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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 might have got a new puppy also....

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 types of dogs are used around our way for pig hunting, but Gus will be in charge of security on our property.  Taz is a good barker, but just a little bit small and cute to deter anyone and she also doesn't hear the cars coming down the driveway before I do!  I want people to think twice about opening the gate is one of us isn't in the yard with the dog.  We had great success with training Taz to stay safe in her puppy box, and we are doing the same with Gus.  This is leading to confusion, as Taz still responds to the command "in your box" and "on your bed" by getting in the box! Training is going to be very important with this big dog, so that will keep us occupied for a few months.

We've continued to be lucky with the weather, with hots days interrupted by just enough storms and showers to keep the grass green until we get the first frost.

Food and cooking
Staying in a motel for a week was a real challenge.  The breakfast provided was cheap bread and spreads or cereals and dead milk :(  I don't want to sound ungrateful, I know there are hungry people in the world, but I also know that food like that makes me feel really unwell.  My usual breakfast of eggs and a raw milk smoothie is kind of difficult to do away from home.  I compromised with egg and ham quiches from the bakery and banana and yoghurt.  If I was more organised I would have taken hardboiled eggs with me, but you never know if you'll have somewhere to keep them cold.

a home-grown roast chicken, with the carcass ready for the stock pot

Now that I'm back home, I am so excited about getting back to my old habits of baking soaked dough bread, sprouting, fermenting and enjoying all the veges in our garden.  I am also planning to do a three-week detox (supervised by my naturopath, more on that later), but I'm waiting for Pete to be home as he's keen to join in!

Land and farming
When we checked out bees early in the month we were worried that they didn't have enough honey, but lately they seem to have found enough nectar and are starting to fill out frames.  We currently have seven full hives and one nuc (nucleus - only 5 frames), with two hives and the nuc at Eight Acres and rest at Cheslyn Rise.

We also had one rainy day and managed to spread grass seed by hand around our two new dams, which we hope will prevent erosion of the banks.  We haven't had a chance to plant our perennial pasture seed yet though.

capped honey

mainly capped brood, with honey above

The hens have finished moulting and now that its cooler, they seem to be laying quite well.  We certainly have enough eggs for ourselves and the dogs.  The chicks from February are now fully feathered and about half the size of adult chickens.  They eat a lot of grass and we have to move the chicken tractor every day, so I am looking forward to starting them on free-ranging.  We will have to think about culling old hens and roosters soon to make way for the new hens.

Cows and cattle
Pete counted the days since we took out little bull to Cheslyn Rise, and we were expecting calves this week.  The first two had already arrived when we checked on Saturday.  Surprisingly, one is red!  From a black angus heifer (although she does have some suspicious white patches on her belly, she probably has some hereford genes).  The bull is of unknown origin, but probably mini hereford X lowline.  He is small and the calves are small, which makes for relatively easy births for these first calf heifers.  Seven more to come!

one red calf

and one black calf

Once again, this time of year brings chokos by the bucket-full. The pumpkins are also looking promising, and I suspect this is due to the beehives placed near the garden this year.  The bees seem to have gathered plenty of bright yellow pollen.  I thought the bees weren't going into the garden, but clearly they are finding the pumpkin flowers ok.

We also have lettuce and asian greents.  I picked two of the best capsicums I've ever grown.  Beans are still appearing.  And the hydroponics is now producing lovely red cherry tomatoes.  I really need to sprinkle out some more seeds and tidy up ready for a winter crop, but I will wait until the hot days are over, as I haven't been watering half the garden.

I'm going to have to do a full post about the house because we pretty much worked on it for two weeks with my parents, so there has been a heap of progress.  We also had our plumber and builder doing some work.  This is what's been done since my last update:
  • Kitchen walls primed and one coat of ceiling white
  • Shed guttering plumbed to two more rainwater tanks, mezzanine floor started
  • Exterior paint on all walls, trim of doors and windows started, just a few fiddly bits left to finish off
  • All fittings and tiles for the bathroom collected (except for the vanity) and builder/tiler ready to start work
  • We are looking at organising a hardwood overlay for the floors, which are currently soft hoop pine with gaps (then we can get the kitchen built)

do you notice anything missing off the front?
we have a window awning to rebuild as it was rotten

Permaculture - Use and Value Diversity
Last time I reviewed Use and Value Diversity, I said:
"We try to create diversity in many areas of our life, this means planning to have many different ways to satisfy our needs as well as each different thing we do serving many purposes."
This works together with the principle Integrate, Rather than Segregate.  Valuing diversity means that we see our property differently to other farmers.  Where they see trees as a waste of space, we see shade, firewood, nutrient cycling, and most importantly - honeybee food!  Weeds are the same, as long as they don't poison the cattle, they are all part of the diversity that feeds the soil and the animals.  When we planted our small patch of perennial pasture, we seeded three varieties of grass and one legume, but we will continue to encourage further diversity by adding more seed in future.  In the garden I just mix up all the veges (no straight rows in my garden) and I hope that confuses pests and encourages a diversity of predator insects so that I get a better harvest.  I also end up with volunteer self-seeded plants everywhere!

