Every week or so we empty our stock troughs, sometimes for cleaning, sometimes to shift it into a new paddock or location to prevent the soil getting bared out. As dry springs like this one remind us, water is precious. The dam fills in winter, we pump up to the tanks, then try to gravity feed the stock troughs from spring until the rains come again. When it came to empty the troughs, we tried some judicious bucketing onto nearby seedlings, but that’s long and arduous when you have 450 litres to decant. Continue reading
While the name Trees, Bees and Cheese might suggest otherwise, one thing we’re short on is trees. So with the arrival of sheep, and now lambs, we’ve tried to get in before summer with a sheep shade-shelter. With our soon-to-be-complete subdivision of the property into smaller paddocks, we thought we’d build a moveable shelter that would allow us to rotate it from paddock to paddock with the flock, rather than building seven or eight smaller structures. Continue reading
We’ve written a fair bit about our relationship with the decades of farm junk strewn across the property, including our page of curated finds. A couple of months ago, when clearing another trailerload of scrap metal from the gullies, Sophie’s cousin Andrew spotted some treasure amid the trash. It was corroded, missing legs and other bits, but still identifiably a spirit-burning, post-World War II camp stove. Continue reading
Fences are amazing things. They totally reshape the way you think about a landscape by cutting it into smaller, yet still expansive, rooms. They alter the movement patterns of humans and other animals and we’ve very quickly discovered the bits where, far from any gate, we’re regularly having to launch ourselves between strands of high-tensile barbed wire. With a bit of research, we came up with a couple of simple designs for stiles allowing easy pedestrian access at high-traffic points. Continue reading
A tradition has officially started now that I’ve done it twice. Each year, in honour of Joel’s birth, I shall embroider a different bird species found on our property to add to a home wall gallery. Joel asked what the criteria is for birds to be selected: they have to be interesting, native, and not commonly found in the city (even though they can be common on the Fleurieu). I can’t bring myself to embroider pigeons or magpies, though we have plenty of both. The idea is that I shall never run out of birds to embroider, as more and more birds will flock to our property as it becomes ever more diverse and abundant! The key bird species we are hoping to attract at the moment are yellow-tailed black cockatoos (which currently fly straight over and go and eat pine nuts in the pine trees in the Second Valley beach carpark) and the little finches we see hanging out in the Wirrina reveg area just across our back fence line. So stay tuned for next year’s installation!
Back in autumn, we gathered freshly fallen acorns from the base of a row of massive old English oaks (Quercus robur). Inspired by the dehesa agroforestry systems of Spain and Portugal, we’ve often pondered how a livestock-grazed oak plantation could work on the property. Acorns for pigs, and perhaps even human consumption, timber for the use of our great-great-grandchildren, and in the meantime, a carpet of fallen leaves offering organic matter for composting and mulch. So, with some bags of acorns and few containers of the topsoil and leaf litter from around the parent oaks, we set to propagating them.
We mixed the leaf litter and gathered topsoil in with our potting medium, hoping to inoculate our own medium with beneficial fungi, and then planted the acorns. We planted some close to the surface, and others about an acorn-width deep. After about eight weeks of being kept damp and left in the late autumn-early winter sun, they began sending their first shoots upwards, red furry things with a cluster of jagged leaves at the top. The depth of the acorn doesn’t seem to have had any bearing on their readiness to propagate. Once they’ve all emerged and are about 8-10 cm tall, we’ll carefully thin them, planting out excess strong specimens to their own pots until we have one decent plant per pot.
The feijoa (Acca sellowiana, aka. Feijoa sellowiana) is one of those underrated suburban fruit trees that is often (perhaps unwittingly) grown around Adelaide backyards and little eaten. The varieties I’ve come across most often have offered grey-green torpedoes with a sharp, pineapple tang and a somewhat gritty texture. In the height of feijoa season, we were given a paper bag full of a variety I’d not encountered before. The skin was thin enough to bite a chunk out of and the flesh silky(ish) and smooth. Continue reading
Our passion for growing trees has in many ways outstripped our capacity to grow them, and so our growing space has become overrun with foam containers balancing precariously on the edges of hard rubbish chairs, bricks and scraps of wood. Some months ago, we claimed some old school tables from a local school’s throw-out pile, and thought they might be good for more growing space. Predictably, the manufactured timber tops very quickly fattened in the moisture, buckled and then started getting slimy.
Earlier in the year, our friend Pete decided that the time was right to haul the last clump of tyres from Zephyr Creek. It was about 8 o’clock at night, and after a cursory glance, he predicted that there “couldn’t be more than 30 or 40 in there.” Almost 200 tyres later, Pete had earnt his “Employee of the Month” status, and with assistance from Will, had built a respectable tyre mound on the edge of the creek. Thanks. I think.
The patch buried under tyres is slated for revegetation this winter, so we couldn’t leave the tyres there indefinitely, nor could we afford their disposal fees, nor could we find any earthship or go-kart track builders interested in taking them off our hands. So after pondering them for a while, we settled on Option E: using them to construct sheep shelters. Continue reading
One of our key milestones in the development of the property this year was the establishment of a watering system for livestock. Having a watering system supports our fencing of the farm dam and waterways for habitat regeneration and also allows us to more intensively manage the movement and impact of livestock through rotational grazing. While we’re still the furthest thing from expert, with the advice and support of our neighbours, we managed to knock together a watering system that works. In researching and developing our own plans, we found an absence of basic information on setting up stock systems, so the ideas below are a few of the things we learnt or found useful in planning a system for our own context and landscape. They are just one perspective in informing your own planning, and shouldn’t be read as an endorsement of any particular way of doing things.