The Big Shed takes shape

Winter is descending, with its icy breath and cold, damp shroud. Things have been busy at the farm as we take advantage of the softer soil and cooler temperatures to get stuff done!  With the help of Laurall, our trusty tractor, Stace has been busy putting in posts to make some smaller intensive grazing areas for the herbivores.  This method of grazing smaller patches encourages quicker growth through herbivory and disturbance.  Once the grazers have been on a particular area for a certain amount of time, they are moved to the next patch, giving the grass a chance to recover, rest and regrow.

Post hole digging at White Stone Farm

Closer to the house, the Big Shed is going well, although it’s taking much longer than we expected.  With our busy schedules, particularly for Stace, we’re a few months behind than we thought we would be.  We managed to finish the 1.5m pier holes in the middle of summer, when the soil was concrete and our little handheld, petrol powered auger was pushed to the limit!  In baking 40 degree weather and having to soak the holes and drill bit by bit, we managed to get them all to depth after a number of hot, hardworking weeks.

Then, with the help of a few of Stace’s strapping mates from Melbourne, the supports went up and the shed began looking more like a skeletal version of the finished product.

Our Big Shed is happening at White Stone Farm

Walls and a roof eventually made their way to attachment, with Stace plugging away at it whenever he could.  Friends dived in to help at short notice to get the roof on and secured.

Then, up went the solar panels for power to run the freezer and fridge. We have put on an 800 watt system.  And a 5,000L water tank to capture the precious water that comes from the large roof.

And our final stage was attaching a greenhouse to the front.  This north facing structure will help to warm the space in winter and grow our plants, protected from frost, as well as bring in lots of light to the space.  In summer we will cover it with shade cloth to prevent overheating the space too much.

Shed and building greenhouse on the side

And voila – the Big Shed is ready for action.  This will be our space for harvest preparation, weaving studio, teaching space, relaxing space, movie theatre, lecture theatre, storage area and hub.

Hazy shade of Winter

Look around…

Leaves are brown…

There’s a patch of snow on the ground…

Frosty morning at White Stone Farm

Winter has arrived and thankfully some good soaking winter rains arrived with it.   It was a dire time throughout Autumn, with the rains arriving on the very last day.  But then Winter descended and with it those cold mornings that our central highlands of Victoria are renowned for.  Mornings were frosty and it was difficult to get out of bed!  Even the chickens struggled to get out of their Chook Falcon on those chilly days!

Frosty chook falcon at White Stone FarmLlama in puddleBut the nights were good for cosy-ing up next to the fire with a good permaculture book or two!

Leading up to winter and the promise of rain approaching, we realised that we needed to improve the water harvesting and drainage on our property.  Over the last 2 winter seasons here, we have been inundated with rain and bad drainage, creating a swampland across the entire block.  I’m sure the llamas and horse started to get webbed feet!

With our winters so wet and our summers so dry, we needed to be able to channel that resource into catchment areas to decrease their evaporation and increase their usefulness (other than just breeding mosquitoes!).

Last winter, we painstakingly mapped out the slightly-lower-than-very-flat areas on the block (did I mention we’re sitting on a plateau and have very little slope?!) and Stace worked hard digging (mostly by hand) a series of channels and pools to collect and move the water across the block.

Poor drainage at White Stone Farm

Stace digging channels at White Stone FarmThe chickens helped where they could…most of them just hanging around for a tasty worm to be turned over with the next clod of earth.  Most of the time they just got under Stace’s feet…but that’s what happens when you have free range chickens!

With torrential rain finally falling down, we watched with expectation…and discovered that Stace’s hard work creating a system of drainage channels throughout White Stone Farm worked a treat! Hooray!

Winter used to depress me, with our beautiful property becoming a cold, sloshy, swampland…but no longer. I now see it as working with nature and utilising her bountiful resource.  We now have a series of ephemeral pools and can move water slowly through the paddocks and use it more effectively to grow veggies, get water to stock and continue to rejuvenate the landscape.  Our small aquaculture dam beside the greenhouse, which is the main source of water for the greenhouse as it cycles through, ran completely dry over summer and autumn, but is now nearly full to brimming!  Hooray!  Our native fish that nearly perished in the hotter months and had to spend some time in the fish tank in the lounge room are back in their outdoor home finding natural food and (hopefully) growing big and fat!

Greenhouse and aquaculture dam

Winter is such a cosy time, for hot soups, crackling fires and long days of rain to refresh the landscape after a parched dry season.  And now we will get to enjoy all that water long after winter is gone.

The Magic of Springtime

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…

llama landscape

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