Friday, 20 February 2009

Up For The Challenge

Not a lot of happy news I'm afraid, so if you're feeling sensitive, time to turn away now ;-) I know I said I'd include the word "rant" in the title, but it didn't seem to fit.

We received our DA for the shed on Wednesday.

The first question that needed to be asked was, why was it approved at all? Keep in mind the DA specifically requested a zincalume shed. A clause in the DA approval specified that our zincalume shed needed to be clad in "colorbond type material" to meet council requirements. Yer what? A quick laugh and a bit of gloss and we are assured this clause will be struck and the DA re-issued.

Hold on a moment. What about the three thousand odd dollars for signs for the road, which was reduced to under one thousand as a result of an amendment issued by council? How did the big number sneak back in there? I'm afraid we don't have the paperwork that we sent you on hand. We'll have to look into it.

And the access that needs to be determined in consultation with council, which, strangely, was determined in consultation with council some time ago, and built already? Ahhh, sorry, don't know nuffin about that, we will need to investigate and get back to you.

Six weeks of investigation and they seem to have spent most of that time avoiding all of the information about what has already happened!

But wait, there's more! We haven't even reached the bad news yet...

It seems that in order to build anything on a block of land you need to have council approved access to that block, otherwise you're considered to be accessing the block illegally. Council have taken the laneway and entered it into their registers as "their road", but it is still open to the neighbour's paddock, and blocked by a gateway, which makes it not a road, in fact it's a Clayton's road. The road you have when you're not having a road.

So before we can build the shed we have sitting quietly rusting in the paddock we need to build an intersection and install our stock grates so the neighbour doesn't have to have his paddock fenced off from the laneway. Cost to build a shed? Priceless!! We have yet to see our certifier, who may allow us to build the shed but not put anything in it until the road is done, but I may be clutching at straws there. Sadly, steel materials left stacked in less than ideal conditions rot a lot faster than they do when built into a proper structure. Time is not on our side there.

So over the last two days we've been in a doldrums, and a state of flux over all our dreams for the future. Where do we find over 10k (moderately educated guess until we get a real quote from council) to fix that road? If it's going to take a year or two to save that cash, how does that affect all our other projects? Are we looking at being 10 years away from moving out there? Will I be 45 before we can even take up residence? Or closer to 50 even? Are we going to need to go (further) into debt to build roads and houses so we can get out there whilst we are in the prime of our lives?

Do we abandon the block, sell it for what we paid for it, count the expenses to date as lessons learned, and work on purchasing something established, with, at the very least, a real road out the front? Would anyone buy that block of land given the need to build that intersection and then the house we've picked out? (offers welcome in the comments ;-) )

I believe that the universe conspires to assist us in our endeavours, but I am left now wondering whether she is trying to give us a different message, or whether we are being challenged to test our fortitude. At this point, we must await further signs to clarify the issue, and shall have to muddle on until then. We are up for the challenge without a doubt, but we don't want to be swimming against the current if we're supposed to be downstream somewhere...

Friday, 13 February 2009

Windy Old Friday

First, a couple of pictures of the new place for your viewing pleasure.

Below is the beginnings of the orchard, a pair of neat rows of holes, all filled with golden, black coloured, goodness. The rabbits haven't been digging into it as I had feared they might, though the goats have been wandering over it for some reason. Apples will be in row number 1, to the left, row number 2, probably odd fruit like plums, pears and peaches. I intend on at least one more this season, for the grapes. I've got four or five varieties so far, just want some of the wine varieties to cover the drinking side of the grape equation.

Next is a sepia stained picture of the tree we felled. This big fella was a little close to both the house and shed sites for comfort. Being dead it was only a matter of time before it decided to start dropping bits of itself across the landscape. There's a fair bit of firewood in it, and I'm toying with the idea of making one of the big logs into the base for a picnic table, but I'll have to see how I go for time and enthusiasm. Why the arty sepia? It was taken on my mobile, which provides for washed out photos, so a bit of playing around produced something more palatable.

Still no DA for the shed, sadly. I called them up yesterday, then again this morning after they didn't call me back as they had said they would. The news is not too promising. Sure we've been told we should get our DA by the end of next week, but in passing he mentioned that it's taken so long because he had to review the whole history of the previous subdivision and the DA for the house. Then he mentioned conditions relating to road shoulders and access to the block. Seems ominous considering it's just for a darned farm shed for storing some of our stuff out of the weather.

I guess I'm working myself up into a lather over nothing concrete, and fearing the worst, but I've got past experiences to guide this anticipatory enthusiasm. I'll let you know now, if things don't go well when I receive the offending document the blog post to follow will contain the word "rant" in the title to forewarn you :-) If it's really bad I might just insist on council buying the block of land from us and we can pick a spot in a region with a more reasonable bunch of bureaucrats. I'm also toying with the idea of creating a "council watch" website, where we can post horrendous stories of their malfeasance, and view a matrix of their authoritarian-ness, region by region. Might help me if we decide to move on rather than put up with the ...

