Monday, 26 February 2018
This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au
Of late I have been reading Mr Gene Logsdon’s book: “Small-Scale Grain Raising”. It is an excellent book and I recommend it highly. Mr Logsdon is a practical bloke with a lifetime of experience and wisdom. I also appreciate that he calls things as he see them, whilst at the same time being diplomatic enough to acknowledge other peoples practices and opinions. The book is a genuine pleasure to read. I’d like to share a paragraph or two from the book where Mr Logsdon is writing about the economics of farming where he is providing some good common sense advice. Here goes…
“I have never in the last fifty years found a farm that can do all that (6%-10% return + living wage for the workers + a return for the farmer-owner-manager). The fact that farms grow steadily larger every year is itself proof that there’s never enough profit in the occupation to accomplish these ends. Wherever a farm seems to be economically ‘successful’, there is either money being pumped in from another source or you will find the soil of that farm being gradually depleted of fertility. Nature never heard of money interest. What you take from her you must eventually put back…
The truly profitable farms are those managed for three or four generations under a consistent policy of frugality and conservation, and upon which some high-quality livestock-breeding program or high-value horticultural operation is carried out along with crop production… The operation is labor-intensive, employing the farmer and his family in all seasons. Older, smaller machinery is often utilized. Few luxuries are indulged in. Debt is, and has been, avoided like leprosy, and expansion has come only out of savings, not from borrowing.”
Wise words, and I could not have written a finer piece of advice if I’d tried.
Whilst I am uncomfortable with bucket loads of debt, governments and plenty of plenty of other people in developed countries appear to have no problems at all with debt. Now I can’t really speak for those folks, but their appetite for debt has the consequence of driving up prices in the property market. I feel genuinely sorry for people who want to purchase a house or land, but can’t afford the crazy prices. Every year the prices rise in the double digits, well, let’s just say that I reckon that incomes haven’t increased by that same percentage. And the inescapable conclusion is that we are all getting poorer because the dollar no longer purchases what it used to purchase.
It is also not lost on me because of where we live, that I see a lot of good farmland around these rural areas laying fallow (i.e. unused or unproductive). The reason for that is that if a person has debt on their property, then it is impossible to follow Mr Logsdon’s excellent advice, because you’ll need to be employed full time elsewhere just to service the debt – the farm will not pay its way. Or the other possibility is that you can afford the property outright, but you are too old to work the land in a “labor-intensive” manner and so the large scale machinery required to avoid that option will then put you into debt.
Over the past few weeks I have occasionally had an ear-worm annoying me. An ear-worm is a song that you can’t seem to get out of your head. I heard the raw Appalachian sounds of John Mellencamp’s sad lament about the demise of family farms in his corner of the planet (Rain on the Scarecrow). It is a powerful song and I hope you enjoy the lyrics:
More than fifteen, but perhaps less than twenty years ago the editor and I travelled to the Australian island state of Tasmania. Way down in the bottom eastern corner of that very large island, there is another much smaller island called: Bruny Island. A ferry takes cars and small trucks a short distance across a channel between Tasmania and the smaller island. The ferry carried what looked to me like locals and only a few tourists. It was pretty quiet and we stayed a few days on the small island at various locations.
One of the locations was a farm stay nestled in its own green, fertile, and protected valley. The farmer was an immigrant who’d married a local lady, and they had a beautiful looking farm. I was lucky enough that the bloke took some time to chat with us, and so after the initial greeting I remarked to him that the post and rail fencing looked superb – because it did. He then told us that he milled the posts and rails himself from his own stand of trees using a portable saw mill (known down under as a Lucas Mill).
Hearing that he used both the local resources, simple machines, and sweat equity, really impressed me and I turned to the side to admire the plentiful and tall straight blue gum trees which provided some of the farms infrastructure. The bloke was a cool customer.
By that time in my life the editor and I had been repairing and restoring houses for profit using our own labour, and so I asked the bloke about how hard it was to get a builder into such a remote spot to build the accommodation cottages? He replied (and he wasn’t bragging either, but just stating the facts) that he built the cottages himself largely using timber that he’d milled from his own trees. I was in awe. Sometimes you occasionally meet people who are several orders of magnitude more competent than yourself, and that was one such occasion. It was quite a pivotal moment for me as it had never before occurred to me to utilise the natural resources that are to be found around you.
Anyway, I’m guessing that couple (who were about our age) weren’t in debt, for the simple reason that banks down under do not generally loan money for that sort of building project.
