A Goal Complete

MARGARET RIVER SILK ROAD grows mulberries and cultivates silkworms to produce home-grown Australian silk.

The idea for our silk farm came to us in 2003 when we were working for a mining company in Laos.  As managers, we took a visible, active role in the company’s community projects, one of which was to re-establish traditional silk production in the mine’s host village.

It occurred to us that luxurious silk was the perfect complement to the gourmet food and wine of the Margaret River region where we had recently purchased a farming property.  It excited us to have a goal for our future outside the mining industry and we looked forward to opening day from that moment on!

It’s been a long time…

Our “Stories of the Silk Road” blog documents the labour, the achievements, the joys and the frustrations of turning our dream into a reality….

In fact, it has been nearly two years since our last entry to this blog – two years during which Rob resigned from Africa, learned to fly an aeroplane and slaved over construction of the Silk Road buildings and infrastructure.  Two years also during which Amanda went back to work in Laos, resigned again a year later, re-started retirement at the Silk Road and continued efforts to open the business.

We are now only weeks away from opening and it would be impossible to document the many achievements and stumbling blocks we have encountered since the January 2010 blog! Thus this entry and the next few consist of photos only – a selection showing progress on the many tasks completed, the friends that have visited and helped along the way and importantly… the almost finished product to date.

Let’s start with a review of 2010… Rob was in Africa, Amanda fresh from climbing Killy did the Busselton Jetty swim and took off to work fly-in / fly-out in Laos. Rob finished up in July and got stuck into construction – really moving us ahead in all areas of our venture. Here are the photos…

Free silk in Phnom Phenh

11-15 October: Free silk in Phnom Phenh…

Well it feels like it anyway!  Buying boxes full of scarves, bags, clothes at the most beautiful shops in the city without paying a cent!  I just place my order, leave the shop and they send it all home for me!  Wonderful!  Of course reality will come crashing in when I have to make the payments by internet transfer but for now it is all good fun!!  So here I am in Cambodia on the first official Silk Road buying trip (unfortunately without Rob but having an absolutely fantastic time.)

I started in Singapore on Sunday, arriving at 6.20am and pounding the pavement in search of Silk Road merchandise all day until about 10pm!  (so the picture is not exactly a silk shop but I needed a camera to capture samples for future reference!)  I looked mainly at antiques as I think most of the stuff for sale here is from China or India and will be better sourced at the Hong Kong Fair.  What isn’t from China or India is from Vietnam and is actually the very least interesting of what is made there.  So I walked till my little feet couldn’t take me any further then retreated to the hotel for a coffee and bed.  Mandarin Marina Bay – nice hotel and good area to stay in…Flew to Phnom Phenh the next afternoon but arrived too late to get out and about.  Did some research on Australian customs and importing to kill the time and learned some interesting things.  In the morning, I contacted a customs broker as is recommended for first-time importers. (that’s us!)
Morning I had my first official appointment – with Chomnab of the KSV (which sounds like the cambodian secret service but is actually a co-op that consolidates small-scale silk production from individual households and businesses.  (Most of these pictures are examples of the silk products they source from the villages).  I had set up the meeting prior to my trip but in fine south-east asian form, I still arrived to chaos and Chomnab running around on a thousand errands. He showed me a small range of work from the villages (lovely stuff) which I photographed madly and ultimately bought as samples. They were very trustingly delivered to my hotel that night without me having paid a cent! Chomnab confirmed my visit to Siem Reap to visit the production villages on 16th and gave me the contacts of the AAC – Artisans Association of Cambodia to follow up in the afternoon.
Went exploring for more silk in the afternoon – started at the Russian Market and bought a stack of bags (not as good quality as Vietnam but nice designs and lovely colours.)  In the old antique shop (where we bought apsaras and other items in 2005) i spotted a pair of antique chinese horses.  Sorry but I just can’t go past bronze statues – especially asian ones (and while not strictly “silk” they will set the tone perfectly as one enters the showroom wondering “so what’s this silk road all about then”…  and will be great mates for my lone horse, my camels and the buffalo family!)  An added bonus was that i was introduced to Phallo from the freight company and he has continued to help me throughout the week.
Next I discovered Orange River – and struck up a fantastic relationship with Sitha and her sisters.  Sitha conducted the business while her sisters played “supermodel” and gave marketing advice for each product!  We had good fun.  They are experienced in wholesale and had price lists etc for me to look at.  Backwards and forwards (with a trip out to their workshops on the outskirts of PP) and a day later I had placed our first ever order for the Silk Road!  Also talked with the Angkor Silk Group – but missed an appointment with her and they have no email or website.  She had some good silk hangers that would be very useful in the showroom.  Found the AAC – excellent shop and very willing to work with small buyers to custom make items.  Found a beautiful range of bags and things like the beads in the picture below.  Placed our second order with them!  In my last minutes in PP (which is how these things often happen) I also found Sentosa Silk who have a great range of silk fabric and can make anything we want (might talk with them for organza curtains).  Have also received an email from them since so they are keen to follow up – I like that!  Couple of other shops of note along the way too – Jasmine Boutique and Designers (upmarket silk clothing); Kavan House (upmarket bags / scarves) and another two or three – all wholesale and are happy to do by email.  So all in all, I consider the visit to PP a great success and a very easy introduction to dealing with manufacturers in Cambodia…. more next time…

