Monday, 4 August 2014

A frosty reception

It has been an interesting week weather-wise here. It is rarely windy or frosty here, but this week has proven those concepts to be completely wrong.

The wind howled for most of the week. The bushfire shutters were installed over the windows at one stage because the windows started making strange sounds due to the extreme wind pressure. The glass in the windows is double glazed toughened glass too.

Then Friday, it became eerily still and then suddenly it began to snow. The snow didn’t settle on the ground here at the farm, but it just kept falling from the sky. So I did what any proper Aussie would do faced with those circumstances and said: “stuff work, let’s go up and check out the snow”.

I put together a video of the snow trip which was taken about 300m (about 1,000ft) higher up in the mountain range here:

The forest here for some strange reason has established stands of exotic trees and in the photo you can see a stand of Douglas Fir trees to the right and the local native Blackwood’s (Acacia melanoxylon) to the left. Underneath both are the native Victorian Christmas bushes which flower at around Christmas time.

Mount Macedon on 1st August 2014
Just to add to the general weather weirdness, it just didn’t warm up in the shade at the farm here over the following few days, despite mostly sunny days. The ground underneath the citrus trees and outside of their drip-line, is still frozen on Monday night. It is sort of weird because the soil is crunchy when you walk upon it. I never intended to live in frozen tundra!

Citrus Trees in heavy frost
Even the dogs are a bit freaked out by the frost and snow.

Dude, you never said my paws would get this cold
The only plant here so far that has died has been the coffee shrub, which is a shame as it looked quite healthy prior to the snow and frost.
Coffee shrub on the left and avocado on the right in snow and frost
Conditions haven’t been good enough to continue with the excavations for the new water tank site, so a few days ago, I extended the rock walls both above and below the excavation site. Some of those rocks weigh more than I do and it was fortunate that all that was required to get them into position was to dislodge them and then roll them down the hill into their new location. I’m actually starting to seriously run short of rocks here. The rock walls are valuable as they provide a solid barrier for water which may run and take soil with it during heavy rain. You can see in the photo below that the recent rains have gouged a channel through the soil that I’ve dumped into its new location from the excavations.

Rockwalls below excavation
Due to the very wet weather too, I’ve built up a walkway across the excavation site. The stone is a flint based material which includes a healthy dose of lime. This is important because with a little bit of water and sunshine, the stone and lime material sets hard like rock and provides an all-weather surface.
Local stone and lime applied to new walkway
It hasn’t all been about winter weather here though. I’m planning ahead for the summer too. This week, I’ve installed the stainless steel security door which covers the new glass front door which was also installed recently. The steel security door reduces the heat load on the toughened glass in the front door should a bushfire ever pass through this area. It is very hard for me to forget that during the Kilmore East fire which roared through the Kinglake area (which has very similar forest ecology to here) during February 2009, that in some motor vehicles, the alloy engine blocks melted. This requires a temperature in excess of 600 degrees Celsius (1,112F) so I am under no allusions on this subject.

The only problem with a glass and aluminium door, is that the dogs can look through the glass to see what is going on outside. I’d describe that as an undocumented feature!

The blackberry enclosure now also has a few extra posts and the photo below shows how I line up the posts and get those posts vertical.
New posts in the blackberry enclosure
The two new solar panels that were installed on the free standing mounting were also aligned so that they matched the existing solar panels. I looked at them after the initial installation and thought that they looked a bit askew, so had a great idea about spending 15 minutes lining them up with the existing solar panels. Three hours later the job was done. Who’d have thought that something so simple could become such a complex job!
Free standing solar panels
It has been a busy week! The lower garden beds have now been fully mulched. I’ve been adding a mix of mushroom compost and composted woody mulch onto that bed. I’ll start planting the bed out with plant cuttings over the next few weeks.
New garden bed
Sometimes though at a farm you need to know when to ask for help. With the heavy winds over the past week, a few large trees have toppled over and/or broken. Today, I hired some guys that I know to help clear up all of the storm damaged trees, so I’ve been on the end of a chainsaw all day as well. It is really important to clear up those fallen and broken trees because although they don’t present a fire hazard today, by the time summer comes around they’ll be nice and dry and will provide a substantial amount of fuel for any bushfire that happens to pass through this farm. Eucalyptus leaves have a very high oil content and a very low mineral content and it may be interesting for some people to see just how green eucalyptus leaves burn during the middle of what has been a reasonably moist winter. Only the leaves and small branches are burnt with the remainder being retained for firewood.
Burn off after about 5 hours
In breaking chicken news, I’m now regularly receiving 3 to 4 eggs per day from the 14 chickens here. The sad thing is that the ultra-violent chicken “Frizz” took a tumble over the past few days and has injured her leg. Frizz who can honestly only be described as the honorary rooster here in the chook collective is a Frizzle feathered variety of the locally renowned Isa Brown chicken variety. My lady spotted her with a companion at a local poultry sale a few years back and felt sorry for her because they were in a very small cage and Frizz was pecking her mate. Upon reflection of the decision to purchase Frizz and her mate: soft hearts make poor decisions; and pecking chickens are just mean pieces of work looking for an easy protein hit. Surprisingly enough even though Frizz has the muscle to be the boss chicken, she lacks the personality. Rumpole the Araucana and her mate Liz the enforcer (who is also an Araucana) are the bosses of the chicken collective here and they rule the roost with an iron claw. Still, it does look like Frizz seems to be recovering slowly. Frizz the contender may just bounce back?
Frizzle Isa Brown
The temperature outside here at about 9pm is 2.9 degrees Celsius (37.2 F) and so far this year there has been 531.2mm (20.9 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 505.4mm (19.8 inches).
Below is a map of the farm, so that you can start putting some of the systems into context and location.
Fernglade Farm Plan


