Every woman needs a She-Shed

A couple of months ago we started a project on the Rock Farm to make a Potting Shed, to store Jo’s gardening bits and pieces.  In order to build Jo’s She-Shed, Jo had been collecting second hand iron, fence palings, doors and windows for a while.  With the other shed getting cluttered, the timely visit of Jo’s parents and my brother made the time was right to turn her plan into reality.

Whilst the shed was to be clad and finished with recycled (upcycled?) materials,  for ease of construction I requested new material be used to build the frame.  Jo was keen to get stuck in and do most of the construction herself, which was fantastic.  Although I must admit she did seem a little too comfortable with the nail gun!

The frames were fabricated in sections on the floor of the shed, and brought down on the back of Myrtle, the big red truck.  Jo’s dad, a retired engineer, ensured that everything was braced and square.  As more and more bracing was added, I felt confident that the whole structure was extremely solid.

We wrapped the frame in some excess sarking we found in the shed.  This should reduce the drafts.  We haven’t insulated the she-shed, but we did later line the shed with plywood sheeting.

We sourced the windows from the local recycling yard for $20 each.  Our original design was modified as the windows we initially chose didn’t fit in the horse float.  These old timber windows were extremely heavy, and I appreciated my brother’s help to lift them into position.

The cladding was a combination of old Lysaght Corrugated Iron, and old hardwood timber palings.  The timber was rather easy to split, but mostly held up to to being attached with galvanised nails.

We found a couple of old posts for the front lean to in a paddock.  Unfortunately they were too short to reach the ground, so we improvised with a couple of old 44 gallon drums filled with old broken bricks.  The end result is an extremely solid structure I am confident won’t go anywhere for a long time.

The doors were out of an old office block.  Again, they are extremely heavy solid timber doors that cost a pittance at auction.  We bought some new door furniture as none of the original mechanisms worked.

We have since put some flashing on the roof and installed a gutter.  The last job is to pave the front area and build a step into the shed.

The internal fit out was left to Jo.  We found an old table lying in the paddock under an Elm tree.  The timbers of this ancient table were protected somewhat by a galvanised sheet placed over the top.  After removing the resident Huntsman and Redback spiders, we brought the table into the shed.

I am glad we saved this table from the elements.  I often wonder with old pieces such as this what their history was.  It is a little wobbly, but we were able to prop it up and make it reasonably flat.

It didn’t take long though and the she-shed was rearranged.  Old bookshelves and dressers that had been cluttering up my shed were relocated and set up in the newly lined she-shed.  Jo has since slowly set it up with a place for everything, and I am happy that I have space back in my shed too.  It has been a great little project that we both have enjoyed working on.

Which means that now I’ll have to start work on the next project… the carport.

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Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something

The Summer Holidays are a magical time for most kids (big and little).  The pace of life slows and you can enjoy lazy days without the guilt that normally comes with an afternoon of idleness.

As Winnie the Pooh said “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something”.

The run of fiercely hot 40 degree days over January, often led to us doing nothing.  Well not quite nothing.  We enjoyed a few afternoons inside the air-conditioning watching family movies or the Cricket.  And it was time well spent – well except for the Cricket perhaps…

In between the hot days, we got the occasional summer storms. These kept the grass (and the weeds) growing.  I took the opportunity to spend a couple of hours slashing thistles with the trusty mower.  This paddock was all thistles 12 months ago when we moved in.  I slashed the paddock twice last summer, before the majority of the heads had gone to seed (https://rockfarming.com/2018/01/04/managing-thistles-on-the-new-farm/).  This year there was a remarkable reduction in thistles, and I am hoping to continue the downward trend on thistle numbers. A special thanks also to my old man who sweltered through a few hours chipping out thistles in the next paddock. I fear this will be a continuing challenge on the Rock Farm.

The sheep and the cattle continue to turn grass into manure.  Before Christmas, we put some of the larger lambs in the freezer.   The combination of no stress for the animal and good grass made for some delicious dinners.  We slow roasted a couple of legs in a camp oven over some hot coals and shared the meal with friends – a most enjoyable way to appreciate some of the harvest from the Rock Farm.

