Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

Today is the last day of 2009. I find it a good opportunity to look back on the year that was and the achievements/milestones.

2009 was a pretty big year for us. This time last year we were still working on the old house, we still had a lot of work to do. We not only finished the renovation work, but also built us a tempoary home while we build our strawbale house. Halfway through 2009 we made the move to our land, to begin the 'dream'. It was an interesting time, we had very little in the way of the 'mod cons' we were used to. Makes you realise how little we need, but also how much we take for granted as 'westerners', compared to what so many in the world have.

We have added to the 'family' with the addition of our milking goat and more hens and roosters (which lead to our chicks! Self sufficiency in hen replacement!!). We have learnt how to cook and bake on the wood fired combustion stove, how to set up an off grid power system, and milk a goat. We have managed to somewhat tame our clydesdale horse, and can now put her halter on, and pick up her feet a bit. So much more to learn in 2010.

All that time I spent travelling up to our land every couple of days to check on animals has been spent creating and tending the garden, which is growing nicely. 2010 should see more beds dug and more manure and compost added to the established gardens.

Its been a hard year, I certanly feel tired. But its probably been one of the most rewarding years as far as our own personal achievements go. But 2009 was also an incredibly scary year. We suffered a seriously hot heat wave, temperatures beyond what we have had before, which lead to the worst fires we have had before (with unprecedented deaths). I hope that 2010 is kind to us, but as I write this its hot outside, and the grass is drying off.... Hmm, 2 months to stress and worry, till autumn comes.

So what is the plan for 2010? Hmm, hopefully some rest and relaxation. Hopefully more time spent with the animals, taking care of their needs. Fencing, gardening and weed management. We hope to have the house plans drawn up and maybe to make a start on the house, towards the end of the year.

So goodbye 2009, the new decade begins, hopefully with the 'flavour' of hope, change and compassion on a global scale.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Summer solstice

Yesterday was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. It was warm and sunny, but not too hot. We spent the afternoon with some good friends and soaked up the sun and actually sat down and relaxed (doesn't happen too often around here!!) We used the opportunity to move our 'movable' chook pen while they were here!!!

The chooks are all great. The chicks are growing pretty quickly. I am fairly certain that one is a hen and one is a rooster - the third one I haven't made up my mind yet!

We de-loused one of our hens (not the mum and chicks thank goodness), she is called 'runty' because she is somewhat stunted in growth. We now know why - she was covered in some sort of lice (not the small mites I have seen before, but flea sized 'bugs' and many of her feathers had large clumps of eggs stuck to them). She has really improved since though, and although she is still small she seems to have a spark in her step now. She will need another treatment soon though, as some eggs remain. We will treat her and the whole flock probably in a weeks time. Should be fun!

The garden is growing well, zuchinnis are nearly ready to harvest, and some of the tomatoes and beans are flowering. We have harvested some potatoes, which were delicious. Nothing beats homegrown potatoes! I have many mustards and lettuces and other greens going to seed, which means that by autumn the garden should be nice and full of plants! I am also considering starting a very small and local seed/glut/jam/chutney etc swapping group. It seems like a good way to get diversity in your food and garden without extra money or time. I recently made a large batch of cherry plum jam and chutney (collected from the roadside), and its nice to swap it for something made by someone else (even if its their cherry plum jam - we all do things slightly differently, and subtle differences are nice too!)

Another use for all the plums!!!

All the best for christmas and the last bits of 2009.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The poultry bug!

Well, it seems I (or we) have caught the poultry bug. Since the move we haven't been restricted by the council rules for keeping poultry in towns. So we have bought more hens, aquired roosters, and hatched chicks.

The chicks are well, they are outside enjoying some sunshine and scratching with mum. They are so cute, and I enjoy watching them grow up.

We have also added some Silkies for the kids. I have never been partial to silkies, they seem sort of useless since they don't lay many eggs, but I am learning that they have uses beyond eggs. Such as scratching the soil, pest control and fertilizing the soil. All things that can save us time if we put the birds on the garden beds.

They are also quite cute, friendly and fairly placid. Our daughter loves them, here she is with her silkie 'erratic' (she named it!).

