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Farm update - November 2012

The weather in October has been less dry, with a few nice storms to cool down the evenings, but no significant rainfall either.  Our water tanks are down to two half full and one full, and our dam is looking very empty.

Gardening in October as been all about the seeds - both planting and saving.  I have saved a crazy amount of tat soi and mizuna, as well as others, so don't be shy, I have plenty more too share or swap if you're interested plz email me (I also still have way too much kefir, so let me know if you want some).  Also see this great link on seed saving.  I'm still harvesting lettuce, broad beans and peas, although the last two are nearly finished and ready to make room for others.  I've planted out the corn, cucumbers, trombocino, soy, pumpking and beans that I started from seed and started some more.  I also planted out the water melons, and the chickens got in and destroyed them AGAIN, lucky I had started some more seeds already, ha chickens, you will not win this year!  My mum helped me plant carrots and radish in the same row a couple of weeks ago and they have popped up already.  The plan is to harvest the radishes and make more room for the carrots, saves thinning as many carrots.  I've also potted up all the tomatoes I started from seed.  I was being very good about keeping records of which was which until I potted them up, then I found out and determinate vs indeterminate and how you need to pinch the laterals of only the second one, and I have a mix of both and no idea which is which now, so that will be interesting!

the first round of corn and beans planted out

radishes and carrots experiment

tomato and basil nearly ready to plant out
The chickens are laying really well, I'm so happy with them this year!  Last year we had problems with egg eating, but this year I've kept up with their minerals and they are all out free-ranging each afternoon, so they seem to be getting everything they need in their diets instead of egg eating.  We get 9-12 eggs/day from 20 hens, some of them were only hatched this time last year, so still quite young to all be laying.  People occasionally ask why we keep so many chickens, so here's a little chicken economics for you: the hens lay on average 10 eggs a day, which is 70 eggs a week.  Pete and I eat 4 eggs a day, so that leaves 42 eggs to sell, which is 3 and half dozen, so depending on how we go, I sell 3 to 4 cartons of eggs a week at $3.50/doz.  This comes to $10.50-$14/week is egg revenue.  The chickens, all 20 hens and 4 roosters, go through a bag of feed a week (plus some shell grit and next box material), a bag of feed is $12-14 depending on price of grain and whether we get the fancy one or just corn.  That means that the hens almost pay for themselves and we almost get free eggs!  This doesn't include the time over winter when we feed them all and only get just enough eggs to feed us, and none extra to sell, at that time, the eggs cost us the full $12/week, but on average, I think we are getting good quality eggs cheaper than we could buy them AND we are able to supply friends and family with the same over spring and summer ($3.50 is very cheap for free-range eggs compared to the supermarket eggs, and they still taste a bit strange).

Token chicken photo...
All the cattle are doing well too.  We arranged with our neighbour to use their paddock, which has really helped us both, as they were going to have to get it slashed and we were running out of grass.  Eight acres is really just a bit small for two jersey cows, a steer, a mini bull, and two calves, unless we get an awful lot of rain.  So Molly, Frank and Donald are next door eating, and Bella and the calves are still at our place (and Molly is now losing some of her baby colours and looking more like an adult cow, oh, our little girl is growing up).  We stopped milking Bella every day as we were only getting 1-2 L, and then giving that to Benny anyway.  Benny now gets formula once a day instead, but he's eating lots of calf pellets, so he should start to get fatter and be ready for weaning.  We still want milk to drink though, so we separated Romeo from Bella over night and milked Bella in the morning the other day, and we got 10  L from her!  No wonder Romeo is getting to be HUGE!  He is taking all that milk and growing up strong.  That is plenty to make a cheese and have some milk to drink during the week, so we don't need to milk every day, this is how the share milking system works :)

Romeo and Donald having a chat through the fence,
notice that Romeo is nearly as tall as Big D
Benny enjoying his formula
Molly getting her adult colours

We had a very successful farming morning with brafords at Cheslyn Rise, we managed to get them all into the stock yards and through the race using only hay to round them up.  We put insecticidal ear tags in all the calves to help protect them against paralysis ticks (more on this later this month).  It only took two hours to run them all through, so we are very pleased with our amateur cattle skills so far.  The other weekend when we went out there we had an extra calf (a new baby), so we need to get a tag in its ear too at some stage.  And the steers that we bought back in April are now very tame and putting on lots of weight.  We still have lots of grass, so we are just holding onto all the cattle as long as possible.  With our recent dry weather, the market is oversupplied with steers, so we are trying to wait it out.

In the kitchen, I've been making cheese when I have the milk (have to separate Romeo for the night and then we get 10L in the morning, greedy little thing isn't he!).  Lots of beet kvass from my own beets.  Time for sprouts again now that its hot and we eat salads with dinner most evenings.  Lots of eggs, lots of meat.  My slow cooker broke though, and its been really hard to live without it.  The inner pot cracked somehow (possibly when I filled it with frozen bones for stock and turned it on before they had defrosted) and a new pot is $58 and several weeks of waiting for it to arrive.  I thought about buying a new cheap one, but I don't really want two sitting around, so will just buy the new pot when its in stock again.  Meanwhile, I had to make a casserole on the stove top (because I wanted to use up some leeks) and I included liver for the first time.  It was actually quite nice.  We were surprised!

I also made ice cream when we had lots of cream a while ago
- flavoured with honey and chai, with cocoa nibs as a sprinkle

you wouldn't believe how difficult it was to get these two to sit still for this photo!
Notice that the both have new rego tags for this year :)


  1. It has been nice watching Bella and her calf make a hit of it. We still have fall greens in the garden but it has been cold and windy so I haven't done a whole lot. I just need to get used to the cold and get on with it, winter is here early.

  2. I left my kefir for a bit longer this time and it separated, so maybe I left it a tad too long, but the taste is much better! thank you - I have put a link to your blog from my latest post. gosh you certainly keep busy!

  3. I'm envious of your milk supply! And ice-cream! Yum. What are cocoa nibs?

  4. You've certainly been keeping busy! I like the idea of sowing radishes with carrots - very clever.

    Your hen economics was a good segment and I think I need to work out our own. Our hens are fairly small and don't eat as much but it's really important to understand just how much it's costing.

    It's amazing that eight acres isn't enough for your animals right now. It seems like such a big piece of land! You've got a great neighbour by the sounds of it though :)

  5. I love the carrot and radish idea, I might try that next planting.

    Do you buy straw to put in your nesting boxes? I've been hanging on to my old bills and shredding them to use in the boxes. The chickens seems to be quite happy with that.

  6. thanks for the comments everyone!

    Sunnybrook, I feel the same when we go into winter and I see all the summer blogs in the Northern Hemisphere, at least we can dream of summer by reading other blogs!

    AA, glad to hear that the kefir is working, I love sharing it around!

    Linda, sorry I spelt them wrong, should be cacao nibs, they are probably just a gimmick, but mum bought me a packet and they are a bit like chocolate chips, so perfect with ice cream :) - by the way, we hardly ever have enough cream for ice cream, so this was a major treat!

    Tanya, I know it seems big, but if you try to rotate paddocks, it really depends on how quickly the grass can grow back, and we should only really have two cattle, not four adults and two calves! Luckily the neighbour didn't want to pay to slash his grass, so it was win-win! Also we were getting low on water until it rained the other day...

    CGCG, I was using wood shavings, but the produce didn't have them last time and I got "rice husks" instead, which seem to be ok too. Love the idea of using your old bills! I see the bag from the shredder at work sometimes and wonder if I should take home all that waste paper and do something useful with it.... the carrots and radishes is an old idea, seems to work so far...


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