July was a big month for wood. Trust me when I say that cutting wood is much more fun at temperatures in the teens rather than temperatures in the 30s and 40s…
First of all, we dropped one of the big pines in the back paddock. It was leaning way over, and had to come down in a controlled way. It came down nicely and gave us a heap of useable wood.
In a related story, and what could be seen as poetic justice when you consider the fact that I was killing a big tree, my new chainsaw got stuck. I was cutting through the main trunk after the tree was down when one of the limbs dug in to the ground and twisted unexpectedly. I’d expected it to drop down cleanly, and the twist stuck my chainsaw fast. I had to go old school and use an axe to free the saw.
The biggest wood project was hiring a cherry picker over a weekend to thin out the orchard area. It’s a third to half an acre, which is the perfect size for what we want, but was crowded with large trees, cutting the light drastically. We’d spent a lot of time cutting out scrubby and half-dead trees, but the larger tree canopies cast shadow over most of the orchard area. The cherry picker allowed us to selectively thin the larger trees, and open up orchard area.
Using the cherry picker was interesting and often terrifying. It extended to 10 metres, and though stable it often felt anything but. The basket can theoretically hold 200 kg, but with just half of that in there (me and the equipment) it would get decidedly wobbly when doing things like starting the chainsaw. Still, it all worked out safely, was a huge day, and was incredibly productive for us.
The effort here was to create a sunny, productive orchard area. A significant benefit of this was the wood we were able to keep for both our combustion heater and our outdoor fires.
There was a poetic justice theme here also. I was very careful when dropping limbs over the fences or gate, but still managed to (slightly) bend one of our front gates and break our sign. The damage was minor, but dad was determined to document it photographically, which he then proceeded to FaceBook…
We proceeded to rearrange our wood storage, as it had quickly grown beyond our initial plans. We took all of the leafy limbs that were too small to use inside, and stacked them in the back paddock under the pine trees for use in our outside fires. The larger limbs were cut into useable rounds and stacked under the gorgeous pepper tree we have in our orchard area. In theory, the pepper tree should probably go, as it’s large and super shady. I love it though so it’s staying.
Our wood karma wasn’t done though. I broke my favourite axe in the process of committing all of this wood carnage. It was a sad day.
July wasn’t all about cutting trees though. We also spent a lot of time planting out our orchard. We’d bought most of the trees in June, and finished planting them all out in July. This included making a fence-like support for growing berries against under our newly thinned gum trees.
We ended up with 54 fruit-bearing plants, 51 of which we bought and planted. We have a heavy clay soil, and so brought in organic loam which we used to build up the area around the trees. Planting that many trees, especially when it’s not simply digging a hole, takes a while and we spread the work over a couple of weeks.
July was the first and only time the dogs have been out the front gate, the results of which was a broken Bruce. I’d left the front gate open for Linhda, again for the first time and something I’ve never done since, and then forgotten and let the dogs out the front to pee before bed. It wasn’t five minutes later that I realised, but they were already out. I found them a kilometre or so down the road. Domino and Tatyl jumped in the car, but Bruce wouldn’t come close. I figured he knew he was in trouble and so was staying back. I let him run home besides the car, and on the way home noticed he was limping. Then I realised he wasn’t using his right front let at all. Then I saw that it was actually dangling in the breeze and pissing out blood.
A midnight trip to the emergency vet room, followed by some work by an orthopaedic surgeon, resulted in a plate and 9 screws holding together his broken ulna and radius.
It also resulted in my being $4k poorer.
Towards the end of the month we found a baby bearded dragon while grubbing out some weeds. Again, July is a good time for getting out the tough weeds. The ground is moist and it’s not 40 degrees. Dad was digging out some old horehound and uncovered the dragon. He was young and skinny (the lizard, not dad), and would have been completely vulnerable if we left him. I put him in an old turtle tank I had, along with a heat pad designed for reptiles, with plans to let him out when the weather warmed up.
The last thing of note for July was the installation of our solar electricity generation system. We had 24 panels with a potential generation capability of 5 ¼ kilowatt hours put in. We predict that this will make us 100% self-sufficient for electricity, in that the sunny times will generate enough credit to pay for the not-so-sunny times. Ideally we’d have a battery system in place so that we simply stored and used our own energy. That technology needs to develop more before we use it though. And by “develop more”, I mean become cheaper, because those batteries are stupidly expensive!