Here at White Stone Farm we are often presented with challenges. The hot, dry summers, very wet winters, poor drainage over most of the property, heavy frosts in winter, the house that needs a bit of TLC…but one of the biggest challenges we face is our lack of good topsoil. The farm is situated on an ancient alluvial floodplain of heavy clay, with some of the oldest soil this Earth has to offer (Ordovician soil, circa 500 million years for those playing at home…). In winter the clay holds water, in summer it cracks and dries as hard as concrete, the clay shrinking and expanding depending on moisture content.
Prior to our purchase of the land, the property was also overstocked with horses, creating further compaction of the soil. It makes for one slippery clay-ridden landscape in the depths of wet winters and is in desperate need of some more organic matter to boost the growing capacity of the land. Phew…so glad that we like a good challenge!! On the positive side, clay already has a number of nutrients that we can build on for our soil structure, we just need to improve the drainage and help it along a bit with some more organic matter. Hey, at least it’s not sand! Continue reading →
The chill of Winter is leaving the landscape and the warmth of Spring is finally upon us. Thank goodness!! Those -2°C mornings (down to -6°C one day…brrrrr!) are behind us for another year and we can look forward to longer days, more sunshine and a verdant, productive landscape. Even the llamas are happy about the plentiful, fresh green growth…
Spring is my favourite time of the year, a reminder after the dry summer and cold winter that there are ideal growing conditions to be had in this part of the world, blue sky days, clement weather and a myriad of birds filling the farm with a joyful chorus as they do their birds and the bees stuff. Nests are popping up all over the place, birds are courting each other, plumage colours are enhanced (even our male duck’s bill gets a bit more orange and he struts around proudly!) and it’s a great reminder of the joys of new life. Continue reading →
With its last gusty, frosty breath, winter seems to be finally waning here at White Stone Farm. The warmth of spring is starting, the fruit trees are in their flowery finery of pinks and whites and the pastures are becoming verdant and lush once again. Ah Spring, my favourite month at the farm as the landscape dries out after its winter deluge.
Golden rays and deep blues
White and pinks and purple hues
Heady scent upon the breeze
Will likely bring hayfever’s sneeze
But Spring is welcomed in all her glory
To help us with our White Stone story
A change in the seasons also sees a change in birdsong. Birds quiet, hidden or holidaying somewhere else during the colder parts of the year are back with their songful presence – Grey Shrike Thrushes delight us with their whistling and Striated Pardalotes call and flit amongst the Eucalyptus trees near the house. The Welcome Swallows have returned and are again nesting above the back door, their indignant calls berating you if you disturb them when going in or out of the house. Continue reading →
Wow – how quickly the year is disappearing! No sooner did we enjoy the golden hues of autumn, then winter approached with bracing winds, rain and more rain, sub-zero temperatures and more rain. Did I mention rain? How sad the extra water tanks aren’t in yet! But the ducks think it’s the best thing in the world – the whole property is one big swamp, just ripe for puddling around in!!
So far, our record coldest morning was about -6°C. The landscape was blanketed in white icicles, giving everything a lacy cover that crunched underfoot. Nearby towns had snow! Even the weeds looked pretty in their icicle finery.
Aside from the cold, there have been some glorious days of winter sunshine, enabling Stace to get out and make some amazing changes to the White Stone Farm landscape. The rain and high clay content on the property does make anything to do with dirt or driving around the property a lot more challenging and it’s caused Stace huge frustration as he slips and slides around the block. In future years we won’t be doing such grand manoeuvres in the slushy, slippery winter but this year we need to get lots done before spring. Despite the trying conditions, Stace has done an amazing job at moving earth to create some innovative infrastructure and effective grow beds… Continue reading →
A quick glimpse of what can happen in a month at White Stone Farm!
Recently I was asked by a fellow-blogger friend to contribute a guest blog detailing my life for 30 days. The blogger is Christie Peucker, who has just returned from an epic year-long adventure around the globe where she did weird and wonderful things for a month at a time to celebrate and tick off her bucket list. It’s a fascinating look at the adventure of a solo female traveller in some pretty incredible places. Christie has now set up 30 Days – The Collection series on her website, asking people to contribute their 30 days of life or adventure – and I was very happy to contribute the crazy antics of daily life at White Stone Farm. Read on for a taste of my month of musings. And if you’d like to check out Christie’s blog of her amazing adventure (or help her publish a book about it!), go to: http://www.30days30years.com/
30 years = 30 days of a Tree Change
In a sudden moment of epiphany as we began our 30’s, my partner and I decided that we wanted out of the smoggy city, the hustle and bustle and sprawling suburbia and headed for the hills for a new life of fresh air, wholesome veggies, strong community, country living and a small-acre farming lifestyle.
