"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Tuesday, 15 September 2015


 This is a weed locally called Blue top. It is also known as Billy goat weed due to the smell when crushed. When we moved in here the fields were very horse sick and rank with blue top.
At first it really bugged me for some reason. I spent hours with the scythe cutting it down in great swathes. Over time it has slowly disappeared from the fields as the soil condition improved. Blue top and bracken are both good indicators of problem soil. The main solution was to ensure the soils were grazed properly, meaning get rid of the bloody horses. I now take care to spell the fields between grazing every few months and to allow time for the pasture to go to seed at least once every two years. 
The blue top does not worry me any more as I have come to realize it has its place even though it is a feral weed. It even has its uses, the cattle appear to use it as an occasional medicinal herb and the early settlers to this area also apparently used it as a poultice on wounds for its mild antiseptic qualities.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Feeding, fattening and economics

 Fattening stock for meat always requires special care to the feeding. You cannot simply throw a few handfuls of pellets to your piglets and expect to get good, or cheap, pork. Frankly the cost of shop bought fattening mixes would give you anything but cheap pork! We like our livestock to free range wherever possible but when fattening for meat we must also supply a lot of extra food.
In the case of our meat chickens we have been experimenting for several years with various mixes at various costs. For a while I was able to get some high-protein mix to mix in with millrun and cracked corn. It fattened the birds admirably when it was available, and there is the problem- because we could not always get it.
So this year we have been making this mix of:

2 parts millrun,
2 parts cracked corn,
1 part whole soy meal,
1 large handful of shell grit
1 big glug of vegetable oil.

Mix it all together and the chooks love it! Unfortunately it is still an added cost to the feed bill that we would rather do without. So I have determined that timing is the issue here.

For about one third of the year we have more milk than we can easily use. At the end of winter to mid summer the potato growers are processing their crop and I can get free discard potatoes by the tonne.
Milk and boiled potatoes is an old fattening recipe for both pigs and fowl! Boil a huge pot of potatoes overnight, enough for both feeding times the next day. In the morning add your leftover milk, buttermilk or whey to the cooled potatoes. Give it a bit of a stir-come-mush-up, dont be too fiddly about it and serve. Stand back as in my experience the livestock will take a flying tackle into the feed trough for this meal!
If I could I would also add boiled whole barley but alas this is not a barley growing district and it costs much more than I would care to pay. A little cracked corn serves well as a substitute. So with the next batch of pigs to fatten, we shall also fatten a batch of meat chooks at the same time and on the same diet. Make sure the pigs get to roam and dig in their paddocks and make sure the chooks get a great armload of greens each day also. The result is excellent meat at the cost of some labour and little else.

Seasons change- the spring update.

The weather is warming although we still have the doona on the bed. A bit early by my reckoning but the plants have all decided to get a go on so what would I know?
The peaches have all had a good winter and were thick with blossom for a week. Now they are covered with small green peaches. Each year we enter into a contest with the king parrots to see who gets the most fruit.  Last year we were soundly beaten. One day I will investigate netting tents for the trees.
 Bonnie, our soon to be cow, is heavily pregnant. She is in training getting ready for milking. I have always found that a first time milker is becomes easier to handle with good training *before* she calves. Bonnie has a very impatient nature. Here she is craning her neck over the fence and around the corner of the feed shed to see how her feed bucket is coming along.
 I fired up the incubator a while back in an effort to increase our flock of Rhode island reds. Normally I prefer to let a broody hen do the job but unfortunately none of the girls were in the mood. Egg fertility remains an issue with a very poor hatching rate of about one in ten. I may have to give the girls a cosmetic clipping in certain areas so the rooster has a better chance of hitting the target- if you get my drift. Makes for an undignified looking flock I must say.
 The next big project we are working on is the dreaded hothouse. A project that has been put aside for a year or so for various reasons, now back in the queue. I had the veggie garden shelved off a couple of years back. It has now been left fallow this season so I can begin getting the uprights in. Above you can see my survey pegs all measured out correctly, half a days work for two people. The end structure will consist of two fifteen meter tunnels side by side. Each tunnel is six meters wide and about four high or so. It will be quite a project.
 The pigeons are out and about. They are breeding well and appear to be quite confident fliers. So far no attacks by raptors or egg thieving by crows. The child bride has hung two CDs outside the entrance to the loft where they flicker and turn in the wind. It appears to be working, could it really be this simple?
My ever present doggie companion. Woof.