Compost Heap August 2012
 
Our first compost heap
We had been visiting Robert Fischer, a farmer from over the other side of Heidelberg, who had for many years been living the type of lifestyle we were aiming for. He and his wife Maria grow all their own food and vegetables and they have imparted much of their valuable knowledge and experience with us, for which we are very grateful.

From our many visits, one thing we have realised is that nothing in farming is "quick". Plants take months to grow, animals take years to grow and the decomposition of matter is also a rather slow process.

  It was with this in mind that we decided to build our first compost heap. We located it in a small clearing on the forest edge just behind where we plan to build our growing tunnels. We were still living in the suburbs and employed a gardener every Friday. Every week he would produce a few bags of grass and shrub cuttings which we had been sending off to the garden refuse dump. What a waste! We now take all this stuff out to the farm for our own compost heap. Hopefully by the time we need it we will have good compost.

And while working on this project we kept a weary eye on a large veldfire raging in the distance. Our dry winters are not going to be that much fun on the farm.


  Building Contractor Quotation

Slappies did get back to us with some rough drawings on how he proposed to split the levels of the house to cater for the slope and his proposed construction methods. We really just went onto detail on the foundation to floor level stage. He suggested the foundation area was too big for manual mixing of the concrete and ready-mix trucks would need to be brought in for casting the foundations and floor slab. I wasn't happy with those 10 ton trucks driving through our property all day for a few days. And the price he gave for stage one of the project was just way out of my league. I would have had to raise a morgage on my suburban house to get the project to floor level! After a few rethinks and recalculations we left it at that. We had to rethink the construction of the house completely.

  Fencing off our Trees

Planting the poles for fencing off our trees
    Our Wit Hout trees were looking poorly. But there was hope. The eland did leave some leaves and new buds were sprouting from the remaining branches. We continued watering them but if they were going to have any chance of survival, they needed to be fenced in. We decided on planting some of our spare log poles in the normal way: post hole drill and then packing the soil back into the hole to secure them. But we needed to keep the duiker out as well so the log crosspieces wouldn't work here. So we tried our hand at diamond mesh wire fencing.

After a bit of experimentation we got a reasonably good fence erected and our trees were safe. We also moved some of the small trees that Robert had given us into the enclosure and it became our "nursery" area. We still needed to make a gate so in the meantime we hung thick sticks with wire across the entrance gap.

We had to water our few plants every time we went out to the farm. This meant filling the water tanker from Che's borehole and using the pump and hose on the trailer to get the water out. Winter was nearly over and we were looking forward to good summer rains for Heidelberg.


  Beekeeping Course and Our Bees

Our first beekeeping session was very interesting. We covered the identification of eucalyptus trees and their varying flowering periods and methods of acquiring bees. In our practical session we broke open an abandoned hive that was made in a bird nesting box to see the natural structure of a hive and we made our own "catchbox".

The bee courses were on the first Saturday morning of each month. The weekend after the course we took our catchbox out to the farm and hung it in a tree on the edge of our forest, taking particular care in the location and direction as we learned on the course.



  The black wattle trees were in full flower (that little yellow round furry ball is the flower). And two weeks later we had a small swarm take up residence in our catchbox. Very exciting!

  Making a Start on the Pumphouse

 

We decided on the site for the pumphouse - obviously right next to the first borehole.The plan was to incorporate an ablution block so we could experiment with water heating and toilet systems. But the dilemma was to face the block north for optimum solar energy where it would basically be facing our neighbour's farm or to keep it parallel to the log fence and face it to the mountain. We wanted windows in the ablution block (a bathroom with a view) so the aesthetics won. We will angle the solar panels to capture the best solar energy.
 
The area of the pumphouse/ablution block will 8 meters x 4 meters and we started clearing the veld grass and digging the foundations. This was really hard work as the ground was very hard from months without rain - but it had to be done.

  New Road Garden

The New Road garden was looking great. The worst of winter was over and the mixed seedlings we sprinkled in there were all shooting.

The solar lights were working (although the little LEDs didn't give much light at night, they were visible from both ends of the road) but my delicious monster didn't make it. The frost got it and all two of the leaves died off.

We also added a little birdbath on the ground for our resident family of Cape Robins.