"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

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

December update

I am sitting listening to Gary Moore playing Parisienne Walkways as I write this. It is moving, magical music, bittersweet and sad. So too it fits this past year in many ways.
2016 has been a long tough year. We have faced our full share of trials and then some but times like this have to happen.
We have lost several dear members of our family, Jasmine our oldest cat who disappeared one night. Probably into a big snake unfortunately. Such a risk goes with living in this area.
Also Sen one of our two youngest cats was run over on the road out front.
Most recently we lost our beloved jersey cow Annabelle. After giving birth this year she had a particularly bad case of milk fever and despite everything we could do to help she died soon after. Anna is keenly missed. Anyone who has ever had a house cow knows how they become one of the family, especially if she is a jersey.
 I often find it easier to let people go than animals I love. I have a lot more faith in animals.
On that, I myself continue the battle against depression. This has not made the year any easier for my family I know. Life is improving nevertheless and we are making plans for the future.
I have begun investing in the bees- expanding the hives and have begun researching the local area as much as possible. My previous experience of beekeeping was on the Darling downs under very different conditions to the north. Here there are many different types of flora to learn about, different flowering seasons and the ability to work the hives throughout the year with out a winter downtime.
The youngest Cloud farmer is also very interested in learning all about bees! So much so that I was forced to purchase a bee suit for him due to him forever getting too close to the hives unprotected when I had them open.
I too am experiencing the joy of discovering bees through my sons eyes. It is a wonderful thing to watch him gently examining a frame of brood or search for the queen.
I dearly hope he will find the same passion for these remarkable creatures as I have. It would be wonderful to be able to go working the bees with my son in the future. Even better if one day I could hand the business over to him!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Q&A Tools

Talking to Karl, an old friend of mine the other day. We are both tool fanatics in that we both believe in using quality tools. During this discussion I was bemoaning the dearth of good machetes to be found on the market. Now for Karl this is no problem, he is a jeweler/blacksmith/knife maker and so can put together pretty much whatever he needs. I however must make do or in this case alter what I have to make it serviceable.
Case in point was a pretty horrible example of a Chinese made machete. Oddly enough the steel was not entirely terrible and would hold an edge. The grip though was a true nightmare. Too deep in the hand, split through its length and fissured just under the knuckles enough to make it impossible to use without a glove. It was made from some unrecognizable timber and for some reason sat in the hand in such a way as to make it impossible to strike a clean blow- the blade would always twist in the hand as it landed.
In a fit of desperation to get a job done one day I tore the old handle off and ground the rusted old rivets out. I then quickly made up a new splint grip out of native sycamore and fastened it with stainless steel bolts. Five minutes sanding on the linisher and I had a comfortable and solid grip good enough to last until I could buy a real machete.
I then discovered I had entirely changed this tool. It now cut cleanly and struck precisely and with force. I could use it for hours with no trouble. That was around five years ago....

Friday, 21 October 2016

October update

Four days ago Bonnie, our second house cow, dropped a beautiful little healthy heifer. We have named her Jessie.
She is soft and quite cuddly. Not at all afraid of humans. I was very pleased to see Alessa, our maremma, quietly standing guard in the paddock with the cows for the first few days. She still goes out to spend the night with them and keeps the wild dogs away.
Anna, first house cow, is due to drop her calf in another two weeks.
After the delightfully wet winter it has turned dry. Our tanks are running low and we are all a little on edge when it comes to using water. To make things worse some charming piece of vermin chewed a hole in an exposed section of water line from the tank that feeds the cows trough. Not at all happy I must say! I discovered the leak when the tank was nearly four fifths empty and managed to patch the line before burying it deeply to prevent further chewing.
We attempted to pump water from the creek down in the rainforest (we share a water line with our wonderful neighbours) but found the pump was unable to start for reasons as yet unknown.
On the plus side I can hear the frogs "calling the rain" outside. They seem pretty positive so I will assume they know what they are doing.

Times are a changing

I feel it is time for a change!
For those who do not know I have worked as a prison officer for nearly a decade now and it has taken its toll. PTSD and depression and so forth. I think I have finally had enough and so it is time to look in a new direction. This has presented me with something of a dilemma, what to do? What is available? I am not so young anymore and many of the more physical jobs are now out of my reach. I also have something of a lack of tolerance for fools nowadays ruling many of the service industries out! In fact I have quite had enough of working for other people altogether so the only realistic option is to go back into business for myself.
Now I have been a cabinetmaker for many years, I made fine furniture and historical reproductions. It was a fine job and I loved it. Unfortunately it is also a fickle industry as I was essentially selling luxuries, something people can do without in times of need (and quite rightly so). In addition the climate on our farm is ill suited to cabinet work- the rapid changes in humidity play merry hell with timber, especially if it is to be shipped to a customer in a dryer climate. So I was forced to reluctantly rule this option out.
Late one night as we finished a bottle of wine my wife commented that I had always loved beekeeping and could I not consider that as an alternative?
In my younger days I had been an avid beekeeper. I kept around forty hives and they kept me fed and the rent paid (I was living in share housing) when jobs were scarce. I absolutely loved the bees and was enthralled with their workings. I read avidly and discovered that bees operate only by their rules! They cannot be made to do anything and it is the beekeeper that must bend to the will of the bees if he is to be successful. For some reason I find this simple fact profoundly satisfying.
So the idea grew rapidly, I spent many hours over the next few months researching the finances and requirements. Looking at the market and need for honey as well as pollination services, wax, propolis and royal jelly. I was pleased to find the market is better than ever for honey and all services are in high demand. The area we live in supplies many good sites within a few hours drive of our farm. Overall it is looking very promising indeed. My doctor is also of the opinion that it would be an excellent therapy.
Plans are therefore afoot! I will keep you posted.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Spring Update 2016

This year it actually feels like spring. This is not the usual in northern Australia as we usually get a more simple variation of only two seasons. Hot and dry or hot and wet, also known as winter and summer. It has been an unusually wet winter. We had not needed to pump water from the creek even once so far. This has been good for the grass but less than optimal for the outdoors jobs we traditionally save for this time of year.

Nevertheless we have managed to put a lid on the second household water tank that has languished lidless for a year or more. The lid or roof to a tank is important as it keeps the water therein dark and cool. This prevents the growth of algae and other such nasties that I would prefer to not have to drink.

Unfortunately other jobs have not gone so well. The hothouse over the veggie garden remains un-assembled. This is partly due to needing some materials but mostly due to my own overbearing inertia. We did attempt to get the tractor in there a few weeks ago to bore out the footings. However the bees began to object strongly due to the proximity of the tractor to their hives. Point taken, I will suit up next time I try.

