Twenty Five

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday. We went to a delicious dinner at Harry's on Buderim and I was totally spoilt by Brodie. I thought haven't done an update on here for a while, so here we go!

Brodie has had his other Carpal Tunnel surgery done and is now almost completely recovered. It has been a good experience for him and he is now getting his strength back. While he has been recovering, he has been scoping out properties to lease to expand his small farm business. He has now broken ground on a place 10 minutes from us owned by a fellow in his nineties. In exchange for using his land we will be helping him with some jobs around the property such as cutting firewood. 

To prepare the block we had to slash a lot of very tall lantana. Luckily the owner of the property had a very sturdy old tractor that could get through most of it. After this we had a big tractor come through with a rotary hoe to break up the root systems on the patch that Brodie will be starting with first. The soil is wonderful and loamy. He has already planted twelve 20m long rows with some of his best crops.

We have also been doing a lot of propagating, for some short lived tree crops to plant on the property. Both of the trees grow very well in our area so we are hoping that after the initial settling in stage we will just be able to harvest for a couple years until the trees are spent.

Some of the other things we have been up to includes attending the Lifeline Bookfest in Brisbane. I can tell you now, this place is my heaven! We picked up heaps of farming and gardening books while we were there. I spent probably $150 and that was all we could carry!


We have planted some summer seeds. I want to have our property producing more of our own food to reduce on grocery bills. We went to the Queensland Garden Expo in Nambour and picked up some seeds while we were there. Most of them will be tomatoes I think. We had already planted some winter seedlings that we bought and now we are harvesting broccoli and cabbage. I think I will make some Sauerkraut this weekend.



While we were at the Garden Expo we entered a competition for a solar inverter, and we won! So we had a solar system installed last week, minus the cost of the inverter. Pretty happy!

I bought a new (to us) car. We had an old petrol Hilux which doesn't have enough grunt for what we need to do. So we bought a 2010 Isuzu D-Max for a good price and with lots of extras.


We have also been given a loan from the bank to complete some renovations on our property. Although it isn't as much as we would have liked we have lots of plans already. 

We are planning on updating the kitchen and bathroom a bit, painting the exterior of the house (currently 2 colour schemes) and putting some items to make our spare room a bit more comfortable and hopefully rent it out.
As you can see we have been very busy, I will try and update a bit more, especially with the house renovation stuff.

Until next time,

Kat

Benny looking sharp in his knitted vest

Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Book Review (Part 1)



I was initially interested in reading this book as our current methods for dealing with weeds on our property wasn’t sitting well with me. I wanted to see how this book would suggest managing problematic weeds.

The book initially reads a lot like Silent Spring, looking at case studies and referencing many scientific sources, which I enjoyed. Although all of the examples were US based, it really highlighted the need to look at the system holistically. The author talks about how there is detailed scientific information on the plant itself, but not the ecosystem in which it ‘invades’. It really brought my head out of just my property and made me start to think about my area as a whole.

My favourite part of the book was at the end, in the section titled “Putting Permaculture to work in Restoration”, in which the author goes through a suggested thinking exercise to help analyse the invasive plant in question and to create a strategy for its management. I thought I would go through it for you, my readers, as I think it would be a very useful tool. Later I plan on doing a post where I use the below technique and apply it to one of the invasive species on my property and create a management plan for it.

Phase 1: Turn on the “Macroscope”

Objective Observation

In this phase it is suggested that you forget everything you know about plants and pretend you are seeing the ecosystem for the first time. Once you let go of all assumptions effective observations can be made. This should include engaging all senses such as smell, sounds and feeling. In Permaculture it is suggested that this period for a property should be at least one year and include all seasons and weather events.

 Phase 2: Site Assessment

This is a research phase where you would accumulate information on your local area. This could include local knowledge, climate data and detailed plant information. Soil and pH testing would also be completed in this phase.

Know Your History

By understanding what is the history of the area a lot can be determined. The book recommends a history of the last 500 years, which in Australia would be mostly native vegetation before human habitation. History of clearing, grazing, cropping, possible pollutants and draining or filling. If possible, it could include the history of how the land was managed by our local Indigenous groups.

Use Science (And Systems Science)

By obtaining data on invasive species and why they are considered ‘invasive’ we can learn a lot about why they are ‘invading’ an area and what purpose they may be trying to achieve. This may include some alternate thinking as the reason why the plants are considered invasive may actually be helping the ecosystem in its recovery.

Seek and Apply Traditional Ecological Knowledge

By understanding what our Indigenous predecessors used the land for, we may be able to determine how the effects of Western influence on the land will result in the invasive species. A very well-known example of this in Australia, is where an endangered tree was protected from fire and was continually dying before it was determined that the fire was required for germination of seeds. So, by exercising the Western way of thinking about the situation the tree became more in danger of extinction. As we now know the Australian Indigenous practiced highly sophisticated land management practices as highlighted in Bruce Pascoe’s book, Dark Emu (affiliate link).

Discover Connectivity among Site Elements and Their Functions

By observing how the invasive species interacts with the rest of the ecosystem we can come to conclusions about what it is trying to achieve. In an area like mine which was clear cut for grazing, you would see that a lot of the native tree cover and other layers is now non-existent and, in their place, there are very few species. Are the invasive species trying to fill a niche within the ecosystem? Probably yes. By asking some questions about the functions of invasive plants we can determine what they are trying to achieve. The following questions could be used.

What is the root structure?
Does it provide nectar or pollen and when? Are there others available at the same time?
Does it provide shade or shelter to animal species?
Does it fix nitrogen or concentrate other nutrients?
Does it accumulate heavy metals?
Does it create a lot of biomass over its lifecycle?
Does it create an edible product for humans or animals?
Is it associated with fungal growth? Which types?
Does it filter water or prevent erosion?
Does it help with soil salinity?
What is its successional status?
Why does it appear? Does it occur in disturbed or low nutrient soils? Shade or sun?
Similar questions can also be applied to invasive animals.
Where does it sit in the food web?
What eats it?
Is it recycling nutrients and where do they come from?
What are the potential yields?
Etc.