Now imagine if that farm had been labouring under a huge burden of debt and the editor and I were the only people (which we were) in one of the three accommodation cottages. He wouldn’t be so relaxed because he’d need to make income to cover the debt, and as the song lyrics say:
Ollie, the cuddle-dog who masquerades as a cattle-dog has decided that one storm detective in a household is never enough. A photo tells a thousand words:
|Ollie, storm detective…|
I feel that Scritchy the boss dog is a bad influence on the impressionable Ollie, but not much can be done about that as she has taken the much larger dog firmly under her paw of iron!
|Scritchy the boss dog is a bad influence on the impressionable puppy Ollie|
On a positive note, Ollie seems to be marginally more accurate at storm detection than Scritchy. He reliably predicted a storm which brought a lot of wind, and not much rain. It has been a dry February. Anyway, the morning after the storm had passed, a huge bank of fog settled over the valley below the farm:
|A thick bank of fog settled over the valley below the farm|
The tree frogs celebrated the increased humidity in the air as they could be seen bouncing around the verandas chasing yummy insects.
|The tree frogs enjoy the increase in humidity, albeit not much rain with the recent storm|
The editor came across a very colourful metal gecko at the local CFA (Country Fire Authority) fundraising flea market. And we installed the artful gecko on the door to the secondary firewood shed. I reckon it looks very cool:
|An artful and very colourful metal gecko was attached to the secondary firewood shed|
Final Ollie news for the week. He has not only been supplementing his diet with kangaroo poo, but he also appears to be enjoying elderberries. This simply proves that one cannot take nutritional advice from a dog.
|Something sweet for the breath after some (un)savoury kangaroo poo|
Some heavy hitters over in the more fashionable end of the mountain range have used their legislative muscle to ban wind turbines in this mountain range. At this point in the story, I should add that I have dabbled in wind turbines, and to my horror I discovered that home scale wind turbines are a complete waste of time in this location. Anyway, I noticed for the first time this week that on a nearby mountain range seven very large wind turbines gently twirling in the winds. They are so far away that I couldn’t say with a straight face that they’ve in anyway affected my visual amenities. I expect the turbines will have approximately a twenty five year lifespan.
|I noticed for the first time this week, seven wind turbines lazily spinning in the winds on a distant mountain range|
On Sunday, I travelled north to attend a course at an organic orchard at the base of Mount Alexander. I have been purchasing fruit from the Katie and Hugh at the orchard and other markets for about a decade and they are great people and they produce even better sun ripened and organic fruit: Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens. The course was on budding which is an easy form of summer fruit tree grafting. Basically grafting is all about taking a sample of a known fruit tree and getting it to grow on a seedling fruit tree. Seedling fruit trees may grow easily, but the fruit can be very variable. I learned heaps on the course and it was taken by Katie’s dad who I believe he said that he had about 60 years experience and his dad owned a nearby orchard. It is a real pleasure to be able to talk with people who know their stuff and I will attempt the grafting process next summer. For anyone in or around Melbourne, it is also worth noting that that farm also supplies fruit trees for sale many of which they have raised themselves. *
* Note: I received no payments, discounts, products or any other incentive by mentioning this course or their business. There is no advertising on this blog!
The budding process is quite simple in theory. Firstly cut a section of young fruit tree wood with a bud:
|First step: Cut a section of young fruit tree wood that has a bud. I reckon that is about an inch|
Secondly, cut a T score in the tree that you wish to graft the bud onto. Peel the bark back (but do not break it). And then slide the inch long cut section under the peeled bark.
|Second step: Slide the section of bud under the bark of the tree|
Then tape the graft up. Incidentally, Katie’s dad said that back in the day they used to use raffia or even wool worked well.
|Tape up the bud|
Of course, like everything there is far more to this excellent method than I can put into words, so go and do a course, or watch a YouTube clip. But most of all, get out there and grow your own fruit trees!
We’ve started saving some of our vegetable seeds too, and this week we saved the early yellow tomatoes and cucumbers. Again, saving seeds is very easy and cheap to do, you just have to learn how!
|Seed saving: Early yellow tomatoes and cucumbers|
I had better get a wriggle on! Late summer Vegetable and fruit update:
|Bell capsicum / peppers have grown heaps in the last week|
|Jalapeño! Yes, I have not forgotten the many warnings|
|Eggplants are almost ready to harvest. I’m surprised the plant doesn’t fall over with the weight…|
|Long capsicum / peppers looks like they’ll grow faster here than the bell shaped ones|
|Corn. Is it ready? I do not know!|
|The cantaloupes are rapidly gaining size. I also do not know if they are ready|
|But they’re not as huge as the watermelon which has a pumpkin friend|
Despite the dry February, the flowers are doing really well. Here’s for the flowers:
|Who planted this bulb? Seriously, I do not remember doing that|
|Chives in among perennial rocket|
|Tiny bush roses!|
|They say debt can lead one up the garden path so who am I to argue with such wisdom?|
The temperature outside now at about 8.30pm is 17’C (63’F). So far this year there has been 109.8mm (4.3 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 106.6mm (4.2 inches).
