2017 December posts x 4

Sunday, 24 December 2017


A very Scruffy Christmas tail – with zombies

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

Sir Scruffy, I want you to write this week’s blog!

I can only do my best, he replied. What do you want me to write about?

I dunno, you’ll figure it out. After last nights beers and talking rubbish whilst sitting around the brazier, I feel like a zombie.

Do you mean, you want me to write about zombies? Sir Scruffy asked.

That’s the spirit, you’re a true natural at this Sir Scruffy. Incidentally, this is why you are the favourite and most charming dog on the farm. Just write whatever comes to your mind, even if it means talking about zombies.

OK boss.

I’ll leave you to it Sir Scruffy. Despite feeling like a zombie, I have to now go and dig soil. Go hard or go home, my friend!

Hi Everyone! And a very Merry Christmas to you all, wherever this missive may find you.

My name is Sir Scruffy, the Charming!

Sir Scruffy, the Charming – romping through the paddock on boundary patrol duties

The boss said to write about zombies. I’m not sure I really know much about zombies as they seem a rather boring and fixated lot. Mind you, Scritchy the boss dog, who is one mean piece of work, is also a little bit fixated. Maybe she is a zombie?

Scritchy and Poopy complaining about some rubbish or other

I encountered Scritchy and Poopy complaining today about how I was so named: The Charming. It seems all very unsavoury to have them question my bona-fides, because, well, they are not charming. In the above photo they are demanding to know just why they are not considered charming. For the record, I replied to those two lesser creatures that: “It is not in my nature to be mysterious but, I can’t tell them, and they shouldn’t ask!” Oh, the howls of unfairness that ensued. Anyway, they’re not charming, but as I mentioned before, they may be zombies?

Hmm, zombies. Ah yes. That reminds me of the story of the zombie chicken. Who doesn’t like chickens? I like chickens. I like to look at the chickens. Last night I ate some roast chicken, which was very tasty. And I enjoy their eggs in my breakfast. Chickens are good. However, zombie chickens are not good.

Earlier last year, the boss and the editor, brought home a couple of commercial egg-laying breed of chickens. I overheard them saying that they were an Eyes Are Brown (sic) variety, whatever that means. Scrawny looking things they were, with no meat at all for me to chew on. I kept a close eye on them anyway as I said to the boss and the editor: Them chickens’ not right! I knew straight away that one of them was a zombie chicken, but did they listen to me? No…

February 16 – Two zombie chickens arrive at the farm

It was a relief when earlier this year one of those two chickens died of natural causes. But that still left one zombie chicken…

Sure enough my unheeded warning proved to be a disaster for a small and timid black Silky chicken. She got done in, by the zombie chicken, who then began eating her. Boss, boss! I called. There’s a disturbance with the chickens! The boss is made of less stern stuff than I, and he recoiled at the frightful scene in the chicken enclosure. I on the other hand was enjoying the smell of blood. And as all right thinking people know, when dealing with zombies you always separate the head from the body because you never know with them tricksy lot. You don’t want them coming back for more.

After the deed was done, calm once more prevailed in the chicken collective. And I noticed in my close observations of the chickens over the next week or so that many of the chickens began regrowing their tail feathers which were clearly being plucked and eaten by the recently departed zombie chicken. I reckon that puts a new spin on: Shake your tail-feather!

Hmm, what else do I know about zombies? Oh yeah! Well, that dog, Darth Poopy Fox-bane (well that is what the arrogant fluffy has been calling himself this week), has proven that perhaps it is a really bad idea to eat carnivores. After killing a fox cub last week and scoring a huge number of beef jerky treats as a reward (and not sharing them), the boss placed the fox carcass into the worm farm.

What an epic stink emanated from the worm farm for a couple of days after the worms got hold of the carcass. Fortunately the worm farm is now smelling lucious and juicy again. The strange thing is that the boss has previously chucked in chickens and the occasional dead possum into the worm farm and those herbivores produced very little smell. As an intelligent dog, I can only assume that the lesson learned here is that blessed are the vegetarians, for their meat is less likely to make you sick! I’d also have to suggest that the health of the average zombie, which doesn’t appear to be too good anyways, may markedly improve if they target the vegetarians and vegans! Just sayin…

Hopefully the boss and the editor never turn into zombies as that may make for unpleasant company for me. It would also be very hard to be charming – even for a canine such as I – in the presence of zombies!

Scritchy the charmless boss dog was again hiding under the bed this week as a powerful but very brief storm rolled over the mountain range. The rain was torrential, but the sunset was heavenly.

