Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Annual Roundup 2009

Yet another birthday has arrived, though being blessed as I am by having it in early Spring, it doesn't seem like a cold Winter wind creeping under the door and making my joints ache, it's more like a fresh beginning. Something about birthdays, they always get me to thinking about where I've been and where I'm headed to, so this post is something of a self-indulgent ramble through the past and a smattering of thoughts on the future.

Sadly, Winter has passed me by once again and seen no progress on the fire based hobbies of charcoal production and blacksmithing. With fire season once again soon to be declared such plans need to be put off until Autumn rolls around again. I say no progress, but that is not entirely true, because there has been some sideline style progress given that I've collected some beverage cooling units, similar to condensers, that will work wonderfully for cooling the pyrolysis oil that I'll get from charcoal making, so with the exception of the connecting pieces I've got all the elements ready to go. Perhaps further progress can be made over the hotter months by way of assembling a unit ready for testing once the time arrives...

We've now owned the new block for almost two years, and believe me that time has flown by. We have the 5 year deadline on the house footings, which at first I thought was years away, but now I think will sneak up on us alarmingly swiftly. Given that three quarters of a year has crept by just trying to get the shed up (and I've little doubt the rest of the year will join it before it's done) we'd best get our act together!

Peak everything, which featured so predominately and urgently on the horizon not a year ago has faded from the public mind to a degree, at least in some circles, though in others there is renewed and ever increasing vigour as we see Transition Towns popping up all over the place, Councils creating peak oil plans et al. Our own plans are tied to our new block of land, and so have stagnated in the same degree. The urgency is still there, but I'm calm about the future now. No matter what comes our way we're equipped and skilled to handle it. Even if we had to walk away from both properties we would still survive somewhere.

I no longer try and convince or cajole people into believing that a great disruption is headed our way, that we are destroying our Earth, gutting it for short term pleasure. I've even managed to largely avoid arguing with the nuclear pundits who cannot see the grim realities of their chosen mode of salvation. If they succeed in destroying the Earth then we wont be around to worry about it anyway.

I've moved beyond ambiguous acceptance, uncertain belief, and into the realm of certainty. No, I'm not certain our current society will collapse in my lifetime, but I am certain that our current way of life is just plain wrong. I can see where I need to be, though I am still caught in the struggle to get there, and I've little doubt that the journey will last me my entire life. We need to adopt The Simpler Way, to do away with the devices of distraction and trinkets of turpitude, and to re-align our lives with Nature.

It is a difficult struggle, both personally and at the family level. I'm plagued with questions as to how our children will cope. If change in the state of society does not arrive in our lifetime then they may resent the lifestyle that we have chosen to strive to live, unless we are careful and cunning in the way we present that lifestyle to them. Then I wonder why I wonder, as they already have a keen awareness of many environmental issues, though they have yet to draw the threads together into the tapestry depicting humanity's horrific devastation of it's home that I see before me whenever I have the unpleasant opportunity to see the daily news. Perhaps they can be readily coaxed to make the changes that I struggle to enact? I only came to an environmental awareness as I reached my teens, so maybe with suitable nurture they will be driving the wagon whilst I struggle to climb aboard?

One way or another, the Simpler Way will be our only remaining life-giving choice. It won't be take it or leave it, it will be take it or leave... People don't much care for predictions à la chicken little, but I really don't think we've got more than 5 years before the next wave of economic decline, and I seriously doubt we're going to see any vast improvement in the condition of the biosphere in that time, extreme behaviour from Mother N. will be more and more the norm.

This doesn't dwell in the back of my mind, it is more like a filter through which everything I see must now pass. The carefree, junk laden, overly endowed days of our lives might be coming to an end in the near future, to be replaced by an age of hardship and toil and struggle for survival, so all the easy moments need to be cherished. Cherishing similarly needs to make way for work, lots of hard work to get things prepared. There are of course no guarantees, everything that is prepared can be taken away in an instant, but the act of preparing in and of itself educates the mind and body, prepares them for future problems and the labour required to enact the needed remedies.

Spring has bloomed, the leaves are clothing most of the trees, and there is hope for a bountiful and prosperous season ahead, but this year it will be about making hay whilst the sun shines, feathering the nest (building it might be a good first step ;-) ) and battening down the hatches, for there are more storms on the horizon.

Monday, 21 September 2009

On Even Ground

It has finally begun, after all these long months we now have a level shed site, and therefore an official start on the shed construction.

Early Saturday morning I was finishing up packing a load to take out there when DW informed me that she'd just taken a call from our neighbour to let us know he'd be doing the work that very day once I made it out there. I rushed through the rest of the packing (without forgetting anything this time, last time I forgot the thermos, it was still sitting on the bench when morning coffee time arrived...) and made it over there in good time. After unpacking the load of stuff he arrived and we set about deciding on the best approach. Shortly after that the bulldozer roared to life and he was off and ripping.

