Sunday, 16 November 2014

Every Single Drop

If you ever wanted to know what a volcanic eruption would look like here, you needn’t worry anymore. This week the state government undertook a forest fuel reduction burn-off up in the mountain range itself. The photo below tells the story better than I can:

Forest fuel reduction burn-off on Mount Macedon at the western end of the mountain range
At the farm which is in the middle of the mountain range, the sky literally turned red due to the smoke.

As a bit of background history about the mountain range: way back in 1983 on 16th February, the Ash Wednesday bushfires burnt through this mountain range. On that one day alone over 1 million acres of land were burnt in every imaginable environment outside of urban areas which includes forests, coastline and also grasslands. The heat generated by the fires at some locations was estimated to have exceeded 2,000’C (3,632’F) degrees which exceeded that recorded during the Allied bombing of Dresden in World War II. In fact, the heat and energy per metre produced by the Ash Wednesday fires was estimated to be similar to that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Anyway, the fires on that day back in February 1983 worked their way up into the mountain range by way of the regular NW prevailing winds through that very patch of forest that was burnt off this week. Some people say that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice, whilst I reckon they’re talking total rubbish as common sense says that it does.

History has provided a salient lesson and I needed no further incentive to do the best that I can at the farm here to prepare for the eventuality of a bushfire at some stage in the future.

I have a list of projects that would be ideal to complete before the bushfire season is upon me and I’m slowly working through the list. Seeing the burn-off this week has however provided a sense of urgency that I hadn’t quite felt before.

The construction of the new steel shed (i.e. steel is unlikely to burn) is one of those projects on the list and you can see it progressing in the background of this photo below which looks across the bee garden.
Bee garden with new steel shed under construction in the background
This week I continued construction on the new shed and installed the steel roof trusses. Hopefully the shed will be covered by the old recycled steel sheeting by next weekend.

The photo below puts the new shed into context as it shows the new shed under construction relative to the existing cantina shed.

New steel shed under construction relative to the existing shed
Incidentally, it was suggested by Lewis that a cantina in the US is considered to be a bar that serves alcohol in the South West of the US. I hadn't known that usage of the word! At the farm here a “cantina” refers to the more traditional Italian usage which includes the storage and place of preparation for all of the preserved food and the various other bits of equipment that the farm requires. On a small holding, you have to be able to store all sorts of weird and wonderful equipment that only gets hauled out for use every now and then. All of those items just make certain jobs about the farm that much easier and without them you may not be able to even undertake the job. Bird netting is a good example as it has to be stored somewhere but it really keeps the pesky local parrots off the fruit trees and their ripening fruit.

A rosella escaping from the scene of the crime
In breaking farm news, the neighbours would have been truly astounded this week to see me climbing around the roof of both the house and the shed with a vacuum cleaner! It sounds a bit dodgy, but I spent about 4 hours up on there using the vacuum to suck all of the organic detritus which had somehow collected over the past few years. By the end of those hours, I was amazed at just how much I’d collected:

Gunk collected off the roof of the house and shed
The reason for all of this monkey business with the roof and vacuum is that the weather bureau had predicted that Saturday night would bring a 90% chance of between 10mm (a bit less than 1/2 inch) to 20mm (a bit less than 1 inch) of rainfall which was brought all the way down south here from the tropics. The barometer on the weather station here concurred with that prediction and suggested that a storm was approaching.

By Sunday morning, 35mm (1.4 inches) of rain had fallen on the farm and the water storage tanks were by now full and there were smiles all around.

Vacuuming the gunk before the heavy tropical rain fell on the farm meant that I didn’t have to get up at 3am – in the heavy rain – and clear the mesh filters on the water tanks. If those filters get blocked up then any water collected from the roof overflows and is lost to the soil. I’d much rather collect every single drop of rain possible and head into summer with full water storage tanks. The system worked perfectly too and by Sunday morning 10,500L (2,763 gallons) of rain water had passed through the system.

Speaking of water, during the week I repaired the steel heat shield which covers the house water pump. That water pump is a crucial piece of infrastructure and is now covered by two layers of steel. In the event of a bushfire that water pump provides water pressure to two of the permanently installed sprinklers, plus several hoses about the house, so it is worth the little bit of extra protection.

Radiant heat shield covering house pump which already has a galvanised steel pump cover
This week the air temperature meandered its way into the low 30’C (86 ‘F) degrees for several days so the strawberries have been happily ripening:

Strawberries are now ripening daily
The European pears are now swelling on the trees:

Josephine pear ripening on the tree
Just to make the readers from the Northern hemisphere really jealous, the cherries are slowly starting to ripen too (I hope I get them before the birds do!):

Cherry Van ripening on the tree
Strangely, people keep telling me that figs are the hardiest fruit trees around. Over the past few years, I have had a lot of trouble with the fig trees growing and then dying back during high summer and was hoping someone could let me know what my error has possibly been? Anyway, the fig trees are looking better established this year and this one is going into its second summer:

Fig tree about to enter its second summer at the farm
It isn’t all about fruit, as this winter I replanted some of last year’s broad beans and it now looks like they’ll produce a bumper crop. This bean with full pods is growing amongst gotu kola, eau de cologne mint, French lavender and tri-colour sage:

Broad bean with full pods in amongst herbs
As I was sitting in the orchard supervising the chooks, I happened to hear a rustling sound and went to investigate. It was an Echidna – which is the land based relative of the platypus. They’re like a spiny ant eater and are on the few animals other than members of the reptile family that lurk about during the daylight hours. It was trying to hide from me under a rock, so after taking the photo, I left it alone to go about its business.