A month ago, or so, we purchased six ex-battery hens to give us some sort of egg supply until we can replace our original flock after the quoll attack. Now I must say I was dubious indeed about getting ex-battery hens. I had done this once before when I was a much younger man and it was a terrible experience- The birds had spent their entire lives crammed into tiny cages and had no idea how to simply be chickens. They did not recognize any food but factory pellets, could not scratch and did not even know to move inside out of the rain let alone perch. I had to teach them all of this. Their beaks had been clipped so severely that they were left with a horny stub making it all but impossible to eat. On this point I will say that in my experience with poultry (of over some twenty-nine years) there is absolutely no excuse for beak clipping under any circumstances! It is a completely barbaric act akin to cutting the nose and lips off a child. For that matter there is no excuse for keeping any animal in battery conditions either.
But back to the case in point. The six ex-battery hens we purchased were certainly an improvement on my previous experiences. Although they had been beak clipped it was at least fairly moderate, not that I approve still, leaving them with a reasonable ability to feed themselves. They were a lot more alert and learned much more quickly even though I still had to teach them about scratching, perching and greens. My wife found it hilarious to see me squatting down beside the hens showing them how to dig for worms (Before anyone says anything, I used my fingers in the dirt! I did not scratch like a chicken with my feet...). I suppose it is good that they get a chance at a new life in a way.

In other news we have taken both cows off the milk (ceased milking) so they have a rest period before dropping their calves late this year. We are hoping everything goes well after last seasons shenanigans. Mind you, the two dairy heifers we raised sold readily and paid quite well upon sale, clearing a few bills. Bonnie's calf, Arthur, is growing well. He looks a lot like his dad, Francis, (We did not name him) although he has his mothers pugnacious attitude. He has been sent over to the neighbours place to spend some time with his dad and keep the grass down. He is developing a magnificent build and I hope to grow him right out to three years.

Today I am continuing the clean out and rearrangement of my workshop. Over the years my acquired tools and materials have threatened to smother any chance of actually working in there. So I have ruthlessly begun a major throwing out of rubbish, evicted the resident pythons, several rats (much to the delight of the cats) and one small termite colony in a pile of beautiful old laminate sheets I was storing for eventual use. Not too happy about the last. Then comes the process of storing all of my tools as well as the tools I have inherited from my father so that they will be safe and preserved. In addition I have given myself back a work place. I hope this will be my last clean out  before I build the new workshop.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Q&A #8 "I could never live where you do- it sounds too dangerous"

OK, I know that is a statement, not a question, but I wanted to post a reply.
I could firstly say that as Australia is my home and I have never known anywhere else it seems perfectly safe to me. Having said that and having consulted many of my overseas friends, Yes this country can be hazardous to the unwary, stupid or just plain unlucky.
Much of our wildlife is quite venomous. We tend to categorize these into:
  1. Dangerous (will kill you very quickly) and 
  2. Not dangerous (wont actually kill you although you will wish you were dead, or will kill you slowly so you have time to get help).
I am not kidding.
A Kiwi friend pointed out the way Aussies have a very cautious but relaxed attitude towards safety. You will always notice an Aussie carefully inspects the place he intends to sit if he is outdoors, making sure there are no "biteys" such as spiders or bull-ants. He will always carefully tap his boots out before putting them on. Aussies will keep a close eye on the ground when walking through the bush and are always alert for the rustling sound of something slithering through the undergrowth. Most of all no Aussie would *ever* put their hand down a hole or under a log without a very, very careful inspection first. Not doing so would likely remove you from the gene pool post-haste. Aussies do not go swimming in estuaries in the north of Australia and preferably dont swim in murky water at all. We are aware that many apparently innocuous objects such as cone shells on the reef and even mossy rocks or pretty little octopus in shallow tidal water can result in an agonizing death.
This is not to say that we live in perpetual terror. We don't. This is home and it is a beautiful place to live but it also encourages a person to be thoughtful and calm about his decisions. Not a bad thing I think as this is also a country where arrogance will quickly get you killed. American tourists in particular- when the sign says "Crocodiles-no swimming!" it really means it.

Monday, 27 June 2016

The month continues

This has not been a good month.
The Quoll attacks have continued. I was late shutting the chooks door one night and the Quoll managed to get in and slaughter almost every chook remaining. I was appalled at the wanton savagery of the attacks. The Quolls did not eat anything, nor carry off any of the dead, they simply slaughtered. I then took precautions to protect the remaining four injured chooks. Unfortunately the largest Quoll managed an impossible leap to an air vent at the back of the pens and finished his work last night. I arrived too late and saw the culprit sitting at the top of the air vent. In a fit of pique I managed to dong him with the chooks feed bowl to send a message and he took off into the dark.
We buried the chooks under fruit trees to at least make some use of the carcasses. I suppose the only up side is that we were soon going to replace the entire flock anyway as they were mostly beyond laying. I just wanted their ends to be a little quicker and kinder than this.
On the same day little Sen was run over by a car on the road out front of the property. We are all very upset by this. She was a beautiful, delicate, little thing. Her sweet nature perfectly countered Reis' tomboy-ish nature. Rei is distraught and clings to me constantly. She will get over it though. Unfortunately that is just the way of farm life. It is a dangerous environment and the Australian bush can be very unforgiving to the unwary.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The month of blood!

Sounds like a horror movie doesn't it? This month we have been besieged by predators all around. I don't know why, food must be hard to come by at the moment.
The pigeons have been constantly stalked by a bolder than usual Grey Goshawk, the Pythons are on the move in the warmer than usual weather, the mouse plague is still going strong despite the efforts of the three cats and wild dogs are roaming nearby each night although our maremma, Alessa, has been keeping them at a distance.
Last night the chooks were attacked by Quolls. We had finished dinner when we heard a commotion from the chook shed and the sound of a chook in distress. I grabbed a torch and ran out to the chook shed in thongs (footwear- not the undies!) pausing long enough to grab the axe as I shot past. I was fairly certain a big scrub python was running amok in with the chooks. However, when I got there I was confronted by a sizeable Quoll busily savaging a chook and feathers everywhere. The strangest thing was that he was completely unconcerned by my presence and continued killing his meal with me standing close enough to touch him.  It was only when I began banging the wire and making a fuss did he reluctantly retreat. A large Rhode island red chook lay dead and half eaten, a bantam hen lay dead and savaged and another hen was wounded. I was amazed at not only the savagery of the attack but also the complete lack of concern at my presence. I secured the chook shed, which had been left open through my own neglect, and removed the bodies to a nearby location so the quolls could hopefully finish their meal and not try to dig into the pens. The large, I am guessing, male quoll was soon joined by a smaller quoll, probably female. Once again largely unworried by the nearby humans.
Here I am conflicted. Quolls are an endangered species and so I overjoyed at having them living in the area. Conflicted with the need to protect my livestock. I suppose the solution will be to ensure all possible prey are secured each night and to accept the losses of any that are not.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Spare milk

There is never really any such thing as spare milk. What we don't drink we make into cheese. Failing that it will go to fatten pigs or meat chickens. However, on days we do not save the milk for ourselves in the sterile bucket, there is always a little extra for the cats.