After ripping, the first loads of dirt are pushed around.

Thankfully there were only a couple of patches of stone in the spot we'd selected. In other areas there are great reefs of stone sticking out of the earth, and finding one of those would have brought the project to a standstill. There were a number of adjustments made through the day, but before sunset it was done.

All done! The water level featured in an earlier post came in very handy.

I'll need to let the earth settle for a couple of weeks, so weekend after this next one I should be able to begin laying the shed out and digging the holes for the footings. Once they're dug it's time to grab the cement mixer, get a load of concrete mix and start filling the holes. When they've cured the rest of the project should go up quickly.

I'd been keeping myself occupied during the day working on the southern fence for the new orchard, and managed to get the netting up before dark. I'm going to save doing the barbed wire on all of the runs until last, seeing as it's the most exciting part of fencing.... not! Only one side to go on that project and we've got a fenced off orchard out there. Combine that with a tank on the shed and we can start planting this autumn (if not a couple beforehand).

The new orchard's southern fence.

On the home front there was great excitement in the house this morning at the sound of cheeping chicks. We'd tried incubating our own eggs a month ago, but nothing came of it, seems we have yet another dud rooster. We got a few eggs of some mixed bantam breed and put those in, and this morning we have six new chicks!!

The vegetable garden is powering along, as are the seedlings in the glasshouse, and there's only a few trees that haven't flowered yet. Sadly most of the almonds on the older tree are gone already. The parrots have a habit of nibbling all the flowers off and dropping them on the ground. If only they had the forethought to hold off nibbling early then they could come back later and get the fully grown almonds. Seems it's not only humans who don't have the sense to think about the future :-P

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Madness Continues

It's been a very busy couple of weeks around the place! Between work and play-work there hasn't been a lot of time for much else, but over the weekend I managed to take a few pictures so that you can see what we've been up to, as well as reading the usual verbiage...

The toilet roll seedlings

We did make it out camping, and a great weekend it was. Started out a little windy, but shortly after erecting a screen of tarps to reduce the worst of it it all died down. The night was incredibly cold, and we woke to a thick frost and a case of the shivers which took a while by the fire to subside (I'm sure it wasn't totally due to the wine consumed the night before, the frost must have been partly to blame!) In addition to a long and leisurely walk to the creek we did a bit of digging in the crystal mines and found a few nice specimens, though nothing truly remarkable.

Before leaving we also marked out the new spot for the shed so that the neighbour will be able to pop over whenever he has the time and inclination and level the site for us. The location isn't quite as good as the last with regard to preserving the views, but it shouldn't do too much harm. At the very least it will divide it up into "garden rooms" with framed views lol!

Chooks on patrol

This Saturday just gone I took off out there again, though it was a slow start and I didn't make it out there until 11am. A good part of the early morning was spent welding two pipes into one longer one that was going to be the final stay for the eastern fence of the orchard. I'll admit now that I need a lot of catchup practice on the welding...

The stay went in swiftly upon arrival, so I dove into putting that fence up, being the longest and most daunting. It's only 50m long, but still daunting, so I hate to think what some of the longer ones at 200 - 300 m long will be like, though I might be able to take a few days for them. I had planned to tie salvaged chicken mesh over the top of the hingejoint to stop the goats from getting themselves stuck but pulling the mesh out of the dump turned out to be a whole lot more complicated than I'd anticipated. I ended up wiring the remaining portion of a roll of foot netting over the bigger holes where they usually run into trouble, and finished up the rest with more hingejoint offset enough so the holes are now too small to fit a goat head. I've now only got the 18m and the 30m sides to go. I'm thinking I may need to fork out the money for a roll of netting, though I'm going to try pulling the mesh out of the dump with a winch first.

The eastern fence

I also had a chance to speak to the neighbour, and he thinks he'll be up to do the shed site shortly. Fingers crossed it might be ready for next weekend, then we can begin the joy of digging the holes for the footings! Can't wait!

Spent Sunday getting back into cleaning the farmlet up. As long-time sufferers of this blog may know we were hoping to go on the local market in Spring, which is now here... Still a bit behind that schedule.

Started the day out fixing the front fence up so that it looked more neat, and contemplated the fence that needed to be cut to get the sewer through, and gave up thoughts of trying to repair it after the adventures with the other one (short lengths don't strain well... even after many years of trying) I think we'll get some lengths of pig mesh or sheep yard mesh and make a solid fence that way.

Following fencing we went to the local Show for a while. The kids had a ride on a pony, a few zooms down the jumping-castle cross slippery dip, a browse through the exhibits for the competitions, and a look at the four-odd specimens of poultry entered this year, and the various goats, sheep and cattle. After that it was a jump on a different castle, a dagwood dog each, and then a sit-down in the shade while they judged the junior show princesses and jackaroos, and then held a fashion parade. A choc-top each, which required a fair bit of cleaning up afterward, and we judged the show experience complete for another year, so set off back home.

