It has been a little while since my last blog entry. Things have been pretty busy, both here on the farm but also at work. This time of year we are busy marking, writing reports, more marking and more reports… It is part of the job, and I must say the least enjoyable. That being said, it is a small price to pay really when you love your job:-)

So firstly an update on the farm:

The orchard is coming along very well this season. I count over 20 apples that, if the rabbits or birds don’t get them, will develop well and should be ripe for the picking from January onwards. Considering they were almost all ring barked last summer by rabbits and they have only been in for 18mths, I don’t think I have done too badly with keeping them going. Our hope is that they will continue to grow this season without any pruning, and then next season, each of the trees should have a handful of fruit, with a good crop in season 2014/2015.

The market garden is starting to really thrive. In our local climate, we are about 2-3 weeks behind Melbourne’s growing season, however in our makeshift little greenhouse, we managed to get things started and planted nice and early. Our mini-swales on contour are working well and the compost I made and spread made a huge difference to growth rates. We did get a late frost which burnt some of the zucchini leaves. They have made a comeback, however, I am sure they would be much more advanced if not for the frost. All good though as zucchini goes crazy when producing! All our other veggies are coming along well, with new additions to our stock this year, violet cauliflower and chilli, as well as a mixed variety of colourful carrots.

New mains irrigation lines have gone in in preparation for next seasons extension and over half of the market garden is now irrigated, with the rest to be completed as funds come in. The no-dig style potatoes are going well, of all of the seed potatoes, I would estimate that 70% of last season potatoes have sprouted and about 90% of new season seed potatoes taking. There are still more to go in and as work finishes up, I should get more time and energy to finish planting. I have not irrigated them at all however they are well wet enough and I will continue monitoring as the summer approaches.

Our first batch of chicks were hatched two weeks ago and they are all going well. We aim to add another 20 girls to the laying flock and process any excess we have. With our consumption rate, we will need 30 chickens in the freezer for the year. This will add to the 2 lambs and cows we will process through the year. Plenty of protein for a growing family, plus some:-)

So the question is, will we be ready for a farmers market stall in January/February??? The way things are growing… probably not, but will give it a good crack:-)

At work work, things are also pushing along. I have just got formal approval for teaching Permaculture at the school to year 9 and 10’s in 2013 and 2014. We will have a trial year in 2013, but I am sure that in 2014 and beyond, we will be teaching a full Permaculture Design Certificate! Also, work on the swale design orchard has started. With a fall of 1/10, no irrigation and horrible, horrible clay to work with, it will be interesting how well the design works. Last night and this morning we had a decent dump of rain, about 25-30mm of rain in 12 hours. The bottom 3 “speed humps” have been rough cut in and it was amazing to see how in a very raw state, the speed humps slowed the water down and collected so much silt. As the remaining swale/ponds are shaped, this should reduce significantly the erosion that occurs on the site as well as allow for a huge collection of water to infiltrate into the berm.

Things are moving along, plenty of work to do both on farm and at work and as we come to the end of the year, rather than slowing down, it is time to speed up!


New addition and greenhouse update

Work starts back up again tomorrow and the jobs I had down to complete are nowhere near finished. Oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day… Progress on the greenhouse timber frame has been slow, however, one bent is finished, ridge pole for the roof rough cut and one tenon done and second bent well under way. Tano-Li, my little padawan has been ever floating around the workshop area finding jobs to do. He came in the other day, said he wanted to help, grabbed the broom and started sweeping up! I then gave him a few little jobs to help with and we both had a great time 🙂 Kobe-Li then got in on the action and so I stopped what I was doing (ran out of little jobs) cut up a few off cuts and pre drilled these for the boys:

These were cut out of off-cuts and pre-drilled for the boys to put together.

They had a great time putting them together, using a cordless drill, and sanding down the edges!

Tano-Li has also helped with the framing:

Tano-Li making sure the shaping was square and true.

Bit blurry sorry – bad light. This is the first bent finished. The rafters are cut and shaped ready to fit once the whole thing goes up.

I decided to bolt the frame together rather than timber pegs, just for that added bit of security and due to time constraints. Once this whole thing is up it is going to look awesome!

We have also received delivery of a belted galloway 6mth old steer to grow out. Won’t be for another 18 months before we process him, but I am sure it will be well worth the wait 😉

He is fitting in well with the others after a tentative day.

Lastly, I caught sight of a massive – read freaken huge – fox down by the dam the other morning (9am), so it was time to sure up the chicken pen with hot wire. The chicken pen now looks like Fort Knox, hot wire above, between and 10cm off the ground to stop digging – and yes the hot wire does work….

Hot wired chook pen., will definitely keep Mr Fox away!

Big Week

A very busy week coming up! With deliveries coming out of our ears, we were starting to worry that we would not have enough stock to fill all of our orders, but after a quick walk around the market garden, things are looking ok in terms of meeting supply for this week. That being said, if have many more weeks like this one, we will start to really struggle as winter has well and truely hit us here in our patch of paradise.

