Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beginner beekeepers - building frames

We recently got into beekeeping and have been learning as we go along everything involved in caring for these fascinating creatures.  We decided to use Langstroth hives because more beekeepers in our area use them, and we didn't want to stray into something different like Warre or top-bar hives and have no local assistance or support when something went wrong (more about different hive types here).  We are lucky to have a local beekeeping supplier nearby and have bought all the bits and pieces we needed to build hives and frames.  We also bought a whole lot of gear (a ute and trailer load) from a retired beekeeper, so we had lots of old equipment, most of it unidentified and completely new to us!

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames
Here's our queen bee
Somehow my clever husband has managed to figure out how to build the hives and the frames himself, he can look at a board for threading the wire through the frames and see exactly how it works, while I just see old junk!  This is some photos and explanations of how Pete has been making the frames.  It may not be exactly "right", although it does seem that there are many different ways to make frames and some of it is trial and error to find what will work for us.  If you have any suggestions of better ways to make the frames, please share, but be kind, we are only learning!

Among the old gear was this box, which is used to hold the frames while they are nailed together.  The box holds 10 frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

First, Pete punches the pre-drilled holes in each frame.  These are used to hold the wires, which I'll write about in another post.  Then he loads each of these side pieces into the slots in his box.  Two pieces of wood slide into slots in the box to hold these pieces in place.

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

Then Pete will put a little PVA glue in each notch and push a horozontal piece into place.  Each frame gets one nail on each side (some people put two nails, maybe we will learn that the hard way if these frames fall apart!).

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

When all the frames are nailed, he flips over the box and repeats the process on the other side of the frames.

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

Finally, he takes each completed frame out of the box and puts another nail in each end perpendicular to the first.  We store the frames in empty bee boxes, ready to attach the wire and foundation (I'll save that for another post).

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames
finished frames

eight acres: Beginner beekeepers - building frames
bored dog - see if they notice the ball when I put it in here....
So what do you think?  Do you keep bees?  How do you make your frames?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Homekill beef - two small beef cattle for added complexity

Every year for the last seven years we have raised and killed a steer for beef.  I know this because I can count off the names of each of them, Trevor, Murray, Bruce, Bratwurst, Frankfurter, Romeo... and this year it was Monty's turn, but he was a bit small (being a jersey cross dexter), so we also killed a young heifer recently acquired (we named her Fatty, because she had been in the good paddock, she's a mini hereford cross lowline maybe).  Our butcher doesn't like to come out for animals under 200 kg, so we wanted to be sure it was worth his travel.

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
Little Fatty heifer

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
Monty the jersey/dexter steer - a bit small maybe

Having two animals killed on the same day was a challenge and took some planning.  First we had to dig an extra large hole for the inedible bits (head, hooves and guts).  And then we had to figure out how to keep the second animal calm while the butcher was working on the first one.  He likes to shoot one, process it, and then do the second one, that way the meat gets into the cold room as quickly as possible.  It takes him about an hour from shot to cold room, with very little help from us, this guy is a hard worker!

We set up a pen made from portable cattle panels, and enticed both animals into the pen.  Then we put a divider of panels to split the pen in half.  We put up a large tarpaulin across the front of the pen, so that neither animal could see what was happening.  When the butcher arrived, we showed him our set up and he told us to let the first animal out.  Monty came out and started calmly eating some grain from a dish, so he was a very easy shot for the butcher.

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
one large hole

Fatty the heifer couldn't see what was going on, so she was quite happy in her pen with some hay until the butcher was ready for her.  He shot her in the pen and we dismantled it around her body.  We are pretty confident that neither animal was unduly stressed by this arrangement, which is our main aim.  Stress causes adrenaline to be released, and this can ruin the meat (causing dark cutters), so its entirely selfish, but also nice to know that Monty was born on our property, never left apart from some time on neighbour's paddocks, and died here without a care in the world, aged 2 and a bit.