A powerful but brief storm brought torrential rain and a stunning sunset

The humans were unfazed by the storm, despite running around in the rain like headless zombie chickens. They make me tired. Whenever they are out working in the intense midday sun, I slink off to find a cool and shady spot for a nap. Thus confirming that I am not a mad dog!

They always seem to be digging somewhere about the place. What is with that? This week they were digging behind one of the two wood sheds.

Excavations commenced behind the wood shed so as to extend the rock gabion retaining wall

A huge drain pipe was set into the ground near the citrus trees in the shady orchard. The boss said something to the editor about obtaining the pipe on the cheap locally as it was sold as an off cut length. I’m unsure what that means, but it doesn’t sound to me as if zombies were involved.

A huge drain pipe was set into the ground near to the citrus trees in the shady orchard

Then we all went a-rock-a-huntin’! The most recent rock gabion was filled.

The most recent rock gabion was filled with gleaned rocks

Excavations were completed after two half days of digging and another rock gabion cage can be eventually be installed in that spot. Those humans make me tired. Fortunately there are lots of shady spots to sleep the day away.

Excavations were completed and another rock gabion cage can soon be installed

All that soil from the excavations had to go somewhere and I watched the boss (from a suitably shady spot) use a wheelbarrow to move loads of soil over to the shady orchard.

What are they doing over there? I eventually got up from my shady spot and went over to have a look and see what they are doing. Well, blow me down! They’re building a flat and wide path to the chicken and wood sheds! Nice work humans, and just the thing for an arthritic, but charming old canine, like me, to make it easier to toddle over to the chickens and check up on any zombie situation there!

Construction for a new flat and wide path began this week

Speaking of situations narrowly avoided. The boss and the editor narrowly avoided being subjected to carol singers at a street in a nearby town which puts on an epic display of Christmas lights each year!

Carol singers were narrowly avoided

In previous years I have noted that the blog always includes any displays of Christmas Australiana. So when I looked through the photos that were left for me, I couldn’t help think to myself that nothing could be more Australian than a Christmas Koala:

A Christmas Koala

Some of the light displays were epic, and I couldn’t quite tell whether there was a house under all those lights, but apparently there was!

Carla Views, Sunbury. Awesome!

Of course as I looked through the photos I noticed that in the more fashionable end of the mountain range, and far removed from the nearby town, the light displays are much bigger and less colourfull.

We do things bigger here up in the mountains!

The photo above also shows the local pub which I’m told is as charming as I am. I have not seen any invites to that establishment, but I am told by reliable sources that dogs may sometimes be seen there.

Canine activities here are always calling for my attention. On my frequent boundary checks, the magpies often make fun of me. They are not charming, but are way too fast for me to ever do anything about them.

A family of magpies live on the farm and are a constant presence in the orchard

I saw the humans harvest the triffid like plant, zucchini (courgette), this week. Triffids are not zombies. Blessed are the vegetables.

Early zucchini (courgettes) were harvested this week

As a sophisticated canine. I love eating berries, and it’s berry season. Yay for berry season! Blessed are the berries that look like mini brains for zombies to eat.

Blueberries are almost ripe
It is going to be  huge blackberry season
Marionberries or Loganberries are very tasty!
Black currants ripened this week

Well, that about wraps it up for the week. Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll get to write next week!

What do you mean I have to do the flower bit? OK, well then, here’s the flowers…

The many Elderberry bushes are growing fast. This one frames a path to the courtyard (with the brazier)
The lavender planted around the new strawberry enclosure are thriving in the heat
The intriguing flower award this week goes to a smoke bush
Bush roses are stunners!
A garden bed of poppies
A hydrangea grows in a dense patch of gernanium and elderberry

The temperature outside now at about 9.15pm is 10’C (77’F). So far this year there has been 913.8mm (36.0 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 896.6mm (35.3 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 21:45 84 comments: https://resources.blogblog.com/img/icon18_edit_allbkg.gif

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Monday, 18 December 2017


Fox Collective 1 – Team Fluffy 1

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

Editor says: “No more Pomeranian’s!” I have to confess to having a soft spot for that dog species. I once had a dream which involved owning five Pomeranian’s, however the dream could rapidly turn into a nightmare because every right thinking person knows that any canine species related to Pomeranian’s are wilful. And a wilful dog is a very complex beast.

Years ago, I was introduced to the Pomeranian breed via the now deceased dog: Old Fluffy. Old Fluffy was a Spitz and as such was slightly larger than the sort of Pomeranian that is commonly kept as a lap dog. She was a force to be reckoned with, and as boss dog she ruled the Fluffy Collective (i.e. the other dogs in the household at the time) with an iron paw.

