Sunday, August 1, 2021

Real life

It has been far too long since I updated you here at the blog, real life has been all consuming! I rarely have a moment spare that I'm not reading or watching something educational or doing something that either needs or wants to be done in the real world. I don't really have an online presence apart from here, nor do I have the stomach for it these days. I'd much rather be out in the garden. As you might imagine, some progress is being made here on the farm.

The best news is the dam has finally cleared up. We did a few more sample tests using gypsum in the water, and figured out exactly how much we needed to add to the estimated volume of the dam. It turned out to be half a ton of gypsum, so we found a supplier and got one ton and brought it home in the ute. We then measured a bucket's weight of gypsum and worked out that we needed 50 buckets worth. We mixed the gypsum into a barrel and mixed it as well as we could with the dam water, and released it into the dam using the pressure of the header tank to push it through. It worked exceptionally well, and through the magic of chemistry, our dam cleared up beautifully!

We added some habitat logs and branches, and we can see through the water for the first time since we've been here. It tastes a lot nicer, and we feel a lot more confident using it for the chooks and garden now too. The plants no longer have stains of silt on their leaves, and it smells perfect. For the first time, we had a Little Pied Cormorant spend some time diving in the water this winter, hopefully a positive sign of the water quality improvement!

We've spent quite a bit of time and effort covering the sides of the dam with old straw. It's a long process, and takes many large round bales to do just one side. There is cover on just about all the walls now, and the erosion ruts are just about all filled in with soil or straw or plants. We have also added some plants, like poplar tree cuttings along the north of the dam. If they take root and grow, they'll help provide summer shade, autumn leaf litter, fodder for sheep, wind protection from those hot northerly winds, bird habitat and gosh, probably another 50 things I can't imagine! Here's hoping they take root and thrive!

We dug an old bath into the ground in the shade-house and filled it with water plants, hoping to increase their numbers before trying them out in the dam. A Peron's tree frog found it too and spent the warm days of summer hanging out there. We were thrilled!

The shade-house was a massive success last summer, we have more pumpkins than we know what to do with. Nothing wilted, nothing scorched in the sun. Watering was more effective and didn't just evaporate away. We had increased the size of the shade-house and the annex just made everything easier. All the gardening tools, all the pots, all in one place and easy to use and put away afterwards. The beds are ready for planting potatoes now, no risk of frost in there it seems, nasturtiums and garlic are growing well at the moment.

Marty and I pulled down the wood around the kitchen door, which wasn't doing anything useful anyway. The back area is much cuter now and we can install a screen door at last! It should make for a more comfortable kitchen this coming summer. We found an old screen door in our pile of useful junk, and will use what we can of it and replace the rotten wood. That is, after some other jobs are finished, but hopefully before the weather warms up.

Speaking of kitchen, Marty and I were about to give up on the old IXL no.4 and pull it out to replace it with a big Baker's Oven, similar to the one we put in at the Old Miner's Cottage in Stawell. Before we did, I decided to search on YouTube for some information about cooking in antique wood stoves. The tidbits I gleaned from the videos were that I need to use "kitchen wood" in the stove. A term that meant the smaller sticks and rounds that aren't suitable for a wood heater. Another thing was that once it was going well, it needed to be topped up about once every 15 minutes. Ah-ha! We decided to give that a try. We checked the flu, cleaned out the stove and fired her up. Wow, what a difference! We made bacon and eggs, boiled a kettle for a cup of coffee, and the oven got hot enough to roast pumpkin! So, that settles it! We're keeping the IXL no. 4 for good. :)

Sarah spent the summer helping to control the mouse "plague". She had an absolutely wonderful time digging and chasing mice. She's spending this winter resting up, sleeping on the bed in front of the fireplace. We're hoping she'll be with us for another summer, but only time will tell. We're both so glad she's spending her retirement with us on our little farm.

We've been feeling more energetic and motivated since adding some fruit and potatoes to our otherwise meat-based diet. Our mandarin tree had a productive season and is overloaded with fruit. First, one possum found it, then a friend joined him or her. Looks like we will have to install the possum nest box somewhere nearby for them.

There are lots of other projects in various stages of completion, we're waiting on online orders of electric fencing supplies and seeds. There's still plenty to do, and we've no time to waste! The goal is to be able to provide for ourselves, all the meat and fruit and vegetables we eat, the water we drink and the electricity we use. We have half of that list complete, and a solid plan for the other half. We need to be self reliant, or our choices in how we live in the near future will be very limited indeed.

