Grey water outlet

We had the outlet of the washing machine just dribbling onto the ground in the orchard. With the grey water mulch pit done, burying it was just one of those little jobs that don’t get done because they seem too little to bother.


All done; all grey water is now reticulated into the pit.

Three sides in one day

It’s a new record. Wood from 8 dismantled pallets was piling up in the shed, so it was time for some shou sugi ban to use it up. It was a full day’s work to cut all the pieces to size, toast them, de-toast them, oil them and turn them into cladding. 44 pieces were done, which was enough for two short sides (13 pieces each) and one long side (17 pieces) with one left over.


This is actually wicking bed number 4, but numbers 2 and 3 haven’t been clad. I was going to do number two, then realised that the metal ring around the top just visible at lower right was interfering with the rail that sits at the top of the piece of cladding I’d made. I should have made it with a gap at the top to accommodate the ring. Oh, well, there’s always next time.

Update: had 3 pallets in the back of the ute, finished the fourth side in an afternoon.


Dead pines ditched

We had three little Christmas trees in pots that we were hoping would grow big enough over time to use as actual Christmas trees. Unfortunately two of them died from lack of water over summer, and their carcasses have been sitting in their pots waiting for something to happen. R was given a little Christmas tree at school which is going fine in its plastic pot, so we repotted that one. The larger pot needed something, and the little patch by the chicken coop needed something, so we thought a little pot garden that isn’t tasty to chickens should do the job there, since any food we put in there gets eaten straight away.


Theres a boronia, a thing called “Jewel of the Nile” with the pink and yellow leaves on the right, and a purple-leaved plant that gets pink flowers at the back.

And a very abused cyclamen with 1 leaf popping out of winter hibernation at the back.


Seed sowing

Determined to get some seeds germinated at the right time this year. The two trays on the left are coriander, the two in the middle are snow peas. On the end is a hodge-podge tray, with some turmeric roots on one end, some oregano in the middle, and some unlabelled ones on the other end that might be ageratum but are probably armeria.


The three little black pots have armeria that were salvaged from the trays that had been left under the deck all winter. There were also some little plants that were self-seeded, but don’t know what they are. They were put in the purple punnets just in case they turn into something useful. Two more of the punnets contain seeds that I think came from the native iris up on the hill.

Turmeric buried on the left, oregano in the middle and mystery something on the right

Mulch pit filled

A lucky break down at the mulch dumping spot meant that we could get three ute loads of mulch at one time.


One afternoon fetching and one afternoon carrying it all down to the orchard level leaves the pit filled! Yay!


Unfortunately, it’s not “finished” yet. Each new load of mulch generally came from a different kind of tree, so there’s discontinuities all the way along with the different-coloured chips. We’ll do another thinner layer on top, now, to make the whole thing uniform and level. ¬†We have to wait for another lucky break at the mulch dumping spot, since we need the same type of mulch to cover the whole length of the pit.

First we have to tidy up some of the dirt towards the back of the trampoline base, which still hasn’t been levelled. The rock and the two little plants in the foreground of this picture are also too low: they need to be taken out and some dirt put in underneath them, so that they don’t get swallowed by the mulch.

Potato bag

The last lot of accidental potatoes from our garden were yummy, so we’re going to make an effort to grow some on purpose. These best way seems to be to put them in a bag with the sides rolled down, then as the plants grow up more soil is put in and the sides rolled up so that by the end you have a very tall thing that is mostly full of potatoes.

We’ve just emptied the woven polypropylene garden bag we were using to store fire sticks, so it will make as good a receptacle as any. It’s kinda giant … I wonder really how high this technique can go.


Rolled down…


With some dirt in the bottom. We mixed the compost from where the last set of potatoes grew with a bit of sand to lighten it up.


We had some leftover baby potatoes from the last veggie patch, which have started to sprout, and there was one in the pantry that was also getting a bit keen.


We chopped that guy up – apparently it doesn’t matter how big the potato you plant is, it just needs to have an eye that wants to sprout. This way we get 5 plants from the one tater.


Space them out in the bag:


Cover with dirt and a bit of mulch.


Making up for lost time

We missed garlic planting day (shortest day of the year) this year because we didn’t have our next set of wicking beds ready at the time. We threw those bulbs in as fast as we could, though, about 2 weeks ago. Looks like they’re making up for lost time!


These bulbs were scavenged from last year’s failed lot: the cloves we pulled off the garlic we bought from the shops went more circular, like they were going to turn into a nice bulb, but never went any further and were no bigger than when they were planted when we dug them up last summer.

They sat in a box in the shed waiting to be replanted, and have exceeded expectations.

We can also add another benefit to the list of reasons why wicking beds rock: there are bees everywhere.


I watched them for a while, and they’re landing on the geotextile and sucking the moisture out of it. They’re also down inside the watering tube and they also sit on top of the levelling standpipe to get a drink.


There’s a bit of early spring warmth around, so let’s see how some little coriander seeds go. Hoping they won’t just bolt straight away like some others. In a lot of cases it seems like it’s better to sow in autumn to get winter herbs.



I’m going to call it a tamper, because calling it a rammer would be too exciting. I’m kind of expecting it to fall to bits and be rubbish, but my rammed earth book says that this is how they do it in the poorer corners of the world.

When you’re doing rammed earth you make a standard 4 inch-diameter cylinder¬†that is sent to a lab for compression testing. Even though we have a pretty good idea of the mix we need, we’re going to do a few sand/local dirt mixes to see what’s best. I figured I could use the same mould as I was going to use for the test pieces to make the tamper, and then I won’t get any squeeze-out on the edges.

The mould can be a fancy specially-made metal thing or you can just cut a piece of PVC and slice it in half. A few pipe clamps will hold it together.


I am using the old favourite concrete mix of 3 parts aggregate, 3 parts sand and 1 part cement, so I marked a 3-sevenths and a 1-seventh line on the inside of the mould and filled it with bits.


Then some water and mixing to make a nice concrete block. We drilled some screws into the end of a replacement shovel handle, which is nice strong spotted gum, and poked it into the middle of the mould.


We tied the end of the handle to the roof of the shed to keep it upright while the concrete is setting. We’ll probably give it a week in the winter cold for it to set enough to take the mould off.