This is The ChangeUnderground for the 3rd of October 2022.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
Varroa update: 70% of hives in the exclusion zone have been euthanized. No new detections. Almost a textbook response to a biosecurity threat.
As we enter Spring in the southern hemisphere in general and in Tasmania in particular, things are ramping up on the ground.
I ran a minimum till over the four experimental blocks as September came to an end. As I did so it took about 15 minutes for the poultry, the ducks and the chooks, to tweek to what was going on. They descended and were in danger of being rotovated as I tore up the grass cover to about 3-5 cm depth. It was a strange sight. Me and the machine trundling along slowly and 37 ducks and 10 chooks diving into the soil behind me looking for treats. A bizarre variation on the Pied Piper. Unfortunately, I was unable to both do the job and to film the birds at the same time.
Instead of saving the buckwheat for the end of summer I’m putting it in early and oversowing with white clover. The thinking is this: The buckwheat will cover the soil quickly, I’m sowing at a high rate to achieve cover rather than to produce seed. As that gets established I’ll plant blue corn into one of the blocks, wheat into another, potatoes into the third and barley in the fourth. We have a major rain event coming at the end of the week (40-100mm, 160 to 400 points). A weather system that hit the north west of the mainland in the Kimberleys on the weekend. It’s working its way across the continent heading in a slightly south easterly direction. The rain will be welcome here in Tasmania even though some catchments will be on flood watch or alert but much of the state is in water deficit and the hydro dams are below where they’d like to be entering summer. These were run down over winter to make hay so to speak while the mainland was in an electricity shortage. All our power comes from hydro and wind with some rooftop solar in Tasmania but we sometimes draw on coal/gas fired electricity from the mainland but on the whole we’re pretty green.
The point being, with soil temperatures at 9-10 degrees C (48-50 degrees F), the rain and the newly sown buckwheat should get off to a flying start. Being in the Roaring 40s, the trade winds of the sail powered era, the weather can be less than predictable but I think with the mix I’m using, all four crops, corn, wheat, potatoes and barley should get to harvest but iof odd conditions arrive, at least one will give us back much more than the seed. The buckwheat acts as a sort of insurance safety net behind everything else. That’s the plan and the theory. No plan survives contact with reality but I think there’s enough flexibility to respond to reality.
That reality, despite the coming rainfall event, may well be a long hot dry summer. Last year’s was a long hot dry summer. Despite a positive Indian Ocean Dipole and a La Nina in the Pacific, our little corner of Tassie, the North West, dried considerably.
Those two climatic drivers are still in place so the eastern seaboard states are likely to suffer more flooding again this year. A T-shirt was selling in the city of Lismore that said: I survived the one in a hundred flood of 2022, 2022, 2022, 2021, and 2020. Things look… unpleasant on the mainland.
Meanwhile as Spring progresses, the raspberries have burst bud, the pears are three quarters of the way through flower burst and the apples have started to put out leaf. 80% of the half metre cuttings from two of the pear trees appear to have taken root and are growing away as one would expect.
The chooks are laying in amongst the agapanthus rather than their provided nest boxes so we are having egg hunts every second day. The ducks are slower this year but seem to be about to hit their stride, especially after I cull the excess males who are always a nuisance.
The back two thirds of an acre plots are coming into some fertility, at last. Some blackberry issues that I’ll deal with through constant mowing. This weakens the roots until they give up. Some will also be dealt with by the pigs who continue to renovate areas of the paddocks.
That back area will be planted out to rosemary and thyme hedges with a mix of white, red and crimson clovers to be sown between the hedges. The plan is to have this area for honey production over the coming years and to produce herbal essential oils down the track.
This summer should be the last one with pigs for a few years as the replanting and experimental beds are settled in and there’s no need for renovating pastures.
Given the northern summer and its heat waves in Western Europe, fires and floods in the Americas and what’s occurred in Australia over the past five years, October has become evac pack month. A few days water, some survival food, chocolate, changes of clothes, phone chargers and, of course, back up recording devices are all ready to go if the ship hits the sand. It is a relief each April to unpack these knowing we made it through another Summer without disruption. Whilst not yet as extreme, in general, Tasmania has a history of catastrophic bushfires. Being ready is a sort of mental safety net. I would recommend it to anyone.
As the days length with what feels like increasing rapidity, the last frost is probably behind us but we can never be certain. 1 November or thereabouts is the goal for having the vegetables in and growing so the next month is going to be busy. This is a wonderful time of the year and I’m entering it 17.8 kilos lighter than last year, intentionally, not from illness with another 10 to go, probably by that 1 November date but we will see. The extra available energy is a relief this Spring and I’d recommend considering losing a bit of weight if you’ve been running in a good paddock. It feels good.
So as we enter the growing season and the Northern Hemisphere leaves theirs, I’ll just remind one and all the ChangeUnderground Academy no-dig gardening course is still available. Link in the show notes. Currently selling for $17 dollars. Please tell your friends!
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.
No Dig Quick Start Course
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Varroa mite emergency response