LewisLucanBooks said...

Things are so different in different parts of the world. Yeah, glaringly obvious, I know. When you mentioned Douglas Fir as an "exotic" it gave me pause. Of course, they're native here and all over the place.

When I lived in S. California, for three years, I once went roaring into work to announce to my staff (all native Californians) that I had seen the most amazing thing! A hedge of Poinsettias! They just laughed. They're all over S. California. The Jade Plant in the front yard was enormous and flowered! I explained to them that I had never seen either plant outside of a pot.

Of course, they didn't "believe" that there was such a thing as a Holly tree. Having never seen one outside of a pot. :-). I had my mother send down a photo of her standing beside our Holly tree up in Washington State. A 35 footer.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Well, you asked for it. My experience of the Mt. St Helen's eruption. You do know how I run on ...

Portland, Oregon is my home town. All my life, Mt. St. Helens was a constant. Always on the horizon. The perfect little ice cream cone. The mountain that looked most like Fuji.

After my 3 year sojourn in S. California, I was living with three roommates in a renovated and tight (this figures later) old house. The morning of the eruption (I clearly remember it was a Sunday) my roommates were all gone. News came of the blowout.

Odd. My life wasn't going so well, right then, and I actually thought if I left a note that I had gone to check out the mountain, I could disappear. One guy, who was on the lost list for three or so years, actually did that. Poor life choices had left him with three ex wives and numerous children. Lots of alimony and child support.

The mountain had been rumbling for weeks and there was an evacuation and "red zone" established. Not big enough. No one expected the initial blast to be lateral. But once the north side of the mountain blew out, it was up, up, up.

Portland didn't get the worst of the ash, as it blew mostly, eastward. But, we go enough. 2 or 3 inches. Everything looked gray for days, with little sunlight. You could look down the city streets and see it billowing and blowing around. It got into everything. Every ATM in town went down as the grit got into everything. Driving was problematic as it fouled car engines. Panty hose seemed to be the added filter of choice.

Over the next few weeks, there were ash fall warnings from time to time, as the mountain continued to erupt. One night, I was working in a bar / restaurant when a warning came. We closed up and just as I got home and was going up the front steps, the gray ash began to drift down.

I had a day job working in a little store that made (and had made, since the 1930s) wooden clogs. It was in an old hotel that had been converted to government offices and the first floor to shops. It was about 3 blocks from the Portland waterfront. On the Willamette River.

About 5 of us guys worked in a small workroom in the back. An air shaft went from our space to the roof. One afternoon there was this tremendous noise. Like a jet had fallen on the roof. The mountain had erupted again and somehow or another, the air shaft caught the noise and amplified it. Darn near blew us out of the back room.

You got quit a view of the mountain from the waterfront. Thousands of people ran down to watch. It was quit a sight. The cloud going up, up, up. Thousands of feet.

That tight house? For months you had to wipe down every horizontal surface as the grit sifted into everywhere. I can still remember wiping down the top of the fridge, every day.

The lose of life would have been considerable more except for the red zone, and the fact that it was a Sunday and very few people were working in the woods.

Last year some friends came from out of town and I made my first trip up to the mountain. Oh, I had seen pictures but until you're there, you don't realize the scale of the thing. it's monumental. The whole north side blown out ... like a huge amphitheater. Coming and going from my place, on a clear day, I can see the north face of the mountain. I can also see Mt. Rainier, which has it's own problems. That one, when it goes, will be mostly mud flows. Giant ones.

For years afterwards, the eruption would haunt my dreams. Lew

artinnature said...

