Scritchy, the miniature fox terrier who is notable for her recent misadventures at the farm, has been in even more trouble this week. She rules her dog pack with a white short haired iron paw, claiming all the best food and nesting spots and generally directing the other dogs to do her bidding. Ordinarily, this would be an advantage in the canine world. Not so, this time around.
I’m truly unsure what happened to Scritchy, but last Thursday I picked up a new bee colony. Bees can be easily annoyed at the best of times and relocating a hive is a really good way to annoy them. I set the bee colony up and left them to their own devices to settle into their new home.
Scritchy however, had other plans. Curiosity probably got the better of her and without first sending one of her minions, she obviously decided to check out the new bee colony herself. I wonder whether she thought that she would make new friends with the bees. Anyway, the bees expressed their displeasure at being relocated to a new home by stinging Scritchy on the face.
Last year at this time, I too was stung by a bee on the side of my face, so I had sympathy for Scritchy. After being stung, she brought herself to my attention and looked very woe begotten. Her face looked like a Pufferfish:
|Scritchy post bee sting impersonating a pufferfish|
Observant readers will spot the skin on the inside of her ear which is very red and inflamed. She was one very itchy dog and clearly distressed, so I slipped her a quarter of an anti-histamine tablet and she promptly fell asleep for a few hours whilst the swelling subsided.
The following day (Friday) was quite warm. The bees were settling in, sending scouting and harvesting parties out and about and I installed the rest of the galvanised iron roof sheets on the new shed. By early evening, just as I was high off the ground and installing the steel ridge capping (which is simply a fancy name for the bit of steel sheet that stops water from getting into the shed roof at the very highest point of the roof), a few intermittent splatters of rain began to fall from the sky and land on both myself and the roof of the shed. The rain was not very heavy though and I was able to finish off the roofing on the new shed without falling off it!
Later that night as Scritchy and I were walking about the property, I spotted several frogs on the wall of the house eating insects that were attracted to the garden lights.
|Southern brown tree frogs on the wall of the house eating insects|
|Southern brown tree frog on the wall of the house|
As usual, when the wildlife starts doing unusual things, it would be wise to take note and ponder what it all means. Anyway, later that night, it started raining, and then it rained a bit more, and then just kept on raining. As I write this, the rain has slowed and may be coming to an end. All up 77mm (a bit over 3 inches) of rainfall was gratefully received here at the farm over the past few days.
|Courtyard with new shed in the background|
For the benefit of the readers of this blog, during breaks in the rain, I took a series of photos of some of the water catchment systems whilst they were in action.
Rainfall in this area tends to only run across the ground when that soil is compacted. Everywhere else, the rainfall – no matter how much – will be absorbed into the ground water table. A good example of compacted soil is the road. Most people divert water from roads away from their properties, however here I divert that water from the road into the orchard. The photo below shows the water running down either side of the road:
|Water running down either side of the road|
|Water from the road collected in the swale at the very top of the orchard|
The other compacted areas at the farm are just outside the house on the white rocks which have been slowly compacted over time. Water has to be drained away from that area.
|Drain channel taking water away from the front of the house|
That drain channels water past the large water tanks and downhill into a swale. Again the purpose of this swale is to slow the movement of water and allow it to infiltrate into the ground water table. When the main house water tanks become full and overflow – as they are now, they also dump any excess water into this swale.
|Lower swale filling up with water|
That drainage channel only takes half of the water from that location just in front of the house. The other half of that area is piped under the white rocks and drained into the citrus orchard. The 150mm (half a foot) pipe drains water into a very large pit of composted woody mulch so that it quickly disperses into the ground water table. It works so well that I don’t ever recall having to water the citrus fruit trees in that location despite the conditions.
|Drain pipe emptying into mulch mound in the citrus orchard|
There is a very juicy Eureka lemon in the top right hand side of the photo.
I took the opportunity of being stuck inside to convert the strawberry and rhubarb harvest into jam. Oh yeah, it’s good!
|Jars of strawberry and rhubarb jam|
|Preserving apricots for winter consumption|
|Scritchy reclining at ease in her favourite nesting spot|
How did I get here?
My grandfather had a large house and at one stage it must have had a tennis court in the rear garden. The only reason I could tell that it must have been a tennis court was because there were neat asphalt (bitumen) paths with the occasional paint marking between the dead straight rows of mounded vegetable beds.
You see, my grandfather clearly had no real economic need to grow his own vegetables, but because he’d grown up in the Depression era he had a clear understanding of just how tough things could get. He always said to me: “Those that can see ahead, get ahead”. Honestly, as a child, I thought he was talking about driving a car, but I think I understand him better now.
Did I mention that the garden beds were in neat, absolutely parallel rows dug out of an old tennis court? It was uncanny how well planned that garden plot was. Back in those days, a raised garden bed was nothing fancier than a raised mound of soil into which vegetables were planted. None of the rows contained the same crops either, as they contained anything and everything when it came to edible plants. I have fond memories of browsing on fresh radish with its sharp, but zingy taste straight from the ground.
I don’t ever recall him spraying anything other than water. Weeding generally involved me being directed to remove certain plants that had taken root. The whole garden was simple and productive and it introduced me to a world of wonder and delight. To a child’s mind, the ability to take a plant and make more plants – some of which you can eat – is a true source of wonder and I owe the old guy a debt of thanks.
Many years after my grandmother died, my grandfather remarried a younger woman who had a family of her own and as often happens with the original family I saw my grandfather less and less until just before his death. Of all the things he had faced during his life – including that of a bomber pilot in WWII – he mostly feared retirement. He avoided this fear by dying several weeks prior to his retirement date.
To be continued…
The temperature outside here at about 3.30pm is 13.7 degrees Celsius (56.7’F). So far this year there has been 805.0mm (31.7 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 732.2mm (28.8 inches).