Archive for the ‘Our Block’ Category

Holy weather damage batman

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Well, none actually which is equally surprising. Our block had 108mm of rain fall in little over an hour (data thanks to farming neighbour) during the storm events of the past week so I was expecting to see a lot of damage to the building site. It was a serious rain event with gouging clearly evident down the hill where water had enough force to wash away the pasture.

Luckily for us our plumber is a clever fellow and he put carved drains in the surface after he had finished installing the sewerage drains and these kept the bulk of the water away from the slab. We had thankfully agreed on the septic tank to empty the rain water tank into as a security precaution and that is the only thing that saved it floating out of the hole and sailing down the hill in the torrent of water.

The driveway does show some washout but thanks to Rob and his mindset of do it once do it right he had rolled and compacted it enough for the surface to withstand the run off.

The only real loss we “suffered” was some of the dirt piles for the walls were diminished in the runoff. Still, that can easily be fixed with more dirt sourced easily on site.

General updates

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

We’re now only one set of paperwork away from heading off for final approvals. This process since the planning approval last November has been nothing short of a total disappointment as “professional” after “professional” has stalled, outright lied about or simply never bothered to finish work they had promised for us.

Regardless, we have lots of trees happily reaching for the sky on the block. I’m making an effort to check on them once a week, mainly to learn from how the weather and our planting method has been impacting the trees since planting. For example, not putting enough tension around the base of the tree sleeves (which allows the sleeve to flap in the breeze a bit) has resulted in a dozen or so trees being snapped by the constant wind gusts.

I am also measuring growth rates of trees planted at the block vs those planted in pots and kept in the backyard in town. Interesting to see the difference in how the trees are growing with those in the pots developing leaf density far more obvious than in those on the block.

Interestingly the trees that no guards were placed around where the ground was too hard or rocky to drive in the supporting stakes are fairing as well as those with the sleeves in place. I’m reconsidering the time and money, not to mention back breaking bending, that goes into placing the sleeves around each tree. If these trees survive the winter then I am fairly sure come spring we will not bother with sleeves when we start up planting once again.

Live and learn as they say.

Another weekend to get on with plantings

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Having learned a lot from how things were done last weekend, this weekend we have a refined approach and a better trailer setup to help us get the most of the time on the block.

I’ve welded support brackets for the pump and hose reel outside of the trailer box, clearing space internally. We also now have important things in easy reach and more importantly clear of trailer and truck wheels. Our neighbour also let us in on a “secret” source of water where we can get the 1000L tank filled in a matter of minutes without having to use the pump.

The skies really opened on the Tuesday after Easter and gave the trees we had planted a very welcome 70mm of rain. As hoped the hole left around the trees as a result of the auger spreading the dirt around the hole somewhat did trap and hold water. I went up to take a look at any damage on Wednesday and many of the trees still had small amounts of water visible from the shower that went through just before I got there.

I have taken some pictures of the plantings, and as you can imagine the scale of things cannot be comprehended from looking at a picture, so instead of posting those I will take photos of the planted area in monthly cycles and post them instead.

With more rain in the long range forecast is seems we got the timing spot on with the plantings. All we need to do now is get as many plants as possible in the ground and established before the winter frosts start setting in.

As time passes by

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Things are moving at a frustratingly slow speed. I seem to be spending a lot of time making phone calls to remind people they have work we are waiting for and frankly it’s starting to annoy me greatly. I am still waiting on quotes for roof framing and verandahs, which I need to decide who we are going to use as this will determine who it is we get the required engineering for.

On a more positive note Easter weekend will mark the start of tree planting for the shelter belt around the house. We’ve purchased a cheap Talon brand earth auger to dig the holes the trees will be going into. With a 2 year warranty it was a safe bet at $400 compared to a Stihl or Tanaka powerhead at $1600. With a 200mm diameter and 600mm or so deep hole as a result it should give the trees a good opportunity to get some roots down quickly. It should also give rain water an easy place to seep as it runs off the compacted land around the tree and hopefully this will also encourage roots to head down and establish quickly. We will also mix in a handful of Dynamic Lifter pelletised manure below the root ball of the trees as we plant them.

As a trial there are a few plants we have been running tests on in pots with very poor quality soil and it seems that with the 20-30C days we are likely to have for a month or so to come they should establish quickly with a splash of water and liquid feriliser if needed once a week. Our goal will be to plant 500 trees a day with one drilling and the other fertilising, planting and putting the tree guards in place.

Spring brings new life

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

We are now the proud parents of so many seedlings I honestly cannot even begin to count how many we have in the seedling trays at the moment. I’ve uploaded some pics of the little blighters to the flickr account and they are under the “Spring 09″ set. We had been experimenting with the best was to get the most seedlings germinate from the same amount of seed, and it appears one method stands way out in front when we look at the trays now.

