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Showing posts from August, 2016

Hugelkultur update - 2016 version

Several years ago now I introduced you to my "hybrid hugelkultur".  The aim of this project was to try to rehabilitate and area of bad erosion on the slope above our shed.  It looked like the slope had been carved out to make room for the shed and the water flow from the driveway drain had been directed across the area, which was causing serious erosion.


We started by moving the drain to a gentler angle and putting rocks in the drain to slow down the water.  Next we used electric fencing to keep out the cattle.  Then we were ready to set up a hugelkultur.  Hugelkultur describes the practice of burying wood in garden beds.  I call our system "hybrid" because we didn't bury the wood.  We didn't have any spare soil, so we piled the logs of wood on the surface across the slope, hoping that they would trap material that was washed down the hill and slow down the water, kind of like a swale, except that we didn't want to dig into the bank either.  We also pi…

How I use herbs - Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an annual herb that grows well here in autumn and spring when its not too hot and not too cold.  Dill grows very easily from seed, another simple and tasty herb for any garden.
How I grow dill
Dill forms large flowers and seed-heads at the end of the season, and I keep a few seeds and sprinkle the rest around the garden.  Every year more dill pops up around the garden towards the end of winter.  It grows huge and flowers again as the weather warms up.



How I use dill Dill leaves have a tangy flavour.  I never liked dill when I only had dried dill, it wasn't until I tried fresh dill that I really appreciated the taste.  It compliments seafood, eggs and potatoes.  I used it in my pickled cucumbers and its also good in mayonnaise (which I have not perfected).  I like it chopped up with other fresh herbs like chervil, parsley and basil, as a garnish with salad or on meat.  I also pick the dill leaves and dry them in my dehydrator (and they are nearly as good…

How to use diatomaceous earth on the homestead

We generally try to avoid unnecessary chemicals, but one area in which we've been slow to find alternatives is with our animals. Until a few years ago, we were regularly drenching the cattle with ivermectin, dosing the dogs with flea treatments and wormers and occasionally had to dip all the chickens in malthison so get rid of lice. Since we got our milking cow, Bella, we became even more  reluctant to continue with the chemical treatments as we drink the milk everyday.

Luckily we found Bel from Home Grown, who kindly answered my many house cow questions, including recommending Diatomaceous Earth for control of internal and external parasites in cows and cattle in general. I had also read about Diatomaceous Earth for chickens at Fowl Visions.

Diatomaceous Earth, consists of the micro skeletons of fossilised remains of deceased diatoms, which are a type of algae found in both sea water and fresh water. They have sharp edges, which kills both internal and external parasites, whi…

Raising a big dog vs raising a working pup

Just so you know, this post is mostly an excuse to show off some photos of my big Gussy, but I did want to also share some observations about Gus' puppyhood compared to Taz, because so far they have been very different puppies.  I have been asked if Taz is helping to get all of Gus' wiggles out, but really I think Taz is still more wiggly than Gus, even though she is 2.5 years old now.  She is often the one barking at him to come and play, and she can still get him on the ground if she runs at him side on!


Here is a list of observations and comparisons between Gus the Great Dane/Bull Arab/Big dog and Taz the Kelpie/Collie/Working dog (they are generalisations which may not apply to other dogs, just what I have seen so far).
Taz really benefited from her puppy box and we used it until she was 1 year old.  With Gus we only used it for a few months.  At night he started to hop onto Taz' bed, so we stopped putting him in the box, and then when he was big enough to not sneak und…

Baby hat pattern and a new crochet stitch

I've been doing a bit of crochet lately.  Mainly because I've been working on a lacey alpaca shawl and the pattern is so complicated that its not really fun to knit.  I love the way it looks, but I don't really enjoy the stress of getting the pattern right.  This leads to procrastination, which leads to a simple crochet project (or two.. ok three).


A friend asked for a baby hat as a baby shower present, and when I was looking for a suitable pattern I found this textured toddler hat, which uses a front post crochet stitch.  It took me a few false starts and unravelling (and finding it on youtube - this is a good link too), but eventually I mastered the front post and finished the hat (and forgot to take a photo of it, I didn't have a suitable model, so you'll just have to take my word for it and maybe we will get some pics when the baby fits the hat!).



As I was still not feeling like finishing the shawl, I made myself an ear warmer (I prefer these to hats) using al…

What to do with a bull calf - 2016 update

When we were planning to have our second steer butchered (this is another story), we started to look around for a young steer to replace him and keep the remaining steer company.  We have learnt the hard way that one steer will not stay home (also another story) and now always have at least two in the “herd” so they don’t get lonely.  Unfortunately it was not a good time of year to find a cheap poddy calf, with most around $300, it wasn’t really worth us buying one to raise if they were that expensive.  Finally someone answered my ad and told me he had a “Hereford cross steer”, just weaned, for $180.  Perfect!

