Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Slow living farm update - March 2015

I'm joining in the Slow Living Monthly Nine again, started by Christine at Slow Living Essentials and currently hosted by Linda at Greenhaven. How was your February?


Nourish
I’ve been thinking about eggs lately.  Pete and I eat eggs nearly every day, usually two each.  We are very happily ignoring the myths about cholesterol (catch up here and start enjoying eggs!).  I recently discovered that some people think they don’t have time for eggs in the mornings, so I really need to write a post about how to prepare eggs quickly (I have several methods).  The photo is Pete’s poaching pan, which is his preferred way to cook morning eggs.  We have also been feeding eggs to the chicks, and lately Pete has been cooking two for himself and two for the chicks every morning!




Prepare
Some of you will have heard about our recent cyclone sandwich.  While Tropical Cyclone Lam approached the Northern Territory coast from the west, Tropical Cyclone Marcia was approaching Queensland from the east.  I rushed home from Brisbane early just in case.  Pete and I are pretty quick with our storm preps now, and between us we made sure there was plenty of food, water, fuel and cash in the house just in case we ended up in an emergency situation.  I even rushed around and put away all the lose buckets that are an essential part of any homestead.  Cyclone Marcia took her time getting to us and in the end only dropped 90 mm of rain, so all the preps were unnecessary this time, but good practice because you never know when a real disaster is going to occur.  For example, while I was away for the weekend, there was a small earthquake in the South Burnett (some classic rural Aussie accents in that video!).  The irony being that I was in New Zealand, and by far the more likely one of us to experience an earthquake that weekend!




Reduce
We finally cleaned out the cheese fridge, as have not had milk for making more cheese for nearly a year now (poor timing and cows that pretend to be pregnant), we should have more milk coming soon!  We opened them all and about half were good.  About half had either mouldy, were too salty or had a weird texture.  I had hoped to REDUCE our plastic bags by waxing the cheese, but I still need to practice getting a good seal (to prevent the mould), so for now we sealed all the good cheeses in vacume bags and froze most of it.  In the meantime, we will instead reduce our power bill by turning off one fridge.




Green
I was really missing my twoworm farms when I’m at my weekday unit in Brisbane.  I hate throwing out perfectly good food scraps, so I was hoarding them in the fridge.  This was not a long term solution!  Pete helped me to modify a bokashi bin that we weren’t using and it’s now a mini worm farm for my city unit.  I could have just used bokashi, but I don’t like having to buy the bokashi powder and it doesn't seem to break down as quickly.  The bin just needed some air holes and its perfect for worms.  I’m using a dish underneath as a moat to keep out the ants and to keep the decking clean.





Grow
I shared my garden on Monday in my garden share post.  The little chicks are also growing and moved out to their own chicken tractor now.  And I've been working on my Chicken Tractor ebook, so its growing too, I put the blurb and contents page on the Chicken Tractor ebook site.  I'd love to know what you think!




Create
We have started the next room in our new/old removal house.  Its a slow process, but every hour we spend cleaning and sanding I feel like we are a little closer to moving in.  And it feels good to have the one room done, we can at least see what the house will look like when we're finished.



Discover
I have been reading several books by Eric Toensmeier on perennial gardening lately.  I found that I already have many of the plants that he mentions, and there are several more that I would like to try.  I'll write more about this soon, here are the books that I have enjoyed (affiliate links):

Enhance
My articles for Grass Rootsmagazine have become a regular routine now, and its fun to try to think of topics that will interest GR readers and to write for people who don’t always follow my blog (I find I need to include more context).  Recently I was also approached by Hoofbeats magazine and asked for an article on water quality.  Although I know nothing about horses, I do know about water, so it was an interesting challenge and the editor helped me add in some horse references to suit their audience.  Next they have asked for more information about our solar bore.  I really need to do a whole series on this as I’m sure it will be useful.




Enjoy
Finally, my lovely Pete was kind enough to make it possible for me to pop home to NZ for a weekend to catch up with a long-lost cousin and some very good friends.  It was a FREEZING Wellington weekend and I had to borrow a coat, but it really was wonderful to see everyone.  It was also very nice to be home again because I didn’t see Pete for two weeks (and I missed the dogs).









Phew!  February went by so quickly!  How was it for you?  What are you planning for March?


