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The gentle winds here are now blowing cold air up from the Southern Ocean. The warm days of summer are rapidly becoming a memory. The past week of weather has been decidedly brisk, and the wood heater has been in use. And this week we have discovered to our utter horror that the wood heater no longer adequately functions.
The fancy and technical word to describe the state of the wood heater here is: “burnt out” (i.e. Stuffed!) Nobody wants a burnt out wood heater as this is not a good thing. Long cold winters are a known feature of this little mountainous and forested corner of south eastern Australia. So, heating is an important component for a households domestic happiness. The wood heater is our only source of heat during those long cold winters too. The fortunate thing for us is that in the short term, the wood heater still works, sort of. However the wood heater isn't working very well, and is using an enormous quantity of firewood. The editor and I have a finite quantity of stored firewood, but the current usage rates are unsustainable. Something has to be done to correct this matter, and soon.
Long time readers will recall that two years ago I performed repairs to this wood heater, but alas, the damage to the structure of the wood heater is now beyond my skills to repair. Faced with such a dire situation, the editor and I had a brainstorming session and chucked some ideas around. It is important to remember that when a crisis like this strikes, it is a good opportunity to make changes to your systems using the experience that you have gained over many years.
In order to gain further information about wood heaters we headed out on Saturday to visit several wood heater suppliers in the surrounding area and asked them stupid questions about wood heaters. And I was truly amazed at just how much we learned about wood heaters that day. And this was despite having used one for seven years. I particularly enjoy asking stupid questions as it builds rapport with salespeople before I then proceed to go in for the kill with the much harder and more searching questions. It works every time! We received some rather candid opinions provided such as: people were no longer using wood heaters with longevity in mind; and, that wood heaters from, say, even thirty years ago where able to be dampened down so that the combustion process could run over a much longer period of time (eg: overnight) however this is no longer the case due to design changes over emissions. The experience was very interesting and has guided our thoughts in new directions.
Fear not as the editor and I were able to console ourselves by stopping during our travels that day to avail ourselves of some quality gourmet pies at the Toboorac pie shop. Oh yeah, those gourmet pies are the biz! And they can take anyone's mind off future potentially large expenditures (for a few moments at least).
Our current wood heater provides for: heating; hot water; and an oven to cook in. We are now considering using the energy in our firewood for only two of those three purposes: heating; and hot water. It appears to us that compromises that arise from centralising three separate functions into a single unit is that the wood heater does none of those separate functions particularly well. Further to this understanding our attempts over the years to use all of the separate functions in the wood heater has meant that the heater has been used way too hard and is now at the end of its very short life. For an expensive and complex wood heater to last only seven years from installation makes no economic sense whatsoever and we are not keen to repeat this expensive mistake.
Fortunately, when defeat is in the air, and the cards are stacked against you, there is always the local pub! On Thursday night the weather was filthy. The winds blew cold and the rain was torrential. The chickens are oblivious to such weather conditions, but there was no way that I was going to stand around in that rain in the orchard whilst the chickens merrily cavorted about! What else can one do on such a cold and wet night, but to cheer oneself with a nice meal and a pint of the finest local ale at, the now warmer than this house, the local pub.
Personally, I blame the pint of local pale ale, but when I had consumed about a third of the pint, I looked down at the glass and exclaimed to the editor: “<non family friendly expletive now fortunately deleted> me! There’s a <non family friendly expletive now fortunately deleted> froth dog on the glass. It’s like a <non family friendly expletive now fortunately deleted> Jesus toast.” Nuff said really, check out the photo below and note the uncanny similarity to Poopy the Pomeranian (who all righteous people know is actually a Swedish Lapphund).
|The image of a froth dog can be seen on the side of this pint of ale just like a Jesus toast|
The heavy rains which fell a few months ago caused a lot of damage to an access driveway. Long term readers may recall the infamous landslide incident which occurred at the same time? This week we began repairing the driveway to its former glory. Repairing that driveway meant bringing onto the farm a few trailer loads of the local crushed rock and lime from a nearby quarry. The crushed rock and lime was then spread over the surface and hopefully it will harden with a combination of sun, rain and time. Over a couple of days we repaired about 60m (198 feet) of driveway to its former glory.
|One part of a lower access driveway was repaired this week|
There is still a bit of repair work to that driveway to go. And looking at the area yet to be repaired makes for an interesting comparison to the nice and neat repaired photo above. The heavy rain that day cut several deep channels into the driveway:
|A section of the driveway has yet to be repaired and it makes a good comparison to the previous photo above|
|The area subject to landslide from the heavy rains earlier this year is starting to look pretty good again|
We decided to bring up some rocks from the paddock which is below the house. The weather is rapidly turning cooler and wetter and soon it will be impossible to bring back rocks (or pretty much anything) back up the hill – even using the little white Suzuki in four wheel drive and low range.
