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Farm update - January 2012

Happy New Year everyone!

December, the first official month of Summer, also brought our first decent rain of the wet season.  What a relief to see 30 mm in the rain gauge on several occasions (and not because I hadn't tipped it out!).  In total we had over 100 mm for the month over several gentle showers, not so many of the crazy storms that we saw last year, much more dignified!  This means that the water has time to drain into the soil instead of just running down the hill (and into our shed, and eroding our driveway).

After doing three runs in the incubator and ending up with five Rhode Is Reds and one cross, we were keen to hatch some pure White Leghorns to keep our flock going, these seem to be really hard to buy, so the more we can hatch the better.  We did one run of only White Leghorn eggs, collected over about a week, and hatched only 4 chicks, so it might be time for Ivan to go....

Ivan with some of his hens
Wilbur in a flap
Some of the chicks are outside already
four more leghorn chicks
Molly is nearly as big as Bella now.  We watched Bella for signs of heat 3 weeks after she was artificially inseminated, and we didn't see her receiving any extra attention from the other cattle, so fingers crossed that this means she's pregnant!  Molly came on heat just before Bella was due to, and spent the night in her calf pen mooing, not quiet mooing either, very loud bawling MOOOOS.  When we let her out all the steers tried to jump on her, so she had to be separated again!

Molly is nearly as big as Bella, check our her cute mini horns too :)

Bella might be pregnant

The cattle ignoring Bella when she should be on heat
And snobbing her again here the next day,
 As normal this time of year, the garden is an overgrown mess!  But we are harvesting plenty of tomatoes, beans, capsicums, squash, silver beet, lettuce, salad greens, pickling cucumbers and herbs.
Mess garden...
The flower/weed area to attract insects
Hoping for some more big tomatoes this year :)
Lots of rocket
Lots of lettuce!

the corn is trying to produce some cobs
mustard greens ready to plant out
baby pickling cucumbers

beetroot, lettuce, leek, ceylon spinach seedlings....
Zucchinis and squash are HARD work!  At the moment I am having trouble with both powdery mildew and blossom end rot.  I don't want to spray for the mildew because I've noticed a few little beetles that are eating it and I wouldn't want to kill them.  For the end rot, its all about access to calcium, so I've put down some lime, but I think I should also try gypsum, and I've been trying really hard to water regularly, but I'm not winning so far.  Its very disappointing as I had dreams of having to deal with excess curcubits, I was debating whether to dry or freeze the excess, but now it may not be an issue!

powdery mildew on zucchinis = hard work

powdery mildew eating beetle, I love it!  More here.

the dreaded blossom end rot

a healthy squash

The potatoes are still growing, I'm dying of anticipation ,
I can't wait to push over that barrel and see what's inside!
This is the potato beetle that's been chewing on the leaves (and I've been squashing)
This is another phytophagous (plant eating) beetle, as I just learnt here, so I need to go and squash them all too!
I have also been removing the larvae and pupa stages of these beetles from tomato leaves, so that explains what THEY are.  Grrrr.  I organic gardening it pays to know your insects, so you know what to squash!
 And on another sad note, I noticed today that the nest of native bees (wasps?) that lives in a log next to the garden was being attacked by meat ants.  The poor bees have no sting, they were just hovering around helplessly while the ants stole their larvae (the ants bite, I've had some nibble on my toe before).  I hope they will find somewhere else nearby to live, as I liked to know that I had pollinators living so close.

The poor homeless bees hanging out on a bean leaf
In the kitchen, I've been sprouting and making kefir as usual and have been trying a few new things, including pickling, mayonnaise, drying herbs and making trifle, which I'll post more about throughout the month.  And what update is complete without some pics of the kelpies?  Here is kelpies' favourite time of the day, meal time.....


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