"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, 17 June 2014

and todays big job is

House stumps.

Our greatest Nemesis, the previous owner who thought he was a "handyman", has caused us a lot of work (not to mention a LOT of money). It seems that the more we look, the more we find. Shoddy cement, dangerous electrics, clueless panelling, over enthusiastic floor sanding, some very inventive plumbing and now fake house stumps.
Today I was grubbing about under the house replacing house stumps that had been bodged up to look like the real thing. I examined a bit of wobbly floor a few months back and had cause to crawl under the house. What should have been a simple bit of maintenance quickly turned into a fairly major repair. In some cases I found the bricks had been stacked in place to look like a real stump until I actually touched them and realised they were not actually supporting the house at all. So, much bad language, pouring new bell plugs and then a few weeks later placing the new stumps in and filling them with concrete.

 A lot of work indeed but I know it is now solid for the rest of my life- the ones I have so far replaced anyway. There are a couple of the old wooden stumps I don't like the look of and will replace sometime in the future.

Monday, 16 June 2014


Back after an extended break.
I owe you all an apology and an explanation so here goes.
I could blame the wet season making it almost impossible to do anything that does not involve mud. I could say I was too busy with my money grubbing job. I could name any number of reasons for not posting recently but that would just be making excuses. In reality I have been in a rut, my work life has been very hard lately and in hindsight I realise I have been suffering from depression. My wife pointed it out and it suddenly became very clear.
To give some background- I work in a high security prison. I am a custodial correctional officer and for seven years now I have been working on the "coal face" in high security. It is hard to explain just how soul destroying this job can be, nor just how much this will change you as a person. As the saying goes, "I have seen shit you wouldn't believe".
I have seen hatred, violence, desperation and depravity on a scale I once did not believe could exist. I have seen blood, lots of blood. I have seen people do things to themselves and others because they simply don't care anymore, or perhaps never did, with a complete lack of empathy in any form. I have seen so much more. I have been attacked and injured, threatened and at times scared for my life.
Well eventually a job like this will get to you no matter how tough you think you are. It did and I slowly sank down into a deep depression because I simply did not know how to deal with it all.
It was my beautiful wife who brought me to my senses. She always does and please believe me when I say that I could not live without her in my life.
In any case I am feeling much better. I have *finally* managed to get some holiday time from work and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. Work by which I mean real work, on something important, (not just labouring to make someone else wealthy) is good for both the body and soul. My muscles hurt, my back is twinging and I have dirt under my nails. I couldn't be happier!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

In other news

Finally, after many years, I am getting back into beekeeping. Once I was an enthusiastic beekeeper with over forty hives keeping me busy. I loved it. Bees are absolutely fascinating not to mention quite profitable. So here is the first completed brood box just needing the bees. I will hopefully be getting a nucleus hive soon.
 The wheelbarrow is beginning to show its age. I have pulled it in out of the weather and begun stripping it back. The wheel needs a new steel tyre which I shall make myself. The timbers are so swollen with water that I have clamped it into place so it stays straight and will leave it to dry for a week.
 The barrow body also needs a few new timbers in the front board. I have removed the broken sections and will also leave it all to dry out for a week. Then the missing parts will be replaced and the whole thing will get a good soaking coat of oil and the axle grease repacked. It should then be good for another ten years.
When I was making space for the boiler shed I cut back the nearby elder trees and threw the waste into the pigs yard. Today I noticed the cut sections happily sprouting in the rain. A very determined species of tree although I don't fancy its chances with the pigs.
 We have had a really good season with the bananas this year. The bunches are larger, fatter and richer than ever before. The local fruit birds are glutted and so there are plenty left for us. This is our third bunch in two weeks. I suspect most of it will go to fatten the pigs. I can only eat so many bananas...
 This is Jasmine. Sole cat since Sebastian came off second best with a large brown snake. Jasmine is a superb ratter and will usually nail two or more each night. Oddly enough she shows little interest in the local bird life. A good thing or she and I would be having words.

Weird and pretty

One thing I love about the wet weather is that it brings out many of the things you would not normally see. In the warm and wet many of the rainforest fungus will bloom overnight to be gone the next day. Others will grow like wood and last for years.
 These beautiful little mushrooms are about the size of the palm of your hand and a vivid golden colour. As they age the cap inverts like an umbrella in the wind.
This fungus is one of the weirdest I have come across in a while. It is tough and leathery and feels like skin to the touch. It is growing flat on the ground on a path by the water tanks. It gets trodden on every day but doesn't appear to mind. It is currently about 30 centimetres across and still growing.
These tiny fungus are about the size of your fingernail, cherry red and have a beautiful lipstick gloss. They came up only once a few years ago and I have never seen them since. Obviously we would not dream of ever eating any of these fungus- the odds of a horrific death are all too high. But they are certainly beautiful.
I also love the mossy growth we get where it is dark and wet. There is something about the soft green moss I find very appealing. in the dry season it shrivels up into a crumbly brown mat and appears to be thoroughly dead until it next gets wet and greens again.

