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Showing posts from November, 2016

Harvesting water for the house and animals (2016 update)

When I first wrote this post back in 2011, Queensland had too much water, but usually water is very precious to us.  Being in a rural area, we rely on our own rainwater supplies for drinking water and septic to treat our sewerage.  I’m quite happy with that arrangement, as it means we don’t have to drink the unnecessary levels of fluoride and chlorine in town water.  It also means that we have to ration our own water supply when the weather is dry and consider everything that we put down the drain.  I feel sorry for people in the city having water rationing forced on them through water restrictions, we just have to be responsible for our own use.  The funniest thing is that my first reaction now when it rains is to put on several loads of washing so that the water isn’t wasted by running out of our full tanks (luckily we have plenty of space on the verandah to hang it to dry).

At our previous property we also had two large dams.  We used the water from the dams for the steers, the chic…

Getting prepared

A while ago I wrote that I'm not a prepper, but we do like to make sure we're prepared.  I mean I don't spend all day considering doomsday scenarios and on the lookout for zombies, but I do know that we are at risk from floods and storms some years and bushfires other years, so its good to have a bit of a plan in case disaster occurs.  This post is about how we plan to provide our own energy, food and water needs if SHTF, whether is for a few days (last year we had no power for three days following a summer storm) or indefinitely.

The prepping tendency is possibly also because I grew up in New Zealand, where its normal to stockpile bottles of water and have a "bug out bag"!  I remember seeing instructions like the image below in the phonebook when I was a kid.  The recent earthquake is a good reminder to review your preparations.


Energy
We primarily need energy for keeping food cool, cooking and heating the house in winter.  While we were very tempted to build our…

Guest post: Three Things To Ask Yourself Before Getting Backyard Chickens

It’s not hard to see why backyard chicken-keeping has become increasingly popular. Raising chickens comes with a host of benefits — whether it be eggs, meat, or companionship. However, if you’re looking to keep your own flock, there’s a lot to know before you get started. No matter what reason drives you to get chickens, ask yourself the following questions...

This is a guest post from occasional contributor Liz Greene.  Her last post was Bee-Keeping and Happy Neighbours.


1) Is It Legal?
Poultry keeping is regulated at the local, state, and federal levels, and if your property is zoned as residential, you should expect certain restrictions. In addition to zoning regulations, you may also run into restrictive covenants — a clause in your home’s deed establishing constraints on how you’re allowed to use your property. If you’re subject to a restrictive covenant (or other homeowners association rules), you’ll need to determine if there are terms surrounding the keeping of chickens.

Don’t …

Getting started with Beekeeping: what equipment do you need?

If you're thinking about getting bees, you might be looking at all the equipment in the beekeeping shop (or website) and wondering what you actually NEED and what is just nice to have.  We were lucky to buy a lot of gear pretty cheaply from an older commercial beekeeper who wanted to get rid of all his beekeeping gear, and we have gradually figured out what its all for and what we need to keep.  Here's what I think you need first up and what you might need in the future.




Hives and bees You are going to need at least one hive box and if your hive is productive you will need to give them more space in the form of a "super" pretty quickly.  In Australia you typically buy a nucleus hive or "nuc", and depending where you buy it, you may need to provide the nuc box as well (more info on buying bees).  You will need enough frames to fill your boxes (see building frames and wiring frames here).  This is assuming that you've decided to use Langstroth hives and th…

Holistic Management - Part 6: Testing decisions

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 and part 3: holistic goal for understanding what you are managing and what you want from it.  I reviewed the ecosystem processes in part 4 - the water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics.  In part 5 the book takes that understand of ecosystem processes and discusses the tools that we can use to manage ecosystem processes in brittle and non-brittle environments, including: money and labour, human creativity, technology, rest, fire, grazing, animal impact and living organisms.

In part 6, we learn about questions to ask to test our management decisions against the holistic goal defined in part 3.  This ensures that every action takes us closer to achieving our goal.  The test are:

Cau…

Shocking tactics! How to use electric fences on the homestead

We have some areas of our property with severe erosion damage that we are trying to repair (more here).  This means that the cattle need to stay out as they just do more damage, however we don't want to be building massive permanent fences all the time, particularly when it may only be a temporary need.  The solution is electric fencing.

Now that we have the gear and fence set up, I can't believe we didn't do it before, its so easy!  It can be a little expensive, but so are permanent fences, so you just have to weigh up the benefits and if you want something that's quick to set up and easy to remove later, this is the way to go.

Firstly, we were given a small energiser (father-in-law bought it at a garage sale, amazing what he finds sometimes!), and a small roll of tape.  We bought a new car battery and some electric fence stakes.  We plugged it all in and dared each other to touch the tape......but there were so many knots in the tape it didn't produce a decent jo…

(Soap) Nuts about laundry

As you know, I really don't like using chemicals in the house or for the animals, but it is gradual process to reduce and change what we use.  For the laundry, we already use a grey-water friendly product, as all the washing-machine water is used to water my vege garden, however I was sure there was still opportunities to improve.  I'd read a bit about soap nuts and thought about it and hadn't done anything about it until I saw them at the local market and finally bought some.  I admit that I was a little skeptical, and I do have a boilermaker husband who can come home in some pretty dirty work clothes, so these soap nuts had a challenge ahead of them.

For those who haven't heard of soap nuts, they're actually a dried berry from the sapindus mukorossi tree, which grows in India and Himalayas.  They are imported to Australia by various companies (just google soap nuts and you will find them).  This is the only thing that worries me about soap nuts, I would prefer to …

How I use herbs: Nettles

This is another herb in my garden that I'm not entirely sure about.  I know its a nettle, because it stung me.  Fortunately it was only small at the time and it didn't hurt much, but it did make me stop and look at this new plant in my garden, growing in amongst the chickweed.  I can't remember if I had some nettle seeds, I think a friend did give me some, and if I "planted" any (by planted I mean threw seeds around at some stage), but I can't think where else they would have come from.  Unfortunately, I therefore don't know which nettle I have!  There are three suspects:
Urtica dioica - Greater Nettle - this one grows to 1-1.8 m, so far the plants are small, but the leaves don't look quite right for this oneUrtica urens - Lesser Nettle - this one is smaller and grows in QLD in the cooler monthsUrtica incisa - Scrub Nettle - native to Australia and hardy, it looks like the right leaf shape



It doesn't matter too much, because the uses are common to …

Farm update - November 2016

It has been a gentle start to spring.  We've had HOT days, but the nights are still cool and a few showers and storms have kept the grass green (only just!).




Food and cooking
Just for a change, we've been eating a bit of pork and lamb that we've bought from friends, so not just beef!



Land and farming
Somehow we found some time to mow the perennial pasture and let the cows in to trim it.  I was starting to feel uncomfortable about the long dead grass near the house, both the fire-risk and the damage to the pasture of over-resting it.  Now we just have to judge the right time to get the cattle out of that paddock, and find the right time to plant the rest of the grass seed!



Chickens
I am locked in a battle of wits with a certain hen who has found a way to get into my garden and scratch up all the mulch.  Every time I think I've won, I find her in there again.  At least she doesn't do too much damage by herself.  And this photo is proof that chickens eat grass.  Actually…