Monday, March 2, 2015

Garden Share - March 2015

In February we had very little rain until the last weekend, in which we got the tail-end of Tropical Cyclone Marcia and about 90 mm of rain.  I was away one weekend, and so for two whole weeks Pete was in charge of the garden, and he also worked on the Saturday.  This combined with the dry and then wet weather made for an odd combination in the harvest basket when I got home!  Giant button squash, giant beans and not much else had survived.  But it did started to grow again when we got the rain.

I picked the first rosellas and I dug up some arrowroot.  We still have plenty of basil, and now other self-seeded herbs are appearing, including parsley, dill, chervil and coriander.

The harvest basket

so many giant beans...

The giant chilli bush is starting to produce chillies


I can never grow brassicas in summer - not sure if its slugs or caterpillars to blame

pretty happy that what I thought was a cucumber is actually a tromboncino

lettuce for summer salads is going ok

virtually all greens are frizzled apart from this clump of warrigal greens

Pete's hydroponic tomatoes are doing well

Jobs for March - set up some string to tie up the hydroponic tomatoes, keep weeding and mulching, think about sprinkling out some seeds for winter crops.

What are your planning for March?  How was your February?






Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Five acres and a dream - book review

Starting a homestead, or just living more sustainably where you are, is a daunting project.  There are so many factors to think through.  First you might get chickens to provide eggs, but then you have to think about what you will feed them, do you want to rely of store bought feed or try to grow your own?  Are you going to hatch your own to replace the layers as they get old?  With an electric incubator or a broody hen?  Are you going to kill and eat the older hens or the roosters?  Each decision leads to another, and gradually you piece together a sustainable life that meets your needs.




Fortunately there are many great blogs and books around that step through the thought processes of other homesteaders.  One that I have particularly enjoyed recently is Leigh Tate's book called 5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead (affiliate link here).  Leigh also writes a blog called 5 Acres & A Dream, which details their progress towards self-sufficiency.

The book is not really a "how to" book, but more about the planning stage of homesteading.  Leigh explains all the aspects of life that they considered as they set up their property and the decisions that they made, with chapters such as "defining our goal" and "developing a master plan".  Most of these decisions will not suit everyone, but everyone can work through the same process and find the best way to set up their own homestead.

There is plenty of detail in the chapters on self-sufficiency in food (people and animals), energy and water.  Again, not every decision that Leigh and her husband made will work for your situation, but its the thinking process that is important.  Leigh also shares both what worked for them and what didn't work.  There are some very sad stories about plans, and even animals, that didn't make it for various reasons, and Leigh shares the lessons learnt from these unfortunate incidents and experiments in a matter-of-fact and open manner.

Usually I say that US books don't suit our climate, but for once I think Leigh is working in quite a similar climate as she doesn't get snow.  A root cellar is not a sensible idea for either of us, but its cold enough for a woodstove.  I think its interesting to consider why a root cellar (or a woodstove) is a wonderful idea in some climates, but ridiculous in others, and rather than blindly following all homesteading or permaculture concepts, try to understand where they are appropriate, and use or adapt the ones that make sense for our climate and situation.  Personally I don't think its worth us making a huge effort to preserve food as we can grow food all year round, but for those who get snow, preserving is an important part of self-sufficiency.

Leigh's book sets out a template for anyone who is thinking about self-sufficiency, and describes how to assess each area of life and how you might provide for yourself from your own property.  She also discusses how its not possible for them to do everything and that work must be prioritised to avoid being overwhelmed.  They have town water connected, so rainwater is not a priority.  Similarly for us, we have electricity connected, so we haven't tried to go off-grid.  Having a clear understanding of the goals for your homestead helps to prioritise projects and finish one at a time rather than having many half-finished projects in the shed (guilty!).

Have you read any good homesteading books lately?  Do you love Leigh's blog too?

PS Leigh didn't actually send me the book to review, I bought this one myself because I wanted to support her efforts and I think its amazing that she published her own book!  I have included affiliate links in case you want to buy it through my Amazon links because then I get a small percentage of the sale.


Monday, February 23, 2015

How I use herbs - purslane

You might know purslane (Portulaca oleracea) as a weed, its also known as verdolaga, pigweed, little hogweed, red root, pursley, and moss rose. It is an annual succulent, native to India and Persia, that spreads and produces tiny yellow flowers. It can have green or red stems. It seems to be prevalent in most temperate climates and has been used since ancient times as both a medicine and a food.




