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Showing posts from September, 2014

Three simple ideas: Grow your own food

Even though we call it a "simple life", getting started can appear anything by simple.  Especially if you watch too much Gardening Australia or other DIY programs, everything they do seems to involve lots of expensive inputs, like bags and bags of palletised manures and bales of lucerne hay instead of trying to find simple, cheap and local solutions.  And cooking shows are just as bad!

There are lots of ways to start living a simple life and the path you chose will depend on your priorities and abilities.  I've been thinking about some good (easy and cheap) places to start, based on my own experiences.  I'm going to start with - Growing your own food.





Simple: A backyard vegetable garden
If you have some space in your backyard, you can start to dig up a bit of a garden area.  You can start small, just a 1m square space will produce a little food for you.  Just make sure you will have enough water, sunlight and organic matter (compost and mulch) to feed the soil.  Ther…

Why do we have so many chickens?

You could just as easily ask "why do we sell eggs?" or  "what came first, the chicken or the egg?".


First we had some chickens, and they laid eggs and we ate eggs every day, but then winter came and we had chickens, but not always eggs.  So we realised that if we wanted to eat eggs every day in winter we would need more chickens, and we bought and hatched more chickens.  And now we have too many eggs in spring and summer.  So we sell the eggs.

We currently have 21 hens and 5 roosters (soon to be two roosters as soon as there's some space in the freezer for the other three).  The hens lay 12-14 eggs/day.  We eat 1-2 eggs each per day.  I bring the excess eggs to work to sell.  I sell them for $5/carton.  I used to sell the eggs for much less, but fortunately for us, people in Brisbane are happy to pay a fair price for the eggs.  At this rate we can cover our feed costs through spring and summer, so on balance through the year, it doesn't cost us any extra to…

Getting the best from homekill meat

Romeo was our fifth steer to be butchered on our property by a mobile butcher.  I've written posts before about tips for homekill butchering and last year I calculated the value of the meat and determined that it was worth raising steers for meat.  It may sound strange, but this was the first year that we really thought about meat quality rather than meat quantity!    Here's what we found out:

Prior to slaughter
Ensure the animal has good nutrition and access to clean water in the lead up to slaughter.  Green grass is ideal (but not always easy to organise).  (More information here)Handle the animal gently with minimum of stress.  If you need to move it to another paddock for the butcher, move it a few days early, with at least one companion, so that the animal is not stressed.  Try to find an experienced butcher.  In some areas there's not much choice, but if you can, find out which butchers are most recommended.  If you call a butcher and they can fit you in right away, wo…

Essential oils for man and beast

You can barely read a blog these days without coming across information about essential oils.  If anyone has somehow managed to miss the essential oil buzz, it seems to be generated by two companies that produce essential oils and sell via Multi Level Marketing schemes (i.e. pyramid schemes) in which people can earn money by selling essential oils through these companies.  Hence all the hype on blogs about how to use (and buy) essential oils.


I have been paying attention mainly because my neighbour is very enthusiastic about oils (although she doesn't sell them), and for the past few years has told me how she uses them in her home and with her family.  From what I have seen, they are very effective as a natural therapy and potentially safers and cheaper than conventional medicine, which has caught my interest.  I have been slow to take the step to use them myself because we don't tend to get sick anyway!  But then I started to wonder if we could use essential oils to help Bell…

Fine dining?

A few weeks ago ABC's farming program, Landline, featured a segment on "a fruit and vegetable wholesaler in Adelaide [who] has made it her mission to provide top chefs with produce to really make a plate pop".  It was quite hilarious to see chefs rave on about mini heirloom veges, unusual salad greens and fancy herbs, because that's about all I can grow in my own garden!  There's not much that I grow that makes it past miniature, apart from the greens and the herbs that grow like weeds.  When I cooked dinner with some tiny thinned carrots, kale and chopped chervil, I told Pete it was "fine dining" and that my garden is a success after all!


Growing and eating much of our own food has given us a different perspective on food and dining out.  We used to go out for pub dinners every couple of weeks, but then we both realised that most of the "food" was either frozen and deep fried, or straight from a packet, and it was making us feel sick.  It doe…

Getting Started with Ducks - Kim from Oasis Biodynamic Farm

The last few weeks I've been asking bloggers to tell me more about their ducks.  Kim from Oasis Biodynamic Farm volunteered and I'm please to share her story with you today.
Kim: “The Oasis” is our 20 acre lifestyle property near Inverell in northern NSW. Since moving here in 2005 we have set about rehabilitating our land, which was once sluiced for tin and in a very degraded condition. We employ permaculture principles and use biodynamic agricultural practices. We rotationally graze Dorper sheep and Highland cattle to maintain and improve ground cover and build soil organic matter which in combination with the above is healing the land on which we live. We believe that a healthy soil leads to healthy food and ultimately to healthier people. In addition to the sheep and cattle we keep chickens for eggs, ducks, and grow as much of our own fruit and vegetables as possible. We have been growing a small crop of garlic for the past three years, but this year drought conditions…

I'm hooked! Learning to crochet...

Since I've got more confident with knitting, I've been thinking I should learn to crochet too.  I did make a couple of finger crocheted rag rugged after a lady at our local permaculture group gave me a quick lesson, but I had not yet mastered the crochet hook.  I had the basic idea though, from all the finger crochet, so I really just had to sit down with some wool and a hook and one of my many crochet books and figure it out.


