2014 June – December

18 January 2015

We had bought a new lawn mower – a Rover, and keen to try it out on the long grass covering the entire block.  There was no problem starting the mower and Eug pushed it up from the shed gate to where the blackberries had been cleared.  It had been overgrown for some time and was again knee high.  From where I was up on the northern boundary as I cleared paths in the blackberry maze I could hear the mower cutting out frequently and the spluttering efforts to get it going again. Eug was attacking the most difficult terrain first and I was worried things were not good. However when I emerged after some back breaking clipping a ground level, I was surprised to see one patch fully cleared and Eug happily covering easier ground – precut grass at manageable thickness and height.

For the next 3 hours he mowed continuously, rarely cutting the engine and covering about 1/2 the block. He told me later mice and rabbits were plentiful especially in the old blackberry patches. I discovered a frog FROG! when I was having a break from the maze and clipping haphazardly at the long shoots left bare from the mowing.

My work involved clipping the shoots underfoot, the long stems reaching across the pathways and cutting to a manageable size. Then with the rake I gathered them in piles either at the middle entrance to the maze or along the path edges, kicking them back into the blackberries to create a deeper layer of mulch. The paths look much neater, wider and some almost bare and clear. Some grass seeds could be sown in Autumn and then the paths mowed, if I can maintain them well enough. Toward the north east corner the lower path is thick with growth underfoot and needs urgent maintenance before the earlier work is completely undone. I wonder whether mulching the sprayed dead branches can be done or whether they should be just burned?

We have plans to hold a blackberry harvest picnic when they have ripened. We could also apply for a burning off permit for this day as there are so many piles of sticks. Next thing to invest in is a wheelbarrow to cart sticks and mulch heaps. I injured my back significantly when I carried heavy bags of compost and mulch from tree to tree three weeks back in an effort to save the trees during a hot spell. I’m glad to see it paid off and after some substantial rain the trees are looking fine. The Liquid Amber is small and slow growing (unlike the second one at home which is flourishing). The lemon is flowering and has some fruit however the leaves are curled and dull (similar to the lemon at home). The Ornamental Pear has seemingly recovered from heat stress and looks well. It was a great relief to discover the trees still alive when I had conceded their demise. And the FROG – it amazes me to think it has built its habitat in an old blackberry patch.

The maze

15 November 2014

We are winning the fight against the blackberries. Today we took A&A’s lawnmower to the Block and Eug attacked the patches Shaun had cleared, and all around where they were sprouting. The grass was long, up to our knees, but not too thick to cut some paths from the gate to the patches and then about a 1/4 acre to the North West. Eug also ran the mower along the top blackberry border. In the meantime I attacked the regrowth along the maze. There was enough to keep me going to 2.-3 hours, some regrowth only millimetres from the ground, other growth along the length of green shoots buried a metre below the dried out sticks of previous slashings.

Along the north border all the blackberries from the maze path are dead from an anonymous spraying. Occasionally there is a green shoot but mostly all you can see underneath is the partially fallen down fencing, under the weight of dead bushes. There are some holes in the ground, perhaps rabbit holes? Otherwise there is no sign of life amongst the blackberries – a true monoculture.

Slashing blackberry bushes is addictive, so long as you can see the dent made. Every time I return from the Block my head is full of ideas and plans for the next battle – along the southern border, which grows fatter at each visit, along the western border which has almost become a continuous line of bushes, not just clumps as in the winter.

Similarly Eug has admitted his mowing addiction and has begun the search for a lawn mower to buy. Hopefully sooner rather than later, to finish the job of cutting the rest of the long grass.

Some news on the trees:

  • The Liquid Amber has two top leaves left. It appears to have been eaten by a small animal only able to reach perhaps 15 cm.
    • Must protect with plastic around the tree.
  • Lemon – dying?
    • needs mulching/composting as does the Liquid Amber
  • Ornamental Pear
    • needs mulching/composting. Looks fine if a little dry.

I saw an Oak (I think it is) on one of the maze paths under a small tree that has grown sideways. Good to encourage and protect. (North eastern area)

From Water Tank Road

12 October 2014

Over the last couple of months Eug had cut his way through the northern boundary blackberries to create paths – a maze, no less. Today at the Block we maintained the paths through the blackberries, clipping back regrowth on the floor and around the base of the tree next to the falling down Cedar. Eug cleared two small patches in the far north east corner. We planted a Liquid Amber that Mary had given us from seed from Normanby Road, about half way down the West side, height approximately 20 cm. The second Liquid Amber we were unable to plant as the ground on the southern boundary near the shed was too hard and full of old rubble to dig. Perhaps it has been compacted by the horses.

The blackberries Shaun cleared in the middle of the field are starting to re-sprout and I attempted to rake up the cuttings into a pile so we might be able to mow the patches when we get a lawn mower. The work was hard because the rake got repeatedly snagged. We came home dispirited by what we had seen of the blackberries and the re-growth, not just in cleared patches but on previously blackberry free land.

We must contact Shaun about following up on his first clearing attempt. And we must also get a lawn mower, or ride on, to go over the blackberries in the grass.

The grass is getting long. The dwarf lemon tree is struggling and ugly but has signs of new growth, while the Ornamental Pear has finished flowering and has lovely new leaves.

Leonora

29 June 2014

We bought the 2 1/4 acre block on 17 June 2014, just two weeks ago. Today we planted the Ornamental Pear tree in the south east corner. The horses were being removed from the paddock to protect the tree from damage. Down by the gate the horses had created a mud bath so we picked our way through carefully to higher ground. After planting the tree in driving rain Eug attacked the blackberries with a spade, trying to create a path through to the northern boundary. After 45 minutes he had reached Water Tank Road, creating a narrow path still thick underfoot. It is not likely to remain for long unless we maintain it somehow. The view from the top is considerably better and I would love to be able to clear the north boundary blackberries soon. It must be 15 meters thick. We need to get a quote to replace the fence with a gate for access on that north boundary.

When we dug up the soil for the Ornamental Pear I noticed it looked very clay-like, but still friable. We must also do some soil testing before we plant anything else, especially food producing plants.

We discovered a dead rat in the middle of the paddock. Not sure where that came from!

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