Dec 29, 2011

First Post from the homestead

All right! Now its down to business! This is actually what I mostly set this blog up for, I just didn't think it would take so long to get here. But boy howdy was it worth it. I'm so happy. I may just be happier than I've ever been in my life. I'm springing out of bed at dawn and loving every second of the day, even the ditch digging and heavy lifting :P

So A bit of an over view of our first couple of weeks.

Our house is near the front of the block, but still about 40 meters from a generally quiet road thanks to a wide bush covered council strip. We will have to cut back some of the long grass out there because of fire danger, but not too much because it is bursting with bird life and we don't want to mess with that too much. Apart from being beautiful to have around many of those birds will be my pest control once the vegie patch is going. I've cleared a little patch already and I've gradually work my way through some of it (the stuff closer to the house), planting a few things in place of the grass. Stuff like Lucerne tree which is a nitrogen fixing legume and can form a fire resistant hedge.

The view from our front deck. The road is up there somewhere.

Out the back is 5 acres of pure bliss that gradually slopes away from the house. Its regularly populated by as many as 17 grey kangaroos.

The house is small, low tech for now, cheaply made and simple. Our biggest problem has been fitting everything in. Our last house had 11 rooms, this new one only has 5 so its a tight squeeze, but 5 rooms is far more appropriate for 2 people. The house has no oven which is odd, a new one is on the way as well as a new more energy efficient fridge, the old one will become my worm farm. We have ordered a 2 kilowatt solar system too, it should produce a little more energy than we use.

Our main living area just after moving, where are we gona put all that!!??!!

Just a few days after we arrived so did Archie our horse. Much of our time and energy (especially Vicki's) has been spent working on fencing for him. Electric fences and dog proof netting for night time safe paddocks.  We still have more to go on that. Vicki is so happy to finally be living with her favourite boy (well after me I hope :P) close by. 

Archie in his shelter.
Vicki and Archie kicking back.

Molly the dog has had a clip to make it easier to check for ticks and keep seeds off her coat. She is settling in just fine, like most dogs she is happy as long as we are close by.

Molly with a small country bone.

There has been a lot of digging since we arrived, and its given me a good chance to look at the soils. Pretty much every where it has a deep red colour, which I think means its volcanic. Its soft and even when I dig down several feet there is very little clay. So its maybe a little sandy, but I can still just squeeze it into solid ball, so its holding onto some moisture. A neighbour has told me it can set hard after a long dry spell.

A trench I was digging to run an electrical cable for the fence under a gate.

Now I'm not too worried about the soil being sandy because a good permaculturalist doesn't exploit the soil anyway. I plan to be making soil non stop from now on, composting is to the garden/farm what bread making is to the kitchen. Just a few days after Archie arrived (that is when I had enough horse poo) I made my first compost pile. Since then I have started a second.

Next was to get my first garden bed set up. There was much deliberation and nashing of teeth to decide on the location for the vegie garden. At first I planned to put it where the driveway loops around to allow people to drive out of the property without reversing, but it soon became obvious that it was just too practical a function to discard when there was so many other places the vegies could go. I did a lot of thinking about where the water would flow across the property, where the sun was going to be, what areas were exposed to pests etc. The problem was that with each new factor I took into consideration I was getting further away from the house. According to the permaculture basic principles the vegies should be in zone 1 very close to the house, because it requires daily attention. So eventually I flipped back in the other direction and decided to literally put it right out side the front door in the lawn space between the house and front fence (I hate lawn anyway). 

I pretty much followed Geof Lawnton's (7 time sop box derby champion) guide to a raised bed.

First a layer of manure. If you are wondering why it isn't lined up with the fence, that's because it follows the contour of the land so it catches maximum water.

Then a layer of cardboard and newspaper, reusing stuff left over from the move.

 Then a thick layer of  grassy straw. We got the property slashed just before moving in so the paddocks are full of straw laying around on the ground. Molly says, "something under there smells good!"

Now when the compost is ready, its just a matter of making a small hole or well in the straw, punching some holes in the cardboard at the bottom, filling the well with compost and planting directly into it. 

Next up, what to plant. Some seeds need to be planted directly into the bed, so they will have to wait till the compost is ready. But some other things need to be raised in seed beds first. Eventually I will look after the seedlings around the back of the house, but until we set up some kind of shade out there (A tale for another day) I have set up this temporary table out the front. Its more than half herbs and companion plants so far, I'm hoping to do pest control without any inorganic sprays.

Lastly, I've just started planning out the hen house. Not much to look at for now, but give me a couple more days :) More holes to dig.

My first impressions of farming life are that its like being a kid again in many ways. Suddenly much of my time seems to be filled with things I was warned away from as I grew up. Playing with electricity for the fence, slashing the long grass where the could be snakes, cutting things down, nailing things together. Its like your property becomes your very own club house, reminiscent of when you found a great tree in the scrub with some friends as a kid and decided to make it into a place to set up a fort.

The weather is key in everything you do, that's why country people are obsessed with rain. On hot days you start early, hide indoors through the mid day doing things you would normally do in the evening, then back out in the last couple of hours light till its to dark to continue. Then eat and fall into bed exhausted. Sleep like a log.

Your legs have a honest ache at the end of the day, you can look around you and see physical evidence of where your effort went that day, its simply how life is meant to be :)


Anonymous said...

What a fantastic intro to living your dream and what an amazing effort you guys have already put in! Absolutely inspiring! Archie and Vicki relaxing pic is so lovely! The soil colour is awesome as are those raised beds. Cool idea about the worm farm in fridge. Is the Lucerne tree Tagasate? I was interested in this as my brother's girlfriend has a horse, so I want to ask will Archie graze on it directly? Hey, Archie is beautiful, Vicki, the ultimate no 1 first class poo machine I ever did see!D Yay for horse poo on tap, it makes sense! Molly the dog looks supremely happy!Hey, Did you guys hear that Mr Ed is being remade as a movie?
I love the cubby house analogy! Yeah!
Ian, your hat is now, I see, in its natural environment: thanks for sharing your good new life, guys! I like that your house is small and I've been doing some reading on small houses recently.Thanks this made my day!

Ian said...

I think a lucerne tree and Tagasaste are the same things. it is a fodder crop, but I probably wouldn't grow it in the horse paddock. When they find a yummy tree some horses tend to gorge on it, eating everything they can reach in a few hours. This can be bad for the horse and the tree. So I think it would be better to grow it somewhere else (near the horse paddock) and just cut a bit off every now and then to chuck over the fence. Gotta stress though, I am a complete novice at that sort of thing. So much to learn :P

Anonymous said...

It's so much better to be learning hands on and as you go than just reading and dreaming about stuff!D

Luke Brohman said...

The place looks amazing!!! So much green :) :) :D

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