Skip to main content

Farm update - December 2016

Even though its still spring, November is more like Sprummer here, we usually start to get hot days, if not absolute heat waves.  We had no rain at all until the last few days of November, so the grass went from a pale green, to a crunchy dusty brown in no time.  Its really difficult to maintain any motivation in the garden when you can see it withering before you, and all the animals look hot and uncomfortable.  Except for the dogs who have been going for swims to cool off.




Food and cooking
Pete and I took a long weekend and drove down to Sydney to visit friends.  We drove because they had some things that they wanted to give us, including portable solar panels and an overlocker.  When we travel we have a habit of stopping to buy food, and on this trip we managed to find a cherry farm (I'm still eating through the 3 kg of cherries that I bought!) and a goat cheese dairy farm.







Land and farming
Apparently there was a butterfly invasion in November, they had a great year "out west" and have all migrated to the coast, I had fun trying to photograph them, they were really enjoying our wild heliotrope flowers.



Chickens
Egg laying is down due to the hot weather.  I am reading a book about keeping chickens in the tropics and apparently temperatures about 32degC significantly affect egg production.  We have had temperatures in the 30s for most of the month, so we are just trying to keep the hens cool and are thankful for any eggs that they can give us.

Cows and cattle
We finally got a chance to bring all the cattle through the yards for insecticidal ear-tags (the flies are getting really bad already).  As much as we would like to try an organic approach, we have not had complete success with any of the options yet and its not pleasant for the cattle to be constantly bothered with flies (these ones bite too), so at the moment we use ear tags as the least invasive option.  We also castrated the four little boy calves using bands.  Taz did an amazing job helping to move the cattle from one paddock into the yards, and the cattle were very well-behaved themselves, basically walking straight into the yards and moving through the race quietly, so its definitely worth investing in quiet cattle and spending time with them so that they stay tame.


Miss Bella

Miss Molly

Taz the cattle dog!


Bees and Beekeeping
Pete has been wanting to try grafting queen cells and got his opportunity this month.  He had seven successful cells from 20 (which is excellent for a first try) and was able to put these into nucs.  I will write more about this process soon.  We also extracted more honey from our angry hive, they seem to be the best producers, with another 10 kg already!




Garden
Its been dry, but at least we have full water tanks, so I've been keeping a few seedlings going in the hope of the forecast wet summer (which has now been changed to a dry summer, which will probably mean that it will be wet).  I bought zucchini, cucumber and bean seedlings, which are slowing getting bigger.  I still have capsicums from last year, lots of silverbeet, the herbs are going well.  I picked a handful of blackberries while they were still juicy, but the rest have dried up (although the plant is growing vigorously, which makes me nervous that its planning about garden takeover).  We are also harvesting tomatoes from the hydroponics.





House
The kitchen decisions continue!  I think we are going to get timber benchtops, two-pack doors in Dulux Limed White Half.  At the same time we are also getting cupboards for the bathroom, laundry and spare bedroom in the Laminex Pumice.  I chose a Laminex wood finish for the laundry bench.  I still need to choose the fridge, dishwasher and door handles!  But I think we are nearly there.  Work will start in January, so I have a bit of time to think about it all.





Permaculture
The last of the principles from Mollison's Permaculture Design Manual is "Everything gardens (or modifies its environment)".  I see two parts to this principle.  One is that no element exists in isolation, everything you introduce into your design will have an effect on other aspects of the design.  A tree may throw shade, drop leave, produce fruit, all of these things can be beneficial or detrimental, depending how they are incorporated into the design.  And the other part is that everything can be used for something in your design, you just have to be creative and foresee as much as possible what effect it is going to have so that you can make it fit as much as possible.  For example, we have a power pole on our property that is going to need to be accessed by a meter-reader.  I don't think we can grow anything up the pole, but we should try to use it for something, and factor in the need to access the meter.  I haven't totally figured this one out, but I think this principle is a reminder to think about how to use every element, natural or manmade, to positively influence the end result of a permaculture design.