On to SIEM Reap

15-18 October: On to Siem Reap

(No photos yet attached in this entry…) Flying into Siem Reap was like being part of a news crew covering a natural disaster – huge tracts of land as far as the eye could see were under water (from recent typhoons) with only roof tops and the occasional high ground managing to keep afloat!  Only the ccasional boat – people seem to have just given up and left their flooded rice fields to the elements.  A lady in PP had told me her Siem Reap shop had been flooded during storms but I did not expect it to be so widespread.  Another surprise on arrival was the lack of chaos at the airport – i remember in 2005 when we arrived with Cathy and Devon that we had been impressed with the orderly state of taxi hire for tourists.  They have gone one step further it seems and do not let any hawkers, taxis, etc at the gates but call them in when needed.  It was almost the opposite of chaos – what you might call “dead” and in a strange way disappointing when you are braced for the hustle and bustle!  Still, I got my taxi driver (a young”boy” called Ly) and headed into town and my hotel (City River) in his clapped out old Camry (no muffler and no more than the sniff of an oily rag in the tank!)  Though I had no intentions of any sightseeing while here (this is strictly business!) by the time i had heard Ly’s tales of global downturns, low tourist numbers, supporting his village far from Siem Reap, new babies on the way and all his other woes, I had agreed to let him drive me to Angkor Wat that afternoon to see the sunset.  I also gave him $10 in advance so he could get fuel to take me there.  I unpacked and had a quick cuppa at the hotel, then waited for him in the lobby.  An hour past pick up time I gave up (glad not to have to go actually) and headed off to the markets down the road.  Sure enough, a minute down the road I hear my name being called and turned to see Ly cycling frantically after me – his car had broken down and he had borrowed his friend’s bicycle to ride over an hour to let me know!  So I gave him another $10 to have his car fixed and made a date for the same time tomorrow instead!  By this time I had paid $20 and gone nowhere – but to cut a long story short, he took me to Angkor Wat (beautiful as ever) and became my personal “driver” for the duration of my stay.
Made some wonderful discoveries in Siem Reap – firstly at the market, an older man passionate about antiques and as honest and kind as can be.  I went to see him several times and he showed me where to find silk paraphenalia and sold me a silver buddhist singing bowl.  (He said he will find and keep any silk related items for me until Jan next year (though of course that seems a bit steep!)  Front of markets – far end.
On the 16th, Sylvine (on behalf of Chomnab and the KSV) took me to the villages.  We were a little restricted by the flooding as to where we could go, however i saw enough – the natural dye training centre, the different stages of skill development in the various families, the traditional techniques for moriculture, silkworm rearing, carding / spinning, weaving and dyeing.  I have zillions of photos and bought three scarves directly from one of the ladies who made them.  It was a full-on day and Sylvine talked all the way from, during and to!  She does not work directly for KSV, but for a derivative project of the EC, who conduct the national silk industry training programme.  And this led me to my next wonderful discovery… the Silk Farm.  The farm is for tourists but is in fact the national silk training centre and is (confusingly) managed by a combination of the KSV, Chantieres-Ecole and Artisans Angkor who started as part of Chantieres but found their feet as a commercial entity a few years ago (more on them later).
The Silk Farm is exactly what Rob and I have imagined for the Silk Road – I won’t describe it here because it is too long but it includes a working farm with demonstration moriculture; sericulture; weaving; and art / artifacts exhibition area; and a showroom / shop.  As well, the quality and types of goods and the display of items is just what we had envisaged in our own enterprise.  I spent half a day here taking (again) a zillion photos, but during this visit made yet another exciting and “business-shaping” discovery!
The discovery was that the shop area was stocked with items made by Artisans Angkor, who while were once part of this training centre, had now developed to a stage where they could sustain themseleves as a commercial operation.  So they ran the showroom /shop section of the farm, sourcing items from the training centre as well as their own community workshops and cooperatives (the organisations are so integrated that it is not clear who is who – the NGO web which I do not understand very well.)  Anyway, they have an outlet in Siem Reap to which I headed so fast and in such excitement that I forgot Ly was waiting for me in the carpark and he had to come and find me!
Artisans Angkor sources all sorts of handicrafts not just silk – as the photos show, the level of quality and professionalism is exceptional and they are experienced manufacturers, marketers and exporters.  Sivanna was on a day off, but came to meet me at a quick phone call from her shop staff and we spent the rest of the afternoon preparing the Silk Road stock list and order.  Finding this supplier is definitely the icing on the cake this trip and though i am very happy with orders from other suppliers, feel this one will make or break our business.  The downside is that they are expensive so will finll a different niche to our other suppliers, but all in all will fit perfectly!!

