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Showing posts from July, 2012

Planting forage oats

After we brought in the sorghum hay that was growing on the property when we bought it, and had our soil test results, Farmer Pete spent several weekends (and several jerry cans of diesel) ploughing about 25 acres of the cultivation area in preparation for sowing oats.  Then we bought oat seed and organic fertiliser and tried to figure out how the old cultivator drill worked....
It wasn't as difficult as it looks, the seeds go in one compartment and the fertiliser goes in the other, and we had to set up the gears that run off the wheels to put out the right amount of seed and fertiliser.  This is where we got into trouble as I didn't know what fertiliser the rates were based on (more likely urea than our organic fertiliser!), so that involved a bit of trial and error.  We ordered the manual from plough book sales and of course it arrived AFTER we'd finished planting :)  I do recommend trying to get the manual for any old equipment that you buy, it really helps to figure ou…

Porridge for winter breakfast

We always have a problem with breakfast during the winter months.  For the rest of the year, we eat eggs for breakfast, one or two each, every morning.  But when the hens stop laying, we have to find something else to eat!  One thing that we have found is ok is the homemade baked beans that I posted about.  I also enjoy porridge/oatmeal (Farmer Pete prefers his WeetBix, the funniest thing is that WeetBix have an ad in New Zealand that goes "Kiwi kids .... are WeetBix kids" and the same ad in Australia says "Aussie kids .... are WeetBix kids", so I sing the Kiwi one to Pete when he's eating his WeetBix, hehe).   Anyway, I have been using the recipe in Nourishing Traditions and soaking the oats overnight with kefir or yoghurt.  One cup of oats to one cup of fermented dairy.  Then I put it on the stove and cook the porridge (supposed to add one cup of water at this stage, but sometimes I forget and it still works).  I find that the porridge cooks more quickly and…

The beef cattle industry and us

When we bought Cheslyn Rise we decided to start with raising beef cattle as we were fairly confident that we knew how to look after cattle, after raising a few steers for our own consumption and keep our milking cow, Bella, and the property was set up with fencing, dams and stock yards, so it was low cost for us to start our farm with beef.  Before this, I hadn't really thought about how the beef cattle industry worked, especially since we've been eating our own beef steers for the past 3 years!  It turns out to be kind of complicated and we are slowly figuring out what kind of beef cattle farmers we want to be.

Generally most farmers either breed cattle or fatten cattle.  If you breed cattle you keep as many cows as your property will support, and a bull.  You expect one calf from each cow each year, you raise them to weaning age (around 6-9 months) and then you sell them at the sale yards.  If you fatten cattle, you buy a mob from the sale yards, either weaner or stocker ste…

Crop rotation in the garden - is it possible or necessary?

Crop rotation has always seemed like a good idea.  It made sense not to grow the same plant family in the same garden bed two seasons in a row, and to follow legumes with heavy feeders, and then light feeders, as recommended by my collection of gardening books (see here also).  However, even with a rather large garden, I have found it impossible to stick to a plan.

Firstly, do they mean seasons or years?  Is this set up for gardens in climates that don't grow much, if anything, over winter, and so don't have to consider two growing seasons in a year?  My main problem is brassicas.  Currently I have a brassica of one kind or another in each of my four garden beds.  This plant family is just too huge, I am growing asian greens (bok choi, tat soi and mizuna), kale, cabbage, broccoli, radish and turnip, and they don't all fit into one garden bed!  And I want to grow them through winter and summer, so I would need so many more garden beds to rotate them.  Particularly when I w…

No whey?

As well as crying over the lack of milk while Bella is dry, I was also worried about not having whey.  Whey is an essential ingredient in so many of my new-found fermented foods (from sauerkraut to ginger beer, and soaking brown rice before cooking) that I didn't know what I would do without it.  As an experiment I started freezing small batches of whey each time I made cream cheese, and it seems to work perfectly.  Each batch of cream cheese makes about half a litre of whey (from one litre of milk), and for each fermentation I only need about half a cup of whey, so I just pour a little whey into small snap-lock bags and freeze them.  When I need the whey I just get out the bag and either defrost, or just run the bag under water to so I can get the whey-block out and put it straight into rice or whatever I'm fermenting.

I also often substitute kefir for soaked flour recipes where whey or yoghurt is in the recipe.  I find the kefired milk works just the same and as there's…

Chicken-proof mulch

The best and the worst thing about chickens is their habit of scratching!  This is very useful when you want to create new soil or to break up some of the grass runners and reinvigorate our pasture, however I do not appreciate scratching skills being used around my garden.  The first sign that a chicken has been in my garden is that the mulch has been scratch off, they don't tend to eat much, just make a total mess of all my beautiful mulch!  I have been trying to establish an area outside the garden fence, which is just asking for trouble, so that I have somewhere for crazy rambling plants like sweet potato, artichoke and warrigal greens to grow, however the poor plants can't get started when chickens are constantly scratching away at the mulch.

