Unintended consequences are always a reality. They can’t be ignored or dismissed out of mind. For example: some readers may believe that this week’s blog title is a secret nod to the very dark 90's band KoЯn. Other people may believe that the blog title is some sort of homage to athletic footwear of a variety that is wholly inappropriate outside of an urban area – just saying that nothing beats quality leather boots when the going gets tough and rural.
But no, the blog title is actually a nod to Toothy the long haired dachshund who spends his days battling the local wildlife which seem to ignore his authority. Toothy may lack height, but he makes up for it in speed and woe betide the lazy marsupial that ignores his early warning bark!
Anyway, I’m sad to confess that Toothy the long haired dachshund has a bit of a problem. He is obsessive about the chickens and that is why he is the real story behind this week’s blog title.
The recently completed chicken enclosure is working really well. The chickens are healthier and happier in the drier all weather conditions of the new “Chooktopia” chicken shed and run. The chickens spend all day long scratching around in their deep litter mulch and can even enjoy a dust bath in the depths of winter because their new enclosure has been fully covered over with a proper steel roof. In their old enclosure, the chickens used to huddle in their shed on cold wet days (and also for much of the winter) because their enclosure was open to the rain and wind. As a bonus,
the new chicken enclosure even seems to have excluded (for now anyway) the pesky rodents that used to eat at least one third of the chicken feed every single day. Take that you rodents!
However, I discovered an unintended feature of the new chicken enclosure which was the perforated steel mesh screen security door installed onto the front of the building. I picked up the security door at the tip shop for $25 and was very excited about that particular find because they are well over $500 when new. It is a very strong security door, with very thick perforated sheet steel. The unintended feature with the door though is that the chickens can look out from their enclosure, whilst the Toothy the long haired dachshund can also look in. And that was Toothy’s undoing, because now all day he really does dream about the chickens. The funny thing that the innocent Toothy doesn’t realise is that the chickens in their turn dream all day about eating Toothy – if only he knew the dark truth of the matter!
|Toothy the long haired dachshund dreams about chickens|
The simple answer to the whole chicken / Toothy problem is to construct a vestibule on the front of the new chicken enclosure. I have been putting that particular project off for quite a while now because just in front of the chicken enclosure was a very large and very old tree stump which had a diameter of over 1 metre (a bit over 3 feet).
Removing stumps is no easy job without a stump grinder, but on Friday, I manned up and started the long slow process of cutting up and axing out the large old tree stump by hand. It is worthwhile noting that over the weekend a historically unprecedented heat wave descended over the farm – as it also did over the whole eastern half of the continent: Southeastern Australia's heat even unusual for summer.
Eventually, after many hours and a few naughy words, the old tree stump was removed and I was then able to landscape the entire upper slope of the chicken enclosure. Later on I vaguely recall enjoying a cool soaking bath with the doors flung open so that cool evening air blew over me, some good food and then an early night where I enjoyed the long deep sleep of the truly exhausted.
|A white silky chicken stands exactly where a very large tree stump was removed|
The next afternoon found me digging holes for the steel posts for the vestibule and it is worthwhile mentioning that it was still hot! Eventually the steel posts were cemented into the ground (and you can see them in the first photo with Toothy above).
|Digging holes by hand for the steel posts for the new chicken vestibule|
Did I mention that it was still hot that day? The heat was a bit of a bonus because it meant that the cement was setting very quickly. To take advantage of that heat, the same afternoon I also began constructing an additional few steps to the existing staircase under the cantina shed. And then that job was completed the following day:
|Additional concrete steps were added below the cantina shed|
The reason for the new steps was pretty simple. The landing for the bottom step was still too steep and I’d even slipped over on one or two occasions! Soil geek alert (skip this next bit if you find soil geek stuff disturbing!) – If you look carefully at the above photo you’ll notice just how much moisture is retained in the excavated soil and that is despite the current heat wave. Also the excavated soil which I’d casually thrown around the new concrete stairs has a rich dark brown chocolate texture which indicates the presence of much organic matter which is exactly what you’d expect to find in a loam. That loam is the result of many years of additions of composted woody mulches and manures to that area. It is good stuff. (We now resume regular programming!)
