Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How I use herbs - Neem oil

I first discovered neem oil in 2012, and since then I have found more and more uses for it. Even though this isn’t actually a herb that I grow (yet!), but it’s a herbal product that I think you should know about, so I’m including it in this series on the herbs that I grow and use. My original post about neem oil is particularly popular at the moment and I thought it was time for an update. In that first post I had only tried neem oil in an insect repellent, but it turns out that there are many other ways to use neem. Here’s what I wrote last time about how neem works:
Unlike most chemical insecticides that kill by contact with the insect, neem oil works by disrupting the insects’ hormones, so they must ingest the neem oil to be affected. This means that it only affects insects that bite or chew, and is safe for bees and spiders (and, unfortunately, fruit flies), unless they become coated in the oil. As the neem oil affects the hormones, only small amounts are required for insecticide use (0.5–1% neem oil in a carrier). Read more here about how it works.

The repellent action of neem oil is less well understood, but appears to work (I am living proof), although its effectiveness seems to depend on the type of mosquito (see here). As far as I can find out, slightly higher concentrations (up to 10%) of neem oil are effective as an insect repellent. I think this explains why beneficial insects are not affected or repelled by the low concentrations used to kill biting insects, however, higher concentrations work to repel all insects (because I don’t want to wait for them to bite me, get sick and then die!).
Also a safety note that I need to add, neem oil does have contraceptive properties, and should be used with care by anyone who is pregnant or seeking to become pregnant. Unfortunately, at a time when you want to avoid chemicals the most, you might also want to avoid neem oil, I’ll leave you to use common sense in this regard.

eight acres: how I use neem oil
citrus leaf scale removed and repelled by neem oil

In the garden
Neem oil is effective against biting and chewing pests. Recently I have used a 5% concentration of oil in water and detergent to remove citrus leaf scale. I just sprayed on the neem oil and scrubbed the leaves with a toothbrush (this is my mini lemon and lime in pots, so they don't have many leaves). The good thing was that any insects that I missed in the physical removal would have also been affected long-term by the neem, and it repelled the ants that tend the scale insects.

We also had a mystery bug making holes in Pete’s hydroponic tomatoes. I sprayed all the formed tomatoes with the same mixture and the holes stopped. It was good to know that the spray would not affect pollinating insects, as there were plenty more flowers on the plant that still needed their attention. We just had to wash the film of neem oil off the tomatoes before we ate them, which was much nicer than washing off derris dust.

eight acres: how I use neem oil
here's that unhappy wet rooster again

In the farmyard
Recently I shared with you my success using neem oil to remove mites and lice on the chickens. I can report that all chickens I have checked lately are free from external parasites. Having previously used toxic chemicals to treat the chickens, I am very pleased to find a more natural alternative. It is more pleasant to use and I don’t have to worry about not eating the eggs afterwards.

In the house
Over summer we were constantly battling ants in the kitchen. I had tried everything, chemical and non-chemical, short of calling in pest controllers. Finally I had a brainwave and sprayed all the benchtops with neem oil with the same mixture as above (I find this is a general purpose concentration). I had to repeat this over a week or so, and eventually the ants disappeared. I dont't know if this worked due to either the repellent effect or I have actually killed the nest, either way, they are gone and I am happy.

On the people
I have been using the neem-based insect repellent that I mentioned in the previous post, and its great, it really seems to work in most conditions, and although it does smell strong, its no worse than chemical insect repellent. I am thinking about making my own version with some added beeswax for a thicker mixture, as the oil does tend to leak out of bottles, although so far it has washed out of all the clothes I have split it on (there have been a few incidents).

eight acres: how I use neem oil
my gross nail fungus is completely gone after using neem oil

The other application I have found is treating a nasty nail fungus. I had denied the problem for so long, that it had covered half my big toe nail before I did anything. After some research, I found out that neem oil was a treatment option, which I preferred to buying a medicated cream, so I covered my toe nail in pure neem oil every night for 6 weeks. I could clearly see the improvement after this time, and 6 months later the damaged nail has nearly grown out completely, leaving healthy nail behind (wow nails grow slowly!).

As you can imagine, a neem tree is very high on my list of herb trees to plant in our new garden. It is an amazingly useful and I keep finding more uses.  Now anytime I have a problem with an insect I think of neem oil.  What do you think?  Have you used neem oil successfully?

