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Farm update - January 2017

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you had some time off to relax.  We had a few days at the beach and then we got back into house reno work.  I'll have an update on that for you next week.  We had really hot and dry weather until last week, when we finally started to see some of the monsoon rains, so the season hasn't been too bad so far.  When I say hot and dry, I mean I left an egg outside and when Pete cracked it into the dog dish, it was half cooked!  We have been running the aircon in the bedroom and I'm so glad we got that installed.  I can handle the heat until I need to sleep and then its just really hard without aircon.  The dogs LOVED the beach, and then LOVED taking a dip in the dam to cool off while we were working.


the dogs enjoying beach playtime


Food and cooking
Its mango season here and I got a nice tray of mangoes for only $25, it came all the way from Bowen QLD.  I'm looking forward to planting our own as soon as we get the water organised for our orchard.  I find that one or two trays is plenty, we will be sick of mangoes by then!

I have started posting our work lunches on Instagram each Sunday night (you will also see them on the Facebook page).  Over the weekend we usually cook up a big batch of something (stir fry, casserole, curry or roast etc) and make up 8-9 lunch meals to take during the week.  Yes, it is the same lunch every day for a week, but it is cheap and healthy.  Our work is remote, so the only other option is a canteen, which seems to serve fried food or fried food, and its expensive.  Taking a packed lunch is frugal and better food , so I'm posting our lunches as inspiration.  I'll post the 'recipes' (you know that's a pretty lose concept for me) once a month, if you need ideas.  If you take a packed lunch yourself, post it on Instagram and use the hashtag #packyourownlunch and tag me @eight_acres_liz so I can see what you're having for lunch (and everyone else can be inspired by your lunch too).  Let's make 2017 the year of taking your own lunch, for better food and saving some money!


the best part about summer - Mangoes!


Land and farming
Once again, we haven't got out and done much at all on our land, we've been in the house painting, however we have been observing all our wonderful gum trees starting to flower, and its great to know that they are working for us even though we don't have to pay them any attention.  They are producing flowers, shade, timber and pumping water up from deep down in the soil.

Apple gum in flower

Chickens
The hens are laying well again, although they are losing a few feathers (from the heat and nothing more serious I hope).  We have been letting them free-range as much as possible so that they can find some shade.  We've had two older ones die, one who was clucky for ages, I think she just got too hot on the nest, even though I kept moving her off it.  We're not going to hatch any chicks this year (sad face), so we don't have too many animals to move later in the year.  Don't worry we still have plenty of chickens, I haven't counted them for a while, but its around 16 hens and 2 roosters.  We also have the 2 bantams and I've started letting them free-range too after my friend who gave them to me told me that she used to let them out with the big chickens.  I thought the big chickens would pick on the bantams, but the big chickens just ignore them, so they wander around the yard together like Camp Mother and Camp Leader on little adventures!


the chickens always like to help with gardening


Cows and cattle
Its been hot and dry, so we've fed out a few round bales of hay to keep the cattle going.  The calves are looking nice and fat, but their mothers are getting skinny.  And now that all the little boys have lost their balls and healed up, its time to decide how we want to wean them (i.e. who goes into which paddock for a while).  Also, the one cow who hadn't had a calf yet, which we were going to eat, just turned up with her own little baby.  So now the calving rate is 100% (nine from nine) and we have no rations!


well hello little calf, where did you come from

Bees and Beekeeping
We checked our bee hives and some hives had way too many small hive beetle, so we loaded them up with traps and hope they will be able to get it under control.  The apple gums are flowering now, so that should help them to build up some more honey supplies.

busy bees
Garden
There is a lot going on the garden and its very difficult to get a good photo of it all at once, so I'll do another post later with more details.  We should soon have plenty of zucchini and beans, I have been watering and spreading worm compost and mulch around.  Lately we have just had silverbeet and celery and some very determined capsicums from last summer.  I have put up even more shadecloth and there are empty beer bottles everywhere!

the garden jungle
House
There is so much to tell you about the house, I will need another post with all the photos.  We spent the Christmas break painting the room in the shed, wrecking the laundry and the builders have been busy installing skirting boards.  Its exciting.  Now I'm just trying to organise all the trades to get the kitchen and laundry finished asap.


spot the difference?

Permaculture
Last year in my monthly updates I reviewed the twelve permaculture principles from David Holmgren's book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability (affiliate link) and then I went through Bill Mollison's principles. I want to keep talking about permaculture.

 I thought this year I could work through Toby Hemenway's Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (affiliate link).  This is particularly significant as Toby sadly died recently.  I first came across Gaia's Garden in 2013 and although I had tried to read other permaculture books before that, this was the one that really helped me to understand the concepts, both what to do and why.  Toby made an enormous contribution to permaculture and I'd like to remember him by reading his book again.  The book as twelve chapters, so I can review one each month in 2017.




Chapter one: Introducing the ecological garden

In this chapter Toby explains his concept of the ecological garden as a combination of an edible garden, an ornamental garden and a wild space.  Not just combined, but connected and multi-functional.  I think I am only just starting to see this, as I want more flowers for my bees, my vegetable garden is evolving into a more wild space with ornamentals (mostly geraniums) as well as edibles and herbs.  This chapter also contains several pages of permaculture basics to get you started and a very interesting discussion about the benefits of native vs exotic plants.  He also brings up an interesting point that the more you grow for yourself (even if you're not completely self-sufficient) the more you are helping to avoid habitat loss in other places and on other farms.  I hadn't thought about it like that before.

Are you reading Gaia's Garden?  Join in and let me know what you think!

Create
We didn't do "gifts" for Christmas, but that doesn't mean that we don't give each other a few bits and pieces of handmade, found or foraged items when we see family and friends.  This year I asked Pete's mum if she could spare any rose petals from her lovely garden and she was only too happy for me to help dead-head the roses!  I brought home a massive bag of petals.  I have dried most of the them and also made a large jar of rose infused oil which smells wonderful.  I will share more about the process when they are ready to be made into soaps and salves.


so many beautiful petals!
How was your December and Christmas break?  What are you plans for 2017?  

Comments

  1. Liz, I never thought of rose infused oil to use in soap. We don't have any roses but the lady who moved in across the road doesn't really want the beautiful roses the previous owner had left for her so said we could probably take them so I have to convince my hubby to move them when it is the right time. He doesn't like roses because of the thorns but I will see if I can have a couple and put them out of harm's way. In the meantime I might ask her if I can have some petals and I am sure she will say yes.

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  2. I always love your "farm update" posts Liz. What a wonderful photo of the dogs at the beach. Yes, I've been following your lunches on IG too. When so much money can be saved by taking our lunches, I don't know why everyone doesn't do it. I notice most of the folks at work bring their lunch, our winery is a few minutes out of the Town and only five minutes from our home, so both of us always come home for lunch and eat leftovers from the previous evening meal. How spiolt we are! We've had Chalk Brood in our hives, caused from stress (the wet and cold weather) and still have not taken any honey as yet this season! The red gums are now releasing their nectar, the bees going crazy for it, so we have our fingers crossed there will be honey to extract soon.

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    Replies
    1. I forgot to congratulate you on your 100% calving success.

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  3. I've read Toby's book and thought it was the best layman's explanation about permaculture, I've encountered. That's not to say it lacked important details, he just demonstrated the interconnectedness, really well, between his rural lifestyle and when they relocated back to the suburbs.

    I think a lot of people thought permaculture could only be practised in the country, because that's where all the first examples of this new concept, were being demonstrated the most. It's a really great book, I might borrow it from the library again.

    Nice to see the property coming along, and look forward to seeing the garden and house posts, in more detail.

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