2018 March posts x 4

Monday, 26 March 2018


Back to the wall

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

Some people don’t enjoy public speaking. They get anxious, flustered, and can even feel vulnerable. I on the other hand, quite enjoy public speaking. When I was a teenager I lost any fear of public speaking, merely because as the captain of the cross country running team I had to get up in front of the entire school assembly and read out the weeks results. Nothing sharpens and hones a knife better than your high school peers critiquing any minor misstep in a presentation.

Fortunately I was not one to care for their opinions, but in between all of the braying of my peers there were one or two gems of wisdom wrapped up in their general teenage unpleasantness. So, in short order I became much better and more confident at public speaking.

On Saturday for the first time in many years, I felt differently about public speaking. An edge of nervousness had crept into my quiet confidence. That day, I lead a discussion with the Green Wizards group about the twin topics of: Money and Property. Those two topics stoked my disquiet because they are never far from the public discourse in Australia. It is really hard to read a newspaper and not stumble across an article upon either of those topics.

Not all cultures are as interested in those two topics as we appear to be. In fact over the past year, I read a book written by an anthropologist who lived with a remote Aboriginal community in the north. The anthropologist recounted a quote from an Aboriginal elder who astutely remarked that: “money was the white fella’s dreaming”.

Anyway, I had a discussion to lead, so I had to say something remotely intelligible on the subject! With that in mind, I contemplated and meditated upon the subjects, and generally wracked my brains for any coherent thoughts. In a blinding flash of insight, well, in a brainstorming discussion with the editor, I realised that it might be important to discuss that, perhaps the concept of money and the realities of money have diverged a bit over the past two decades.

A short story might help to explain the divergence, and so I shared the following story with the group:

Victorian era terrace houses on the outskirts of Melbourne

The above photo shows a quiet street on the very outskirts of the Central Business District of the city of Melbourne. The street is lined with charming tiny Victorian era housing. Those terrace houses were constructed way back in the day to house families and people who worked in the heavy industries surrounding the train lines leading into Melbourne.

One evening in the mid 1990’s, I took a mate of mine to visit those terrace houses. The row of three or maybe it was four houses, had all come up for sale at the same time. The prices varied from about $41,000 to about $45,000 (from memory). At the time, my annual salary for performing the interesting job of debt collection, was about $26,000. My mate was working in sales and annually he earned more than the price of the house.

My mate did not purchase any of those houses.

For the purposes of the Saturday discussion I did a quick internet search to see whether there were any recent sales quotes for one of these properties. Sure enough I found a current ‘estimated value range’ (a fancy way to describe a quote) on a real estate website for one of the terrace houses. The amount returned was a range between $1,100,000 to $1,374,999.

If I picked the higher house price from back in the mid 1990’s ($45,000) and the lower quote from today ($1,100,000), well that is an increase expressed in percentage terms of 2,444% in just over twenty years. That’s an epic increase! My pay certainly hasn’t increased 2,444% in just over twenty years!

Inflation is understood to be a general increase in prices and a consequent fall in the purchasing value of money. It is a simple enough concept. But perhaps my grasp of economic theory is not as good as it could be, because I am dumbfounded when serious economic pundits claim that inflation in Australia is running somewhere between 1% and 3% annually, and has done so for many years. My experience over those years leads me to believe that inflation is doing otherwise.

Economic indicators aside, I asked if any of the people present at the discussion could afford to spend $1.1m on that terrace house? Silence reigned over the meeting.

The long dead Chinese military genius, Sun Tzu, wrote a most excellent book on strategy (The Art of War). In the book he suggested that: ‘When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard’. Wise words, as I feel that there are many, often younger people, who feel that the dream of home ownership has moved beyond their grasp. They appear to me to have been backed into a corner.

A few weeks ago, I heard the strong voice of Chrissie Amphlett on the radio singing about be being backed into a corner. Chrissie was the lead singer of the legendary Australian band, ‘The Divinyls’ and is arguably one of the great female leads that Australia has produced.


At the meeting, someone asked the searching question as to whether I was cherry picking one choice example to exaggerate my point. It is a fair question, and fortunately I had a second example to hand. However, I feel that it was a moot point because: One in three Melbourne suburbs have $1m median house price, REIV says. Clearly $1m is unable to purchase what it used to.

The other side of the money and property story is that way back in the mid 1990’s my mates annual salary relative to the price of the house was about the same. As a comparison, back in those days I required something less than two years of my annual salary relative to the price of that terrace house. Nowadays, given all those median house prices of over $1m, it is probably unlikely that an individual could be expected to be paid an annual salary of say $0.5m (unless they are a CEO), let alone a family unit of two people working full time. And I gave them the further bad news, that if prices continue to increase faster than salaries, then they are poorer with every price increase. Bam!


