Monthly Archives: November 2013

Smoko #6

So we decided we needed more shade around the house.  The veranda is in need of insulating as it gets roasting hot during the day, and sometimes it feels like there’s nowhere to go to escape the heat.  (Okay, there IS the creek, rainforest, abundant trees and so forth…but they’re not immediately by the house, and when I want to, say, sit and write a blog, cup of tea and smoke at hand, I want somewhere cool, shady and flat, preferably with a power point nearby).

So – we decided to build a grape arbor off one side of the veranda, which once grown over with grape vines will provide us with shade in summer when the leaves are out, and sun in winter when the leaves drop off, as well as, of course, grapes.  This is how we did it (click on the pictures to view full size):

First, take one wife, one wwoofer and a couple of big poles, introduce them to each other, and get 2 of them to carry the others up the hill.


While they did that, I dug a couple of post holes

A post hole yesterday

and as I was finishing the second, right on dusk, T and the wwoofer were carrying one of the poles up the steps, so we dropped it straight in the hole.  Unfortunately, I should have measured the pole and hole first as, on putting the tape on it after setting it in the ground, I realised it hadn’t quite touched the bottom of the hole, and far too much was still sticking out.


So, next morning, we dig


And then try tying rope handles on the pole to pull it out


And dig some more


And then eventually tie it to the car (using a passing goanna to make up the shortfall in rope)…


And haul it out.  Tore up a big chunk of ground around it, but job done, and at least we could now make sure the pole fit the hole.


…unfortunately, though I already knew this, I should have measured the pole and the hole first, as, having spent bloody hours getting it back out of the hole, I discovered that, in fact, it was simply a longer pole than I thought, and had been touching the bottom all along.  What a wally.

So we drop it back in the ground along with another pole


Put on a horizontal support (probably not permanent though, as I’m now envisioning a bar (think drinks in the afternoon) between the two poles), and called it a day.


Meanwhile, work had been progressing on the planter boxes to put our grape vines in.  I simply got a bit of colourbond tin we picked up at the tip, cut it in half, bent the two pieces around and riveted them together. A length of hosepipe slit lengthways provoides a nice rim and prevents cutting your fingers off on the sharp tin edge.  Then we dug them slightly into the ground, put 20 or 30cm of gravel in the bottom, and filled it up with a nice soil mix.  One grape vine, lots of mulch, a bit of a fence to stop the [wallabies, bandicoots, chickens, assorted marsupials, young children] from trashing it before it can grow up, and Bob’s your uncle! (Interestingly, my uncle is, in fact, called Bob, so it must be true).




Back to the arbor, I next cut the crossbeams (I apologise – I can never actually remember what any of the various terms of timber and what different cuts [etc] are called, and tend to use any word I know that sounds right at the time.  “Nice beams” I say…”They’re rafters mate”, etc.  Anyway, these may well actually BE crossbeams, otherwise they’re the bits that go up high above your head, running from one pole to another.  Okay, moving on…).  Then I chiselled a mitre cut into it (see above disclaimer), bored a hole for the bolt to go through (with my 120 year old hand drill.  I eventually upgraded and purchased the most expensive drill bit I’ve ever bought to get a 15mm hole through the steel veranda poles)…


And up went the first crossbeam/rafter mate/whatever.


On the pole on the other side, I cut a seat for the crossbeam, using the time honoured technique of standing on the 2nd top step of a step ladder with a chainsaw while absent but wiser friends and family screamed at me in my minds’ ear.


Yesterday I got the other side up, although I did stop for a cuppa when a storm rolled in.  I’d persevered for a while, but brandishing a chisel up in the air on a very precariously balanced step ladder (I console myself that, having some understanding of health and safety standards on the workplace, I am therefore more qualified to break them, as I know exactly what the dangers are… Actually, to digress, it was exactly this kind of enlightened thinking that lead to T and I setting fire to our tent while we were in it years ago, but that’s another story), while the lightning was flashing close by proved too much for my nerve and I waited it out.  Which was good, ‘cos the hail would have made the step ladder slippery ha ha.


Anyway, the other side is now up, and all that remains is to run some wires or thin poles or bamboo between the crossbeams for the vine to grow over.  Given it will take a while to grow and give us lovely summer shade, for this year we will rig up some shadecloth over it, and, with luck, lay hands on (or figure out how to cut without buying a mill) some slabs to make the bar.  Picture it – a nice slab bar with some tall tree trunk stools, sipping on our home made wine (we planted 2 vines, a table grape and a wine grape) under our cool, shady, leafy roof.  Bloody fantastic mate, whatever word you wanna use!



Recent inspirations and a touch of whooping cough

So it’s been a while since my last post. Luckily J’s on the blog band wagon and can fill in on weeks when I have no time or just no inspiration. No inspiration? How can that be when there is so much to be inspired about.

