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Showing posts from April, 2016

How I use herbs - sweet violet

To be honest, I've had Sweet Violet (Viola Oderata) in my garden for about a year now and I'm not really sure how to use it.  It smells lovely when it flowers and I've managed to keep it alive through winter and a hot dry summer.  I thought this was a good opportunity to learn more myself.




How to grow sweet violet
I bought this herb as a small plant in a pot.  It spreads as it grows, so its pretty easy to propagate by division.  I've read that it also grows from seed.  The plant seems to flower here in autumn, and dies back a bit when we get a heavy frost.  I do have to remember to water it in summer, but otherwise its seems pretty hardy.  I've planted it in a shady spot.  Apparently it grows wild in some areas, but I think our climate is too harsh.  It would be a great herb to forage if you have it locally.




How to use sweet violet
I haven't been actively using my sweet violet, but I'd like to start, here are a few things that jump out at me from my herb book…

Puppy Gus - training a big dog

Little Gus is only 10 weeks old, and he's growing quickly (by 2.5 kg/week lately).  He's a Great Dane crossed with a Ball Arab (which is not a recognised breed, its a cross between German Shorthaired Pointer, Bull Terrier and Greyhound).  So we really don't know how big he's going to get, but possibly close to Great Dane size, which is giant compared to any other dogs we've owned.  Gus is our future security system, and with is likely large size, its really important that he is obedient and responsive to commands.



Gus is only the second puppy that I've owned, so I still have much to learn about training dogs.  When we got Taz we also bought a set of DVDs on training cattle dogs ("Untold Secrets of Raising Working Dogs"), which has some good general information about puppies and we have a few books as well.  The most important point on that DVD is that a puppy's relative maturity should be thought of as months equal to human years.  So a 10 month o…

When is the best time to calve

Its mid-autumn and our nine angus-cross heifers are currently calving.  This may seem an odd time of the year to have calves, and certainly in the temperate areas you would expect to see baby calves and lambs in spring, but in the sub-tropics we can do things a bit differently as we don't have a cold winter.

Read the rest over at my house cow ebook blog.




Buy my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" on EtsyLulu and Amazon, or email on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com to arrange delivery.  More information on my house cow ebook blog.





Reviews of "Our Experience with House Cows"
Kim from the Little Black Cow Blog
Fiona from Live at Arbordale Farm
Marie from Go Milk the Cow
Renata from Sunnyside Farm Fun
Gavin from Little Green Cheese (and The Greening of Gavin)

Winter vegetable gardening in the sub-tropics

Northern Hemisphere gardeners are currently preparing for spring planting, so you'd think I'd be packing up the garden for winter, but in the sub-tropics there's plenty that we can grow, even with a few frosty days.


Summer here can be hit and miss, depending if we get rain.  Some years are too dry and hardly anything will grow, and some years are too wet, and the pests and diseases thrive as well as the plants.  This year we were lucky to have just enough rain and I had some good harvests of eggplant, button squash, tomatoes, capsicums, asian greens and beans.  In autumn, we see plenty of chokos and rosellas, the pumpkins are nearly ready, but as the nights cool and eventually frost, the warm-climate plants start to suffer.

Each year we seem to do really well in one thing or another.  Some years it has been beans or tomatoes.  This year is the year of the pumpkin vine.  I think its because we have the beehives near the garden.  Maybe its just luck.  We have counted 10 pump…

Managing small hive beetle in the sub-tropics

Even though beekeepers in Australia are lucky enough not to have varroa mites, we do have other pests to deal with. One that causes us particular trouble in the sub-tropics is the Small Hive Beetle (SHB) Aethina tumida.  When I started reading about natural beekeeping I was quite shocked to find out that beekeepers use pesticides in their hives.  It seems counterintuitive to use a chemical in a beehive that is designed to kill insects.  However I soon learnt that this is common practice for many commercial beekeepers.  Pesticides are used to control varroa mites in other countries and we have pesticides approved here to use on SHB.  Hence the need for "natural" beekeeping methods, which is beekeeping without chemicals.



Would you put pesticide in a beehive?
Pete and I believe that there is no point keeping bees if we are going to use chemicals on them (we believe that about all the animals on our farm and the crops we grow).  The only problem is finding information about how…

Choosing exterior paint colours (+ house update!)

We probably didn't quite do this in the right order, but I guess its one of those things that you can deliberate over for so long you'd never get anything done!  This is the story of how we eventually decided what colour to paint our second-hand house.



We chose our roof colour over a year ago now.  I was determined that it would be something light, and as we were limited to the colourbond colours, we eventually chose Paperbark  (with Evening Haze a close second).  Its pretty unusual to see a light roof, but it makes a huge difference to the amount of heat absorbed by the house in summer, so it was very important to me.  Pete and I were up in the roof cavity in winter doing the insulation before the roof was replaced and it was pretty hot even then, so I hate to think how hot it got in summer (previous roof colour was dark red).  Now we have a light roof and insulation, and the house is surprisingly cool even in summer.



We chose our rainwater tanks before the roof, so that the …

Living in the city isn't ALL bad

Wow its good to be home on the farm!  After two and a half years of part time city-living, I was nearly getting used to it, but I was missing the country.  Each weekend I would head home early Friday afternoon and it was a massive relief to turn off the motorway and get out into farmland.



Access to alternative health services
When I first came to Brisbane I made a commitment that I would find a yoga class.  I have done pilates classes in the past, but never yoga, and I really wanted to try it.  Unfortunately in a rural area there are not usually many options, and even though a lovely yoga studio has recently opened in Kingaroy, I'd rather not drive 30 minutes to get there!  I wanted to take this opportunity to learn more about yoga.  I attended classes in West End for a while, and then over winter I didn't like getting home from there in the dark, so I tried a few different classes in the suburbs and on youtube.  Finally I was moved to a work building in the city that had yoga …

Farm update - April 2016

Well, the last few weeks have been a bit strange!  I finished up at my job in Brisbane just before Easter.  The final week coincided with Pete also needing to be in Brisbane for a course, so we stayed in a motel together as I had to pack up and clean my unit anyway. It was like a holiday, but we both had to go out during the day and then catch up with friends each night.  My parents arrived from NZ at the end of that week and we brought them back to the farm for two weeks.  Now Pete is back in Brisbane for the week, at the second part of his course, and its just me and Taz at the farm and I've started my new job!  The new job is at the same place I used to work, so its the least scary first-day-at-a-new-job I've ever had.


We also have a new family member.  Little Gus is a 7 week old Great Dane X Bull Arab (which is also apparently not actually a breed, but a cross between a German Setter, Greyhound and Bull Terrier).  Basically he's a bitza, and probably a big one!  These …