Smoko #5

It’s a long time since the last blog post. Probably it feels longer than it was too since so much seems to be happening in quite short amounts of time around here, but I thought an update is in order for those who want to know what we’re up to.  And this one has pictures at the bottom.

We decided to forego the bulldozer for clearing in the end – it is much better for us to wait a year or two before getting any earthworks done, to allow time to observe the land, where water runs, where the sun is in different seasons, etc. But immediate clearing still had to be done to provide garden spaces, fire safety, house and people safety and so on, as well as allowing midday sun to reach our solar panels. So in the end we did it with a chainsaw, axe, machete, bush saw and clippers, and though there is still an enormous amount of clearing to be done down the track (house site, paddocks, sheds, etc), we now have garden spaces and chook shed, other areas we can squeeze a man-shed (as T calls the most essential building we will ever need) in, and are making steady-ish progress with clearing for fire prevention (brushy under-storey, long grass and weeds).

The solar system is powering a treat – since installation we have only had to run the generator twice, for a couple of hours each time, to recharge the batteries after a few days of rain. As it goes we have only had about 30mm of rain in the last 3 months, most of that in one day, so we’ve power coming out the cloaca, enough to run whatever we like, save the electric woodchipper and my beloved sound system.

We have critter-proofed (fenced 1.6-1.8m high and 100mm down in the ground with a 200mm right angle out to prevent bandicoots digging under) an 8x7m garden area that is currently being built up and planted in by T and our current WWOOFer (both off collecting cow shit from the neighbour’s farm for compost and raised beds right now). With the recently but quickly warming weather the gardens are really starting to take off (though we still need to plant a lot more but can’t keep up with bed space as yet – as soon as we build a bed we fill it, and bed building takes time), and the stuff in the ground, some of it in since winter, is starting to pump. Off the top of my head, we have growing: potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, silverbeet, pumpkins, rhubarb, comfrey, lemongrass, arrowroot, beans, peas, zuchinnies, melons, various herbs, green manures, dragon fruit, chillis, beetroot….there’s more but T is the garden virtuoso around here and knows every seed so she can update on that another time, probably with pictures!

Work has also begun on an outdoor cooking/eating area with fireplace, camp oven pits and eventually a wood pizza/bread oven, guest room(s) and general party area. It just needs, like everywhere, more materials bringing in or scavenged from the block to continue work. Our biggest problem is not having a ute. Our beloved van has finally been retired, and is halfway through being converted into a guest room, and so we currently have almost no means of moving stuff from one place to another, at least not building materials. The roof rack on the wagon can carry a bit, but it’s limited. So while we search (and save pennies) for a 4×4 ute (holla if you’re selling one cheap!) we have to make do with bringing one or two rocks up from the creek each time we go down, or a couple of tin offcuts in the back of the wagon when we visit the tip. It’s a bit frustrating, because there are so many jobs that need doing that really need the ute to get done, but on the other hand there are plenty of other jobs that don’t require it, and so at least we are forced in deciding which things to tackle first – this can be a great thing when the list of jobs seems endless and one is unsure where to begin.

We have joined WWOOF as hosts and have so far had two very willing workers helping out, which has made life a bit easier, particularly since the last 5 months of hard work has finally taken its toll and last week I put my back out quite badly. Hence having time to write enormous blog posts! I’ve been pretty much laid up since then in quite a lot of pain, but living on this here community revealed yet another benefit after a community meeting on Monday. We have, amongst our neighbours, a masseuse, a cranio-sacral therapist and a physiotherapist/acupuncturist. The latter took me to her house after the meeting and gave me a massage and some acupuncture, which I’ve never had before and didn’t particularly enjoy, but which did noticeably reduce the pain. Still, I am pretty much bed/chair/floor-bound for a while, with the occasional foray out to supervise a task with the WWOOFer, so am keeping busy with other things.

I recently finished doing a video for one of the recent songs to come out of a Champion Sound workshop (Champion Sound is a youth and community focused organisation I co-founded in 2007 and continue to work with in various capacities) as well as a new website for the organisation. Check them out!

I hope my back shall soon be recovered enough to get back in amongst the big jobs (not to mention enough to pick up my kid), but there’s a fair chance I’ll get a blog post or two done between then and now. Stay tuned!

Some pictures of our new garden area development (click on the pictures to view full size):

Bringing logs in for raised bed garden borders.  Couple of fence posts in shot too.
Bringing logs in for raised bed garden borders. Couple of fence posts in shot too.
Marking the garden beds
Bed borders mostly ready and fence starting to go up
More fencing
Fence pretty much done
Filling in the garden beds with layers of sheet mulch, cow manure, a soil mix made from soil harvested elsewhere, worm castings and other nice ingredients as needed, plus a whole heap of mulch
And finally getting to plant out
Our original garden beds are coming along very nicely
And finally, a view from the house. I’ll have to find a “before” shot to match it with…suffice to say it is MUCH clearer than it was when we arrived.

And, last but far from least, the Billycan Creek Crew would like to wish my Grandmother a very, very happy 97th birthday.  97!!  The queen will soon be warming up her telegram machine… xxx Love you Gran


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