Things that are inspiring me at the moment:

  • The afternoon antics of kurrawongs – every evening we can watch them from the verandah as they fly through the trees down by the creek with their amazing call. One has taken to sitting on one of the garden posts – surveying the world. Not sure why I love them so much. It’s something about the perspective that they create as they fly through the trees…
  • This guy. Image
  • Projects and fruit trees – when we first moved here the enormity of what we had in front of us, i.e. clearing land, building a house, making enough soil to grow enough vegies, was stifling. It prevented me from attacking projects because it all seemed so hard. Luckily J stepped up and got to work. Not saying I’ve done nothing around the place – just that I was slow to really get stuck in. Now that I can see the progress we have made I am enlivened by the realisation that we are only limited by ourselves (and by money) and that so much is possible. Especially inspiring is that we have planted our very first fruit tree! We have a budget for one fruit tree per fortnight – so slowly, slowly we will create a food forest.  After much deliberation (and a little arguing) we chose a bowen mango as our very first tree (I wanted a pecan tree because they have a very special place in my heart). Avocados were also up there. Hopefully the mango will survive! They don’t do well in frost. We are hoping that we can create an appropriate micro-climate for it. Fingers crossed. We also have two grape vines ready for planting out to grow on our new (still in progress) grape arbor. I’ll try and document the building process to post in a future blog post but here is a sneak peek for now:


  • A recipe for rye crackers that I found on the back of a packet of Bob’s Red Mill rye flour. I’ve made it twice now and am excited about how easy it is to make crackers. They are something that I had never made before and always like to have some in the cupboard (we don’t mind a cheese platter around here). I am excited to cross something else of the shopping list, and with it go any nasties in the crackers (including palm oil and preservatives) and the packaging. So far I have made them in two different ways – once with caraway seeds and yesterday with rosemary. I made star shaped ones for Lil I. I don’t have a photo. We ate them all.
  • Did I mention this guy?
Making play dough

  • Milky Mondays – I have sourced a raw milk supplier just down the road from us. Every Monday I head to the milking shed and fill up my bottles whilst the cows are being milked. It literally is coming straight from the cow into our bottles. The milk is still warm and sooo creamy! We then let it sit for 24 hours in the fridge then spoon off the cream and voila milk and cream for the week. Because of regulations the farmers are not allowed to sell the milk to us – to make it worth their while I’ve been making them gluten free bread as a trade. It works out well for everyone!
  • The garden. I love my garden. We are still not harvesting much from the beds but everything seems to be coming along well enough. Herbs, silverbeet and cherry tomatoes are a daily harvest at the moment. We had a bit of a lull in salad greens over the last month but we will be back in business in the next week. We ate our very first home grown onions the other day and have been getting a trickle of broad beans too.
    Pretty broad bean flowers, silverbeet in the foreground, garlic in the background

    Taste bombs
    Cherry toms or as Lil I calls them – taste bombs
  • The potential of my Phd. I’m still in the excited about my topic period. I am heading up to Weipa, North Queensland, to meet traditional owners and to scope my research ideas on the 20th November. I’ll be gone for a week. It will be my second time away overnight from Lil’ I since he was born. The first was last week when I stayed in Brisbane for one night (and drank a little too much – thanks sari and lefty’s old time music hall). It will be hard for everyone but especially J. Lil’ I is just a little too attached to me despite the amount of time that the boys spend by themselves when I’m studying. Its night times that are the problem really. I guess I’m also inspired by the thought that I might be able to do me things more easily once the boys sort out their patterns. Like stay in Brisbane to catch up on study, or go to seminars, or whatever it may be.

Things that haven’t been so inspiring for us lately:

  • We are all currently in quarantine. It’s not quite as dramatic as that but we are trying to keep ourselves isolated for a few days because we have whooping cough! Not sure where Lil I picked it up from but he has been coughing for over two weeks now. He hasn’t been too badly affected – there was only one day in which we even thought to take him to a doctor and that was when he got tested. He didn’t develop the ‘whoop’ so we didn’t suspect anything. The ironic thing is that that the only vaccination that Lil I has had is for whooping cough (more for tetanus really but it includes whooping cough and polio). So I’m guessing that that is why it hasn’t hit him so hard. The rally annoying thing is that my dad and step mum were coming to visit and now they have had to postpone their trip.


  • Sore backs. Poor J’s back is still sore. It is definitely on the mend but he is still trying to take it easy. He feels antsy as he wants to do so much and can’t. Luckily we’ve had a wwoofer for the last few weeks and so we have still managed to get lots done.


  • Dry, windy weather. Is it part of human nature to whinge about the weather? It wasn’t so long ago that it was so wet that everything was going mouldy and we were going a little insane. Oh for some of that rain now! We’ve had a few showers and promises of summer storms to come but the tanks are getting low and the creek could do with a nice flush out and an end to our fire season would be nice.  The creek is still running though and the tanks aren’t at disaster level yet. If they get really, really, low then we will plug into the spring water and top up our tanks. We are so blessed with water on this property so can’t really complain. My sister lives 50km away and they have had to buy water twice already this year. Things don’t look too promising for a wet summer though – the BOM is predicting drier than average conditions for the next 3 months at least. We might have to start constructing self watering garden beds like these wicking beds over on Milkwood permaculture blog.