They may be roosters or hens, not sure they are still young and were simply sold as chicks at the sale we went to. But it doesn't really matter, they are simply pets, and garden hands!

Friday, December 4, 2009


I think I mentioned in previous posts, that we had a hen sitting on some eggs. Well this week they hatched!!! Well, only 3 have hatched and surived (out of 8 eggs), one hatched but died, and one egg disappeared! They are all black with just a bit of lighter colour on their belly. They are Faverolles X welsummer and Faverolles X Light Sussex X Leghorn. Will be interesting to see how they turn out. One of the chicks has 5 toes (a Faverolles trait), the others have the normal 4 toes. I suspect the 5 toed chick will be a rooster and the other 2 hens. Brad reckons they will be all roosters. Will be fun to guess and see who is who!!!

Sadly the cross that I had been most interested in was the Faverolles X Auracana (both these breeds have the 'beards'), but none of these eggs hatched... Oh well, there is always next year! I feel quite addicted to this now, and really look forward to more hatchings in the future!!!

The kids are wrapped, and spend a bit of time sitting watching the chicks. It's really great for them, to see the process, see the eggs, and the chicks cracking the eggs open, and now the little fluff balls running around, and then how they change as they mature from chick to chook! You can expect lots of photos in the future to show the progress of these little guys. Its my first time at breeding poultry, so I have a lot to learn, along with mumma chook (it's her first time too), who is doing a great job!

Apart from the new life on the farm, pretty much nothing has changed, we have had some rain (what a weird old spring its been here...), and things are growing. The grass is growing too, which is our biggest 'isssue' at the moment. We are putting the neighbour's cattle into one of our paddocks, to eat it down, but we still have ALOT of grass, above knee height, and its a bit of a concern once it dries up.... The garden is growing well, the kids have been harvesting raspberries every day!! It looks like we will have a pretty big blackberry crop too!

The alpacas will be shorn in the next few weeks, depending on the weather, so that shall be fun!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

One small step for man, one giant leap for..... Horse!

A year after buying our young Clydesdale 'Cass' we have finally managed to get the halter on her! Its one big step forward. It probably wouldn't have taken us this long had we had the time to give to her, but with the renovations on the old place, building here, and moving etc etc we just couldn't do it.

In the last few months she has really settled down, probably a combination of getting a bit older (she was just 1 when we got her - never had a halter on or anything) and starting to trust us (animals seem to take a long time to really trust you - there is always a degree of mistrust for humans there I think - its the wild insticts). The last few months, Cass has stopped throwing her head up each time we touch her, and has been allowing us to pat her neck and even her front legs (mainly down to her 'knees').

We will keep just putting the halter on, until its just second nature, no stress for her. We are sort of just letting her set the pace, see how she responds. Next step will be to get her to move forward on the lead, and to pick up her feet (they desperately need trimming, but we didn't want to rush her too much for that, and risk getting her off side. In the next 1-2 years we will start training her for 'work'. She will be used to move 'stuff' around on a sled, and eventually a cart. Maybe even some very light plowing type work, but that would be in the distant future.

On another note, we got some good rain (40mm (16in) in 24hrs)! It was an unusual event, heavy rain after an unseasonal 'heatwave'. The weather patterns are truly changing and seem to be all over the place. Wonder what will come next! I planted out many of my seedlings just before the rain, to give them the best start I could. I still have lots of tomatoes to put in though, I have propagated about 40 or so plants now. The plants are a mixture of Speckled Roman, Tigerella, Reisentraube, a 3 colour Zebra mix. I have propagated them from seed (all but half a dozen or so plants that were given to us by a friend). I have also prepared a bed for drying beans, and have a pack of ying yang beans (for Brad who is a Tai Chi nut) the seeds are black and white, and remarkably similar to the ying yang symbol, as well as Borlotti beans. The potatoes are growing so well, I am really pleased with them. Only problem is I didn't plant enough - I never seem to for some reason.... eventually I will learn!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

preparing for whats to come.

