the first half of 2017

July 5, 2017

going bush

We survived the frenzy of Summer.

Summer was HOT.

One day we left the farm at midday and it was 47 degrees Celsius. We got back to the suburbs four hours later to 49 degrees.

At the farm we face West. We have no cooling in the cottage. The iron roof heats up and radiates heat all night long.

Photo – the pug feels the heat

I have never seen so many varieties of bugs. A woman at a store in town said that they call them ‘herbs’ because it doesn’t matter how good your window and door screens are they still get inside and jump into your dinner. We don’t have any screens on the doors of the cottage. She said that the proliferation of bugs signals that it is going to rain, and she was right. We had a huge thunderstorm.

The boys weren’t so keen on the wasps coming inside, and ran around like crazy things swatting them with pillows.

Photo – We call this spider a ‘hoarder spider’ because it hoards all of its dead carcasses in its web. Yes it does. These spiders are everywhere around the cottage and in the bush in the Summer. And they are big!

 

Despite the heat, we kept on working. We stopped work at 11am, napped in the middle of the day, and went back to work at 4pm. It was still too hot at 4, but we endured. My husband worked on the tractor and I worked with the brushcutter.

I planted lots of native plants and watered everything by hand. I was impressed that I didn’t lose many plants in the heat, especially as I could only water every two weeks.

I took my youngest boy and the pug to the farm one weekend. It was nice to spend time with one boy. We slept on day beds in the loungeroom and woke up to see young male kangaroos practicing their boxing and kicking moves on each other.

Photo – a boy and his pug

 

We were at the farm over Christmas and New Year. New Years Day I was feeling really crook. It felt like I’d been bitten by a radioactive spider, minus all of the superhero benefits. We travelled home the next day, and I was aching all over like I was coming down with the flu. I thought that I had got dehydrated because of the heat and the work. For the next six weeks I was in incredible pain. My feet felt like they had been beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat, and then crushed glass poured into them. They were swollen to three times the size. It spread to all of my joints and tendons. Then there was the fevers, nausea, tachycardia, cough, and the fatigue. It was Ross River Virus and it is very debilitating. My family had got many mosquito bites and I had about two bites, but I got the virus. I suspect that I was susceptible because I have autoimmune issues. I have a new appreciation for people suffering from arthritis.

We tried killing some of the blackberry with Roundup but it didn’t work, just slowed it down a bit.

And we got a bit of stuff done in Autumn. Planted rows of tea trees to try and get a head start on food for the bees when we put hives out there.

Photo – this old fella turned 14 in May

 

We met a couple more neighbours. A father and his adult son. “Cow cockies” as we call them because they have lived on the land for a long time. They are impressed with how much we have got done on the place. They said that the land has been neglected for over 10 years. One of them said shaking his head “you work all week, and travel this far, to bust your butt all weekend”.

They knew all of the previous owners. Years ago, someone dropped their keys at the front gate, and as she picked the keys up off the ground a brown snake bit her on the hand. The younger man was concerned that I was going into the saw sedge (which is waist high) with the brushcutter, saying that there are a lot of snakes around. I haven’t seen any snakes. I think the eagles eat them.

Easter weekend, my husband was burning off some grasses with the flame weeder. All of a sudden the blackberry was ablaze. I yelled out to the kids to get buckets, rakes, and hoes and get down there in a hurry. It took off like a rocket. It was scary. Blackberry fire is hot and fierce. Two large mounds of blackberry gone within an hour. Then we whittled down the mound with hoes and the tractor.

 

 

The following weekend we planned it properly and lit another three mounds of blackberry. It is very addictive. Mainly because a few hours of tending to a blazing blackberry fire is better than many hours at the end of a brushcutter.

Photos – blackberry mound – before, during, and after

Photos – another blackberry mound – before and after

 

The property across the road was sold, and the cows that were agisted there were removed. We miss seeing and hearing the cows.

We spotted a deer and a fox on our place. These are feral animals here. We have not been blessed with native animals such as possums, echidnas, and wombats. We do have many varieties of kangaroos and wallabies. We get a wider variety of birds and critters at our place in the suburbs.

