Author Archives: barbfrey

New Community Policing Model introduced

Did you know? As of the 1st December 2014, WA Police have introduced sweeping changes to the way services are delivered to the community using a new Community Policing model dubbed Frontline 2020.

The Midland area will benefit enormously from these changes. For example, since Dec 1st, resources to our local community have more than doubled from 60 to 130 officers. Each area now has a ‘Local Policing Team’ (LPTs) supported by centrally co-ordinated District Crime Centres.

One of the main changes that has really appealed to members of the community is that the new Local Police Teams are now regularly staffed by assigned officers who are designated as the local community police in your area. How cool is that!

Community cops

Our local area of Guildford and surrounding suburbs is now looked after by ‘Midland LPT 3’ – Local Policing Team 3 led by Sgt David York and his regular team of officers. We really enjoyed meeting representative officers from all the local teams. Transition Town Guildford has attended 2 recent community policing forums now and both times, we loved the enthusiastic response from the community and from our newly designated local officers. It’s great to start to see familiar faces in uniform around the traps.

To find out about your Local Policing Team, click here:   Find your Midland Area LPT

If you’d like to learn more about the new community policing model, click here for Frontline2020

And guess what else? They Tweet! The use of social media and other avenues of communication have been massively expanded to enhance keeping the community and the police well informed of what’s happening locally. Check it out on the links below.

Some important things haven’t changed:

  • If you need immediate Police assistance, call 131 444
  • In the event of an Emergency, call 000  (Save 000 for Emergencies)
  • NEW – If you need to communicate with your local LPT about an ongoing matter that is not urgent, then one of the best ways to do so is email. For example, in Guildford, email: police.station@police.wa.gov.au Subject: Attention LPT 3

For more info, check out the following:

DID YOU KNOW?

In 30% of all car break-ins, car doors were left unlocked, or valuables were left clearly in view!

Each peach, pear, plum…. How to prune fruit trees

We didn’t spy Tom Thumb, but we did have a lovely Kitchen Gardeners meeting on pruning on Sunday 2nd March.  The workshop was led by Elizabeth, with much input from the other Kitchen Gardeners. The afternoon started with a cuppa, some nibbles and a chat, before Elle launched into the specifics of pruning and tree care.  This was followed by a demonstration on the fruit trees in Flo and Tristan’s backyard which got a much-needed prune.

Elle demonstrates how to identify which limbs need pruning and how to shape the tree

Elle demonstrates how to identify which limbs need pruning and how to shape the tree

Before we started pruning, we discussed the different tools required, and talked about safety and pruning hygiene.  Elle had a particularly snazzy set of tools, and Barb brought her trusty snippers and shears along too.  We also discussed Barb’s lemon tree and its miraculous recovery after the application of a fresh cow pat poultice…

Elle started with the mandarin tree, which was still young but already showing signs of neglect!  Although the tree had four small mandarins growing, the leaves revealed the tree had undergone some stress during the heat of summer, and needed a good watering and some trace elements.  There was also whipper snipper damage to the trunk: an excellent suggestion to protect the trees was the use of a piece of PVC pipe as a small collar placed around the base of the trunk.

A week after pruning, the trees are clearly improving although mineral deficiency is still evident in pale leaves

A week after pruning, the trees are clearly improving although mineral deficiency is still evident in pale leaves

The diseased, dead and damaged material was removed to promote growth: new growth produces fruit.  The tree was pruned into a vase shape to allow more light and air into the middle area, thereby reducing fungal infection, allowing a better view of the tree for monitoring pests and improving access for pollinators. The vase shape may produce more fruit for less height on three or four main branches rather than one trunk.

Pruning can be done during any season, but winter pruning is best for revealing the form and shape of the tree when all the leaves are gone. The tree is dormant at that time, so the wounds take somewhat longer to heal compared to pruning after a tree has fruited.