Monday, 19 February 2018
This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au
It is a nice thing living on the edge of town. I can use the amenities of the nearby townships. And the big smoke of Melbourne is only ever an hour away. But the forest and the quiet living up here always calls me back. It wasn’t always that way, as I did grow up in the big smoke and previously lived an urban experience with a multitude of cafes on various street corners. One cannot argue against the logic of a quality coffee!
Working hard has never bothered me either, because I’ve always worked hard. In Melbourne I’d previously repaired, restored, and sometimes even rebuilt century old houses, all the while working full time jobs and studying part time. In addition, I have always kept up relationships with friends and (of course) the editor! Hard work is a way of life for both of us.
As an interesting side story, the other day I happened to travel past a house that the editor and I had largely restored from a brick shell. On the front steel Victorian era replica fence that we had laboriously welded from raw materials to original specifications, there was a board proclaiming that a builder was in the process of undertaking works within the house. I was rather upset and alarmed at the thought that a builder was tearing down all of the work that we had so carefully done. Around the back of the house I ventured into the old cobblestone alley way (for the old horse drawn night soil carts). I peered through a gap in the rear gate and to my relief the works being done seemed quite minor. Interestingly to me, I noticed that in the many years since our departure the new owners appear not to have performed much basic maintenance.
Maintenance is just one aspect of land. And you know, a person can live in a rural area without doing all of the hard work that the editor and I put into this farm. Plenty of people do exactly that every single day. Maintaining or extending infrastructure has a cost which can be either physical and/or economic. And the question that pops into my mind is: maintenance can be ignored for a while, but for how long? Often overdue maintenance seems to be a reason that people move on.
The author John Steinbeck wrote the fictional book: “Of Mice And Men”, in the dark days of the Great Depression. One the characters, who to put it mildly – ‘was a bit thick’ – was always banging on about living off the fat of the land. Fat land is a fictional concept, because unlike hard work, it doesn’t exist. And if it does exist, then I’m guessing that most people can’t afford it.
Hard work is a good tool as it provides the opportunity to live comfortably on leaner (low-fat, fat-free but not low-carb) land. However, if you want to achieve a small surplus from land, then a person has to physically wrest that surplus from the land. Keep in mind that the activity may make absolutely no economic sense relative to what can be earned with your time from other sources.
So when people ask me for my opinion about living in a rural area, all I have to offer them is that it is a beautiful and special experience, but it is also a lot of hard work and can be expensive.
I feel that the lyrics of the beautiful song “Edge of Town” written and performed by local band “Middle Kids” would be soothing to people fearful of all this talk about hard work!
Speaking of hard work, early Sunday morning we took the small white dirt rat Suzuki and the bright yellow trailer down into the bottom paddock in order to retrieve the final few loads of firewood.
|The dirt rat Suzuki and bright yellow trailer head down the hill in order to retrieve the final few loads of firewood|
Firewood collection has now been completed for the season! Yay! We have never before completed this task so early in the year nor have we ever put away so much firewood. This week we filled the firewood bay next to the house. That firewood bay is the sub-sub-agency branch of the CBF(TM) (Cherokee Bank of Firewood).
|The author enjoys a quiet moment having completed the firewood activities for this year|
Some people have all sorts of strange opinions about firewood and I always tend to ask those people: How is that brown coal used in electricity generators working for them? And I would never dare mention coal seam gas (the Australian version of fracking) in polite company as gentle folk may take serious offence. I guess being able to manage and harvest our own energy resource can sound a bit too much like hard work for folks used to flicking a switch to warm their houses.
