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!