The plumcot tree (a plum-apricot hybrid) was the next to be pruned, and here we discovered collar rot at the base of the trunk.  The advice was to move away any mulch touching the trunk, and to treat the tree with trace elements and Epsom salts.  Other than the collar rot, the plumcot tree was healthy growing vigorously.  Elle again chose to prune into a vase shape and reduce some of the tree’s height to make it more manageable.

The peach tree was a little more tricky. Unfortunately the grafted peach had died, leaving only surviving root-stock.  As the peaches being produced by the root-stock were not too shabby, we decided to perservere nurture the tree.  Normally the root-stock is pruned off, as this is usually unproductive growth that sprouts from below the graft. In this case, one branch from the root-stock was left while the rest from lower down on the trunk was pruned off.  Elle showed us how to prune by cutting on an angle to avoid water pooling on a wound or on wood and causing rot.

Other fruit trees that were pruned on the day included a healthy pear tree and two young citrus trees, a lemon and lime.  The plum tree was not pruned as it had suffered significantly during the summer and extra care and recuperation first. The olive tree didn’t need pruning as Flo had done this some time ago.

The afternoon was a great success, and much knowledge was shared.  Following the workshop, Flo applied all recommended treatments to the trees, including trace elements, extra watering, Seasol, and epsom salts. All trees, especially the plum tree, are clearly looking much better. Flo had some massive rockmelons and watermelons growing under the fruit trees, and during the week following the workshop these ripened and were picked.  There were 10 delicious rockmelons and five massive watermelons (the first one picked was 15.7kg!!)

Nothing beats home grown watermelon, seen here doing double duty providing shading to preserve soil moisture around the base of fruit trees

Nothing beats home grown watermelon, seen here doing double duty providing shading to preserve soil moisture around the base of fruit trees

Here are a few extra tips on pruning and tree care from Robert Brock:

  • To avoid collar rot, don’t mulch right up to the trunk.
  • Don’t mulch with wood chips or uncomposted mulches: as they break down they draw nitrogen from the soil.
  • Thick mulch all year round can suffocate the soil. Soil is alive: it needs air, water, food and light so that soil microbes can live. They create humus and wonderful rich moist colloidal soil.
  • Feed trees with well-decomposed compost spread around the drip line.
  • Too much of anything is bad: raw manures can force growth in a tree or plant, much the same way that artificial fertilisers do. The plant puts out new growth to restore balance from being overfed nutrients and minerals.
  • Don’t dig around your trees, you’ll damage the roots.
  • Feeding and watering the tree too much on the surface will encourage roots to remain at the surface. You want your tree to send its roots down for water, nutrients and stability. The roots anchor the tree: like a fence post, you want t bury them deep not shallow).
  • Artificial fertilisers and pesticides can disturb natural balance and lead to more problems. If you kill all insects then the wasps that eat scale and the lady birds that eat aphis will be gone too. Know which pests to watch for and how to control them, e.g. ants which can farm other pests such as scale.
  • Pests are only a problem when they are a problem: one or two spots of scale will cause little harm. In contrast, fruit flies can be highly damaging and should be exterminated with baits while ensuring timely removal and disposal of struck fruit.
  • There are several simple, effective natural remedies for a range of pest problems. Examples include soapy water for drowning aphids, and homemade white oil  which is easy to prepare and takes care of a range of pests.
  • Companion plant around your trees to attract beneficial insects and deter pests. For example, nasturtiums and citrus go well together as do hyssop and grapes, horse radish and apples.

Thanks to Elle our workshop leader, Florence our hostess and guess blog mistress, and Robert our expert tree pruning advisor. If you’d like to read more about pruning fruit trees, have a look here and here.

Helping your hens survive the heat

The Chook Chronicles: Heat Stress in Backyard Hens

Although the weather seems not as bad as it was last summer, average temperatures are still 1 – 2°C higher than the long term average, and heat waves are tending to be hotter and longer. Tragically, quite a few friends and neighbours from Guildford and surrounding suburbs have recounted the terrible upset of losing hens to heat stress.

Summer’s not over yet, so now is a good time to review what you can do to prevent deaths due to heat stroke, and to reduce heat stress in your backyard hens.

