We battled through another heatwave last weekend. It got hot, so very hot. 
With 43 degrees on Saturday and a whopping 46 degrees on Sunday. A record, no medals involved, just a relief that we made it through the weekend without casualties and close by bush fires.
We went to bed on Sunday at 10 and it was still 38 degrees outside, a jump in the pool was no longer refreshing, the fan going so fast that you worried it might fly off with the roof. And even after having drunk litre after litre of water, you still felt dehydrated and dripping with sweat.
Most of Australia copped it bad. With exception of the Norther Territories (monsoon), Western Australia (floods) and Tasmania (snow).
This was the first time that our state had to add a new colour to the mix: catastrophic. Black lines added to the red. With fire brigades, volunteers and park rangers all on stand by.
A good thing too, because as the second day heated up to boiling point, many fires started to pop up, a whole village went up in flames. Nothing close to us.
 Mulching, the garden and fruit trees, trying to keep everything alive.
A very dramatic sight, the kids just wanted a cool place to lay down in the playground. Time to head home, to the aircon. The solar panels just about paid for themselves this summer...
The chickens copped it bad.
At one stage I found them unresponsive, they left the coop too late and started to overheat.
I thought we lost them, just laying there all floppy, but after 15 minutes in a cool bath, with us holding their heads above water they came around. After that, putting the sprinkler on them every 30 minutes did the trick, they’re still with us.
Tyson stayed inside with us, the horses in the coolest spot of the gully, next to a full waterhole. They came through fine. Many birds and animals were to be seen around the horse through in the top paddock. Many other birds were sitting around all the bowls of water set out throughout the garden, getting topped up with cool water every hour.
No-one likes ants in the kitchen. But...
Ants on the scrap bucket is actually a great sign, rain is on its way and the ants are coming up for higher ground.
For the last couple of days we had some lovely cool days (28 degrees), with gentle sprinkles. You could hear the joy (and relief) from the loud cacophony of birds soaking up the cooling rains. Some serious rain would be very awesome, filling up the dams and waterholes, bringing relief.


Geodesic Chook Dome

Our chicken coop lasted almost 6 years, using Linda Woodrow’s design as described in the Permaculture Home Garden. It did it’s job very well and kept all the chooks safe from predators. But it went downhill the moment the kids started “helping” with collecting the eggs. They have to make it over the first two white rings to get inside. It started to sag, the chooks kept getting out, it got patched up numerous times, my seedlings too, until one of the banana trees crashed on top of it. The End.

This is the geodesic design. It still fits the existing circles of our mandala garden, but should be stronger. It also makes it easier to create a lower instep. We re-used the roost and the tarp.
 It’s another 38 degree day again, hence the open door and free ranging chooks.
Another month and the worst of the heat should start to subside, the chooks will move on to the next garden bed and this one will be ready for my Autumn planting. My fingers are getting itchy in anticipation!


Making Tracks

Our forest is about 17 acres, which we leave mostly undisturbed. 
Through the middle, on the diagonal, runs a gully. We’ve dammed roughly a quarter of it, the rest is dotted with waterholes and with heavy rain the gully empties in the neighbours dam. 
Our walking track runs along the fence line, until it hits the gully, which it then follows until you’ve looped back to the start. Also meaning, it leave a third of the forest cut off and inaccessible.
Until yesterday...
With jeans, closed shoes, long sleeved shirt, gloves, a bottle of water and a ride-on mower, I started making a new track. Sticking to the fence line, riding 5 very slow meters through the tough and high blady grass before needing to spend another 10 minutes clearing branches and stones.
A 37 degrees day, maybe we should have gone to the beach after all... 

 A new vantage point on Wattle Lane along the gully.

 Discovered another little gully to wrestle the mower through.
I found a couple of fences in need of a little TLC and some that where almost flattened by massive fallen branches. They’ve been temp fixed and resurrected, but it looks like I’ve got my work sorted for next weekend too.

Hooking back onto the existing track at the neighbours dam. Mission accomplished!
I made it back sweaty and completely covered in grass and grime.
But with a very satisfied grin on my face.

I might add another track to loop back, later on.
For those wet months that the gully can’t be crossed without getting stuck in the mud.

The photo’s are from this mornings walk,
because who can resist a new path?


Alex 4

Alexander turned 4 on Friday. 
Together we made little cupcakes the day ahead, to celebrate the day with his mates at preschool. 
And an ice-cream cake for dessert, which was a huge hit, but rather tricky with 35 degrees in the kitchen!
How is that to wake up with! With help from Tim who (secretly) loves his little brother very much.
 So many new toys to play with
A watermelon party cake with summer fruits.
With 37 degrees underneath a madly whirring ceiling fan, this was rather refreshing. With coconut cream used as an icing.
Alex and his girlfriends. Yes, there were boys invited too...
And back they went in the pool.
Alex, the moment the last car hit the end of the driveway...


Summer joys

It’s the little things that can make us proud. Repairing our first fence! 
Yes, we had done little bits and pieces before, but this one was a proper repair job needing a fence strainer tool. Reading instructions and checking youtube, because, well... it’s rather tricky. We nailed it, a high-five moment for us, for those who didn’t grow up with land.
There is something highly satisfying about painting walls. It looks so much better, instantly. 
All pen marks and scuffs gone and hidden under a fresh looking layer of white. 
Three kids bedrooms had a makeover and since we’ve been using the same paint throughout the house, going through the hallways and other high traffic areas made for a very quick tidy up!
Next job will be to replace the carpet in all bedrooms. We’re still researching (as well as gathering courage, since we’ll need to simultaneously empty 4 bedrooms ahead of laying!).
This is Tim’s new room, he is so very happy with his own space. A quiet refuge to read a book, build some new inventions or make awesome drawings.
The desk is an early birthday present, he’ll be turning 9 at the end of this month!
The kids waving farewell to the dozer. Just a couple of hours of work has done a huge transformation to our gully. We are now the proud owners of a dam! The couple of showers we’ve had so far have made a nice puddle at the bottom. Nothing much, but at least we know it seals well.

