It's been bloody dry here at Lantanaland this spring. Anecdotally I think it's the driest since we moved here. The year we came here it was like this, not a hint of green in the verges and the house lawns brittle and crackling. Of course this means that means that cows find the grass on the other side of the fences much more attractive than no grass or hay. The star pickets loosen in the dry ground and fences develop weak points. We decided to have a week off to recharge the batteries and I'd get the two jobs done that really needed attention, fencing the rest of our boundary and doing two day pens for the chooks. It didn't work out exactly as planned.
The week before I ran into my fantastic neighbour at the produce store. I mentioned that I was going to be slashing a fence line and did he want me to go inside the gate so that his cows could still get through to the hill. He thought I was insane to do the clearing with the brush cutter and by pure chance had his excavator down that side of the hill on the Monday. On Sunday he came round for a beer and told me to go and see the bloke driving it and let him know where the fence should go. Once I heard him start up on the Monday morning I took Tally for a walk down the hill to have a chat.
He asked me to chop down a few branches that would get in the road of the cab so off I ran to get the chainsaw and by the time I'd cleared a path he had begun. I've never seen an excavator work up close clearing land and it is just amazing. Thinking of how much effort it would be for me to do with the brush cutter, watching it work was just mind blowing. In fifteen minutes he'd cleared the corner near the gate. Rather than just pushing up the fence line he was pushing back the lantana. By morning tea he was up at the house and had cleared all the lantana on the slope just in front of the retaining wall. Then he went and cleared a twenty meter zone around the high side of the dam. By the time he had finished I had maybe a fifth of all the lantana on the property scraped into big piles.
The first order of business was to get some grass seed down in case of rain. I went for a cow pea, rhodes grass and pigeon pea mix. I would like to sow native grasses but have not yet won the lottery. About six kilos gave a good coverage and now I just want about three days of nice gentle soaking rain to get things started.
The next big job was some day pens for the chooks. With the fertile eggs from Kath boosting my chook stocks I needed a bit more space for weekday exploration. The plan is two rotating pens. One to grow fodder and some veg, the other to be fertilized and destroyed. As many weeds and clippings as I can muster will go into the pens to make it a nice deep litter for them to scratch over. The centre piece of each side will be a fruit tree for shade and food. On the western side, a mulberry and a fig on the eastern side. The western side, the one still with grass in it, has asparagus and sweet potato under mesh. They'll hopefully get fertilized as the chooks sit on top and pick. On the eastern side I have planted out a whole heap of things. As chook fodder there is comfrey, lemongrass, arrowroot, turmeric and jerusalem artichoke. For food for us, cucumber, beans, grapes, raspberry and logan berry. I threw down some old radish seed as well and mulched well. Hopefully by the end of summer it will be chocked full of stuff for the chooks to feed off for a few months while I grow in the other side in winter.
I still haven't got the fence finished as Dolores had escaped to Jamie's again and I spent three days getting her back. But I now know the power of the excavator and will be saving for another half days work to clear another section once this one is nicely grassed. Who knows, maybe even one day we will have more grass than lantana?