Saturday, April 25, 2009

2009 At Tenderbreak

Most of our posts focus on the development of our permaculture property, but every now and then we’ll add more personal bits and pieces to give a better understanding of what it means to live in this magical place.
Last year ended well with a joyous Christmas. We knew a place in the bush where escaped pinus radiata trees were growing wild. Each year we do our civic duty and remove one of these weeds for use as a Christmas Tree. Our cathedral ceilings allowed us to use trees over 5m tall. This creates two difficulties. They do not fit inside the car so they get strapped to our roof rack for the ride home (luckily not on major roads). In the photo, Heather and Sally are getting ready to lower last year’s selection to the ground. The next problem is getting them through doorways- but we solved this with some judicious pruning.

Once the tree was inside it would be placed in a pot and fastened in place with some fishing line. Then the fun part came- adding decorations. The challenge with large trees is to obtain enough decorations so that the tree doesn’t end up looking half naked. This year we were helped out in this regard by some kind people who left a large box of decorations (in very good condition) out beside the road for hard rubbish collection. Thanks to those unknown people our trees will always be superbly decorated.

Unfortunately this happy anecdote has a sad ending. Our supply of “Christmas” trees that we thought would supply us forever, were burnt out on Black Saturday. At least when the bush recovers it will not have to compete with these invasive introduced plants. But now we are on the lookout for another source of trees!
After Christmas we harvested our onions and garlic. The garlic harvest was very good. To solve the storage problem, Heather decided to plait the garlic together into long strings which we hung in our barn till needed. She wasn’t quite sure of how to plait them securely, so she checked out some websites which explained step by step how to plait a horse’s tail. This technique worked really well. She became so absorbed in the process that one plait ended up over a metre long! Now whenever we happen to pass a horse, her hands start twitching with the urge to start plaiting. (Just joking!)

Our onions were equally successful- particularly the red onions. As the photo shows, they were huge and they tasted delicious. Even if we were eating onion each day, one onion would last a week.

We grew sunflowers in our pumpkin patch to attract bees and provide some shade to the pumpkins on hot summer days. We reckon every garden should have at least 1 or 2 sunflowers- they brighten up the garden and radiate happiness. They are also a very useful source of seed for chooks- ours love them.

Most of our visitors arrive by car, because we are many kilometres from most places. A month ago though, our friend Sean decided to ride his bike over from Healesville. That’s about 20 km away over some quite steep hills and windy gravel roads. However Sean regards such a trip as just a warm up ride. He is quite addicted to long and difficult (to us) trips on his bike. Anyway Sean is a bit of a coffee aficionado, so Heather brewed him a freshly ground cup of Organic Yarra Coffee as a reward for his effort. After morning tea he hopped on his bike and rode home to his partner Leah –the long way!

In early February, Victoria was under the spell of a heatwave. Our way of turning those oppresive nights into a bit of fun was to camp down by the dam. We were in one tent, Sally was in another and Emilie was camped up closer to the house. (She may have been nervous about the wildlife moving about at night.)
We just used the inner part of the tent, which meant we could see the stars above, and because we are far from the city lights they twinkle very brightly- always awesome. We slept so well we have no idea whether kangaroos or wombats passed by- perhaps they were on tiptoes.

In this post we’ve avoided talking about Black Saturday (almost). But on two weekends in April we hosted small group tours of Tenderbreak and part of the tour involved explaining to visitors what happened, what our defences were and what changes we intend making. The photo above shows Andrew explaining the role of the dam in our permaculture design to one of these groups.

These tours have been so popular (78 people have booked so far) that we added several more dates. If you are interested in joining one of our tours, the two dates currently available are May 3rd and May 24th. Send us an email if you would like more information ( .

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