Until next time!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A very fine February


We've been very lucky and grateful for the weather this summer. Only a few days of over 40°C, but we had three downpours of over 20mm each over a week or so which made the grass green and all the plants bounce back beautifully. With Mum and Mike staying in their campervan they couldn't have gotten any luckier!

The garden is doing great, and there is abundant peaches, pumpkins, spiders and insects, and the crested pidgons are nesting again this season with two more chicks on the way. Although not all the abundance is welcome. We have had many more mice and rats this year too, which is keeping Sarah (Mum and Mike's dog) very busy. She has been digging out the nests and doing her terrier duty quite well. We'll miss her when she moves to Victoria in a couple of weeks.

She's been aging backwards since eating carnivore like us. Her fur went from wirey, dirty and constantly shedding to the complete opposite! Soft as silk, doesn't fall out every pat, and dirt just falls off her for the most part. Now you actually want to pat her, which is great since that's her favourite thing in the world next to catching mice. She doesn't yelp when being picked up anymore and she has loads more energy. We can't be sure but we think her cancerous lumps might be getting smaller too. Either way, for an old doggie who everyone thought was on her last legs, she has certainly perked up!

We have finished the irrigation, filled in the whole trench by hand and have shown off some local landmarks to Mum and Mike. We hope to get some more projects started and finished again real soon.


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

More dam projects, open borders, hot windy weather

Another month flies by, and we've been working on the dam water quality. I have been reading about the venturi effect and decided to make a venturi and set it up down at the dam in order to oxygenate the water. The idea is that the oxygen will help settle the excess iron from the water and clear it up a bit. Marty can swim well, so he put the pipe down in the middle of the dam!

The venturi works, although it drains the 22,500L header tank very quickly, like over night! We decided to go ahead and get two solar panels for the pump so we can run the venturi more often. That meant a trip down to Victoria to pick them up and thankfully the border closures had stopped the day before, and we decided to go quickly before they closed them down again. Thankfully we avoided the whole mask stuff, and the business we went to were not pandering to the fear either.

We've spent the last few days putting up a stand for the panels, Marty digging in the hot sun, yesterday we made about 10 or 11 (little) loads of concrete to hold the posts up, and today we're going to attach the panels, all going well. The wind has been terrible lately, and we were held up by some awfully hot weather. It has been over 40°C, and up to 43°C the other day. (109.4°F) We're all coping pretty well so far.

Mum, Mike and Sarah came to visit down from Queensland finally, when their border opened up. We looked after Sarah for a few days while they went down to Nana's place for a visit. Sarah seemed to enjoy being a carnivore! She ate the same foods Marty and I did, with farm fresh eggs. Her fur became softer, and it was shedding a lot less by the time they came home again! Sadly, none of them are carnivore now, but I bet Sarah won't forget her time here with us.

Anyway, like I said, we have panels to put up today. Hope you all have a lovely day!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Milestone Day for Irrigation

Today was the day that we first pumped water from the dam into the header tank on the hill. I can hardly believe it!

We've probably walked the 250m distance between the dam and the tank about a hundred times by now, and we're not quite finished walking yet. I tried to capture some of the essence of the project in photos to share with you.

Marty, the International A414 and the big white tank on the hill.

We used the single tyne ripper quite a few times along the run.

We've had fun and learned a lot!

In the photo above, it turns out Marty was taking this little video:

We're super grateful for the advice we've received from our local farmer friend, he saved us oh so much money! The irrigation and farm stores would have had us installing either 2.5" high pressure poly pipe, costing a fortune and being much more difficult to work with.. another was asking if we were SURE we needed 2" and thought that was overkill. Still others would have us spending big bucks for a centrifugal pump that might block up due to the particulate matter in the water. So thank you Richard for giving us spot-on advice and answering even the most newbie questions we had, you likely saved us at least $6,000 on this project.

We put pencil to paper and drew a rough plan of the irrigation, a few times actually, refining it each time. It really helped us both visualise the layout, count the parts needed, and we actually ordered exactly what we needed! It was awesome to have everything on hand, without rushing off to the shops for forgotten fittings. Oh, except plumbers white-tape. We needed an awful lot of that!

I found a website that sold the parts we needed very cheaply, and almost finalised the order when Marty thought perhaps we should give the list of what we need and the online prices to our local "Ag n Vet" rural supplies store, just to give them a chance to match it. Not only did they match it, they beat it! They also had the cheapest price on rural green-line poly pipe in the whole area, so we ended up getting just about everything very locally.

