Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bloodshed at Cwm Goch - isn't it wonderful!

Relax! No human or animal was harmed in the making of this week's post! The 'blood' is from the Marri trees!. For those of you unfamiliar with Australian flora I thought I'd share some knowledge of the plants around Cwm Goch. As you can see from the photos this stuff looks like blood. In fact it's the sap from a tree called Eucalyptus Callophylla. It's also commonly known as Red Gum and Marri. The word Marri means 'blood' in the Nyoongah (Indigenous Australians from this area) language - and you can see why.
The sap has a number of medicinal uses including use as an antiseptic and remedy for stomach upsets. (Personally I think that's because it tastes so bitter that any child offered it quickly says "No thanks, I'm fine now Mum!"). At this time of year you often see the trees 'bleeding'. The Cockatoos come, listen for grubs under the tree bark and tear them out, leaving a 'wound' if you like. See photo.

In any case it's a beautiful tree and the one people know for it's 'Honkey Nuts'. These nuts are an important food source for a variety of our native birds, who eat the seeds found inside. If you look at the photo of the nuts you can see evidence of two sorts of birds. The nut which is damaged with a large chunk out of it has probably been fed on by a Port lincoln Ringneck Parrot (also known as a 'Twenty Eight'). White Tailed Black Cockatoos also eat them. If you look really closely at the other one, on the right, you can see tiny little 'C' shaped markings on it. This nut's seeds were taken by a Red-capped parrot. These beautiful birds have evolved with a longer top beak. They hold the nut with one foot, insert the lower part of their beak into the nut (that makes the mark) and use the top part as a lever to prise/slide the seeds out without damaging the nut.
You can tell a lot about what lives in an area from looking at the food sources. Sadly a lot of people in the Hills take down these trees because the Honkey nuts are annoying (might drop on your car, or make a mess in the driveway). We need to share with people the importance of these trees as a food source for our declining bird populations and hopefully inspire more people to keep them and plant more. Perhaps if this post was new info to you, you'll do just that.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wonderful Webs

These beautiful webs glistening with dew were everywhere this morning. A gentle reminder that while we sleep the night creatures are awake and busy doing their thing.
I could have filled this page with pictures - but here are 2 that I'll share. It's funny though, a camera can never seem to capture the beauty as it is right before you in things like spider webs.

There was also a wonderful mist through our little bit of forest (which doesn't look so heavy in the photo). I love winter mornings when this happens. Our forest feels truly magical.

What a lovely way to start the day!

Later the weather got really warm. Elder Munchkin and I walked to the bottom paddock to collect some tagasaste for our planned compost and by the time we got back the sun was beaming. That's when we noticed someone else had decided to enjoy the nice weather. And here he is.....
He is one of the longest Bobtails we've seen so we called him 'Delonghi' (yes very droll!). No doubt the next one we see will be called 'Deshorthi' by simple comparison. He wasn't worried about us at all, even when Elder Munchkin nearly leaned on him trying to see a skink who was watching us from the same brick, so we got a good long watch. Elder Munchkin disappeared for a bit and I figured he'd got bored, until he returned a few moments later with an egg for his 'pet'. They sure love egg. We didn't wait to take photos of him eating it though - he was quite content lying in the sun just dozing.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Weeds are our Friends! (Thanks Bernie!)

Our Permaculture consultant Bernie came again today for a thorough look at our property and help us with our Permaculture design ideas. For anyone out there who has been considering having an expert in we say 'STOP considering it and DO IT!'. Bernie (besides being a lovely bloke) was absolutely brilliant and gave us heaps and heaps of ideas. He is obviously incredible knowledgeable but made us feel that even amateurs like us can feasibly do this easily- and that we're on the right track. His visit was inspiring and incredibly motivating because we can now clearly see tasks that can be started NOW. We don't feel so overwhelmed.

Best of all I think he changed how we feel and look at the property. I always felt people coming to visit must think it's a bit of a mess (it's a growing place - small sections starting to come together, weeds quite rampant, part paddock, part everything else) but he really loved it - and his excitement over the beauty of the little things (like an arbour I'd built out of wire and dead branches - because I don't have welding skills and it only needed to hold up a couple of sweet peas anyway) made me feel our garden was a lovely place. He could certainly see it! It's always nice to take someone through who appreciates the beauty in what you've tried to do. Oh and we learnt a very important thing. 'Weeds are our Friends!"

For anyone living in Perth who's thinking of getting some expert advice, we'd heartily recommend Bernie. You can contact him via this website.

And remember to tell him your blogger friend Nathalie told you 'Weeds are our Friends'! :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tagged by Molly!

Ok I've been tagged, have picked up the book I'm reading, flicked to the appropriate pages/lines and cringed because the book isn't a non-fiction 'safe' book to share - the particular page, whilst interesting to me, might be seen as controversial to some readers. So I am hereby giving a warning to anyone reading this, the book may not be your cup of tea.

