Friday, December 19, 2014

Four years of blogging!

I’m going to say something really obvious here (just warning you), I can’t believe I’ve been posting on this blog for four whole years! I feel like its a massive milestone for me, and also a time to reflect.

I do find that I tend to get a little obsessed about the stats on my blog. I love to watch the numbers increasing, the numbers of followers, pages views and likes on facebook, but that is not a REASON to blog, and I think it can distract me from my reasons I started and continue this blog.



I started writing the blog because I wanted to share what Pete and I were learning about farming and self-reliance. I didn’t know about homesteading or prepping at the time, I just thought we had some experience that might be useful to other people. To be honest, I didn’t know ANYTHING about blogging when I started, I only began to read other blogs and comment so that they would visit my blog! But then I discovered how much I could learn from other blogs, and I’ve made a few blogging friendships as well. Its one sure way to find other people with common interests! Even better, I now have a record of things that we did, so that I can refer back in years to come.

As I started to look at other blogs, I realised that people were making money from blogging. I never started this blog to make money, I had no idea that was even possible! Even though it wasn’t my original intention, I have been making a few attempts to monetise my blog mainly because I found that I like writing and I’d like to be able to justify spending more time on it, rather than just a hobby in my spare time. This isn’t easy because I really want to also stick to my values, and that means I don’t want to just sign up to random ads about flat tummies. I have approached a few companies that I wouldn’t mind advertising, but no interest so far. I have some affiliate links, which bring in a little bit, and I appreciate all of you who have made a purchase through my “book store”, as I recently received nearly $20 credit from Amazon! When you buy books through my site, I can buy more books! I have also sold a few copies of my ebook “Our experience with house cows” and had some lovely feedback, so I hope that it will continue to help people get started with house cows.

With all this in mind, I need to take time to work on my next ebook “How to build and use a chicken tractor”, or I will never get it done! That will be one more option for people to support my blog in future. I’ll be back in January, but not as frequently, just until I make some progress. By then I’ll probably have a massive backlog of blog post ideas, but if you do have a question or topic that you would like me to write about, please send me an email or comment below.

Thanks everyone who has followed this blog, whether you’ve been here from the start or only recently, please know that every page view gets me unjustifiably excited! The best part is comments, and I know I’m TERRIBLE at replying, but I do love to read your comments, some make me chuckle and some make me think, but they are all good.

I think I’ve covered everything we got up to in 2014 in the summary posts over the past couple of weeks. Next year, I expect we will have a new roof on the house, the solar bore pump completed, progress with bees and lots of garden time. Thanks again for sticking with me and joining in here and on facebook. I hope you have a break over Christmas and I’ll see you next year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reading books in 2014

I read a lot of books, and I like to share with you the ones that I think will be useful.  I know that there are many things that you need to learn by doing rather than reading, but I still learn an awful lot from reading!  You can find all my book reviews here, also please see my Amazon book shop (links to a page on my blog) if you want to browse the books I recommend.  If you purchase through my site I get a small percentage as Amazon book vouchers (so it goes straight to buying more books for me to review!) and it doesn't cost you any extra.

Here's what I read in 2014


Valley Bee open day - learning about bee keeping

Silent Spring - book review

Teaming with Microbes - book review


Keeping a family cow - book review

Monday, December 15, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

Growing food in 2014

Growing food in 2014 has been a challenge, but I think 2013 prepared me for the worst.  Our climate is both freezing in winter and dry and hot in summer, so planning for both extremes is not easy.  I am gradually learning what does grow well, when and how to get the most from our greywater.  I've written about climate and farming, as well as vege gardening.  And I've written about one herb every month, which has helped me to learn more about the herbs in my garden.  Here's what I wrote about growing food in 2014:



Growing vegetables
Setting up another worm farm
Growing and eating chokos (chayotes)

Seed saving and seed swap
Does growing vegetables save you money?