Echidna – if you can’t see my head, you can’t see me!
The temperature outside here at about 9.00pm is 10.6 degrees Celsius (51’F). So far this year there has been 712.4mm (28.0 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 676.8mm (26.6 inches).


wall0159 said...

Hi Chris,

I had a bit of a curse when I read this post. We had (ahem) rain here in Adelaide too this weekend -- a huge 6 mm. We caughht every drop possible, but it was still only about 1000 L. We have not had decent rain since August, and our tanks are about 60%. We've used about 12000L in the last 10 or 12 weeks, which sounds like a lot, but we're catching all washing-machine grey water, and also from the sink. We have minimal showering and toilet flushing (composting loo on the todo list!). Hard to see how we'll last the summer...

All the best with the upcoming bushfire season!
Do you have somewhere uphill to pump water (into a steel container), so that in a worst-case pump failure you still have pressurised water for fire fighting? (not sure if that's possible with the lie of your land)


LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Those burn off pictures are really something. Glad you're water tanks are full.

Yes, the strawberries did make me a bit jealous, until I remembered I have 9 quarts tucked into the freezer.

The little creature reminded me of what little kids sometimes do. They cover their eyes and say "You can't see me!" Funny stuff.

The local weather station recorded overnight lows of 19F. But up here, it just didn't seem as cold as it has been in the last week. Noticed it when I brought Beau in, last night. And, this morning, not much frost and no ice in the chock water. "Weather really is "local." Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Mate it sure is cold up your way! So if the taps keep the water flowing, then they don't freeze? What happens when the ground freezes due to a heavy frost? Or are the pipes deep enough underground to avoid freezing.

I have the exact opposite problem here. The water that is above ground in pipes becomes very hot during summer. When I water the plants I have to run the water for a bit before it all cools down - otherwise it is like watering the veg with hot water.

Nell, sounds like a cheeky one! Dogs get the rough end of the dog and cat relationship. I used to own a cat many years ago that would wait for the dogs to walk past him and then he'd jump on them. The dogs gave the cat a wide berth, but it was never quite enough distance to avoid getting stabbed and bitten.

Strangely enough the boss dog at the time raised the cat - as a kitten - to think that it was a dog. It was only when another cat came into the household that the spell was broken. But the cat used to clean the boss dogs face and they'd sleep curled up together. When the boss dog died, the cat died only a few weeks later. It was pretty sad.

I changed my Sunday and Monday this week as it was so wet on Sunday - there was simply no working outside - so the blog was a day early!

Still, it was a great day to get outside today and work on the shed. All of the bits of steel are now in place and the doors are hung so I'll hopefully get it clad - or start too anyway - next weekend. Fun stuff.

You have an excellent library system. I hope that the wind is blowing in the right direction!

Yeah, it may be in the first book - I can't really remember the details as the entire story is blurred. In the third book Annie heads south to Calabria and truly that place has some serious issues currently and historically. It was a fascinating read too but not as good as the first and second book. Still worth the read - Sorry, did I just slip in a book recommendation!!!! hehe!

Yeah, comment moderation is the number one reason I'll stop participating in a blog. I used to write a lot for the Permaculture Research Institute news website, but I had no control over the comments and some of them just annoyed me no end. I still write for them, but not as much these days and it all came down to the comments. I guarantee that unless the account gets hijacked, trolls will never be published here. It is polite all round and as JMG says, it is an old fashioned concept - but I like it!

Yeah, planning is a weird concept. The powers that be here are reactionary rather than proactive. That sort of means that a developer says, "I'm going to do this development" and they sort of react to that proposal. I sort of reckon they would be better off saying, in this area you can do this, in that area you can do that and this other area - well nothing is going to happen there.

What happened here was that the planning scheme said I could build on this block of land - so I bought it and went cool here are my plans. Then they came back and said the fire authorities said that it was too dangerous to live here and by the way we won't let you reduce the risk or manage the danger. In the end, I couldn't afford to sell up and go somewhere else, so I had to agree to some of the most stringent conditions on any house in the country. Fortunately the plans were for a small house (thankfully), so I could no longer afford to get a builder to build it so did it myself the low tech and slow way.

Yeah, I'm interested in urban issues and planning, but I've probably got too many strong opinions about the disaster zone that it is in reality, so I'm not sure how useful my thoughts are on the matter.

Did you just slip in a book recommendation too???? Like your style! hehe! Sounds like a good read.

Yeah, they do seem quite cordial in their relationship. Can you suggest a good podcast?



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

Sorry mate! I share the same weather as Adelaide, but it is a bit cooler and a bit wetter here.

This year the rain has been patchy since August here too and 12,000L over about 90 days is only 133L/day (35 gallons). That is commendable because it is far less than the average household by a huge margin. Respect.

I'll tell you a funny story which is highly relevant to your comment.

When I installed the PV solar power system here I put 8 x 180W panels on the roof and patted myself on the back and thought: "1.44kW of solar PV panels will be heaps as I only use 3.5kWh per day. A bit over two hours sunlight and everything will be cool. This stuff is 100% too easy".

Well, the first year I lived here I was living in an unfinished house and it was really hard to reduce my usage from such a low starting point anyway, but you know what? In the depths of winter, I learned the hard way that I only received the equivalent of about 1 hour of strong sunlight on average. Melbourne is hardly much different to here.

Then the reality is that PV solar panels only really ever produce about 80% of their stated output - except when conditions are truly optimal like when it is cool around the summer solstice (21st Dec for you and I).

So I had to have the generator running up to 3 hours per day just to keep up with demand. There isn't a much more expensive way to power a house than a petrol generator charging the batteries. It is very inefficient!

