Grounds
First tidy-up

Table of Contents

Grass

Spring was in full swing at transfer of title so the first job was to get the paddocks cut before it became impossible with my small mower. It was already quite high and wet in places. This was also a nerve-racking job because I did not know the terrain nor where any of the rocks were and so progress was inch by inch at times.

There were plenty of rocks and many were hit but most avoided. All were mentally mapped for subsequent removal. I got a lot of practice removing and resharpening the blades and replacing the sheer bolts that protect the mower deck drive-train.

Paddock 1 was relatively easy. Paddock 2 had significantly more growth and was literally knee-high and waist-high in places by the time I got the mower to it. It was drier at least. The image below shows a before-and-after view because initially the grass on both sides of the fence was the same height as my neighbours stock paddock, about two-thirds fence height.

1. Before and after in the same photo

The first forays into the paddock were, literally, expeditionary trails to get a sense of the terrain. It took several days and multiple goings-over to completely cut.

2. Paddock 1 after first cut

3. Paddock 1 after first cut

4. Paddock 2 after first cut

5. Paddock 2 after first cut (reverse-angle)

Autumn Leaves

The mower with catcher is also a vacuum cleaner for autumn leaves, and with several very large deciduous trees this is a real time-saver. Last autumn I did not need to sweep or rake any leaves, particularly where leaves tend to build up against fences etc, the mower just sucks them in from the sides of the deck.

Weeds

Thistles

Started by digging out the largest with a hoe. Smaller ones pulled out using a weed puller. The seed bank would be dealt with using a glysophate wand as they came up or using a selective spray where large populations were evident. I find it good for meditating and pondering other things while patrolling the paddocks with the wand once a week. I am prepared for this to take a few years with some vigilance thereafter because this is a rural area where neighbouring paddocks with thistles are part of the scene.

Legumes

Particularly Wooly Bur Medic (Medicago Minima) ... produces prickly seed pods and is trouble for dogs and will take over if allowed to, and is just plain ugly. It suddenly broke out all over after my first winter creating patches where no grass remained, just masses of brown tentacles full of pea-sized prickly seeds. I sprayed using a selective herbicide and 8 months later the results are good.

Some clovers die off annually to form areas of dense matted runners and have to go.

Hawthorn bushes

Hawthorns were proposed and planted around the boundaries of the school grounds more than 100 years ago. There are remnants but most appear to have been cleared. Hawthorns have very sharp thorns, are not particularly attractive, and I have no need for them. They are not a high priority but will most likely see the inside of a chipper at some point.

Blackberries

Small cane colonies existed along the lane verge outside the fence and were just starting to push through the fence in places. They were easily managed with a herbicide spray. Only a few canes survived the first eradication effort.

English Ivy

Originally but relatively recently planted along the main road fence near the entrance driveway to the house yard, it has spread to all parts horizontally and vertically up trees and over fences and sheds etc.

6. Driveway ivy out of control

7. Ivy spread (one of the easier trees to deal with)

The ivy could threaten some trees and needs to be removed. This will take several years of persistent action, mostly involving physical removal. It is notoriously difficult to kill using herbicides.

Removing it from trees is not that difficult. It requires cutting the vines at the base of the tree then waiting for the vines to dry out. They can then be pulled off the tree by hand, or by attaching a rope and using the ride-on mower to pull them free. Remnants too high to be removed safely will just have to stay and decay naturally.

Removing it from where it has spread horizontally is more difficult, particularly where it has grown through other plantations because it needs to be removed completely or it will come back very quickly.

Old infrastructure

General rubbish

44 gallon drums, old tires, an old ladder used as a gate and other rubbish were removed. You can see some of that in the photo 22 below.

8. October 2012

9. February 2015

Fences

The star-picket, wire and corrugated iron fencing (far-right in photo 22 above) was removed from the lane-side paddock put there for the sheep and no longer required. The star picket and wire fence intended to keep the sheep out of a vegetation strip along the lane fence was also removed.

10. Just after brush cutting and first mowing. Shrubs not removed yet

11. Eighteen months after clearing

The shrubs had mostly died and the grass inside was fence high. My brush cutter was too slow so I hired a large walk-behind brush cutter to better effect to cut the tussocks down to size for the mower. It's been eighteen months now and the evidence of this overgrown strip is almost gone completely.

Water Well

For the first two summers I just did not bother watering anything apart from two newly planted rosemary bushes that I watered by hand. These will be the mothers for a lot more bushes that I intend to plant around the property because of their drought tolerance. The grass went totally brown but it came back through winter and spring. This summer was very mild with almost regular rainfall except for about four weeks during November-December.

Spring 2014, I was determined to get the well pump figured out, i.e. how to prime it and run it, so that I could at least water the small lawn and garden at the front of the house.

I did that and found that the well foot valve and the check valve at the top were leaky, so I replaced them plus an elbow joint at the top of the well and now the system stays primed mostly. When it does struggle to self-prime there is an inlet at the well above the check valve that can be connected to a hose fed from the domestic supply.

According to my calculations the well can provide up to 1500 litres and will replenish in roughly 24 hours. This is enough to water the house lawn and gardens. Half that is enough if the water table is down. The 2013-2014 summer was particularly hot and dry and, although I didn't run the well during, I don't recall the well level dropping right down.

Domestic Use Rainwater tanks

I have worked out how three of the five tanks interconnect, and how to transfer water between them using the one domestic supply pump and/or gravity. By opening and closing valves I can pump water from the house tank to the annex tank and/or the first paddock tank. Again by controlling valves I can transfer under gravity back to the house tank, or use any of the three tanks as the source for the domestic supply pump directly.

Combined they hold approximately 60,000 litres.

Quality can be improved with some low cost upgrades to the system. I want to put in new arrangements that will draw overflow from the lowest quality matter-laden water at the bottom of the tanks rather than the freshest water at the top.

Stock/Irrigation tanks

I have finally discovered the plumbing to the remaining two tanks, that is, the second paddock poly tank and the older cement tank at the top of the paddock. They are both connected to the well pump line via a check valve that was buried near one of the garden taps.

12. Old cement tank in paddock - front view

13. Old cement tank in paddock - side view

14. Buried valve uncovered

15. Valve box installed

Originally for animal water supplying troughs under gravity, I will use them for irrigation. I don't have stock animals and have upturned the existing trough to stop the dogs from drinking out of it, mainly because standing water attracts snakes that are often found in troughs.

Combined the two tanks hold approximately 80,000 litres. I will need to keep my eye on the older tank to check for leaks. There is a slow leak low down that I think can be fixed but the whole tank may need to be lined.

The current water supply schematic and detailed description is here.