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

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

What is real food?

I talk about real food and so do many other bloggers, and we probably all mean different things, so I wanted to share with you what I consider to be real food and how I got to eating this way.

When I was growing up, I was pretty lucky that my parents didn’t allow much junk food (didn’t feel lucky at the time of course!). We very rarely had takeaway, soft drink, or packaged foods and my mum cooked most meals from scratch. When I left home and started studying at university, I lived in the hostels (colleges) for the first year and we ate in a big food hall with thousands of people. They usually fed us rice, pasta, potato, bread rolls and a little veges and meat in a sweet sauce of some kind, followed by desert. It usually tasted awful and I filled up on the carb options so I didn't go hungry. After that first year, I went flatting (lived in a share house with other students) and we usually cooked from scratch mainly because we couldn’t afford to do anything else! I wouldn’t say that we ate very well, as half the food budget went on alcohol. We bought a lot of processed foods in the form of packets, jar or cans of sauces, these contain all sorts of artificial ingredients, including flavours, colours, preservatives, and plenty of sugar and seed oils.

eight acres: what is real food anyway?
this book might help....

After I moved to Australia around 10 years ago, I started to find that the acne I had battled and conquered during high-school was slowly returning. I was not impressed, and finally I went to see a naturopath. I didn’t really know what to expect, but she started to ask lots of questions about my digestion and what I ate. I had always believed the woman’s magazines that said that acne wasn’t influenced by what you eat, and here was a naturopath proposing to heal my skin by healing my gut. I was skeptical, but willing to try it. Over the next few months I went to the naturopath every one or two weeks and I cut out all processed foods, wheat, dairy (except for yoghurt), sugar, caffeine and alcohol. She also had me taking probiotics, drinking vegetable juices and eating lots of fresh veges. I read a book about detoxification, which explained that while the liver and kidneys are the main organs for removing toxins, the skin and lungs also have an important role if these primary organs are overloaded. After six months, I saw a massive improvement and I had got used to this new way of eating. I went back to eating dairy, spelt grain bread, and dark chocolate, but I have never drank much coffee, tea or alcohol since then, because it makes me feel sick now.

Around this time I read David Gillespie’s books Sweet Poison and Toxic Oil, which convinced me that we should avoid fructose and seed oils. Chocolate is an ongoing challenge for me.

It wasn’t until we got our house cow Bella that I started to learn about traditional foods. That seems completely backwards, most people find out about the benefits of raw milk and THEN get the cow. We did a course on cheese-making just after we got Bella, and that’s when I found out about Nourishing Traditions. As well as the raw milk, the raw cheese and yoghurt, we also started fermenting vegetables, soaking and sprouting grains and making bone broth. I saw further improvements in my digestion and general energy levels. I also found that cooking with bone broth and fresh herbs from the garden has so much flavor, you really don’t miss having the processed packets of flavouring.

Lately I’ve been reading about primal and paleo lifestyles. This involves getting the majority of your energy needs from fat rather than carbohydrates (including sugar), so the aim is to eat protein, good fats, lots of veges, some fruit and very little carbs. I find this an interesting concept, and I think the more we cook from scratch and eat what we grow, the more we move towards this anyway. The lifestyle also requires certain types and amounts of exercise, sun exposure and sleep, so its not just a “diet”, its a whole way of life that's suited to our bodies. Its also encouraged that you eat MOSTLY paleo, but you don’t worry about 100% compliance, you need to listen to what your body needs.  Dairy can be included if you can tolerate it.  There is a lot of research about the damage that fructose and gluten do to our bodies, but some of this is reduced if food is fermented.  If you don't have time to ferment grains, then it probably is best to avoid them, from what I can figure out.

I was interested in paleo, so I started looking more deeply at various “extreme diets” (just out of interest). Some that say we should eat all starchy foods, all meat/zero carb, all raw vegetables. At first I couldn't understand how all these diets, seeming so different, can each work for different people.  Obviously different ways of eating work for different people, but I think the one thing that these diets have in common is avoiding processed foods. If there’s one thing you change, it should be to cut out the junk. If it comes in a box, a packet, a jar or a can and contains ingredients with numbers, or that you don't recognise as food, then don't eat it!