So over the following years, I kept installing additional PV panels and now I'm at 4.2kW (which is about 23 panels all up!) and I can now get through winter without having to think too much about the electricity system. The batteries only ever get down to about 70% full under the very worst conditions. But the catch with batteries is that more you use them, the shorter their life span will be...

As a funny side note, after about the 16th panel went up, I stopped saying to my lady that this extra panel should fix it permanently and then I truly started admitting that I had really no idea at all! Ahh, the beginnings of wisdom, it is very humbling! hehe! Incidentally, I may add another 200W panel over the next few months too - but that really is about it - well, maybe...

Anyway, the upshot is that every single system that relies on extracting resources from the natural environment around your house is like that.

Honestly, the solar hot water has had to be tooled around with until it is working optimally.

The firewood is the same, and I'm still yet to excavate the site and build the wood shed to keep the stuff dry over winter - and importantly well away from the house come summer!

Cherokee Organics said...


The water is the same too as I've been adding extra tanks as experience about the conditions has been gained. One year, I let 25,000 litres of water go into the swale so that I had a useful buffer against the ongoing storms. Wouldn't you know it though, after I did that, La Nina ended abruptly and it didn't rain for five months... I ended up getting as low as 25,000 litres (6,578 gallons) left by the time it rained again. If a bushfire had come through then, I would have been stuffed as I dump many thousands of litres about the place if a fire is threatening the area. I was reasonably stressed out by that.

The food systems are the same here too as I learn more and more about what grows when and how to reproduce that produce the following year.

You are on the same journey with your water storage, usage and rainfall (plus collection area) and it is a journey of trial and error. There are plenty of opinions about the place, but no one else can provide you with that experience.

I salute your efforts!

PS: I have a simple rule about systems such as these: If you're not thinking about it, then the system is working.

PPS: Thanks about the bushfires and same to you. I appreciate that, last summer was close. My only fear is that I haven't had enough time to prepare fully (a few more years would be nice).

Thanks for the thoughts. That is possible and I may add a high level tank one day when funds permit it. There is a bit of redundancy here too, in the form of 3 pumps, 2 separate water systems and 2 separate power systems. I'm hedging my bets on multiple redundancies, but the idea of a high level tank is a goodie.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks man. I kept thinking to myself, "I hope those guys know what they're doing!".

It is a real treat to go into summer with full water tanks. At the end of last summer I was down to about 45% full and it was getting a bit nervous here, especially with the fires down below on the elevated plains in February. I made a YouTube clip on them. I was eternally grateful that the fire services threw everything they had at the fire to stop it from getting into the mountain range. It was close...

A quart is about a litre, so that is a heck of a lot of strawberries. I've never frozen them before, how do they taste when defrosted? Most berries freeze really well and honestly I can't tell the difference between frozen and fresh blueberries. They're just good.

Yeah, the Echidna is like an armored tank and they waddle about the place. Did you know they're a monotreme which is a missing link creature. They lay eggs and yet nurture the eggs in a pouch. Their only relative is the platypus which you can spot at dawn and dusk in rivers to the SW of here. The platypus have a poisoned barb on their front leg which they can use to attack you.

Have you noticed that the animals here will kill you but not eat you, whereas up your way, they'll do both. Most of the stuff here is just deadly poisonous.

Yeah, weather is local. Too true. It'll rain here when it doesn't rain anywhere else and then I can also watch the rain drifting down the valley whilst it doesn't even touch this place.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Overnight low was 23F. Yeah, when it gets cold, general wisdom here is to let your taps drip a bit at night. Sometimes, they even mention it in the weather reports. Pipes are deep, but not too deep. When the ground freezes, it's not for long and only goes a few inches deep. Not like the tundra where you have to be sure and bury pipes and house foundations below the frost line.

I can see where letting taps drip would be a problem for you. Since you're on a rain water system. And the waste ... I also have to watch the water temperature in the summer, if the hoses are left out in the sun.

Hawes has a third book! I'll have to look into that. Now I know our library system doesn't have that. But, they can get it for me on an interlibrary loan.

Yeah, the whole zoning thing can be a problem "out in the sticks." I think we've had a talk about that, before. Here, sometimes, you have to be a bit sneaky. You have to be under the radar. Stay on the right side of your neighbors so no one complains (Hawes covered that). Resale value may be problematic. Having no children helps.

There's also a lot of slack cut for "vacation cabins" and "hunter's cabins." Seasonal things. But, it's not part of the code (as far as I know) and is a call made by the zoning board.

When I freeze anything (apples, blueberries, strawberries) I prepare them for freezing (may cut the strawberries in half, core and peel the apples) and make sure they're dry. Then I spread them out on cookie sheets and pop them in the freezer for a few hours. When I pop them in the bags, I squeeze out as much air as possible. There are machines that will suck out the air, but so far that hasn't been necessary. They'll keep a year or two without "freezer burn."

I'll look into the podcasts. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Here it is ...the podcast. I didn't see a date on it, but it's fairly recent.

You might want to poke around Kunstler's site, a bit. Some interesting stuff. In your spare time (HA! :-). )

Don't know why but when we were talking earlier about zoning, "ghost developments" came to mind. There are a lot of them around the US and I have seen several articles and photo essays.

Ghost Developments are housing tracts that were never brought to completion. A lot of them were because of the meltdown in 2008. I've seen them in all phases of development. Sometimes, there will be one or two occupied houses in acres of empty lots. And, promised amenities (club houses and such) never materialized.

