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Showing posts from February, 2016

Managing a backyard hydroponics system - or - how to grow tomatoes all year!

As I wrote a few months ago, towards the end of last summer we got tired of having no successful tomato plants in our vege garden and set up a hydroponics system.  We've been running it nearly continuously ever since.  The tomatoes did die off in August when we had a heavy frost, but we replanted as soon as it warmed up enough in September.  The joys of a sub-tropical climate!

I am so happy we set up the hydroponics, we have had nearly a continuous supply of tomatoes, and once its set up its very easy and cheap to run.  I wrote all about the system we use in my last post.  This time I just want to share a few extra tips that I've learnt since we've been running the system again.

Monitoring nutrient levels
While you can set up the hydroponics system quite cheaply (any large reservoir, a pond pump, some old pots and gravel, and you're away), you do need to spend a bit of money on a conductivity meter to monitor the nutrient levels.  You can just change the water every tim…

Neem oil soap and salve

After my success using neem oil to control insects around the farm and to cure my toenail fungus (how I use neem oil), I did a lot of reading about neem oil and I was keen to try to harness its properties as an anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory to help heal skin.  Neem oil itself is a bit of a pain to use, as it goes solid in cold temperatures, liquid when it warms up and it never seems to stay in the bottle.  I have tried to take neem oil insect repellent on holiday and ended up with it spilled through my bag.  Luckily it does seem to wash out, but I thought it would be easier to use in a more solid form.



I came up with a couple of solutions.  First I made a soap with 25% neem oil.  It smells like neem oil, but I am getting used to the smell.  Its kind of nutty and pungent.  I gave some of this soap to a friend of North African origins and she thought it smelt nice, so maybe it depends which spices you've grown up with!  This soap is great as a pet wash (Taz "loves" …

How I use herbs - Oregano (or Marjoram?)

I was surprised to find that oregano was not listed in my herb books, but then I remembered that it might be under Marjoram and I found the right sections.  I have never quite understood the oregano/majoram connection, fortunately it is explained in this blog post, and now I know that I do have oregano (Origanum vulgare) in my herb garden, which is a variety of majoram.  My middle name is Marjorie, so I should know this stuff!  I understand now that marjoram varieties are all a bit different, so this post is only about growing and using oregano.




How to grow Oregano I can't even remember where my oregano plant first came from.  It seems to be very robust and may have survived a few garden moves and periods of neglect.  I keep it in a pot as it does tend to spread.  I trim it back regularly as the stalks can get woody if the stems get too long.  Its easily propagated by root division.  It dies back after a heavy frost, but it always grows back.  It does grow better in damp but well-d…

Outfoxing the hungry fox

Lately we have been dealing with a fox who is either very clever or very hungry and determined.  We lost five chickens over several nights and have implemented a few changes, including using foxlights, modifying the chicken tractors and making poor little Taz sleep outside!  Read more over on my chicken tractor ebook blog.






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} gmail.com.



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 c…

Book review: Organic Farming with Worms

I've had a compost worm farm for several years now.  Actually I currently have three worm farms.  They are a little addictive!  I didn't know anything about compost worms before I got them, but I fell in love with the concept of having somewhere to dispose all our organic (vegetative) waste that would also reliably produce compost and liquid fertiliser.  The worms and I have been very happy with our relationship and I thought I knew everything I needed to know, but then a neighbour (who we respect as a very good hay farmer) recommended this book - Organic Farming with Worms, by David Murphy (and that's not even an affiliate link because its not on Amazon).  Not just recommended it, he actually raved about it and showed us his new compost worm farm, and he said he'd bought copies of the book for all his friends!  This really got my interest, so I ordered a copy for myself.




This book is for anyone who is serious about getting more out of their compost worms than just wa…

Raising a baby house cow

Our first house cow Bella came to us from a dairy farm and had already had two calves. She came with her second calf, Molly, who is also a full Jersey cow. We raised Molly to be our second house cow. With Bella now having an uncertain future after having difficulty with her last calf, we decided to raise some future house cows. 
I think they two most important inputs are human interaction (to ensure the cow is tame enough to be milked) and good nutrition (to raise a healthy robust cow). While Bella is extremely tame, from what I know of her early life I don't think she had good nutrition and she now has health problems that prevent us using her as a house cow. Molly is extremely robust AND tame. Can we produce another good house cow?

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 o…

Guest Post: Bee-Keeping and Happy Neighbours

I'm happy to share with you a guest post from another beekeeper Liz, details of her social media links are at the end of the post.  This is a post about keeping bees in the city.  We don't have to worry about neighbours on our property.
Keeping your neighbors happy is an important part of successful beekeeping, and that’s not always an easy task. Wasps have given honeybees a bad rap — and unfortunately for beekeepers, a good percentage of the population lump the two together into one nasty, stinging group. If you’re a budding apiarist, here are some simple tips to preserve harmony in your neighborhood — and keep the city council on your side.



Be a Legal Eagle
Before you start your hives, it’s important to know your city’s ordinances regarding keeping bees. Is it allowed? Are there rules regarding number of hives, fencing, distance from other residences, etc.? Knowing the answers to these questions is your first line of defense against angry neighbors — and can save you a lot of…

Five blogging tips for Blogger

I don't usually write about blogging, but after five years using Blogger I feel I'm qualified to put a few tips out there which might be useful to other bloggers (not claiming to be an expert, just thought I'd share what I know).  Many of my readers have blogs, but for those that don't, sorry this post isn't about farming!  Maybe visit some of my older posts today instead, here's a few popular ones to get you started:

Making tallow soap

What to do with eight acres

How to build a chicken tractor

Determining the gender of young chickens

Neem oil for insect control

Winter Woodfires: Cooking in a woodstove

Worm farm compost


These tips are all for the Blogger platform, as that's what I use, but they  probably also apply to other platforms, you'll just have to figure out where to find the options.





1. Use the "search description" and photo "image properties" fields
Even if you don't use Pinterest or Facebook to share your posts, chances are som…

Farm Update - February 2016

January felt like a very short month!  And I managed to have the Australia Day LONG weekend (including the Monday) at home.  Once again we had a bit of rain.  90 mm this past weekend at Kumbia and 30 mm at Nanango.  The new dam is nearly full so we just wait to see if it holds water now.  The forecast was for below average rainfall this year, so we are thankful for every drop we get.



Food and cooking

I got some jars for our honey and started selling 500g and 1kg at work.  Its very popular!  Now the bees just need to keep up production!



Land and farming
Speaking of bees... they seem to have taken up much of our weekends recently!  There has been so much going on I don't even know if I can remember it all, but I do write in our Bee Book every time we open a hive so we don't forget what we saw.  When we open a hive we are looking to see how much brood and honey is in the hive, hoping to see the queen, but if we at least see eggs we know she is in there somewhere, and then we decide…