Monday, 30 May 2016

Soil Ant Green

Some weekend afternoons the valley below this farm looks as if someone had decided to reproduce the land of Mordor with many smoke plumes rising into the air. Mordor, of course is Tolkien’s fictional land where the evil sorcerer Sauron lived and ruled. There was a whole lot of smoke and fire and stuff in that fictional land. With maybe a bit of brimstone chucked in for good measure, whatever that stuff is. It does sound a bit scary though!
The residents of the valley below are enjoying many a good burn off
Burning off of organic material is a useful forest management technique as it can be used to selectively thin the forest. Eucalyptus trees encourage regular fires as the seeds are very hardy and long lived and often rely on fire to break their dormancy (that is the fancy name for the process where seeds know the exact time to begin the process of turning into trees). Fire also provides a lovely mineral rich ash bed (particularly phosphate which is sorely lacking in the soils here) for those new Eucalyptus trees to grow in.

After really big wild fires, like the one that swept through this property in 1983 (Ash Wednesday) and resulted in the loss of much human, animal and other life, the eucalyptus forests can grow back even thicker than before. And unfortunately a very thick forest of eucalyptus trees contains very little life other than, you guessed it: Eucalyptus trees. And not much else. A much older and less disturbed eucalyptus forest contains a huge diversity of plant, animal and/or insect life.
A small bonfire of mainly green forest material today
Observant readers will note that the height of the flames in my small bonfire is almost double that of the green material. Imagine what those flames would look like with a wildfire in a group of 50m+ (165ft+) trees! You can also see that the forest in the above photo is largely regrowth resulting from the Ash Wednesday (1983) wildfires that tore through the very edge of this property. The trees are very closely spaced and all have grown very tall so as to compete for light. There is also very little diversity of tree species. In fact the only different species is on the edge of that forest in the foreground of the photo just behind the fire and it is a musk daisy bush (Olearia Agrophylla).

And it is also important to recall that all of the organic material in the photo above is green, it is now winter here and this stuff is readily burning.

A common question that I often have to field is: What is it like living in a small community? It is a great question because having grown up in a big city, I also struggle understanding all of the subtle nuances in a small community, even after almost a decade of living here. It is often a complete mystery to me and sometimes, I very occasionally make huge mistakes, without even realising it. And in a small community those mistakes never go away.

I’ve heard it said that life is often two steps forwards and one back. Long time readers may be happy to read that this week I have made peace with the guys that ripped me off last year. We had to use the language of Bloke Talk. What's this Bloke Talk business all about?

As I was speaking with the guys, I realised that I was speaking almost in another language. I was

reminded of the comedy film “Airplane!” or as it was known down under as “Flying High”. The movie was very funny and it employed surrealist humour to excellent effect. One scene in particular popped into my head which was: I Speak Jive!

Unfortunately, I don’t actually speak Jive language and really had no idea what the actors in the film were actually saying, but the humour and the absurdity of the interaction was not lost on me. However, I do actually speak “Bloke Talk”. Bloke Talk is the un-recognised language spoken by a lot of males down under. My father left when I was a very young child, so unfortunately I grew up being the only male in an otherwise very female household and so I have had to learn Bloke Talk by trial and error.

It was my mother who pointed this Bloke Talk business out to me as one day as a young teenager I had to book her car in for a service at the local mechanics. The Bloke Talk interaction went something like this:

Bloke Talk spoken words: “G'day mate. I wanna book a car in for a service". Observant readers will note that this was spoken as a statement and not posed as a question.
English translation > Greetings. Can I please book in this vehicle in a future date for a service?"

The transaction was then conducted in Bloke Talk.
Once completed, I then said: "Thanks mate".

English translation > Thank you very much for your time.

