Sunday, December 21, 2014

Battles continue

As well as my own struggles against wascally wabbits there are others who come to help.
I know foxes are bad, bad, bad for ground nesting birds but they do eat bunnies.  This one walked down our drive giving me time to get my camera.

In the weed department an unpleasant amount of Saffron Thistle was found in our revegtation paddock.
A few minutes with my bent panga removed the threat of it flowering.

I discovered a nasty patch of serrated tussock in the top paddock and took my sprayer up to give that a serve.  This led me to discover some St John's Wort and some nasty big verbascum.
 In the absence of the bent panga or brickie's hammer a bit of simle pulling and piling seemed to do what was needed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It's been a while ....

... since I posted to this blog.  That is primarily because it has been Winter and not much to report but it is also leavened with some sloth on the reporting front.


Spring turned out to be fairly clear of windy days so I got stuck into the blackberries and sweet briar fairly well on a couple of days.  There is of course more to do.

For some reason I have been noticing a bit more serrated tussock around that has been the case so that has been getting a serve from the mattock with small infestations and spraying (with a cocktail of triclorpyr and glyphosate to nail it before seeding) for more numerous areas.  The mattocked stuff is bagged and added to my pile for incineration in April.

The local Landcare group has distributed some biological control for St John's Wort.  This is a tiny (microscope sized) mite which they supplied on a growing plant.  The idea is to tie a bit of the infected plant to plants out in the paddock and let the mites transfer across and get munching.

This image shows a twist tie holding the infected material on to the growing plant.
I pruned off any flower heads in evidence  ....
 ..  and bagged them so that they could joined the serrated tussock on my pile.
 It will apparently take a few years for this to really get going. and there is an issue that one of the 4 subspecies of SJW is resistant to the mite.  But anything that offers hope needs to be tried.


There continue to be isolated sightings of feral pigs and a couple have been shot in the area.

On 1 December we saw a Fallow Deer run across the top paddock.  That is the first we have seen on the property for a couple of years (and the first up there).

There are a few rabbits around especially the family living under one of our sheds.  I have trapped and disposed of a few of them recently (YTD 13).  They have also taken to sitting placidly in the entrance to the trap.  Several (YTD 3) of them have sat there despite my approach with a .410.  I think the cost per shot rabbit is now down to about $100 (without allowing for the resale value of the gun and cabinet

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cleaning up for a Garden design exercise Pt 2

I recently posted about cleaning up part of the block as a precursor to a garden design exercise.  That post had got big enough so here we go with part 2.

As well as removing the brambles etc from the dam wall there was quite a bit of wood left lying around from applying bonsai techniques to a dead stringybark. Much of this was rotted, and will join the other by-products of this exercise in a pile.  Other bits look to be combustible and will be used in the stove when Winter arrives.  (I suspect it is good insect habitat so will not be stored near the house, but inserted straight into the inferno.)  We also have a good collection of kindling and I decided to construct a holding pen for that as an attractive feature of the area.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The direct seeding block grows.

On 22 March we decided to count the number of Eucalypts growing in the paddock in which we had received some direct seeding by Greening Australia.  The answer was 9 trees, among many Acacias.  Some of the gums are quite small (this one is perhaps 40cm high, about 6 years after the seeding happened).
Others are now quite reasonable trees about 4m high.
The acacias are quite dense in some areas:
Following a few modest rainfalls in the past couple of weeks there is quite a bit of moss growing in these denser areas.
The recent moistness is probably also the reason for the (re)growth of ferns along the Creek at the foot of this paddock.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cleaning up for a Garden design exercise Pt 1

Frances has been reading and watching TV programs about garden design for many years and visiting the gardens of stately piles has been a sub-focus of our last two trips to the UK.

Recently she has been thinking about what to do with a patch of land just outside our garden fence.  Think mainly bare earth and rock with a small amount of vegetation.  There is also a dam:

  • from which I have taken quite a few invertebrate pictures; and
  • into which I have chucked our crustacean left overs for 7 years.

From the house the main aspect of the dam was a wall of blackberries and Kunzea ericoides (burgan).

