The ancient Aboriginals believed that the spirits of the country would be wrathful if the correct ceremonies and rituals were not performed at exactly the right time and in the right location. Their culture revolved around care of the land (country). What I would consider to be work on the farm, they would consider a ritual. Before those rituals were done by the Aboriginals, signs from the landscape were sought and the proper ceremonies were conducted. If the signs were wrong, then the ceremony and ritual didn’t get started.
In an environment that has a great deal of variability in the weather, it probably is a very good idea to seek signs in the landscape to guide your farming practices.
Tomatoes are a late summer / autumn crop at the farm. The small area I set aside for that fruit can yield more than 50kg (110 pounds) per season. In this part of the world there is an unwritten - but often quoted - rule that tomato seedlings should be planted outside on or around Melbourne Cup Day (the first Tuesday in November). Incidentally, Melbourne Cup Day refers to the public holiday for an annual horse race.
This year spring has felt warmer and drier than last year, so I planted out half of the tomato seedlings in mid-October. Here’s what they look like today:
|Tomato seedlings planted in mid-October|
The second bed of tomato seedlings were planted out in early November. Here’s what they look like today:
|Tomato seedlings planted in early November|
It will be interesting to note the differences between the two tomato beds as the season progresses.
To give an indication of just how variable the climate is here, I read in the diary that only two years ago yesterday, I was planting out tomato seedlings!
This week has been quite warm and sunny, however today a tropical storm dumped about 12mm (just under half an inch) of rain and also provided a good lightning and thunder show. For every 1mm (0.04 inch) of rainfall here, 300 litres (79.2 gallons) of water is stored in the main house water tanks. The good news is that with today’s rain, all of the water tanks are now full. The flow of water from the roof into the water tanks is split into two separate pipes and two water tanks so the system is not overwhelmed by serious storms. As they say, a picture tells a thousand words, so here is what the water flowing into just one water tank looked like today:
|rainwater collecting into one of the main house water tanks|
A few weeks back, I was asked about how the birds which live on the farm have access to a constant supply of water. The answer is that the overflow reserve tank has a flat roof which shouldn't but does collect and store water (it is not mingled with the tank water). As the roof of that water tank is well off the ground, it is a safe spot for all of the birds to land on and have both a drink and a splash around in (they’ll often have a cooling bath in that water during summer). For most of the year the water on the roof of that tank is supplied and cleaned by rainfall, but as the summer gets hotter and drier, I have to pump water onto the roof to keep the birds happy.
|sulphur crested cockatoo having a drink on top of the water tank|
In breaking rock news (sorry, bad joke alert!): The new stairs have had rocks placed alongside each step. These rocks were put in place because they stop all of the animals and birds on the farm kicking mulch out of the garden beds and onto the steps. A great deal of woody composted mulch was also placed onto the garden beds on either side of the concrete stairs. Observant readers will note just how deeply I mound mulch here - if they look closely at the garden bed on the left hand side of the stairs. Those garden beds are intended to be a summer flowering garden bed. I’ve planted directly into the mulch with very hardy plants: salvia’s, geraniums and daisies and they all seem to be doing well. The rock wall to the right of the stairs is now complete too. Some of those rocks were so big and heavy that they’ve bent the steel wheelbarrow out of shape.
|New stairs with rock walls and summer flowering plants|
The slope of the land at the farm is too steep for a conventional ride on mower as it would tip over and seriously injure me. Even a quad bike feels unsafe due to the slope, and I commuted on a motorcycle for about a decade. It isn’t cost effective to purchase a small four wheel drive tractor as it would only be operated for a few days per year. I’d be interested in hearing about peoples experiences with mowing in these sorts of conditions? When I first moved up here to the farm, I asked many of the locals and the general consensus was that an expensive tractor would do the job – but this is an uneconomical solution.
It would be optimal to keep the herbage long (about 1m or 3 foot in height) over summer. Longer herbage provides for shading of the soil from the hot sun, which reduces evaporation of water in the soil. This would stop the herbage from dying off and also further reduces the water stress on the fruit trees and forest. However, this is not possible because I cannot rule out the possibility of arson and higher herbage burns much hotter than low herbage.
|Mowing the herbage has begun|
The shed frame has now been completed:
|the shed frame is now complete|
A couple of days later, I started cladding the new shed with the old iron that I picked up from the tip a few weeks back. By the time that the job is finished, it will look like the shed was there for a 100 years!
|cladding the shed has begun|
I’m not really excited by the warmer weather, but the bee garden is and the garden is growing strongly in the warmer conditions:
|Bee garden enjoying the warmer conditions|
I grow a huge variety of onions at the farm and the bees are really enjoying all of the flowers. During the middle of the day, you can actually hear the buzzing noise generated from all of the insect activity:
|Bee enjoying an onion flower|
One of the more unusual onions which I grow at the farm is the Egyptian walking (or tree) onion. The plant produces either one or two lots of bulbils which can be broken up and planted. Each bulbil will produce a whole new plant, so I’ve been spreading them all across the farm and each year there are more of these wonderful plants. The old timers used to pickle the onions for later consumption.
|Egyptian tree onions doing their thing|
The warmer sun has accelerated the brewing activities here. On hot sunny days, I leave the 5 litre (1.32 gallon) demijohns in the hot afternoon sun and it truly turbocharges the fermenting activities. The photo below shows mead, lemon wine and ginger wine all happily bubbling away:
|Demijohns making use of the hot sun|
Berries have also been ripening in the warmer conditions and both gooseberries and jostaberries look as if they are only a few weeks away from being eaten:
|Gooseberries are ripening|
But, the winner is… strawberries. The berries went feral this week and after a quick harvest of only a quarter of the area, I ended up with the following:
|Strawberries from the farm|
Unfortunately, the strawberry plants have overgrown the path that I put into the strawberry bed and I can’t see it anymore! I spotted a really good idea for the strawberry beds and intend to change the entire arrangement over summer when I get a bit more free time.
The temperature outside here at about 8.00pm is 8.7 degrees Celsius (47.7’F). So far this year there has been 717.2mm (28.2 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 712.4mm (28.0 inches). Please note that today’s rainfall is not included in that total.