Its been hot and dry (historically -and not that long ago- in this part of the world, november was a quite wet month... but as is happening all over the world, the weather patterns are changing -wonder how much they will change once the north pole is gone - will soon find out in the next few years....), in neighbouring South Australia they are bracing for a very bad fire day today(its not even summer yet), and its the first year (after the terrible fires last year) that we now have a new fire ban category - 'catastrophic'... Oh boy.... Thankfully its not so bad here (yet), and today although warm isn't in that 'catastrophic' category. There is talk of good rain over the weekend, and predictions of good rain over the new year period (I am crossing everything that they are right).

Aside from the fear of summer, things are going well here. Lots of work to do, but I think when you own land, its just like that no matter how organised you are. Over the weekend, if the rain comes like they say, I am going to do a mass plant out - I have about 35 tomatoes, and many zuchinni and pumpkin seedlings to put in, more bean seed, medicinal/culinary herbs and some small shrubs (its a bit late to plant trees out now, but these will be going in the garden close by, where I can give them (some) water).

We have a hen sitting on a clutch of eggs. Its the first time I have had the opportunity to hatch some chicks so I am doing what they say not to do and 'counting my chickens before they hatch'! I know that they all wont hatch/survive, but it will be nice to get a few hens out of it. We have moved the mum-to-be to an old rabbit hutch, so she can sit in peace, and the other hens don't keep laying in her clutch (a good way to end up with lots of rotten eggs!)

I took some photos of my new barnevelders (not so new, we have had them for a few months, but they are now starting to look like they are supposed to, instead of looking like youngsters)

Here is the rooster and the largest of the pullets

She has such beautiful double lacing on the feathers, I am crossing my fingers they will also lay the chocolate coloured eggs that many (but not all) barnevelders lay.

The garden is going along well, all things considered. It takes a few years to get the soil good - unless you are blessed with good soil (unlikely in this country, as centuries of abuse is taking its toll on everything - ask the bees...). I am adding lots of manure (I use horse, alpaca and goat) compost, seaweed and whatever organic matter I can get. The more organic matter in the soil, the more water it can hold and the more 'alive' the soil is, and as much as it seems to freak some people out, the soil really does need that life (the worms, bacteria, fungi etc) to make stuff grow. Unfortunately, because we don't use chemical fertilzers on our land we are inundated with dung beetles, so collecting manure for the garden is now a difficult task, it just disappears!!! Funny, as many of the local farmers (including our neighbours) have had to 'buy' dung beetles to deal with the abundance of manure that doesn't break down.... (it really isn't so hard is it - don't poison the life out of the land and the bugs and beetles wont die out...).

I have been mulching my 'wild' garden with cut grass and alpaca fleeces and fallen leaves and anything I can find. Basically the soil needs a 'blanket' to keep out the extreme heat and keep in some moisture. Here is a photo of our daughter 'checking' the raspberries (she can't wait for them to turn red!)
The 'wild' garden is a largish garden with a wide variety of flowers, herbs, perenials (such as raspberries, strawberries, loganberries, asparagus), annuals (such as mustards, brocolli, silverbeet, lettuce, nasturtion and soon tomatoes and zuchinni) all mixed together. I am letting everything go to seed as I find that plants grown from seed in the location they choose themelves always do better than plants I raise as seedlings and transplant. I want this to become a jungle of useful plants, densely planted, every bit of soil covered, wont to be too long.

I also have a large and more formal vegetable garden (approx 4mx16m), where I am growing potatoes, carrots, staked tomatoes, beans (green and for drying), and an attempt at growing onions and garlic (normally plants I grow well, but now realise that the soil maybe too acidic for them - oh well, there is always next year). In autumn, once these crops are finished I will probably plant a green manure crop over this entire garden. Its quite shaded (an asset in summer), so doesn't grow well in the winter anyway.

Anyway, all this writing about my garden is giving me 'itchy' fingers, I want to get out there right now and plant out everything, but I really must wait for the rain (and the right time of the lunar cycle!). Might start researching rain dances, I think we might need to this year.

Monday, November 9, 2009

here it comes....

summer that is... I think I am not alone in this part of the country to be really really dreading this summer. They are predicting hotter and drier weather than last year (and therefore probably bigger and worse fires than last year - which killed about 200 people and wiped out townships).

