Late last year there were some not-so-vague plans for future projects around the farm which required excavation works. When you live on the side of an ancient (hopefully extinct) super volcano, it is a truth universally acknowledged that there is no such thing as flat land. You want flat land? Well son, you’re gonna have to get digging. That’s been our experience over the years. Long ago I watched the 1980 film Caddyshack. Excluding the superb performance by the actor Bill Murray, the rest of the film was forgettable. Except for that one great line of truth spoken by the actor Rodney Dangerfield: “Son, the world needs ditch diggers too”. It’s hard to forget that line when you’re on the wrong end of the story.
How two professional, city born and raised folks came to love the rural life has been something of a mystery to us too. Some are born into that world, others are called. And it truly is an enjoyable experience to head down into the forest edges, clean up the old loggers mess, and have a burn off. Those loggers, the cheeky scamps, sure left a lot of mess.
Back to excavations though. We had some projects on the to-do list, which required a lot of digging. That’s what wanting flat land, but being on the side of an extinct volcano and stuff looks like. Late last year I spoke to the farm machine repair boss dude about whether he had a second hand rototiller for sale. Always one for making the deal, Andrew said: Chris, I’ve got just the machine for you. I’d known Andrew for fourteen years, and he in turn knew Sandra and I, as well as our machinery needs. He’s a good bloke.
The rototiller he showed me was a weird faded red, probably closer to pink. In the masculine world of farm machines, that was a strike against it. The machine was old, and had clearly been in use for a few decades. Andrew said that the motor was a Chinese inspired Honda knock-off, and would accept the same parts. It started first pull of the cord. That was a good sign. Some of the rotating tines (the steel bits which cut into the soil) had been replaced. It was good to go, and he said try it out for a week or two. That’s what trust looks like.
The pink rototiller arrived home on the back of the yellow trailer. Sandra was unimpressed: “What are we going to do with this thing?” Try it out, may have been the spoken reply, but internally my mind was saying: “What are we not going to do with this machine!”
Turns out that you can’t use a self propelled rototiller if facing downhill. Hanging on to 7.5 horses of power is beyond my ability when gravity assists such matters. Fortunately, neither Sandra or the dogs were on the slope below me when the machine got away. Who knew? Being a quick student, you learn that these machines work better on the flat or uphill. Having no flat land, means that the machine is going to have to do all of its work uphill. The machine and I are good with that.
Unfortunately after the disastrous demonstration, Sandra was even less impressed, with the both of us. Pinky and I had to turn this ship around, otherwise I’d have to return the machine to Andrew with what is technically known as: ‘Sad Fluffy Face Number Six’, otherwise known as relinquishing the machine to it’s rightful owner.
So, Pinky and I got to know each other. It’s a bit scary the old machine, and only respects those who are respectful of it. Otherwise, the thing will attempt to bite your foot off. I’m not joking. But sometimes, with scary old machines, they are really very good at what they do. Newer machines are probably safer, but when it comes to simple sturdy construction, the newer machines don’t measure up.
It didn’t take long before I’d mastered the scary old machine. It felt good to be the boss, and Pinky was happy with the arrangement. We’ve done some great work together, and even Sandra is now impressed with the machine and wonders how we ever managed without it. Probably by doing a lot of digging by hand, but that’s another story.
Over the past weekend, we’d been breaking larger rocks into smaller (but still large rocks) for the new low gradient path project. We know stuff about breaking rocks. And will happily do such work without the chain gang. Near to where we were working was some of the loggers mess. A couple of big trees had been dropped decades ago, root balls and all. That’s an impressive and also mysterious achievement by the loggers. Why did they do this act? Whatever! A person can only ponder the unknowable mysteries for so long. One of the root balls had a huge quantity of soil stuck to it. Do we do this, was the question? Yes, was the answer. Fuelled up, and swung into action, the trusty pink rototiller did its thing.
Probably not how the machine was ever intended to be used. However the machine laps up the challenges and turns solid volcanic clay into a fine powder which can then be easily moved. A truly remarkable feat of engineering. Plus, so far the machine still respects me. The facts in this case speak for themselves (all limbs remain intact). But that state of affairs implies mutual obligations on my part. Note to self: Must recall to be careful not to neglect scary old machine.
Anyway, over the past six months the pink rototiller has been put to work on all manner of projects around the farm. The potential of the machine was realised within the initial ‘loan / trial’ time period, and so it was not returned. Instead mad cash was handed over to Andrew. There were smiles all around. Andrew said he was looking forward to the Christmas break, and wanted to spend some quiet time with his dog. I was glad I dropped by that day to settle the account and say hello. Andrew died the following day. It’s hard to forget that.
The scary rototiller continued work on the soil attached to the large root ball. And it wasn’t long before most of the hardened clay was removed from a lot of the root ball.
The chainsaw was then used to cut the root ball from the rest of the tree. Using log rollers and a house wrecking bar, the enormous root ball was rolled away from the rest of the tree where it could be burnt off.
Observant readers will note that in the top right hand corner of the above image, there is another clay encrusted root ball. Loggers…
The machines initially make a fair bit of mess, but nature soon steps in and rights matters as can be seen in the next photo.
In the centre of the above image, a large rock was removed from the paddock. A little tiny rock was sticking up out of the ground, but underneath the thing was a monster. Just like the iceberg which took down the Titanic, very little shows above the surface. But slowly, we’re tackling most of the rocks that we’re aware of. There may be more, lurking.
Sadly for us, Peak Rocks is real. All of the easy rocks are now gone, and this is what it has come to. It takes a lot of effort to extract large rocks from the ground. Fortunately, there are still a lot of rocks to remove, it’s just a lot of hard work. And the new low gradient path project requires a lot of large rocks. But, the project is looking great and better still, the path works in all weather conditions.
Uphill from the recently completed drainage basin (to the right in the above photo), we’ve decided to make a garden bed dominated by Japanese Maples. Those trees will eventually provide some shade for the ferns in the drainage basin during hot summer days. The new garden bed required more rocks…
The garden bed is not yet completed, but the maples were planted out. Those trees happily self seed in the conditions here.
One of the succulent garden beds on the downhill side of the low gradient path was planted out. We even moved one of the little-faerie-folk out of the fern gully and into the succulent bed. Fingers crossed that nothing untoward comes from this move.
A further two concrete stair treads were poured for the new staircase.
And in between all of that work, I had a free hour or two and spent that time completing the fix up of my old amplifier. I’ve had the machine since new, and hopefully with the refurbishment of many of the components, the machine will continue to work for many years to come.
Most machine purchases work out well, but not all do so. Last year we purchased a blade attachment for the power wheelbarrow. The blade didn’t work because we’re on a slope. It would probably work with flat land, but that is not our lot. The blade attachment was sold off for way less than we paid for it. That’s life.
The recently planted tree fern continues to produce new fronds. It’s amazing to see.
The winter leafy greens germinated this week. I believe we are a few weeks late with starting them, but hopefully this is not the case.
Last week we began an unusual experiment with the tomato and chilli plants. The plants were pulled from the ground. The roots were cleaned of soil and all leaves removed. Then, the plants were hung upside down. And believe it or not, the fruit is ripening.
The meyer lemon tree is beginning to produce a nice harvest of lemons. A very useful fruit.
Onto the flowers:
Onto the err, dreaded leaf change.
The temperature outside now at about 10am is 14’C (57’F). So far this year there has been 254.8mm (10.0 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 253.6mm (10.0 inches)