Orchard in bloom.

A delightful (27 degree) afternoon was spent compiling a load of rubbish for the tip, which was carted off, and then trying to hide the greater amount of stuff that I brought back with me. I'm now the proud owner of a good stack of short pieces of corrugated & colourbond roofing, and a weighty pile of star picket pieces in various lengths. The roofing will be ideal for chook sheds and similar projects, and the old star pickets will be great to cut down for stakes for building garden edging. A most profitable excursion! Rather than unload all that lot I started adding to it all of the remaining outdoor goods that can safely live outside over at the new place, which further helped to clean the place up.

We've decided that as soon as we have the shed built we're going to market, we're not going to worry about the millions of jobs that we could complete in order to try and get a better price. we'd end up staying here forever! If we're going into a rental next then we need a place to store everything, so the shed is a priority, but once that's done, no more excuses!! So maybe there is only 3 or 4 weeks to go? Maybe...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Spring Madness

It's been a while since the last post, busy and exciting times in the lead-up to spring. Last I checked in we'd done some initial work on the new orchard. This has moved along a little bit further, we've got the stays in on two of the posts (major achievement, I know, but we did do some other stuff as well). I'll need to weld a couple more up for the other three posts, then it will be time for some wire.

We spent a great family day out at the block weekend before last, cooked some sausages over the fire and took a leisurely walk down to the creek and then back via the big hill, with a stop-over at the old dump where we scrounged up some interesting bits and pieces.

The seeds for spring also went in that weekend, a variety of things planted up in toilet roll tubes. Only the basil and cucumbers have emerged so far, fingers are crossed for the rest as some of the seed is getting on a bit, highlighting the need to rotate seed more often. The problem faced there is that some types of seed have so much in a pack one could never get through it all before it declines in viability. Might be worth establishing a seed trade network for the spring flush, where half packets of varieties are sent off about the place. A much better approach than planting a tray of four year old seed and losing two weeks waiting for it to fail to germinate.

Last weekend started out rainy and miserable, with patches of sunshine, so after a quick trip out to the block to pick up some firewood we took a trip into town to do some shopping. I'd been working on two old lawnmowers for the last few weeks, trying to get them running reliably, but in the face of wifely displeasure at the ever lengthening lawn and the lack of suitable parts it was decided that a new mower would be the safest course of action. I've had a lot of lawnmowers over the years, but thinking back on it this is only the second one we have ever bought, and the first ever push-mower. The first purchased was the trusty old ride-on we got when we moved out here. Fifteen odd years of patching up and holding together with wishes various old pieces of junk has come to an end and we are now the proud owners of a new mower.

Sunday started out with assembling the new mower and taking it for a quick test run (the lawn was still wet from the rain overnight, and we all know mowing wet grass is bad news). This was followed up with some remedial work demolishing the old septic tank and filling it in, along with the addition of a few bags of lime. Yes, you guessed it, yet another milestone. The Flood Street Farmlet is officially connected to the Cudal Sewer!! No more swampy side paddock in the depths of winter when DW has put one load of washing too many through. No more glorious unsavory smells to chew upon during balmy summer evenings.

Once I was sure I'd survived filling in the tank (the sides of it were foot thick concrete made in the old style, without reo, but virtually indestructible to the tools of a mere mortal. The small sledgehammer is a ruin, swinging the large one almost killed me) it was time to clear out the old tin shed, and repair the door. By mid afternoon I had the truck loaded up with more 'materials' to go out to the block, another pile destined for the tip, and the shed had been updated with a hinged door in place of the sliding one that refused to slide. It's now the home for the bikes so that there is enough room for shiny new mower in the big shed. Amazing what a fellow can achieve when the safety of his new mower is at stake.

The letters to officially surrender our shed DA were sent today. That should eliminate all the fancy roadwork requirements, bringing us back to square one, an intersection and stock grids on the laneway. I'm not sure how we'll tackle those, but we'll find a way. The shed will go up under the exempt development code in a different location. I was lucky enough to talk to a member of the Department of Planning last week, and a member of the Department of Lands just before that, and neither could see any validity in Council's claim that we did not have legal access to the block. Given that, we're willing to try our luck and if Council decides to get stroppy about it we can meet them in court over it. As always, if we knew then what we know now, well...

This weekend, if all goes well, is camping time. It's DS1's birthday and Father's Day and calls for a weekend of celebration. Fingers are firmly crossed for some nice weather so we're allowed to go! Hopefully we can spend Father's Day doing some of the things I love, like preparing shed sites and installing fences!! If we do make it out then it's guaranteed we'll enjoy a quiet evening around the bonfire with a glass of red or three, the perfect cure for the hassals of modern bureaucracy.