We have had already a few days of over 30C temperatures, and we are only in mid-spring. I am crossing all my fingers and toes that we get a cold snap, and some good rain, before it really hits us early next year. Its hard for us (time and money) - you can only do so much in a few months to prepare (we ideally need more water tanks, pumps, roof catchment to catch the rain when it falls etc etc.). The garden is already drying out, and I will have to water (or not, we don't really have the water to spare...), so decisions have to be made, keep the garden alive and hope we will still get some decent rain before summer is officially here, or try my 'hardening' method, and just see what lives and what dies....

So, the garden. I have been propagating vegetable seedling, and now have 35 tomatoes almost ready to go into their (dry) beds. Pumpkins ready to go into a pile of horse manure that I just have to collect. I have been buying herbs and flowering plants (to attract the bees which hopefully I will be able to get next year) and cutting lots of long grass for mulch. Its all a slow process, made slower when you have a few 'helpers' (especially when now I have to watch my 'helpers' to make sure they don't get sunburnt or find a snake to 'play' with etc).

The hens are laying well. I am still (not so patiently) waiting for my new girls (the young Barnevelders) to start laying - can't be long now... One of our girls - a leghorn x light sussex is an amazing layer. Here is one of her very large eggs compared to a 'normal' egg.

We had a bit of a party to celebrate Brad's birthday yesterday, which was lovely, and we finally started up the trusty pizza oven. There is something simply beautiful about pizza cooked in one of these ovens, and the company was good too! We all had a wonderful time, even though it was a bit hot. Our daughter gave some family the 'guided' tour of the gardens and the chickens, and impressed her aunties and uncles on her knowledge of the plants in garden. She asked her aunty if she had chickens, and then said 'oh, so you have to buy your eggs?' LOL

So anyway, here is a picture of me and the 'kids' (human and goat!). Little Gypsy is a real sweetie, and so full of energy. The poor alpacas that share her paddock don't know what has hit them (well literally its Gypsy!). She jumps on them while they are sleeping and head butts them. Poor boys! At least there are 4 of them and only one of her!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

closing the gap

Wheat is also referred to as the 'staff of life'.

Its believed that man's ability to cultivate grains is the reason we evolved from a hunter gatherer society to an agricultural society. Grains are a highly nutritious living food (the are the seed after all and if you plant them will grow).

Modern processing of wheat into flour basically has turned a wholesome and living food into a unwholesome and dead food. The nutrition of wheat is lost within about 3 days of when the flour was milled. And many components of the wheat are actually removed from the flour as byproducts that can be sold for an extra profit (eg wheatgerm and bran).

We recently purchased a home grain mill (just a small bench top variety) to grind our own fresh flour as we need it. Partly for the health reasons - to actually get really nutritious bread and other baked 'stuff', and partly to bring us one step closer to closing the gap on the cycle - one step left to grow the grain, and thats what we will work on next.

As I only bake sourdough bread, good flour is really important. Bleached ordinary flour will kill the sensitive cultures of my sourdough leaven, as will chlorinated water. Freshly milled flour is like a whole food for the leaven, as it is for us.

What has been amazing, besides more flavour (the flour I used to buy was a very good one - so the difference is probably more subtle, than if we had been used to ordinary white flour), is the colour. I always bought unbleached flour, but the freshly milled flour is more honey coloured, so even unbleached must recieve some form of lightening process...

The mill was not cheap - I lashed out and bought a pretty good one and an electric model (no guilt here as we are totally solar powered!!). It mills about 1kg of flour in about 4-5 minutes, its only downside is its pretty noisy on the fine setting. There are cheaper models and hand operated models available too, but since we go through about 3-4kg of flour a week, it seemed sensible to get the best we could. And it runs perfectly on our solar power system, doesn't even make a dint on the battery charge!

So, another step towards self sufficiency has been achieved, minor as it is. I look forward to the day I can bake our bread using our own home grown wheat. First we need to buy the pigs, who will be our rotary hoes and prepare the soil for grain growing.... Before that I need Brad to build a pig shelter!!!! One day!

