Over the past few weeks I have been diligently reading a book entitled: “The Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing. The book is actually a compendium of two books. The first book was written about their life on a remote Vermont farm, whilst the second was written almost two decades later after they moved to another farm in Maine.
The authors are very competent people and they have achieved an enviable level of self-sufficiency, however sometimes as I read their words, I feel as if I am twelve years old and being lectured at by my betters. This evening as the chickens roamed around the orchard, unconcerned at the brief heavy rainfall, I took shelter from the rain in their chicken enclosure and read the book. And I came across this quote:
“Human beings are persistent planners and record keepers… Successful gardening begins with a survey of the proposed garden spot – an evaluation of its possibilities and limitations. It continues with a freehand outline of the project. Soon after it is put on paper, the freehand sketch is finalized by putting into your garden book a working drawing, still in free hand, but outlining the general garden project.”
I agree with about two thirds of the ideas expressed by the authors and I’m enjoying the books immensely. However, that also means that I disagree with about one third of the ideas expressed by those authors. In the quote above, the authors are expressing an idea that is fundamentally utopian. The word utopian usually refers to ideas that are: “modelled on or aiming for a state in which everything is perfect; idealistic”. Whenever you hear people talking up utopian ideas, think to yourself: they’re talking total rubbish.
The Nearing’s utopian vision of planning a garden is difficult to achieve as a goal at best, and total rubbish at worst. A more realistic vision of planning may be provided by the long since deceased German Field Marshal, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, who can be paraphrased as having written the wise words: “no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.”
Planning a garden is subject to hostile forces, as they want to share some of the bounty. So I ignore utopian advice from well-meaning people such as the Nearing’s (who never met a wallaby or wombat), and instead give greater preferences to a bloke (like Helmuth von Moltke the Elder) who had his ideals successfully tested on various battle grounds in Europe in the 19th century.
So, I had plans for the original strawberry enclosure which were implemented. And those plans failed abysmally when they were tested by the main hostile marsupial forces on the farm. I now introduce you to two of those hostile forces of nature: Fatso the wombat and Stumpy the wallaby:
|Fatso the wombat and Stumpy the wallaby cruise the paddock dreaming of fresh strawberries|
Take a closer look at the unstoppable force of Fatso the wombat who is almost the size of a small sow:
|A closer look at the unstoppable force of Fatso the wombat|
Fatso and Stumpy are not really hostile forces of nature, but they and their cohorts enjoy free access to the garden and orchard. They actually work quite hard converting a lot of the plant material into manure which is then spread randomly about the farm, paths and surrounding forest. The wildlife are probably not aware of it, but they are actively working towards increasing the fertility of the area.
Anyway, the original strawberry plan was a disaster because Stumpy the wallaby jumped unto the netting which squashed it to the ground. That was the first attack. The next wave of attack came when Stumpy and Fatso managed to rip holes in the netting last summer. From that point onwards we harvested perhaps one cup of rip sun ripened strawberries (maybe). That original strawberry enclosure was toast!
Plans are nice and all, but sun ripened strawberries are far better, and so over the past few weeks we have been working to construct a new strawberry terrace with a wildlife proof fence. Strawberries are just too tempting for every single creature living on this side of the mountain range…
The concrete staircase leading up to the new strawberry terrace was completed this week:
|The concrete staircase leading up to the new strawberry terrace was completed this week|
A water pump was connected up to the recently installed water tank located near the strawberry enclosure. The water pump provides pressurised water to a garden tap inside that strawberry enclosure. Given that the spring weather is now quite warm here, plants can only be transplanted successfully if they are able to be regularly watered – thus the need for the water pump and garden tap.
|A water pump was temporarily connected up to a garden tap inside the new strawberry enclosure|
The electricity for the water pump comes from a small 12V off grid system which is only used for garden lights and garden water pumps. Usually I’m not impressed with many of the latest offerings of gadgets, but occasionally some items are total genius. The sort of fuse boxes that you can purchase nowadays for distributing low voltage DC electricity are genuinely impressive. Many years ago if you wanted such items you had to scour car wreckers and pull such fuse boxes from wrecked vehicles.
