There is an old story, which is most likely an urban myth, about a frog in slowly heated water. And people, please don’t try this at home, frogs are alright by me! The story goes along the lines of the frog being placed in a pot of water which is slowly heated. The frog doesn’t appear to notice that water that it is living in is slowly heated, until eventually the water becomes too hot for the frog and it either bounces out of the pot (nice work!) or it may die.
I feel exactly like that frog because the summer is the hottest summer that I can recall and everyday my workload has been slowly increasing due to the need to maintain the food plants that are suffering because of those hot conditions. It was the editor who finally pointed out to me earlier this week just how much of each day that I’d been spending maintaining all of the various plant systems here.
Something had to give.
Something had to give.
So long as the plants have adequate water, the heat is making them jump out of the ground and Tomato Cam™ shows just how much growth has occurred over the past week:
|Tomato Cam™ shows just how much growth has occurred here due to the extraordinary heat|
I still have a reasonable quantity of water stored due to the recent rains, so I’d been watering those tomatoes by hand every single day – as well as all of the other annual food plants (excluding the fruit trees in the orchard which are doing fine, so far) on the farm. There are however, other projects calling for my attention and I can’t do everything. So this week, after a short brain storming session, the editor and I purchased some sprinklers.
|A sprinkler now provides a couple of minutes water to the tomato and blackberry beds saving me a lot of time each day|
The problem with sprinklers is that when you turn them on, you have to remember to turn them off again. On one particularly hot day this week when the temperature in the shade was pushing 40’C (104’F), I ran a sprinkler in the chicken run to provide some temporary cooling for the chickens. I then forgot to turn that sprinkler off and almost completely drained the chicken’s water tank. Well done me!
The other interesting thing about accidentally dumping so much water (well over 1,500 litres / 400 gallons) into the chickens deep litter mulch is that the bacterial action in that deep organic material is making the litter feel quite warm to touch!
The project that has received the most attention this week is the conversion of the old chicken shed into a much sturdier firewood shed.
I’m mildly embarrassed at how cobbled together and leaky the old chicken shed actually was, but fortunately for the chickens they are now in a very nice – albeit temporarily damp - fully enclosed and completely weather and vermin proof steel chicken enclosure shed and run. They’re very happy – although mildly annoyed because of the damp!
Back to the story of the conversion of the old chicken shed. The first task in repurposing that shed was to build an internal timber frame so that I could attach steel cladding to the inside of the firewood shed. The purpose of the internal steel lining is to stop the sheer mass and weight of the firewood from damaging the external steel cladding. Firewood weighs an awful lot and without the internal steel lining, the weight and mass of the firewood can push the external steel cladding away from the shed frame. If the shed cladding is damaged, then very wet and humid winters will mean that the firewood will get wet and I will be unable to dry it or burn it.
|The author constructs a timber frame on the inside of the old chicken shed in order to attach the internal steel cladding|
|The internal steel cladding was installed onto the timber frame|
The internal steel cladding took an hour or so to attach to the timber frame. Observant readers will note that in the corners, I have bent and wrapped the steel lining so that it curves around the corners. This process provides immense bracing strength and rigidity to the shed. Bending the steel sheets was quite a difficult process as I had to attach one edge of the steel sheet to a wall, and then – with a few potty mouthed expletives – kicked and punched the steel so that it fitted snugly into the corner of the shed. Then before the steel sheet had a chance to bounce back and away from the corner, I quickly put a few heavy duty screws through the steel sheeting and into the timber frame behind it.
The internal steel sheets are all scrap sheets from other projects and as such they finish at different heights. The differing height of the internal steel cladding is fine because I generally prefer not to stack firewood higher than my shoulder height. If firewood was stacked higher than my shoulder height and it fell on me, there is a risk that it could lead to serious injuries.
|The external steel cladding on the firewood shed was also installed|
Once the inside of the firewood shed was completed, I could then complete installing the external steel cladding. Those external steel cladding sheets are also wrapped around the corners of the shed and this not only provides excellent bracing, it also has the benefit of being weather proof.
The next day’s work saw the steel guttering installed (to collect any rain that may eventually fall onto the roof), as well as the pipes to take that rainwater and store it in the small 2,100 litre (550 gallon) dark green water tank on the downhill side of the shed. An overflow pipe was fitted to that water tank so if the water tank became too full, any water would drain away to a nearby grove of Blackwood trees (Acacia Melanoxylon). That water tank also now has a standard garden tap attached to it too!
|The rainwater harvesting systems have been connected up to the new firewood shed|
I reckon the shed has considerable character and charm! In the photo above you can see that even Scritchy the boss dog approves of the repurposing.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll landscape around the shed and also fill it with split and seasoned firewood.