To get some advice on how to deal with this Frances has joined the ANPS Garden Design Group and is arranging for them to visit and give some ideas on what could be done with the area. A fist step is to get rid of the wall of blackberries and burgan.  Here is a sample of what it looks like.
Various cutting implements were assembled:
I then got stuck in.  It turned out to be quite heavy work, because it wasn't possible to get a steady rhythm going as one can cutting firewood.   Just as you get the brushcutter warmed up on the brambles you're jammed by burgan and have to resort to secateurs, shears or bow-saw to get that out the way.  Then a stump emerges and the chainsaw has to be fired up.

Of course, clearing the detritus out of the way is a permanent chore as is getting it up to the pile.  I have used two ways of doing this.  The innovation is to emulate the professional lawn-meisters and spread a tarp and drag that 50m to the pile.
That is a bit awkward if the burgan:bramble ratio is low since the bramble seems to snag out of the folded tarp.  Then one resorts to the example of the Scots play (specifically Act IV scene 1):
"Great Birnham Wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him."

I was certainly schlepping the scrub up hill, but the idea was to Burn'em there, not at the source.  As a result of a windy period at the end of September I didn't get to light the pile then and it has been too warm to do so safely since.  So I am now creating a second pile and will have a pleasant day with a box of Redheads in early April.
So how is the battle progressing?  Here is the situation on the 4th of March:
By 10 March somewhat of a difference is noticeable bth on the dam wall ...
 ... and in the size of the pile(s).  The areas hatched in green are the outcome of this exercise.
Continued in part 2.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Summer Clean up time approaches

As shown in this image we have been (in fact are going) through a very dry period.
 A benefit of this has been that the weeds are not going as ballistic as they have in the recent wetter seasons.  However this morning (30/12/2013) while on our dog walk Frances noted that that's yellow is not Xerochrysum viscosum: some of it is St Johns Wort (Hypericum_perforatum). There was also some Verbascum major.

A few minutes after returning to the house I was on my way back there with some plastic bags, a brickies hammer and a bad attitude.

This is a small specimen of Verbascum, with my size 10 for scale.
 Some bigger specimens were also present.
The reason for the brickies hammer was to persuade the Verbascum to remove itself from the ground.  Check the length of these roots.
Here is the evil wort!  As I have said before, rather than a treatment for depression, if you are a landholder near the ACT it is a cause of depression.
The hammer wasn't needed to get this stuff out.  Again check the length of the roots.  It is likely that there is still a bit of root left in there, but with little stored energy it shouldn't regrow too much.
Here is the semi-improved wort.  It will be fully improved in April when a Redhead is applied to the pile!
Other than a feeling of well being when the weeds are removed the other benefit of such exercises its that one spends a bit of time up the block and sees a few pleasant things.  First up is a Pallid Cuckoo: I normally regard their plaintive call as one of the typical sounds of Summer but they have been relatively scarce this year.
 Another Summer regular: Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
The third of the regulars, Olive-backed Oriole, was calling but wouldn't get close enough for an image.  However there were lots of grasshoppers around and a couple of them 'obliged'.

The second looks rather like a cubist depiction of itself, which I think is due to the pronotum and the way the femur hides the abdomen!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The top paddock in January 2013

I have been spending a bit of time in the top paddock recently, mainly keeping up the battle against brambles, briars, serrated tussock, thistles and St John's Wort.  However before getting to the baddies here are some more pleasing shots:

This shows how dry the paddock is but also the number of Red Box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos) growing. I suspect in a few years we will have a nice bit of woodland here.  All we have done is not put stock in the paddock: the 'roos who have done a fine job of trimming the grass appear to ignore the treelings.

This image shows part of our biggest clump of Xerochrysum viscosum (Everlasting Daisy).  In total the patch covers a couple of acres.
Another indication of dryness.  This dam is fed by a spring, and has never gone dry.  However my guess is that it is about 50cm lower than in October.
Even thistles do some good.  This is a Flower Scarab having a go.  I had a go shortly thereafter with my brickies hammer!
 Thistles and brambles mixed in with some Poa labillardieri tussocks.
 A view up the gully full of Poa labillardieri tussocks running down from the dam.  A few brambles are erupting and will be dealt with in due course.