Halswell Domain

Halswell Domain
View from the Model Engineers' site in the Halswell Domain

Friday, February 15, 2013

Summer: Fruit and flames

Cut grass being turned ahead of baling.
Photo credit: L. Hawke

Recent grass fires around Canterbury have led to an increase of unease among those who are all too aware of the flammable nature of grass over summer. It was therefore a great relief to me to get the paddock topped in early January (topping is when the grass is cut, as if for hay, but left to lie on the paddock instead of being baled). While the grass is still very flammable, the shorter length reduces the fuel available to any fires. It also makes the fire more survivable for any stock, indeed, in the Victorian bushfires those stock that survived were often on well eaten out paddocks.

The various fruit and nut trees around the paddock are in full swing, with plums and elderberries ready to be harvested (if the birds don’t get them first). The four walnut trees have started producing nuts, and I expect that I will soon hear the chatter of feasting possums. The apple trees are also producing fruit, though it will be a while before the apples will be ready to eat. I have experimented this summer with growing pumpkins on the horse manure pile. I was worried that the only thing I was going to get from them was leaves, but they have just started flowering, so watch this space!

The welcome swallows that I mentioned in my last article are doing well. At least one pair managed to successfully raise a handful of chicks, so we now have nine resident swallows zipping around the paddock, snapping up insects as they go. I have resumed feeding one of the horses oats ahead of winter, and it is difficult to tell who is more enthusiastic about this development: the horse, or the sparrows! Every evening a crowd of sparrows now perches patiently on the fence wires, waiting for the horse to either move off, or tip over her feed bucket. As the days start to shorten this will become less of a feature, as these opportunistic birds will have retired for the night by the time the horses are fed.