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Some weeks nature can give you a gentle reminder just to show who the boss is here. Other weeks nature gives you a solid kick in the rear and stomps the living daylights out of you! This week was of the latter variety and nature definitely stomped around in this corner of the planet wearing massive size nine heavy duty boots. And oh yeah, we got stomped big time! Ouch, stop it, that stomping hurts!
The night before nature stomped here, the setting sun put on a spectacular show. The old timers used to say: Red sky at night, shepherds delight. Well, if this week’s natures stomping was anything to go by those old timers sure got that old saying wrong, so I’m considering changing that old saying to: Red sky at night, accountants warning. The setting sun that evening did make the sky look good though:
|The setting sun set the sky on fire the night before the big storm hit|
Early the next day, there was a bit of light rain and I remarked to the editor that all this talk in the weather forecast about the risk of heavy rain and localised flooding seemed a bit over the top.
That day had been very hot and humid, as had all of the days and nights since before Christmas day. The editor and I had decided to work that day on the gabion rock walls (see below) and by late afternoon we had finished that work and had packed up our tools. We then sat on the veranda and enjoyed a well deserved coffee and homemade Anzac biscuit.
I’d just managed to scoff an Anzac biscuit down and finish my coffee when we heard a sound approaching as if from a distance. The sound was like a strong wind rustling every single leaf on the huge trees in the surrounding forest, but the sound was much louder and there was no wind to speak of. The sound approached closer from the forest and soon wall of water fell on the house. The editor and I casually remarked that this rain did not bode well. And wow, did it rain that afternoon, or what?
We recorded 85mm (3.3 inches) of rain falling in about 45 minutes. The official weather station which is located on the adjacent mountain and which I defer to, recorded about 65mm (2.6 inches) of rain, but still it is a lot of rain in a very short period of time. There was water everywhere and all of the drains, swales, and hard surfaces soon flooded.
|All of the drains, swales, and hard surfaces flooded when the tropical low pressure system hit the farm|
For the next 45 minutes, I ran around the place wearing only shorts and thongs (the Australian terminology for flip flops) holding an umbrella and doing my very best to clear obstructions from the water tank filters and drainage channels. For me, it was akin to being in a 45 minute game of “whack a mole” in that I’d clear one obstruction and then whilst I was doing that, another obstruction would form elsewhere. And wearing only shorts was because the rain was so heavy! Nature stomped the living daylights out of us with size nine boots!
By the time the rain had finished falling from the sky, I was exhausted and soaked through to the bone. Yes, I acknowledge that nature is the boss here! I was feeling pretty good though as I’d managed to hold my own during the rain against the overwhelming forces of nature and I’d even scored a few home runs for team fluffy! For example, the water tanks are now all completely full, with very clean filters, which is unprecedented at this stage of the summer.
After the rain had finished and I was busily congratulating myself, the editor and I took a walk around the farm and surveyed the damage. Most of the farm was OK, but oh yeah, nature is the boss alright! Behind the house a huge section of steep garden bed had slipped and fallen. I’d never seen or heard of a landslide in this part of the country before, but there was the landslide right in front of me.
|A steep section of garden bed had slipped and fallen in the heavy rain. No Scritchy was harmed in the taking of this photo.|
What caused the landslide was that water from the road above the house had over spilled at a low point and then flowed into that garden bed causing that garden bed to slip down the cutting. About a foot of soil and all of the well established plants fell in that landslide.
The first thing that we did after assessing the damage was go to the pub for dinner that night. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and of course regular readers will be very disturbed to know that the Magical Christmas Unicorns were no longer available. The outrage! The bar tender just laughed at me when I enquired as to its availability. Fortunately, here at Fernglade Farm, we are made of tough stuff and have a flexible disposition so when it comes to such product shortages, we simply adapted. So the editor enjoyed her preferred cider and I enjoyed a hops heavy pale ale.
What were we talking about? Oh that’s right, the next day after the pub, sorry I mean the landslide, we spent hours rescuing the plants:
|About thirty plants were rescued from the recent landslide debacle|
Then it took about eight hours to remove the clay, plant materials and topsoil from that landslide. It was a big job as there was just so much material that we had to remove – using hand tools and wheelbarrow. All that material was taken over to the new garden bed near the chicken enclosure which was about 40m (130ft) away. That new garden bed is looking quite good as it is rapidly getting full of material.
|About three quarters of the way into the job of removing the soil and plants from the landslide debacle|
After the clay, plant material, and top soil were removed, we were then able to place a new layer of mushroom compost onto the steep garden bed. Into that mushroom compost we planted out all of the rescued plants (which hopefully survive the process). Mushroom compost is great for steep garden beds because warm weather combined with water rapidly produces mushroom hyphae which binds the whole lot together.
|The author replanting the steep garden bed that had been subject to the landslide|
The rock wall at the base of the steep garden bed was also rebuilt with much larger rocks. Eventually that job was done and Poopy the Pomeranian (who everyone knows is a Swedish Lapphund) can be seen in the photo below approving (in his own special way) of the new garden bed.
|Poopy the Pomeranian approves of the repairs to the steep garden bed|
That day after nature had won the game of whack a mole and proven who was the boss, the clouds in the valley below looked really strange.
|The day after the big storm, the clouds in the valley below looked really strange|
Over the next week or so, the editor and I will attempt to correct most of the problems that caused the landslide and flood damage.
