Monday, 1 September 2014

Sometimes you just need a deadline

The phone call came through on Friday from the supplier that the new water tank was ready to be picked up.

I couldn’t honestly say that the excavation site at the farm was ready for the new water tank to be installed on. Also, the truth was that when I received the phone call, I was several hundred kilometres (miles) away from the farm mucking around and generally enjoying the late winter sunshine.

Still, I’ve been told that deadlines can be very motivational. So, for some strange reason, I told the supplier that I’d pick up the new water tank on Monday morning and for them to have it ready to go. I’m writing this blog from a position of hindsight and can only state for the record, that this was a serious under estimation of the sheer scope and size of the project.

The funny thing about undertaking these sorts of projects is that I can honestly state that I had no idea how long it would take. I knew what was involved, but a truism keeps popping into my mind: Only when the job is complete shall you know how long it should take and what exactly is involved.

Anyway, I spent a very long day excavating more clay from the water tank site. The day also involved marking out where both of the new water tanks would eventually sit and then ensuring that both sites were flat and free of sharp objects. To add a further complication to the project: each of the three water tanks were of slightly different heights so I had to ensure that all of the overflows were exactly the same height.

The water tanks sit on beds of rock crusher dust which I picked up from the local sand and soil supplier. Rock crusher dust is a very fine granite dust which incidentally is also very good to add to your gardens if you have mineral deficiencies in the soil (apologies, the soil geek in me made me write that!).

The photo below shows the new smaller dark grey water tank installed and being filled from the household water tanks. The large dark circle is the site where the yet to be installed water tank is to sit.
Additional excavations and new tank site with rock crusher dust
The crazy hair was because I got up at dawn to start the excavations thinking that it would easily all be done by lunchtime. The photo was taken just before dusk on Sunday.

Monday rolled around and I picked up the new water tank and drove it back here on the trailer. The water tank on the trailer almost dwarfed the trusty old Suzuki.

New water tank on the back of the trailer
A hand trolley helped move the water tank around, however it is worth mentioning that the water tanks weighs more than both my lady and I combined. It was not only really heavy but also awkward because polyethylene is one slippery material. It was a bit of a struggle and at one point it almost didn’t fit through the gap between the existing shed and the bushfire sprinkler, taps, rock walls etc.
The gap was a little smaller than the diameter of the water tank
 Eventually however, with a bit of ingenuity and a whole lot of brute force the new water tank ended up in the correct location and is – and still is at about 8.30pm – being filled by from the house water tanks. All was now well and I could relax and sit back with a good coffee!

New water tanks installed and being filled from the house storage system
It wasn’t all about water this week. Have I mentioned that I’m seriously short of rocks for new rock walls? Don’t laugh, but peak rocks is a real problem here. So last week a sudden burst of energy took hold of me I went out and started smashing up some of the few larger rocks in the orchard so that I could then move them into positions on the rock walls. Thanks to that burst of energy, there are now two new very large rocks to move onto the ever expanding rock walls here. After a few hours of rock breaking, I could well understand why it is viewed as a punishment for chain gangs.

Breaking the rocks on the chain gang
In breaking farm news this week, the European honey bees have returned from wherever they over-wintered. It is a pleasure to see them back at the farm, both in numbers and also looking healthy after having absconded from the farm last summer (a story of bee disaster). Still, my gut feel is that the bees know what is best for them and almost certainly know more about their requirements than I do!

European bee on rosemary
Not to be outdone by the Europeans, the native Aussie bees also made an appearance this week too.
Native Australian sting-less bee on Echium flower
Big Daddy Roo has also been a frequent visitor here in the past few days. At well over 6 foot he is not to be trifled with. In fact, I believe he has some sort of agreement with the dogs here that they won’t notice him if he doesn’t notice them.

Big daddy roo inspecting the flowering almond trees
Kangaroos are generally pack animals so it is strange to see a very large lone male roaming the forests here. He occasionally has a small harem, but mostly he is by himself. What may have probably happened to him in the past is that another large male fought him for dominance and won thereby evicting Big Daddy from his mob of kangaroos. Only he will ever know the full story though.

Oh yeah, I mentioned that I’d been travelling last week. Well, back in 1938, someone decided to plant a forest of Californian Redwood trees in one of the wettest parts of the state here. That Redwood forest is just so different from the rest of the state that I thought that it would be worth sharing a short video. Hope you enjoy it as it is a very quiet, peaceful place that is rarely visited.

