Friday, December 20, 2013

Three years of blogging!


Can you believe that I've been writing this blog for three years now?  At this time I always say how amazed I am by how much has changed in a year and how much we have done.  Maybe next year I will be amazed by how little has change, I doubt it though, this just seems to be the way things go.  So if you haven't been keeping up, here's a quick summary of the highlights of 2013:

Dec 2012 - we hadn't had any significant rain for 2 months and things were looking dire.  We also bought a house.  Just the house, not the land!

the house we bought
 Jan 2013 - we sold the steers, we sold our Braford weaners, and finally it rained!  300 mL on the Australia Day weekend (25th Jan) and work was cancelled for one day (paid work that it, not farm work).  I made tallow soap.  We got guinea fowl keets.

the guinea fowl keets

the flood
Feb 2013 - we had a holiday in NZ, we got a bore done at Cheslyn Rise and struck water

NZ's Mt Cook

Mar 2013 - our wee Molly cow had her first calf, Monty and while she wasn't overly keen on being milked at first, she produced so much I had to make a cheese a day to keep up!  We were pleased to have trained our first house cow from a calf.  We also hatched a few chickens.

baby chickens
baby Monty
Apr 13 - Planted winter crops, including forage oats

May 13 - we worked on clearing a pad for house and I did lots of knitting.

arm warmers
Jun 13 - we separated Romeo from Bella so she could dry up and he could be weaned and I shared some thoughts about growing food in the sub-tropics

crazy guineas growing up

Jul 13 - after months of planning our house finally moved to Cheslyn Rise!  And we participated in Plastic Free July.

our house on the move


Aug 13 - we butchered Frank(furter) and Bella had her calf Nancy
Baby Nancy
Frank(furter) and the butcher
Sep 13 - planted summer crops and I took you on a tour of the house

these purple potatoes were a pleasant surprise!
Oct 13 - I got another job, so I had 3 weeks off to work on the house and farm with Pete, especially our cattle yards and the steps for the house

our new and old cattle yards

new steps!
 Nov 13 - I started my new job in Brisbane, there during the week and back to Nanango for the weekend. 

Chime (on  right) with Cheryl
Dec 13 - getting used to our new schedule and looking forward to a break!   This last Monday we lost Chime, aged 12, and we all miss her companionship and the little dance she did every morning while she waited for her breakfast.

Chime

How to follow my blog and some stats
Everyone seems to like to use different technology and follow blogs in different ways, so I do try to cater for everyone.

If you have a blog on blogger yourself, the easiest way to follow if to join 250 others and click the follow button.

If, like me, you changed over to bloglovin when google reader was shut down, just to cover all the other blogs that aren't on blogger, you can join the 280 that follow me on bloglovin here.

If you want my posts and a few extra photos and witty comments direct to your facebook feed, like my facebook page, along with 567 others, by going here.

I've just recently spent some more time on Pinterest and set up some boards for the blog, I can't promise that it will be as reliable, but I am trying to remember to pin each post, and then you could just follow the boards that you are interested in, along with 105 other followers here.

And finally, if that's not enough for you and you just want a plain old email of every post so you don't miss out, you can enter your email address on the sidebar of the blog through feedburner with 121 others!

This is my 423rd published blog post, I have over 2630 published comments (some of them my own replies) and I usually get around 600-700 pageviews per day, with a total of over 350,000 pageviews since I started.

I told you all that because, I wouldn't bother to write this blog if I didn't have readers, and most of all, commenters, so I wanted to thank you all for reading, following, pinning, liking and commenting and generally joining in with the conversation, that's what keeps this blog going.  That's what makes it fun and worth doing, when I feel like I'm teaching, learning, entertaining and adding something useful to all that information out there on the internet!


Cheryl enjoying a cucumber
My chicken tractors are still the most popular post of all time, now followed by the worm farm, the guinea fowl, the one about me not washing my hair and our wonderful woodfire.

I want to thank you all for your support and sympathy after Chime died, it really helped us to know that we weren't alone in missing our dog.  Thanks for all your kind words.

