Fanny Farm update….

13 01 2017

It’s raining again, and too wet for fencing… so I’ll keep my faithful readers up on what’s been happening for the past few days.

Firstly, my amazing neighbour who had the most unfortunate accident that caused his expensive ute to be written off (nobody got hurt, which I have to tell you was pretty amazing…), flew to Melbourne the other day to pick up a replacement. japanesebathHe offered to pick stuff up there for me, and lo and behold, I discovered that someone in Melbourne manufactured round Japanese plunge baths that would finish the circular theme of our new bathroom. Sometimes, things are just meant to happen…. I’ve been looking for something like this for ages, but they were either unavailable, or just plain too expensive.

It turns out, this one was made by the bloke who sold it to me, and, wait for it, his factory was just two streets away from where Matt picked up his new car…!

Now I just need a house to put it in…. like the toilets, the bidets, the handbasins, the kitchen sink, the taps, I have accumulated a lot of stuff for this house already.

The same day the bath arrived, all the reinforcing steel was also delivered. On a very large truck, that the driver had to reverse the entire 400m back out to the main road…

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Then yesterday, as part of the rezoning of this block of land, Julia and Matt, my current wwoofers from America and I moved the entire composting system from where I first sited it a year ago to where it will be needed, next to the market garden.

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20170112_153212No mean feat it turns out, I had way more compost than I realised, almost enough to fill the ute…. It was also a good opportunity to teach young people how to make compost, because it turns out they had no idea…… In fact, it may be an American thing, or maybe they’ve led sheltered lives, but they know very little about what’s going on in the world, particularly when compared to the young French people I’ve had here who have actually impressed me with what they already knew……

On the downside, my new pump is driving me insane…… it pumps when it feels like it, and when it won’t, I cannot get my head around why not. I’ve spent so much time flushing out the suction line, even wading out into the muddy bottom of the dam several times… I’ve modified the footvalve assembly to ensure it can’t suck air – and now it CAN’T because it’s anchored underwater permanently – but it still refuses to pressurise my sprinkler for more than three to five minutes….. my understanding of pumps is that they should work, or not work at all, but not this…..





Hartz Mountain….. all the way to the top!

8 01 2017

Since getting down here on the Huon, and speaking to the many locals who have made it to the top of Hartz Mountain, I have been saying that before I die, I have to climb this local icon…. and yesterday I did!

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Those stains aren’t nicotine…. they’re sweat..!

I’ve visited this National Park many times now, and when I took la p’tite Charlotte up there last year on an unprepared walk without food, we got very close. I thought the views were amazing from Hartz Saddle, but from the top, they are truly stunning.

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The weather forecast was for a stinker, and neither I nor the current American wwoofers were too keen on working at the Fanny Farm that day, so we opted to climb to what we thought would be a cooler climate……. it was a stinker anyway, even up there.

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On the drive up the mountain, we came across a young Nepalese couple who’d skidded off the road. Beats me how they managed to do that, but they were lucky that I still had my log dragging chain on the back of the ute, and we had them back on their merry way in no time at all….

As I expected, the place was full of tourists, and, amazingly, locals wearing jeans…. in this weather..? It also occurred to me that it was a very very long time since I stood atop a mountain. I can’t even remember which mountain it was I last climbed… apart from the mountain of life of course..!

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At the top there were twenty six people, including the three of us. It was like Grand Central Station, only with a much better view. The old legs are a bit sore this morning as I write this, but it was all worth it…… Enjoy the photos.

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Federation Peak…….





One down, five to go……

28 12 2016

It’s raining. Which is good, because it’s watering the first of our six market gardens, and bad, because the house site was just starting to dry out nicely….. and now it isn’t. Bah humbug…….

Having slashed and rotary hoed the first patch of garden, the task of starting garden beds and planting them was next. The rotary hoe quickly found a 50kg rock, aka an immovable object, which I dutifully dug up with a mattock and crowbar…. good thing it didn’t weigh any more, I was only just able to lift it into the wheelbarrow for disposal.

img_0339I marked out the paths and beds with building string, then hoed out the paths which were subsequently raked downhill onto the beds, creating terraces. The paths will also act as mini swales during the heavier winter rains, and the soil is so good, it may just hold onto the water too..

Five bags of sheep poo were then applied and hoed into the soil for good measure, you can’t have too much organic matter!img_0340

Glenda planted kale and pumpkins on the first (lowest) bed, and once the whole patch was done, we planted snow peas, sweet corn, cucumbers, and broccoli seeds. There’s a bed left over for beans, and we might do that tomorrow.

On the weekend, we even sold our first batch of zucchinis from the poly tunnel, such as it was, but it’s a start, like everything else around here! We should have a bumper crop of tomatoes soon; they’re later than I would have expected, but everyone around Geeveston (and the Huon) is complaining that the whole growing season is late this year, which surprises me as we had such a wet winter….. or maybe it’s the cause?

