Orchard Shelter Belt

Posted by Nick  | 31 Aug 2015  | 0 comments

Our main project this winter has been the creation of an orchard. This has involved a mind-melting amount of organising/researching/planning. We want to experiment with (read indulge in) more than just the typical fruit varieties, so we made sure to plan a few years in advance. That includes factoring the eventual sizes and micro-climate requirements of fifty-plus fruit trees. (More on that in a future post.)

The first part of the plan was to plant a shelter belt along the southern and western boundaries of the orchard area. Safeguarding our orchard from the ravages of those prevalent winds!

We usually buy our native plants locally, but we wanted to include some exotic deciduous trees in the shelter belt, so we ordered online from a nursery in the South Island, of all places. Can’t beat a comprehensive user-friendly e-commerce website! Here’s our shipment arriving of around two hundred trees, which also included our specimens:

It was early on a Saturday morning and we were still in bed when they came knocking. Char whipped on some clothes and headed out to direct the truck through the gate while I stood naked, shooting discreetly from the bedroom window.

These babies were at the depot a few days longer than expected, so we were a little anxious about their condition, especially the bare-rooted varieties, which require immediate planting.

From a quick inspection and smile by Char, they seem like they’re all in healthy order.

Believe it or not, that’s about two hundred plants right there. They pack ’em in tight!

Our first task was to lay them all out, according to this rough-and-ready plan we’d sketched:

First we started with the southern shelter before moving to the western. No photos were taken during this time because, well, it was pissing down! The whole first day saw us kitted out in our full rain-wear, positioning and planting in the relentless drizzle, and being hit by what felt like a violent and unexpected hurricane! This happened to coincide with New Zealand being hit by, yes, an actual hurricane. It only lasted ten minutes, but around the country it caused quite a bit of damage. We are far enough south that by the time it struck our neck of the woods it had weakened. The second day of planting, however, had glorious weather:

Waves of larger exotic trees were framed by bushy components of various sizes.

After last year’s endless mowing of the previous bush strip we’d planted, I wasn’t about to make the same mistake with this lot. As you can see, I’ve killed the grass where we intended to plant – hopefully giving me a head-start on the spring growth.

From a distance and being saplings, the trees don’t look all that diverse at the moment…

…but when they’re mature we’ll see the likes of alders and beeches towering above dense layers of pittosporum and pseudopanax, titoki and griselinia.

Alongside the tall beech and alder we have cedar and fir, and then a step down in height we have some gum, wattle, tupelo, and laurel.

Amidst the bushy components you’ll also find other natives like manuka and mingimingi.

Yay, southern shelter complete:

And the western:

Those standards being framed by the newly planted shelter belts, seen above, mark the positions of our orchard trees.

As dusk settled on our second day of planting, I finished up by spraying them with a frost protection solution while Char fertilised the remainder.

We’re going to fence these shelter belts with post-and-rail, hopefully before spring. That way, if all goes to plan, the sheep can graze the orchard grass and the saplings will be protected.

As of this post our orchard trees have also been planted, so stay tuned for the complete picture!


Tree Cage Time-Lapse

Posted by Nick  | 23 Aug 2015  | 0 comments

This weekend we finally erected the last of this year’s tree cages for our specimens. Twelve in total, complete – woohoo!

How cool would it be if we made a time-lapse video of us building our last one? Well… guess what? Booyah.

It takes roughly two hours to complete one of these. Two hours whittled down to fifty seconds. Makes it look easy. I suppose it isn’t a particularly difficult undertaking, but there’s so many instances of “ah crap”, and “that’s not level, redo it” that a time-lapse doesn’t do justice. After twelve of these cages we’ve certainly learnt a thing or two.

Pleased with this result, we’ve decided time-lapse is the bee’s knees. We’ll do them as often as we can – it’s a great way to show the process of a project without all the boring nitty gritty bits.

Good Riddance to Refuse

Posted by Nick  | 18 Aug 2015  | 4 comments

Rubbish. What to do with it?

One of our long-term goals is to be as rubbish-free as possible. But at the start of our journey here there’s a lot of junk to deal with – namely that which was left behind by the previous owner. If you read some of our earlier posts, you may recall these piles of crap we gathered from around the farm and under the house:

A task I reluctantly undertook recently was separating all the wood from the inorganic trash and then cramming said trash into the back of the ute.

It was one hell of a mission fitting it all in there, but somehow it was managed without any room to spare (plus three garbage bags in the back seat).

I remember visiting landfills in Auckland just to witness the shear enormity of one city’s waste. Beholding that overwhelming vastness cemented a lifelong sense of both guilt and helplessness, knowing that without a radical change in lifestyle I would always be a part of the problem.

I was therefore understandably annoyed when it came to having to dump the above amount, however insignificant on the landscape of human waste. Nevertheless, it had to be done.

It did feel cathartic finally ridding ourselves of this clutter which had been an eyesore for almost a year. As sad as it is to say, it wasn’t our problem any more.

The remaining trash was unusable wood, which we decided we would burn. Some people in the country burn their inorganic rubbish, too, but we can’t bring ourselves to release all those harmful pollutants into the atmosphere; benzene, styrene, and the like. It’s a hard call to make, but the stuff’s probably better off in a landfill.

Also burning large amounts of wood simply for the sake of getting rid of it isn’t ideal, but sometimes it’s the most economical option. Counter-intuitively, it can also be the most “green” option. Making mulch or firewood from junk wood requires fossil-fuel machinery such as chainsaws and chippers, which have more of an environmental impact than the burn-off itself.

Despite the doom-and-gloom associated with contributing to climate change, we can’t deny the excitement of lighting a good ol’ bonfire!

According to my mother, I’ve always been a bit of a pyromaniac. She’s not wrong…

We made this small pile to start, then added more wood as the inferno took off.

We had some friends over, which made it all the more festive. If you ever do need to burn some junk wood, make an event out of it! At least then it’s not a complete waste.

It was the perfect winter’s evening for it. Almost no wind, zero chance of rain, and chilly enough to warrant huddling close to the flames.

You couldn’t get too close, though, it got pretty damn hot. This was a comfortable distance:

It was the perfect way to end a day on the farm after planting citrus trees in the orchard and tagging sheep. The fire was warm enough that we even had dinner by the firelight after dark.

As the inferno grew, we took great joy in throwing more wood into the flames, which became an increasingly difficult endeavour with the rising temperature.

Big flat pieces – I think this is a table top – were used as shields against the radiation. That way you could get close enough to kick or prod the pieces of wood that seemed intent on escaping the flames.

Aaand… pose!

As night fell the bonfire grew.

We kept watch until the flames were weak enough for us to go inside, which took a while…

Some of us relished the destruction a little too much…

The next morning all that remained was smoking rubble and a whole bunch of fencing wire. Finally, the majority of junk this place came with is GONE!

We’ll need to fashion a magnetic broom to pick up all the nails…

A much much bigger bonfire is on the horizon. Stay tuned for an inferno of epic proportions…