Fatal Error #18

Doing the evening water checks and filling up the stock and garden tanks, I went and had a look at our drinking water tanks. I noticed that there was a little bit of wet ground so I had a closer look…

I found that there was a little weep on one of the poly joins….

I had a closer look by lifting the join up to check underneath… big mistake!!! As soon as I touched it, the weep turned into a gush! Water started spurting out everywhere!!!! Evidently the join was not tight enough and all it needed was a tiny touch and whoosh out came the water! At this point, I may have cursed a little… Now keep in mind that there is approximately 180,000 lt of water pressure pushing out of this pipe and although not fully out, I am guessing that a couple of hundred litres of water came out while I levered and pushed the pipe back in and tightened by hand the join. Soaking wet, I ran up to get my tools and came back down again to repair the leak. Mind you light was fading (I have literally just got in and got dry) and I was starting to panic a little. This was all of our drinking water and if that pipe popped, I could not see how I could get it back on… 180,000 litres of water pressure is just a little too much for even my 53kgs of pure muscle to hold back…

I found all of the valves and shut them off, but there was 1 tank I could not get too (a job for tomorrow) as the valve had been buried… Next I jiggled and levered, loosened and tightened and finally got the pipe back in parallel with the join and tightened again. Using some multi-grips, this join is not undoing any time soon. It was dark by this stage, but I am pretty sure the leak is no longer but will check tomorrow morning.

At worst it will just be a little weep on one of the poly joins…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! Thanks to all those who have supported us in our journey throughout the year and we look forward to more fun and games in 2013!

Below is a photo update of the market garden. Last year’s plot is now 2/3 drip irrigated. I am slowly installing the lines as each bed goes in. Still watering direct seed by hand, but once they have established, then the drip lines take over. As funds increase, I will also add a tap to every line, so that the beds can be individually turned on and off so as to minimise water wastage when they are fallow.

Anyway, here’s to another jam packed year of living:-)

The no dig potatoes are coming along well. The purchased seed potatoes are doing much better than the ones saved... May have to just buy them next season to ensure a good crop.

The no dig potatoes are coming along well. The purchased seed potatoes are doing much better than the ones saved… May have to just buy them next season to ensure a good crop.

Market garden corner shot

Under planting of pumpkins with the corn and beans are going well.

Under planting of pumpkins with the corn and beans are going well.

Corn, beans and pumpkins growing together well. Each batch of corn has been staggered. There are currently 4 beds of 100 corn plants, 10 pumpkins and 40 beans in each bed, with another 4 to go. Each bed is planted 2 weeks apart.

Corn, beans and pumpkins growing together well. Each batch of corn has been staggered. There are currently 4 beds of 100 corn plants, 10 pumpkins and 40 beans in each bed, with another 4 to go. Each bed is planted 2 weeks apart.

Going to go a little easy on the radish. They are so easy to grow, prolific and quick to harvest. Have learnt to stagger them instead of feast and famine.

Going to go a little easy on the radish. They are so easy to grow, prolific and quick to harvest. Have learnt to stagger them instead of feast and famine.

The girls have been fenced off into a larger paddock now. The pasture still has some green to it, but is quickly browning off with this dry summer. Fingers crossed should have enough feed until the autumn break...

The girls have been fenced off into a larger paddock now. The pasture still has some green to it, but is quickly browning off with this dry summer. Fingers crossed should have enough feed until the autumn break…

Our brassicas will be planted under netting to keep the cabbage moth out. Working perfectly so far!

Our brassicas will be planted under netting to keep the cabbage moth out. Working perfectly so far!

Lettuce with a middle row of beetroot. This planting pair has worked beautifully!

Lettuce with a middle row of beetroot. This planting pair has worked beautifully!

Zucchini galore! Yellow, stripped and the good old faithful black beauty! They are now growing out of our ears!

Zucchini galore! Yellow, stripped and the good old faithful black beauty! They are now growing out of our ears!

Nothing beats home grown heritage tomatoes!  We have Money Maker (I wish...), Grosse Lisse, Black Russian, Romas and Break O'Day. They are coming along well and pruning laterals seems to be producing higher quality fruit this season.

Nothing beats home grown heritage tomatoes! We have Money Maker (I wish…), Grosse Lisse, Black Russian, Romas and Break O’Day. They are coming along well and pruning laterals seems to be producing higher quality fruit this season.

Tomatoes underplanted with zucchinis

Tomatoes underplanted with zucchinis

We are leaving this lot to save the seeds. Should get a gazillion seeds from this lot :-)

We are leaving this lot to save the seeds. Should get a gazillion seeds from this lot 🙂

Colourful carrots:-) It is hard keeping the boys off this batch!

Colourful carrots:-) It is hard keeping the boys off this batch!

