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Showing posts from March, 2014

The Stockmen - The making of an Australian legend - book review

Evan McHugh's latest book, The Stockmen - The making of an Australian legend, is a beautifully presented and detailed account of the stockmen and women who have worked the outback of Australia from settlement until modern day.


My favourite part of the book was the illustrations, numerous historical works of art, I am a sucker for images of riders on horseback working cattle!  The text is detailed and in some parts it was more that I really wanted to know.  I think it would be a good reference for a student of Australian history, but I was happy to skim read and pick up the interesting parts.

Being in a drought at the moment, I found the accounts of drought times particularly shocking, I could really empathise with the stockmen moving huge mobs of cattle long distances only to find that the next waterhole was also dry, it must have been devastating, and yet they persevered in harrowing conditions.  The changes from droving along stock routes to moving cattle by truck were also in…

Stairs for our removal house

When we moved our new old house to Cheslyn Rise last year, the one thing that the removalist would not do was replace the external stairs. At first I wondered why, but when the house was settled in its new location, it was obvious that the old stairs were the wrong height! The thing with a removal house, is that it generally gets set up differently in its new location, different orientation, different height, so it needs different stairs. We had thought of just modifying the old stairs, but they were in terrible condition, quite rotten, which is another reason the removalist would not want to reinstate them.


For several months we had a house perched about a metre above the ground with no stairs! The poor plumbers and electricians had to climb in and out of the doors until we had a chance to build the stairs. It took us a while to get the stairs organised because we are hopeless at making decisions and because its actually quite tricky to do.


First we decided to get rid of the r…

Animal behaviour and staying safe around cattle

Lately I have been reading two books by Temple Grandin (am I the only one who reads more than one book at the same time? I think I have four on the go at the moment!). If you haven’t heard of Temple Grandin, she is an amazing lady. I first discovered her one lonely night in a hotel when I flicked channels and came across the biographical movie about her work with cattle. Temple is autistic, and extremely good at understanding and explaining cattle behaviour. She explains that her autistic brain works in a similar way to an animal’s brain, they see things in the same way, and so she has become a sort of interpreter between humans and animals. She has also done a huge amount to help parents and carers of autistic children to better understand their children.

Reading Temple’s books and watching the movie about her life, and numerous other videos on youtube has taught, me to start to think differently about cattle and dogs. As Temple says, humans with normal brains tend to assume…

Keeping multiple roosters

For a many years we thought it was impossible to keep two roosters together, and then, completely by accident, we ended up with two roosters who did not attempt to fight to the death at every opportunity. As this has only ever happened once, I can only guess at the reasons, and I’m hoping that others can share their own rooster experiences to try to figure out the best way to keep them. 


Previously when we’ve had more than one rooster, we haven’t been able to let them all free-range at once because inevitably, as if drawn together by a magnet, the roosters would end up fighting. This was very frustrating, as we like to keep several tractors of hens with a rooster in each one, and we really like to let them all out to free-range. We could just keep one rooster, but this means that not all hens have regular access to a rooster (so the eggs may not all by fertilized) and it makes it impossible to succession plan. We like to replace the rooster every 2-3 years, and we can’t grow up a new…

Cheese-making tips and tricks

We have lots of milk again, since Molly calved, but we never had much time for cheese-making, so here are a few tips that you might find useful when you need to make cheese in a hurry.

Make one big cheese rather than several smaller ones We realised that most of the time involved in cheese making is all the heating and stirring.  We decided to make the largest possible cheese, using our 10 L and 7 L pots at the same time.  When the curd was ready in both pots, I scooped it into our largest mold to make one giant cheese, then there was only one cheese to look after until it was ready to wax.

Save time fishing the spoon out of the pot by securing it to the handle with a twisty tie You don't want to know how often this has been a problem!

Sterilise your pot just before you start, so you know its clean and you have a warm pot to heat the milk in I sterilise the pot by putting a little water in the bottom, sitting it on the largest burner with the lid on, until it boils and the steam can…

Can't buy me rain....

We have only owned our farm since March 2012 and I think I’ve figured out the problem with farming already. The problem is that the most crucial input, the weather, is completely out of the farmer’s control! Not only that, it seems to be impossible to predict accurately. Some years will be average, some will be amazing and some will be awful, and you never know what you’re going to get, but you need to always plan for the worst. Sometimes I wish we could just pool our money and buy some rain, but of course, it’s the one thing that we can’t buy.


We made two mistakes this year, and we are determined to learn from them and become better at managing our farm.

The first thing we did wrong was overstock our property. We knew we had too many cattle, but at first we had an awful lot of excess grass, so it seemed like a good way to clear the property and find out where all the stumps and logs were lurking in the long grass. Also the Brafords were doing a great job of eating the African L…

Guinea Fowl Realities

We got our ten guinea fowl keets in December the the year before last.  I have always thought that they were pretty birds, but we needed a reason to get them and when I found out that they were supposed to eat ticks, that was ideal.  Any natural method of reducing our paralysis tick numbers instead of using chemicals on the animals has got to be worth a try.