 Our frustrating climate
Surviving the QLD Heat Wave(s)
Can't buy me rain....
Frost - what is it and how to manage it

Thoughts on farming
Who is a farmer?
Deadstock



My Herb Garden
How I use herbs
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 t...
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



Permaculture and some wonderful guest posts
Permaculture on Eight Acres
Permaculture - Produce no Waste - with Linda from Greenhaven
How I use Permaculture - with Chris from Gully Grove
Permaculture - applying the basics with Homehill Farm
Planning a property using permaculture

Summaries from previous years....
What I wrote about my garden in 2013
How my garden grew - 2012 Update


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Real food in 2014

I wrote surprisingly little about food in 2014, maybe I didn't get so much time to experiment.  We certainly ate a lot of real food, even though I've been travelling to Brisbane during the week, we still cook bulk meals over the weekend, so that we can both eat well during the week.  We try to cook with meat from our freezer (mostly our animals, but also locally raised meat), from our garden and from swaps and barters.  We spend very little at the supermarket and that makes me very happy.  We cook either in the woodstove (winter), the slow cooker or the Webber BBQ and rarely use our electric oven.  Here's what I wrote about food in 2014:

Meat
Cooking old chooks
Should you eat animal products?

Veges
Dried garlic granules
How to sprout - Fenugreek
How to sprout - chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Fermenting
Fermented mustard
Using a sourdough cake starter for everything
My soaked dough bread recipe
Kombucha - fermented tea is not for me!

Dairy
Cheese-making tips and tricks
Which milk should I drink?

Husbands :)
Ginger syrup

From previous years
All my thoughts on real food for 2013
Real Food in my Kitchen - 2012 update

A few photos to prove that I did cook!









Monday, December 8, 2014

Our animals in 2014

On our farm we have dogs, cattle (the house cows being a special category) and the chickens (also guinea fowl until recently).  They all offer entertainment and learning opportunities.  This is what I wrote about our animals in 2014.


The dogs - Cheryl and Taz
What I've learnt about puppies

Training our Taz - puppy months and dog years

Dog box update

Happy Birthday Puppy Taz!




The cattle
Cattle fencing tips for small farms
Solar electric fence energiser
How to join electric fence polywire

Branding our cattle - Part 1 - registering a brand
Branding our cattle - Part 2 - how to brand

Animal behaviour and staying safe around cattle

Keeping a bull on a small farm

Lantana poisoning killed our little bull
How to give an injection to livestock




The house cows (special cattle)
How to tell if your house cow is on heat
House cow milking schedule

The story of our house cows
The story of our cows - Part 2

And my ebook "Our experience with house cows", available over at my house cow ebook blog.



The chickens (and the last of the guinea fowl, and some guest posts about ducks)
Keeping multiple roosters
Choosing chooks - which chickens are best for you?
Raising chickens for meat
Why do we have so many chickens?

Guinea Fowl Realities

Getting Started with Ducks - Megan from Purple Dancing Dahlias
Getting Started with Ducks - Kim from Oasis Biodynamic farm
Getting started with ducks - Tracy from Sunny Corner farm

Summaries from previous years....
Beef and dairy cattle posts in 2013

Cattle for beef and dairy - 2012 Update
Chickens for meat and eggs - 2012 update

Friday, December 5, 2014

How I use herbs - lemon balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is part of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and even though I already wrote about mint, peppermint andspearmint in my garden, at the time I didn’t have lemon balm. I only recently got a cutting from Pete’s parents and its doing really well in my garden now. It hasn’t flowered for me yet, but apparently the genus name (Melissa) is Greek for 'honey bee', because the flowers attract bees.

eight acres: how I use and grow lemon balm

How to grow lemon balm
Lemon balm is propagated very easily by root division. It has similar requirements to mint, preferring a cool damp area of the garden. If you grow it in a pot, make sure that the soil stays moist. It doesn’t spread with runners like mint, but just grows into a larger clump, so it is easier to control. Keep pruning the excess growth to keep it as a small bush and not too tall. I have read that lemon balm is frost sensitive, but mine grew through winter here, so maybe it can tolerate light frost, and it can grow back after a cooler winter if it does die off.

How to use lemon balm
Lemon balm tastes a little like mint, but with a more lemon-y flavour. I dry the leaves and use it for tea because I like the flavour. I will also chop it up with other herbs to use as a fresh garnish on salad, in yoghurt sauce and to casseroles and soups.

Due to the wide range of chemical constituents in lemon balm, it has a reputation for several healing properties:
As well as preparing the leaves as a tea, they can also be used to make a tincture or an infused oil, to be taken internally or used topically (more herehere and here).

For a herb that’s relatively easy to propagate and grow, it has a huge range of benefits and it tastes nice, so I am very happy to have it in my garden.

Do you grow lemon balm?  Do you use lemon balm?  


See my other herb posts: mintaloe verabasilginger, galangal and turmericcalendula, marigold and winter tarragonsoapwortcomfreynasturtiumparsley.and borage.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Slow Living farm update - December 2014

November is over and I'm joining in the Slow Living Monthly Ninestarted by Christine at Slow Living Essentials and currently hosted by Linda at Greenhaven.  Here's what we got up to November in our "slow life"!



