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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Zones at Home Hill Farm

This is a look at our Zones and how they work for us.

The thing with Zones is they seem like common sense (in most cases) but sometimes it's possible to get them wrong. Unless it is a major infrastructure it is possible to rectify the situation in most cases after the event.

We wrote in a previous post about looking at another property further north in an area which appealed to us for a number of reasons. In the end the location of the buildings in inappropriate zones made the property unworkable. So it is possible to get it so wrong it is un-correctable.

Zone 0 is the house as it would be for everyone. Having the double garage just outside the back door made it an ideal conversion to a Cave used for wine making, cheese storage, extended pantry and a dozen other things. It works really well. We go into the Cave a number of times each day. Having it any further away would be frustrating. At one time we had the shade house where we raised seedlings just that little too far away which meant they got overlooked i.e. not watered. It was moved closer and into a spot that we had to walk past every day. That location has proved to be ideal. A small change with a big return.

Potting bench and seedling shade house at the back of the Cave with hot and cold water and wash tubs. You have to walks past it every day.

Back door to Cave about three steps

Front of the Cave has a paved area under cover ideal for drying and or pressing grapes

The western side of the Cave has Bananas for shade and hopefully some Kiwi vines shortly. The water tank for holding dam water and the pressure pump for the watering system are all here.

Zone 1 is the house yard. Within this are a few fruit trees but mainly it contains our fixed vegetable beds. This is also our living space and contains ornamentals. They gladden the heart. The yard is fully fenced in netting and a top electric wire to keep predators out and our dogs inside. Because of the dogs we keep some expanses of lawn for them to roll about and play. Probably the only draw back of our Zone 1 is the grass which needs mowing. We found out how important grassed areas are when Nikki had a bout of diarrhoea. After a while he had to spend most of his time looking for a clean spot. Fussy bugger is Nikki. We now make sure we also take the dogs into Zone 2 each morning when letting out the chooks. This gives then that chance to find a clean spot for toilet duty.

Compost and vegetable beds

Zone 2 Is our Orchard. It contains the chicken run and the girls have access to the entire area. We do mow it every now and then which is important to encourage the girls to wander to the extremities. It also looks great seeing the flocks moving about amongst the trees. This zone contains my workshop, the house water tanks and as close as possible to Zone 1 is the wood pile. This zone on the Eastern side is where the bee hive is located within easy reach and within sight of our outdoor entertainment area. No effort to keep an eye on the honey gathering activity and spot any early warning signs. Zone 2 is fully fenced with heavy duty netting and an electric wire to protect the poultry.

Outdoor eating and bees in the background

In zone 1 looking over to the workshop and chook yard

Vegetable beds edged onto the orchard

Zone 3 is where we set up a bed to grow Tomatoes and vine crops each Spring. Planted in September this bed commences yielding food in November right through to April/May before we let the cattle in to clean up. That bed is electrically fenced to keep the cattle out in the interim as Zone 3 forms part of the area allocated to cattle. Zone 3 also contains our western and southern wind break trees. Now that Zone 2 fruit trees have matured they also add to the wind break which has created a micro climate in zone 1. Amazing how a little protection from high winds improves crop yields. A bit like the walled garden concept. We also have our hayshed/tractor shed in this zone. Only because it was the only spot in which it would fit without being in the way and with all weather access. It works fine as we don't access the tractor that often nor the hay. The paddocks are designed to be accessed from that shed by vehicle and cloven hoof. A good central hand feeding spot.

Zone 4 & 5 contains our 7 mega litre (life saving) dam and a few historically cleared patches enclosed by native bush. Once or twice a year these patches are slashed to freshen the grass for the cattle. The wooded areas supply wood for our Winter heating. These zones are split into paddocks using a single electric wire and can be easily divided up even further with portable fencing if needed.

The light forestation

The kids coming for a walk to the dam

The dam with the seasonal azolla smattering

Probably one of the most important things to keep in mind is access. It's easier to put in lots of gates at the beginning rather than walk that extra distance every time. Access also means vehicle access especially for bringing in firewood or mulch hay. This adds a little complexity in making sure there is a cleared pathway. Our big mistake was in the Orchard with trees planted on a 5 metres grid. Now they are mature the path we originally designed for the tractor is overgrown. Fortunately there is an alternative route. In hindsight a 10 metre track would have been ideal. That is why sometimes I think you need to spend a decade building up a property to practise all the mistakes and then move onto a fresh canvass with that experience in hand.

But of course you get attached and in most cases a little rework is good for the soul.

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