Cherry season has finished for another year. We’ve planted a number of cherry trees on the farm, but those trees are purely for ornamental purposes. The birds take all of the fruit. And I really do mean all of the fruit. The cherry trees put on a good flower show each year, and we’re good with that, plus it’s a good feed for the insects, but there’s no cherries for us. Whatever, the lack of cherries is not much of a problem because a local farm grows a huge variety of tasty cherries which they sell at the farm gate. And that local farm has commercial scaled bird netting.
A few years ago, the cherry farm was sold off and then bought by a lovely couple. I am genuinely impressed by the changes the new owners have wrought. The farm was previously looking a bit tired and disorderly. Observing the changes they’ve made over the past few years got me thinking recently about how a person grows beyond the lessons they know. I mean, why didn’t the former owners make those excellent changes and improvements which the new owners have made? There’s an old saying which suggests that: the apple (cherry?) never falls far from the tree, and it’s true.
Ideas are only ever a beginning, but it’s in implementing them where you get to experience sweat, learn lessons and stuff. Long term readers will know that we are happy to put in the hard work to set up systems on the farm. But if the systems don’t work, we’ll just as happily dismantle them and then try something else using what we’ve learned. There’s no point hanging onto an idea that’s rubbish.
The old timers used to know all about this small holding stuff. My grandfather grew up on his grandmothers farm during the Great Depression. In those days that farm was in the grip of a prolonged epic drought. He also was sent off to fight in WWII as bomber pilot, and somehow managed to survive all that. He would have learned some harsh lessons for sure. I’m guessing one lesson he learned was not to trust that present conditions will continue, as his life experienced that outcome. Even in his latter years as a fairly well-to-do bloke, he maintained a huge vegetable patch in his backyard. And back in those carefree enlightened days of the 1970’s, it was an unfashionable thing to do – and still is. But to my very young eyes, his enormous vegetable patch seemed effortless and bountiful. A bit of a shame that the old bloke is now dead, because I might have learned something useful from him about this agriculture stuff. Oh well.
However, it’s weird that the longer we’ve been on this journey, the more I’m beginning to appreciate that there are very few people around who know anything about the sort of thing Sandra and I are doing at this farm. A bit over 1% of the population are involved in agriculture. So, knowing that statistic, you could take a random sample of a hundred people, and only one person in that group will know anything backed up by solid experience. And even then, that person might not be able to communicate what they do know, or their experience may be of little relevance to my conditions. Like, I don’t need to know anything about cattle. But let’s also not forget that climate and local conditions vary considerably from one part of this vast continent to another. The knowledge base is a mess and finding local knowledge is rare.
Thus mentors are, I reckon, rarer than hen’s teeth (as they used to say)! So we learn the hard way here by trial and error. Sure I’ve read a mountain of books on various subjects. And we always have our eyes open to any opportunities to learn, or for solutions to the issues we face. But nothing teaches like the school of hard knocks. I’m just quietly grateful not to have to subsist off what we produce.
Unfortunately, the world is changing, and nowadays you can almost smell change in the air. The other day I was at the petrol station (gas station in US parlance) and filled up the Dirt Rat Suzuki (a very small and fuel efficient vehicle) plus also a couple of jerry cans. The bill came to $155! Turns out the price for petrol was as high as I’d ever seen it, at almost $1.90/litre. And in the background world of big badness, the price for a barrel of oil keeps on rising.
Where will it all end up? I don’t really know, but I do know that there’d be plenty of households that can’t afford the recent increased price at the pump. It’s not unusual for people to live pay to pay, and heck, I did that myself in the recession of the early 1990’s. And given oil underlies everything that we do as a society, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it costs more mad cash for pretty much everything soon. The technical term for that is inflation. Well paid talking heads in the media cry soothing words suggesting that there is no cause for panic. But the thing I’m left wondering about it all is: will the households who can’t make financial ends meet, keep doing what they’ve always done?
My brain is really struggling to understand this years weather. Mostly, the weather has been cool and wet but over the past few weeks, it’s been drier, and sometimes warmer, but it’s hardly what you’d describe as hot. Just warmer than before. On the other hand, it’s been excellent weather for hard work.
This week I dug by hand, a drainage trench on the up hill side of the new shed. In the trench I installed a black plastic Reln Storm-water drainage channel. The channel redirects all surface water to the rear of the shed. I’ve never used these drains before and apparently they are rated to a maximum weight of something crazy like 5,000kg (11,000 pounds). I saw no need to put them to the test because they looked tough enough to me. The grates are removable, and from time to time I’ll have to muck them out. Hopefully this stops heavy rainfall from running into the new shed, like what happened during the last big storm.
Heavy rain can be very destructive here, and so on the downhill side of the shed, we’ve added a layer of mid-sized rocks and a very thick layer of crushed rock with lime. That should protect the earthworks from erosion. We’ve tested that system elsewhere over many years – and also during many heavy storms, and it works.
The first stage of the firewood storage job has been completed. The primary firewood shed has now been entirely filled with seasoned and summer sun dried firewood.
The weather has been slightly warmer and drier of late, and one of the ginger tubers in the greenhouse has finally produced some leaves. The greenhouse has proven to be such a valuable item of infrastructure both this year and last year (which was also a cold summer), that there are plans afoot to seriously improve upon what we have learned from that building.
The zucchini (courgette) plants have finally grown big enough that they’ve produced flowers, and there are now a few small-ish fruits.
At the very beginning of the growing season, the vast majority of early flowering fruit trees lost their blossoms due to a late frost combined with a wickedly cold hail storm. I can still recall watching the strong cold winds blowing the blossoms into the air like little snow flakes set free. What little fruit developed on the trees was taken by the hungry birds. The later flowering fruit trees were a bit better, but you know, this cold growing season is not something that I would wish upon anyone. One of the very last fruiting trees is the persimmon, and that seems to have dodged both cold weather, and the hungry local parrots.
The ten grape vines have been in the ground for about three years now, and this year they have produced many bunches of fruit. At the moment, I’m hoping that there is enough warm weather for the bunches of grapes to ripen.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 9.00pm is 21’C (70’F). So far this year there has been 102.4mm (4.0 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 100.6mm (3.9 inches)