June update

It has been a very odd beginning to the winter this year. A month of mucky weather before finally turning on a week of beautiful skies and cold nights. Finally it is cold enough to have a fire at night and snuggle up under the doona. The rain, out of season, was hard as it mucked up my work schedule.
In a fit of desperation I tried to clear an old garden bed of a noxious vine (I always understood it to be called Brazilian Passion vine but a search has yielded no results). It is a rampantly growing vine that strongly resembles domestic passion fruit vines in every way except it bears no edible fruit. It is also a strong grower and will readily smother whole trees if left unchecked. The vine was well entangled in the undergrowth and had climbed up into the trees above. So in a fit of either brilliance, stupidity or possibly desperation I took a long length of one inch rope and tied it around the middle of the vine. My intention was to use the tractor to pull the vine free of the garden bed in one mass. I have done this successfully several times before on a smaller scale. Unfortunately the vine was well anchored at both ends. The tractor ended up snapping the rope several times and then gouged deep ruts into the orchard lawn.
This gave me the "Irrits" so I fetched my trusty chainsaw and cut away everything the vine was attached to. This meant felling every tree in the garden as well. I then cut it all up and burned it off as much as I could. The bigger stuff will need more time to dry yet so I will have a bonfire towards the end of winter.
It is a pity I don't have a before and after shot as the effect would be quite dramatic. I also intend to fell most of the trees in the foreground leaving a rather handsome Tibouchina. My wife was rather taken aback at the extent of my glorious victory over the rampant vine hordes. Apparently I was just supposed to be "neatening up the garden beds". Oh well.
On the plus side I think we have found a good site for my new potting shed.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Q&A #7 Don't you find using a gun contrary to your lifestyle?

OK, this is one of those questions that doesn't go away. I am frequently taken to task by the anti-gun brigade because I use a rifle on the farm. I am told guns are only for killing, guns make murderers, guns are evil, guns supply criminals and so on and so forth.
So let me make this clear. A gun is a tool. It is not evil or anything else, it is just a tool made of wood and steel. On its own a gun is completely inanimate and harmless. The weakness in a gun is the human using it. The exact same weakness is found in humans using both cars and knives- both of which cause far more deaths in Australia each year than guns! I have yet to hear of anyone joining an anti-knife or anti-car lobby however. It simply appears that the media and a few politicians find it convenient to villainize guns and gun owners in a country where the majority lives in an urban environment and has no use for such tools. Were the same sources to try to ban cars and knives they would be looked upon as idiots!

Having said that I firmly do not believe everyone should have the right to own a gun. There are most definitely individuals out there who should not be allowed to own a gun, or for that matter be permitted to breed! I am a firm advocate of licensing the individual and tracking ownership of all firearms. Why? For the same reason you need a car license! To prove you are a fit person to use this device.

Now on a farm a gun becomes an essential tool if you keep livestock. We live by a firm set of rules regarding the humane treatment of our animals and one of those is that the death of any livestock must be instant, unexpected and painless. The most reliable method to achieve this by far is to destroy the animals brain with a single well placed shot from a rifle. A rifle allows me to stand at a safe distance or shoot from an unseen angle and carries killing force over a long distance. I take great care to be an expert with my marksmanship and will never take the shot unless I am absolutely sure of its placement. Likewise I carefully follow all safety procedures with a firearm. If you do this you should never have reason for an accident.
  1. A gun is always considered to be loaded and is treated as such. Whenever you pick up a firearm the muzzle is kept pointed in a safe direction and the weapon is opened to inspect the condition (to find out if there is a bullet in the chamber and if the magazine is loaded). You do this regardless of having just witnessed someone else do this in front of you. 
  2. You must ALWAYS be aware of the direction the muzzle is pointed regardless of having just safety checked the weapon. This will eventually become a habit and this is a good thing.
  3. You must be aware of the background before you shoot- where is the bullet going to go and how far will it travel.
  4. You must ALWAYS positively identify your target before shooting. 
  5. You must make safe (step#1) your gun when you have finished shooting and before it is cleaned and stored.
  6. Your gun must be safely and legally stored in a locked container. In this country this means the container meets certain safe requirements and is firmly bolted to the building.
I have been a shooter all of my adult life. I know a gun for what it is, a tool. Likewise I know to use the correct tool for the job. For light game and livestock I use a .22 rifle. It fires a very small bullet and is a very versatile gun for small livestock such as sheep and the like. For larger livestock where I want to be sure of a definite kill even if I slightly miss the brain I would use a .44Magnum rifle. This fires a large lead slug that transfers enormous energy to the target so that even if the brain were missed by an inch or so, the resultant shock wave will still pulverize it instantly. This is exceptionally good for livestock that wants to move around a lot like pigs or should you need to put down an injured bullock in an emergency. I make it a habit to always check on the results of the shot when I slaughter an animal. I want to ensure a painless kill.

So there you have it folks. I use guns like I use any other tool.
To the young anti-gun-lobby-lady-from-the-city I can only ask you to show me your anti-car lobby and anti-knife lobby cards when next you visit. If you really are about saving lives and not just joining the media bandwagon you will of course belong to these groups too.

Monday, 23 May 2016

May update

It has been a busy month, thus my tardiness in posting here. Sorry about that.
We aged the steer killed late last month for two and a half weeks in the coldroom before doing the cut up. The meat aged particularly well. Very little burn and almost no mold on the exterior surfaces. We cut up on some raised benches in the carport, making cleanup easier- no floors to scrub afterwards, plus all the fiddly bits that hit the floor are consumed by chickens. I am very pleased with the quality of the meat, there was plenty of body fat and the flesh is rich and marbled. So I broke the carcasse down into fillets, oysters, blade for mincing and shanks for slow roasting, Rump and round steaks, silverside for mincing (I detest silverside). Roasts from the T bone and nearby. The mince was then turned into a selection of sausages, plain beef bangers and herb and garlic specials. I also made a couple of pounds of spicy chorizo as I love a good chorizo. The bones were then recovered for the dogs and the final inedible waste would not have filled a twenty litre bucket! I am exceptionally happy with the rate of meat recovery we are getting now. The freezer is now packed and it is a good feeling to look into the freezer knowing you are supplied with beef for the coming year.
While I had the cold room running I took the opportunity to cull some of the guineafowl flock and hang them like game in the cold room for four days. To do this I set up a hide in the milking shed and quietly shot four adults with the .22. Headshots so as not to spoil the meat. They turned out to be quite palatable but rather dry. I am thinking a stew next time or else using the slow cooker.

Work on the hot house has been curtailed by a very late wet season with overnight falls of up to 206mm making the ground too soft to drive machinery across under any circumstances. On the plus side the water tanks are all full.

The new addition to our farm is a pair of kittens (Rei and Sen, left to right) to aid and eventually replace Jasmine in her mouse catching duties. The timing could not be better as we appear to be having a mouse plague in our district. Both kittens have already notched up several kills and show signs of being excellent ratters..

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Q&A #6 Why dont you keep goats?

