Trees not so good

Allison visited her daughter and grandson yesterday, and came back with a ute-load of advanced trees, donated by a friend of the family. We have some work to do.Here’s a report on our tree-planting efforts so far.

Within our house paddock, our orchard and our free-standing trees are doing pretty well. The current very dry period is doing some serious damage, and we shall lose some plants, but overall we’ll be OK.

We perhaps haven’t paid enough attention to keeping the trees going. We took steps to make the watering work, but for a number of reasons it hasn’t always been timely or effective. In very dry weather, there is little room for error.

Outside the house paddock, the results are more mixed. I think we’ve lost about half the trees we planted this year. That’s not unusual, but we were hoping for better.

We used tall wooden stakes and extra-long tree protection tubes. Unfortunately, with the very hot weather the plastic slumped and slipped to the bottom of the stakes. Perhaps we could tie the plastic up next time.

Our pine trees near the highway have had mixed results. Shayne put a temporary fence around the best ones, and they are doing OK.

We had sheep in the paddocks, not part of the original plan. Mainly this was so that we could get the grass down, so as to deal with the serrated tussocks. It was also a swap between agistment and some fencing, on which work is continuing.

We still have plenty of tussocks, alas. Hopefully we’ll get on top of them before next summer.

For the next lot of trees, I have bought some stiff treeguards, alas not so high. I think these will work, but probably not with the sheep. Next year, we will make more use of temporary fencing and electric fencing, to protect our plantings.

 This weekend we said goodbye to our wwoofers Sandrine, Markus and Anna. And hello to Sarah and Lasse from Denmark. We had a medieval feast at home, something now becoming a tradition, and we invited some friends. They all had a great time. 

They left us some cute photos to post, but we’re at the end of the month so I’ll leave them a few days.

A electric weekend

I’ve bought some electric fencing gear, near $1000 worth, which we’ll starting installing soon.

The plan is to make the fences more horse-friendly.  Currently we have sheep fencing with barbed wire, which results in scratches.

We will remove the top piece of barbed wire, and replace it with white sighter wire — much easier for horses to see.  We’ll put plastic caps on the tops of the star pickets.

Then we’ll add an outrigger electric fence inside the existing fence, which will keep the animals off the fence.  The lower barbed wires will stay at this stage.

The system uses a solar panel for the energy supply, with a battery to operate at night and on cloudy days.  The charger unit will supply 5km of fences.

We’ll be able to run out temporary electric fences to manage our pasture and to protect tree plantings.


We had a busy weekend.  I took our wwoofers to the Goulburn Show.  Allison stayed at home with her cousins Gail and Mark.  Gail and Allison sewed, and Mark made up a couple of candle or lantern sconces for our feasting tent for the upcoming Rowany Festival.  Then our friend Marit visited and we showed her around the farm.

Saturday afternoon we all went into “Skyfire”, the Canberra fireworks display which was celebrating its 21st year.  We had a delightful picnic on Lake Burley Griffin, then some excellent fireworks.

On Sunday, we picked grapes at Kingsdale Winery, as a fundraiser for the Goulburn Club.  Then we pumped some water from the dam and watered around our garden — things have been very dry.


A great weekend

Most Friday nights we go to the Goulburn Club. This Friday was our turn to cook for the $5 meals there.

I did savoury pancakes, with a choice of meat or vegetarian fillings, both including lots of healthy vegies from our garden. They went down very well, though we had competition from the International Food Night at the local high school.

At the club there was live music as usual. Unless it’s a special act, various of the members put things on, and some of them are great. One of the apparently ordinary members did some David Bowie covers, which were pretty good. We sat on the verandah with a bottle of local wine and chatted with our friends Brett and Sascha, a delicious end to the week.

The next day Allison and the wwoofers did some grape picking for a local winery – it was a fundraiser, not paid work. I stayed home for that as my son Owen and his mate Eli were here, getting up to mischief as they should. Then we all went to the Multicultural Festival in Goulburn, for some varied entertainment on a lovely warm day.

