Jochen (Jo for short), a twenty year old German vegan woofer extraordinaire, has just left us today after spending 5+ weeks with us. Overlapping Jo was Sarah, a mid-twenties, open minded and sparkling young woman from the US, who stayed for two weeks.
Writing a reference letter for Jo, I had an opportunity to pause to reflect on all that has been accomplished with 39 days of work interspersed with a few days of play. Along with the bud bursts, grass growth, and the high energy that comes with the longer days that mark springtime, so also did we burst forth with an incredible cadre of energy, day after day, that allowed us to achieve more as a group than either Bruce or I could have ever done by ourselves.
The main project that we had in mind for Jo was to help Bruce process several felled trees by splitting the wood with our log splitter and then stacking and filling our winter-depleted woodshed. In August, our Kiwiburn arborist friend Patrick popped in for a few days and pruned and felled a few trees for us. Most notably, he felled a very large 100 foot tall eucalypt that had been growing next to the garage and had been shading the gully area where we wanted to put a few more fruit trees. Perched high in the tree, I watched with awe as Patrick deftly balanced on ropes with one hand while wielding his chainsaw with the other, slashing branches and dismembering the tree piece by piece.
This left us with an enormous amount of wood to process, hence Jo and Bruce had their work cut out for them. A large eucalypt on the border of the forest block had come down in April’s rain storm and also provided for a several month supply of wood. The boys spent at least two weeks on this task and I have to say Jo proved to be one of the most conscientious and meticulous woodstackers I’ve encountered.
We had so much wood that Bruce devised, and the boys built, an overflow structure to dry and house wood. Using large felled eucalypt branches for poles, the structure sits in a sunny spot in the upper orchard. With the use of Sexy Beast (our 4×4), the trailer, and the log splitter machine, the boys carted round after round of wood to this structure which Jo skillfully stacked.
The branches and leaves of these trees as well as all the pruning clippings from the property were put through our amazing chipper — the end result was a 4 foot tall, 8 foot long, pile of chips for creating garden pathways (suppressing and killing off the weeds underneath) and for use as mulch in the veggie beds and compost piles once they rot down a bit.
Jo also spent two days cutting mesh wire and putting predator-proof (hare and possum) fencing around each of the eleven vegetable beds in our lower garden area, while I weeded and prepped the beds for springtime planting. Sarah and I spent a good number of days digging out an area of the floral garden which had become overrun with twitch (or couch) and convolvulous (morning glory/bindweed). I’ve been watching these menacing weeds take over and start to suffocate the florals and thus drastic measures have finally needed to be employed. This involves digging everything out and pulling the weeds from the floral rhizomes/roots and then replanting the florals and papering and covering with wood chips. One small area of the floral area tackled, a lot more to go! Jo and I also spent a day moving over 400 bricks that had been taken down from our old chimney in 2011 and had been piled along the front drive. Finally they’ve been moved and stacked nicely somewhere less noticeable!
And finally, another BIG project that got completed was the digging out of a 20’ long x 8’ wide area of blackberry brambles that had slowly encroached over a fence-line and had become quite unruly. Jo again did the hucking of the roots adeptly while Sarah and I spent time clipping the brambles into wool sacks to be hauled to the farming neighbor’s burn pile. I think we had over a dozen large sacks full of clippings plus various unchippable tree prunings! In this now cleared area Bruce & Jo planted two dozen black currant seedlings and with any luck, if we can keep the birds away, we should have currants this autumn!
But it’s not all work and no play. We’ve had some really beautiful days which warranted walks, exploring, swims down at the waterfront and up close encounters with farm animals. We had three consecutive weekends of visitors and our general lives to attend to. We’ve busted out the board games and spent many nights sharing stories. And lastly, we’ve eaten an amazing array of culinary delights.
Thank you Jo and Sarah – thanks to your efforts you’ve made the rest of my work this Spring much easier!