When we were looking for advice on how to start the seedlings, I can tell you everyone had a different way and suggestions of doing things. Here are some of the failures we experienced:
Planting into a tray prepared with half sand half potting mix – FAIL
Covering seed with a very fine layer of sand after sprinkling onto surface – FAIL
Planting individual seed into punnets – FAIL
Planting into straight native potting mix – FAIL

Other than the seed per punnet method, all of the failures were all planted at the same time from the same batch of seed using the same seed application method. We still had some seed shoot from all of these, however on the basis of results for cost and time involved they were miserable failures. A dozen seedlings in a tray is no comparison to 200-300 using what I will now call our best practise method.

The best practise method tray was planted by using an old spice mix jar with a shaker lid (like the McCormicks pre mixed spice rub jars). After filling the tray with pure propagating sand and wetting it to saturation, we mixed a quarter teaspoon of seeds with a half full jar of dried, sieved sand rolling it around rather than shaking it to evenly disperse the seed. By upending the jar and quickly moving it across the surface of the tray we got a fairly even dispersal of seeds, lightly covering them as well as spreading them evenly.

The tray was then watered using a spray pack until we were once again satisfied it was saturated, before moving it to the seedling greenhouses we have built. Daily watering to maintain that saturated state saw seed sprouting in under a week. Once it was clear which method was working best, we replicated this into another 20 trays. Most interesting is these trays had all sprouted before one of the FAIL methods even had a shoot showing.

Where oh where does the time go?

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

I hate being on a timescale controlled by other people. Again we find ourselves in limbo as we are waiting for approvals from council, awaiting engineering, awaiting quotes, awaiting final drawings and so on.

Meanwhile the weather in this part of the world is nothing short of magnificent as spring finally shows it is here to stay. With that in mind we have this week planted some 10 000 seeds of red gum and yellow gum, with 2 trays of red gum seedlings now finally beginning to grow well after we planted them in the cold of winter. With some luck and a lot of TLC these will be ready to go in the ground around the start of autumn, giving them a chance to establish before the bitter frosts of winter descend to that part of the world.

I’ve read a few forestry papers that indicate a plant a forget survival rate for these trees is around 80% to 85%. I’m figuring with some watering to establish them and some TLC with clearing pasture growth, fertilising and so on we should get that survival rate will into the 90% range.

It would be nice to think we could have enough saplings ready to plant out 5 hectares of land by autumn.

Paper work for the applications

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Holy cow. I think we’ve just killed and printed out a tree. 15 sheets of A2 paper is what was needed to satisfy the councils requirements for copies of our plans.

All forms are now filled, duplicates made and sorted awaiting an appointment with the council planning officer so we may get our planning application made and approved.

Fingers crossed :D

Updates on a few things

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Soil test for the foundations and footings are being organised. There will also be a percolation test done as we are not in an area serviced by main sewer and will need to install a septic system of some description. This same company will be asked to design the foundations and footings for the house and give me some pointers on footings for the shed as well. Once I’m happy with their service you know I’ll be happy to post their details on this blog.

Darren from Wise Drafting has been a great asset to our project. I’ve been firing off questions as we start to nail down details and he’s been firing back nicely detailed answers to help me make up my mind on aspects of the building.

When he sees the opportunity to involve some ideas I’m not aware of he fires off an email that explains the benefits along with links to the products for me to further look into. You have to appreciate someone with his attitude towards delivering us the best package he can and his willingness to set my thinking back on the right course.

I certainly appreciate his efforts and if you need a draftsperson who is a thinker and will give your project the best outcome, you should talk to Darren as well.

Site header

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

The image in the site header is the actual view we’ll have from the living areas of the house. Just thought you’d like to know where the picture came from :)

Preparing for the soil tests

Friday, May 8th, 2009

After the 100mm plus of rain 2 weeks ago, this week the block is looking lush and green. To be honest, in the 5 months we have been looking at this block of land this is the first time it hasn’t been dusty and barren. We’d imagined just how nice it would look once there was some green on the ground, and I have to say it is way beyond what we expected.
View from the gate
This is the view from the current driveway. The fence line to the left is the northern boundary. Directly in front of the car is the current woodlot, which we did walk through and we estimate to have closer to 300 trees now we have seen the full extent of it.

We used the dayglo paint and stakes to mark out where we want the house and the septic to be located.
Locations for the house and the septic
If you can pick out the crossed stakes over towards the left of this pic, they mark the septic while the stake to the right  is the southern most point of the house. One thing that is really becoming apparent is the area is so vast it’s impossible to take photos that give any real feeling of the size.

After marking out the house we went back and drove from the proposed new gates down the driveway and into the garage that will be part of the house and it was nice and easy and flowed comfortably which was good. I now have the OK from the wife to order the steel posts and RHS steel to weld up the gates which we’ll need to install before trucks can enter and leave the block easily.