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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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!
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?