I really like these questions as it puts the plant into a bigger sphere and makes you think about what other uses it may have. For example, we know that lantana (a big problem in subtropical climates) creates an ideal nesting habitat for small birds due to their spiky crazy vines. If lantana were to be displaced consideration would have to be put into replacing that aspect.

Get Comfortable with Succession and Disturbances

Succession is an important process in ecosystem restoration. This is clearly seen through pioneer species and their role in setting the scene for more long-term species. Sometimes the native species may require a pioneering ecosystem in order to thrive in the right circumstances.

In the near future I will go through the remaining phases that the book recommends.

Until next time,

Kat

Weekend Working

After all of our weekends away from home I was very keen to get into some jobs around the property. Brodie was very busy over the weekend so I made sure I had enough supplies and got into it!

I used some of the last large pavers (salvaged from the property) and continued the path down to the tanks, demonstrated here by a zooming Benny. Using the pavers with the woodchips/mulch between has been great because it gives a really natural look but still gives a solid surface to walk on. And it doesn't get muddy in the rain!


I moved 299 (!) pavers from the front yard. They had haphazardly fallen from their original piles next to the driveway and were beginning to annoy me. I didn't realise there were so many! That area is quite overgrown and there are probably still 100 to go. I moved them down to the back patio where it is flat and is a good storage area as it is a bit of a weird inbetween space. I would have done more but I was very tired after all of this!


We had a crazy self seeded tomato patch as seen here.



I wanted to see if pruning them would make them fruit more, and I needed to refresh my skills. It has been a while! It turned out to be only 3 plants.



And most of the garlic I planted 2 weeks ago have popped up and are growing bigger everyday.



I picked some lemons a few weeks ago so before they rotted away on the counter I juiced them. I freeze the juice in an ice cube tray and when frozen I pop them out so I can use them later. I also made some citrus vinegar for homemade cleaning products using the squeezed fruit.



We have also been busy pursuing bigger and better things for our property and Brodie's business and have made good progress in these spaces. Next weekend is market day again for Brodie's business, lets hope for a nice day.

Until next time,

Kat

Mid Year Update

Hello again my friends,

I had no idea but I haven't posted anything since April!! We have been very busy with off-property activities and have been taking a bit of a break.

Brodie had to have Carpal Tunnel surgery which has slowed us down a bit. He has had it on his left hand and is due for his right around the end of June. The first surgery went well and he has had almost instant relief. It was really bothering him before he got the left hand done so when it is all over he will be a lot happier.

We went on our annual trip to K'Gari (Fraser Island) in mid-May. We had beautiful weather and even got to go swimming a few times! What a fantastic 4 days away. This was one of the highlights:


And yes, I was driving! We managed to get it out without a tow. It was a good experience.

Two weeks ago I had a look at my Queensland Arrowroot which I had planted in March along the side fence. I noticed that it was spreading pretty well so I separated some of the corms to make more plants. This is what it looked like before:



And this is what I got out of it!



I have planted more along the fence so when they have grown a bit they should make a good privacy barrier.

We have also had a spell of cold weather over the weekend with single digits overnight. We have been having the fire on even in the morning and I have been cooking our breakfast (porridge) on the fire. It is a different but very nice experience. We also installed a small ducted system to push hot air from the loungeroom to other areas of the house. It has features a quiet inline fan and makes the whole house very warm on those cold nights, whereas previously we had a very hot loungeroom and very cold house!


Last weekend was the Maleny Show and Brodie and his mum were asked to give a last minute presentation to fill in for someone who had to pull out. They gave a very interesting speech on how their micro farm was set up and there were lots of questions at the end.



On the way back we stopped in at our favourite brewery to grab some beers to go. We found out they now do Growlers, which we can take back and get filled up.


Zero waste, locally brewed beer! How good is that!

Brodie's dad also donated to us a bunch of building materials that he has no use for anymore. Now we have a whole heap of great building materials for our future projects, including lots of hardwood.



It has been a great and challenging couple of months. It has been nice to step back from the property for a bit and have new experiences. Hopefully big news coming soon regarding the house!

Until next time,

Kat



Brodie and Benny on the micro farm

Cooler and more productive weather

This past weekend saw us emerging out of the very wet weather we have had over the past few months and the temperatures have started to drop. Perfect weather to get stuck in and do some work. I don't have any before photos this week because I didn't know exactly what we would be doing. Here is what we achieved.

We made a dent in the woodchip pile and tidied up the path from the driveway towards the house (i.e. buried the problems).



We also used some logs we had from chopping down the leopard tree to shape the bed where the citrus trees live to the left. We topped up the woodchips here too while we were at it.

These are some of the grubs we found in one of the old chip piles. Massive!



We pruned, weeded and mulched around these azaleas next to the driveway. If was pretty hard to get out of the car here before! Not sure what to do with this area yet so these shrubs can stay for a bit longer.



We weeded and mulched under the fig tree. We also fixed the chook house which had taken a bit of a tumble. Just have to dig a swale along the tree drip line and put up a fence and we will be ready for some fresh eggs!



I have also been reading Retrosuburbia, the new book from permaculture co-originator David Holmgren. I borrowed this one from the library but I might get my own copy. I have been enjoying it a lot so far and brings into context some of the ideas I have been thinking about. I think Benny likes it too!


We have this Wednesday off for Anzac Day. We will go to dawn service and see how the day goes from there. This weekend is meant to be sunny and cool, bring it on!

Until next time,

Kat
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