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Showing posts from May, 2012

Winter woodfires: how to light a fire

I learnt to light a fire when I was in Girl Guides.  Actually, to be more precise, my dad taught me to light a fire when I wanted to get my Camp Cook badge!  From then on I used to light the wood stove at my parent's house when I got home from school on cold winter days.  Fire lighting is a surprisingly useful skill and I think there's a few people around who have missed out on learning it, so here's my method.

Lighting a fire in a woodstove is a bit different from a fire outdoors, as it is really important to establish a draught.  That means that as the hot air and smoke rises out of the fire and up the chimney, fresh air is sucked in through a hole in the door.  If you don't have a draught, the fireplace will just fill with smoke and the fire will suffocate due to lack of oxygen.  Before starting the fire, ensure that the baffle that closes off the chimney is open and the vents in the door are fully open as well.

I usually start with a few balls of scrunched up newsp…

Checking the fences: how to strain a barbed-wire fence

Before we let the new steers out of the cattle yards at Cheslyn Rise, we had to check all the fences in the first paddock.  Checking fences and tightening the barbed wire is slow, but quite easy if you have the right tools.

When I first saw fence strainers I had no idea how to use them.  Actually every time I see them I can't remember how to use them!  Luckily Pete had a tutorial from an old farmer at one stage and he can always remember how to use them.  What you do is put a chain or plain wire around the fence post and clip the big part of the tool onto the chain/wire.  Clip the small part onto the fence wire that you want to tighten (and this is the same process if fixing an existing fence, or building a new one).  You use the other end of the big part to creep over the chain on the small part, which pulls the tool together to bring the wire closer to the pole and pull the fence tight.


When you have the wire tight enough you wrap the end of the wire around the pole ONCE and then…

Sourdough and Fermented Food Workshop

I have been waiting to do this course for SO long!  Elisabeth Fekonia is a practising permaculturist who grows and produces much of her own food on her property at Cooroy, Sunshine Coast, QLD.  Among other things, she runs workshops on cheese (which we went to last year) and sourdough and fermented food.  Since I did the cheese workshop and learnt so much about fermented food from Elisabeth, I really wanted to do this course as well.  I was hoping that she would de-mistify sourdough for me, and she didn't disappoint! Elisabeth has a very practical approach, her methods use common household equipment, are as quick and cheap and "no-fuss" as possible, and are definitely not overcomplicated.  This is what I learnt about sourdough and fermented foods.....

Sourdough
We only had one day for the workshop and sourdough takes longer than a day to make as it needs to ferment for 12-24 hours, so we kind of started in the middle and worked around to the start of the process. I'll…

Winter woodfires: preparing firewood

When we first moved into Eight Acres there was a massive pile of wood in one of the paddocks, and even though we knew it was a big job to clean it up, we were pleased to have access to free firewood.  I didn't take "before" photos of this pile, but I did take some part way through the clean up process.  It took us about a year to pick through all the logs and cut them into rounds.  They were branches from iron bark gum trees that were felled for fence posts by a previous tenant on our property.

As the branches had been in the pile for at least a few years we thought that the rounds would be ready to burn right away, but it seems that iron bark takes a little longer to dry out!  When Farmer Pete tried to split the rounds with an axe it just bounced off the log.  That's when we realised that the wood might need more time to dry.  We set up a wood pile using "besser blocks" to support a few sheets of old roofing iron, with the wood piled as neatly as possible …

Cattle psychology: how to accustom steers to a new property

Since we purchased our first mob of steers for Cheslyn Rise, we have had many occasions to consider what our cattle are thinking and to try to picture the world from their perspective.

For the first week that they were on our property, we followed everyone's advice and kept the steers in our wooden stock yard and fed them round bales of sorghum and kept their water troughs topped up.  After a week we decided that they had got to know us, as they had become confident enough to eat round bales when we were in the yard with them, and we had checked all the fences, so we decided it was time to open the gate and let them out into the first 25 acre paddock.

The next day when we went back to the property we found that the cattle had broken some fences and ended up split into two groups, we'll call them the "A" team and the "B" team.  The A team, 9 steers, hadn't managed to get out of the 25 acre paddock, but the B team of 8 steers had got through a fence and …

Starting a container orchard

Before we bought the new property I had an idea of creating my orchard in containers.  I thought this would be the best way to deal with our weird climate.  I could move the trees to the most appropriate location for the season.  In summer they could shelter under the shade of the gum trees and in winter they could enjoy full sun and plenty of chill hours, or hide out in the greenhouse until the frost was gone, depending on their individual needs.  This way I could grow apples, citrus, stone fruit, mangoes, avocado, mulberry.......just dreaming of all the possibilities!

Now that we have the new property I don't need a special orchard because (we hope) it should be frost free.  The reason we have such terrible frost here is that the house and garden are quite low down the hill.  Our neighbours at the top of the hill have no frost and grow bananas up there!  So we hope (and have been told) that with the new property being on top of a hill it will also be frost free, so I should be a…

I'm a worm farmer!

When we first talked about getting an aquaponics kit one of my main concerns was how we would feed the fish.  I didn't want to be constantly buying fish food.  One of the options is to feed worms to the fish, so I've been planning to get a worm farm established.  We had planned to make one from an old wheelie bin, but that project has ended up low on the list since we got the new property.  Recently a friend at work told me that worm farms were on sale at Aldi, only $50, and I thought that might be a good way to get started.  Farmer Pete's dad has 3 worm farms, so I'm sure you can never have too many!  We will make the wheelie bin worm farm later, for now we have a small one to get us started.  
Before we decided to try aquaponics, I thought I didn't need a worm farm because with the compost and the chickens I didn't think I'd have anything to feed them, but my compost is full, so there should be plenty for the worms to eat.  Before getting the farm, I did…