Stuck by the dreaded lurgy

18 October: Struck by the dreaded lurgy…

On my last day in Siem Reap I woke up feeling like a tuk-tuk had run backwards and forwards over me during the night and I immediately scanned back through recent nights for when I might have been bitten by the dreaded anopheles mosquito!  Unfortunately I am never careful in this regard (taking confidence from the fact that I never seem to get bitten and that I have so far escaped malaria despite plenty of exposure.)  However I still doubted that Malaria would come upon me so soon (had only been in Cambodia 7 days) and thought perhaps I might have dengue.  By the time I packed and headed to the airport I was shivering with a temperature and had severe body aches, so decided I would try to find a clinic in the short time I had in PP when I go there.  Bangkok Air were very kind and wrapped me up in half a dozen blankets and gave me lots of water.  In PP I took the first tuk-tuk to town but being sunday could not find a clinic – found a pharmacy instead and he verified my thought that it was dengue.  He sold me paracetamol and a thermometer which I used to find my temperature was a shocking 38 degrees and climbing 0.1 degree every half hour or so.  By the time I got back to PP airport I was really sick and very worried that the temperature police at singapore would not let me in the country or worse still not let me fly to Hong Kong to meet Grace!  I rugged up on the plane and drank heaps of water but by the end of the flight I could hardly speak and everything i had eaten in the last couple of days was departing my body via all possible exits, so the Singapore staff hustled me off to the airport clinic – thank goodness I was in Singapore!  The on-duty doc was very professional and after a lengthy examination, bundled me in a taxi to Changi General Hospital.  At the hospital, the triage nurse sussed the temperature from thirty paces and immediately slapped a “fever” sticker on my shirt and removed me from contact with the human race – in this swine flu pandemic a temperature is apparently just cause for segregation, isolation and ostricisation!  Anyway, by this time it was after midnight – more blood tests, more waiting.  I asked for somewhere to lie down while I waited and they sent me to a backroom full of medical supplies.  I didnt care – i slept soundly in a chair all wrapped up in my Silk Air blankets!  Somewhere in the early hours i awoke – luckily as it turned out, because everyone including the doctor was packing up to go home!  I stumbled out of the storeroom to look for the doc and asked him if he had my results – I am sure he had forgotten me as he said yes straight away and just went back into his office to get them off his desk.  I was lucky not to have spent the night in the medical store!  Outcome was not dengue (thank goodness) but “infective diarrhoea” which I think means a severe case of food poisoning.  (I recalled my last meal of fresh spring rolls in Siem Reap and mulled over the fact that one “never can tell” when it comes to food.)  He threw away the antibiotics given to me at the airport and gave me some superdrugs and sent me home (again in a taxi!)  More sleep on the way to the hotel then dropped off unceremoniously outside the hotel sick as a dog with very heavy suitcases.  Looking around I noticed the hotel did not have a ground floor entrance and had to climb a huge set of entrance stairs to get in.  I dragged my cases up and found my way through narrow, dark hallways to the lobby.  This is when I twigged that the driver had dropped me at the back of the hotel instead of the grand front entrace typical of most hotels.  Was shaking my head but too tired to think about it – checked in, took off my terrible smelling “sick clothes” and jumped in the shower.  As luck would have it, the shower didn’t work so I washed with a flannel and hit the sack – I would have a beautiful long sleep before my flight tomorrow.  Once again, my plan was not to be – Grace, worried that our plans for hong kong were at risk, rang me at 6am to confirm that I was able to fly.  So… no sleep, no shower, bodily functions out of control – I checked out and made my way to the airport.  I begged the lady at the check-in for an aisle seat and explained that i would need to be getting up and down but she was adament there were none.  I just dosed up on immodium and hoped for the best.  I managed to bypass the temperature control in a crowd and by the time I got to the gate I was called aside and advised that an aisle seat had become available.  By the time I got to Hong Kong, Grace had already checked in (and upgraded us to the executive floor!) and I was a very relieved traveller!  Getting sick while travelling alone is definitely no fun and I was very glad to find my friend!!  And so began our Hong Kong adventure…. (No pictures this post!!)

