Wet, windy and cold. A great day for working outside!

Interspersed with a tiny bit of sun, was a wet, windy and cold day! We have had some nice warm weather through the week and the weeds were shooting through the market garden area, so it was time to re-rototill everything in again. I will then wait for it to dry out a bit and then give it one more pass to make sure the weeds are well and truely dead. Next year, I think I will wait until September to rototill and plant some green manure to help increase the nitrogen and organic matter in the soil.

Speaking of soil, there are a rediculous amount of earthworms chomping away at our mulch, all adding to the soil structure, mineral and nutrient levels and airation. Either the bio-dynamic spray seems to be working or the mulching is doing wonders! Either way, the plants that are currently in are loving it! Below is an update of the potatoes I planted a few months back and a small lettuce and radish experiment I started a month ago. The potatoes are almost all up and it would seem that there is very little advantage in planting too early as they have all seemed to have sprouted within a couple of weeks of each other. In the coming week, I will direct seed out some more lettuces and radish and will also start a few rows of carrots.

The greenhouse is going well, although my batch of corn does not seem to like me. I will have to start again and see what I can get to sprout. Tomatoes have sprouted and last months tomatoes and capsicum are only just starting to grow their true leaves, which, although a good thing, it is a heck of a lot slower than I expected. Living in a colder climate is bringing with it some new challenges, but all part of the fun of learning. I will put them out in the open soon to toughen them up before plating them out.

As I type there are 7 out of 17 eggs hatched and another 5 pipping out. If can get 12-15 hatch I will be a happy camper! They say that you get 80% hatch in an incubator, so lets see if I can achieve this rate. The next batch will have 30-36 eggs and with that one, I will up the thermostate temperature another 0.5 degree celsius. The eggs started hatching yesterday, which is exactly 21 day, but the majority started today. This suggests that the temp setting is a little on the low side (only just) so I will adjust slightly and see how it goes.

Another day tomorrow. Can’t wait to get out there with the family and get stuck into farm work!

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Organic Pest Control and Foster Mum

Over the past week or so, even in the crazily wet, windy and cold weather, an animal, that usually only appears in Spring proper, ie. during warmer weather, has appeared on our farm. This animal is an amazing creature, devouring pests like nothing else and also helps to pollinate our crops. What animal am I talking about? The humble and beautiful ladybug! The ladybug eats the hated aphid, scale insects and plant mites and helps the garden control its pests. In previous years we have had aphid problems in our strawberries and this year, in one section, is no exception. They are everywhere! The aphids and soft bodied insects that suck the sap out of new growing shoots, thus stunting their growth. They also affect the fruit, reducing their size and sometimes appearance. With the sighting of the ladybug (and I am sure there are tons more around the place), my concerns about the destructive aphid are somewhat alleviated!

Ella’s teats are looking much better. They are almost all completely healed up and her udder is no longer looking red or swollen. Unfortunately though it seems like she has dried herself off and House Rates is no longer able to feed from his mum. We started getting a little worried, but then we saw this:

Bianca has taken on the duties of feeding House Rates and has affectively fostered him. Ella still looks after her calf, but the feeding resposibilities have now been transferred to Bianca. We now need to make sure she recieves enough feed and nutrients to sustain feeding two calves. I must say this was a pretty special sight to behold.

Farm Inputs

The aim on our farm is to minimise the inputs we have to purchase and put on the land. With what ever inputs we do need to buy and spread out, we want for them to be either organic, biodynamic, or as natural as possible. Our first major input was spread out today consisting of rock dust and lime. This stuff is literally crushed rock that increases the micro-biology in the soil and allows the soil to unlock its minerals as well as replenishing the minerals already in it. The rock dust came from Munash (www.munash.com.au) and spread by Matt, the very same guy we are getting our cheap mulching hay from. The company was once certified organic but is no longer due to the enormous amount of paper work required and partly because the quaries they get their rock minerals from are not certified. The minerals are natural and literally dug up from the ground and then crushed into a fine dust, so as far as I am concerned, because they have not been added to, chemically altered or processed in any other way, they are as organic as we will get – straight from the ground! Munash are now going through a certification process with another certifier, one that is a little more resonable with their costs and paper work.

The JCB was a very tight fit into our smaller paddocks and was unable to do all of our fields due to the saturated soil, but Matt managed to do most of our farm and I will manually do the rest as funds become available to purchase a small spreader.