Nourish
We had another fun morning at the Nanango markets and come home with lots of local food - a box of apples from Stanthorpe, a braid of chemical-free garlic from down the road, bananas from Wamuran, blueberries from Mullumbimby, chevon (goat meat) from Gympie, corn and potatoes from the Lockyer Valley, olives from Murgon, mangoes from Northern Territory (oops, that's not local, but they were a nice treat), and lots lots more



Prepare
I've been sewing on buttons, mending holes and adjusting hems.  I think these are all very useful skills and its good to practice them, I've been sharing a few tips along the way.  I'm looking forward to taking on some larger sewing projects once I have my mending out of the way.



Reduce
I stopped at the op shop (charity store) to get Pete some t-shirts and picked up a few things for myself.  I still can't believe the expensive, unused or nearly new clothes that people give away.  I am comfortable shopping there because I know my money goes to charity and there are plenty of clothes to go around, so I'm not taking from those who can't afford new clothes.  I actually prefer shopping there and find new clothes shopping overwhelming, with too much choice of colour, styles and sizes, at the op shop if it looks ok and fits, I'll take it!



Green
We saw a goanna and a koala at our property all on one hot Sunday morning, so we are feeling pretty good about all the trees and the critters that are hiding in them (although we would prefer that the goannas stayed in the trees, we had to wait for it to move on before we could get out of the car!).



Grow



Create
We have been making slow progress on our solar bore pump, mainly due to the weather, which by they way, has been hot and dry.  We spent two hours digging a hole in mid-30degC heat, and only got down 700 mm.  The next weekend was cooler (only 30 degC!) and we managed to concrete a slab around the bore and another around the pole for the solar panel frame.  Its exciting to see it getting close to being completely installed.



Enhance
I haven't had much time for community this month, apart from blogging, and I am really enjoying some of the discussions on my Eight Acres - the blog facebook page, so if you haven't joined it, come over and have a look.



Discover
You might notice a theme here, for the past three months Pete and I have been researching beekeeping.  We have bought books, got books from the library, downloaded books, listened to podcasts, bought a load of old beekeeping gear, observed native bees and we are thoroughly enjoying the process of discovering bees!  We even visited honey producers while on holiday in New Zealand!



 Enjoy
 We had 10 days in NZ and it was lovely and cool and so GREEN (more photos here).  But it was nice to be home too, you can't leave these two cuties behind for long (we are so lucky that Pete's dad was able to stay and look after the dogs and all the animals, it makes the holiday even more relaxing to know they are hanging out with their Pa).






Blogs you might like

To live deliberately
13 acres
Just having a yarn
Also Chris from Living at Gully Grove has started a lovely new blog to document their move into town: Small Virtues


How was your November?  What are your plans for December?


Monday, December 1, 2014

Garden Share - December 2014

November was long and hot, with strong winds and very little rain.  Some areas around us had a decent storm, with 50-100 mm, but we missed out, so had to keep the garden going with grey water and a little tank water.  The extra shade cloth has made a huge difference, as has my sunken herb garden.  I also downsized early and only water the two middle garden beds, everything else is struggling, but its better to keep two good beds than four average ones.  For a few plants around the outside I used upturned beer bottles filled with water every few days.  Its not classy, but it keeps the soil moist.


For that reason, the harvest has not changed much.  Mostly kale, silver beet and herbs.  I finally picked the three lemons on my potted lemon tree and they were delicious.  We had a few beans and cherry tomatoes, but not much yet.  I can see the first button squash forming and a promising watermelon, so we just have to keep up the water and we might have more to harvest next month.

I'm not planting anything else until it rains, so this month its just about watering, keeping up mulch, and using worm wee tee to boost the veges.


Watermelon is promising (also note beer bottle watering system)

those giant chilli bushes have regrown!

beans and silver beet, with tomatoes in the back

sunken herb garden is doing well

first squash forming

comfrey flowers (its in a pot in a dish of water,
the stuff in the garden has not resprouted yet)

strawberries producing the occasional sweet treat

pickling cucumber looking good for more pickles this year

tape for watering from our tanks

yarrow flowers

new herb - gotu kola
How's your garden growing?  Are you dealing with heat and no rain too?  What are your plans for December?

Join in the Garden Share Collective, link up here and link back to Lizzie at Strayed from the Table.





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