This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au/2016 Sep 19 - The Curse of Cherokee.mp3
The Curse of Cherokee is a thing to be feared. It seems as if every time I utilise the bright yellow trailer to bring a full load of composted woody mulch back to the farm with the intent to use it later in the day, the Curse of Cherokee strikes. It appears to me that the combination of 1: a load of composted woody mulch and 2: the intention to use it later; are the triggers for the curse. And when the dreaded curse strikes, the consequences can be as extreme as an unanticipated natural disaster, or as simple as a project mysteriously taking far longer than I had originally anticipated.
This week was no exception because that composted woody mulch sat in the bright yellow trailer teasing me because it must have known that it was waiting to be used later that day, and then the clouds began to slowly deliver epic amounts of rain. And just for good measure, it then rained some more over the next day or so and that composted woody mulch happily sat in the bright yellow trailer staring at me and reminding me as to who had the upper hand here! The Curse of Cherokee had struck yet again!
|A cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch sits in the bright yellow trailer waiting to be used on the farm|
The composted woody mulch had been purchased locally and brought back up the hill to the farm so as to provide a solid covering of organic matter for the recent excavations on the new garden terrace. Composted woody mulch is the fancy name for composted green waste which is collected by all the local councils in Melbourne from householders. The collected green waste is then processed at a huge composting facility and at a much later date, resold to the public.
I intended to utilise the mulch by placing it in a thick layer over the exposed clay of any new excavations or garden beds. Eventually the mulch would form a rich black loam soil. That mulch will also slow down the movement of water across the soil surface whenever it rains. If water ever moves across bare soil surfaces, then erosion can occur as it takes the clay particles along with it for the ride. When you live on the side of a mountain and there is a heavy rainfall, erosion can be a serious problem!
This week it rained a lot over the farm, but that rain was gently persistent and over a long period of time, rather than a very heavy rainfall. Regular readers will recall that it has been a very wet winter here already and as such the groundwater table is quite high. Also the water tanks were already full well before this rain. All of that water had to go somewhere and the swale was where all of that excess water ended up here.
|The swale has been full of water here for several days|
For only the second time in about ten years, several natural springs began unexpectedly releasing huge quantities of flowing water as if someone had turned on a tap! And crystal clear water flowed out of those springs for days afterwards.
|Cherokee Mineral Springs - One of a few natural springs began flowing crystal clear water this week as if someone had turned on a tap|
Local lore has it that water cannot be held above the ground here in farm dams or ponds because the area is too well drained. Well, for a few days after the rainfall, there were actually pools of water in depressions in the ground. But the interesting thing was that not all depressions in the ground held water, but where it did, the water was again crystal clear.
|One of the depressions in the ground near the orchard which held crystal clear water|
The ground must be wet as I even observed this poor earthworm whom had clearly dug its way out of the ground just to get some fresh air!
|This poor earthworm had clearly dug its way out of the ground just to get some fresh air|
After a few days of continual rain, I started to regret purchasing that mulch before I was ready to place it over the new excavations (which incidentally had become a mud pit). The Curse of Cherokee had struck again.
Mind you, there were no major disasters here and all of the plants received a good drink and everything is now looking very green and healthy. Unfortunately, all of that rainfall ended up flooding the local Macedon River / Riddell’s Creek (it has two different names for some strange reason) in the valley below. And this is what I could see from my Eagles Eyrie:
|Flooding in Macedon River / Riddell’s Creek in the valley below the mountain range|
|Looking back from the flood to the Macedon Ranges|
The flood waters were not very far below the main road and/or the bridge deck over the river which leads out of this part of the mountain range. In 2010 during a particularly wet five days (250mm or 10 inches of rainfall) I have seen that main road underwater:
|The floodwaters were not far below the level of the road surface and bridge deck|
After a couple of days the floodwaters receded and the paddocks looked very damp indeed. Fortunately for those readers that were concerned about this situation, it will rain again tomorrow night and again next weekend!
