Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Simple winter knits for beginners

Over the past few winters I've been practicing my knitting.  I was taught to knit originally by my granny when I was younger, so I knew the basics, but I had never really practiced until I became interested again a few years ago.  I have been buying wool and needles from markets and op shops and teaching myself using youtube.  I never like to spend time practicing something just for the sake of it, I like to make something that I can use, so I have been trying to find things to make that help me to refine my technique, but are also simple and ultimately useful.  Obviously I can't launch into huge projects while I'm still struggling to knit consistently and neatly, but I managed to find a few small things to knit that have really helped me to gain the confidence to make something larger.

eight acres: learning to knit - some suggestions for beginners
This is what I made this winter to practice before I make something bigger.

Here's what I have come up with as suggestions for beginner knitters to practice:

  1. Headband or ear-warmer - this can be as simple as a strip of 10-15 stitches knitted in either garter stitch or stockinette stitch, keep going until it reaches around your head and then stitch the ends together to form a band.  For something different you can add stripes of colours, or try a fancy knitting stitch.
  2. Button-up snood - this is just a short scarf (you could make a scarf, but that takes longer!), again, you can add stripes or fancy stitches.  I took the opportunity to practice ribbing at each end and added button holes.  I started with 30 stitches and knitted until it was long enough to go around my neck.
  3. Snood in the round - a great way to experiment with needles "in the round" is to knit up a simple snood.  If you get it twisted, its called a helical snood (great for covering mistakes!).
  4. Arm-warmers - this is a great way to practice knitting on double-pointed needles.  Just make a hole for the thumbs using the same technique as for a button-hole.  I like to add stripes to this one too, but could also be done with a fancy stitch.  Ribbing at the top stops the top from folding over.
  5. Tablet or phone cover - we bought a new tablet and I decided to knit a cover for it instead of buying a cover.  I just knitted a long strip in the right size and sewed up the seams.  Again, you can add whatever techniques you need to practice.
  6. Socks - this might seem like an odd one for beginners, but after you've figured out double-pointed needles, you have most of the skills to finish socks as well, you just have to really concentrate on the pattern!

Lately I have been side-tracked with crochet, so I haven't knitted anything bigger yet.  I am wearing my arm-warmers and ear warmer as I type though!

What do you think is a good project for learning to knit?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Three essential principles of organic gardening

Worm farm kits from Biome

Organic gardening is easy.  In fact, once you get your organic garden established, it should be easier and cheaper than "conventional" chemical gardening.  The most important thing is to forget everything the chemical companies have told you about gardening.  Forget NPK fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.  You need to learn to work WITH nature and gradually nature will start doing most of the work for you.  Don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs either.  Here's three essential principles to get you thinking differently.

eight acres: organic gardening - don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs, let nature do the work!

1. Forget fertiliser - feed the soil
I wrote about soil a few weeks ago and my main conclusion was that if you increase organic matter everything else starts to balance.  My favourite way to increase organic matter in the soil is compost.  And my favourite way to compost is using worms.  Worm compost is fool-proof!  You just need to set up a worm farm, add worms and kitchen scraps and harvest the compost and leachate.  Lately I've also been making compost heaps on empty spots in the garden.  I just pull out weeds and heap them up in a pile, add ash from our woodstove and wood shavings from the chicken nesting boxes and in a few months, I have a pile of compost to spread over the garden. - Worm farm kits are available from Biome, click the banner at the end of this post.

eight acres: organic gardening - don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs, let nature do the work!

2. Control weeds with mulch, not herbicide
I don't really mind weeds in my garden, as they help me to build compost.  I do find its a good idea to keep the garden paths free of weeds, and so I keep a layer of mulch on the paths.  I also mulch around plants and just pull out any weeds that get too big.  If you are feeding your soil, there is no point worrying about weeds taking nutrients from your plants, there will be plenty to go around and the weeds can actually contribute too.  Not only does mulch help to control weeds, it also adds organic matter to the soil and helps to retain moisture.  On the other hand, herbicide will kill soil microbes and not help you do feed the soil.

