Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Now the chooks are destroying the garden

Last year it was the cats, now it's the chooks. I have planted out the veggie patch three times and on each occasion the chooks have got in and obliterated everything.

I managed to raise everything from seed this year - last year the cats kept laying in the seed trays and I couldn't figure out why nothing would come up. So, all went well on that front, but when it came time to plant out, the chooks got in and un-planted the lot. The first time it happened I almost cried. The seond time it happened I did cry. The third time I simply went nuts and had a chook been at hand I would have happily trialed my friend, Kirrily's, neck-wringing method. Keeping them out has proved almost impossible.

Bill and I clipped their wings which was quiet a task. We had to catch them and hold them still while all three children screamed,"Don't cut their wings off, please Mummy, don't do it." Anyway, even with clipped wings they can still manage enough lopsided flight to get into the veggie patch.

Bill is now erecting new posts so that we can increase the height of our chicken wire fence. Fingers crossed this will be the solution.

The veggie patch is full of weeds and it has been a bit heartbreaking to see it so over-grown, but I have refused to do anything in there until the chook issue is solved.

I have been working full-time for the past three months. So, it has been a bit difficult to achieve anything. Things are kind of back to normal, although I am still putting in full-time hours at the moment. I am working on our local daily newspaper as a journalist which brings with it very long hours.

The other thing that has happened around here is spring chickens were born a week ago. Nine gorgeous little fluff balls. The children have really enjoyed watching it all. A few eggs were abandoned by the mother hen and inside two of them were almost fully-grown chicks who were trying to peck their way out. We helped them out, but they died.

Bill is feeling a bit overwhelmed by being a full-time house-dad and the amount of work that needs doing around this place. The pressure of me being at work is taking its toll too. I think he would be happy if we sold-up and moved into suburban house with a concrete backyard.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I am determined to grow most of my produce from seed this year. Last year's efforts were sabotaged by my cats who kept laying in my seed trays. It took me quiet a while to figure out what was happening.
So far so good. Lots of spinach is coming up.
I have a pretty sizable supply of compost too.
I have started a second worm colony. My friend Anna said that the worms get stripes on them when they are breeding up...mine don't. Mind you, at Anna's suggestion I added a layer of wet newspaper to the top of the worm farm, and the worms seem a lot happier. I will keep looking for the stripes.
Keeping the chooks out of the veggie patch is still proving to be difficult..
Looking forward to a good growing season ahead.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

नेवर वर्क विथ अनिमल्स और चिल्ड्रेन

I have no idea why the title of this blog is in Hindi-

Today I am being driven mad by animals and children. Brandy has been bellowing in her paddock since sun rise, and it really begins to get on your nerves after four to five house. The problem seems to be she is on heat again.

Somehow the children picked up on the cow-vibe and have all been doing their own versions of the cow-bellow, that is: the tantrum. The chooks won't stay out of the house or the veggie patch, the cats keep lying on top of my seedling trays and squashing the seedlings. I just found a chook laying an egg our bed. The only animals that are doing what they are supposed to are the worms.

Trying to be semi-self-sufficient is mostly satisfying, but some days it is a real pain in the arse.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sharing produce

A few weeks ago I met with some of our friends down at Peace Park in Nimbin to swap our surplus produce.

The idea was that we would all share what we have too much of, but that in coming together to barter we will create the inspiration to start becoming more self sufficient - and it seems to have worked.

The first swap went well, apart from the fact that half the people went to one park and the other half went to another- we eventually found one another. I took pumpkins, eggs and oranges- I came home with mandarins, bok choy, a loaf of Swedish rye bread and avocados. The next swap is happening next weekend at Hanging Rock Hall.

Everyone who went said it has inspired them to get into their garden.

The weather has warmed up a lot, and I have started summer plantings - we will still get a bit more frost, but within the next few weeks I should be able to get in a lot more stuff. I am still having great trouble getting seeds up - so this year I really want to work on getting that happening.

I've got an avocado tree to go in as soon as the frost is finished. I have also planted a custard apple, a lime tree, a bay tree. Already here was Guava, mulberry, oranges, lemons, mandarins, pears,plums, peaches, figs, mulberry, macadamia, pecan and an olive tree which is not baring any olives- apparently it has been too wet this year.

