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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fox Proof Fences, Magpie, Ported Prunes, Newspapers, Aquarobics, Planning, Mosquitos

Fox Proof Fencing

Some years ago, after a savage Fox attack in which 20 chooks were killed, it was decided to make a serious attempt at replacing the fencing around the orchard with a long lasting Fox proof solution. By dividing the Orchard and house yard into a number of logical sections, it was easier to erect the fencing in stages. The first stage was the immediate area around the chook pen, followed by the main part of the orchard, then the house yard and finally the last piece was the internal fence between the house yard and the Orchard.

Fox Proof Fence

Over the last few weeks that last section of fence has gone up, along with a number of extra access gates for convenient entry at different points. The project is slow as each gateway requires additional strainers and stays. Additionally, the gates are handmade as are some of the fittings. Because the ground is so rocky each strainer and stay is cemented into place.
Everything is done in steel. The netting is extra heavy duty and should last more than 20 years. The top wire is designed to be electrified to stop cattle leaning over and to prevent anything climbing over. A 300mm sacrificial strip of netting is laid on the ground and attached to the vertical netting with clips. Once the grass has grown through it prevents anything digging under the fence.

300mm sacrificial Panel
There is evidence that Foxes have been on the outside. But so far it has worked well with no Fox penetration.
Redoing the fences was a good opportunity to also attend to the water distribution system. The garden pressure system distributes water to all parts of the Orchard and house yard via 25 mm poly pipes. Under the old system, all the pipes were tied to the fence above ground. This was a good opportunity to bury the pipe and install risers and additional taps to simplify watering. One of the problems with exposed black poly in Summer is the extremely hot water that first comes out. At least now it is shaded to a large extent.

Water Riser
Progressively we have been simplifying everything to make as many tasks easy. Although all the trees in the orchard are on an irrigation system, sometimes only one or two trees need a drink. Taps are at regular intervals with dedicated hoses, no more wasting time dragging hoses to another tap. As hoses wear out we invest in better quality kink free hoses to reduce frustration and increase longevity. Although experience has shown that kink free is a bit of a dream. Less kinky might be a better description.
Found a juvenile magpie recently wandering around the paddock. It is too young to assess gender. The first week was hard work as it was very shitty. Feeding involved poking food down its throat. Finally the struggle is over and it feeds as per normal and often. Having settled down it now preens and has commenced practising its traditional magpie chorusing. Hopefully it will grow quickly before we run out of curl grubs and worms. It has adapted to soaked dry cat food but the cats have not adapted to it. Heavy supervision and a strong cage have kept it alive.

Young Magpie
They have wonderful personalities, forever interested in everything that is going on and a curious streak, pecking and lifting things to see what they are. They are amazingly quick learners as well. When the sun hits them they splay out in a tangle of wings and feathers looking as if someone has chucked them on the ground. The chooks don’t like it at all. They come roaring out of nowhere on the attack. All it does is fall on its back in defeat. Just as well we don’t have carpets in the house as it continually leaves small gifts in various places when on the loose. The only mistake we made was feeding it some Mulberries one day. The gifts left behind can stain some things badly.
Hopefully one day soon it will be able to feed itself and fly well enough to make its own way in the world. We’ll miss it when it’s gone.
Ported Prunes
A very simple recipe is to fill a jar with pitted prunes and top up with port. Leave for a month to allow the prunes to swell. Our favourite way of serving is with plain yoghurt.

Ported Prunes
The best port to use is the one you make yourself using a port barrel. This can be oak (which is a bit expensive) or pottery. Buy a number of different ports. The cheaper the better and mix into the barrel and forget about it for a while (the longer the better). Eventually it miraculously changes and becomes a delicious port. When it tastes good drain off what you need for immediate medium term use and top up the barrel. It won’t take as long to transform once you have a solid base material.


Local and national newspapers, their supplements and inserts and magazines can be interesting to peruse but not really worth the investment. A simple arrangement was made with different friends who do choose to invest in them. They keep the publications and pass them onto us. The articles that are of interest aren’t affected by the time delay. Anything time critical has already had adequate coverage on radio, television and the web.
In return we pass excess produce onto them. Eggs, vegetables, cheese and even wine find their way into the barter process.
The newspapers are finally put to good used as mulch under the tyres in which we grow potatoes. Growing potatoes in tyres is easy when you’re challenged for either garden space or in our case soil. However they are a good spot for snakes which make a plopping sound when the tyre is lifted and the snake falls on your foot. It is usually just as frightened as you are and slithers away as quickly as you are running in the opposite direction.


There are lots of different forms of exercise but Aquarobics is great in Spring and Summer. We don’t have a pool and use the local council pool buying a season family ticket to economise. Two to four times each week for about 45 minutes is plenty. The best time is early in the morning to set you up for the day. It is also a good time to avoid the crowds
The three areas we concentrate on are the legs, back and upper body. Gradually building muscle tone and keeping the joints flexible. Starting the season with shorter periods for each exercise and gradually increasing the time spent on each as fitness improves.
It’s possible to include aerobic sequences into the session but we prefer to finish off by swimming laps. About an hour after finishing, the body gets a warm glowing feeling indicating it has been used. This is a very satisfying feeling. It also seems to fill us with renewed energy.
There are lots of books available in the market place as well as in the local library system. Over time, we have developed a series of routines which give us the maximum benefit. It is critical to start and finish the sessions with a balance of stretches.


Every so often we spend a little time looking at what we do and listing down all the tasks that we find frustrating, annoying, costly and time consuming. Gaining efficiency is important to provide more time for those other things we want to enjoy.
Each item is then re-sequenced from worst to least worst. And then possible solutions are listed. Finally, over time practical solutions are implemented. Sometimes it may mean waiting until something wears out before replacing it with a more efficient unit and in some cases there may not be a practical solution. Gradually we have been able to gain efficiencies which enable us to do many other things and still have time to relax.

Mosquito Trap

An old school friend recently visited. He provided an unusual tip for mosquito control. Find some open topped containers of preferably dark blue or black. Put water in them and position them in shady spots on the southern side of the house. Empty and refill them every two weeks. As the sun sets mosquitoes look for cool dark places containing water. Cool and dark so that they can be sure the water will not evaporate after they lay their eggs. Regular emptying ensures the wrigglers never mature. My friend swears by this solution. We have implemented it and will make an assessment at the end of Summer.


  1. Hi there - I'm interested in fox proofing my property, and cant afford resorting to a 2m high fence. How high is your fence, and has is let in any foxes since built?!! THANKS for any advice!

    1. The netting is 105 cm high and then we have the electric wire 125 mm above that. Something did come in once and killed one bird. We suspect it was a Quoll or a Goanna. Once we turned on the energiser for the top wire nothing has returned. We did sight a big Goanna and the Quoll is speculation as a neighbour reported an attack by one. Foxes are about outside the fence their scent is pronounced some mornings and the dogs go crazy. The secret to the success of the fence is the 300 mm netting laying on the ground. It makes digging under impossible. We hold it down with rocks until the grass grows through and then nothing can lift it away. The top electric wire stops anything climbing over.