Archive for December, 2015

This is pretty frightening

December 27, 2015

Watch this video of the decline of Arctic sea ice.

Something about the climate is definitely changing.

I don’t like it.


(Thanks to notsomethingelse blog for posting the link).


December 20, 2015

Back in winter I put in five new thornless blackberry plants. They were planted on a hugelkultur mound, on contour, and eventually I will dig a swale to hold water on the upslope side of the mound.

They were just bare sticks with labels on and I didn’t expect anything to happen this year:


But to my surprise they flowered:


And are now setting fruit:


I’ve staked either end of the row, but I still need to put up wires to contain the growth and something over the top to support a net. Meanwhile, I’m not going to risk losing these to the birds, so I’m using the little apple pouches I bought from Green Harvest. These are little nylon sockettes that just slip over individual fruits or small bunches of fruit and stretch and expand as the fruit grows:



Here’s hoping it works. Can’t wait to taste these!


December 18, 2015

Environmental writer George Monbiot wrote a book called Heat, about climate change (should those c’s be capitalised now?).

Yeah, George, I know. It’s outside now. It was outside yesterday and the day before. And it will be there tomorrow and the next day. Three days of high 30’s temperatures and one topping 40. (I won’t bother to convert to fahrenheit for any American readers; you don’t want to know).

It’s 30 degrees in the living room now. Coming in from outside it seems positively frigid. I venture out only to shift the sprinklers coming from the water tanks and put more ice in the chook’s water. It’s said they won’t drink water if it’s above their body temperature and if they don’t drink for a day they will die. I give them watermelon and say useless things like, “keep your fluids up, Girls”. I’ve covered the run with an old sheet which I keep wet. They sit in the shade with beaks open. I apologise for the stupidity of my species which is causing these hotter summer days.

Four months of below average rainfall; well below average. The most important rainfall months, when fruit is swelling on the trees. It’s triage time for the garden.

The gloss has gone off the leaves of so many hard-leaved plants; a sure sign of dryness. Next the lower leaves will yellow and drop to the ground. The leaves of softer plants hang floppily beside the stems. Even if there is water at the roots, they can’t take it up quickly enough and wilted leaves will fry in the hot sun. Touch them and they crumble into fragments.

I can’t water every single thing in the ground. The ground-based food garden (I laughingly refer to it as a food forest) is on a slope with heavy clay-based soil that water doesn’t penetrate readily. Nor presumably, do roots. I’ve dug swales behind most of the fruit trees and fill them daily with water. Trying to keep ahead of the curling, wilting leaves is all I can do at the moment.

What can I let die?

Most of the feijoas are useless. They don’t flower much and set only small fruit which magically seems to disappear before it gets any bigger. Possums or parrots? I don’t know. The feijoas can be allowed to die.

Even the rosemary is stressed. Rosemary is supposed to be a Mediterranean plant…drought-tolerant. Nobody told it about climate change. Still, rosemary grows readily from cuttings…easy to replace. Maybe I could let them go as well.

The persimmon HAS to be watered. There are a dozen or so fruits forming. With no yields to speak of for a couple of years, and the promise of something this year, I can’t let that go.

The only good thing about deciding to let a plant die is planning what I can put in to replace it. After 15 years at this self-sufficiency thing, I’m starting to get a handle on what will survive where, what the rabbits will and won’t eat and what will give the most useful yields. I think about those who haven’t started on self-sufficiency yet; when the energy available to agriculture starts to seriously decline and supermarket shelves become increasingly barer, their learning curve will be pretty much vertical.

What about pumpkins and zucchini and their ilk. There are fewer bees around each year now. Hand pollination is mandatory. But excess yield can be dried. That’s worth having. Cucumbers can be pickled. I’m still eating last season’s bread & butter pickles. Cucumbers have to be kept going (anyway I grow them in wicking boxes now).

Speaking of wicking boxes….these have been worth their weight in gold. At last count I had over 40. Tomatoes, basil, beans, peas, lettuce, capsicums, parsley, kale and leeks, and much more. They thrive with constant water at the roots and with a regular topping of chook poo compost.  I can’t believe the growth in this one:


Two tomatoes (the front one going bananas…that upturned pot is holding it up), some climbing beans at the rear and a cucumber at either end. It gets about 4 litres of water once a day of course, but it has a 60 litre water storage bin beside it and it’s on the deck where I can keep an eye on it. Wicking beds and/or boxes are the way to go in a water-stressed future. Every time I get a load of chook poo compost to fill it, I make another wicking box.

Well, I’m off out to brave the heat again and offer ice and sympathy to the chooks.

Soon be winter, Girls.


Looking At Climate Change Like A Farmer

December 3, 2015

This is the link to a post of the same name as my title above from Gene Logsdon (for some unknown reason I can’t seem to do a straight reblog of WordPress posts anymore).

Gene is a semi-retired farmer who scatters pearls of wisdom throughout his blog, The Contrary Farmer. I really like the way he views climate change from a farmer’s perspective in his latest post. Have a read and maybe re-think your own attitudes. I’m re-thinking mine.