Oh, we still have the goats - Dorka and her baby - they didn't abandon us, and we are getting milk each day (although less than we first thought we would get - so no cheese as yet...)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In memory of Brandy xoxoxo

One year ago today, I had to say goodbye to my best friend. She was part of my life for nearly 18 years, from when I was only 12 years old. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and I think about it all the time. I miss her so much.

When Brandy came into my life she had been an unwanted, passed around pony. She kicked, she wasn't particularly good to ride (stubborn and strong willed), most likely she had had a rough time too. In the early days I recieved my fair share of kicks, and she threw me off more times than I can even count. But I made a promise to her from the day I got her that she would always have a home with me, and I would never give her up. I knew that a small pony with her nature, would probably end up in a bad place - like so many horses do... So despite the odds I faught to keep her with me. It wasn't always easy, especially when I had to keep her on agistment, and the agistment wasn't good.

Brandy was an amazing animal. She was strong, determined, tough as anything, and an ispiration to me. In her last months of life, she showed me that despite what life throws at you, you can still be positive and enjoy each day as it comes. She may not have been a great riding horse as such (strong willed, intelligent animals usually aren't), but she was a great friend, and she will never be replaced.

I will never forget you my girl xoxoxo

Monday, October 5, 2009

New girls on the block

Meet the 2 newest members of our little farm, Dorka and her baby girl Gypsy. Dorka is our milking goat, and will supply us with all our milk requirements - between 1 and 3 Litres a day. Her baby is only about 3 weeks old, and just so cute!!! They are supposed to be British Alpine, but I suspect that Dorka isn't - British Alpine goats should be black - like her baby.

Their arrival to our farm was 'interesting'!!! Dorka, athough reasonably tame at her old home, rediscovered her 'wild side', when she came here, and a stupid error on my part (ie. letting her go in the paddock), resulted in much running around, and some serious worrying.... We got them back, had another 'minor incident' which left us with Dorka stuck in the swamp.... Now she is chained up in her shed, till she becomes friendly enough with us that she wont run away!!!! That said, she is quite happy to be milked (we have milked her twice now, and she doesn't kick or make a fuss about it), as long as she is confined!!!

We are quite surprised at her temperment, so different to our previous goat experiences, our old goats where TOO friendly!!!! So now begins a new era of our adventure, milk (and hopefully some cheese) self sufficiency. Despite Dorka's wild nature, it still beats going to the shops to buy it. And in case you are curious, her milk is no different to cow's milk, well I couldn't tell the difference... Very different to what you buy in the supermarket as goats milk!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


We have been blessed with some really good rain the last few days, almost non stop, and not too heavy not too light, if you know what I mean. The water tanks are full, garden nice and wet, and plants seem happy. The chooks, horses and alpacas on the other hand look like drowned rats...

My carrots have come up! Growing carrots is 'my personal challenge', I have never managed to grow a sucessful crop. This year I did it all 'by the book'. Got the soil nice and fine, made rows with my rake handle, mixed the seed with sand, and kept the seed wet till they germinated. Which they have (finally!) after about 3 weeks. Now, as long as I can thin them without disturbing the plants too much, and keep the wildlife from munching them, we will have a crop - I have planted about 2-3sqm, so if all goes well there will be plenty (I over compensated with seed as I had low expectations). I will post some photos of the little carrots, once they are big enough to actually photograph!!!

I had to bring in my seedlings today as it was only 5C outside, and there was even talk of snow today.... Tomatoe seedlings probably don't like that too much!! A good day to have a rest and catch up on my knitting!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spring equinox

Today light and day are of equal length, but from now on the light will prevail, until the summer solstice that is.

It is a time to celebrate life and growth - eggs, flowers, and getting stuck into the food garden.

The chooks are laying ok, my flock is mixed, with some old girls that have been with us for a while, some in their 'prime' that I bought at the start of the year and some new ones (Barnevelders) that I got about a month a go. The new ones are yet to start laying, which I am looking forward to! I hope to be able to breed a few replacement chooks this year, as well as adding to the flock from local poultry breeders. I am aiming for about 12 layers.