They were able to let us know about a local man who had a pipe laying attachment for the tractor as well, which was great as we already knew Pat! We are happily returning it to him tomorrow after finishing using it yesterday.

So, after lots of walking, assembling the compression fittings, using about 5 roles of white-tape (and we had avoided as many screw-on connections as we could in the planning stages), re-applying yet more white-tape as we found some of the connections leaking due to too little used, and re-tightening the compression fittings, we were happy to see the water slowly flowing into the tank. I guess I didn't mention the pump float we made with stormwater pipe, but I'll have to show that off in another post.

The water finally flowed into the tank for a few hours before the sun headed off to the West and a gum tree shaded the panel. We'll need at least a couple of good days to fill the tank completely, so we're thinking of purchasing a matching second solar panel to give the pump a little more juice.

Speaking of juice, Marty and I have been feeling much better now after falling into the sugar trap over winter. We started eating some, and we just couldn't stop! Sure, we gained a little weight, but that was nothing in comparison to the health effects. Our energy levels started to fall down again, Marty's asthma and eczema became worse than ever, and we weren't sleeping well either. After only a few days of being perfect carnivores, we started enjoying the benefits of good health once again. Sleeping soundly, needing less sleep, waking feeling good, (no back pain for me in the morning! hooray!) having enough energy to do this crazy irrigation stuff, and Marty's asthma and incessant itchiness finally settling down.

Yeah, it can be a little boring at times, but it's worth it. Just one hour of eating sugar equals many more hours of feeling less than optimal. That certainly isn't worth it.

Dr Ken Berry on YouTube is a great source of information and encouragement for us, I thought I'd share him explaining just some of the bigger issues with eating the addictive stuff:

So, we're off the sugar again, and feeling a million times better for it.

I wish everyone good health and success in your day. It certainly feels good to make progress!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Making progress on the irrigation

 The weather has been typical of spring, we had a cold snap and needed to start lighting the fire again..

Now that the weather is warm again, we even got a little sun burned today while ripping a trench with the tractor. No pictures of that, I'm afraid! We were both concentrating on the task and didn't spare a thought for picture taking. We made a single rip through the soil, ready to accept poly pipe, from the brand new big white tank on the top of the hill, all the way down to the back of the property.

The local wildlife enjoyed the exposed ground, Choughs filled their bellies with worms! We've been lucky enough to see a lizard sunning itself in a patch of capeweed.

We recently got the test results back from our a water sample we had taken from the dam. The results were overall pretty positive, only an alarmingly high aluminium (Al) number confused us (and everybody else we asked). Thankfully the pH value is neutral, and the most likely explanation that I can find is that the aluminium is natural gibbsite bound to organic matter in the water. Our soils are also naturally high in aluminium. We're both comforted by the fact that turtles, frogs, yabbies and other little critters live in the water and are seemingly healthy.

Marty and I donned our white lab coats to set up an experiment. 4 jars of dam water; one control, one with 2 tablespoons of fine agricultural lime, another with 2 tablespoons of hardware store gypsum and the last with 2 tablespoons of shell grit from our chook supplies. We wanted to see what effect any might have on the water. Nothing much happened over a few days, only a slight change in pH and hardness, most noticeable with the shell grit. The tiny black critters swimming around the jars didn't seem to mind either way. Adding a small dose of Charlie Carp (which is a fish-based fertiliser) to the shell grit test after the experiment was over made a sludge layer form at the bottom and seems to have killed the tiny critters! Something we certainly don't want to replicate on a larger scale!

Since pH is an important factor in making sure our water stays healthy, I decided to bust out the old soil test kits. I think they're both far too old to be of any help anymore though! One ancient test kit (yep, we got it in a "lot" at a clearing sale) was showing our soils to be 4.5, the slightly newer (but at least 6 year old) kit was showing a pH of 6 on the exact same soil. I think it's time to get a new kit, or perhaps upgrade to a digital pH meter.

So, we are moving forward with the dam water project. The next step is buying poly pipe and fittings, and setting up the solar water pump. As simple as that sounds, I know it's a bit more involved than that. We have been getting lots of practical advice from a very helpful and patient local farmer, and also watching lots of Greg Judy videos on YouTube about rotationally grazing sheep.

Stay tuned!