14 December, 2009

The Good Life? May Be Closer Than I Think...

Moccha Approves
Of the almost-completed rabbit shed with shadecloth to keep it cool and keep the mosquitoes out.  Around here the wild rabbit problem has prompted pretty radical control methods, being myxamatosis and rabbit calicivirus.  We are allowed to vaccinate against RCV but not against myxa, so keeping mozzies and other bitey insects out is important.  The shadecloth is fine enough weave to keep mozzies out while letting breeze through in summer, also a light spray every hour on hot days keeps the inside of the shed beautifully cool.
It's also the coolest spot in the entire yard to begin with, so the bunnies just stretch out on the mesh floors and get breeze from all around them.  Raising the boxes up off the ground not only allows that circulation, it also keeps ground parasites away.  And in winter, a canvas cover over the tops and sides of the boxes and some newspaper on the floor keeps them warm.

Modified sheet permaculture bed
Because the sand here wicks water away faster than you can say "dead plant" I put down light black plastic, after digging a shallow (6" or 13cm) pair of 1m beds side by side.  I angled the center ridge a bit to give a variation in width from 1.1m to about 0.85m just so I'd get a bit of variation in the amount of water.  (Since I use a loop of dripper hose for each bed, there's a bit less dampness at the wide end than will be at the narrow end.  Not a huge difference but it can mean the difference between damping off and succeeding.)
So I dug the beds and put the sand aside, put half the sand back, added two layers of compost, a layer of charcoal and ash, one of worm waste and worm tea, another layer of rabbit poo and hay, (as shown in the picture above) and the rest of the sand sprinkled over that.  The drip hose has been stretched out alongside in the picture so it won't quite try to coil back up like a twisty turny self-recoiling bastard %) and I also used short bamboo stakes to guide the dripper hoses where I wanted them.
After only a few days you can tell that the lower layers are starting to work, because the compost had worms in it and they are going ballistic with all the water I'm pouring onto the bed to get it to rot.
I wish now I'd used layers of newspaper instead of the black plastic as that would rot away naturally over the next year or two, by which time the bed should have had quite a few top-ups, and the finer organic particles would have sunk to the bottom to make a bit of a water seal.  But as it is, the black plastic will disintegrate as I fork the bed over from time to time, anyway.
Sheet beds like this are brilliant over the bottomless slurpy thirsty sand we have here, and the organic material provided by rabbit waste and hay, and the same material composted with other garden wastes, puts a lot of the essentials back into the ground and makes it available to the plants.
The idea here is to see how efficiently the biocycle can run, as I'll be growing both feedstuff for the rabbits as well as my own vegetables on the manure.  The eventual aim will be to have the rabbits on healthy green and dry feed without resorting to outside hay and feed pellets.  And also raise a few crops a year of vegetables I can eat, too.
The beauty of it is that I'm doing all this on a small scale, in town, so that once I find a few acres for lease, I can pretty much scale it up and include other plants and animals as well, increase the range of foods and have a few orchard trees etc as well.  I reckon I can create a farm that will feed a family everything except a handful of things like salt and some herbs, and be able to be managed by one or two people.

If anyone of you reading this knows of a block of suitable land around 50ac - 200ac for a reasonable enough lease cost and long period where I'd be able to build infrastructure, let me know please.  I prefer south of Mandurah and not too far inland for reasons of suitability of the land and weather to my purposes, but I'm willing to go anywhere reasonable...  This is now my only major stumbling block, because I can't afford to buy a block long term so I'd need to get a long cheap lease on the land.

And that way, I leave improved property behind me anyway...

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GooseBreeder said...

Very best wishes for your progress towards The Good Life...it can happen!
Are you putting in a composting toilet as part of your scheme?
Leasing land is not impossible, do your read the mags with the ads like 'Earth Gardener' and "Grass Roots"? Good luck!

teddlesruss dat who! said...

If I'm right - meaning I'll find a block of land with not much else - then I have a choice between a long drop or a composting loo. I think some method of composting will win out over having to dig holes all over the place, out of sheer laziness... %)

Ta for the magazines, hadn't even considered that avenue yet. So far it's been all word of mouth and keeping an eye on noticeboards as I drive around.

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