Wednesday, April 30, 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.

Donald the dexter bull
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 the neighbour's bull, check out the video below:




Do you have any bull experiences to share?  Any questions?

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.

Monday, April 28, 2014

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 mono-culture farming model is not working, we don't know any rich farmers, most are doing it pretty tough, but they just keep doing the same thing and losing money.  In You Can Farm Joel suggests a different way of thinking about farming, he discusses finding a niche, adding value, diversifying products, not getting sucked into buying horses and fancy farming stuff.  He suggests several primary enterprises that can bring in money right away and are cheap to set up, and then secondary enterprises that can build diversity.  He makes us think about our property and the opportunities that are open to us.

Salad Bar Beef and Pastured Poultry Profit$
Salad Bar Beef
Pastured Poultry Profit$

If you are looking for advice on the practical day-to-day management of beed and poultry, these are the books you need.  Considering that most beef and chicken books that I have read do not discuss moving the animals over pasture, natural management of animal health, and even marketing of the meat, these books are unique.  For the Australian reader, there are many aspects that do not directly apply to our climate, Joel is also dealing with different pests and diseases and we can't get all of the products that he suggests, we are also working under different food safety legislation, however the general principles are useful and certainly get us thinking about a different way to farm.

Everything I Want to do is Illegal
Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front

This is another book that won't tell you HOW to farm, but I enjoyed reading it all the same.  Even though Joel is writing from an American perspective, many of the issues he discusses are happening here in Australia too.  Things like being illegal to sell raw milk, homekill meat, the difficulties with organic certification, building your own house, national animal identification systems, I did an awful lot of nodding (and laughing at the way Joel describes the ridiculousness!).  If you are passionate about producing, eating and having free access to real food, you will enjoy this book.


The Polyface Farm DVD

If you don't like reading, then the Polyface Farm DVD is a good option.  We watch it regularly to get a dose of Joel.  It is a little dated, made in 2001, and doesn't go into heaps of detail, but does give a good overview of the Polyface method.  I do think it spends rather too much time discussing rabbits though!

Have you read these or any of the others?  Any recommendations?

Friday, April 25, 2014

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, which helped me to answer even more questions about chicken tractors.  And one more post with step by step instructions showing how we build a chicken tractor. We are really happy with the chicken tractors we made, we now have four big ones and two small ones.  The best part is that we never have to clean out a chicken pen, we just move the tractor to fresh ground and we have seen a huge improvement in the pasture that the tractors have moved over.  We let the chickens free-range from the tractors, but if we need to keep them locked up for some reason, we can just move them more frequently.  The tractors are predator proof, and if we notice any evidence of digging around them, we just move them over (we don't have anything that can dig under in a night).

How to use a chicken tractor  May 7, 2012

Chicken tractor guest post    May 29, 2013


Worm farms
I first got the worm farm and a handful of worms from a friend in 2012, but the most popular post has been about getting the compost out!  I wonder if people are struggling with this aspect of worm farming?  I wrote a follow-up post about worm farm maintenance.  I really do think that if you're not confident with compost, a worm farm is the easiest way to transform garden and kitchen scraps into compost, worm wee liquid fertiliser and chicken food (worms).  The worm farm does not require much effort at all, it has survived through heat waves and frosty nights, and the only problem I have had is invading meat ants eating the worms.

Worm farm compost   Apr 22, 2013


Guinea fowl
I first wrote about guinea fowl when we brought home ten day-old keets.  That has been the most popular post, although I wrote about them again about 6 months later when we started them free-ranging, and again just recently as an update on their progress.  Guinea fowl have been a real learning experience for us, not like keeping chickens at all, and not very happy in their chicken tractor!  We have hatched some more though, so we will probably be keeping some around the farm for a while yet.  I still don't know if they eat the paralysis ticks though!

Guinea fowl keets   Jan 30, 2013


Tallow soap
The idea with the tallow soap was to both use up a waste produce from having steers butchered on our property, and to make something that we usually have to buy.  I know many people make soap using oils, but that never seemed sustainable or self-sufficient to me, I wanted to use raw materials that we could make or grow ourselves.  The tallow soap recipe still uses some olive and coconut oil, but I think you could make it all tallow if you had no oils.  The soap does not smell like fat.  Not at all, and I made one batch without any essential oils just to be sure.  Making soap does take a bit of time to set up, and it needs to be done carefully and without distractions so you don't make a mistake in the ingredients.  I think it has been worth the effort, I've made four batches since the butcher was here, and that's been enough to use up all the tallow and to provide our soap for the year.  I also wrote more about my soap recipes (one for washing dishes and one for bath soap) after I had more practice.