All went well at first.  For the first few weeks the keets were just like chicken chicks, but when they out-grew the brooder box and we put them out in a cage it soon became evident that they were very different to chicks.  The first thing we noticed was their tendancy to fly, particularly when we opened the door of their cage to top up food and water and they all tried to fly out!  One did manage to get out and fly up over the water tank and into another paddock.

When we moved them into a chicken tractor Cheryl somehow managed to get one of them out the back of the tractor and ate it, so we were down to nine.

When the guinea fowl…

Dried garlic granules

Last year we made dried garlic granules, and we found them really useful.  It took an hour or so to peel 1kg of garlic, but then over the year when we were cooking we could quickly and easily add a teaspoon of granules to cooking without having to fiddle around with garlic, so it was worth the effort and stick fingers at the time!  We also didn't have to buy any foreign garlic when the Australian garlic ran out towards the end of winter.

Seeing as the granules were such a success, we decided to do them again this year AND I remembered to take photos to share with you.  The process is really very simple.  We peeled the garlic, put it in the dehydrator (I ave a cheap sunbeam one), and ran it for a few hours (less this year because it was so hot anyway, I just left it outside for a few days).  After a week the garlic was not quite dry, still a bit sticky and gooey, so we whizzed it in the food processor and put it back in the dehydrator - I think this is easier than chopping the wet…

Can cows save the planet? - book review

The book Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth, by Judith D. Schwartz, covers a whole range of topics including soil carbon, water, minerals, and of course, cows, and their impact of climate and human health.  When I read about this book, I knew I wanted to read and review it, and Judith was very kind to arrange for me to get a copy from New South Books.


I enjoyed this book so much I started to get a little jealous that Judith got to travel around and meet all these fascinating people and learn so much about soil, but I'm also very glad that she shared her journey with us.  Whether you have a personal interest in soil as a farmer or gardener, or just wonder how we humans are going to get ourselves out of this climate change mess, there is much to learn from this book.
Here's just a few of the people that Judith met and wrote about in a very approachable style: Christine Jones (founder of Amazing Carbon)Peter Donovan (Soil Carbon Coa…

Permaculture - applying the basics with Homehill Farm

John and Jean write a blog about their property Homehill Farm in rural NSW, here's their thoughts about permaculture basics and how they apply them at their place.


In trying to put together a post explaining how HHF has used Permaculture we found it difficult to decide how to present the information or for that matter where to start.  We went back to basics and re-examined the publications by David Holmgren and Bill Mollison i.e. Permaculture One, Permaculture Two and Permaculture A Designers' Manual. In addition, further investigation was made into other sources such as Wikipedia.

Do we go through the 12 Design Principles or do we address the core tenets? Maybe it would be better to look at how we incorporated tools such as Patterns, Layers, Guilds, Edge Effect, Zones etc?

If we did all that it would be a huge post. In the end, we decided to just look at how we compare against the generally accepted description of Permaculture and the Core Tenets; audit our work, in other wor…

How I use herbs - Aloe Vera

I want to write about Aloe Vera next in my herb series because its the one herb that I have potted up and taken to my unit in the city in case I need it during the week.

Aloe Vera syn. A. barbadensis is a member of the Liliaceae family and originated from Northern Africa. In my garden I grow an aloe that I thought was aloe vera, but having read the descriptions in Isabell Shipard's book I think I actually have Aloe perryi, which has similar properties.  The aloe perryi has orange flowers, whereas aloe vera has yellow, and I know mine is a bright orange, so that confirms it.  Whether you grow aloe vera or aloe perryi, the growing conditions and applications are the same, so I'll just refer to them both as "aloe".

How does Aloe Vera grow?
Aloe is a succulent that multiplies by forming small plants called a "pup" at the base of the adult plants. It is easily propagated by digging up a pup and replanting it, that's how I started one in a pot to take with me…

Farm update - March 2014

Its been really really dry, no rain for us, although some in our area got some good storms, we missed out completely, so no rain in February at all, and its usually our wettest month.  On top of the lack of rain, we've had more high temperatures, so the evaporation rate has been terrible, our paddocks are painfully dry and brown.  We have stepped up our drought plans and I'm actually feeling less stressed about it now we've made some management decisions.  We've decided we just need to sell our Braford cattle before we run out of water for them, and keep buying hay when it comes available, so we can keep our house cows going.  We are going to kill the big steers as early as possible, so there's more feed for the others.  I've got Donald advertised for sale, but he's not exactly in demand so far!  Anyone want to buy a friendly Dexter bull, we can deliver?  At least now that some other areas have had some rain we might have a better chance of selling our catt…