Thursday, December 25, 2008

My sisters place

My sisters little 'farmlet' in sunny Ballarat
In between visits it has transformed from this:

To this:

Wonderfully inspiring,
and home grown Xmas dinners are the best!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On Cows, Rats and Giant Radishes

It was possibly just too good to pass by, let loose on their lower paddocks adjacent to the river, the neighbors herd of cow's had charged across the creek trampling our stone steps we had made up from the crossing and so after filling their mouths full of our lush pasture they had gone through my (somewhat in hindsight non-cow proof) garden fence and started at the radishes and silverbeets... reminds me of the flopsy bunny stories from my childhood but this is serious when it's about cow's... anyways they left a number of good manure deposits as some form of redemption and really they had only nibbled on a few radishes as it turned out. We can fence off the river crossing with great gusto when summer holidays arrive very shortly by recycling some unused fences we have lying around; "Beware you are now approaching a NO Cow Zone".

SO inspecting the garden today merely 5 weeks after planting we have handfuls of juicy radishes with the beetroot, silverbeet and dwarf beans not far behind. With the trial patch a resounding success for both humans and cows, with a little attention to the soil and a proper fence i hope to get a largeish vege patch prepared by summers end with the help of rotary hoe. Digging by hand is very hard slow work and despite the rotary hoes drawbacks (soil pan) a single use and loads of mulch should see us right. Also today I planted experimental gooseberry and pomegranate vines, not sure if the pomegranate will fruit but it does in the Himalaya's so why not here.

With nearly 200mm of rain in the last month its no surprise that the vege's are loving it. The dams are again overflowing and the river continues at full volume. Merriman's creek crossing the highway at Gormondale on the river flats some 10 km downstream from us is now a wide river, looking most out of place now its forest boundaries have all been stripped bare well up into the upper catchments that are just below our patch. Climate change is primarily caused by losses of trees and the water cycle becoming dysregulated but that doesn't stop the pulp-paper industry.

As I was working there today I was thinking that its only now 4 months next week since we got the farm, all-in-all less than a total of 10 weekends work and we have already achieved so much, its quite wonderful to think what 4 years might bring us. The road is now solid packed gravel but the rains eroded some of the dam wall which will require some earthworks and have halted work on the carpark and new shed foundation area until next year now. We were certainly lucky that early spring was so dry otherwise we might still be getting bogged on a very muddy road and unable to do anything there at all.

Another surprise was that I accidently caught 2 bush rats. The sneaks had ended up in a bucket of citrus scraps that got waterlogged that I had left near the compost, they had managed to climb in up the handle and in but couldn't get out and had drowned, thats 2 less rats to eat my ginseng when it goes in next winter. In fact I think I will use the idea as a trap for the ginseng areas.

Off to plan for the 2 weeks of farm bliss coming up after xmas. Thanks for all the comments to date.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Water so wonderful

It was a real flood, all the weeks rain poured through the earth and the river was gushing with amazing volume, as were the water falls. A long forest walk revealed many different moss and fern designs upon trees and long rainforest gullies with wonderful amounts of life.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flood warnings

Flood warnings across Gippsland kept us home this week, but last weekend we almost cleared the final main areas of ragwort, built the outhouse, found several new rainforest fern valleys during our wanderings, entertained Esher, started strengthening the side walls across the new road dam with structural logs and small native trees using some of the several hundred small native trees kindly donated to us recently, entertained Escher some more, discovered a beaut horse stud nearby and (whew) used some ferns I brought from town to revegetate the first part of the creek valley we initially cleared of blackberry. The wet weather means we can continue to plant tough small natives without too much worry of them drying over summer. And it keeps the snakes from coming out, but by all accounts there are loads up in the Strezelecki's so its a serious issue we have been considering.

Weeding the stragglers

Replanted creek bank - watch it grow!

Delicate ferns are regrowing along the creek now

The very proper outhouse

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Update + Gallery Two

Two weeks of contrasts, hard work and full bellies. Thanks for all the kind comments and encouragement, it's great to have people following this project with interest.

Week one was sunny and balmy, T-shirts at night, soil dry, very hot work weeding, but so many wonderful animals spotted on a clear warm starry night: A large black wombat, 4 small but very bouncy kangaroos, a small wombat who's bum reminded me of a womble and a big black wallaby hopping back into the pines. On another day bright red Rosella's squabble at sunset, Morepork Owl's hoot in the late evening high above us.

