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Fernglade Farm – Winter 2013 Update (Australia)

The rains turned up here in Victoria, Australia, in April and then kept on pouring. So far this year has seen almost no rain over summer and then about 600mm (2 foot) since about the middle of Autumn. In addition to that, winter maximum temperatures have set new records (which date back to the 1860s). The climate here is turning strongly Mediterranean.

As you’d expect, everything is growing strongly although some of the fruit trees are a bit confused. Citrus trees love this weather and I now have more lemons than I can eat. The wallaby has been busy eating the citrus trees so I have had to cage every single fruit tree that is smaller than about 3m.

The chickens are not enjoying the wet weather so much and are only producing about 6 eggs per week. Two of the new silkies became broody and are refusing to budge from their laying boxes. The deep litter mulch system in their enclosed run works well despite the heavy rain. It does however mean that the deep litter has to be turned with a fork every day to ensure that it does not go anaerobic.

In preparation for another hot dry summer I have been busily planting comfrey as a companion plant to the 300 or so fruit trees in the food forest. This has now been achieved. Last summer, the fruit trees which had comfrey as a companion plant performed much better than those without it.

I’ve also recently moved all of the apricot trees from the shady food forest to the more exposed sunnier food forest (the food forest is divided into two separate areas). The hazelnuts and chestnuts moved in the opposite direction towards the shady side.

Quite a few nut trees were added to the food forests this year including about six walnuts, two pecans, two chestnuts and three hazelnuts. I’ve also included a few new quince and cherry trees. I recently ate local walnuts this year and they taste amazing. When I was much younger, I used to think that dried walnut was some sort of parental torture device.

The bees are also happily foraging for pollen — even at this time of year — and there are a lot of diverse flowering plants for them to forage. I’m preparing a new hive box at the moment in case they swarm during the upcoming Spring as I’ll try and resettle them.

Also of note is that with the warmer weather this winter some of the more established herbs have not died back as they did the previous year.

The farm is also participating in a trial of garlic varieties and there are now 35 different varieties (with well over 150 plants) all happily growing.

The swales are outstanding and are capturing every drop of rain water that hits the property plus also a bit from the road.

Thanks for watching and I hope to post a plan of the farm with the next update including a list of fruit trees.


  1. Looks like we are having a similar experience. Its been unseasonally warm here (Blue Mountains) lately and spring has come too early. Today its a cold snap and will cause problems without a bit of luck.

  2. Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for the link. The chooks are well on their way back to happiness. Scaly leg is a new one for me after many years of chook owning. The article stated that it is usually a summer problem, but it is winter here? I really appreciate the info as I wouldn’t have thought of using either beeswax and/or olive oil both of which can be produced here. Nice to hear about the garlic at your place too. Yum!

    Hi Rob,

    Yeah, this year has been weirdly warm here too. It hasn’t snowed here for over 4 years now. I’m seriously considering trying a coffee shrub again as it grew really vigorously before dying after the last sudden snowfall.

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