Breaking wombat news: I had plans

Breaking wombat news: Heavy snow falls over the Central Highlands of Victoria

The conclusion to the Modern Grain Theory story has to wait for this urgent news update from our local reporter on the ground. Over to you Chris!

I had plans. No seriously, I really did have plans to continue excavating soil on the two new garden terraces during the latter part of the week. Both new terraces will have edible plants, however the higher terrace will also have a number of roses.

So far the winter has been mild and damp, and wouldn’t you just know it? The roses have begun to produce early leaves. So, there is a bit of pressure to finish the terrace project and get the roses into the ground.

The editor and I had formulated plans to finish part of the terrace project and have the roses in the ground sometime over the past few days. Nature had other plans in store for us. On Thursday the temperature plummeted, the air pressure dropped below 1,000hPa and the rain began. We’d intended to excavate soil Thursday, but the conditions were rather unpleasant. At least the combination of rain and sunshine produced a nice rainbow over the valley.

A combination of rain and sunshine produces a superb rainbow over the valley

At that time, hopes were still high that we could continue excavations on the new garden terraces project. However, on Thursday because of the inclement weather, we decided to head into the big smoke to purchase some irrigation supplies as well as bulk supplies of raw food stuffs for plants that we don’t grow here.

The bulk food stuffs were purchased from a market on the outskirts of Melbourne. I quite enjoy visiting the market as it is full of stall holders proffering their produce. When I was a very small kid, my grandmother used to take me with her to the local market, so I’m comfortable with the relationships that form with the stallholders who know their regular customers. It is quite a social way to purchase fruit and vegetables.

Of late, I have despaired of the rubbish plastic bags that the ‘grain dudes’ (stallholders at the market) use to package up their produce. A month or so ago, I put my finger through a thin plastic bag containing a quantity of desiccated coconut, and the tiny chunks of coconut went everywhere. The dogs rejoiced at the food opportunity presented to them, whilst I despaired at the loss of the coconut. It was about that time when the idea popped into my head which suggested that I take my own sturdy containers to the market and for the grain dudes to fill them with produce.

The grain dudes are cheeky individuals, always up for a laugh. And sometimes they make me blush at the things they say. With that in mind, I decided to get in early with the radical new idea of my containers. I presented the grain dudes with my bulk order, the containers, and the observation that their plastic bags were a bit (a naughty word used to describe poo that has four letters and begins with the letter S and ends with the letter T). Of course I followed that biting observation with a short giggle.

Surprisingly, the grain dudes took my pithy observation about the quality of their packaging materials with good grace and they proceeded to fill the order (and the containers). After the cash was exchanged for the transaction, that was when the further giggles and blushing occurred. The editor finds the grain dudes to be particularly entertaining.

Anyway, in between the laughs, they did provide some interesting information. Apparently, single use plastic bags will be banned here before the end of the year. This piqued my curiosity, and so I asked them what this would entail. Plastic bags will still be provided, it is just that the plastic bags would be much thicker, and they are an extra cost, and apparently they’re re-usable.

It was about that time my that mind recalled my grandmother bringing all of her own containers and bags in a hand pushed shopping jeep. And we used to walk to and from the market. I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing she would have had a fit of apoplexy if she had to purchase plastic bags at the market.

The editor and I have used cloth bags at the markets for over two decades, we just never thought to use containers for the grains. It seems obvious from hindsight. Here is how the produce looks in the cupboard (exactly like what the containers looked like when they were filled at the market).

The newer sturdy containers for bulk raw produce and the older style plastic bags

Lentils, beans, grains, coconut, dried sultanas, flour, etc. At a market, all of them can be filled and then taken home in sturdy containers.

By Friday despite feeling quite pleased about the containers, the weather deteriorated. There were even epic dust storms in the state of South Australia which is to the west of the state of Victoria where the farm resides. Severe wintry weather battering southeastern Australia

When faced on Friday with the severe weather we decided to stay home and do accounting work (mad cash!) Secretly we hoped that Saturday would bring better weather so that we could continue excavations on the new garden terrace project.

The winter weather on Saturday turned out even more severe than Friday. Snow was forecast to fall in the area.

The editor and I woke up at day break, and without having had a coffee or breakfast, we headed up to the higher parts of the mountain range. The farm is at 700m / 2,300ft above sea level, whilst the higher parts of the mountain range are around 1,000m / 3,300ft above sea level.

For my well being, I insisted that we stop at the local cafe and enjoy a coffee and some fruit toast whilst reading the weekend newspaper. Feeling somewhat more human at such an ungodly hour of the morning, we continued our short journey into the higher elevations of the mountain range. And sure enough, the -1’C / 30’F temperatures had brought with them heaps of snow. It looked great.

On Saturday the road to the Memorial Cross was covered in snow and ice
The signage on the Mount Macedon Road alerts drivers to the dangers

I should have heeded the warnings because I managed to spin the fifteen year old dirt rat Suzuki Vitara fully 180 degrees on the icy roads. Fortunately we did not fall off the road, and at such an early time of the day there was very little traffic. It was at that point that I realised that I should have engaged the four wheel drive using the transfer case gearbox.

The Adrenalin hit from the icy road incident also proved to me beyond any doubt that it is not only coffee that can heighten a person’s awareness and senses at such an early hour of the morning.

We travelled further up the road towards the Memorial Cross and the snow was epic.

The buttressing of this giant Eucalyptus tree collected the snow.

