Friday, July 24, 2015


Its been a busy time on our little farm lately.  The days have been mostly filled with little bits here and there that after a week, month, year (or several years) start to add up to things finished and real progress that is just fabulous!

The polytunnel is 'almost' finished now.  We just have the 2 ends (doors) to complete, which I suppose are the most complicated part, as we want them to open right up for ventilation in summer, but also be robust enough to handle the wind.  Still finalizing the design, but we have some ideas how to do that.  The inside of the polytunnel is coming along too, 6 vegetable beds are formed up (5 are planted out - still have to tidy up one bed), plenty of seedlings growing, and in the next few weeks I'll start all those summer crops - tomatoes etc.  Just want to make sure I don't waste all my seed by sowing too early and killing the poor things.  We have the plumbing supplies to set up our little goldfish/lotus/waterlilly pond so hopefully we will fill that before the rain stops, as we can't afford to use that amount of water once summer comes along.  Around the pond I plan to grow a permaculture type garden, filled to the brim with sub-tropical goodies like ginger, tumeric, galangal, lemongrass, bananas, coffee, passionfruit and vegetables like melons and maybe sweet potatoes. I think perhaps we should have made the tunnel bigger....

almost done!
We had an incredibly dry and mild June (apparently the driest/warmest on record?), but July decided to bring a bit of chill, with lots of good frosty mornings.  The kids loved the icy puddles, but I don't know what the chooks thought of it all!

With spring around the corner I've been madly buying seeds (some girls buy shoes - I am happy in gumboots mostly - for me its seeds, plants and books...), I have a very wide selection of plants that even on our property I wonder if I'll run out of space!  I most certainly will run out of time and water once the heat comes....

Apart from that I'm trying to get my garden in order, as I got a bit slack with weeding and well, like every year at this time I live to regret that....  Oh well, I'm a slow learner but I'll get there - Note to self -keep the weeds under control!!!!

Anyway, its all good, and loving every minute of it (even the weeding)!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Winter Solstice

Wishing you a happy winter solstice!

In our part of the world winter has been a bit of an on again/off again affair.  May was cold with snow (not here though) but June has been quite dry (only about 50mL in the rain gauge so far), with beautiful clear days, and frosty mornings.  Its certainly cold overnight, but hardly wintery!

Not much is happening around our little place, just plodding along really, so I thought I would just post some photos, a tour of the farm if you like!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Slowly, slowly

That's how things have been getting done around here lately.  Little bit of work on this and then on that, but I'm hoping slowly somethings might get finished (or close enough!).  This lifestyle can be tough at times, SO much to do, you can't just focus entirely on building something or finishing something, or other areas get neglected.  Jobs like trimming animal hooves, cleaning gutters, cutting firewood don't really show up on the over all picture, yet some of these jobs can take up a whole day or more.  Each day that we are able to work here we just have to make a priority based on urgency and the weather (no point fencing in the rain, or doing indoors tasks on a nice day).

My method for getting work done is simply to do a little bit of lots of things each day, I find the slow and steady pace gets the work done and with children about I can't focus my attention on getting a job done start to finish without interruption anyway!  Autumn and winter is my time for the orchard (its about the only time I can really give it!).  I weed a nice circle around each one (about 1m circumference on the older trees), give them all a mineral fix (lime, blood and bone, seaweed meal and other trace elements) and a 10L bucket of compost.  So far I've done about 40 trees.  I can see that my fruit tree planting obsession will have to slow down as this autumn task will just be too much - I have about 60 trees so far, and about 12 in pots (from a grafting day we attended last year) and still so many interesting varieties to add!

We have made some progress on the polytunnel.  We have added the south side of the wall - just solid roofing iron as no sun will come in that way anyhow and we had it here.  We have moved the concrete trough into position - an interesting task when you don't own a tractor!  In this trough I plan to plant waterlilies and maybe lotus and I would like to put some fish in it - not for food, but for interest.  I would also like a seat in there (not that I have time to sit down!!!!)

moving a concrete stock trough the low-tech way - thanks Ivor!

getting the trough into position - note the south wall filled in

The autumn plantings are growing ok, although the peas have been nibbled by the rabbits and the wombat has been doing a bit of digging (I've put up an electric fence to stop it/them).  Little carrot seedling are up, and winter radishes also.  When the weather is ok we need to dig up our potatoe plot.

broad beans are up!  And my wombat fence!

