Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A Hazy Shade of Sepia

The weather forecast for today was dry and windy with a haze developing. Well the dust from central Australia certainly did envelope, most of the Australian east coast for that matter. We lost site of Clear Mountain (how ironic) and Mount Samson, as the first two pictures show. The landscape was visually surreal, as the colour was stripped from the background but present in the foreground. It was almost as if some Photoshop whiz was exercising their artistic flair on a grand scale.

The wind and heat over the weeks has been sucking the soil dry. This has required more water from our household water tanks to keep the main food gardens alive. We still have a good supply of water for the house, probably around 19000 L. This is mainly due to sound water conservation practices which attempts to utilise our water multiple times. For instance, we bucket the water from our daughter's bath into the cistern of the toilet. And after we flush, the underground treated effluent irrigation from the waste treatment plant waters our citrus grove.

Tomorrow I hope to get a new pump up and running, so with that in operation we will be able to start irrigating more of the food gardens using the water from the pond. This will hopefully keep plants such as the asparagus and passionfruit quite contented until the rainy season.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


Here is a panorama of the pond shortly after the earthworks were completed. On the left hand side you can see me working on the earth which was put where the water exits the pond. This has helped raise the water level about 30 cm since I did the depth check. The water level is now at the height of the southern end high water flow prior to its construction.

On the south-eastern edge of the pond you can see the concrete 375 mm pipe which allows the water to flow into the pond. This provides a constant pleasant waterfall from the stream coming into the pond. Over time, the lomandra hystrix planted around the piping should cover up the look of the urban pipe-work.

On the final day of earthworks, I also had a new plant shelf on the north-eastern side of the pond put in. This has increased the surface area of the water considerably, and provided a large shelf on which water filter plants like grey rush will be planted.

The final dimensions of the pond are about 40 m long south-to-north and about 15 m wide east-to-west (at its widest point).

You might have noted the use of the word pond instead of dam to describe this new waterway. As there is no real dam wall, it really is more appropriate to call it a pond.

Occupation chook

As I have mentioned in recent posts, the chook house is now being occupied. We put the chooks in their new home over a week ago and kept them inside the coop entirely for the first few days. As we did not have the chook run constructed at this time, we figured that this would be for the best plus they could get used to this being their new home. It was lots of "fun" capturing the chooks to put them in. Particularly Rusty, as he does not like being caught and is very good at evading capture these days (fox attacks probably have this kind of impact on chooks).

We changed the colour of the paint on the outside of the nest boxes. Although I preferred the original colour, it absorbed too much heat. The new sandy desert colour is significantly cooler. Since we want the chooks to lay as opposed to bake, I figured that colour co-ordination was much less important. In case anyone is wondering why we even considered the darker colour in the first place, it was mistinted paint at half price. We thought it might be too dark and it was. Thankfully the new colour was free, compliments of Mr HHH.

The person door (820 mm wide) was acquired from our local transfer station. As the chook door frame width is only 600 mm, the door had to be cut down to size along the bottom and on one side. It is a hollow door, so I used a very old can of expanding foam to fill in the two cut sides. So while it looks like there should be more door, it works just fine.

The two chook doors were constructed in a similar fashion to the nest box lids, with fibre cement on the outside and ply on the inside. The doors have gate latches on them so that they lock securely when closed. Actually the nice thing about them is that they are large enough for even me to fit through. This has already been handy when we put up a temporary divider within the coop as I did not want the chickens to "own the place". I was stuck on the other side of the divider and exited through the chook door (ever so gracefully of course).

We also made a perch and a perch-type access to their nest boxes. The two perches were made from a feral Jacaranda tree; while it is not as good as a camphor laurel timber, one less feral tree is still a good thing. Now the sad thing is that they are not using their nest boxes, nor their perch. They are big birds and I guess it does take them time to adjust to new things, but they could appreciate the handy work a bit more now couldn't they?! We got three eggs on the second day, so even though they are laying on the floor, this has not impacted their output. Thanks girls.

The remaining coop to-do items are weather strips over the two chook doors, installation of the guttering and down piping, attaching siding along the western roof edge for greater stormy weather protection, and a permanent divider between the two parts of the chook shed.

It is worth noting that in the construction of the chook shed, a significant portion of the materials were recycled. Some of the recycled material used was the roofing iron, roofing channels, ply wood, doors, sisalation, metal strapping, guttering, 6 mm fibre cement, nails, wood piers, tension rod, and some of the roofing screws. The new materials used were screws, hinges, door latch, cement, compressed fibre sheeting for the floor, most of the framing wood, some of the paint, and silicone sealant. So I am pleased that this project has helped to reduce some of the waste which could have ended up in landfill.

By the way, if anyone has any suggestions on a name for the chook coop, please post it in the comments.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hitting Bottom

I took the kayak out on the dam to test out the water depth. Sadly, it is the first time this kayak has touched Australian waters. Given the length of time I have been living in this great country, it has been far too long. However it was still up to the task and, despite there not being much in the way of white water, it performed quite well.

