Thursday, December 20, 2007


I have just begun extending the vegetable patch so that it is four times its former size. The problem with our little vegetable patch was that it was not big enough to keep us in food all the time.

We would have 20 lettuces come on all at once, then 30 cobs of corn then 400 tomatoes. The new approach is to grow multiple lots of the foods we eat, but at different stages.

This will require a lot more space and involves developing a plan, being organised and keeping records.

One of the weaknesses in my garden is that I don't have a proper area for propagating seedlings, so it is a task I am always putting off or avoiding. The propagation area is like the furnace room of the garden, so I really need to address this issue. I am going to propagate under our big locut tree at the edge of the veggie patch and I need to get it set up so that it is an easy space to work in.

The foods that are popular in our house, at least with the children, are : corn, cucumber and carrot. So I am aiming to be totally self sufficient with these. I should also be able to be self sufficient for much of the year with potatoes, pumpkin, onion, garlic, lettuce, tomato and a few culinary herbs, which are other foods we consume a lot of.

There are probably lots more, but the though of trying to achieve everything all at once is overwhelming...

I have planted sunflowers and marigolds to attract birds and repeal insects, plus I love both these flowers.

I am digging circular plots and covering the pathways in between them with cardboard to try and kill the Kikuyu grass. Eventually I will dig out the pathways and fill them with sawdust- free from the local mill. Sawdust takes a lot longer than cardboard to break down.

Around the border of the veggie patch I have planted comfrey, which is an excellent competitor for Kikuyu and a great fertiliser for composting. I am also planting lemon grass to try and compete with the Kikuyu.

The theory goes: comfrey and lemon grass will not overtake the Kikuyu but will hold their own. So to increase coverage you need to keep dividing and replanting in the areas you want them to grow. In our new huge veggie patch this will take a while to achieve.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Bill finally finished renovating the chook shed. We decided to renovate the old chook shed rather than build a chook dome (which would have been more practical for our gardening requirements, but means the chooks can never roam free) because it had so much character abd I really love the idea of restoring it.

Last weekend we took the children to get some chooks. It was a bit of an anti-climax actually. The guy we bought them off just picked five out a pen and roughly threw them into our cage.

I said to Bill on the way home, "These chooks are going to be so much happier with us."

We bought Isa Brown pullets. Pullets are young females.

Isa Browns are renowned for their 'prolific laying abilities,' according to the guy we bought them from. Our girls are a couple of weeks off the point-of-lay. So all going well they will begin producing eggs soon.

We have bought organic laying pellets as feed. There wasn't any organic laying mash available and nutritionally they are identical. Less food is wasted with pellets than with the loose mash. We are also giving them a selection of food scraps.

As a roost we are using an old low-boy wardrobe with straw in the bottom of it. They seem to like it in there. We have also placed a couple of perches up high near the roof so they at least stand a chance should a fox or snake get into their internal cage, in which they are locked in at night.

Bill is in charge of the chooks and the cats are fascinated by them.

MINDFULLNESS and the house cow

I have a new approach to my morning ticking session with Brandy. Instead of trying to intimidate her into thinking that I am boss, I am trying to be 'one with her.'

The past few mornings while I was ticking, during her her morning bucket, I have gone very slowly over her body with my hands using the Buddhist technique of mindfulness. I try to remain aware and focused on what I am doing to her and what part of her I am touching.

She is a very anxious animal, and I am also anxious about her horns/poles, with which she is constanlty trying to stab me. The idea is if I am more calm, she will be more calm?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Home Baked Bread Recipe

We make our own bread most days. It is easy, it doesn't take very long and has chopped our bread bill down by a quarter.

You can buy 25 kilo bags of organic wholemeal flour for around $45. This works out to be $1.35 per loaf. We pay up to $5 per loaf for organic bread in the shops. So it is definitely worthwhile.
Spelt costs about $75 per 25 kilo bag, so again it is still worth baking your own.

People are always so impressed when you mention that you bake your own bread (So I'm always mentioning it). Here is a easy bread making recipe that will make your friends and neighbours think you are the ultimate earth mother (or father) :

3 cups of organic wholemeal or stone ground or spelt or rye
(for a fail-safe recipe use 50% plain flour and 50% wholemeal)
1.5 cups of warm-hot-ish water'
4 teaspoons of yeast
1 Teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
You can substitute .5 of a cup of water for yogurt, which is what I do.

