Sunday, February 21, 2010

State of the Union (call for help)

We've been living here on Lantanaland for about two and a half years. I always said that I wanted to just sit back for a few years to gauge the mood of the land, not to do any major works of infrastructure until we had an idea of where we would like the place to end up. I feel that I have a good feel for the land now. I know I have to cope and plan for snakes and goannas in my chook and duck pens. I know what sort of fence I need to keep in goats ( bloody decent ones) and I have a rough idea of how we can start shaping the land.

The first part came when my fantastic parents and grandmother gifted me a ride on lawnmower for birthday/Xmas. It let's me keep the house and surrounds neat when I'm busy. Last year we were away in February and the lawn got away from me. I can put in the big weekends knocking it back with brushcutter and push mower, but the big ride on allows me to keep it under control. Think of it like an old fasioned war or a zombie movie. I've establised my defensive zone but the grass is always trying to breach my perimiter. Now I am secure enough to start sending out sorties armed with cricket bats and shotguns to drive back the undead, I mean lantana.

The way that I think I will do this is to split the place up into smaller zones, fence them off and let the animals clear them out a bit. I can then get to bits of lantana, plant some trees and plan for each bit while the animals clear the next patch. Another key to this will be a winding path on an easy gradient down to the dam that I can quickly mow. This will be the core access to the rest of the property, I can keep it clear and work off it.

This probably means I will need some more animals, two cows and some milking goats. Maybe a few geese for a particular feast i have in mind. Goats, if you can keep the little bastards fenced, are great value. Should be tasty too. It all goes back to making my grass give me a valuable product, rather than just growing, get slashed, grow get slashed.

The other big consideration is whether to build a new house or add to this one for a future family. Eventually I want to run a cooking school that embraces paddock/garden to plate and the current house we are in would be a great little venue for such an enterprise, with a bit of work. A new house might allow us to put in things like a decent kitchen, a walking in insulated pantry and a secret library with a revolving bookcase door from which I CAN RULE THE WORLD, MWHAHAHAH.


Anyway the point is I would like to have a working bee day sometime in the middle of winter where I have a go at the first major project that will set Lantanaland on the path to perhaps one day being the cooking school that I want it to be. I'm not just asking for free graft either, for anyone who comes and helps, even if it's just for half an hour, I'll be offering food, food that you just won't get at a woolies or IGA. The centrepiece will be spitroasted chickens and duck, for sure and maybe some guinea fowl and geese. But these will be MY birds, raised here on my scraps and grain and grass. There will be pancakes made with my eggs and maybe milk and cream and butter. There will be homemade sausages for lunch, there will be smoked salmon and bacon from my cold smoker, veges and fruit from the garden.

What I'd like from you guys and girls who read this blogs is ideas, or send it to people who have ideas. I want as many suggestions for how I could do things or the way that you have done things or seen things done. I'd love for people to come help me too, but I'll put that call out when we get closer to the time, which is when those tasty, tasty chickens are ready to go into the oven.

Lantanaland from the iPhone


  1. I would love to come and help but unfortunately I am rather far away! I hope to learn a lot from a distance though and I would love to see some photos before and after as it were. I would suggest building new to suit, trying to retrofit old structure is a major headache (ask me what I am doing right now)Good Luck!

  2. Wish I could help with ideas, but I'm about as not rural as it gets. In my world chooks come from the fridge at the Butcher's. (At least until he bloody retired and I have to go to COLES for my meat grrr).

    I do tend to agree with the idea that you build a new home though, particularly if you have a fabulous use for the existing structure down the track.

    As far as a day helping out at a working bee, I'm probably as useless as tits on a bull there, but count me in anyway. I am not averse to singing for my supper... as long as it doesn't involve ACTUAL singing. Wouldn't do that to my worst enemy.

  3. Where are you agian Beeso? Down south isn't it?

    Got a bunch of stuff on (got to go the adeliade next week etc) but would love to drive down and have a look at the ranch. Have you read Bill Mollison's Permacultre Book? It's regulation reading for doing something like this.

    Rule No 1 - get the cows in THEN figure the path - they will find the gradient of least effort up from the dam.

  4. Oh, and do not burn that lantana - it makes great compost if you have something that you can chop it up with - a chaff cutter or mulcher. Cut it, let it dry out and drag it to a gully somewhere to let it rot down. Don't go wasting good gear like that. It is worm food.

  5. Don't remove the lantana until you've got something to replace it with, or all your hard work will be for naught. Glyphosate is quite an effective tool for removal, and quite safe it used selectively and in moderation.

    Getting animals, or more broadly, nature to do your weed control is the only way to go. Don't fight nature, as they say. Shade, vigorous plants (bamboo, herbs...), heavy mulch, chickens etc will keep weeds under control with much less effort, energy and cost than a tractor or brushcutter.

    Good luck, and keep us posted.


  6. Hughesy - i'm just off the highway at Yatala, basically where the Wolfdene dam would've been. I've done a permaculture design course and i've read a bit of mollison, but found his style very dense. You are welcome any time, just give me a few days warning some i make sure i have a good supply of smoked salmon and home cured bacon.

    Phil - Yeah a few people have suggested just bullzoing the whole block and i usually ask them if that is an offer to plant trees on the whole ten acres. Once the animals have gone through an area i'll be planting a mix of native grasses, herbs, pigeon pea and other fodder in between the fruit trees. I have an idea for some chicken houses in the paddocks as well.

    Bluetiggy - there will be lots of photos, The Wife is a photo freak and i am hoping to have a new camera before any major works begin to make sure i document the whole process.

    Mayhem - Any help's welcome!

  7. Interesting. The idea of paddock-to-plate cooking is very sweet, and timely.

    I'm going to have to think about this. You're taking it much more seriously than I am. I'm just basically putting things in the ground, seeing what happens, and going with the easy stuff...

  8. Great idea. I'll rally my family and come help. I'm sorry we missed you at the Grasshopper dinner. I'd told my muso husband "it won't be all food talk, there's a guy coming who used to manage a music venue". The only music talk he got was with Gastronomygal who's partner plays guitar.

    I'm volunteering to help in the kitchen on the day, I'm not physically up to hard labour.

  9. Follow that basic permaculture pattern - keep stuff you need to do every day close to the house, stuff that needs less attention further out, you can't lose.

  10. I'm from wog stock. We'd have concreted over the bastard by now.

  11. I don't have an excess of ideas or muscle, but I'm happy to help where I can...