The drinking water for our house is stored in a tank up the hill behind the house (10m above the roof line, so we can run sprinklers on the roof in the event of a big fire and simultaneous power outage).

We catch the water in a smaller tank below the house, then use a fire pump to get it up to the big tank. This is inconvenient and costs money every time we pump.

So, our good friend Phil Dorman came to the rescue with a surplus vertical axis windmill kit he had lying around his place:

Jeremy built it while he was staying with us, Chris and I put in the foundations, Annette and Christina painted it and we all had a bit of fun erecting it.

New Heritage Fruit Orchard

In July and August 2014 we had several huge days creating our heritage fruit orchard with over 100 different, bare rooted trees.  We’d arranged, with Manning Landcare, a workshop to have Pete the Permie and his wife, Sylvia come to Wingham for several days in July. As a result of that visit, we bought an assortment of 100 various different fruit trees ranging from cherries, plums, apricots and peaches to a whole range of apple and pear trees plus apples specifically for cider.

As our ground where we planned the orchard was so hard and unforgiving, we cheated a and hired a Toro to dig large holes. After the holes were dug, all the excess was removed and masses of mulch, manure, COF mixture (complete organic fertiliser) were applied and then, lots of help from friends – several days of unrelenting efforts!

Martin as always worked his butt off clearing out the holes.  He ended up looking like a Kabooki dancer, covered in grey powder, Mary came with her lovely HelpXers, Merlin & Ioana.  Mary was going to work for a few days so asked us if we’d like them to come for a couple more days – thanks Mary!!  Lots of pictures of these two here.  Ewen, (another recent arrival to the valley with his wife, Anne) came too and rapidly, an empty field became a fledgling orchard.

Les carefully mapped out where we wanted to put a swale, above the top row of trees in the orchard.  This is to stop water from just running down the hill,  slow it down to help absorption, direct it out towards the ridges and finally direct any excess into the house dam.

We hired our neighbour, Richard O’Neil, to dig this swale  That man is an artist with his excavator, it is a joy to watch him in action, gentle easy rhythm! Two days after it was completed, it rained. It worked perfectly!  If you’re in this area, this is the man you need to come and work for you.


Energy Slaves

Some years ago, the peak oil proponent Colin Campbell suggested that the oil being used to do stuff in the world at the time was producing the same levels of output as 22 billion human slaves would have done in the past.

Digging holes for apple trees over this past week has given me a direct comparison of the two methods of getting work done.

First, Annette & I decided that it would be good to get a couple of apple trees planted at an arbour before we get going with the major 100 tree orchard later.

So here we are with the tools to do the job:

2014-07-12_14-55-19_680Crow bar, shovel and post hole shovel.









2014-07-12_13-45-40_929First stage of work completed, 1/2 an hour of Annette’s time with ho-mi and mattock to get the grass out of the way, now using crow bar to loosen the poor man’s concrete we laughingly refer to as “soil”.








One hour, fifteen minutes later:

2014-07-12_15-00-22_124The hole is half a metre deep, 350mm x 400mm – giving us 0.07m3 of material removed for our 1 3/4 hours of effort. This hole is less than half of the size actually desirable for planting the apple…








Now let’s go get a Toro digger from the local hire joint:

2014-07-18_13-47-14_1722014-07-18_13-41-11_557   This time we get a decent sized hole – 450mm diameter x 1m deep – although we still need to use the post hole shovel to get the material removed from the hole (see Martin in the background) – for a total of 0.16m3 removed in six minutes of drilling and five minutes of using the post hole shovel.


Which gives us 68 minutes per m3 or ~25 hours per m3 with the two different methods – nearly 25 times the labour output for the petrol powered device (not including the fossil fuels that went into making the machine, auger, shovel, crow bar and the like).

No wonder we* like fossil fuels so much…


*we in the sense of “our species” as opposed to “Annette & me”

Anguem ex machina

Snakes are a regular hazard around the farm. So far, we’ve only seen blacks and browns around the place (we’d love to see a carpet snake or python, to keep the mice down without endangering the dogs, but there it is…).

We just found one in the water tank for the engine that drives the stock water pump. Little bugger thought it found the way out through the water return pipe at the top of the cooling tank.

Sadly, it found its way down into the cooling galleries around the engine and couldn’t get back out. Result: one drowned red-bellied black snake in the engine, requiring a rapid disassembly before it decayed.

The way out? Or not, in this case         Cooling tank connection to engine

Cylinder head partly removed     Head removed

Gully Raker

We were in Sydney for a reunion of our old woodworking class on the weekend.

We really enjoyed it, but while we were away there was a real gully raker came through the farm – over 30mm of rain in less than 30 minutes. While it was really nice to get the rain, this sort can do a bit of damage. Especially since I’d just dug the trench from the dam at the bottom of the property to the tank at the top and, having been severely beaten up by the trench digger (again), had decided to leave filling it in until this week.

Result? One pump slightly buried in the contents of the trench:
Pump half buried             The rest of the soil headed for the dam

The truly exciting discovery was that I hadn’t closed off the pipe where the feed came off where the feed pipe for the opposite ridge came out of the main pipe. So the bottom 5 metres of pipe were full of mud. Grrr.
Mud in the pipe           Fresh mud all over the pump
So, off comes the connection to the pump, back up the hill and let a couple of hundred litres of water out of the tank, back down the hill to check, back up the hill to do it again and finally it’s all clean enough to reassemble.

Now I just need to hire the machine again and run it through the trench again (after pulling the pipe out) so I can put the pipe back where it belongs.

Lesson? The weather gods are not kind. Never leave what you can do this week until next week, even if the machine is no fun, because the gods will make it even less fun.

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