Planting Time!

A gorgeous weekend on the farm! The sun was shining, very little wind and the temperature was mild. Perfect time to start some planting!

My little package of goodies arrived late last week (the post box lost it, then found it again…) and in it there were 60+ strawberry crowns, 12 raspberry canes and 16kgs of seed potatoes! Yesterday I planted the Willamette raspberries, a heavy cropping variety, that crop in summer. They fruit on the second year canes, so a little more management than the Autumn Bliss I put in the other week. If managed well, I should get a good summer crop from the Willamette’s and then another autumn crop from the Autumn Bliss. Strawberries will be next weekends job.

Although today’s planting effort was easier than yesterday’s (the raspberry area is a bit wetter than the potato area), now that it is all done, I am damn tired! All in all I planted half of our seed potatoes, so 8kgs in all. If my maths is right, then we should produce close to 250kgs of potatoes from this batch, and another 220-250kgs when the next batch goes in. Each plant yeilds on average about 2-2.5kg of potatoes and with about 110-120 plants in today, that’s a lot of potatoes! The varieties are: Ruby Lou, a mainstay in out household, they have never let me down and are great for roasting and boiling; Dutch Cream – another great performer that have never let me down, the perfect mashing potato; Royal Blue – a new variety for me, it is meant to be a perfect all round potato; King Edward – although I have not really had bumper crops with this variety, I have to say it is my favourite roasting potato and beats all the others without even trying!

I have also started a bit of an experiment to see how long it takes our fold Highland cows to graze a patch in our winter paddock. I roped of a section about 25x25m and let them eat to their hearts content today. At the end of the day, it didn’t look like they made much of a dint and so they will go back in there tomorrow. At a guess, this size mini-paddock should keep them going comfortably for 1 week, perfect for cell grazing!

Another beautiful day on the farm, another beautiful day in life!

Ouch!

Another beautiful day on the farm. A bit of sun, rain, wind, and cold. Makes for a very slippery surface I will say. I started the day with nice clean work clothes and at the end of the day, my pants were a lovely mud brown colour.

Now before readung on, I do need to put in a warning: IF YOU ARE MALE, IT IS ADVISED THAT YOU STOP HERE!

(If you watched the clip above, I need to add that I am still alive, but did not continue filming as I wanted to get the job done as fast as possible.)

House Rates was a week old this week and it was time for the snip! Well, the ring in this case, but same result. The only trick was, how was I going to catch him, and School Fees, well he was actually a she (I was alway a bit sus about Hayley’s gender identification process, but now she knows that if there ain’t anything danglin’ then it’s a girl) so no need to do anything to her. I fenced a small section off in an adjoining paddock and herded the cows and calves in, next I coaxed the mums out and was left with both calves in the temp yard and all the cows and their horns in the paddock. Well that didn’t last long as the calves just ramed through to get back to their mums. Take two and this time, House Rates got a litlle stuck, which gave me the opportunity to grab her and carry her to where the marking tool was. After sliding in the mud a bit (OK a lot) I managed to get a handle on her. (Mental Note: next time have the tool in my back pocket rather than 30m away!) Dang he was a heavy boy! I would say about 50+kgs and having a 50+kg animal kick and squirm in your arms is a bit of a pain! Anyway I got him to the tool, called Hayley to give me a hand holding a leg so I didn’t get brained, and then OUCH, on went the castration ring.

All this time, all of the cows were pacing the fence and mooing their heads off, so I wanted to get the thing done and let him go ASAP. He went back to mum without any fuss and seems to be fine. The cows are a little more nervous now, but I’ll soon win them back with feed 🙂

We also got our first batch of seeds planted up in the greenhouse. They should do well in there and in a couple of weeks we will put start another batch. So far we have put in tomatoes, capsicum, pumpkin, cucumber and chillis. Also nasturtiums and corriader, along with cherries and plums. Hopefully the cherries and plum work as they are from an orchard of a friend of ours in S.A and will save us about $1000 in seedling stock if they germinate!

Lastly, we have finally settled on a name for the farm and will now get busy registering all the livestock under the name of “Highland Heritage”. 🙂

Instinctive Herding

It was almost 6pm, light was quickly fading, the top paddock is exhausted and the cows need moving. Outside it was windy, wet and damn cold, but no rest for the wicked… So out I went, with rope in hand and some star pickets to fence off a run to the next paddock in the rotation. I could have waited until the weekend, but Ella had just calved and I wanted to make sure she and Bianca eat well so they can produce good milk for their calves. We choose to have livestock and with that choice come the responsibility of ensuring they are well looked after, so out I went into the fading light…

I left the gate open, thinking that they cows would stay put until I got some feed… won’t be doing that again! While getting the feed, they all decided to go for a wander into the winter paddock. “Crap” I thought, “I can hardly bloody see out here”.

Cue Lightning.

She was locked up in the back yard as per usual, and, as per usual, she escaped when she realised what I was doing. She is sooooo keen to work, that as soon as she knows I am moving the cows or the sheep, she escapes from the back yard. I definately needed her help tonight so wasn’t really annoyed that she had got out. All I could see were some shapes in the dark and with those horns, I didn’t want to get too close after Ella had just calved. Both Lightning and I slowly moved them back up to where they needed to be and when School Fees, got flighty and tried to break the pack, Lightning just darted from my side and gently pushed her back! No barking, no nipping, just a gentle arc run to “push” her back to the herd. She did this on about half a dozen times and the fold (herd) slowly made their way to the paddock gate. I didn’t use any voice commands (mainly as I was confusing myself) but I did use hand signals. I thought I was going to be out there until midnight, but Lightning herded by instinct and it worked a charm!