The buttressing of this giant Eucalyptus tree collects the snow

And the colours were entirely washed out of the usually green and lush landscape.

Snow washed the colours out of the landscape

After an hour or so of sight seeing where the editor threw several snowballs at my head, we returned home where at the lower elevation the rain had set in. By lunchtime we had a bit of cabin fever and could no longer work on accounting work. We wanted to be outside excavating, but it was not possible in the weather. Instead we headed off to a town about forty minutes north of the mountain range where they sell the best gourmet meat pies in the country. Plus a local bakery along the way makes really yummy lamingtons. Extreme weather forces extreme choices.

Upon returning home from our gourmet meat pie and lamington odyssey, the clouds still continued to produce rain. It is at this point that I must add that the sun was shining warmly in the small town where the gourmet meat pies were sold. There may be something in that? All the same, we had high hopes for commencing the excavations on Sunday.

The tidings for Sunday’s weather forecast, candidly, were not good. However such tidings were inconsequential compared to our desires to get on with excavations on the new garden terraces.

What we awoke to find was that the weather forecast was understated by a considerable margin. This is what we woke up to discover:

Sunday morning wasn’t quite a blizzard, but it wasn’t far off it either

All talk of work became just that: talk. The snow storm was the thickest that I have experienced here, and I’m told by a reliable source that an old timer suggested that it has not snowed this heavily here for at least two and a half decades. I reckon about two or three inches of snow fell and there was snow everywhere.

During a brief moment of calm in the storm, the thick clouds parted and I could just see that even the valley well below the farm was covered in snow.

Even the valley far below the farm was covered in snow

The new garden terraces were covered in a thick layer of snow.

The site where we had intended to excavate soil that day was covered in a thick layer of snow

From the site above the two new garden terraces, you’d be hard pressed to even see where the two new terraces were.

Looking at the two new garden terraces from above

An even closer photo still does not reveal all of the recent excavation works that we have been undertaking on the two new garden terraces. The woven steel mesh roof of the strawberry enclosure held up well under the weight of all that snow.

A closer photo of the garden terrace project site reveals nothing

The orchards were covered in snow too! It looked great. The fruit trees are no doubt enjoying some turbo charged chilling hours (temperatures < 7’C / 45’F) which are necessary for fruit production. Sunday may have been a bit colder than necessary though…

The fruit trees are enjoying some chilling hours

The garden beds looked great too and several olive trees were weighed down by the snow.

Several olive trees are weighed down by the snow

The canine Fluffy collective revelled in the snow. Ollie the Australian cuddle (err, sorry, cattle) dog was surprisingly hard to keep out of the snow. He loved it, which was unexpected given his thin protective coat.

Ollie the Australian cattle dog is in his element in the snow

Toothy was no slouch either and he was equally having a grand old time of it. Of course being a long haired Dachshund he was a bit more height challenged than Ollie and he had to be dried off after his extensive frolicking in the snow.

Toothy also enjoys the thick snow

Scritchy the elder didn’t want a bar of the snow, and she stuck to her bean bag like super glue.

Scritchy! Come out and play in the snow

The local native birds put up with the snow.

A Crimson Rosella (parrot) takes pride of place on the weather station

I’m unsure what the parrots ate that day, but my gut feeling (excuse the pun) was that they may have gone hungry. Whatever may be the case, the parrots were gleaning discarded seeds from around the chicken enclosure.

The local parrots hang out near to the chicken enclosure looking for discarded seeds

The chickens were fine in their all weather run and enclosure. It certainly felt warmer inside the dry chicken run than outside in the orchard where the parrots were.

The chickens were toasty warm and dry in their enclosure

Spare a thought for the non deciduous fruit trees in the orchard. Most of them have survived snowfall before, but Sunday’s snowfall was rather more extreme than in the recent past.

Hopefully the citrus trees survive the heavy snowfall

The potatoes in the three large raised beds may not deal very well with the snowfall either. Time will tell.

The potatoes in the three large raised beds may not appreciate the snowfall

One of the sheds looked as if it was lifted straight out of an alpine ski resort.

This most recently constructed shed looks as if it was lifted from a ski resort

The cantina shed in the courtyard also looks great with its two old olive trees covered in thick snow. Did I mention that Ollie loved the snow?

The courtyard full of snow

The infrastructure has held up surprisingly well during the past few days of extreme weather. The new steel rock gabion cage captured more than its fair share of snow.

The steel rock gabion cages collected more than their fair share of snow

Observant readers will note that with the three water tanks in the above photo, you can see the water level. The stored water is too warm for any snow to form on the sides of the tank. However, where there is no water in the tank, the plastic is at the ambient air temperature. A closer image reveals that the effect is quite consistent with other water tanks.

You can easily observe the water level in these water tanks

And for those that were wondering, solar photovoltaic panels do not produce much electricity at all (about 1/500th of their rated output which is the equivalent of a very loud mouse fart) when covered in several inches of snow. Good luck with dreams of an all solar powered future.

These solar photovoltaic panels are not giving me anything

And kudos to the regular commenter DJ, who has previously alerted me to the dangers of encountering yellow snow. Now I understand…

Ollie demonstrates the dangers of yellow snow

The editor managed to get some flower photos, but as you can imagine…

Daffodils continue to grow
Much snow covered these Silver Wattle flowers

The temperature outside now at about 8.00am is 3’C (36’F). So far this year there has been 501.4mm (19.7 inches) which is the higher than last weeks total of 470.2mm (18.5 inches) .