How to grow purslane?
You may gather wild purslane, or you may want to cultivate it in your garden (and have some control over your supply). It starts easily from seed, and is one of those wonderful plants that produces copious seeds, so you will always have some in your garden. Apparently it tolerates poor compacted soils, and drought (I have seen it growing in a gravel on our farm tracks), so I guess this combined with the amount of seeds, explains why it is considered a weed.

Even better, purslane can benefit other plants in your garden. Purslane provides ground cover, which assists with retaining soil moisture. Its deep roots bring up moisture and nutrients that other plants can use, and some will follow purslane roots down through harder soil that they cannot penetrate alone.

purslane seeds

How to eat purslane? (and why you should consider eating a weed)
Purslane is not a herb that you will see in the vegetable section of your supermarket, or mentioned in many recipes (here's some!), but there are good reasons to seek out this weed. The main reason is that Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. We need a source of omega-3 to balance all the omega-6 that we eat in processed foods and grain-fed meat (see my review of Toxic Oil for more details). Like all leafy greens, it also contains beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Now are you glad that is grows like a weed so you can include it in every meal? Purslane has a bland taste, like a slightly sour lettuce. When chopped up in a salad or added with other herbs to a hot meal, it does not affect the taste. This is one herb that I don’t use as a tea, as the main benefit is from consuming the herb.

This would also be a good one to feed to stock (I don’t quite grow enough yet to spare some for the chickens, but I heard that they like it).

I am happy to allow this weed to grow in my garden, not only is it a nutritious addition to any meal, it grows with barely any attention from me, perfect for a permaculture garden.

Do you grow and eat purslane intentionally?

How I use herbs - Mint, Peppermint and Spearmint
How I use herbs - Aloe Vera
How I use herbs - Basil
How I use herbs - Ginger, galangal and turmeric
How I use herbs - Marigold, calendula and winter taragon
How I use herbs - Soapwort
How I use herbs - Comfrey
How I use herbs - Nasturtium
How I use herbs - Parsley
How I use herbs - Borage
How I use herbs - Herb Robert

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Using compression fittings on poly ag pipe

If you want to move water from one place to another on your property, you will probably use poly pipe, or "ag" (agriultural) pipe.  Ag pipe comes in a range of sizes, from 3/4 inch to 2 inch nominal diamer, and in high and low pessure ratings (900 and 800 kPa respectively).  The larger the diameter, the more you will pay for the pipe and the fittings, but the less energy you will need to pump water through the pipe for a given flowrate.

When you have decided what size pipe and which pressure you want, you will probably need some fittings.  The fittings are "compression" fittings, which means they use a "ferrule" and an o-ring compressed to the pipe to seal the fitting.  (Would you believe that there is a Wikipedia article that explains this?).  When buying fittings, make sure you get the right size, and the right pressure rating, as its very difficult to get the high-pressure fittings to work with the low-pressure pipe! The high-pressure pipe has thicker walls, so it needs different fittings. Also try to stick to one brand so that you can swap the parts around.

If you need to connect to a tank, a trough or a pump, for example, you will probably also need a normal screw-in fitting, so you will have a compression fitting on the end that connects to the pipe and a screw-in fitting on the other end.  You may also then need other bits and pieces to change the size (reducers and expanders).  Pete is really good at picking through all the bits in the ag supply store and building a fitting that works (they don't always have exactly what we need), don't be afraid to mix and match, often there are a number of possible options, so play around until you find the easiest or cheapest way to what you need to do.

Pete is also good at installing the fittings, which he did when we connected the 900m of ag pipe in 100m sections from our solar bore pump to the highest point on our property.  You will need a hack-saw, a file and a soft mallet (and a lot of patience if someone is taking photos of every step, this post was made possible by Pete!).




First cut the end of the pipe square with the saw.  Then file any rough edges inside and outside, to make sure the pipe will seal evenly.  Pete has a clever scraper tool to do the inside, but a file would also work.  Then slip the outer compression nut (the big piece on the right in the photo below) onto the pipe, then the ferrule, and then gently tap the inner piece into the pipe (it might need some force, but try not to damage it and don't lose the o-ring).  Finally, you can screw the outer compression nut into the middle part of the fitting (far-left).  It doesn't need to be extremely tight, because its actually the ferrule and the o-ring that are sealing the pipe, and you might want to get it undone again one day, so just tighten it without using any tools for extra leverage.  When you have finished, you can check for leaking fittings and tighten more if required.

