A ‘Grand Design’ it isn’t, but the Yarnauwi farm shed has seen enough delays to make even Kevin McCloud blush. After 14 months, our simple 4-bay equipment shed is finally done. Ordered in January 2016, with the shed company suggesting an initial completion date of June 2016, this modest structure was beset with delays ranging in scale from an apocalyptic winter through to urban tradies that couldn’t quite stomach the prospect of venturing beyond suburbia.
We’re great fans of temporary. Not aiming for permanence tends to mean that ideas can be trialled inexpensively, can be easily changed and that learning from failure can be quick and low-impact. In that spirit, as we develop the sheep enterprise of the farm, we’ve tried to keep things low-key. For yards, we use locally-made portable panels, but when working closely with sheep, we found the mesh sides problematic due to the ease with which horns or feet can become entangled. In more established circumstances, yards would have a working race for such a purpose, but the cost of a manufactured race can be steep. It was time to get out the tools and make our own.
With recent temperatures climbing into the 40s (about 107 degrees Fahrenheit), and tree-induced shade still a few years away, we’ve constructed another moveable sheep shelter to ensure our sheep and alpacas have a cooler place to recline on the most hostile of days.
Employing the off-grid carpentry prowess of Jeremy and Pete, we knocked up the second shelter to the same rough plan as the original: salvaged hardwood for a sled base, allowing it to be dragged from pasture to pasture, fallen redgum for uprights, and tin reclaimed from the gullies for the roof. The previous life of the tin means that a hole is already cut for the installation of a pot-belly stove, should the sheep find one that fits their budget. This sheep shelter also includes a perch, should passing birds need a break while searching for a tree. 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
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
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.
Following the evacuation of its previous residents, the bee-house has not remained vacant for long. Offering waterside views and passive solar design, resident roos have recently been spotted conducting an open inspection of this prime real estate.
While our impact on this landscape has been pretty minimal so far, with the completion of our first phase of fencing, we’ve begun more major infrastructure works. We’ve started by fencing off two big chunks of ground encircling the erosion gullies, surrounding them with a roughly 20-metre buffer zone for future woodland regeneration.
In a permaculture sense, these patches of ground will be our Zone 5, our minimal-management ‘wilderness’ zones, designed for habitat and ecosystem services such as erosion and salinity control and water filtration. Abutting our western boundary they form a link with the creeks and swamps that feed the Congeratinga River. With these zones now marked onto the landscape we can plan outwards towards zones of increasing management intensity. Continue reading
When we first dug the post holes for the bee house, it was winter. It was a clear, sunny day, but only 30cm underground it was a river. Now, the soil has hardened again and already cracks are forming where the sun has touched between the tussocks. It is the time of insects: the long grass shimmers with the darting of grasshoppers and butterflies, the red gums are awash with ants and centipedes uncurl in dark, hidden places. It’s a good time to introduce our first livestock – bees – and to finally complete their shelter: the Bee House. Continue reading