We turned up early one foggy Saturday morning to pick him up.  After driving 30 min with the cattle crate on the back of the ute, and with no real alternative, there was little chance that we weren’t going to buy the little fella.  When we saw him though, it was clear that he wasn’t a Hereford, or a steer!  So we brought home our little Fresian bull and wondered what to do.


We st…

Choosing a rooster

This might sound weird, but we let our hens chose their rooster.  I better start at the beginning (although its hard to tell where that is, chicken and egg and all that).  Here's a summary of how we hatch and dispatch our roosters, and let the hens chose a few to keep.

Pop over to my chicken tractor ebook blog to read the rest of the post.



By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at} gmail.com.




What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh …

Soapmaking resources and books

I reckon there are three types of people who want to make soap:

1) people who just want to follow the recipe and don't want to understand the chemistry behind soapmaking

2) people who want to know enough to design their own recipes, but not the full detail

3) chemistry geeks who want to know everything about soapmaking

The third type are probably the rarest, but that is the category that I fall into, having studied chemical engineering, I do find the chemistry and process detail very interesting (and I know a few chemistry geeks who will join me here).  I recently found a book that satisfies that interest, Scientific Soapmaking: The Chemistry of the Cold Process, by Kevin M Dunn (Affiliate link).




This book explains in great detail how oils and fats react with caustic soda to make soap, how to test and standardise your soap and how different processing conditions affect the final product.  You can following through different experiments in the book to see for yourself how different…

Holistic management - part 3: holistic goal

The book Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making (affiliate link) sets out a guide to developing a holistic goal for your farm or business.  (See my introduction to Holistic Management here, and part 2: four key insights for the reasons why holistic management is important.)

What is a holistic goal?
Often we find ourselves working towards something that is ultimately going to cause the destruction of other things that we cherish.  For example if we focus on making money, we may stop spending time with family and community or on hobbies that we enjoy because we are always working.  Setting a holistic goal allows us to consider everything that we find important and work towards optimising the outcomes so that we don't inadvertently compromise something that we value.




Having defined the holistic goal, every subsequent decision can be tested against the goal.  This ensures that all courses of action will advance towards the goal and take into account the whole of the f…

Winter lip balm (with chamomile)

I've been making my lip balms with macadamia oil and beeswax (peppermint, lavender and honey flavours), but in winter, they just aren't strong enough!  I get really dry and sore lips in winter, so I need a heavier soothing lip balm for cold and windy weather.




I decided to try this recipe from The Nerdy Farmwife for a soothing chamomile lip balm.  It uses chamomile infused oil (I used olive oil) and castor oil (which is heavier than macadamia oil) and peppermint essential oil.  The chamomile is soothing, while the peppermint gives you a nice tingle like blistex.  I have been trying to grow chamomile, but no luck so far, so I used dried chamomile (actually it was pure chamomile tea from Tea2).

Making an infused oil is very easy.  Just put your herbs in a jar of oil and leave them for a few weeks, then strain out the herbs.  For my herbal salve I use comfrey, chickweed and calendula petals.  Other herbs that are good for skin include borage, yarrow, gotu kola, violet and lemon ba…

Secondhand house update: what's taking so long?

It feels like we are making slow progress with the secondhand house again.  You might be wondering what's taking so long.  Here's what's happened since I wrote about painting the outside of the house back here.



The shed
I don't know if I've really explained the shed before.  The intention of the shed is a workshop and storage space so that we can keep the house free of clutter.  We chose a big shed because we didn't want to have to build another shed if we ran out of space.  Its 15m (three 5m bays) by 12m by 4m high.  The two bays closest to the house have roller doors.  The final bay has a mezzanine floor, which we will use for storage.  We will also build a space under the mezzanine for the freezers and a soap-making/honey processing kitchen.

So far we have council approval for the shed, we had rainwater tanks hooked up, we have rodent-proofed the gap between the wall and the slab and filled the shed with a surprising amount of stuff already.  We haven't …

Farm update - August 2016

July has been cold, and apart from one warm week, we had the fire going every night.  The dogs sleep outside, but they wear at least one dog coat each (here's how I sew them).  We even had a bit of rain, only 10-20 mm here and there, but better than nothing and the grass is looking very green for this time of year.  Gus is getting bigger, now around 30 kg and I really need him to learn how to jump on the back of the ute.  Taz can still get him on the ground in a doggy wrestle though.   He's booked in for neutering on Wednesday morning.





Food and cooking
We butchered six of the roosters one morning.  The place is so much more peaceful without all the crowing and chasing hens.  Plus they taste great, nothing like shop chickens!  (here's how we cook them)  We had a roast chook and then made a huge batch of chicken stock.



Bees and Beekeeping
Not much to report on the farm, but I we have been keeping an eye on the bees.  One hive was looking a bit weak, so we transferred the frame…