Hi Chris -- You mentioned that you want to try growing ginger. Yesterday my neighbor brought over a bit of her home-brewed ginger beer, yum was it good! She gave me her secret recipe and my wife really wants to give it a do I but I have my hands full trying to garden and keep everything watered in this incessant "un-Cascadia-like" heat, so I think I'll leave it up to her. I thought you might be interested since you brew mead and cider.

Re: Snow, my wife grew up in North Dakota and me in Minnesota so its humorous to us both when people make a trek (in a car!) to see snow. We mostly left that behind moving to Cascadia. When it happens here (on average about one snow event each winter, at 185 feet elevation) we thoroughly dread it and feel no "snow nostalgia" whatsoever.

This heat has a bright side however and the tomatoes are coming on like gangbusters, that does not happen the majority of the summers here.

Cheers from Cascadia

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis. Yeah, it's weird just where local trees can turn up in the world. I saw lots of Tasmanian blue gums when I was in Peru and those trees were fighting it out with the also introduced radiata pine (I think this may also be called a Monterey pine).

Douglas Fir when it is sold here (when milled) is labelled Oregon timber. You don't see it for sale here anymore though. It used to be available in really, really, long lengths, but they are replacing them these days with glue laminated and finger jointed engineered beams.

Yeah, it is funny how you get used to seeing various plant species together. That Holly tree sounds massive. I’ve seen photos of established chestnut trees in the US too and they are massive. There is a farm here on the northern side of the mountain range (your south) which has a very old established Holly tree hedge. It is impenetrable! They are one spiky tree.

Thanks for the first hand account. Pah, you're in good company as I ramble on too! hehe!

I really enjoyed (although I'm unsure that is the correct descriptive) reading about your experience. It must have captured everyone's attention at the time. Nature is an impressive thing when she decides to put on a show.

As an interesting aside, the disappearing guy's life sounds like my nightmare.

There are some interesting comparatives. After a major bushfire here, everything is black (unlike your grey). The winds also carry the ash too. During the Black Saturday bushfires of Feb 09, the ash made its way to New Zealand with the prevailing winds. It is also interesting that the particulate matter in the atmosphere then produced a cooler and moister summer the following year.

The trees stay blackened for many years (I must include a photo), however, the herbage below the ground turns an intense and vivid green a month or two after the fires after the rains return. It is sort of eerie. My understanding - and please correct me if I'm wrong - is that the plants are receiving a massive dose of potassium.

Over here, that disappearing guy wouldn't have had a chance to try that particular trick. After a big bushfire, the police close down all access points into the affected area, for the very simple reason that criminals have been known to dump bodies in those areas. No person can go in or out of those areas as it is a crime scene, which is how the surviving people in the affected areas started running low on fuel for their generators - not to mention all sorts of other basics.

The bushfires haunt my dreams too.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Klark,

Yeah ginger beer is really good stuff. You are very lucky to have a neighbour bring some around and share the secret recipe too. Nice work. I can buy the ginger root at the local markets, but I tried growing it here and nothing happened. Have they got a gardening secret for growing giner?

Sorry to hear that your garden is suffering from unusual heat, but that can be a bonus as well. Hot summers produce the best flavours in stone fruit as they produce the most sugar.

Haha! Snow nostalgia is a big thing here as it hasn't snowed heavily for many years. However, if you had to live with it for months on end, it would quickly become a nuisance though. I mean the ground was frozen here for a few days which I'd never seen before and it was a difficulty. I started wondering whether the lettuces were going to die in their raised beds too.

Tomatoes can be really variable around these parts too. A local guy in the seed savers group has tomatoes by Christmas (which would be your June 25th). Here, I get tomatoes ripening by February (your August) so you're in good company. I was reading about small holders in Northern Italy and they get ripened tomatoes in September so we are all in the ball park.

Are your tomatoes in a cold frame or hoop house (we call them poly tunnels)? I just grow mine outside in the full sun in raised beds. I get about 50kg (110 pounds) per year, but they require a lot of feeding.

Cheers from Down Under!


artinnature said...

Chris, If you're asking whether Ginger can be grown here, no it can't, way too cold. I usually pay attention the sources of all of our food but I honestly don't know where our supermarket ginger is grown...I sure hope its California and not someplace overseas! Now I'm curious and will look into it.

The garden is actually doing great in this heat, its me that's suffering! One of the main reasons we moved to the northwest was the coolish summers, my particular physiology is very heat-intolerant.