Lucie the Tractor has been hard at work over the summer – but finally something had to give.  The steering arm bolts finally stripped the tread from the casing on the left front pivot.  Pulling the front axle apart revealed the extent of the damage.  Some new thread repair inserts have been ordered, and I hope will make a permanent repair.

The summer storms have caused a welcome distraction.  Providing relief from the scorching summer, they have also come often enough to keep the grass alive and growing.  The creek has risen a couple of times, necessitating repair to our electric fence ‘floodgate’, but that has been part of the adventure.  The boys love testing the depth of the creek against the height of their gum-boots, and the dogs love just being part of the fun.

In between, there is plenty of time to get on with the most important part of the holidays.  Having fun. 

The boys have tinkered in the shed, turned petrol into noise on their motorbikes, and relaxed in our hillbilly pool. One day they disappeared and made the most amazing tree house / fort in a dry creek bed. Good job they get hungry, so they return home for meals!

 

A couple of the storms even had the creek flowing, after being dry for almost 12 months. We took time to teach the dogs a variant of Pooh Sticks. I think they love splashing in the creek as much as the kids do!

We even managed to escape for a couple of nights camping at Blowering Reservoir.  It is hard to find an excuse to leave the Rock Farm, however sometimes it is nice to get away where you can’t be looking at jobs you need to do, or projects to start.  It was fantastic to set up camp and have nothing to do. We were able to read, play board games and simply hang out, which was just wonderful.

Three glorious nights swimming and kayaking in the reservoir, just a few hours from home was what we needed to complete the school holidays and bring our focus onto 2019.  This year marks the beginning of high school for the youngest helper – and it was lovely to celebrate the commencement of this phase in his (and our) lives with some time away with just the four of us.

As enjoyable as it was to go away, it was even better to come back home and sit back and watch the sun set over the Rock Farm.  We have some exciting changes planned for the Rock Farm this year and we look forward to sharing them with you. 

The girls come home

You may recall that a few weeks ago we took up the kind offer of John, our heifer’s breeder, to join our girls with one of his young bulls.  Getting the girls there proved to be a bit of a challenge, especially for one of our heifers now known as Miss Steak. She didn’t travel with her friends after getting stuck and injuring herself – see previous blog:  https://rockfarming.com/2018/11/16/a-terrible-miss-steak/. After training her to enter the horse-float, she travelled without any complaints at all.  When we arrived, I drove straight into the paddock, and she had a welcoming committee come down and greet her.

We had also been keeping a close eye on one of the heifers.  Over the previous month or two, it became apparent that she was pregnant. This can be a big problem for young heifers, especially if they have large calves.  We weren’t sure what to expect, and were worried we would lose the heifer.  Renamed “The Unchaste One”, she gave birth without incident to a  handsome bull calf.

The cattle continued to grow and put on condition at John’s place.  The Crookwell area seems to have escaped the worst of the drought conditions that have caused so much devastation elsewhere.

Thankfully the rest of their time at John’s proved to be without incident, and we went to bring them home the other day..

The heifers first came to our place on Jimmy’s truck as weaners.  On their first trip, they easily fitted in the front two pens.  Now they are much closer to 400kg each, several overflowed into the rear pen.

I was pleased to see how quickly they settled back at home.  I kept them in the yards for just a few minutes, letting them find the water trough.  When I let them out, they barely moved half a dozen metres before they stuck their heads down and happily commenced grazing.

We have all missed having the cattle on the place, and love having them back.  We have since moved them into a paddock with more shade – helping them through the worst of the current heatwave.

In other parts of life on the Rock Farm, the run of 40 degree days has been pretty hard on our newly planted oaks.  Some of our seedlings have clearly struggled, but others look like they are doing alright.  I think they all appreciated a drink.  Hopefully we can nurse them through the summer and give them a fighting chance at survival.