I can't remember if I saw this somewhere of thought of it myself, but I have come up with a solution.  I gathered a thick layer of leftover round bale and manure and spread it over the area.  I then rolled out some left over chick…

GPS mapping our property

When Pete and I talk about the property and what we want to do where, we often sketch little maps.  Its amazing how different our two perceptions of the property are.  It is an odd shape because it was originally a square, with a sliver of our neighbour's property added a few years ago to make it more of a lower case 'b' shape.  We can never quite agree on the exact shape, although we do have the survey map from when we bought it.  It would be very useful to know accurate distances and areas when it comes to organising grazing areas, running irrigation and fencing, and ordering the right amount of seed for cultivation.  This is all very difficult without a more detailed map, but I was worried that a good map would be difficult and/or expensive to obtain.  Fortunately I was wrong......

The other day I dug out Farmer Pete's fishing GPS unit, its just a little Garmin GPS60.  We both tend to hoard things, so I was also able to find the original software and eventually locat…

Beet Kvass - more fermented beverages!

I've been wanting to try making beet kvass for ages, not that I knew what it tastes like, but I like beetroot and I like fermented beverages, so I thought it would be nice.  I finally managed to get some organic beetroot to make it with, unfortunately mine don't seem to be growing very quickly, but the local organic store at the market had lots this week. 

I followed the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, peeled and chopped the beets, put them in a jug with about a quarter cup of whey, some sea salt and topped it up to 2 L with rainwater.  This sat on the bench for 3 days, then I strained the juice into a bottle and topped up the water again for another batch.  The kvass turns a beautiful dark red after a few days, it tastes like beetroot juice with a slight sourness and fizzyness from the fermentation.  Very refreshing!  Now I just need to grow some beetroot.....

I also made some more ginger ale at the same time because we've been drinking so much of it (it goes pleasantly…

The perfect house cow

Bella has turned out to be the perfect house cow for us, although she might not have suited other people, we find that she is just the right size and the right temperament to be exactly what we needed.  When looking for a house cow, it is important to consider what you really need from a cow, as a good cow for one family may not be a good cow for another.  I've listed below a few points to consider, unfortunately you may not have a huge number of cows to chose from, but at least this will help you to think about which cow will work for you.

Breed and size of cow
Bella is a pure-bred Jersey cow, all Jerseys are relatively small compared to other breeds, and Bella is particularly small even for a Jersey cow.  This means that she is very easy to manage.  If she is being naughty, we can just push her around, unlike a big cow.  It also means that her milk production is lower than a big cow.  We don't need heaps of milk, so it suits us just fine.  She produces about 12 L per day at h…

Learning to knit and "mancrafts"

Since my first knitting attempts last winter, I've been determined to learn more.  I do have a history of giving up on things that I am not able to master immediately, so it takes a concerted effort for me to keep picking up the needles and having a go.  I keep having to remind myself that the ladies who are knitting the lovely items that I admire in blog-land (here and here and here and here) probably didn't just pick up needles and learn how to do clever lace stitches overnight (if you did, please don't burst my bubble, its the only thing keeping me going)!  I seem to be improving just enough to keep motivated, and my ultimate goal is to learn how to knit a vest.  
So far I have made the headband/ear warmer last winter and this year I have made a cowl "in the round", although it ended up twisted, apparently this can be done intentionally to make a "mobius cowl", and I'm glad I learnt that it could happen on something that didn't matter too much…

Corn relish - lactofermented and "normal"

We bought 8 corn cobs for $2 at the farmers market and knew we couldn't eat all of it and I really really wanted to try making relish (was hoping to grow corn, but that didn't work out), so it was a perfect opportunity to try a fermented relish and a vinegar relish based on these recipes:
Fermented corn relish recipe and general fermenting adviceVinegar based corn relish recipeThey both started the same way, cut the corn from the cob, chop some capsicum, cucumber, tomato and blend.



For the vinegar relish I then cooked about half the corn/vege mixture with salt, sugar, vinegar, tumeric, cumin, mustard and pepper.


The other half of the mixture was mixed cold with whey, salt and coriander (by the way, I freeze the whey, so it hasn't been sitting the fridge since January!)

These are the finished products, lactofermented relish on the left, vinegar relish on the right.

Comparison: I like the taste of both relishes, the lactofermented relish is "fresher" tasting, especial…

Soil testing at the new property - part 2

I have to apologise for being totally slack in updating you on our soil test results.  It was a crazy time of ploughing, buying seed, buying organic fertiliser, spreading the seed and waiting for rain.  I will also warn you in advance that I'm still not sure what to do with these test results, so this is more of an update post on what I know now, but I still have an awful lot to learn.

When we did soil testing at eight acres, it was to see what minerals were likely to be missing from the animals' diets so that we could supplement what they weren't getting naturally.  In that case it was quite easy to analyse the results, and we didn't take any action to improve the soil as such.  This time we wanted to know if our crops would grow and that made things more complicated.

After we did the initial tests on the Cheslyn Rise soil samples (see part 1), we fully intended to also test for dispersion and slaking but we didn't get around to it, if you're interested, I…