I am often asked this question.
There is a popular misconception among the green fraternity that the Goat is the perfect animal for any smallholding. Well, they aren't.
Now before a million goat lovers write me heated letters please understand that many years ago I and my family lived on goat milk and chevon (goat meat) for several years. I have dealt with goats under any circumstance you can think of and my opinion is that if you like goats, you can have them! While goats can be absolutely lovable creatures at times they are also stubborn, devious and far, far too intelligent! In addition a goat is the single hardest animal in creation to fence in! The last time a frustrated gardener asked me how to keep her goats fenced out of her vegetable garden after their latest raid had leveled the place I suggested razor wire and machine gun sentries! Failing that put the goats in the freezer. You can either have orchards and veggie gardens- or goats but you will never keep the two successfully together.
Having said all that, my main reason for not keeping goats here is that this area is simply not suited for them. We receive far too much rain and goats hate getting wet, they are also very susceptible to parasites found in wet conditions and get foot-rot easily. Cattle remain unfazed by these obstacles and fare much better in this area. Now if I lived down on the dry lands I would consider goats indeed because a goat will thrive on absolutely rubbish land and produce just as much milk and meat as it would on green pastures. I have seen them do so when cattle were wasting away!
At the end of the day you must grow what is suitable for your area and accept that some things will just never thrive in some areas. Therefore we keep cattle and pigs, hardy breed chickens and meat pigeons. These are animals complimentary to our area, landscape and weather. 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Q&A #5 Please explain the "nutrient cycle" you mentioned?

The Nutrient cycle is really the core of our whole existence on this planet- and where humanity for the most part has come unstuck.
In essence it means that all nutrient (energy) remains in constant motion as each creature lives it uses nutrient and in its wastes and eventual death in turn provides nutrient to other creatures. On a small farm if we were to farm in a truly organic manner this would mean that we try to return as much of the nutrient we use as possible to the soil so that it in turn can be used to feed the farm as a whole. If we try to only import nutrient (in the form of stock feed and the like) and do not allow the end nutrient to leave the farm it follows that over time you will enrich the soil of the farm far beyond its original capacity. Of course this means that you are technically stealing nutrient from another source. This is the problem with industrial level farming where the soil is continually harvested for all it can provide and the nutrient is then shipped off to big cities where it is consumed and then flushed out to sea as sewage.
What a colossal waste!
Worst of all is that those industrial farms are then "fertilized" with chemicals made largely from petroleum and even then they are grudgingly given only as much as the next crop needs and no more. The soil is in no way improved or fed. The soil life dies and the soil is little more than a growing medium bare of life. Doubt me? Go dig a hole in a field on a large scale industrial farm and see how many worms and the like you find. Compare this to even a simple shovelful of soil from a good organic garden!
The point I am getting at is that you must feed the soil before you feed anything else on your farm! From your soil comes all other life on the farm. It is a living creature, like a coral reef, full of diverse life. Each contributes to the soil and enhances plant life. The plant life in turn feeds us as vegetables, our livestock as grass and makes compost to be returned to the soil. Trees reach deep down to the bedrock where they extract nutrient grasses cannot reach, they will then shed leaves and bark to create that wonderfully rich humus. Trees also attract wildlife which import nutrient in the form of droppings.
So on the perfect farm I would feed my soil. All my livestock would contribute through their manure- processed into a more readily usable fertilizer to feed the soil life. All household organic wastes are either fed to livestock or else directly composted. A variety of livestock is kept to provide a variety of manures each rich in their own elements. Cow manure is soft and easily makes good black soil, pig manure is rich in almost every area and chickens and pigeons manure is high in nitrogen and phosphorus. Best of all is human manure. The ultimate sin of humanity is to pump this, the best available nutrient of all, into the ocean out of pure squeamishness. It has long been proven that human wastes are easily processed and rendered harmless of any pathogens while also producing a valuable fuel gas, methane, at the same time! If I can (and I am still checking the council by-laws but it does look feasible) I will be emptying and spreading the contents of my septic tank onto a paddock left unstocked for three months. The sunlight and exposure to air will render it harmless in a short time and the results on the grass should be dynamic. Indeed, if possible I would like to be eventually buried on this farm, or perhaps mulched, to give some tree in the orchard a good head start.
On the perfect farm nothing should be wasted. All that you use should come from your farm and then returned to the soil when you are done with it. In time the soil will grow rich beyond anything you have ever seen and will abound with life. That is true farming and that is the Nutrient cycle.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

April rains

The wet season has come late this year, again. Nevertheless we are continuing work about the place as we can.
The meat pigeons, which had been doing so well suffered a serious setback when a local python discovered a way into their shed at night. Suddenly there were no more squabs to be had and even the eggs began to disappear. So after some discussion we decided the best way to solve this problem was to cement the floor of the shed and seal up all of the ways in. I doubt even a mouse could get into the pigeon loft now without a ladder. The shed was always designed to have a cement floor for this reason, we just had to move that project ahead on the list to make sure we can keep a steady supply of meat coming. Nests began to appear all over the shed once the floor went in! I counted eight nesting mothers this morning and we should be eating squab again in four weeks or so.
Last week I went over to a mates place to bring our meat steer back for slaughter. Loading him proved surprisingly easy for once. On Tuesday the slaughter man came in (yes, we still have not constructed the gambrel and frame we need for a full sized beast) and did the kill and quarter. I then carried each quarter into the waiting cold room to age for a couple of weeks. The quarters were heavy indeed! Or perhaps I am just getting old. Either way the steer, Timmy, was three and a half years old and in prime condition. We enjoyed a breakfast of devilled kidneys the next morning.

Monday, 7 March 2016

I am a wealthy Man

An interesting conversation the other day.
I was talking with an acquaintance from Africa*. He is a tall strong man with a mouth full of good teeth and a wide smile. He laughs readily and fills the room with joy when he does. I am also informed by the girls that he is very good looking!
Anyway, we were talking about our relative histories. He came from what we would call a background of poverty and war although he recalled fond memories and claimed he had a good childhood of love and family. His people never went too hungry and he considered his family to be reasonably well off. They had a small amount of land and a house. Some livestock and the children were able to obtain a basic education.
Obviously I was compelled to ask him his view of Australia in comparison. He thought Australia was like heaven. He had a positively palatial house in comparison to his home in Africa. No one had ever pointed a gun at him here and he could get a job easily. Best of all he could drink water from a tap in his house. This last comment I found unusual. He explained that to have a tap *in his own house* that gives water that is fresh and good all day long is absolutely unheard of in his country. Of all the things in his day to day life it is access to fresh water he likes the most. The government here even considers it his *right* to have this water! Amazing.

Makes you think doesn't it?

