For those who have been concerned that I may have been slipping on the driveway de-kikuyuing project – phase II – the battle for the middle ground, don’t worry, I’ve had a hard task master that kept me going.
No, it’s not Neville, Patricia’s dad, who’s been visiting us for the past two months, but I had to giggle – every time he ambles down the driveway, Graham, our good neighbour who lives right next to our driveway, teases him by asking whether he is checking up. No, my task master is way stricter than that. His name is “council garden refuse bin day”, and it happens every two weeks. So, the goal was that I had to fill two wheelie bins – our own and Dreamland’s – with couch and kikuyu from the driveway every two weeks. It may not sound like a lot, but at times I just made the deadline.
So the objective of phase I was to secure the high ground – that is, to clear the 40-something fruit trees of immediate threat by removing the kikuyu and couch in a 1.5 diameter circle around each tree – and also to provide each tree with new compost before the rain stopped. Phase II was the battle for the middle ground, where I had to remove the grass in the larger sections between the trees, but not yet the edges. Of course, during the phase II battles, there we a few re-skirmishes on the high ground too, where new runners had emerged close to the trees.
At places between the trees, it would look like a good layer of mulch only, but wait till you stick the bayonet, I mean the garden fork, in there! There would be a thick carpet of runners underneath it all, which had to be eliminated. At places it really felt like I was unravelling thick woven carpets thread by thread. I mean to win the skirmish, you have to trace the runners as far as they go, especially those going towards the trees’ irrigation. Leaving an infiltrator behind just means there will be a follow up combat at some or other stage in the near or distant future.
Of course those combats with the thick woven carpets meant I filled the wheelie bin quicker. I must admit there were times when I fought a real psychological battle – when the wheelie bin was basically full and I could in theory call it a day. But no, the soldier’s decree called that you had to push it down as tight as you can, and then fill it up again, until it overflowed just enough so the wind won’t blow the lid off. Modern day soldiers don’t have it easy, I tell you. I still remember one blazing hot afternoon…
One thing that I was really, really happy about, was the soil condition. When we started off, six years ago, this driveway stretch was particularly rock hard clay – I couldn’t even get the pickaxe to penetrate, and I was a younger and stronger soldier then. With all the soil improvement we’ve been doing, I can now stick the bayonet, oops I mean the garden fork, ¾ in and turn nice darker organic material over. And there are lots of earthworms in there. I’ll post a bit about our use of biodynamics in the next post.
With some good rain – over 24mm! – during the past weekend, and some more forecasted for tonight, it is now a good time to top up the mulch on those areas too. I had some discussions with Graham over the fence – he is an amazing source of knowledge – about how to reduce our labour in this area. In the past we manually distributed diluted Seasol to these trees by repeatedly filling dragging 12 containers in the cart down the driveway. Graham gave me the idea to separate one of our water tanks (which we can easily do with the valves) and just pouring the Seasol in there. Just the previous day I discussed with Markus that it was Seasol time again, a stinky messy job he detests. It was so rewarding for both Markus and myself to tip the container of Seasol into the tank and say to ourselves, job well done. Ha ha, when it bucketed down the weekend, I started getting concerned that the tank may overflow – as it is the last one in the line – and we may lose our precious Seasol down the stormwater drain, but luckily the huge header tanks absorbed most of the water, so nothing lost, but much gained.
Talking about learning from Graham, I saw him move his trailer with his ride-on. It immediately gave me the idea to cart the mulch down to the end of the driveway using our ride-on. You can do the maths – 1 cart full of mulch for every 2.5 – 3 trees, for almost 50 trees down 125m of driveway. That’s a lot of manual cart dragging that was eliminated – about 1.5km if my maths is correct. And it goes a lot faster! The only challenge is that I have to do it during school hours, otherwise it will go a lot slower. Mmmm, I wonder why?
In the meantime, Patricia and Berne, her mother, have been busy doing name boards for the trees down our driveway too, so they will go in straight after the mulch. I must say, each session of sign drawing brings up more and more artistic creations.
Anyway, I think I can claim that the battle for the middle ground has been won. No doubt there will be uprisings again down the line, where some rebellious runner had escaped. But next is the battle for the low lands – the area right next to the driveway, where the clay is really, really hard; and at places the area next to the fence, where it grows in from the neighbouring property. Both are really tough battlefields, and in addition you have to work around the net wire which runs along the ground. Can’t split the telegraph cable in two now… And the goal of two wheelie bins every two weeks still stands.
For those who are concerned that I have been slipping into a state of semi-permanent insanity, now there’s a valid concern… Maybe it’s kikuyu-infected PTSD? Anyway, onwards and forwards!