This past week has been sunny and warm week for late winter and temperatures most days were in the very low 20 degrees Celsius (68’F). Today however whilst installing the new water tank (of course), it has rained for the entire day! The temperature outside here at about 9pm is 5.3 degrees Celsius (41.4’F) and so far this year there has been 561.2mm (22.1 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 554.8mm (21.8 inches).

PS: As at 9pm both of the new water tanks are now full with water pumped from the main household water tanks.


Les said...

Deadlines! I love deadlines.
I particularly love the whooshing noise they make as they go past…
- Douglas Adams

Regardez moving poly tanks – I wound up building a sled for moving ours around, as per this photo:
Works fine, provided there aren’t too many big rocks on the way.

Hoping like heck the sled holds together – the little bugger would roll most of the way up the hill in the background if the tow rope breaks:

WRT last weeks post – meant to comment then, but got distracted…
When you say Echium, I presume you mean E. candicans, as opposed to E. plantagineum?

Assuming it’s not Patterson’s Curse, Does E. candicans grow all the way to the ground, or does it leave some space between ground and foliage? Or to put it another way, is it good snake habitat as well as wren habitat?

Also, how flammable, do you think it is?

Reason for asking – I’m looking at using it as one of a number of species to replace lantana in the gullies. Good snake habitat works there, but is sub-optimal if I also use it around the veggie gardens as part of the small bird habitat there…



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; The water system looks marvelous! Good on ya. :-). Do you feel pretty "water secure", now?

Sometimes, it's hard to figure out "how much is enough." Not just water. I have 12 gallons set by for our occasional water outages ... would 15 be better? 20? How many gallons of blackberries should I freeze up? How many gallons of apples? The list goes on and on. I suppose it's not a major crisis if I run out of blackberries for my oatmeal in June.

The Kangaroo is really something. Just part of your daily scene, I suppose. Or, maybe an occasional rarity. There's some wildlife up here I've never seen. Bear, of course. I see deer all the time, but we have Elk down in the valley. I've seen them at a distance. A small herd or two. But I've never known them to be up here on the ridge.

The redwoods are really something. We visited our redwoods when I was a child. I really don't remember them ... except for one you could drive through and a gift shop hollowed out of a single log. It's good to know there's a stand in Australia. All the genetics aren't in one basket.

There's a kind of fly-by-night seed catalogue here. I don't order from them. I've been stung too often. Blue roses that aren't blue. Yellow christmas cactus that aren't yellow. Tulip bulbs that had no relationship to what was on offer. Moldy iris corms. They carry something they call a "dawn age redwood." The picture has a little dinosaur standing next to it. Not even a disclaimer! Dinosaur not included! :-) . But, if they really are redwood seed, there may be a stand or two around.

Speaking of trees, a couple of years ago I read a book on the sad tale of the Golden Spruce. Here's a sketch of what happened.

So it goes. Lew

artinnature said...

Hi Chris,
We've been busily trying to meet a deadline here: our house will be lifted tomorrow (at least that's what the contractor told us, hope they show up!) in order to pour a new, taller concrete foundation and then continue to raise the grade by bringing in more fill.

We've had to move everything away from the house and off of the decks and porches, which will be dismantled and the lumber salvaged for use throughout the garden. The place is in quite a state, with all the piles firewood, mulch, dirt and and now dismantled fences and everything from the deck & porch scattered about. With garden plants interspersed throughout of course!

Regarding last weeks post: on stack of firewood that I need to get to, I just put heavy objects (rocks) on top of the tarp to hold it down, but just yesterday I was pondering how to secure tarps over stacks that need to season for a while. I ended up drilling nail holes in some plastic disks that I had around and just nailed through the grommets into pieces of wood partway down the sides of the stack. The grommet holes are larger than the nail heads, so the plastic disks act like washers preventing the grommets from coming off the nails. I'll let you know how well it works.

Good work on the new tank, so many things that could have gone "sideways" in a project like that! Once this house is raised I'll be able to start on my rain capture infrastructure.

Cheers from Cascadia

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis. Yeah autumn smells really nice after the heat of winter.

It is really interesting the differences between here and your place. I get slugs, but the local bird population destroy them on sight, so they are rarely a nuisance. They breed in the worm farm sewerage system only to exit via the lid...

Yeah! Too true, the stories about now in the future will be true with a bit of spice added in.

Did you know that using recycled and recovered materials to build your chicken enclosure makes you a ruinman?