Our solar power system is going great, not a problem. We were worried about how it would handle our biggest regular power user - the washing machine, and to our complete surprise it only took 1-2% of our battery capacity!!! So much for people saying you can't run a washing machine on an off grid solar power system!!! So far we have tested the 'bamix', drop saw and vacum cleaner, and all work fine - the vacum cleaner used the most power. It also runs our internet server and charges laptops and batteries for the drill etc. These things barely have any impact on the battery charge at all!!!

So now our 'problem' is trying to USE power, as the batteries are pretty much always 100% full!!! Winter will be different of course!

Here is a quick photo of the kids, all dressed up, and reasonably clean - just before we headed off for a long drive to visit our niece for her 3rd birthday party. Had a great time, although the drive was not so enjoyable!!!

Not much else to say, busy as always, starting to preapre for the fire season ahead...

Friday, September 18, 2009

We have the power!!

Finally, the batteries for our off grid solar power system are connected up to the solar panels! Its been 3 months of waiting (mostly because we were waiting to hear back from the government about our grant application - which they say they never got...). Its also a real 'dream come true', for me anyway, its been 15 years or so of dreaming to have my own power system and be self sufficient in our power! So its a pretty special day for us!

Which brings me to something so incredibly important - what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint, and basically 'save the world'. The time is here, we have to act NOW - global warming is happening at such a rate - scientists never predicted it to be so soon. I was reading that in the next few years the north pole will no longer have ice!!! That is within the next 10 years - not like they were saying years ago - where my generation would probably not see the impacts - but only those that follow.... these guys...

Anyway, I guess I am not trying to alarm my dear readers, but at the same time I AM! To actually 'win' this battle, EVERYONE has to do their bit. We all need to reduce our footprint - by a considrable amount too - I think I read that for us westerners its in the order of 80% or so.... That is more than just changing lightbulbs!!! I means actually making sacrifices, and working hard, to do what needs to be done. And there is no choice, if we don't we will all suffer, much more.....

Anyway, for those that are interested, is a organization organizing a global day of action on the 24th October. Check out their website (there is a logo etc on the banner on the right side of this blog). There are events all over the place - try and attend and show those that have the most power of all that this is important and that the population does care (I am hoping that people truly do care, but sometimes I have to wonder....)

Anyway, sorry to be a 'bit over the top' but this is something that keep me up at night, and truly frightens me.... I don't want to see the polar bears become extinct, and I really don't want to have to face the fires that will get worse and worse each summer in this part of the world - or the incredibly awful heat waves - 48C is the hottest I want to experience thank you very much...

I will leave you with some pictures of the farm - spring sure is here, the grass is growing (so we have had to dust off the trusty scythe!!), and the garden is starting to look great. Wishing you all a great growing season!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Panels up!

Yesterday Brad and his brother Grant put up the solar panels. Thank you Grant, you saved me having to pass them up by myself, and also made the job so much quicker. I am scared of heights so I am useless for jobs such as this - plus someone needs to be on ground level when 2 little kids are around.

We haven't got the battery bank yet, hopefully that will arrive this week. Then we can make use of our sunshine, for interesting things like running the washing machine and the fridge (we are getting a new super efficient fridge, that will run easily off our fairly small solar power system). At this point we have no fridge, and run the generator to do the washing. So I will look forward to not hearing the generator anymore!

This power system we have funded ourselves. We did put in an application for a government grant, but after not hearing from them, we rang, only to be told that they never got it.... hmmm, we didn't send it registered mail (silly), but we have heard that others have had a similar response, only to add that they did register the forms, and then suddely their application was found... (but we wont get into that -as perhaps we are being a little too sceptical of our nice government agencies ???) Anyway, turns out we got a pretty good deal and we have paid, less than what we had budgeted for with the government grant. So it's all ended well so far!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Our girl turned 3 last week. Time sure does fly. We had a small party for her here, which was really lovely, despite heavy rain (yay!).

the tree on the right was planted when she was born, its now well and truly taller than us (even after the goat ate the top off!

