the past few months

January 16, 2017

going bush

this is a long post…

tractor

The tractor arrived early November.

And the art of driving a tractor is now a verb at our place ‘tractoring’.

The second day of owning the tractor, my husband wiped out a section of the fence for the house yard. And we almost wiped out our family vehicle trying to get the tractor out of this pickle. Oh my gosh! The grass was so long, the tractor slid down the hill into the fence. We had to remove a section of the fairly new fence to extricate the tractor. We then lad to learn how to fix the fence.

The weekend after, he got the tractor bogged. Nothing like getting bogged to meet the neighbours, and luckily a neighbour came by and pulled the tractor out of the mud.

He has shredded belts on the tractor. It has hit rocks. The blades have got jammed with long grass. Most of the time  I accompany the tractor on foot to remove rocks and logs from its path.

tractor-blade

Damage to the tractor blade after a few weekends’ use

under-slasher

Under the slasher. No, that bit is not meant to be bent.

The tractor requires a lot of ongoing maintenance, but this is a small task compared to the amount of work it knocks over in a short period of time.

We have named the tractor “Bette”.

bette

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“baby”

We had a baby roo trapped in our house yard for about 5 weeks.

We arrived at the farm late one night. There were many roos in the house yard due to the missing section of fence. One roo family scarpered and abandoned their baby in their haste. “Baby” as she was then named, just would not leave, and her family did not come back for her. She was tiny, but big enough to eat grass and look after herself.

One hilarious afternoon, we all got out in the yard and through a carefully orchestrated effort involving large pieces of cardboard, we attempted to direct her out of the yard through one of the four open gates. She bypassed each of the open gates and kept banging into the fences.

She would hide in the grasses near the house and call out, but she showed no signs of becoming tame.

I left a bucket of water out for her when we left the farm, though I suspect roos get enough water from the grass they eat.

Eventually, she left via one of the gates with some persuasion from eldest son and husband. She was last seen at dusk just outside the house yard, eating grass and watching other roos pass her by. We wondered whether we did the right thing by casting her out into the world. In hindsight, we should have consulted with a wildlife expert.

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blackberry

The blackberry has exploded. The excessive Winter rainfall did us no favours in this regard. We now have the Great Wall of Blackberry. The tractor is doing a great job of slashing the blackberry where it can reach it.

wall-of-blackberry

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grass

One of the things that attracted me to the property was the variety and visual effect of the grasses. I am a big fan of native grasses.

When my husband saw the amount of grass on the property, he was horrified. He declared that they were all weeds, and was determined  to eradicate all of them.

I was disappointed. Firstly because he has no knowledge of plants. Secondly because an ‘English country garden’ mentality serves absolutely no purpose in the Central West of New South Wales, a semi-arid environment.

I was not prepared to destroy areas of vegetation that I had not been able to identify and gain an understanding of. Particularly if they might be Indigenous. Does the tension between whitefella and blackfella ways sound familiar?

I took samples of the grasses and found that most of them are native. However we do have about 10 acres of a weedy grass called ‘marram’ (Ammophila arenaria). Now, I’m happy to plan the eradication of the marram grass. I’m going to save the seeds of the native grasses so we can use them around the property to replace the weeds we remove.

marram

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bees

We now have two hives set up at our suburban house.

It was very exciting. Bees are so cute. We have fussed and worried over these hives, feeling that we are the custodians of these beneficial insects. We have had an infestation of hive beetle, and that has been managed by setting up traps within the hives.

beehive

My middle son has taken a strong interest in the science of keeping bees, and helps his Dad check the hives. He saw some baby bees making their way out of their cells a few weeks ago

There is so much to learn about these complex creatures. We saw a very informative four-part series by Martha Kearney called The Wonder of Bees which was very helpful at the beginning of our beekeeping venture. We now have put a second box onto one of the hives as it has done so well.

Eventually we will get some hives out to the farm, and we are planning the planting of bee friendly trees, shrubs, and flowers.

dogs

We finally got the dogs out to the farm over the Christmas/New Year period. Previously, our neighbours looked after our dogs whilst we went to the farm on the weekends.

Before Christmas, our old Foxie ate a couple of rats that had been poisoned. He got secondary poisoning, and was not very well for a while. I was worried that he was not going to make it out to the farm. But in true Foxie style, he responded very well to the very expensive veterinary treatment.

It was a delight to see him enjoying the space on the farm.The Beagalier and Foxie are such good friends. Every morning, they would do a perimeter check of the houseyard together.

fergus-at-the-farm

fergus-and-bella

farm-pug

Our pug enjoys all aspects of farm life. However, we do have to be mindful of her whereabouts. She loves to help with planting and watering, but one day my youngest son turned around to see an eagle hovering near us. It was so close we could see the feathers on its wings. The pug does look like a tasty meal for an eagle.

