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Showing posts from September, 2015

Beginner beekeepers - building frames

We recently got into beekeeping and have been learning as we go along everything involved in caring for these fascinating creatures.  We decided to use Langstroth hives because more beekeepers in our area use them, and we didn't want to stray into something different like Warre or top-bar hives and have no local assistance or support when something went wrong ( more about different hive types here ).  We are lucky to have a local beekeeping supplier nearby and have bought all the bits and pieces we needed to build hives and frames.  We also bought a whole lot of gear (a ute and trailer load) from a retired beekeeper, so we had lots of old equipment, most of it unidentified and completely new to us! Here's our queen bee Somehow my clever husband has managed to figure out how to build the hives and the frames himself, he can look at a board for threading the wire through the frames and see exactly how it works, while I just see old junk!  This is some photos and explanation

Homekill beef - two small beef cattle for added complexity

Every year for the last seven years we have raised and killed a steer for beef.  I know this because I can count off the names of each of them, Trevor, Murray, Bruce, Bratwurst, Frankfurter, Romeo... and this year it was Monty's turn, but he was a bit small (being a jersey cross dexter), so we also killed a young heifer recently acquired (we named her Fatty, because she had been in the good paddock, she's a mini hereford cross lowline maybe).  Our butcher doesn't like to come out for animals under 200 kg, so we wanted to be sure it was worth his travel. Little Fatty heifer Monty the jersey/dexter steer - a bit small maybe Having two animals killed on the same day was a challenge and took some planning.  First we had to dig an extra large hole for the inedible bits (head, hooves and guts).  And then we had to figure out how to keep the second animal calm while the butcher was working on the first one.  He likes to shoot one, process it, and then do the second one

Buy the chicken tractor eBook

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} 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 costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases.   But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your

Why use natural soaps and salves?

Recently I started offering my handmade soaps and salves for sale on Etsy. I really just wanted to share with others the products that I make and use every day.  Since then I have had a few questions, so I thought I should explain more about the soaps and salves that I make.  It seems that soap has a bad reputation, but I think its all you need to use.  Keep reading to see how you can get my soap at a discount.... I keep thinking about when one of my uni friends went to a dermatologist to get a prescription for roacutane (for acne). She was on the drug for several months, and at the end her skin was perfect. The dermatologist told her to simply wash her face with soap and water. I was horrified! I had a morning and evening routine involving soap-free cleanser, toner, moisturizer and various other beauty “must dos”. Now I just splash my face with water in the shower once a day, and I really can’t see the difference. The strangest thing is that I often see in women's magazin

Guns on farms

I haven’t talked much about guns because when I did the course to get my gun license it was made quite clear that we should keep our guns private. We were actually told not to shoot near a property boundary where a member of the public might see the gun and complain to police, even if its on our own property! Gun laws have been strict in Australia since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 when 35 people were killed by a gunman.  In order to get a gun I first had to do a two-day course and pass a theory and practical test. I then had to wait six months to get the license, which was approved for “rural purposes” because of the area of our property. If you don’t have a large enough property to qualify, you have to belong to a gun club to get a license. After I got the license, I then had to apply to acquire the particular gun I wanted to buy, with a written justification as to why I needed it. My license only allows rifles and shotguns, so there wasn’t much choice anyway. I

The Building of the Queensland House - Book Review

Renovating our second-hand "Queenslander" removal house has been like a cross between repairing a lovely old piece of handmade antique furniture and an archaeological dig!  The house was probably built around 100 years ago, from locally sourced timber, but has been modified many times since then.  Verandahs have been built in, the kitchen, bathroom and laundry were added later.  When we removed the wall cladding in the bathroom we revealed old doorways and could only guess at how the room was previously arranged. As with any sort of repair or restoration work, it helps to understand how and why the house was built the way it was, so that we can do our best to return it to either its original condition, or something that will work for us without damaging the structure.  I have just finished reading Andy Jenners "The Building of the Queensland House" .  I bought it for Pete about a year ago, expecting a manual or a step-by-step guide to renovating a Que

Cattle terminology

Sometimes I tell people that we have steers, and they think I said "stairs" and then I have to explain what steers are, and that not all cattle are "cows".  Even worse is the terms used in cattle sale reports, yearling store quality steers sold well, while cows with calves at foot were generally in poor condition.  And it goes on.  If you are still confused, pop over to my house cow ebook blog for some help with cattle terminology.... You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy Interview with myself Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow Interview with Rose Petal Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow Interview with Ohio Farmgirl Buy my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" on  Etsy ,  Lulu  and  Amazon , or email on eight.acres.liz at to arrange delivery.  More information on my  house cow ebook blog .

How I use herbs - Chervil

Chervil ( Anthriscus cerefolium ) was completely new to me until I bought some seeds on a whim.  I had never tasted it and had no idea what it looked like or what to do with it!  Like dill and parsley, chervil is now one of the herbs that self-seeds in my garden and appears each autumn as the weather cools. How to grow chervil Chervil grows easily from seeds.  I just scattered them around the garden at first, and now it self-seeds.  No special treatment required.  It grows best in the cooler months, in shade, with plenty of moisture.  It dies off in summer in my garden, after producing flowers and seeds.  It doesn't grow very big, so its best to seed generously and weed out unwanted plants later. How to use chervil Chervil is very similar to parsley, but has a more subtle flavour, with a faint hint of aniseed.  I enjoy it chopped up with parsley, nasturtium leaves, coriander leaves, basil and anything else fresh and green (purslane, herb robert etc) as a garnish in salads

Farm update - September 2015

I'm not sure that I'm ready for spring..... whether you consider 1st of September or the spring equinox (23rd September) the beginning of spring, I think its already here, the days are starting to warm up.  We've had some days up to 30degC already!  I just want to hold on to winter a little longer.  We've had several days where the woodstove was not needed, but we did also get a little rain in the last week, about 15 mm, very patchy (some areas got much more than this), and the grass is a little greener as a result. so much milk! tasty young roosters fermented rosella ale Food and cooking We have so much milk, with Bella and Molly both milking now, we are giving most of it to the two poddy calves, but there is still plenty for the house, several litres per week, which we keep in glass bottles.  We butchered the remaining six roosters ( raising chickens for meat ).  And I enjoyed some refreshing rosella ale . We also watched That Sugar Film ( That Suga