I was more than a little humbled to say the least. My childhood was that of a spoiled prince in comparison despite being firmly middle class Australian. He asked me about my upbringing and I felt more than a little ashamed at my own casual attitude to what I had, until now, taken for granted. However what amazed me the most was his response when I described my farm and lifestyle. His eyes lit up when I said I possessed ten acres of good land, a house (large by his standards) and various livestock but most of all seven cattle! "Oh in my country you would be a very important man!" To say I was amazed by this response would be an understatement. This man is not far from gaining his PHD! He is educated far beyond anything I will ever achieve yet he placed me in a high status because of my farm and cattle. I am truly honoured.
He also asked if I wanted another wife as his eldest daughter would soon need a husband? I gracefully declined. (I almost sure he was joking....)

The most mundane of conversations can change our lives. I will forever be grateful to my friend, he has opened a new window in my life.

* Name and precise location withheld at his request

Friday, 4 March 2016

The parable of the wild pigs.

The following parable has been shared many times by email and on sites on the Internet, and for good reason.  It tells of the relation between freedom and independence.  The details of its origin are not clear, but it was told by George Gordon, and this transcript is credited to Steve Washam. 


The Wild and Free Pigs of the Okefenokee Swamp

Some years ago, about 1900, an old trapper from North Dakota hitched up some horses to his Studebaker wagon, packed a few possessions--especially his traps--and drove south. Several weeks later he stopped in a small town just north of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. It was a Saturday morning--a lazy day--when he walked into the general store. Sitting around the pot-bellied stove were seven or eight of the town's local citizens. The traveler spoke, "Gentlemen, could you direct me to the Okefenokee Swamp?" Some of the oldtimers looked at him like he was crazy.

"You must be a stranger in these parts," they said.

"I am. I'm from North Dakota," said the stranger.

"In the Okefenokee Swamp are thousands of wild hogs," one old man explained, "A man who goes into the swamp by himself asks to die!"

He lifted up his leg. "I lost half my leg here, to the pigs of the swamp."

Another old fellow said, "Look at the cuts on me; look at my arm bit off!" "Those pigs have been free since the Revolution, eating snakes and rooting out roots and fending for themselves for over a hundred years. They're wild and they're dangerous. You can't trap them. No man dare go into the swamp by himself."

Every man nodded his head in agreement.

The old trapper said, "Thank you so much for the warning. Now could you direct me to the swamp?"

They said, "Well, yeah, it's due south--straight down the road." But they begged the stranger not to go, because they knew he'd meet a terrible fate.

He said, "Sell me ten sacks of corn, and help me load them into the wagon."

And they did.

Then the old trapper bid them farewell and drove on down the road. The townsfolk thought they'd never see him again.

Two weeks later the man came back. He pulled up to the general store, got down off the wagon, walked in and bought ten more sacks of corn. After loading it up he went back down the road toward the swamp.

Two weeks later he returned and, again, bought ten sacks of corn.

This went on for a month; Then two months, and then three. Every week or two the old trapper would come into town on a Saturday morning, load up ten sacks of corn and drive off south into the swamp. The stranger soon became a legend in the little village and the subject of much speculation. People wondered what kind of devil had possessed this man, that he could go into the Okefenokee by himself and not be consumed by the wild and free hogs.

One morning the man came into town as usual. Everyone thought he wanted more corn.

He got off the wagon and went into the store where the usual group of men were gathered around the stove. He took off his gloves. "Gentlemen," he said, "I need to hire about ten or fifteen wagons. I need twenty or thirty men. I have six thousand hogs out in the swamp, penned up, and they're all hungry. I've got to get them to market right away." "You've WHAT in the swamp?" asked the storekeeper, incredulously. "I have six thousand hogs penned up. They haven't eaten for two or three days, and they'll starve if I don't get back there to feed and take care of them."

One of the old timers said, "You mean you've captured the wild hogs of the Okefenokee?"

"That's right."

"How did you do that? What did you do?" the men urged, breathlessly. One of them exclaimed, "But I lost my arm!"

"I lost my brother!" cried another.

"I lost my leg to those wild boars!" chimed a third. The trapper said, "Well, the first week I went in there they were wild all right. They hid in the undergrowth and wouldn't come out. I dared not get off the wagon. So I spread corn along behind the wagon. Every day I'd spread a sack of corn.

"The old pigs would have nothing to do with it. But the younger pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn than it was to root out roots and catch snakes. So the very young began to eat the corn first. "I did this every day. Pretty soon, even the old pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn, after all, they were all free; they were not penned up. They could run off in any direction they wanted at any time. "The next thing was to get them used to eating in the same place all the time. So, I selected a clearing, and I started putting the corn in the clearing.

"At first they wouldn't come to the clearing. It was too far. It was too open. It was a nuisance to them.

"But the very young decided that it was easier to take the corn in the clearing than it was to root out roots and catch their own snakes. And not long thereafter, the older pigs also decided that it was easier to come to the clearing every day.

"And so the pigs learned to come to the clearing every day to get their free corn. They could still subsidize their diet with roots and snakes and whatever else they wanted. After all, they were all free. They could run in any direction at any time. There were no bounds upon them. "The next step was to get them used to fence posts. So I put fence posts all the way around the clearing. I put them in the underbrush so that they wouldn't get suspicious or upset, after all, they were just sticks sticking up out of the ground, like the trees and the brush. The corn was there every day. It was easy to walk in between the posts, get the corn, and walk back out.

"This went on for a week or two. Shortly they became very used to walking into the clearing, getting the free corn, and walking back out through the fence posts.

"The next step was to put one rail down at the bottom. I also left a few openings, so that the older, fatter pigs could walk through the openings and the younger pigs could easily jump over just one rail, after all, it was no real threat to their freedom or independence--they could always jump over the rail and flee in any direction at any time.

"Now I decided that I wouldn't feed them every day. I began to feed them every other day. On the days I didn't feed them, the pigs still gathered in the clearing. They squealed, and they grunted, and they begged and pleaded with me to feed them-- but I only fed them every other day. Then I put a second rail around the posts.

"Now the pigs became more and more desperate for food. Because now they were no longer used to going out and digging their own roots and finding their own food, they now needed me. They needed my corn every other day." "So I trained them that I would feed them every day if they came in through a gate and I put up a third rail around the fence.

"But it was still no great threat to their freedom, because there were several gates and they could run in and out at will. "Finally I put up the fourth rail. Then I closed all the gates but one, and I fed them very, very well."

"Yesterday I closed the last gate and today I need you to help me take these pigs to market."


     The lesson in this parable is that the "free" tax money is a bait that leads to a trap with an intention to enslave those that were independent.  Men that were independent become used to having "benefits" that come from subsidies like vouchers for private schools, welfare, farm programs, Medicaid and Medicare. In the recording, (see below) Gordon says that Social Security is part of this trap. 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Today on the Cloud Farm soap opera.

