31 October 2011

Beauty over bounty

Whilst most of our energies have gone into getting the property productive, I've also spent a bit of time on creating some parts of the garden that are just for pleasure.  With the hot summers Brisbane has, the property came with a pool.  Whilst the surrounds were full of weeds and the pool surface stained from what seemed to be duck poo, we were very happy to have it.  There is a pathway through the tropical forest (if I can call it that) that sits between the house and the pool.  It was quite overgrown when we came and so we've been attacking it a bit, as well as re-landscaping the pool surrounds.  The bougainvillea on the rock ledge above the pool was a devil to get out and I have the scars to prove it.
We're not there yet, but things are starting to look up.

15 October 2011


We've seen far fewer snakes that we were led to expect this year, but maybe things are about to change.  Maybe the snakes were letting us settle in before they revealed themselves.  In one day, Shaun stumbled across four (well, partly stumbled and then went looking under a log).  Here is a photo of one (it doesn't  look too scary....)

14 October 2011

Aquaponics Area

After diverting all of Shaun's muscle to help with my holiday projects, he's now back working on his aquaponics system.  He's been collecting all the bits and pieces he'll need to get things going, but the first thing that he needs to put up is an awning that will cover the area where the fish tank and the grow beds will be.  I showed you some of the grow beds that Shaun had been moving up and the hole he was digging for the sump.  He's now put up some posts for the awning structure and buried the sump.  There's lots more to do but its exciting to see the progress.  It won't be too long until we can not only pick more fresh produce from right next to the house, but also to grab some fresh fish for dinner.

Different Moods

One of the joys of having five acres is all the different aspects the property has.  I've been showing you two areas for the most part, the veggie patch and the northern slope where the swales are, but the property has a variety of faces, so here are some of those you haven't yet seen

13 October 2011

Veggie Patch Update

After all the work over the school holidays, I thought a long shot of our handwork might be nice.  So we now have four veggie patches in working order with three in production and one fallow which the chickens are working on for us.   The chicken access points to each of these veggie patches is from the central laneway that runs one metre wide around the covered chicken run.  So when we let them out each morning, they follow the path around until they get to the patch we want them in.  We did this with one small concession - the mandarin tree.  They love spending the hot hours of the day under the tree so one of our ptaches is a strnge shape to allow them to still access their favourite hang.  We put a shade cloth up in the chicken run, which they also enjoy, but not as much as the tree.  It will be interesting to see if they like the white mulberry that is inside their run once its grown a bit and provide both shade and food for them.

Swale Update

You may remember earlier in the year that we dug four  swales in on the north slope and planted a range of fruit trees.  At the same time, we planted a cool climate green manure of wooly vetch and oats to cover the ground and nitrogenate the soil.  And as they grew, they became our mulch with a few rounds of 'choppping and dropping'.  Well, we've just undertaken the second phase.  We did another 'chop and drop', then planted a warm climate green manure of mung beans and japanese millet.  We've also got some ground cover coming up in the form of sweet potatoes.  I planted some pumpkin and butternut seeds as well, so hopefully they shouldn't be too far behind.  Another nice bush that will act as a ground cover is pepino, so that's gone in as well.  And lastly, I went to the local native nursey and got a big tray full of nitrogen fixing native to act as my pioneering species.  These really should have gone in at the same time as the fruit trees, but given I'm not yet living on the property full time, I just do what I can, when I can.  So here are a few pics of our emerging food forest.

08 October 2011

How things have changed

When you say the word "shopping" to a Sydney girl, you conjure up images of beautiful boutiques, expansive department stores and worn out credit cards.  How life had changed.  Here is a picture of the spoils of our recent shopping trip (and one that I was very excited about, I might add)

What our son did on his holiday

Our son has has a few friends to stay over the school holidays and I think its my duty to offer each visitor an experience of 'farm life'  (or we could just call it slave labour).  I asked the boys if they would help with something and only as we got to the patch did I mentioned that I'd just unloaded a trailer full of horse manure into the 4th patch and I'd wanted them to spread it around.  To their credit they did it but I can't say they enjoyed it.

What I did on my holiday

As it was school holidays and I'd taken a bit of leave, I did what every self respecting holiday maker does and worked my butt off in the garden until I could barely lift my arms at night.

Whilst the raised garden bed patch has been producing beautifully for us, it was time to make a start on the other garden patches.  So we decided to hire a rotary hoe.  We normally wouldn't want to disturb the soil but the grass on our property is so thick and matted that nothing will grow unless you remove it.  I made a start on the second patch with a pick, but after a day of digging and an aching back, had only managed a small portion of it, hence the rotary hoe decision.  It was also my plan to use the hoe myself, as Shaun was busy with constructing his aquaponics set up, but after we realised how heavy it was and that it didn't have reverse, meaning at the end of the row, you have to lug 250kg of complaining machinery back in the other direction, Shaun thankfully took on the task of Chief Hoer.

Going it from Seed

I've been seed saving for a couple of years for those plants that you can sow direct but have never really had the space for a nursery.  So now that we're on five acres, its time to get serious.  We are going to get a proper shade house before Christmas but in the meantime, I thought I'd get started at the side of the house.  We've been given a number of seeds and cuttings from the fabulous people in our local growers network, and along with some seeds from Green Harvest, I got cracking.

06 October 2011

Our Spring Bounty

With the move, we've missed a few seasons of eating fresh veggies from the garden so it was a real thrill to head down with a basket and a knife and bring back a variety of things we could use in the stir fry.  To this loot, we also added kale and rainbow chard and had a fantastic meal.

Its nice to be back....

Nature's tenacity

A lot of what we planted was bought in or moved up from Sydney during Autumn and when plants are deciduous, you never know if you've screwed up or whether they are just tucked up and will be back in Spring.  We bought two pecan nut trees and somehow one of them got separated from the rest of the trees that were going into the food forest and so it missed out on being watered for a couple of weeks.  The one that was watered looked good, even into winter, but the one that missed out looked dead as a door nail.  But we planted it anyway and guess what...

Water water everywhere

Living where we are means living on rain water tanks, which I really enjoy.  One thing I love about the life we've been choosing to lead is that we are more connected to where things come from, straight from the source.  Rather than thinking that things come from the supermarket or the fridge.  So I like drinking and washing in rainwater and appreciating when we have it and when we won't.  It helps to treat it as the precious resource that it is and not take it for granted. 

But as we are also growing fruit, nuts and veggies, we needed more tanks that would collect water to be used on the property.  Fortunately, the double garage was yet to have a tank attached to it (and its uphill from the veggie patch), so that was an easy fix.  I can say that because I watched Shaun and the guys roll it into place rather than actually doing the hard work myself.  I did offer, but they thought I might be a liability with a heavy tank on a steep slope.  Strange.
We also put another tank above the food forest on the opposite slope.  That is simply a holding tank so that we can pump water up to the top of the slope from the dam and gravity feed it back down into the food forest.  So hopefully, after all this, we are now as set as you can be in Australia for water.

Welcome visitors

Shaun's folks visited recently and lent a hand to get some stuff done.  There's always lots of grass and weeds to be cleared and they weren't afraid to get stuck in.  While they were at it, they also cleared a new spot for the bench.  Perfection.