This is the seedling bench, finally I have somewhere to raise seedlings properly!

We weren't getting many eggs for a while, but the last few days the girls have started to pick up their pace.  I always find that they start to lay once the shortest day (winter solstice) is past.  This year it seems to be happening earlier, and the last few days have had a distinctive spring feeling about them - I suspect spring will be early this year, so I must get my summer vegie seeds soon!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

autumn planting and other work

Over the last few weeks we have been busy planting the autumn garden.  We've put in  broad beans, peas, snow peas, and brassicas (cabbages, broccoli,cauliflower and kale - all autumn planting varieties), carrots and winter radishes, lettuce, raddichio and something new to me, Rampion or Rapunzel.  Yes, as in the plant that 'rapunzel's' father stole from the witch's garden in the fairy tale.  It apparently was grown in Italy, Germany and Switzerland and since my ancestry is from that part of the world, and I have kids, it would be worth giving it a go (no - it doesn't take much for me to give a plant a go)!  Have no idea what it will be like, but if it comes up we may get to find out!  The seed is TINY.

planting broad beans is so easy, even a 2 year old can do it!
best times - planting together!
I am also propagating seedlings in trays in the poly tunnel (no its not finished, but we have made one of the seed raising benches so I have somewhere to work!), more lettuces and other salad greens and starting on onions.  We have been digging a trench to get water into the tunnel so that we can start planting.  Fingers crossed we might finish that job off this weekend.  I hope to put in some early potatoes - just to pull up as needed, once the summer harvested ones are finished.

digging the trench with the mattock...

.... and cleaning it out with a shovel...
yes we know there are machines to do this....

We also have coming a concrete water trough to turn into a fish/water lily pond to help stabilize the poly tunnel climate (water is a great thermal mass).  It will be very interesting getting the trough down there, as we don't have a tractor, but hoping that some low tech solution will work out (we did manage to move a 300kg combustion stove on wooden posts as rollers quite some distance - an interesting experience I can say!)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

autumn days

We kind of missed summer this year, which is just fine with me!!  While I do enjoy the warm weather (not hot) summer is a lot of work.  Watering the garden, keeping water up to the animals (and feed as the grass dies), worrying about the water tanks running out and the constant fear of bushfire...  

beautiful autumn sky
Mind you without summer weather you don't get all those wonderful summer crops and sadly this year some things just haven't made it to ripen before the colder weather (the nights have gotten pretty chilly now).  I have some lovely green chillies that would have been a great crop for sweet chilli sauce (probably enough to last all year), had they gotten another month of warm weather...

picking green tomatoes for pickles
Autumn means a lot of pulling out finished (or at least unlikely to finish) crops and preparing the ground for new plantings.  So that's what we have been doing.  Dug up one block of beds and in the process of planting.  Lots of peas (part crop part green manure to improve the beds for spring), and brassicas, onions and root crops like carrots.  I am having trouble with rabbits, so that is something I need to work out still.

tilling the beds with the walking tractor
raking the ground into beds
I have also put in our garlic, which is such a great crop to grow.  It grows well, stores and is harvested before the worst of the dry weather sets in (here we harvest Nov/Dec).  I plant early, as we are pretty cold here, and I like them to get a good start before it gets cold (and light levels drop too much).  I add a lot of lime to the soil (we are very acidic here) and other 'goodies' - coffee grounds, charcoal I pulverise and add liquid fertilizer to, and seaweed meal.  This is my own concoction, but it seems to be helping my poor tired soil.

garlic planting - yay!

autumn is pizza oven time - yum!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Our polytunnel

For some time we have been wanting to put up a polytunnel.  We have had the hoops (they were given to us - thank you!) for years, and a need for a decent propagation area gave us the incentive to get this up.