Whenever possible we like to do the morning chores together. It not only makes it easier to get things done quickly but it is also a nice time to observe everything around us. We keep tabs on the latest developments in the chicken hierarchy as the roosters and hens constantly strive to adjust their position on the social ladder. The pigeons meanwhile will call and tap-dance on the cow shed roof until they are fed. This brings the guineafowl running to steal as much of the pigeons food as possible. This year we have a lot of keets so far. Three mothers decided to combine their flocks to form one super flock of keets allowing them a lot more push when it comes time to muscle in on the feed.
The cows will come in to be fed and milked. Bonnie is currently bucking for position as top cow but I think it will be a while until Annabelle decides to move down the ladder. Bonnie has also been pushing the limits of behaviour with the humans to see how much she can get away with. For the most part she is obedient to my wishes. However I notice she will push as far as she can with my wife. I will often be feeding the chooks when I hear a shrill squawk of outrage from the wife followed by Bonnie receiving a heated telling off. Bonnie knows if she pushes it too far I will make an appearance. Rufus will wait for the commotion to settle before going back to his face-washing service he runs for the cows. They seem to like it.
Another source of frustration for the wife has been Ivan the rooster. For a while he had developed the habit of entering the milking shed and letting go with a full throated bellow from not two feet away. I can tell you a big Rhode Island Red crowing in a small shed is truly deafening. This morning I was about to check the rain gauge when I heard "COCK-A-DOODLE-Glubbbble". Not quite the ending one generally hears from a rooster. I entered the milking shed as I was passed at high speed by a sodden rooster to find my wife quietly milking the cow with a smug expression. Apparently she had managed to hit Ivan squarely in the face with the washing water bucket, mid crow.
Currently Ivan is *not* speaking to any of us. A roosters dignity is easily offended. The hens have lately taken to laying in secret nests, usually in the vacant pig pen. I find if I watch carefully I will see a hen quietly sidle off into the bushes when she thinks no one is watching. A careful search later reveals a clutch of eggs usually hidden under a bush.

Having been fed the pigeons will return to their full time hobby- SEX. The cock birds will coo and wobble about as they dance to impress the ladies. The ladies do their best to look unimpressed. Judging by the amount of squabs they are hatching I guess the are not all that unimpressed!
The King parrots will usually make an appearance. If the chooks have not left any feed for them they will make their displeasure known by raiding the bananas.The King parrots have the most unusual call of any parrot. It is a series of descending notes slow and spaced, becoming softer with each note. It sounds like the caller really cant be bothered and runs out of energy at the end. I am sure I sometimes hear a muttered "stuff it, I just cant be bothered..." and the finish of the call.
Jasmine, our world class ratter, remains firmly aloof from the soap opera about her. She will calmly ignore the berating guineafowl as she walks through the middle of their flock, she does not hear the raucous crowing of the roosters and the pigeons are plainly beneath her dignity to notice. In fact the only livestock to cause her concern are the cows who long to give her a lick as she walks along the fence.I notice she times her fence-walking for when the cows are not present.
Rufus, on the other hand, makes it his business to be involved in absolutely everything that happens on the Cloud Farm. Here he is spying on the Lady Cloud farmer as she is putting on her gumboots. He absolutely adores her and will follow her everywhere. He considers me the Alpha dog but my wife, as far as he is concerned, is MUM!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Q&A #4 Buying the farm

Q: Ulf, I want to buy my own farm and live a green lifestyle, can you give me some advice?"

This subject could and should fill a book on its own. In fact I have several books on exactly this. So my answer here is going to be understandably shorter than it realistically ought to be. Instead I will point you to the information you will really need.

Starting point- Lose the illusions!
  • Most of farm life is not romantic and beautiful. It is a lot of hard work and often heartache. You will see projects fail, fruit stolen by the birds, veggies eaten by caterpillars, stock die and fences break. This is the flip side of the coin when everything works out.
  • You will have to deal with heat and cold, mud, rain and whatever the weather throws at you. Not optional, Stock will need to be fed or milked, plants watered or sheltered.
  • You will deal with life and death and often at the most grizzly extreme. Just accept this. If you cannot then please stay in the city.
  • You will be tied to your lifestyle as the running of the farm will depend on you. Holidays might be few and far between if you have to milk the cows everyday.
  • You will need to be fit enough to deal with the constant lifestyle. You will have to lift heavy things sometimes, work for extended periods. You will be injured sooner or later and there are certainly a lot more things that can hurt you on a farm.
  • You will need the support of your family, you cannot do this alone. Don't do this if your spouse has no interest in helping! Nothing will destroy this lifestyle and possibly your marriage faster than this.
  • You will need a lot of common sense and the ability to work with your hands. Do I need to explain this one?
  • Forget anything about farm life you have ever seen in the movies!
Next- Learn, learn, learn!
  • Read every book you can find on farming, animal husbandry, gardening, self sufficiency and anything even vaguely similar. If possible, buy and keep these books. If you read nothing else you should start with The new complete book of self sufficiency by John Seymour . Regardless of what part of the world you live in this book is probably the most useful of all.
  • Investigate the type of farm you want to have and try to get some experience helping out on farms in the area you want to live in.
  • Talk to people already living on their own farms in the area you want to live in. Find out what is possible there and what is not. 
  • Learn the practical skills you will need as soon as you can. How to fence, slaughter a beast, dig a garden, preserve fruit, light a fire, use a chainsaw, do basic carpentry, do plumbing, replace a roof sheet, sink a hole, shift large rocks, use a firearm, handle livestock and so on.Understand that these practical skills will make or break you when dealing with farm life. You have to be as capable as possible in almost every area.
Make a list.
This is possibly the most important list you will ever make when buying a property. It will have two parts.
The first section will be features that are absolutely essential for you to consider the property at all. If the property fails in any of these points, walk away!
The second part of this list are features you would like the property to have but are willing to do without.
You use this list as your checklist when viewing any place for sale and you do not deviate on the mandatory requirements!
As an example I will give the checklist my wife and I used when we were looking for our farm.

  1. Within our price range and fairly priced.
  2. Must have reliable and good water source year round
  3. Must have a house in reasonable repair with at least three bedrooms
  4. Must have reliable grazing to support roughly five head of cattle
  5. Must have space for vegetable garden and orchard
  6. Must have reasonable growing soil
  7. Must have a good farm shed with power
  8. Must have good neighbours at a reasonable distance from the house
  9. Must be within 40 minute drive of the local town
  10. Must have reasonable fencing for livestock
Optional preferred features 
  1. 100+ acres good grazing
  2. extra farm sheds
  3. established orchard
  4. improved pastures
  5. established veggie garden
  6. on a dead end road to limit traffic
  7. abutting rainforest
  8. nice views, especially sunsets
  9. renewable energy potential
  10. potential for home based/ farm based business
  11. not near large industry
  12. no dirt bikes!
  13. minimal feral pest problems
  14. good stockyards with loading ramps
  15. coldroom
  16. ........and so on and so forth
 So you get the idea. I wont lie to you, we truly fell in love with a couple of properties that were missing one or two of the mandatory features! Fortunately we made ourselves stick to our list and in hindsight I am glad we did. Both properties would have been terrible mistakes!

