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Farm update - November 2015

The weather is really starting to warm up now, but with all this talk of el nino and dire predictions of drought, we somehow got 50 mm of rain in the last week of the month, which has really cheered us up.  The paddocks at Eight Acres were turning into what is known locally as "bull dust" which is where the grass is almost completely dry, dead and gone, and all you're left with is a dusty yard, which is not nice at all.  We have more grass cover at Cheslyn Rise, but were trying to figure out how long we could keep the beef steers, trying to judge the beef cattle market at the moment is very difficult, I think we will sell soon.

Food and cooking
I think the best part about homekill meat is that you get everything, including all the offal and weird cuts that you would never normally buy.  I have tried really hard to eat the liver and kidneys because organ meat is supposed to be so nutritious but I can't stomach it, I even hate the smell of it cooking, so we give that to the dog, along with heart and tongue.  Taz won't eat it raw either, she prefers her food cooked!  However, I do you the beef cheeks and ox tail, I made a lovely casserole in the slow cooker with four beef cheeks and a packet of ox tail bones, its very tasty and tender if cooked long enough.  I encourage you to try these cuts as they are very cheap from the butcher (or if you homekill you will end up with them anyway).

Land and farming
As usual I feel like we are living on a wildlife reserve!  We certainly have plenty of permaculture zone 5 (wild), Pete spotted these two galahs eating termites from a nest.

We have also been spending time checking on our bees, which seem to be finding plenty of nectar and pollen and expanding their numbers.  We have also been going on lots of walks and drives around the property to see what is flowering and scope out other spots to put more hives as the first hive stand is starting to fill up.  Pete has built a stand and fixed up our secondhand honey extractor so we are getting ready to harvest when the bees have any to spare.

A friend is downsizing before going overseas and needed a new home for her chickens,  I offered to help, mainly because these two bantams came as part of the flock, aren't they sweet!?  As soon as they go broody we will give them some eggs to hatch.

Cows and cattle
With the dry grass at the moment we've been giving the cattle on both properties plenty of minerals.  We put them out in dishes so they can eat as much as they need.  The herd of 28 beef cattle clean up a 20kg bag in a week or so, which means they are not getting enough from the grass at the moment.

This month I have had to convert the garden into a chicken-proof fortress as we have had repeated break-ins, even with all the shade cloth, they seem determined to get in there and scuff up all my mulch.  This has resulted in casualties and I have to try not to get too upset about lost seedlings.  At least we will have tomatoes this year!  I have given up on tomatoes in the garden and we have the hydroponics running, with added worm wee the tomatoes are doing great.

We have been sanding the kitchen, but trying not to overdo it as full days of sanding really do ruin the weekend (and make you glad to be back at work for a rest!).  We have also ordered Pete's shed, and when the shed company said it will be delivered in November we panicked and had to get to work cleaning up the area where it will be built.  Its going to be to the left and behind the house in the picture below.  I persuaded Pete that we should get a building company to put it up for us, as its going to be 12m by 15m and 4m high, I really didn't think we needed that challenge!

Permaculture - Use and value renewable resources
When I see the words renewable resources its tempting to just list all the ways that we use solar panels around our farm (electric fences, bore pump...) this chapter really made me think more broadly about renewable resources and to value what we have on our property.  We have a lot of trees and we take for granted all the services that they provide us, firewood, building material, habitat, shade, nutrients, water (through transpiration), honeybee food!  Also in designing our house site we considered the position of the house to make use of shade, natural light and breeze.

Here's what I wrote last time about renewable resources.

Its nearly the end of knitting weather, but a friend gave me this wonderful hank of 100% NZ wool and I couldn't resist rolling it into balls and dreaming of what I would knit with it (probably next winter).  I'm thinking thick warm socks and long arm warmers for cold nights.  I also finished my crochet rug, which I'll share in a post soon.

Support me
I got my peppermint shaving soap organised and advertised on Etsy.  I also put some neem oil soap on there, which I'm going to have to post about to explain why you would want to use it!  I'm working on some neem cream also.  In the meantime, this is a bit about neem oil.

Here's a couple of blogs that I discovered this month, I thought you might like them too...

Jembella Farm

Country City Cindy

Thanks for dropping in!  How was your October?  What are your plans for November?


  1. Great update! I'm very interested in neem oil, I will have to read more about it.

    1. Neem oil stinks, but its very effective! I will write more soon...

  2. Your garden is looking really good. That shade cloth will save it through summer. Our chickens don't get out of their permanent coop, but I do have to contend with kangaroos and bush rats getting into our vegetable patch. While it can be frustrating at the time, the damage repairs itself relatively quickly. :)

    What kind of squash are you growing in that picture? I'm trying spaghetti squash for the first time this year. After I got 3 fruits to set, for some strange reason, all the female flowers are dying without having opened. I've not encountered this before. Have you?

    Those bantams look like they're crossed with Araucana. They actually look like Pekin crossed with Araucana. I've had both Pekin and Araucana, and they had wonderful natures. Great for brooding too. Have they laid eggs for you yet? I wonder if they're tinged green or blue?

    I can't wait to receive my parcel from your Esty shop. I think my husband will love the shaving soap in the tin, for Christmas. :)

    1. Hi Chris, they are button squash, because I get blossom end rot on all other curcubits (that or powdery mildew). I only grew spaghetti squash once and I don't think I got any squash in the end.... I don't think I'm any help with your problem... Fortunately my chicken fortress keeps out the other wildlife as well, there was a bandicoot digging holes for a while until I found the gap in the fence...

      So far the banty eggs have been normal colour, but I did think they look like araucana crosses too.

      Thanks for your Etsy order, I'll be posting it tomorrow....

    2. Thanks for that suggestion of being blossom end rot. I did some research, and it could be because of that load of rain last week. It saturated the soil and the squash probably wasn't able to access the nutrients. I'll try some epsom salts and gypsum, to see if that helps. :)

  3. Lucky you getting all that rain. What a boost for your land and garden. We're hoping to get some here in SA tonight and tomorrow, fingers crossed. The oxtails & cheeks are my favorite too, cooked slowly, delicious flavors. I'm interested what minerals you're feeding out now. Is that Dolomite? You have piqued my interest in Neem Oil, maybe we could control our earwig plague with it. The cattle prices here in the South are highest they have ever been, and luckily we got exceptional prices for the two we recently sold at market. It's a bit like the share market isn't it, wondering whether to hold off or sell now. I don't know how you pack in so much during your weekends, but I love reading about what you're doing. Your house looks just beautiful. :)

    1. Hi Sally, its a mix of minerals, its called MegaMin, its made near us, I understand its not available outside of QLD though. We also give the milk cows dolomite. Neem oil is pretty useful, it definitely repels ants!

  4. Oh, and thanks for putting the link to my blog Jembella Farm on your page. :)

  5. I hope you get just the right amount of rain! No flooding or mudslides, just a nice gentle rain that perks up all the grass and gardens!

    1. It was a good amount, but I'll always take a bit more....

  6. I've been thinking about you and your house. There is one along with a barn on trailers in a field not too far from us. It's been there so long now that the sign to call about it is long gone. I find myself day dreaming about it more and more.


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