After my mother and I walked out of the mechanics, she looked at me and asked: "Where did you learn how to speak like that?" To which I replied in my best Bloke Talk: "I dunno!". And that was that.
Anyway, Bloke Talk is a useful skill to utilise and I did that with the guys that ripped me off. We have now all arrived at a mutual understanding of each other perspectives and we can all move forward so that everyone benefits. This Bloke Talk business is tough as, but it does seem to work - sometimes.
In other farm news, we continued to excavate this week. The excavations are all done by hand and we cannot commence the new berry and potato bed project on the terrace above those excavations until these are complete. The initial stage of excavations begins with loosening all of the clay in the cutting with an electric (solar powered of course) jack hammer.
An electric jack hammer was used to loosen the clay in the embankment
An antique rake (Sheffield Steel no less) and mattock was then used to drag all of the now loose clay off the embankment and onto the ground below it.

A rake and mattock was used to remove all of the loose soil on the embankment

The soil was then loaded into a wheelbarrow where it was removed to another location where that soil was used as fill for a ramp leading downwards and into the orchard. Eventually all of the loose soil was then removed.
The soil was loaded into a wheelbarrow where it was removed and used as fill elsewhere
Another concrete step was added to the existing staircase which will eventually provide access to the new berry and potato bed project.
Another concrete step was added to the existing concrete staircase
Speaking of soil, I noticed that with the recent rains, the earthworms had been out in force. Earthworms are amazing creatures and in their worm-like activities, they also bring back worm castings to the soil surface which the plants can then use as fertiliser. Worm castings look like small mud/soil mounds on the surface, but I believe is actually a fancy name for worm poo. I have never seen quite this much earthworm activity before though:
The earthworms are depositing huge quantities of worm castings which are excellent plant fertilisers on the soil surface this week
I really like earthworms because they displace the ants. I'm not overly fond of the ants here, although they do some solid work in the soil, however the little blighters annoy me by biting me whilst injecting formic acid and then also just in case I hadn't quite learned my lesson not to annoy the ants, they then spray the skin surface with the same acid. All that leaves chemical burns on your skin which are not pleasant! Needless to say, the ants are not my friends!

The earlier warm May has disappeared this week and it has been very cool to cold. This morning there was even a light frost here. A light frost here means a very heavy frost in the valley below. People often tell me how cold it is in the mountains and I usually agree with them to be polite. The truth is that all that cold air from here falls downhill and it is far colder in the valley below where all of that cold air accumulates. The frost tends to wash out the colours too so that even the grass, which is otherwise very green at this time of year, looks as though it has had a black and white filter applied to the scene.
A heavy frost accumulated in the valley below this morning
It was so cold this morning that I was a bit concerned for Tufty Head the second in charge of the chicken collective here at the farm. Tufty Head is going through a very late autumn feather moult and so is probably a bit cold.  She is an unusual chicken of dubious and uncertain parentage who is most likely a Silkie / Australorp cross, but I don’t really know. She is an excellent egg layer, once she has regrown her winter plumage anyway.
Tufty Head, the chicken of dubious and uncertain parentage is regrowing her feathers after a late moult
Observant readers will be able to spot the white spears in her plumage which are actually what new feathers look like when they regrow.

Not every plant can survive a light frost and the Chrysanthemum flowers died back a bit this morning. You can even spot ice crystals on the flowers.
A light frost this morning damaged some of the very showy Chrysanthemum flowers
Other plants simply shrug off a light frost. The next photo shows a bed of: Green lettuce; Red lettuce; Green Mustard; Red Mustard; Chickweed; Rocket; and Oak Leaved lettuce. All of these plants are grown closely together and in turn they keep each other warm. It is also interesting to note that the composted woody mulch behind the raised garden bed actually attracts frost which is not present in the raised garden bed.
This raised garden bed of mixed greens shrugs off a light frost whilst the woody composted mulch behind it attracts the frost
The new second hand large hardwood (tasmanian oak) dining table has continued to be sanded this week. And better yet, the job of sanding the previous questionable walnut acrylic finish, is almost but not quite complete. The tight grain of the hardwood timber is really starting to look good.
The new second hand large hardwood dining table has continued to receive the sanding treatment this week
We interrupt regular programming to bring breaking wombat news: Baby wombat is now looking suspiciously pregnant and carrying around a very large lump in her pouch.

We now return to regular programming...

