Planting a pine forest

Pat and Nicky planted 100 pine trees between the creek and the highway.  Why pines, aren’t they a fire threat and don’t they poison the ground forever?  Actually, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – currently we have lots of long grass which is also a fire threat, and suppressing other growth (for a couple of years) is one reason why we’re planting them.

If there is a disadvantage to our block, it’s that the wonderful proximity to the Hume Highway creates noise and visual distraction, especially noticeable at night.  So we wanted something fast-growing, tall and chunky, cheap and reliable.  Pinus radiata fits the bill well.  As a plus, pine forests are great for medieval combat archery and general skulking.

Apart from that, the wwoofers have been plugging away at the serrated tussocks.  Unfortunately these have started going to seed – a few weeks earlier than I had hoped.  We’re still cutting them out as they seed, but we won’t be able to hold the line.  About half the property is clear of tussock at this stage, and we’re still going.  Hopefully it will be all under control by this time next year.

Our Swedish wwoofers, Anton and Jonas, have headed off to Melbourne.  We wish them well.

I went to a farm clearing sale on Sunday.  I really want an anvil, for making armour.  There was one for sale, but I gave up bidding at $290.  Fortunately, I later found a long bit of railway track at Tony’s Old Wares in Goulburn.  This cost $20, plus $25 to cut it into four sections.  Two of these have curved sections, strangely enough, which will have special uses for armouring.

Wwoofers to work

Saturday was the Murrumbateman Field Days  Bigger than ever, and always lots to see.

My favourite was South Coast Flora, from Bermagui.  They had a wide range of edible fruit tubestock at very reasonable prices.  I picked up several interesting “bush tucker” plants, as well as a few more berries and permaculture-type useful plants.

I took Pat and Nicky, and also two Swedish wwoofers we acquired during the week: Jonas and Anton.  Then we headed back via Canberra so that the wwoofers could see Canberra from Mount Ainslie.  An essential stop for all wwoofers in the region.

Allison was in Sydney on Saturday, and returned that night.  We had gone out Friday night and were away most of Saturday, so we made Sunday a busy working day.

Anton and I planted many trees and herbs, making some headway into the backlog.  Jonas used the ride-on mower to subdue the spring growth.  Pat and Nicky worked with Allison in bringing the first mandala garden into cultivation, and by the end of the day we were all working there.

In theory, the chickens had already cleared a large circular bed.  I practice, we mainly have silkie bantams, and they don’t make much impression.  So the lads dug the bed over and removed the clumps of grass.

Outside the mandala circle, we again removed the grass and put wood shaving paths in its place.  These will break down over two years.  They absorb nitrogen during this time, so weeds find it hard to get started.  After two years, the remaining sawdust will be heaped into the circle before the chooks come back, and they’ll mix this organic matter into the soil.

Housewarming, and our first wwoofers

On Saturday, we had our housewarming party, with about 40 people drifting by over the day.  We had a barbeque lunch in the big covered area between the houses.

Lots of Allison’s relatives, some from my work, and various friends.  We had Katherine and all her dogs from Labrador Rescue, and a few other canine visitors, so lots of fun for our dog Cara.  The kids had turns on the ride-on mower, and a bumpy trailer ride down to the dams behind the ute.

It was a lovely day, and the farm looked great.  For those who had been before, there were many small improvements, and everything is green and leafy as Spring gets well underway.

We got several presents, mainly garden-related to help get us on our way.  Shane and Eric brought us a Eureka lemon and a blood orange – great choices, just hope they do OK in our tough environment for citrus.

Our first wwoofers arrived, Pat and Nicky from France.  They are already helping with the serrated tussocks, planting trees, mowing and several other tasks.

On Saturday night we went to the Old Time Dance at the local Parkesbourne Hall.  Allison and I managed a Pride of Erin and one or two other oldies.  Nicky got dragged into the Hokey Pokey, while Pat took some colourful video footage that will cause years of wonderful embarrassment.

On Monday we sought to set things right, including rescuing one of the geese that had become caught the wrong side of a fence in the confusion, and ended up on the far side of the creek  Allison is really a country girl now: she leapt the barbed-wire fence and corralled a very upset goose in a corner.  Nicky grabbed the goose with his shirt, and I tried to carry him back to his mate.  Alas he escaped, and we beat a retreat as a powerful storm hit us.  I went out this morning (Tuesday) and was able to drag Fiddle back home, with much hissing and a few attempts to bite me.  Both geese are happy again now.


Here’s the heraldic banner we created later for Nicky, commemorating his feat with the goose:

Quarterly gules and azure, a goose displayed argent

Miscellaneous plantings

This was a long weekend, and just as well.  We’re getting ready for our housewarming party, and everything is falling into place.

We have lounges!  Allison’s Dad works with a furniture manufacturer in Sydney, and we got them to build some lounges for the main house to our specifications.  They arrived on Friday and are very comfortable – and so say our cats Twurtle and Brulée, who cannot be budged from them.

I have been mowing, in between heavy rain, about 50mm for the weekend.  Alas, Dad’s old ride-on mower is still out of commission, so I’ve been pushing the Victa around.  And the whipper-snipper.  Trying to keep up with the Spring grass before it buries the place.

I planted another row of red-stemmed wattles, making the windbreak into a zig-zag.  And six kurrajong trees as another layer to the windbreak, inside the house paddock fence.  The kurrajongs also came from Helen at our local landcare group.  I still have some casuarinas to plant down near the creek, but they’ll need to grow a bit bigger first.

Also on Friday I bought a quince tree, a damson and an apricot, but the nursery warns that planting them now is very dangerous and I should wait till Christmas.  Apparently deciduous trees are vulnerable to root damage if moved in Spring.  I guess that will go for the two medlar trees that arrived from Diggers Club.  I also picked up a feijoa at Bunnings – love the fruit from those.

Allison has moved the chickens to the chicken dome.  Alas we have only two ‘proper’ chooks (Light Sussex).  The silkies just don’t make any impact on the ground.  We really need a dozen proper chooks to make headway.