Backing onto my landlords property (over the pasture, through some woods, across a ravine, more woods ... out of sight, out of mind :-) ) is a development that didn't come to fruition. I think there's just a handful of houses and a lot of them are rentals. There's been articles in the paper about one suit or another, usually over the water district. The way I understand it, there's not enough critical mass of homeowners to keep the prices down, so, the water bills for the few homeowners are astronomical.

Now, my friends who moved to Idaho ended up buying the "model" house that was in a failed development. They paid less than half of what it was valued at when things were "flush." The infrastructure was all in before things headed south. And, they are close enough to town that the utilities are city utilities. They were able to buy a couple of lots around them, so, if the development takes off (fat chance) they will have a bit of a buffer. They kind of like being off a bit by themselves.

I've always found abandoned places to be interesting. Recently, I was reading an article about a Roman archaeological dig in Britain. As so often happens, I had to Google the place to see where it was, exactly. Article writers assume you know the lay of the land :-). What was interesting was one of the places had a Welsh name that roughly translated as: "The old Roman fort where the hermit lives." I bet there's an interesting story in that. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Many thanks for the link, I'll check it out tonight and download it. I quite enjoy listening to podcasts - but alas don't indulge that enjoyment much, so I'll let you know how it goes.

I usually have music playing in the background whilst I'm working on the various projects here and the podcast would work a treat.

But, other times I just enjoy the silence and the sounds of nature - unless of course it is that of a rather large and well fed wallaby munching on my vegetables. Seriously, some nights you can hear: rip, rip, munch, munch, munch!

Ghost developments are an errie sort of a concept. It would be very strange to live in such a place especially if you were only one of two houses in a greenfield development that went belly up.

Yeah, water storage and distribution in either urban, rural or agricultural settings is one of the great achievements of our civilisation, it is just that few people recognise it as such.

I fully expected to have to supply and treat my own water here in one form or another and was prepared - mentally - for the outlay and hassle, but those people living in the ghost developments would have been in for a bit of a shock!

Hey, developers do land banking here. Weird stuff.

Good for them! I applaud them.

Very wise too in buying up all of that extra land.

I've known a few people who have moved in to housing estates and said to me - with a straight face too, mind you - that "it was really great with all of the paddocks around the house before all of the other houses were built". I've now heard this often enough that I no longer believe that people are being ironic.

It would be great to hear that story, but we probably never will. Hermits used to go bush here too and they'd hole up in some patch of forest and eek out a living which was there if they chose not to have too high an expectation. The Great Depression drove them out of the cities.

My grandfather used to take me camping when I was a young kid up to a remote place in the high country where him and his old WWII buddies used to go drinking. He was a bomber pilot - who flew on the Dresden run. Incidentally he lost his hair at 21 so I suspect it had a bit of an impact. It was my job to go and collect the water and keep out of trouble - which I did. I miss the old guy.

I just realised I've got the replies back to front! hehe!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah, dripping and leaking taps are a no go zone here. If the toilet cistern was to not stop filling, that could be a problem for both the water and power systems. Mind you, the wildlife and forest would appreciate all of the extra water!

Oh no! We've both somehow slipped in a book referral past the keeper (that's a cricket joke - which may be lost on you)! hehe! I may have to get the editor onto your writing, you know! hehe!

I reckon it is worth the read as it is a fascinating insight into the history and current conditions of the southern part of the country as seen from an outsiders perspective.

Yeah, staying under the radar is the way to go. That is why the new shed is under 10 square metres (11.95 square yards) so that it doesn't require a planning permit. The local council are a bit parasitic on that front. Not that many years ago, it used to be 50 square metres (60 square yards).

There is no slack here for either of those buildings - unless you don't get caught of course. Which all works back to the best advice: "Don't annoy your neighbours".

That is an interesting technique and I'd never have thought of that. Unfortunately, I don't have the power here to run a freezer big enough to store them (my fridge is quite small).



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Yeah, silence is the way to go. When I have my computer on, I generally leave the sound off. I don't even like the deep musical "bong" when the thing kicks on. Sometimes when I drive to and from town I just leave the radio off. When I took my neighbor to his doctor's appointment and got stuck in the waiting room for an hour, the idle chatter nearly drove me bonkers! I think I'm a bit over sensitive to sound.

"Land Banking." I'd never heard the term before but see it here and there in it's many forms. Land scams and such. Sometimes it just goes by the term of "foreign investment." Of course, we hear about the Chinese buying tracts of land in Africa for mining and agriculture. But also, here in the US. A huge tract of land close to the Boise, Idaho airport. Another huge tract somewhere in the rust belt that has access to air, water and rail hubs. Something down in Texas.

My Dad was an infantry sargent in WWII. North Africa, Anzio, Italy, Germany ... Some decorations. A Silver Star and two Bronze Stars. He didn't talk much about his military career, and now that he's past, I could probably get his military records. On my "to do" list :-). Somewhere around here I've got an article about his family being "America's Number One Service Family." He and his 12 brothers all served. Every service branch represented. WWII, Korea, etc..

I put Hawes 3d book on interlibrary loan and should get it in a week or two. I also discovered she has a FOURTH book. A trip to N. Africa. I think I'll pass on that one :-).

I'm almost done with Michael Pollan's "Second Nature: A Gardener's Education." It's from 1991 and is a collection of his magazine articles (Harper's, etc.). He has some interesting stories and ruminations. Some of the chapter headings are "Nature Abhors a Garden," "Why Mow?," "Compost and Its Moral Imperatives" and "Made Wild by Pompous Catalogs." He has a chapter on roses that I found quit interesting.

I also forget that his first book (way back when) was "A Place of my Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder." Which I read and really enjoyed, way back when. When I thought I was going to go traipsing off into the wilderness and build a cabin. Which I see now was Provisional Living in full cry.