For mulch I use:

  • woodchips from mulching branches around our property
  • hay that the cattle didn't eat (it does not have to be lucerne!), 
  • newspaper is really good for paths and it takes a while for the weeds to break through, 
  • wood shavings from the chicken nest boxes, 
  • grass clippings if we even mow the lawn.  

eight acres: organic gardening - don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs, let nature do the work!

3. Biological pest control is more effective than pesticides
Biological pest control is about encouraging beneficial insects and birds into your garden.  By allowing a natural balance between predators and prey, you let nature take care the pests.  Also if you feed the soil, you will find that healthy plants do not get attacked by pests.  The best way to encourage beneficial insects is to provide lots of food for them by letting plants flower.  Many of the predators will feed on nectar if their prey is not available, so keep them well-fed and you won't have to wait for them to appear.

If all else fails - try neem oil, as this won't affect pollinators.

eight acres: organic gardening - don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs, let nature do the work!

Do you use organic gardening techniques?  What do new gardeners need to know?  Any questions?

Worm farm kits from Biome

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Active transport = frugal exercise

Do you pay to commute to work?  Either on public transport or by driving a private vehicle?  Do you also pay to exercise at a gym?  What if I told you there was a frugal way to get to work AND get some exercise, either free or at a reduced cost compared to your current commute?

eight acres: using active transport

Active transport is a term used to describe getting around by walking or cycling (or skateboarding, roller skating, running, skipping etc).  I have been walking to work and back in Brisbane since I moved in December to a unit a bit closer to the city (I drive down there first thing Monday morning, then back to the farm on Friday afternoon, long story back here).  My main motivation is pure stinginess.  The bus was costing $35/week, and my new unit is only a 45 minute walk to work, which is actually quicker than the bus as I can take short-cuts through parkland.  I was also finding that I got home too late and didn't feel like getting any exercise in the evening.  Best to get that over and done first thing in the morning and on the way back from work!

I have always been a walker.  I walked to school from when I was 5-years old until I finished high-school.  I used to walk to music lessons, sports practice, friend's houses.  I got my drivers license at 17, but never had a car to drive, my family only had one car, so I usually had to find another way to get where I wanted to go.  I got a bicycle after high school and I cycled to uni, to jobs, to friend's houses.  I didn't get a car until I moved out to the Lockyer Valley with Pete when I was 25.  Since then we've lived in rural areas and active transport has not been an option on narrow country roads.   So I am enjoying the opportunity to get around without driving (its not so much the driving I dislike, the parking is the worst part!).

My one gripe with active transport in Brisbane is that many of the cycle paths don't actually join up to take you anywhere useful.  Unfortunately city planners seem to view cycling (and even walking) as a recreation activity, in which you may cycle around a path and back to the start, or just up and down the river, instead of actually going from one place to another.  I remember when some of the rules changed recently so that motorists had to give cyclists more space on the road and people were calling up talkback radio saying that cyclists should go to purpose-built facilities to cycle and stay off the roads!  As if people are on the roads at peak hour because they are just out for a fun ride!  Most people I see in the morning are on their way to work, cycling, walking or running (and one on a motorized skateboard, Pete said I can't get one).

Of course when I'm full-time on the farm, I get plenty of exercise.  I had to do a health check at work once and I put "farm work" down as my daily exercise.  I explained that I often have to carry heavy things long distances.  I was told that I needed to try to get more "organized exercise" into my day!  And while I'm not full-time on the farm, I don't want to lose my farm fitness by sitting on the bus!

I understand that active transport is not a possibility for everyone and there are lots of reasons why it may not work, but I challenge you to think about it.  Can you get off the bus a stop earlier?  Can you walk to the station instead of driving?  Can you cycle to work one day a week?  Think of the cost saving, and possibly a time-saving if you don't go to the gym when you get home.

Do you use active transport?  Or farm fitness routines?  Why or why not?

Monday, July 20, 2015

How I use herbs - yarrow

I haven't found the best spot for yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in my garden yet, but when it does grow well, it has a number of uses.

