It’s been proven true here time and time again, that if you can’t get to a particular area on the farm, that area simply gets overlooked. Access to an area becomes all important and access can mean either a path or a set of stairs into an area.
It was only less than a year ago that I built a concrete staircase and paths leading down into the bee food (and Chris food too!) mixed flower, herb and vegetable garden. This is what it looks like today:
|Bee garden - mixed flowers, herbs and vegetables|
|New staircase below the cantina|
If anyone is wondering how to go about building concrete stairs, the process is very easy. At the bottom of the photo you’ll note the timber formwork that is used as a guide. Formwork is the fancy name for the timber that gives both the width and height of the stairs. I place the formwork at the starting point for the staircase, ensure that it is level both side to side and then front to back and then simply fill the void with cement and rocks. The surface of the cement can be lightly moistened and worked with a trowel so that it produces a completely flat surface. A couple of hours later, the stair is solid and you can then start work on the next stair. During summer, I can build at least three to four stairs per day, but at this cooler point in the year, I’m limited to two stairs per day as the concrete just doesn’t set fast enough for more than that.
It hasn’t all been about stairs this week though. For the past couple of months, I’ve been digging a flat site – by hand – out of the side of the mountain. This week, however marked the beginning of the first shed to be built on that flat excavated site.
Here is what it looks like today:
|New shed under construction|
I’m a great believer in using second hand or recycled materials in construction so all of the materials (other than the cement mixture) in the shed are sourced from second hand or down-graded materials. I’m currently estimating that the entire shed will cost only a little bit more than about AU$1,000.
Most new small sheds these days are built out of sheet steel and they have few if any structural beams. I’ve factored in the very real risk of bushfires here and decided to make the shed using structural galvanised steel with a very thick cladding of old school corrugated iron sheets (which I picked up a few weeks ago at the local tip).
Observant readers of this blog will note that there is a window already installed in the shed. I sourced that window second hand and it is double glazed with two layers of 5mm (0.2 inch) toughened glass. Strong stuff indeed! The funny thing is that there is not much of a market for second hand windows as people generally build windows to fit a design, whereas I’m working backwards and fitting the window I have sourced into the design. Getting back to the bushfire threat though, once the cladding is installed on the shed (in a future week) I have a stainless steel mesh covering to place over that window to assist it possibly surviving a future bushfire.
A lot of tools used to construct the shed are hand tools and one of my favourite's is the trusty old hand auger. That tool – with a bit of human assistance – will easily dig a 300mm (1 foot) hole into clay. It can then bring the clay back up to the surface, thus cleaning the hole at the same time. I’ve had this hand auger for many years now and it can easily dig a two foot deep hole in about 15 minutes.
|Using a hand auger to dig holes for the shed posts|
It isn’t all about construction this week. Being spring here, the weather is even more variable than at other times of the year. One day was 30 degrees Celsius (86’F) and then the next day it didn’t even make double digits (9’C or 48.2’F). That day the rain rolled in to the farm in waves – in between bouts of sunshine. I captured this photo of an approaching rainstorm:
|Rain storm rolling into the farm|
Meanwhile the state to the north of here has not only recorded the hottest October on record, but they’ve had bushfires already:
The orchard and plants are all happily doing their thing without my assistance, so I thought I’d add in some photos of the fruit as it looked this afternoon:
|Apricots are showing their first blush of ripening|
|Almonds are continuing to swell|
The almonds are swelling in size too. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to net these almond trees to stop the sulphur crested cockatoos from eating them. The naughty birds take the almond nuts from the trees about a day before they are ripened, so it is a delicate matter of timing to thwart their activities.
Incidentally, those birds have a long memory and it is notable that Fred the sulphur crested cockatoo very recently reached the ripe old age of 100 years and even received a letter from the Queen of England! Well done Fred, keep away from the almonds.
While I was walking around this evening I spotted Stumpy the Wallaby, so thought that he’d make a nice photograph surrounded by more herbage than he can possibly eat. Observant readers will spot the bee colony in the background.
|Stumpy the Wallaby has way too much herbage to eat|
Red and black currants grow really well here – without any additional watering – and they seem to be having an exceptional crop this year. I add them to jams and my breakfast, but other than that I really struggle knowing what to do with them. If anyone has any good ideas, I’d appreciate hearing from them?
|Black currants on the bush|
The gooseberries are also having a good year. They’re a strange fruit because I thought that they’d taste sweet like other berries, but to my mind they’re more like a grape sultana. They’d probably make a good country wine or cider?
|Gooseberries are starting to swell|
|Ripening strawberries - about two weeks away from being edible|
This week has been most variable. The temperature outside here at about 9.45pm is 13.4 degrees Celsius (56.2’F) and tomorrow it will reach into the high 20'sC. So far this year there has been 676.4mm (26.6 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 666.4mm (26.2 inches).