Earning a living.

The kids all helped to plant potatoes this year and this is the harvest for today.

The kids all helped to plant potatoes this year and this is the harvest for today.

The kids have been helping sporadically on the farm ever since we came here, but this year we decided to take it to another level. They all have their little chores, but nothing really too substantial, but now, they have their chores and they have their “farm jobs”.

The chores are pretty straight forward, tidy the lounge, play area, their bedrooms, empty/fill/set the dishwasher. For their farm jobs, the boys have been given the responsibility of letting the chickens out, feeding them the scraps (Kobe-Li) and collecting eggs (Tano-Li) and Ava-Li turns a tap on and off to give the ducks their water. Added to this, I decided to have them help in planting potatoes this season. Now its time for the harvest and all of them are getting involved, earning a little extra pocket money for every kilo we harvest!

They have each had the chance to spend their earnings, each purchasing a little toy dinosaur, and now they have all decided to save their money to get the “big dinosaur”. It’s great to see that both the boys are understanding that it takes a lot of time and hard work to earn a living – Ava-Li on the other hand just loves being involved:-)

Happy New Year and a photo update.

A massive thank-you and best wishes for the new year to family, friends and customers, who have continued to support us through 2013!

It has been a while since my last post, not due to laziness I promise! The last part of this year has been as hectic as ever and unfortunately, blog entries have suffered. Now with renewed enthusiasm and recharged batteries, 2014 will be blogged to death 🙂

Here are some update photos and highlights for the latter part of 2013:

The sunsets in Darwin were amazing! Part of the travelling road show of Sharon McDonough, Rohan Bryan and myself presenting on Sustainability in schools at an ACASA conference.

The sunsets in Darwin were amazing! Part of the travelling road show of Sharon McDonough, Rohan Bryan and myself presenting on Sustainability in schools at an ACASA conference.

Yep, the termite mounds were epic!

Yep, the termite mounds were epic!

Nothing better than swimming at a waterfall:-)

Nothing better than swimming at a waterfall:-)

AHHHHHH!

The photo says it all!

The photo says it all!

Back into home brewing:-)

Back into home brewing:-)

Documenting the film crew documenting us.

Documenting the film crew documenting us.

My trusty little helper, helping with the electric fencing.

My trusty little helper, helping with the electric fencing.

After a week in torrential rain and gale force winds with 28 15 year olds, I went a little crazy...

After a week in torrential rain and gale force winds with 28 15 year olds, I went a little crazy…

Finally, we got Little-little one onto the farm to service the girls. He is a little out of condition - to much grass, too little exercise - but hopefully with a strict diet, he can back into shape and do his thing.

Finally, we got Little-little one onto the farm to service the girls. He is a little out of condition – to much grass, too little exercise – but hopefully with a strict diet, he can back into shape and do his thing.

Yep, the end of a school year and we all go crazy, especially when building wood ovens.

Yep, the end of a school year and we all go crazy, especially when building wood ovens.

These aquaponic tomatoes are going great guns in the greenhouse!

These aquaponic tomatoes are going great guns in the greenhouse!

Plenty of feed for the livestock this winter! No need to buy in hay this time, thanks to our friendly neighbours.

Plenty of feed for the livestock this winter! No need to buy in hay this time, thanks to our friendly neighbours.

Introducing Ari Quach, my new nephew! Congratulations Nam-Do, Liana and Sian :-)

Introducing Ari Quach, my new nephew! Congratulations Nam-Do, Liana and Sian 🙂

New cousin!

Home grown dinner! Highland Heritage lamb, garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano! 4 hour slow roast. Divine!

Home grown dinner! Highland Heritage lamb, garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano! 4 hour slow roast. Divine!

With our kitchen being commercialised, we now bake sourdough breads for our customers as well as part of our suspended produce and bread program.

With our kitchen being commercialised, we now bake sourdough breads for our customers as well as part of our suspended produce and bread program.

Nothing better than seeing all the family together.

Nothing better than seeing all the family together.

Ava-Li loves her Gramps:-)

Ava-Li loves her Gramps:-)

Dangling Christmas balls look awesome over amazing food being consumed by an amazing family. After giving cancer a good kick up the bum, it is great to see Nan Nan so healthy and with so much energy:-)

Dangling Christmas balls look awesome over amazing food being consumed by an amazing family. After giving cancer a good kick up the bum, it is great to see Nan Nan so healthy and with so much energy:-)

Gramps has much more patience than I! The boys loved working with Gramps to put together their Christmas pressie!

Gramps has much more patience than I! The boys loved working with Gramps to put together their Christmas pressie!

Yep, the tilte is not a typo! Frost damage last weekend... Unreal, middle of summer and we got frost. Tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, corn, cucumber.... all the frost tender plants, got frost bite...