The temperature outside now at about 9.30pm is 1.9’C (35.4’F). So far this year there has been 297.6mm (11.7 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 282.0mm (11.1 inches).

Monday, 23 May 2016


This is the CBF, how may we help you today?
  • I’d like to invest some trees in the Cherokee Bank of Firewood, I replied.
Thanks for your enquiry Sir. I can recommend the government guaranteed at call deposit account which earns, let me see here, a rate of return on your deposited trees of 1.5%. Remember that this account is an at-call account and you can retrieve it at any time from one of two firewood branches which are located near you, for your convenience, and it is government guaranteed.
CBF Branch Eastside Cherokee "The Peacock Branch"
CBF Branch Westside Cherokee "The Weather Vane Branch"
  • Oh, I was hoping to get a better return for my tree investment?
I’m sorry Sir, I’m not authorised to speak with you about those more sophisticated investment options. Would you like to speak with one of our specialist tree wealth planners?
  • Sure.
I’ll just put you through now Sir.

Hey, this is Carl, I’m a specialist tree wealth planner, how are you going today?
  • I’m good. I’m looking to invest some trees with the CBF but I was after a better return than the standard at-call account.
Sure, I should be able to help you with that. Before we get started, just how many trees are we talking about here?
  • About 10,000 trees.
That sure is a lot of trees.
  • Yeah, it is a lot of trees. I’ve been collecting them for a while, but the growth hasn’t been as good as it could be.
Yeah, I’ve heard that story. With so many trees, you are clearly a Sophisticated Investor and I could get you into one of our Green Leaves Managed Investment Trusts. It is an exclusive investment opportunity available only for Sophisticated Investors with plenty of trees, and the returns are good. It is a revolutionary product!
  • That sounds great as I love circles. So, I’m interested. Just how good are these returns?
Oh, the returns are really good. Here is a testimonial from one of our sophisticated investors enjoying what is known as the returns from the: CBF Green Leaves Derivative Managed Investment Trusts Number 7.
A satisfied customer of the CBF enjoying the returns from the derivative managed investment trusts number 7
  • I’m starting to get excited at the thought of all of those derivative returns.
Yeah, we’re excited too! The really smart money nowadays is into leveraging. And you want to be smart because interest rates are so low nowadays and tree growth is also low so you’re competing against other investors searching for yield. I know that the best way to score those higher yields is to borrow against your initial tree investment and then use those borrowed funds to grow your tree investments. If you earn more trees than you borrow, then you are miles ahead.
  • This sounds great. Where can I sign up?
Well, as a Sophisticated Investor with a large tree portfolio to invest, you can have exclusive access to our CBF private wealth specialists who will assist you personally and help you to make the smartest investment decisions!

Apologies for the silly banking digression, but this week I began withdrawing a few loads of dry firewood from one of the two branches of the Cherokee Bank of Firewood (CBF) – err, sorry, I meant firewood sheds. Access to dry, seasoned, cut, and split firewood supplies is better than money in the bank.
The author has begun removing a few wheelbarrow loads of dry firewood from one of the two sheds
Managing the firewood resources here has been a very long learning process for me that has taken six years of accumulated experience. And it is only this year that I believe that I have stored enough firewood for the entire years supply.

Firewood is a useful energy source as it provides heating for: the house; the hot water system; and an oven and stove top for cooking. However, managing firewood that is harvested form the local trees requires a person to consider their energy needs not just for today, but for many years into the future. The local trees, Eucalyptus Obliqua (Messmate) will not burn when they are green (which is a fancy way of saying: Alive). They require two years of seasoning (which is another fancy way of saying: Dead) before they lose the sap and moisture that prevents them from burning when green. And even if those trees have received the seasoning, if they are at all damp from the very humid winters here, they won’t burn and it is almost impossible for them to dry out during this humid and cold time of year.

As you can see, it is a complex problem learning how to manage a local resource. One mental tool that has served me well with answering those management questions is the concept that: If I’m not considering how to manage a resource or system, then it is probably working and requires no further thought. Firewood has been on my mind in previous years, but not so this year.

