Friday, 17 June 2011

Return To Sender

Unfortunately the pending sale of the block of land did not proceed. I find it odd that people will commit to purchasing a real estate if they're not sure they can obtain the finances. Our potential purchaser jumped in, then tried to find the finance, and when that didn't work out, well, we get a situation like this one! What's worse is we also get a bill for the services of our solicitor every time someone leads us astray in this fashion...

So we're back to square one. Subscribing to the belief that everything happens for a positive reason implies that there must be some underlying convoluted spiderweb of cause and effect ongoing that will deliver some beneficial outcome. That we can't currently comprehend that reason just means we've got to be patient and wait for it to be revealed. Either that or we get bored of waiting to understand and forget about the whole lot :-P

Things are in their wintery state here at the farmlet, though it's been warm enough to start the buds on the fruit trees swelling up and we're not even half way through the season.

I've managed to get a few long-pending jobs complete around the place. The new duck mobile home first, then I remodelled the chicken house. It used to be a raised floor affair, with doors that were the entire sidewall. This was very awkward for a number of reasons. Cleaning out underneath was difficult, and not all the manure fell through, negating the primary reason for having the raised floor. Not being able to access the inside without climbing into the shed was another downside. I pulled the floor out, then altered one wall and put in a normal door, so it's now a standard walk-in shed. This has opened up more room for perches, and allowed the lower walls to be covered where they used to be mesh, making for a cozier environment.

Other than that I've finally replaced the sheet-of-mesh style gate into the vegetable patch with a proper hinged swinging gate, which includes a genuine springy return apparatus to keep it closed (an occy strap). The gate-balanced-across-the-opening style gate that was at the other end of the patch has also been upgraded by welding on some tube and bolt hinges, so both accesses to the patch are now much easier to use. Whether this means we'll do any more weeding remains to be seen.

I've also turned my old bit of railway line anvil into something that more resembles an actual anvil, by way of copious numbers of cutoff and grinding discs. This should make hammering out metal a bit easier and allow some more creative action. Now I just have to get into it and do some before winter comes to an end and we're back into bushfire season again!

The lambs have been turned into a number of tasty dinners, with plenty more to come, and we're slowly making our way through the excess of cockerels, small and large. Four bantams make a superb winter stewy-casserole type thing.

Hope winter is treating you all well!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Signed & Sealed

But not yet delivered!

Today saw the signing of the contract for the sale of our block of land. Ahead is the exchange and then the wait until we can settle. The interested party mentioned in the previous post came back to us after some time with a revised offer which was much closer to the mark. A polite and swift round of negotiation later and we were theoretically over the line. Less than a month later and we are two inky scrawls even closer.

Some time in the near future we're going to need to get out there and collect all the "resources" that I'd so lovingly gathered and carted and stored out there. I'd say some of it will go to the tip, but the majority of it is potentially useful, and can be used almost as well here as it could have been there. I'm hoping at least that I can bring the sawmill back, it's always been pleasing to me to know that I'm in possession of such a deadly implement, even if it's not hooked up to a power source...

The whole experience has certainly been a learning one. We've got a fair way to go to get back on track, but this is the first positive step in that direction, and it's exciting to finally be taking it. As much as we will miss the land, we wont miss the grief that went along with it.

Things have otherwise been trundling along, the new duck house I'm building is slowly progressing, and our bowls pairs game went well last weekend. This Sunday we will be in the semi-final, which is exciting for a novice. Hopefully I'll also get the duck house closer to completion as well.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Remember Me?!

It's been a summer of ups and downs, and there's been a great deal on socially that has hindered a lot of the plans for more productive work. I will start out saying that taking up lawn bowls is not something that should be considered lightly if you value your weekend freedom! On the other hand, it's great for making friends and having a good time. We've managed to get out and about on the odd occasion too.

The picture to the right is an old log cabin we found when we went wandering off the beaten track out in Nangar National Park, which is just out west of us. Judging by it's construction method it's been there for a very long time (in Australian terms) but I wonder why it's not signposted or highlighted in any of the information about the park at all.

We've also had a couple of floods, a fair serve of rain, and not a lot of excessive heat, which is always a bonus here. I think we only put the swampy on twice through the summer, and only then because I must be getting soft :-)

Floods in January
Our fruit trees did a marvellous job of producing fruit, the fruit flies did a marvellous job of infecting it. We did get a few apples and a fairly good serve of peaches this year, though we lost at least ten times more. The crop of quinces on the tree was astounding, but sadly all of them went to the chooks. Pomegranates have been pretty good, though even they don't seem to be immune to the fly.  We'd even started spraying chemicals around, figuring we were buying fruit from the shops that had been sprayed, so we'd be going one better spraying our own fruit to save it. If we're to try that again next year we'll need to be a lot more consistent and organised with it if we're to make it worth the effort.

The vegetable garden has produced a moderate amount for us, beans were good as always, and we did get to pick some tomatoes for the first time in a few years, even without a lot of spraying. A lot of spaghetti squash, a fairly typical serve of zucchinis, some celery, a couple of eggplants and a range of other odds and ends such as cucumbers and chillis to round it out.

We did have some nice pumpkins but unfortunately they were left to dry in a spot accessible to the puppy and so we didn't have quite so many pumpkins after all. We also had the best year for luffa gourds so far, with two finished and another on the way. Not sure how far three luffas go toward fulfilling our annual requirements though!

