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Farm update - February 2013

The weather
When I lived in the city I never used to take much notice of the weather, beyond wondering if I needed to take an umbrella or a sun hat with me.  Now it seems to be my sole focus.  When will it rain?  Will it rain enough?  or too much?  And how hot will it get?  We have had some horrible hot days through January, in the high 30degC, up to 37degC one day I think, and NSW had up to 45degC!  This hard on the animals, hard on the plants and hard on us.  You can't do much physical work on days like that.

Then on the weekend of the 26-27th  Jan (happens to be Australia day weekend) we got the highest rainfall ever recorded for our are in January in only 48 hours.  About 300 mm (we got sick of tipping out the rain gauge, so can't be sure), which resulted in the dam at Nanango going from desperately near empty to a flowing river again.  All dams at Cheslyn Rise are full and the grass is green.  I wrote more about it on the day of the rain here.

this is how dry it was when the rain started
our dam/creek
neighbour's dam overflowing into the creek
and other neighbour's dam overflowing
Finally the tomatoes are ripening!  I lost some to blossom end rot, which is due to lack of calcium, even though I had lime in the soil when I planted, I watered in more lime, and that seemed to help.  And then the king parrots decided to help themselves, so I had to cover the tomatoes in net curtains, I think it makes the garden look rather dignified to have these lacy curtains draped around!  The yellow "taxi" tomatoes have been particularly good.  I also picked the first trombocino (like a climbing zucchini) and an eggplant.  We ate the tiny corn (better than last year, but still need more practice!) and have plenty of beans.  I have put deep mulch everywhere, and try to water deeply in each garden bed every few days, rather than giving everything a light sprinkle every day.

The king parrots 
The first trombocino, which I had to pick because someone had already nibbled/pecked the end
The garden getting greener

more garden (note all the buckets to catch that precious rain!)

I planted some raspberries when it rained

the silver beet etc that were just hanging on have taken off again since the rain

I cut back the tomatoes and some are reshooting - worth a try....

tromobocino, cucumber and beans all climbing over each other

the worm farm is finally ant-proof, but I need my red tubs back for planting!
We lost two of our older hens in the hot weather, even though they were all free to range around and find their own shade, we think they were being chased by roosters, which wore them out.  We also had to trim Wilbur's spurs as he punctured one of the hens.  I will write about how we do that later.  They actually kept laying ok through the heat, we had eggs to eat every day.  We also literally lost the white rooster for a day and then Pete had a good look and found a big pile of white feathers and a pile of red feathers down in the far corner of our property, looks like they were taken in daylight (as the cages are always closed at night) so I suspect two dogs (not ours!), as if it was only one dog, the hen would have run away.  So now we have no white leghorn rooster, and that really seals our indecision about the breeds, it looks like we will stick with the Rhode Island Reds only, as we have three of those roosters!

Guinea Keets moved out to the dog box after the humidity started

House Cattle
Donald - doesn't he look innocent? he spent the day grunting at the neighbour's bull again, who ended up in our paddock again and we spent the afternoon fixing fences again....
Benny - getting tame and this grass has got to get him fatter!
Bella hasn't stopped eating since it rained!
Cheslyn Rise Farm
I can't believe that the sorghum we planted stayed alive through the hot weather, every time we saw it I expected it to be dead.  It is not high enough to feed out yet though, but the rain should help it to get to the right height, otherwise it would have just been expensive green manure.  The other sorghum that hasn't sprouted yet may now grow, we will soon find out.

We realised that we would have to start to destock in January, and sent the steers that we bought in April off to the market first.  We didn't get great prices for them, but it was better than paying to feed them.  Next we rounded up all the larger calves and extras that we bought with the herd and sent them to the market (20 animals altogether).  Finally we are left with only cows and small calves.  Our next step was to decide which cows we are going to keep, but now it looks like we have more time because the grass is growing again, but we do still want to reduce numbers to about 20 cows in total so that we don't get into a desperate situation again.

Early in the month I was given a starter for the politically incorrect "Herman the German Friendship Cake".  You know I love things that ferment, so a cake starter that has to be fed occasionally and stirred daily fitted right into my kitchen!  I didn't follow the instructions (of course) in which you're supposed to divide the cake started and give most of it away.  I didn't have anyone to give it too, so I just made less starter and kept what I didn't use to make the cake, that way I can keep it going and make more cakes.  I will give some away if I can find someone that want it though.  I'll write more about the cake soon.

The wet weekend also gave me plenty of opportunities to mess about in the kitchen - I made an orange and mint fermented drink, a ginger ale, pickled cucumbers, cream cheese, beef stock, followed by beef casserole and then bread and a chicken and a beef liver pate.

Salt giveaway winner
Early in January I posted a giveaway for Murray River Salt.  Last night I drew a winner from the comments, and the winner is: Vanessa.

Please send me an email at eight [dot] acres [dot] liz [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll arrange to post you the salt grinder.  Everyone else can order their salt through this site.

Blog discovery of the month
I found an interesting new-to-me blog this month:

How was your January?  Any plans for February?


  1. I'm so sorry about the loss of your hen & rooster :( xx

    Your cows, they are all adorable x

  2. Gosh you have been busy - I have been totally drained by this heat, but funnily enough also did a post on things I want to achieve this year!

  3. what a busy month! I am in awe of your fermentation and your garden. I am in my first year of veggie gardening and next year will be much more productive thanks to lessons learned this year. You have king parrots, we have possums and wallabies that have been driven out of the bushland by the recent fires here in Tasmania. They are obviously starving because they have been eating rhubarb leaves! I am very interested in the friendship cake. I have been checking online about making friendship cake starters and it comes from the Amish and their desire to live wholesomely :). I might have to make me some Herman. My own "Herman" is a dehydrated sourdough starter sitting on a cool shelf who was unable to deliver me anything other than vinegar bricks :(. I really do admire your ethos and love reading your posts. I will be most interested in reading about how to trim rooster spurs as Big Yin's spurs are starting to grow alarmingly! Cheers for a great post and a fantastic and enlightening read :)

  4. I smiled about how you're changed relationship to the whether now you are on the land. Even though we only look after 5 acres, my husband and I are now weather nerds. We are always speculating about the rain - too much, too little, too early, too late! The weather affects just about everything we do around here. At the moment we are trying to decide when will be the best time to pick our wine grapes, this is very weather dependent!


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