Thursday, January 27, 2011


Then end of last year was a pretty dismal time around here, regarding our flock of chooks.  We lost some to the fox, some to unknown causes, chicks either failed to hatch, or died soon after (the fox took my 2 good mother hens...).  The last attempt at hatching chickens was going well, till about 2 days before hatching, the hen abandoned the eggs (it was very hot, and her broody cage was probably not situated in the best position, she was also bothered by lice).  Out of her 4 eggs one chick hatched.  Since its as much work to care for one chick (and keep it warm) as it is for a few more, I few 'day old' chicks to keep it company.

Raising chicks in a brooder is not really my ideal scenario.  Although they are all doing great, after having watched our mother hens care for and teach the young chicks how to behave, I think its the best way to do it.  I've been feeding them as natural diet as I can manage.  Lots of egg (with crushed garlic and dried nettles), millet, seasame seed, a little wheat and rolled oats.  I also collect some wood lice (slaters) for them. 

What I find amazing is that even these chicks who haven't really seen adult chooks, know how to scratch and have a real appetite for bugs.  Its quite incredible that an animal regarded as unitelligent as the chook can have so many inbuilt instincts.

The kids are enjoying these chicks, they actually get to pick them up (probably more than I would like) and watch them, which is harder with a protective mother hen about!!!  I'm thinking that we have 2 roosters and 4 hens, but only time will tell!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Life has been good, but not particularly eventful here.  We are probably in one of the few parts of our state that has not had extraordinary rains, although still more than is typical for summer.  We have also been lucky to not have our typically hot weather - with more mild 20-35C so far this summer.  Summer usually makes me nervous, and adds a whole new dimension of work as far as watering the garden goes.  So the garden is growing well, the grass is still green (not the usual thing in mid January!). 

sweet corn

zuchinni - the best I've ever grown!

We are devoting most of our spare time to building the house, along with other urgent jobs like shearing (which we finally got around to do this week - again Brad did them using the hand shears), and pulling out Ragwort.  The Ragwort has been very prolific this year, not just in abundance, but also in the sheer size of the plants (some are as tall as us).  Personally I don't think its such a big deal, its real problem is that the most common livestock here don't eat it, so therefore its taking the place of grass.  I've been doing some reading on 'natural farming' although I use that description loosely - a book by Joel Salatin.  The book (The Sheer Ecstacy of Being a Lunatic Farmer) has 'joined the dots' on alot of things I read about and know, and the issue of Ragwort is one of them.  By consistently grazing the same animals, and getting them to graze the grass down before moving them on, you are actually encouring the growth of plants that they DON'T like!  As they eat the stuff they like and let the 'weeds' grow strongly.  Makes sense, yet that is how pretty much all 'produtive' farming is done.  Litres of chemicals poured over the land to deal with an issue that cross grazing with sheep or goats would control....

I've been inspired by Salatin's example and am currently reading more about our food system and diet (Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food).  Its definatley a topic that is close to my heart, and we are pretty passionate about producing real food, that hasn't been adulterated by the industrial food system. I'll leave it at that for the moment, but I highly recommend reading about these topics, especially about how our food system works and what you are eating.  Food is probably THE most important thing in our lives, and we should be eating the best food (even if its expensive) and in its 'natural' state - not processed.

The weather (apart from when it has been raining) has been very nice for taking photos.  Such beautiful blue skies.  Here are some snapshots of the last few weeks.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2010, 2011 and beyond

2010 was a very short year for us, well it felt short, like we could have blinked and missed it.  I think that is because of the preparation for building the house, you know how time flies if you have a deadline....  We have been pretty busy with the building stuff now, and its nice to actually be able to do something, instead of just waiting for paperwork etc.  You can read more about it here.

As far as general life on the farm 2010 was a bittersweet year.  We lost quite a few animals, our goat gyspy, an alpaca, but by far the most abundant losses were in our hens.  We started spring with 13 hens, and now we have 5 left.  But typical of the way nature works, one of the hens is sitting on a few eggs, so new life may replenish the losses. This quote pretty much sums it up, and keeps coming back to me, as it seems so 'real'.

"Earth brings us into life and nourishes us. Earth takes us back again.  Birth and death are present in every moment"

Since we left town, I feel that we have come closer to nature and the cycles of life and seasons.  Its easy in town to disconnect, it doesn't matter what the weather is like because you have the same temperature year round due to the wonders of heating/cooling systems, you don't eat seasonally as farmers will run heated hothouses to provide tomatoes year round or we import from warmer climates, so we can eat watermelon in winter.  Out here, the seasons are 'in your face', if its cold its hard to not notice it.  When you grow any vegetables, you become aware of when the naturally would grow in your area.

2011 is promising to be another full year for us, which will probably pass by far too quickly (considering we almost half way through january already - how did that happen??).  The house building will be a dominant part of our lives for the next few years.  We will also focus our efforts on establishing good infrastructure such as fencing, water pipes and additional tanks and catchments, more protection for trees and gardens and setting up yards etc for animal management.  Due to our sagas with our hens, we will also be looking at setting up a portable house that can be moved around the paddocks with a herd guardian of some sort.  We will also try and inrease our food production, and reduce our reliance on outside sources of food for us and the animals.  We will see how far we will get with that this year.