One of the strangest things that I observed this week during the recent heavy rain was in the chicken run. The chickens here lead a charmed life as their hen house and attached run is not only completely vermin proof, but it is also covered over completely by a solid steel sheet roof. Don’t ever feel remotely concerned for the welfare of the spoilt chickens here! As the chicken run is an all-weather run, the chickens socialise and get up to their chicken mischief all day long in the deep litter in the chicken run despite the outside conditions. The deep litter is composed of their used sugar cane straw bedding mixed in with their manure. This deep litter is usually dry, but the rain was so heavy and persistent that a bit of rain entered the chicken run and made the deep litter mildly damp. Don’t feel bad for the chickens as this turn of events was barely even noticed by them! However, the combination of a bit of moisture, used bedding straw, and chicken manure increased the bacterial action in that deep litter and the mass soon became warm to the touch. It is worthwhile mentioning that occasionally the chickens will lay an egg into that deep litter. Well here is an egg that I uncovered in the depths of that warm deep litter:
|An egg was hard boiled this week in the chicken run due to the heat from bacterial action|
The outside of the egg was quite dirty as it had been buried in the deep litter, so I had decided to feed the egg to the dogs. It was a complete surprise to me to find that the egg had become almost fully hard boiled in the chicken run… I thought at the time that the egg was strangely warm to touch.
We’re tough here at Fernglade farm, however we don’t really like getting wet whilst working in the rain. Finally it stopped raining and in a fit of pent up energy, we decided to bring some very heavy rocks up the hill in the wheelbarrow for the new rock wall near the chicken enclosure. That is some hard work. However that rock wall is now almost complete!
|Some large rocks were brought up the hill in a wheelbarrow for the new rock wall near the chicken enclosure|
And yet we still hadn’t managed to get enough of a break in the rain to empty the bright yellow trailer of that load of mulch! So instead we decided to start germinating the summer crops of seedlings. Tomatoes, Capsicum (peppers), Zucchini (courgettes), and Melons were all started inside the house this week.
|The summer crops of seedlings including: Tomatoes; Capsicum (peppers); Zucchini (courgettes); and Melons were started inside the house this week|
Even the Swiss Brown mushrooms started producing some fruiting bodies this week.
|The Swiss Brown mushrooms started to produce some fruiting bodies this week|
Finally a day dawned when no rain was predicted and the sun shone. Ah, bliss! The excavations for the new garden terrace were then able to be continued and the new terrace has now almost doubled in size. The vision for the blackberry and raspberry bed has also changed and we are going to almost double its current size!
|The rain stopped and we were able to continue excavations on the new terrace for the berry beds|
Observant readers may notice how muddy that new garden terrace was. Honestly, we only had to walk a couple of metres in order to gain several inches of height due to all of the muddy clay stuck to our work boots… And the curse hadn’t been lifted yet as the mulch was still sitting in the bright yellow trailer. Oh, that rotten curse and the mulch!
The concrete staircase leading up to that new garden terrace also had two additional steps added this week. A bit of quick thinking meant that we placed a rain shield over the top most step just before the rain drops began to pock mark the not as yet dry cement surface.
|Two new steps were added to the concrete staircase leading up to the new garden terrace|
Finally, the Curse of Cherokee was lifted as there was enough of a break in the rain for us to empty the bright yellow trailer of composted woody mulch and place it all on the new terrace.
|A cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) of composted woody mulch was placed over the newly excavated terrace|
Most of the plants have enjoyed the heavy rains. I recently moved an Avocado seedling to a new and much sunnier location and it has produced new growth in only a few days.
|An avocado seedling was moved to a sunnier spot and with the rain it has produced new growth|
The local ferns which give this farm its name have gone feral with so much rain. This mother shield fern has produced many new fronds:
|A mother shield fern has produced many new fronds with the heavy rain|
The broad beans have also enjoyed the rain, and despite being planted almost two months late they are now looking quite good:
|The broad beans which were planted two months late are looking very healthy|
The ornamental cherry trees have started to produce blossoms well before the fruiting tree cherry trees. Those ornamental cherry trees are some of the hardiest trees around and the weeping example in the next photo has been moved almost four times in its life. It is also producing many cherry tree seedlings around it. That tree may well be a Triffid in disguise?
|This ornamental cherry tree is tough as to heat, rain and drought|
And I added the next photograph just because I thought the combination of super tough Echium’s, Leucadendron's, and Irish Strawberry Tree looked good…
|This combination of super tough Echium’s, Leucadenron's, and Irish Strawberry Tree looks good|