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Indian Game Chickens

I also bought some Indian Game chicks I’m going to try to breed as a source of meat. They are pretty big birds too, and should be great scratchers in the gardens when needed with those stout legs….! Quite beautiful poultry actually.

The power station passed its first milestone of sorts, now that we have extracted a whole 100 kWh of electricity from the batteries.

It’s all going very well, powering up the dam pump more frequently now we have things to

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Our first 100kWh….

water, even boiling water in kettles for the purpose of killing weeds and grass….

The next big thing we need to do for this particular project is move a big pile of soil (covered in weeds!) sideways to fill the remaining windrow furrows left over from the apple orchard days. Hopefully, that will also help in slowing the flow of water down to the house site, those furrows act like gullies in heavy rain… once that’s done, the fencing will be finished around the six garden patches, and one by one they will be turned into gardens just like the one we’ve just finished. It’s a big job, lots of hard work, but very rewarding.





Building soil on the Fanny Farm

18 12 2016

With the new chicken pen finished, and at least half the new market garden finished – the other half is awaiting the moving of a huge pile of soil 30 to 40 metres away to fill in more furrows between existing windrows – the time had come to prepare the first area for production. Everything takes time, not least this project…….

The green manure I planted there soon after the house site excavations were finished was starting to go to seed, and looked promisingly ready for ploughing in… so I slashed it with my trusty Honda brushcutter. This machine is part of the ‘use fossil fuels while you still trimmerheadcan’ strategy…. after literally burning through two plastic auto string feeding heads for it, I replaced them with an alloy fixed string device that is proving way superior. With wet grass now a metre high, and uneven ground left over from the orchard heydays, mowing is very difficult, and this machine has been priceless, working long hours on 98 octane fuel. Because it’s four stroke, it starts first time every time too!

gardengreenmanureOnce slashed, the rotary hoe I bought last year was started again, and the grass clippings and green manure was laboriously ploughed into the soil. The plan is to eventually not disturb the soil ever again, but after years of cattle roaming all over it, me driving utes over that section of grass, and lately the excavator, the ground needed to be de-compacted…

I then added lime for Calcium (most Australian soils are Calcium deficient) and a starting point for rectifying the soil pH. No doubt further pH testing will be required later until I’ve got that right……gardencompost

A tonne of compost bought locally was then unloaded off the back of the ute by my better half, and the whole lot was rotary hoed again to get it all thoroughly mixed in.

The chickens were then allowed in to start scratching around and adding their bit to the soil. I need lots more chickens before this system starts working properly, but like I said, everything takes time…… we have one clucky chook sitting on a dozen eggs at the moment, so there are more on the way, and I am trying to source some meat chicks, because they are very good at tractoring soil.

The main pipe between the pump and the cube atop the power station was then cut, a T piece inserted, and a a one inch riser installed for access to water from our wonderful dam…..

gardenwaterCharlotte and Fanny might be back soon, and they will be able to see the progress since they left. Nothing will be planted there for a while, as it will take some time for all that new soil biomass to settle in. We’re getting there though……. and I will have another couple of French wwoofers here in February for some more action.

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Charlotte’s day off…….

4 12 2016

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La p’tite Charlotte, Hartz Pass

Having been here for a month with little time off (her choice, not mine….), I thought it would be nice to take Charlotte for a walk up Hartz Mountain on a splendid early Summer’s day in Southern Tasmania.  I hadn’t particularly planned anything, so armed with just a water bottle each and my trusty Nikon over my shoulder, we headed off for the hills……

tarnCharlotte has experienced little of Tasmania so far, just both sides of the Huon which she shared while Fanny (who is currently on the overland track between Cradle Mountain and Lake StClair) was still with us in Geeveston.

tarn2Being quite a little greenie, la petite Charlotte, as she likes to call herself, was I think blown away with the scenery our neck of the woods offered up today. There is of course nothing like it in France, it’s virtually impossible to get away from people, anywhere in Europe…… but here in Tassie, even with the park’s car park chockablock with cars, it still feels like you’re the only person on the planet.

I’ve often said I want to climb Hartz all the way to the top before I die (before the oil runs out…?), and we almost did today…… and would’ve done quite likely had I had more than one piece of toast for breakfast and brought some more food along for the walk!

Unlike other times I have visited Hartz, usually in winter looking for snow, today was filled with wildflowers and other beautiful attractions. It almost felt like I hadn’t been there before…….hartzflower

alpinegumAs they say, it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey…. So enjoy the photos, we did.

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The Summit. So close… to do another day……

From Hartz Pass, you also get the most amazing view of the South West Wilderness area…. one can only imagine how much better it looks from the top!

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From here, you even see Federation Peak…….





Rezoning the Fanny Farm…..

24 11 2016

When we first arrived here, there was a lot of infrastructure. Most of it was certainly useful, not least the dam of course, but much of what was here did not make much sense, permaculture-wise. I surmise that most of that was down to the fact there never was a zone zero to start with, ie, the kitchen! In fact with no house at all, and a shed never designed to be lived in and in completely the wrong place, it was left to me to rezone everything to make it work.