As a younger dog, Old Fluffy was a nightmare, because she basically did not trust our judgement in any matter. Instead she preferred to do her own thing, which was usually mischievous. That behaviour is a pretty good definition of the word: “wilful”.

After about six years of determined and unrelenting wilfulness, the editor and I finally broke her spirit. Old Fluffy then decided that perhaps it might not be a bad idea to occasionally respond to a few commands. Thereafter, and just to prove what a difficult species the Spitz family of dogs are, she became the best dog that I have ever known. I have great respect for people that can break horses and I cannot begin to imagine what complexities that must involve!

A few lines may be appropriate, from the most excellent lo-fi noise-folk band based in Melbourne: Tiny Little Houses, and their outstanding song: Entitled Generation:

As an interesting side story (and who doesn’t love a proper digression?) I noted a few months ago that the very talented actor Peter Dinklage, of Game of Thrones fame, was campaigning to stop people from buying Huskies and Malamutes. Apparently the dogs were getting dumped at animal shelters across the country because they are a dog species that have special needs and are basically problematic. It is unfortunate for those species of dogs that they resemble a Direwolf, which is a character in the aforementioned series. However, that perhaps explains their current popularity. Did I mention that those dog species are also part of the Spitz family of dogs – with all the drama that that brings. Wilful (and large).


Mr Poopy the Pomeranian (who must be outed as being a Swedish Lappund) is also of the Spitz family. Like most of them, he is naturally wilful, and does as he pleases without regard for my concerns. Unfortunately, he is also one of the laziest dogs that I have ever known. Wilful, combined with lazy, is not a good look. He would prefer to spend his days lying at his leisure on the bean bag enjoying the view and the general goings on in the outside world.

But every now and then, Mr Poopy performs acts of sheer greatness. He becomes worth his breakfast and dinner.

Mr Poopy entered my life in about 2008. I saw an advertisement for a Pomeranian “free to a good home” at the local bakery. There was a strange line in the advertisement: “Just because he hasn’t retrieved his first ball, doesn’t mean that he isn’t trying”. I was also told by the owner that Mr Poopy had joined three new households before being unceremoniously returned three times. We were also given the option to return him. Peter Dinklage may have something to say about that! I can assure concerned readers that Mr Poopy was most certainly not trying, simply because he couldn’t give a toss about retrieving balls.

The editor and I were the fourth new household for that dog, and we had no idea what we were getting into with him (we did have commitment though). But perhaps there was also the realisation that it was us or the little green injection of finality for that dog. So we took him on and he was true to the fluffy form – wilful. However, he also added in the new and unexpected dimension of laziness. Old Fluffy was never lazy. If another dog of any size or demeanour at all needed dealing too, she dealt with that business: Godfather style; and went for the throat or eyes. She was indeed a force to be reckoned with. Mr Poopy is of a different sort. He does have his interests and skills though.


Recently a fox attacked and killed one of my chickens whilst it was free-roaming through the orchard in the early evening. I’d always known that foxes were present on the farm, but I never really took the threat of foxes seriously, until Chloe the Australorp chicken was killed. I managed to stop the fox from taking Chloe, but the deed was done and she died soon after in my care.

After this fox – chicken encounter I have been training the wilful Mr Poopy to accompany me supervising the chickens as they free roam around the orchard. Remember the word “wilful”, because Mr Poopy wants to eat the chickens and is totally fascinated by them, but he does restrain himself in my presence, on a lead.

Saturday evening was a fine evening. I took Saturday as a day off, which meant that I had been working for most of the day on all sorts of small tasks in the household and around the farm. By the time late afternoon rolled around, I could not be bothered taking Mr Poopy out with me in the orchard. Instead, I took the laptop over to the chicken enclosure, let the chickens out, and began replying to various comments on last weeks blog.

Whilst looking at the screen on the laptop and replying, the chickens called out their predator alert. Chickens are very talkative among themselves, and they usually let each other know what is going on that may require attention. I immediately abandoned the laptop because I spotted a fox within striking distance of Fluffy Head the Australorp – Silky cross chicken.

The fox lunged at Fluffy Head, who had the good common sense to fly away. I in turn roared something that can’t be repeated on this blog, and immediately ran at the fox. Fluffy head narrowly avoided the fox, by again flying away and that was a feat she repeated three times. The fox had no success this time and I eventually chased it off into the surrounding forest. I then rounded up the chickens and put them safely to bed.

For concerned readers, Fluffy Head seems OK today, which is a testament to her strength and resilience.


As the editor and I walked back to the house, the magpies were calling out their alert call on the other side of the farm. Even the Kookaburra’s were calling out alert calls. I went over to investigate, but could not see anything, and so returned to the house. The birds are rarely wrong, so I let lazy Mr Poopy run free around the farm in the dying light. He immediately disappeared, and returned about after maybe twenty minutes. His expression said: Nothing to see here, I’m for a quick kip on the bean bag.