This time of year is all about the harvest. Firewood is just one form of harvest. The tomatoes have also begun ripening in quantity this week. We use a six tray (Fowlers Vacola) food dehydrator to dry the tomatoes and then store them in olive oil. Some of the tomatoes are eaten fresh though!
|A collection of freshly picked heritage tomatoes for lunch|
Before tomatoes are dehydrated, they are washed and dried the night before, and then cut into thirds in the morning and placed on the dehydrator trays. The process of dehydrating can take up to 14 hours, so we like to utilise the electricity generated by the solar panels.
|A tray of freshly picked tomatoes which were in the process of being cut into thirds prior to dehydrating|
About one and a third trays (in the photo above) of tomatoes once dehydrated almost fills up a large glass jar. We consume the tomatoes throughout the year, and the olive oil is used in cooking. Nothing goes to waste and the glass jars and lids are cleaned and used again the following year.
|Six trays of dehydrated tomatoes almost fills up a large glass bottle|
Observant readers will note the twelve bottles of blackberry jam that were also produced this week (blackberries are another harvest). And in the photo above on the right hand side is our very fancy yoghurt cooker which is happily keeping its contents warm at a steady 43’C / 109’F for twelve hours.
Speaking of fermenting and blackberries – The editor who is the brew-mistress here at Fernglade farm, produced three demijohns of blackberry wine to add to other flavours of wine and vinegars already fermenting. The dozen demijohns looked really cool bubbling away in the hot afternoon summer sun.
|The dozen demijohns look really cool as they bubble away in the hot afternoon summer sun|
The editor who is a general whizz in the kitchen, has also been pickling our huge supply of cucumbers (yet another harvest) in a mixture of white vinegar and home made apple cider vinegar (apples are also being harvested right now and one of the demijohns in the photo above is making apple cider vinegar). Dill seeds are used as flavouring (yet another harvest) for the pickles and they are very tasty!
|Cucumbers and onions happily pickle away in white vinegar!|
Far out, even I’m starting to feel that harvest time is full of hard work. I reckon we should take a quick intermission and check back in on the Middle Kids song:
Weren’t those lyrics soothing? Long readers will recall that the new puppy – Ollie, who may or may not be a cattle dog, although it seems rather unlikely based in his behaviour – chomped through the spray hose for the dozen or so raised vegetable beds. The beds were unable to be watered and of course that coincided with a few dry and hot weeks. Last week I installed a new and very fancy, but ultimately repairable in the event of a chomp situation, watering system for the raised garden beds. It is an awesome system! But my favourite salad herb (Vietnamese mint) at the very end of the line was no longer being watered. This week I extended the watering system so that my fave plant can now receive daily watering.
If anyone is concerned that the plants here are overly watered, then it is worth remembering that this house has only tank water and those vegetable beds receive only ten minutes of water per day regardless of the insane summer temperatures. And that is it. Neither orchard is irrigated.
|The Vietnamese mint now receives daily watering as the sprinkler system was extended|
The garden tap system also received a major overhaul this week. The 12 Volt pump that was being used to provide pressure in that system is very good, but it has only a twenty minute duty cycle. A duty cycle is the fancy name to describe how long the device should be used. After twenty minutes, the pressure drops away because the pump heats up. This week I replaced that water pump with a much better 12 Volt water pump. And I also added a huge accumulator pressure tank. The pressure tank is 24 Litres / 6.3 gallons and it stores water at pressure and when a tap (spigot) is turned on water flows from the pressure tank and this saves the pump from having to switch on – that is until the pressure tank completely empties.
|The author dismantles the existing garden water pump system|
|The new water pump and huge accumulator pressure tank is added to the garden water pump system|
|The author runs out of time and installs a dodgy quick fix to protect the pressure tank and pump from rain and sun|
Oh yeah, we also harvested some of the almonds as they had begun splitting open on the tree. Fresh almonds are beyond good and they are one tasty nut. As an interesting side note, we’re considering purchasing a three legged ladder which are usually used in commercial orchards so that we can pick the higher fruit.
|Almonds were harvested this week|
It is not all hard work here, although a lot of that gear does go on. For those who fear hard work, well…
Scritchy the boss dog doesn’t fear hard work and she appears to be winning over the new Fluffy Collective recruit:
|Scritchy appears to be winning over the newest member of the Fluffy Collective – Ollie, via a Vulcan mind-bum meld|
In other breaking animal (I mean insect) news, we managed to get a photo of the elusive blue banded bees who are hard at work harvesting nectar and pollen:
|A blue banded bee harvests pollen and nectar from this lemon balm|
And onto the flowers… They rarely grow without lashings of hard work!
|Geraniums have bounced back over the past week or so as UV levels have decreased to merely VERY HIGH|
|Stunning lilies. I just can’t ever remember planting this variety|
|Californian poppies make quite the splash|
|A silver banksia enjoys the sun and warmth|
|Agapanthus are ever reliable|
|Penstemon are likewise reliable|
The temperature outside now at about 9.00pm is 15’C (59’F). So far this year there has been 106.6mm (4.2 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 104.6mm (4.1 inches).