So what is real food?  I think its food that is as unprocessed as possible, free-range meat and wild-caught fish (including organ meat), seasonal vegetables and fruits, fermented dairy, sourdough, bone broth, nuts, a little bit of raw honey, saturated fats (olive and macadamia oils, animal fat and butter).  But your definition doesn't haven't to be the same as mine, just whatever works for you.  See 100 Days of Real Food for more information.

If you’re right back at the start, where I was before I saw the naturopath, eating mostly good food, but still a lot of processed packets of flavouring, fructose and seed oils, and you're not feeling well, either overweight or showing other signs of ill-health, like acne, an excellent resource is David Gillespie’s new book Eat Real Food, in which he explains the basics of giving up fructose, seed oils and starting to cook from scratch. Its not easy at first, it requires planning, but when you know what you’re doing and you start to feel better (and many people also lose weight), it gets easier and its worth the effort. Then if you’re interested, you might keep going down the real food journey and find out what else works for you, whether its traditional foods, paleo or something else!

Eat Real Food is available from Amazon here (affiliate link)

Do you eat real food?  What's your definition?

A few other books that you might find useful:



Clever Chicks Blog Hop
The Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop
From the Farm Blog Hop

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Removing asbestos from our secondhand house

One of the reasons that we were reluctant to buy another old house was asbestos. Unfortunately asbestos was a very common building material in Australia up until the mid 80s.
In Australia, asbestos was widely used in construction and other industries between 1946 and 1980. From the 1970s there was increasing concern about the dangers of asbestos, and its use was phased out. Mining ceased in 1983. The use of asbestos was phased out in 1989 and banned entirely in December 2003. 
Two out of three homes in Australia built between World War II and the early 1980s still contain asbestos.  -

 If you are not familiar with the dangers of asbestos, try watching the ABC TV mini-series Devil’s Dust (you can download it from itunes here, well worth it if you have a husband who doesn’t think he needs to wear a dust mask). It traces the life of Bernie Banton, who worked in an asbestos factory, and his fight to get compensation for himself and his colleagues after he got sick. This graphically shows the impact of asbestos on so many people, from factory and mine workers to home renovators, and negligence of the people and companies involved and most of all, the importance of safe handling and disposal of the remaining asbestos in our homes and workplaces. If you’re not aware of the danger of asbestos, basically it can cause both chronic lung disease (asbestosis) and a particularly nasty lung cancer called mesothelioma. It only takes one fibre in the lungs to cause this cancer, there is no safe level of exposure, and absolute care must be taken to avoid inhalation of asbestos fibres.

eight acres: removing asbestos
Our "sunroom" with asbestos walls

eight acres: removing asbestos
the sunroom after removing asbestos wall sheeting and the vinyl flooring

As you know, we went ahead and bought the old house anyway, and it has a small amount of asbestos in one of the built in verandas (known as the "sunroom"). If you buy a house in Australia that was building before the mid 80s, chances are, it will contain some amount of asbestos, with some houses clad entirely in “fibro”. Once you have identified the asbestos (you can send a small sample away for testing), then you have two choices, either leave it sealed and do not drill, sand, cut or damage it, or remove it and dispose of it safely and within the relevant legislation.

Asbestos is only a danger when it forms airborne dust, so if its in a wall panel that is painted and not damaged, then you could just leave it alone. Many work places in Australia have chosen to do exactly that. The problem we had was 1) it looks horrible and 2) we wanted to repaint the wall and add power points, which required cutting and sanding the asbestos, so we decided to remove the asbestos at this stage, before we have furniture in the house and when its relatively easy to control the dust hazard.

In our state (and most states in Australia that I checked, but you should check for yourself before you start work) we are allowed to remove 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos (that’s the boards, not the fluffy insulation, and what a disaster that is by the way). This is a useful guide about identifying asbestos in its many forms, how to handle it and how to dispose of it correctly. Its hard to take asbestos seriously when it seems so innocuous, it doesn’t smell bad, or look dangerous, you don’t feel sick immediately after you handle it, you need to constantly remind yourself the damage if can do to your health many years in the future and protect yourself and others from that danger.