Making tallow soap  Jan 23, 2013


Chickens
I have written so many posts about chickens, but the one people come back to is the one about figuring out your chicks' gender!  I hope it has helped have some photos to refer to.  I do find its easier to distiguish between them when you have a few of each and you can clearly see that the roosters have thicker legs and longer combs compared to the pullets.  If you only have a few chicks it can be tricky.

Determining the gender of young chickens  Jun 25, 2012


Woodstoves
We have a special woodstove installed at our house.  It has an oven below the firebox, which we can use to cook anything from roasts and casseroles through to cakes and bread.  I have heard that the old style stoves can be difficult to control and do not heat the house well (I suppose they were designed with summer cooking in mind!).  Our stove controls temperature well and heats the house in winter (we use the BBQ for most cooking in summer).  Installing the woodstove was a bit of a drama because we were supplied with not enough flue, but once that was sorted it has been great and very easy to light.  The thing I love about the woodstove is using a renewable resource to both heat and cook, and not using any electricity or gas.  Our property at Cheslyn Rise has lots of wood, both standing trees and piles of long-dead trees, which means we have both a carbon sink and plenty of firewood, and no guilt about using it.

Winter Woodfires: Cooking in a woodstove  Apr 20, 2011


Are you ever surprised by which posts are popular?  Do you have any favourites to share (from any blog)?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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 energised, but if not, they are happy to just bust them down and walk where they please. As we are not at Cheslyn Rise with the brafords every day (more like once a week), it is important that the energiser keeps working.

We do have one energiser that plugs into mains power, which is very useful if you happen to be close to mains power. This is fine at Eight Acres, we can usually get power to the energiser somehow, but on 258 A at Cheslyn Rise you would need quite a long extension cord! For remote fencing we use a collection of old car batteries which Pete has on rotation on a trickle-charger, there are always a few ready to swap when the batteries go flat.

Late last year we decided that we wanted to try using a solar energiser, because one thing that we have plenty of in QLD at the moment is sunshine! I bought a really cheap solar-powered energiser from an importer of cheap things. We haven’t used it much, I have to say we don’t really trust it and should have just bought an expensive one (i.e. decent brand) that we would use, we probably will next time we see one on sale.

Around the same time, we also bought a couple of solar panel trickle chargers from a camping shop. They were cheap and very easy to use. We basically have the same set up with the energiser and the battery, but we also mounted the solar panel facing north (for Southern Hemisphere) and connected this to the battery. So far if we use a good battery, it doesn’t go flat, and it gets charged constantly for free!

The biggest change to our set up is to realise that the best place for the battery, energiser and solar panel might not be at the end of the fence, where we usually put it, as there is often too much shade, its probably better out in the middle of the paddock catching maximum sun. Out of habit we tend to set everything up near the end of the fence and then remember that the solar panel needs sun and have to change it around, but we are getting used to our new system.

We are so happy with our solar system we are now looking at a solar powered pump for our bore, I’ll tell you all about it when we get it running.

Have you tried solar energisers? Any recommendations? Anything else solar at your place?


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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!

Snore.....

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 from, sourcing more of it from your own yard or at least your local area, and lots of beautiful photos and recipes to try.

Nutritionism
An explanation of the development of nutrition science and the processed food industry gives some insights into how we've ended up eating all the wrong things.

The Small Scale Poultry Flock
My favourite chicken book EVER!  How plan your flock to be sustainable, how to feed them, use them in the garden, breed them and eat them.

Making a Meal of it
Great tips for using up leftovers

Toxic Oil
Why you should eat olive oil, coconut oil, lard, butter NOT vegetable oil.....

One Magic Square
How to create a productive garden in a small space, so you can start to feed yourself from your property.

Frugavore
Eating local frugal food, lots of basic recipes to get you thinking about eating good food.

The Permaculture Home Garden
Using permaculture to create a productive home garden, gets you started with permaculture without making it too complicated.

Nourishing Traditions
Traditional societies have many traditional methods of food preparation that can help us to get more nutrition from our food, to prepare food that is more nourishing and to improve our health.

The Biological Farmer
Work with nature to improve soil and crop yeilds,  as a transition from conventional to organic agriculture.


my bookshelf
Read any good books lately?

Monday, April 14, 2014

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 realising, its not difficult, it just requires a change of mind-set.  You need to stop consuming and start producing!

In that post I included some youtube vidoes and some book suggestions to get you started.  Then I went quiet oon permaculture for a while as I did some more reading myself.