Within a month we were moving our jobs, lifestyles and futures to an idyllic country township with dreams of creating a sustainable farming venture and merely 6 months later buying and settling on a 10 acre property near Clunes in central Victoria. Nestled on an ancient volcanic landscape, with huge gum trees that have watched over the land for over 500 years, we began to make our home in the rustic weatherboard farmhouse and named the place White Stone Farm. Continue reading →
As April rolls into May and the leaves turn golden, the first frosts appear and the landscape is blanketed in autumn colours around Clunes, things are also busy as we prepare for winter at White Stone Farm.
Our winter crops have been planted, out in the newly established growing beds enriched with mulch, multiple animal manure (the llama girls certainly contributed!) and worm laden soil. The garlic is sprouting, reaching out to the sun as the days begin to cool, while other seedlings are gathering strength and size in the greenhouse.
And in our desire at White Stone Farm for more manure makers, natural insect eaters and a possible food source later on – we’ve officially gone quackers! White Stone Farm welcomes our first domestic birds to the farm – our new Pekin Ducks!
Originally bred from Mallards in China, the Pekin duck is now a popular meat bird across the world, but is also a good egg layer too, laying about 200 each year. They are highly sociable and can bond closely to humans if imprinted when a duckling and can also be good guards (enough to rival geese apparently – which is great because geese freak me out slightly with their aggressiveness!). Our first three duck members to the farm are a little more wild, having lived the first 5 months of their lives on a dam at a nearby farm, but they are slowly getting used to us and living in their new home. Continue reading →
He sits still by day, a part of the tree that he calls home. His eyes are closed as he prepares for the nightly hunt or mere slits to quietly watch the world through sleepy pupils. When he does look at you, it’s with piercing yellow eyes.
At night he waits. He watches. Silently. You barely know he’s there…waiting for a scurry or a flutter…
The first time I realised that we had these residents in our garden was by hearing their distinctive call at dusk.
I was watering the garden and suddenly realised I could hear the deep, low oooom…ooooomm….oooooom coming from the nearby gum tree. Upon closer inspection, there they were – a pair of Tawny Frogmouth birds.
Ah, Garlic planting season once again! When we moved in during Jun-July last year, it was manic as we needed to hastily plant all of our organic garlic cloves in between doing renovations and trying to discover garden beds and planting space under grass and weeds.
With some wonderful help from our family, we rescued derelict garden beds and some designated planting areas and got lots of bulbs safely planted into various parts of the garden. Garlic in the front garden bed amongst the roses, garlic along the side of the house, garlic in other random garden beds between ornamentals, garlic in rows along the fence.
The bulbs were planted carefully and tended, sending green shoots soon after planting and surviving the frosty winter.
Through spring they matured, growing taller and stronger until in summer they began to transfer all their energy to the bulb in the dark depths of the soil. In December we decided them ready to harvest – later than usual but due to the slightly later planting season we wanted to give them enough time to nourish the bulb and produce great garlic!
When we first moved in, it was a demanding race of time and energy towards renovations to make the house more liveable and planting our first crops to be ready in time for summer.
With a heap of wonderful organic tomato seeds that we had collected and prepared, Stace busily went about planting them in pots in his greenhouse. And before we knew it we had a plethora of seedlings demanding daily watering and attention. With Stacy in Melbourne most days, I took this on alone. A single parent to my many tomato babies.
My mornings were filled with the careful tending of over 40 tomato plants. Hand watering them and all of our other thirsty plants was a time-consuming labour of love.
Suddenly our Solanaceae babies were getting cramped feet as they outgrew their pots. Stace prepared a spot for them all – an enclosed veggie patch that we discovered under long grass and weeds and our new kids got a secure, new home.
Every day at White Stone Farm there is something new to discover. Whether it’s an old garden bed, complete with fruit trees buried under monstrous weeds and years of neglect, or a new type of raptor soaring overhead, or a new animal that shares the property with us, there is always a little surprise and a daily discovery.
On this day it was the latter, a bundle of fluff in the garden. One with a nocturnal nature, that you don’t often get to see and likely I would never have realised that we share our home and land with such a delicate creature.