The next morning, we discovered that Mr Poopy had indeed been busy, as he had killed a fox cub.

Mr Poopy killed a fox cub

He occasionally performs acts of sheer greatness which justifies his breakfasts and dinners. I’m not sure what the lesson is here, but perhaps if we all took a larger world view I could say: Perhaps it might not be a bad idea to stop loading the kids / Spitz’s up with expectations and rubbish stories, start giving them some responsibility, and they may just surprise us all. Plus, don’t be lazy.

The days have been really pleasant this week and the nights have been cool. It is a beautiful time of year. The sunset on Saturday evening was particularly nice:

The sunset on Saturday evening was particularly splendid

Mowing has continued this week and 90% of the farm has now been mowed. Hopefully this job is finished over the next week as we have to get onto the task of drying, splitting, and storing the winter firewood. The plant growth has been so strong this year that some parts of the farm require a second round of cutting. We have also had to trim back plant growth on several paths this week for a second time in as many weeks. The Elderberry in particular has been rapidly growing.

Upgrades to the water infrastructure for the garden are continuing and I have now installed the largest 12V water pump that I could get my hands on. This water pump is a true beast and can pump 26L (7 gallons) per minute at 60psi. After many years of trial and error with 12V pumps, I can recommend that the Seaflo brand is the best that I have yet tried in terms of longevity and just sheer grunt.

The water pump on the left hand side of this arrangement is the biggest 12V pump that I can find

The previous water pump was quite good too. However, we discovered during a minor emergency, that the previous pump had a twenty minute operational / duty cycle. After twenty minutes of use, the water pump pressure slowly died away. I was filthy angry to discover that little feature during an emergency use of the water pump, but no harm was caused. The old water pump was retired to less exacting uses!

The editor has been busy today making Elderberry flower wine. The first time that I tasted that flavour of wine, I was not impressed. Mind you, the wine had not yet matured (the fancy name for sitting around for months and months) and now at nine months, the wine is excellent tasting. If you are not making Elderberry flower wine, the question I have for you is this: Why not?

Stewed pears, Elderberry wine, and a batch of Anzac biscuit mix are ready to be processed

Red currants are producing huge quantities of berries now. The plants are so easy to propagate, you don’t have to have any skill at all. Just take a cutting of one of the stems and bang it in the ground in mid to late autumn. Too easy! But the biggest surprise this week are the raspberries, and they are really very tasty. For those in the cooler wintery Northern hemisphere, prepare to salivate – NOW!

Red currants and sun ripened raspberries. YUM!

It is interesting that the single surviving zucchini which was grown from last seasons saved seed is out-competing the zucchinis seedlings purchased to increase our stock of plants. Triffid alert!

Triffid alert! The zucchini are going gangbusters!

The editor felt that the readers of the blog may enjoy a new series of photos taken from the various windows in the house. The next photo below is the view from the kitchen window looking into the courtyard and across the dog enclosure. The steel fencing in the dog enclosure is mostly grown over with flowering plants. The steel was purchased from a road construction crew and had been used in the past to stop cars from crashing into construction workers along roadsides. That steel is strong enough to stop Mr Poopy from escaping from the dog enclosure – no other previous fencing material survived his loving ministrations! Enjoy!

View from the kitchen window looking across the dog enclosure into the courtyard

Whilst we are in the courtyard, the flowers in the various garden beds surrounding it are going feral in the warmer weather.

The flowers in the courtyard above this park bench are going feral

A close up of the flowers shows a huge diversity of plants in that garden bed. The wormwood in there is Southern wood and it tastes like cola flavour to me:

A close up image of the flowers above the courtyard

On the garden bed downhill and below the courtyard, the herbs and flowers are even more feral!

On the downhill garden bed below the courtyard, the herbs and flowers are even more feral!

A close up of the rose in the bottom left hand side of the above photo shows a strikingly beautiful flower:

This rose is strikingly beautiful and making me want to plant more roses

Poppies are a favourite of mine too and I once purchased a huge, and also hugely expensive bag of poppy seeds. There was so much poppy seed that I threw them randomly about the gardens and now they are everywhere and in a huge variety of colours!

Poppies are everywhere and in a huge variety of colours at this time of year

The geraniums are not to be outdone and we grow a huge variety of those plants too. These are all taken from cuttings from assorted gardens around Melbourne. Thanks plant owners! They flower all summer long, and some of them flower for almost the entire year. The bees adore the flowers and they are all over them. The buzz is audible and I am occasionally nervous stepping into the garden beds – I must remember to not upset the bees!