Create
In preparation for our trip away, Pete installed a secondary battery system in the car and Gus was more than happy to help both under the bonnet and under the car.  He also demonstrated that he can jump on the back of the ute if he wants to.  Pete did a great job and we can now charge our secondary battery to run our travel fridge and buy lots of food when we go away! (I wrote about this back here)

I also started another rag rug, this time using a crochet hook, so its tighter than the ones I made with finger crochet.  I'm not sure how big it will get, Pete keeps taking back his t-shirts!

And I made a big batch of muscle salve for a bulk order.  We don't do much for Christmas, anyone that needs a present will be getting soap!  I have been pinning frugal Christmas ideas on my pinterest board, which is also previewed at the end of this post if you are looking for inspiration.








How was your November?  What are you plans for Christmas and New Years?  


Comments

  1. You're a farm stall raider, like we are, when travelling. We love to keep spare change, to we can buy an enormous watermelon for $5 - feeding half to family on Christmas and half to the chickens. Because there's no way we can fit a watermelon you need a wheelbarrow to carry, in the fridge! If we're lucky, we can fit a quarter of it in, so it's chilled for Christmas.

    Tis the season for cherries too. My tummy was grumbling when I read about your 3kgs of cherries. Thanks for supporting local producers, instead of fast food outlets. I know we always try to. There's nothing in a fast food outlet I can eat anyway. Give me a box of cherries, or a stupidly huge watermelon, any day.

    As usual, we haven't settled on our Christmas plans yet. Are we going to stay at home or travel to Brisbane, to visit my husband's family? If we are going to travel, we get to pass The Big Orange. They always sell cheap fruit and veg, as well as local edible plants. I would like to plant a grape vine, some time before winter. I'll see how we go. :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

Popular posts from this blog

What to do with eight acres

Behind the scenes of my blog I can see the search terms that led people to find my blog.  It can be quite interesting to look through them occasionally and see what people are looking for.  Most of them involve chicken tractors, but another question that comes up regularly is “what can you do with eight acres?” or “how much land is eight acres?”.  Today I will try to answer this question.

Of course it is a very broad question, there are lots and lots of things you can do with eight acres, but I’m going to assume that you want to live there, feed your family and maybe make a little extra money.  I make that assumption because that’s what I know about, if you want to do something else with your eight acres, you will need to look somewhere else.

If you haven’t chosen your land yet, here a few things to look for.  Focus on the things you can’t change and try to choose the best property you can find in your price range.  Look for clean water in dams, bores or wells, either on the property …

Making tallow soap

For some reason I've always thought that making soap seemed too hard.  For a start the number of ingredients required was confusing and all the safety warnings about using the alkali put me off.  The worst part for me was that most of the ingredients had to be purchased, and some even imported (palm oil and coconut oil), which never seemed very self-sufficient.  I can definitely see the benefits of using homemade soap instead of mass produced soap (that often contains synthetic fragrance, colour, preservatives, and has had the glycerine removed), but it seemed to me that if I was going to buy all the ingredients I may as well just buy the soap and save myself all the hassle.  For the past several years I have bought homemade soap from various market stalls and websites, and that has suited me just fine.
Then we had the steer butchered at home and I saw just how much excess fat we had to dispose, it was nearly a wheel-barrow full, and that made me think about how we could use that…

Growing and eating chokos (chayotes)

Cooking chokos (not be confused with another post about cooking chooks) has been the subject of a few questions on my blog lately, so here's some more information for you.
Chokos - also known as Chayote, christophene or christophine, cho-cho, mirliton or merleton, chuchu, Cidra, Guatila, Centinarja, Pipinola, pear squash, vegetable pear, chouchoute, güisquil, Labu Siam, Ishkus or Chowchow, Pataste, Tayota, Sayote - is a vine belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, along with pumpkins, squash and melons, with the botanical name Sechium edule.


The choko contains a large seed, like a mango, but if you pick them small enough it is soft enough to eat.  If you leave the choko for long enough it will sprout from one end and start to grow a vine.  To grow the choko, just plant the sprouted choko and give the vine a structure to climb over.  In summer, the vine will produce tiny flowers that will eventually swell into choko fruit.  The vine doesn't like hot dry weather.  And it doesn&#…