Lastly, remember you are going to have to actually PAY for the place. You will need to ensure you either have a source of income local to your farm or else you can purchase it outright from your own funds. This can simply be the biggest hurdle you will face in this day and age and the banking vampires have no interest in helping you beyond their own profits. In fact you may find rural based loans can be a lot harder to obtain in many areas.

Now if you have read all of this and are still not put off, then I wish you the best of luck. Despite the enormous hardships my wife and I faced to get to where we are we still would not change a thing!

We love it here!

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

I got to play that old joke recently!
I asked a lady who grew very good rhubarb what she preferred to put on them. She told me they were always best with aged cow manure and a little chook poo.
A few weeks later I saw her and she asked how I went with my rhubarb? I told her "I tried your suggestion, I really did, but I must say I still prefer them with cream..."
She laughed so hard she dropped her tea cup!
Old joke but a goodie!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

My new toy, the cheese vat

The most critical part of cheese making after hygiene is temperature. For a long time now I have been messing about with pots on the stove and thermometers, all the time dreaming of having my own cheese vat.
Finally I had a burst of inspiration and wondered if it might not be possible to convert an electric baine marie to hold the precise temperatures needed? Soon, after some hunting on the internet, I was the owner of a twenty litre water-jacketed baine marie which arrived having had every single wire inside shaken off its mounts. Not to worry, I was soon off to see my local electrician anyway for he was to fit a digital thermostat in place of the simple dial control that came with the tub.
He managed to source a heater unit that will control the temperatures from 0 to 90 degrees Celsius with a one degree variation.
So the very next day I loaded the unit with twenty fresh litres of milk- we are weaning the calves so we have a surplus of milk right now. I dialed the temperature for 32 degrees and set about making a Fetta. I chose fetta because it is a very simple cheese and does not need to be aged, well not for long anyway.
The temperature stayed exactly spot on throughout the entire process. Within an hour and a half I was cutting the curd.
Then I began stirring the curd in the whey to stop it setting into a mass. This gentle agitation also helps drive out the whey making the curd firmer.
This is now the meal Little Miss Muffet was settling down to enjoy when she had that unfortunate incident with the spider. I imagine it would be quite nice with a little honey.
Lastly the curds are removed from the whey and placed in a cheese basket overnight and turned every few hours or so. The basket has a pattern on it to make the cheese look all folksy. Personally I don't think it makes any difference to the cheese. The next morning I place the cheese in a 15% brine solution and store in the fridge. It can be eaten immediately though. Quite happy with this one. It has a very nice aroma and an excellent texture.
Now I will have to get my cheese fridge repaired. I had modified it to run at 12.5 degrees but after a year it ceased working. Probably my fault. I expect the local repair man will give me a dressing down when he looks at it. Oh well, just so long as I get my cheese-aging fridge back again.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Time to harvest the honey.

It has been blisteringly hot this week. 37 degrees Celsius yesterday (I think that is something like 98 Fahrenheit). Even though we are in the tropics, we live at altitude and out summers rarely if ever even break 30 degrees. I am definitely getting soft. I grew up in Townsville where anything under 40 degrees is considered lovely and over 45 is "a bit warm". 
Anyway, my point is what better time to don a full head to toe bee suit and go life heavy weights in the sun? Believe me if there was an option I would not be doing it but the bees have filled their supers and are getting crowded. If this is not attended to they will soon swarm out. So I borrowed an extractor and an uncapping knife as I have not yet bought my own and today I went to work. As soon as I had thrown the feed at the various livestock I donned my bee suit and lit the hive smoker. I had already laid out all the extraction gear the day before. I then went down to the hives and first cleared the long grass from the entrances with the scythe before smoking the hives. Unfortunately the lady wife and son were out for the day so photos are limited- hands covered in honey, wax and propolis are not a good thing for cameras.
I then did a quick inspection of the new hive and found it is growing nicely. Very pleased. Then came the heavy lifting where I had to remove the supers loaded with honey from the second hive. Now each super weighs about thirty kilos when full and care must be taken when lifting. This is when I came unstuck. *Thinks to self*... "I shouldnt have picked this up like this"... TWANG... "ARGH @$#%%&*$$" and my back was well and truly "stuffed" as we say in Australia(at least this is the most polite description I can use).
Well now I was in a bit of a pickle, the honey had to be extracted today (as the supers needed to go back on the hives same day) and I had absolutely no one to help. So I dragged the supers up to the house and went off to find painkillers and a lie down for an hour.
The uncapping station. Frames are perched on the board over the tub and the hot knife is used to remove the wax cappings
Once the painkillers kicked in I got back into action. I boiled a pot of water for the uncapping knife (it is an unheated type so needs to be dipped in hot water) and began gently slicing the cappings off the cells. The scent of honey like this is just amazing, totally unlike the scent of honey in a jar. The cappings go into a tub for later sieving and draining and the combs go into the extractor two at a time.
The combs are then spun, very gently at first to remove about half the honey on one side, this reduces the weight on the comb. They are then turned around and fully spun out on the other side, then turned back and the final spinning removes the last of the honey. These combs are now empty cells and are known as "stickies". The process continues until the entire super of ten frames is done.
Time for a cuppa. Let the collected honey finish draining through the sieve and pour into the holding tank.
Repeat the whole process. Another cuppa and clean up. Return the stickies to the hives. Bees are a bit pissed off but they will get over it.
All up I think I have about thirty litres once the cappings are drained. The honey is a dark gold with a wonderful floral scent and a mid sweet floral taste. No bitter aftertaste. I am very pleased. 
I will take some honey to my neighbours, it is important to honour old traditions and a beekeeper should always see that his neighbours have honey.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Q&A #3 Vegetarians and other garden pests

Q: Why are you not a vegetarian?

Warning: If you are an emotional vegetarian type who cannot take criticism now is a good time to skip this post!

We are not vegetarian for a very simple reason. Human beings are an omnivore. Fact. Even the most cursory glance at our dentition, the length of our intestine, the balance of stomach acids, the number of stomachs we have and the efficiency of our overall digestive system proves beyond a doubt that human beings eat meat or at the very least meat proteins.
From a viewpoint of belief, I believe humans are just another animal on the surface of this planet. We do not live apart from nature despite the opinions of big business and government. As a human animal I will eat my natural diet insofar as is possible.
I freely admit I could live on milk product and eggs to meet these needs and this may sound all fluffy and happy to the new age types until you consider that a cow must have a calf to give milk and only hens lay eggs. If we were not to harm any animal and live this way we would soon be swamped by an excess of bulls and cockerels needing feed and space. Remember half the chicks hatched are cock birds and half the calves born are bull calves. Instead we give them a good life and grow them to maturity. They are then painlessly killed for meat.
The animals on our farm are also a vital part of the nutrient cycle. The dung from the various animals produces a valuable compost far richer than anything made from vegetable matter alone. A farm with no animals to supply this concentrated richness would be a poor affair indeed!

Q: But don't you become attached to your animals?

