Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Second Time Around

Four years ago, when I was caught in the terrible fires in Victoria, never did I think that it would be a repeat performance in two ways, seeing and experience it happen again and to be staying as a wwoofer with Alice and Bruce. Well both are being repeated. This will be my last homesteading experience here before heading off to New Zealand next week, to continue the quest.

Above is one of the blackberry patches on this smallholding

Every morning my first task of the day is to go and pick blackberries for breakfast. The cultivated variety is American and is much sweeter that our native variety, as well as having easy pick capability, so there are no real thorns to contend with.

Alice and Bruces family home

This wooden family house was formerly a school house situated some miles away. They purchased, disassembled and had it transported to its present site more than thirty years ago. The rooms are very high, so it tends to remain cool in the extreme heat at present. It is 40C today!

Abandoned bicycles used to renovate and repair others.

A major project I undertook was to get  bikes working and roadworthy. They also help to get about the property. Recycling is the way to go, and I have the experience to do it. Truing wheels, servicing and replacing worn, or broken parts for the numerous amount dumped and lying about.

A view of a couple of netted apple trees

I have started to get quite proficient at tying nets over apple, plum, pear, nashi and peach trees. There are also strawberries and melons which are nearly ripe. Nashi is not an apple, or pear, and comes from China, Japan and Korea. It looks like a russet apple.

English blackberries which are coming along nicely

A shot of poplar trees and pampas grass amongst the apple trees. A great place to hide from the heat

Bruce and Alice. Every day is a salad day. Meals are eaten outside for most of the year

Alice is a retired science teacher and also is a life coach. She founded and runs the Empathy Foundation. There are also appearances on television in regard to this issue. 

Bruce is a professional photographer. He does arial photography, works for estate agents, does big weddings, as well as scientific work using time lapse work. He writes and is a regular, long time contributor to Earth Garden.

My cooking has been improving. Buck wheat pancakes (it is not a grain, but related to rhubarb!), as well as making felafel. Their daughter makes camembert.

Two of the three varieties of potato that are grown

A regular and relentless activity for all at this time of year is wood gathering into bonfires, grass is cut and trees near to housing is removed. All possibilities at limiting fire outbreaks at this time of year is necessary, survival may be at stake. A telephone system of alerting and updating information to householders minimises risk. Four years ago I had to leave and take the train back to Melbourne.

Drying garlic prior to plaiting

My favourite spot at the end of the day with a culpa just watching the bird life around the dam

Before sitting down there is one last task to do, watering the veggies. What a lovely smell of newly wet earth after the heat and the smell of tomatoes, basil and mint permeates the stillness. The dam is rain fed. A system of water channels brings in water from a wide area and is sufficient to last even the driest years.

Melbourne seen from the bus, quite a contrast to the peace of being in the country

More apples 

Apples seen from the dam embankment, with blackberries in the foreground

The grass is completely devoid of any colour owing to parching by the relentless sun

Another project I undertook during my time here was irrigation of the apple trees. It is pleasing to learn new skills. The black plastic drip irrigation piping is laid out. Emitters are inserted at appropriate placesfor optimum water, which drips day and night. Any blockages have to be cleared, cleaned and set. Leaks mended. There are 200+ varieties of apple grown here. Some years certain varieties come good and other years it may be others. One thing that Bruce's meticulous records show is that the first flowers are appearing earlier and earlier!

A view across the dry fields

An unknown bird I photographed this morning

A kookaburra. Which I got close to by offering food

To hear one link to this.

Ozzie birds are largely raucous and have huge bills. Their calls echo around woodlands. Huge beaks, too.   This is another very noisy bird, which can be near deafening, a sulphur crested cockatoo. Often they do a squaky screem when flying in large numbers.

This is my last posting from Australia. Next week I will be in New Zealand and will be silent for some time, as I am taking part in doing another 10-dat Vipassana silent meditation.