Winter is fast approaching and many of the deciduous trees have been putting on a great show of colour. The Japanese maple trees are some of my favourites as they are not only heat and drought tolerant, but they provide beautiful colour in the garden:
A Japanese maple puts on a great show of late autumn colour
Last year was a very cloudy winter and so I made the recent decision to add two extra solar photo-voltaic panels to the power system. Regular readers will recall that the steel free standing frame was manufactured out of scrap steel and then installed over the past few weeks. This week that free standing frame for the new solar panels received a final coat of quality metal paint.
The new free standing solar panel mount received a final coat of quality metal paint
This part of the mountain range has long been associated with agriculture, although you wouldn’t know that nowadays as the forest is very dense. The train line from the goldfields in Bendigo to Melbourne passes this side of the mountain range and historically timber, berries, and potatoes were all harvested from here and transported into Melbourne by steam train.

Long time readers will recall that strawberries and potatoes grow like feral triffids here. However, the local wildlife loves berries and last year was the final straw for me as I was able to harvest less than one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of strawberries because the entire crop was eaten - plants and all - by pretty much any animal that could eat them, including my own dogs!

A few months ago, the editor and I abandoned the existing berry growing systems and had a complete rethink and brainstorming session on how to grow these high value crops without feeding all the wildlife (and dogs!) in the process. We then hatched a cunning plan and over the next few months we will commence constructing a series of different enclosures for those crops in an unused location on the farm. However, before that commences, we have to complete the excavations and new garden beds behind the machinery and firewood sheds that were constructed last year.

Those excavations are a big job and they also include the construction of a set of concrete stairs providing access to that new plant growing area.

This is what the area looked like prior to excavations this week:
The area behind the machinery shed prior to excavations this week
The new berry and potato beds will be planted on a terrace above these two sheds. You will notice that the current garden bed is way too steep and so very few plants have ever grown there. The excavations over the next few weeks will correct that problem.The excavations have to be completed so that the new terrace is sited correctly.

After half a day’s excavations and soil removal, the cutting behind the machinery shed now looks like this:
The cutting behind the machinery shed now looks less steep
During those excavations a lot of clay fell behind the firewood shed ('the peacock branch of the CBF'). This was a problem because access behind that firewood shed had also not been previously completed. Further excavations had to then be undertaken behind that firewood shed simply to obtain wheelbarrow access to the clay that had fallen there. You will also notice that the slope of that cutting is still far too steep and future excavations will have to be completed to make the cutting less steep before that area can be planted out.
The cutting behind the adjacent firewood shed was also excavated this week so as to obtain wheelbarrow access
Observant readers will be able to spot Toothy the overseer in the photo above enjoying a quiet kip in the sun whilst the editor and I continued the earthworks.

Once the excavations commenced we were able to continue constructing more concrete stairs leading up to the new berry and potato growing area. This time, Poopy the Pomeranian (who is actually a Swedish Lapphund) supervised the concrete stair construction works.
Poopy the Pomeranian supervises the concrete stair construction works
And another concrete stair was added this morning – this time with no canine supervision!
Another concrete stair was added this morning
On Sunday, the editor and I woke up before the sun had even risen over the farm. Only a very serious task would prompt such a horrid course of events. Seriously, it was a very strange and disturbing sight to see the sun rise from the east and behind the mountain range as we drove our way into the big smoke of Melbourne on an errand. That morning, two coffees were a necessity!

The reason that we were driving into the big smoke of Melbourne with the bright yellow trailer was that the editor had been looking for a very large and high quality second hand hardwood table on auction websites for a number of months. And during the past week, we finally scored! We won the auction on a second hand locally made tasmanian oak (a local hardwood species) timber table for $100. That was worth travelling into the big smoke to pick up on a Sunday morning because other than us, nobody was interested in that table!