It's called 'The Inquisition'By Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh and deals with not only the Spanish Inquisition but the Roman Inquisition, their dealing with heretics, Protestants and witches and all that lot of history which doesn't need to be explained in detail here - except that I will say that the torture methods described demonstrate the unique ability of man to be ever so 'creative' and 'imaginative'. What a pity we couldn't find better use for those talents. I'm sure those of you interested will read or have read, similar so let's leave it at that.

here we go: Page 123, Line 5 - the next 3 lines read as follows.
"This is not to say that persecution of the irrational demonic ceased. The ferreting out of witches, warlocks and other adherents of the old pagan religion continued, even gained momentum; and the newly established Protestant churches were as zealous in harrying them as Rome"

"Luther himself inveighed against the devil and against witchcraft, and Protestant religious leaders of all denominations quickly followed suit."

"Protestantism could be as intolerant, as narrow-minded, as bigoted, ignorant and brutal as the Inquisition itself"

Ok - there goes a good percentage of my blog audience! Apologies to those offended - this is history, not my personal opinion.

And since I'm really new to this and don't know many other bloogers yet - I'll send this to just one (since Molly tagged me) and that is Kate at Hills Seed Savers.

Thanks Molly!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Honk if you're happy!

Bernie the Permaculture Sage came and looked at the properties today (ours and next door). We're bringing him back in next week for a longer consult, but got some good ideas already. The best one it seems is to forget our plan to get Dorpas (a breed of sheep) to manage the fire hazard of grass in the bottom paddock and instead use geese! I didn't know they were such effective grazers but Bernie reckons a dozen or so would easily maintain that area. Worth a try - despite the advantages of Dorpas over other sheep (no shearing, muelsing etc) they do require pretty rigid fences and ours aren't the best on one side. Apparently you can train them to follow you too, so bringing them from the bottom paddock up to the orchard is feasible and it sounds like geese are lower maintenance than chooks - which we can handle.

This permaculture thing is really starting to move along. I walk around our property now and can really see some progress. Tonight we ate Tuna fishcakes (with heaps of herbs) and a side of freshly picked Bok Choy (which is growing madly). Hywel as we picked them said he actually wasn't a fan of Bok Choy - and changed his mind completely after we'd eaten it. Fresh tastes so much nicer than anything. The only thing in dinner that didn't come from our place was the tuna and potatoes. Next year it'll only be the tuna. How good does this feel!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Berry berry happy!

We have found a berry supplier! After getting a little disheartened by stories of quarantine laws changing and Eastern states suppliers no longer sending stuff over to WA, I saw sign out the front of a local nursery saying 'Blueberries'. Bought 2 and have ordered a blackberry, gooseberry, red currant and black currant. The kids LOVE berries so hopefully these will grow and do well.
Ideally I'd love to plant them as a mid-storey plant (Robert Hart style) but I'm waiting to hear from some local experts, who apparently were growers years back, for some tips. Any readers with tips for growing these in a temperate climate PLEASE speak up!

It's funny, I planted the kiwi vine under the apricot tree - and now faced with the prospect of planting all these berries I'm feeling....nervous/uncomfortable about it. Will we trample them all when we pick other fruit. How will we prune? And at the same time I'm hearing myself and realising how very conditioned I am to the idea of an orchard being 'neat, tidy' and clear on the ground. I really need to get over this. Logically I know that the 'forest garden' method makes sense. Especially water wise - why water 3 acres when you could water 0.5 of one. Maybe it's just the fact that I've never seen one in real life before.
Has anyone else out there tried the Hart method? I know Crone at wits end is planning to - but is anyone else actually harvesting from a multi-layered garden? Please let me know!

Off to bed now. Permaculture expert/consultant comes tomorrow morning to give us some tips on how to best use our land. More on this after his visit.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bloody Chooks!!!!!

All our hard work!!!! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Long story in short......boy rugby tackled scarecrow, Dad propped scarecrow up against temporary (wobbly) fence, rained, Scarecrow got soggy and heavy, fence bowed under weight, chooks got in vegie patch..Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! They have decimated the patch - the damage is awful.
We've bought new seedlings and more seeds - this patch is NOT saving us money!!! I'm in two minds about whether we uproot the broccoli which was knee height and is now just a few thick stems and start again, or wait and see if it recovers and produces anything. @#!*^! chooks! We'd better get some decent eggs out of this!

At least the lacewings arrived today. Highly recommend 'Bug Central' to anyone in Australia. They were prompt and reliable. Had a bit of a giggle reading the official note on the postage sticker which talked about the contents being part of 'an Integrated Pest Management System'. Sounds very flash - but translates as sprinkling cups of extra bugs around the vegie patch.

More photos when the patch doesn't look like such a disaster area.