Yep, the tilte is not a typo! Frost damage last weekend… Unreal, middle of summer and we got frost. Tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, corn, cucumber…. all the frost tender plants, got frost bite…

As part of our business and farm ethos, we want to give as much as we can to those in need. We have extended this opportunity to our customers and for every suspended dollar they give, we match it. It works similar to suspended coffee, but with produce and bread instead. Go to http://www.suspendedcoffeemelbourne.com.au/ for more info on suspended coffee.

As part of our business and farm ethos, we want to give as much as we can to those in need. We have extended this opportunity to our customers and for every suspended dollar they give, we match it. It works similar to suspended coffee, but with produce and bread instead. Go to http://www.suspendedcoffeemelbourne.com.au/ for more info on suspended coffee.

So now in 2014, I have begun a new role at my work looking at whole school sustainability, in buildings, grounds and curriculum, which will bring with it many new challenges. It will mean a reshuffle of the routines of managing the farm, the business and life in general, but hopefully will allow for a continued focus of sustainable practices across the board.

Thanks again to all who have supported us in our endeavors and journey in life. Bring on 2014!

So I killed my mother….

Before you all call the police, I’m not talking about my real mother, no no no, my sourdough mother. For the past 12 months or so now, I have making sourdough bread that the whole family can eat. Kobe-Li, even being gluten intolerant, has been able to eat the sourdough bread as the yeast and bacteria in a true sourdough, makes the gluten easier to digest. Ever since eating sourdough, his tummy problems have all but gone. We still have to make gluten free foods, however, sourdough has been so versatile that this has been significantly reduced. Unfortunately, my mother has died… the acidity in the starter had got to a point where it was too strong, hence completely destroying the gluten in the flour. This produced a wet, slack and completely weak dough that I have not been able to satisfactorily bake with. So now I am starting a new starter at the same time as trying to revive my old mother. Hopefully I can bring her back to life, but I am not holding my breath… I miss the soft fluffy textured bread with an amazingly crunchy and sweet crusted bread that I was producing… hopefully I will be able to get it back…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! Thanks to all those who have supported us in our journey throughout the year and we look forward to more fun and games in 2013!

Below is a photo update of the market garden. Last year’s plot is now 2/3 drip irrigated. I am slowly installing the lines as each bed goes in. Still watering direct seed by hand, but once they have established, then the drip lines take over. As funds increase, I will also add a tap to every line, so that the beds can be individually turned on and off so as to minimise water wastage when they are fallow.

Anyway, here’s to another jam packed year of living:-)

The no dig potatoes are coming along well. The purchased seed potatoes are doing much better than the ones saved... May have to just buy them next season to ensure a good crop.

The no dig potatoes are coming along well. The purchased seed potatoes are doing much better than the ones saved… May have to just buy them next season to ensure a good crop.

Market garden corner shot

Under planting of pumpkins with the corn and beans are going well.

Under planting of pumpkins with the corn and beans are going well.

Corn, beans and pumpkins growing together well. Each batch of corn has been staggered. There are currently 4 beds of 100 corn plants, 10 pumpkins and 40 beans in each bed, with another 4 to go. Each bed is planted 2 weeks apart.

Corn, beans and pumpkins growing together well. Each batch of corn has been staggered. There are currently 4 beds of 100 corn plants, 10 pumpkins and 40 beans in each bed, with another 4 to go. Each bed is planted 2 weeks apart.

Going to go a little easy on the radish. They are so easy to grow, prolific and quick to harvest. Have learnt to stagger them instead of feast and famine.

Going to go a little easy on the radish. They are so easy to grow, prolific and quick to harvest. Have learnt to stagger them instead of feast and famine.

The girls have been fenced off into a larger paddock now. The pasture still has some green to it, but is quickly browning off with this dry summer. Fingers crossed should have enough feed until the autumn break...

The girls have been fenced off into a larger paddock now. The pasture still has some green to it, but is quickly browning off with this dry summer. Fingers crossed should have enough feed until the autumn break…

Our brassicas will be planted under netting to keep the cabbage moth out. Working perfectly so far!

Our brassicas will be planted under netting to keep the cabbage moth out. Working perfectly so far!

Lettuce with a middle row of beetroot. This planting pair has worked beautifully!

Lettuce with a middle row of beetroot. This planting pair has worked beautifully!

Zucchini galore! Yellow, stripped and the good old faithful black beauty! They are now growing out of our ears!

Zucchini galore! Yellow, stripped and the good old faithful black beauty! They are now growing out of our ears!

Nothing beats home grown heritage tomatoes!  We have Money Maker (I wish...), Grosse Lisse, Black Russian, Romas and Break O'Day. They are coming along well and pruning laterals seems to be producing higher quality fruit this season.