I don't go to any great lengths with my tomatoes either but many Cascadia gardeners do (red plastic, water-walls, greenhouse, hoop-house) I had no choice on how or where this year because we were in the middle of moving and had no established garden space (just knee-high weeds) when the plants were given to me (same ginger beer neighbor!) so I planted them in big black nursery pots with the bottoms cut out and inverted. They started out sitting above grade but with all the fill are now at grade. I had to put them out of the way this spring but in the future they will be along the south wall of the house for maximum heat accumulation & thus better fruit ripening. We usually had some September fruit at the last garden, this one should be substantially better, way more sun and heat accumulation. My plants are doing great though, mostly due to the early, hot, sunny summer I'm sure. Well, the soil here is way better too, last garden was basically beach sand.

I'm fertilizing everything with urine this year and I have to say the results are incredible. I know you have the worm-humanure system so you know how effective it is.

Cheers from Cascadia

thecrowandsheep said...

Hi Chris,

Just want to say I followed you here from thearchdruid and am enjoying your blog. Thanks a lot!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Klark,

No worries, it's too cold here for ginger as well. Ginger is good stuff with which to cook and brew with though. I have no idea where the lot that I bought came from either. I'd read recently that there has been a small scandal with the relabelling of imported produce as locally grown stuff.

It is amazing how far vegetables can travel. I noticed the other week that the garlic being sold at the market was from Mexico. I grow a lot of it here, but mainly dry some, leave some to clump and replant other cloves, but mostly it is simply given away. Local garlic is really only available here from January to about May.

Yeah, the plants often are far hardier than us during hot weather! I hear you as I dislike the hot weather too.

Your tomatoes sound like they are in excellent care. I can't even imagine how you could grow anything in beach sand? Watering must have been a very serious problem?

Yeah, urine and humanure are good stuff for the plants. The good thing about the worm farm system is that it gets all of the water from the household too, so everything is not very concentrated. Plants love that stuff.

It is enjoyable hearing about your garden. Cheers.

Hi thecrowandsheep,

No worries and thanks for the comment.

Cheers. Chris

Brian said...


I also found you from the Archdruid Report, where I enjoy your addition to the comments. I like your blog - I know very little about Australia (except that everything is trying to kill you, so good job with the whole "still being alive" thing) so it is very interesting to me to see a slice of life from a local. I used to read a blog about Moso bamboo( from another Aussie, but it looks like he has since given up.

Are you on I don't have the space to do much gardening/permaculture myself (yet!), but I do find that the forums there help to keep the longing at bay.

As for ginger, the stuff you buy at the market may be irradiated in order to keep it from propagating. You might have better luck if you buy the organic stuff, but I'm no expert.


LewisLucanBooks said...

Your walkways look like they might double as small fire breaks. Yes?

The first snowfall here is always fun. More fun now that I don't have to hit the road anywhere and can just stay in and watch it come down. The cat and the chickens are always entertaining when they encounter the first snow fall of the year.

We get crunchy ground here, pretty frequently, with the frosts. It's an interesting "feel" through the boots and sound.

Well, time to get it together for my weekly trip to town. Water the vegies and do my morning chicken rounds. Hoping for one more egg to round out a carton of 18. I gift them to an old friend.

Stacey Armstrong said...

Hi Chris,

Nice winter weather. Maybe you'll have to fashion some snowshoes for your next storm!

I am curious about your shift away from the electricity grid. Did you make some adjustments in your consumption in order to prepare yourself for the day to day realities of using solar? What happens to the excess energy that is generated if your batteries are full?

That will be an impressive blackberry patch once it's established. We have just started to pick from the most sunnily situated patch in front of the chicken yard. By about mid August it is not uncommon for all occupants of the farm to have semi-permanent berry stains on their feathers, fur and skin. The first time I saw large purple spots on our goats I ran back to the house for the goat book thinking they had a skin condition. My dad is a big fan of making berry wines. Have you tried blackberry wine?

I may be jumping ahead. But I noticed a nice sized potato patch on your farm plan. I am gradually beginning to harvest my potatoes and I am wondering how you store yours? Everything I have tried so far, besides leaving them in the ground, has been a problem. This year some of my best potatoes have been the semi-perennial growing under the blueberries.


Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks. Seriously, everything is really trying to kill you here! You don't mess with a 6 foot kangaroo - no way. hehe. The dogs will pretend that they cannot see them.

Yeah, permies dot com is an awesome site, glad to hear that you are enjoying it too. There are some very knowledgeable people lurking there and it is a handy forum with which to ask questions.

Have you had a chance to check out: permaculturenews dot org? That is a pretty good website too.

Yeah, I suspected as much too. Customs is pretty serious about bio-security here, so they nuke most edibles with (I believe) methyl bromide which is reasonably potent. I really try hard to avoid imported fruit and vegetables... Imported garlic tastes really strange to me, but plenty of people are happy to eat it all the same. I'm unsure what that means?

Hi Lewis,

10 out of 10! Exactly, the walkways here perform a few functions and that is one of them. Very, very observant, I'm impressed.