Good luck to your Wyondotte chooks too. That is one attractive breed of chicken. I'm interested to hear how your girls go because last year I was sold 18 week chickens that I reckon were much younger than that age. They didn't go on the lay until early spring.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Les. It is a great quote and how good is Douglas Adams as an author? I remember watching the BBC version of Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy on the ABC back in the early 1980's. I enjoyed the show as much as the books.

A sled. What a great idea! I'd never have thought of that. The large water tanks here were manoeuvred into place with the plumbers 4 tonne excavator.

A few years ago, a very large water tank rolled off the back of the delivery trailer and smashed through the orchard and crashed into a contractor’s bulldozer. 700kg (about 1,500 pounds) of polyethylene will kill you and mate I'll tell ya, those things can roll with some speed...

Great photo!

I haven't tested echiums for flammability, but pretty much anything will burn given enough heat. They don't seem to have a lot of dead material which is a giveaway for really fire prone species - like lantana, plus they have broad leaves which provides shade which increases humidity. Last week’s blog has some good photos of the plants.

I believe the Latin name is Echiums Fastuosum. The next burn off here, I'll chuck some leaves in and see what happens. Generally if a leaf smoulders then it is considered to be fire resistant. If the leaf accelerates the burn then...

Pittosporum species (Pittosporum Undulatum) may be a good and very hardy over story in the gullies too? Have you considered Blackwood’s (acacia melanoxylon)?

PS: I hope you have received some of the rain that is soaking NSW?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks, but I'm only ever one serious drought away from my comeuppance! hehe!

Seriously, I don't really know how much water storage I require as every year the summer rainfall is completely different from the previous year. One year, there was no significant rain for 5 months....

That is the exact reason why people need to practice all of this stuff for year before a person can get a good feel for their requirements.

I use a rule of thumb which says: if I'm thinking about a system, then it isn't working.

You can't always fix a system immediately either which is not good news for those with an impatient temperament.

Nah, the roo is part of the everyday scene here. Some nights I'll walk out for a last check of the place and there will be several kangaroos, a couple of wallabies and sometimes even two wombats. The place jumps at night. I have to carry a torch and a dog or I risk being surprised which might lead to an unpleasant encounter for me.

I usually take the smallest dog because she has more bark than bite and will give me plenty of warning.

Elk's! As an observation, you have less wildlife on a day to day basis, but what you do have is bigger and much more lethal.

The redwoods up on the NW coast must be something to behold. Yeah, the elms are making their last stand here too and there are many disease free avenues of honour here.

That is a sad tale of the Golden Spruce which I hadn't heard of before. Disaffected forest worker people here appear to sometimes vandalise tourist spots in old growth forest too. Chainsaw vandals strike Otway’s trees

I don't know much, but it isn't the trees fault for those people’s circumstances.

PS: I grow a Norway Spruce here as a Christmas tree.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Klark. What the?

That is a truly impressive feat.

Have your existing footings or concrete slab failed in some way? Or is it some sort of flood protection works?

I've jacked up a house and replaced rotten timber stumps - whilst under the floor - with new concrete stumps, but never lifted the entire house in one go. It is one of the reasons I dislike mud. I salute you for your sheer audacity. I hope your contractors both turn up on time and don't make too much of a mess. Truly, I'd be fascinated to hear how it all goes. I hope you take photos?

I used tarps with washer/anchors here when I was building the house. It was good to keep the rain out. The tarps were a lot higher up in the air though and they kept ripping in the winds which was really annoying because it was the storms that I was trying to keep out. Mind you, I probably didn't buy the best quality tarps in the first place. The rocks weighing a tarp down have to be big and heavy here.

Speaking about sideways, when the water tank was going past the narrow bit around the shed, it was so slippery because of the rain, that I almost lost the water tank down the side of the hill - through the orchard. It was very awkward to lift - much like a house.

Seriously can't wait to hear more about that one.



artinnature said...

OK: well, everyone showed up on time, the deck is gone, I have a nice pile of salvaged lumber, what I thought was pressure treated is Western Red Cedar YAY! They inserted two of four steel beams (temporary for lifting) they were shooting for all four today but had trouble getting past plumbing and whatnot, I don't know, I wanted to stay out of their way.

We have electricity and internet but no water or sewer, but they dropped off a chemical outhouse by the street this evening. I'll be very surprised if they get water and sewer reconnected by tomorrow evening. So if they get the other two beams in tomorrow they will start the lift.

The house was down in the dirt (mud) on one end, we knew this when we bought it...for me its all about the great insolation here, generous gardening space and great moisture retentive soil. The foundation was a cobbled together mess and the floors where like roller coasters. Also the crawl-space, more like "on-your-belly-like-a snake-space" was so full of holes that it was not secure from rats and the like.

