Very occasionally I feel the passing of time more strongly than at other times. This past week was one of those weeks. At the farm this translates to: more work, less fun.
Maybe the weather was just conducive to working as the winter rain eased off. However, there was one night when the wind howled through the forest and rattled the windows on the house. The wind even brought down a 15m (about 50 feet) tree smack into the middle of the lower orchard. On its way crashing down to Earth, the tree bent over a 3m (about 10 foot) Medlar (Nottingham variety) fruit tree which fortunately wasn’t terminal for the fruit tree. I bet there aren’t too many orchards on the planet that have to deal with the occasional large tree going splat into its midst!
At least the fallen tree will make good firewood.
After the storm, I spent an hour or two picking up fallen branches and moving them to a pile.
Eucalyptus forests are funny places because the trees themselves hang onto so many dead branches only to lose them when they are good and ready, which may be when you least expect it! Still, it must be a strategy that works because some of the trees here can live for hundreds of years.
One old tree here has, I believe, an Aboriginal canoe scar. The Aboriginals used stone axes and knives mined from the nearby Mount William quarry to cut canoes out of the living trees. It damages the tree, but certainly doesn’t kill them. You can see that this big old tree has a bit of fire damage in its heartwood from the 1983 Ash Wednesday (or perhaps even the 1939, or even 1851) wildfires.
I suspect that the tree escaped the loggers because the tree itself had lost the top half in the past. No one will ever know why the top fell off, it just did. The canopy however, is still very impressive and the tree is very much alive and has a long way to go yet.
Looking at the photo you can get a feel for just how big the tree was originally.
So, my mind has been dwelling on the risk of bushfires of late – even though it is still only winter here. The house was built with bushfires in mind and most of the external surfaces are non-combustible and the gaps are sealed with either steel or mineral rock wool or a combination of the both (which was no easy feat). Yet for some reason, the front door was timber, which is very combustible. Please don’t ask me why. The timber door was covered when required by a roller shutter, but I kept thinking, what might happen if I were unable to lower the roller shutter, I wasn't there when the fire passed or the shutter suffered some sort of mechanical failure (which actually happened)? A long time back I purchased a replacement door with toughened double glazing and over the past couple of days I spent installing it.
The funny thing was that I thought that it would be a simple half day job, but it ended up taking up most of two days. The lesson learned here is that doors are complex beasts to both remove and install!
Excavations for the water tank site have continued too during this week and are not even close to being finished, but are moving along at a nice pace.
The chicken enclosure public beautification project has also progressed in the past few days and I’ve installed part of a new rock wall and planted a few sad looking rhododendrons into the new garden bed. No other plant enjoys the joys of chicken manure like rhododendrons and the more established plants grow better and flower more strongly than anywhere else on the farm.
Right now outside it is 6.4 degrees Celsius (43.5F) at about 7pm. So far this year the farm has received 440.8mm (17.4 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 424.6mm (16.7 inches).
Over the past half year from time to time I’ve heard the strangest sound. Cheep, cheep, cheep, a bird calls from high up above the tree line. It sounds like a chick calling for its mother hen. The source of the calls is a baby wedge tail eagle. All day the single chick soars under the watchful eye of mum and dad. The wedge tail eagles are a constant companion here and it means that the chickens have to be supervised at all times when they are free ranging. Seriously, I occasionally worry about my miniature fox terrier being taken by the eagles. Fortunately the eagles have a ready source of protein in the form of rabbits in the valley below. It is a bit brutal, but they’ll grab an unsuspecting rabbit, fly off and drop the rabbit from a height only to then dine at their leisure.
Bad Joke Spoiler alert! The eagle has landed...
The wedge tail eagles don’t get the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want though, because the family of magpies that live at the farm will actually fly up and attack the eagles. The magpies will call out and surprisingly even the chickens stop to check out what is going on around them. It is an awe inspiring thing to see a small bird fly up to confront another bird that is literally four to five times its size. The eagles on the other hand show a carefully crafted cool disdain for the magpies and pretend that they aren’t bothered. However, most times it does move the eagles along. I’ve always taken it as a good sign that there is enough food in the area to sustain a growing family of eagles.