Saturday, October 31, 2009

The orchard

In the depths of winter we journeyed down to put a spade into the ground and establish a little part of our future nourishment and enjoyment.

I had contacted Peter the permie to source my fruit & nut trees and berries.

Peter turned out to be a fountain of knowledge and a man whom i would like to spend more time time with, in order to pickup his pearls of wisdom. i may even do one of his permaculture course one day.

Peter was a great resource for us because his property was almost identical to ours and much of his hard earned experience could be tranferred directly to ours. Peter recommended the varieties i should grow - important local advice was that late apples would never actually ripen at my altitude, so i avoided them.

I left Peters house loaded up with my heritage apple tress, peach almond, pears, apricot,  berries, plums, brambles, cherries, figs and chestnuts - a trailor full of dreams bumped off down the road.

Site perparation

We still had a bit of preparation to do on the site before the trees went in so with limited time we hired some machinery. Sounding a bit like some back yard blitz thing isn't it? We had large old stumps to remove and a bit of tea tree regrowth and we also decided to establish some lanes amongst the orchard and a few other jobs.

Casey from Healesville did a marvellous job and a great guy to boot. We picked out bracken and roots while he worked and luckily no rain to speak of.


This was fairly straightforward although it involved a lot of thought. Peter recommended putting similar trees in rows because the need the same treatment and if you net them off it's much easier. We put some of the trees which needed good air circulation up the top of the hill such as almonds, apricots and peaches.

We planted brambles in-between some fruit trees with the ultimate plan to divide them up when they are big enough. With the berry varieties we tried several that were available to see how they would perform. we could then propogate more of the good ones somewhere down the line.

Peter Allan assured us that he had never irrigated any of his fruit trees apart from the initial planting. Although i did beleive peter i decided to make some diversion banks around every hole that would direct any run off into the root zone of the fruit trees.

Compost was incorporated into the hole where the trees were to be planted (thanks to Casey the holes were easy!). The trees were planted and then the surface was mulched with straw. Beyond and on top of this straw , a mulched of wood chips was applied to keep the weeds down.
Another sugestion of Peters, learned through hard earned experience was to net in our whole orchard and veg garden area. Sounds a bit extreme but the list of critters are many. Several types of parrots and cockatoo, bowerbirds, currawongs and possums. I would take Peters suggestions very seriously. After many years of persevering this is exactly what he is about to do. I think we will take his advice - although the upfront cost will be large i think it is a worthwhile investment that will save time, stress and heartache.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The fence

One of our aims in partial self sufficiency is to establish an orchard and a vegie patch.

Ideally we would like this to be well established by the time we move into the property so we don't have the years of waiting until the trees come into production.

Wildlife are the main complication with this idea. We talked to some friends in the area bout how they kept the critters at bay. They had constructed a pretty neat fencing system that kept both wombats and deer at bay, so we went to have a look.

What a construction! It seemed this fitted the bill,  but did it work? YEP - they said. They never had a wombat breach the defences - except they accidentally fenced one inside, but it soon found its way out.

The fence consisted of strainer posts on each corner, with very long star droppers in between, and three strands of wire. Over this wire is layed chain mesh, including a ground hugging skirt of about 40 cm. This is to stop the Womabts - and no - they are not smart enough to work out how to get under. If they do start digging you just block up all their holes until they get bored and change their habitual routes.

Above the chain mesh is chain link - which is high enough to deter deer.
This seemed like ther prefect solution so we set forth to construct our own.


We chose an area not too far from the house because this area was to the vege garden as well as the orchard. We also situated it not too far from where the chook house is as one day the chooks could free range in the orchard paddock. we also chose a site with a good northerly aspect, not too steep and with good access for vehicles. later on the pig pens and composting areas would be situated above the paddock so that the fertiliser materials do not have to move too far to get to the garden, and the pigs can easily be thrown scraps.

Mega anchor

We discovered a great fencing product called mega anchor which made putting in the strainer posts a dream. A business in Lilydale sold us the materials and the jack hammer thing which allows you to put the struts in place. Anyway the end result is an extremely sturdy fence post.

We set to work learning fencing and it was surprisingly easy once we got the knack of it. It took us a couple of days to build a fence to cover the area of a very large suburban block and we were learning so it would take less time if you had experience.

And there we have it - a completed fence ready for planting of our orchard.

The other place

It's a little bit different from our current street address but we hope that some time in the not too distant future it will be our home.

The property consists of a mixture of wet scleophyll forest and cleared paddocks on the slopes of the Yarra Ranges. The soil is derived from volcanic basalt from some ancient lava flow, meaning that the soil is relatively very fertile compared the rest of the country. The soil is clay but has a magnificient structure which allows plant roots to penetrate deeply and acess moisture.

Forreseted gullies full of ferns bissect the paddocks in the upper part of the property while the lower gully is forested with giant mountain ash trees - well in fact - they are all over the property really.

The mountain ash country has an uncanny capacity to regnerate over what was once pasture. If left undisturbed, saplings would quicky spring up in all paddocks. However as one of our aims is to grow food for ourselves and possibly others, we will be trying not to let that happen - except in areas that we deem its suitable.


I toyed with calling the website address "thefiretrap". We are very well aware that wet sclerophyll forest will one day burn - and when it does it won't be pretty. The mountain ash tree themselves are trees which die when subjected to fire so controlled burning is generally out of the question as far as i'm aware. Controlled burning would in this case degrade the habitat although this is not the case for many other forest types. It's a sit and wait scenario.

We of course have plans for many things - and these include a number of fire abatement measures as well as fire protection. However most of these will have to wait for the day we move down.


Constantly changing really. We have left our options open but generally we'd like to be self sufficient in a large portion of our food and try to obtain most of the rest of our food locally. We may establish some berry fruit or nut crops for sale locally or for value added products.

I have been poring over permaculture texts and we plan to incorporate many of these principles, although once again much will have to wait until we live permanently on the place.

These are a major constraint on any plans we have about growing things. We have Samba deer that stand on their hind legs and rip down fruit tree branches. They even demolish lemon trees.
Wombats - their reach is not so high and they are not a problem for trees generally, but for the vege garden they present a formidable challenge. The next post focuses on the soultion to some of the critters.

Of course it is also wonderful to have these and other animals. They make the place that bit more amazing. Lyrebird calls penetrating through the forest, wombats bustling across the paddocks in the dim evening. The calls of black cockatoos and Gang gangs lif tmy heart up and usually make an appearance some time though the day. Satin bowerbirds and their many green mates - what a treat.