Tips for removing asbestos

  • Send samples from your house to positively identify asbestos, if in doubt, assume that its dangerous.
  • Find out what you’re allowed to do in your state, can you remove it yourself?  How much can you remove?  Do you need to pay a contractor?
  • Find out what other requirements you need to comply with, how do you need to prepare the asbestos and how and where do you dispose of it?  We had to wrap our asbestos in black plastic and arrange to take it to the landfill so that it could be buried immediately.
  • If you are allowed to remove the asbestos, prepare your equipment and safety gear. You will need disposable overalls, P2 or better dust masks, PVA glue mixed with water in a spray bottle to stick down any lose fibres. Remove all furniture from the room and keep pets and children away from the area. You need to have all your tools ready because you don’t want to have to walk from your contaminated area to clean areas while wearing your overalls. Don’t use a domestic vacuum cleaner as you will just stir up the dust. If you’re not comfortable with the safety measures, pay a skilled contractor to do the work.

eight acres: removing asbestos
PVA glue mixed with water is used to settle and stick any remaining asbestos fibres

eight acres: removing asbestos
We had to wrap the asbestos in black plastic prior to disposal at landfill

The scary thing is that 2 million tonnes of asbestos is still being mined annually by Russia, China, Brasil and Kazakhstan (and until recently, Canada). Where is all this asbestos going? Its just a safety and environmental disaster waiting to happen. Asbestos is completely banned in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Turkey, but not the US or Canada. I was surprised to find such a short list of countries had banned asbestos. I think we are lucky that Australia has banned it, because at the time we had quite a large industry that mined and produced asbestos products. This is thanks to the work of Bernie Banton, see more about him here More info here about the continuing global production of asbestos.

Have you removed asbestos safely from your own house?  Or decided to leave it?  Do you know what you're allowed to do in your area?

Clever Chicks Blog Hop
The Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop
From the Farm Blog Hop

Monday, May 18, 2015

Threading an overlocker

I’ve had my eye out for a secondhand overlocker for a while, and when one popped up in our local buy/swap/sell group (has everyone joined one of these on facebook? They are great fun, Pete and I play out that scene from “The Castle” regularly!). Anyway, it was only $30 and it looked OK, so I claimed it, and I picked it up in the weekend. I actually said to Pete “how hard can it be? Surely between the two of us we can get an overlocker working”. Maybe I shouldn’t say that kind of thing.

eight acres: how to thread an overlocker (La Sarta)

So began my crash course in overlocking. If you’re not familiar with this machine, its like a sewing machine, but it takes 4 threads and it cuts and binds the edge of the fabric as you sew a seam, so it saves time. You still need a sewing machine for button holes and tricky sewing, but for straight lines and simple patterns the overlocker is quicker. I dreamed of sewing up shopping bags and cloths and wheat heat packs and maybe curtains, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I found the manual for this overlocker, which happens to be a bit of a dodgy brand. I think it was made for Spotlight for a short time under “La Sarta”, but was also made for Kmart as “Homemaker”. Its pretty basic, and that would be fine, if I could get it to thread correctly. I have watched every youtube video I can find on threading an overlocker, and if nothing else, this $30 investment has taught me more about overlockers than I could have ever imagined I needed to know. There’s nothing like spending a couple of hours trying to thread a difficult one to make you appreciate the special auto threading mechanisms in the fancy ones.

eight acres: how to thread an overlocker (La Sarta)

The problem with overlockers seems to be the “lower looper”. Of the four threads, two feed into the belly of the machine and into “loopers” (upper and lower) and the other two into needles. The needles are similar to sewing machines. Easy, no problem with the needles. The loopers are tricky, the thread has to be fed through various tension points marked with coloured dots. The upper looper is easy to follow, but the lower looper thread has to wrap around the looper in a part of the machine that is dark and inaccessible. In the fancy machines there are levers and removable bits of panel to get into that space. On this machine there is not and I can’t see if it actually has a groove to hold the thread in place, but it seems like every overlocker instruction I can find requires the thread to sit in that groove.

And so I struggled and fiddled and I have just about given up. This is the last chance for the La Sarta, if someone out there can’t help me thread it, I will have to give it away (no point keeping something I can’t use). But I’m glad I’ve learnt what to look for and my next secondhand overlocker purchase will be far more informed!

eight acres: how to thread an overlocker (La Sarta)

eight acres: how to thread an overlocker (La Sarta)

eight acres: how to thread an overlocker (La Sarta)

Are you able to save the La Sarta? Have you ever bought something secondhand and later regretted it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

RIP Cheryl

RIP Cheryl (Chez) 2003-2015 Pete's best mate.