Yeah, having a big freezer is nice, but it also makes me feel kind of vulnerable. Oh, I have a pantry (larder?) full of commercial canned stuff. I think I'll feel better next year if I can get a dryer up and running and do more canning of my own.

Got down to 21F last night. But, the cold snap ends tomorrow night when overnight temperatures will zoom up to a toasty 40. As cold snaps go, it wan't bad. Only lasted a week. Chicken water didn't even freeze, probably due to body heat, a good layer of litter on the floor and a light / heat lamp that kicks on at 2am. Due to procrastination (a five syllable word for sloth) I didn't get the heated hot water heater set up. But, it sits safely in it's package, ready to deploy :-). Lew

SLClaire said...

It got down to 12F/-11C at our house this morning. The high yesterday was 27F/-3C. It should warm up a bit tomorrow, however, with the high going over freezing for a change. By the weekend the highs should be near normal which by then will be about 52F/11C. Code here requires pipes for all utilities to be buried about 3ft/1m deep to be sufficiently below the frost line.

Anyway, I'm glad it's late spring somewhere, and I'm glad you got a good rain and collected so much water! It looks like the shed is coming along well. My husband and I will be building a wood shed soon to store wood for the wood stove we just had installed. With luck we will get the posts put in before the ground freezes.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yeah. You know what though: It is never really quiet anyway. If you sit still out in the orchard and meditate for a while on the sounds around you it is amazing what you can hear. This morning I awoke to find myself above the fog again with blue skies and the government is repairing the bridge way down below in the valley. I could clearly hear the machines and voices talking. It was crystal clear.

At night, the bats make this high pitched chip, chip, chip noise as they fly past you chasing insects in the night. I can hear the cows mooing in the paddocks way down below. Wombats crashing through the forest. Roos and wallabies bouncing about the place. At dusk the birds all call out to each other marking their forest claims. I can even hear the rats climbing around the chicken enclosure.

Yeah - they're still outsmarting me.

Thanks for the link to the podcast. I listened to it today and it was confronting, but evident in events playing out around the world. Oh well.

They're spending their dollars here too, which is propping up the real estate market - especially the big end of town. Apparently AU$15m investment will fast track a citizenship here. Canada used to be a preferred destination, but I believe that government put a halt on such matters. Interestingly here, they tend to buy in urban and inner urban areas and ignore the rural areas.

We live in interesting times because the Chinese government has slapped a tariff on our coal and iron ore exports whilst at the same time pushing for us to sign a free trade agreement and sign up for their alternative banking system. Wow, the podcast was on the money with such matters.

Your dad saw a fair bit of the action. Do you reckon he ever found the camaraderie outside of the military service? There has been a bit of discussion about such matters over here recently as death rates for ex Afghanistan service people are three times higher than casualties whilst serving.

12 brothers! My ladies mother, who has long since passed, was the youngest child of 8 siblings and the only girl. Funnily enough, they stopped having kids after that. hehe! Interestingly too, all 7 brothers served in WWII and all of them survived (there's only 2 left now in their 90's).

Thanks for the family history, it would be fascinating to look up the service record.

Well done, your library service is excellent. A wise decision with the fourth book as the tales of tourists to exotic locales can be a bit forced.

Made wild by pompous catalogs is too funny! There is a mental image of him stuffing catalogs into a compost bin or worm farm! Fortunately not having postal delivery here, I rarely spy these menaces! hehe!

That's an honest assessment of the situation. How did it end up for Michael Pollan, is he still there?

Yeah, it is both high tech and low tech here as I learn to straddle between the two worlds. Hopefully in January next year, I'll show the full bottling (canning) Kahuna here! The freezer is a great idea though. Does the door sit on top of the unit rather than like a refrigerator where all of the cold air rushes out every time you open the front door of the unit?

There has been quite a bit of thought put into the dryer, so if you get one I'd really be interested to hear how it goes? There are two major players Down Under: Excalibur and the local Vacola units - both have been highly recommended.

Ahh well, there's always tomorrow. Hey, I read an old English word for sloth which you may enjoy: slugabed! Too funny. I wouldn't get up early if it was that cold here either.

The weird thing is over winter here you can't start outside work because it is too cold and wet (winters are really humid here) before about 10am.

During summer you get the exact opposite problem in that you can't work after about 2pm as the sun will literally cook you. So no slugabed during summer here!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Brrrrr! That is so cold. It would be really unusual to see your maximum temperature here - even as a minimum.

Thanks for the metric too! ;-)

Interestingly, services here are usually a minimum of 600mm (2 foot) deep. Did you get any snowfall or was it clear?

That would be a warmish winters day here at 52F/11C. Actually it stays reasonably constant here day and night during those times. Increased cloud cover (which seems to be increasing during winter) here makes it much warmer than it would otherwise be during winter.

Many thanks! I'm enjoying building the shed. It is funny that when you start using firewood in earnest, you begin to quickly appreciate the benefits of dry firewood. No hurry on this answer, but does your firewood freeze if left outside?

The secret with the shed is to make it square by ensuring the posts are equal distance apart (obviously with different front and sides) and that the two diagonal measurements are exactly the same.



JF Sebastian said...

Hi there,

I have seen your comments for some years on the ArchDruid Report, but only recently put together that you were the same person who has so many great permaculture-esque videos on youtube.

Then I found your blog and enjoyed reading many of this year's posts.

Just wanted to come by and say I really like your work on the farm, and that people do happily read your posts.

Cheers and thanks!

