’t weld the four steps onto the sides, but instead chose to construct the stairs using hi-tensile bolts and nuts. Hi-tensile bolts are really just a fancy name for very strong bolts that hopefully won’t break any time soon! It did mean that I had to drill many holes through that thick steel on the sides of the steps so as to fit the hi-tensile bolts through. The drilling was a very hard job.
|Attaching the steps to the side of the new staircase with hi-tensile bolts|
For those that are technically inclined the photo below shows the underside of the new steel staircase and how it is all held together through a combination of bolts, welds and steel folding:
|Underside of the new steel staircase|
The past week has been quite hot here at the farm and even the nights have been quite warm too. Two days during the past week were over 35’C (95’F) and there are another four of those days over the next week. It’s hot here. Still the garden is growing strongly and I have managed my water resources well this year and still have 80% of the total 100,000 litres (26,417 gallons) storage capacity available for use.
The cottage garden is producing an amazing quantity of flowers which all of the insects and birds are really enjoying. There is so much activity in there you can hear the birds bouncing through the foliage and the many insects buzzing around the flowers from quite a distance away:
|The cottage garden is in full flower today, despite the recent heat|
The zucchini (courgette) plants are producing a huge quantity of fruit too and some of them are true monsters! Last year, they kept fresh for over 6 months and I was enjoying them well into late winter:
|Zucchini plants are starting to produce some serious monsters|
With the heat, a lot of plants are starting to produce seedlings and I find all sorts of seedlings about the place. Self-seeded mustards are very common now (both red and green) as well as early lettuce plants. However, today I spotted a new self-seeded plant that I’ve never noticed before and I’m not 100% certain, but I believe it to be a self-seeded rhubarb plant. I’ve only ever divided out a rhubarb crown before to get new plants so this should be interesting. It is unfortunately a bit too hot to transplant this seedling yet, so I’ll just keep an eye on it and see what develops.
|Possible self-seeded rhubarb plant|
Onions grow really well here with virtually no care or attention whatsoever. The Egyptian tree onions (or walking onions) have formed a huge number of bulbils and I’m considering planting out all of those bulbils. They are very hardy onions and each single bulb will produce another entire plant. There are hundreds of new onion plants. Someone once told me that the old timers used to pickle them for later consumption as cocktail onions. Last year I planted many of the bulbils into the cottage garden and they are doing really well in there too.
|Egyptian tree – or walking onions just waiting to be planted out|
Over the summer I leave various sources of water around the farm for the animals, birds and insects to all enjoy. In a climate with hot and dry summers it is a good way to get to know the wildlife. Every now and then, I’m completely surprised and spot entirely new wildlife enjoying the farm and this morning revealed a new frog. The frog was swimming in a large bowl of water which is generally only enjoyed by the wallabies, wombats and kangaroos. I have no idea what variety of frog it is, but suspect that it may be either a very unusual variant of the Southern Brown Tree Frog or a Verreaux’s Tree Frog. Who knows? It is unusual though:
|Unknown tree frog found swimming in a water bowl here|
If anyone can positively identify the frog I’d be interested to hear from you. For those that are concerned about froggie welfare, there is now a stick in the water bowl that the frog used to climb out.
How did I get here?
After seeing a bit of the world, getting a bit of education, working some pretty full on jobs at the top end of town, building and rebuilding houses, I honestly felt like I needed to do something different with my life.
This crazy idea dawned on me one day: I’ve got this cheap block of land up the bush. The law allows me to build a house on it. I’ve got the skills to build the house. I’m looking to do something different with my life. What the heck, how about selling up the house in the city and building a small and cheap off the grid house, living up in the bush, growing some vegetables and fruit, raising some chickens and generally having a bit of an adventure with our lives?
Now at this point in time, most partners in a relationship would generally go: You have officially now lost the plot. And there the crazy idea would end.
To my eternal gratitude and thanks, the editor of this blog simply said: Oh yeah, we can do that.
So we did that.
Things are never quite as easy as they should be. The mind bogglingly complex process of seeking the local council’s approval to build a small and cheap house became even more mind bogglingly complex because the Black Saturday bush fires happened midway through the approval process in February 2009.
The bushfire was about as bad as it gets: 173 people dead, 2,000 houses destroyed and 450,000ha (1,125,000 acres) burnt. Needless to say, the authorities had a major freak out and quickly introduced a whole new set of laws relating to building a house outside of an urban area.