(left to right: the middle part, the bit that goes inside the pipe, the ferrule,
and the outer compression nut)

The only trouble we have had with these fittings is trying to combine low and high pressure fittings and pipe, and when the ag supply store doesn't have exactly what we need.  Now we know what to look for, its been much easier!  And now we try to stick to one brand, so that we can interchange parts.  We installed t-sections on all the joins this time, so that we can connect to troughs if we want to, but we could also remove the t-sections and install blank joiners later if we want to.

Have you used compression fittings for ag pipe?  Any tips?

Here's the step-by-step photos

eight acres: how to use ag pipe compression fittings
Cutting the end square - important for making the seal work


eight acres: how to use ag pipe compression fittings
Filing the end

eight acres: how to use ag pipe compression fittings
putting it together

eight acres: how to use ag pipe compression fittings
Tightening the fitting

eight acres: how to use ag pipe compression fittings
The finished product
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Eat Drink Paleo - book review

I keep seeing that word Paleo pop up and I keep thinking I should really find out more about it, so when Penguin asked me if I would like to review Eat Drink Paleo The Cookbook (by Irena Macri), I said "yes please".  Irena has a blog of the same name and a passion for Paleo cooking.  Click here to visit Eat Drink Paleo The Cookbook .

eight acres: Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook review


While this book is a cookbook and does not get into the detail of Paleo (although Irena suggests a number of books to read if you want to know more) it does cover the basics and presents a wide range of recipes.  Basically, the aim of the Paleo lifestyle is to eat and exercise more like our distant ancestors would have done.  That means no processed foods, no grains and legumes, no potatoes and no dairy.  It also means lots of free-range meat and eggs, fresh veges and fruit and good oils like coconut and olive oil.  Its much like how we eat now, except we would have to give up grains and legumes (I only eat a small amount at the moment) and dairy and eat more coconut.


eight acres: Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook review
Paleo pumpkin soup

The only problem I have with Paleo is the amount of coconut that is featured.  I looked it up, Australia does not grow coconuts.  All coconut products are imported.  I don't mind using a little coconut here and there and supporting developing countries, but I don't want to live on it.  Meanwhile, I can raise a dairy cow and make my own dairy products, sustainably, on my farm.  Irena does promote what she calls a "80:20" approach to Paleo and she includes some dairy in her recipes.

eight acres: Eat Drink Paleo The Cookbook review
Paleo fritters

Whether you're attracted to Paleo because of the health benefits or you just want to try using some different ingredients, you will find this cookbook very interesting.  You will know from previous cook book reviews that I am hopeless at actually trying recipes.  Well I made an effort this time, encouraged by the fact that Irena actually instructs you to play around with the recipes.  That's fine with me, because I tend to use what I have rather than buying the exact ingredients.  And so far everything has turned out extremely tasty.


eight acres: Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook review
Paleo goat balls

I have made the paleo pumpkin soup (unfortunately not our pumpkin, but I did dig up some galangal and tumeric for the occasion!).  For the meatballs we used goat mince (not our own, from a local grower) and I forgot to add the ginger, but I threw in some purslane!  I made the fritters with left over homegrown chicken.  They were nice, but I wasn't convince with the tapioca flour.  I made the cakies and added cacao nibs, and a mixture of walnuts and pecans (almond meal is EXPENSIVE and we had a stash of nuts that needed cracking).  Apart from the fact that I burnt them (cooking in the BBQ is tricky, but I didn't want to heat the house with the oven), they were very tasty.


eight acres: Eat Drink Paleo The Cookbook review
Burnt cakies - my fault for insisting on using the BBQ

And finally, I got all Paleo and made my own recipe for coconut ice cream.  One can coconut cream, one can coconut milk, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp honey and 2 tbsp vanilla essence (homemade!).  I had to put it in the blender because the cream had gone a bit solid, then I churned it in our hand ice cream maker and put it in the freezer.  YUM!


 eight acres: Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook review
My own Paleo coconut ice cream

Irena has a very generous affiliate program, which I have joined, so I get a percentage from every book you buy through my link:  Click here to visit Eat Drink Paleo The Cookbook  I am quite proud of actually (kind of) trying some recipes from this book, and I found some that I really liked.  Maybe I should try using recipes more often....  As for Paleo, I think the way that we eat now is pretty close, but I'm going to read a few of the more detailed books that Irena suggests and see if I can be convinced.