And now my friends, I think we all deserve a break, its been a big year, and 2014 doesn't look like its going to be any different, I'm going to have a few weeks off, but I think I've left you with plenty of reading.  See you next year for more permaculture, house cows, herbs and knitting!

How was your year and what are you planning to take on next year?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Everything I wrote about chickens in 2013

We had some highs and lows with the chickens this year!

We started off with our best hatch ever (34 from 48!), followed by me shutting the cage before the babies went home and about 15 of them were eaten by something during the night. And most of the rest of them died of a mystery illness, possibly paralysis ticks, we ended up with 3 roosters for the freezer, one Rhode Island Red rooster (who only survived the masacre because he was hiding in a hay bale because the other chickens picked on him, but he's better than nothing for breeding!) and 2 hens.

If you're interested in incubating eggs: Incubating chicken eggs

Caring for chicks that you hatch or buy: Caring for young chicks - update

If you're going to buy full-grown chickens:  Buying new chickens

And if you're not sure what you ended up with: Determining the gender of young chickens



Solving other chicken problems:
The best chicken book I’ve ever read



We hatch extra chicks with the intention of eating the roosters, here's how to butcher them:

And how to water them:
Using chicken nipples

What to keep the chickens in (if you want to use a chicken tractor, that is):


Chicken tractor guest post

If its all starting to sound complicated, here's some advice from bloggers who keep chickens (and other poultry):

Getting started with chickens - NZ Eco Chick

Getting started with chickens - Gavin Webber

Getting started with chickens - Ohio Farmgirl

Getting started with Chickens - a series of interv...

Getting stared with chickens - summing up *giveawa...

Getting started with chickens - Linda from Greenha...

Getting started with chickens - Sustainaburbia

Getting started with chickens - Tanya from Lovely ...




And if you've mastered chickens, its time to try guinea fowl, we've had some crazy times with them this year.  We started with 10, Cheryl ate 1 early on, and then 2 more disappeared one night when they all refused to go back into their tractor, then another one disappeared during the day, so we are down to 6, but have 2 hens, so now have the incubator full of guinea eggs.....

Guinea fowl keets

Free range guinea fowl! 

How were your chickens (and other poultry) in 2013?  What are your plans for 2014?



By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at} gmail.com.




What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.


Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

RIP Chime the kelpie

I don't think we are ever really prepared for the loss of a pet.  Even when they are getting old, like both our dogs and you start thinking about what might happen, you still aren't ready when it happens.

Chime died on Monday, around midday.  She had been active all morning, but then Pete found her lying down and unable to get up.  He lifted her into the car and rushed her to the vet, but she didn't make it.  We're not sure what happened, it was too quick for a paralysis tick, he couldn't find a snake bite, we can't think of any poison that she could have eaten, maybe it was just old age, she was 12, nearly 13.

I realise now that most of the photos I have of her she is sleeping.  She must have really slowed down, but we hadn't noticed.  We only looked after her for 2 and a bit years, she belongs to a friend who is overseas, but she came everywhere with us and slept inside, and she had bonded with our dog Cheryl.

At first it hurt so much we thought we could never keep another dog.  But I can't imagine missing out on all the affection and company that a dog gives you.  The joy of having a dog in the house is worth the emptiness when they are gone.  I'm sure there will be more dogs in the future, after we've had some time to grieve.

I'm not very good with posts about feelings.  My posts tend to be about facts and information.  How tos.  How to grieve for your dog: I don't know yet.  How to keep an old dog happy: daily bone, occasional milk, yoghurt, eggs, offal, scraps of meat; somewhere cool to lie in the heat of the day, somewhere sunny to lie on cold days, somewhere soft and cuddly to lie at night; the occasional short walk out to the paddock; grass to roll in; no baths or nail clipping; another old dog to get up to mischeif with.

We take some comfort from how quickly she went.  She didn't have to suffer through old age.  We didn't have to make that agonising decision to let her go.  She had a good life and lots of people will be missing her.