Spring seems to be all around us, even though its still officially winter. The silver wattles are in full flower (and unless I have forgotten what they were like last year, they seem to be much more heavily 'in flower' than in the past- maybe due to the hard summer we had - a neighbour with sheep this year had all multiple lambs - 5 sets of twins and 1 set of triplets - they have never had this before...)

The daffodils are up and their flowers seem a little light on, more just leaves.

Life is good here though. Much work being done, nothing much interesting as such, I've done a drainage trench, there has been some building, work on the vegy garden and planning of future vegy gardens. Tomorrow (hopefully) I will be picking up 2-3 hens to add to our small flock. Should be good!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

unusual house guest

Strangely, the day we brought our chooks home (they were living with our neighbours), look who decided to move into our place!

A fox, for those of you who don't recognise it, under the desk! It was very scared, so it was hard to get it out as it was snapping at us, since it was cornered. But its out, and thankfully for our feathered girls we haven't seen it again.

Monday, July 27, 2009

winter - don't go yet...

Signs of spring are all around us. (Its too early though - go away and give us some more rain...)

The daffodils are popping up.

The wattles are flowering.

Buds are forming on decidious plants (those that still bother to drop their leaves.... anyone else notice that many don't bother dropping their leaves so much anymore.... scary)

I've seen birds with nesting materials, the lambs are all born (not ours- we don't have sheep... yet)

And we have heard of snake sightings - Brad even got to do his first snake capture - when picking up some old corrugated iron from a neighbour's place - under the last sheet was a sleepy tiger snake. The neighbours wanted to kill it with a shovel, but Brad managed to convince them to get it into a bag and relocate. Understandably the snake was pretty pleased with this!

Its been so windy - luckily for us we have this....

Its just an old generator, 200W, so not a real big one either, but it helps, for now, while we STILL wait to hear if we will get a government grant for our off grid power system.... By the time we get the power system we wont know what to use all that electricty on!!!

Lots of work to be done - we are trying to priorities jobs (many jobs need to be done before summer - lots of cleaning up before bushfire season..... ). Planning the spring garden, just recieved a big box full of seeds for the vegy garden, plus my seed potatoes - YAY!

Checked out my 'new' local town, and they have a great health food store that sells orgaic fruit and veg and has a decent range! So I am pretty pleased about that!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Don't rush

Meet Stanley. He is our slow combustion stove. Just a run of the mill Stanley Traditional, made in Ireland. You can still buy them new, just the same. We got Stanley second hand, in pieces, and had the interesting task of putting him back together. It was good as we now understand where the heat travels and can problem solve if things don't work right. But it wasn't fun, if you like your sanity intact!

So, Stanley is an amazing multitasking individual, with a perculiar sense of humour. He has replaced our kettle, toaster, hotplates, oven and microwave (we no longer have any of these in their conventional form), hot water service and he is also good at drying clothes and proving bread. I think that he replaces these better than the electric/gas versions, and we don't get bills!

The slow combustion stove is great for baking (there has been lots of scones, biscuits, bread and baked dinners around here) and slow cooking. You can leave things to cook all day without worrying about what the electricity/gas bill will be!

But there is one thing about Stanley that makes him challenging at times... You just can't rush the guy. He seems to know when you want to get the fire going quickly, say because the kids are up and whingeing that they are hungry and you need to go out in an hour. You try and put on some bigger wood too quickly, before he is ready, and its all over, you can start again! Then after you have had your lukewarm coffee and barely toasted bread you will have a roaring fire ready to go....

Slow combustion cooking is for a slower pace of life. Not really suitable if you work all day outside the home (unless you know how to keep it ticking over for 8 hours or so). But a slow pace of life is a good thing in my opinion. We are enjoying our new life here, its lovely to wake up to the chorous of birds, and go and give the horses an apple. Spending time in the garden, planning the spring crops and finding the time to do some of the things we never had time to do before. Its nice to not have a feeling of rushing, although there is a lot to do here, most of it can wait another day. When the weather is nice (which seems to be more often than not) its nice to go out and potter around. Our next project is to build a moveble pen for our chickens, so we can finally bring the girls home (and add a few more and even a rooster!).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blue Tongue Lizard

Brad took this photo. Isn't it a great photo! Blue tongue lizards are pretty common around these parts, although its a little surprising to see one at this time of year, its almost winter (although the weather is still fairly nice.... fingers crossed we get a nice and wet winter though)!

