It has been an interesting week weather-wise here. It is rarely windy or frosty here, but this week has proven those concepts to be completely wrong.
The wind howled for most of the week. The bushfire shutters were installed over the windows at one stage because the windows started making strange sounds due to the extreme wind pressure. The glass in the windows is double glazed toughened glass too.
Then Friday, it became eerily still and then suddenly it began to snow. The snow didn’t settle on the ground here at the farm, but it just kept falling from the sky. So I did what any proper Aussie would do faced with those circumstances and said: “stuff work, let’s go up and check out the snow”.
I put together a video of the snow trip which was taken about 300m (about 1,000ft) higher up in the mountain range here:
The forest here for some strange reason has established stands of exotic trees and in the photo you can see a stand of Douglas Fir trees to the right and the local native Blackwood’s (Acacia melanoxylon) to the left. Underneath both are the native Victorian Christmas bushes which flower at around Christmas time.
|Mount Macedon on 1st August 2014|
Just to add to the general weather weirdness, it just didn’t warm up in the shade at the farm here over the following few days, despite mostly sunny days. The ground underneath the citrus trees and outside of their drip-line, is still frozen on Monday night. It is sort of weird because the soil is crunchy when you walk upon it. I never intended to live in frozen tundra!
|Citrus Trees in heavy frost|
Even the dogs are a bit freaked out by the frost and snow.
|Dude, you never said my paws would get this cold|
The only plant here so far that has died has been the coffee shrub, which is a shame as it looked quite healthy prior to the snow and frost.
|Coffee shrub on the left and avocado on the right in snow and frost|
Conditions haven’t been good enough to continue with the excavations for the new water tank site, so a few days ago, I extended the rock walls both above and below the excavation site. Some of those rocks weigh more than I do and it was fortunate that all that was required to get them into position was to dislodge them and then roll them down the hill into their new location. I’m actually starting to seriously run short of rocks here. The rock walls are valuable as they provide a solid barrier for water which may run and take soil with it during heavy rain. You can see in the photo below that the recent rains have gouged a channel through the soil that I’ve dumped into its new location from the excavations.
|Rockwalls below excavation|
Due to the very wet weather too, I’ve built up a walkway across the excavation site. The stone is a flint based material which includes a healthy dose of lime. This is important because with a little bit of water and sunshine, the stone and lime material sets hard like rock and provides an all-weather surface.
|Local stone and lime applied to new walkway|
It hasn’t all been about winter weather here though. I’m planning ahead for the summer too. This week, I’ve installed the stainless steel security door which covers the new glass front door which was also installed recently. The steel security door reduces the heat load on the toughened glass in the front door should a bushfire ever pass through this area. It is very hard for me to forget that during the Kilmore East fire which roared through the Kinglake area (which has very similar forest ecology to here) during February 2009, that in some motor vehicles, the alloy engine blocks melted. This requires a temperature in excess of 600 degrees Celsius (1,112F) so I am under no allusions on this subject.
The only problem with a glass and aluminium door, is that the dogs can look through the glass to see what is going on outside. I’d describe that as an undocumented feature!
The blackberry enclosure now also has a few extra posts and the photo below shows how I line up the posts and get those posts vertical.
|New posts in the blackberry enclosure|
The two new solar panels that were installed on the free standing mounting were also aligned so that they matched the existing solar panels. I looked at them after the initial installation and thought that they looked a bit askew, so had a great idea about spending 15 minutes lining them up with the existing solar panels. Three hours later the job was done. Who’d have thought that something so simple could become such a complex job!
|Free standing solar panels|
It has been a busy week! The lower garden beds have now been fully mulched. I’ve been adding a mix of mushroom compost and composted woody mulch onto that bed. I’ll start planting the bed out with plant cuttings over the next few weeks.
|New garden bed|
Sometimes though at a farm you need to know when to ask for help. With the heavy winds over the past week, a few large trees have toppled over and/or broken. Today, I hired some guys that I know to help clear up all of the storm damaged trees, so I’ve been on the end of a chainsaw all day as well. It is really important to clear up those fallen and broken trees because although they don’t present a fire hazard today, by the time summer comes around they’ll be nice and dry and will provide a substantial amount of fuel for any bushfire that happens to pass through this farm. Eucalyptus leaves have a very high oil content and a very low mineral content and it may be interesting for some people to see just how green eucalyptus leaves burn during the middle of what has been a reasonably moist winter. Only the leaves and small branches are burnt with the remainder being retained for firewood.
|Burn off after about 5 hours|
In breaking chicken news, I’m now regularly receiving 3 to 4 eggs per day from the 14 chickens here. The sad thing is that the ultra-violent chicken “Frizz” took a tumble over the past few days and has injured her leg. Frizz who can honestly only be described as the honorary rooster here in the chook collective is a Frizzle feathered variety of the locally renowned Isa Brown chicken variety. My lady spotted her with a companion at a local poultry sale a few years back and felt sorry for her because they were in a very small cage and Frizz was pecking her mate. Upon reflection of the decision to purchase Frizz and her mate: soft hearts make poor decisions; and pecking chickens are just mean pieces of work looking for an easy protein hit. Surprisingly enough even though Frizz has the muscle to be the boss chicken, she lacks the personality. Rumpole the Araucana and her mate Liz the enforcer (who is also an Araucana) are the bosses of the chicken collective here and they rule the roost with an iron claw. Still, it does look like Frizz seems to be recovering slowly. Frizz the contender may just bounce back?
|Frizzle Isa Brown|
The temperature outside here at about 9pm is 2.9 degrees Celsius (37.2 F) and so far this year there has been 531.2mm (20.9 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 505.4mm (19.8 inches).
Below is a map of the farm, so that you can start putting some of the systems into context and location.
|Fernglade Farm Plan|