On a much more positive note, it's Friday. Yes, that's the one. I like posting on a Friday, because it's when half my mind is turned to plans for the weekend, and that invariably involves assessing what has happened before. I've got more to say then, twice as much in fact. Half about what was, half about what may be.

I'm slowly working my way through the seedling trees in the greenhouses, potting them on. The Black Wattles in particular, as they're growing well, and will do even better with an upgrade prior to planting out this winter. I shall occupy some time this weekend finishing that task off (5 down, 24 to go, though I did take care of some other bits of plant life last time, fig and lemon verbena cuttings that have taken well, etc. I actually got around to turning the old chook yard into a new greenhouse, and shifting the plants out of the glasshouse that didn't need to be in there, which then led to the potting on mentioned in the first place. It's a long and winding road for sure.

You can see the remaining wattles to be potted on mid-top of the image above. To the left are three avocado trees, these will need to go back in the glasshouse for winter, they don't like the frost. I've got to pick a nice microclimate out at the new place for them, and that requires a bit of observation through winter. At the bottom are half a dozen or eight or perhaps even nine (lets make it ten shall we?) carob trees, grown up from seed.

On top of that I'm going to get our generator up and running. Did I mention we had a generator? Won by the skin of the teeth on eBay week before last, a beautiful old 16hp Briggs and Stratton motor on a 7.5kVA/6kW Dunlite generator. Should be enough for all our tomtoolery out at the new block, including welding. All it needs is a new spark plug and a bit of fresh fuel (oh, and a new air cleaner element, but that can wait!).

No doubt there'll be a trip out to the block on Sunday, most likely for another round of digging holes for trees... We've got to have somewhere to put all of these, eventually!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Not The End Of The World

Presented below is a rough poem about peak oil and the future that came to me the other night. I hope you will indulge me, and not run screaming for the door.

The end of the age of oil is
Not the end of the world
The end of collective fantasy
Following Father too long
While Mother has been beckoning
Back to her embrace

Time now
To quench the fires of industry
To still the broken atoms
To put aside spear and shield
And find what we've forgotten

Time now
To dirty hands with Mother Earth
To go gathering up the bounty
To take up the scythe and staff
And seek out what's within

Black gold fools gold
Has blinded us too long
True gold black gold
Reeking earthy mold
Virulent life
Verdant trees
Blue raincloaked skies
And crystal streams once more

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Jan 09 Activities

The weekend before last I took advantage of the offer of free sheep manure and collected a big load of the stuff. Half of that went on topping up vegetable beds here at the farmlet, in preparation for the winter crops. The other half took a trip out to the new block with me this weekend just gone.

I measured out two rows 40 metres long, and dug myself 30 holes in total, on 2 metre spacings. We've decided on the espaliered high security orchard up near the house, as this will be easiest to maintain and protect over the next year or two. In the plan I'm allocating enough room for 5 such rows in total, giving space for 75 plants, though I'm only going to tackle two this season, or maybe three.

Espalier orchard is the long lines to the top right.

We'll get 15 trees from Woodbridge, enough for one row, and stock the other with grapes, unless I get really keen and put in an extra row further down the hill, and get enough extra work to afford more trees from Tassie. The holes are now filled with the black gold, and I've got my fingers crossed hoping the rabbits and hares don't dig it all out making themselves new burrows whilst we're not there.

I've yet to decide on the best way of fencing them in and protecting them from said rabbits and hares, it's either a small fenced area to keep the goats out, with individual guards round each tree to protect from the vermin, or aiming for a truly high-security rabbit and hare proof fence around the whole lot. I'm doubtful about the reliability of a fence around the lot, and it would be quite a bit of work, so I think we'll end up guarding each plant.

Site of the new espaliered orchard.

I'll need to go and get another load of manure, and should be able to put in a heap of random trees in the forest area with that bounty. In addition to the high security espalier I'm thinking a food forest style arrangement may work well further down the hill, with trees on their own roots rather than dwarfing stock.

If we want to plant even half of the stuff we've got here in pots I've got a lot of planning to do between now and winter (and a lot of digging!) Where am I going to put the woodlot? What about all the odd fruit trees, such as figs, pomegranates and citrus? Where do I want the stone pines and carobs to go? Besides having to pick a nice spot for these things, I need to make sure it doesn't interfere with future plans such as the olive grove and stock routes.

Still no DA for the shed, I called them on Friday and they tell me it's with the engineers for a checkover, and should be out to me before too long. My fingers are firmly crossed.

We desperately need some rain across the region, but I'm thankful we're not suffering as our southern friends are. I've attended only one firecall so far this summer (touch wood), and I don't think there's been too many more than that. They really need to start working on that old inland sea idea :-P