Week two gave us very very heavy rain, treacherous access, very cold nights but easy soft soil (thankfully) for weeding (lots of it and still more to go) and re-ferning, plants are starting to be transferred from city gardens to their new home. The kitchen is up and running with great style.
Expect recipes soon!! We pride ourselves on provincial and wholefood cooking and think that it is something worth sharing.

With all the spring flowers we hope to establish a beehive soon. We love fresh honey and there appears nothing more satisfying than helping bee's make their own from yummy native and non-native farm flowers like that seen below and all the sweet blackberry!

Meanwhile here are more photos taken on the property (except the fabulous neighbours Llama).

Views to next door property across tree'd boundary

Lovely gums of 'The Grove'

First Valley, now almost ragwort free, I love the amazing shades of green

Native spring flowers are everywhere

Moss is cool

Nice shot by Laurie

Laurie in the soon to be famous kitchen

Raja in heaven

Top of waterfall

Looking down waterfall valley to distant eucalypt state forest

Blackwood tree's are also cool

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Natural Forest Regeneration

A kind blog watcher posted this comment recently:
Blogger Small Footprints said...

Hi! This sounds like an interesting project. I'd really like to know more ... what your goals are and how your efforts will protect the rain forest. You have amazing pictures! Thanks for sharing them! Small Footprints October 22, 2008 9:25 AM

In answer to the question: by removing noxious weeds the rainforest will reseed itself, preventing 500000 Mlitres of water eroding the hillside when they remove the pine plantations above us in 10 years time. A blackwood would seed > 1000000 seeds per year, and they will be doing it soon, thus we propagate them for 2 years, as well as let the already established ones take hold. The blackberry we have already cleared is now a rapidly growing fern and tree area in the spring weather. Herbivores dont seem to be much of a problem for the rainforest trees, although we also need to plant additional boundary windbreaks where young trees are more at risk from kangaroos and birds. The rainforest gullies will be used for forest farming of american ginseng and culinary mushrooms which we already have in operation at another farm. I am a newcomer to permaculture but it seems totally logical and I cant believe it is not used to solve many of the worlds current problems, but it is a positive growing movement. See other blog links for some inspiring permaculture sites.

Following is a summary of a short article on regenerating Australian bushland and forest.

Natural regeneration
Edited by Caroline Douglass (Melbourne) and David Cummings (Box Hill)
March, 1999
© State of Victoria, Department of Natural Resources and Environment 2002
Natural regeneration is the establishment of trees by
using seed fall from standing trees.
Fostering natural regeneration is a cheap and effective
method of tree replacement. With good planning and a bit
of patience, abundant results can be achieved with little
effort compared to planting seedlings.

As with tree planting, natural regeneration areas should be
designed to fit into an overall plan for the property.
Remember that the area for regeneration will be
unavailable to grazing stock for 2-5 years. Where grass
growth is prolific, extra precautions against fire may have
to be taken ( for example, ploughed breaks around fences).
Areas frequently used for natural regeneration on the farm
plan are:
• clumps around existing trees in paddocks;
• in the corners of paddocks;
• in rocky or inaccessible areas where planting seedlings
is difficult;
• in sheet and gully erosion prone areas;
• in salinity recharge areas;
• on stream banks; and,
• on used and unused road reserves.
Operations should be timed carefully. The key is to a have
a seed bed prepared at the time of the likely seed fall which
is receptive to germination.

Seed is shed from fruit or seed cases, such as gum nuts,
wattle pods, she-oak and native pine cones, contained in
the tree crown. The crowns should be inspected to
determine the abundance and maturity of the fruit crop.
Generally, green cases are still immature, brown cases are
ripe. It is important that the existing trees are capable of
producing sufficient seed. The amount of seed borne each
year varies with flowering intensity and heavy fruit set
might occur only once every 3-4 years. It pays to monitor
the budding and flowering of potential parent trees to know
when a heavy seed fall is approaching. Ripe fruit will often
shed seed during hot days in the drier months.