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Oh, yeah. Nature sounds here, too. But they are so much more ... soothing? It's human nattering or screaming children (you know the ones ... screeching that can clear a plugged sinus like Chinese mustard) are quit a bit different from the hooting of an owl or the squeaking of a bat.

After a long absence, the coyotes were back night before last. Sounded like they were in the front yard. And, I spoke too soon. Saw a rabbit in the side yard. The first in months. You say you don't have any animals that might eat you (just poison you). What about those salt water crocodiles and great white sharks that make the news over here?

I've looked into Canada a couple of times (usually after a bad, from my point of view, election.) They've got a good number of hurdles to jump, these days. They have a point system, now. Money, helps. Age counts against you. Having a profession or trade that is in short supply, up north, gains you points. Being bilingual in French gets you points. Etc.

My mother was also the youngest and only girl of five. Spoiled rotten :-).

Pollan's structure was what he referred to as his "Dream Hut." :-). It ended up costing him $125 a square foot and took two and a half years to build. With help. But, for someone who'd never picked up a hammer, it was a pretty interesting book. With his usual thoughtful tangents. How to drive a nail ... the history of architecture, etc..

My freezer is a top loader. Like the old dog, it came with the house. When he wasn't looking, I had to toss out quit a bit of stuff that belonged to my landlord. 12 year old turkey, anyone?

As far as a food dryer goes, I'll build one. Plenty of plans about and plenty of scrap wood and glass kicking about the place. In my usual philosophical attempt to avoid more electric gizmos.

Somewhere along the way, I had heard or read the word slugabed. But I don't think I've read it or heard it used in years. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JF Sebastian,

Many thanks for the comment and glad to hear that you are enjoying the blog and photos.

It is great to be able to share the place.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, business is such that I won't be able to continue our discussion until tomorrow.

Pah, life rudely intrudes sometimes!



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

It is no fun when paid work gets in the way! This year has been a year of projects - one of these days I should write a blog entry about how I ended up here. Like your life, it has probably been a long and interesting journey full of twists and turns.

It was quite warm here today and the UV has this week transitioned from Very High to Extreme. Being one month out from the summer solstice means that the sun is high in the sky and the plants are growing strongly.

It has been an early season here - global warming is the cause, no doubt - so I'm sitting out in the orchard on the laptop as the sun is going down and supervising the chooks and eating ripe strawberries. I took a photo of just how many I picked this evening.

The strawberry beds were a complete stuff up too, because the path I put in has now been completely overgrown. It is just another system that requires finessing!

Oh yeah, I hear you man! I was at the pub last night enjoying a pale ale (I'm a bit uncomfortable mentioning that pale ales Down Under are quite tasty over at the ADR!!! hehe! - the little devil on my shoulder is telling me to just do it! hehe!) and two young ladies brought their brood of six in at 8pm and oh boy, were those poor kids over tired. One of them started running around our table and then stopped and screamed / shrieked! It was ear splitting. Anyway, a couple of pale ales helped soothe the shattered nerves. You know what, everyone with more than one child keeps telling me how unrelenting it all is. I'm sympathetic to their plight, but please try not to share the pain with me. Then again, I'm probably a soft target.

The sulfur crested cockatoos screeching at the crack of dawn have nothing on them...

Yeah, you probably put the kiss of death on yourself about the rabbits?


Cherokee Organics said...


Yeah, well I don't go surfing so my contact with the Great White Sharks is minimal at best. You know what? I would have expected that the surfers of all people would have been sympathetic to the cause of the sharks, but they've been up in arms saying set the drum lines and net the beaches. Respect the ocean, I don't think so. I'll see whether I can track down a podcast from local surfers complaining about the sharks. I would have thought that the sharks would have increased the danger factor?

Salt water crocodiles are really impressive beasts and can grow up to 7m (about 21 foot long), but it is too cold here for them - yet! The cane toad is heading south, so you never know. The crocodiles can live in the river systems and also spend quite a bit of time out in the ocean, so they are really adaptable.

The US seems like a mostly nice place and most traveler's I've met from there are very pleasant. Because of the link with the British empire and the Commonwealth, there are a whole lot of Canadians down here. They love the warmer weather and I sort of get that. I know a few who have attained citizenship and they're really lovely people. I reckon that there are a lot of cultural similarities between there and here. Being near the border, you'd share a lot of similarities too?

Oh yeah, absolutely spoilt rotten!

Ahh, 1 square metre is about 10 square feet. Right, that is about the same cost for building here. It ain't cheap. It is empowering to build one's own home and I salute his efforts, especially given he'd never picked up a hammer before. I bet he had some strong opinions about architecture - there is a profession that has lost its way...

Lewis, you scored a bargain mate! ;-)! A dog and a top loading freezer. Money is insufficient to put a price on such things.

Yeah, I'm not sure that is edible. I read of a restaurant in the city here that was closed down for such things. The owner claimed that it was for his own personal consumption...

That is an excellent perspective. I like avoiding extra electronic gizmos too, unless they can earn their keep.

I'd be very interested to hear how it goes with the solar dryer. I've been told by a few users down under that it darkens the fruit - so apricots can dry to a very dark colour. They reckon that the commercial dryers use all sorts of preservatives to stop that from happening?

Haha! It is an old English term, which I read somewhere - who knows...

Hope it is not too cold up your way.



Stacey Armstrong said...

Morning Chris,

After that cold snap my fire making skills are back up to snuff! All my beets are still accounted for, but the chard doesn't look like it will over winter this year. Your garden is looking quite spectacular. I love broad beans. I tried inter-planting mine with the garlic last year and they were eaten quite heavily by weevils. I am going to move them to a different part of the garden this year and try again. I am hoping with the gradual soil improvements pest damage will decline. Are yours growing next to some claytonia? A similar plant grows in amongst the grasses on one of our main thoroughfares.

