It has been an eventful week here at Fernglade Farm: It has both rained and the sun is shining with unmistakeable warmth. Sunburn is now a serious possibility after about 11.30am most days. The plants and trees are all growing strongly too. Plus today was something of a smashing record breaker (more on that later)!
Spring is an awesome time of year here: Warm days, cool nights, plentiful rain (normally) which equals lots of plant growth. It has been interesting because there has been a bit of talk over at the ADR about insects as food source and I thought that it may be worth mentioning that the Aboriginals used to travel across various tribal areas and up into the mountainous areas of the Australian continent every year in order to catch and eat the plentiful supply of Bogong moths. A similar gathering took place around the time of harvest for the very yummy Macadamia nuts - although that was a long way north of here. Both of these foods were traditionally outstanding and reliable sources of protein and I have both the Macadamia trees and Bogong moths here. Mind you, I haven’t tried eating a moth because years ago I read of a park ranger that had partaken in an Aboriginal ceremony of catching and cooking (over coals) of the Bogong moths and he stated that they tasted like eating moths. Perhaps I’m only being a bit choosy?
The moth is about the size of my hand and there is certainly a lot of meat on the body of that moth.
Incidentally, if you were of the persuasion that is inclined towards eating insects, the excavations here have shown to me that there is no shortage of grubs to eat buried in the volcanic clay. The Kookaburra’s and magpies often follow me around as I occasionally feed them the grubs that I excavate out of the ground. One day, a Kookaburra here had eaten so many grubs that I was able to sneak up on it and grab it twice!
Oh yeah, and stage one of the excavations is now complete. Yay! I’m quietly grateful about this turn of events as I’m unsure whether I’d be up for yet another day of digging and hauling soil anytime soon. The enjoyable part of this project will be building the first steel shed. All being well this shed construction phase should start in about two weeks as I have to obtain some more materials first.
Before we continue the blog though, it may be worthwhile mentioning that it is sometimes very difficult for me to estimate how long projects will actually take here. Most of the time I have no idea how long things will take as every task is so different from any task that I’d ever previously undertaken. People always ask me: How long do you reckon that project might take? The simple answer is: I’ll tell you when the job is completed!
This week was no exception to that reply as I’d both assumed and stated on the record that there would only be about two hours of digging to complete the first stage of excavations this week. You know how it goes though with estimating a project: I thought that it would actually be about an hour so I doubled that time estimate just to provide a bit of leeway. Ten hours later that day though, I can only admit that I had no idea at all! Fortunately, the excavation day was both cloudy and windy, which made it feel much cooler than it actually was. Incidentally, I’m now having to wake up at sunrise in order to avoid working in the heat of the afternoon, but there was little respite that final excavation day.
As they say, a camera doesn’t lie, so I captured a moment in time on that final day of excavations when I found a giant rock in the midst of all that clay. In the photo below, I’m really trying hard to smile whilst "Toothy" - so named because he likes biting people - the long haired Dachshund looks down on both me and the rock only to say “Bummer dude, I’d like to help you with that rock, but it’s just not in my job description”.
|A very large floater rock found during excavations|
As a bit of soil geek information, those rocks are called “floaters” here because they literally float through the local clay and will slowly move through that medium over a long period of time.
With projects here, it is fascinating to look back in time because you never quite know what you are signing up for when you start!
Anyway, I thought that it would be worth travelling down memory lane over the next few weeks and looking at the farm using before and now photos. The before and now photos are interesting because you can see how I’ve had to overcome certain site problems over the course of only a few years. As an interesting side note, I have found that it was extraordinarily difficult obtaining ideas from people on how to develop a complex site like this.
Being on the side of a mountain in order to get any flat land I’ve always had to excavate into the mountain itself . For years I’d asked people from around the area how they dealt with all of the fill (left over soil) left over from the excavations. Anytime it rained heavily, the clay washed down hill and you can see how this happened in the photo below from this time four years ago. The rain that drained off the clay created small erosion channels.
|House and fill October 2010|
It took a lot of experimentation and observation of some of the oldest gardens in the area, but nothing held the soil in place as well as established vegetation.
|House and fill October 2014|
The very green and upper layer of vegetation is now two years old and very well established. The lower level which looks sort of grey with sparse vegetation and was established only last summer. I’ve found that woody mulch requires about two years of composting before it will grow any plant well. You’ll also notice in the above photo that I’ve installed concrete access stairs which are heavily used. Plus the herbage on the slope below the house is very well established now, whereas four years ago it was very sparse.
Behind the house I had a similar problem as the house site was cut into the side of the mountain using an excavator. Every time it rained, silt would wash down the face of the cutting and build up on the flat area next to the house. Two years ago this month, I installed a rock wall on the flat area and placed so many cubic metres (yards) of woody mulch and mushroom compost mix against the cutting that I’ve now forgotten the total tally.
|Behind the house October 2012|
|Behind the house October 2014|
Oh yeah, the smashed record. Today after much thought, I've smashed all previous records for electricity consumption. This sounds mildly dodgy, but the solar power system is very inefficient in that it supplies so much more energy than I can consume most of the year. The reason for this deliberate over supply is that during the serious depths of winter for three weeks either side of the winter solstice, the solar panels make just enough energy for me to get by so that I don't have to rely on a fossil fuel powered generator. Just enough to get by is equal to about 150Ah (amp-hours) at about 27.7V (volts) which is equal to about 4.155kWh.
Today however, there was so much sunlight I used the solar power in as many different ways as I could imagine and used 421Ah (amp-hours) at about 27.4V (volts) which is equal to about 11.535kWh. I believe the average household here uses about 25kWh/day.
|Record day of solar electricity production + the batteries are 100% full|
Warm air has been blowing south from the centre of the continent this week. It is interesting to note that this week Australia’s hottest town (Marble Bar in Western Australia) has recorded an average maximum temperature for the month of October so far of 40 degrees Celsius (104’F). Even though it is on the other side of the continent and a very long way up in the North West, that is where the warm air here comes from! Fortunately, cold moist air also drifts up from the Southern Ocean too and the weather here swings between the two extremes. The temperature outside here at about 9.00pm is 8.7 degrees Celsius (47.4’F) and so far this year there has been 655.0mm (25.8 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 639.0mm (25.2 inches).