Almost there

Despite the two weeks heavy rain courtesy of two cyclones blowing about up here, we have still managed to get some work done.
 The shed is now sheeted and dry. The window at the top will have a shutter that will be closed when the shed is being used as a smoker. I have resealed the firebox with refractory cement (used in kilns and fireboxes) and patched all cracks with a black stove putty. This old stove should now see many more years of service. And before anyone points it out, YES I know the damn flue is not straight... I will be fixing that soon. I was in a hurry to finish and it was getting dark so I skipped on using the spirit level and this happened.
 I will be mounting a pair of doors on the front to allow it to be sealed as a smoker. Most of the time they will sit open. To the left of the shed I will put a wood bunker under cover. On the other side will be a large bin for potatoes (pig food, I get the seconds free from a local grower), also shielded from the weather but placed on skids so I can drag it away with the tractor to be cleaned out.
The flue mounted out the back wall to help keep the roof watertight as well as remove the waste heat as quickly as possible.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Coming and going

It is a lot quieter around the cloud farm lately.
We loaded Sausage the sow out last week. How short a sentence for the effort it took, she fought like hell! I am covered in bruises all over and have a badly sprained right hand from the hour and a half fight it took to get her on the trailer. I am glad I will never be loading a sow out again.
Most of the piglets are gone too. Sold off to pork lovers around the district. We have kept two boys for our own consumption in five months time. As you may expect they were pretty rattled for the first couple of days but have since settled into a routine of eating and sleeping.
Isobel, Anna's calf, also went to a new home yesterday. She was quite easy to load. She has gone to a good home in Bowen, quite a few hours drive from here. I was surprised the couple were willing to come so far for the calf but apparently a Dexter X Jersey is quite sought after. Certainly we could have sold another half dozen calves by now judging from the phone calls we keep getting. 
One person said that obviously we were asking too little for the calf. I disagree. We asked a fair price for what we think she was worth. To want more simply because the "market will bear it" I believe is dishonest. All of our excess livestock are sold this way.
 At this time of year the tree in our front yard bursts into these beautiful blooms. It is apparently a local species of rainforest tree, judging by the amount of flowers I see in the wild stands. It has become a popular garden tree due to its beautiful blooms with the most wonderfully fragrant scent  of any flower I have ever encountered. I intend to plant more of these about the house yard.
Lastly, this is the boiler/smoker shed in construction. Situated beside the pig pens it is to be used to boil potatoes for the pigs while they are growing. Then after they have been slaughtered it will be used as a smoker shed for the hams and bacon sides. I picked up the old Rayburn woodstove for less than I could have built a brick stove boiler. At the time of writing it has been fully clad and is awaiting a set of front doors and flue for the stove.

Monday, 17 February 2014


Reading back on my last few posts I realise I have been a little tardy with the news.
Sausage has indeed has her litter and dropped thirteen piglets. Unfortunately four of these did not survive the first day, either stillbirth or else accidentally squashed by a nervous sow. This is the way of things with pigs. The remaining nine piglets have powered on however and are growing by the day.
Our pig pens were never designed to keep really young pigs in and so the piglets squeeze under the yard gate every day and go for a roam.
Seen here on a muddy day raiding the chooks food. They are enchanting little things, full of life and curiosity. It is endless fun watching them play and explore. The chooks are not very impressed with the state of affairs and must move smartly to avoid having their tail feathers tasted by a curious piglet.
At the time of writing the piglets are due to be weaned and I think their mum is pretty sick of them by now anyway. At this age they develop some rather sharp teeth and bad table manners which helps the sow decide to wean them.
So we have found a new home for Sausage where she shall free range as a breeder sow for a family of self sufficiency types. We are very happy. This Saturday we will load her onto a trailer and she shall go to her new home. Likewise most of the piglets will be sold off as weaners and we shall keep three or four for our own needs.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Well it had to happen sooner or later

I was woken by the child bride this morning with the news that there was a very large python in the chooks shed. Not the way I like to be woken at the best of times.
Upon inspection, without even so much as a fortifying coffee, I did indeed find a rather large scrub python curled up and sleeping off a big feed of one of the chooks. This is something I find quite irritating.
 Note the bulge halfway down? That is one of our prime laying hens! Not happy.
So we gathered up a large sack, some baling twine to tie it shut and the camera. I then hauled the now quite indignant python out of the chook shed and we bagged him up before a long trip down the road. All up he was a little over four metres long. Not quite as big as the last one I saw hereabouts but certainly large enough to be a nuisance.
I released him in a large stand of rainforest about twenty kilometres away where I hope he will settle in and not try to get home.