Introducing House Rates!

While finishing off the greenhouse and tidying up the shed (ready for the next project – Bee Hives!!!) I had a glance at Ella in the paddock and she seemed to be moving around a little strangely. Hmmm I thought, she’s done that before and nothing happened, so…. I kept tidying up. Curiosity though got to me and I had another look. She was up and down, up and down and looking very uncomfortable. Her rear end had dropped and her tail was, well, bent. This was it! She was ready to calve, FINALLY! She was out in the back corner of our top paddock and just in view, but School Fees seemed to be harrassing her, as was Bianca – or so it seemed. Both Hayley and I now think the cows were checking and encouraging Ella, the proof I think is when the calf stands up (the second clip below). It was amazing to see all of the cows, even the aloof Silver Girl, came running to check out the new calf! Once things got going, Ella calved very quickly. She got up a couple of times and Tano-Li’s commentary was gold! When watching, have a close look at when she stands up. Are they hooves I can see? Here are some of the clips.

On a different note, the bacon I had been curing was oven smoked/baked tonight. Struth Ruth, it is gooooooood! It does not have that pink colour that commercial bacon has, which comes from the sodium nitrite that is used. This stuff isn’t that great for you, in fact can kill you in large doses and is linked to many cancers. Not good at all. Anyway, the bacon I made had a grey colouring, and was just divine! It definitely will not last long in this house. You know, it is times like this that I am glad Hayley is a vego 🙂

Next food project, wet cured ham!

Makeshift incubator, a clean shed and a mini greenhouse!

Our croad langshans have been laying for a bit over a week now and I decided to give the makeshift incubator a crack. I noticed the General doing his thing so am hopeful that the eggs are fertilised. I’ll know for sure mid this week, when I’ll candle the eggs to see if there has been any embryo devlopment. The incubator is a temperature regulator box, hooked up to a heat sorce (light bulb) which is in a wine cooler. We have used it before successfuly so hopefully this time will be no different. There are 5 langshan eggs and 1 silke egg in the incubartor. You can see the size difference in eggs!

I also finally cleaned out the shed! Now I know where all my tools are and also found 4 pairs of safety glasses! They have now been placed with the tools that need them and hopefully don’t get lost! What better way to celebrate a clean shed by making it messy again! Well at least it is messy due to completing a project, rather than just being messy due to nothing! I am building a mini greenhouse to get our seedlings kick started for the upcoming season. It is big enough to allow seedlings get to a good size and hopefully big enough to start a good amount of seedlings during the colder weather. Once things warm up I won’t need to use it as much, and will put a shade cloth over it to help protect young seedlings from getting burnt.

It was a beautiful sunny day today (the first in a long time!) and the boys enjoyed playing in the mud 🙂 As the days sloooooowly get longer and the weather begins to warm up (slightly), I have to say that I am looking forward to the coming of Spring!

Trellis Complete

Another typical day on the farm, grey, misty, windy at times and very cold! But no rest for the wicked. I didn’t really get much done today, only managed to put up the trellis for the raspberries. Not sure why, but time seemed to fly by today… The trellis posts are on a bit of a lean, but that is fine as they are well braced. As the raspberries grow, I will tie them to the lower wire and as they continue to grow, I will tie and lean them over the top wire. This allows light and air to penetrate the middle of the raspberry hedge, and makes for easy picking!

The body is starting to feel it a bit… might have a rest day tomorrow… hang on, the chicken run fencing needs to be done, potatoes and strawberries need to be planted (if they arrive), front fence needs to be repaired and electrified, need to start looking at preparing for next week and being back at work…

Wascally Wabbit!

Wascally Wabbits got to the Elderberry plants! Only 3 of them got nibbled, but that’s 3 too many! They love to eat the new shoots and bark of saplings and in doing so kill them. Luckily the Elderberry is a hardy plant and they should recover ok. In fact they are so hardy that I am a little concerned that they will become weedy in future. We will just have to wait and see and if they do start sprouting too far from where I want them, thats when Lemon and Slasher comes into their own 🙂 To protect the remaining Elderberries, I used left over gal mesh and made a guard for them. This should keep the wascals at bay.

Also got the first of our raspberries in. They are called Autumn Bliss and crop heavily during (as the name suggests) autumn. There is a smaller crop in summer and then their main crop in autumn. The beauty with these is that at the end of the season, you just prune everything to the ground. No fluffing around with 1st year 2nd year canes, just chop ’em and they grow back and crop again next season. A bit of work needs to go into the soil as below the topsoil is a layer of lovely sticky clay. Gypsum will go well here along with a natural product I found from a local supplier called Rock Dust. It literally is that, crushed rock which helps to release minerals and such that have been locked up, for the plants to use.  The hole I dug is for the blackwood posts I got from Peter’s place. They will be used to string some tension wire up to help support the raspberries as they grow. Although not vital, it does make for easier work in the future, so may as well do it right the first time!

Farm work continues 🙂