As many of you may know, if you’ve been following this site for a while, I house-sit/farmlet-sit for a family friend at Bellthorpe once or twice a year so she can visit family.
Each time I’m up there, I try to help out a bit by reclaiming sections of her garden that have been lost to the bush over the years.
This time, it was the orchard’s turn.
Day O – ‘Before’ photos
I’ve tried to take circuit-shots from left-to-right from approximately the same location before work started each day. The third pic is a close-up of the tangle of lantana, wild raspberry and bush nettles I’d be dealing with. By ‘bush nettles’, I don’t mean the puney little ones you get in your backyard, these ones have the same stinging hairs covering both leaves and stems, but the leaves are larger (see ‘Flashback’ section below) and the stems are more like strings of a vine that can be upto 10m long … (the base of one can be seen in that last pic – its the pale Y-shape, slightly left of centre). The tree that you can see in the foreground of the second pic, is a mango. Behind it, hidden by the mess, is a mulberry with the largest leaves I’ve ever seen:
It may not look like much of a change, but you can now see two of the over-head pipes of the over-grown poly-pipe greenhouse (the one that I thought was the first hoop, is actually the second; the first was completely hidden by over-growth), and a little citrus has emerged out of the mess (to the right in the first pic, and left in the second). The green bucket was for nettle cuttings – these were added to the compost later. The pile next to it was lantana prunings, to be mulched, and the third pile (which is out of shot, closer to the camera) is raspberry prunings, suckers and roots.
The first two photos are taken from the original location. The last three are taken from a new location further down the slope because I was starting to move along the back fence (which was in remarkably good nick under all that mess) and the work wasn’t as visible behind the mango and mulberry further up.
The second over-head pipe is now well-clear at the fence end and I’d uncovered an old wooden garden bed (with a little foxy x whippet helping).
The third over-head pipe is now visible, and the first of a group of 3 old garden beds is revealed.
The last pic is the view from the front verandah of the house, to give an idea of the overall clearance job: the corner of the orchard fence is approximately in line with the right-hand end of the metal chair that’s in the foreground, and running straight back into the scrub. Everything to the left of that fence, is to be cleared (other than the fruit trees obviously).
The fourth and fifth (and final) over-head pipes are now visible, the back fence is cleared and the three garden beds are revealed, stepping down the slope. Now to move slowly back up the slope through the thickest bit…
Slowly revealing the other ends of the over-head pipes. You can see the large leaves of the mulberry tree below the mango tree in the second pic – the base of the tree is still hidden, off in the mess.
The base of the mulberry is revealed, within inches of the star-picket holding up the second over-head pipe (which means that it will have to stay there, because trying to remove it would cause more damage to the tree (possibly even kill it) than leaving it there). You can also start to see how spindly that mulberry has grown – huge, long branches with leaves right on the ends – to try to get light under all that extra canopy.
My Mum and Dad had arrived the evening before, and together we were able to clear the remaining mess, remove the damaged pipes and rotten central posts of the old greenhouse, clear away the rotten wooden garden beds, give the fruit trees a prune and generally tidy up, thanks largely to the addition of a machete, heavy duty loppers, rakes and two extra sets of very hard-working hands (Thankyou so much! Couldn’t have done it so quickly without you!).
And would you believe that all that lantana was just ONE bush!?
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the mulcher going, so all of the lantana and fruit tree prunings also ended up on the burn piles with the raspberry and the rotten garden bed surrounds. Nevermind, the ash will make good fertiliser :)
The last pic is the view from the Orchard gate.
Day 8 – ‘Burning Day’
A few days later, once the piles had dried out a bit, burning commenced.
Day 9 – Work Complete, ‘After’ photos
Just a bit of a difference from the Day O ‘before’ photos :)
I now dub the Lost Orchard Project complete :)
Last time I was up there I started clearing the top-end of this fenced area, to the left of the clump of bananas that you can see in the view-from-verandah pic above, down the central path and around the mango, nectarine (?) and orange to the right of the path. While I was there, I took a few photos of what I’d be dealing with ‘next time’ (ie on the trip just completed). The raspberry:
(My gloved hand for scale. Yes, that leaf extends from the 3rd knuckle on my ring finger to my wrist. That’s approx. 15cm)
The ‘best’ of bedfellows – wild raspberry and nettles all mixed together:
So the mystery of where I’ve been for the past two weeks is solved, and I’m all stocked up on job-satisfaction for the time being :)
Next project: starting our own orchard at The Farm in a few weeks’ time :D