Yes that's exactly what I was thinking when I saw your pic of the tank squeezing through that gap, if that tank went sideways its sayonara!

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Klark. Awesome stuff. Nice to see that the tradies were on time too.

Western Red Cedar is good stuff. A lot of that timber was imported here back in the 1970's and 80's for use in windows and doors so it is really hardy. I'm assuming that it is firewood now or is there some other project in mind?

Are you in the house already!? If so that is some fast work. You won't know yourselves with flat floors, straight walls and square doorways all to enjoy.

Better crawl space is useful in reducing humidity under the house too. Nice work and sounds like an excellent purchase.

Someone told me that the technical term as to what you are doing without sewerage and water in the house is called Down Under: glamping (glamorous camping).

Yeah, the tank was a bit touch and go when it got to that bit. Fortunately disaster didn't strike and all of those tanks are now happily full and waiting to be plumbed up.



. josé . said...

Hi Chris!

I'm in the process of upgrading my water capacity as well. The standard / requirement in my little community is 30 K liters, and I only had 5 K liters, so I am at a distinct disadvantage during the periods (sometimes a day or so) when our little reservoir high in the mountains runs low. The first of the 10 K liter tanks arrived today (it's huge) and we're in the process of carving the base into the hill this week. Hopefully it will all be up before any really dry spell hits.

Here in the Southeast Atlantic Rainforest, the dry season is usually August-September (late winter). The last few years have been less dry than usual (climate weirding), but our wet season (summer: december - february) was frightening. Instead of regular massive storms, we got only a few, occasional showers. The large metropolitan areas in the region (especially São Paulo) are facing dry reservoirs and increased rationing.

Hard times are coming. I'm hoping our 30Kl will be enough to keep the new seedlings in the orchards alive until the next rains come.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yeah, the elk are really something. So big! I've seen the two small herds down in the valley. From a distance. My neighbor told me a couple of years ago, someone hit a bull elk down on the road to the highway. Elk was on it's back with all four legs in the air. Car that hit it was totaled.

There's a little street not far from here with about 8 or 10 houses. Year before last during hunting season, the hunters nailed 5 bulls along that little road. My friends in Idaho nailed a 650 pound elk, last year. He and his daughter and son-in-law had to pack it out 6 miles! And, they had got it in a "hole." So, it was uphill most of the way. I still have a couple of steaks from that elk in my freezer.

During the mating season, I can hear the bulls trumpeting down in the valley.

Yeah, lifting a house with steel beams is pretty interesting. Moving a house is even more interesting. They moved one not long ago in Chehalis, the closest little town, to me. Steel beams, lift, trailer rig to haul it. All kinds of permits required. The utilities have to show up to lift or disconnect overhead wires. Police to reroute traffic. It's like the circus comes to town! :-) Lew

eldriwolf said...

Hi Lewis--
The seeds are probably for the Chinese redwood, the Metasequoia or, "dawn redwood"
(Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
Its Deciduous, and was known from fossils Before it was 'discovered'
by science ( it was not common, but the locals knew about it)

artinnature said...

Hi Chris- whew, what a day. The house is now 6.5 feet in the air. We are able to live in it during the whole project. We have a nice view of Puget Sound now, but only temporarily, the house wont stay quite this high.

Glamping, I like that, sponge baths while streaming movies! The cedar will be used for raised beds, arbors and fences.

I have lots of pics, provide your email and I'll share.

Cheers from Cascadia
artinnature [AT] comcast {DOT} net

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi josé. Congratulations on the new water tanks.

A 10,000 Litre (2,641 gallons) is massive and when it is on it's side and you are underneath it, you just know who'll come off second best if the tank rolls away. When the 33.5 K Litre tank rolled away and down the hill here, everyone scattered as there was no chance at all of stopping it!

Climate weirding makes everything that much harder. Sorry to hear about your drier summers.

The water reserves give you an added advantage though. I find that during summer I water the fruit trees in the evening before a prolonged heat wave hits. It can occasionally get as hot as 45’C (113’F) in the shade here. The plants won't grow, but they will survive with a bit of assistance. Seedlings however need some special care. Have you got a shade cloth to place over them during the extreme summer?

Hi Lewis. An elk, yikes! That is big. Don't get involved in their fight...

Glad to hear that you got some good steaks from the Elk. I respect hunters that butcher and eat their prey.

