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Showing posts from September, 2012

Just the ducks nuts?

“Just the duck’s nuts” is a common slang term in Australia and New Zealand, meaning “the best”, for example, “that hotel was just the ducks nuts, it had everything we needed within walking distance”.  In Australia there is also the child-friendly version “just the duck’s GUTS”.  Until recently I thought that the meaning of this saying was the irony of ducks not having nuts, similar to “the bees knees”, and the guts version didn’t make sense because duck obviously do have guts.

And then I was reading my chicken book and realised that chickens and ducks do have nuts.  Oops.  Turns out the large white bits that I thought were lungs are actually testicles (see my post on homekill chicken)!  They are huge compared to the size of the rooster, and they are tucked up inside the cavity, so I had no idea, I just pull out all the bits and don't really know where they come from.  (And I have been leaving the lungs in the cavity, not sure if it really matters, they are the dark pink spongy bit…

Weaning calves - different approaches for small farms

About three months before Bella was due to calf we decided it was time to wean Molly.  Actually Molly kind of decided herself, as she came on heat and was too busy moo-ing and pacing up and down to worry about having a drink, so we moved Bella into another paddock and I don't think Molly even noticed.



The ideal time to wean depends on what you're doing.  Large scale dairy farms typically separate calves from cows after a couple of days (after they have had their dose of colostrum) and feed the calves on excess milk from the vat.  As this is extra labour, farmers aim to wean calves as early as possible, at around three months.  By this time the calves' rumen will have developed enough so that they are getting adequate nutrition from grass and a grain ration.  In beef cattle, the calves are left with their mothers for between six and nine months, they will be weaned early if there isn't enough feed in the paddock to support a lactating cow, and often the calves will then…

Chicken stocktake

If you are losing track of the number of chickens that we currently have running around here at Eight Acres, don't worry, I occasionally have to count them again myself!  So before we start hatching more this spring, I'll give you a quick stocktake.
The White Leghorns: In one large chicken tractor we have Boris the White Leghorn Rooster, with 3 hens from last year's hatch and 3 hens that we bought.  They are laying 1-3 eggs/day, the ones we bought are probably not quite laying yet.

The Rhode Island Reds: In another tractor we have Wilbur the Rhode Island Red Rooster from last year, with 5 of last year's hens (and some older) and our little "Beavis Brown" cross that we hatched last spring.

The pullets: In another tractor we have 5 Rhode Is Red and 1 White Leghorn pullet from the most recent hatch (one other RIR died of unknown causes a few weeks ago, the rest seem to be fine).  Only the eldest one is laying one eggs every couple of days, its just a matter of tim…

Drying spring onions

Somehow I have managed to grow some mega spring onions over winter, they are HUGE and there's no way we can eat them all, so I thought I'd try drying them.  I just washed them, sliced thinly and spread them out in the drier. I often leave things overnight in the drier to air dry before I turn on the heat, this worked well with the onions too.  In the morning I turned on the drier, and several hours later I had crispy onion flakes, ready to put in a jar and sprinkle on things later.  I'm thinking they will be useful in stuffing and in crackers in particular, but they may find their way into many different things....




Change of plans - this time for the better!

Just to keep all my non-facebook liking blog-followers updated on happenings at the farm....

I had given up on this foster calf idea ever working and was planning to have to milk twice a day for ages and to make lots and lots of cheese.... but then on Wednesday morning, one week after Bella had her calf and it died, we milked her and only got 4 L, rather than 12 L.  We also noticed that replacement calf Romeo was happy lying down in the paddock instead of standing by the gate to wait for his milk.  We put 2 and 2 together, but we didn't believe it until we saw it later, after breakfast. first we saw Bella licking Romeo clean and then she let him have a drink.

It looks like Bella has officially adopted Romeo, and all of her own accord, no trickery required (only because we didn't think Bella would fall for it).  We are very proud of her.

We are very pleased to have recruited a share-milker, a very greedy little share-milker at that!  We had to lock him up in the evening becaus…

Why choose organic produce?

Up until recently I didn't really understand what organic meant.  I thought it had something to do with producing food without using chemicals, but I wasn't really clear on the details.  We are considering eventually going for certified organic status for our beef production at Cheslyn Rise, so I have now read the Australian Certified Organic Standard (available from BFA website here) and was surprised at the precise and complex definition of organic production.  I have read too many light magazine articles written by people who clearly have not read the standard and don't really understand organic production, but still think that they can compare organic produce to "conventional" produce and say that there is no real difference, so I think its time for me to explain that there is a huge and important difference, not just in the nutrition, but in the production system itself.



To achieve organic certification with BFA, primary producers must have an "organic …

Food and 4WD on the Sunshine Coast

Pete and I don't get to take many holidays, we just have too many animals to organise!  Knowing that Bella was due to calve in mid-September, we had decided to take a week off work in August as there would be no trips away after the milk started flowing again.  We were planning to travel "out west" to see central QLD, but then we bought all those Braford cows the week before, so we didn't want to be too far away from home in case they misbehaved.  We spent most of the week doing odd-jobs at home and in the end we had two days and one night on the Sunshine Coast, which is about 2 hours drive from Nanango.