I woke up this morning and outside the thermometer was reading -2deg Celsius! Now that is cold! That being said, our market garden still manages to pump out the produce, but things have definitely started to slow down. My 3rd batch of corn, although ripening, is on its last legs. My 4th batch, well that will be a treat for the cows… All the tomatoes have been pulled up and so have our different beans. Peas are slowly going in as are the broad beans to make use of the trellis I put up and help nitrogen fix the soil. Still another 3-400 garlic bulbs to go in to reach my aim of 1000+ (may go for 2000 as we have enough plus some to spare). More carrots, lettuce, bok choy and brassicas as well as beetroot and turnips have gone in and this coming week I will hopefully get more alliums in like onions, onions, onions, chives, leeks and spring onions transplanted and get the next batch of various seeds started in punnets. My makeshift greenhouse is still doing ok, but I really need to get started on the large seedling and aquaponics greenhouse to help keep temperatures stable at night, particularly with the temps getting so low so soon.

I also managed to get another batch of hot compost started last weekend, hopefully it will be ready in 4-5 weeks. The pile was steaming all weekend and this coming weekend I will give it a turn and get things cranking again. The animals that have all contributed to the pile have also been looked after, the cows cell grazing paddocks set again for the week, sheep and alpacas moved and chickens in the Taj and newly completed Raw Bale chook shed pampered as always (except for the last remaining 3 roosters who will be processed this weekend – well they at least have all the food they want, all the grass they can eat, fresh water, safe housing and shelter from the elements, so I guess the are temporarily pampered too).

Work work, also pretty busy, aquaponics being quoted, more planting and tree orders, more regenerative projects, 10 (out of 20) raised garden beds on their way ready for a school mini farm, retaining walls and indigenous nature walk planned and quoted, marking, lessons to be planned, student teacher to mentor and debrief daily, department to run and streamline (now that is a big job!) whole school curriculum to be audited and altered and behaviour modification in the way of sustainable practice and education to be slowly implemented.

Ahhh, another day of living the dream.

Did I mention that this weekend we have a 7 year old party to organise….

Haybale Chicken Shed

The boys love the new chook shed!

The nights here have been getting down to single digits and we have been getting frost most mornings over the past couple of weeks. The vegies have really been hit hard by the frost and we are down to the last week of summer veg. I am hoping that the corn will ripen up ok as the day time temps are still relatively warm.

But with the cold nights, our poor silkie chickens are struggling. Last year they did ok, but this year the cold nights have come early and it is time for a chicken house upgrade. I was inspired by reading a post from Milkwood Farm called “RawBale Chicken House Design”. Ours is nowhere near as elaborate as theirs, however, the silkie chooks should be a lot warmer and out of the draft in their new home. It is made out of old pallets and basic pasture hay bales with a tin roof. There are a couple of windows also to allow for a bit of light and the egg box is a work in progress (aka, haven’t really planned that out yet, but shouldn’t be too difficult). Work work starts back up for me tomorrow, so hopefully will finish it over the next couple of evenings.

More of a cubby house for the boys!

Fox update

This is a photo of the shot I took of Mr Fox and missed. Shot too high....

This is the view I had of my target. Had to shoot under the tree/shrub from about 16 meters away.

Had a shot at Mr Fox last night. Big boy he was! I shot from about 16m away, my horizontal aim perfect, vertical aim, too high by 7cm… I lodged the arrow in the shed where it could have been pinned… My target arrow went through the shed and into my work bench where the head is still stuck.

There are definitely 2 foxes, as the one I shot at was big and bold, very long in the body and tail not overly bushy.  I’m calling this one Mr Fox and he has to go. I have seen Mr Fox during the day a few times now, he has been the one getting the chickens during the day and the one who bit through the chicken tractor to get the ones in there. Mr Fox is responsible for the death of The General and for this, he is sentenced to death.

The second one I tracked last night and which has also been regularly visiting, was small, elegant, large bushy tail and wispy face. It has more of a white/grey sheen to it and is much more wary than Mr Fox, but is brave enough to watch TV with us. The second one I’m calling Moonlight, as it is the one I saw by moonlight a few weeks back and was mesmerized by. Moonlight… hard to say if I want to take this one out… it is such a beautiful looking creature…

Hmmm, Mr Fox is really getting to me.

So Mr Fox and I are starting up a bit of a relationship, one that is not really working out that well. Work is finishing up soon, so I will be able to really concentrate on hunting him down. My new toy came the other day and lets just say that at 15 meters he is a gonna, at 25 meters he will go quickly, at 50 meters, if I get in 3 shots, then he is bye-bye. I will keep practicing with my compound bow and hopefully at 50 meters, I will be able to pin him. Time will tell, ut until then, all the chooks will be kept inside until I can start working outside full time again.

This post is dedicated to The General – R.I.P

Tasty, rich and tender.

There are no pictures for this post, as I think it would upset a few people. That being said, I will one day post the process here on my blog. The chook was “processed” Wednesday night last week and left to age in the fridge until yesterday. We had a roast and served it up with mash potatoes and Hayley’s tempeh. I was going to do a full comparison and roast up a commercial chicken, but I did not have the time or energy to do so. Not to worry as I can safely say that the chicken had an extremely rich flavour, a real “chicken” flavour, was amazingly rich and was just as tender as any chicken I have had. The ageing process seemed to have really intensified the flavours and I can’t wait to see what an extra 2 weeks will make to the flavour profile. This one was 12 weeks old and the next one will be 14 weeks old. If we can keep the fox at bay, then there may be a chance that these chicken enterprises may just work yet.