How to grow yarrow
According to this link, yarrow will tolerate a sunny position and doesn't like wet soil.  I currently have yarrow in a pot with my other herbs and occasionally it flowers, but more often it looks like its struggling to survive, especially if the pot dries out.  I really need to find a more permanent position for it, maybe if it has deeper roots it will be more resilient.  Yarrow can be propagated by division or from seed.  When it does grow well it can be a vigorous ground cover.

eight acres: how I use herbs - yarrow

How to use yarrow
  • In the garden, yarrow's flowers attract beneficial insects and the plant is used as a compost activator, and in biodynamic preparations
  • The plant contains volatile oils (linalool, camphor, sabinene, azulene), flavonoids, bitter alkaloid (achilleine), and tannins
  • It has medicinal uses as a diaphoretic (inducing sweat), and is therefore, good for fevers, cold and flue
  • It also stimulates digestion, lowers blood pressure, is good for circulation and can regulate the menstrual cycle
  • And applied topically it aids in healing wounds, having an anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic effect
For topical application I like to add it to a salve by infusing olive oil with yarrow leaves (and usually other skin herbs such as chickweed, calendula, borage and comfrey).  I also add dried leaves to a herbal mixture which I drink daily as an infusion.

eight acres: how I use herbs - yarrow

Do you grow yarrow?  (What am I doing wrong?) And what do you use it for?

Other posts about herbs in my garden:
How I use herbs - Mint, Peppermint and Spearmint

How I use herbs - Aloe Vera

How I use herbs - Basil

How I use herbs - Ginger, galangal and turmeric

How I use herbs - Marigold, calendula and winter taragon

How I use herbs - Soapwort

How I use herbs - Comfrey

How I use herbs - Nasturtium

How I use herbs - Parsley

How I use herbs - Borage

How I use herbs - Herb Robert

How I use herbs - Purslane

How I use herbs - Chickweed

How I use herbs - Neem oil

How I use herbs - Rue, tansy and wormwood

How I use herbs - Brahmi

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Soap with coffee grounds

Before I started making soap I used to buy a soap with coffee grounds in it.  It was a "gardener's soap", the coffee grounds were supposed to help with scrubbing dirt off your hands.  Recently I decided to try making something similar.  I found a few recipes (here and here) to get an idea of how much coffee to use.

The recipes say to use fresh coffee grounds and fresh espresso to make the lye, but as we don't drink coffee, and this was just for washing hands, I wanted to use waste coffee grounds instead.  We got some from a friend of a friend with a cafe and I dried them in the woodstove.  I used packets of instant coffee that I keep around in case someone wants a coffee.

eight acres: coffee soap recipe

I decided to use half tallow, quarter coconut oil and quarter olive oil for this recipe as the coconut oil adds more suds and that seemed appropriate for a soap that would be used to clean hands.  The recipes also suggested that the coffee would remove other odours.  I wondered what it would smell like, so I didn't use an essential oil for this first batch.

The recipe is based on my bath soap recipe from a previous post.

Coffee soap recipe
250g olive oil
250g coconut oil
500g tallow
6% superfat
142g caustic
300-330g coffee

The soap doesn't smell like coffee, so next time I would use an essential oil like tea tree or eucalyptus.  I quite like the colour from the coffee, and it does seem to work at cleaning my hands after gardening.

What do you think?  Do you like to play around with soap recipes?  What else should I try?
PS I'm going to start selling my soap in September....

My other soap posts:

Natural soap using beef tallow

Monday, July 13, 2015

Buying, selling and moving cattle - what are the rules?

When we first started with cattle I found the rules and regulations for buying, selling and moving cattle to be very confusing.  Here are a few tips that you may find useful.  Remember that I am no expert, I'm just telling you what I understand of the system, consider this advice from a neighbour leaning over the fence, please check the details with your local stock inspector or state department of primary industries (or equivalent).  Read the rest on my house cow ebook blog.

eight acres: buying, selling and moving cattle - what are the rules?

You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book review: Omnivore's Dilemma

I feel like I am the LAST person to read Michael Pollan's 2006 book The Omnivore's Dilemma.  It has been mentioned on so many blogs as an influence over the way people eat and how they understand food production, when I saw it at the library I thought it was time I read it too.  I'm so glad I did!  I think I would enjoy ANYTHING that Michael Pollan wrote.  He really has a wonderful way with words, sometimes I read a sentence twice just to try to absorb some of that ability for myself.  Even better, the topic is something that interests me immensely.  The omnivore's dilemma: What should we have for dinner?  As an omnivore, we CAN eat nearly anything, but what SHOULD we eat?

eight acres: Omnivore's Dilemma book review

Michael attempts to answer this question by tracing four meals from their origins to the table.  The first meal is monoculture corn, through to feed-lot beef, in a burger containing corn derivatives such as high-fructose corn syrup, eaten in a car running on ethanol made from corn.  Many would not realise just how much corn is in the US food supply and why (due to farm subsidies, which are less of an issue in Australia, although the feed-lot system is very similar).