Yeah, the animals here seemed to be having fun with the novelty of the snow as well.

Gifting quality produce is very valuable. I've found that the more produce that I gift from here, the more that other people go out of their way to help me in all sorts of unexpected ways. I hope that you received your extra egg too?

PS: I saw your comment on the ADR about the smell of a place being different from CA. It is the same here: When I return from the city I can smell the earth and all of the vegetation. The trees here are the second tallest flowering trees on the planet (eucalyptus obliqua) and whilst they don't flower every year, when they do, the entire mountain smells of nectar and honey. It leaves a lasting impression. I'd imagine that in Washington, the rural areas have a pleasant earthy sort of smell?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

hehe! Very funny! hehe! The frozen ground defrosted during Monday night, so it is all back to normal now. The babaco looks like it died too...

Yes, I tried to reduce my overall consumption of electricity so as to be as low as possible without it being a hassle prior to leaving the city. That worked out to be about 3kWh/day, although the house was very well insulated.

If conditions were optimal at about 37.5 degrees south latitude you can expect about 1.5 to 2 hours of generation sunlight per day for a solar panel(ie. a 200W solar panel will probably generate about 300Wh of electricity per day).

When I built the house here, I rented in a relatively new house and couldn't get the daily consumption lower than about 5 to 6kWh/day. That house was always about 4 degrees Celsius (39.2F) warmer than the outside temperature. During summer when it was 40 degrees Celsius (104F) outside it was 44 degrees Celsius (111.2F) inside. Winter was the exact opposite and the house leaked energy like sieve.

When Black Saturday hit on 7th Feb 09, I broke and put the air conditioner on in that rental house. One of my older dogs started having seizures due to the extreme heat, so I sat her in front of the air flow and she quickly recovered. I think the comments on the ADR will still be there from that time...

The excess energy that the PV (photo voltaic) system here generates is lost if it is not used. It sort of works like a small appliance AA battery in that you could use it, but you may choose not to. I hope that makes sense?

The very large house batteries here can only take so much energy in at a certain speed. For example, the other day was particularly sunny and the house batteries were nearing full, so a lot of energy from the PV solar panels was being wasted. At that time, I used the microwave to heat up some lunch, the electric oven to bake some bread and the electric iron to iron some clothes. All of which was powered by energy from the sun that would otherwise have been lost.

However, when it is cloudy, and three weeks either side of the winter solstice (21st June), you won't see those sorts of activities here - until the sun shines strongly in the sky.

The simple rule is you charge the batteries firstly and then do everything else. You work your life around the energy source and not the other way around. Farming isn't that much different, really.

Interestingly, now that I seem to have sorted out the PV generation side of the system, I could probably have saved a bit of money originally and bought smaller batteries. A simple rule seems to have evolved out of all of this learning and it is: if in doubt add more PV solar panels as they're cheap, whilst batteries are really expensive.

The system itself isn't limited though as the PV panels can generate enough electricity to run a welder and all sorts of electric tools here for example. I know of a guy that lives further north than here and he even recharges a Mitsubishi i-Miev car off his off grid electricity system! Clever stuff.

Nice to hear about your blackberry experiences and I’d never considered berry wine before. Many thanks for the idea. Does it taste nice? Yes, goats love blackberry ;-) I generally turn the blackberries here into jam with a bit of rhubarb for extra pectin. The local council is obsessive about spraying the local patches of blackberries with herbicide, otherwise I wouldn’t bother growing them here.

Ha! You’re observant too. Yes the potato patch is huge and also quite interesting as I’m getting seed potatoes this year too for the first time so I have no idea how they’ll go. I store potatoes in a very heavy duty and large paper bag and keep that bag in a cool and dark place. There can be many kilograms of them stored away at any point in time. They keep for a while, but any that have root systems tend to get replanted. Exactly, they establish and multiply. Have you noticed any seeds yet on your plants?



Stacey Armstrong said...

Morning Chris,

There is a hint of Autumn here today. When I woke up I could hear a large flock of geese heading south. I have had similar sensory experiences to both you and Lew. The smells of the different seasons here in the Pacific Northwest and my particular garden ground me in ways that are difficult to talk about in such a short space.

I am in a family of fruit wine makers. My dad is a bit of a blend-maker with fanciful names which is great. I have enjoyed many glasses of blackberry wine in the last twenty odd years. They don't tend to put any chemicals in the wine so it can be quite strong and best over lots of ice or sipped slowly. I think raspberry is my favourite. I have also been using my dad's rhubarb wine in small batch whole grain mustard making which is delicious and roundly enjoyed by my family and neighbours. I have grown some of the mustard seed as well.