Comments will make us too sad.  Just hug your dogs for us.  And this link about a dog's purpose in life is very sweet.  I'll be back next week.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Is it winter yet? Cold weather preps

Technically no, its only Autumn, but in the last week our temperatures have plummeted (to use a TV weather report term) and we have started to take this cold season a bit more seriously. Now I know you Southerners and anyone from a country that gets snow, are all just laughing about the “cold” we experience here in Queensland, but when you consider that over the last few weeks our overnight temperatures have gone from around 20degC (i.e. sleeping under a sheet only) to 5degC (i.e. finding more blankets in the middle of the night), I think we can safely say that it is now cold (relatively speaking). Winter starts at winter solstice, 21st of June here in the Southern Hemisphere, so we have plenty more cold to look forward to (and I spent the last 6 months of 30-35degC highs waiting for winter, so I'm not complaining!).

Here’s a few posts I prepared earlier, because winter happens every year and I’ve written about it before a few times!

eight acres: cold weather preps

Keeping Warm
If you haven’t read about our woodstove yet, here’s a few posts to get you started. I love our woodstove, it is one of the first really “self-sufficient” things we bought. And we have plenty of wood on our property (about 100 acres of trees), so we should be ok for wood heating for the rest of our lives. We use the woodstove for cooking all through winter and it keeps the house warm too.  We even use the ash on the garden. If you don’t have a woodstove, maybe you can use Lavender wheat heat packs to keep warm this winter! And don’t forget the dogs…. Sewing dog coats.

Woodstoves for heating and cooking

Winter Woodfires: installing a woodfire

Winter Woodfires: cooking in a woodstove

Winter Woodstoves: using wood ash

Winter woodfires: how to light a fire

Winter woodfires: preparing firewood

eight acres: cold weather preps

Knitting (and crochet)
Knitting always seems like more of a winter craft. I don’t really like to knit when its 30degC and my hands are all sweaty, but come winter and the knitting addiction returns. Over the past few years I’ve been teaching myself to knit, and more recently, to crochet. Youtube has been a fantastic resource. I have even learnt to knit socks and am working on a lacey alpaca wool shawl at the moment.

Knitting - some people make it look so easy!

Knitting is a survival skill

Learning to knit from a pattern

Knitting - how to handle a hank of yarn

Easy knitted arm warmers

Knitting socks on four double-pointed needles

I'm hooked! Learning to crochet...

Finger-crocheted rag rug from old t-shirts

eight acres: cold weather preps

Even though we are in the sub-tropics, we still get the occasional frosty morning. Usually 5-7 per year. But you only need one to kill frost sensitive plants, so this really limits what we can grow over winter, but it also kills lots of bugs, including the flies that worry the cattle.

The main thing we do for winter is roll up the shade cloth on the sides of the garden, and move frost sensitive plants up to a table under the carport, where they are more protected from frost. I need to get another mini greenhouse because the last one has holes in it, the plastic doesn’t last well, I’d like to build something more permanent instead of buying more plastic.

Frost preparations

Frost - what is it and how to manage it

Southern hemisphere readers, is it getting cold where you are?  Did temperatures plummet recently?  (I know its Spring the Northern hemisphere, enjoy the warm! and come back to this post in 6 months)

Friday, May 8, 2015

GreenPro - implements for small farms

A tractor with implements is an essential tool for getting work done around the farm. At Cheslyn Rise, our 256 acre property, we have a 75 HP tractor with front bucket and forklift tynes. We have ploughs, a hay rake, cultivator drill (seeder), a 800 L spray tank and a slasher. At Eight Acres, we only have a tiny 15 HP tractor with a slasher. Often we wish we could use the big tractor there too, but its just not practical to transport it.

eight acres: implements for small farms
Here's me driving the small tractor!

When I write about farm work we’ve done using our big tractor, I usually get questions from readers about how do these things on a smaller scale, for a hobby farm or lifestyle block, especially our recent pasture seeding, which required two ploughs and the cultivator drill. Until recently, I haven’t had any answers. I think its an issue that we’ve all experienced, its hard to justify buying even a small tractor for a small hobby farm, and even if you do buy one (ours is secondhand), its hard to find appropriate implements, that’s why we only have a slasher. We haven’t been able to plant pasture on our small farm, and we are always lugging around manual spray packs, because we haven’t found any implements suitable for a small tractor or ATV.