Next we follow a meal made from industrial organic chicken and salad vegetables, as well as an "organic TV dinner".  This meal highlighted the fact that organic rules can be used to simply substitute an organic input for a chemical input, and technically the food is organic, but its not necessarily any better for us, the animals or the farm-workers.  For example an organic chicken raised in a barn may not ever access the outdoors even though its "free-range".  If you do choose organic, its important to understand the certification systems that create the rules that producers must follow.  My understanding of the Australian Certified Organic system is that growers must have a management plan that aims for self-sufficiency, this means that industrial systems would not be certified, even if all the inputs were organic, however the more you can find out about the practices of an individual farm the better.

The third meal was from Joel Salatin's farm.  I was surprised to find that I learnt more about Joel and his farm through a section in this book than I have learnt in reading several of Joel's books, watching his dvd and attending a day-long seminar!  Maybe that is the power of carefully crafted prose.  If you're interested in Joel's work, then its worth reading this book for that purpose alone.  If you haven't heard of Joel, his farm is not "organic certified", but it is symbiotic with very little inputs, he produces free-range broiler chickens, eggs, beef and pork from 100 acres and sells these products locally.  This meal was very close to how Pete and I eat everyday, as much as possible produced on our property or bought locally.

eight acres: Omnivore's Dilemma book review
vegetables grown in our garden

Finally, Michael attempts to create a meal only from hunted or foraged foods, including wild boar and mushrooms.  This was a very interesting chapter for me as I'm keen to do more hunting and foraging, although I need to find out more about our local flora and fauna.  I'd love to catch some rabbits, as we can't keep them domestically, so I need to try to catch wild ones if I want to eat rabbit (and I see plenty hopping around at night).

I didn't expect this book to be as much about farming as about food, but I guess that makes sense, as Michael was addressing the question of what to eat my examining where these four meals ultimately came from.  I particularly enjoyed his assessment of modern farming:
"Wendell Berry has written eloquently about the intellectual work that goes into farming well, especially into solving the novel problems that inevitably crop up in a natural system as complex as a farm.  You don't see much of this sort of problem-solving in agriculture today, not when so many solutions come ready-made in plastic bottles.  So much of the intelligence and local knowledge in agriculture has been removed from the farm to the laboratory, and then returned to the farm in the form of a chemical or machine"
 He also discusses animal cruelty and the ethics of eating meat in the final chapter.
"To visit a modern Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is to enter a world that for its technological sophistication is sill designed on seventeenth-century Cartesian principles: Animals are treated as machines - "production units"- incapable of feeling pain.  Since no thinking person can possible believe this anymore, industrial animal agriculture depends on the suspension of disbelief on the part of the people who operate it and a willingness to avert one's eyes on the part of everyone else."
If you want to know more about where your food comes from so that you can make better choices for your health, the environment and the animals involved, this book covers everything you need to know.

Next on my list to read is Michael Pollan's 2008 book "In Defence of Food" in which he takes the concept further to examine further the human health impact of our modern diets.  I also reviewed "Cooked" when it was released in 2013.

What do you think?  Have you read it already or tempted to read it now?

Here's a few affiliate links to the books I've mentioned, I get a small proportion of the sale if you buy through these links.


Monday, July 6, 2015

How we ended up with a farm

You might be wondering how two city kids ended up with 258 acres?  This is what I wrote for Grass Roots magazine a few years ago.


When I tell people that my husband Pete and I have bought a 258 acre property and we want to raise cattle and grow our own food, they often ask if I come from a farming background. When I tell them that I’m from the city, they assume that my husband must be from a farm. When I tell them that he’s also from the city, they usually look at me with a mixture of amazement and sympathy. They are clearly wondering how two city kids can possibly run a farm, and thinking that we are just wasting a lot of money on a crazy hobby.