Falling behind

Friday, October 16, 2009

Falling behind…

Hey this blogging is not as easy as it looks!  I am struggling to keep up – I usually try to fill my every waking minute with actually DOING things but when blogging one needs to save some time to WRITE about it all too!  So this one is another “catch-up”… My last week before leaving (still getting to that story) was full of visitors so I gave the house a bit of a spring clean and got busy on the trees before all the arrivals.  Planted another 3-4 trays and got as many fertilised, mulched and bagged as could manage.  All in all planted about 750 trees over the last week or so – though these did not all get the treatment they deserved!  Left about five trays in the nursery area under the sprinklers.  They will certainly live until I get back in December and have a chance to re-pot them.  Also in the nursery are the two feature mulberries, all of the potted rudis, and a wide range of natives ready for planting on the first day of rain next year!!  (Donna is very kindly turning the water on for them every couple of days while I am gone.  Poor girl must curse the day she ever got me as a neighbour!!) Photo shows early nursery – much more full now!  Also did a bit of work on the sleeper garden, though am disappointed in my progress on this – just plain ran out of time!  I planted a few of the landscaping shrubs there anyway as they will die if i let them wait until the bed is completed!  Have made some progress since this photo including planting of some of the shrubs.  The shrubs are also bird attracting and I wanted them to flower for the birds while I was away. (I really have turned into an old bird-lady – bought and modified a bird feeder for the garden that will hopefully last the duration of my absence!)
Was expecting Grace for a few days and also Cath to pop in but neither made it this time – not to worry, there will be plenty of opportunities in the future now.  Trish made a surprise visit – her sister and brother in law are driving around Oz from Darwin so she escorted them from Perth to MR to see them on their way.  They couldn’t stay – in a bit of a rush, but great to see Trish and meet them.  (Her brother and his wife also popped in a couple of days later – said they had stayed and met Rob here in the days when Don and Trish were staying at the farm.)
My dad “dropped in”. Didn’t want to stay so we just had a bit of a walk around and look at recent progress made. It was good to have someone see all the work I have done! We also went over to the SupaGolf and had a look at the old truck – think it is a little more work than Dad had thought originally (or maybe the truck has deteriorated since the first look) however Dad is still keen so he and Rob will talk about it soon and make a plan.
Mel arrived that afternoon too – with Jordan and a mate of his called Michael. (Mel had great fun all week calling for them – “michael”, “jordan”… – silly Mel.)  Jordan brought down a most wonderful surprise – he had downloaded and learned to play Pachelbel by ear and performed it on the grand piano for us all – it was so fantastic – nearly brought a tear to all our eyes (well mine anyway).  That afternoon all four of us headed to the laneway where we set to work in the laneway, clearing, collecting and burning a huge amount of dead wood.  Yes, I let Jordan drive the quad, under strict conditions of course – and he did really well!!  Mel made us rogan josh for dinner and we all agreed it was a great days work. (For the remainder of their stay, Jordan and Michael collected and burned to their hearts content proving that teenage boys do have a useful function in life after all!!)  Mel (and Perry when he arrived) helped every day – we invented the hole punch factory for making up tree bags and they bagged a huge number of trees as well as “supervised” the fire burnings.  They can visit anytime!  Finished their stay with a BBQ and bonfire and invited Haydn and Donna to join us.
