It’s hard to know when to abandon a project or a bit of infrastructure. Sometimes it is obvious that something isn’t performing as originally intended. Other times, the weather conditions have proven to be too much for the project or bit of infrastructure. And that was certainly the case with the original chicken housing and enclosed run.
But before we look at the process of deconstructing the old chicken shed and run, it is worth mentioning that the weather this week has been particularly extreme. The weather has produced little to no rain and the daytime temperatures have changed from very hot one day to quite cold the next day. Some of those changes in maximum daytime temperatures have been as much as a 20’C degree difference.
When the winds blow in from the south of the continent, they bring in cold air from the Southern Ocean and temperatures can plummet often quite quickly. The dogs are understandably a bit reluctant to venture outside on those very cold days and they instead lounge around the house conserving their energy until the outside weather becomes optimal for their canine selves. I’ve given those very cold days the nickname of: “sub fluffy optimal” and in the photo below you can see the very real and serious effect that sub fluffy optimal days can have on the hard working dogs here. It is very distressing to observe and I do hope they survive such stressful conditions:
|Scrtichy the boss dog and Poopy the Pomeranian adapt - with hardship - to a truly sub fluffy optimal day|
I have decided to repurpose the old chicken shed as a second firewood shed, however the old attached chicken run has to go! Deconstructing the old chicken run continued this week and my main aim with deconstructing this project was to recover as many of the materials as possible for use in other future projects.
|The old chicken run continued to be deconstructed this week|
Observant readers will notice that the old chicken run was seriously over engineered as there were two layers of thick gauge steel chicken wire running all of the way around the chicken run. There was also a plinth of fibre cement sheet with logs in front of those. The whole lot was held in place by hundreds of very solid nails. And I spent hours regretfully removing all of those nails this week.
The reason for the over engineering was that the dogs had learned how to break the very thick gauge steel chicken wire and so a second layer of thick gauge steel chicken wire became necessary. In addition to breaking the steel chicken wire, I was also worried that the dogs and foxes may attempt to dig under the chicken wire. Therefore a dog and fox proof plinth became very necessary for the safety of the chickens. You could say that the over engineering was a very sub fluffy optimal bit of engineering whereby the dogs could look at the chickens, but not eat them! I feel for the dogs...
The funny thing was, that whilst I was worrying about the dogs and foxes impact on the chickens, I was completely oblivious to the unexpected problem of rats and mice, which as regular readers would now know, completely overwhelmed the old chicken shed and run’s defences. There were a whole lot of fat, happy and relaxed rats in that old chicken shed enjoying the chicken food and water.
Anyway, all of that over engineering had to be removed from old chicken run before I could commence any work on converting the old chicken shed into a brand new (well, almost brand new) fire wood shed. The process of removing the over engineering around the chicken run took well over a day, but was eventually done. It is worth noting that there is now a pile of materials messily lying about the place just waiting to be properly and neatly stored in an all-weather material storage bay, but that is the next project in the long list of things to do here at the farm!
Eventually the two layers of chicken wire were removed from around the chicken run and I was then able to start deconstructing the timber structure that held up the steel mesh roof of the chicken run. The roof beams for the chicken run were secured onto the treated pine posts with large galvanised steel bolts and fortunately they were quite easy to remove and store for later reuse.
|The author removes one of the many galvanised bolts used to bolt the chicken run structure together|
In the photo above, we can also play the continuing game of “Where’s Toothy?" for those that dare take on the Toothy photo-bomb challenge!
Observant readers would have noticed in the various above photos all of the lush vegetation that has grown in the old chicken run since the chickens were removed to their new chicken run and shed - the “Chooktopia” project from the middle of this year. In the close up photo below of all of that lush vegetation, I can spot: poppies; green mustards; wild brassica; carrots; coriander and I’m unsure whether it is either barley or wheat (time will tell). All of these plants have grown without any care, water or attention on my part and it has made me wonder whether I am putting too much effort into the vegetable beds here? I reckon the poppies may have come from the uneaten poppy seeds from my bread!
|Close up of the various plants growing in the old chicken run|
It is also worth mentioning that after having the chickens continuously in that chicken run for a few years, the soil is superb and very deep. Fortunately, the chickens are now assisting me with excavations within the old chicken run:
|The chickens are now assisting with excavations within the old chicken run|
It may be hard to believe, but regular readers may be surprised to know that the hot and dry days at the farm have produced even more flowers this week. On hot days there is so much bee and insect activity over the flowers that the buzz sound is unrelentingly loud. And if you were to put your ear next to the air vents on the larger of the two bee hives you can hear a sound that is not dissimilar to that of a jet aircraft in flight. I may yet add a honey super box to that large bee colony.