The truth is that we started small and focused on a few things at a time as our interest in self-sufficiency grew. We took every opportunity we could find to learn from other people, and from books, how to do what we wanted to do. And we are still learning more everyday. I hope that by sharing our story, I might inspire other city people to try a self-sufficient country lifestyle.

We started off with five acres in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley, and a few chickens for eggs. We slowly added a vegetable garden and then a little poddy steer to raise for beef. We soon learnt that one calf won’t stay in a paddock by himself, and prefers to go looking for other cattle, so we bought another steer from the local dairy farm (and practiced our fencing skills). That’s when we met the dairy farmers and started dropping in at milking time, and before we knew it we were helping with milking. We learnt about handling the cows, about mastitis and feeding minerals. Pete helped with odd-jobs in exchange for bales of hay and bags of grain. We spent many enjoyable afternoons helping with milking and other farm chores.  (More about our cows here)

At the same time we experimented with incubating our chicken eggs, and butchering the roosters. We decided to concentrate on breeding Rhode Island Red chickens for egg and meat production. We had our first steer killed at the local abattoir and enjoyed a freezer full of our own beef and chicken, and a garden full of vegetables. We installed a modern woodstove and cooked with it all through winter. Being on a rural property, all our drinking water was rainwater and all our wastewater went to the septic system. We felt like we were on the way to self-sufficiency on that property.

Then a job opportunity led us to move about 200 km NW to the South Burnett region of Queensland. We found ourselves a suitable property, this time with eight acres of land. We were soon settled in, with another garden started, even more chickens and a few steers. We started to improve the fencing and remove weeds (mostly lantana). We found that we missed the dairy so much that we wanted our own house cow, so, after months of preparation, we brought home our cow, Bella and her young heifer calf, Molly.

We had our first homekill steer and tanned his hide ourselves to make a nice floor rug for the house. This time we got to see how the butcher worked to transform our beast into cuts of meat. We were both sad to see the steer killed, but felt comforted that we knew he had a happy life and died eating in the paddock next to his friend, without a stressful journey to the abattoir. We also installed another woodstove and began cutting firewood from a large pile of felled tress on our property.

After a few years we realised that eight acres was not quite enough for us to live self-sufficiently, as we were still buying hay for the cattle through winter, and still buying firewood after the pile ran out. We were also worried that we could run out of water for our animals. Pete spent months looking at properties on the internet, and eventually he found one that we could afford, that was still reasonably close to our work. The property was relatively cheap because it still had a lot of remnant forest. Having read Peter Andrews’ books, we knew that this was good for fertility, so we were happy with the trees. There are plenty of cleared areas too, and 60 acres that had been set up for cultivation. It seemed like just want we needed, so we made an offer and bought the property.

We got ourselves a tractor and some implements and Pete taught himself to plough the paddock and plant forage for haymaking (although we later decided that we prefer perennial pasture). We bought some steers from the saleyard, and spent a stressful week repairing the fences that they broke until they got used to the place. Then we decided that some cows would be easier and found a herd of Braford cows and calves. We sold the steers and weaner calves from the cows and learnt about the cattle market. Pete was back on the internet looking at real estate and found us a cheap removal house to put on the property, so that we can live there eventually.

We have some ambitious plans for this property. In the house yard we will certainly have another garden, we will have our first attempt at an aquaponics system and start a “food forest” orchard full of fruit trees, nut trees, berries and herbs. We will have chickens, and maybe try some other poultry. We’d like to build huge chicken tractors and move them over the pasture. We’re not sure yet whether to try for organic certification, but we are using organic methods throughout the farm anyway, because they are cheaper than buying chemicals.

Occasionally, when we have a hard week and it seems completely overwhelming, we joke about moving back to the city, about Pete trying to weld and grind metal on an apartment balcony and where we would put Bella the cow. We both know that we could never go back to the city-life and relying on someone else to grow our food, so we just have to keep enjoying the benefits of living self-sufficiently on our little farm. If you are in the city and dream of a farm life, then maybe you can achieve it too by taking small steps.


Have you "ended up" on a farm?  Or would you like to?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

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?

Never miss a post! Sign up here for our weekly email...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Suggested Reading