Archive for May, 2011

Chooks Ho!!….update #4

May 28, 2011

Well, I braced the polypipe arches with some cross pieces and have started to put the wire over the top. It was unbelievably easy with the arches braced!:

Those 4 square paving stones are where the chicken coop will sit within the yard. I’ve had to build them up at the low end to make them level.

I’m using plastic cable ties to attach the wire to the star pickets and the arches. The plastic is supposed to be UV stabilised, but if they begin to break down I can replace them with wire ties. They were so quick and easy to put on.

I’m putting the wire along the sides as individual panels. I tried running one length of it along a side, but because of the slope it had to be dug in too far at the high end and since I had bits and pieces of short lengths left over from other jobs it was good to be able to use them up. In retrospect, seeing how easy it was to run the wire up and over the arches, I think I could have gone the whole way with one length of wire per arch—from the ground, up and over the arch and back to the ground on the other side. Maybe next time (if there is one!)

Next job will be to finish varnishing the coop and start putting it together.

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The value of biological diversity

May 24, 2011

Since 1992, every May 22 has been the International Day for Biological Diversity. It’s a UN attempt to raise awareness of the importance of biological diversity to our lives and our future.

Here’s a wonderful post, with some beautiful pictures, from the Permaculture Research Institute website.

Unfortunately we don’t learn ecology at an early age, or ever. Some of us never come to it, or an understanding of how biological diversity underpins our very lives.

I remember the first book I read on ecology. It was called The Machinery of Nature, by American ecologist Paul Ehrlich (he of The Population Explosion fame). It kind of blew me away. It was a library book and I extended the loan and read it right through a second time. It was such a brilliant book, I wanted my own copy. My local bookshop didn’t have it, but said they’d try and get it in. I considered keeping the library copy and telling them I’d lost it (offering to pay for it, of course). Luckily I got my own copy. I re-read it often. If the house ever caught fire, it would be one of the first things I’d grab on the way out.

It was first published in 1986 and I suspect it’s now out of print.

Chooks Ho!!….update #3

May 23, 2011

I’ve now put all the star pickets in place and bolted the poly pipes to them. It’s starting to look interesting:

I had a feeling I would probably need to brace the arches with some cross pieces, but thought that if I could get the wire in place it would do the job itself—sort of a compromise between the wire bracing the arches and the arches holding up the wire.

However it wasn’t as easy as I thought (I’m doing this all on my own, although I could ask a neighbour for help, but want to see how much I can achieve without it).

Trying to drag a length of rigid wire to a place it didn’t really want to go proved my nemesis. The polypipe arches kept moving  sideways and the wire kept falling through the gap and onto my head. So I realised I would have to put in some cross pieces to brace the aches.

I should mention here that the wire comes in a roll and I wanted to run it up and over the arches so that the natural curve of the unrolled wire follows the curve of the arches. Each arch is therefore spaced to the width of the roll of wire (90cm).

That drawing board is becoming a familar place!

Winter food

May 10, 2011

The weather’s cooling down now, but the garden’s not exactly in limbo.

Spot the persimmon. The leaves are putting on their autumn show and there’s just one fruit hiding in there. Last year the tree set three fruits for its first effort, but they all dropped off before maturity. This one looks as though it will make the grade:

Tamarillos are ripening, too. These ones are a bit late. I’ve already picked 2 kilos from the earlier-ripening trees:

Oca foliage. Oca is a South American plant with pink, wrinkly underground tubers. I’m hoping there’ll be a good lot of tubers under all that:

Another South American tuberous plant—yacon. Should be some nice tubers under there, too:

This Japanese Seedless mandarin is going to have a nice crop. Last year the possums showed a bit of interest.  I’m ready and waiting with the net at the first sign of damage:

This new little Meyer Lemon has a nice crop, too. Lemon butter coming up:

Wicking box with garlic and lettuce. First time I’ve tried garlic in a wicking box:

Celery, also in a wicking box. Celery just loves all that moist soil:

Broccoli coming on. No problems with Cabbage White butterflies now:

Silver beet going well in the new planter box:

And finally, Corn Salad, also called Mache by the French. It’s a delicate winter green, with a beautiful buttery flavour:

Chooks Ho!!….update #2

May 5, 2011

In update #1 I had a bit of a mess to clean up in the spot where the chookyard was to go.

I finished that job and set about buying what I needed to build the yard.

I came up against a problem straight away. I couldn’t buy the 50mm (2″) diameter polypipe I wanted to fit over the star pickets to make the arched roof over the yard. I went to four local plumbing suppliers and drew blank at them all. The only 50mm pipe they had was high pressure water pipe—too thick to bend over the distance I wanted; only in 100m coils and too expensive to boot; and the internal diameter too small to fit over the star pickets.

Back to square one (I’d already bought the star pickets, by the way).

Last summer I’d bought 25mm (1″)  polypipe and thin stakes to make polypipe arches to net the fruit trees. It worked very well. The 25mm polypipe was available in Bunnings, already cut to 3m lengths and not expensive, so I fished it out from under the house and set it up on the thin stakes to see what it looked like:

Not bad, but the stakes obviously weren’t robust enough for this job and besides they weren’t going to last—they’re plastic-coated steel and (as I found out) the plastic eventually degrades in the sun and the steel starts to rust. And I had bought the star pickets and wanted to use them.

Luckily, in Googling for polypipe arch structures, I’d found a guy who’d used electrical conduit as the arch material and had bolted it to star pickets.

So….a packet of nuts & bolts later….

(It actually took less time to drill the holes and put in the bolts, than it took on the computer to work out how to merge these two separate pictures into one).

So now I have some of the star pickets in place and the first of the arches bolted into position:

Looking good. I think (hope) it’s going to be OK.

Seed tape

May 1, 2011

Fresh, crunchy, home-grown carrots, straight from the ground, are something to die for. But they’re a pain to grow.

Because the seedlings don’t like being transplanted, the tiny seed has to be direct sown. Then, because it’s impossible to sow thinly enough, the seedlings have to be thinned out to ensure that each carrot has enough room to grow.

Thinning is the painful part. My back gives out after a few minutes and  I usually give up.

Some enterprising person (probably one with a bad back) has invented seed tape, in which each seed is nicely spaced and enclosed in a strip of tape. You simply plant the strip and if you’re lucky your carrots come up perfectly spaced. The tape rots away.

I’ve been aware of seed tape for a while but never actually seen it for sale, so when I was at Bunnings recently, browsing through the seeds, I saw a packet and grabbed it to try.

It’s Fothergills brand and Nantes variety, which just happens to be the one I always grow. There’s 5 metres of tape in all.

I grow my veggies in wire circles half filled with compost. The circles are 45cm high and that’s just enough to keep out the wild rabbits we’re blessed cursed with. Each circle is about 80cm in diameter. Here’s what it looked like when I’d finished:

I covered the rows of tape with a thin layer of sieved potting mix and watered it all in. I’ll be watching with interest to see how they germinate.

The inner circle of black plastic tube is my watering system. It has two small upright spray heads on opposite sides. I click the hose from the water tank onto the inlet and a fine spray covers the bed.

It then occurred to me (I’m slow, but I get there) that I could make my own tape. I’d like to try radish seed this way. I Googled and found that there are people already doing this (as I said I’m slow). I thought about what I’d use for glue and discovered that flour paste is the go. The tape I bought is the texture and strength of toilet paper, but I think I’ll go for something a little stronger, maybe newspaper (using the margins where there’s no print).

Making seed tapes will be a good indoor job for winter nights by the wood fire.