20161111_100602When the neighbours’ house, which I think might have been the original farmhouse, was excised from our property forty years ago, strange things were done….. to start with, said farmhouse is totally surrounded by our land. One of their sheds is the boundary line…… something that would never happen today. Then someone built a chook house, leaning against said shed. Being on the southern side of this tin shed, it never had access to sunlight, and let’s face it, chickens like sunlight as much as people do!

A new French wwoofer called Charlotte turned up recently, and we got stuck into dismantling this useless chook pen, for relocation at the market garden under construction, the idea being to integrate the birds into the garden system to clear them once harvested, and fertilise the resulting bare dirt in readiness for the next crop. This will be done in rotation, hence all those gates (four of which I brought from Queensland as a cage to raise the load level in the ute!) Permaculture 101……

Then Fanny (yes, Fanny, from the Fanny Farm!) also arrived and between the three of us, 20161116_143139we’ve done a lot of work (actually, they work much harder than me….) putting recycled posts from Matt’s farm all over the joint, and some from the chicken run that was attached to the lean to affair we dismantled.  Waste nothing…! Then we removed low hanging and overgrown ‘pig wire’ from the fencing near the road that was of no use whatsoever. That was recycled to prepare for the new chicken netting that will be hung off it soon.

20161124_120120Today, the roof and front wall for the house arrived. I decided to order the lot in one go, just to have the iron for the new chook house’s roof. In any case, I’ve decided to spend all our money up front before the banks go under. Not taking any chances! My two young French wwoofers and the delivery guy and I unloaded the ton and a half of corrugated iron off the truck. After lunch, we put up the tin, and screwed it down. Another job ticked off the list.

Having useful wwoofers is just amazing, and they are such great company, allowing me to practice my really rusty French back to life. They also keep on insisting to do the cooking, and why should I refuse, especially when the results are really nice to eat?20161124_151355

As you can tell, I’m having a really terrible time. All the plants we put in the polytunnel are doing extremely well, especially when compared to the tomatoes I killed last year in the frost at the back of the shed. It’s all coming together, our planning application has even gone into Council…  I just need the house site to dry off completely so we can start putting profiles in for the digging of the foundations.

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It’s all happening……

29 10 2016

Last Friday, I was rudely awakened by a semi trailer outside my shed, at 6:30AM. I wasn’t expecting it before 10AM or so, but the driver had left the depot at 3:30AM, and ta-dah……. there he was! Loaded with nine out of the twenty four pallets of concrete blocks destined to go into the new build.

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It’s amazing how quickly one is able to jump out of bed and throw on some clothes when duty calls…… Luckily, this driver had more than two brain cells to rub together; he worked out the best way to approach the tricky delivery, even though the rep who was here a week earlier to plan this, never told him anything about our place…….

Altogether, there are thirty tonnes of blocks to be delivered, and it could not all be done in one go apparently. The delivery alone is costing us $1000….. buying anything when you’re building always involves lots of zeroes! Last week I bought $4000 worth of Hoop Pine plywood from South East Queensland for the ceiling. It’s the closest thing to white wood I’ve ever seen. Amazingly, the young man who served me worked at the Noosa office where I used to buy plywood for the last house… small world!

20161028_063746The way the pallets are unloaded off the semi is really clever. They use a three wheeled (and three wheel drive) forklift which permanently resides on the truck. To get it off, it lifts itself off the tray, slides backwards until clear of the trailer, then lowers itself to the ground….. I had no idea of whether these gadgets were able to be driven 500 metres return on a dirt road or not, but that was no issue.

Included in the load were sixty litres (with more to come I think) of waterproofing additive 20161028_065343for the mortar that ‘glues’ the blocks together…. while discussing this with the driver, he then informed me that the entire load of blocks has this stuff mixed in at the time of manufacture. Because they are destined for a retaining wall, which needs to be as waterproof as possible, for obvious reasons in our case, Island Blocks decided to include this in the order without me knowing….. We don’t want water coming into the house in a deluge like the one we had last week, so I am mighty pleased with this. Amazingly, these blocks cost us less than the ones we bought in Gympie all those years ago, even though they were specially made for us; it’s a colour they no longer market. We chose it, because it was the nearest thing to the blocks we had at Mon Abri, which we dearly wanted to reproduce as much as possible….

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Nine down, fifteen to go…..

To test this waterproofing feature, I decided to put some water on a block and see if it beaded instead of the usual absorption like a sponge normal concrete displays… and indeed, the concrete is waterproof!20161029_151952

How I wish I had known this was possible when I built the last house…. if such a service was at all possible then.

Tomorrow afternoon, a local concretor is coming for a visit to discuss the footings and slab…….. Will I be out of the ground before Christmas? Now that would be one hell of a Chrissy present!