Monday, 12 February 2018
This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au
Way back when I was a kid, some nefarious prankster stole my push bike. Back in those days, push bikes were expensive items and so they were clearly worth stealing. Having my push bike stolen was quite a set back for my shamefully capitalistic ways. You see, not only was my push bike used for transport between my house and everywhere else, it was also the source of my income, and this was a problem for me because income was not forthcoming from anywhere else.
Some people say that I work hard nowadays, but back then as a kid, at times I had three jobs in addition to school. That meant, two newspaper rounds in the morning and a chemist round in the evening. I particularly enjoyed the chemist round job as it involved delivering prescription medications to the elderly, and they were usually grateful enough to tip me. It was a well paid gig. Perhaps on the other hand, those elderly folks thought that I needed a bit of feeding up and so they gave me the tips so that I could purchase more food? Similar to my bakery superpower today perhaps?
Having three jobs at times, meant that food was always available. The local fish and chip shop used to sell tasty potato cakes, pickled onions, and dim sims. On the other hand, the local fish and chip shop was something of a ‘den of iniquity’ as it had a Space Invaders machine, and a lot of my hard earned cash was spent learning how to defeat marauding aliens. Anyway, the food always kept my energy levels up because I had to do a lot of riding around on my push bike.
But then some rotten person stole my push bike and ruined a good thing. The bike was locked up at the time, but I learned the hard lesson that bolt cutters could produce a return on investment for the purchaser!
Me, being me, I decided rather than purchasing a new push bike from scratch, which would have put a dent in my savings (and Space Invaders entertainment budget), I’d simply go to various bike shops around the area and haggle over prices for various components that made up a bike. Then I’d put the new bike together myself. And in a matter of days, I had a new push bike, and could continue my capitalistic ways.
In these enlightened times, adults now deliver newspapers and those newspapers are individually wrapped in plastic and thrown from a moving vehicle. As a comparison, when I delivered newspapers as a kid, and the sun had yet to make an appearance, and the rain was sometimes falling, I placed a households newspaper on the shelter of their front veranda. And I ask you, do pharmacies get children to burn off their packaging and rubbish in a backyard incinerator these days? Ah, fun times.
These days we’re much more enlightened and push bikes are used in vastly different ways. In rural areas, push bikes have become a dirty word that provokes ire.
You’d think that issues such as: pollution; guns; arson; and/or restrictive local government would generate a lot of rural heat? Well they do, but nothing really pushes the rural hot button and unites country folk like: push bikes.
Now for the record, I am reasonably apathetic about the subject and take a live and let live approach. But then I also live on a dirt road, off another dirt road, and so no bike rider in their right mind would ever venture into this unfashionable end of the mountain range.
On the other hand, the more fashionable end of the mountain range has a nice sealed road leading up and over the mountain, and that road features a fourteen degree incline. Riders can challenge themselves on the long sweaty ride up to the mountain plateau, and then they can challenge themselves again at vastly higher speeds on the way back downhill to their vehicles again.
The problem as I see it is an expression of the larger problem of ‘population pressure’. Population pressure has been defined as: “the sum of the factors within a population that reduce the ability of an environment to support the population”. To put that definition into context, there are just too many weekend bike riders for the infrastructure in the more fashionable end of the mountain range to easily support them.
Unfortunately, there also seems to be something rather strange about that bike culture. From an outsiders perspective it can occasionally express itself to the locals as a highly competitive and aggressive culture, which does not win friends in rural areas. I have occasionally been unfairly abused by highly emotive push bike riders, and I tend to remark to the editor that: “Oh my! That one appears to be exhibiting ‘roid rage (steroid use), don’t you feel?”
There really is no easy answer to the problems of population pressure in this mountain range – and long term readers may recall that the hordes of ‘leaf change’ tourists will soon make an appearance now that Autumn is almost here.
Anyway, when I used to ride around on my push bike it was always for a practical purpose. As a contrast, every weekend a lot of energy gets used riding up and over the more fashionable end of the mountain range, and I’d love to put that energy to use hauling rocks or firewood! Alas, that is the very nature of a predicament!