My next project was the reticulation for the hot-house.  I finally found a few quiet minutes to plan the layout and bits and pieces required and headed off to Bunnings with my list.  Forgot to check the diameter of the existing pipe before I left so ended up having to buy double connections to cater for all possibilities!  Put it all together but hit a stumbling block when it came to connecting to the main pipe from the water tank – the pipe had become weathered and brittle over the years and I found it almost impossible to fit the connector in.  So as reluctant as I was to admit it, I conceded that I do not have superhuman strength and awaited arrival of the next visitor with bigger muscles than me.  (No, it wasn’t Mel – it was Nigel!  Mum and he arrived on Thursday.)  So together, we soaked the pipe in boiling water, poked big things down it to stretch it, and literally banged the connector in with a hammer.  Nigel wired it all up and it was time to flick the switch on the water.  The system works perfectly and the little cuttings are in mulberry paradise!  Nigel also shovelled a trailer load of mulch for me (boy am i sick of shovelling mulch!) and also reconfigured the hitch on my little trailer – it travels much more smoothly now!  Mum was also a great help and made up about 50-60 tree bags.
Meanwhile I continued madly with planting, fertilising, mulching and whippersnippering and though I certainly did not finish as much as I wanted to, am pretty happy with the progress made.  Did the whole mulberry patch, mowed the house lawn, washed and put away all machines and topped up the fertiliser on my veges.  Also got a lot of admin done – organised the subaru, had a job interview, finalised settlement of 39, confirmed and paid for variations for widespan, got ASK payments up to date, hooked my phone up to global roaming, organised travel and accommodation for Kili, made all appointments for Cambodia, got the skip bin collected, paid all our bills and went to the Chiropractor!!  And packed my bags of course!!
Left the Silk Road by 9am on 10th.  Stopped at Katmandu to get gloves for Sarah and a couple of last minute items for Kili, then spent the afternoon at Kaye and Teds.  Michelle had driven down from Geraldton and brought a giant blue groper fresh off the boat from the Abrolhos.  Kaye cooked it up with ginger and other yummy things and we had a fantastic evening – pity I had to leave!  Ted kindly drove me to the airport and here I am – in Cambodia on the first Silk Road buying trip!

Did i say Jarrah boards

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Did I say jarrah boards?

It is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind and i have excercised my rights on numerous fronts this week! (This relaxing is all very well but it’s use it or lose it with the brain and my decision-making ability has gone to mush since leaving my job!) Firstly the wood… we have been tooing and froing between purchasing floorboards for the new house and knocking down a few dying trees from the farm for milling, as well as tossing up between jarrah, blackbutt and beautiful marri. 
Last week I was convinced jarrah was the way to go and that it was easier and cheaper to just buy them.  But this week I gave the go ahead to Gary from Gracewood Timbers the go ahead to fell and mill the marri – and he did not give me any chance at all to change my mind again, but got stuck straight into it!  So we are having marri boards, hopefully around 125-130 wide, all taken from our own block.  He has started on the big marri that was already down and says there is quite a lot of wood in it – it is mostly the end where Bruce took the slice out that is rotted but there is a lot of good wood in the bottom end.  I asked him to slice the root area off as i had always wanted to use it as a feature in a garden somewhere.  However at the first touch of the chain saw it apparently fell off, landing on its bottom as shown in the photo and breaking in half.  So now it will be dumped on the burn pile to be seen no more.
As these photos show, it is a pretty exciting operation and the boards are absolutely beautiful.  I also reversed my decision to use pine boards in the showroom and all the sapling wood (as i think he calls it) will be cut for use as lining – walls and ceiling in some configuration yet to be decided.  There is also a heap of cutoffs for use as shelving or features.  Gary is doing a good job it seems and is also assisting by pushing up a lot of the fallen timber from recent storms with his loader for burning.  Check out our future floorboards below…