One of the problems was that a large rock in the driveway had caused the water to spread across the entire driveway rather than be channelled into the drains. Today we spent about half of the day cutting and jackhammering a drainage channel into that very large granite rock. We knew that it was a massive rock because the earthmoving bloke that built the driveway couldn’t move the rock even with a twenty tonne excavator. Fortunately the rock was not equal to industrial diamonds and a solar powered jackhammer, but it was still a very hard job to cut a drain channel through that rock.
|A drain channel was cut through a very large and buried rock in the driveway|
Observant readers will note that in the photo above I am squatting next to a very large chunk of rock which was also removed in today’s activities.
For most of the week, the weather was very hot and very humid, and all of the days leading up to the storm were well over 30’C (86’F). Far out, the humidity made it feel far hotter than it actually was. Anyway, earlier in the week we began filling up the recently constructed rock gabion. Long time readers will recall that we have long since passed Peak Rocks and now have to go ever further afield to find new rocks for the many projects here. And a single large rock gabion requires about six hours of scrounging rocks in order to fill it!
|Sir Scruffy approves of the progress of filling the new rock gabion after the first couple of hours of rock scrounging|
|The next day saw that rock gabion completely filled with rocks and sewn shut with galvanised steel wire|
A smaller rock gabion was then built so as to squeeze in to the gap between the larger rock gabion and the concrete staircase. I look very hot and red in the photo below and that is from the heat rather than any sunburn.
|A smaller rock gabion was made to squeeze in to the gap between the larger rock gabion and the concrete staircase|
The smaller rock gabion was then filled up with scrounged rocks after a couple of hours. This Peak Rock business is a real hassle.
|The smaller rock gabion was filled up with scrounged rocks after a couple of hours|
We purchased a load of 20mm (0.8 inch) granite road base material to fill in the gaps between the rock gabions and the clay wall.
|20mm (0.8 inch) granite road base material was used to fill in the gaps between the rock gabions and the clay wall|
That road base material is strong stuff, and it will have to be, because another rock gabion was constructed today and placed on top of the existing rock gabions. Just for people’s interest, it takes about two hours to bend, cut, and sew together a large sized steel rock gabion. Now all we need to do is find more rocks…
|Another rock gabion was constructed and placed on top of the existing rock gabions|
Despite nature kicking a sized nine boot this way, the paddocks below the house have really enjoyed the huge volumes of water and are full of wildflowers. The soup of marsupials (I just made that up – think of murder of crows, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about) which feast on the rich herbage in that paddocks every night are full up to their eyeballs with quality feed!
|The herbage in the paddock below the house is looking very good with all of the recent rains|
Observant readers may note in the above photo, the bright yellow flowers from a lovage plant as well as a couple of globe artichokes. Both plants are very tasty!
In other plant news: As part of correcting the landslide this week, the editor and I cut back a huge quantity of vegetation away from a walking path near to that landslide. In cutting back the vegetation we discovered a jostaberry full of fruit happily inter-twinned with a bush rose.
|A jostaberry full of fruit was discovered happily inter-twinned with a bush rose|
There was a bit of discussion in the comment section last week about the yarrow plant (Hi Pam!). Yarrow is currently in flower here and we grow white flowered varieties as well as a red variety (which is somewhere about the place…) and they look great and self-seed prolifically!
|White flowered yarrow self-seeds prolifically and produces huge quantities of flowers|
Another two plants that happily self-seed are blue flowered chicory and yellow flowered evening primrose and they are very reliable plants:
|Blue flowered chicory and yellow flowered evening primrose grow here and they are very reliable plants|
But carrots win the award for the most prolific self-seeding plants. I let one go to seed once a few years ago and now carrots turn up everywhere.
|Carrots win the award for the most prolific self-seeding edible plants here|
The hot weather combined with the rain has caused the penstemons and salvias to flower this week! And the honeyeaters love both of these plants for their nectar.
|The hot weather combined with the rain has caused the penstemons and salvias to flower this week|
Even though nature gave me a kick up the backside this week just to remind me who is the boss, it was also very thoughtful of nature to provide the beautiful penstemon and salvia flowers!
The temperature outside now at about 8.15pm is 11’C (52’F). This year there has been 2.4mm (0.1 inches) of rain. Last year there was 1,245.2mm (49.0 inches) which is a pretty wet year in anyone’s language!