The table itself was over 17 years old and in the past someone had stained the timber a very unfortunate walnut colour and perhaps that was why nobody else was interested in it. However the table top was quality old growth hardwood that was dead flat and because of that I could discern that the table was lovingly made. The top was also 30mm (1.2 inches) thick timber! It was worth waking up before the sun had peered above the horizon, although I do freely admit that the coffee assisted with those problems.

We brought the table back, but along the way we made the decision to stop in at the local bakery and pick up a pie and lamington each, which were very good. As we were on the road anyway, we thought that it would be a nice idea to stop off at a picnic stop high up in the mountain range and enjoy our pies and lamingtons whilst surrounded by the beauty of the forest up in that part of the mountain range.

It was at about that time that I recalled that winter was closing in and I picked up a little hitchhiker from the picnic spot that was very hard to remove from my leg! Yes, a leech had latched onto my leg.
This naughty leech that had decided that my leg was tasty morsel
The leech enjoyed a lovely feed until we arrived home, where a small amount of salt onto the little parasite ruined its life! Once the leech had detached itself from my leg, the feeling of it rapidly crawling away across my skin was very creepy.

I wasn’t easily deterred by a parasite though and we soon started the task of sanding the new (to us) hardwood table.
The new hardwood table had begun to be sanded and the beautiful grain started to show
It may be hard for people to believe this, but that particular task with the hardwood table commenced over 20 years ago!

Way back then, we purchased a bright blue table with a vinyl linoleum surface for about $70. Which at the time was a total bargain.
The bright blue table with vinyl linoleum surface was purchased over 20 years ago now for about $70
That was a very good price back then too. Nowadays as a population we are much more sophisticated because we appear to place no value at all on well-constructed and quality second hand items! Obviously, the bright blue paint and the linoleum on that table 20 years ago were forgiveable fashion sins, because underneath it all, it was still a quality antique hardwood table. So way back in the day we stripped that table back to its bare bones. And this week that same table received a structural upgrade as it was re-purposed.
The once bright blue table received a structural upgrade this week
Unfortunately, I have completely run out of time and words and will have to continue this story of the tables next week!

The temperature outside now at about 7.30pm is 7.6’C (45.7’F). So far this year there has been 282.0mm (11.1 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 262.2mm (10.3 inches).

Monday, 16 May 2016

Back to the caves

The heat was surprising north of the border. Of course up north it is arid land and you can smell the red dust in the air. That dust got onto (as well as into) everything. This was the place where my friends had decided to celebrate the New Years in style. There were countless hippies in that hot and huge campsite. I was surrounded by a sea of colourful tie-dye shirts, cheesecloth pants, the sound of bongo drums, long hair and unkempt beards. I calmly strolled in wearing jeans, leather boots and a t-shirt. I quickly felt like I was an alien who had just dropped down to Earth for a quiet ale or two at the local pub, but instead ended up in the Manson Family commune.

It probably didn’t help that one of the boxes full of camping stuff which I had been laboriously lugging back to the campsite in the heat and dust had the inscription in large lettering: “Australia Post”. It was a very handy and useful box, but the derision that I received because of that particular inscription from the multitude of hippies was almost constant as I made my slow way to the far distant campsite. I heard every comment imaginable from “hey, look there’s the postie” and “have you got any mail for us, mate?” Some of the comments were quite imaginative and not fit to repeat on a family friendly blog. Needless to say by the time I eventually arrived at my friends campsite, I was angry, hot and very grumpy.

Maybe I’m just contrary, but the activities held at the campsite like mud-bathing, bongo drumming into the wee hours, fire stick twirling and lessons on peaceful protesting just didn’t appeal to me at all. I’m hardly the sort to consider peaceful protesting anyway. Once long ago, I re-blocked a house which involved a lot of crawling around in mud, so I’d seen enough mud for one lifetime, thanks very much. At least the predominantly vegetarian food sold at the campsite was very good, although I had vague suspicions that one of the suppliers was apparently a cult. I don’t particularly like cults, so that was something else to be unhappy about.

I continued to wear my leather boots, jeans and a t-shirt (much like my current look - hey it works, don't knock it) whilst at the campsite. Everyone else wore their tie dye, cheesecloth tribal gear which clearly said to me: “I’m a hippy because I look just like everyone else”. And I was still the alien circling in and amongst the hippy brethren.