Nothing beats home grown heritage tomatoes! We have Money Maker (I wish…), Grosse Lisse, Black Russian, Romas and Break O’Day. They are coming along well and pruning laterals seems to be producing higher quality fruit this season.

Tomatoes underplanted with zucchinis

Tomatoes underplanted with zucchinis

We are leaving this lot to save the seeds. Should get a gazillion seeds from this lot :-)

We are leaving this lot to save the seeds. Should get a gazillion seeds from this lot 🙂

Colourful carrots:-) It is hard keeping the boys off this batch!

Colourful carrots:-) It is hard keeping the boys off this batch!

Ava-Li loves her peas. She just won't leave them alone! So much so that they will not be making it into customer vegie boxes!

Ava-Li loves her peas. She just won’t leave them alone! So much so that they will not be making it into customer vegie boxes!

The smell of these turnips  is amazing! If they taste half as good as they look then we are in for a treat!

The smell of these turnips is amazing! If they taste half as good as they look then we are in for a treat!

Our grafts are going well as is the small batch of tree lucerne I am experimenting with.  Will do another batch and plant everything out in the autumn/winter.

Our grafts are going well as is the small batch of tree lucerne I am experimenting with. Will do another batch and plant everything out in the autumn/winter.

The tiny greenhouse is holding it's own.

The tiny greenhouse is holding it’s own.

This fig cutting will hopefully provide us with heaps of figs in the coming years! It is loving it's home in the tiny greenhouse at the moment.

This fig cutting will hopefully provide us with heaps of figs in the coming years! It is loving it’s home in the tiny greenhouse at the moment.

Purple peas

After a horror start with seedlings (damn slugs) our cucumbers are starting to set fruit!

After a horror start with seedlings (damn slugs) our cucumbers are starting to set fruit!

Potatoes are my favourite veg and their flowers aren't too bad looking either.

Potatoes are my favourite veg and their flowers aren’t too bad looking either.

Potato flower More potato flowers

Update

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!

Spring into Sustainability.

(Picture of wicking beds at old house)

Spring is less than a week away, well at least according to the international meteorological definition of the seasons, Spring is in 5 days. However, according to tilt of the Earth and the Sun, the Spring Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere is not until September 22nd. This gives us plenty of time (not) to get prepared for the next season…

The greenhouse has gone on hold while other more pressing matters are tended to, such as the new potato patch and prepping the current market garden for the next season. Tomorrow (Monday) I will be getting 48 dwarfing rootstock for cherries and pears as well as a variety of scion (buds), all of which are heritage varieties. My grafting skills will really be tested here as will my time management. Spring is definitely on it’s way and the buds need to be grafted before buds explode and late winter to very early spring is the time for this. 48 grafts all done at night as well as potting out…. hmmmm may be pushing it a little  but bring it on!

A few years back, I was lucky enough to visit an art gallery to view works by a friend of mine from work (Lou Callow). At this exhibition, Lou introduced me to a friend of hers Tor Roxborough (the gallery owner) and we got talking about life and sustainable living. At the time, we were living at our old house which had been maxed out with productive gardens, aquaponics, fruit trees and a  section of native and indigenous plants. I spoke to her about our life and what we were trying to achieve and enjoyed Lou’s amazing art work. 3 years on and she has contacted me to find out where I am at in life and to ask me to do a talk on food production and sustainable living! The presentation will be on Saturday 6th October between 1:30-3:30pm at the Bacchus Marsh library. The group holding it is called BaccChat, a new group in the Bacchus Marsh area who are organising readings and talks on a variety of topics, the first of which is about food and agricultural production as well as touching on issues of refugees.

I have to say I am honoured to be asked to do this talk and although somewhat nervous about it all, am very excited at the same time!

The link to the first page of my old blog is http://namhaquachinatoraquaponics.blogspot.com.au/2009/10/what-is-aquaponics-i-hear-you-ask-well.html It is pretty long, but if you have a spare moment or three, have a read and make a comment here 🙂

(Picture of the AP system at old house early not long after cycling)

Wet and Wild Weekend

The title says it all. Yesterday wasn’t too bad, plenty of sun, but also plenty of wind. Today started off pretty good, but man did things change! Wind, rain and biting cold, perfect weather for impending lambing… Ma is looking like she is ready to pop, so I moved our flock closer to the house.

Ma is looking mighty pregnant. We are hoping for twins!

I also spent the weekend cleaning out the chook house, making hot compost, prepping our market garden for the coming season, pulling out a ridiculous amount of horrible capeweed, starting the first of our no-dig potato beds and giving the lawns a much needed mow.

Also baked these:

These are 100% organic true sourdough loaves!

As the days start to get longer, you can almost see the pasture grow….almost…