Pete and I are becoming far less squeemish around this process.  I wasn't even upset when Monty was shot, just standing there admiring the butcher's perfect clean shot.  Then we looked in the severed head to count the number of teeth because I always wonder what that means.  The butcher cut open the stomachs so that we could scoop out all the half-digested grass and not fill up our hole too quickly and Pete and I were checking out the inside of the stomach and how it absorbs nutrients.  Our butcher said that some people just go inside and leave him to it, meanwhile here is both me and Pete asking him a million questions, poor guy!

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
kidney fat for rendering to make more tallow soap

I think the first time you have a homekill done its very stressful and can be upsetting seeing the animal shot and cut up.  After a few experiences, you get used to it, you know what to expect, and how to prepare so that the butcher can just get on with his job.  It definitely gets easier, and you can focus on all that lovely meat!  I recommend having a good talk to your butcher before he comes out to find out how he would like you to prepare the animals.  Usually a pen away from the house and neighbours, but easy to get to by vehicle.  And don't keep the animals in there for too long (we had one in there overnight when we didn't know what we were doing, and he was STRESSED), timing is everything and it really helps to have tame cattle that will follow you for hay or grain.

We are looking forward to comparing the meat.  Our first ever steer, Trevor, was a jersey-cross, and his meat has been the best so far, so we wonder if Monty will be similar.  And Fatty just looked so tasty, and was on good green grass, surely her meat will be nice too.  She's also the first female we've had butchered.

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
first carcass ready for the cold room

Have you had a home butcher?  Do you butcher your own?  Any tips?  Questions?

Other posts about homekill butchering:

Eight Acres: Home butcher vs meatworks

Eight Acres: Homekill beef - is it worth it?

Eight Acres: Rendering tallow in a slow cooker

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Buy the chicken tractor eBook

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, September 21, 2015

Why use natural soaps and salves?

Recently I started offering my handmade soaps and salves for sale on Etsy. I really just wanted to share with others the products that I make and use every day.  Since then I have had a few questions, so I thought I should explain more about the soaps and salves that I make.  It seems that soap has a bad reputation, but I think its all you need to use.  Keep reading to see how you can get my soap at a discount....

I keep thinking about when one of my uni friends went to a dermatologist to get a prescription for roacutane (for acne). She was on the drug for several months, and at the end her skin was perfect. The dermatologist told her to simply wash her face with soap and water. I was horrified! I had a morning and evening routine involving soap-free cleanser, toner, moisturizer and various other beauty “must dos”. Now I just splash my face with water in the shower once a day, and I really can’t see the difference. The strangest thing is that I often see in women's magazines (as often as I actually read women’s magazines!) that dermatologists recommend soap-free cleansers.  Now that I have tried homemade soap instead, I'm convinced that its better for your skin, and here's why.

eight acres: why use natural soaps and salves

Why use soap?
The question should really be, why avoid detergents?  Because the alternative to soap is a detergent, that's what all "soap-free" cleanser are, and I don’t know how that turns out to be less harsh! Soaps and detergents do the same thing, they make grease and fat soluble (including microbes), however detergents are generally stronger and better at removing fat. This is why they tend to dry out your skin. They actually dissolve the sebum that is supposed to protect your skin. The reason that soaps were thought to be harsh is that they can contain an excess of caustic (which will burn the skin) if the ingredients are not weighed very accurately, and a hundred years ago, prior to digital scales, soap making was a bit hit and miss, so it probably did seem harsh then. Also the cheap commercial soaps today often have the glycerin removed, this is a by-product of the soaping process, and it also moisturizes the skin, so soap with glycerin removed is more harsh than homemade soap.