And that was just the beginning of the talk! We went on to discuss related matters such as: Economic policies and their consequences; Values; Narratives; and Alternative options.

At one point during the discussion, I looked around the room and realised that because of the age distribution of the attendees, nobody else in the room had been even remotely affected by the recession in the early 1990’s. And so my stories of scrambling to keep a roof over my head, food on the table, and taking any job on offer, sounded a bit like a fairy tale from another planet. Despite the hard times, I appreciated the lessons learned way back then because nothing sharpens and hones a knife better than the rough and tumble of experience.

I would have enjoyed concluding the discussion with a flourish whilst loudly proclaiming “Shazam!” and then all of the problems discussed would be resolved. However, the discussion was only ever a beginning, and not an end point. To effect any real change requires long term work to convince people who are benefiting from the current economic policies, that it is no longer in their interests to do so.

Just before I jumped onto the train to head into Melbourne that day, the sky grew very dark as a heavy storm approached the mountain range:

Storm clouds approach from across the valley
The storm clouds moved threateningly closer
It soon became so dark that you wouldn’t believe that the above photo was taken during mid morning!

The forecasts earlier in the week had been pretty clear that the storm would hit the mountain range on Saturday. With the forecast in mind, I spent a couple of hours earlier in the week using the crusty old vacuum to clean out the accumulated organic matter in the shed gutters. I collected quite a lot of ‘stuff’ which was dumped into one of the garden beds:

Organic matter removed from various shed roofs and guttering was dumped into this garden bed

With cooler weather fast approaching, I climbed up onto the house roof and cleaned out the wood heater flue. I have a long handled brush which fits the diameter of the flue and is used to scrape clean any gunk (the technical word for creosote) which had collected inside the flue during the previous year. The next photo is a series of four frames which shows the chimney brush in action:

A series of photos showing the chimney brush in action as it is used to clean the wood heater flue

Over the past year we have been burning very dry (less than 14% moisture content) and seasoned/aged (cut more than two years previously) hardwood. And the difference is remarkable because the flue was amazingly clean and free of creosote.

An upside down photo of the flue cowling (the top hat!) showing very little creosote build up

When the brush is pushed down and pulled back up the flue, any creosote which falls, collects inside the combustion chamber of the wood heater. The next photo shows the inside of the combustion chamber and the very dark black/brown sooty substance is the gunk that fell out of the flue. Compared to previous years, this was a very small quantity.

The black sooty product sitting on top of the grey ashes is the creosote removed from the chimney flue

Interestingly, the very thick (10mm or 0.4 inch) steel baffle plate inside the wood heater is displaying very little damage. The baffle plate is a sacrificial part of the wood heater which is replaceable and it is used to prevent permanent damage to the top of the wood heater.

The very thick (10mm or 0.4 inch) steel baffle plate inside the wood heater is displaying very little damage

The weather has been very changeable this week! One sunny afternoon, we went a-rock-hunting! Rock on! Rock and Roll! Rocks are very useful items and we separate them into various types

Small rocks are used as fill in the concrete stairs and/or the rock gabion cages
Larger rocks are used for lining garden beds and paths
Boulders are both special and rare and they are used for edging steep garden beds

The preserving of the tomato harvest has now been completed! We have just completed the final passata bottles (tomato pasta sauce). The tomatoes will continue to ripen on the dying vines from now until about late April / early May, and those tomatoes will be enjoyed for fresh eating and some will be used to produce tomato wine – which is a wine used for cooking. Tomato wine looks and tastes a lot like a very smooth white wine.

A years supply of passata – Done!

Oh! I better get a wriggle on! Here is an update of the autumn produce, which is all very tasty:

The tomato vines are dying back now that it is cooler, but the fruit continues to ripen
This has been our most successful year with eggplant
The long capsicums (peppers) are starting to show red colouring, although we have been eating them green
Jalapenos. Ok. I admit it, I’m frankly scared! They are as yet unpicked
Round capsicum (peppers) are beginning to put on some size
Canteloupe and water melon. Yum!
A huge pumpkin and a water melon. I’m unsure when to harvest either of them
How good are Chilean guavas?

Flower update:

I took the camera with me when I was up on the roof cleaning the wood heater flue
And here is another shot from the roof
We moved the nasturtiums to a smaller raised garden bed and they’ve gone feral
Our own private leaf change! L-R Manchurian pear; Tulip tree; and Sugar Maple
Who can resist a bush rose?
This geranium is one of the prettiest geranium flowers

The temperature outside now at about 7.30pm is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 157.4mm (6.2 inches) which is higher than last week’s total of 112.2mm (4.4 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 20:26 68 comments: https://resources.blogblog.com/img/icon18_edit_allbkg.gif

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Monday, 19 March 2018


Party Machine

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

Nowadays, everyone seems to have an opinion on politics. With that in mind, I thought to myself, I better get one of those opinion things too, otherwise readers may believe that I’m some sort of intellectual lightweight. And who wants to be identified as the dumb kid in the class?