Of course we do! We very deliberately make sure we know each and every animal on the farm. We take great pains to hand tame them and ensure they have no fear of humans. They are treated with kindness and the utmost care to ensure they remain healthy and happy.
There are several very important reasons for this:
  1. We must know our food was raised and treated humanely. I believe this is a core requirement of our own humanity. To eat meat produced under cruel conditions is to condone those methods.
  2. When the time comes to kill an animal for meat it has no fear or apprehension anything is about to happen. It is comfortable and relaxed around humans and its death is absolutely painless and sudden. This is an absolute rule on our farm. 
  3. An animal treated with care and kindness produces better meat. If I am to put years of care and feeding into an animal, I want the best result possible.
Do I have feelings of regret when I have to kill a steer I have known for three years? Yes. However, this animal was given life, a good life, for this purpose and now the time has come.
 Finally a little note for vegetarians, especially vegans. Next time you want to lecture me on the evils of killing animals, please make sure you are not doing so while wearing leather shoes and a woolen jumper. If you do I shall treat you as the fool you are!

Q&A #2 Hard work

Q: Isn't your lifestyle a lot of hard work?

It certainly is! But what is wrong with that? To be asked this question by a person who pays money to work out in a gym is sad to say the least. I would prefer to do work that yields a practical result apart from making me fitter and a gym owner richer. There is a real satisfaction in finishing with a new stretch of fence or a pile of firewood for the winter.
It is also just what we do. We do not drive fast cars or go to the football each weekend for entertainment. In general I find the concept of watching someone else playing a sport to be an exercise in futility and complete waste of my time*. Our fun is found on our farm. When you have a yard full of livestock you will never need to watch a soap opera again! The longer we live here the more reluctant we are to go out into town. There is always something interesting to do and when done spending time sitting in the shade with a cup of coffee just enjoying the view will keep me happy for hours.
*Except for Sumo. If two fat guys smacking the crap out of each other is not a night of fun I don't know what is!

Q&A #1 "Why do you do it?"

Q: Why do you live the way you do? Why live the green/ permaculture/ organic/ hippie etc lifestyle? 

For the most part I will simply answer that I prefer to live on my own farm growing my own food. I suppose the larger answer is that the world is going to get a lot more crowded in our lifetimes unless we as a species start accepting some responsibility. Taking control of our personal impact upon this planet is the major reason we chose this lifestyle. We are responsible for our own food and for the wastes we produce insofar as we are able. Even though we are not now and probably will never be fully self sufficient we will still attempt to do as little damage as humanly possible.
Our lifestyle is also a living example and encouragement to those who are interested for whatever reason. Many folks in our community use us as a practical library- we have taught people to grow veggies, milk cows, slaughter livestock, make cheese, keep bees, build fences and so on.
The last and possibly most accurate reason for me personally is that I just need the space to live like a real human being. I firmly believe city life is entirely detrimental to human kind. It is an environment where people are shielded from the natural world and as a result lose the understanding of their place in the natural cycle. We are just another animal on this planet, nothing more, and it is high time we began behaving like good neighbours rather than overlords.
On our farm we live alongside nature. Our farm is divided in two. The top level of our farm is paddocks and orchards. This is where we live alongside our livestock and grow our food. The bottom half of our farm is tropical rain forest and will remain so. It belongs to the local wild life. We do not farm this area or allow our animals to enter. We do not take from this area except to pump water for our tanks in the dry and we allow none of our wastes to enter this area in any form.
We also learn to live with the seasons. We eat whatever is in season at the time or learn to preserve for when it is not. We read the weather and learn to prepare for the coming rain or dry. We understand the language of our livestock and care for their needs. We are aware of the sound of the world around us- I can tell the season by the birdsong or know a predator is near by the change in noise. I know if a stranger or a local is walking along the road by the sound of the livestock.
I believe this is the healthiest and most natural way for a human to live. In the coming years the possibility of such a lifestyle will become rarer as more and more humans join us on this planet. I want space for my son and his family when I am gone and I want my son to know how to live well. I want to try to spread this message to as many other people as I can in the time I have left.

Question and Answer time

There would appear to be an ever growing interest in living the green lifestyle. I regularly find myself answering the same questions over and over. I speak to many people around the world, on the internet for the most part but also through local groups and just folks I meet in passing.
So here are some of the most commonly asked questions and the accompanying answer. Please keep in mind that I am in no way the definitive expert on these subjects, I am only offering my own opinions and experiences such as they are. I was originally going to do this as one post until I realised how long it would be so I shall instead post answers as I get to them.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

January, an overview on squab, magic and bannanas

Well Christmas was good. We has surprisingly cool weather due to a bank of rain coming over, not unwelcome, even requiring us to return the blankets to the bed and wear a pullover in the mornings. As always we ate too much, drank too much and generally had a lot of fun! The young feller scored the usual haul of presents, he also took great joy in giving presents to others. Something I am delighted to see in a five year old.
January came and the weather quickly returned to normal. Away went the woollies and out came the fans. Now we have entered the pre-monsoon countdown and the weather turns hot and sticky. Thunderheads roll about the tablelands making a lot of noise but generally not giving much rain. Not to us anyway, the wind is coming out of the west right now so the rain is exhausted before it gets to us. I don't mind, those folks out west need it right now. Soon the monsoon band will form near Indonesia and Papua and will descend to the eastern coast and the cool will come.
I am pleased to report the pigeons have been a success! They are breeding rapidly and we have been enjoying regular meals of squab, which is posh speak for young pigeon. They are delightfully easy to pluck and draw, taking less than five minutes per bird and one squab is a good serve per person, two if you really want a big feed. Apart from the actual slaughter it is quite nice to go and harvest a half dozen squabs and then sit in the shade of a tree with the wife and prepare them.
The adult pigeon flock are a rowdy bunch and have adapted to farm life well. Each morning we are greeted from the shed roof where they can eyeball us as we have our morning coffee.
If we take too long the general level of noise increases until we give up and go throw a handful of grain out for them. The guinea fowl have also learned we are throwing grain out in the morning and will come to do battle with the pigeons. In the end everyone appears to be well fed so I don't really care that much. The Guinea fowl hens are bringing in their annual mobs of keets. As the weather has been dry thus far I think there is a reasonable chance of a good number of them surviving this year. That reminds me, I am intending to harvest a few guinea fowl the next time I have the cold room running for a week. This is so I can hang them to age- I am told they should be treated as a game bird to get the best results. Recently I had a chance to handle a cock bird and found him to be very well fleshed all over. He looked tasty indeed!
The Bannanas have also done well in the heat. They are larger than usual this year and there is more than enough for both the parrots and the humans to share.
In other news I taught my son how to hypnotize a chicken the other day. It has been many years since I had done it myself and I was a little unsure if I could pull it off, but with a little patience I soon had a young cockerel lying upside down on the table with a rather glazed expression. Much awe from the wife and child. After a minute or so I gently clicked my fingers beside its head and it woke before strutting off wondering what the hell had just happened.