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Showing posts from April, 2014

Keeping a bull on a small farm

If you only have a few dairy or beef cows on your farm, it is possible to keep your cows in calf using artificial insemination (AI) and not own a bull at all. A bull can be extra work and an extra mouth to feed, but there are some advantages to keeping a bull, even on a small farm.

If you rely on AI, you will need to find a technician or vet who is willing to travel to your property. You will need to watch your cows for signs of heat, and call the vet when the cow is in “standing heat”. It may take several attempts to achieve a pregnancy if you don’t get the timing just right, and you will pay for each visit. Consider that each cow will come into heat at a different time, and if you have more than two or three cows, the costs are going to add up, and it might be worth keeping a bull.

You can read the rest of my article on Farm Style.....

Unfortunately our little dexter bull Donald died from lantana poisoning a few weeks ago, but before he got sick I made this video of him roaring at…

Which Joel Salatin book should I read?

So you've heard about the amazing work of Joel Salatin and Polyface Farm and you want to know more, but you don't know which of his books to read....

(Or you haven't heard of Joel Salatin and have no idea what I'm talking about?? What??  Catch up here)



Since we went to a seminar with Joel Salatin a couple of years ago, we've bought and read four of his books, and his dvd, so while I can't advise you on all the books, I can at least give you a preview of the ones that we own and that might help you to make a decision.


You Can Farm
You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise

If you are thinking about farming or already own a property and want to get more out of it, this book is a good place to start.  It is not about how to farm, as in how to raise animals or how to plough a field, its about how to set up a farming business and be succesful.  Pete and I often talk over the ideas in this book, its clear to us that the mo…

Eight Acres' most popular posts so far

I think most bloggers will relate to this, it is always a surprise to see which posts become the most popular!  It is never the ones that I think will be the most useful or interesting or funny, or that I've put the most effort into!  If you don't have a blog, you might be interested to know that, behind the scenes, there are lots of statistics that we bloggers can look at to figure out how many pageviews a post has had, the country people have come from and even the search terms used to get to our blogs.  I probably look at the stats more than I should, but I find them fascinating.

Here are the most popular posts of all time on my blog at the moment:

Chicken Tractors I don't know why my chicken tractor posts have been so popular!  I'm sure plenty of others have written about them too.  When I realised that the first post had a lot of page views, I wrote some more posts to explain the concept in more detail, I was also asked to do a guest post on chicken tractors, whic…

Solar electric fence energiser

Since we first experimented with electric fences, we are gradually using them more with our cattle and finding how useful it is to be able to quickly create temporary fences when and where we need them. We have also made some semi-permanent fences, around a dam at Cheslyn Rise and around the hugelkultur at Eight Acres. We leave these in place and just hook them up to an energiser when the cattle are in the paddock (but we might replace them with a permanent fence one day). The only problem we have had with electric fences is when the batteries go flat.



Some of our cattle refuse to go near any electric fence no matter if it is connected to an energiser. This is very convenient as we don’t actually have to remember to attach an energiser. Bella and Molly (the dairy house cows) will not even step over a non-energised electric fence wire if I put it on the ground for them and call them over. I think they are superstitious. The braford cattle respect electric fences when they are…

Reviews of homesteading and real food books

Are you looking for some good books to read over the Easter holidays?  To get you started, here's a whole lot of book reviews, I'm sure you can find something you want to read out of all of these!


Cows can Save the Planet
A series of interviews and experiences with experts in soil, holistic grazing, biodiversity, the water cycle and how all of these things can help us with climate change and living better.

Teaming with Microbes
Great explanation of what microbes are living in our soil, how they can help us and how we can help them.

Silent Spring
Classic book from the 1960s about the emerging damage from synthetic chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Changing Gears
How one couple decided to re-evaluate their lives by cycling from Tasmania to Cairns, read about their amazing journey.

Cooked
Michael Pollan investigates how we've come to cook our food, from BBQ pork and cassoroles to bread, cheese and beer, and so much in between.

Whole Larder Love
Thinking about where you food comes…

Permaculture on Eight Acres

Permaculture seems to be getting more popular, I'm seeing it pop on on blogs more often and its great to see people talking about it and teaching each other.  I'm still running my series of guest posts on permaculture, so if you are keen to share what you know, please get in touch eight.acres.liz at gmail.com.



In the meantime, here's a compilation of posts about permaculture from me and my guests so far:

I first wrote about permaculture in mid 2012, in which I tried to cover some basics about permaculture ethics and principles.  Permaculture is pretty hard to explain in a short post.  If you know nothing about permaculture, I think the one thing that I want you to know is this: permaculture is a way of organising things so that you get more product from less work.  Surely you want to know more now!