Sometimes the best opinions are other peoples opinions, so in order to learn what opinions were out there, I fired up my favourite internet browser and went to a news website to check out what political opinions were being offered up to the public for consumption. Well, we have had a fun time down here, although perhaps it was more fun for some than others. A notable family values politician down here appears to have liked families so much that he couldn’t stick to just one family at a time.

Oh! Other countries appear to have much more complicated politics than ours. Certainly there were more than a few articles about the President of the USA, and something to do with US intelligence agencies and Russia. I don’t know much about any of that stuff and it all sounds a bit complicated to me, but I do want to sound as if I have an opinion, so I better form one based on what I read. Here goes: How come so many intelligence agencies couldn’t detect Russian meddling as it was happening? By way of contrast, if Ollie the Australian cattle dog couldn’t chase off a band of rampaging marsupials out of the orchard before they ran amok, then I’d wonder if he was worth his breakfast.

As for Russia, I don’t really know much about them at all. Although to be fair, I was sitting in the pub a few weeks back and enjoying a pint of locally brewed ‘Russian Imperial Stout’, and I can confirm that it was an exceptionally good dark ale. I feel that it is important here to clarify that this dark ale should not be confused with the outstanding ‘Rye Imperial Stout’, which is nothing short of astounding. This brew is the work of a co-operative effort between the local Black Dog brewery and the US Eel River brewery. It is a heady brew, and just goes to prove that co-operation between nations is a better strategy than whingeing about something or other in the news.

As I was consuming that excellent dark ale, my mind clarified a bit and I recalled a titbit from Australia’s early history. You see way back in 1866, the Colony of Victoria, as this state was then known, feared a Russian attack. The city of Melbourne in the Colony of Victoria had an epic gold rush, and rapidly became the second wealthiest city on the planet, after London, of course. And we were unfortunately a very long way away from the UK.

In those days, the ruling elite didn’t waste time whingeing in the newspapers about Russia, they simply constructed shore-based fortifications of Port Philip Bay, and ordered the battleship HMVS Cerberus from the Royal Navy. In short order we had an iron clad battleship with ten inch main guns patrolling the bay. The ship had fore and aft turrets which at the time the was considered superior to any other warship operating in the Australasian region. It was a lethal bit of kit.

The public on the other hand were less than impressed with the expense, and the ship was nicknamed the: ‘Floating Gasometer’. That was not a compliment and it was referring to the sad fact that the ship could only sail for ten days before requiring refuelling. Incidentally, the ship never fired a shot in anger, and at one point the entire crew had to be detained in quarantine because one of the ship’s company began to show symptoms of the bubonic plague. By 1924, the ship was sold for scrap, and by 1926 the remains were scuttled at Half Moon Bay to serve as a breakwater for the Black Rock Yacht Club. And there it sits today performing a useful function.

The Russians never appeared, which may have had something to do with them losing a goodly chunk of their navy to the Japanese. Instead of the Russians, on the morning of 29 August 1908, sixteen white-hulled battleships (part of the Great White Fleet) carrying fourteen thousand sailors and marines of the United States Atlantic Fleet docked at Melbourne. Only a few years earlier the Colony of Victoria had joined with the other colonies on the continent to form a state of the newly minted country of Australia.

There was no whingeing in the newspapers of the time about a foreign force docking at the wealthiest city on the continent. In fact the exact opposite took place and apparently: ‘Melburnians laid out the red, white and blue welcome mat for the new Pacific sea power. The records describe months of preparations by state and city officials to celebrate the visit’.

‘Fleet week’ as it was known was no doubt an epic occasion for the sailors and marines and I read all sorts of accounts of the entertainments that week including an intriguing reference to sailors ‘with a girl on each arm’. No doubt more than a few glasses of locally brewed ‘Russian Imperial Stout’ were consumed, although for obvious reasons I am unable to confirm this.

Anyway, the US sailors and marines eventually departed after declaring Melbourne the ‘best port of call’ in their 14-month, 20-port call, round-the-world, two-women-in-every-port voyage. We must have partied the sailors and marines pretty hard, because 221 deserters jumped ship in Melbourne, and whilst half of those deserters were eventually recovered, the other half weren’t. Which all just goes to show that we know how to do politics and partying properly down here!

