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Farm update - July 2016

This month it rained for the first time in about 6 weeks.  We had two weekends of "east coast lows" drop about 50 mm in total on both properties.  The grass is green and the garden is sprouting.

The dogs wouldn't stay out of the rain, they were having so much fun playing.  Gus is now 22 kg and taller than Taz, so we are watching to see if the dynamic between them changes.  Gus is still a laid-back loving dog, he will come for cuddles while Taz is barking at us to throw her ball.

Is everyone signed up for Plastic Free July?  I'll post more about our plastic-free efforts in July. Here's what we've done in previous years.

Gus in the shed after playing the in mud

Food and cooking
Winter weather brings out the slow cooker and I make my all-purpose casserole.  We love Y-bones and you don't ever had to chop up the meat, just put them in whole and pick out the bones later (bones = flavour!).  I add onion, carrot, any other tired veges from the fridge/garden, stock (beef or chicken) sometimes a can of tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves, dried herbs (oregano and rosemary usually). This time I had some left over coconut milk to use up as well.  And a turnip.

Land and farming
We spent several weekends building a fence - 500 m, 4 posts with stays, 100 star pickets (knocked in by Peter, I did 3-4), 4 and a bit rolls of barbed wire and 400 wire ties.  This makes about a 50 acre paddock for our Angus cows and little bull to enjoy.  They were very pleased to move into this paddock as they were running low on grass in their previous paddock.  Winter is the best time of year to be outside building things, so I'm really not complaining, in fact I hardly broke a sweat, it was actually quite pleasant out there!

One strand done, three to go!

Taz helping
The hens are all looking very plump having regrown their feathers and no doubt stored some fat for winter.  Eggs production is 2-4 per day from 20 hens.  The young hens and roosters hatched in February are growing fast.  Mornings are a cacophony of immature crowing.  They are nearly big enough to butcher, but I want to just do 6 at a time or its will be an all day job.

one plump hen

Cows and cattle
The neighbour who had three of our yearlings on his eight acre property asked us to remove them so that he could burn the grass (grrr, this is what I think about burning grass), which was our cue to move those three out to Cheslyn Rise, where they seem very happy mowing our improved perennial pasture.  Bella and Molly have been separated from their calves, and are in a small paddock with a bale of sorghum hay.  When we are happy that they are both dry (no more milk :( ), we will move them also.  That will leave us with only our two baby house cows (Rosey and Charlotte) and Molly's calf Chubby on Eight Acres, which is a more sensible stocking ratio.  This also means we won't be milking again until we live at Cheslyn Rise, so that's another incentive to get this house finished!

house cows Molly and Bella

Bees and beekeeping
We haven't been checking the bees regularly since the weather got cooler (apart from just stopping in front of the hives and checking the traffic in and out), but we really wanted to remove the queen excluders.  And one hive at Eight Acres had NO traffic, so we were a bit worried.  That hive was alive, but had little honey or brood left, so we fed some raw sugar solution and moved the frames into a nuc box to help them keep warm.  The next weekend we moved the nuc box out to Cheslyn Rise, and while we were removing the queen excluders we put a frame of brood and pollen into the nuc to give it a boost.  The queen excluders are supposed to stop the queen from laying the honey supers, so you get pure honey with no brood in those frames, but they also seem to restrict the hive, so we have removed them for winter and will see if we want to put them back when we get the next honey flow.

This year I have grown the most capsicums EVER and I think its because we have two hives near the garden.  It is definitely worth encouraging pollinators in your garden (either a honeybee or native bee hive, or solitary bee/wasp habitat).  Apart from still harvesting capsicums in winter, I also have peas and silverbeet growing, and lots of asian greens and celery to harvest.  I really need to plant some broad beans.  Carrot, radish, turnip and herbs have sprouted in the recent rain.

This the year of the capsicum
Progress on the house was slow due the fence building, however we have finished all the sanding inside the house (WOO HOO!) - still some to do outside and in the laundry.  Now we just have to crack on with the painting so that we can get our hardwood floor laid and install the kitchen.  Its getting closer!

Last I wrote about the final of the twelve permaculture principles (see a summary post here), but don't worry, there's plenty more to discuss.  I am going to move on to permaculture ethics and then Bill Mollison's Permaculture Principles from Permaculture, a Designers' Manual.

The permaculture ethics are earth care, people care, fair share.  They are inter-related so its not possible to discuss one without the others.  Earth care can be taken literally to mean caring for the soil, or more broadly, the environment and all living things.  This recognises the intrinsic value of all forms of life and their importance to healthy ecosystems and life-support systems (clean air, clean water etc).  People care starts with each person and then more widely, entire communities, where increasing self-reliance and self-responsibility help us to use resources wisely and look after each other.  Fair share is about distributing surplus so that everyone has enough.

In mid-June we had our second Nanango Home Produce Share, which we intentionally branded as a share rather than a swap.  We encouraged people to come and share what they had to spare.  Again it was a lovely vibe, with everyone working hard to make sure that everyone took home something they could use.  This was a beautiful example of permaculture ethics in practice.  People who grow things and care for the soil, came together to talk and support each other, and share their surplus harvest.

Lately I've been crocheting a hat for a friend as a baby shower present, so I have to wait a few months before I can share it!  In the meantime, I also made another ear-warmer, this time using crochet and a new stitch - front post treble.  And now I'm working on my alpaca lace knit scarf, I don't really need another scarf, but working with alpaca yarn is so lovely, its so soft and warm.  I am wearing my alpaca crochet scarf a lot, and my crochet wool socks are great bed socks.

I've also been trying to fix my salt soap fails and rendering more tallow so I can refill soap I've sold and try some soap with honey (what could go wrong!!).

More neem oil soap and black magic

Support me
I have a few blogs to share this month:

From Soil to Sky - found this one via Instagram, proving that its not a complete waste of time!

Our Permaculture Life - how did I not know about this blog before??

Mista homemaker - a new Aussie blog, with a rare male author

Say! Little Hen - another one I can't believe I didn't know about!  I shared a guest post last week.

I have some new affiliate partners, which I've listed on my "Support me" page, and I'll introduce them with relevant product links in posts over the next few months.

How was your June?  What are you plans for July?


  1. I am always astounded at what you jam into a day/week/season at your farm - makes me look right-royal lazy.

  2. I agree, in most of parts of Australia, doing outside projects in winter is best. Doing it on the flip-side, is nigh on impossible in the heat. You can work all day in winter, but only a few hours either side of sunrise and sunset, during summer.

    Your 500m of fencing, is almost double the length of the longest side, of our 5 acre property. I'm sure the cows will be pleased with your work though. Good luck with the last push, to finish your house. :)

  3. I love your Farm Update posts Liz. The dogs ..gorgeous. The cows... beautiful. We stopped using Queen Excluders after deaths from bees getting stuck in them. We have noticed over the years, that the Queen and some brood is scattered throughout the supers at the first extraction of the season (approx Sept) but after the flow gets cracking the Queen & brood is then always in the brood box only, leaving the supers with clean capped honey and easy for extracting. It would be interesting to know if this is what will happen in your hives too.:)


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