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Bean counting

Posted by Chris McLeod over 3 years ago

As I write this, I can look out the window and see, well, not much at all of anything, really! The clouds have dropped low over the farm bringing with them a thick mist which has hung around all day long. The wind is blowing strongly and outside is just wet. Winter is officially here! About 50mm (two inches) of rain has fallen this week over the farm and the water tanks are about 95% full as of today. All things considered it was a good week to become ill and spend a few quiet days asleep in front of the wood fire. And that is what I did!

As I was feeling rather unwell earlier in the week, combined with the heavy rain, it was impossible to continue any of the larger outside projects that the readers of the blog have become accustomed to reading about. Instead, in this weeks blog we’ll remove the mystique and provide a warts and all account of all of the little things that go on in the background every single week which keeps this juggernaut of a story afloat!

So without further ado, we shall take a sneak peek into the backrooms and quiet activity of life here.

I’m not the only one at the farm who has spent their days asleep in front of the wood fire. Scritchy the boss dog has decided for herself that the weather is sub optimal for the usual outside activities of: patrolling the borders; harassing the other dogs; issuing instructions to the other dogs; and generally harassing the wildlife. Instead Scritchy the boss dog this week was to be found in front of the wood heater, toasting her head. Scritchy’s other favourite sleeping spot is the old vinyl bean bag which is conveniently located close to the wood heater.

Scritchy and the bean bag

That old bean bag is made from marine grade vinyl and it is over a decade old. Unfortunately for the bean bag, Scritchy is much like the princess in the story of the Princess and the Pea. That story is about a rather demanding and eccentric young lady who proved her princess credentials whilst at the same time earning the hand of a prince in marriage by complaining about a pea which was deliberately hidden (as a test) underneath 20 mattresses. Nice work! Now as an objective outsider to that Princess and the Pea story, I’d have to suggest that the young lady in question would probably be very hard work, and whilst I don’t generally provide advice to the readers of this blog, I would have to suggest that the young princess would make a poor choice for a partner, if on the first evening the young lady felt comfortable enough to commence complaining about the quality of bedding. If I was to put on my Agony Aunt hat, then I would also suggest that this complaint would be the first of many!

Back to Scritchy and the beans. So every time Scritchy wants to sleep on the bean bag, she jumps up and prior to settling herself in for a solid sleep, the boss dog digs and scratches at the vinyl of the bean bag until it is just right. This technique of Scritchy's can take quite a long time and it is slowly damaging the vinyl of the bean bag. A few weeks ago, the occasional bean escaped from the confines of the bean bag. Since then, it has rapidly became a rout and there are now beans everywhere.

The editor came to the rescue this week and rather than disposing of Scritchy’s favourite bean bag, the editor sewed up a double layer internal bladder made from old painting drop cloths. The bladder was then filled with the beans from the old bean bag and then that internal bladder was stuffed back into the old bean bag. There were smiles all around as we were no longer having to contend with escapee beans everywhere, and Scritchy could continue with her destructive tendencies.

That isn’t the only place that Scritchy sleeps on cold winters days. The tiled hearth in front of the wood fire retains a huge amount of heat and that dog can toast both her stomach and her back all in one sitting!

Scritchy the boss dog enjoys the wood heater on a cold wet winters day

In the photo above, the wood heater is on its lowest setting and slowly burning the firewood. It has taken six years of experimentation in order to understand the entire process of firewood from taking the living trees to burning the firewood in the wood heater. The main lessons that we have learned over that period of time are:

  • Cutting down trees is a dangerous business and not one for the inexperienced;
  • Store fallen trees as saw logs because that reduces the surface area of the timber and slows the process of fungi turning those logs into rich black loam;
  • Store logs for at least 24 months as this reduces the moisture and sugars in the logs which would otherwise cause the log to burn slowly and very inefficiently;
  • Cut and split firewood from those logs so that they are of a size so that they can be readily and easily inserted into your wood heater; and
  • Store that cut and split firewood in an area that is not subject to rainfall and/or ambient moisture.

Firewood is an excellent resource so if you are going to burn firewood to produce heat, you may as well use that heat for as many different purposes as possible. In the above photo, Scritchy the boss dog is enjoying the heat from the wood heater, however observant readers may also notice that there is a glass pyrex dish of muesli baking away in the oven as well. And just in case anyone has forgotten the recipe for this simple breakfast meal the next photo shows: rolled oats (4.5 cups); pumpkin seeds/pepitas (2 cups); roasted unsalted peanuts (1 cup); and some honey.

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