My potatoes do bloom and set seed from time to time. I am still trying to figure out why some do and some don't. I have not saved seed from potatoes yet but from what I have been reading it is a similar process to tomato and tomatillos which I have saved seed from. I have about eight different varieties of potato growing this year many are volunteers from over the winter. Depending on how many varieties you have in your patch you could have some really intereting cross breeding happening. I am slowing working my way through "breed your own vegetable varieties" by Deppe. It's a much needed read for me with a bit of scrambling for other references.

And thanks for the thoughtful response on your electricity generation and use.

Best. Stacey

LewisLucanBooks said...

Nope. The girls did not poop out that one last egg. I checked right before I went to town. Of course, when I went to put the ladies in last night, all three old hens had produced an egg. And, I got my first egg from the young ones! It was just a membrane with a yolk inside, broken on the hen house floor. But still pretty exciting.

But, I fret. It's really early for eggs from the youngsters. They're only 15 weeks old. I think they might have got into some of the older hens layer feed. It's quit a juggling act with a mixed flock. I switched everyone to flock starter feed. End of the month I can switch back to layer feed for everyone.

Right now it smells very dry. Hay and straw. When it starts to rain, again, and fall comes, that's when we start getting the rich humus-y smell. There's a saying around here when people start "Smelling Fall in the air."

My Dad used to make a blackberry wine from wild blackberries. Very, very dry. Glass and a half on a full steak dinner would knock you on you're can. Sigh. Sad, but I don't drink. Not for 25 years. I had this wee problem ... :-).

Thanks for the tip on potato storage. I hadn't even thought of heavy paper bags. And, I have a pile of large dog food bags that I keep around for this and that. They should be ideal for storing potatoes.

A deer with two twin fawns in my front yard, this morning. I'd seen them, at a distance, before. The little ones still have their spots. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

Yeah, you can get a feel for the change in the seasons. It is subtle, but it is definitely felt. You are obviously attuned to your property. Autumn is a really nice time of year too.

Good to hear about the good work your dad is doing. You are lucky indeed! Some of the chemicals people use to kill the yeasts in wine making so that the fermentation process stops gives me mild hay-fever. I would never have thought of using raspberry or rhubarb in wine and mustard making. Many thanks.

Mustard is an excellent plant to grow, plus it self-seeds prolifically here. Do you use the seeds when you make whole grain mustard?

I'm not sure why some potatoes self-seed whilst others don't. I have noticed that it happens more frequently as the diversity of genetics increase. It was a big year for potato flowers this year, so who knows?

Yeah, I'm fermenting a batch of tomato seeds right now. I'll need to get them germinating soon though. I'm particularly hoping that a local self-seeded cherry tomato which ripened a full month earlier than all of the others takes again this year. Thanks for the book tip, I'll check it out.

No worries, please feel free to ask questions about the solar. Down Under there aren't that many people using off grid solar and even less that stay in contact and help each other out.

Hi Lewis,

Chickens are fickle creatures! hehe! Yeah, the first egg of the season or for a particular bird means a shell which is always a bit on the soft side. Occasionally I put my finger through them accidentally and the egg then becomes dog food. The shells harden up after that first one. Do you add shell grit to their diet? Borage and comfrey is high in calcium too and the chickens love it.

15 weeks is earlier than I've ever seen too. Usually here it is about 6 months. Apparently it is the daylight hours which trigger the commencement of going on the lay. You might have chickens with a commercial heritage though where early egg production is a bred in quality.

Mind you, they may not be 15 weeks either, unless you know when they were hatched? I bought some 18 week chickens this year and to be honest, I got done, as they were walking around going cheep, cheep, cheep. Should have been a dead giveaway...

I've never tried those fruit wines, mostly people around here spray the blackberries. Yeah, when younger I preferred sweet, but now the dry flavours are often the best - and also have the least amount of sugar. My tolerance for sugar is declining.

Yes, that would probably stop you from enjoying the occasional tipple! ;-)

Yeah, you can chuck the full bags into the bottom of a cupboard and they'll keep cool and dark. Keep a watch out for rodent activity, although I’ve never noticed that they eat potatoes.

Wildlife brings a lot of joy.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; There was an article in our yesterday's newspaper. Some local guy has a solar system going and is going to be giving a presentation. The article stated that they (I presume the panels) would last 80 years and have 100% efficiency. No mention of the battery :-). Those numbers seem a little "out there."

I don't think solar is so unusual for this area. You just don't hear about it. I know at least two places, not far from here where they use solar, wind and hydro.

As to the State owning every drop of rain that falls from the sky ... I spotted an article on line, last night. "Oregon Man Serving Prison Sentence For Collecting Rainwater On His Own Property."