Do you have a few different varieties of strawberries growing? One of the most heated but friendly conversations I have witnessed here was between two Strawberry connoisseurs at a garden club meeting. It was a fantastic sight.

I have to admit I was curious about the two smaller sheds, rather than one bigger one. A lot of rules here are dictated by something called a density. We cannot currently share our land with anyone, unless we apply for farm status. The island has a specific number of densities; in the last few years they have been traded and bought by developers and the government.

Best. Stacey

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; Oh, yes. Life and it's twists and turns. Funny how my life has shot off in different directions through little bits of happenstance. Sure, there's been ups and downs, but overall, I consider myself VERY lucky. I feel like I fall face down in luck. Something I don't talk about as it might break the spell :-). Of course, my needs and expectations are "small beer." How's that for an archaic term?

Perhaps the screaming kids needed to be slipped a little pale ale? Just enough to calm them down and put them out.

Canadians are perceived here as "nice." Kind of mellow and not all wound up. I figure it's because they have decent health care and don't have to worry about it.

Oh, yeah. Dog, top loading freezer and just about any tool I'd like to use. If, I can find them. As a small example, when I moved in here, I bought a scoop for the cat box. Not a large investment. But then I found two buried in the laundry room. I've been looking for a hand auger. Checked two places and all they've got is power jobs. One more place to check and then it's on to Amazon.

I think if I treat fruit to dry with citrus or salt I can stop (some) of the browning. Something I need to look into. When I cored and peeled apples for freezing, I just dropped them into a bowl of salty water as I went along. Worked like a charm. No browning.

Like the rise and fall of the rabbit population, the moles or gophers are making a comeback. There wasn't much activity over the past two years and now all of a sudden there are hills of fresh turned earth in the side yard, in the backyard / Beau's domain and in the chock run. I may have to screen some bottoms and sides of any root veg I put in.

Speaking of chocks, my one old Barnevelder hen is looking pretty sad, these days. Molt has begun. Hope she makes it through. I think the old Wyondotte is also about to molt. She's stopped laying those enormous eggs of hers and is beginning to look pretty tatty.

Cold snap ended here. Now our overnight low is around 40F and our daytimes, 50F. And, the last two days just pissing down rain ... all the time. I don't mind it when it comes in bands and I can get out between and do this and that. But, I looked at the satellite picture of W. Washington yesterday and it was solid green (rain.)

I am well into "Extra Virgin." Enjoying it immensely. Oh, my gosh, she got all that for only about $2,000? I know it was awhile back, but still. I should have moved to Italy 20 years ago! Oh, well. Next life.

I have also become a Downton Abbey junkie. The hold lists at the library finally declined to a level where I could have a chance at seeing them in my lifetime ... maybe. Have roared through season one and two. Season 3 is waiting for me at the library. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey,

That happens here too! It seems like every year, I have to re-learn the skill of getting the wood fire going well. I now use small sticks and bark and progress to larger sizes of firewood as the fire burns longer. What tricks do you use?

The internal steel in the firebox chamber here is looking a bit sad and I'm considering options to cut new sections of steel into the chamber, otherwise it probably won't last more than another season or two.

Is your firebox cast iron or made of sheet metal? The sheet metal here is peeling away in thin slivers...

Many thanks! A local guy once told me that I didn't have enough flowers for the bees, so I just started planting and then kept going. I've recently added some salvias as they are almost indestructible summer flowering plants. Trying to work out a succession of flowers for the bees is not as easy as I would have thought!

Weevils! Yikes! That role is fulfilled here by the pesky Portuguese millipede which has been happily roaming the continent since the 1950's. One of the local nematodes has now adapted to consume them, so the millipedes are starting to reduce in numbers. They like strawberries though. Nothing really eats broad beans here, so they are left to their own devices.

Your hope about improving soil quality and thus reducing insect predation is correct. The healthier the life in the soil and more mineral rich, the less hassles you will have with insects. Plus some shrubs for small birds would be helpful. The birds here which eat insects don't migrate, so they may get used to uncovering every single niche though. Dunno.

I haven't heard of claytonia before. It looks like a nice ground cover and is sort of similar to chickweed? Maybe. Flowers in amongst the grasses is an excellent sign as that is sort of what goes on in a natural grassland. You never know what services those plants provide to the area they grow in.

Too funny, that would have been great to see! They do taste tests down under for strawberries and tomatoes and the whole thing is taken very seriously indeed! The strawberries here are a bitsa collection meaning a bit of this and a bit of that. They're in their third year too. I took a photo of a small harvest yesterday for the blog tomorrow and the berries are going feral!

Yeah, the shed thing is just silly. The local council has stipulated that if you want a shed larger than 10 square metres (11.95 square yards) you have to apply for a planning permit. I don't want to give them any money, so I'll build two sheds under that size limitation. It is a nuisance, but the council is not really adding any value and the risk that they impose further restrictions here is more likely than not. You have to game the system here.


Cherokee Organics said...

Yeah, the density thing works here the same way here as they only allow a single dwelling on the property. Incidentally after the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, there was a situation where a person had 2 houses on their property which were both destroyed. The council said that they could only rebuild a single dwelling on that property despite the history. The state government finally had to intervene and overrule the local council. The bureaucracy here is just weird.

Farm status sounds interesting. One thing that I've noticed here is that the local council has a great deal of difficulty auditing its permit system.