The best part about permaculture is that its all common-sense, you just need to do a bit of reading and thinking and suddenly you find yourself using it all the time without even…

Deadstock

Sometimes it feels like on the farm we experience as much death as new life, and I suppose that's just how it has to be, but it can be difficult to deal with at times.  Some of the deaths are intentional, and some are just bad luck or bad management.  I can accept animals dying to provide us with food, it feels like it has a purpose.  The other deaths are harder.  I don't share them all with you because I don't want to burden you, unless I think you might learn something from them, I just keep them to myself.  I get to see all the living animals all the time and so the occasional unfortunate death of a nameless chicken or cow is just part of the farm, its the lifestyle we have chosen, it balances the good times and reminds us that life is precious.

I don't want you to to think its all baby animals and sweetness on the farm, but I don't want you to be sad every time one of our animals dies either.  It is sad for us, we usually take a moment to say goodbye to the ani…

Lantana poisoning killed our little bull

Our little Dexter bull Donald was sick with lantana poisoning for several weeks.  I wrote this post last week with a happy ending, hoping to share with you our success in curing him, but unfortunately he didn't make it, Pete burried him yesterday.  I still wanted to share this as a warning to take lantana seriously.  We have had cattle eat it before and not suffer any consequences, so we got blase, and now we have seen first-hand how dangerous this plant can be.  We are going to miss our little bull, I'll write more about that another day, here is just the practicle aspects of lantana poisoning.


If your animal is sick and you are looking for advice in a hurry, scroll down to the summary at the end.


Lantana camara, a declared class 3 pest plant in Queensland, seems to flourish in the South Burnett (and indeed throughout most of coastal QLD and northern NSW). Usually I am happy to let plants grow, especially if they are thriving, but Lantana is poisonous to cattle, so in this cas…

Garden update - April 2014

Like I said in my April Farm Update post, March was mostly hot and dry, with a 100 mm rain in the final week.  I continued condensing the garden into a smaller area to make the most of the grey water and planned for continued dry times.  Before the rain we didn't have much to harvest, a few large tromboncinos, lots more chillies (even though I've not been watering the chilli bushes), kale and a few herbs.  And some carrot seeds.  Now of course everything is green and growing again!  I took all these photos before it rained, so I'll show you the green next month :)


I had access to lots of mulch in the form of hay that our house cows wasted, so there is now a nice thick covering on the garden in all the areas that are not actively growing anything.  I have found that the water is absorbed more effectively if I dig small holes around the the plants I want to keep and water straight into the holes.  Kind of like mini garden swales.

I have been thinking that I need to make bett…

Vote for ME! (please)

So I nominated myself for the Australian Writers' Centre Best Australian Blog 2014.... it seems that there are 1124 other entries so I don't like my chances!  But I may as well have a go.  I am entered in the People's Choice award as well as the rest of the competition, so here's how you can help, you just have to click on the link below and vote for Eight Acres.  Its listed towards the end of the first page, and then you have to click through each page using the "next button" and enter your details at the end.  I already voted for myself so I could check out the process for you!  There are so many interesting blog names in there, I wanted to see what the rest of them were about.  I have one month to collect votes, so I hope you don't get sick of me reminding you about it.  Thanks so much for your support!
 

How I use herbs - basil

I grow basil every year and it has so many uses, I wanted to share it next in my herb series before it dies off in the first frost.


How does Basil grow?
Every summer I grow some basil.  I know some people who can just sprinkle around some basil seeds and end up with more basil than they can use.  Not so in my garden.  I have to coax basil out of the ground.  It takes a long time (weeks!) to get to a decent size.  This year I didn't manage to raise any from seed despite several tries, so all I have in the garden is a plant that my mother in law grew and one I bought from the market.

One year I grew basil and I didn't pick it enough, it just grew two long stalks about 1 m tall.  Since then I have learnt to nip off the growing points so that it forms more of a bush.  If it starts to flower too early, you can just pick all the flowers, otherwise, let it go to seed and you might have more success than I do at growing some more!

Originating in India, basil's botanical name is Oci…

Farm update - April 2014

In Australia March is the beginning of Autumn, although the Autumnal equinox is not unitl the 21st.  Lets just say I didn't notice much of a change from summer.  We even had another heat wave day over 35degC!  The weather was consistently hot and dry, I think we got a few mm of rain the day before the super-hot day, so that would have evaporated pretty quickly.  The yard dried out until it was almost just dust with some dried grass.  Then we got a little bit of rain in the last week, around 100 mm over several days, which has topped up our rainwater tanks, soaked into the ground and recharged the dams (although they were VERY low prior to the rain, so they are not yet full).  The wet season 2014 didn't start until March - better late than never!


We rounded up our weaner calves and sold them privately.  It was a huge relief to have them gone.  We gave the braford cows a couple of weeks to recover some condition on our last good paddock, and they were next to the saleyards, apar…