We finish the chook dome

We put in a big burst of energy and finished the first chook dome.

For our yard, we played outside and on the computer, and came up with 4.8m domes as the optimum design.  This is a bit wider than the 4m domes that Linda Woodrow recommends on ergonomic grounds.

The formulas for construction are very complicated, and we found a couple of mistakes.  We nearly messed up all the long bends, but picked up the error when we found the first one wasn’t symmetrical.  Alas we slipped up on the big ring at the base, and had to add in a 0.65m piece to get the right size.

Getting the dome started was real brainstrain, but soon we could see the dome emerging, and it got much easier.

This dome design weaves the poly pipe over and under.  This makes the dome strong, like a basket, but a bit lumpy in appearance.  More Uluru than St Paul’s Cathedral.

Fitting the flat chicken-wire to the outside of the dome was painful, both mentally and physically.  But we do now have a working chicken dome.  Strangely enough, everybody else’s domes on the web are photographed *prior* to putting the wire on.

Allison with the partly-made dome.

Our place has an area with a low fence surround.  We could have removed this, but our permaculture plan has this as an intensive Zone II vegetable and herb garden, and so far we have left the fence be.  Discourages rabbits if nothing else.  Inside the fence, the previous owners put in curvy concrete lawn edges, which we’ve decided to leave in place – we’re putting our perennial vegies and herbs there.

Linda Woodrow likes mandala gardens, pretty patterns from circular forms.  From a permaculture perspective, they make sense if you have a big flat area, in that everything is optimally accessible.  For most gardens, you have boundary constraints, and often you have factors influencing your design such as sunlight and water access.  Usually, there should be a more site-based design that you can implement.

A windbreak, and more ducks

Lots of visitors this weekend.  Jane, Gail and Warwick helped us plant some red-stemmed wattles as the start of our north-west boundary windbreak.  This is the highest area on the property, and the soil is much tougher going than the rest.

We were given the wattles by Helen, from our local Landcare group.  Helen doesn’t even live near here, she lives in town and has decided to help out Landcare by raising baby trees.  What a fantastic contribution.  She also gave us some casuarinas and kurrajongs, for other spots.  The casuarinas are tiny and may need to grow a bit first.

Allison and Gail (her cousin) went to the poultry auction on Sunday.  Smaller numbers, fewer attendees, but much warmer than the winter auction.  The standard of the birds seemed very good.  The prices were quite high.

Allison bought some white mallards, who are now frolicking in an old bath in the backyard to the guest cottage.  They are sharing with the muscovies, which seems to be working at the moment.

We also picked up Rufio, a fetching dark silkie rooster.  All our fluffies are white, and hard to tell apart, so we’ll introduce some colour into the flock.

There were no peacocks on sale this time.  Allison was going to buy some more geese, but they started the bidding before the advertised time and she missed out.

Getting the ride-on going

Another busy weekend, and many little victories.

We have two adjoining houses, each with a large and empty enclosed backyard.  We’re turning these into an orchard.  The area behind the guest house has been left overgrown till now.

The Muscovy ducks live in there.  One of them, now called “Foxfood”, likes to fly out of this (very large!) yard for a look around the neighbourhood, then flies back for food.

So I mowed this area with the ordinary mower, and kept all the clippings for the next lot of compost.  I have bought some leaky ag pipe to put breathing tubes through the compost.

Also had a go at getting the ride-on mower going.  I’m sure this was secondhand when my Dad got it, has been frequently used, and ended up with me when my Dad’s estate was finalised.  It had a flat tyre, which turned out to be a 2cm boxthorn spike.

I fitted the tyre back, filled it with petrol, and pushed the starter.  No action, no great surprise as it’s been sitting around for more than a year.  Under the hood, there is a pull starter.  After four tugs, it sprung into life.  It’s an unwieldy beast, but on long runs it works well.

Ride-on mowers are shocking permaculture.  Why do you have that much grass anyway, suggests a deficiency of geese or useful trees.  What, you’re not gathering the clippings for compost?  But as a transition technology it’s pretty handy.

A day for planting

I took today off work, just a sanity break.

We’ve been getting some lovely Spring weather: gentle warmth, and the slightest refreshing breeze.  Delicious.

I potted up some tagasaste seeds.  Tagasaste is a permaculture classic, a nitrogen-fixing shrub that is highly tasty to all stock.  Bill Mollison loves to use tagasaste trimmings directly onto garden beds as mulch; he says that composting it first wastes too many nutrients.

Tagasaste seeds look like silver wattle seeds, and like them must be boiled in water to improve germination.  Then you mix in the inoculant.

The instructions said to mix in some agricultural lime (NB – not the caustic building stuff!!) which I did, but wouldn’t do again as it became too hard to handle the individual seeds.  I might do it if I were just scattering the results in a paddock.

So I’ve started off about 50 tagasastes – let’s see how many germinate.

Also planted some comfrey roots into pots and some directly into the orchard.  I got these, and some Jerusalem artichokes, from Green Harvest in Queensland.  Also planted out some bushes I bought from a Canberra nursery last weekend: a gooseberry, whitecurrant, redcurrant, a cherry and a boysenberry cane.