What do you think of Paleo?  Have you tried any Paleo recipes?  Do you follow recipes?



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Renovating a Queenslander ( + what is a Queenslander?)

We have started painting our Queenslander. And by “started painting” I mean, we started sanding, its a long process. Its an old house and it has been painted many many times before, we are just adding another layer.

eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one


If you’re now wondering “what is a Queenslander?”, its a style of house unique to the tropics and sub-tropics of Queensland, Australia. It has a broad definition, but you know one when you see one, generally a Queenslander is:

  • timber construction with corrugated-iron roof; 
  • highset on timber (or metal) stumps (can be anywhere from 1 m to 2 m off the ground) ; 
  • single-skin cladding for partitions and sometimes external walls (i.e. vertical join (VJ) walls); 
  • surrounded by verandas front and/or back, and sometimes the sides; 
  • adorned with decorative features to screen the sun or ventilate the interior. 

eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

Someone asked on facebook if our house has a foundation. The short answer, is no, it doesn’t have a slab, it sits on stumps of 75mm box section (RHS) that are concreted into the ground, the house sits around 1m above the ground. All our plumbing and wiring run under the house. I think there were 40-something stumps, that was part of the work our house removalist did when he moved the house to our property. There are some good reasons for putting the houses up on stumps:
  • Before the invention of strong pesticide chemicals, this was the best way to prevent termites entering the house, by placing a termite tray on top of the stump, you can easily check for termite entry points (they don’t like to be exposed to light, so they build mud tunnels to get over the tray, or up metal stumps)
  • Extra ventilation due to airflow under the house
  • Prevents flooding of the house during tropical storms
  • Less concrete is required, so it is cheaper than a slab house
  • If its high enough, the space underneath can be a nice cool place to sit
We lived in a Queensland before our house at Eight Acres and we swore we would never own one again. They are a huge amount of work to maintain the wooden weatherboards, internal walls and decorative features. Our last house was hot in summer and draughty in winter. The verandas had been built in and the layout was a bit odd. And like most Queenslanders, it had been renovated with asbestos sheeting at some stage of its life, so we had to be careful drilling holes in some walls.

But it must have had some effect on us, because when we saw that removal house for sale, we forgot all our issues with Queenslanders and bought it anyway! I have to admit that Queenslanders do have some lovely features. While this one also has the weird layout, it does still has most of its original verandas. We are starting from scratch here and will remove all the asbestos from the bathroom before we work on it, we plan on dealing with it once correctly and never having to worry about it again. Because we moved the house, we were able to select a more appropriate orientation, which combined, with insulation in the roof and a light roof colour, means that so far the house is very cool in summer (it is also better sealed that the previous house, so may be nicer in winter, we will soon find out!).

Our current challenge is painting. These are the steps to take when painting your Queenslander:
  • Repeat after me “this is not a new house, it hasn’t been a new house for a long time, its never going to look like a new house again unless you want to spend a huge amount of time and money on it, accept this now and you will get your painting done before the next millennium”
  • Remove all nails, screw, stickytape, bluetak, stickers and hooks from the walls and ceiling of the room, cover and tape up the brand new fans (that you had to install to get council approval, but it would have been nice to do this after you painted!).
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one


  • Start sanding – I recommend that you use at least one electric sander (we have four different sanders!) because this is going to take a lot of work. We don’t sand back to bare wood, as the first room had at least five coats of paint and the top coat was not in bad condition. If you sand off the gloss and then use a good primer, you don’t need to sand back to wood (repeat step one if necessary, or you will never stop sanding)
  • Wash the walls with sugar soap – the paint can said to do this before sanding, but that seems like more work because you then have to wipe off the dust anyway, so we washed after sanding and made sure we got everything clean.
  • Fill the gaps in the VJs – if you’re lucky they have been filled before and still look good, but we could see through the wall into the next room between some boards, and this may be because we had the house moved. We filled between all VJs that had a visible gap (again, step 1 helps here).
  • Primer – its worth using a good primer, this stops the previous paint coming through, especially if its a strong colour or oil-based.
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one

