Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The equinox and beyond

We celebrated the Autumn equinox on the weekend, with a bit of a harvest party, and our woodfired pizzas of course! We had a lovely day with a great group of friends and family. The food was amazing, with most people bringing home grown and home made food (or both!). It was a lovely way to celebrate a time of year that was typically the time to bring in the harvest in preparation for the dark times. Here in Australia this time of year is still quite mild and the harvests will extend beyond the equinox.

Our tomatoes are ALMOST ripe now!!!! Its been a funny growing season this one, with very early hot periods (that sent most people into a frenzy of 'what is summer going to be like' (me included), then it turned bitterly cold for a while, and then back to a typically mild summer (like the ones we used to have)). Despite this we have had a pretty good crop of beans (the purple king climbing beans have been great - definately will plant more of these in spring), reasonable crops of zuchinni (good for me anyway!), potatoes and lots of very little carrots. We had a great crop of blackberries (all gone now though - the plants are dying back) and still inundated in big juicy apples. I think the last crop will be the chestnuts (there are about 10 wild chestnut trees nearby, so we will do a collection of these once they are ready), and then I think it will be pretty quiet till spring.

So what do we do with the abundant crops (especially the wild ones in our area) - well, I have gone somewhat overboard on the preserves I think!!! Brad suggested a table at our equinox celebration with 'please take one'!!!!

Personally I think there is something comforting about a pantry full of jams, chutneys etc. It feels as though no matter what happens to this world and civilisation at least we wont starve. Perhaps its from the 'old days' when we had to preserve the crops so that we would survive winter before the spring crops begin bearing. I guess its not really relevant in todays world, as everything is available year round in the supermarkets, if its out of season its just imported from overseas or grown in a hot house. I find that growing your own and gleaning from the wild plants forces you to eat more in tune with the seasons. And I am happy to go straight past the jam, chutney, milk and eggs in the supermarket!!!

So now we head into the dark, the days are noticably shorter, the shadows definately longer, and the nights colder. We are heading into unknown territory with regard to our power system (we installed it around the time of the spring equinox last year). So far it has performed perfectly, with an excess of power (typical for solar power) over summer, but once the sun drops lower in the sky we may not make enough power to keep the batteries charged enough. The sun sits pretty low in the sky up here, quite surprising to us, considering we lived only 30mins away and it was never so low at our old place.

So for now we are planning on enjoying the light while it lasts, spening time in the garden, and getting fencing done (as well as the final jobs to keep us a bit warmer this winter). Soon it will be bitterly cold, and I have a backlog of fleeces to spin, so thats what I will be doing this winter!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New chicks

About a week ago our newest chicks hatched. Out of 6 eggs, 5 hatched. Of these 4 are black and one is fawn coloured with stripes - 'wild colouring' (this chick is most definately a Barnevelder x Welsummer - and the type of fowl I am most interested in breeding).

As always, chicks are just so cute, and its easy to just sit and watch them and the interactions between the mother and chicks. The instincts of the mother hen are incredible, and the 'obedience' of the chicks is quite amazing (as parents of 2 young children we can only dream of having that sort of 'control' over our kids!!!!). The kids love them (its hard not to though!), and so far it looks as though we might have 2 roosters and 3 hens (crossing fingers!).

The sight of the chicks has now set off another hen to go clucky, but I don't think I will let her sit on eggs this time (this hen was the one that raised our first 3 chicks), as by the time they hatch we will be half way through autumn, and it can be pretty wet and miserable and probably not so good for little chicks. She is pretty determined to stay on the nest though, so it will be interesting.

free-ranging in my garden (I will post on the 'evolution' of my garden defenses soon)

The first 3 chicks we hatched are doing great I think they must be about 15 weeks old now, and are quite large, solid birds, and very active and healthy. Much better than some that I have bought from breeders (with very skinny legs and fairly sickly looking). I think naturally raised chicks (under a hen) fed good wholesome food grow up into healthy and vigorous hens/roosters. I feed my chicks boiled egg with garlic as their first foods (its a traditional first food) as well as organic ground wheat or rolled oats. I try to add seaweed meal to their food as often as I can, and try and get them out to free range when ever possible. I don't vacinnate them or medicate them in anyway.

Not much else happening around here, autumn is upon us, and it has really cooled down at night which is lovely. Making us think about preparing for winter, jobs like finishing putting up the insulation and a few missing doors. Also firewood collection. We will have to run our combustion stove ALOT over winter, so its a nice feeling to have a good stash of firewood, cut, split and undercover. We already have enough to get us through, but it nice to have a little bit spare incase it will be a cold winter this year (I suspect it will be). I hope that this winter we will be a bit more comfortable than last year!!

stormy skies!