More living on the land…

25 11 2015

I’ve been rather crook for the past couple of weeks, a virus I’m certain I caught right here at the Geeveston Community Centre (henceforth recognised as Geco), and whilst I have been getting some things done, it’s been a struggle.

I’ve almost finished building a second insulated bolt hole, initially for the family visiting over Christmas, but mostly to house wwoofers, because there’s no way I can manage the farm on my own…

I’ve been agisting the neighbour’s cattle for the past two or three weeks, a rather large – too large? – mob of thirty or so heads that have taken my grass down to sub fire hazard levels, and left piles of manure I will deal with later when it dries.

Now the grass is down, all the thistles have become clearly visible, and I’ve been hoeing them (in their many hundreds!) rather than spraying as the neighbour was threatening to do…. It’s chop and drop on a large scale. Lots of walking, I just wish I could breathe properly. This morning was the first one I almost felt human again, so I’m on the mend, but it’s so unusual for me to get this sick, it’s knocked my socks off.

DSC_2070Yesterday I attended the Huon Producers Network’s inaugural market in Huonville. Well attended with 600 or so visitors counted, it had a great atmosphere, great food, great music, and it was an opportunity to mix with the locals, most of whom I’ve been avoiding so as not to spread the dreaded lurgy.

The wind dropped off, and the sun came out even; must be a good omen!

The network is one of the main reasons we settled on Geeveston; the
DSC_2085energy for the operation started here and in the surrounding area, and I intend to join as soon as I’m in a position to actually produce some food. Which could be sooner rather than later, because the next season of apples is well underway.

DSC_2040The trees were only just beginning to bloom as Richard and I first arrived two and a half months ago, and now those blooms are turning into fruit which is fast needing thinning out to ensure good size fruit.

Apples produce clusters of six flowers, five outer ones and a central one known as the king blossom. At this stage, there are bees everywhere, and without a word of a lie, you can hear the orchard buzz…..

DSC_2091In no time at all, all those flowers turn into grape sized apples, and the trees are just covered in fruit. If left like this, the apples don’t grow much, and whilst they are still delicious, they look far too small to be salable, though they would make excellent cider. I’m also told that pickers are paid by weight, and for them to pick a tonne (say) requires picking loads more apples, which takes longer, making pickers unhappy.

DSC_2092It feels very strange to literally break of hundreds of potential apples; it seems counter-intuitive, but that’s what all the locals tell me to do, and what do I know about apples?

Clusters should be no more than 2 or 3 apples, and must be at least 10cm apart. In their natural state, they look more like grapes than apples, so closely knit are they on the tree……. so off they have to come.DSC_2093

Some trees would easily have 300 tiny apples on them, and there’s no way a tree less than 2m tall could bring so much fruit to maturity. Last season, nothing was done to the trees because everyone involved was busy selling/buying/moving. Most of the crop went to waste apart from a trailer load that went to Charlotte Cove where my sailor friends recently moved to. This is where they were turned into cider by Werner, who, as it happens, has now decided to retire back in New South Wales…… and kindly decided to leave us his cider making equipment!

No prizes for guessing what I’ll be doing next year, watch this space!




9 responses

25 11 2015

you’re making me excited for xmas

25 11 2015


25 11 2015

Love this post, Mike. I felt concerned for you, hearing that you were pushing through an extended illness. 😦 Hard to know, isn’t it, when to push through and risk getting more ill, or when to take it easy for the greater good. Do goats eat thistles? Could you borrow a neighbouring goat? I have been reading about people breeding goats for these purposes…especially for thinning bush. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could trade thistles for goat droppings? I am eager to hear more about the wwoofers! I know some folk use wwooofing as a means to find co-homesteaders. Eager to hear how the apple harvest turns out. GFY for listening to the locals. 🙂 I had no idea apples needed thinning. Is this variety specific?

27 11 2015

Goats sure do eat thistles. When we first bought Cooran, they were everywhere, and all gone by the time we sold.

As far as I know, all apples need thinning, I’ve even heard that plums need this too, and likely other fruit as well.

26 11 2015

OK now I have thinned the fruit on my tree. I was thinking no way could that many could grow. Not three hundred, more like thirty, now ten. On a six month old tree.

27 11 2015

Your wwoofers would need to be Australian citizens not back packer visitors. My daughter (on a six month gypsy break in NSW) tells me that recent restrictions brought in by the commonwealth government make it impossible for back packers wanting to take advantage of working holiday visas by wwoofing. Under the rules of these visas, unpaid work, as for wwoofing do not count. The work must be paid work. Makes it hard for the backpackers (where most of he wwoofers come from) to comply with the requirements but also makes them easy prey to the vulture labour hire companies.

27 11 2015

The working holiday visa was always a scam IMO…. but there are plenty od wwoofers willing to work for free in exchange for board and food and experience/knowledge….

29 11 2015

30 head on what (12 acres is it?) for 3 weeks… WOW you must have had some grass!!! Agisting those numbers briefly to get the grass down should be ok, but keep that up and I reckon you’d soon have weeds/erosion coming out of your ears! 🙂

Granted, your pasture regrowth is probably better/quicker then here on the Southern Downs. We only run about 10 head on 80 acres… you gotta look after the land.

I had a good laugh at your thistle comments mike. They certainly are the bane of anybody keeping organic pasture… rain becomes a bitter sweet event (if you catch my drift)!

I also did a “thistle run” on our block this week. Over the past two years I’ve found it’s more effective (and much easier on the back) to pull them out after a good bit of rain. I wear a good pair of slacks/boots and stand down on the top of a thistle with one foot, hook a metal “pigtail” electric fence post around the base of it and gently pull up. Most often the whole thing’ll come right out (plus the cattle eat the pulled roots and softer leaves). I found chopping/mattocking them just resulted in regrowth from the remaining tap root and your hacking away at them again in a month or so time.

Those apples look beaut. Good stuff!

11 12 2015

Yes, our new farm is very productive. The cattle is barely gone one week, and the grass is growing back furiously….

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