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!