Geraniums produce a spectacular range of flowers at the farm

The editor and I have also been slowly expanding our collection of Salvia’s as they are some of the heat hardiest and toughest plants around.

A blue / purple flowering Salvia

But the Californian poppies steal the show for massed flowering displays:

Californian poppies steal the show when it comes to masses of flowers

Many thanks again to the excellent Melbourne band Tiny Houses who I ripped the lyrics from their song “Entitled Generation”. Vote for them in the Triple J hot 100. I reckon their song “Garbage Bin” is the more likely candidate to get into the countdown. Do it! Vote! You know you want too…

The temperature outside now at about 8.00pm is 25’C (77’F). So far this year there has been 896.6mm (35.3 inches) which is the same as last week’s total of 896.6mm (35.3 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 20:00 65 comments: https://resources.blogblog.com/img/icon18_edit_allbkg.gif

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Monday, 11 December 2017


A day in a life

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

Sunday morning, and the alarm is demanding to be attended to. The time is 7.40am and I’m never at my finest in the mornings. One of my favourite authors, Jack Vance, wrote a scene in a pulp fiction book from 1973, which had three characters interacting in the early morning. Two of the characters were squabbling, whilst the third character dryly observed, that it was too early for squabbling as his mind was not yet clear. I like that sentiment and have pinched that witty line for use on many occasions.

Still, the alarm could not be blithely ignored. The editor poked me in the ribs, and informed me that it was time to get up. I sorted the alarm by using my top secret, Commodore 64 users trick (if you know what I’m talking about, you just know) of pushing any and all buttons in the hope that something happens. Fortunately the trick has mostly paid off with complicated technologies like alarms, and the machine lapsed into silence.

I have to admit that I was feeling a bit more blurry than usual on that fine sunny summers morning. The previous day, the editor and I had been mowing the farm (the editor on the mower and me on the brush cutter) in the hot summers sun. Then because we hadn’t worked enough, we decided to get out the stump grinder (a truly dangerous and awesome piece of equipment) and grind up some old tree stumps in the afternoon sun. There are always tree stumps here that need grinding out because of the simple fact that the area has been logged since the 1860’s and no reasonable eucalyptus stump ever wants to degrade into soil. And the loggers were clearly busy with the more profitable dropping, cutting and hauling trees business and had no time to remove the dead tree stumps.

Approximately 80% of the farm has now been mowed

After all that work in the hot summer sun on the previous day, by the time 9.30pm rolled around, I had just enough time to reply to comments on the blog, because the editor and I then crashed out and were ready for bed. We sure know how to party like rock stars here at Fernglade Farm!

I woke up with a mild headache which was most likely due to dehydration and heat issues, but possibly could also be remedied by a hit of coffee. The editor and I headed out to visit the local General Store and enjoyed a breakfast of large coffees and scrambled eggs on toast, all served on washable porcelain and consumed with proper knives and forks. The General Store is a delightful business and they also host the local post office. I was able to purchase the newspaper and check on my mail. In my pre-coffee state, I was thrilled to discover several large bills. For some reason, bills tend to arrive at Christmas time. How does that work: “Merry Christmas, and oh and by the way, here are some bills”?

On the way back from the General Store, we were now in a more alert caffeine fueled state and so we picked up some more fuel at the local petrol station. As well as the little dirt mouse Suzuki, we also filled up a jerrycan of fuel which we use to provide energy for the chainsaw, mower and stump grinder. It was fortunate that I did get up early because about half an hour after I left the petrol station, an unfortunate push bike rider was killed in an apparent encounter with a motor vehicle just near to that petrol station.

When we did get back to the farm, the unfed canines were clamouring for their breakfast meals. The dogs were lucky that I had now enjoyed a (large) coffee, as I was able to easily deal with their breakfast issues with aplomb!

After the dogs were fed, the editor and I decided to enjoy a stroll through the farm to observe what work we had completed the previous day. We also patted each other on the back and remarked upon a job well done. Part of the walk was along the road, and so (spare a thought for the hard done by and usually well behaved) Scritchy the boss dog, who was taken on a lead.

A neighbour also just happened to be passing by promenading along the road with his dog, and as such things go in the country, we stopped to have a chat (and the dogs to have a sniff). The neighbour expressed interest in the most recent project (the strawberry terrace) which is visible from the road, and so we all enjoyed a minor tour and enjoyed a general neighbourly yik-yak.

The canines aren’t the only animals demanding to be fed on the farm. The chickens had to be fed their greens and grains, the worms were also fed any kitchen scraps that the dogs and chickens would not eat. Whilst I was on my rounds attending to the various animals living here, all of the garden beds had to be watered. It is summer after all, and minor watering does tend to make plants thrive!

