For three months during winter 2016 I worked to clear the eastern half of our land of snake weed. It’d be over an acre in size.
Previous owners had tackled the problem by slashing; hiding the top but strengthening the roots, and spreading seed. By slashing they also stopped all natives from regenerating and the result was a wasteland with only mature trees.
May 2016 snake weed
Three months of weed pulling left me with a nasty case of tendonitis but a first run over was done. In September I successfully applied for some ‘Land for Wildlife’ finding to plant 500 trees both here and in a cleared area near the house.
Since then we’ve had one of hottest and driest summers on record. It’s been too hot to do anything much outside, and far too dry for planting. But now with 100 trees nearly planted by the house I wandered across the creek and up the hill today armed with stakes and flagging tape to plan what comes next.
A strip down the northern edge of block (maybe 15%) has definitely grown back and will need some serious weeding as I plant. The balance however is looking great. Grasses, sedges, ferns etc are doing really well. There’s a very healthy scattering of Black Casuarinas (Allocasuarina littoralis) and quite a few eucalypts, wattles and other little native trees and shrubs starting to appear. Very exciting to see. With a few hundred more plants it’ll start to feel like a forest again.
In the process of weeding and re-vegetating 3 acres of land, I often wonder if I’m ever going to get on top of things. There’s just not enough hours available… or energy.
So today, with a cool autumn breeze blowing, it was with relief that I looked down over around 600 square metres of land 99.9% free of creeping succulent and snake weed. I’m over half way with it – just the top section to go, but I’m pleased to say that it’s under control and not at risk of escaping further. It’s a challenge though; every piece of root and runner sprawling out under thick forest mulch as the potential to re-infest. Lucky I have helpers!
Meet Blackie. She’s boss hen; the leader of the pack.
She’s also pretty odd at times as you can probably see.
And already Blackie has some stories to tell.
One day, for some strange reason, she decided my mosaic work shelves were the ONLY place to hide and lay. My tiles were scratched out everywhere. Even while I was reorganising and blocking the shelves off she was looking for a good spot, if not on the shelves then maybe the rubbish bin would do! When shooed on, she tried the back of the car behind the fridge. And then in a box of spiky aloes. Who knows how a black hens mind works!
If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be nursing a sick chook in the lounge room, I would not have believed you but it’s true!
A few weeks ago, guzzler that she is, Blackie scoffed down some rice Steph fed them and as a result it stuck in her throat. Coughing turned to wheezing, and I turned to Dr Google.
No… def not a virus – fit as a fiddle and getting about.
But a blockage was more than likely. ‘Feed the hen small pieces of bread soaked in vegetable oil and massage the throat’ it said. ‘Right!’ I said.
Well, oily bread was totally irresistible for the flock so I bundled her up in a hand towel and we headed inside. Blackie isn’t one for being held; she’s far too important for that, but after 5 mins or so I swear she was near to dozing off. And after 10 mins of massage and a final oily dose she was off, and by the next day totally healed. No more gluggy rice for her.
And it goes on – today she decided that she should be inside the feed tub, and would have stayed there had I not bundled her out. Funny hen.
In 2016 we received a grant of $750 from the Moreton Bay Regional Council to purchase 500 tubestock trees for our revegetation project here at Hyde Rd. With the summer being so very hot and dry I’ve been waiting for rain and cooler weather before getting stuck into things; at least the former has now arrived.
So I’ve been down removing snake weed in preparation for the 1st stage of planting but to be honest I’m feeling a bit lost with where to start. Firstly the patch is on a hillside. I’m very conscious of erosion and how heavy rain will flow down the hillside. I know I need to design the planting to compensate, but how?
Secondly, I really don’t want to use weedicide. I do however need to grapple with weed competition around the plantings. Without spending a fortune I’m looking at a combination of weedmat and mulch but there may be a better way.
Thirdly I’m unsure about spacing of plants and also how to scatter different types of plant across the area – in clumps?, totally scattered?
Fourthly I’m hoping from advice from the nursery when I select the plants. Its a hot, dry hill, the soil varies and there’s a strip on the border of the forest that gets more shade. What on my list will do well?
Of the 500 to plant probably only 100 will go in this space so there’s a long and winding road ahead. Feeling just a tad overwhelmed at this point in time. Some support from the funding body would have been good or access to a support network in the very least.
I’m slowly clearing the house yard of scraggly and out-of-place plantings. I’ve had for example, a continual stream of happy people collecting tubfuls of aloe vera; a plant or two is great but a 4 x 3m patch is overkill!
As a result, we’re slowly filling spaces with suitable natives, and we’re also uncovering some hidden gems. What a joy to find these gorgeous orchids up by the side fence. I’d love an ID if anyone is an orchid expert!
Next on my list (#WIWL) is about 3 truckloads of forest mulch but some cooler weather is also needed before I attempt to spread it. Its hard work out there this time of year!
The promise of a cooler day and some free hours enticed us down to the SW corner of the block to weed this morning.
<The dreaded succulent is creeping its way down towards the creek and I’m determined to stop it in its tracks and then work my way back uphill.>
There’s nothing the hens like more than to accompany us into the forest. They don’t wander far, spending most of the time within a few metres of where we’re working, scratching about and feasting on insects in the leaf litter. I’m sure they think we’re scratching too 🙂
As those know who follow me on FB, we’ve had the pox. Scary as it may sound, it’s apparently quite common in poultry; spread via mosquitoes, leaving hens immune. Dr Google suggested it’d spread through the flock, but simply to ensure they had good food & water, and plenty of TLC. None of that was difficult here at Hyde Rd!
Further searching led me to a brew that I adapted. The hens LOVE it and with a handful each day for 2 weeks combs were red and pox free, and feathers glowing.
Since then we’ve cut back to twice weekly feeds as a general tonic (and treat). Even seeing me with trays in hand is enough to send the girls into a state of excitement; and if they’re off scratching a call will generally bring them running.
So here’s the recipe. This makes enough for about 6 feeds for 6 hens; I freeze in separate lots. Everything is adaptable!
In a big bowl mix together:
2 x 350ml cupfuls of good quality scratch mix – we use the Watson & Williams cracked grains/pellets mix
6 dsp poultry vitamins – we use Perfect Poultry
1 x 350ml cup of rolled oats
(+ any other seeds you have – quinoa etc)
1 grated apple with seeds removed (don’t feed chooks apple seeds)
1 good tblsp cod liver oil
1 dsp hemp oil
2 heaped tblsp natural yoghurt (homemade is best!)
2 cooked and crumbled egg yolks
It has been an unseasonably dry summer here at Hyde Rd. Despite having close to 100,000 litres of tank water, we’ve had to buy 2 small loads; yes, we’re totally off-grid water-wise.
Thankfully the house has an extensive irrigation system so we have managed to keep enough water on the garden to keep it alive. On my list of to-dos is to adjust our grey water system so it provides more benefits.
Last night we had 8mm of rain and this morning the hens didn’t know where to scratch first!
Even a small rain like this makes a huge difference to the garden – it always amazes me what a difference actual rainfall (and the nitrogen it brings) makes. As Lloyd’s of Rochester says ‘it’s like the plant version of the “Hallelujah Chorus”! The plants not only perk up, but they practically leap up and suddenly you have new growth, flowers or a need to mow your lawn.’ Looking forward to that 🙂