Speaking of firewood, we’ve been cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking firewood this week! And the daytime temperatures have been in the mid thirties Celsius (86’F), so every morning for the past few days we have been getting up at day break and putting in a few hours on that most important of farm tasks. One night, the overnight temperature didn’t go below 27’C (81’F) but we’re made of tough stuff and just got on with the job:
|Far out, 6.43am and the outside temperature is 27’C / 81’F and the sun is barely above the horizon!|
Two days of cutting and hauling seasoned firewood produced a tidy heap next to the already full main firewood shed – the CBF (Cherokee Bank of Firewood) flagship branch!
|Two days of cutting and hauling seasoned firewood produced a tidy heap|
The next day after another six and half hours work splitting, hauling, and stacking firewood without a break, the secondary firewood shed (the CBF sub branch) was full up to its eyeballs (and mine too):
|The secondary firewood shed is now full|
Harvesting firewood is now almost complete for the season. This is a good thing because the weather turned ugly that final day and a rain storm moved in across the valley. Wet firewood is not much good.
|Just as the door to the full CBF Sub branch / firewood shed was closed, a rain storm moved in over the valley|
The editor and I picked two huge bags of apples from a wild apple tree. The bags we collected the apples in are also used for our shopping at the supermarket. The bright primary colours have not faded after almost two decades of top hauling work!
|The author shows off one of the two shopping bags full of wild apples which we picked this week|
At these times the free song comes to my mind and as we picked those wild apples I was humming to myself: “If it’s free, it’s for me, and I’ll have three!” Of course we broke our three rule as we harvested dozens and dozens of the apples. And of course as all right thinking people know, free apples means: Apple wine and apple cider vinegar!
|The author smiles as he contemplates apple wine and apple cider vinegar using the free apples|
Last week, the new dog, Ollie chewed right through the soaker hoses used to water the raised vegetable beds. Well done him. I’d long since been planning to replace those soaker hoses with a system that is durable and perhaps more importantly, repairable. Last week, I rushed down to the local irrigation shop and on a Saturday morning with the shop full of customers (who unfortunately arrived after me and were looking rather distressed at the waiting time), the bloke walked me through all the different options. And I repaid that patience by following his advice. This week I installed the new and much fancier irrigation system, and for the absolute life of me, I have no idea why I wasn’t using this gear before. The system is now the whole next level of awesomeness!
|Each raised garden bed now has its own individual irrigation sprayer which can be endlessly modified.|
|A close up of the individual irrigation sprayer in action|
And Scritchy the boss dog has taken a firm paw with Ollie and is training him to be meek and obedient. I ask you, would you dare defy Scritchy pulling ‘Angry boss dog face number three’?
|Scritchy the boss dog gives the much larger puppy Ollie ‘what for’!|
The other evening I spotted this formidable creature on the back verandah. Ollie eventually killed the creature, but it went down fighting and managed to bite Ollie several times before its eventual demise.
|A formidable creature appeared on the back verandah|
I must get a wriggle on, but this is harvest time and there are just so many yummy food stuffs on offer. Here is a sample of some of the produce:
|We leave the thousands of elderberries for the birds and they love them|
|Jalapeño chili’s. I’m honestly a bit frightened about these…|
|Long capsicum (peppers). Total 100% yummo!|
|Eggplants. I’m hoping they put on some serious size before autumn|
|A pumpkin over a watermelon. How often is that seen?|
|Corn on the cob. Next season I hope to replant some of this seed|
|The mid sized tomatoes are just beginning to ripen. How tasty do these look?|
|The birds appear to have missed these plums|
|An almost perfect European pear|
|The Asian pears refuse to be outdone and are just as tasty|
The recent heavy rain and only Very High UV (down from Extreme ratings) has meant that the flowers have bounced back with a vengeance!
|Geraniums and Nasturtiums make for a colourful display|
|Globe artichokes are the coolest colour flower|
|More Geraniums. I’ve nicknamed this variety: Stinky Red|
|Honey bees are enjoying the copious and hardy Agapanthus|
|The mint family of plants are flowering and the bee here is enjoying the Oregano|
As a general rule I don’t purchase cut flowers, and neither do I plant Eucalyptus trees near to the house (due to the fire risk). That is actually two rules. Anyway, with Valentines Day closing in upon us I planted a stunning Eucalyptus Ficifolia close to the house for the editors enjoyment and pleasure.
|We planted a pink flowering form of Eucalyptus Ficifolia this week|
Before we close out the blog, I just wanted to give a shout out to the excellent English rapper Big Shaq for his song: “Man’s not hot” from which I ripped the title for this week’s blog. An awesome song and total respect. Who can deny the sheer cleverness of the lyrics: “Two plus two is four
Minus one that’s three, quick maths”?