chickens are crazy enough without adding other animals!
With the animals, I think there is a limit to the amount of diversity we can care for.  We have tried turkeys and guinea fowl, but in the end we decided it was easier to just keep lots of chickens.  I think having chickens with the cattle is good, they spread out the cow manure and clean up any spilled grain from the dairy cows.  We would like to get sheep, goats and pigs eventually, but we will try one at a time and see if they fit in.  I know some people keep a flerd (flock + herd), which is apparently good for keeping predators away from the small animals and they different animals will eat different species in the pasture.  More animals does create more work, with different management required (as in stock yards and loading ramps etc).

Support me (and other blogs)
Now that I'm home, I finally have time to make all the soap recipes that I've been hoarding.  Previously the only soap-making time was weekends, which was also time for house renovating and looking after the animals.  First I need to restock the soaps and salves for my etsy store, then I'm going to try:
When I've tested them, I'll publish my recipes (they will be based on beef tallow) and sell them on Etsy if they are nice enough.

here's the charcoal soap

Here's a few blogs that turned up in my newsfeed this month:

Eat Real, Stay Sane - real food lifestyle without losing your mind or social life, lots of recipes and tips for eating real food.

Tamsininamania - which also has a lovely instagram account and had great success tanning a sheepskin following some of the info in my posts about tanning a steer hide!

How was your March?  Did you get some time off over Easter?  What are your plans for April?


  1. Hi Liz, Great post and so good to hear that things are moving forward on so many fronts. We are still waiting to sell our other house in Boonah but we are starting to plan for working this place. We currently have sheep and chooks, but will be getting ducks and pigs in the near future and currently agist our neighbours' cattle so we may get some of our own when/if prices ever come down! Its a big project for us. All the best. Barb.

  2. Hi Liz. It sounds like you've made lots of progress on your house. Little Gus is gorgeous and I love that he's not going to be little!! Things have been pretty slow here over Easter (just as I like it) with the finishing off of some craft and sewing projects. Waiting for cooler days to plant out some seedlings in main veggie bed. Got some clumping leeks to try as well as usual silverbeet, beetroot, lettuce and other deliciousness. I have to get myself a choko. I love them but I haven't grown one yet. You must be glad to be working locally again. Meg

  3. Not having to travel weekly to Brisbane for work must be a huge bonus in your lives. You certainly managed to keep up with a lot of things while doing that though. kudos to you! I recently did a whole30 where you eliminate all dairy, legumes, sugar, grains, soy, etc. Then you can slowly add them back into your diet (if you want to) to see how they affect you. It was an interesting exercise and I have kept a lot of their awesome reicpes in my regular recipe roll. The one thing I took away from that was weekly meal planning and precooking a lot of things over the weekend so that during the week food prep is not so bad. I just planted out some more tatsoi - you sent me some seeds ages ago and it has become one of my faovurite things to grow.

  4. You folk are a bundle of energy that's for sure. What a great update Liz - loved it.

  5. I have seen charcoal soap on Pinterest, Liz. I wondered where they get the charcoal from not that I am planning on making any. I would like to try the honey and oat soap as one of the DTE forum members made a batch and it looks just lovely. It has a beautiful colour caused by the honey I dare say.

  6. Lovely and newsy post Liz. Just like the letters I'd receive from my sisters when I was living faraway in another country. Gus is adorable and will be a fabulous dog for you I feel sure. How is Taz adapting to her new playmate? Love the colour of your beautiful Queenslander home. You will be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel by now. I'm so very pleased for you that you've returned to live back at home. It's been just over a year since I did a four week detox (guided by my Naturopath) The first three days were hell with headaches and joint pains, but after that it was surprisingly easy. It boosted my immune system and I've been super well ever since. I firmly believe that many ailments are caused from poor diet or an imbalance of the gut bacteria. Cheers and thanks for your lovely post.

  7. I've come from Down to Earth and have just spent a lot of time (too much when I had other things on the to-do list!) reading a variety of older posts. Added you to bloglovin and aiming to keep digging around some of the older posts. I'm a Canadian married to an Aussie and we lived in Hervey Bay for 8 years or so, so I know the area! We are currently debating homesteading style back in Oz or here, so I am glad to read of your experiences. My biggest fear with choosing oz is of course the critters....

  8. Thanks for sharing our blog Liz! I appreciate it. :)

  9. So lovely that you're back on the farm. I'm excited to see all that you get up to now that you'll have evenings as well as weekends there.


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