On Saturday night our new wwoofer Anna arrived from Germany, and on Sunday we’ve all been working hard around the farm. We’ve had a bit of rain too, which freshens everything up, and will have put some water in the tank.

Cara update

A few words on our dog Cara. We got her in July from Labrador Rescue.

Although she’s small for a labrador, some of our wwoofers had never been close to such a large dog before and were scared by her. However she loves wwoofers, and soon makes friends with them. She will happily tag along with them all over the property. A couple of wwoofers have threatened to steal her away with them.

We were a little worried, because she chased our silkie bantams at first, and killed one of them. Lately we’ve been letting our pair of peacocks out in the day, which also requires letting our silkies out. Cara has been exceptionally well behaved, so it seems she’s grown up a bit and learned her lesson.

Cara has a bed in our room. She likes to go to bed at 9.30, and will put herself to bed if we’re staying up too late. She snores, rather worse than me.

I have told the story here about Nicky the Duck (a muscovy) who desperately wanted to be an inside duck. I trained Nicky to keep off the back verandah – by running at him and making thumping sounds with my boots. Once or twice a boot connected briefly to his bum!

Anyway, in our new batch of muscovies we have three more ducks who want to sit on the verandah, and make a mess. Yesterday I saw Cara charge at them, barking loudly (which she never does …) and making a big fuss, until they all got off the verandah, when she returned to her usual sweet self.


It was a weekend of auctions for us.

Saturday was a clearing sale of horse-drawn vehicles. How could we miss that? It’s a bit early for us just yet, but I’d love to have a pair of heavy horses pulling a medieval wagon around our place.

We did bid on a classy tipping dray, which as it turns out was originally built in Goulburn. We bid up to $1400 but it eventually went for $2500 so we were well out there. Allison was keen to bid for a spectacular indian wagon that looked like it was drawn by elephants — but apparently it was for oxen, and we’re not going in that direction thanks.

Sunday was the Goulburn Poultry auction again. The only thing we were after was a couple of muscovy girls.

It was a great event, and prices were good. At the end, we had *6* new muscovies, 2 new peacock boys, 4 quail, 4 zebra finches, two young adult guineafowl, 2 baby guineafowl and another goose. And a couple of indian runner ducks as a gift for our neighbours.

We also got a dozen guineafowl eggs for $7. We tried this once before, but the silkie hen lost interest. Allison was keen to use our ancient frypan as an incubator, but it blew the fuses. So we’re looking for an alternative.

The baby guineafowl have been adopted by our wwoofers Alissa and Hanna, and are perhaps the most cuddled guineafowl in human history. These were the original “turkeys”, going from Zanzibar via Turkey to medieval markets. Yes, our plan is to serve them up at a medieval feast, cuddles notwithstanding.

*** Still no rain, so we got a tanker of water in on Monday. Hopefully some rain this week. ***

Off to the Show

Allison has been experimenting with some traditional technologies.

We bought some Fowler’s equipment at a garage sale in Goulburn.  This is the traditional bottling system used by everybody’s grandmothers.

We got lots of bottles, and two old boilers — one electric and one stove-top.  The electric one blew all our fuses, so it has been tossed.  Now Allison’s using our biggest stainless steel stock-pot and a thermometer, and everything’s great.  We don’t have fruit ourselves yet, so she’s been collecting surpluses from friends and sometimes buying commercial fruit when it’s in season.  Recently she bottled some apricots with fresh basil leaves, which works really well.

She’s also been experimenting with jams and chutneys.  This started before we moved to Goulburn, with a very successful apricot and walnut chutney, and some great plum sauce.  Since moving here, Allison’s been doing a lot with nectarines (in bulk from our neighbour Gail) and our own rhubarb.

Of course, these have been good activities for involving wwoofers in. Here’s Alissa and Hanna making jam. They have been cooking us some great German fare too.

Today was the Royal Canberra Show, and Allison entered a jam and a chutney.  I really thought her rhubarb and ginger jam would get a ribbon, as it’s a sensational taste combination — but no good this year.  She now has a finer appreciation of the show circuit, and will enter again next year with a little more polish.