School Holidays on the Rock Farm

School holidays are in full swing on the Rock Farm.  The boys have been turning petrol into noise on their motorbikes, building tree houses in the gum trees, and playing in the dirt.  They have also been learning a few other skills such as fencing, planting trees, repairing said motorbikes and fixing broken water pipes.

The holidays have also been a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends and family.  This, in conjunction with a series of extremely hot days, has slowed the normal rate of progress on the Rock Farm, and that isn’t a bad thing.  We have enjoyed the opportunity to slow down and enjoy good company, and the odd quiet afternoon, with the air conditioner on, in front of a movie with the family.

The ongoing requirement to repair our fences continues.  On one of the cooler mornings, The youngest helper and I replaced a small section of fence.  A few days later the whole family helped run hinge joint around a small 2 acre triangle paddock near the house.  This will allow us to bring the sheep into this paddock and hopefully contain them!  It was pretty hot work, and it times tempers flared due to Hangry boys.  The result will be a handy little paddock allowing us to keep a closer eye on the sheep.

We have been lucky to experience a couple of summer storms this season.  With a bit of moisture in the soil, I thought we would get away with planting out some acorns that had germinated.  These oaks are Daimyo Oaks (Quercus dentata), also known as Japanese Emperor Oak or Korean Oak.  These trees have large leaves, and are part of our plan that should see the Rock Farm renamed “Oak Park” one day.  The oaks draw nutrient from deep in the ground, provide shade thus retaining moisture, and the leaves return the nutrient and organic matter to the soil when they fall and mulch.

Then it was back onto the serious business of making tree houses in some existing trees!

The summer storms often provide short bursts of heavy rain that mostly runs off.  Any technique that increases the amount of rainfall captured into the soil is to be tried.  One technique, pioneered by P.A. Yeomans and recommended by Pat Coleby is to rip lines along contours, opening up the soil allowing moisture to penetrate deep into the ground.

Our last property (the original Rock Farm) had deep rip lines put in by the previous owner.  These lines trapped moisture and were clearly the greenest part of the property on satellite images.  Trees benefited from being planted in the rip lines, as their roots could seek out the moisture stored in the cracks of the rocks.

Unfortunately the old single tyne ripper wasn’t up to the tough Ordovician Shale that underlies our fragile slopes.  Only a few lines into it, a large rock twisted the tyne worse than before.  Despite several attempts to gain leverage, I was unable to straighten the tyne.

The good news was that leaning against a tree, forgotten by owners previous, a double tyne ripper was leaning against a tree.  It had been there so long, a tree root had grown over a tyne, vastly complicating my efforts to put the ripper on the tractor.  It took my wife and I a good hour to eventually get the ripper fitted… but it was worth the effort!

And the result was success!  Using a piece of clear pipe filled with water and threaded on the ROPS, I was able to get a reasonably accurate contour ripped across the slope of the paddock.  It took a little while for me to get the draft and raise response where I was happy with it, but the old tractor performed flawlessly.  The rip line was only 150mm deep – but that was deeper than the soil and into the rock layer.   Now I just need it to rain to test the theory.

The school holidays have also had the boys learning some other important lessons.  They are still young enough to play in the dirt – and were enthusiastically making tracks for matchbox cars when they received last call to come in and have a shower before bed.

The final throw of the digger resulted in an unmistakable gurgle and their construction rapidly filled with water.  After years of observing me, they correctly recognised that they hadn’t found a fresh water aquifer just below the surface, but rather a poly pipe.  I took some solace from the fact that the rapidly appearing water was our non-potable water supply to our garden and toilets… not our precious house supply that runs under the ground only a couple of metres away.