In 2013 I reviewed a principle from David Holmgren's Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability each month. This really helped me to read the book carefully and try to understand it.  Some people don't like that book because it can be quite abstract and talks about permaculture as it relates to culture and society, rather than just gardening, but I liked that aspect.  

For more practical books, try Linda Woodrow's The Permaculture Home Garden
or Toby Hemenway's Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition.

The principles that I reviewed in 2013 were:

Observe and Interact
Taking notes and records of weather patterns, vegetation, water movement etc, and making small changes (interact) and watching for the results.  This is an ongoing process, though particularly important before any major work starts.  It is a great habit to get into, and we are still a bit slack with keeping records, it is surprising how quickly you forget things too!

Catch and Store Energy
Setting up long-term storage of energy, including water and soil fertility.  This is about planning ahead and making larger investments of time/effort/money to prepare for the future.

Obtain a Yield
Producing something useful in the short-term.  Thinking about how to gain some benefit immediately so that you can keep working towards the longer term plan, especially using succession.  For example growing smaller shrubs and veges in an orchard while the fruit trees are growing to maturity.

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
Considering what we really need and what we could do differently.  This can be a gradually process of change as the possibilities for producing more and consuming less become more obvious.

Use and Value Renewable Resources
Taking advantage of all that free-energy from the sun in the form of passive solar energy and biomass.  It may take a few changes, but once you realise the benefits of free resources, you will find ways to use them!

Produce no Waste
This principle seems easy, but the challenge is NO waste, not just more recycling, this can result in some very creative thinking.

Design from Patterns to Details
Thinking about arranging your life and your property in a broader sense and then working towards the details.  I still find this principle difficult to explain.

Integrate, Rather than Segregate
Separate areas of your production can work together, for example, we harvest veges from the garden, the scraps go to the worm farm, the worm wee fertilises the garden, the worms are fed to the chickens, we eat the chicken eggs, this means we don't have to buy veges, fertiliser or eggs.  Also, our use of chicken tractors to move the chickens over the pasture means that their manure is spread out and we don't have to clean our chicken coops.

Use Small and Slow Solutions
Big and fast solutions are expensive in money and energy and can have adverse effects.  Think about using human-power and nature to slowly change things, and you are less likely to disrupt a system entirely.

Use and Value Diversity
I think this is my favourite principle!  Pete and I think about this a lot, and we try to create diversity in many areas of our life, this means planning to have many different ways to satisfy our needs as well as each different thing we do serving many purposes.  For example we produce protien on our farm in the form of beef, chicken and eggs.  And from the beef we also get tallow for soap making, hides for rugs and bones for the dogs.

Use Edges and Value the Marginal
The edges have much potential, and often the marginal is just not valued by others, but can still be useful.  Our property was on the market for 2 years before we bought it because it had too many trees, but that is something that we value.

Creatively Use and Respond to Change
Anticipating and working with change, generating change for positive results and adapting to change that we can't control.

Then in 2014 I decided to invite permaculture guest posts, as I wanted to hear from the rest of you all about your own permaculture experiences.  I know there are a lot of bloggers out there who use permaculture regularly and have much to share.  I've had some wonderful stories from the volunteers so far, so if you'd like to join in, please email me on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com.

Eight Acres: Permaculture - an invitation


Eight Acres: How I use Permaculture - with Chris from Gully Grove

Eight Acres: Permaculture - Produce no Waste - with Linda from Greenhaven

Eight Acres: Permaculture - applying the basics with Homehill Farm

Do you have anything to add?  What would you like people to know about permaculture?  Any questions?



By the way, my chicken tractor ebook is now available if you want to know more about designing and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor 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

Chris from Gully Grove

Friday, April 11, 2014

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.

Donald in full roar before he got sick
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 animal, and then we get on with the day, because you can't grieve for every single animal.  I want you to know the reality of farming though, I never want you to think that I try to cover up our mistakes or misfortunes.  And I don't want anyone to think that they would like to keep animals, only to be devastated when they realise they have to regularly deal with deadstock as well as livestock.

This week we lost Donald after weeks of sickness with lantana poisoning.  Its amazing how a single event can completely change your perspective.  Before Donald got sick I was ready for him to leave, he was being a total pain fighting the neighbour's bull, roaring all night, mooing that he was hungry when he was in better condition than any of the other cattle and generally being a nuisance every time Nancy (his daughter) came on heat.  I had advertised him for sale, I was willing to give him away if someone wanted him, and we had even discussed having him butchered, but we weren't sure what to do with all that mince.

