Monday, July 16, 2018

Green n frosty

It's that time of year again, the frost that takes out the tomatoes comes around and I have to run around with a camera taking shots of the ice covering everything. The photo below is of the stump I use to peen (sharpen) the scythe on, and the strawbales behind it.

I'm not sure the mandarin tree enjoys the frost, but it doesn't complain.

Alpine strawberries. I really hadn't considered their name until just now. I guess it makes sense that they're absolutely fine with frost! It's still flowering and looking well.

Nothing escaped the first big frost this year, not even in the shadehouse, although the effect was less in there, the plants that are not cold tolerant just keeled over. It's almost a relief when it comes to tomatoes, since I don't have the heart to pull out green plants, even if their fruit hasn't been ripening, but now that they're black, I have a good excuse. Perennials that died are just going to have to be a lesson in what I can't have here. That included a lovely little pawpaw tree, a couple of ornamental plants, and succulents. Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll live again in Spring.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Water and wood

Since we got back from our little holiday, we have been working on the plumbing for the rain water tank. The soil was so dry and hard when we started, we hired a jackhammer to get the trench down to the required level for the electricity to run from the solar command centre to the chemical locker that we're using as a pump station. Of course, it rained after we installed the electricity. Good thing that it was finished, but a shame because some rain would have really helped with the digging. Can't have everything!

We are also taking this opportunity to re-do the plumbing from the roof guttering to the tank. It's been going strong for 3 years now, un-glued, only held up by poles in the ground, but it's time to finish it properly. Not long to go now.

We got a little distracted by this awesome pile of wood that Marty arranged to be delivered. Oh my, this wood is extreme! The knots, twists and tenacity, it was very challenging. We learned that you have to chop with the growth rings, and not against them (ie: you can't split this stuff!). Marty and I were happily breaking it down by axe, maul and wedge / sledge hammer combination, one wheelbarrow at a time, but we were offered help by a friend from in town, and we didn't say no! It was raining a little as the wood splitting machine made .. uh, not quite what you'd call "light work" of it, but certainly made life a lot easier for us! The whole pile was done in a few hours and they took off to start splitting a pile for another in need. We're very grateful for the help, but also a tiny bit sad that we'll miss out on any more wood splitting fun we had together. There's nothing quite like the feeling of using all your strength and power, axe in hand, the satisfaction of getting a chunk of wood to come off.

I think this wood pile will last at least 2 years, since it filled both the wood shed and a big old wood rack we got an a clearing sale years ago now.. so it'll be a little while before we get to do it again. Considering the wood only cost about $600, I think it was money well spent.

Monday, July 2, 2018

One thing lead to another

Thank goodness I uploaded the photos before the camera app on my phone broke some of them! I think I've fixed the phone, but I completely forgot to post an update here. I hope you'll forgive this late post!!

It all started when we purchased a pressure pump to get water from our tank into the house. With Winter well on it's way, Marty was mindful of the effect running even this small pump would have on our even smaller solar system. We looked into options locally, and yes, we could upgrade our panels from about 500W to nearly 1000W given our limiting factor - roof space. However, we could get 4 commercial 400W panels to fit, and it'd give us a whopping 1600W of power instead. The only thing is we had to get them from Newcastle. It was either arrange delivery or take a little holiday there ourselves. We opted for the latter!

Of course it rained and rained, but it was beautiful! Driving for over 6 hours from the very dry inland, it wasn't disappointing to us at all. As you can see, we enjoyed the water, all the green, the moisture in the air, everything!


We brought the panels back home with the use of a borrowed trailer, and a couple of weeks later, our friendly solar installer did the hard work of getting them on the roof, complete with a proper racking system. The original racks were Z purlins and bits of old signage screwed down to hold the panels in place. We might have considered it dodgy, but they did hold up to the weather for over 5 years!

The system has been much happier since the arrival of the panels. The batteries get to float much more often now, even in poor weather. It's amazing to see them perform the same on overcast drizzly days as our old panels would on sunny clear ones! There's so much power, the batteries have all they want with more to spare, giving us power to to use other electrical appliances more often too.