While he was here, we got talking about dogs (as you do) and he has a blue merle pure and registered Coolie, which in a year or so, we will look to mate with Lightning and hopefully get a great looking litter of pups! We will make sure to register Lightning first to keep the paperwork in order and hopefully start our own line of working Coolie dogs! The line the male comes from, is renowned for being excellent workers and he is also one of only a handful of long-haired Coolies in Victoria! We’ll wait and see how things are going in 12 months time and if Lightning is ready, then we will put the two together.

Enjoying Life

I have been home for a little over a week and lots of things have been ticked off the ‘to do list’. The orchard has been slashed and mulched, garden bed weeded and prepared for the next batch of vegetables, lawns mowed, herb beds mulched, a bit of brush cutting done (still more to go, but ran out of line), more seeds plated out in the greenhouse, seedlings out in the market garden, mulched and weeded the potatoes and collected 13 bales of oat hay that has been rain affected for $1.50 each! The plan is to use this as mulch – the bales already sprouted and then died back, and are decomposing, so perfect for mulch – and as the paddocks they came from only had lime and rock dust as inputs, the minerals will make their way from the hay to our farm! The rock dust is literally that, crushed rock minerals, spread out over the paddocks to re-mineralise the soil and unlock the minerals already in the soil. We have as much of the stuff as we want and at this stage, will be picking up about 100 (or more) in the coming few days – this is where I need a truck with a flat bed….hmmm, I wonder…..

Back home and lots to do.

My trip to Vietnam with the students was a great experience. We spent 12 days exploring Saigon, Nha Trang, De Nang, Hoi An and Hue then back to Saigon. We almost got stuck in Hue do to a typhoon bearing down on us! It had rained heavily for 4 days and nights straight and the eye of the typhoon was due to hit Hue 24-48hrs after we were to depart. To keep things safe, ALL flights in and out of Hue had been cancalled, so we had to drive 3 hrs south to De Nang airport to get the last flight out back to Saigon!

There were many highlights of the trip, the kids following my lead and paying their respects at the temples, the kids being swamped by the Vietnamese school kids, seeing the orphanage and meeting the amazing people in the markets of Hoi An. I think I could easily live in Hoi An, it was no where near as hot and the people there were amazingly friendly and humble.

Here is a video of one of our fellow teachers being mobbed!

And the one below is from Hue. The locals were moving things around all morning, chairs, tables and trees! They asked us how long we were staying and when we told them that we were flying out that day they said, “No, no, you stay two more days and see the flood!” They knew the flood was coming and and everything was getting moved to higher ground – including the trees!

So now I am back home and there is a heck of a lot to do before work starts again.Vern and his little helper finished the back fencing while I was away and also started the kids play area. What better way to say thank-you than to crash into it with the tractor and destroy the gate! 1 hour later and you would never know! (All fixed now Vern!!!!)

I noticed that Ella’s udder and teats had swollen and we were worried that she was getting mastitis. All four teats were huge and they were darkening up. We don’t have a cattle crush so I decided to make a holding pen the size of a crush, to hold her in and inspect her. The trick now was to get her in there…. I left Vietnam after 4 days and nights of rain and came home to…..more rain – and hail – and moving Ella in the rain was not fun. Dad, Hayley, Ava-Li and Lightning all helped. We got her up there, but she and the other cows decided they wanted to bust out! The idea was good, but the run needs to be much bigger and the holding yard needs to be finished properly… more work to do…. At least her teats are looking lots better now, 3 out of the 4 are back to normal, with one slowly getting smaller, hopefully she will be ok!

Our apple trees are in bloom – that’s right, in bloom! This is their first year in the ground and they are flowering already! We should get a handful of fruit off most of the trees this year and then heaps next year! But for now, they need to be re-mulched.

There is still a slight risk of frost, but we need to get our vegie stock in. The greenhouse seeds are coming up well, but the corn seeds we plated a couple of weeks ago look like they have stalled, so I will get some more going in the greenhouse ready for the end of the week (hopefully).

Our first hatch of croads are growing up fast and will be put out with the rest of them by the end of the week. They are looking like little vultures! The gates for the chicken area need to be made and hung and the last remaining fencing of the chicken area finished.

Slashing and more mulching and the kitchen garden area needs an overhaul before the weather starts to warm up…

The list keeps growing…