The good news was that it wasn’t my fault.  So I had if not enthusiastic, then certainly guilty helpers to:

  • run to the dam and isolate the pump (long way down hill)
  • run to the tank and isolate the tank (long way up hill)
  • dig a much larger hole to expose the pipe
  • measure the diameter to check if we had the right fittings (which we did – good planning Dad)
  • carefully cut the damaged section of pipe out with a hacksaw
  • replace damaged section with a joiner fitting
  • run back to pump and turn it on
  • run back to tank and turn it on
  • watch and check for leaks

It was the quickest I had ever replaced a pipe – and I barely raised a sweat… In fact I did a lot of not much except pointing, and asking for tools, most of which live in my pipe repair tub.

As the sun set and the light faded, we turned the water on and held our breath.  It worked!  All in all it was a pretty good outcome – the kids learned some important skills, and I realised how grown up they are becoming.

Of droughts and flooding rains.

Over the past few days, we have enjoyed a welcome change in the weather.  With the warm moist air in the upper atmosphere from Tropical Cyclone Owen combining with a cool low pressure system, much of the south east received heavy falls over a couple of days.

The Rock Farm was no exception.

Over the first day, we received a steady soaking 28mm.  This beautiful rain seemed to bring out the colours of the Brittle Gum (Eucalyptus Mannifera) as the mottled grey is replaced by pinks as the old bark is shed.

The rain was also a welcome opportunity to catch up on a few shed jobs.  The little buggy, now my spray rig, was overdue an oil change, and The Little Fisherman found an old alternator to pull apart.  He is on a mission at the moment to harvest as much copper as he can, which he hopes to melt down…

Before I knew it, he had done some research online, found the crucible he wanted and raided his piggy bank to give me the cash for it…  I don’t know of many 13 year old boys who are so keen to put their money into melting metal, but I am happy to support his desire to learn.  Of course we will have a few discussions about safe techniques and PPE when the time comes…

Unfortunately our enthusiasm for the rain wasn’t shared by our hound.  She disappeared, and I found her curled up on the back seat of the car in the shed…

Down it comes!

The following day we were underneath a cloud burst.  35mm of rain fell in around half an hour, turning our garden into a raging torrent.  On this occasion I was at work, but my wife was at home, and took a series of photos showing something of the water coming down the hillsides.

Our creek quickly rose to impassible.  The water was deep and quickly flowing.  Whilst the water level also fell quickly, there was a lot of debris and mud washed onto the crossing.  The next morning revealed the true extent of the damage.  The concrete base was still place, but had been covered by large rocks.  The approaches had been covered in a thick layer of mud.

It took a bit of work, but I soon cleared the approaches to the creek of most of the mud.  It made me appreciate again how having the right tool for the job is so important with the tractor and its grader blade making a reasonably neat job.

The Not-So-Little Helpers were put to work clearing some of the debris from the dam overflows.  The sheer volume of water meant a lot of the dams over-topped their walls – greatly increasing the chance of failure.  There is a lot of work still to do around the place ensuring drainage lines are cleared.

But the best part was comparing the change that had happened.  Dams that had been dry were now full.  And the creek was a whole new wonderland to explore… especially if all you want to test is how long it takes to find a hole deeper than your gumboot!

It reminds me of the immortal words of Dorothea Mackellar, in her poem My Country

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die – 
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Fire Season Maintenance

We have a fire plan.  We hope to never use it.

Our plan is a living document we have worked through with the kids, and details what actions we should take:

  • prior to the start of the fire danger season
  • if a Catastrophic Fire Danger day is forecast
  • if a fire is detected

The critical decision point occurs if a fire is detected.  We have to make a decision to either stay or evacuate.  Our children are now mature enough to be part of this decision process and are critical to its success.  Our fire plan is complicated by the very likely possibility that if there is a fire, I will be fighting it somewhere else with the Rural Fire Service.

One part of our fire plan is the ability to put out small fires with our own private appliance.  To this end, we have fitted an IBC 1000 litre tank with a small Honda pump to an old trailer.

The trailer sits by the shed, easily accessible.  I gave our fire trailer a service a couple of months ago (the fire danger season starts on 1st October).  All was in order, but during my rounds the other day I noticed one of the tyres was flat.  I pumped it up, but over the course of a few days it slowly went flat again.