Speaking of soil, on a farm in the valley below there is a paddock (which I mentioned a few weeks ago) which had been burnt off last summer. A few weeks back, that paddock was looking really lush and dark green. The owners of that farm have now ploughed all of that rich organic matter back into the soil. To me, it looks as though it may possibly be one giant double dug garden bed! Observant readers will also note in the photo below that the soil in the paddock is drying out in this heat wave from the edges of the paddocks.
|The paddock in the valley below that was burnt off last summer has now been ploughed|
The combination of heat and good soil moisture is causing the plants here to grow like Triffids on steroids! Most of the fruit trees broke their dormancy this week and produced blossoms, fruit and/or leaves all over a few days.
|Most of the fruit trees broke their dormancy this week in the heat wave|
The tomato seedlings have also grown massively this week and I made this comparative photo below:
|The growth of the tomato seedlings over one week|
Very few plants have grown as fast as the asparagus though and they truly are Triffids (don't turn your back on them or you'll become plant food):
|The growth of the asparagus over only a few days|
The air has become drier this week with the heat, and the entire farm smells of a vast array of unique floral scents. I even spotted a few tulips that have somehow managed the unbelievable feat of not being eaten!
|The last remaining tulip bulbs bravely show their stunning faces to the hot sun|
The huge quantity of flowers are also being enjoyed by the many and varied insects. The European honey bees are enjoying themselves in the warmth, but their native compatriots are also out in force and I caught a photo of this little lady enjoying a borage flower (Anchusa Sempervirens):
|Native bee about to enjoy a borage flower|
The plants really are shooting towards the sky and I spotted this fig fruit and emerging leaves where last week there was only this sad looking stick thing huddled up for warmth and not showing any signs of life.
|The fig trees have been enjoying the unseasonable warmth|
The additional plant growth has been a real boon for the native animals too and it has been hard to keep them away from the farm even during the daylight hours – that’s despite having Toothy and his friends to call upon too!
|A baby wombat with a very glossy looking coat happily wanders around the farm and enjoys the compost fed herbage|
A small mob of kangaroos have also been regular visitors to the farm over the past couple of weeks. Kangaroos are great to have in the orchard because they leave the trees alone and crop the herbage instead. They’re sort of like having an unpaid mowing service on call, but instead of using fuel, they turn the herbage into manure. Observant readers will note that the kangaroo in the centre of the photo has a very low hanging pouch which means that she has a very large joey (baby kangaroo) in her pouch. Female kangaroos are amazing creatures because not only can they survive on a diet on 85% bracken fern (which is toxic to western grazing animals), but they can also shut down their reproductive systems at will if they consider that the coming summer will be too harsh to raise a joey. With the heat wave over the continent at the moment, I can only hope that she knows what she is doing.
|A small mob of kangaroos have been regular visitors over the past few weeks|
How did the house get here?
By very early December 2011, the house had been completed. The final inspection took place and I received the occupancy certificate. I believe that I took a few days off any and all work to celebrate that milestone.
|By December 2011 the house was completed and signed off by the building surveyor|
Even today, I believe that this house is one of only a very small handful of houses on the entire continent that have been constructed to the highest standards as set out in the bushfire building standard (AS3959-2009).
Well, after a few days of well-deserved rest (but not too many!), I commenced demolishing the shed that had been constructed next to the house. Believe it or not, the council had ordered the demolition of that shed because it was slightly too large and also too close to the new house.
|Demolition of the existing shed commenced because the council had ordered its demolition upon completion of the house|
I saved every single scrap of building materials from that shed, even including the very small stuff like the nails and screws.
|The shed was actually quite a sturdy design and incorporated fibro cement sheets over structural grade plywood|
Every day, there was less and less of that shed, and I must say that it is much easier and quicker to demolish a building than it is to construct it in the first place!
|The old shed is nearing the end of the road|
Oh yeah, summer is the time that you can spot Echidna’s and I took a photo of this little Echidna happily walking around here and enjoying itself. Echidnas are very special animals because they lay eggs and then suckle live young in a pouch. Their only living relative is the platypus which lives in rivers and streams.
|An echidna was spotted that month|