It is probably time to think about planting new citrus as the old stuff is very old and infected with rust mite- and I have tried white oil to control it with no luck.

The worms are doing really well living on cow poo. I am composting like mad for spring.

We harvested our potatoes, many of them were small. But we a lot of big ones too. I think I left it just a little too late to plant them. I will be replanting in the next few days, using the little ones as seeds.

The cows have been in the veggie patch a number of times later, it is amazing how much damage then can do in a few seconds. Brandy bit the heads off all my lettuces and the stems off the garlic- and her big hoofs trampled over the top of everything. The chooks are also proving to be opportunists, waiting for one of the children to leave the gate to the vegie patch open.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Worm Farm

I took custody of 1000 worms two days ago. I bought them from a local worm farmer for $33.oo.

They were delivered to work in a Styrofoam box and were covered in peat moss, which when pulled back revealed this squirming mass of tiny worms. They are a mix of three types of compost worm, the names of which I can't remember, and look just like earth worms you find in your garden, only smaller. However, compost worms won't survive in the garden- they live on compost, I've been told.

I have bought them for their castings, which I intend to use for a seedling mixture. I had thought they would make good chook food, but already I am too attached to them to feed them to the chooks.

I have two little black plastic worm farms that I have picked up at garage sales, which are essentially multi-layered boxes that pull apart. The worms can move freely between all the levels. The bottom level has a tap on it so you can drain off any liquid fertilizer the worms produce.

I have read a little bit about worm farming, but things in the book never really make sense until you try them out. So I am not really sure how it all works yet.

The worm dude told me to put food scraps into the blender with water and make a mush, or throw food scraps onto the lawn and run over them with the lawn mower or feed them cow shit...I am going for the cow shit option because it sounds easiest, and I have lots of it...plus the chooks eat the food scraps.

You just put the food in the top layer of the worm farm and top it up as required. I will have to look it up in my book as to whether I need to add water. Which I better do soonish....

The children were very excited about the worms...they really love having all the animals This morning they delighted in watching one of the new chooks lay an egg on Bill's grandmother's antique chaise lounge.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pumpkin soup

We grew around 100 pumpkins this year, straight out of the compost. So, pumpkin soup has been on the menu a lot lately and this has given me the chance to try and perfect my recipe.

This recipe is based on home-made chicken stock. See below for info on how to make your own chicken stock- it's really easy.

Ground pepper 1/2 teaspoon
salt 2 pinches
shredded garlic 4-6 bulbs
onions 2 medium
butter 2- 3 tablespoons
2 litres of chicken stock
1 large Jap pumpkin peeled and chopped

What to do:
Use large heavy based pot.
Soften onion slowly in butter on a low heat with the shredded garlic mixed in.
Add chicken stock and bring to a gentle boil.
Add pumpkin with salt and ground pepper.
Add water but do not fully cover pumpkin it should still be protruding by and inch or two.
Gently boil until soft.
Put mixture through blender than return to pot.
Stir on low and add 300mls of cream.

Should feed about 6 people

Chicken stock:
Take the carcass,bones and fat left over after a baked chicken diner, put it all in a pot with about 3 -4 litres of water and boil gently for 3 hours. Drain off the liquid and store in the fridge for up to five days.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Milling flour

Today I milled my own wheat and made muffins for the children. It was a surprisingly rewarding experience to take the food from such a raw unprocessed state to a baked product. The children were fascinated and all wanted to have a turn cranking the hand mill which I borrowed from our neighbors. It was a lot of work for six tiny muffins.

It took about 10 minutes to grind about 1 to 2 cups of flour. I put it on a coarse setting. I made the muffins with yeast and was doubtful they would it would react, but sure enough it did. The children really loved them and didn't seem to mind the texture.

It was interesting to see the amount of manual energy required to produce such a small amount of food.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Whole food experience.