When Ben from GrenPro contacted me to tell me about their new range of implements for small farms I instantly saw the potential for this equipment. So far they have an irrigator, a sprayer and a cultivator (combined plough and seeder), in various sizes, that are designed to be used with an ATV or a small tractor, and this range is due to expand over the next few months. I caught up with Ben from GreenPro on the phone to discuss their products.

GreenPro are based in Caloundra on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and they are part of the Quick Corp group, which has been manufacturing various equipment for over 25 years. Its important to me to that they have a history in manufacturing, as the components are more likely to be good quality. The implements are also made in Australia, and you know I like to support local manufacturers.

I can give you an overview of each of the implements now, and Ben is planning to bring them out to our property for a demonstration, so I’ll be able to tell you more in a few weeks. Keep reading, because there’s an exclusive offer on the implements if you mention Eight Acres – the blog.

eight acres: implements for small farms

The irrigator is an 85 m roll of hose that you set up and extend by hand or using an ATV, and the hose automatically retracts using solar power, pulling the spray-head along, even over uneven terrain. This can be used to automatically water a large section of paddock, for pasture growth, a crop or just dust control. It only needs 23 psi water pressure, so can be hooked up to a pump or mainswater.

More about the irrigator on the GreenPro website here.

eight acres: implements for small farms

ATV Spray Trailer
The GreenPro ATV Sprayer is available in 200, 300 and 400 L tank size and designed to be towed behind an ATV. With a range of pump configurations, 4 m boom, and 20 m hose with spray nozzle, this can be set up to suit any application. We use our big sprayer to spray organic fertilisers, herbicide to kill evil lantana, and its our back-up firefighting rig if we lose power to the house. You could even use it to safely cart water to distant paddocks. This smaller version would be great for a small farm, and would have saved us lugging around manual spray packs.

More about the spray trailer on the GreenPro website here.

eight acres: implements for small farms

The GreenPro Cultivator is my favourite of the small farm implements. It can disc, plough, seed, cover and roll your new pasture in a single pass, you only need to buy one implement to do all that work, and its quicker than using multiple implements. It comes in three sizes, suitable for ATVs and small tractors. This would be ideal for planting pasture on a small farm. We have seen massive improvements in carrying capacity from just the small amount of pasture that we have sown so far, and if you currently have poor pasture, you will see the value in this implement too.

More about the cultivator on the GreenPro website here.

Pricing on these implements starts at around $3000, and GreenPro are currently able to offer a 10% discount on all these implements if you mention Eight Acres – the blog when you order. For more information and a firm price, you can talk to Ben directly on 1800 768 748. Also see the GreenPro website for more information.

GreenPro also want to know what implements you’re looking for on your small farm. What do you see in the range available for big tractors, or even just implements that you dream of, that would be useful to you? Leave a comment, tell me what you think should be GreenPro’s next implement for small farms. And you can leave questions about the implements here too and I’ll either tell you what I think, or pass them on to Ben.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Slow living farm update - May 2015

Here we are in May already and its time for another slow living update.  Once again I'm joining in the Slow Living Monthly Nine, started by Christine at Slow Living Essentials and currently hosted by Linda at Greenhaven.  How was your April?

We have been experimenting with different dog food options.  We've decided that most of the dog biscuits have too much grains, and even the grain-free options have too much pea protein.  We've tried BARF and K9 Natural, both are made from meat, offal, vegetables and extras like eggs, yoghurt and kelp.  Both are very expensive.  Then we found this pet mince at our local supermarket, and the butcher told me is only meat trimmings and offal, at $3/kg, its perfect.  We add vegetables and the extras.  Only problem is that Taz doesn't like offal, she picks it all out. We are trying to teach her to like it by mixing in some canned "Chum", which is grain-free canned dog food! I have never put so much thought into our dog food! Read more about Using the whole beast.

We are preparing for winter by bringing home firewood.  We haven't had many nights cold enough for the woodstove yet, but they are coming!  Read more about our woodstove.

Here's the roosters from the batch of chicks that we hatched earlier this year.  They are growing nice and fat.  Its funny to think that we haven't bought chicken meat for years now, because we always have a rooster or two in the freezer and the bought ones just don't taste as good. See my post Raising chickens for meat.