As part of the official freak out, the Country Fire Authority of whom both my lady and I were volunteer members of the local fire brigade officially denied permission for us to build a small and cheap off grid house on this particular block of land. In Victoria, if a statutory authority (generally water or fire authorities) decides against your proposal to build a house, there is no right of appeal on that particular decision. Yes, here you can actually buy a block of land which the zoning and council says that you can build a house upon and during the permit process you may actually be denied permission.
So, we then had a major freak out.
To be continued…
The temperature outside here at about 5.30pm is 27.4 degrees Celsius (81.3’F). So far this year there has been 74.4mm (2.9 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 72.6mm (2.9 inches).
Monday, 2 February 2015
The T-rusty trailer
Re-use, repair, recycle is the mantra here. Regular readers by now may have figured out that I’m tight with money, so that mantra works just beautifully for me.
Unfortunately that mantra sometimes translates into hard and dirty work and this week was no exception.
One vital bit of machinery here is my trailer. In Australia for some strange reason, trailers or their manufacturers never got around to embracing the metric system, so a trailers capacity is always measured in feet. My trailer was a 7 foot by 5 foot beast and it is now approaching 10 years old. I use that trailer to bring all manner of materials for various projects back to the farm. Without the trailer it is fair to say that very few materials at all would be brought back here.
When a few months ago, the guy at the local sand and soil supplier started pointing out the very real fact that my trailer was falling apart, I knew something had to be done. What is worse is that woody mulch and mushroom compost – that I had paid for – were falling out of the holes in the trailer along the road back to the farm. An optimist would suggest that I’d been busy fertilising the plants alongside the road. The police on the other hand would probably have fined me and forced me to take the trailer off the road until such time that I could prove that the trailer was roadworthy again.
|The steel worm (rust) is eating away at the trusty trailer|
This may be a surprising revelation, but I have a fondness for that trailer which is hard to explain, so I’ll recount the tale that led me to purchase it all those years ago.
The story takes us back to an inner city suburb of Melbourne. At the time, I was rebuilding the rear of an 1890’s Victorian era terrace house. As an interesting side note, much of the original kitchen, laundry and toilet were rooms in the backyard. Upon demolishing those rooms I discovered that they were constructed from material sourced from packing crates. Now, I like the mantra of re-use, repair and recycle but unfortunately the building surveyor who oversaw my work did not and it makes you wonder about the over-zealous requirements of our building codes given that the walls in these rooms had clearly stayed vertical for over forty years and then perhaps some.
The packing crates and other materials did not survive the demolition process so I ordered a few large 6 cubic metres (7.85 cubic yards) bins and began to fill them up. It is worthwhile mentioning that those bins were really expensive and the local council would fine you if they weren’t removed from the area within three days and the fines became larger for every day past that third day. There was no mucking around and slacking off.
The very first night after the bin was delivered, stealthy movements occurred around the bin.
It is worthwhile mentioning that I am not a morning person. In fact I prefer at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night and the world in the morning is rarely in focus for me prior to a good strong cup of coffee. Needless to say, I am seriously disinclined towards pleasant conversation prior to that time. After the coffee though, it is all good! Just not a moment before…
However, on that particular second day of the large bin hire, I had discovered that some nefarious individual had loaded up the bin with their stuff. Before my coffee too! And it wasn’t just the odd thing or two, they’d seriously gone hard and the bin was almost full. Oh yeah, grumpy had a new name and its name was Chris.
There was no trail, identification or even avenue of investigation to uncover the culprit – who was clearly a local – so at this point I decided a mood of acceptance and vigilance was called for and simply ordered another large bin – which I also had the pleasure of paying for.
A new bin was delivered that day and like any good hunter, I simply watched and waited for the nefarious individual to peer out from the bushes and examine the bait that I’d left them. And it didn’t take more than a few hours of stalking the prey to catch them in the act.
The human condition constantly amazes me. The nefarious individual, who was a neighbour, was a leading Melbourne radio personality. I discovered later to my utter horror that this individual received a salary far in excess of a quarter of a million dollars a year. His justification to me was that “his activities were a time honoured tradition”, to which I replied: “Stealing from your neighbours is not cool. Ever. Now f… off!”.
Once the bin was full and removed from the premises – without further additions – I thought about the various options available and purchased the trailer. Now ten years later the trailer is looking a bit sad and in serious need of a bit of repair (that mantra again) in order to be reused.
So, when I recently purchased the steel for the new set of stairs which should be built in the next week or two, I also purchased two sheets of steel plate to replace the very sad plate in the trailer.