Mix the yeast into one cup of warm to hot-ish water. Let it sit for maybe two minutes, it will froth a little which just shows the yeast is active.

Mix all the ingredients in together, holding back .5 of a cup of water which you will mix in as needed.

Kneed the mixture into a firm dough. It should not be too dry of too wet. If it is sticky it is too wet and if it is crumbly it is too dry.

Don't kneed too much. Roll the dough into a ball and leave to sit, covered, for about an hour.

After an hour the dough will have risen. Grease an oblong baking dish and stretch the dough-ball longways to fit into the baking dish. Leave for another 15 minutes to recover its spring, then bake on 160 degrees Celsius for 20-30 minutes in an oven.

Remove when golden brown.

For a soft loaf, wrap in a towel or cloth nappy (preferably clean) this stops the moisture escaping as steam. For a crunchy loaf leave to cool in the open.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

We have been making our own yogurt for a little while now with consistently good results.

Here is the recipe I use, the children really love it with a teaspoon of honey swirled though it.

I use the Paris Creek bio-dynamic organic yogurt as a starter because it is the only commercial yogurt I have found that does not have any thickeners in it, it's just milk and cultures.

You can also get starter sachets from the supermarket, but I don't know how to do it that way.

We use raw milk from our neighbours jersey cow. I skim a cup of cream off and then use three cups of un-skimmed milk mixed in with the cream. In the city you could try the Parmalat organic milk, it is really creamy.

I make the yogurt in a kefir pot (a ceramic jar with a lid), this is what they use in India, but you can use anything.

For incubation
I use a little Kenwood yogurt incubator to put the pot on, it is a little platform that heats up to the exact temperature required to make yogurt.

But you can also use a hot water system, a sunny window, a thermos, or the pilot light in your gas oven for incubation. It is also possible to use an electric oven by turning it on full boar for 5 minutes and then turning it off- I haven't done it this way, but it may be worth a shot if you are really keen and don' have any other alternatives.

So, here is what you need to do:

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A FOOD THERMOMETER: heat your creamy milk in a thick bottomed pan, or a double boiler, on the stove to the point just before boiling. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool down to the point where it is between hot and warm.I call this "high fever" point, because it is the point just above a normal body temp (36-37 degrees) - between 39 and 41 degrees Celsius.

IF YOU DO HAVE A FOOD THERMOMETER: heat your milk in a thick bottomed pan, or a double boiler, to the point just before boiling. Allow it to cool to between 39 and 41 degrees Celsius.

Add .5 of a cup of culture ,stirring gently. Now the yogurt needs to be incubated. It must not fall bellow 38 degrees. The longer you incubate it the tarter the taste. I wrap the kafer pot in two or three old cloth nappies and put it on the incubator. It takes about 4 hours.

Once it is done immediatley put the yogurt in the fridge.

Homemade yogurt is runny compared to commercial yogurt, and it has lumps in it. If you really want thick yogurt you can use gelatine, just disolve it in at the heating stage. You can also add powdered skim milk which is what they do in a lot of commerically made yogurts.

For creamier yogurt you can add pure cream.

You can add honey at the heating stage too.

I use use this yogurt in bread making as well.

Save .5 of a cup of yogurt as starter for your next batch.

It may to a little while to perfect but it is worth it for delicious home made yogurt. Good luck!

Friday, November 23, 2007

HOUSE COW bloated

Well, Brandy is doing well but I am worried about her being bloated. On her right side she is a little bloated. I cut back her food and it has gone down a little bit but not entirely, so I am wondering what is going on.

I lent my very detailed cow book to a neighbour- ug. And the same neighbour told me that one of his beef cattle was killed last night by four dingos. He said he has lost three cows to the dingos and he is going to put bait out for them.

Brandy is still wanting to play/ kill me with her horns, so I have taken to walking around the yard with a big stick so that when she charges me I can makes noises and wave the stick at her, which seems to work. Hairy says I need to clip the tips of her horns off with bolt cutters so she can't do too much damage- the thought of it makes me want to puke!

Hairy also says they settle down after they calf- I hope so.

Karina, my freind who milks, told me about getting charged at, while heavily pregnant, by one of her calves with sharp horns . She said, "you just can't trust them."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

HOUSE COW breaks into veggie patch.

