Monday, April 30, 2012

The battle of Tenderbreak Corn Field 2012

This year we had our best corn crop ever. We had composted the garden well (which included plenty of old, broken down chicken manure) before planting, and given plants a little extra spacing to encourage good growth. We had even planted successive crops so we could harvest cobs over an extended period. Our mouths were watering as we watched the first crop gradually mature. 
The crop ripens
Finally the day for the first taste arrived and we stepped into the “corn forest” to select the best cobs. To our horror we found we had been beaten to it by some ravenous rodents who had already stripped several cobs. To us, that was a clear declaration of war!
A demolished cob

Our first defensive strategy was to leave our brave dog Bluey out all night to do his duty and repel attacks. He did a good job for about half the night, but gave up at about 3am and came and slept by our bedroom window.

Of course the rodent incursions continued and we lost a few more cobs. If he’d been successful in his mission we were going to promote him to General Bluey, but his lacklustre performance will keep him at the rank of private for quite a while yet.

Private Bluey

Our next strategy was to go on the attack. We pulled out our dusty collection of traps, including Big Bertha.

This latter gizmo is an electronic rat trap called a Ratzapper. It is powered by 4 D cell batteries and when a rodent enters, it delivers an electric shock that quickly and humanely kills the offender. We set up our traps every night for a week and caught enough rodents to save about half of our first crop. Unfortunately, this was not quite enough corn to hold our traditional annual family corn party.

Big Bertha
Two weeks later, our second crop was ripening up when we noticed that nibbles were again appearing in the best cobs. As these were smaller we guessed that the mice army was having a go this time. We brought Big Bertha out again to do her thing and each night for the next week we caught offending rodents.
We do not like having to kill rodents and only resort to this if our crops come under serious threat. As we will not allow poisons in our garden we believe the electric trap is probably the most humane way of dealing with rats and mice.
 In the early days we did try relocation, by trapping mice in a home-made rat trap (non lethal) and then walking right up the back of our place (500m) and letting them go. We have stopped doing this because:-
·       Trapping rodents, and shifting them is traumatic for them
·       Our home made trap was too small for rats
·       Relocation is possibly inhumane in that they may not be able to find enough food in their new location and could starve to death
·       When they do find food, it possibly reduces food availability to animals already resident in that area
·       Relocation may be just passing the problem on to someone else
·       Unless they are relocated some distance away they can make their way back and the problem continues

The battle of Tenderbreak Corn Field was hard fought and there were quite a few casualties. However we managed to save about three quarters of our crop and were able to hold a smaller version of our annual family “corn” party. Our feast included corn on the cob, corn patties, pop corn and fried rice with corn.

One of our delicious meals with corn.

My heart bleeds for our rodent population and I only wish we could live harmoniously together at all times. Why wouldn’t you salivate at the glimpse of ripe, succulent corn if you were a rat or mouse. BUT, I love my corn too, and ever so sadly turn my head away as Andrew does the dirty deed.
My mum once gave me a beautiful piece of pottery ......a dear little mouse sitting beside a mouse trap with a look of total horror on its face.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

National Permaculture Day 2012

Sunday May 6 has been designated as National Permaculture Day. Around Australia and in some overseas countries there are events being held to celebrate the day. We will be running a tour of Tenderbreak Permaculture Farm on this day, and invite anyone in Melbourne who is interested, to join our tour.

DATE: Sunday, May 6th
TIMES: 1:30 to 4:30 pm
COST:  $15 per adult which includes afternoon tea. Bookings are required to keep numbers manageable and to ensure there is plenty of scope for questions and discussion. Other dates are available for group bookings. Contact Andrew or Heather to reserve a place or for more information, at

Our tours are suitable for anyone with an interest in permaculture, organic gardening, passive solar house design, mudbrick building, property design and layout, chooks and ducks, solar power, grey and black waste water systems and sustainable living. Although our property is a large bush block, we provide plenty of information and ideas that are suitable for both rural and suburban dwellers.

Part of the tour looks at defensive strategies against bushfires. The fires of Black Saturday burnt most of our 96 acres, but we were able to save our house and most of our infrastructure. We can now give an account of what aspects of our fire plan worked well and what needs to be improved.

Over 1000 people have toured our property and some have even been twice. If you cannot make it on this day, let us know and we will keep you informed about future tours. Alternatively have a look at for details of other events which range from house and garden tours to workshops and film nights.
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