It was a quick job to change the tyre over, but I also took the opportunity to double check everything else still worked.

After flushing out the old petrol, it was time to pull the starter and get the pump running.  Somehow the throttle was a bit stiff, but after a bit of lubrication in the form of WD40, it was soon working as expected.

The whole job didn’t take too long, but it is nice to tick off one small little job (again) in our fire safety preparations.

I just hope we don’t have to use it.

A terrible Miss-Steak

Last week was a mixed bag on the Rock Farm.  We enjoyed a glorious 12mm of soaking rain. A fox killed all our chickens.  Our sheep disappeared and we found all them roaming the neighbour’s place. The steering arm fell off the tractor. Our ram got in a fight with an other neighbour’s ram, and in a sickening head butt, our ram killed their ram.  And one of our heifers made a terrible mistake.

 

The rain well worth celebrating.  Whilst it wasn’t enough to fill our parched dams – it was very much needed – even if the dog wasn’t so sure!  The little burst will hopefully allow our ryegrass and cocksfoot grass to set seed, even if it came too late for our clover.  And there is nothing like mustering recalcitrant sheep in the rain the remind you why you love this farming game!

With feed stocks dwindling, we took up the kind offer made by John, the heifer’s breeder, to return them to his farm in the Southern Highlands to make acquaintance with one of his young bulls.  The heifers are well used to the routine now of moving around the Rock Farm.  They quietly made their way into the yards for a short overnight stay before being trucked.

After all the dramas earlier in the week, this part was all going to plan.  It was almost too easy I thought.  I shouldn’t have even thought those words.

My troubles began when I moved some of the heifers into the race to drench them prior to the truck arriving.  No sooner had I turned my back, than one of the heifers tried to escape through a narrow personnel escape opening.  I still don’t know how she squeezed her shoulders through the gap, but it was immediately apparent that her hips weren’t going to follow the rest of her body.

She was stuck.  Properly stuck.  And then the audience arrived in the form of my wife Jo, and Jimmy who was carting the cattle.

After a couple of attempts to lift her back legs and pull her through, we realised we were down to only a couple of options.

  • Use the loader on the tractor to attempt to lift her and manoeuvre her hind legs through the gap.
  • Use an angle grinder to cut out the panel, however my generator is currently broken, meaning we would have to borrow a generator from someone or make an expensive trip into town.
  • Euthanize the heifer – a very much last resort – unless she became too distressed.

I raced up to the shed and grabbed a cattle sling, designed to lift cattle that are unable to stand.  It was when I tried to start the tractor, I realised I’d left the ignition on, thereby flattening the battery.  I am sure there was a very localised blue cloud forming over the Rock Farm at this time.

After eventually jump starting the tractor, we rigged the sling and started lifting.  We tried initially to lift her by the back legs, but that didn’t help.  We then put the sling under her chest and tried again.  With a lot of pushing, pulling, and twisting, combined with a good dose of luck, we eventually twisted her on her side.   Jimmy was able to wiggle her hips through the gap and she was free.

It wasn’t all good news though, the young heifer was very sore, especially in the right hip.  We made the decision that she was not fit to travel, and put her back in the yards.

I was too spent to take photos of the other girls on the truck, but the rest of the journey for them went without incident.  They were met by their new boyfriend, who was eager to make their acquaintance, a good looking young bull with plenty of Charolais breeding in him.

We kept the remaining heifer under close watch.  Thankfully she improved dramatically over the next few days.  After a week, she is walking without a limp. I hope to transport her to meet up with her herd, but it is hard to justify carting her on another truck.  I figure it is time to see if we can train her to use the old horse float.

To that end,  I brought her back in the yards, and moved her water trough and hay into the back of the float.  Her initial response was understandably wary.

But within 24 hours, when checking on her water, I spied her comfortably eating inside the float.  I will let her spend a few more days getting used to the float, before attempting to move her.  I will also fabricate a couple of bars to prevent her from jumping out over the tailgate before we move her.  That would be disastrous.