Here is a recent family photo, with our little boy's blackwood tree - one year on after it was planted.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Our boy is one!

2 days ago our little man turned one. We are having a little party for him on sunday.

Sorry, I realise the photo is not that good, he is at that come over and try and grab the camera stage, so nice photos are hard to get. Usually its a close up of the eyes or something like that!!! He is a big boy, scooting around on his bottom. He is starting to stand up now, especially holding onto me. Hopefully he will walk soon, but he hasn't been in much of a hurry to do things yet. Content with what he has at the time.

We haven't taken his 'tree' photo yet. If you don't know, we planted a tree for both the kids when they were born, and have been taking a photo around their birthday each year. Hopefully we will do that soon (the weather was not great today - and I forgot the day before that...)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

More time in the garden

Things have been very busy here. I have set up a pretty serious vegy garden, hopefully not more than I can handle - about 13m x 4m wide (but I will need to extend it still). I have been digging it all over and adding assorted manures, wood ash and whatever else. I have been reading up on the requirements of the individual plants I am planting and preparing the soil specifically. I know this probably all sounds like the normal and right way to do it, but its not how I have normally do it! I have normally just thrown a few seeds in, here and there, and watched what happened.

But that was in my reckless days!!! I am taking the feeding the family task more seriously now, and want to make sure there are enough of each plant, and that they grow well. Alas, my soil is probably not ready for that responsibility yet...

So I spend some of our building days out in the garden with the kids while Brad is using the generator and sawing up timber etc etc. Then I try and help him whenever I can. Its been hard, long days, and it seems like nothing much is being achieved.... Somewhat overwhelming, as the mountain of work never seems to get less, and yet the time is flying.... All going 'well', we will be homeless in a month.... probably living in a caravan!!! One and a half people can't build a home in a month, and work to earn a living to pay for the building materials, and look after 2 young children.

It will be interesting, to say the least!!! We wont have electricity (or limited electricity), and possibily no plumbed water (we do own buckets!). Please hope and pray that we will have the combustion stove operational.... Hmmm, I guess it will be character building!!! And COLD.

Lets just hope for some good productive days in our future!!!! Fingers crossed!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Winter garden

I have been busy working on our vegy garden, with some high hopes of growing lots of good food. I find the autumn/winter garden much more rewarding than the summer garden. The heat and the dry is such a formidable force in this part of the world. Winter has its challenges - slugs and snails... They devour so much so quickly...

So, I have been preparing a fairly large garden, 4m X 12m, but it will need expanding, as I now realize there isn't enough room for all the potatoes... ooops. I have been propagating plants which are nearly ready to plant out. Cabbages, broccoli, kale, beetroot, silverbeet (chard) are all about to go in the ground. Also, the garlic (all 80 cloves or so... ) that arrived recently from the Digger's Club. I have been preparing the beds with gypsum, wood ash from the pizza oven, and as much horse, alpaca and chook poo as I can. The soil is ok, but its not as good as the garden beds that we are leaving behind... The soil will take time to become enriched, its a long term committment, to establish a garden and help build the soil.

After the winter solistice (June 21st) I will plant out the onions. I have planted over 200 seeds, but will do another seed pack soon. I have always loved growing onions, despite them being cheap to buy, they are easy to grow, and organic onions are hard to find around here... Here are my little babies, just popping their head up.

Cute, aren't they?

Something that I have decided to do as of now, is keep a garden diary. I think it will help to refine my skills and improve our crops over the years. This is my main focus now - apart from my household duties, and taking care of the kids - to grow a large proportion of our food.

So much is happening now in the world, that I feel the urgency of this more and more. The economic crisis is starting to have an effect on Australia, despite the government assuring us that we are safe.... So many people are either out of work, or losing work. No one is employing, or spending money. We have seen many affected already, and its still early days.... It will be interesting to see how it all goes, whether 'they' can stop it, or will it keep spiraling....