The big fix

We all make mistakes. Well, I like to think so, because we sure do – in fact, we have made some quite grave ones too. Of course, we only realise it after the fact, when the paw paw has already hit the fan, as they say. So this post and the next one documents the week of the big and smaller fixes, when we had to correct those previous wrongs.

I was actually inspired to do this quite a while ago already, when I read the post titled “Take what the day gives” on the Petit Paradise blog. It’s a worthwhile read in its entirety, but in essence the author comments on the remarkable sights of other people’s blogs and the disenchantment with their own chaos. That’s when it hit me squarely in the eye – mate, that’s because we photograph and blog about our great harvests and our successfully completed projects – we never blog about our own chaos, failures and mistakes. We don’t blog about the time we left the hose on overnight in the duck pond – basically because we didn’t have time to take photos, we had to rush in to save every precious drop of overflowed water. We don’t blog about the time we used our own compost prematurely, and it resulted in a weed forest of note! And there are many more… But actually, in our mistakes lie the real lessons to be learnt.

Irrigation 101

In the beginning each of our young trees had a single drip feeder – one of those little spikes on a flexible 4mm pipe. Very simple, very easy to install. But as the trees got bigger, that was clearly not enough. So while I attended the citrus master class, I had a lunchtime discussion with this one farmer that he put normal drip irrigation pipes in concentric circles around his bigger trees. And, he said, if you get them in deep enough, you can mow over them, and they are mostly whipper-snipper-proof too, unlike those little spikes which snap like twigs.

So you can guess what happened next? Well each tree’s drip feeder was replaced with a WIDE drip pipe. I mean, I put those things really wide outside the driplines of the trees. You want to encourage them to grow their roots wider, don’t you? It turns out, that was OK for the more established trees, like those that we have planted 3 years ago at Homeland. But for the new bare-root stock – that is, all the new trees at Dreamland, plus a good 20 new trees at Homeland too – it was like hitting a last nail in a coffin. They basically went through a dry Victorian summer without water, apart from the odd dose of Seasol or the odd unseasonal rain, of which we didn’t have many.

So the first big fix working down the driveway was to shorten all the trees’ irrigation pipes – for the young trees and for the more established trees as well. As part of this exercise I also cleared the mulch a bit to get the soil to warm up a bit and to better catch whatever late season rain we get (“let it rain!”), trim any suckers as well as remove the worst kikuyu that have crept right into the tree roots. It’s a great rewarding exercise doing it for one tree – but try it on 50 in a row!

Before and after images of  a small, medium and bigger tree

So besides having lost a few precious heritage fruit trees, this exercise cost me more than fifty little 13mm joiners to shorten a LOT of the drip pipes, and now I’m stuck with 50+ shortish pieces of spare drip pipe, but I’m sure they’ll get used again somewhere.

BFix - pipe recovered

Meters of drip pipe recovered

What’s that permaculture principle again? Slow and steady solutions… Now I know to put small circles of drip pipe directly around the treelets, and expand them as the trees get bigger. Do not think too far ahead!

Straighten the net

At the time I knew I was taking a fat chance with the driveway netting at Homeland, but I couldn’t see my way investing in metal bars between all the posts, because it is a 100m-plus driveway after all. So I devised a scheme using wire strung between the five sets of 4 posts. I was concerned that the long carrier wires may snap, but in the end it was posts that actually moved in the ground, and more specifically, the end post closest to home moved a good way out of the ground!

BFix - loose post

(Goal) post moved!

Despite various cross wires and bracing wires, the nets ended up hanging skewer and skewer towards the fence – no doubt helped on by the strong winter winds.

BFix - skew nets

No, the camera isn’t skew…

I knew, and still know – the best thing to do would be to take all the nets off and replant the suspect posts deeper and more thoroughly. So, there you have my admission of guilt – they were possibly planted too shallow. But to my defence, the post digger didn’t want to go deeper, and I didn’t force it using the water trick for fear of hitting the electric cable, or forbid, the gas pipe. I have already shattered the main water pipe on a weekend when I dug the holes for the trees with an excavator; there’s another of those unpublished “successes”… But I digress – do you know how much work it is to take the nets off? And how much plastic and metal (cable ties and net clips) that would waste?