If the link doesn't work, just Google the headline. Apparently, Oregon has the same laws on rainfall.Storing 13 million gallons seems a bit over the top, but for fire suppression, understandable.

Just in the last couple of years there was a big dust up over in Yakima, which is just over the mountains, from me. They were cutting off the water to the fruit orchards to keep the stream flows up, to keep the salmon viable.

My Russet potatoes are really blooming. A surprise (to me). The flowers smell so good! But, I suppose we'll never see a perfume called "Potato". Now, that smell when it hasn't rained in a long time that comes from roads? I can see a mens cologne called "Wet Asphalt." :-)

Yup. The chickens get oyster shell grit and regular grit. I also mix in a bit of yogurt with their feed, every once in awhile. It's time for me to start keeping an eye on sunrise/sunset times. Get the light in the henhouse going for the winter. It's a heat/light. I have a timer and run the light before sunrise as that can be the coldest part of the day.

Funny you mentioned Comfrey. I just got some seed. Had to order it over the Net as I couldn't find any around here. The chickens will like it and I've been told the root goes quit deep and pulls up nutrients from far below. I also figure those big leaves will make a good spot mulch.

Sigh. No occasional tipple for me. Sad, really. There's even some hop vines growing on the place. I figure if things get bad faster then expected, I can dry them and use them for trade. There used to be quit a hop industry in this part of the world on both sides of the mountains. Back in the early 1900s. Where did it go? Along with all the wheat they used to raise in this county, I suppose.

Another useless fact rolling around in my head. One of the major hop growers in this area went down with the Titanic. I stumbled on a small memorial to him, years ago, on a neglected back country road. Back when I did a little rock hunting. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks for the laugh! They guy is probably in the early days...

Who knows about solar panel life - until they die and then you know for sure. The people over here reckon about 50 years, but the environment might be a bit more extreme here.

100% efficiency is a complete joke though. hehe! They never tell you this but when you buy a 200W solar panel it only ever really averages about 80% output, so you can probably expect about 160W realistically on average.

Yeah, sometimes its a bit more, sometimes a little bit less.

But the whole system here loses energy at every step in the process from the cables, regulator, batteries, inverter. Even the fuses cause a loss of energy. Storing electricity is like trying to hold water in a leaky bucket. It literally just disappears.

Good luck to the dude! hehe!

Oh no! 13 million gallons is a massive quantity of water. He probably came to their attention because he over did it just a bit. Still local government can be a right pain in the rear. You have to give the guy credit for sheer audacity! He probably got caught because the local creek stopped flowing. You have to be careful not to annoy your neighbours in rural areas.

You are lucky you are on friendly terms with your lot. I try to stay in good with the neighbours too.

I reckon those sort of water allocation arguments are going to happen more and more as time goes on. It happens here all of the time between the different states, especially when they share a river as a boundary.

The city of Adelaide in South Australia is at the end of the Murray River which is massive (well for us anyway) and they are always getting done over by the irrigators in other states. Kutamun on this weeks ADR mentioned the dust up where the mouth of the river stopped flowing due to over allocation of water.

hehe! Thanks for the potato image.

Exactly, go hard and plant as much of the stuff (comfrey) as you can as it is excellent chicken feed and virtually drought proof.

Glad to hear that you can grow hops. That's a vine isn't it? Is it wild in your area? Does it grow up trees?

The local wheat species here were some of the hardiest in the world due to selective breeding for drought resistance and they've let them disappear. I get wild wheat growing in the orchard (from the chook feed I think) so I've let in naturalise.

There are amazing old 3 storey blue stone mills here along river courses where the old timers used to mill the grains. They're houses now, which seems sort of odd as they'd be really cold.

Is rock hunting, gold fossicking?

Cheers. Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yes, Hops are a vine. It was introduced, here. Mine grows up an old tv antenna that's next to a shed. Along with Honey Suckle. The Hops are not invasive, the Honey Suckle, is. Add in the Blackberries and it's quit a mess!

Saw an article about heritage varieties of wheat. It is being preserved and can be found. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

PS: Forgot your question about rock hunting ...

When I first moved here I had a friend who did rock hunting. Lewis County is quit the hotbed.

Basically, what I'd do, in the spring when the water went down was drive the backroads looking for streams with good gravel bars. That weren't fenced or posted with no trespassing signs. Then, get out and take a look. A nice day in the woods. Pack a lunch.

Here, you find quit a bit of Carnelian agate. One of the few places in the world. It runs from blood red to pumpkin orange. Sometimes banded. Those Roman cameos you see were made from banded Carnelian. My favorite piece (sitting right here next to my 'puter) is a piece that looks exactly like a dried apricot. Size, color, texture. Then you turn it over and it's all white crystals.