New house update

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New house update…

Well, as one would expect, things haven’t really moved much since the shire dropped their last-minute bombshell on the building licence.  Ross had to really slam on the skids with the building but has been working furiously to hurry along the development application.  (Here is a picture of Ross working furiously…)  Current status is that the application is with the planning department who have agreed to fastrack the application – both Ross and I have spoken with Tanica (I call her Tamico just to keep up the required level of assertiveness for dealing with such situations) who will keep things ticking along for us (we hope).
As I am now travelling (another story) Ross will now be pushing our barrow on a daily basis – fingers crossed for approval within a week, however it is possible the shire definition of “fasttrack” is different to ours.  Still, there have still been small steps forward.  Trucks have still been arriving, getting bogged and dropping their wares – more roof trusses, beams and bits and pieces.  The road down to the back is very boggy in patches, with the worst hole at the new house laneway corner (picture) and has been a problem for the delivery trucks, however that is vastly improved now the dryer weather has arrived.  (I am in a moral dilemna – have planted 500 rudis which love to be up to their first branches in swamp water, right at the end of the planting season when they will possibly not get enough water to survive their first year.  I am torn between wanting beautiful weather so building can progress and wanting rain to give the trees a chance at life!  I have put my wish in for beautiful sunny spring days with record rains at nights!)
Have also started planting trees around the house area (Why not?  I have thousands of them!!)  I started a row of peppies and rudis along the end of the laneway and into the new house driveway – I am hoping they won’t be in the way of any future earthworks we need to do there. Planted two rows of rudis along the eastern fence from the Dam Two peppies down to the corner of the boundary – think this is needed to screen the neighbours “mansion” but have tried to avoid obsuring our view of the “lake”. (Picture below but doesn’t really show the area clearly – there is probably about 60-80 trees planted there.) Also planted 10 in the area behind the house, around Dam Three – third attempt in this area –  am really going to have to keep my eye on them when the sheep come home!
Had a last planning session with Ross too – plumbing, electircal and shed (need to get drawings to him asap with layouts of all wet rooms for the plumber (have done but changed my mind a few times!)  Spent some time visiting bathroom and kitchen showrooms which was useful – should have done that ages ago but never got around to it!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Hi all, its Rob here again, Amanda has had a big week and probably been too busy to update this site. Judging by the few phone calls that we have had over the last week, she is in full flight and panic mode trying to get everything done before her departure on the epic Asian buying trip. Its an exciting time for us as Amanda is off to Hong Kong (visiting a China trade fair there), Cambodia where she plans to meet up with Silk suppliers and growers, and then Singapore on the way home. All of this a week before she sets of to climb Africa’s highest peak “Mt Kilimanjaro”. The buying trip is exciting for us, as it is the first stock of the Margaret River Silk Road showroom, along with the stock that we have been collecting over the years. And so we move a step closer to the opening of the Silk Road. We haven’t nailed a date for the opening yet, but will let you all know when the time gets closer.
Ok, as the title of this chapter suggests its time for me to introduce you to another character on the Silk Road, this little gem is affectionately known as “Shrek”. Shrek is a Deutz 70HP tractor, around about a 1995 vintage, we purchased her in Busselton when Blue Thunder developed her tragic internal problems. Thunders problems started at the worse possible time, when we were home on a break from Africa with only two weeks to get the mulberry paddock slashed and the fire breaks in order. I think if I recall the story correctly, Amanda came home from town to find me sitting next to Blue Thunder in tears.. And as I recall she gave me a comforting pat on the back, and a big there there, followed by piling me into the car, telling me that she would buy me a new tractor and make it all better..
The rest is history, It was love at first sight with Shrek, and we both thought that we were pretty flash after blue thunder, as Shrek has an air conditioned cab, and a stereo. Needless to say Puller Emett wouldn’t talk to us for a week after Shrek got home and for quite a while there the Silk Road held the “Harman’s Mill Bigus Dickus” trophy..
(Shrek is the big green one, the little cute lass is my very own Princess Fiona AKA Amanda)
Well, Shrek has fit in very well on the Silk Road, and gets along famously with her older sister Thunder. And we find that we are not complete jelly from having our bones jarred all day when we come home from a days work now.
There was also this one time…. When a group of young female models stopped their car on the side of the road and asked if I would mind if they went and did a photo shoot in the paddock that I was slashing… But thats another story!!