There wasn’t much partying here this week. The weather was cool to warm and sunny for most of the week. We continued the job of excavating soil from the area below the potato terrace. The soil was used to correct the too-steep-slope around the nearby firewood shed. The soil excavations took another days labour following on from last weeks efforts.

After that job was complete, we were able to begin constructing a new steel rock gabion cage. The rock gabion is to be eventually filled with rocks and it is used to physically retain the soil on the potato terrace from sliding downhill. I reckon rock gabions look great.

The author constructs a new steel rock gabion cage

The rock gabion cage is constructed from flat 1200mm x 2400mm (4 feet by 8 feet) welded steel sheets. We bend, cut and sew the sheets together to form the cage that can be seen in the photo above. Concerned readers should also note that Mr Toothy has not been squashed by the cage, although it appears that way in the above photo!

Once the cage was completed we placed it in position and put some rocks in it. The rocks help weigh it down.

The rock gabion cage is in place and is perfectly level

As mentioned previously, the excavated soil was used to correct a too-steep-slope next to the firewood shed. Onto that soil we placed one cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of the local crushed rock with lime. The crushed rock will provide an all weather surface.

Local crushed rock with lime was placed over the excavated soil and will provide an all weather surface

Observant readers will note that in the above photo, the space adjacent to the existing dark grey water tank has been left uncovered. A new water tank will be placed in that location. Also in the photo above you can see that we have placed many large boulders as a rock wall for the new garden bed. And that garden bed also received a good dose of mushroom compost over the bare soil.

Since late January, very little rain has fallen. Over the past few days, I took the opportunity to climb up onto the roof of the house and use a very old, but very reliable vacuum cleaner to remove any organic matter from the roof and/or guttering. It was a very dirty job and I was rapidly covered in a thick coating of black dust.

The author uses an old vacuum cleaner to remove any organic matter from the roof and/or guttering

The roof is now squeaky clean, as am I! I was impressed at the sheer quantity of identified and unidentified organic matter that I removed from the roof using the trusty old vacuum cleaner.

Ollie is also impressed by the amount of gunk removed from the roof and/or guttering

We have been harvesting some very tasty vegetables from the garden! Yum!

Some of the very tasty vegetables that we have harvested this week

The corn is an open pollinated variety and it appears to provide two cobs per plant. Interestingly, whilst I had the correct spacing between the plants, I planted the rows too close together and the smaller cobs in the photo above came from the rear row of corn. Today, I removed the stalks and husks and spread them on the ground for the wallabies, wombats, kangaroos and Ollie to feast upon. Based on prior years experience, the stalks won’t last long.

The corn stalks and husks were spread on the ground for the wombats, wallabies, and kangaroos to feast upon

I gave a few cobs to the chickens and it was absolute mayhem in the chicken enclosure as one chicken fought off another rival chicken to get at the juiciest corn kernels. Maybe they could have used a Russian Imperial Stout to chill out a bit?

On Saturday evening the weather turned and a storm threatened. I knew the storm was serious because Scritchy the Storm Detective was hiding under the bed. The sky looked great too:

On Saturday night a storm threatened

The storm mostly bypassed the farm and mountain range. It produced a lot of wind, and a minor drizzle of rain, but that was about it. Elsewhere in the state, lightning strikes appear to have set off serious bushfires which are still burning out of control as I write this.

In case anyone reading this underestimates the sheer mischief that wallabies (which are a mid-sized forest kangaroo) perform, it is worth contrasting these two Mop Top trees which were planted on exactly the same day.

Mop top number one!
Mop top number two was planted on exactly the same day!

I don’t begrudge the forest critters their share of the produce. In such dry weather the forest critters flock here because I leave them a few sources of water which I always keep topped up. The birds and insects do it particularly tough as they have to travel far from their territories in order to source water.

The birds and insects enjoy this pool of water safely high up on one of the water tanks

There are plenty of pollen and nectar producing flowers for the birds and insects to feast upon too:

A European honey bee seeks pollen and/or nectar from this rosemary flower
Geraniums are a reliable summer flower for the bees
Geraniums are a reliable summer flower for the bees
A small red ladybird enjoys this cluster of flowers on a curry plant

Despite the hot and dry weather there are still plenty of flowers:

Gazania’s are tough as
A local indigenous wax wildflower
Feverfew flowers growing among the rosemary
Buddleia flowers look and smell great
Salvia and mint scented geranium
Basil mint is hardy as and the bees love the flowers

This week’s blog title is a nod to The Bennies, who are an Australian melodic punk/ska/reggae band from Melbourne. I really wanted to use the lyrics to their fun and excellent song: “Party Machine”, but the lyrics were really hard to adapt to this format whilst keeping things family friendly. Anyway, go ahead and give them a listen, maybe just not at work in an uptight office environment! They released another song recently titled, “Detroit Rock Ciggies” and that one is fun too.