Three days ago, inspired by Michael Pollan's book "In Defense of Food," my partner and I decided to adopt a more rigorous whole food diet for our family.
The main changes so far have been switching from Basmati rice to brown rice and from white pasta to wholegrain. The pasta has been no problem so far with the children. We have not tried the rice yet.
We have always eaten wholegrain bread so that is not an issue.
The other thing we are altering is the balance of grains to vegetables. The children love grains and so do we. I think we eat too many of them. I know I definitely do (but I eat too much of everything:) ).
So the trick will be to eat more leafy vegetables and salads. The children already eat a lot of fruit, so we don't need to make any changes there.
We have long used butter and whole fat milk, often fresh from our neighbors cow. So there are no changes required there.
Michael Pollan talks about the symbiotic relationship between people and food, and by growing food we are putting ourselves back into the food chain. The ideas in the book are not really new to me, but the way he has woven it all together as a philosophy of food, was inspiring.
We have good reasons to try and introduce this way of eating into our family.I am overweight and I suspect highly sensitive to refined grains. Diabetes runs in my family- my mother has mature age onset. Although it is not in my partners family, our children are still at risk. But of course, this risk can be reduced by diet and exercise.
I have been working in the garden a lot, the garlic, leeks and onions are thriving. I have made a greenhouse out of an old swing set and some shade cloth and I am raising seeds in it. Really looking forward to spring planting.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cell grazing

Our next-door-neighbor's dad came over for a drink the other night. He told me all about cell grazing. And we are going to try and adapt it to our property. Although we only have 1.5 acres, we also have the use of Gilbert's land next door, which is probably another acre. And we could also probably use some of Harry's 100 acre block across the road.

From what I can gather the key principle is constant rotation of stock through small paddocks.
It's based on the idea that livestock will eat the best pasture first. And they will eat it right back- this destroys hummus in the soil.

By keeping the livestock on the move, their impact on the environment is reduced because they graze more evenly across all paddocks.

It also reduces parasites because the host is removed before parasites have a chance to hatch- oh, and the other thing is you don't just go from one paddock to the next. You must move several paddocks away- to reduce the possibility of parasites finding the host.

In big properties the cells are set out like a wagon wheel, with the water supply in the middle.

The livestock are moved ever day.

Here we will only have three paddocks and I will move them weekly.

And now to the vegetable patch, we have around 60 pumpkins. The children have made a little stall in the cream shed selling our 'sun-cured chemical free' pumpkins for $2 each! So far we have made six dollars.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Chook update

The chook survived the dog attack and she has started laying again.

The dynamics in the chook shed has really changed since we lost two of the girls. The two chooks killed in the dog attack were the new ones that arrived with the rooster. Now that they have passed (as John Edwards would say) the other chooks have accepted the rooster.

The rooster hasn't started to crow yet.

The cows are doing well. Now that we have two, does that mean we have cattle?

As for the vegie patch- it is a little neglected. I picked the last cucumber last week and apart from that, the only thing coming out of there at the moment is marigolds.

I made some yogurt last night, but haven't baked a loaf of bread for weeks. I have been pretty busy with my job and business. I am also doing some post-grad study- I so wish I had not thrown myself into that- thank god for my house-dad.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dogs Kill Chooks

On Sunday we got home late, after sunset. The chooks had not been locked up. Two dogs came onto our property and killed two of the m.

A third chook has been seriously injured. She has spent the past few days just sitting in the chook shed. Yesterday she ventured out, but is just sitting down next to out water tank. The rooster is cuddling up to her - poor thing.

The two dogs traveled from the valley next to us, about 7kms.

The children were pretty upset about it- but at the same time they are learning valuable lessons about the life cycle.

Bill felt very guilty that he had not locked them up for the night- it was the very first time we had left the chook shed open after dark.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mayhem in the chookshed

The old chooks don't like the new chooks; the rooster is terrified and one of the new chooks is dead.

I didn't really understand, fully, what 'the pecking order' meant - but now I am witnessing it in my own chook shed. Since bringing home three new chooks and a rooster our old chooks have been very mean and are actually pecking the new chooks.