Back into the kitchen and two loaves of bread had to be made. After many years of buying supplies direct from the grumpy-bakery-products-ladies, who suddenly closed up shop one day a few years back, I now have a really excellent supplier of bakery products. They send me whatever I need in the mail. Spare a thought for the poor folks at the Post Office who have to deal with the large boxes of flour and other bakery goodies that I regularly order! Whilst my bakery hat was on, I also baked in the electric (and solar powered) oven, a batch of home made dog biscuits for the dogs future dinners. The dog biscuits are very good, and occasionally I enjoy a few of them myself as a snack.

Scrambled eggs on toast and a large coffee is not enough to feed me for breakfast, so I stopped working at that point and enjoyed a small mug of home made muesli mixed with home made yoghurt (it is good). The yoghurt is a Bavarian and Greek yoghurt mix. I also read and posted any comments that had been placed on this blog.

Dog biscuits do not make themselves, and neither does the very tasty dog breakfast mix. I spent about forty five minutes making up this coming weeks batch of dog food. I keep both of those items in the refrigerator, and every couple of days, I bake another batch of dog biscuits. The fluffy collective have told me in no uncertain terms that they will only consume freshly baked dog biscuits. Who am I to argue with those canines?

Freshly baked loaves, dog breakfast food, dog biscuit mix, and lemon booze all await!

The editor (who is also chief brew-mistress) decided today to brew up a couple of demijohns of lemon wine. Lemon wine is an absolute favourite of mine. However firstly, the lemons have to be picked from the trees:

Picking lemons for lemon wine (and freezing for future cooking projects)

Then the lemons have to be pressed for their juice. We have a very old school fruit press and it is a beautiful piece of equipment. I knew I wanted it, the moment my eyes spotted that fruit press. True love is a glorious thing:

The manual fruit press turns lemons into lemon juice

In the photo above, I am sporting my new sun hat from a specialty hat seller in Melbourne. I feel that the cool hat has lent me more mojo (edit: and musician vibes) than the average hetman enjoyed from his tribal fetish!

We grow a few different varieties of lemon trees here and the difference in the amount of juice recovered from the same volume of different species was quite interesting:

The juice from an equivalent volume of lemons. Left Eureka Lemons; and Right Meyer Lemons

The house then had to be vacuumed of dust, which is one of my weekly jobs. Vacuuming falls into the boring, but important, category.

Lunch was then enjoyed. Fortunately, I had already baked a loaf of fresh bread, and so we enjoyed the loaf with a soup of curried pumpkin mixed with fresh garden greens. It was very tasty, and the fresh bread was enjoyed slathered with home made jams and peanut butter. Yum! I felt sad when lunch had been fully consumed……. still, dinner is never far away!

Immediately after lunch we stewed up a small batch of pears which are to be consumed with muesli over the course of the week. Stewed pears are a very tasty fruit, and I look at the fruit trees in the orchard and think to myself, I must not count the multitude of pears before they are harvested!

Unfortunately, with the joys of lunch behind me, I had no choice but to perform about an hour and half of accounting work. Phooey!

As the editor and I had learned the previous day, it is not wise to work outside in the hot afternoon summers sun, so I spent another hour writing out Christmas cards (the Twelve Strays of Christmas cards, purchased from the Lost Dogs Home charity) to send in the post the following day. I am very old school in some respects and the last thing that I want to receive is an e-Christmas card that may possibly have been sent by a robot. You could say that this is my attempt to keep it real, one Christmas card at a time!

A few days before, I had removed a huge number of sugar beets (which contain 20% sugar) and a single lovage plant from a raised garden bed. The beets are so hardy and prolific that they do not require the extra attention that they receive in a raised garden bed. I replanted all of the beets and lovage into a new permanent and much larger garden bed.

The previous night in my heat addled state, I spotted a fox lurking near to the impenetrable chicken fortress. Alas, I was talking rubbish because the field mice recently burrowed a new tunnel under the extensive steel and concrete foundations and managed to break into the apparently rodent proof chicken enclosure. I admit defeat as the mice are clearly more resourceful and intelligent than I! Anyway, I mixed up a batch of concrete and poured it into the tunnels that the naughty rodents had created. That should stop them for a couple of weeks at least…

The editor and I then enjoyed a coffee and a couple of home made Anzac biscuits in the late afternoon sun.

And that was my day off (phew)!

Earlier in the week we managed to harvest a few strawberries.