|Yes, there really are even more flowers this week at the farm|
Over the past year or so, I have been experimenting with planting fruit trees into those thickly vegetated garden beds and what has surprised me about that experiment is that despite the very thick vegetation, the fruit trees seem to really do well. In fact, I’d reckon that they grow faster in the thick vegetation and produce more fruit than they do in the open paddock of herbage. The photo below shows a second year avocado tree enjoying being completely surrounded by rhubarb, carrots, borage, French sorrel, Jerusalem artichokes and geraniums.
|An avocado fruit tree enjoys the protection of being surrounded by a mass of vegetation|
Tomatoes are a very important, very heavy yielding, but also a very water hungry crop and this week, my gut feeling says that they have finally established themselves in the berry enclosure. I recently purchased a second hand quality electric food dehydrator and I am already envisioning drying a huge crop of tasty tomatoes and storing them in olive oil for consumption over the winter of 2016. Yum! I’ve also been considering planting out the remainder of the tomato seedlings into various garden beds over the next day or so.
|Tomato Cam (TM) shows how the tomatoes are growing early in the season|
The recent hot conditions have forced me to commence chopping and dropping the herbage which grows under the two orchards here. The chopped and dropped herbage provides a cover of mulch over the living herbage and helps reduce evaporation from the soil on very hot days.
|The herbage underneath the orchard has been chopped and dropped this week and left as a mulch|
In the photo above, you can see that most fruit trees have also been given a good feed of manure which increases the resiliency of those fruit trees to stress and keeps the roots of those fruit trees cool on very hot days. You can see that two trees (at the bottom of the photo) have yet to be fed with the manure and in all honesty I have only fed about one quarter of the entire orchard, but will get to the other fruit trees over the next few weeks. One of the fruit trees in the photo above at about the middle left hand side is a pecan nut tree which has tapped into the flows from the worm farm sewage system and I have no doubts that that particular tree will eventually become an absolute monster of a nut tree! Already the young pecan nut tree is surrounded by massive growth of borage plants and eventually it will provide afternoon shade for the rest of that orchard.
Despite the lack of rain over the past couple of weeks, the apples are swelling in size on the fruit trees and I noticed this Gala apple tree yesterday:
|The fruit on a gala apple tree has swelled this week|
I also spotted the very first of the horse chestnuts on the farm. This horse chestnut tree has never before produced nuts, and I believe that the nuts can be used as a soap replacement:
|The horse chestnut has produced a few soap nuts for the first time ever this year|
Not to make all of the Northern hemisphere readers jealous, but the cherries have gone from strength to strength over the past few weeks and I noticed this ripe cherry yesterday. I have to now rush out and pick the fruit before the birds (or the editor!) get it. Cherry trees were not given the Latin name Prunus Avium (or alternatively Prunus Emendator!) for nothing!
|I spotted this ripe cherry fruit yesterday and hope to harvest it before either the editor or the birds|
I absolutely adore Quince fruit and the very first quince fruit has appeared high up at the very top of one of the many still young quince fruit trees:
|The very first quince fruit was spotted yesterday at the very top of a fruit tree|
The warmer and drier conditions have also brought the ripening of the apricot fruits and despite the lack of rain or any watering over the past few weeks, the fruit has swelled in size and they have also shown the first signs of blush which is another indicator of impending ripeness.
|The apricots have swelled in size and are now starting to show some signs of blush which is an indicator of ripeness|
One of the earliest trees that I planted as an experiment in amongst the flower and garden beds was an Anzac peach fruit tree which had been previously struggling. The prolific growth from this one peach tree in its new location has left me wondering whether I am actually providing enough food for the fruit trees here as the growth has been nothing short of amazing.
|An Anzac peach tree is thoroughly enjoying planted in amongst the many flowers in the garden beds|
Scritchy the boss dog is acting a bit weird as she always does when there is a thunderstorm anywhere within a hundred kilometres (or more) of the farm. She is a sensitive lady! The thunder and lightning is now cracking over the farm and the heavens have finally opened to deliver some solid rainfall. The air itself smells of moisture, warmth and vegetation and the water tanks are getting a small refill. Tomorrow is the official first day of summer (which in reality began a month ago here) and we are going into summer with about 90% of a total possible stored water capacity of 104,000 litres (27,470 gallons).
The temperature outside today reached over 33’C (91.4’F) but with the most excellent storm outside right now, the temperature at about 6.45pm has fallen to 20.8’C degrees Celsius (69.4’F). So far this year there has been 689.4mm (27.1 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total 688.8mm (27.1 inches).