During the portage from the shed to the dam, I thought about a great Canadian super hero called Mr Canoehead (Canada's greatest aluminum crime fighter). If you have never heard of this mighty Canuk, then it is worth checking out the link to some old video clips.

After launching into the dam, I could not resist "opening her up" (i.e. paddling quickly from one end to the other). It is always relaxing paddling and I look forward to doing this regularly in the future.

After a bit of fun, I used a depth checker to see where the bottom was. Unfortunately, the depth is not quite as deep as I would have liked. It is only about 1.5 m at either end, with the northern end being just slightly deeper. Throughout the rest of the deeper parts of the dam it varies from about 1 m to 1.25 m. So I would say that the average depth of the water is around 1.2 m. Still, given the challenges with all the water while it was being dug out, it is still a good result. But I will see if we can excavate a bit more tomorrow.

I also took the opportunity to plant some of the reeds back around the shallower areas. Hopefully they will take and start filtering the water. I will also need to speak with the folks at the Kumbartcho Sanctuary nursery and purchase some native water and margin plants to put around the dam.

No thanks, I'm full

The water level in the new dam has been rising at an impressive rate. So much water has been pouring in, that the dam is already filled to capacity. Pretty much all of the shallow areas on the western side have been covered with water. This has occurred less than 48 hours after the temporary earthen bung wall was removed. Part of the reason for the rapid filling is that there is no dam wall at the end of the dam. Thus the lowest part of the dam is the highest level of the water. But it is still impressive considering that there has been very little rain in over two months.

The first picture is of the water level before the water behind the bung wall was released shortly after 3 PM on Friday afternoon. The second picture is less than a minute after the water was released. You can see the water rushing into the dam on the right hand side of the photo. The third picture is the following morning (Saturday). The fourth picture is from Sunday morning (the day this blog entry was published).

The pictures above are taken from the southern end looking north. Below are some additional pictures from around the dam. The first picture is a view of the water entering the dam from the south-eastern end with the the western side in the background. The second picture is from the northern end looking south. The final picture is again from the northern end, this time looking south-west (with the shed in the background).

The height of the dam edges are quite appropriate, I believe, as they will allow for an increased capacity during heavy rains without the banks being compromised. We'll see if Mrs Nature has anything to add about this thought.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

BOGI Day Out

Not only are we in the process of building a dam and putting the finishing touches on the chook coop (yes, I need to do another post on this), we also had an open garden for Brisbane Organic Growers Inc (BOGI).

Today turned out to be a nice sunny day. I was not sure if the weather would hold as we had just under 10 mm of rain overnight and early in the morning. However the sun came out well before the event.

The tour started at the rose garden with its pineapple border and edible hibiscus. The edible hibiscus was a hit, with many people requesting a cutting. We continued on to the citrus grove which is located over the sub-surface irrigation for the treated effluent coming from our Aqua Nova system. Just below the irrigated area are bananas, sweet potatoes, raspberries, pumpkins, Jerusalem artichoke, and a persimmon tree.

We continued over to the forest of asparagus, past the passionfruit, and on to the main event, the vegie garden. I showed them how the grass paths broke down over time creating a lovely rich soil and explained how the majority of the garden beds is basically compost. I also touched on some learning experiences relating to a bit too much deco in the garden beds (which seems to cause the beds to dry out faster).

I also explained how the banana pit was made, including the amount of on-the-spot composting it required. The new chook shed was also presented including its inhabitants.

Finally we finished off with an afternoon tea. There is nothing like spending an afternoon chatting about gardening with a great bunch of people and enjoying some tasty treats!

Friday, 4 September 2009

There's a Hole in the Gully

Dear Liza, dear Liza. Or something to that effect.

The time had finally come to put in our dam. Or as it turned out, a big hole in the ground. Unfortunately we did not have the right material in the gully to make a proper dam wall. Damn dam a wholly holey mess! So instead we dug in deep (keeping within council regs of course).

There was an existing hole in the ground, however it was fairly shallow. The main purpose of this new water collection area is for irrigation of the property, primarily focusing on the generation of edible goodies. However there were some important secondary reasons as well.

We wanted the resultant body of water to look good. We also want it to be deep enough so that we could swim in it without touching bottom. As well, we want our future ducks and geese to be able to use it.

We'll see how everything pans out once the water level fills up. However I am feeling rather good about it so far.

While I would have liked the western side to have been deeper, it will probably be for the best that it's not as reeds and other filtration type plants should establish well there. This should help maintain the water quality, which has always been extremely good. Obviously it looks a bit murky now, but with a bit of time all the particles should settle out.

I will post a video of the water surging into the dam after the temporary upstream bung wall was broken. The last two pictures were taken before the water was released into the dam.