Contour Ripping

After a crazily cold night, I felt like getting out into the garden and try to warm-up, but the market garden was much to wet to be able to do anything in without destroying the lovely soil structure. After the recent rains, the market garden has perfectly stored the water in our mini swales and the garden beds (mini-berms) are slowly soaking away. So what to do…

I had made a small a-frame level at work for my fellow permie to mark out an on contour path and stepping stones, so I thought I would make myself one also. Three pieces of  scrap timber, screwed together and a small pouch spirit level screwed on (instead of a plumb bob) and an a-frame level finished, ready for contour plotting. I did test the a-frame on a dead level straight edge and it was spot on! My maths didn’t let me down:-)

I took the a-frame to our “test” paddock. This paddock is heavily compacted and has been fairly well grazed throughout the last season and into this winter. We are resting this one and I thought I may as well mark out some contours and give it a rip. The a-frame worked perfectly and for something that cost about $10 to make, it did a pretty good job! Each point was marked with landscapers paint and then onto the tractor with the Fergie sub-soiler attached and off I went.

Once the contours were ripped, it was much easier to see the “lay of the land” as it were. Between contour rips there is a difference of about 250mm and I am confident that the lines are pretty close to dead level (+/- 10mm) as I tested the top rips with a minor flooding by pumping from the dam. The water spread across the rip mounds and then into the rip lines themselves. Perfect!

It will be interesting to see the difference this makes to the land and the pasture. I can report that the sub-soiler, which went down about 600mm deep, exposed a goodly number of worms which quickly wriggled their way back to safety! A good sign in my books:-)



Summer is on the way!

It’s still winter, it’s still cold, it’s still wet and it’s still frosty, but summer is on the way! The winter solstice has come and gone and the days are getting longer…..slowly…. This morning I woke up to -3.7 degrees Celsius, a regular occurrence of late! Being so cold, there has not been a great deal happening in the market garden or the farm for that matter. So I sit, wait, watch and plan and enjoy the warmth of the fire until it all goes into a flurry of activity, signalling the beginning of a new season.

Hopefully the cockatoos  will leave this seasons batch of garlic alone this time!

Hopefully the cockatoos will leave this seasons batch of garlic alone this time!


We all have our ups and downs and there are certainly times where I am sure that we have all look up and wondered how we can climb out of the dark hole that we are in. Of recent, this is exactly the predicament that I have found myself in, both at work and on the farm. Being in dark places, it is often challenging to break free and the difficulties faced can and do create a self fulfilling prophecy. It is fascinating that I spent five years of my professional life as a counsellor and saw the difference my support and advice made to the people who sought my ear, yet I am too stubborn – to the point of arrogance – to take some of my own advice, knowing full well the benefits of such. For this very reason I am so grateful that I have a great wife who puts up with my rants, raves and rages and then tells me as it is, changing my perspective on situations and pointing out all of the positive aspects of what has been achieved, while acknowledging the challenges to be faced. And the friends and colleagues who can see and share the vision and understand that positive change takes time and persistence. To them I am also grateful, for when I stare out the window in frustration they are able to bring me back to reality and also point out how far we have come and although there is still a looooooong way to go, the dream of change is becoming a reality.

On the farm, although things are going extremely well, we have only had 117mm of rain to date, and this is including the most recent rain event (which saw an added 15mm to the gauge, where other places within 15kms received up to 40mm). That being said, all of the hard work we have put into the market garden has seen it thrive and flourish despite early frost, no rain and an escaped cow to contend with! All of the manures, compost and mulch we have added through the last two years are really coming into their own in moisture retention and reducing plant stress through periods of dry. The paddocks however are struggling and we really need to keyline rip, and put in our planned swales and dams to allow for water and fertility security. The aim before years end, to put in one swale on our keyline contour which will stretch almost 500m in total, linking two dams. Through the process, I will no doubt enjoy every second of the surveying, pegging, marking, digging, fencing, planning and planting, working with nature to regenerate and improve what we have.

…. after reflecting on the past few days, weeks, months and years, the reality is, I have a beautiful family and the best of friends and am blessed with life. Although there are some dear to us who are ill, they are recovering and it is them who bring us all back to reality. I am no Bill Gates, but I feel like the wealthiest person on Earth.