So, we had a little mini-holiday to Newcastle, experienced staying in an AirBnb host's home, had sourdough pizza and spent hours with our feet dangling in the water.. and brought back enough power to make our new water pump run. Excellent!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Looking at the soil test results, I forgive myself for concentrating on the elements that are missing entirely from our soil. The fact that we have any magnesium at all lead me to mentally put it aside in favour of the trace elements of molybdenum, boron and selenium. Magnesium isn't a trace mineral, although you could argue that 0.043% is only a trace amount, and yes, that's how little magnesium our soils contain.


The bean symptoms were the easiest to search for online. Yellow between the veins on older leaves, brown spots, eventually dropping off completely. Unsurprisingly, their season is shorter than it should be. The comfrey leaves look similar, so it will be interesting to see what happens as the magnesium makes its way into the soil.

I don't want to use Epsom salts though, because we have an excess of sulphur in the soil already, so I purchased some magnesium oxide, although it will take a while to become available to the plants in this form.

I've also noticed a massive difference in my own health since Marty and I began spraying each other with magnesium "oil" and taking oral supplements. The "oil" is very relaxing, and pain is eased when sprayed on body parts that hurt (this can be all over at times). After supplementing with magnesium for a few months now, I'm beginning to notice a new found strength in my muscles, and my "energy bucket" is a little larger and re-fills quicker. Even Marty is noticing he has more energy at work and is less tired during the day. 

I plan on offering magnesium freely to the chooks, along side both their shell grit (for calcium) and the Livamol (for trace minerals) already available. They take the supplements if they want them, and I don't have to worry about mixing them into food and getting the correct ratios. I trust that they know what they need.

Fine ground magnesium will be added to the garden beds as they are readied for new plants, and I'm happy to spread the love around the whole garden once the cooler and wetter weather comes back.

I really like this quite from Mary Reynolds in The Garden Awakening: "By healing the land, we heal ourselves; and by healing ourselves we can see more clearly what the land needs to return to health."

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Wet day timetable

Yes! We're getting some wonderful rain finally, so I stopped gardening in the shade house and instead took a walk around the "wood lot" to see if any of the trees we planted are still alive.

We planted some wattles and yellow box and river red gum trees last winter. Given how dry the winter was, and how harsh the frost was too, I'm really surprised to discover that we've hardly lost any trees at all. Some are even thriving! It's so hard to make them out given the mess the area is in. If I wasn't a complete tree-hugging hippy, I'd say this area was especially weedy and in need of "a few sheep".

But just look what "a few sheep" can do! At best, anyone else might say the land on the right is well managed for fire. No weeds, no grass, no snakes. I guess it's "safe"..?
The visible trees on the left were planted a couple of years ago. We could have planted a lot more by now, but we're taking it slowly, making sure not to suffer huge losses from one poor season, or an incorrect tree choice. We plant in autumn, to give the trees as long as possible to establish before the next summer, and their first watering is their last from us. I'm starting to feel confident though.. I think I'm going to plant a lot more this year. :)
Oh, and we don't spray anything or weed around the trees. Sounds like a complete waste of energy, time and money to me! I have a very limited supply of all those things. We used second hand tree guards, and old fencing wire as protection. I did buy the bamboo stakes and the trees (although there are a few home propagated wattles in there too), and I guess I did use a tractor to mow the long stuff down a little before planting. I do love the tractor, but as you can see, it doesn't get much use here.

I turned around for this photo of the Murray Pine trees. The young trees take SO long to grow up. The young trees on our side of the fence have been there longer than we have! To make matters worse, they're apparently tasty to sheep, and ripped apart by wallabies and kangaroos on a whim. We've had to cage a few from wildlife on our side of the fence, but they don't stand a chance on the other side. The same amount of wildlife pressure I assume, but on the left in the photo above, far too many sheep.

Actually, I think he only has about 35 sheep on probably about 15 acres if you include the grain silo land that your seeing here. That land has only degraded further over the years, while ours gets more diverse, at least in weeds. :)

But I love the weeds! Maybe I need a new sign for the front gate.. "Weeds Welcome!"
(That might upset the locals though)

Not that I've got anything against sheep! We'll probably get a few some day. Maybe after a few of the trees have grown up enough to provide some shelter, and after we set up water troughs, and fencing for rotational grazing, etc. There won't be any cute lamb photos for a while yet though.