If I was being entirely honest, I’d say that I’d never dismantled a trailer before to replace the rusty old steel plate. So I had a good look at how the trailer was put together in the first place and then started cutting out the rusty old sections. Those rusty old sections crumbled like biscuits.
|Sections of the trailer of the trailer were cut out|
It took a lot of cutting to remove every chunk of the old steel plate.
|Cutting the old steel plate in the trailer|
You can see just how dirty the job was as I was covered in the accumulation of at least a decade of ingrained mulch and compost plus other unidentifiable dust whilst cutting the very rusty chunks out of the trailer. The dogs can be seen in the background of the photo below busily supervising the hard work too:
|More cutting of the very rusty steel plate|
It took two days to remove every single chunk of rusty steel on the trailer, but finally the job was done. Scritchy the boss dog looks on the job with approval – or perhaps she is bored with the whole thing?
|The rusty sections on the trailer were finally cut out|
When the trailer was originally manufactured, you would assume that they’d rust proofed it. But no, they didn’t, so I covered the entire structure with two coats of metal undercoat paint.
|The trailer with a coat of metal primer paint|
A top coat of metal epoxy paint has to be applied over the undercoat. I asked my lady – who is the editor of this blog – what colour she thought would be suitable for a masculine hard working trailer and she came up with this:
|Trailer with the first layer of epoxy top coat applied|
Oh yeah, this bright yellow is really happening. Incidentally you can also see that a big storm is brewing in the skies beyond the farm, so a bit of welcome summer rainfall was received here yesterday. Getting back to the trailer though, apparently I’ve been informed that the trailer will form something of a new art project here at the farm. More on this art project in future blogs.
Despite the drizzle over the past day, the replacement steel plate has now been installed onto the trailer and it is waiting to be painted.
|New plate being installed onto the trailer|
The tomatoes are going feral here and reach up closer to the sky a little bit more every day. The mid-October tomato bed (close to the right hand side of the photo) now reaches well above six feet and the fruit is slowly ripening.
|Comparison of the tomato beds|
|Close up of the tomato fruit ripening on the vines|
Zucchini’s are again proving their value this year as they produce a huge quantity of fruit. Half of those plants are from last year’s seed and the other half were from seedlings brought in.
|Zucchini fruit swells on the vine|
I recently posted a short video showing a time lapse of 500 days of growth in the shady orchard here:
I didn’t really properly explain in the video about the fruit tree pruning method employed here, which utilises the unique skillset of the local wildlife. This recent example of the work of Stumpy the house wallaby was particularly excellent and she displayed a delicate hand (or is that paw?) at pruning this heritage apple tree.
|Stumpy the wallaby shows how pruning fruit trees is done Down Under style|
How did I get here?
I forgot to mention previously that many years ago I chucked in my job, packed up the car – which was a small hatchback – and set off into the wild blue yonder and drove around Australia for 6 months. As travel had to be done on the cheap we camped in a tent most of the way and the biggest costs were generally food and petrol. What a big country Australia is and it is so very humbling to see firsthand how much of the continent is arid land. Much of the population here hugs the east coast and a small portion of the south west coast and other than that there is a whole lot to see, but that generally doesn’t involve many other people. The trip was awe inspiring and camping in a tent night after night you are out in the elements whether you like it or not.
The interesting thing was that during that travel, I rarely met any other Australian travellers my own age and that struck me as being odd. I met plenty of English, French, Germans and Canadians my age, it was just that there were no Australians younger than about 60.
Honestly, I’m tight with money so overseas travel usually meant that I ended up in destinations that were a bit off the beaten track. Cambodia after Pol Pot when the Vietnamese opened travel to that country, no worries. The back blocks of Laos sipping coffee in beautifully shambolic cafes in World Heritage listed towns – been there. The back blocks of Nepal where you walk uphill for six continuous hours and may see nothing but mountains, snow and yaks for days on end. Yeah. Cool. It also occasionally meant getting cornered on a train on the way to the toilet in northern India by some dude who wanted to talk cricket for hours on end after he found out I was an Aussie. Yeah, it was good fun. I even started developing an ear for the loud Hindi music which is pervasive in India.
But, travelling to some of the out of the way places meant that I saw firsthand how a lot of the world’s population lived and had no romantic notions about such matters. It was eye opening.
Even worse, was that sometimes when I arrived back in Australia, I couldn’t shake the certain knowledge that I lived in a bland house – which was in an area that hipsters would now drool over – in a bland location and lived in a bland community.
To be continued…
The temperature outside here at about 9.30pm is 11.0 degrees Celsius (51.8’F). So far this year there has been 72.6mm (2.9 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 66.8mm (2.6 inches).