Why use homemade soap?
 I use soap for everything – washing my body in the shower or bath, washing my hands, washing the dishes, instead of shaving cream, spot stain remover for laundry, washing the dog – but I only use homemade soap. For several years I bought homemade soap until I learnt to make my own. I have several reasons for only using homemade soap:

  • I avoid the artificial fragrances, colours and other ingredients in commercial soap
  • Homemade soap has not had the glycerin removed
  • In the soap I make, I can control the “superfat” to make sure there is no excess caustic, in fact I ensure that there is excess tallow instead.

eight acres: why use natural soaps and salves
100% tallow soap

Why use homemade tallow soap?
I was slow to try soap making because I didn’t want to have to buy lots of ingredients. At the time I thought that I should just buy the homemade soap from someone else, rather than buy all the ingredients to make the soap, such as olive oil, palm oil or coconut oil. When we started to homekill our beef and I had so much beef fat to use up (also known as tallow), I decided to try making tallow soap. Some people are going to think this is gross, but you might be surprised.  It actually doesn't smell bad.  My mum reckons she can smell the difference, but its just what tallow soap smells like, it doesn't smell like tallow.  If you really don't like the smell off the 100% tallow, I also make soaps with essential oils, and they certainly don't smell like tallow.

 Here are the reasons why I use tallow in my soap making:

If you have sore or dry skin, I recommend that you give tallow soap a try. I used to have very dry itchy cracked skin on my hands every winter, and even using the homemade soap that I used to buy didn’t help me. Since I started making and using tallow soap my skin has healed and hasn’t caused any discomfort for several winters now. I know I’m a sample of one and it could have been caused by other things (and I could be making it up to sell you soap), but I am personally convinced that tallow soap has helped me.

I make a range of tallow soaps, some with 100% tallow, and some with coconut oil for extra lather (find them on my etsy shop here or at the end of this post).  I also have all the recipes on the blog if you want to make your own.

eight acres: why use natural soaps and salves

What are salves and balms?
I started experimenting with salves because I had bought so much beeswax. And now that we have bees there will be soon be more beeswax (do you see a pattern here? I get tallow so I make soap… I get beeswax so I make salve…). A salve or a balm is just a seed oil thickened with beeswax. Essential oils and herbal extracts can be added. Generally a salve refers to a herbal extract.

Again, the main reason I like to use my homemade salves is so that I can avoid artificial fragrances, colours and preservatives in commercial cosmetics. I prefer salves to lotions (which contain water) as they last longer without preservatives. I use the salves to administer herbal remedies and essential oils for various purposes.

I make the following salves and balms:
Lip Balm ~ Lavender, Peppermint or Honey
Ingredients ~ macadamia oil, beeswax, essential oils or honey, vitamin E
Uses ~ I also use the honey lip balm as a moisturizer every night (I make it in larger jars!)

~Herbal Salve~
Ingredients ~ Olive oil infused with comfrey, chickweed and calendula, lavender essential oil, vitamin E
Uses ~ Assists with healing and soothing skin conditions such as cuts, rashes and bites

~Muscle Salve~
Ingredients ~ Olive oil, essential oils (lavender, clove, oregano, wintergreen, eucalyptus and peppermint), vitamin E
Uses ~ anti-inflammatory and soothing oils to relax and heal sore muscles and joints

~Insect Repellent~
Ingredients ~ Olive oil, neem oil, essential oils (citronella, lemon grass, peppermint,
eucalyptus, and tea tree), vitamin E
Uses ~ for protection against biting insects (and soothing existing bites)

You can buy these on my Etsy shop or find instructions to make them here.

What do you think?  Do you prefer homemade natural products?  Do you use soap?  Have you tried tallow soap?

My other soap posts:

Natural soap using beef tallow

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Guns on farms

I haven’t talked much about guns because when I did the course to get my gun license it was made quite clear that we should keep our guns private. We were actually told not to shoot near a property boundary where a member of the public might see the gun and complain to police, even if its on our own property! Gun laws have been strict in Australia since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 when 35 people were killed by a gunman.

 In order to get a gun I first had to do a two-day course and pass a theory and practical test. I then had to wait six months to get the license, which was approved for “rural purposes” because of the area of our property. If you don’t have a large enough property to qualify, you have to belong to a gun club to get a license. After I got the license, I then had to apply to acquire the particular gun I wanted to buy, with a written justification as to why I needed it. My license only allows rifles and shotguns, so there wasn’t much choice anyway.

