Tuesday, July 23, 2013

winter on our farm

Winter has been interesting in our part of the world.  June saw the month's average rainfall come down over the course of only a few days, and then not a drop for the remainder of the month (good thing we DID get a months worth in one go!).  July was warm and mostly sunny, we had our hottest July day on record, which saw many shorts and t-shirts make their way out of the wardrobe a bit earlier than usual!!!  Two days later and almost snowed here!  I love snow, but I do feel for the animals who have to cope with a weather change of 20C in a day or two...  tough times when there is hardly any grass around.  I've seen many small farmers selling off livestock at the moment due to not having feed.  I'm thankful for those sunny days, at least the grass grew a little....

Makes us think about what animals are keepers and which ones we should get rid of.  At this point in time we have four goats, but two are wethers and we keep them because we don't have the heart to sell them (ok I'll rephrase that - I don't have the heart to sell them...), we still have last years roosters that we keep because we haven't the heart to do what needs doing. I think about the term 'hobby or lifestyle' farming - which to me is when you keep lots of pets and don't really farm your land for any food/money.  I sort of think of our place as a working farm, we are producing some of our food, and alot more is in the process of being produced, but how many 'pets' have a place on a real 'working' farm?  I don't know....  we have rescue dogs and I want to help as many animals as possible to have a happy life, but that said, where is the boundary between working to pay for 'rescues' and pet roosters etc and having a self sufficient smallholding....  Interesting questions anyway...  I've come to the conclusion that truly ethical living is not possible, we compromise one thing for another, and I don't think there is an actual right way....

So apart from pondering the details of an ethical life what else is going on here this winter on the farm?

I've bought 24 olive trees to produce our own oil in about 5-10 years time.  At the moment we buy our oil from a local grower - we buy about 30L for a year, and its nice to not have to think about how much oil one needs per week/fortnight.  I only have to write in my diary to ring the man at the right time of year.  Looking forward to another step in self sufficiency and one that doesn't require loads of work!!!  Olives are as tough as nails.

Our cow will calve soon - probably within the next month.  Hoping for a heifer calf, otherwise we are up against one of those difficult ethical living dilemmas....

The goats are having a rest this year and will have kids next year when we will dry off the cow (hahaha, 'best laid plans of mice and men'....).  One thing I've learnt is there are massive differences between cows and goats.  Aside from obvious things, cows are one tough beast, even on the most bitter days our Buttercup is out grazing (she has a nice shed to go in - and she does go in sometimes).  When it rains (even a drizzle), the goats are found like this:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

time flies!

I have to admit that I am a terrible blogger.  I am more of a gardener and farmer, and enjoy my outside work far too much! So, its been about 6 months since I last updated this blog.  It was december then, just the beginning of what turned out to be a terrible summer.  The authorities called it the 'angry summer', and I think its a good description!  We broke all manner of records in Australia that summer/autumn, including the most consecutive days abover 30C (9 days in March!!!!).  We are very careful with our water use, and we came pretty close to running out, many did run out of water.  There was something different about this summer.  While the temperatures weren't extreemly hot as such, the sun had a fire to it.  Old trees have died all over our area, and it was next to impossible to keep up the water to the garden.  I am thankful that I managed to keep my young orchard trees alive (with only a few buckets of washing machine water).  I had to give up on most of the vegetables, as even with heavy mulching they couldn't cope.  Next summer I will use shade covers, if I can get it set up in time....

So, we are almost halfway through 2013 now, and thankfully the weather has cooled off and we have had SOME rain (much lower than what we would normally expect...).  So here is a little rundown of what has been happening here.

We have a new addition to the farm, her name is Buttercup, a Jersey cow.  She is due to calve in August, and we are very much looking forward to homemade butter!

I grew about 3kg of garlic, which we are still eating now, and hopefully (fingers crossed) will last us till the next crop is ready (november or december).

We are still eating our own home grown potatoes, and hopefully those will last us till the next crop (although we did suffer some losses this time due to rats).

After doing lots of reading, I'm converting my garden to be more of a polyculture, rather than distinct beds of this or that.  I have had a few pest issues (rats) and it seems to me that the safest way to grow food is to spread out things like peas, potatoes and tomatoes around the garden, rather than concentrating it all in one place so a pest can eat the lot.  Its early days and most of my attempts have been thwarted by the birds (at least my soil is improving as they dig up everything for the worms) and slugs...

I will try to update this blog again soon!  Hopefully before 2013 is over!