Another week flies by…

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Another week flies by…

What a mad week!  So much has happenned that I am not sure I will remember it all to include here!  No pictures tonight – I will have to add some in later.
The mulberries are doing fantastically well in the hothouse.  It is incredible to see how much of a boost they get by being warm – though when i think about how much I perk up in the warm weather I completely relate to those little sticks!  Just adding photos here – see how these “A” Graders are sprouting, but even the B to Fs are doing well!

My life has revolved around trees this week!  This photo is of the eastern fenceline – approximately 100 rudis and blackbutt.  Planting, fertilising, mulching, bagging, repotting – the mission to plant as many of the trees from Trish as possible is a big one and possibly not achievable.  But I am out there doing my best – tally to date this week is around the 300 mark – thats a lot of bending, shaking, sprinkling, digging and hammering!   I actually went to the chiro yesterday – my hip, neck and shoulder had got so bad that I couldn’t do one more shovel load of mulch if you paid me (now that would be nice!)  What an amazing experience – he took one look at me and then proceeded to identify every ache, strain, knot, misalignment and malfunction in this decrepit old body without me pointing them out!  He was great and I felt a thousand times better today!
Back to the trees… I started in the house block this week.  Thought I would risk a few with the sheep, especially as I am not really going to be away very long and can do some running maintenance on them when I get back.  For the record – we planted 465 trees this time two years ago with a grand total of 20 surviving the first year with our woolly residents!  And not one of those 20 survived its second year – amounting to a success rate of absolutely 0!  I am hoping to do better this time around.
I have planted Ross and Merideth’s fenceline, a little of the laneway, areas around Dam Three and added to the wetlands.  Felicity and I also planted about 100 trees on Rob and Maree’s block (then had the yummiest lunch at a vegetarian / health food / indian cafe in Dunsborough!  Am definitely going there again!)
Am trying to re-pot as many trees as possible too – as there is no way i will get them all in the ground this week!  I am putting them into bigger pots so they can grow and be ready for the planting season next year – which of course isn’t now (but we have never been ones to follow the rules!)
Enough said of trees!!  My other task of the week has been whippersnippering – yes I got the right bit for it and have been cutting a swathe through knee high grass all over the farm!  Still plenty to do though.
On the business development, things have been moving along nicely.  On the verbal word of approval from the shire, I went ahead and paid the second deposit on our shed, which means it is now being manufactured and is 25 days away from landing in our driveway!  Added a mezzanine floor to the plan – one it will reduce the ceiling height and heating issues and two will be very valuable storage in the future and would be much more expensive to add later.  Have moved away from the idea of using our own wood as lining – think we should just use the cheap pine boards we have used in our current house and stain them ancient chinese teak or whatever colour we want.  Have drawn up a plan for the doors and windows and will take these in to Busselton Aluminium on Monday for quotes.  I also drew up the floor plan with electrics etc, so Ross could get started on the slab the minute there is any downtime on the house.

