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Farm update - September 2015

I'm not sure that I'm ready for spring..... whether you consider 1st of September or the spring equinox (23rd September) the beginning of spring, I think its already here, the days are starting to warm up.  We've had some days up to 30degC already!  I just want to hold on to winter a little longer.  We've had several days where the woodstove was not needed, but we did also get a little rain in the last week, about 15 mm, very patchy (some areas got much more than this), and the grass is a little greener as a result.

so much milk!

tasty young roosters

fermented rosella ale
Food and cooking
We have so much milk, with Bella and Molly both milking now, we are giving most of it to the two poddy calves, but there is still plenty for the house, several litres per week, which we keep in glass bottles.  We butchered the remaining six roosters (raising chickens for meat).  And I enjoyed some refreshing rosella ale.

We also watched That Sugar Film (That Sugar Film Amazon affiliate link) which reinforced our efforts to avoid sugar.  As we don't buy processed food, including cakes or biscuits, I am contributing by continuing to not bother to bake anything, and then we just have to restrain ourselves when offered other people's baking or free biscuits at work!  I do have the occasional spoonful of honey in my chai tea though.  If you don't know much about sugar and what it does to our bodies, this is a good introductory film to get you started.

Here's our queen
wattle flowers
Land and farming
We haven't needed to do much "farming" lately, as our lovely tame angus cattle are looking after themselves.  We have been tending to our bees, and moved them from the nuc we bought them in to a full-sized hive box.  There are lots of wattles in flower at the moment (some pollen, no nectar), and other iron barks, the bees seem to be making plenty of honey.

hens enjoying their yoghurt

Lucky the rooster

We butchered the remaining six roosters, and the farmyard is now a calmer quieter place, with 26 hens all laying and two roosters.  We are getting 20 eggs/day and I have started to beg for egg cartons from my workmates!  Pete has been making yoghurt from the leftover milk using a large food-grade bucket, and this he feeds to the hens who absolutely love it.

Charlotte sneaking a drink from Bella
Bye Bye Brafords!
Cows and cattle
Three good news stories:
1 - Poddy calf Charlotte has been allowed to sneak the occasional drink from Bella (see the photographic evidence), which means we will soon be able to use her as a share-milker when we don't want to milk, we are still milking to feed the other poddy calf, Rosey, but she is eating plenty of hay and will be ready to wean in a few months.
2 - we managed to muster the three remaining renegade braford cows and sent them to the sale, where they fetched record prices and weighed in at an average of 600 kg each.  They did have 16 months with 250 acres to themselves, so they obviously had plenty to eat.
3 - the butcher has been booked for third week of September and we are on a mission to eat the last of the beef in the freezer!

The harvest
I forgot to take a photo of my garden, its a sea of yellow and white brassica flowers, and I'll soon be saving these for next season.  I am still harvesting plenty of asian greens, kale, silverbeet, broccoli (one floret at a time), peas, celery and leeks.  I picked lots of herbs to dry for tea.  We'll buy some tomato seedlings from the market this weekend and get the hydroponics started again.  I'm not sure how much to plant over summer, its always so disappointing when we have to ration water to the garden.

installing easy VJ
demolishing the kitchen

We replaced the wall where we removed the asbestos with "Easy VJ" which is an MDF product that looks like VJ.  It looks nicer than asbestos anyway, and now matches the rest of the house.  Now we are up to making big decisions about the bathroom and kitchen.... tiles, bath, cabinets....

chickens harvesting warrigal greens
Permaculture - Obtain a Yield
The distinction between "Catch and Store Energy" and "Obtain a Yield" can be a little confusing at first, and they do overlap, but the first is more about long-term planning, such as water storage and growing trees, whereas the latter is about planning for immediate returns from the property. Both principles need to be considered in planning our garden, pasture and animal husbandry.
We don't want to obtain a yield at any cost, the aim is to obtain a yield with minimum input of effort.  I think our growing use or perennial plants represents this principle.  Self-seeding and perennial plants continue to yield, with very little inputs required.  For example, in the photo above, the chickens are harvesting self-seeded and spreading warrigal greens from my garden.  We can eat the greens, but even better that the chickens eat them and produce delicious eggs.  My input to this system was planting a small cutting of warrigal greens a few years ago.  Raising chickens themselves is a great way to obtain a yield as they lay eggs at a young age, and are also are ready to harvest for meat relatively early and regularly compared to larger animals.

Here's Taz, wasn't sure where to put this photo...

soap to sell

Support me
I finally put my soap for sale on Etsy, so if you're interested in trying tallow soap, have a browse (see my Etsy shop here or see the links below)....  I have 100% tallow, lemon balm, pink clay and gardener's soap (the one with coffee grounds) for sale.  I also have a combo package of skin salve and 100% tallow soap for sore skin relief, I know this really helps me (its also good to avoid detergents and liquid soaps).

How was your August?  What have you been up to on your farm, in your garden and in your kitchen?  What are your plans for September?


  1. Oh my, i have approx 3 million egg and apple cartons in my factory. One of our tenants warehouse and labels them with the various brands. There are trucks pulling in and out all day. How to get them to Qld? Too many carbon miles :(

    1. haha! Its ok, I have put up a sign at work and people are bringing them for me :)

    2. I took about 10 egg cartons to the last permie meeting and nobody really wanted them.

  2. You guys certainly are busy. Good on Pete for making yoghurt! And you, for starting a soap business. I'll go have a look at your site soon. I want to remind everyone that Christmas isn't that far around the corner, so consider buying Liz's soap for presents. That's what I'm going to do. :)

    I've read that yoghurt, helps naturally keep worms down in chickens. I've been putting some of my home made apple vinegar into our chickens water, with a little garlic, in readiness for summer. I can only give them plain water then, so I'm helping to worm them now.

    I agree perennials are a good way to grow food, if you're time poor or couldn't be bothered, lol. Don't ask me why but Warrigal Greens are everywhere around here, I never planted them. But I grab a handful occasionally, to feed to the chickens. They also love the Walking Stick kale. What I've been aiming to do is get in as many plants as I can, to turn into chop and drop mulch. As our soil is really lacking in top soil. Growing veg is a good goal, but I needed to develop a cycle - like all plants do in nature. Some grow to produce edible parts, and other plants grow, just to drop nutrient to feed the system. So part of the edible perennial systems (as far as my place is concerned) is getting those nutrient feeders in too.

    Loved seeing a picture of Taz, and your placing is coming along well! Are you willing to put an estimate down, for when you expect to apply for a certificate of occupancy? Or is it still too far away to predict?

    1. Thanks Chris! Yes I've read that yoghurt is good for chickens and they seem to LOVE it, they didn't seem to drink the milk, so this is a better way to give them the leftovers.

      Perennial mulching plants, great point, these should be part of any system...

      With the house, we actually have council approval, so we could move in at any time (although now that we have pulled the bathroom and kitchen apart, I think we should wait!). We did the minimum required for approval of the existing house after we moved it. They seemed mostly interested in the roof and woodstove, and lots of strapping. Now we are just doing the cosmetic parts that we wanted to change. And that's always easier to do before moving in.... (I'm thinking of all the things we keep meaning to fix in our current house, that aren't done yet).

  3. Great news about the bradfords. Randall is green with envy about all your milk since he likes to drink over a litre a day. Thankfully here in NZ we are getting raw milk direct from the farm so that is easing his envy some what. The vj's look great and I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with for the kitchen.

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