I'll tell you another story from around here that involves the local council. A local 13 year old - I think precocious is the correct word - setup a 2,000 chicken egg farm - just on the next hill over, as you do when you're 13! Incidentally I met Josh a year or two back and he is pretty switched on and the farming operation was very very good. At that age, I wouldn't have considered doing that.

Anyway, Josh failed to comply with the permits and the bush telegraph says that - I haven't confirmed this - a local councillor moved next door.

Josh got shut down by the local council:

Kerrie home grown support for seven hills farm

And people ask me why I don't sell produce from here! Oh well, it is but a moment in time.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

That is the spirit. Life has dealt me some serious blows and hardships too, but you know, overall I reckon we've all been pretty lucky to have been born when and where we were.

Definitely don't put the kiss of death on yourself!

hehe! Nice term. Small beer, small change...

Yeah, too funny, it might have helped the ugly situation, but I think that I may have been perceived as a bad influence. It was much easier to simply leave. I'd finished dessert anyway which just happened to be a lemon meringue pie. Yum!

I make a pretty mean key lime pie, but lemon meringue is the same thing but with a big dump of meringue on top. Good stuff, as was the beer, so I could tune out most external bad vibes! hehe!

Yeah, you see more Canadians than US citizens Down Under. Not sure why? But I reckon we are culturally similar? Dunno. I know two that have applied and received citizenship here and they're lovely people.

I wish you well on your search. You are in a fascinating place. You are almost like an archaeologist on a dig. Old tools are harder to find here, but they are so much better made that it is worth the effort. I bought a rake a year ago for the chooks and it bent within 6 months. I found an old rake for $11 at a restorer’s barn and the thing looks like it will last forever.

Thanks for the tip about the apples, I wouldn't have considered that. I've used lemon juice for the same purpose and it works well. I wonder about how people traditionally got salt here in these inland areas as it comes from salt works along the coastline? Dunno.

The moles and gophers are probably like giant earthworms in the soil life! Do they cause much damage? The wildlife about the place here can be both a delight and a nuisance. I spotted the deer the other night (a couple of does and a buck) just south of here.

Incidentally, are moles or gophers ground hogs? I was very partial to Bill Murray’s classic film “Groundhog day”.

The girls here go on egg strike during late autumn whilst they regrow their feathers. They can't do both. It is all part of the natural cycle. It is nice that you have the light to keep them warm during that time too. I leave a huge load of straw in the enclosure and they just muck around in it over winter when it is too wet and rainy in their run.

I know someone who thought that their chooks must have had some strange disease as they looked all patchy, so he left them out for the fox...

Hey, I thought it was an Aussie thing to say pissing down? It is a very versatile word with many uses.

Yeah, Annie scored well on that property and also integrated herself into the area well. It is a truly great read. I'm just about to start a country year and am looking forward to it.

Too funny. Yeah, I've heard that it is a great series and a few people I know watch it. Lots of fun and an insight into a whole different world!

It has been hot here today and I spent the morning mowing in the full sun and the afternoon putting steel cladding onto the shed. It was a bit too warm for my liking.



LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; A couple of things I remember about having a wood stove. To get a good draw, I'd light up a twist of newspaper and shove it into the back, into or close to the stove pipe opening. You heat up the pipe a bit and get a good draw. Doesn't take much.

Another thing I discovered ... well, being a good stove owner, I got the brush and used to climb on the roof every year to give the chimney a good clean. Always pretty nasty work. Then I read somewhere to throw a small hand full of salt on a blazing fire, every once in awhile. It vaporizes and glazes the inside of the chimney ... like salt glaze pottery. Weeellll .... the next time I went to clean out the chimney, nothing. And it did look glazed. A nice, high polish black. Now that was the last year I lived there, so, I don't know about long term effects. Brick chimney, by the way.

It is like an archaeological dig around here. I found an old concrete St. Francis statue in the weeds. Nicely weathered with a bit of moss. But no head! According to my landlord, it's around here somewhere. So I set him up and call him St. Francis the Martyr. :-).

I've never heard anyone refer to ground hogs around here. Just moles and gophers. Since I don't have a lawn fetish (other than to hack it back just enough so my landlord won't mind and the post lady doesn't make a funny face), I don't mind them. As long as they don't demolish any root crops I put in next year. They push up some really nice top soil. I'll ask my landlord about groundhogs.

Well, it being winter here, I can feel not (to) guilty about indulging in books and dvds. Downton is kind of a romp. The villains are so villainous that you just want them to die :-). The rich really ARE different from the rest of us.

During my short sojourn in S. California, I visited the Huntington Estate. Pretty much on a par with Downton. When we were touring the main floor, I asked the docent if Old Mister Huntington ever came downstairs in the middle of the night and just touched things. She looked at me as if that were a rather odd question. I suppose it was. I often just blurt out things that I figure other people only think.

Our public television (and the BBC, too) have had these series where they take a modern family and drop them into some historic period. They have to live for a year as our ancestors did. Colonial House, Texas Ranch House, Pioneer House, Edwardian House, etc. etc.. I remember the Edwardian House had a terrible time "keeping the servants." The deference and arduous labor just wore them out.

BBC also has a series involving 2 archaeologist and a historian. They have to live a year (different time periods) as our ancestors did.

The value I find in these series is that I often pick up little gems of "Green Wizardry".

Thunder and lightening here, today. And, pissing down rain. I suppose you know about coutnign between the flash and the rumble to figure out how close the storm is. As near as I can figure, it got within three miles of here. What was unusual is that there were incredibly long rumbles of thunder. One of them rattled all the windows and I could feel it in my bones! I have an old barometer and yesterday it took quit a plunge. Lew