The temperature outside now at about 8.45pm is 15’C (59’F). So far this year there has been 104.6mm (4.1 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 103.8mm (4.1 inches).
Monday, 5 February 2018
This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au
It should have been obvious that something wasn’t right. But it wasn’t obvious. Eventually I came to learn that something was very wrong that day.
Late last year, the nice bloke at the local tip (with the excellent view of Melbourne’s skyline) directed me to drop my glass items for recycling into the area that collects general landfill. I never drop items into that area, and so I felt there was mystery in the directive. But what was it?
Have I mentioned before that we have no rubbish pick up service here at Fernglade farm? For a small fee we could have access to that garbage service, but we have made a conscious decision not to use it. The decision suits us, because not only do we save money by not using the service, but we don’t generate much rubbish. So, we can live without rubbish pickup services.
To not use the service was a conscious decision, because from my perspective, it makes absolutely no sense to me to work hard to earn an income, to then purchase stuff, only to then discard it. It also means that we consider all items of rubbish that are created or brought onto the farm. Conscious living at its most fun(damental).
At this point in the story, we need the soothing vocals, music, and lyrics of Boo Seeka with their beautiful song, ‘Does this Last’. After all, it is a good question!
When I was a kid, a garbage bin was a smallish galvanised metal bin which held about 60 Litres (15.8 Gallons) volume of rubbish. I never recall anyone complaining about not having enough space for their garbage. Those small garbage bins were lifted by humans and the contents were thrown into the back of a truck. I recall that the garbage bin looked as though it had been through the wars and the lid had clearly been run over by a vehicle at some point. Back in those days, bins were real bins, and garbos were real athletes, which meant that they all had a unique character.
Then at some point the local councils decided to use garbage trucks with robotic arms. This meant that every house received a plastic 120 litre (31.6 gallon) garbage bin with a flip top lid. We were clearly now more enlightened, as we could chuck out twice as much garbage as before.
Someone must have decided that we needed even more enlightenment because the 120 litre bins were deemed not big enough for the average household. And eventually we scored big time with replacement 240 litre (63.2 gallon) bins. Things were clearly looking up because the average house could now chuck out twice as much garbage again! Winning!
At some stage we got all ‘environ(mental)’ and scored a second 240 litre (63.2 gallon) bin for mixed items for recycling. People were never really clear about what items could be recycled (hello take away coffee cups), but that didn’t matter because we had yet another bin. And this bin made us feel really good.
Some other households were even more special because they got a third bin, with a green lid. That bin is for ‘green waste’. Green waste is mysterious stuff that could have been composted in peoples backyards. And I know people understand what ‘green waste’ is because I regularly find in composted green waste: plastic plants; plastic plant pots; plastic pegs; plastic line trimmer; and plastic gloves. Observant readers may be able to spot the common theme: Garden stuff! For some reason there are also myriad plastic animals to be found in composted green waste and dolphins weirdly seem to be the most common. Plastic dolphins must be extra biodegradeable.
I felt good about recycling stuff too, because at least it wasn’t garbage which ended up in landfill. But what actually happened to that recycling stuff was that a lot of it was shipped off to China, where they did something with it, and we never gave the recycling stuff a second thought. It was only fair really, given they had sent us a lot of the stuff in the first place.
All good stories eventually end. And the pleasant recycling story seems to have ended rather abruptly recently. It appears that the Chinese no longer wish to accept our recycling stuff. Of course, the Chinese are rather clever and they do still want the metal stuff for recycling, but the paper, cardboard, plastics, and glass, well not so much. They also still want to send us lots of stuff (maybe also known as future rubbish)!
So, what happens now when households have a weekly 240 litre (63.2 gallon) bin full of mixed items for recycling, as well as the standard 240 litre rubbish bin? Well, our local mayor suggested that: “We need to minimise what’s going into recycling bins. It will have to be an effort from everyone.” An astute suggestion (??), but does that then mean that the recycling stuff ends up in landfill? It is not as if the recycling stuff suddenly disappears, or does it? What if the rubbish bin is full? So many intriguing questions left unanswered.
My gut feeling is that the items will end up in landfill which will fill up much faster than previously anticipated. My other prediction is that there will be a huge increase in the amount of illegally dumped waste materials. There will also be a lot of complaining about the situation, but few people will want to pay to have their waste recycled, when it has previously been so cheap to dump elsewhere. And even less people will consider the option of reducing their consumption of stuff in the first place.