Mr Dozer pulled a bucket loader out of his back pocket, to spread some topsoil over the top of the dam to speed up grass taking root. Which will decrease erosion.
The last of the bitou bush (can you see it at the left?) has been eradicated, another big job of the list!

A couple of tree were harmed in the dam building process, we’ve cut some of the branches for firewood (home gym), the rest can stay for soil enrichment.
The Battlefield (Slagveld), my Saturday morning gym session, splitting wood.
The new dam, looking pretty even while still empty, will be a delight on my morning walks. Even though we’ll have to eventually alter the walking/maintenance track.
It’s a delight to see how much more we walk and play in the forest these days. Earlier years, I wouldn’t dare to go past the gully during the hot Summer (snake) months. Talks with several National Park rangers have put me so much more on ease. We’re still careful and stick to the (kangaroo) trails, but are starting to know the land like our back pockets. Seeing a python sunning along the track is actually a highlight.
Letting the kids know “I’m checking the weeds between Wattle Lane and Deep Pond”, makes sense to them and know where to find me if they need me.

The next project has already started, a new chook dome. We’re giving the geodesic design a try this time, which should be stronger and more suitable for short legged egg collectors...


Happy Summer Times

Well that old front deck well and truly had it, after years of patching it up, we run out of patching planks and the supporting construction was starting to get a little bouncy, it was time for a serious overhaul. Time for the circular saw!
Instead of replacing the whole deck, we decided only to replace the front veranda, while utilising the leftovers from the pool deck. Looking so very pretty, but mostly this composite wood is maintenance free for at least 25 years!

It left behind a large hole where the rest of the deck used to be, that of course filled with water with the first bit of decent rain. Our pigs kids were very exited with our own personal moat, filled with nice gooey mud. Time for phase 2.
A bobcat, concrete blocks and a couple of dump truck hauls with fill.
The kids all on the first row.

Boys and machines. No further entertainment required!

All nicely filled in, we’ll wait for a couple of months to make sure it’s all settled. The plan is to pave it over, when it cools down a bit more!
We’ve had our fair share of 40+ degree days. Thankfully we’ve got airco (and solar panels!). But it also means we’re then stuck inside. I now have new curtains (thanks Evelien!), so pretty. We also started a room shuffle. Our office/sewing/lego/guest/I-don’t-know-where-to-put-it-let’s-dump-it-here room is now Tim’s room. With his own pretty red wall, he finally has his own room without little pesky brothers.
“Get out of my room!” was an often heard phrase that first couple of days...
Sophie is very happy with her own room with a (Frozen) blue wall. David was happy to wheel his bed to Alex’s room. At tuck in time, I often find them with their beds wheeled together.

After seeing the pretty and fresh blue, we decided to redo all the walls with a coat of fresh white, it’s rather yellow now! Always the way when you start painting, before you know it you’re doing three bedrooms!
Next phase will be new carpet. This 35+ year old cream carpet is starting to show it’s age (and stains!).
A pit stop with the kids after a morning of hard work at our local animal shelter.
Tim is a great helper, together we’ve helped there before. But after Tim came home all exited about all the cute kittens he played with and brushed in between cleaning out litter trays, his other siblings wanted to come too. With Alex and Sophie in the mix, we’re a lot less efficient with helping (they just play, socialise and groom), it’s all done with a kind heart.
Movie dates with the kids.
The oldest two have decided they rather spend their pocket money on memories instead of things...
(proud mum moment)
Holidays are hard work...
Mooney got sick a couple of weeks ago. Couldn’t walk, just stood there for hours. We managed to get a little water in her while it gently started to rain. It had been a 42 degree day, although they have 20 acres to roam with plenty of water and shade, for a while we thought she had heat stroke. Now we wonder if it was a snake. We left her when it started to get dark with a bucket of water. Next morning she was back in the top paddock, moving slow and shivering all over while it was still above 30 degrees. The fact that she was walking and drinking again was a good sign. It has taken most of a week, not counting the weight she lost, she’s back to her old self. Such a relief.
Tyson comes knocking on the screen door when it gets above 35 degrees or when a thunderstorm starts brewing. He has his own cool and cozy corner to hide and is happy there. No more bolting!
The chooks get set free, to roam on those hot days, with plenty of water set out for them, they can find their own comfortable place. With my own garden only just coping with heat stress, I havent planted it anything new in a long time, which also means there is nothing to be damaged.
Our gully, dotted with waterholes. The end of the second paddock and the start of the forest.
For the six years that we’ve been here, a dam has always been on the list. Extending the waterholes to something that could keep the water in for longer. Creating more biodiversity and a place for animals to drink. The heavy clay soil is perfect for it. 
Then, last week, a neighbour nudged a man with a dozer in our laps!
 We spend most of a 40 degree day outside watching a dozer hard at work.

The result after just a couple hours of work. 
Once the rains comes, the earth will settle and start growing again, this is going to look awesome!
Visible from the back deck it will change our view heaps.
Although separated with a fence, we will have to speed up David’s swimming lessons...
Until then, the kids have a place to race their bikes down, play king/queen of the hill and find treasure. Perfect for that last week of summer holidays.
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