I think there is a place for guns on farms, and I don't think we should avoid talking about it. I also think that our current gun laws are necessarily restrictive. I don’t think owning a gun is a right, it is a privilege for those who can demonstrate a genuine need and capability.  But we need more education, rather than trying to hide guns away.

Putting down cattle
We originally decided to start the process to get a gun license because we were worried that we would have to put down cattle at the start of the drought. At the time, so many people were sending cattle to the sales, that some cattle were being turned away. We realized that if our cattle got too weak, we might not be able to sell them. Fortunately we were able to sell the cows before it came to that, and cattle numbers are now so low, the market is great if you have anything to sell. The sad fact is that many farmers have had to shoot their animals. 

 We have had to ask our neighbour to shoot a sick cow for us before, and we’ve had another euthanised by the vet. I think the gunshot was better for the cow, because the drug took so long to work and the cow was so scared the whole time, the shot is quick and she doesn’t even know it happened. We were told to use either a .22 magnum or larger rifle, or a solid 410 shotgun bullet. You do need to shoot the animal in the correct spot on their head, see the instructions here.

Controlling predators and feral animals
The other reason we thought we might need a gun is to control the wild dogs and pigs we know live on our property. They live in the bush areas, and while they are not a problem at the moment, they could kill calves, and make it difficult for us to keep our own pigs. 

While it is illegal to shoot native animals, including the dangerous ones, we can get a license to shoot kangeroos and wallabies for our own consumption (50 per year).  We also have plenty of rabbits, but they are a bit quick for me at the moment!

Butchering large animals
So far we have always had a butcher come to our property to kill our cattle for beef, but we butcher the chickens ourselves. Anything larger than poultry is best killed with a gun. You can slit the throat of a lamb or a goat, but it would not be pleasant. As I said above, a gunshot is quick and the animal doesn’t know what happened. Eventually we would like to butcher our own beef, and to do this we need a gun. Some more remote properties would do this regularly just to feed the people living on the property.

Learning about guns and gun safety
I learnt to shoot in highschool when I joined the small-bore rifle shooting club. I never owned a gun then, or had a license, I borrowed a gun from the club and only shot on club days or at competitions.  Over a couple of years I learnt to shoot at small targets about 100 metres away, lying down in “prone” position. I went to the club once a week and saw my aim gradually improve. This was a really good way to learn, on a small rifle, the techniques required to aim and hit a target, and all the safety requirement. I think I learnt more from that experience than the gun license course, which was more of a refresher for me (all the others in the course were from rural backgrounds and already knew how to use a gun).  We need to put more time into target shooting now that we own a gun, so that we maintain that ability.

Taz is scared of the gun...

I’m not saying that every farm needs a gun, but I do think that you should consider if you might need one for the above reasons. You might be able to rely on neighbours, but I don’t like to be in that position all the time. I think that it pays to learn how to shoot and be confident around guns, even if you don’t need to own one, its certainly a skill I didn’t know I was going to use again!

I'm not sure if I should ask this.... do you shoot?  Do you think guns are an important part of farming and self-sufficiency?

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Building of the Queensland House - Book Review

Renovating our second-hand "Queenslander" removal house has been like a cross between repairing a lovely old piece of handmade antique furniture and an archaeological dig!  The house was probably built around 100 years ago, from locally sourced timber, but has been modified many times since then.  Verandahs have been built in, the kitchen, bathroom and laundry were added later.  When we removed the wall cladding in the bathroom we revealed old doorways and could only guess at how the room was previously arranged.

eight acres: building the queensland house review

As with any sort of repair or restoration work, it helps to understand how and why the house was built the way it was, so that we can do our best to return it to either its original condition, or something that will work for us without damaging the structure.  I have just finished reading Andy Jenners "The Building of the Queensland House".  I bought it for Pete about a year ago, expecting a manual or a step-by-step guide to renovating a Queenslander.  A book like that would have been pretty boring, so I glad that Andy chose to write it as a narrative.  He follows at group of builders in the early 1900s building a Queenslander in the Brisbane suburb of Red Hill.  Starting from surveying the property, he details every step of building the house, complete with historical context.  You are virtually transported to the early days of Brisbane, back when Red Hill was the edge of the city!