If you haven't had a dog in your life, maybe you can't understand the impact they make, but our dogs are part of our family and we are really feeling this loss.

Hug your dogs everyone, you just don't know when they are going to go....


Chime (on the right) with Cheryl

Chime sleeping on the mat I made her

Chime and Cheryl snuggled up

Young Chime in a dog coat I made her


Monday, December 16, 2013

Posts about our farm in 2013

The farm is a constant source of entertainment and learning for us.  We try to view it as a hobby and wonder what else we would do on our weekends if we didn't have fields to plough, cattle to chase and fences to mend!  Of course our long term plan is to only have one farm, but we currently have our Eight Acre property (for which this blog was named) and our 258 A property (which is sadly still a hobby farm! 8 acres becomes 258 acres).  I hope by sharing some of our experiences here, new hobby farmers don't make the same mistakes that we did, and more seasoned farmers might pick up some of our ideas that work and use them for themselves to improve the sustainability and viability of their farms.


No matter what size farm you have, you will relate to this post: The truth about farming

And if you do have a small farm, here's some ideas for you: What to do with eight acres

We strongly belive that farming can only be profitable and enjoyable if it is sustainable and that current practices based on chemical fertilisers, monocultures and herbicides/pesticides are not sustainable in the long term.  While I don't have the answer for you yet, I think I am looking in the right places!  I think that permaculture, organic farming, biological agriculture, and the teachings of Joel Salatin and Peter Andrews are a good place to start, and we then have to work to adapt what works on our own property.

Permaculture:

Discovering Permaculture

Permaculture - Observe and Interact
Permaculture - Catch and Store Energy
Permaculture - Obtain a yield
Permaculture - Self-regulation
Permaculture - Use renewable resources
Permaculture - Produce no waste
Permaculture - design from patterns to details
Permaculture - Integrate rather than segregate
Permaculture - use small and slow solutions
Permaculture - Use and Value Diversity
Permaculture - Use edges and value the marginal
Permaculture - Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Hybrid hugelkultur
Hugelkultur update
Planning our property - Keyline design
Perennial plants and trees - a food forest

Organic farming from the consumer's point of view:
Why choose organic produce?

Biological agriculture as a transition to organic farming:
Biological agriculture - a transition to organic f...
Biological farming - mineral management
Making use of microbes in the soil

Mentors:
Natural Sequence Farming - using Peter Andrews' me...
Joel Salatin - adapting Polyface farming method




And then to some more practical matters, we seems to spend a lot of time with fences!  Either checking and fixing barbed wire fences or setting up electric fences and changing batteries...

Checking the fences
Shocking tactics! Confessions of an electric fence...
Electric fencing for beginners
Splitting up paddocks for intensive grazing

We also have spent a lot of time trying to grow forage for hay and realised two things, it is cheaper to buy hay from a farmer who knows what he's doing and we'd rather be growing a perennial pasture than ploughing.  Here are a few thoughts on pasture, forage and hay:

Growing forage or perennial pasture
Making hay
Fabricate a round-bale holder at home
Planting forage oats
Forage crops, pasture, hay - isn't it just grass?
Managing pasture - is burning necessary?

And a few other things that you may find useful:

GPS mapping our property
Buying a bigger tractor

Water for stock - setting up a dam pump
Harvesting water for the house and animals
Water for small farms

So that was a bit of a summary of the last year and a bit on our farm, how was your year and what are you planning for next year?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beef and dairy cattle posts in 2013

The cattle have certainly kept us busy in 2013!  At Eight Acres (and part of our neighbour's place) we currently have the two Jersey house cows (Bella and Molly), their calves (Nancy, and Monty, who is now weaned), Bella's previous calf, Romeo (who is next up for the freezer), Benny the Braford that had paralysis tick as a young calf (destined for our neighbour's freezer) and Donald our tiny Dexter bull.  This year we had Frank(furter) butchered as well.  At Cheslyn Rise, after the brief experient with steers last year, we now have about 25 Braford cows and their calves.  Unfortunately Maus our lovely Braford had to go due to an eye cancer.  