And it is always worth recalling that failure is always an option and as we became enlightened, so we can become unenlightened!
|Sunrise – an ungodly hour to be awake!|
The weather has been nothing short of superb this week, after the horrors of last weeks heat! A huge dump of rain earlier in the week, and then sunny and warm days. The summer sun has lost its scorpion like sting as the UV has been varying between Extreme and only Very High. Plants love nothing more than lots of soil moisture and Very High UV and every night the forest releases volumes of moist air which settles as mist and fog over the valley below the farm.
We have been getting up at day break (an unholy hour) and harvesting summer dried firewood for later use during the cold and damp depths of winter. I’m no fan of early mornings and all I can add is that I’m eternally grateful for the gift of coffee.
|The primary firewood shed is now full|
The primary firewood shed is now full, and our firewood efforts are being directed at the secondary (and smaller) firewood shed. The recently constructed wide path to that shed is working an absolute treat! And the secondary firewood shed is slowly filling up. We have never had both firewood sheds completely full before, so it will be interesting to see how much firewood is used over a winter season. We’re not really sure what the answer is to that question, and we have also been discussing ways to reduce the amount of firewood used.
|The secondary firewood shed is rapidly filling up|
In breaking cattle dog news. Well, the results are in on the Ollie experiment. Many years ago a knowledgeable lady with a specialty in chickens once imparted words of wisdom: “Stick to bantam chickens. The eggs are only slightly smaller and the chickens consume far less feed”. Wise words, and I was recalling her wisdom as I contemplated Ollie the lap/cuddle dog, who masquerades as an Australian cattle dog. Sir Poopy’s (the recently deceased Swedish Lapphund) bravery exceeded Ollie’s by a considerable margin, all the while he consumed less food and produced less manure…
|Ollie enjoys a quiet moment whilst Scritchy the boss dog keeps watch|
Speaking of Ollie, he has tested the watering system with his teeth. It is a long story involving a bone, but a picture tells a thousand words:
|Ollie toothed the watering system for the raised vegetable garden beds|
I discovered the Ollie-meets-watering-system disaster on Saturday morning and needless to say I cracked the sads! After a few minutes of quiet reflection and contemplation, I calmed down and acknowledged the reality of the situation, and departed in the dirt rat Suzuki to the irrigation supply shop in the nearby township. Ollie was perhaps pointing out the obvious, in that the green spray hoses are total rubbish and worthy of a good toothing. It is also worth recalling that the admission of complete failure is also an opportunity to try something more robust and completely different. The new watering system may even be installed by next week? Maybe?
Earlier in the week I visited the fresh food market in Melbourne – the Queen Victoria Market. I have been purchasing food stuffs (and bones for the dogs to stop them from chewing on the irrigation pipes) there for so long that I can barely recall shopping elsewhere. As a kid, my grandmother used to walk us to the Prahan market (which is still in existence) pushing a shopping jeep. Nowadays, I’m pushing the shopping jeep and I know most of the sellers on sight. Anyway, I spotted a vendor selling a tray of fresh figs and after a short negotiation, I bundled all of the figs into one of the many cloth home made bags we use to bring back fresh produce. The result of that box of fresh figs? As the old timers used to say, read ’em and weep!
|A box of fresh figs were made into an amazing fig jam!|
In the past I have fielded inquiries from people living in apartments about what they can possibly do that is comparable to growing the many fig trees (which are too young to be productive) that we grow here. Well, far out, how about turning a ten dollar box of figs into seven jars of jam?
We have also been drying the many broad beans and dill seeds grown here in the nice summer sun.
|Broad bean seeds and dill seeds are dried in the summer sun|
You may ask what are dill seeds used for? Dill is a tasty summer green, but the seeds provide the flavour for pickled home grown cucumbers.
|We began pickling the cucumbers. Total 100% yummo!|
There were further internet modem troubles this evening, and so the usual photo-fest has had to be truncated somewhat. But that still leaves some bandwidth for some nice flower photos. The flowers have been bouncing back with the reduced harsh sunlight and the big dump of rain earlier in the week. The roses were the first to respond with new growth:
|Roses enjoyed the big dump in rain combined with the reduction in UV|
|This bush rose growing in an old elderberry is one of my favourite flowers|
|Hydrangeas are as tough as old boots (and a better colour) and have shrugged off heat and the dry|
|Salvia’s are also a summer favourite|
The temperature outside now at about 9.15pm is 16’C (61’F). So far this year there has been 103.8mm (4.1 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 60.4mm (2.4 inches).