The polytunnel will serve three distinctly different purposes (seed raising/propagation, hot climate vegetable growing/season extention and a place to grow warmer climate plants like bananas, coffee and some citrus) - and initially I had imagined three separate greenhouses, but as we had lots of hoops we decided to make one big tunnel and that is it.

the frame

We built the structure over several weekends a few hours here and there in between other things.  The plastic had to be done in one hit and we knew we had to do it soon as its autumn and its not ideal to put up the plastic in cold weather as it stretches out better when its warm.  We decided on a day (today) and I hoped that it wouldn't been too windy (it was a perfectly still day!).  I still can't quite believe our luck with the weather!!!

it was harder than it looks!
It was just the two of us doing it and I was a little apprehensive about it as I have heard of others needing quite a few people to help.  And when we first started to pull the plastic over I did really think that it might not work out so well just us, but eventually after alot of sweat (no tears luckily!) we did it!  It was surprising how much the plastic 'stuck' to the hoops - although it was mostly due to the weight of the plastic that was on the ground (it got really easy once it was mostly up off the ground).  The polytunnel is quite big - 20m long.

nearly there!
the kids helping out!
attaching the plastic

Very happy with how it has turned out!

polytunnel building team!
Still alot of work to do on it though.  As you can see the sides are open - they will need to be filled in.  Still deciding how we will do it.  We need to build benches for seedling trays and we plan on having some ponds in the middle - they will help in humidifying the polytunnel and may form part of an aquaponics type watering setup - still thinking about this (I hope we can keep goldfish and waterlillies in there).  Looking forward to designing the inside layout and then planting!  Yay!

PS. thanks to the kids for taking all the photos!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hello there!

Its been a whole year since I last posted (is it just me or is time going quicker these days???).  Doesn't seem so long ago to me! No, there is no great excuse for my absence, although I HAVE been busy!!!

My last post showed our chookshaw.  A brand new thing for us.  Well, its now over a year in operation, and still working beautifully!  There have been some mishaps of course, like the time that the door opened (it wasn't shut properly) while Brad was moving it and all the chooks jumped out and refused to move into the new area no matter how much we tried to herd them (chooks don't herd!).  We now know that once let out, the chooks kind of imprint on that spot and even at night they stayed there (but luckily we managed to get them all before the foxes came) - if it ever happens again we will not bother moving them, just reset up the fence wherever they happen to get out.  We are really happy with this set up, the chooks have been in great health.

moving the chookshaw

The set up has also resisted fox attacks, as I had a few chooks in other pens (spare roosters and a few bantams in the orchard) and those were all taken one day when we were out (during the day - at night I turn on an electric fence).  I have also seen the fox nearby but no chook was taken from the electric netting (touch wood!)

Checking for eggs never gets old
Speaking of chooks, I've re-started to sprout the grain for their feed.  I did this a while back, but over summer found the grain was getting a bit of mould on it.  This time I'm only keeping if for 3 days.  It creates a greater volume, and is sort of semi-fermented - maybe I could call it grainkraut!  They are doing really well on this.  At this point I am using the following grains - wheat, barley, triticale, maize and sunflower seeds.  I also feed the same grain to the goats.

So, now onto the goats.  I think last I posted we had lost my beloved Dorka goat - our first milking goat.  We had had all manner of issues with getting our milk supply back.  Well, Rosie kidded in November and gave us 2 boys (yes 2 boys AGAIN).  It was great having our milk back but then Rosie's health went down hill and we really thought we would lose her.  It has taken me until now to bring her back up to health, with lunch feedings, lots of mineral and vitamin supplements, and much worrying on my part.  We have now added to the menagerie another milker Marigold.

So cute!
Our cow Buttercup spent last winter at the neighbour's place (they have a bull), but it appears she may not be in calf.  Not sure what we will do with her.

As for me, I've been doing a little spinning and knitting, and dabbling into sewing (mostly just for the kids).  And I've just finished off making all our tomatoe sauce for the year (hooray!).  We had a really great year for blackberries and I've made a few different things out of those, plus lots to eat.

The garden has been going ok, especially considering we don't have a watering system set up and a pretty low pH (I'm working on getting that right though!).  We bought a Pasquali 'walking tractor' which has made garden prep much easier (for me!). We have harvested the potatoes, garlic, too many beans (wont be sad to see the back of them...), cabbages, broccoli, swedes, carrots, corn and many others.  I've grown a plot of flax, which I hope to prepare and make linen.  If I do manage it, I'll post about that on the blog.

Our walking tractor at work - so much easier than ME doing the digging!!!
a small bunch of homegrown flax, might be enough to make a face washer!
Till next time!