And then we realised that Donald was sick and all I wanted was for him to get better and be healthy again.  I suppose it was the guilt more than anything, knowing that we could have prevented him getting sick if we'd spent a hot afternoon digging up lantana or just fed him hay instead.  Now that he is gone I miss him, I miss the roaring and the head tossing and the snuffling.  He wasn't the most friendly little animal, but he did have personality.  We were very lucky to find such a tame little bull to mate with our Jersey cows, and he has produced three healthy small calves, with one more due soon.

Really our property wasn't big enough to keep all these cattle through the dry summer we just had, and now we will use AI for the house cows until we move to Cheslyn Rise and have the space for another bull.  If you have Jerseys, I can recommend using a Dexter bull, as we never had any trouble with calving.

How do you deal with deadstock at your place?  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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.

Donald in full roar before be got sick

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 case, I agree that it is a pest that must be controlled. Anyone who has removed lantana will have wondered why cattle would want to eat it (it smells awful), but apparently some cattle get a taste for it.

When we moved to our property, we were vigilant about removing lantana. We would fence off a new paddock (our property had no internal fencing at first), dig out all the lantana and then let the cattle into the new paddock to eat the grass. We also tried spraying the lantana with woody herbicide, but we found that it tends to grow back, so the best method is to dig it out with a mattock and remove all the vegetation and roots (it can re-sprout if you miss any). Although there is still plenty of lantana around on our neighbours’ properties, which regularly flowers and seeds, it seems like once you’ve dug it all out, and then let cattle eat the pasture, it doesn’t really get established again (possibly the cattle eat any small shoots before they can big enough to cause significant poisoning and that keeps it under control).

During the dry weather, one of our neighbours very kindly agreed to let us use his property to graze Donald as we were running very low on grass. We were so grateful, and quickly set up an electric fence, checked for lantana, decided it was all too dead to bother with, and let Donald in to eat. About a week later we noticed that he wasn’t his usual boisterous self, was off his food and not calling out to the neighbouring bulls, and that lots of the lantana had been munched. It was completely our fault for being so lazy, we were devastated to see him like that and felt so guilty that we could have prevented it. The thing is you never know which cattle will eat lantana (some will avoid it), but it seems that we had the right approach before, dig out all lantana, no matter what. Also be wary when the grass is dry, cattle are more likely to look for other options, and eat plants that are normally unpalatable if they don’t have green grass.

The toxins in lantana cause liver poisoning. The symptoms are depression, loss of appetite, constipation and frequent urination. The liver damage results in jaundice and light sensitivity, which is more obvious in light coloured animals in the form of peeling skin around their muzzles. Donald was lucky that he was completely black and was spared this unpleasantness. Donald also had trouble walking to his water trough and just laid down under is favourite tree all day, so we brought him buckets of water. He also had a very snotty nose and trouble breathing.

The main treatment recommended is immediate activated charcoal drench (vet required) to attempt to soak up the poison. We didn’t realise that Donald was sick for several days, possibly a week, so we decided we were too late to try this, of course now we wonder if it would have helped him. We gave him shots of penicillin for four days to help clear up his nose (probably a secondary infection). And we gave him shots of vitamin C and B12 as recommended by Pat Coleby, so support his body to remove the toxins. I gave him regular brushing to stimulate blood flow when he wasn’t moving around much. We tried to encourage him to eat, offering hay, freshly picked green panic grass, grain, copra, molasses, anything we could think of, but he didn’t want to eat. We offered fresh water in buckets as frequently as possible.

A lantana-poisoned animal can take weeks to die, so while Donald was sick we were constantly looking for signs that he might be starting to recover, or if he was suffering too much. With each injection he seemed to get stronger (i.e. more resistant, with tail flicking and head tossing), so we were convinced that he was improving slowly, but then in the last few days he just went downhill very quickly.  It was horrible watching him suffer and if this ever happens again, I will know to euthinise the animal before he gets to this stage, but I just kept thinking maybe he would pull through.

Summary
  • Lantana is poisonous to cattle, some cattle will eat it, and lantana poisoning can be fatal, the best way to prevent poisoning is to dig out all the lantana on your property (sorry there isn’t an easier answer, you can also spend a fortune on herbicide, but we found it just grew back).
  • The symptoms of lantana poisoning in cattle are depression, loss of appetite, constipation, frequent urination and light sensitivity in pale skinned animals. 
  • If you catch it in time, a vet can provide an activated charcoal slurry drench to try to soak up the toxins. If this animal is important to you call a vet immediately and have them try a charcoal drench.
  • If there is any sign of secondary infection, give antibiotics.
  • Shots of vitamin C, vitamin B12 and frequent brushing may also help support recovery.
  • Make sure the animal is in the shade and has access to water. Provide food, but it may not want to eat.