I haven't written about them as much as I thought I had, so I've included some posts from previous years as well.  I am also currently writing an ebook about our experience with house cows, but its is taking me longer than expected to get it all down (we keep having more experiences!).  Next year I will be writing about branding and castrating our steers, and no doubt there will be more house cow "learnings" (or should that be dramas?) to write about.  And I've got some pretty nice fencing work to show you too, as well as our trials with solar electric fence energisers.

About Beef Cattle
Cattle psychology - when the steers tried to run away
The beef cattle industry and us
Vaccine guilt - should we vaccinate our cattle?
Paralysis ticks and the orphan calves – part 2 of ...
Caring for an orphan calf – part 1 of a long story...
What type of cattle operation will suit you?


About Brafords
Brafords - a versatile Queensland breed
A herd of Brafords for Cheslyn Rise


About Butchering
Homekill meat - some tips for beginners
Home butcher vs meatworks
Homekill butchering
Homekill beef - is it worth it?


About Tanning a Hide
Tanning a hide
Tanning a steer hide - update and answers
Tanning another hide


About House Cows
The perfect house cow
Weaning calves
Bella and Kaptain Nightcrawler - Artificial Insemi...
A foster calf for Bella
Training a house cow
Colostrum - why calves need it and what to do with...

And of course you remember the series of interviews with bloggers who keep dairy cows and goats, Getting Started with Homestead Dairy!

Interview with myself
Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture
Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow
Interview with Rose Petal
Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow
Interview with Ohio Farmgirl
Interview with Gavin from the Greening of Gavin


So that was our year in beef.  How were your cattle this year?  What plans do you have for next year?  Any beef or dairy questions that you'd like me to answer?

If you want to know more about house cows, my eBook is available for purchase on Scribd.  Its only $4.99, and it includes lots of information about keeping a house cow in Australia.  There's more details about the eBook on my house cow eBook blog.  If you don't want to go through all the Scribd/paypal effort, just send me an email on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com and I can arrange to email it to you instead.




Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What I wrote about my garden in 2013

Its been other big year in the garden, I've learnt through trial and error and I think I'm starting to get better and growing our veges.

geramium
The main thing I have had to work on is understanding our climate and figuring out what to grow when. I wrote about our climate here, but if you don't want to read all the details, here's a summary:
  • November-March is hot and humid, with storms and the occasional trough or low if we're lucky 
  • March-May starts to cool down, still a chance of rain 
  • May-August is cold, frost overnight and chance of rain, and plenty of woodstove 
  • August-November warms up and dries out 
So you can see why it can be a challenge to grow things! Its not that veges don't grow, its just that they don't grow when you expect them too. Permaculture has been a great help though. I have let many things go to seed and when they sprout again at a time that suits them, I can see when its a good time to grow. This year I found out that tomatoes sprouting out of the compost can grow all through the winter frost, but then died off when the weather was dry for a few weeks!

This year I organised a few series of guests posts on "getting started" and the first one was about growing veges. It was lots of fun reading about the difference gardening styles from lots of different bloggers.

Linda of Witch's Kitchen

Gavin of the Greening of Gavin

Ohio Farmgirl from Adventures in the Goodland

Emma from Craving Fresh

Tanya of Lovely Greens

and myself

I've been really happy with my worm farm, so if you're still not convinced, here's a few posts to get you interested....

Composting can be simple!

I'm a worm farmer!

Compost and weed tea

Worm farm compost

Worm farm maintenance

worm farm goodies!
The other thing I really enjoy is saving seeds, although I do sprinkly them aroung the garden as well! Here's a few of my tips:

Saving seeds

Growing from seeds

Planting seeds or seedlings?

Tips for starting vegetables from seeds

I have grown some odd veges, here's a few things I learnt:

Growing root vegetables

Tromboncino!