Wow, that would be something to see. Over here they cut up the house into trailer sized sections with chainsaws and then drop them on the back of a trailer/prime mover. It is amazingly quick. The house then gets lifted by crane onto concrete stumps at its new location. It is really fast. I couldn't drive that truck though. Imagine getting caught under a low bridge or something. They'd have to cut away the over hanging trees here!

Hi eldriwolf. Thanks for the reference.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo,Chris; Another elk story ... about three years ago, a county sheriff was driving on one of our local highways when an elk lumbered out of the ditch. Killed the sheriff.

A friend of mine was involved in a house move. A minor miss-calculation led to the house getting stuck in an underpass. No worries. They deflated the tires on the trailer, a bit, and it squeaked through. :-). Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, Elks are big. Really big. There are a couple of massive deer bucks roaming the forest here and when you come across them, I always give them a respectful distance. The antlers are huge.

That was an outstanding idea about lowering the pressure in the tyres to get the house under the bridge. Very clever.

Thought that you may find this story interesting. Most people in towns rarely interact with the wildlife Down Under. Occasionally people will be taken out by an aggressive 6ft+ male Kangaroo, they can certainly sort out a dog no dramas. My only advice is don't startle them as they're generally very placid.

Wombats on the other hand are grumpy 24/7, 365 days a year. However, what people don't know is that during spring when the protein levels are low in the herbage - wombats get even more grumpy, if that's possible. A bit like if I skipped my coffee early in the morning. They're seriously like an armoured tank and can push through fences etc.

Well, I remember this story from a few years ago. It was after the Black Saturday bushfires, so the wombats would have been a bit on edge due to lack of feed: Wombat mauls bushfire survivor

Honestly, I don't have the imagination to come up with the line: "It looked quite healthy apart from the fact it was dead". Who are these people?

I recently discovered a sulfur crested cockatoo in the vegetable beds ripping the vegetables in half. It wasn't even eating them. Not good. Fortunately the dogs and magpies clear them off before they do too much damage.



Stacey Armstrong said...

Hi Chris,

It's lovely to hear about the signs of spring around your place as Autumn takes hold here. Do you do any pruning of your fruit trees at this time of year? I am still trying to figure out if your trees are ever dormant in the same way they are here in the pacific north west.

I appreciated your idea that if your are still thinking about a system there is still some tinkering to be done. It's undoing work already done that often causes frustration!

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Just commenting on a couple of your comments over at the ADR. :-)

Ah, camels. About a year ago I picked up a book from our library about the American Camel Corp. Back in the 1840s and 1850s the American army began exploring the use of camels. Several were shipped to Texas and used in mapping expeditions. A couple were used in battle in our American Civil War in the 1860s.

The Army always seemed to have this flirtation with camels all through the end of the 19th century. But, never very serious. Horses and mules seemed to be the preferred "animals of choice." Of course, WWI brought an end to the use of horses and mules. And, the remaining camels also fell by the wayside. Of course, in the American SW, there were always the occasional escapees. And, at the end, several were just released, into the wild.

The last American sighting of a wild camel was in Texas in the early 1940s. While I was checking some of the facts, I noticed that the Canadians also experimented with camels. The last wild camel sighting in British Columbia was in the 1930s.

I occasionally wonder about zoos. Zoo keepers that will release their animals during the coming Decline. Escapees. And, there's plenty of exotic animals kept as pets that have established themselves. You may have heard of the plague of Boa Constrictors in Florida. They are so well established that yearly hunts are now held with cash prizes for biggest.

I am also a Dr. Who fan. Well, the new Dr. Whos. I think I started watching about 8 or so years ago. I never could get into the older Dr. Whos. I've also enjoyed all the spinoffs.

For that matter, I'm a fan of just about everything the BBC puts out. Since I don't have "tv", I get them a season at a time from our local library. Doc Martin? Brilliant. "Call the Midwife?" Engrossing. The list goes on and on.

Well, time to move the water under the apple trees and I'm bound and determined to get at least a gallon of blackberries into the freezer. Before I loose the harvest. Lew

Cathy McGuire said...

Congrats on meeting the deadline! You are so right about projects taking longer and requiring more than one ever expects - I'm in the homestretch on a small roofed pen for my chooks (with the help of GreenWizard August and his wife Debra) and every day it just seems like "one more thing"! But it's still sunny here (in fact, today is supposed to be 91F and feels like it'll get hotter than that) so I just keep inching along.
On the bees - if they're just showing up, why not fix up one of your hives and see if you get any squatters? ;-) (It worked for me)... doesn't hurt to try...