Hopefully it will sort itself out soon.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I bought three new chooks today and a rooster. I was planning on not mentioning to Bill that I had got a rooster, because he doesn't want one. But he noticed. He said, "Did you buy a rooster?"
So, I confessed. He seemed okay about it.
The chooks are kind of mongrels. I'm not sure what the breeds are.
The vegie patch is full of weeds. I have fallen behind because I have been so busy with work. I got in a did a fair bit of weed-pulling this afternoon. I need to get in and recover areas with cardboard and really get a propogation area happening.I am looking forward to winter so I can have a bit of a break from it. I put more potatoes in today.
Rosie is doing really well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

DUNG BEATLE vs Buffalo Fly

Rosie is settling and feeding well. Brandy alternates between being motherly and jealous. Yesterday when I took a bucket of milk out for Rosie and forgot to bring some pellets for Brandy she head-butted Rosie and then overturned her bucket (what a bitch).

I woke up this morning before sunrise and as soon as Brandy saw the light go on she began her moo-song. They were both waiting at the gate to be fed.

I ran into a friend, Tara, yesterday who had just been to a workshop on dung beatles. She told me they prevent buffalo fly. I mentioned this too my husband and he said- yes we have dung beatles, I see them in the poos the children do on the lawn :)- I will never reprimand them for not usung the potty again!

Tara said the idea is to increase dung beatle populations by importing them- they turn the manure to compost quikly and the buffalo fly has nowhere to lay eggs. You can order them and just put them on poo in your paddock. I think I will give it a go.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BUFFALO FLY- natural recipe

Brandy has been suffering from a buffalo fly infestation since her last holiday with the beef-cattle up the road. Her eyes were crusty and bloody. I had to use antibiotics from the vet.

For the treatment of the actual fly I ordered some organic stuff off the web. It was essentially a canola oil base with essential oils mixed in, but did not list which oils on the bottle. It was expensive at $29 per litre, plus another nine postage. One application is around 500mls. I have found I need to reapply it about every 4-7 days. So, I decided to have a crack at making my own.

We had a dinner party a few nights later and passed the bottle of organic buffalo fly stuff around the table. I got everyone to have a sniff and write down what they thought was in it- one of our guests was a winemaker- so he was very helpful.

Here is the list we came up with: eucyliptus, pine, orange, lavender and lemon myrtle.

So, I made my own concoction and added some neem oil for good measure. It works just as well as the bought stuff for just a fraction of the price. Essentially, it is a deodorant and can be used on backscratchers or just sprayed directly on- this is how I do it.

If it rains it needs to be reapplied. Otherwise just use when you notice more than 100 buffalo flies on your cow.


It's been a while since I have blogged, so here is the update. Brandy has now escaped many times- she seems to want to hangout with our neighbor's beef-cattle. So on Sunday we adopted her a baby calf. She is about 12 days old now and very cute.

The children have named her Rosie.

Rosie is an A2 jersey cow. We got her from a local A2 dairy. Here is a link to a website all about the benefits of A2 milk: www.a2milk.com

We were given some of her mother's milk and have been mixing it in with formula. The first day we forgot to heat it and couldn't work out why she wouldn't drink it. Anyway, heat it up, just like mamma's udder, and she is into it.

Brandy has taken her in well, licking her and mothering her. But when Rosie tries to suck on Brandy's udder, well, she gives her a kick.

Our thinking is that now Brandy has a friend she wont run away anymore???I feel like the woman who swallowed a spider to catch the fly. I don't know why?

We bought her home in the back of the VW and she was very calm all the way home. We put newspaper and hay on the floor.

We have now run out of her mother's milk. We used it to mix in with the formula to get her used to it. So, as off tomorrow she is just on formula. We bought a big bag of it for $75 and it should last 6-8 weeks. She is also having a little pick at the calf pellets we feed Brandy, but she is not very interested in them.

We are feeding her from a bucket twice a day. So far so good.

The veggie patch is slowing down now that it is getting cooler. I have done a some winter planting and have some potatoes to harvest soon. I haven't had nearly as much time for the garden as I would like. All the marigolds are in bloom but the sunflowers are dying back. The children love running around the little pathways I have made through the garden.

All four chooks are now laying- did I mention chook number five got bitten by a snake- she died. She was the head-chook and after her death it took the other chooks weeks to figure out how to get back in the chook shed. Bill had to run around every night at sunset and carry each one into the shed. It was hilarious. We are going to invest in some more chooks.