The temperature outside now at about 6.00pm is 21’C (70’F). So far this year there has been 112.2mm (4.4 inches) which is slightly higher than last week’s total of 109.8mm (4.3 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 18:04 93 comments: https://resources.blogblog.com/img/icon18_edit_allbkg.gif

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Monday, 12 March 2018



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

Mottainai is a Japanese term conveying a sense of regret concerning waste. The expression “Mottainai!” can be uttered alone as an exclamation when something useful, such as food or time, is wasted. Long term readers will know by now that if there is one thing that I hate, it is waste. Very few things are wasted here, and that my dear readers, is a lifestyle choice. Rarely will you hear me utter ”

Away from this farm, our society conducts itself very differently. Recently a visitor attempted to leave a heavy duty plastic bag here. It was a very nice plastic bag after all, but neither the editor or I wanted it, so we firmly asked the visitor to take it back with them. The visitor looked confused and perplexed by the request, but they did take the plastic bag with them.

Waste has been on my mind of late, because one of Australia’s major trading partners – China – no longer accepts our recycling waste. We used to send huge volumes of waste (600,000 tonnes every year) to China to be apparently recycled. That act made us all feel really good and it was cheap. However, now that the recycling waste is no longer accepted there, we appear to be at a complete loss as to what to do about it. Some states of Australia have come up with what appear to be ingenious strategies to dump waste interstate, which could have been treated locally. I read about one such scheme the other day: Duped at the dump: Recycling rort as the truth is buried. This is probably not a good use of technology. I hope the people involved are exclaiming “Mottainai!” as they pull that trick? Perhaps not…

The story gets more exciting, because I happen to live in one of two shires that has had their recycling collections suspended: Waste collection suspended in two Victorian shires as recycling crisis deepens. How exciting is that! To be honest, because I do not use those services I haven’t really noticed any difference, but I do feel that it is only a matter of time before people in the surrounding townships decide to dump their rubbish up here in the forest. That is not a good thing, and I doubt very much whether those cheeky scamps will be uttering “Mottainai!” as an apology to the forest as they dump their rubbish from a moving vehicle in the dark of the night.

As it stands, the recycling system as we knew it is now over. As the band Crowded House sang in a break up song: “Don’t dream, it’s over”. Brutal words, but so true. I tend to feel that a more appropriate song may be: Alex Lahey’s genius song, ‘I haven’t been taking care of myself’. The word in the newspapers is that the local council rates will have to be substantially increased in order to cover the additional costs for doing something (although I have no idea what that is) with all of this recycling waste material. At the moment, I believe they are storing the stuff and just hoping for the best. Such strategies are sure to work! Maybe.

In all of the newspaper reports about this subject there was only the vaguest reference as to why the Chinese have stopped accepting our 600,000 tonnes of recycling waste materials every year. I’d have to suggest that they probably don’t want all that rubbish in their backyards, but the one minor mention in the newspaper reports was that our waste streams are not particularly pure. In less technical terms that means that we mix up rubbish types together in our recycling streams, so that it becomes very difficult to make any practical use of the waste materials. And so now we are going to pay a lot of mad cash just to feel good about recycling.

Everyone needs an ancient and long dead military genius to focus their minds on strategy. I happen to be a fan of Sun Tzu who wrote the treatise ‘The Art of War’. It is a good book, and I thoroughly recommend it. Sun Tzu was tough as nails, sharp as a tack, and utterly ruthless. With the recycling debacle, I can’t help but hear his words whispering in my mind from down the millennia. And those words implore the reader to:

“If the enemy be at rest in comfortable quarters, harass him; if he be living in plenty, cut of his supplies; if sitting composedly awaiting attack, cause him to move.”

From my perspective, it looks as if we are soon to be paying for the full costs (and then some) for handling our waste materials. Of course, I’d be more hopeful about the situation if I heard anyone at all suggesting that we have to change our ways utterly so that we do not produce, or do not accept this waste in the first place. That won’t happen, but it sounds good doesn’t it?

When I was a kid, I remember clearly that milk was delivered in glass bottles. Those glass bottles were returned, cleaned, refilled with milk, and then delivered again. My mind is telling me that the only way to move forward with this waste situation is to look backwards and see what worked in the past. Until then, I only hope that locals from nearby townships don’t dump too much rubbish up here in the forest. At least they may proclaim “Mottainai!” as they do so. Maybe…

The past six weeks here have been sunny and dry. Despite the lack of rain, we still have plenty of water stored (60% full) and the vegetables still get their daily ten minutes of watering. Those sorts of weather conditions are perfect for tomatoes and we are now almost finished dehydrating a years supply of tomatoes in olive oil. Yum!