If you want to learn to crochet, I recommend finding someone patient to show you, even a quick 15 minute lesson is better than nothing.  At least you will have the feel for it.  I spent ages looking at diagrams in books, but I really needed someone to show me how to hold the yarn and the hook before I could follow the diagrams.  If you can't find anyone to show you in person, here is a really good youtube tutorial.  This is also a good refresher to help you remember what you learnt.  I like the way the presenter explains the technique and talks thro…

How I use herbs - Nasturtium

I was surprised to find out that there is actually a genus Nasturtium which includes cress, but not the plant I know as nasturtium!  Apparently the common name nasturtium for the plant Tropaeolum Majus is due to the herb tasting like plants in the Nasturtium genus.  Another example of why its so important to check botanical names.
How to grow nasturtium Nasturtium can be grown from seed, cuttings or root division, although I've only ever used seeds.  It does tend to spread under the right conditions, so make sure you plant it in the right spot.  I find it doesn't like our hot dry summers, so it never takes over my garden.  However, if I can get it to survive through summer, it is a perennial in my sub-tropical climate.  It is usually considered an annual in colder climates as it doesn't tolerate frost well.

How I use Nasturtium All flowers are good for attracting bees and other beneficial insects, so this is a good reason to have nasturtium in your garden, as it tends to flo…

The story of our house cows

We brought Bella and Molly home in May 2011.  I wasn't convinced about getting a house cow, it was actually Pete's idea!  But now I wouldn't want to live without the company, the milk and the manure that a house cow provides.  Although I could do without the drama...

Read about our house cow story over on my house cow eBook blog.


You might also be interested in my series on 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

Buy my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" on EtsyLulu and Amazon, or email on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com to arrange delivery.  More information on my house cow ebook blog.





Reviews of "Our Experience with House Cows"
Kim from the Little Black Cow Blog
Fiona from Live at Arbordale Farm
Marie from Go Milk the Cow
Renata from Sunnyside F…

Seed saving and seed swap

If you want to grow your own veges on the cheap, one of the easiest ways to save money is to save seeds.  I've written a few posts about seed saving and growing from seeds, see them here.


Seeds that I have to swap
DillPoor man's beansGreen beans (climbing) - "Blue Lake"Yellow beans (bush) - "Cherokee Wax"CabbageSpring Onions (see explanation here)LeekBok ChoiGreen peas - "Lacey Lady"Parsley - flat leafSpaghetti squashCalendulaMarigoldWinter TarragonChilliArrowrootMizunaSnake beanRed mustardRosellaMini capsicumTat soiBroccoliLettuce (not sure what its called, like a cos type)Silver beet (chard) - "heritage"CorianderKaleThai basilMystery pumpkinBorageNasturtium 
Seeds that I 'need' RocketCarrotsTurnips, swedes, radishes (advanced seed saving!)Any herbsFlowersBroad beansAll other beans and peasSurprise me! If you'd like to swap, send me an email with the seeds you want (eight.acres.liz at gmail.com).  I might run out of some of them…

Slow Living Farm update - September 2014

This month I'm trying something new and joining many other bloggers with the Slow Living Monthly Nine, started by Christine at Slow Living Essentials and currently hosted by Linda at Greenhaven.  Its been interesting to try to write under each of the nine categories, I think it will get easier each month!


Nourish We have been using up the beef in our freezer to prepare for our next butcher day coming up in mid-September.  This month Pete suggested that we try making jerky.  We used a kit and made it in our dehydrator from the last of our rump steak.  It came out really nice and I ate most of it.  Now I'm looking forward to having more rump and trying some new recipes!


Prepare Preparing for butcher day involves digging a hole for the waste, making sure we have enough plastic freezer bags (to bag 300 kg of meat), cleaning out the freezer, and often buying some new equipment.  This year Pete spotted a heavy duty mincer on special, and here it is, ready for mincing.

Reduce
I wasn…

Getting started with ducks - Tracy from Sunny Corner Farm

I wanted to know more about ducks, so I've interviewed a few other bloggers who keep ducks.  A couple of weeks ago we heard from Megan, and today I have an interview with Tracy from Sunny Corner Farm.


I asked Tracy to tell me a bit about her farm to start with:
Tracy: My garden and farm is situated in a very pleasant valley outside of Tamworth, NSW. We have lived here for over 15 years but my heart has been in the area much longer as it is where many of my forebears are from. The climate ranges from hot, dry summers with temperatures reaching into the mid-40s to very cool winters with snow occasionally and frosts often. The garden is quite substantial but I always have ways of extended it in mind. I have an orchard of over 60 fruit trees too. My blog is what I call a no-niche blog, a little bit of everything about our life on a small-holding. The good and the bad.

The first ‘livestock’ we kept were a couple of bantam chickens back when we lived in the suburbs of Sydney.

The first …

Garden share - September 2014

We had some rain in August!  This is very unusual, our long term average rainfall for August is 28.7 mm, although it has varied between 0.8 and 106 mm.  We never know what we are going to get, but usually we don't expect much in August.  This year we got about about 40mm, which was very welcome considering that year to date rainfall is about 100 mm below average for this time of year.  September also ranges 1 to 140 mm, with an average of 40 mm, so maybe it will rain this month too.

The result of all this rain is that the garden has recovered and produced lots of green veges, including various asian greens, silverbeet and celery, as well as plenty of parsley, chervil and coriander.  Also mint, calendula, lavender, borage and nasturtiums are growing well.


As promised last month, I sorted through my seeds and I'll have a list to swap next Monday.  I started planting, even though I'm not very confident about the weather.  I am thinking that if I can get these plants establish…