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Fernglade Farm – Late Summer 2013 Update (Australia)

It’s nearing the end of summer here at Fernglade farm and what a summer it has been. Two inches of rain in over five months, and extreme heat for days on end, results in a most unpleasant experience.

Still, despite it all, things are still growing and there is still food to eat. The kangaroos, wallabies and wombats are also still eating from the farm and they are here often enough now that I’m assuming that conditions are harder elsewhere.

As a response to the extreme weather conditions, in very early summer I set about heavily mulching all of the plants in the food forest and whilst overall about 10% of the plants and trees here have died, 90% have survived.

I accept that these conditions are part of the environment and so I’m still adding trees to the food forest, plus collecting seed and both considering and implementing changes based on the lessons learned during this period.

The good news is that all of the efforts that have gone into storing water in the ground and improving the depth of the top soil are paying off, and the older, better established fruit trees are thriving despite me being unable to water them.

In addition to this I’m also experimenting with new perennial crops and have recently planted out a bed of tree onions and am looking forward to seeing how they grow in this environment.

There have been some close moments during summer here and the photo below shows the smoke from the very large fire in the eastern end of the mountain range rising above my farm in the forest:

But there have also been some really great moments, like when the silky chook “mum” took the three new silky chicks under her wing:

Most of all though I’m looking forward to the cooler weather of Autumn, Winter and Spring and I wish all of you Permies the best over the coming season!

10 Comments

  1. We had to learn the very self same lessons here in Northern Tasmania as we had almost no rain at all over the summer period (although this is apparently a regular thing here). After losing a few trees and having to replant some elsewhere (after the large eucalypts robbed them of their water) I am going to spend winter hunting and tracking down xeriscape food plants that are hardy and readily adaptable to our local conditions…fool me once! ;). Cheers for sharing your wonderful adventures in food forestry, they are precious beyond belief to people like us who are avid hunters of cool climate info about permaculture here in Australia. Our conditions are totally unlike those of the Northern Hemisphere and what is de rigeur there, is totally untranslatable here. Again, thank you SO much for your efforts and all of your hard work to share it with us, we really do appreciate it :)

  2. Looks like you got through the extreme weather pretty well, and the wind turbine will be a good addition. Storing the water in the ground paid off, going to increases to the amount?

  3. Hi narf7. Thanks for the comment. Yeah, we won’t get fooled again! hehe!

    I’m in a very similar climate to you and I grow acacia melanoxylon (Blackwoods) which are also local to your area. There’s also quite a lot of tree lucerne (tagaste) and both are used as a hedge around the food forest. The winds were robbing soil moisture as much as the sun this year. The Blackwoods are in seed at the moment and they’re really easy to collect and propagate. If you are interested, I can put a quick how to video together? I’m thinking of also replacing the dead fruit trees with the blackwoods. I think Masanobu Fukuoka used them extensively as nitrogen fixing plants, and they’ll also provide much needed shade too.

    Chris

  4. HI Leo. Thanks. Yeah, I’m looking forward to getting the wind turbine in as the solar PV array hit the pareto principle in the depths of winter in that it provides 96% of the energy for the whole year. Hopefully, the wind turbine will make up the last 4%…

    The ground is the best place to store water as it moves very slowly through the ground once it is in the aquifer and isn’t subject to the same evaporation pressures. The two previous wet summers made me a bit slack on mulching around the fruit trees so I’m not sure I can get more water into the ground, so I’ll focus instead on keeping it there.

    Thanks for your blog too as I really enjoy it. Chris

  5. silky chooks – gotta love em – ive got a few – someone needs to tell them that the 80’s are well and truly over and disco wigs and leg warmers are no longer de rigeur

  6. Hi almeister. Yeah, they love that 80’s disco gear. hehe. I suspect the other more serious chooks like the Isa Browns and Araucanas don’t respect them. The good thing I’ve found about silkies is that they lay eggs during the Autumn, when all of the other girls are regrowing their feathers for winter. Chris

  7. Thank you for sharing. Although I do not live in your climate, it is always good to see the challenges others are facing and learn from your learning. Thank you

  8. Hi Almeister. It all depends on what time of year the chicks were hatched and where you are, day length and what sort of weather you are having. Silkies only produce about 60 to 80 eggs a year on average so they are not heavy layers like the other birds. At a guess, I’d say she will come on the lay somewhere between about 7 months and a year. Mind you, chooks in good conditions can live as long as a small dog or cat. Chris

  9. Hi Brooke. Thanks. I enjoy learning from others too. The water harvesting techniques in particular have very broad application across many different climates. Regards. Chris

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