We are almost finished dehydrating the years supply of tomatoes which we store in olive oil

The tomato harvest has been epic as we process about 100kg / 220 pounds of fruit. Some of the tomatoes are dehydrated, whilst others get bottled as a passata (tomato pasta sauce) and yet others are turned into tomato wine for cooking. Over the years we have learned how much to process, based on how much we can eat of the stuff during a year.

We began excavating out a site to place yet another rock gabion. The rock gabions are used to retain the soil on the terrace used to grow potatoes in steel round raised garden beds. You can see a steel rock gabion cage in the next photo (behind Mr Toothy).

Before the excavations. That tree is huge compared to Mr Toothy!

Half a day of excavations by hand using the solar powered electric jack hammer, moved about half of the area for a new rock gabion.

About half of the space required for a new rock gabion cage was excavated

The soil is being used to create a flat spot next to the existing water tank. We plan to install another water tank of the same size (4,000L / 1,050 gallons) on that flat spot.

We also used some of the soil to correct the slope on the path in front of the wood shed. As we were loading firewood into the wood shed it became obvious that the slope was too severe and it would have to be corrected.

The path in front of the wood shed was corrected with soil relocated from the rock gabion excavation site

All of those huge rocks in the above photo were moved and placed by hand. Some of them weighed more than I do!

Speaking of correcting things, we added an additional concrete step to one of the existing staircases in the garden. This staircase finished next to the ‘Poopy-quat’ fruit tree. Long term readers will know what I mean by that!

An additional concrete step was added to the staircase which finishes next to the Poopy-quat

Other produce is also bottled (canned) and we have a good supply of pickles and onions in white vinegar. We have grown so many cucumbers that the chickens have been enjoying two every day for the past few weeks. Chickens love cucumber!

The last of the cucumbers.

The bright yellow trailer is being used to bring up mushroom compost (horse manure and stable straw) which is used to refill the many raised vegetable beds.

The bright yellow trailer brings up a cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of mushroom compost

The cucumber bed was cleared this week, and it now sports broccoli seedlings.

The cucumber bed was cleared this week, and it now sports broccoli seedlings

Mottainai! No, seriously. Long term readers will recall that I replaced the very dodgy ‘leather’ (that was not quite leather as you know it) couch with a bright red serviceable and locally made couch which we picked up on eBay because someone else no longer wanted it. Well, the original leather couch was a manufacturing abomination. It might even be possible to suggest that the thing was broken from the factory because the ‘leather’ cracked and then continued to crack further, and then to add insult to injury, underneath the leather was not leather, but a synthetic backing. The leather in this instance was made from scraps of leather which are somehow joined and attached to a synthetic backing.

The reason I exclaimed: Mottainai! is because you cannot give these things away once the cracking has begun in earnest. We sought quotes to reupholster the couch, but that process costs more than a new replacement couch. What to do with the couch? Well, we have been dismantling it and reusing parts of it. It looks a bit worse for wear:

The manufacturing abomination is now being dismantled

The foam has been very useful for Ollie the cattle dog who seems to want to destroy his bedding. We insert the foam into hessian sacks which are a waste product from a business that I know. When combined, they make great dog beds, and I can get enough hessian sacks for free, that surely Ollie cannot destroy all of them? Maybe?

Ollie’s new recycled bedding

I discovered the other day that it is a very unwise decision to have an afternoon nap, after a hot mornings work, on the floor in the living room. As I was asleep, the editor sneakily took these photos of the dogs activity:

Three fluffies!
Mr Toothy the interceptor adds yet another Fluffy!
Scritchy the boss dog checks out what all the fuss is about!

The continuing dry weather is bringing a huge diversity of wildlife onto the farm for a feed and a drink of water. The other day I spotted this young kangaroo:

A young kangaroo drops by for a feed and a drink of water

It is getting late! Onto the flowers:

Caryopteris ‘Worcester Gold’ – I had to look that one up!
A Gaillardia I planted a week or two ago (despite the heat and dry weather)
Gaillardia ‘Burgundy’
Salvia + Lavender + Geranium – all flowering without water
This cactus was attacked by a wallaby a long time ago, but the cactus is fighting on
Check out the honey eater in this silver banksia

The temperature outside now at about 10.00pm is 12’C (54’F). So far this year there has been 109.8mm (4.3 inches) which is the same as last week’s total of 109.8mm (4.3 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 22:09 67 comments:

Monday, 5 March 2018

OJ, Blue ladies, and other curious circumstances

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I didn’t do it. But if I did do it, it would have been heaps better.