Fortunately, the tides of chance turned in my favour. After a few days of the unrelenting heat and dust, it eventually rained. And then it rained some more. Actually, it rained a whole lot that day! And then the huge campsite flooded. I even witnessed a mates tent slowly float away whilst we all stood around and watched on in amazement. My mate had set up his tent in a dry billabong which rapidly filled up with water once it started raining. It really rained a lot and everyone got quite wet.

Then a funny thing happened. The hippies disappeared within a few hours. There was no more tie dye or cheesecloth anywhere to be seen. Apparently, tie dye is not colourfast and the dye runs in the rain. And cheesecloth is just see-through when it gets wet and you may as well not be wearing anything at all in those conditions. What replaced the hippies were what looked like normal everyday people to me, wearing normal everyday clothes. And within a space of about 24 hours, the entire huge campsite emptied.

Those events were less than two decades ago. Nowadays, I suspect that most of the people from back then that were wearing the tie die and cheesecloth, now live quiet lives in the suburbs with their families. With one notable exception, most of my friends now also choose to live that that life. That quiet, suburban, 1/4 acre, family oriented existence is the mainstream Australian narrative.

The Great Australian Dream is a belief that in Australia, home ownership can lead to a better life and is an expression of success and security.

This mainstream narrative accommodates people looking differently, as long as they live in the expected manner.

Nowadays, the I feel that the hipsters play the role that the hippies once did. A person grows an impressive beard, wears uncomfortably tight pants and puts on certain affectations. To me it looks the same and I wonder whether those same hipsters in twenty years time will look back to their hipster days and recount the once impressive facial hair?
I wonder to myself what happens when the mainstream narrative that is being pushed no longer provides as it once did? What actually happens to the hippies when it rains?

From my perspective the mainstream narrative does not appear to provide for its adherents as well as it once did.

The median house price down here is insane with the Melbourne median house price currently at $713,000. I speak with a lot of people and I know that for the young, home ownership is a real difficulty because of the huge costs involved. There are other complimentary costs relating to achieving the mainstream narrative such as expensive weddings, student loans, car leases, consumer goodies etc.

The push to conform with the mainstream narrative is quite strong too. One of the more colourful politicians down here Senator Jacqui Lambie was quoted about a year ago as saying:

“The people from the UN would be better off listening to the average person from north-west Tasmania than the environmental zealots and alarmists like the Wilderness Society's Vica Bayley – who will never be satisfied until we're all living in caves, burning candles and eating tofu"

I hear similar claims quite often from all corners, and they appear to me to be used to support the mainstream narrative, because alternative narratives are made to look unpalatable. And yet I still wonder what it all means when I see that that narrative is failing to deliver for some members of our society – particularly the young.

Long term readers will recall that I am tight with my money and that is related to my contrary anti-mainstream-narrative outlook. And because I am tight with my money, I built the house here myself providing all of the labour other than the plumbing, electrical and original excavations. Often when people learn that I built this house myself, they inevitably ask the unusual question: Is it a mud-brick house? That seems to be a common perception. I haven’t checked, but I don’t believe that this house is built from mud-bricks!

So, the other day the editor spotted the following article: Living off the grid isn't for everyone, says young couple

My favourite quote from that article was:“It's a little bit stone age”

No disrespect to the couple that recently purchased that home referenced in the article, but I fail to see how that house is a stone age house. However the article appeared to me to be written in such a way as to make the couples existence look quite unappealing. An unappealing look can only serve to increase the appeal of the mainstream narrative.

An alternative doesn’t need to look that way at all. It doesn’t need to leave you with see through clothes when it rains. It certainly doesn’t need to involve smelly composting toilets that you need to empty manually. It also doesn’t need to cost the Earth. It doesn't need to cost a lot to live in either. And that is what this blog is about – someone needs to tell a different story that isn’t one of the all too familiar going back to the caves scary story of fear, but it isn't the mainstream narrative either. It is time for a different narrative, and one that works. I say people: Celebrate your tightness and keep away from the tie dye and cheesecloth!

