We’ve lived at The Outpost over 6 months now. Time is really flying by! It strikes me that some of the blogs I’ve written since we arrived deserve updates, so today will be a sort of rag-tag collection of stuff.
The big picture
In my first blog back in October, I talked about how utterly overwhelming this property is. That has not changed. I still feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. But I’ve stumbled across a technique that keeps the overwhelm at bay by just choosing a task that moves us forward and getting on with it.
It’s been helping, but during lockdown the volume of these tasks has slowed. Partially, it’s a motivation thing. But it’s also partially about the fact I can’t get the supplies I need to do stuff.
Still, when my father visited before lockdown, he pointed out the old wisdom that “you eat an elephant one bite at a time”, so I’m just taking slow bites when I can.
Early on, I blogged about how difficult our garden has been to maintain. I hit on this again in my blog about our pest-proof garden. It seems that whenever we get one thing under control (like the possums), another pest takes its place (green vegetable bug, drought, armyworm, and ducklings are our current nemises). For now, the pest-proof garden is on pause because I still need to purchase the support posts and hire a post-hole borer to get started, and society has to be operating to do that.
But the large gardens are getting better. We’re up to four 2m x 4m beds and they don’t make me sad at all. They’re growing quite well. It’s a promising start. The plastic has been re-layed to block out the next two beds. I’ve got plans to get up to 11 of these beds, but it’s going to take time. And possibly another fence.
The drought we’re currently in means I am still eternally grateful whenever the rain falls from the sky. We’re actually not doing too badly, all things considered. In March, we got 102.3mm of rain. Not quite the average I was hoping for (120mm), but a lot closer than we’ve been for months.
So far in April we’ve had between 0.3mm and 2.5mm, most days, but no big rain. The April average is 140mm, and we’ve seen about 10mm so far, so unless we get a downpour soon, we might be suffering a deficit for 6 months in a row.
That said, they’re forecasting a downpour tomorrow. Our grass is green and growing, and our tank is just under half-full. We’re still OK.
Weed management continues to be a regular task. The ragwort control is complete and I’m starting to change my mind about gorse control. I didn’t realise how quickly it grew in summer! One thing I’ve learned about owning a rural property is I don’t know anything, and sometimes ideologies need to wait. We’ve begun some pretty major gorse control along the fencelines so we can at least protect our infrastructure.
My brother (a professional weed-controller) was planning to come up over ANZAC weekend to give us a hand for a day in the bush, but we’re pretty sure that won’t be happening now. I’ve also had to add Himalayan Honeysuckle to our list of weeds, as heaps sprung up over summer too.
Lady Gaga did not manage to hatch any babies, and soon after her 3 weeks of sitting on eggs was up, she started wandering around again. It’s a shame, but not the worst thing. Mostly I’m just a bit sad I don’t have a rooster named Shangela.
The chooks are currently coming to the end of their moult, which has been annoying timing. They stop laying for a few weeks each year as their bodies put energy into growing new feathers. It means our eggs (which we usually give away to anyone who will take them) have been more limited over the last month.
Good thing we actually love their feathery butts. On my last supermarket battle (because that’s what it feels like these days), I grabbed a roll of dogmeat. They each get a chunk when they get locked away at night. It boosts their protein to help the feathers grow in faster and get the eggs started again. We had 3 eggs last night, so I think it’s working.
We have 19 ducks in total right now. 19 ducks is a lot of ducks and they eat a lot of food. We stockpiled a few bags before lockdown, but we need to start culling out soon. We’ve started tagging their legs – the ones with a blue tag will live through winter. The ones with yellow tags… will not.
We’ll be keeping a breeding population of six Swedish Blues, plus our two “random ducks”. As well as Richie McCaw, the random Pomeranian, we have Lemon, the random Indian Runner Duck. I’m not quite sure how we got two not-our-breed ducks. Obviously the genetics exist in our flock somehow. But their differences endeared us to them early, so they get a stay of execution.
The bananas have established well and are sending up new leaves regularly. We’re watering them once every 5 days as we empty and clean the duck pool. The nutrient-rich duck water seems to be doing a world of good on all our plantings. This winter I’ll be extending the wind barriers with ake ake, and in spring we’ll transplant the random banana that popped out of the lawn over summer.
I’ve upgraded our worms to a bath-sized wormfarm. It’s already paying dividends in worm wee, which is our main garden fertiliser. We’ve had well over 30 litres so far. As a result of the upgrade, we had too many worm farms, so I passed a full kit, plus worms along to Richard’s mother.
The new pineapples haven’t shown any signs of growth, but they also haven’t died. I’m taking that as a win for now.
And finally, our cats did come home after our break from the farm. One at midnight the night I’d written the blog, and the other was at the door when I opened it the next day. An utter relief to see their furry faces.
Each day at The Outpost is an adventure that brings new challenges and opportunities to learn. This place is stretching us in all sorts of ways, but under current conditions, it’s hard to ignore how incredibly lucky we are to live here.