When we do get to go on a holiday, it usually centres around food, our favourites being cheese, smoked sausages and beer (yes, Germany is on the wish-list!).  See our travels in NZ for another example.  This time we left early in the morning and started off at Maleny Cheese Factory.  Its just a small operation, which specialises in cheddar, feta, soft washed rind che…

Calendula petals for tea

Since I got my food dehydrator, I've been drying herbs for cooking, and also some for making herbal tea.  As I don't drink caffeine, I usually stick to herbal teas.  So far I have dried mint, peppermint, thyme, taragon, lemon grass and lemon myrtle leaves for tea.  I keep each one in a separate jar and then mix up a little of each to make a jar to take to work and I use a tea ball to brew my tea. On ingredient that I've been hoping to add to my tea is calendula, and it is finally flowering in my garden.  I have been picking the flowers and letting them air dry in a jar (as it is very dry here at the moment, I don't need to use the dehydrator).  When the petals are dry I pull them off and put them in another jar, ready to add to my tea.
It does take a lot of flowers to make enough petals for tea as they really shrink when they dry, but they aren't hard to grow or dry, so I don't mind having a few in a jar until they dry.

There's lots of information about th…

Bella's calf - when things don't go to plan #2

I was expecting this week to post all about the birth of Bella's calf.  I was expecting it to be a happy post, with lots of cute photos, but unfortunately I have bad news.  If you are following me on facebook (for up-to-the minute reports on farm life) you will know that we came home from work yesterday to find Bella had already had the calf, but it was dead.  We think she was born alive, and maybe suffocated due to the amniotic sac remaining over her head after birth.  When I found the calf she was in an odd position and when I rolled her head around, a lot of fluid drained out, she was already cold by then, so there was nothing we could do.  Poor Bella had already licked the calf clean and was eating the afterbirth, so we only missed the birth by maybe an hour, which is the hardest part for us, as we may have been able to help if we had been there in time.  (more here).

Bella is upset and confused.  We left the dead calf with Bella overnight to give her some time to accept that …

Homekill butchering

The other week we had a butcher come out to Eight Acres to kill Bratwurst the Limousine-Fresian cross steer.   We had to use a different butcher because our last one had sold up and gone to work in the mines!  Fortunately we found another good one, he was punctual, clean, hard-working and friendly.  Last time I wrote some tips about preparing for a homekill, this is just a few notes that I thought of this time.

Pete had the Tuesday off work for day one of the butchering.  The butcher turned up around midday and Pete had Brat ready in a separate paddock so that the butcher could shoot the steer and then work on skinning, quartering and then hanging him in the mobile cool room.  I left the camera for him, but in the rush he forgot to take photos, the butcher uses a giant tripod to lift up the carcass, which is really quite clever, so I'm sorry I can't show it to you.  Maybe next time!

On the Thursday we both had the day off work and the butcher arrived back around 7am to begin t…

A herd of Brafords for Cheslyn Rise

I wrote recently about how we were intending to raise steers on Cheslyn Rise with a long term plan to buy a herd of cows to breed cattle, so that we weren't tied to buying and selling through the sale yards.  We were on the look out for a suitable herd, but never expected to find them so quickly!  We are quite picky, we wanted to buy an established herd of about 20 cows that had been together for a few years, they had to be all one breed, and a breed that was suitable for our property, and they were preferably from a cattle tick-free area, so that we didn't have to pay to have them inspected for ticks.



Farmer Pete had been looking on farmstock for cattle, just to keep an eye on prices, when he found a herd of about 20 Braford cows and calves for sale near Wondai, which is tick-free.  So off we went to have a look at the herd.  The owner wasn't actually sure how many cows were there (and they are very difficult to count, as they don't stand still).  Eventually we made …

One pot chocolate cake

Even though we don't eat much sugar, chocolate cake is still an occasional treat.  The thing I hate about baking is cleaning up, so this "one pot" cake is my favourite recipe!  If I could take the handle off the pot and put the entire thing in the oven I would....

Rather than "creaming" the butter and sugar, in this recipe you dissolve the sugar, cocoa powder and butter in milk by heating it in a pot.  I then stir in the 2 eggs and the flour and scoop the batter into a cake tin.  The only thing to remember is to let the mixture cool enough before adding the eggs, so that they don't cook :)


Heat in a pot until combined (keep heat as low as possible, otherwise you have to wait for ages for it to all cool down, the butter will melt just above body temperature, so it doesn't need much heat):
1 cup milk 1 1/4 cups sugar (I use whatever I have, this time brown sugar, when that's used up I'm on to the rapadura) 125g butter 1/2 cup cocoa powder (using up…

Making use of microbes in the soil

Another paradigm shift….
I began the first summary page (Understanding Soil Minerals for Plant Nutrition) with a paradigm shift – adding several more mineral requirements to the traditional NPK in agricultural fertilisers. This post also requires a shift in thinking, this time we need to change the idea that all microbes, bugs and germs are bad guys. Actually there are an amazing range of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and even nematodes that can help us to grow healthy, resilient and nutritious plants, and release minerals from the soil so that we don’t have to pay for them. We need to support these helpers so that our job is easier, if we try to kill any that are perceived as bad, it can disrupt the balance and start to make life difficult for us.



The importance of humus
Organic matter in the soil is classified as either raw organic matter, active humus (consumed in about 6 months) and stable humus. The stable humus is most important for several reasons:
Retains moisture in the soilBu…

September 2012 - farm update

August is always a depressing month here, the weather is usually windy, frosty and dry (no rain this month).  The grass is dead and brown.  Towards the end though you do start to see the promise of spring, the hens start to lay more eggs, the grass starts to look greener, the soil warms and you can start to think about spring planting.  All going well we will have a new calf in mid-September, and plenty of milk again.  So there is mush to look forward to!  

For us August was very busy because we bought a herd of 52 Braford cows and calves for Cheslyn Rise, which I will write more about soon.
We also let the steers up into the oats paddock to start eating, they are putting on some good weight even though the oats didn't grow as much as we'd hoped they would (more to come on that one too).
 We have been overstocked at Eight Acres for a while, and this has resulted in feeding out round bales all winter, at least we have plenty from Cheslyn Rise, so we're not buying them.




We…