Ava-Li loves her peas. She just won't leave them alone! So much so that they will not be making it into customer vegie boxes!

Ava-Li loves her peas. She just won’t leave them alone! So much so that they will not be making it into customer vegie boxes!

The smell of these turnips  is amazing! If they taste half as good as they look then we are in for a treat!

The smell of these turnips is amazing! If they taste half as good as they look then we are in for a treat!

Our grafts are going well as is the small batch of tree lucerne I am experimenting with.  Will do another batch and plant everything out in the autumn/winter.

Our grafts are going well as is the small batch of tree lucerne I am experimenting with. Will do another batch and plant everything out in the autumn/winter.

The tiny greenhouse is holding it's own.

The tiny greenhouse is holding it’s own.

This fig cutting will hopefully provide us with heaps of figs in the coming years! It is loving it's home in the tiny greenhouse at the moment.

This fig cutting will hopefully provide us with heaps of figs in the coming years! It is loving it’s home in the tiny greenhouse at the moment.

Purple peas

After a horror start with seedlings (damn slugs) our cucumbers are starting to set fruit!

After a horror start with seedlings (damn slugs) our cucumbers are starting to set fruit!

Potatoes are my favourite veg and their flowers aren't too bad looking either.

Potatoes are my favourite veg and their flowers aren’t too bad looking either.

Potato flower More potato flowers

On Holidays and Time to Catch-up With Farm Work

Although I am on my holidays, there really isn’t any “holiday” here at the farm. I will be making weekly visits to work to check up on everything as well as do our regular deliveries. It was a pretty hectic end to the year, but all the jobs have been completed at work and now it is time to catch-up on work on the farm.

The market garden is coming along well, with potatoes now being harvested. The first batch of potatoes were from seed potatoes saved from last year’s crop. These have not done as well as the bought seed potato and next year I will be a little more stringent on seed saving selection. This being said, the no dig style beds are still producing well and as the bed gets harvested, they will be limed, rock dusted and top dressed with manure ready for another crop. The purchased seeds have gone much better and we should get a pretty good harvest with them.

The greenhouse project is now back on. I should have the frame completed by the end of the week, ready to be clad with polycarbonate panels. This greenhouse won’t be going anywhere! It is securely anchored into the ground and the frame itself weighs a ton – almost literally! The frame is made from blackwood, harvested from a friends place about 10kms away. This is a beautiful timber, normally used for furniture. This will be the best looking greenhouse around 🙂

The frame is almost complete. Made from blackwood, this is going to be the best looking greenhouse around!

Bacchus Marsh Grammar Sustainability Hub

As work has progressed with excavations on the terraces, a number of people both within the BMG community as well as beyond, have asked “What’s going on across the road?” Let’s see if it can be adequately explain via this blog entry and diagrams:

Orchard

Above is a Google Sketch of the planned orchard that will be going in across the road. The excavation that is taking place is designed to do four main things:

1) Erosion control: By creating a swale and berm system (swales are the dips and berms are the mounds), when it rains (and in Bacchus Marsh it tends to pour), the swales will slow the travel of water down the slope, which will significantly reduce the erosion that occurs on the surface of the site.

2) Irrigation: Given the site does not have access to any form of irrigation other than natural rainfall, the swales will…

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Update

It has been a little while since my last blog entry. Things have been pretty busy, both here on the farm but also at work. This time of year we are busy marking, writing reports, more marking and more reports… It is part of the job, and I must say the least enjoyable. That being said, it is a small price to pay really when you love your job:-)

So firstly an update on the farm:

The orchard is coming along very well this season. I count over 20 apples that, if the rabbits or birds don’t get them, will develop well and should be ripe for the picking from January onwards. Considering they were almost all ring barked last summer by rabbits and they have only been in for 18mths, I don’t think I have done too badly with keeping them going. Our hope is that they will continue to grow this season without any pruning, and then next season, each of the trees should have a handful of fruit, with a good crop in season 2014/2015.

The market garden is starting to really thrive. In our local climate, we are about 2-3 weeks behind Melbourne’s growing season, however in our makeshift little greenhouse, we managed to get things started and planted nice and early. Our mini-swales on contour are working well and the compost I made and spread made a huge difference to growth rates. We did get a late frost which burnt some of the zucchini leaves. They have made a comeback, however, I am sure they would be much more advanced if not for the frost. All good though as zucchini goes crazy when producing! All our other veggies are coming along well, with new additions to our stock this year, violet cauliflower and chilli, as well as a mixed variety of colourful carrots.

New mains irrigation lines have gone in in preparation for next seasons extension and over half of the market garden is now irrigated, with the rest to be completed as funds come in. The no-dig style potatoes are going well, of all of the seed potatoes, I would estimate that 70% of last season potatoes have sprouted and about 90% of new season seed potatoes taking. There are still more to go in and as work finishes up, I should get more time and energy to finish planting. I have not irrigated them at all however they are well wet enough and I will continue monitoring as the summer approaches.