In the final decade of the previous century, the editor and I purchased our first house in a gritty Industrial suburb. There was some serious industry in that suburb, including a fuel tank farm, a bikie club house, and occasionally the air used to reek from unidentified industrial smells from the nearby wool scour. On a hot day, with the wind blowing in the right direction, the air would be redolent with the warmly sour smells of lanolin, which dusted the insides of your mouth and nose. And because of all of the heavy industry, the trucks up and down the main roads were unrelenting at all hours of the night and day.

In those days, I worked at a transport company and one of the blokes there used to have a second job keeping the bar at nights and weekends at the local pub (which I didn’t frequent). He used to joke to me that: “You don’t pick someone else’s fight at the (name withheld due to legal concerns) Hotel”. Except, I was never really sure whether he was joking around or not. Because of the gritty location, my family refused to visit us, and friends always looked for an excuse not to visit.

But it was our first house, and so whatever, we were happy to be there. The area was even then ever so slowly gentrifying, and as they say – things were looking on the up! At some point the local traders decided to throw a local festival celebrating ‘I don’t really know’. Anyway, it was a good idea, and the local strip shops around the railway station also had an old Art Deco cinema which had been abandoned for many years, but was only recently (then) restored by someone who made money by repairing and manufacturing curtains for other cinemas. The owner of the cinema used to close off the street during the festival and hold an outdoor screening of a film for everyone in the area to enjoy free of charge. The street was jam packed with people and we really loved it.

The local post office, which also doubled as the local lotto outlet, had a window display of art by local artists for sale during the festival. The editor and I used to walk the dogs at night all around the suburb, and one of the paintings (The Blue Lady) caught our eye.

As an interesting side story, way back in those days you could walk around the suburb at night and not see another living soul. Well, except once for the creepy old drunk bloke who took a fancy to the old boss dog: “The Fat” and offered us two thousand dollars for her then and there. It was a strange incident, and we were frankly dubious about the offer, despite any goodwill which may or may not have been instilled by local festivals. We politely declined the generous offer.

Returning to the main story. The art work! Ah yes, we decided to purchase the art work and got in contact with the artist. The art work, which is a charcoal drawing, could not be released from the display until the festival had run its course, and so we arranged to meet the artist and both pay for and pick up The Blue Lady on a Saturday afternoon.

Alas, artists by their very nature are creative people and skip to their own beat and she was late. Accountant’s are perhaps not so creative, and thus they were on time. So mid afternoon, the editor and I were found loitering in and around the post office waiting for the artist to turn up.

These were the days before the mobile phone and we ducked inside the post office to check whether the creative, but also tardy, artist had contacted the nice people at the post office to advise them about being late. Nope, there had been no such phone call.

And it was about that time that two blokes ran into the post office wearing balaclavas and shouting. As I was deep inside the post office at the time, I thought to myself that this was an unfortunate turn of events, and wondered what it all meant. The blokes stormed the counter and demanded the afternoons takings from the lotto business, which was duly handed over by the two surprised clerks working the counter.

The editor, who frankly is perhaps more alert and clearly has more self preservation skills than I, and more importantly was standing near to the front door at the time, ducked out of the front door and ran into a nearby cafe and got them to call the police. Near to me was a rather frightened looking lady with her child and during the incident, I unobtrusively moved closer to her to be helpful in case further trouble ensued. Getting out of the shop for us was not an option. And I had a pocket full of mad cash with which I was intending to pay for the art work…

With all of that going on, I happened to take a closer look at the two numpty’s robbing the shop. One of them was holding what looked to me like an engineering hammer, whilst the other was holding a large screwdriver. Both of those weapons could do unpleasant personal damage, I guess. Then they left the shop as fast as they entered, fortunately neglecting to alleviate me of my mad cash. Maybe it was the adrenaline, but after they left, I gave the lady standing next to me a friendly tap on the arm and said: “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Not my finest words, but it summed the situation up nicely. Naturally we didn’t become fast friends.

The police arrived really quickly as the station was very close, and the two blokes were caught getting into their getaway vehicle which was a VW Beetle (the old air cooled type – artistic but slow). All in all it was all a very strange day, and the local cafe put on free coffees for everyone involved in the hold up. From memory, the editor was quite jittery, but I suspect that was perhaps due to the three free coffees that she had consumed in short succession.

After we consumed heaps of coffee and assisted the detectives with their inquiries (a delightful turn of phrase) we recalled that we were actually there to meet the artist (who had been late) and pay for the art work. And out the front of the post office sitting with her daughter watching all of the action, was the artist who seemed rather untroubled about being late. Such is the life of the artist!

