Saturday, 24 November 2012

Bush Regeneration Grant

Our very proactive local authority, the City of Mandurah, has a scheme whereby rural blocks can be funded to revegetate with indigenous species.  We were recipients of a grant a couple of years ago, and were funded to fence off a small area (to protect it from rabbits) and restock it with local plants.  This year they rang me and invited me to re apply.  The ladies from the environmental department came out to visit and asked for my plans.  This time I have asked for a small grant ($200) to purchase plants, plant guards, stakes and fertiliser to create a 'corridor' for small birds to travel from one side of the block to the other.  I will have to choose dense prickly shrubs  and space them fairly closely for this to work.  We already have a line of trees across the block, but will need to thicken it up for the small birds to be safe.  I notice the brilliant blue flash of wrens in mating plumage darting in and out of the lavender bushes around the tank near the machinery shed, and also in and out of the piles of prunings awaiting burning.  I must re create this density  with local plants across the block to make it work.  The environmental ladies seemed sympathetic, and were happy to see the amount of replanting we have already done.  The fenced area showed sufficient growth to encourage them that I was serious and would look after the plants.  (I lost about 30% of my plants, but the surviving ones have done really well.  I had no idea that the kangaroo paws would be so tough!)  Fingers crossed that they accept my proposal.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Time to get the irrigation working again

Actually, I am not sure if I want to irrigate the grove.  The trees seem to produce quite happily without much supplementary water, so I am really only watering to keep the fruit trees at the end of each row going - I have stone fruit and citrus and figs and mulberries, a persimmon, a pecan, and two pistachios struggling along in our terrible sand.  But in any case, I needed to do a bit of maintenance, so I have started by cleaning all the 5 field filters and the one in the pump shed.  The next step was to go up and down the rows to see if water is coming out of the loops around the trees appropriately.  A quick look around the Mission, in zone one, was rather worrying.  A lot of loops have been cut up by the slasher, and water is pouring out instead of gently dripping.  This means no water makes it down to the ends of the rows where the fruit trees that really need the water are located.  It is going to be a slow job checking and repairing all the loops across all 5 zones.  Best not to think about it and just get on with it.

New Guinea Fowl

While having the dismal conversation with Janice Tetlow about the tractor the other day, she told me that her guinea fowl had hatched a good number of chicks.  I have asked if I could have some (didn't negotiate price, but I am hoping that tractor good will might count for something...) and she said yes.  So now I'd better get the old pen cleaned up - they will have to be enclosed for several weeks to 'bond' with the property, otherwise they will just head back home to the Tetlow's place.  Our one remaining guinea fowl is such a sad looking fellow.  Nothing sadder than a social animal living alone.

Update on tractor

Not good news on the tractor front.  The clutch, which we had repaired at considerable (several thousand dollars) expense not too long ago, has died again.  Mr and Mrs Tetlow, our neighbours who have a small business repairing and selling tractors, have advised us that it is probably not worth trying to fix it this time.  The parts are very difficult to get. Mrs Tetlow told me that the most valuable part of our tractor was the tyres, which are in relatively good condition and all up worth about $3000.  We have left the situation like this.  The Tetlows go to farm clearance sales, and buy tractors.  Janice Tetlow assures me that a 100 HP tractor, which is too big for most hobby farmers, and too small for broad acre farmers, could probably be picked up for around $10000. It would probably come with a cab and airconditioning. (Luxury!)  Perhaps my late Mum wouldn't mind me buying a new tractor with my inheritance.  (In fact I think she would thoroughly approve) We must wait and see, but in the meantime we can't do any tractor work.  I have a lot of tree stakes I would really like to pull up, but you need the tractor for that.

Where has November gone?

I have just realised it has been a while since I've recorded any activity at the grove.  I'm sure I've been doing something!  I know I robbed the hive on the 14th November - just took the small box off which has been on the longest.  It was chockas.  They had built loads of burr comb inside the lid too.  I believe if I put some sort of cover over the top frames they wont do this, such a simple thing to do, so why haven't I done it?  Probably because the moment I take my eye off something I forget about it and move onto the next thing. Anyway it was hard work robbing the hive by myself.  So many steps to follow as well as dealing with the sheer weight of the boxes.  I am lucky that the bees are so gentle and docile.  I only got one sting, and that was my own fault. I ended up bringing the buckets of honey and wax home to finish off the filtering and bottling.  I didn't weigh the yield properly, but think it was about 15 kilos.  Very nice honey too - one of the guys at the markets said he thought it was best described as 'Wildflower' honey. Something else to sell at the markets.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

things are a bit quiet

Hello all.  Its been a while since I recorded any activity at the grove.  It is still all going on, but it isn't very exciting.  The tractor has had another problem with the clutch.  I am waiting to hear how bad it is.  At the moment it is just sitting immobile in the grove, probably with birds nesting in it... I have had a disaster with the koroneiki oil we got pressed by the contract presser in July.  My fault.  Because of other issues, like Mum dying, and me going back on chemotherapy, I took my eye off the olive oil ball, and didn't decant the oil quickly ( you have to let it settle for a couple of weeks, then take the oil off the sediment which settles at the bottom of the container)  I didn't get to do this until a couple of weeks ago, and realised that I had left it too long.  So I have about 200 litres of oil which is inferior.  It has a decidedly 'off' smell and taste.  It isn't extra virgin, or delicious.  I paid a lot of money to get this oil harvested and pressed, and now it is worth nearly nothing.  Maybe a soap manufacturer will be interested.  I could kick myself.
Apart from that the grove is looking good.  The trees that blew over and that we propped up after hard pruning are all looking like they will survive, except one.  The bees are thriving, and I need to to rob the hive, as soon as I can get husband to give me a day.  One super is absolutely full, and another is filling.  The second super will be a bit dodgy, as the peppermint trees are flowering now, and the honey that comes from them is very strange tasting, to say the least.  Peppermint flavoured honey - not to everyone's taste..