Autumn River

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Development - Another year passes

July - December 2006

16 July 2006July - First major task for the season is pruning, which is easier to do when the leaves are all off (as well as being less stressful on the trees while they are in winter dormancy). This year, we had 4000 hazels to prune as well as the poplars and alders. Quite a job, really.

We managed the hazelnuts fairly efficiently, between the two of us plus Kim-Hoang. We got it down to about 3 hours per block, which is about a minute per tree. Not much time for a formal assessment of pruning options, it was sleeve off, nip and tuck, and on to the next.

27 July 200629 July 2006 - The first planting job this year was to replace the whitehearts that didn't survive last year. All too many fatalities, so we had around 270 new trees to put in by hand, with the help of Mike, Zhi Qi and Yi, plus Gu Jian out for his first day on the land. In the middle of a wet winter, the ground was soggy in places and some of the planting holes filled up with water faster than we could plant, so we left these to dry out for a few weeks. No sense drowning the poor trees.

The new whitehearts were a fairly good size to keep them consistent with the one year planted trees. As it happens, they are much more advanced than many.

After the whitehearts, we put in the Alex pollinators which weren't available last year - another 122 holes to dig. That was a good day's work for Malcolm, with the weather holding off right until the last tree. There are stil a few more dead whitehearts to replace, but we are nearly done with planting 2005.

26 August 200626 August 200618 August 2006 - Planting this year was straightforward, which was fortunate given that it took place with none of us there to help. Planting was originally scheduled for mid-July, but with several weeks of heavy rain, there was no hope of getting a tractor in without it sinking up to its axles. Eventually, it became a race to find any three fine days in a row, to allow for 2 days of drying and then a day of work. There wasn't much chance for scheduling or prior warning.

We took a work crew up to stake and sleeve over the weekend, and with seven people made fairly short work of it.

Annoyingly, the pipework for the new blocks seems to have fractured again so will require yet another round of remedial work.

 

3 September 20063 September 2006 - The orchard is coming along nicely now, with 23 trees in and all growing happily (well, all except the pecan which is a bit confused about the seasons). With a hot, dry, windy summer predicted, we decided to make good on last year's promising start and put irrigation in for all the rest of the trees. A fairly heavy day's work, with about 100 metres of trenching by hand (fortunately shallow), but all done now and the trees are happier for it.

 

September 2006 has been a horrendous month for wind, with gale force nor'westers most weeks sucking the moisture out of leaves and soil at a frightening rate. We have spent a couple of days chasing down little green sleeves, blown hither and yon to the boundaries, and the new leaves are being torn to shreds by the battering force.

12 November 2006 - it is hard to believe that just 18 months ago, these poplars were skinny little sticks that didn't quite reach up to our waists. Two seasons of growth have seen them increase to well above head height, and the trunks of some are now as thick as a forearm. All that sun and water doing its good work...

Everything is coming along well and we are absolutely delighted with the progress. It's three years now since we first saw this land as a large bare paddock, and the sense of achievement is most satisfying. Of course, it's still a couple more years until we'll get a harvest worth measuring...

26 December 2006 - Finally, after a long lean patch, we've had a bit of luck again with our pest control program. We bought a new spotlight (it claims 10 million candle power - and it lights the entire width of a block from the far end) and took it out for a run tonight, after a day where we spotted at least 4 different hares criss-crossing the property at various times in broad daylight. We had another four sightings this evening, two shots but only one confirmed hit.

The image on the left shows why we want to rid ourselves of pests - the bark has been completely stripped from the base of this tree, weakening its growth and compromising its survival (never mind ability to be optimally productive).

 
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