Of course you don’t get to do something this crazy without earning yourself a special place in the family’s heart.  Nor do you remain anonymous.  So the family decided to name our escaping heifer Miss, short for Terrible Miss-Steak.  I hope it is the one and only occasion she lives up to her name!

Barley Grass and other Pasture management

It has been a long Spring full of unfulfilled promises on the Rock Farm.  Weather forecasts predicting a 90 percent chance of 10 – 15mm of rain in three days time have withered to a 10 percent chance of 0 – 1mm.  Barely any rain has fallen, and the grass has been in a desperate race to set seed before it dries out completely.

The photo above captures the half dozen drops that fell a couple of weeks ago.  Whilst the sky looked promising, it failed to deliver.

Readers may remember that I had a paddock full of thistles when we moved to the Not-So-Rocky Rock Farm.  I slashed the thistles a couple of times over the summer, with the aim of preventing the thistles going to seed.  (https://rockfarming.com/2018/01/04/managing-thistles-on-the-new-farm/)  After slashing the paddock, the sheep moved in, and kept the grass down over winter – until about three weeks ago when the took it upon themselves to move out (The fences have never held the sheep anywhere – even this paddock which is mostly fenced with hingejoint).

The culprit was Barley Grass.  Barley Grass (Hordeum Leporinum) is a soft annual grass with bristly fox-tail like seed heads.  Once the seed heads form, it is unpalatable to sheep or cattle.  The seed heads get embedded in the sheep wool, reducing their capacity to put on weight.  Given the option to move out, our sheep had done exactly that.

On the flip side, the thistles were not so prevalent, which was pleasing to see.

With a desire to use a chemical free process to control the grass, I consulted the internet and found this guide published by HerbiGuide:   http://www.herbiguide.com.au/Descriptions/hg_Barley_Grass.htm

HerbiGuide recommended heavily grazing the paddock until the seed heads turned yellow.  I brought in the cattle,  and gave them a week to reduce the seed burden in the paddock.

It was also a good chance to check out some of the serrated tussock I sprayed a month earlier.  It seemed that the fluproponate was effective, which was a relief.

After a week of grazing, the cattle had reduced the barley grass a little, however the hot dry weather had started to turn the seed heads yellow.  In a last minute effort to reduce the grass seed being viable, I removed the cattle and took the mower down to the paddock and slashed the remaining stalks.  I am not sure if I have managed to cut the heads before the seed is viable, but it may allow the sheep to move back in and graze the stubble in the lead up to the end of the year.

I hope that grazing and slashing the paddock will significantly reduce the prevalence of barley grass over the next couple of years.  I will need to heavily graze the paddock in late winter and spring before the seed heads form. The cattle and sheep will form am integral part of this process, and it is exciting to be using the livestock as a tool to improve the pastures on the Rock Farm.

We are now at the end of the grass growing season.  Whilst is rain forecast this week, it will do little to increase our feed for the stock.  What it may do is replenish some water in our dam, which is looking very low.  We are investigating options for stock feed and agistment, and will update you soon on where we are at with this.

In the meantime, we will keep our fingers crossed.  At this time, we will take any rain we can get!

A dry spring on the Rock Farm

My last post was about managing weeds during the spring growth.  Unfortunately the hoped for spring rain didn’t eventuate.  Even as parts of the State are getting some of their best rain in months, we have managed a paltry 3mm.  It is better than nothing, and might give the clover the break it needs to set seed!

Our property has an interesting arrangement where the road access comes in and past the house to the paddocks. Like all roadsides / laneways, this is rarely grazed, because of the inconvenience to traffic.  But it was the only part of the property the cattle hadn’t grazed and every bit of grass is precious at the moment.

Several fences needed to be fixed up, and water provided before I could contemplate putting the cattle in the laneway.  Even so, I still used temporary electric fence to allow the cattle right up to the garden – a treat they all enjoyed!

In fact the cattle were so happy to have access to the special grass near the garden, they hardly noticed me sneaking in close for a Selfie!