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sunsets

Every day, a different view. Facing west, means that we suffer the mid-Summer heat, but that sky! There are no special effects on these photos.

sunset-1

sunset-2

sunset-3

sunset-4

sunset-5

sunset-6

sunset-7

sunset-8

The sky always reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s poem When Earth’s Last Picture is Painted.

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yabbies

Something is eating our yabbies. We suspect kookaburras but are not really sure. We find the remnant claws around the dams. Something is having a very fine meal.

yabby-claws

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environment

The environment is revealing itself slowly. Every time I go to the farm I get a better picture of what we can do with it.

In the suburbs, we are separate from the environment, there are days when I don’t even see the sky. But at the farm we spend most of our days outdoors or out on the deck. The landscape is so much bigger – less house, more land. As we don’t have flyscreens on the doors on the cottage, and the tin cladding and roofing get so hot, the doors stay open most of the time. We’ve had wasps, bees, spiders, frogs, praying mantis, and all manner of beetles and bugs come inside to visit.  The dogs also love being able to come and go. The cottage really is like a big tent, which I think is perfect.

We no longer want a natural swimming pond. We have two dams on the property and I’m not that keen to swim in them. We have seen funnel web spiders on the property and they are known to enjoy a swim. We also have yabbies in the dams. I would rather be able to see through to the bottom of the pool for carefree swimming, so we have decided to get an above-ground pool. Summer on the farm is HOT, and to make the place more liveable for the kids we need somewhere they can get cool and have some fun. My husband wanted an inground pool, but you can’t buy champagne on a beer budget and the $40,000 difference between the two can’t be justified when the end result is the same – getting wet.

We have a lot of very ugly mounds on the property.

ugly-mound

When the previous owners took the soil out to make the dams, they just left the soil all higgledy-piggledy. Then the blackberry took hold on the mounds. Stuff of nightmares. My husband tried to attack the mounds with the bucket on the tractor. It was spectacularly unsuccessful. They re made of brown clay in them and are compacted. Then my husband suggested making some earthbag structures with the clay from the mounds. A very worthy idea. I’m thinking an outdoor kitchen. He’s thinking of a workshop for the honey processing.

earthbag-kitchenSource: https://www.niftyhomestead.com/blog/outdoor-earth-ovens/

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boys

Despite our ideal of the property being a great experience for the boys, they have not taken to it very well. As a young person, I would have relished such a place to explore and work on. They are not keen on the four-hour drive, and not having the internet available. The middle boy rarely goes outside. Despite this, I think that the experience has stretched them in different ways, and it has made us a lot closer as a family. There are times when I have wondered whether we have done the right thing, because the purchase has put us into a great amount of debt. Presents for the past Christmas are on IOU.

Overall, the experience has been character building for everyone. We needed a project. I spoke with a mother recently who purchased a little takeaway food store for the same reason. She didn’t expect that it was something that she was going to make her fortune on, but it was something she had a passion for, and the whole family became involved in the process.

Our project has shown the boys a different way of life. Travel would have done that, but travel only provides a postcard view. Being on the farm makes for a simpler but harder life. It certainly makes you consider what is necessary in the way of time, energy, and resources.

 

further reading – articles about mindfulness and process

Winter Solstice: Walking in beauty, by Michael Watson https://michaelwatsonvt.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/winter-solstice-walking-in-beauty/

Sheep to Shawl at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, at Pairodox Farm https://pairodoxfarm.com/2013/01/10/2013-pa-farmshow/

 

 

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4 Comments on “the past few months”

  1. michaelwatsonvt Says:

    I loved reading this post. It was not that long, so no need to warn or apologize, and allowed me to enter more into your great adventure, for which I am grateful. I am reminded of the immensity of your collective undertaking, and the challenges! I will look far ward to the next installment. Oh, and what a gift to have my post shared!

    Reply

    • tree girl Says:

      Thank you for your comment Michael

      I forgot to mention that we got refrigeration in the cottage. We previously used eskies to keep our food cool. It was so hot over Christmas in the cottage, the ice was only lasting two days in the eskies. And it’s 30km along the dirt road to go to the town for more ice. So, we bought a refrigerator and now feel thoroughly modern. What a great invention ! The shop delivered it on the same day and the fella brought a couple of beers with him so he could sit with us on our deck, have a chat, and enjoy the view. Only in the country.

      I also got dehydrated, working long hours outdoors in the heat. I drank litres of water but it clearly wasn’t enough. Paying for it now. The joints n my hands, feet, ankles, elbows, and neck are swollen and painful. Hobbling around like an old fella.

      Heading back to the farm for the impending Australia Day weekend. We don’t have TV, radio, or internet on the farm, so it will be great.

      Reply

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