This seems like a good section to give you an update on our secondhand house.  We have now finished painting the second bedroom and the hallway.  Although we haven't started on doors, doorframes or windows.  We are just trying to get the bulk of the walls done first.  Next we will start on the main bedroom and lounge.  But we are going to take a break before we start that, and we will work on our solar bore pump project instead (which is also green!).  

See my garden update from Monday, there's lots growing in the garden at the moment!

Winter weather always makes me want to start knitting.  I have a project unfinished from last year, but I decided to just do some easy knitting to get back into it.  I was going to knit some socks, but the hole turned out too small for my foot, so now I'm making more arm-warmers instead.

Trees on our property are flowering and we are trying to discover which tree is which.  In the past Pete has never taken any notice of flowers (even when I pointed them out), but suddenly, now that he wants bees and flowers feed bees, he is more interested in flowers than I am!  We got an old book called "Honey Flora of Queensland", but we are not very good at identifying them yet.  This one is some kind of ironbark.

After I mentioned in my post on perennial vegetables that I would like to grow pepino, another blogger offered to send me some cuttings, and a few days later, a package arrived with pepino, bamboo and old man salt bush, and a rubharb root.  So far the pepino cuttings are doing great, one bamboo has sprouted, but the salt bush and rubharb didn't make it.  It was such a lovely gesture and wonderful to think that we can share bits of our gardens and help each other in this blogging community.  I sent back some seeds, and I'm always keen to share seeds, but I had never thought of sharing cuttings in the post before!

I don't go clothes shopping very often, I find the big shops overwhelming, but I do like to stop into my local op-shop (charity store), particularly if Pete asks for some t-shirts, then I have an excuse to browse.  This singlet, with a picture of a crazy medieval goose-lady, was a pretty exciting find. (Pullet: model's own).

Here's a few posts that I enjoyed this month (also shared on my Eight Acres facebook page):

My garden featured on Backyard Roots

Root Simple links to a video about renting and homesteading/

How to do a loose bind off to finish knitting

Advice for new beekeepers from Honeybee Suite

Why sugar (especially fructose) is addictive.....

What's Broody Chicken? -

6 Ways To Live The Country Life... Even If You're Not In The Country! - Country Life Experiment

Lye from wood ash - I really want to try this, then we will be able to make 100% self-sufficient soap!

Homemade black soldier fly bins -
Here's another project for Pete's list....

Can you be Zero-Waste & a Minimalist? | Treading My Own Path

5 Things People Believe About Homesteading - Homestead Dreamer

19 Things Only Women With A Low Maintenance Fashion Sense Understand
From Ohio Farmgirl

George Monbiot
"The macho commitment to destructive short-termism appears to resist all evidence and all logic. Never mind life on Earth; we’ll plough on regardless."

Well that was April at the farm(s).  How did your April go?  What are your plans for May?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Garden share - May 2015

April was a strange month, in a good way though.  We had about a week of rainy days, and cooler temperatures, but not too cold.  The garden flourished!  Suddently we have tomatoes, tromboncinos, chokos and asian greens and chickweed everywhere.  The celery has even got nice thick stems.  It is kind of sad to see this and know that we will get frost soon and the tomatoes, trombos, chokos, beans, rosellas and lettuce will all die, leaving only the hardy asian greens, silver beet, celery and broad beans.  I planted some peas too, but I may have left that too late, as they won't survive a heavy frost either, but I couldn't have planted them any earlier with the heat wave we had in March.  I've started to prepare for winter by rolling up the shade cloth around the sides of the garden to let more sun in, and moving sensitive plants into the carport.  My plastic greenhouse, which has been so useful other winters, has now degraded and gone brittle, so I need to replace it, but I'm not sure about buying more plastic, knowing that it will only last a few years.

In May I expect to be weeding and removing the summer plants after the first frost.  We should continue to harvest tomatoes from the hydroponics (I expect it to be more protected from frost as the water resevoir will hold some heat overnight, but we will soon find out if that theory is correct).  We will have plenty of greens too.

the garden is a bit messy at the moment


various self-seeded asian greens

peas that I planted too late

a brilliant large pak choy

tomatoes, better late than never I suppose

more tromboncinos

winter tarragon in flower

sneaky chickens eating the choko leaves (that rooster looks guilty right?)

black russians in the hydroponics, hurry up and ripen!

the harvest from the hydroponics so far, anyone would think it was summer here!

How was your April?  What are your garden plans for May?

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