Monday, September 12, 2011

Getting into the swing of the farm

This week we have become acquainted with Polly. Polly pipe that is. We have 25 fruit trees on the property. And we have a large population of beautiful parrots and other birds that just love to nibble on the buds of the trees. So we need to protect the trees if we are going to have any fruit this coming summer. The idea is that we place four stakes into the ground around each tree, and then anchor two lengths of poly pipe over the stakes and arch the pipe over the trees (crossed over). Easier said than done. Unrolling 6m of polly pipe is not easy. The pipe has a mind of its own and snakes this way and that, making it a challenging exercise to measure! Our first attempt at manufacturing stakes from scraps of metal we had picked up from behind the chemist shop in Ashburton (we’re becoming expert scavengers for things that may be useful) proved to be rather pathetic. Instead of standing up squarely, the polly pipe just flopped and bent the stakes. Mmmm… big FAIL. So off to the hardware shop we went and purchased steel piping meant for concreting. We had the hardware assistant cut the pipe for us and back we went again to try again.  We spent most of Saturday hammering steel pipes into the ground, in between showers of rain. We eventually gave up going inside every time a sprinkle started, and kept going. We managed to hoist some netting over our new polly arches. I have to stop here and say that the netting is crap. We have to buy new stuff. According to our neighbour, it is only available at Bunning s in Warnambool. (An hour and a bit away). We were using some stuff the previous owner had left behind. We now know why he left it behind.  We woke up the next morning and the nets were flying freely in the breeze. Great big gaping holes everywhere.  Best not to cry, so we laughed!

Now let me tell you about our groovy new toy. It’s a soil thermometer. But it does more than that. It reads the pH level in the soil as well as the soil temperature. We have been running around measuring soil temps and pH levels with enthusiasm. What a neat invention. What would we do without eBay?!

This week has been compost week. We picked up a trailer load of the stuff and then had another truck load delivered. I cleared out the green house beds and Frans and I ferried wheelbarrow upon wheelbarrow of compost into the green house. I spread the stuff and then added a good sprinkle of organic fertiliser (chook poo) and dug every bed over. I then stepped back to admire my handiwork and turned on the sprinklers.  I will let the compost and fertiliser do their thing over the next week and then I’ll get to planting up a bunch of vegies and herbs. Most of the seed packets tell me what the ideal pH level of the soil needs to be. For most of the vegies, the level should be between 5.5 and 7. Our new toy tells me that currently the pH level in the greenhouse is around 6. So that’s good. Should the level be too low, then I would need to add lime. Should the reading be higher than 7, then I would add more animal fertilisers to bring the level down. I really wish I had paid more attention to science and biology classes at school!
Here’s my greenhouse planting list for next week:
-          Coriander (wonderful fragrant herb which we love with curries. It is also excellent as an alternative to basil when making bruschetta when tomatoes are abundant)
-          Rocket
-          Salad mix
-          English Spinach
-          Beans (purple king)
-          Carrots (Paris market)
-          Snow peas
-          Radish (Cherry belle)
-          Zucchini
These vegies are all to go directly into the ground. In the meantime, seedling trays are already planted up with 8 varieties of tomatoes, a couple of different eggplants, capsicum, onions, shallots, basil, spring onions, chives, silver beet, beetroot and leeks.  So far the beetroot seeds have sprouted as well as some poppy seeds.

Stockpiling wood for the next two winters is a big job. Wood needs to dry for a couple of seasons before you can burn it. Frans has been chopping fallen trees on our friends’ property nearby. He helps John by chopping up the trees, then splitting the logs with a big log splitter. They then share the cut up wood. Wood is expensive. As we use a wood fired stove in the kitchen and a combustion heater in the lounge, we go through a lot of the stuff. The calculation that Frans and John have come to is that we need 5 or maybe 10 trailer loads of wood per year. Mmm… which is it? Frans is keen to get 10 for the first year anyway. In the meantime, we have gathered three loads. It is a physically intensive job. Swinging a chainsaw about, followed by stacking a pile of wood (with my help!) is exhausting. We hit the sack most nights before 9.30pm!

These boots are made for working! The bright orange numbers are $4 jobs from Rivers. Bought a few years ago to use on Moreton Island. Coming in handy now. And the workboots on the left I picked up in Fiji for $17. Bargain!

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