Brandy broke into the veggie patch today. She just walked right through the chicken wire fence and started eating. I had fed her some carrots from the garden that had gone to seed, which must have alerted her to the possibilities of the veggie patch.

It was really hard to chase her out, she kept trying to hide behind the corn.

Apart from that, she is doing really well and I feel like she is starting to understand that I am the boss. She hasn't tried to headbutt me for a few days.

We have started buying raw milk from our neighbours which has really got us looking forward to when Brandy starts producing milk.

She is a rather small jersey and we have been advised by our neighbour Hairy to get her artificially inseminated the first few times so that we can select a small breeding line. Otherwise he thinks she will have trouble birthing.

Hairy also said I shouldn't be giving her mollasses everyday because it is sugar and will make her hyperactive- I guess that makes sense.

I'm really loving having her here. She is always hanging around the veggie patch when i am in it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

HOUSE COW is wormed with garlic

In the book The Healthy House Cow, cow-guru Marja says cows can be wormed for intestinal parasites using two full bulbs of garlic, once per month. She suggested crushing them with the skins on.

So, I just broke up two large bulbs of garlic into a couple of dozen small bulbs and smashed them up with the hammer. I mixed in some molasses and mulberry leave.

Brandy was very interested in the licking the molasses and eating the mulberry leaves and was trying to avoid actually eating any garlic.

I think I will have to mince it up smaller and try again.

Cow-guru also says the mulberry leaves are good for worms too. Brandy has striped the bottom branches of our mulberry bush. I have been going out into the yard and bending down the branches so she can reach the leaves. I think she loves me all the more for it.

I have also begun to feel a little less intimidated by her.

And I have been checking under her tail every morning for ticks. She doesnt really like me doing it, so I feel a little anxious about it. Im also trying to spend more time around her backside in general (sounds great doesn't it) and coming in to touch her udder from behind rather than just the side. I am trying to get he used to me touching her everywhere so that she is co-operative when it comes time for hand-milking.

Bill and I have been pulling ticks off her every morning.

I found this information about ticks on a government website:

usually affects cattle 18–36 months old;
very high risk with rain after drought — tick numbers are very low after long droughts and cattle growing up without being exposed are likely to be highly susceptible;
stress and pregnancy increase susceptibility; and
bulls are more susceptible than other cattle.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

HOUSE COW covered in ticks

This afternoon Xavier discovered a tick on Brandy's eye. I had no idea how I was going to get it off.

Bill suggested we drown the tick in butter....??? So he put a glob of butter half on the eye and over the tick. It didn't work.

Then I tried to get the halter on her so that I could try and keep her head still while I tried to get at the tick, and I couldn't figure out how the thing went on.

I called out to our neighbour Paul who grew up on a cattle property. He came over and got her straight in the headlock and pulled the tick right out. The he gave her a good going over and pulled off all these ticks I had missed, including ones from inside her ear.

But the worse part was herbum-hole and labia were covered in ticks, so I helped him pull them off too.

He has offered to come over and help me tick her ever few days. But I really have to get over my fear that she is going to kick me or stab me with her horn.

He was able to lift up each of her hooves and showed me a few handling techniques, and he figured out how to get the halter on too.

I am beginning to understand what people mean when they say that a house-cow is a lot of work.

I rang Brandy's former mum today to ask if she thought Brandy was just playing when she tries to horn me or if she is actually challenging me. She said:both. She said you have to train her like a dog. If she tries to horn you put the lead on and tie her up. If you have the lead on and she tries it again pull her head down so she can't do it.

Animal pyscology has never been my strong point. And I am beginning to wonder if I am mad for trying to do this organically in the world's tick capital!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

House Cow Turns Mean

Brandy tried to give me the horn this morning while I was giving her, her morning bucket. She seemed a bit jittery and wasn't happy with me ticking her. All this made me feel nervous that I was going to really cop a horn in the back or groin. So I didn't tick her and backed off. Which I think has made matters worse. I put the halter on her and lead her around to the front gate and tied her up to the fence. She wouldn't walk on the lead with me beside her, so I had to let her follow me- which she does anyway without a lead

I will leave her tied up for an hour or so to continue getting her used to it. I called my neighbour Hairy to come over and give me some pointers on handling her. He has a few milking cows and has knows how to show then who is boss.

I sense I am at an important junction in my relationship with Brandy. I think she is testing me to see who is boss, and this morning it was definately her. She is only 12 months, but already her size is so intimidating.

