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Farm update - October 2015

This month has brought the start of the storm season.  Its still pleasantly cool at night, but warming up during the day.  Storms are a real lottery here, sometimes a neighbour will get 50 mm of rain while we get nothing.  Often we have wildly different rainfall totals at our two properties.  Its better than no rain at all, but it can be devastating to watch the storm clouds approach and then appear to split, leaving only a few drops of rain!

This month I finally finished my chicken tractor eBook "Design and Use a Chicken Tractor"!  You can buy the pdf file from Etsy for US$5 and I'm still working on the epub version for Amazon (it is PAINFUL!).  More details at the end of this post.

Food and cooking
This month out homekill butcher came out and killed two cattle for us and now our freezer is full of beef!  We also had to eat a lot of beef before butcher day to use up what was left of the last animal.  A favourite is casserole in the slowcooker using Y-bones, we just throw in the steaks without cutting the meat, and pick out the bones later.  Add beef stock, onion, garlic, herbs, tomatoes (fresh or canned), carrot and anything else that needs to be used up..... delicious!  We take this to work for lunch all week with a bit of mashed potato.

Land and farming
Our bee hive is doing very well.  When we checked, they had started to build comb up into the lid, so we added another box (called a super) to give them more space.  We didn't use a queen excluder, as we want them to keep making more brood so we can keep splitting the hive to make more.  We might not harvest honey this first year, just let the bees put their energy into expanding the colony.  They do seem to be finding plenty of nectar around our place, with more gums in flower at the moment.

We also caught two carpet pythons enjoying spring.  We knew there was one in the hayshed, and now maybe there are two (or maybe the second one didn't move in permanently).  There carrying on like this for an hour, blocking our access to hay and we were unable to leave until they finished!  They were oblivious to us watching and taking photos, so we got a good look at them.  These snakes are pythons and not poisonous, but kill be constricting small animals.  They live off the mice in our hay shed.  It did make us worry that they might also be big enough to eat Taz and our future chickens!  I just hope they have plenty of mice to eat.

The chickens are laying so many eggs, I can hardly keep up selling them at work (if anyone in Brisbane wants some at $5/doz, send me an email).  I also caught one naughty hen in my garden and had to trim her wing feathers.  I'll write a post about that soon.

Cows and cattle
The angus cattle on our property are still very tame and they seem to have plenty of grass left to eat.  We can't decide when to sell them, as cattle prices are very high at the moment, but there is a predicted shortages, so prices could increase further.  Even if it rains, many farmers have had to sell their breeding cows, and it will take a long time to build up the numbers again.  I wonder when we still start to see beef prices rise at the butcher too, although they never passed on the DECREASE when there was a glut of cattle with everyone desperate to destock starving animals.

The dairy calves are all growing up fast.  We have stopped milking Bella after she had mastitis again and tried to kick Pete.  Charlotte seems to be allowed to drink from Bella sometimes, so we just left them to it, and Bella is happy with that arrangement.  Pete is milking Molly once a day and giving most of the milk to Rosey.  Molly's calf Chubby gets the rest!  And there's always some in the fridge.  Its nice to not have the pressure to make cheese.  I did enjoy making cheese, but sometimes its just stressful to see the fridge bursting with milk and thinking that you must make yet ANOTHER cheese so as not to waste it.  Its nice knowing that we are using the excess to raise another house cow.

My vege garden is in a transition stage, with so many of the brassicas going to seed at them moment, its full of tall seed heads waiting to mature.  As soon as they are done I will pull out the plants and try to consolidate the garden for summer.  We often have hot dry days and not enough rain or water for the entire garden, so I like to move everything to the centre and have a smaller area to water.  I need to start thinking about summer crops.  I keep forgetting to take a photo of the hydroponics, we set it up again with tomato seedlings, so at least we will be ahead with tomatoes!  I want to get some basil, tromboncino and beans going in the next few weeks.  We have just started harvesting broad beans, they are a great in between crop for this time of year, when we just get the last of the peas, some kale and silverbeet.

We decided to tackle the last of the asbestos in the house and ripped out the old pantry.  This alcove would have originally contained the woodstove, and it was lined with asbestos sheets, walls, ceiling and floor.  Under the floor sheet we found newspapers from 1951, so now we know that's when the kitchen and bathroom were added to the house.  I love finding little bits of history about the house.  We have a tentative floor layout, we think we know which appliance we want and have started sanding the walls.  Its starting to come together...

Permaculture - apply self-regulation and accept feedback
A system without regulation will be out of control.  David Holmgren discusses this concept both in terms of our own homes and personal food production systems, but also our society as a whole.  He says that we need to self-regulate instead of waiting for those in power to impose regulation, as they are often too slow and ineffective.  In particular he referred to consumerism and our economy based on using up natural resources.

On a personal level, we can each self-regulate by considering what we consume, and whether we really need it, and what waste we produce.  As we become more self-sufficient, we naturally evaluate things like water, wastewater, meat, vegetables, wood, anything that we've had to work hard to obtain, that we don't have an endless supply of, we think about how we use it, even sunlight for our solar devices.  We think about regulation far more than when we lived in the city (I walked past a dripped tap outside a house in Brisbane today, wow, there are NO dripping taps when you're on rainwater!).

Here's what I wrote last time about this principle, with more details.

We have been making more tallow soap.  This time we tried to make a shaving soap in a PVC pipe.  It doesn't look very nice, but it foams up nicely!  I'll post the recipe soon, and when I get it to look nicer, we will sell this on Etsy too.  If you want to try my soap its available on Etsy now.

Support me
I finally finished my eBook about chicken tractors.  You can get the pdf file from Etsy, I'm working on the epub file (honestly it looks so much better in pdf, I recommend that format if you don't want the text all jumbled up).

There's more information about the book over at my chicken tractor ebook blog page.  Here's a little bit about it:
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 environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens.

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.

How was your September?  What are you planning for October?


  1. Liz, I thought your eBook was $5 AUD as I gave it a plug on my blog and said it cost that...not $5US. I was able to download it after putting in $5 AUD the other day. It looks great by the way. I made soap in a round EasiYo jar once to get the round shape and lined it with bubble wrap to get a honeycomb effect. Very cool result!

    1. Oh you are right, its in AU$, I forgot :) I like the sound of that soap!

  2. I hear you about the rain we had a storm here and got a bit of rain then small pea sized hail the neighbour a few hundred metres away got no hail.

    1. Its crazy aye! And our rainfall is calculated at Kingaroy airport, but totals in other areas could be wildly different!


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