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Scritchy, who is the boss dog of the fluffy collective has a not-so-secret super power - she can predict storms hours in advance of their arrival. The form that advance warning usually takes is that she hides under the bed. And she is mostly accurate too!
|Scritchy storm detective was discovered under the bed again earlier in the week|
Scritchy may be upset by the occasional storm, but all the wildlife that shares the farm generally love any rainfall. During the storm, I spotted a frog swimming around in a small pool of water on top of one of the water tanks.
|A Southern Brown Tree Frog takes a swim in a pool of water on top of a water tank during a recent storm (plus a bonus worm)|
The over night storm earlier in the week dropped about half an inch (12mm) of rain over the farm. Then for the next few days, the clouds were low and thick. On Tuesday, the solar panels failed to generate enough electricity to fully charge the batteries. They generated about 4.1kWh, which is less than one hour of peak sunlight for the entire day. Not a bad effort for a late spring day!
|The clouds were thick and low over the farm for much of the week|
Readers with very good eyesight (eagle eyed) may note in the photo above, one of the local magpies is attacking a huge wedge tail eagle. They can be seen as two dots in the centre of the photo. For those without good eyesight (not eagle eyed), I zoomed in on the above photo and you can see the magpie attack:
|A brave magpie attacks a much larger wedge tail eagle over the valley|
The family of magpies that lives on the farm are quite amazing. Last week I was meant to be supervising the chickens whilst they free roamed around the orchard. The words "meant to be supervising", describe my recalcitrance because what I was actually doing was not supervising the chickens at all. I was mucking around with a water pump on the other side of the farm. Whilst I was doing that work, a magpie attracted my attention by shooting past me at high speed. I thought to myself that that was a strange thing for the bird to do.
I pondered the big questions in life, like 'why did that bird attract my attention?' The other residents birds on the farm, started calling to each other. I dropped what I was doing and ran over to the chickens as fast as I could, only to see a fox scampering off into the surrounding forest with a chicken in its maw. Without slowing I veered in a new direction chasing the fox with the chicken into the forest. The fox had Cloey the Australorp chicken. Cloey has been enjoying life here for about five years. Unfortunately for the fox, Cloey is a large bird and was possibly quite a heavy haul, because I rapidly gained on the fox. As I ran, I noted that the magpies were swooping the fox and generally harassing it.
I almost caught up to the fox, and it was at that point the game was up for Mr or Ms foxy, who unceremoniously dropped Cloey and then sped away. Cloey was not in a good way, and by the time that I got her back to the chicken enclosure she was dead.
After that experience I now supervise the chickens properly. The fox still appears, but the magpies give me plenty of early warning. The alarm call that the magpies provide is quite distinctive and I listen closely for that call, whilst usually reading a book. And the birds also tell me exactly where the fox is because they swoop it.
The fox appeared again last night. It might ignore the swooping magpies, but it sure took me seriously as I chased it off the farm yelling at the top of my lungs.
Then a very strange thing occurred. The magpie which had been previously swooping the fox, settled in a nearby tree watching the deranged human chasing off the fox. As I returned back to the chickens, the bird squawked once at me. And for no real reason, I replied to the squawk by saying "chook chook". The magpie then said "squawk squawk". That gave me chills, so I thought I'd test the bird and said "chook" and the bird replied "squawk". Magpies are undeniably intelligent birds, no doubts about it and I am lucky to have a family of them living here permanently.
The long deceased Chinese master of strategy may remark that: The enemy of my enemy, is my friend!
Foxes were not the only problem we faced this week. We have now arrived at the time in the season where we have to plant the next seasons crops and maintain the orchard. And yet, we are still in the process of constructing the new strawberry terrace. The editor and I took the last few days at a slower pace whilst we reflected upon the complexities of this situation.
|Many self seeded tomato plants have appeared this week which tells us that we are now running a week behind the season|
The interesting thing that we have discovered in this brief period of reflection is that:
- During spring we plant out the summer crops and maintain the orchard;
- During summer we bring in the firewood for use over the winter;
- During autumn we bring in and process the summer harvest; and
- Winter is the time for repairing and constructing infrastructure. It is also the time for maintaining the surrounding forest.
|The twice yearly job of mowing was begun today|
I often describe the grass in the paddock using the technical term "herbage". This is a fancy name that refers to the fact that there simply are a lot of different plant species growing in among the grass. Outside of winter, the herbage is usually full of flowering plants:
|The herbage is full of many different species of plants including a huge variety of wildflowers|
|Dichondra flowers look like tiny orchids to me|
|The strawberry enclosure sits on a terrace above the raspberry and blackberry enclosure|
It is a bit late in the season to be planting new trees. But another reason I don't like planting trees at this time of the year is because the garden beds are full of insects, and some of those insects (e.g. the bees), don't much appreciate having humans stomping around disturbing their activities. Anyway, the plants were a bargain and so I risked the wrath of the bees and planted them into the garden bed.
|There are about ten Japanese maples in this garden bed now. A red and another orange variety were planted this week|
|The Japanese maple garden bed looks like a proper wildflower meadow|
|Cherries are getting larger|
|Almonds are also getting larger|
|Apricots are prolific this year|
|The new bee colony is doing well, but the wombat leaves calling cards marking out the hive as part of its territory|
|The huge number of Skinks consume a lot of insects in the garden beds|
|Pears and apples are producing a great display|
|Horse chestnuts have a very complex and tall flower|
|Bees are everywhere and this Echium is a good source of pollen|
|Californian poppies are as beautiful as they are tough|
|Ixia bulbs produce beautiful flowers|
|This tri-coloured Sage is not a flower but it looks great|
|It is Rhododendron season and they get bigger every year!|
|A close up of one of the garden beds|