Jerusalem artichoke

Green onions, spring onions or shallots or…? 


self-seeded marigold
And since July I've been joining in with the Garden Share Collective each month to share my garden progress and I've enjoyed checking out all the gardens of all the other bloggers who participate.

How did your garden grow in 2013? What did you learn? And what are you hoping to do better in 2014?

The Self Sufficient HomeAcreFrom The Farm Blog Hop

Monday, December 9, 2013

Permaculture - creatively use and respond to change

As you know, each month this year I've been reviewing a principle from David Holmgren's Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability.  Now I'm up to the twelth principle (phew!), creatively use and respond to change, it is somewhat ironic that Pete and I have recently made some major changes in our life!

a stream at Fox Glacier, lots of change happening there!
This principle is about anticipating and working with change, generating change for positive results and adapting to change that we can't control.

The most obvious example of the first aspect is using succession to create a productive food forest.  Using nurse plants to shelter young trees, planting productive annuals to obtain a yield early, while the perrinials grow and generally planning for how the forest will develop over time.  There is also the aspect of working with nature and not against it.  For example, we are more and more convinced that we want to develop perrenial pasture on our property rather than fight against the weeds  in a forage crop.

In terms of generating change, the first example I think of is "disturbance" created by Joel Salatin's mob-stocking, and this is something we really want to try.  Outside of farming, my recent change of job is about creating diversity in our income (so we don't both work at the same place) and resilience (which is all about the ability to cope with change).

Change that we can't control would include climate change and declining fossil fuel availability.  This is the change that we need to be able to adapt to, and I particularly liked what David wrote about patterns of traditional life being important for our ability to adapt, if we are focussed on our home and our own food production systems, a change in the availability of goods won't be such a shock.  I also think that the books of Jarrod Diamond, particularly Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, add some context about how other societies have (unfortunately) failed to adapt to change.

This is the last principle, its been hard work reading and thinking about them, but I've really enjoyed discussing them with you all.  I'll do a sum-up in January, and introduce a permaculture guest post project that I'll be running next year.  If you're interested in writing about getting started with permaculture start thinking about what you would write and I'll ask for contributions in the new year.

How do you creatively use and respond to change at your place?

The other principles from David Holmgren's Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability that I've reviewed have been:

Friday, December 6, 2013

All my thoughts on real food for 2013

I never expected that I woul write so much about food on this blog! When I started Eight Acres, I didn't realise the connection between self-sufficiency and preparing food. It seems very obvious now that if you want to be able to provide your own food, you're going to have to know how to cook it and preserve it as well as grow it.

My food posts cover food that we've grown or produced ourselves, including beef, chicken, eggs, milk and vegetables, as well as preserving food that we've bought cheaply. For the past couple of years I have regularly made bread, yoghurt, kefir and cheese, and fermented drinks and pickles, stocks and sprouts. This year I learnt to make ice-cream and use a sourdough cake starter. I also reviewed a few different books about food and nutrition. Here is a selection of links from this year (and a few earlier ones) that you may find interesting. If you want to know why I eat real food, see this post: How did I get started with real food??


Food books that I've reviewed

Toxic Oil - book review

Making a meal of it - book review

Nutritionism - a book review

Whole Larder Love - book review

Cooked - Michael Pollan - Book review

Food Inc - movie review





Preparing food we grew

Organic sausage mix for home butchering

Raw milk yoghurt

Real food icecream

Handchurn real food icecream

Chicken and beef liver pate

Enjoying winter slaw


Cheese posts in particular

Quick cheese for busy people

Cheese-making interview

Maturing cheese in a cheese fridge

Waxing cheese

Dehydrating things

Dried zucchini slices

Dried garlic granules

Rosella tea


Fermenting things

Fermented lemon and barley drink

A sourdough cake starter called "Herman"

Fermented pickled cucumbers

Sourdough biscuits - adapting a recipe for sourdou...

Fermented fizzy drinks

Sourdough pancakes

Making red wine vinegar

Homemade realfood muesli bars (granola bars)


Did you learn anything new about food in 2013? What do you want to learn in 2014?

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