We also have a lot of regular old petrified wood, agateized petrified wood, moss agate, quartz, amethyst and probably a lot of other stuff.

We also have coprolites (dinosaur poop :-) ). These are actually high content iron bombs that were thrown out of ancient volcanoes. But they look exactly like a steaming pile of ... poop. Hmm. It just occurred to me that these might come in handy for smelting, come the end of absolutely everything.

I haven't gone out hunting rocks in a few years. The last two times I went out, I found not even a sliver of Carnelian. Then I saw several ads, such as "50 5 gallon buckets of Lewis County Carnelian..." Someone is stripping the stream beds. Talk about an abuse of the Commons ...

I ran across my old rock tumbler the other day. Maybe I'll give it a whorl, again. There is a stream at the back of my neighbors property that he says is loaded with Carnelian. It's isolated and on private land, so probably not ravaged. I haven't been back there to check it out. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks for that. That is an exceptionally good use for an old TV antenna! ;-)

I will have a look around for the old heritage wheat varieties as you just never know where they’ll turn up. I'm in the process of working out what fencing keeps out the local wildlife and also isn't too expensive and this impacts directly on grain growing efforts. You'll see the blackberry enclosure come together in photos on the blog over the next few months so who knows? The problem with kangaroos and wallabies is that they can bounce over obstacles. Whilst the wombat on the other hand, can simply bash through them like an armoured tank. Even the Aboriginals had to use brush fences to trick the wildlife so I'm trying to re-learn the entire process through trial, error and observation. The wildlife here is really sneaky too. I despair to even talk about French Sorrel anymore.

Sorry, but is part of your handle due to Lewis County, or is that some sort of name co-incidence?

Carnelian agate is a very attractive bit of rock and well worth the fossicking time. Plus standing in a running stream or river on a hot summer’s day fossicking for rocks and metals is a pleasant activity.

My grandfather - who passed in 1996 - used to take me camping up to the Jamieson River which is further east than here fossicking for gold when I was a kid. Now that I think about it, he kept me busy fossicking for gold and generally mucking around in the river, whilst him and his mates drank whiskey and reminisced about old times. He was a crafty old soul and I miss him. You're starting to make me feel nostalgic for those times and I appreciate the memories.



Stacey Armstrong said...

Hi Chris,

Just wanted to quickly dash off a response to your question. The weeks seem to pass more quickly at this time of year! I did grow a patch of mustard about 12 ft by feet for my mustard making experiment. About a pound of the seed collected went into the mustard; I purchased the rest. I have been using mustards as cover crops and space fillers for the last few years. It has been more manageable for me than clover.

Best. Stacey

LewisLucanBooks said...

The name? Coincidence. My actual name is Lewis (call me Lew :-) ) Hamburg. Kinda. Too long a story to go into here, but my first and middle name are not the ones I was born with. But, I had been called Lew since about 1973 by all but my brother and father. Who I saw, infrequently. About 10 years ago, I wanted to join a credit union and they were a bit sticky about nick-names. So, I trotted into court and made it all legal.

Lewis County was named after Meriwether Lewis (I love those great old names) of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. Lewis County was one of the earliest counties in Washington State and at one time was enormous. It's sometimes called "The Mother of Counties" as bits and pieces were hacked off to form other counties.

Somewhere, I've written down two sources of heritage wheat. One's a university and the other a commercial source. When I run across that scrap of paper again, I'll let you know.

Around here, animals that may ravage a garden are deer and rabbits. Some birds. As with insects, I don't mind sharing, but leave some for me!

My Hummingbirds have almost all departed. So, I've stopped filling the feeders. Time to clean them up and store them for next year. One little guy was giving me the ol' stink eye through my kitchen window yesterday morning. Apparently, he hasn't got the memo to get with the program and head south.

You mentioned uranium over at ADR. Back in the 50s there was quit a craze for making you're fortune through uranium hunting. My Dad was on the bandwagon. Geiger counters and UV lights. He was also interested in lost mines and hidden treasures. Get rich schemes that were right up there with Chinchilla ranching, at that time. :-). No languid summer streams. Just heat blasted, godforsaken land with lots of snakes!

You also mentioned the Dreamtime. Something I was curious about and have read a lot about. But you're right. Hard to explain and wrap your mind around. Funny, the Japanese have a saying. "Life is a dream; an illusion."

One of THE best movies of all time that I watch again every few years? "The Last Wave" by Peter Weir. I had to watch that a couple of times before I could figure out what the heck was going on.

Well, I should move along. Going to be hot today and is supposed to hit 100F tomorrow. Get the outside stuff done early, or not at all. But, it's supposed to be cooler, later in the week. Maybe even a bit of rain. Lew