  • PAINT! Finally you get to paint on your colour, what a huge amount of work to get to this step, but its going to look great. Two coats will ensure a good finish. We are using “Tapestry Beige” on the walls and “Light Leather” on the doors and door frames. It would be lovely to paint it all white, but when you live on red dirt and never have clean hands, its just not practical. 
eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one


eight acres: what is a Queenslander and how to renovate one



Have you renovated a Queenslander? Or an old house? Love them or hate them?


Monday, February 9, 2015

Planting a perennial pasture

We have been talking about perennial pasture for months now. Actually I wrote about it in July 2013, so its been nearly two years in the planning and discussing phase. This weekend we bought pasture seed, ploughed up about 10 acres and planted the first section of our 60 acres of cultivation land with a perennial pasture mix. What were we waiting for?  Rain mostly, and also just deciding what to plant and how to plant it....

eight acres: planting a perennial pasture
ploughing the paddock one last time

Here’s what I wrote before about why we wanted to try to establish a perennial pasture instead of growing forage for our cattle:
When we looked at how much we had spent on diesel, seed, and fertiliser just to plant these forage crops, which never made it to hay bales, we started to question whether it was really worth doing. Forage crops do have more energy and protein compared to perennial grasses, but they cost more to grow and are unpredictable in dry-land farming.

From a permaculture perspective, all this driving around in the tractor, ploughing and planting, when we could be just maintaining a perennial pasture, is not really optimising our yield. On a monetary basis, maybe when diesel and fertiliser were cheaper this was worth doing, but from what we have seen so far, and given that costs are only going to increase, we would be better to maintain a perennial pasture. And on a time and energy basis the arrangement is far from optimal. A perennial pasture that is established and just needs to be maintained with both careful management of cattle and the occasional dose of fertility enhancers would be more optimal in terms of energy, time and money. While we do occasionally need some hay if we have a really bad season, it would also be better for us to let the cattle do the harvesting, by strip grazing the paddock, instead of driving around making and stacking bales. And we can make hay from perennial pasture instead of planting forage.

As I explained in that post, our pasture currently consists mainly of African Love Grass.  Our cattle do eat it when its green, and to be honest, it is the first grass to grow after winter and is has sustained our cattle thus far. Unfortunately its the best grass we have, compared to blue couch and some other very feeble natives, but there are plenty of better species that we can plant. The three desirable traits in a pasture grass are:
  • Perennial - live for more than 2 years
  • Palatable - high proportion of leaf and actively selected by stock
  • Productive - produce large quantity of useful forage.
The main options in our climate and soil are:

Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana) 

Blue grass (Bothriochloa insculpta)

Digit grass (Digitaria eriantha spp. Eriantha)

Green Panic Panicum maximum var. trichoglume - (more useful in shaded areas)

More information about pasture in South East Queensland here and here.

eight acres: planting a perennial pasture


All of these are grasses produce tall, thick blades of delicious grass. The first two are spreading, while the others are tufted. We decided to plant a blend of the first three, with a legume (wynn cassia, which seems to grow well at our property)

I would have liked to plant and even wider variety, but we were limited by the cost of seed and the logistics of setting up the cultivator drill to plant the seed. We had some robust discussions about whether or not to plough. In the end we decided that one paddock really did need to be ploughed as it hadn’t been cultivated since we moved the house through that paddock, and it was starting to sprout some rather large wattle trees and had some bare patches with hard packed soil. Another area is starting to have some good grass established without our intervention, and so we probably won’t plough that area. 

eight acres: planting a perennial pasture
 

We used the “off-set” disc plough, which effectively turns the top of the soil, so the weeds growing in the paddock turned in as “green manure” and we didn’t worry about it being perfectly smooth or weed-free. We took some of the “boots” off the cultivator so that the seed would spray out more randomly, and the tynes were just touching the ground, so most of the seed sat on top or just below the soil. We mixed up a ratio of one bag Rhodes grass (the cheapest) and about half a bag each of Digit and Blue grass respectively, with a bit of Wynn Cassia mixed in. I would have like to get seed without a coating (I don’t even know what’s in the coating, but judging by the bright colours, I assume its not good, usually its has a fungicide), but it is very difficult to plant uncoated grass-seed as it tends to be very fluffy.

