A constant theme I see repeated often, and have heard said from plenty of visitors: Here’s a way to make money from your property. It’s consistent enough that there must be something in there. Beats me why people keep saying that. I’ve got a day job. That makes money, the farm, yeah I don’t think so.
Anyway, maybe it’s because Sandra and I do most of the work around the place? Isn’t that what poor people do? Maybe the thought is that we should pay other people to do the work. Dunno, it’s a mystery. Few people would consider the reality, which is that I just really like doing hard physical labour. When I was a kid, I worked regular jobs before and after school. It was no hardship. My sport was distance running, which I was moderately good at, and several nights a week I trained at the local Dojo. There has never been time for sitting in front of the television, and when there wasn’t sport, there was study. Lot’s of it.
As a kid, I got to see my mother sitting in front of the television getting drunk night after night. Candidly it wasn’t an appealing prospect. These were the same people who turned on me too. When I was about eight, and the youngest, the household collectively decided I was gay. Dunno why. I’m pretty certain I had no idea about sex at the time, let alone any confusion about something I knew nothing about. And remember those were the days when high profile people were dropping dead of HIV. The instigator was my step-dad, he set the tone and the others weakly followed, possibly knowing if they didn’t, they’d be next in line. I asked my mother for help, she said deal it would toughen me up, make a man of me, or some rubbish like that. All it made me do was increase the distance. There never was a bridge to repair with those relationships. And enduring such an ordeal, left me with a strong sense of independence.
There’s no getting away from the rest of the world though. Even the wealthiest and most powerful folks are dependent on the system, probably more so in some ways. The other day I was reading a thoughtful article on class and wealth inequality issues. The final paragraph or so, included the bizarre sentence: Trump is a monster. Let’s be very clear here, that’s crazy talk of the sort I wrote about in what the adults and my older sisters used to call me. As a sentence, it lacks all meaning. The larger point though, is why would you want to hang around with or give energy to such people – any of them?
On the other hand, I used to love the idea of monsters, and owned many of the ‘In Search of’ books. The thought of a world inhabited by ‘Big Foot’ or the “Loch Ness Monster’ filled me with a sense of awe. Those things are monsters, people are just people. Life was pretty hard all the same, and escape into the world of monsters, or sci-fi and fantasy, was a relief from the reality.
I ran away (briefly) and even skipped school for a couple of weeks. The system always dragged you back in, there are processes for that. Give it a couple of weeks, you’ll like it, they’d say. Yeah, sure. Perhaps the experience did toughen me up though? I don’t really know. The hippies used to talk about: ‘beating the system’, it just sounded like a whole lot talk to me. The system has been well honed, sharpened and tested. A different option is to engage with the system. And there are processes for that too.
Study was a good way to get some distance from the family. It wasn’t long before I dropped off their radar, and could just do my own thing. My bedroom was a small shack out the back, barely big enough for a single bed, a chest of draws and a desk. Winters were cold, but at least I could jump the back fence, and be off and away on an adventure. I’m sure the adults didn’t know where I was a lot of the time. I had friends. Fortunately for me, one of my sisters went way off the rails, and that absorbed what was left of the adults energy. The adults lives went even more bonkers, and a sort of peace prevailed for me. First opportunity, I left them all, and never looked back.
If you engage with the system, you can take things pretty far indeed. There’s no end point, and why would there be? The system is arranged that way. More education. Climbing the corporate ladder. All the trappings are there, if you want them. A person can sort of win that game, for a while at least. Problem is, I didn’t want that stuff, any of it. Never really did. So when I’d gone as far as I wanted to go there and the world was spinning with the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, I reached down deep inside myself and asked where did I want to be? Turns out it was a small holding in a rural area. And if it all looks like hard work, hey, that’s fine with me too.
Thirty. You read that right. Just for emphasis, I’ll write it again: Thirty. That’s how many eggs we’ve harvested this week. Last week, none. It’s a dirty job, but someone had to do it. Some chickens are just bad eggs. And over the years, I’ve met with and dealt to a few of them.
Earlier in the week for about two days the wind was feral. The surrounding forest was mostly OK, but the tree which lost part of its head a few weeks ago, lost the remainder this week. Termite damage presumably. The tree will be fine and recover, and loss of the head will probably kill off the termite colony through exposure to the winter weather. The termites sowed the seeds of their own destruction.