More information about Lantana and Cattle

QLD dept agriculture - Lantana

Have you experienced lantana poisoining in your stock?  Any tips for recovery?  Any tips for removing lantana?


Monday, April 7, 2014

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 :)

the March harvest basket

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.
mulch on the bare areas
the green end - the herbs

I have been thinking that I need to make better use of the small area that we are watering, and I should really plant some root vege seeds there.  Usually in winter we don't get heaps of rain, but we don't get the hot days and evaporation rates that we've had over summer either, and sometimes the grey water is even too much and the soil gets too soggy, so I'm HOPING that we will be able to use more of the garden gradually as the weather changes, but in the meantime, I think I need to use the small area that we have more effectively.

The few things that ARE growing, are the tromboncinos, the high-priority hebs, and the rosellas (very slowly).

rosellas forming

basil flowers

So in April I am planning to plant a few root vege seeds - carrot, radish, beet, swede, maybe some peas and broad beans.  I'll continue mulching and building up the soil.  I will harvest what I can and keep the herbs going.



How was your garden in March?  What are your plans for April?

Friday, April 4, 2014

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!

click on link above



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.

A couple of basil bushes in my garden this summer

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 Ocimom basilicum, a member of the Lamiaceae family, which also includes mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender (I don't know how they work out these families!).  There are lots of different varieties of basil, sweet basil is the most common, Thai basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil purple basil are other varities.  Greek basil is a different species, Ocimum ovabatum, and tastes similar with smaller leaves.

basil flowers up close
What is Basil good for?
Basil has many medicinal properties.  It is recommended for digestion, so its lucky that it tastes nice and easy to add to various dishes.  I use it in all the obvious things, pesto, pizza, pasta sauces, but also chopped up and added to any casserole or sauce, and to salads.  

Basil is also reported to support the immune system.  It can also be used crushed and rubbed on the skin to both repel insects and to relieve insect stings and bites (I need to try this one!).

I haven't had much luck with drying basil, it tends to turn very dark and smell funny.  I find the best way to save a little basil for winter is to make pesto or paste with oil and freeze it in cubes, or make a basil infused oil.

making pesto

Macadamia pesto recipe
a handful of macadamia nuts
a couple of handfuls of basil
a couple of cloves of garlic
a sprinkle of parmesan cheese
enough olive oil to get a nice texture

Put all the ingredients in a blender until mixed (not too smooth)

Do you grow basil?  How do you use it?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

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!

Our driveway at Cheslyn Rise looking from the house towards the road
Taz isn't worried about the weather!
Neither is Cheryl when there's "ball" to play
Except when its hot and then any shade will do
And Cheryl doesn't mind a cold bath on a hot day

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, apart for a few really skinny ones.  Our main focus now is looking after our house cows and the steers for our own eating.  Molly's milk production has decreased and Ruby is taking enough milk now that Pete doesn't have to milk every day, just once a week when we need some milk.

Weaner calves ready to sell
Ruby and the cows in the background

The big chickens are moulting, but we are still getting enough eggs to eat and a few to sell.  The chicks that we hatched are getting bigger and will be ready to free-range soon.  We still have three adult guinea fowl and seven keets.... we are rethinking their housing arrangements.

Big rooster has lost his tail

crazy guineas!
little chicks getting bigger

I will write about the garden next Monday, although there's not much to tell...

not much in the garden!

I have started some herb-infused olive oil so I can make some beeswax ointment, I've haven't tried it before, so it will be interesting!  And the other week I tried a gluten-free bread mix (because I had eaten way to much wheat and was not feeling great), I was surprised how good it turned out using my normal bread method (mix in a bread maker, leave dough for 6 hours with a little kefir added, bake in the BBQ).

herb-infused olive oil

gluten free bread mix (ingredients: maize starch, potato starch,
flaxseed flour, psyllium, pea proteinn)

Blogs I enjoyed last month

Homestead in Africa

Making our Sustainable Life

And a new organic shop at Brisbane's West End: Marcia's on Montague

I feel like this year has been huge already, the weight of the dry weather and extra animal management work has really taken its toll.  I am looking forward to cooler days and a few days off over Easter and ANZAC day.  I know the US has had a horrible cold winter, which holds its own stress too, and you will no doubt be looking forward to spring.

How was your  March?  What are you looking forward to in April?

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