First off, I had to go and see the principal of the school behind us. No, not because the kids were naughty – they don’t go to that particular school – it’s too close for comfort! Nor because they hopped the fence neither. But first a bit of background…
The big Eucalyptus trees at the school, growing right against our fence, have over the years become more and more of a concern. I have mentioned this in previous posts – we have noticed over the years that our vegetable beds have become drier and drier over the years. Discussions with an arborist that came and checked the trees’ structural stability confirmed the fact – the trees’ roots are growing further and further under our vegetable beds in search of the precious rainwater we use to irrigate the vegetables.
In desperation I have acquired a slammer tool – supposed to be excellent for digging trenches for installing root barriers. You can see where this was going. I was – in parallel to the driveway project – going to embark on another ambitious project – this one was to install a root barrier along the width of the vegetable garden. My word, what a disappointment the slammer was. It may work well on the video, and maybe it does in softer loamy soils, but on our hard clay, it made very slow impression. I ended up using the post digger to start digging the trench, and only using the slammer when I ran into actual tree roots. In the starting section I encountered one root that the post digger couldn’t handle, and the slammer cut it off nicely. I quickly realised this was going to be one of these projects of massive proportions. In fact, I didn’t even yet have an idea what I was going to fill the trench with. I just knew something had to be done.
And then as fate would have it, we had a blazing wind storm last week, which blew one of the large Eucalyptus branches off and it fell right on our compost heaps.
Putting one and one together, I sent an email to the principal, discussing this – the third fallen branch that has caused damage – but the essence of the email being more motivational:
I would like to discuss the trees with you. Whereas they are beautiful and large, and offer some shelter to some birds, Eucalyptus trees are not the best in an urban setup, for the following reasons:
– They only provide dappled shade.
– They are a fire risk – which we should all be concerned about.
– They regularly lose big limbs – which can be a danger to the school children too.
– Almost nothing grows underneath them.
– Their roots grow for 3o+m in any direction, especially if they sense water nearby.
It is the latter two points which bother us the most. Over the years, we have seen our vegetable beds dry up one by one from the school’s side. Whereas we once had strawberries flourishing in those beds, now nothing but the hardiest herbs seem to survive there (and we irrigate regularly.) In fact, very little grows well along that entire fence line. Over time, you will also experience the same problem on the soccer pitch.
It wasn’t 10 minutes later that she responded and we made an appointment to meet. We had a very interesting discussion while walking to look at the trees from the school’s side. Not only did they remove the large branch that same afternoon, but she committed to have the trees removed and replaced early in January. Even though we offered to replace the trees, she wanted none of it. We agreed that I would do some research on suitable shade trees for the school. That sounds like a very interesting project, right up my permaculture alley. I must admit I’m super glad I don’t have to persist with that trench.
Next on the agenda I had to prepare the area behind the pool to plant some chicken greens again. The chooks had demolished the wheat-barley-oats mixture that was there before, and had nicely scratched and left the stalks. It was the first no-dig bed where we didn’t even have to buy in hay! Nothing will survive there without water, so I was using the whipper-snipper to clear the edges where I needed to put in some irrigation pipes for the summer. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw some movement by the pool filter deck. As sure as hell, there was a tiger snake, about 2ft long, slipping into the filtration area amongst the water plants!
I dropped the whipper-snipper and ran to get my phone to call the local snake catcher. He told me he was on his way to a catch in Bannockburn and would be with us in 20 minutes. About 10 minutes I got a text he was on his way. I did the google maps thing and determined there was no way he could get to us that quick. Meanwhile we were trying to keep an eye on the filtration area for any movement. Not more than 15 minutes later I heard this deep droning noise coming up our driveway. Here mister snake catcher was arriving on a massive motorbike, with his catching pole draped over the handlebars and his net in one the side boxes. No wonder he got there so quickly! Anyway, we fine-combed the area, even loosened some of the filtration area’s deck cover, but snakey was nowhere to be found. After a while the snake catcher left with instructions to put some nets where the snake would possibly enter and exit from the filtration area. Unfortunately we didn’t get any photos of snakey, well, not yet.
We then spent a considerable time and effort to clear the whole area of long grass that was growing up against the pool fence. That fence was so poorly designed, it’s impossible to keep the grass short between the posts. Anyway, it was late afternoon already when I could resume my greens preparation activities, after which I still put out some mouse traps. Interesting, only one of the mouse traps was triggered and nothing was caught. No wonder why we haven’t seen any mice in the last while. And to think of it, the kids were splashing and running around the pool the previous day and Patricia swam some lengths too!
Needless to say, we’re now walking around with our eyes peeled. You don’t play when tiger snakes are involved!
The exciting day ended with Markus and myself heading off to our simultaneous guitar lessons. I learnt about some additional mode notes that can be added to the extended (sliding) pentatonic scale for minor and major keys. Wish I could apply that on-the-fly when playing, but that’s a totally different story altogether.