I give you, The Blue Lady:

The Blue Lady

Nowadays whenever I look at that painting I recall how important it is to be punctual, but also the maxim that three coffees in quick succession is not good for the nerves!

It has been a dry couple of summer weeks here. Such weather produces the best sunsets!

Dry summer days produce the most spectacular of sunsets

Work doesn’t stop here just because the weather is a little bit hot and dry. Two of the many garden beds scored a massive feed of a 50/50 mix of mushroom compost and composted woody mulch. A massive feed is the technical term for 2 cubic metres (2.6 cubic yards) of the stuff. It is always worth recalling how quickly we have learned to manually move those volumes of stuff from the bright yellow trailer and onto the garden beds. We simply push it off the back of the trailer into crates and then move the full crates using a wheelbarrow. That much material takes about 3 hours to move and place with a single person, and about half that time if two people are involved in the task.

An old garden rake is used to remove bulk organic materials from the bright yellow trailer

We also brought back to the farm a trailer load of mixed sand and aggregate (the fancy name for small rocks). That material, when added to general purpose cement powder is used to produce concrete, which is a very long lasting and sturdy material.

A trailer load of sand and aggregate mix which will be used to produce concrete structures

We love the concrete staircases that we have produced over the years and they get used all of the time. Living on a steep slope makes the staircases an invaluable addition to the place. Unfortunately, one or two (or maybe more) of the staircases were finished slightly short of where they should have – and at the time it seemed as if the staircases were complete and finished. This week, we began the process of adding the occasional extra step to some of the existing concrete staircases.

The author mixes a batch of cement so as to construct an additional concrete step on this staircase
Another concrete step and hindsight is such a wonderful thing!

The tomato harvest is a massive amount of work. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you. On the other hand, we get to enjoy tomatoes in one form or another for the entire year. We dehydrate tomatoes:

The Fowlers Vacola tomato dehydrator is going feral

The dehydrated tomato chips are stored in olive oil for our enjoyment. The tomatoes have to be completely dry before being stored in olive oil otherwise they will go rancid and most likely poison you should you choose to eat them. It is not hard to tell when the tomatoes are completely dry because they look and feel like potato crisps, but taste 1000% better!

Dehydrated tomatoes in olive oil are stored next to the years supply of pickled cucumbers

We are also half way through the production of a years supply of passata. Passata is the fancy name for tomato sauce. With that stuff we cook up tomatoes and other vegetables and then sterilise and seal them using a hot water bath.

Glass jars of passata being boiled in a hot water bath

And just to make people in the cold northern hemisphere totally 100% jealous! Here is a sample of some of the harvest and home cooked food here from down in the land of summer:

A sample of this weeks harvest

This week seems to be the week of massive vegetables, although I don’t really know what that means:

The first eggplant of the season was harvested. Yummo!
There are so many cucumbers that the chickens are eating (and enjoying) at least two per day
Triffid alert! The marrows are truly feral

Late summer / early autumn is a really busy time of the year. The garden paths have to be kept open and every week we pick a path and cut it back. The cuttings get thrown into new garden beds as a form of fertiliser.

Every week, the rampant growth spewing into the many of the garden paths gets cut back hard

I’ve also replaced all of the hose hangers. The hot summer sun caused most of the existing hose hangers to bend and fail because of the rubbish steel used in their construction. The oldest example of this product did not fail, and as I’d purchased the same hose hangers over a number of years, the process looked to me like witnessing the decline in quality of manufactured goods. Anyway, out with the old, and in with the new.

New and better quality hose hangers were installed this week

In breaking Ollie news: Ollie the alleged cattle dog, who is actually a cuddle dog, is yet too young and too stupid to realise that winter is coming, because he has used his woollen blankets as a toy:

Ollie has destroyed his winter bedding (Breaking Bed!)

Many second hand items are ridiculously cheap, and this week I received a replacement 100mm to 300mm lens for the digital camera that is used to take most of the photos in this blog. It cost $45. How is that possible I ask you? Anyway, the replacement lens produces superb photographs such as this Kookaburra sitting on the old worm farm sewage system ventilation pipe:

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree, err sorry, ventilation pipe for the worm farm sewage system

I have banged on so much that I’m now running massively late this evening, but we cannot forget to add at least a few flower photos from about the farm:

Passionfruit are sadly very late in the season, but they put on such a good show
The ever faithful geraniums are going gang busters

The temperature outside now at about 10.00pm is 11’C (52’F). So far this year there has been 109.8mm (4.3 inches) which is the same as last week’s total of 109.8mm (4.3 inches).

Posted by Fernglade Farm at 22:08