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Farm Update - July 2015

What was old is new again.... You might have noticed over the past few months I've been trying to fit in with other formats for sharing monthly updates, so that I could link them to other blogs.  It was just getting too difficult to say what I needed to say within those formats, so I'm starting again with what I used to do.  Just one farm update with everything that happened in the previous month.  This post is mainly for my family and friends (including long-term blog followers that I've never met), who just want to know on what we've been doing over the past month.  Its also a good record for me to remember which animals we had and what the weather was like.  I'm just going to use this an opportunity to share lots of photos and tell you what's going on.  And add a few links that I've enjoyed reading during the month.

I'm going to structure it based on the pages at the top of my blog.  If you read my posts in an email or a blog reader (for example you can find me on bloglovin here), you might not have visited for a while, if you need to catch up, here are the links to the pages:

Food - this is about what we produce on our land and buy locally to create nourishing food.
Land - managing our two properties (eight acres, and our 250 acres - Cheslyn Rise), including weed control, pasture, grazing, erosion, catching water in dams, using permaculture principles, natural sequence farming, mob-stocking and learning more all the time.
Chickens - our flock of Rhode Island Reds and various crosses, for eggs and meat, hatched from our incubator and butchered on our property.
Cows - our house cows Bella and Molly that we milk, and our beef cattle, which we raise at Cheslyn Rise.
Garden - my vege garden, full of herbs and self-seeded veges grown using organic methods.
House - the secondhand Queenslander house that we moved to our big property and all the work that's still left to do before we move there.
Support me - various opportunities to support my blog, either through affiliate links or buying my own products.
And I'm going to add another category - Permaculture - because I think I need to talk about this more regularly.
And I think I need one more - Create - so I can show you what I've been knitting!

Cooking on the woodstove

Pete with the bee nuc

Food and cooking
We have been using the woodstove lately instead of the slow cooker to make stews and soups in a big pot on top.  As well as roast potatoes in the oven.

Also, we got bees, and I'm not sure where to put this, as the bees will be producing honey (food), beeswax, pollination and an interesting hobby for us both.  Maybe I will need another page for the bees!  We just have a small Nuc at this stage, and it should be ok through winter here as there are plenty of flowers around.  We are looking forward to expanding to several hives when the weather warms up.  I'm sure I will be posting more about the bees in the future, here's what I've written so far.

Honeybee Collapse is the Result of Their Enslavement in Industrial Monocultures -

War on saturated fat is over: Ketogenic, Atkins and Paleo diets are vindicated -

Why Skim Milk Will Make You Fat and Give You Heart Disease -

Perennial pasture

Servicing the tractor

Land and farming
The perennial pasture that we planted on about 10 acres of our cultivation land at Cheslyn Rise is growing really well.  It is above the frost, so even though its tropical pasture, its still green and gradually spreading out.  Of course now we wish we planted more, but it was just a trial at the time, to see what would work.  We will be planting the remaining 60 acres when we get the right weather.

And we did the 300 hour service on the tractor (this is the royal "we", I just read out instructions, "check the free-play on the such and such", and passed spanners on request), so it is clean and greased and ready for another 300 hours of work.

I also had a question on the Eight Acres facebook page about weed control and this is my answer:
We avoid spraying and leave most weeds alone, preferring to slash the paddocks (see Peter Andrews' books). Except for weeds that are poisonous to cattle, such as lantana, which we dig out or spray if the bushes are huge. We have managed to keep Eight Acres weed-free without spray, just a mattock. At Cheslyn Rise we had to spray due to lack of time. Depending where you are, you may have other issues to consider (such as proximity to national parks, and possibly different weeds to us). I would recommend that you start by reading Peter Andrews so that you understand the potential value of weeds, and try physical control if you can, as this does less lasting damage to your property.
How to Kill Obnoxious Weeds Without Using Roundup - Brown Thumb Mama

Habits that change when you homestead -

10 Things your Non-farm Friends Just Don't Understand -

The chicks we hatched in February are nearly full-sized.  We separated the pullets and roosters a few weeks ago and only had seven roosters, which left 20-something pullets! (how to tell pullets from roosters at 8 - 10 weeks).  Usually we have pretty close to a 50:50 split, so this is far more new hens than we expected and maybe we can finally sell some pullets (which was the original justification for buying the incubator several years ago!).