Earlier in the week we managed to harvest a few strawberries

Unfortunately, some mornings, the local parrots (Crimson Rosella’s) sit on the fencing around the new strawberry enclosure and watch for anything that vaguely resembles a strawberry. Then they consume that berry. We purchased a quantity of steel which will be used to form a long lasting and bird proof roof over the strawberry enclosure.

A quantity of steel was purchased to form a roof frame over the strawberry enclosure in coming weeks

On one of the concrete steps leading up to the strawberry terrace, I spotted this rather comfy looking skink (gecko equivalent) enjoying the sunshine. The reptile has clearly also been enjoying more than a few insects.

A very fat looking skink enjoys the hot summer afternoon sun

Summer fruit update:

Another two weeks in the hot sun and these apricots should be ready to harvest
The almonds have reached full size and now, and I only have to wait until the fuzzy green skins split open
This quince is months away from being ready, but it is getting bigger
As are the apples!
Anzac peaches need only a few more weeks in the sun to ripen
This raspberry is ripe, right now!
We pick the various currants and other assorted berries and make mixed berry wine which is a favourite!

Summer flower update:

Olives are flowering and up close they smell like a combination of daphne mixed with citrus. Note the bee!
Bush roses are so beautiful
Pyrethrum is going feral as can be seen in this garden bed
The local shiny cassinia is in full flower
This is the flower from a tall fringe lily
The dandelions are spectacular and the bees are enjoying them this season
The usually unpleasant prickly tea tree produces copious flowers

The temperature outside now at about 8.00pm is 17’C (63’F). So far this year there has been 896.6mm (35.3 inches) which is nothing like last week’s total of 924.0mm (36.4 inches)! The official Melbourne Water rain gauge has recommenced providing data for the mountain range and so this week is a correction.

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 20:04 57 comments:

Monday, 4 December 2017

Little Curl

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au

The American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, once penned a short poem about a rather naughty young lady, who had a little curl in the middle of her forehead. As a child, I’d always believed that the poem was a nursery rhyme and not something written by a celebrated poet.

The first stanza of the poem is as follows:

“There was a little girl,

Who had a little curl,

Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good

She was very very good,

And when she was bad she was horrid”

It is not only little girls with little curls that can act horridly. Lately, there seems to be an awful lot of high profile men in the media (both here in Australia and also in other countries like the US) who have been apparently behaving rather horridly.

In my life I have encountered many people who have acted horridly in a range of ways. And generally most of those people were known to me. The weird thing is that when I was a young kid, people were obsessed by “stranger danger”. There was this inference that strangers (people who are unknown to you) were clearly bad people, not to be trusted, and avoided at all costs. Now as far as I understand human relationships, the average person can cope with knowing about 150 other people. There are about 7 billion people on the planet. Some rough maths tells me that 7 billion minus 150, means that there are a lot of strangers on this planet. Clearly anyone who feared so many other people would be suffering from a state of high anxiety.

Many long years ago, I did come across a horrid person, who was also my boss. As such he was not a stranger! The job interview should have rung alarm bells, particularly when the interviewer stressed that the job would be challenging. Of course I was young and dumb, and wanted to make my name and so I replied enthusiastically that I was indeed looking for a challenge. I could see thoughts churning away in their mind which more or less said: “This is our man / sucker!”

It goes without saying that challenges are indeed challenging, and this business was in a real mess. The mess was of truly epic proportions and I had never seen anything like it before or since, and hope never to see such a thing again in my life.

Slowly, however I restored order from the chaos.

The boss was an odd bird in that he would equally praise me and then criticise my work whilst imploring me to better efforts. The criticisms were often profound and remarkably insultingly personal. I had never had exposure to such a verbal technique before, and because I was young and dumb, I tried harder and worked ever longer hours. The hours extended into late nights and soon weekends. The work was unrelenting and so too were the ongoing criticisms.

Eventually, the editor broke the spell by asking the simple question: “What the (naughty word beginning with F that rhymes with the word truck) is going on?” I could not adequately explain the situation, and given that there appeared to be no end point in sight we decided that it would be best if I walked away from that job. It is worth remembering that things could always get worse!

I scored another job pretty much straight away, and I was shocked to my core by how normal and nice the new employment situation felt. I was like the frog in the slowly boiling water in that I had not realised how hot the water I was in had become. The strangest thing of all is that the entire experience had been created through the misuse of words.

Some people are bound to repeat situations. Others learn from past mistakes and then go on to make new and different mistakes. That is part of life! After that experience I spent time trying to learn about and understand the motivations of these horrid people. For example, they may or may not have little curls, but they certainly tend to use a few verbal and physical techniques.

