The first few weeks at Caroola

After moving in and unpacking… I walked the front paddock (one of ten), digging and looking at the soil, taking photographs, looking at the trees and the pasture, the slope, where was wet and not wet, erosion, fences and so forth… A lovely afternoon in the outdoors!

What I found was quite sandy soil with some clay and lots of erosion around the fences and gate area where the horses had congregated… also some good piles of pony poo.

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I was planning to do a paddock a day and really get to know each paddock and investigate, however, it then started raining and rained hard for a few days and that was the end of that idea for a while.

I’d also ordered and taken delivery of a chipper/mulcher to cut branches from the numerous trees that badly need pruning into finer material to use as compost… so… moving on to things closer to the house itself I thought I’d chip some cuttings and start putting together material for a no-dig vegetable garden.

I had been collecting cardboard, particularly as I was unpacking boxes, so I laid it out on a 3 x 3 metre corner section of the lawn and watered it all in. Next, I was going to chip branches onto it and then just let it sit, but of course the chipper didn’t have much fuel in it when it was delivered, so I had to put that project on hold until I next went into town (20 mins away) and had the chance to get fuel.

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Unfortunately, what with the weather and having to attend to off-site responsibilities for a while, the cardboard is still sitting there, spread out on the lawn all alone.

Not to waste the day I then decided I would plant the 6 fruit trees that I had bought for only $16 each bare-rooted at the local produce store – a pear, peach, nectarine, two plums and a pomegranate… Off I went to work out where I should put them and how far from the existing trees, planning to plant them out and then go back later and put in understorey plants for forest gardens…

The first two holes I dug were sand and clay, but so much clay that a bucket of water in each one had not drained in 5 hours… I decided a clay breaker was necessary for that area, and so I put the trees aside to plant another day after I had managed to get some gypsum from the produce store…

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I did, however manage to plant out the others and put some decent mulch around them… but still have not got back to the understoreys yet…

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The next week we actually had snow, so I’m glad that vegetable garden didn’t get any further along as the plants would have all been very unhappy.

So, a burst of activity interspersed with some setbacks.

One of my main successes was planting out the herbs and strawberries, including borage, comfrey, oregano and mint that I got from my forest garden workshop at Milkwood. I also got some drip irrigation going on them – just the one length snaked across various garden patches, that is plugged into the nearest tap.

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After welcome visits from both Campbell Wilson and Nick Huggins, local permaculture designers, with a lot of experience in the area I am now taking a more strategic approach (what I should have done in the first place, right!?).

I am in the process of pulling together information for a complete design  (and perhaps flow-on course) to be doing before I take any other major planting action. For one, my planned vegetable garden does not really get enough sun, so it’s more likely to be a greenhouse area, which is fine and won’t waste the work I have done. I don’t mind the position of the trees, but now I think about it the septic line does run somewhere under two of them after all… ahh, the importance of proper planning. I guess one of the best ways to learn is to make mistakes…

We’ll see what the next few weeks brings in terms of brainstorms and planning!

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