|The little white Suzuki and bright yellow trailer was used to bring rocks back up the hill from the paddock well below the house|
Toothy the long haired dachshund has earned his dinner for the next few weeks! Earlier this week Toothy pointed out to me that the very sneaky field mice had managed to burrow under a foot thick concrete slab so as to gain access into the – previously impenetrable to rodents – chicken enclosure.
|Toothy discovers that field mice had penetrated the outer defences of the chicken enclosure. The breach is indicated by an orange circle|
I am a little bit in awe of the rodent population here! It took me a while to discover the corresponding hole inside the chicken enclosure where the field mice had broken in. Sure enough, those sneaky rodents had managed to tunnel 2m under a very thick concrete slab so as to gain access to the chickens feed. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered the hole!
|I soon found the other side of the hole where the sneaky field mice had managed to get into the chicken enclosure. The breach is indicated by an orange circle|
The local rodent population are clearly not to be trifled with! In order to block up the hole that the field mice had created inside the chicken enclosure, I dumped a huge quantity of cement over that entire area. However, the weather here has been quite cold and the cement was poured very late in the day and the cement had clearly not set by the time the field mice dug another hole through that huge quantity of cement.
|The field mice are not to be trifled with as they dug a brand new slightly bigger hole (Hole Mk II) through cement that had not yet completely set due to the cold weather|
The following morning, I discovered the sheer audacity of the rodents actions and decided to immediately pour more cement into both the hole that the field mice had made, and over the entire area near the hole. And because I poured the cement in the morning, by the evening the cement was feeling very solid indeed. Clearly this war will be long and fought using dirty techniques! Take that you dirty rat!
I removed a few more tall fruit trees from their steel cages. The steel cages protect the fruit trees from the damage that your average wallaby can inflict. Incidentally, for new readers a wallaby is a local marsupial which is like a slightly smaller kangaroo. They are extremely cute but extremely dangerous to fruit trees. They also taste OK with a fruity sauce (ironically).
|A European pear tree was removed from its steel cage this week|
Even without the cage, the fruit tree still has to be protected from the wallabies. I usually achieve that trick by ensuring that the wallaby cannot pull the fruit tree over and break it by using a flexible cloth tie and a steel rod called a star picket.
|Once a fruit tree has been removed from its steel cage, it has to be protected from being pulled over by using a flexible cloth tie and a steel rod called a star picket|
Not all of the marsupial animals which roam through the orchard at night perform such outrageous acts of vandalism. Some of the marsupial animals are still very grumpy, but they cause far less outrages. And one of my favourites are the local wombats who can be seen roaming around chomping down on choice bits of plants. I spotted this wombat the other night on the side of the road:
|I spotted this wombat the other night on the side of the road|
Like the marsupials, the tomatoes are going feral! This week we processed another load of tomatoes in the electric dehydrator as well as producing another batch of passata. The plants are still going strong too:
|The tomatoes are still going strong despite the cooler weather|
The plants have been incredibly productive this year. And the next two photos shows what some of the vines look like after the many weeks of harvesting…
|The cherry red tomatoes look and taste great|
|The best tasting tomatoes this year are the smaller yellow tomatoes|
It is not all about the tomatoes though. In the same enclosure (which we have decided to extend before next spring) there are many other plants growing:
|I can’t wait to taste the black capsicums (peppers) as I have never grown these before|
|The green capsicums (peppers) are also starting to grow in size|
|The purple eggplants look sort of purple. I hope they taste nice|
|The cantaloupe look to me like they are starting to slowly ripen|
This afternoon, I spotted this awesome looking caterpillar on one of the lemon trees and it was so attractive I just left it in peace to eat a few leaves.
|I spotted this very attractive caterpillar this afternoon on one of the lemon trees|
And I also spotted a couple of older red rosella birds training a juvenile green rosella bird to consume the dog manure which the dogs conveniently leave in a particular spot for them every day.
|I spotted a couple of older red rosella birds training a juvenile green rosella bird to consume the dog manure about the farm|
And as winter approaches the farm there are less flowers about the place. However the citrus are the only trees that produce fruit in the depths of winter and over the past few weeks they have begun flowering:
|The citrus trees have begun producing flowers in anticipation of fruit later in the year|
The cooler weather has also caused many of the geranium cuttings to produce new growth and flowers. The geranium cuttings usually take about a year to become fully established, but they are very hardy and reliable flowering plants and the bees adore the flowers. And the wallabies really hate the smell of some of the geraniums so they make a great protective hedge for other plants.
|Many geranium cuttings are beginning to produce flowers|