School holidays is an exciting time for the kids.  As they get bigger, their commitments grow too, with sporting camps keeping them busy for the first week.  These are fantastic opportunities for them, but I also love seeing them get creative in the shed.  Of course the dog is in the thick of it too, causing equal measures of delight and frustration at her efforts to help.

Speaking of the shed, our region is often windy in Spring.  Very windy.  And the old shed was looking a little worse for wear, with several sheets of corrugated iron roofing sheets looking like they wanted to lift off.   The shed is of unknown vintage, and in the fine tradition of most Australian farms, it has been made of second hand recycled iron and fencing wire.   It gives it a certain charm, but would be a huge inconvenience if it was actually destroyed.  A little bit of preventative maintenance was in order.

The advantage of so much sunny weather meant that I was able to replace some of the very loose nails with new roofing screws, without the risk of rain making the roof treacherous. I fabricated some brackets and purchased a harness to provide some comfort whilst working aloft.

And then there was the garden.  Neglected and in need of a bit (lot) of work, it was time to get the chain saw out for some ‘pruning’.  With a garden that is around 2.5 acres, there are always trees to prune.  The black wheelbarrow made the carting of the firewood size pieces a lot more manageable.

All the other branches and lighter sticks and twigs were thrown on the back of Myrtle – the big red truck, and taken down to the paddocks.  We found a remarkable sight.  Under similar tree prunings, deposited in the paddock six months earlier, we found growing lush, green grass and clover.

I think there are three possible reasons for this (or a combination of all three).

  1. As the branches break down, they release nutrient into the soil,
  2. The branches provide a physical barrier stopping kangaroos from eating the grass (this paddock has no other stock in it), or
  3. The branches provide shade to the grass, making what little moisture there is more effective.

Thus encouraged, we will keep putting our prunings into the gullies and over bare soil.  It is great to see positive results for our efforts.

On the Rock Farm, the only place where the grass has been most prolific in its growth is the garden.  With the current season being so dry, it feels such a crime to simply cut the grass with a mower.  But, the grass was getting long, and the snakes are coming out.  So I got right onto my next job, and brought in the one horse power self propelled mower model.  Best part is, you don’t have to sit on it as it gets to work – but that can be the best bit!

Rainy day

The past few weeks I have been concentrating on fixing up my fences.  As the Rock Farm was originally set up for horses, there are lots of little paddocks, all fenced with plain wire.  These fences have been mostly cattle proof, but the sheep can (and do) wander where they like.

The small paddocks means I have been able to rotate the cattle with short bursts of intense grazing with long spells, inspired by Allan Savory.  The initial results are promising, with the pasture responding really well to being rested between short bursts of grazing.

The problem has been that many of the fences have been in such poor state of repair that the cattle have been able to push through to other paddocks, undoing any gains made.

Many of the wires were broken where kangaroos have pushed their way through over the years.  In repairing and straining these wires, I found I needed to improve my fencing skills.  I learnt an excellent knot which I have put to good use.  As I am no expert, you’re best watching the video by Time Thompson yourself:

My fencing has been going well, getting a little bit done here and there when I had the time, until last Friday when we had the unexpected pleasure of 10mm of glorious rain.  Light showers fell on-and-off during the day, making the wire extremely slippery.  After slipping and having a piece of wire flick up and cut my cheek, I looked at the dog, and decided to follow her lead.  It was time to do something else.

Inside jobs are many and varied.  I contemplated sorting out the shed… for just a bit.

 

And then decided that I really needed to sit down with a hot cup of coffee by the fire inside and take a Naval “Make and Mend” day…  It was quite pleasant to sit and repair my favourite oilskin vest.

The fences are still there, and I am still working away at getting them back in order.  The cattle are mostly contained now, with a few paddocks still to go.  Of course it is a never ending task, and I am sure I will still be working on fences as long as we have livestock, kangaroos and wombats…  but there are fewer more satisfying things than spending a day outside working on the Rock Farm 🙂