Photo – a very blurry photo of the deer

 

The fox is quite brazen, running around in the middle of the day. At one point. our beagle-cross, Bella, shot out and chased the fox clean across the paddock. She was most pleased with herself as she slunk back down to the dam where I was working.

Photo – the green on Bella’s neck and face is kangaroo poo. She rubs her face in it, she thinks she smells so good. We call it ‘eau de roo’.

 

And we figured out that it was an egret eating our yabbies.

Photo – baby yabby in the bottom of a bucket, found whilst getting buckets of water from the dam to quell the blackberry fires

 

I took my middle son and the pug to the farm one weekend, and enjoyed the time we had together. My husband wanted to stay home to go to bee club and the other two boys wanted to play soccer. For Sunday breakfast, I made my son a big pan of gluten free cornbread and we scoffed it with some cherry jam and raspberry/blueberry jam that we bought at a store along the way.

Photo – gluten free cornbread

 

And now we are slowing down in Winter. We arrive on Saturday after midday because with the cooler temps it is harder to get the kids and husband out of bed to travel. We lose daylight around 4pm, so we cannot start a job that is going to take a while. It feels right just to potter. I still suffer the effects of the Ross River Virus.

To conserve gas, we cook the evening meal over a campfire. We are too far off the beaten track to have gas cylinders delivered, and don’t have a trailer. The cylinders have to be transported upright, so we can’t put them in the back of the ute.

Photo – camp dinner

 

We have done as much work as we can with the tractor on the blackberry. It is inaccessible on large mounds of dirt. The tractor has done 100 hours, and has to have the hydraulics serviced. We need a trailer to take the tractor a few hundred kilometres up the road to a mechanic.

The blackberry monolith next to the boundary fence. We can’t set it alight, until the neighbour clears his paddock. This stuff is thick!

 

I was dreading Winter at the farm. But so far it has been glorious. The days have been clear and sunny. The nights are very cold but we are warm in the cottage with the wood heater. Sometimes there is a frost in the morning. The dogs bowl is frozen solid in the morning.

 

We walked the perimeters of the fence for the first time early in June. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me. Most of  our property is rough bush, up a mountain. The fences are not in good condition.

I have been cooking cornbread and cakes in a cast iron pot on top of the wood heater. It has been a bit of fun.

I have gone back to hand grubbing some of the pockets of blackberry. I have planted some citrus trees (Ruby Red grapefruit, lemon, blood orange), lavender, and some more native plants. I made four permaculture garden beds. I have discovered that planting anything in Winter is not a good idea due to the frost.

And mountains and sky go together so well…


 

Our bees in the suburbs are doing very well. The girls are getting a bit crotchety in the cooler weather but they are still very busy and gathering pollen which means the queen is laying eggs. They have stung us a few times, and I have found the best treatment is to put an ice pack on the area until it goes numb, and then apply some Rowo herbal gel. One day the pug’s face was covered in bees and she had to have her face smoked to get the bees off her.

My husband harvested one frame of honey just before Winter. I cut the comb and sieved it several times. Organic, pure honey, no additives, and not heat treated. It’s a very satisfying process.

Our suburban yard has become abundant. Our mango tree produced about 100 mangoes. No possums, no flying foxes, and no fruit fly – we were amazed. The satin bowerbirds did get stuck into the mangoes and mandarins though. And our dogs ate every single grape. We have had oranges, lemons, and white mulberries. We are thinking of buying a food dehydrator so we can preserve the fruits.

We’ve been busy. Every now and again, my husband tells me to take some time to just relax and take things a bit easier. He says that the work isn’t going to go anywhere and we are already ahead.

Photo — trusty boots, gloves, and pug

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2 Comments on “the first half of 2017”

  1. michaelwatsonvt Says:

    What a marvelous post! It is so good to get news of your further adventures. Sorry about the virus though, sounds dreadful. I have wondered about snakes and other venomous creatures and your relationship to them. I guess one lives one’s life with them.

    Reply

    • tree girl Says:

      Hi Michael

      Thank you for your comment.

      I have not been a good e-buddy. Kids, work, study, farm, home, bees. Husband commuting three to four hours per day for work. It’s been full-on.

      I hope you are enjoying your Summer.

      Reply

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