Being about only six weeks on from the winter solstice, the sun is still low in the sky to the north. When the rain falls in the valley to the south west of the farm, we get to enjoy some spectacular rainbows. This week produced an absolute ripper.
Almost two months ago, we’d placed an order for a couple of new water tanks. The manufacturer makes the water tanks to order, so you have to wait. We waited. And earlier this week, a lovely bloke who I had a great chat with, dropped the two water tanks off the side of the truck and onto the road. I then rolled the water tanks down the hill.
Small water tanks are easy to roll, but the bigger ones are a serious nightmare to handle. Those things can kill you, like totally dead. Best to have an excavator or some other machine on hand to deal with those. Anyway, for common sense reasons, I prefer smaller water tanks. I rolled them both from the road down to the house. Then they were rolled further down the hill near to where they would be located. A couple of days later, we dug a flat site and lifted the water tanks back upright.
We’ve decided to install a rock wall so as to retain the soil on the down hill side of the water tanks, and so began work on that upgrade. The soil is reasonably stable, but a rock wall retaining the soil is just an extra bit of insurance with the water tanks. It’s not like we didn’t get a 5.9 earthquake (and a lesser 4.0 one) within the past two years. It pays to be careful.
We’ve begun getting the various bits of the garden ready for the coming growing season. Winter is the time for such work. The blackberry enclosure was pruned.
The two terraces with the rows of roses and raspberries were also cut back hard. In the next few weeks, we’ll feed the soil in all of those areas.
A citrus orchard was planted out about this time last year. The grass there had grown, and so that was cut back from around the trunks of the young trees using a line trimmer. And all of the lower growth on the citrus trees was removed.
Some of the more established citrus trees are producing fruit right now in the middle of winter. The trees produce when nothing else does.
Near to the citrus orchard there are plans to have a couple of extra growing beds for vegetables. Hopefully the plans come to fruition in time for the coming growing season. The soil in that area has been fed with goodies for over a year now in preparation, and at this time of year, you can actually see the difference that has made.
There are a couple of hundred fruit trees in the orchards, and from time to time they all need a little bit of care and attention. This week I began pruning many of the apple and pear trees in the shady orchard. I don’t know anything about the art of pruning, but recently read an extensive book on the subject, and just headed out into the orchard with a saw. Despite what some folks may tell you, pruning doesn’t seem particularly complicated. There are a couple of simple rules with apples and pears:
- Reduce the height of the trees – My main consideration with fruit trees is keeping the branches out of wallaby reach. Those small forest kangaroos are right little vandals, so the side branches have to grow taller than wallaby reach. Anyway, if the trees get too tall, you won’t be able to harvest any of the fruit, because it will be out of reach. The birds will no doubt appreciate the efforts.
- Cut out any crossing branches – Branches which touch and cross tend to cause damage to the bark of the tree, and things can go badly from there.
- Remove the vertical branches – Just because you cut short the main trunk of the tree, doesn’t mean that other branches won’t want to reach for the sky. Sooner or later, your tree will be too big again, or wonky and liable to topple with the weight of too much fruit.
- Open up the guts of the tree – Let a little bit of light and air into the core of the tree, and disease risk is reduced.
- Apples and pears are best pruned during late winter due to the lower risk of spreading diseases around the various trees which may be carried on the cutting tools.
Here’s Dame Plum in the shady orchard prior to the pruning:
I followed the basic principles mentioned above and the tree now looks less busy.
I could probably still take more off that tree. Once it has grown some more, I’ll reduce the height. But for this year, that tree is done, a couple of hundred more trees to go.
All the limbs pruned were fed into the scary old wood chipper. I love any excuse to get that old machine out and running. I spent hours feeding branches into it. And the mulch spewed out into the garden bed.
By the end of the chipping job, there was probably a bit more mulch than needed in that garden bed. I spread the stuff around all of the ferns which were planted out last week.
Spring isn’t far away now. A Manchurian pear has just broken dormancy and is producing blossoms and leaves. Usually we get some snow falling this week, but perhaps not this year (or last year, or the year before that)…
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 9am is 7’C (45’F). So far this year there has been 568.6mm (22.4 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 558.2mm (22.0 inches)