|The low voltage DC fuse boxes that are able to be purchased these days are amazing quality|
After about a days work, the editor and I had constructed the chicken wire and steel fencing around the new strawberry enclosure using scrap materials. I like using scrap materials as I reckon any waste is actually wasted income! Over eighty strawberry plants were then transplanted from the old failed enclosure and mulched in the enclosure. And there are still about eight metres (26.2 feet) of enclosure and terrace yet to be constructed over the next month or so!
|Over eighty strawberry plants were planted and mulched in the new strawberry enclosure|
I was particularly pleased with the latch arrangement for the door that can be seen in my left hand in the photo above. I hacked a farm gate latch by modifying it so that both sides of the latch lifted in unison. It also had to be modified so that it could work with the narrow width of the door. Originally both sides of the latch operated independently. Such an arrangement may possibly lead to a person being locked inside the strawberry enclosure. (You may go nutty but you wouldn't be hungry.) Such an outcome is not good as I learned once to my dismay as I was accidentally locked inside the rodent proof chicken enclosure from the outside! (I was both nutty and hungry.)
In the mid spring warmer weather the strawberries in their existing failed enclosure are just beginning to flower. No doubts the forces that are Fatso and Stumpy are well aware of their future meals of luscious organically grown sun ripened strawberries.
|Strawberry plants are just beginning to produce flowers in the warmer spring weather|
Speaking of the weather, it has been quite tropical this week with mild air temperatures. But humid and moist air makes it feel far hotter than it actually is. And such weather usually brings storms, which means that Scritchy, Storm Detective, has been notifying us of those impending storms. Aren’t we lucky to have such a brave boss dog hiding under the bed at the first hint of troubled weather?
|Scritchy Storm Detective advises that a storm may be brewing|
Early mornings have brought fog in the valley below:
|Early mornings bring fog in the valley below|
Stormy skies have loomed over the setting sun.
|Stormy skies have loomed over the setting sun|
Mr Poopy the Pomeranian (I’ve noticed more than a few Swedish Lapphund’s about Melbourne recently) has been suffering in the much warmer weather of late as he has a double coat of fur. Left out in the summer weather down under, he’d probably die. To avoid an untimely heat related demise for Mr Poopy, we got him groomed this week. The other dogs in the fluffy collective are very unhappy about Mr Poopy’s new do. Meanwhile Mr Poopy looks at them and cheekily says: “You may admire me… Now!”
|Mr Poopy sports his new summer outfit, whilst Scritchy and Toothy look on with disbelief at his arrogance|
The native wasp in the photo below reminded me that the other day I was in Melbourne and I walked past block after block of terrace houses with gardens sporting beautiful spring flowers. The scent in the air was a heady mix. The thing is, I noticed that despite the profusion of spring flowers, there were very few, if any insects around harvesting the pollen and/or nectar. When the traffic noise died away, it became very quiet. Up here in the mountains north of Melbourne, things are different and there is so much insect activity that when the breeze is still, the buzzing is audible.
|A native wasp enjoys the pollen on this Alkanet flower|
|The first apricots of the season are now developing on the trees|
|We're looking forward to a good harvest of almonds early next year|
The bulbs are continuing to produce flowers:
|The daffodils are looking good|
|The jonquils are not to be outdone by the daffodils|
|The last remaining tulip bravely produced this flower. The rest of the tulips have been eaten, possibly by the rats|
|Echiums are a great source of pollen and nectar for the European honey bees and their friends|
|Cat mint has begun producing flowers and they should flower all summer long|
|This red nasturtium is a stunner and edible (but not too tasty)|
|One of the older Japanese maples is producing flowers and I hope that it self seeds as happens in other parts of this mountain range|
|This mystery plant is a stunner and has gone from strength to strength|
The temperature outside now at about 8.30pm is 10’C (50’F). So far this year there has been 683.6mm (26.9 inches) which is more than last week’s total of 679.8mm (26.8 inches).