My belief in this situation is that prevention is better than a cure. I would have appreciated it, if as a child, adults in my life had warned me to beware of horrid people, doing horrid things, and prepared me on how to respond to those people. Instead they were all about ‘stranger danger’, and so I had to learn my lessons the hard way. My reading of the recent media accounts appears also to be the same surprising journey that a lot of other people have taken.

The week began with some very hot weather. Most days the temperature exceeded 35’C (95’F). The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for the area for a storm beginning on Friday and extending through into Sunday. The weather went from stonking hot to really wet over a few short days.

With the severe weather warning in mind, the editor and I began ensuring that all of the drains were cleared of any detritus. Water collects on hard surfaces such as roads, and huge volumes of water can cause a lot of damage. The farm uses drains to collect water from the road and then channels the water into swales where it can infiltrate into the soil. We began ensuring that the drains worked by clearing them of any and all detritus:

A concrete pipe along the road channels water into a swale at the top of the shady orchard
This is the other side of the above drain. The swale slows water giving it time to infiltrate into the soil

Along the road at the very top of the sunny orchard a channel along the road directs water into a pit. That channel was widened and cleared to ensure that it worked during heavy rain.

A channel along the road directs water into a concrete pit
Even the fern lined concrete pit is sort of attractive!

The concrete pit links to a pipe that takes water under the road. That water then exits into the fern gully at the very top of the property above the sunny orchard. The plants and soil in the fern gully serve to slow the movement of water and allow it to infiltrate into the ground.

A pipe from the pit directs water under the road and into the fern gully

The fern gully is really starting to get well established this season and it is as beautiful as it is as functional.

The plants and soil in the fern gully slows water allowing it to infiltrate into the soil

Water can do a lot of damage very quickly. Last January the drain along the road (the first two photos above) failed – i.e. filled up with a detritus dam causing water to flow where it doesn’t normally flow. The huge volume of water then washed away part of the steep garden bed behind the house. We had never experienced a landslide here before and have now made many changes to ensure that this does no occur again. One of those changes is depositing a huge quantity of composted woody mulch above the steep garden bed. Into that mulch we have planted a hedge of Agapanthus and other plants. Agapanthus have very thick and complex root systems and hedges of the plants have held together well in other parts of the garden.

An Agapanthus hedge has been planted above the house in very deep composted woody mulch

In very hot weather, I added a half cubic metre (0.65 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch into the recently planted vegetable / tomato enclosure. The mulch will assist with stabilising the soil and absorbing water during the heavy rain.

A half cubic metre (0.65 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch into the recently planted vegetable / tomato enclosure

I also began mowing the shady orchard. After a couple of hours and many litres (gallons) of sweat, the mower broke down and could not be restarted. I have to admit to a mild feeling of relief when the mower broke down.

Mowing the shady orchard began this week

In case I hadn’t worked enough this week, the tree dudes arrived and I got them to cut a huge fallen branch into firewood lengths. The branch had fallen many months ago and I hadn’t got around to that job. Despite the rain over the past few days, the leaves all burned off rapidly and with great heat.

A massive fallen branch was cut into firewood lengths by the tree dudes

Then on Friday, the rain arrived. At times the air was still hot and the torrential rain had me feeling as if I lived in a tropical rainforest.

The rain on Friday was torrential and the heat reminded me of the experience of a tropical rainforest

Even Mr Poopy had had enough of the rain and just wanted back inside the house!

Let me in! NOW!

On Friday afternoon, the rain ceased for a brief while. Then thick cloud rolled in over the mountain range. Then the rain began in earnest and it just continued raining all day Saturday and into early Sunday. It was an impressive storm!

Thick cloud rolled in from the south

On Sunday, the rain was no longer continuous. This time, the rain came in waves and we’d get a brief respite before the next wave of rain arrived.

On Sunday, the rain arrived in successive waves

Fortunately, it appears that so far, not much of the fruit is showing damage. Here is a sample of some of the produce from this week:

Cherries. It is a race to harvest the fruit before the birds get them!
Blueberries are ripening rapidly
The thornless blackberries in the enclosure are prolific. Don’t count the blackberry jam before the harvest!
We’ve begun turning the broadbeans into bean salad. Tasty stuff!

The technical word as to the interaction between heavy rain and flowers is: Squooshed. However, never fear! There are still plenty of flowers for the blog photos:

The herb bed is looking good and this yellow flower on a huge stem has a few friends and they’re putting on a good show
The mysterious Canary Island plant is now surrounded by feral carrots and onions
How amazing is this passionflower?
A bit of rain can’t keep a good Pyretherum down
The Poppies have also responded well to the rain

The temperature outside now at about 8.15pm is 9’C (48’F). So far this year there has been 924.0mm (36.4 inches) which is more than last week’s total of 840.8mm (33.1 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 20:59