The summer heat has been extreme and other than the chickens run (edit - due to sprinkler-gate), everywhere else is quite dry. To ensure that the fruit trees in the orchard aren’t too stressed by the dry and hot conditions I brought more manure onto the farm this week. The manure gets placed around the trunks of the fruit trees and all competing vegetation is completely removed. The fruit trees respond really well to the feed and removal of competition and even without any additional watering they are showing new growth. So far I’ve fed about 90% of the orchard trees and there is probably about another days work before this job is completed. Observant readers will note some fruit trees in the background of the photo below and to the right hand side have not yet received this treatment.
|More fruit trees in the orchard had manure applied to around their trunks and the competing vegetation was also removed this week|
The other day, the editor and I travelled up into a secluded part of the mountain range at higher elevation to enjoy a picnic and escape the midday heat. I mentioned to Pam (a regular commenter here) a few days ago that in this particular picnic ground there was a huge Elm tree, but on closer inspection the tree turned out to actually be a giant Linden Tree which was in full flower, smelled beautiful and was absolutely covered with buzzing bees. Don’t take my word for the size of the tree, check out the photo below:
|A huge Linden tree lives in a secluded picnic spot high up in this mountain range|
Near that Linden tree there is a truly massive specimen of a Mountain Ash tree (Eucalyptus Regnans). Regnans is Latin for the English word “Reigning” and that is because these are the largest flowering plants in the world and are only beaten in height these days by the Californian Redwoods. There were many credible reports that at the time of European settlement, a few of the Mountain Ash trees were actually larger than the biggest of the Californian Redwood trees, but they were cut down. Anyway, this Mountain Ash tree is still alive, but was left in peace because it has a hollow core and the top had fallen off at some stage in the far distant past:
|This huge Mountain Ash tree which I reckon has one of the widest girths of any tree in the mountain range|
Observant readers will note the tall grey trunked trees in the background and to the right hand side of the photo. Those are also Mountain Ash trees which are regrowth from the January 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. It is pretty awesome to consider just how old that huge Mountain Ash tree may actually be.
The extreme heat and constant threat of bushfires has meant that we have been living with the bushfire shutters covering the toughened glass windows.
|Sir Scruffy checks to see whether the bushfire shutters are correctly covering the windows|
On the veranda further back you can see steel table and a couple of chairs and most evenings after a hard day’s work, the editor and I enjoy a coffee and biscuit while we watch the goings on in the valley below.
|The author and dogs enjoying a coffee and biscuit after a hard day’s work|
The ongoing heat has produced an amazing quantity of flowers in the herb beds and I’ve noticed that the mint plants are just now starting to produce some flowers. Over the next week or so, I’ll set up a page on this blog (once I work out how to do so!) where I’ll show all of the various flowers that the European honey bees enjoy and at what time of the year. Those honey bees are quite selective in their tastes and they don’t consume from every flowering plant. I’ll leave a note when this project is done and expect it to be updated regularly.
|The extreme heat has produced lots of herb flowers|
The apricots finally ripened this week and I have been enjoying sun ripened apricots with my breakfast muesli.
|The apricots finally ripened this week and were all harvested|
The tomatoes are very early this year and over the past week I’ve spotted the first of the many tomato fruits slowly starting to ripen.
|I spotted the first green tomatoes this week|
Zucchini (courgettes) fruit are starting to swell on the vine and it looks as though it will be a bumper crop this year. There are a lot of other pumpkins and melons growing about the place, but the zucchini plants seem to be way ahead of the pack.
|Zucchini (courgettes) fruit are starting to swell on the vine|
I always like finding new and interesting wildlife, and this week the stick insects made an appearance. Sometimes, the stick insects are bright green and at other times they are brown like the one below. To put the size of the insect into some sort of context, the timber frame is 90mm x 45mm pine (otherwise known elsewhere as a 2 by 4).
|A huge stick insect has been hanging around the house eating other insects this week|
Over the past week, on hot afternoons an Echidna has been snuffling around the orchard and the other day I took this photo of the little fella next to a huge tree.
|This Echidna has been seen snuffling around the orchard on hot afternoons this week|
The temperature outside now at about 6.30pm is an rainy, overcast and very cool 14.9'C degrees Celsius (58.8’F). Although it is raining outside right now, there has been no officially recorded rainfall, but last year ended up with a total of 740.0mm (29.1 inches).