This means that we need to make some space in the chicken tractors, so we will be culling the older hens and roosters soon.  This is not a job we enjoy, but we try to make as much use from the older poultry as we possibly can.

Bully with his new herd

Cows (and the rest of the cattle)
Bella had her calf early last Sunday morning.  It was lucky that I was home that day because the calf was born dead.  This is the second calf that has died (and she's had a healthy calf in between), and the last one I came home just after it was born and didn't know what had happened.  We don't really know what happened to this one either, but we do know he was dead from birth, as I was right there when he came out and we were unable to revive him.  Last time I was distraught, but this time, I am kind of numb.  Since then I have seen more dead calves now than I can count, and a few dead cows too, I'm getting more used to it, I think my heart has hardened a little, I hope this makes me a more resilient farmer, and not less of a human.  Anyway, after we realised that the calf was dead we moved quickly to get a foster calf, and ended up getting two little jersey heifers, possibly future house cows.  Meanwhile, Bella has now developed mastitis again and has terrible oedema (swelling) of her udder.  Poor girl, its hard to tell if she's mourning for her calf or just feeling sick, we've had to get antibiotics again and I think we have some hard decisions to make about her future on our farm.  This would not be so difficult for any other animal that wasn't producing well, but a house cow becomes part of the family, like another pet, afterall she gives us her milk as if we were her calf.  We need to figure out the most humane and tolerable outcome for her.  But we need to get her well first, and if we are lucky she will raise these heifers for us.  Molly should be due to calve in a few months, and all we can do is hope for less drama.

In case you have lost track, we destocked Cheslyn Rise in April last year.  We sold the remaining 20 braford cows (apart from three that would not come into the yards, they are still running wild).  After a reasonable summer and autumn, we now have enough grass on the property to support cattle again, so we bought some Angus cattle, nine 2-year-old heifers and 18 weaner steers.  They are very tame and come running over when we go into the paddock.  This is much easier to work with that the previous cattle.    If food gets short, we might be able to lure the braford cows into our yards, otherwise we need to get someone in to muster them on horseback!  We now have a far better understanding of the amount of feed on our property and how to manage our cattle numbers, so we plan to sell these cattle again at the right time.

We then moved our little bull over to Cheslyn Rise to service the heifers before the neighbour's Santa Gertrudis bull finds them.  Bully (we haven't really named him yet after we lost Donald) seems very happy with the arrangement as he only had the two dairy cows back at Eight Acres, and bulls can be a bit of a pain on a small property.  We still have the three mini-moos (calves from Bella and Molly) at Eight Acres as well.  We haven't decided yet how many and which ones will be butchered this year, but its coming up to that time again too.

Hmmm, these other animals make cows seem sensible....

Goat Chaos -

My pig attacked me, I won't save his bacon now -

This is the best time of year in the garden as evaporation rates have reduced to the point were everything grows easily with just the grey water sprinkler.  And this year we also have tomatoes in the hydroponics, which is a real treat as I didn't manage to grow any in the garden this summer.  We have had a little bit of rain in June (15 mL) and some frost, so I pulled out the remaining choko vine, tomatoes, rosella and basil in the garden.  Now its just filled with asian greens, peas, broad beans, celery, so much parsley, lettuce, the occasional strawberry (yep its strawberry season in the sub-tropics!) and perennial leaks.  I pulled out chickweed by the armload and made a huge compost heaps, so I've put down some old hay as mulch to try to control it in the paths.  Read more about the sub-tropics and frost preparation here.

We have been a bit side-tracked from house renovation lately as we had to prepare the yards to receive the cattle.  Apart from pulling out the asbestos in the side room, we have been slowly working on pulling out the staples from the floor (apparently masonite under lino has to be filled with staples!  this is not something you want to spend hours work on as it really gets painful).  We have a builder lined up to replace the two extremely low windows in the kitchen with new windows at a reasonable height.  And he's also going to install a sliding door where our dodgy back door is currently.

