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:-)

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Yay! Growing Season Is Finally Here!

With the consistent warm weather of late and a crazy hot week to come, the market garden is finally starting to thrive! Most of the plants have recovered from the freak December frost, however, a good 50% of the first batch of french beans were lost along with a handful of the tomatoes. Not much you can do about freak frosts really… Our on contour garden beds, with mini swales are working a treat. The swales are heavily mulched with all of the weeds that have been pulled up and last seasons spent crops that didn’t go to the chickens or the cows, under all the mulch, feeding the worms and decomposing away. The idea is to build soil in the swales during the growing season and winter. Once the crops are all done, they will be removed and put into the swales and covered with straw mulch, then a cover crop and green manure will be sown in each bed to over winter. The winter here is just too cold for us to grow surplus food for people on a sustainable level, so this year we will concentrate on extra soil fertility and weed management through green manures and cover crops. Just before the new growing season, the green manures and cover crops will be chopped and dropped and the swales will be emptied of their rich, biologically active, worm castings intense soil, which will be placed on the beds, ready for the coming season, where will will start again with the soil building program. I am still hot composting, but am for going the worm farming, choosing to worm farm in the ground instead. Theoretically it should work well, but we can only wait and see:-)

 

On Holidays and Time to Catch-up With Farm Work

Although I am on my holidays, there really isn’t any “holiday” here at the farm. I will be making weekly visits to work to check up on everything as well as do our regular deliveries. It was a pretty hectic end to the year, but all the jobs have been completed at work and now it is time to catch-up on work on the farm.

The market garden is coming along well, with potatoes now being harvested. The first batch of potatoes were from seed potatoes saved from last year’s crop. These have not done as well as the bought seed potato and next year I will be a little more stringent on seed saving selection. This being said, the no dig style beds are still producing well and as the bed gets harvested, they will be limed, rock dusted and top dressed with manure ready for another crop. The purchased seeds have gone much better and we should get a pretty good harvest with them.

The greenhouse project is now back on. I should have the frame completed by the end of the week, ready to be clad with polycarbonate panels. This greenhouse won’t be going anywhere! It is securely anchored into the ground and the frame itself weighs a ton – almost literally! The frame is made from blackwood, harvested from a friends place about 10kms away. This is a beautiful timber, normally used for furniture. This will be the best looking greenhouse around 🙂

The frame is almost complete. Made from blackwood, this is going to be the best looking greenhouse around!

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!

Back to business.

Spring has truly sprung! The weather has been up and down like a yo-yo, with horribly wet, windy and cold weather last week and warm and sun forecast for this week! The vegies are really kicking off with the extra daylight hours and we are finally back into the swing of things. All the productive gardens, orchard, berries and herbs have had a good spray of beneficial microbes, seasol, fish emulsion and liquid compost and this should really give them a boost for the coming growing season. I plan on continuing the spraying regime once a fortnight and hopefully everything will thrive and set in for the summer. Our Highland cows will soon be back to their once daily rotation, with maybe another week or two in their current paddock. The sheep are being rotated each fortnight at this stage and are now not able to keep up with the quick growth of the spring flush. The lambs are fattening up quickly and “Gammy” our house sheep, is doing well.

In our market garden extension, the potatoes in the no dig beds are sprouting well and it will be interesting to see what kind of harvest we get from them this year. In between each bed I plan to lay thick layers of newspaper and large quantities of compost and manure and thick layer of straw mulch on top of that. The plan is to plant into the straw in a good handful of quality compost. The compost should then inoculate the straw and manure, allowing the plants to take-up all the nutrients they need. Once again we will see how well this method works compared to the more conventional way of growing. Also I will be trialling a green manure crop, sown between potato beds, allowed to grow until just flowering and then slashed and used as a chop and drop mulch and growing bed. The seedlings will grow into the mulch in a good handful of compost.

Speaking of compost, at my PDC course, we learnt about making good quality microbial compost based on a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ration. Compost should be ready in 18 days. So far I am up to day 11 and it is really looking good! Maybe a little too hot, as I have some white powder growing, but easily rectified. By the end of the week, I should have beautiful rich, microbial compost ready to spread and inoculate the soil! Below is a video after the 4th day.

In the current market garden, I have been busily preparing the beds for our coming vegie crops. I have forked each bed to break up the clay panning of the rotary hoe and the difference this has made to the drainage has been amazing. We got 20mm of rain over the past couple of days before today and where I had not forked, water was pooling, but where I had forked, the water had drained away nicely. It was still a little wet to work too much, but I was able to shape another couple of beds today and seeded them with turnips and sweedes. Each bed is about 8 meters long by about 900mm wide. On the high side of the bed, I have dug a small trench, forked it to aerate it, lay down the weeds I have pulled up and then a thick layer of straw mulch on top of that. The worms will go crazy for the decomposing weeds and the trench will act as a mini swale, storing and slowly draining water through the growing bed.

Back to weekly sales now with weekly deliveries. The sun has been amazing, working listen to the children play just 5 meters away and then having them all join me to weed the beds and hunt for worms, or help me seed the trays has been gold. Ahhhh life is good on the farm:-)

Our first sale!

The title says it all! Today we made our first sale of produce from the farm! Potatoes, pak choi and rhubarb. Things in the market garden are slowly setting fruit (the weather hasn’t exactly been warm, I have been wearing a beanie for the last few days!) and soon we will have produce coming out of our ears, just in time for me going back to work work, where I will be able to drum up some more business.

Thanks to Wayne, Helen, Niamh and Zara for being customers number 000001!

A basket of goodies for our first happy customers! Hopefully many more to come!

Window Sill Seedling and Potato Popping

About a week ago, our seed stock arrived from Eden Seeds and I was itching to get them into some seedling raising mix. As mentioned in a previous post, we are still getting pretty significant frost, so severe in fact that the greenhouse seedlings have either stalled, or got frost burn… So once the seeds arrived, I decided to raise the seedling inside on the woodheater as my heat mat. As much as I would like to get myself a large heat mat, that will have to wait until next year. For now, it is the wood heater, the greenhouse and the window sill.

It has been pretty amazing to see the results I have to say! After only a few days, we had some tomato seeds germinate as well as some lettuce seeds! So as they germinate I will transfer them out into the greenhouse and the sunlight. I could keep them inside, but the seedlings wil then get leggy and weak, so out they go.

A month ago I put in the first batch of the bulk potatoes. Well I am happy to report that they are starting to pop through the ground and will soon be ready for mounding.