Monday, November 5, 2007

HOUSE COW's Morning Routine

This morning I went and bought a grooming brush for Brandy while Bill fixed the fence. My friend Karina who lives up the road has a house cow and she suggested I have a morning routine with Brandy. Feeding and grooming her at the same time every day- at the time that in future I will be milking her.
So this morning I chopped up some lucerine, calf muesli and this other pellet type thing, that Bill got at the rural supplies store, put it in a bucket and went out to the paddock and while she ate I groomed her. When she was finished she followed me back to the house and licked my hand. This is the first time Brandy has initiated physical contact with me, agh, it was a truly beautiful moment.
And the other amazing thing that happened today was I discovered potatoes in our veggie patch. Bill had chucked a few old rotten potatoes onto a garden bed. I saw something growing there and thought the leaves looked like potato. I noticed today that the leaves were dying back to I decided to have a dig around and pulled out six new potatoes- we will be having baked potatoes for with dinner tonight.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

HOUSE COW Does A Runner

One of the things Bill said in our 'discussion' about getting a house cow was: You will spend half your life trying to find her when she gets out.

Today Brandy did a runner~ Our neighbour's cows came down to the bottom paddock and Brandy started mooing at them and they started mooing back at her. And I did wonder if she might try and get out, but then forgot about it.

It was when I was about to go out that I discovered her gone. She got through our fence and the neighbours and was hanging out with a heard of beef cattle.

I mistakenly thought one was a bull so I was too scared to go in and try and get her. And I had no idea how to separate her from her new found friends.

Thankfully my neighbour Paul offered to help. We drove round the back and up to the top of the paddock and some home he managed to corner her and get her away from the rest of the heard. We then got her through the gate and back into our place.

I didn't realise cows were so social. Another neighbour who came around today said, "she is going to give you so much trouble unless you get her a companion." I don't think I can convince Bill that two cows will be easier than one.

When we got her back she was covered in ticks- which is disappointing because I back lined her with essential oils yesterday for ticks.

The vegie patch is doing well.

Friday, November 2, 2007

House Cow

We bought our "renovators dream" about two years ago when I was about 8 months pregnant with our third child. We had BIG plans. Two years later we have done nothing and I'm a bit fed up with it.
At the beginning of spring we dug up some garden beds and created a veggie patch . I've enjoyed growing vegetables so much that I have decided I am really going to get into this rural thing.
Actually, we live in a rural area but we only have a couple of acres with a decrepit old farmhouse on it. Still it is enough to try and be semi-self sufficient.
My partner doesn't share my enthusiasm for a house cow and chooks. But after much pestering he has commenced work on resurrecting the old chook house. And after days of , let's say lively discussion, he agreed on a house cow.
Our house cow, Brandy, arrived today. She is a 12 month old jersey cow. I had a look around at a few cows before I decided on her. A neighbour had some friesians that were in calf, but I wanted the jersey because they eat less and we only have about 3 acres of grass for her to graze on, and because the cream content in the jersey cow is higher. This is better for making cheese- which I also want to learn how to do.
I went and saw a farmer who had some jersey cows for sale. He got one into the yard for me to look at but as I tried to approach it, it ran away. I hadn't realised that cows need to be broken in.
Last week I saw and add in the paper for a 12 month old jersey who "will lead." This means she is used to having a halter on. So we went to look at her and were able to approach her with the owner and pat her. It was basically love at first sight.
She was delivered today. She cost $400 and it was $150 to have her delivered. Brandy is more used to people than she is other animals, so obviously we don't have to break her in.
Her previous owner bottle fed her from three days old and has been pulling her teats regularly to get her used to being handled, so that milking will be easier.
We have got her in the house-block at the moment and she is letting my partner, Bill, and I hand feed her, but when the kids approach she backs off.
We have bought a bag of calf muesli, $20, and a bale of hay,$15. The guy at the rural supplies store told Bill that is all we need to give her, if we have plenty of grass, and it will last about three weeks. So that's about $11.66 per week.
Our neighbour Sophie has given me a recipe for a natural tick repellent which is:
1 tbsp tea tree oil
1 tbsp eucalyptus oil
1 tbsp citronella
250 ml water
50 ml of cooking oil
Put it all in a spray pack and spray it down down the back and around the udder. She suggested I tie her to the fence while I am doing it because she probably wont like it.