Our first batch of chicks were hatched two weeks ago and they are all going well. We aim to add another 20 girls to the laying flock and process any excess we have. With our consumption rate, we will need 30 chickens in the freezer for the year. This will add to the 2 lambs and cows we will process through the year. Plenty of protein for a growing family, plus some:-)

So the question is, will we be ready for a farmers market stall in January/February??? The way things are growing… probably not, but will give it a good crack:-)

At work work, things are also pushing along. I have just got formal approval for teaching Permaculture at the school to year 9 and 10’s in 2013 and 2014. We will have a trial year in 2013, but I am sure that in 2014 and beyond, we will be teaching a full Permaculture Design Certificate! Also, work on the swale design orchard has started. With a fall of 1/10, no irrigation and horrible, horrible clay to work with, it will be interesting how well the design works. Last night and this morning we had a decent dump of rain, about 25-30mm of rain in 12 hours. The bottom 3 “speed humps” have been rough cut in and it was amazing to see how in a very raw state, the speed humps slowed the water down and collected so much silt. As the remaining swale/ponds are shaped, this should reduce significantly the erosion that occurs on the site as well as allow for a huge collection of water to infiltrate into the berm.

Things are moving along, plenty of work to do both on farm and at work and as we come to the end of the year, rather than slowing down, it is time to speed up!

Compost and Daily Rotations

Well after 18 days, my compost is ready to spread. It could probably do with another 2-3 days, but how it is is fine for me to use, plenty of microbes to inoculate the soil.

Also now moving our Highland cows everyday to new pasture. With the spring growth kicking in, the pasture is looking amazingly green and lush. The cows will continue to be rotated right through the season and although we are yet to pasture chickens following the cows (project for this spring/summer), the egrets and ibises are doing a great job, flying through and turning  spreading and scraping the cow manure in search for grubs, larvae and worms.

Back to business.

Spring has truly sprung! The weather has been up and down like a yo-yo, with horribly wet, windy and cold weather last week and warm and sun forecast for this week! The vegies are really kicking off with the extra daylight hours and we are finally back into the swing of things. All the productive gardens, orchard, berries and herbs have had a good spray of beneficial microbes, seasol, fish emulsion and liquid compost and this should really give them a boost for the coming growing season. I plan on continuing the spraying regime once a fortnight and hopefully everything will thrive and set in for the summer. Our Highland cows will soon be back to their once daily rotation, with maybe another week or two in their current paddock. The sheep are being rotated each fortnight at this stage and are now not able to keep up with the quick growth of the spring flush. The lambs are fattening up quickly and “Gammy” our house sheep, is doing well.

In our market garden extension, the potatoes in the no dig beds are sprouting well and it will be interesting to see what kind of harvest we get from them this year. In between each bed I plan to lay thick layers of newspaper and large quantities of compost and manure and thick layer of straw mulch on top of that. The plan is to plant into the straw in a good handful of quality compost. The compost should then inoculate the straw and manure, allowing the plants to take-up all the nutrients they need. Once again we will see how well this method works compared to the more conventional way of growing. Also I will be trialling a green manure crop, sown between potato beds, allowed to grow until just flowering and then slashed and used as a chop and drop mulch and growing bed. The seedlings will grow into the mulch in a good handful of compost.

Speaking of compost, at my PDC course, we learnt about making good quality microbial compost based on a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ration. Compost should be ready in 18 days. So far I am up to day 11 and it is really looking good! Maybe a little too hot, as I have some white powder growing, but easily rectified. By the end of the week, I should have beautiful rich, microbial compost ready to spread and inoculate the soil! Below is a video after the 4th day.

In the current market garden, I have been busily preparing the beds for our coming vegie crops. I have forked each bed to break up the clay panning of the rotary hoe and the difference this has made to the drainage has been amazing. We got 20mm of rain over the past couple of days before today and where I had not forked, water was pooling, but where I had forked, the water had drained away nicely. It was still a little wet to work too much, but I was able to shape another couple of beds today and seeded them with turnips and sweedes. Each bed is about 8 meters long by about 900mm wide. On the high side of the bed, I have dug a small trench, forked it to aerate it, lay down the weeds I have pulled up and then a thick layer of straw mulch on top of that. The worms will go crazy for the decomposing weeds and the trench will act as a mini swale, storing and slowly draining water through the growing bed.

Back to weekly sales now with weekly deliveries. The sun has been amazing, working listen to the children play just 5 meters away and then having them all join me to weed the beds and hunt for worms, or help me seed the trays has been gold. Ahhhh life is good on the farm:-)