The body temperature of chickens is higher and more variable than that of mammals; in adult hens it ranges from 40.6 – 41.7°C. Smaller breeds tend to have a higher body temperature than larger ones, probably due to metabolic rate. Activity increases body temperature, and chickens that are growing or producing a lot of eggs will also have a higher average body temperature.

A hen’s high average body temperature makes it easier to lose heat into the surrounding air, but like humans, this happens most easily when air temperature is well below body temperature.

The ideal air temperature range for chickens at which their body functions best (the ‘thermal neutral zone’) is 18 – 24°C! Hens therefore begin to experience a degree of heat stress above 24°C. Just like people though, the temperature range that chooks can stand depends on the length of exposure, and what protection they have.

Birds do not have sweat glands, so they pant to evaporate moisture for cooling, and to draw into their air sacs deep in the body to cool it. Hens will start to pant above 32°C and above 50% relative humidity. However, panting for evaporative cooling loses effectiveness above 70% humidity, greatly reducing birds’ ability to tolerate heat. The lethal upper limit for body temperature for chickens is 45 – 47°C. Chickens are at risk of death from heat prostration at air temperatures above 38°C.

Clearly, chooks are most vulnerable to heat stress during the following weather conditions:

  • Heat waves: especially when high temperatures persist for more than 3 days
  • Peak daytime temperature reaches or exceeds 35°C
  • Heat fails to dissipate overnight. Like people, hens can recover well if night-time temperatures drop back down to or near their ‘neutral zone’ (ie below about 26°C)
  • Periods of high humidity, e.g. common in late February in WA
  • Chooks that are broody or at peak of egg laying are particularly vulnerable
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Both hens below are panting – breathing through open beak instead of nostrils. Small hens such as the bantam hen on the left have a higher body temperature than larger hens, and are thus more susceptible to heat stress. The Isa Brown hen on the right has some feather loss, which likely helps to release body heat.

Ways to minimize heat stress in backyard laying hens

  • Fresh drinking water must be freely available at all times. Hens will drink twice as much at 38°C compared to 27°C. This can be as much as 400 – 500mL per average sized laying hen per day when it’s hot. The longer hens are exposed to high temperatures, the more they will drink (i.e. they drink more on the last day of a heat wave than the first day). Hens that are at their peak of lay will drink 50% more than average egg layers.
  • On very hot days, offering chilled water is beneficial – well below 28°C (e.g. add ice cubes or use an insulated container). Hens will drink more and lose heat more easily
  • Access to full shade – natural or artificial. Shade will also reduce reflected sunlight and glare, as long as trees, branches and other types of shade are situated in a way that does not interfere with air flow
  • Ventilation: Unrestricted or unobstructed air flow helps reduce the heat load through natural (location, pen construction) or artificial (fan) means
  • Evaporative cooling, e.g. wet hessian, jungle fogger, mister, sprinkler on the roof or in the pen. Solar misters, sprinklers and fans are now quite affordable and may be set to operate on a timer at peak times of the day
  • Feed at night when heat produced through digestion will be less. On very hot days, avoid feeding for 6 – 8 hours before the hottest part of the day
  • Ensure that the hen house is well insulated. Metal enclosures or a metal roof can greatly magnify and radiate heat
  • Heat stress is additive with other sources of stress such as parasites, social stress from insufficient space, broodiness, introduction of new hens, etc. Always take weather into account when managing these other potentially stressful factors
  • If you have a broody hen that is not actually sitting on eggs when a heat wave is expected, consider taking measures to discourage broodiness at this time. If hens are incubating eggs, make sure they have access to water at all times and are located in a deeply shaded area.
  • If no one is at home on very hot days, consider inviting a neighbour to check on your hens during the hottest part of the day. Checking shade and water, providing a sprinkler briefly or adding ice cubes to water may mean the difference between life and death.
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Heat stressed rooster panting (breathing fast with an open beak). Note the very bad infestation of stickfast mites all over his comb and wattles (black).

If you would like to learn a bit more about chickens and hot weather, search for ‘heat stress’ on The Poultry Site