Compost cage
We've been using a compost cage in one of the new beds, which we fill up with the weeds as we pull them out. The idea is that the compost is created in situ to fill up the new bed. It started out full, at a metre high, and is now down to 40cm odd, so we're either going to need a few more, or a lot more weeds!

Sheep have been added to the yard again, and they've managed to decimate a few favourite trees with their enthusiasm, but it wont be long now until harvest time, then we'll just be left with an old retiree, Pinky, to help keep the grass down, eliminating the need for a lot of the mowing.

The chook population has exploded with a good batch of light sussex from the incubator, and probably twice as many wild-grown bantam chooks which are now running feral around the place. We're slowly harvesting our way through them, though that particular project may receive added attention after one of the hens with chicks in tow decimated the newly planted bed full of our winter seedlings the other day. DW was most unamused by it.

There have been a number of problems on the infrastructure front, with leaking pipes in between the floors of the house and a few other plumbing issues, all of which have been resolved but have taken their toll on our patience with the place. The termites have now been declared eliminated thanks to the efforts of our pest controller, but we've not even idly considered any of our other plans on that front given how much other stuff has been on.

Pinky the ancient ewe on the right

I got a few odd jobs done over the summer, the new vegetable beds are still a work in progress, but are probably over half way towards completion now. The chook yard has been modified to expand it a fair bit, and the nursery area has also been "upgraded". I still haven't finished the new duck tractor that I wanted to build a while back, though I've almost got the frame welded up, so it shouldn't be long now. A fair bit of new internal fencing has also been done to accommodate the sheep, though I want to do a deal more to let them into other areas that we currently mow.

The block of land is still for sale, we've only had one person express even a vague interest which quickly died out when we confirmed that we weren't going to drop the price to the level they desired. We have lowered the price to a last-resort level in the hope of getting rid of it, so the only other thing we can do at this stage is keep our fingers firmly crossed. Seems the real estate market is a bit stagnant at the moment. Hopefully we'll live through some mistakes to be able to learn from them :-P


Our first Black Walnuts
Many of the leaves are still clinging tenaciously to the trees, though there are some bright yellows and oranges on the pistachios out the front so it shouldn't be long before it's looking distinctly more wintery. A lot of the fruit trees have already lost their leaves without the intervening display of colour, so hopefully they grow back again come spring! We did have to do a bit of supplementary watering at the end of the season, but nowhere near as much as we would in a typical year.

With luck winter should be a bit more peaceful on the social front so more can be done around the place, such as finishing the new vege beds. I'd also like to tackle building a furnace and a smoker over winter now that it's fire season again, though that will have to vie with woodchopping in order to keep the place warm, so I'm not holding out too much hope! Doing at least one of the projects would be good!

Olives pickling using the salt method

Friday, 8 October 2010

Update October 2010

How's that for a title?! Yeah, I thought so too.

We're now a month into Spring, and the place is finally starting to look a bit tidy and a bit like something is happening. During the Winter months with the shorter days it's dark by knock-off time, so I get nothing done around the place during the week. Once Spring rolls around, and especially when Daylight Savings starts, there's at least an hour or two of sunshine & gloaming after 5pm that can be spent in the yard, so I get something done nearly every day.

Most of the long grass has been slashed for mulch, only the rocky hill to go, and a lot of the fruit trees have been weeded and mulched. Speaking of fruit trees, the cherry, pears, quinces and plums are all in glorious flower, and the apples are getting close. The almonds are developing a fair crop of fruit for once, so as long as we can keep the birds off them we might actually get some.

The glasshouse is chock-a-block with seedlings, waiting for the last frosts (or our best guess). Some of the new beds are prepared and almost ready to go, properly surrounded with hardwood. I need to get out to the block and collect some more timber to continue with that particular project, but unfortunately the ute I was borrowing from time to time has had a run in with a big kangaroo, so is no longer available. That's a situation I'm really going to need to work on, as there is so much stuff out at the block that needs to be moved, and lack of transport seriously limits the scavenging opportunities a fellow can avail himself of.

We've had somewhere around 15 chicks over the last few weeks, 5 hatched out by a bantam, and I'm pretty sure we've got 10 left out of 12 or so eggs that hatched in the incubator. Not a bad start to the year, and we'll be trading some incubator time with another gentleman for a couple of chooks of different breeds.

Something that really needs to be put on the to-do list is an alteration of the chicken house. The raised floor idea is nice in principle, but it makes all management operations a PITA, even mucking out the pen, which was the original prime motivation for going down that path. The question is whether to build another nearby and move the chooks to that, then disassemble the old one, or to try and retrofit the old one by removing the raised floor.

We've planted what seems like a squillion trees, though it's probably nowhere near that number, the highlight (for me) being that the front hedge is finally underway with elms, grape and a couple of odd trees for a dash of spice (quince and lilac). The DW has planted out a fair raft of stuff up on the rocky hill, and we've even reclaimed the small lawn out the back from the oversized trampoline and put in a (yet another) quince and a ginkgo. The wild hops has also been planted next to one of the box elders, and my birthday mulberry is in the outer chicken run where it's excess fruit will one day contribute to the chook system.

Here's Lilly, Lil, LillyPilly or #@&*! Mongrel, depending on her behaviour at the time (the latter being reserved for special occasions such as when she chewed our first ginkgo tree off just above ground level a couple of days after planting it.) A gorgeous border collie x coolie who can already leap our fences in a single bound.