The last few chapters of the book, after the house is finished, discuss renovation and maintenance of a Queenslander.  Having followed how the builders put the house together, and the reasons for each step, it was much easier to understand how to maintain the house appropriately.  It has made me think twice about using water based paint (referred to by Andy as "plastic paint") on the exterior of the house.  And I'm wondering how to treat our soft pine floors, as lovely as they look, they were never meant to be exposed.

renovation is very boring for Taz

Andy is an experienced builder by trade and share is knowledge of historical and modern-day building techniques.  The house was apparently a real house that he renovated in Red Hill, but has since been demolished.  Disappointed as I was thinking of trying to find it.

I also got a little booklet called Brisbane House Styles by Judy Gale Rechner (info here).  This book explains the different house styles from 1880 through to 1940.  It looks like our house is a simple "colonial" style from 1880 to early 1900s, but it may not be quite so old as country areas can be a bit behind the big cities.

If you want to know more about the Queensland house, try this radio podcast.

And what are we up to with our little Queenslander?

We have council approval to move in (having insulated the roof, rewired the house, installed ceiling fans and hooked up the plumbing), but of course we want to get a few things fixed up first.  We have replaced the roof with a lighter colour.  We have painted two bedrooms and the hallway.  We have ripped up all the lino and masonite in the house, leaving only the ugly red carpet to deal with.  We have stripped the kitchen and the bathroom (and lowered the windows in the kitchen) and have a few ideas about how we want the final rooms to look.  We have removed nearly all the asbestos in the house (more in the pantry, then we are done) and replaced this with "Easy VJ " MDB boards (sorry Andy!).

here's the kitchen ready to rebuild
and the batthroom

There is so much more to do, but every time I walk in the house I see all the progress we have made and how much closer we are to living there.  We are lucky that we have the opportunity to finish this work before we move it, especially with the lead paint on the walls!

If you are working on a Queenslander, or just live in one, I recommend this book, as a manual for how to look after your house.  What is your experience with Queenland houses?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cattle terminology

Sometimes I tell people that we have steers, and they think I said "stairs" and then I have to explain what steers are, and that not all cattle are "cows".  Even worse is the terms used in cattle sale reports, yearling store quality steers sold well, while cows with calves at foot were generally in poor condition.  And it goes on.  If you are still confused, pop over to my house cow ebook blog for some help with cattle terminology....

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

Monday, September 7, 2015

How I use herbs - Chervil

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) was completely new to me until I bought some seeds on a whim.  I had never tasted it and had no idea what it looked like or what to do with it!  Like dill and parsley, chervil is now one of the herbs that self-seeds in my garden and appears each autumn as the weather cools.

eight acres: how to grow and use chervil

How to grow chervil
Chervil grows easily from seeds.  I just scattered them around the garden at first, and now it self-seeds.  No special treatment required.  It grows best in the cooler months, in shade, with plenty of moisture.  It dies off in summer in my garden, after producing flowers and seeds.  It doesn't grow very big, so its best to seed generously and weed out unwanted plants later.

How to use chervil
Chervil is very similar to parsley, but has a more subtle flavour, with a faint hint of aniseed.  I enjoy it chopped up with parsley, nasturtium leaves, coriander leaves, basil and anything else fresh and green (purslane, herb robert etc) as a garnish in salads or added to soups and casseroles after cooking.  After I started growing chervil I recognised it in a salad at a fancy lunch event that I went to for work, so I am feeling very fashionable!

Medicinally, chervil is said to be good for digestion, as a blood cleanser, to lower blood pressure, and as a diuretic.  The juice can be used for skin conditions and a tea made from the leaves is used for eye conditions.

In the garden, if you let chervil flower it produces large umbels, which are attractive to beneficial insects.  Apparently the leaves can also be used to repel ants - I haven't tried that one though.

Do you grow chervil?  Do you use it in cooking or medicinally?

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

How I use herbs - Yarrow

How I use herbs - Arrowroot

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

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

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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?

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