A new approach to the tussocks

Another neighbour, Shayne, called by.  As we’re not carrying any stock at the moment, we had spoken about agisting some of his sheep at our place.

Shane’s not convinced by my plans for the serrated tussock.  He says that one mature tussock can send 200,000 seeds downwind.  He says that the current infestation at our place has only happened in the past couple of years, and that the current crop are just about to take over our place and the neighbourhood.  Bloody Tree Changers, I expect he’s thinking.

My ‘Plan A’ was for me to chip out the tussocks wherever they are sparse, and then to slash the denser areas just as they are starting to flower.  Then plug away at them next year.

Shane’s not convinced that will work, and suggests that well-timed ploughing is the strategy proven to work locally.  The concept is that we’ll plant some oats and permanently clear the pasture of tussocks.

In permaculture terms, ploughing is undesirable.  Turning over the soil will expose the soil biota to harsh summer sunlight, and there’s a chance we’ll lose topsoil if it gets windy.  On the other hand, this presents an opportunity to lime the soil, useful for our truffle trees.  And it will get rid of a large proportion of the tussocks.  So we’ll give it a go.

We plant lots of trees

Today was a beautiful day, a Spring day.

During the week we got an order of trees from Diggers Club.  They had actually been at the Goulburn post office for a week waiting for us to get to them.  Fortunately the postal staff had opened them up and watered them – imagine that happening in Sydney!

We had already ordered a heap of planting gear from SureGro.  We bought extra-large weed mats, to cut out grass competition with the trees.  These are already pierced for the extra-long timber stakes and extra-long (1200mm) plastic sleeve protectors we bought too.

These were really easy to use, and the soil here is magnificent.  Lots of huge earthworms, and a rich chocolate colour.  About 15cm of topsoil over clay.

The cost of the planting materials per tree was about $5.  This may seem a lot, but in five years it will seem cheap for large, successful trees.  And most of the gear, except probably the weed mats, can be used once or twice more before it wears out – hence a bargain.

We were joined later in the day by Sarah and John from the Wollongong SCA.  Sarah helped us plant out a large bed of herbs, and John sorted out our technical issues from our new chainsaw to the wildly complicated irrigation system installed by the previous owners.  We hope we see Sarah and John again.

Addition: Treemax are another supplier, operating out of Sydney.

We buy a ute

We have been operating with just one car for several years.  That’s good environmentally and economically, but would be a disaster if anything goes wrong with the Camry.  It’s also difficult if someone is home sick or when the Camry needs a service.

We have just bought a bodgy old ute on Ebay.  In the US, utes are called pickup trucks.

I sort of accidently bid on it and then nobody else did.  It cost $2500.  We picked it up from near Marulan, and a tyre was running on rims by Sutton Forest.  The fuel pump broke in the first week (with Allison driving it down the main street of Goulburn).  But it’s going to be a useful addition to the farm.

We’re getting the Camry converted to gas in a couple of months.  That should save us about $5000 a year in fuel to Canberra.

In Pursuit of the Peacock

Cornelius the peacock has been found!  He’s made it over the Hume Highway and is living with neighbours Kevin and Lois, in their old hayshed.

The plan was for Lois and Allison to throw a net over the bird, at which point I’d leap on it and subdue.  Unfortunately it figured out our ruse before we could implement it, and flew off.  Peacocks are powerful flyers.

Here’s a pic of Cornelius from when we bought him.

Addition: At the Fire Brigade Christmas party in Dec 08, we were presented with Cornelius’ splendid tail, which had moulted.  He’s still happily living as a recluse at the neighbours’ farm.

Yarra Landcare

Today was the working bee for the local Yarra and Parkesbourne Landcare group.

Our address is “Yarra”, a kind of village on the Canberra side of Goulburn. Once it had its own school, as well as a cricket club that played on our property.  (An ancient and crumbling concrete cricket pitch is still here!)

The old school and its surrounds are now public lands administered by the Yarra Trust.  The local fire brigade shed is there, as well as some old tennis courts and clubhouse.  The landcare group is removing weeds and overgrowth, and restoring the amenity of the community area.

Owen and I spent the afternoon swinging a hoe, cutting out yucca cactus which had spread wildly across the entry to the public toilets.  Prickly work sometimes, and great to see it finished.

We start making a chook dome

We’ve started work on a Chook Dome.  This is a classic “chicken tractor”, where the poultry will clear an area of seeds, and leave plenty of manure.

We chose 1.25” poly pipe.  This was probably overkill, but worked out neatly as two domes from one 150m roll.

The dome design was from http://members.iinet.net.au/~helcreek. We scaled the measurements to make a 4.8m diameter dome, which suited our garden best.

We could alternatively have used the dome design in Linda Woodrow‘s book The Permaculture Home Garden, but preferred the geodesic nature of this design.  Linda is the permaculture authority on chook domes, and her book is well worth reading even if you don’t use her (4m) dome design.

As the pipe was so heavy, it was a little hard to manhandle.  It cut easily with an electric jigsaw.  We drilled holes at the nominated places, ready to be joined with cable ties.