Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy first days of spring!

We're really enjoying and revelling in how aware of the weather and season changes we are up here on our little block of land. Part of it has to do with the fact that we're outside a lot, on account of our little house being so small, and all its amenities (and prime fun-and-beautiful bits) being not-inside.

What better way to spend an early spring day (Ok - several days) than dragging a mattress into the middle of a paddock and setting up camp.

This morning, for example, the second day of spring, we were awake with the sun, and not long afterwards (just time enough for hearty cuddles in bed and some reading of our current favourite book, Farm Anatomy) we were outside, cooking breakfast on the barbecue and surveying the clouds, wind and frost levels. Yes, it's the second day of spring, and we're still having regular, heavy frosts. While some people in the Bega Valley can get frosts as late as November, we're lucky here in that the frosts only settle in the bottom of our valley, not near our house or veggie garden or orchard. This is a bonus, because it means we can get started on planting our spring and summer-growing food plants pretty soon, without fear of them being apprehended by frost.

Frosts at the very bottom of the valley, making friends with a blossom tree and some blackberries
One of the fantastic things about moving up here at this time of year is that we arrived just in time for some serious food-planting adventures, which, let's face it, is a big part of why we moved to this block of land in the first place. So it's exciting for us, but also nerve-wracking, because this, hopefully, will be our forever-house, so we really want to get things right. We're already planning the menus for home-grown feasts for birthdays 40, 50 and 60, so we need to make sure that the things we plant get a good start so they can serve us (and our friends!) well.
Nothing like some bulbs to let you know spring-time's a-comin'
Our bare-rooted fruit trees have been the biggest deal for us thus far, and are being tended with lots of loving care and worm juice. The Orchard has been planted along a swale/diversion drain above our house, which, when it rains, captures water from the road, and diverts it (slowly! - no erosion here) down to our little top dam, soaking the soil along the way and watering our collection of fruit trees. There will also be an olive grove and a nut grove added to this collection of food trees, in a similar kind of road-water-collecting arrangement, but that will have to wait…

Peach blossoms: freakin' beautiful

Due to the fact that it hasn't really rained since our workshop, we're watering our beloved fruit trees by hand, using water carted up from our bottom dam. The same is being done for the first 50 of our 800 Landcare grant shelter-belt/wildlife corridor trees, which we also planted this week. We're saving our pennies for a water pump to get water up from the bottom dam (spring-fed and therefore full) to our top dam (rain fed and therefore not so full), which we will then use for gravity-irrigating our fruit and Landcare trees and veggies. This will be an exciting day, but for now we're content with 5 x 20L drums filled up by hand and then carted up the hill in our car.

We also use these water-carrying adventures to harvest, dry and distribute the abundance of azolla we have growing happily on the bottom dam. We're using it mostly as a mulch and putting a little bit in the compost and worm farm, and she's working a treat.
The phase one veggie garden has also been receiving a bit of azolla love, and has been quite a pleasant revelation. I'd been a little apprehensive about how the soil would be in the area designated for the veggie beds we are going to use this spring/summer, as it hadn't received much (OK, any) attention, and basically consisted of a bit of earth right in front of the house that had been used to store all our building crap for the last 4 months. I expected it to be dry and compacted. In a rare moment of forethought, though, I had, during the frenzy of our strawbale building workshop, instructed someone to start putting loose straw and broken bales "kind of over there - I think that's where the veggie bed will be". This small mountain of straw had received no further attention, other than some food scraps and the daily emptying of our night-time wee bucket (essential in a very high sleeping loft like ours). This neglected pile of building waste has been the saving grace of the veggie patch! What a treat to kick back some of the straw to discover that a. the soil wasn't compacted at all, b. worms are diggin' it, and c. the soil is super-moist, even though it hasn't been watered since the build, when it got drowned in all the rain we had. Yee har! I spent a day and half going over it all with our friends' Gundaroo Tiller (which is totally ace, but I'm not going to write about its virtues because Milkwood already did it here), then spread about 10cm of manure/azolla/compost/worm castings, then covered the lot in another 10cm of straw (there's a bit of that stuff lying around here). We're slowly planting into it (a little rhubarb here, some comfrey there) and dreaming about a couple of months' time when it's (hopefully) crankin' out some quality food-stuffs.

New rhubarb leaves unfurl, watiting for next year's apple forage harvest
Even though we're spoiled with the abundance of egads-awesome home-grown and organic foodstuffs available at markets and given to us by generous friends and neighbours (this morning we had scrambled duck eggs from our friend Christa!), we're still itching for a bit of our own home-grown food, and we're watching with excitement and anticipation as our fruit trees bloom, our seedlings sprout and our dreams take shape here as spring unfurls around us.



  1. We are loving these first few days of spring too and looking hopefully at our tiny blossoms and our very own pile of straw (empty still).
    Loving the blog and the lichen above!

    1. Mer, I'm now convinced that piles of straw are THE BEST and the only way to go when creating a garden... x

  2. Fantastic photos. Thanks for giving us a little glimpse to the upcoming Spring. I can't wait to see blooms everywhere.
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