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Farm update - November 13

October was a BIG month for us, we both had two weeks off work and spent most of that time either working on improving the farm or the house, we didn't even have one sleep-in!

We haven't had much rain, just a couple of storms and about 10mm in total, which is typical spring weather.  I'm starting to wonder why the Bureau of Meteorology bothers forecasting because they always seem to get it wrong lately, and the long range forecast changes each month it is released.  Add to that the fact that its all in percentages of probability of whether rainfall or temperature will be more or less than average, and you can't really figure out what they are saying anyway!  They were saying it would be wet in January, but now they are saying it will be average to below average rainfall all summer (I think that's what they said).  We are hoping to plant some forage, but will see when it rains.  The forage sorghum that we planted last summer is still in the ground and growing as we had to bring the house through that paddock, so didn't seem any point ploughing it up.  We are going to see if it grows back enough to feed the cattle, rather than planting more.

I wrote about the vege garden on Monday.

The chickens are laying heaps.  We've had 3 broody hens and I've just been taking the eggs off them, I haven't tried to break their broodiness because we don't really need any more eggs anyway, but I don't want to hatch any at the moment either.

Deck chicken, I disturbed her, she was resting under the chair on the veranda, next to the dog beds....
We separated Molly and Monty because we wanted to wean Monty, and let Molly recover some condition before her next calf, she has got very skinny lately.  We didn't realise how much milk she was still making because she always had a very small udder, Monty was doing a great job of milking her out, at least 10 L per day, no wonder he is so fat.  This made drying her up more difficult than we expected, Bella was easy because she never had so much milk.  Drying up is nearly as risky for mastitis as just after calving, so we have been watching anxiously.  We won't know if we've been successful until we starting milking her again.  We have used a strategy of reducing the energy in her food (she is getting a tiny amount of grain to hide her minerals, and lots of hay to fill her up) and stopped milking altogether, but we milked her once a day for a couple of weeks before we figured out that that wasn't going to work, so I got to make some more cheese and icecream, she is such a good cow, but we don't want to wear her out making so much milk for us.

The chickens helping Molly with her hay
Bella and Nancy
Paralysis ticks are back now the weather has warmed up.  We know people who have lost sheep and goats, so as soon as we could tackle Nancy we put an eartag on her (not at all organic, but would hate to lose her at this stage).  We also realised that might be why we lost so many baby chickens lately (turns out that they are affected by the ticks too), now that I thought about it, they did seem paralysed, I didn't even think to look for ticks on them.  No deaths recently, so hoping the remainder have developed resistance.  We also brought home a little Braford calf and I found eight ticks on him, I was hoping to bottle feed him and get him strong as he could still stand, but unfortunately he got pneumonia (common complication when they are weak from ticks) and died after he got wet in a big storm (even with a dog coat on him).

Nancy with her eartag - she wasn't easy to catch either
At Cheslyn Rise we did some fencing to make a new holding yard to help force our difficult Braford cattle into the stock yards.  We also bought some new portable panels and added gates to make our yards safer and easier to use.  We really needed to separate the weaners about 2 months ago, but they were refusing to go into the yards.  Our new system worked and we managed to get eartags into all the new babies and the cows, and separate eight weaners for the sales.  We only had trouble with two stubborn old cows who were too tame to be scared of us and go up the race, its sad when you need a cattle prod for the tame ones!

Didn't Pete do a great job of the post and strainer?
weaners branded and ready to go
portable yards inside the wooden yards
 At the house we helped our electrician finish off all the electrical work and the power is on!  That was a very exciting moment to see all my fans running and turn the lights on and off a few times.  We had to install fan in every room (for environmental compliance), including one of the verandas!  So I just used fan lights for all rooms and an extra light in the kitchen.  This did keep things simple, but because the walls are tongue and groove, there's no cavity to hide the wiring, and Pete did spent hours using a router to making lovely conduits from lengths of pine.  We also finished all three sets of stairs and decided to leave the treads as natural timber.  We just need to do some work on handrails.

I am going to write in more detail about a few things.... cattle yards, stairs, drying up a cow.... but in the meantime, that gives you an idea of what's been happening here.

And if you thought that 250 A was big, its just a hobby farm compared to the 300000 odd acres that belong a fellow blogger and garden enthusiast who commented last week.  Emma lives on a station in WA and has just started her blog, but she's already got some great info and photos.  I'll just say one thing: home cured bacon.

How was your October?  What does November hold for you?


  1. gosh you lead busy lives, I do like to read about it all though....Your house looks lovely and inviting with that big verandah. i hope you get some time to sit under the fan on a rocking chair sometimes.

    1. yes I'm on the look out for a nice second-hand rocking chair.... the veranda is wonderful, there's always somewhere shady to sit and enjoy the view.

  2. Wow. You guys are amazing. Nancy is super sweet. Those ticks sound awful. I'm so glad we don't have them here. Do they attack people too? Stay well! Xx

    1. Thanks Emma, yes the ticks can occasionally jump on a person, I had one on my back last year and I didn't know until I went for a massage, and they therapist got it off me with lavender essential oil. I felt a bit funny, but I didn't know if it was the tick or in my head. They can kill dogs and small animals, so that's more of a worry for us.

  3. Hey Liz,
    I love the blog. We are 'toe-in-the-water' on our way to living a more self-sufficient life; minus the acerage. Your posts are a great read and really helpful :)

    1. Thanks Stace, I'm glad you find it useful :)

  4. We are currently drying off Honey the goat for the same reason. I think because it has been so dry and because she has a demanding kid , he has gotten very thin just lately. And yes I think the weather bureau might be making up half the stuff just lately, we have rain predicted on Monday but I think I will still hang the clothes out!
    Can't wait to check out that blog you mentioned.

  5. Hi Liz,
    Thanks so much for the acknowledgement of my blog. Those ticks sound awful. Our dogs sometimes get big fat, blood filled kangaroo ticks in summer, but they don't cause paralysis! As I was out in the garden early this morning picking unsprayed tomatoes, I was reflecting on how lucky we are out here in some respects....our isolation means we rarely get garden or animal diseases and that is a real bonus. If I moved somewhere wetter and closer to 'civilisation' I'd have a whole lot to learn about managing the various problems that arise. Having said that, I do occasionally fantasise about living somewhere wetter! Cheers.

    1. No worries Emma, yep you're pretty lucky in WA, those paralysis ticks are only on the East Coast, and only in the wetter areas. That's a good point about isolation, it has its pros and cons!


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