Fighting in the trenches

As I’m embarking on phase 3 of the battle against the kikuyu in the driveway orchard, in addition to the complicated terrain, two additional complications also set in. But the battle in the trenches had to continue! To win the war, it was crucially important to win this battle.

The first complication is that it is fast becoming very hot and dry. We literally don’t have a cool spring. The one week it still rains 3 times and the next week everything bakes dry. The week when I started writing this we had no rain and one 29⁰C day and one 40⁰C day. It makes the clay rock hard, which in turn makes it very hard to remove the kikuyu runners from it. Of course the dry heat also makes working so much harder. I used to love stinking hot heat, must be getting old… The second complication is that my dear “day job” landed a project in Geelong, so I now have to sit behind a computer screen for 4 days a week, which severely impacts work time at the ‘lands. And to add insult to injury, my first work day on the “farm” was that 40⁰C day! With precious little work time, and a hardened enemy, you just have to push what you can.

So this phase of the battle entailed digging the kikuyu out of the strip between the orchard and the driveway. The strip is only 1-2ft wide, depending how ambitious I fought the battle in that particular area in the previous phase. It doesn’t sound like much, but the roots have basically started growing in under the compacted soil of the edge of the driveway, and it’s also the hardest soil of the orchard, where the mulch and compost haven’t yet made a big impact on the clay. So it really was like digging a trench and fighting the kikuyu in the trench. But the battle strategy was relentless – I still had to fill 2 wheelie bins of the enemy per collection cycle.

trench - first blood

First blood drawn

Fortunately things picked up a bit slowly at my new “day job”, so I could squeeze in an hour and a half of work time in the mornings before I had to shower and hop on the train for my 10 minutes commute (which I can’t complain about.) Ha ha but a third complication is that a 10 minute commute gives me precious little blog writing time! Anyway, there will be a little less to blog on about now too.

So, I was out in the driveway trenches when this song came up (Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley):

I’m just a Buffalo Soldier
In the heart of America
Stolen from Africa, brought to America
Said he was fighting on arrival
fighting for survival

OK, it’s not Buffalo grass, and we’re in the heart of Australia, but what was so ironic – here I was, originally from Africa, fighting an African native grass in the heart of Australia. Kikuyu is quite a manageable grass back in the motherland, but in Australia’s potassium-rich soil it is an unstoppable force. The root of all evil, I always joke with my neighbour.

War and rumours of war, as well as Roots Rock Reggae – Bob Marley is really getting some appropriate airtime down the driveway.

So what happened to the permaculture principle of working with nature, and not against it? Well here’s how I see this one – kikuyu in Australia is not part of nature, but it is an introduced species and that’s why it is so difficult to work with (or against, as in this case.)

trench - down the line

The battle field – as far as the eye can see

Anyway, the fight continues and the honourable soldier is fighting hard, even clearing up the middle ground where stubborn enemy runners re-appeared. The kikuyu is still fine – most of it comes out when you carefully pull it. But the couch grass is a nightmare – it just breaks off. Last Saturday I even broke the quota and collected an extra cart full of roots and runners. I’d like to get this thing out of the way now.

No doubt I’ll post when this battle is over. There is a phase 4 too. Ugly stuff. May sanity prevail!

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...

3 Comments on Fighting in the trenches

  1. Crikey – 40 degree! That sounds very uncomfortable for working on the land.

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