Site preparation
Sun light and available moisture are the main determinants
of seedling survival and growth rate over the first 12
months. Absence of weed competition will greatly increase
germination and survival rates of any seedlings resulting
from natural seed fall. Cultivation, use of knockdown
herbicides and sometimes fire can be used to reduce or
eliminate weed competition.
Rough cultivation exposes physical soil to act as a seed
bed, and gives initial grass control. Weed and grass
regrowth is often prolific after such cultivation.
Mouldboard or similar forms of ploughing invert the sod
and therefore provide longer term weed and grass control
on suitable sites. Hard pan bare earth sites inhibit
regeneration, and ripping or deep cultivation is usually
necessary to improve the quality of the seed bed and assist
in early seedling development.
Initial weed and grass control can alternatively be prepared
by broadcast spraying of broad spectrum, knockdown
herbicides (consult your local herbicide supplier). Take
extreme care not to spray parent trees. The use of residual
herbicides can severely restrict the germination of tree
seedlings and is not generally recommended. For some soil
types there will be reasonable receptivity to seed
germination after spraying.Many soil types will benefit from a
light follow-up cultivation.

A seed bed can be prepared by burning stubble or grass.
This frequently results in rapid grass re-establishment. A
light fire may germinate wattle and other long lived seed
lying dormant in the ground. Suitable conditions for natural
regeneration can be provided during a fallow period or
pasture renovation.Resulting seedlings can be fenced
prior to the reestablishment of crops or pasture.

The primary reason why no natural regeneration is seen
around trees in paddocks is the destruction of seedlings by
grazing stock and pests.
Grazing animals will browse young seedlings as they
germinate so protection is essential. Often when an area is
rested from grazing for a number of years even without
weed control, young seedlings will appear around the
existing trees.

The fenced area needs to be located carefully in relation to
the parent trees. Generally eucalypt seed is dispersed about
1-3 tree height equivalents downwind form the crown of
the parent tree. Consider the critical winds for seed fall
when locating fences for natural regeneration. Seed usually
falls with hot, dry winds, often from the north or north-
west in the drier months.
Rabbits and hares will cause great damage to naturally
regenerated seedlings and will usually bring about failure
of the regeneration project. Rabbit proofing may be
necessary with the use of netting. The netting may be
removed and reused in 18 months to 2 years when the trees
are above the browse height of a rabbit. An alternative to
this is controlling rabbits with baiting, fumigation and
warren destruction.

Regeneration clumps will often contain green feed when it
is scarce elsewhere.
The costs of natural regeneration fencing can be
minimised in a number of ways:
• Natural regeneration areas can be located to utilise
existing fences such as in paddock corners.
• The use of rounded clumps eliminates expensive
strainers and stay assemblies. the clump can be
circular or any other rounded shape.
• The use of electric fencing can also minimise fencing
costs for natural regeneration clumps. Again odd
shapes can be fenced without the added expense of
end assemblies. Solar energisers or ‘lead out’ cables
can be used as power sources.

Follow-up work
On occasions, excess seedlings resulting from natural
regeneration can be transplanted to other sites. Red gum
seedlings 300 mm in height, with the leaf area pruned
back, have been successfully lifted and replanted in the
Western District. Where regeneration is particularly thick
you may need to remove excess seedlings after 3-6 years.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Humanure composting

Recycling human waste is an important part of permaculture processes. Last weekend Mike and Isobel helped build the humanure compost up the top of the hill with us. We chose a simple dual system of : bucket-sawdust collection and independent composting system, rather than a single system due to the shed/toilet location near a catchment river.

Anything and more that you might want to know about composting toilets is found here:
Humanure Headquarters

Up the hill a roof for rainwater collection into a tank to wash buckets without contaminating dam water or in high summer if water is limited is built next to the compost pile. It was hot work and it is only October, summer will be for the retreat of the rainforest. The compost pile will get huge with all the weeds we are pulling. Composting takes about a year at appropriate temperatures to sterilise weeds and manure.

Laurie's toilet creation is amazing and smooth to sit on.

Thanks for all the help guys!

The artful toilet before it is enclosed. Esher ceremonially committed the first dose to the bucket.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gallery One

Over the last seven months we have experienced a so much unexpected beauty, from the land, weather, flora & fauna.

Gallery pictures, taken in and around the farm, appear throughout the blog trying to portrait some of these experiences. All blog photos can be viewed as their own web-gallery at this Picasa page. This gallery is all photos by Paul.

Great example of Blackwood rainforest with tree ferns, farm.

Cool Temperate Mountain Ash stands, farm.

The Cascades, just near the farm shed

Cool Tree fern valleys, currently many new fronds! Prime forest farming territory.

Fern forest, Callignee

Amazing Moss, Big Tree Stump, Callignee