13 Painting Secrets of Professional Painters -

Permaculture - Observe and Interact
You may remember a couple of years ago I reviewed each of the permaculture principles from David Holmgren's book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability, here are the links to my posts:
Observe and Interact
Catch and Store Energy
Obtain a Yield
Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
Use and Value Renewable Resources
Produce no Waste
Design from Patterns to Details
Integrate, Rather than Segregate
Use Small and Slow Solutions
Use and Value Diversity
Use edges and value the marginal
Creatively Use and Respond to Change

I want to now briefly review one principle a month to keep it fresh in my mind.  Staring again with Observe and Interact.  This is a principle that we now use constantly.  Especially now that we have bees.  I never ever expected to hear my husband say "oh look that tree over there is in flower"!  Every couple of weekends we go for a walk around Cheslyn Rise.  There are always new areas to explore.  We observe the slope, the soil and rocks, the type of vegetation growing, the quality of the cow manure, animal tracks, trees in flower (!) and anything else that catches our eye.  We discuss how we can use the different areas for different things (we are thinking that we could try free-range pigs in some of our forest areas, and we are always finding firewood and interesting logs for garden features).  I think we have both stopped thinking of walking around our property as a "waste of time" and we value the opportunity to observe different areas and different times of the year.

I finished knitting a set of winter woolies, including a head-band/ear-warmer, arm-warmers and a button-up cowl/ short scarf for those with short attention spans.  I think this is a good set for beginners as it really just involves knitting and purling, with the arm-warmers on double-pointed needles.  I like simple and quick knitting for beginners, its nice to produce something small but useful, after all that effort.

I was supposed to finish the alpaca yarn scarf I started, with the complicated lacey knit, but it takes so much concentration!  I picked up my crochet instead, and I'm making a blanket from some of the cheap yarn I've picked up at markets and op-shops, mainly to just practice my technique, nothing better than just working around and around for that, and it can be done while watching TV without losing my place and wrecking it.  I'll write about my pattern soon, but its based on this granny square.

house of simple: The Well Dressed Frugal Gentleman -

DIY Moisturizing Bug Block Bar | Scratch Mommy - Life, From Scratch

This one features often on Instagram!
Support me
I reluctantly jumped into the world of Instagram, come and find me @Eight_Acres_Liz.  I was worried about maintaining yet another social media platform.  I already have Eight Acres on pinterest and facebook and that mysterious GooglePlus (I have no idea if I'm using it correctly, does anyone follow me on that one? I have no idea how its supposed to work).  So far I've just been posting the occasional pretty photo from around the farm and its kind of fun.    

Also don't forget to register for Plastic Free July!

Only 16 more sleeps until Plastic Free July so let's get started!

Tips for making this plastic free July the most successful ever - Treading my Own Path

That's everything!  So how was your June?  What are you planning for July?


  1. I'm glad you're still sharing your farm updates. I enjoy following how all your projects are panning out, and the discussions around permaculture. I find Autumn and winter great times to observe and interact, because its the time your garden isn't hit by extremes, so you can enjoy getting out there more, but also seeing the seasons wind down is another way to catch what is happening too.

    When you said you pulled out your choko vine, do you mean just the dead tendrils, or the roots too? Because the vine can re-sprout after frosts finish up. It would be a shame to take it out fully, unless you needed to relocate them to a new area. We lived in very cold climate in the past, and the choko would die back every winter and grew again in spring.

    1. Thanks Chris! Yes I should have said that I pulled all the tendrils off the fence, but I left the roots there, this was its second year :)

  2. Hi Liz,
    I love this format of what you are doing and seeing what you are accomplishing on the farm.
    I use my posting as a sort of journal for family and myself to look back on.
    I tried to theme posts for a while, but it just wasn't working out, so have now gone back to just catch up posts since the last time I posted....a bit of a mish mash in my case sometimes, but that's our life.
    I enjoy reading your blogs and facebook entries, always interesting and real to life, just as it is,
    keep blogging on, I love it as I am sure many others do too

  3. I really enjoyed this post! I like the human side of blogging. I would get rid of bella after she rears the two heifers. She must have something wrong with her - maybe pestie?


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