Nicola Stachurski

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since Nov 18, 2017
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chicken greening the desert cooking
outside Brisbane, Australia
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Recent posts by Nicola Stachurski

John Duda, I totally love your post!

This is the absolute spirit of science, the basis that we humans have always had, and have only refined, rather than inventing something new.

Careful observation is what good science is all about. It is not the job of the world to explain itself to us - it is our responsibility to look, to engage, to watch, to think about, and to learn to understand.

Humans have observed nature for as long as we have been around, and that it what has ensured our survival. Before we had sophisticated instruments, we had our eyes, our sense of touch, our sense of taste. We could see changes in our crops from year to year, depending on different conditions. We may not have been able to explain why, but we could certainly observe the "what" and "how".

Science is about trying to understand reality. If you have your head in a textbook, and don't check what you are doing against your results, you are not a good scientist. You are being led by your beliefs, rather than by evidence : )

1 month ago
I have an old pony at my place, and she eats the vetiver.

It only started to grow once we fenced her out!
4 months ago
Hi Martijn

I was worried about that too, but Dr RedHawk said not to fuss too much. My next idea is to create holes nearby, with organic matter (I have lots of horse poop) and create a plug of moisture and underground compost that the roots might stretch into.

Perhaps I should keep some photo records and see how they go in the future. Might be useful for others!
4 months ago
Vetiver grass grows here despite the frosts.

We've just had some frosts and many leaves on my ice-cream bean tree are burnt. My small mango is burnt too, which is what killed the last one, so I hope this one survives.

Vetiver grass is not affected, and neither are my citrus.
4 months ago
I think I understand where you are coming from.

I live in the dry subtropics in Queensland, and there are mountains between me and the sea, which catch almost all the rain.

The infuriating thing is that it floods once a year, and inches and inches just run off and away. Apart from that, there are months and months with no rain, and very intense sun. In this time of year, winter/the Dry Season, there are frosts and cold winds as well.

The sun cooks the grass, which dies off each autumn. Then the dust starts to blow. When I look around, the green hangs around a little longer in the shade under trees, and I am trying to add a lot more to my block. I have a very heavy clay soil that sucks off your flip flops walking in a puddle in summer, and cracks open in winter. Trees just sit in the soil once planted, creeping taller ever so slowly.

However, I asked my husband to dig some holes using his post hole attachment on his bobcat (skid steer). Then I chucked in organic matter/paper/cardboard, and refilled. Trees planted in these holes are 5 times the size in just one season. The holes seem to hang on to moisture too, so everything is surviving. I am looking forward to next summer, to see if there is another growth spurt once the rain arrives.

I find that the grass goes nuts in summer, and grows over the new plants. I have come up with a method of planting in holes, and surrounding it with a mulch of cardboard, to kill the grass. Although it stops any small rain getting in (not that we have many small rainstorms), it also keeps moisture in the soil once it is in. I find the sun just cooks moisture and life out of the soil, so the cardboard helps preserve things.

As I work in an IT department, I have ready access to cardboard boxes.

If I had more time, I would be out fixing my cardboard rings around each plant, ready for summer. I have some dam water, so I irrigate once leaves are curling up to get my trees through to the next rains.

Climate change is well and truly here. Whereas the rainy season used to start around November - January, in the last few years it has not arrived until autumn, in March. So the groundwater is not recharging like it used to.
4 months ago
Dry, dry, dry...I feel your pain.

Here in Queensland, it is dry winter, and everything is curling up and blowing away. It's all a dull, dusty, grey/brown.

Swales are important. I am going to ask hubby to make ours even deeper. But the one thing I have found that really works for me is to bury the organic material. My husband has a bobcat (smaller earthmoving equipment, don't know what it's called overseas), and it has a post hole digger. it's basically a giant mechanical corkscrew.

Well, thank goodness for that, because our clay is as "hard as a bull's head" 11 months of the year. But he drills holes for me that I fill up with wood, bark, paper, manure, fabric, weeds etc. I then backfill with the dirt from the hole, and make a bit of a water-catching saucer shape around it. The trees that I planted last spring are now half as high as other trees I planted 8 years ago. It is making a huge difference.

It is still a windblown desert, but one day there will be a tipping point, when there is lots of shade and relief from drying winds (or at least, I hope so).

Have a loot at your worksite. I work in an IT department, and there is so much cardboard coming through. I am stuffing some down holes, using some as a grass-suppressing, water-conserving mulch. and piling up some for when it rains and composts down. There is a lot of waste paper at many workplaces, so see if you can help yourself to some. I even look at the used paper towels in the toilet (for drying hands), but haven't yet taken that as there are so many boxes I am taking anyway.

You can also have a scrap bin at work, for coffee grounds, used tissues and fruit peels, and dump this in the holes too.  Better rotting away and contributing to holding moisture in your soil, than in an ordinary dump anyway.
5 months ago
Yes, in my subtropical climate, the sun is so intense that it just dries everything out. The soil turns to dust a few weeks after rain, and you can see all the life being fried out of existence. This includes mulch, which just sits there as desiccated shreds the do no decompose.

I put cardboard around my plants to protect soil organisms, and to try to retain moisture. It still means that the soil underneath turns to dust, but not as quickly, and I hope that it protects the soil life so that it can spring back more quickly once rain comes. Once I came up with the idea (I'd only really heard of it for lasagna gardens before), my young trees actually started growing faster.
7 months ago
I don't know if this is possible for you, but there was an old greenhouse on our property, which was re-used to put in more delicate plants. I've got taro and cassava in it, but the thing that has gone 100% crazy is sweet potatoes.

It is hot and dry here. We have a few good summer storms, and once a year, a flooding, or almost flooding rain. But it is very hot, and often windy. We are in the rain shadow of mountains, so they get most of the rain and we are dry. Also there are extremely drying, cold winds in winter. Winter we go about 5 months with no rain. Spring is extremely dry, with most plants dropping up to 50% of their leaves, dead grass and dust blowing everywhere. Rains start anywhere from Nov to Feb, but climate change has meant for the last 3 years, no heavy rain until the end of March (the end of the rainy season), and then a wetter summer this last one, but no deep flood event. Even so, the greenhouse plants survive well.

So I'm establishing lots of windbreaks and shade trees. Leucana grows well, gif the ground is shaded, tipuana tipu, a number of Australian small trees (NOT eucalyptus, which kills other plants) and oleanders. As these are starting to grow, they are modifying the climate somewhat. But not enough for the root crops above. However, at the dump, you may find people throwing away shade cloth. I even knew someone who was pulling down an old shade house. And I have some strips from a pub shade sail that got ripped, so they threw it out. So, if you keep asking around, you may come up with quite a good amount.

Our ABC gardening show had one presenter from the dry tropics who made shade houses by putting in 2 rows of star pickets. She then put poly pipe over the end of one picket, curved it up, and then took the end and put it over the top of another star picket to make a hooped roof. The poly pipe was firmly attached in place by being slid over the star picket. So if you make a row of these hoops (like a covered wagon), you could then attach shade cloth. It might be a bit patchwork, by the plants don't care if it look ugly.
Fantastic!  Well done. You will be a leader to others in the future.

And you have all those stalks and leaves you can use as mulch to improve the soil when you plant the next crop!
7 months ago
My partner has started feeding the chickens by pouring their grain onto prickles. We have some lawn prickles, and the chickens scratch where the grains are. We hope they will uproot the prickles.
7 months ago