So, I opted for the easier, second-best option… I planted a support post as deep as it would go (no pipes or cables were involved, luckily) and a few days later pulled the net support posts square using that post. The kids helped me decorate the support wire with neat little blue bows to point it out so that other kids, parents or dogs don’t run themselves silly against the wires. Forbid if people can’t drive properly…

BFix - net anchor

Anchor, wires and warning decorations

Anyway, I also pulled the posts further down the driveway more upright using cross brace wires. These “internal” brace wires still need little bows so that kids, parents, chickens or dogs don’t run themselves silly against those wires either. I wanted to keep the nets brace wire free, but at least we have straight up nets again – happy customer!

BFix - driveway after 2

Straight(ish) nets and re-irrigated trees

Now I wonder what the effect will be of the summer wind, which blows a gale from the other direction? Maybe I should put the opposite cross brace wires in as well before the posts wiggle even looser to the other side?

About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

13 Comments on The big fix

  1. Ha Ha they say in the is never to old to learn.. 🙂

  2. It’s even better to learn from other people’s mistakes! Thanks for posting this.

  3. Paw paw . . . and a fan? hmmmm
    I was just about to mention the need to stretch the irrigation out farther as trees grow when you got to it. It is one of my peeves!

    • Tony, I know there’s something else more graphic that hits the fan, but I didn’t think I could write about it 🙂 When I grew up in South Africa we used paw-paw and fan when we had to be polite – maybe that’s a regional expression? Yes I know I’m going to have to extend the irrigation again in a few years’ time – and I’m already dreading the day – but for now I just had to bring it back in closer for their survival. I lost a few really great herritage fruits over last summer – an expensive lesson – so I’m not taking such big chances this time round.

      • The process should not be all that dreadful. By that time, the emitters might be grungy with mineral deposits anyway, and in need or replacement.

      • Sure, Tony, it’s not that dreadful – I can just add a piece of drip pipe back in – or what I might just do is to add a t-joiner in and add a wider full circle around the current one. So, slowly build up concentric circles, say about 12 inches (or even more) apart. With this approach if the inner emitters become clogged up, I can just ignore them as the water need and supply drifts outwards. Hope that makes sense!

  4. Learning by mistakes is a fine way to learn – not learning from mistakes is a lot more costly and disheartening!

    If I only blogged about the successes, I doubt I’d have much to write about. But good point about blog content and reality. It’s perhaps not dissimilar to comparing yourself to airbrushed photos of celebrities.

  5. I’m definitely with Helen on that one! And with regards to comparisons. – I’d like some of these fancy schmancy ‘knock out a lovely garden retreat or backyard in an afternoon’ television shows to revisit their glorious, garden make-overs – say in 6 to 12 months – and give us a look at how they are holding up to the harsh realities of everyday life!

  6. wow it looks so good, & its all done with everything I get frustrated with & tangled in, wire, netting & hose, they never show you that on those gardening weekend wonder what they were thinking doing that shows. You’ve probably already thought of this, The support post at the end I can’t quite see cause I cant find my glasses? haha, I found over the years as the posts weather the little horse shoe nails can come out & adds another job to my list, so now I just put a small cut into the post for the wire to secure itself into, it saves on nails, fingers & tools. Love the bows.

    • Thanks, ha ha, it’s never quite done! I just spoke to a friend this weekend – I should have wrapped old hose around the wires… At the bottom of the support post I screwed in a massive 100mm 10G screw to secure the wire. I’m not a big fan of those horseshoe nails either – they don’t seem to stay in and they’re a hazard to fat clumsy fingers! (Actually I found on another project it works much better if I hold them with small tweezer type pliers while hammering – much less damage to the fingers, much less bad words!)

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