The afternoon after we planted we got some decent rain over the property, so we are hoping to continue to get showers through February and start to get this pasture established! We will be ploughing and planting the entire cultivation area (60 acres) gradually (and as usual, “we” means Pete drives the tractor and I cheer from the sidelines and open the occasional seed bag). After a very hot weekend, we were both very pleased to say, “if this works, that’s the last time we have to plough that ground”.

Not only is ploughing boring, hot, dusty, diesel-consuming work, it doesn’t help our soil. It destroys soil structure, and harms the microbial and macro-bial life in the soil (i.e. earthworms, if we have any). If we put our effort into building soil instead of ruining it, we should eventually see a more productive property and higher carrying capacity. We struggled to keep 20 cows and calves on 258 acres, so we certainly have room to improve!


Have you planted (or do you maintain) a successful perennial pasture?  What do you look for in you pasture?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Slow living farm update - February 2015

As we come into the final hot month of summer, I'm joining in the Slow Living Monthly Nine again, started by Christine at Slow Living Essentials and currently hosted by Linda at Greenhaven. How was your January?



Nourish
We roasted one of our frozen chooks (roosters from last year’s hatch) and after carving the meat, I popped the carcass into the slow cooker to make chicken stock. I just add a carrot, celery from the garden, an onion and some herbs and leave it cooking for 24 hours or more. Then I put it in the freezer in small containers to use in cooking. Real stock with lots of gelatine is healing and makes everything tasty without the need for “packets” or additives.  (More about making stock in the slow cooker here)



Prepare
We made more soap from our beef tallow, this time using some zeolite to colour it, and an essential oil mixture for scent.  We are pretty confident about using our tallow to make soap now.  And we have a lot of soap to use up after all that practicing!  We haven't bought soap for a couple of years now though, and now we have some nice bars to use as gifts.



Reduce
I wrote over a year ago that we were sick of ploughing and planting forage for our cattle, and had plans to plant perennial pasture. We have been waiting for rain, and this year it has arrived and we have started planting. This is all part of our plan to improve our property and reduce the work and diesel required to maintain it.  I will write more about what grass species we chose and how we planted.




Green
We hatched 24 chicks! This year is the first year we haven’t bought a commercial chick raising mix. We are feeding them cracked grain, supplemented with meal worms, compost worms, dry dog biscuits and mashed up hard boiled egg! They certainly need the extra protein and go crazy (eating as quickly as they can and running around chasing each other) when we put these foods in the chick brooder for them. I am hoping that this is a success because I hate buying the commercial mixes with antibiotics that we don’t need, or trying to source an organic alternative.




Grow
I wrote about my garden on Monday for the Garden Share Collective.




Create
This year I am making an effort to sew! I have my fabric stash and my pattern collection and a book to help me. This is my first effort, a little top to wear to work.  After that I sat down and mended several items (that may have been in my mending bag for over a year!).  Now I just need to maintain the momentum…



Discover
I keep hearing about Paleo and thinking I should find out more. Penguin sent me Irena Macri’s “Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook”, which is a lovely book. It hasn’t answered all my questions, but it has pointed me in the right direction to read other books. I’m going to make a few of the recipes and then I’ll write a full review, in the meantime, check it out on Amazon here: Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook.



Enhance
The other thing I’ve been working on is my chicken tractor ebook “Design and Use a Chicken Tractor”. Chicken tractors are a very popular topic on my blog, so I’m keen to share more and tell you everything I know about the topic. I’ve written about 3500 words, so I’m about quarter of the way there. I started a little blog to keep you updated on the ebook. Check it out here if you’re interested.





 Enjoy
These past few weekends we have been painting our new/old removal house. Its not particularly enjoyable at the time (although I don’t mind it, I do start to get sore shoulders when we do the ceilings!). However, the end result is fantastic. Not only does it look so much nicer than peeling dirty paint, it signifies that we are one step closer to moving, and that is a wonderful feeling.  Taz seems to enjoy helping (its been too hot for Cheryl though).


tapestry beige on the walls, still need to do the doors...
How was your January?  What are your plans for February?

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