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!

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!

Greenhouse Base Done

A slow weekend this weekend, for various reasons, however work on the greenhouse and our “sustainable business hub” has started. Using savaged materials, I have sunk in a number of posts that are not going to go anywhere soon. I used my faithful measuring device as you can see in the photo below. Each of the post holes were approximately 800 deep and heavily packed and back filled with a little bit of cement to sure things up. There is no weight in the greenhouse itself, about 95kgs all up, but better to over engineer I say, just in case we get a cyclone or something similar… (stop rolling your eyes Hayley).

My Padawan apprentice as always helping out on the farm. Here he measures the depth of the post hole for me. Feet didn’t touch the bottom, which was 800mm!

I didn’t have a straight edge long enough to span the corner posts and across the diagonal, so I rigged up a simple water level using an off-cut of hose I had laying around. Simple but effective! Clear hose would have been easier again, but this still did the job!

Sorry for the blurry image above – low light conditions. The base is down. Perfect size greenhouse for a dedicated aquaponics system. 2x1000lt fish tanks and 6 1000X1000X450 grow beds will fit in nice and snug with a little pathway in between. I have used 150mm coach bolts to anchor the corners to the posts. Fixing into end grain is not ideal I know, but 150mm should do the job nicely. I have also reinforced this with a handful of 50mm self tapping hex screws. Hmmmm overkill maybe… It is upside down, but those “pegs” just do not cut it for me, hence anchoring to the post. Once the polycarb is in place, they will no longer be a hazard.

I still plan to run the AP system off the grid, so am investigating solar – battery – inverter options as well as low wattage yet high volume water pumps. Also starting to look at fish species. I could go the ever faithful trout, and then as the water heats up, into the dam they go and restock, or go murray cod and silver perch. Being in the greenhouse, water temps should be perfect for them…

Just for the record, it is perfectly level, but 2mm out of square…

Heading in the right direction!

Below is a bit of a photo update of where we are at. With me having time off from work, it has given me plenty of time to… well… work! I have my man bag of gardening goodies packed to take to “work” with all the most used hand tools in there. Hayley called me a “metro-farmer”, very cheeky indeed! It is very cute actually as I am taking to the habit of saying bye to the family when I go to work and then say “see you all at morning tea”. Tano-Li decided he wanted to go to work with me today, so my little apprentice helped wire up the tomatoes 🙂 Anyway enjoy the photos.

This is an old 'Crumpler' work bag I had that we no longer use. I have now turned it back into my "work bag".

My little padawan learner helping plant beetroot seeds.

We have 9 zucchini plants in and 8 button squash seedlings powering away to the right (not in picture sorry). Hayley seems to think this is enough for us and small sales.... I'm thinking we need double this.... time will tell.

Although they are looking really sorry for themselves, the potatoes I put in months ago have been giving us a steady supply of beautiful potatoes for some time now! It is a bit weedy and the leaves are all dying back but the potatoes taste magnificent!

These guys are literally everywhere! They are on the sunflowers, corn, the strawberries, lettuce, pak choy, zucchini, tomatoes, capsicums etc.... Absolutely sensational to see!

These corn plants were not to most successful I have ever grown, somewhat embarrassing actually. They are “Golden Bantams” and were the second batch I tried. These seeds germinated fine, but have grown slowly, my first batch of “Balanese” corn had a rate of 4 out of 100 seeds germinating… I have direct sown another area which will not cross pollinate and they are already showing themselves after 4 days! Much better!

We have a whole bunch of baling twine laying around and I have wondered what to do with them, so I used them to make a growing vine for the beans as they come up. A little late, but should still get a good harvest by autumn.

This is the whole row of the baling twine growing vines.

Here you can see Hayley's chamomile plants that help attract the bees and also the dried flowers make great chamomile tea. You can also see the tomato trellising inspired by Milkwood OMG. Not as ellaborate as Milkwood, but it will definitely do the job.

So much still to do, as you can see from the last photo, there is a large empty patch of dirt that I still need to prepare and plant up. As the potatoes are being harvested that also leaves an area that requires turning over, manuring with cow and alpaca goodness and then planted with a green manure, ready for winter crops. Call me mad, but this is living!