With that out of the way, let’s get onto more serious stuff.

The editor and I moved lots of large rocks this week. The rocks are being used to extend the new garden bed.
More large rocks were moved this week
Even more large rocks were moved this week
In the middle of that new garden bed was a very old (and burnt from the 1983 bushfires) and also quite large tree stump which I cut down using the chainsaw. All of the bits of dry timber were harvested for firewood.
The author using the chainsaw to remove the very large stump in the middle of the new garden bed
A couple of cubic metres (2.6 cubic yards) of mushroom compost (that is the fancy name for composted horse manure and bedding straw) were added to that new garden bed. The garden bed was then planted out with many different varieties of ferns as well as musk daisy bushes (Olearia Argophylla). The shrub is a very ancient variety of tall, hardwood and long lived daisy. All of these plants are very common in this area.
The chickens approve of the new garden bed, although they don’t enjoy consuming the leaves of the various toxic plants
More ferns and mushroom compost were added to the new fern gully which captures water from the road.
More ferns were added this week to the new fern gully
Observant readers will note that this farm has a lot of ferns, hence the farm name!

The herb beds received a massive prune this week. Most herbs appreciate being pruned annually (they originally evolved to heavy browsing by animals). In the foreground of the photo there is a strange looking plant which received a very heavy pruning. It is a Roman wormwood. The plant now looks to me like a scary alien from the movie of the same name, and had branches so hard that the pruning required the chainsaw.
The herbs beds were pruned hard this week. Watch out for aliens
All of the cuttings from the pruning job were placed underneath the mushroom compost in the new garden bed in the photos above. Over time, that plant material will compost into very rich soil.

The new free standing solar panel mount has neared completion. It now only requires a top coat of quality metal paint which should happen – if the sun shines for long enough for the paint to cure – over the next week.
The new free standing solar panel mount nears completion and only now requires a top coat of paint
I spotted this amazing collection of fungi which are clearly enjoying breaking apart this old tree stump. The fungi are doing a great job breaking down that plant cellulose into minerals and rich soil.
An amazing looking collection of fungi is eating this tree stump

This month, I note that the average maximum temperature for the month of May (which is late autumn) in Melbourne is 20.5’C (68.9’F) whilst the long term average for May is usually 16.7’C (62’F). It is unseasonably warm. I noticed a Rhododendron shrub was beginning to put on a good show of flowers at this unusual autumn time of year.
A rhododendron shrub has put on an unseasonable display of flowers
As the season is cooling towards winter, the citrus fruit is beginning to ripen. At the moment I’m harvesting: grapefruit; limes; lemons and mandarins. Yum! Many of the fruit trees are still young or recovering from previous years wallaby damage, so I hope that in future years the crops will be even larger.
The citrus fruit is starting to ripen as winter becomes closer
The tomatoes are still giving, even though it is only a mere two weeks from the official start to winter. Readers can also play the game – where’s Toothy In the photo below?
Toothy appears among the field of still ripening tomatoes
I planted a huge selection of cuttings from summer berries including: Jostaberries; gooseberries; and red and black currants. By planting, I mean just shoving the cuttings into the ground to see what happens. And they all seem to be taking root and producing buds… Perhaps these are the fearsome triffids?
A huge number of summer berries were planted recently as cuttings and they all seem to be taking

Some evenings I sit outside and look up into the sky and see the spiral arm of the Milky Way. Mars shows as a bright red star here, whilst Venus appears to me to be the brightest star of all in the sky. And they move in amongst the myriad other stars in the night sky. All the while the Boobook owls call to each other in the distant depths of the forest, the frogs croak from their hiding places among the vegetables, the sugar gliders dart from one tree to another, and the bats chase the – apparently tasty – moths. And I am struck by the sheer wonder of life on this planet.

The temperature outside now at about 8.45pm is 11.3’C (52.3’F). So far this year there has been 262.2mm (10.3 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 210.0mm (8.3 inches).