Which brings me to the next event of the week… on Monday Ross arrived at the door looking very forlorn and when i asked him what was wrong he said that the Shire had just rang and said they have just noticed the original house on the block and that the Building Licence that had been approved (but not sent in writing) was no longer valid – we had to put in a development application for a Rural Worker Residence!  What a pain!  So all week, between Ross and I, we have measured up this old house, drawn plans and elevations, written the DA and prepared a site plan.  The Shire say it will be 6-10 weeks before approval (though I am sure they will fasttrack it as the delay is their fault) and Ross is fuming – he has turned away all work for this period to focus on building our house and showroom!  So will keep you posted on progress!

Chris and Ian popped in – our sheep are staying on holidays a little longer.  It is still very wet in the paddocks and they are apparently very happy where they are!  When they return, we have agreed that all sheep will stay behind the Wallace Line – thus protecting our 100’s of new trees and sentencing Rob to a lifetime of slashing, mowing and whippering the front paddock himself!  (Yippee he says – he loves it!)

Lastly (and very exciting!) have decided on a guide for the Kili adventure and have paid deposits, got itineraries and (almost) packed my bags!  Got a prescription for Diamox but will not use prophylactically – I will just carry it in case of need.  I bought a couple of bags of cherry ripes and caramello koalas to take on the trip but unfortunately as happens in these situations, I have eaten the lot and will have to buy replacement stocks to put in my bag!  (Us hardworking farmers need sustenance!)

So once again, thats it from me.  I am sure there is a lot more happenned this week but this blog is long enough and I really need to go to bed!  Bye for now.

Back again…

Monday, September 28, 2009

Back again…

Yes it’s been a while!  Seems the pace just stepped up in the last week (realising that i only have a week or so to go before going to Cambodia has put the pressure on!)  Now, where were we….?
These are about half of the 1000 trees given to us by Men of the Trees!   (Where on earth will they all go – and more importantly how many can i get planted in the time i have left? Many will go into bigger pots for planting next May / June.)  Planting over the last week included completing the western and eastern fence lines with more blackbutt, native shrubs and the new eucalyptus rudis (great in wet ground apparently and we have plenty of that!) and a line of rudis along the Wallace Line. Have sorted out the whipper snipper but purchased the wrong head so waiting till Tuesday to go and exchange it – planning to cut around each of the new trees and give them a fighting chance against the grass and weeds going wild in the paddocks!
Men of the Trees also loaned me two pushpotties or whatever they are called – very generous and trusting of them!  It certainly knocks a few hours off the planting time but with 1000 to plant our trees are no longer getting the “private school education” they used to get – more like a good state school – they get pushed into the ground with the pushpottie with a handful of native fertiliser.  A rough splash of beetle powder and they are on their way… some are not even lucky enough to get a bag – we just do not have enough.  They seem to be doing alright without one but Donna says the survivial rates will really shrink.

Have done a lot of work around the house – this is the freshly mown back lawn where i sat with my coffee to text rob and watch the sunset on the first sunny day of the year!  It really was beautiful and a highlight of my week!  (I HAVE got a life, really I have…)
Small but exciting progress on the new house – the floor joists are in and ready for the MDF which arrived last week. Ross has sought quotes from plumbers and soon as we pick one this week they will be on site!
Was great to see Nic in Perth last Thursday – we met with Kaye in the city (never really done that before!) and went to one of the St Georges Terrace bars for a drink – what a culture shock!  There are actually zillions of people who work in those big office towers and it seems they all do things like go for a drink after work on Thursdays – I have been away too long.  Went back to Kaye and Ted’s to eat our take-away Indian and drink too much wine – loved it!
Have been up early and squeezing in a bit of excercise.  Am very consious that i will be attempting to climb Africa’s highest mountain in less than a month!  Have done a couple of 8-12km walks (just around the neighbourhood) and cycled to Cowtown on Sunday (what a fantastic way to spend the morning – bruschetta and cappuchino at Udderly Divine and complete the loop home along Bussell Highway – some big hills though!)
Our first (trial) Hot House is up and running in the hope that our 300 or so mulberry cuttings will have extra incentive to take root!  It is so warm inside that I took my morning coffee in there and basked in the tropical (well almost) temperatures instead of the usual stroll around the yard in the misty rain!