Apr 14, 2012

Its Just a Chook House Right?

Have you ever built a structure? I mean a real one, designed to last, to stand up to the elements? How is it that I can reach 40 years old (almost) and not know how to build something. Truly life has gotten weird, we all know how to recharge our ipods and microwave our dinners, but how many of us know how to put up a roof that won't fall down in the first storm. The idea of lost knowledge (for the average city slickers like us) is something that comes up often in our little adventure. 

At first I ignorantly thought I'd whip up a chicken coop in a weekend or two. But not long after starting it became clear that there was so much I didn't know. To make life harder for myself it kind of felt important that I work things out myself. I don't really know why, I guess things sink in better if a get a chance to screw them up :P
This photo was taken just a few weeks after we moved in, its treated pine which I didn't feel too good about (poisons and such), but my impatience got the better of me.  Now we are well and truly in salvage and re use mode so I'm unlikely to have fresh timber to work with again.
Its all just measured from the ground up, so the roof slopes down the hill. It made a few things tricky with the perfectly square cut iron at times, but I didn't feel up to the whole level everything challenge yet :P The posts are not cemented in, they are one third in the ground and the wholes are back filled with crusher dust (fine gravel)
You can see I put an extra post on one side, then I changed my mind and decided I wanted the door in the front. A forehead slapping moment :\
Vicki gave it a coat of paint with some paint the previous owner left behind, its nice because it matches the house.  At this stage it was very stable, if you gave it a good thump it would just wobble. 
Next was putting the tin on two sides,  after that it was solid as a rock. :)  The iron was from a carport we took down at our old house, we'd been hanging on to it for years, it felt good to finally put it to use.
You can see here we put chook wire around the base that is buried into the ground about a foot. Hopefully it would stop dogs getting in there. Plus the whole coop is inside our dog proof yard so there shouldn't be any dogs other than Molly getting that close (fingers crossed).
We replaced the back door on the house with one we brought from Caboolture and the old one got cut back to fit the coop. The shade cloth was given to us by my parents along with a few other bits and pieces that will be popping up in future posts. The pen is not really for keeping the chooks in, they can go anywhere they want, its mostly so they have somewhere they can get away from Molly if needed. 
Inside we made a set of nesting boxes from an old kitchen cuboard we got at the tip shop for just five dollars.

We have started with two Brown Lohmans we got from a friend of our neighbours. They layed for a couple of days, but have stopped now, which we were told could happen because of the shock from the move.

The whole thing took about 3 months, but I think it should last a long time. I think we spent a little over 200 dollars on it which isn't bad. Roll on the eggs :)

Apr 3, 2012

Free Hot Water

Since before we even moved to the farm I've been kicking around ideas for free hot water. It just seems crazy to me to pay for heat when a country like Australia has it in spades. I think if I was still in the suburbs I'd still be trying something like this.

So this is version 1 of my free hot water system. I tossed up between a solar system or a compost system for a while, but it soon became clear that while the vegie garden and food forest are growing (and will be for some time) the organic matter that might go in to a large compost heap was needed elsewhere, maybe its something I can revisit later, it would probably work better through the winter than what I have here.

So down by our shed there is a large water tank that is not attached to the house water, until I set this up it was used for animal water and the washing machine which is in the shed. Those two things alone hardly make a dent in the water level.

I have an extra hose that runs off the pump down by the shed.
Then the hose runs up the hill towards the house tanks. One of these is an old cement tank that leaks.
Here at the cement take I have a tap.
The tap is connected to 100 metres of black poly pipe that is coiled around on the top of the tank.
Then it runs down to a spray hose fitting.
Then I get involved :)
 The water hits the ground 
 That water runs down a trench.
 And into a garden bed.

In the middle of the day, the water is too hot to stand under, around dusk it is just right. There is plenty of room for improvement though. The water is cold again about 30 mins after sunset (and that time is getting shorter as the evenings cool), I was hoping the thermal mass that is the top of the cement tank would hold the heat a bit longer. It gets very warm though the day, you can't stand on it in bare feet, but it seems to loose the heat pretty quickly once the sun is not on it. I'm thinking of trying some black plastic or paint under the pipe to see if that helps (any other suggestions welcome :).

The garden hose I'm using that runs up the hill drips if left under pressure from the pump, this means that before and after the shower you have to walk down to the hill to turn the whole system off at the tap which is a bit clumsy. If I can replace that with more poly pipe it should hold water under pressure.

The trench down the hill to the garden bed should be lined with plastic so less of the water seeps into the sand on its way.

I hope to extend the hose so there is enough water for Vicki and I (100 metres of 19mm pipe holds just under 40 litres). We have an old bath tub that was here on the property we hope to restore a little and put in place under the shower.

 And here are some picks of this mornings mist just cus they are nice :)

Apr 1, 2012


 For a while now we have had 2 sheep on the farm, it took me a while to get around to posting about them. Their names are Willow and Falcon (Willow named by Vicki, Falcon came with his name). We bought them from a stud in Gympie.

They are Wiltipoll Sheep. They shed their coat so we don't have to shear them and when they breed they tend to have twins so our flock should grow quite quickly from here.

They are amazingly economical to keep. We have bought some feed, but with the paddocks as green as they are this time of year we have had little need for it. My only reference point was Archie our horse, you have to buy all sorts of extra food bits for him, so it came as a pleasant surprise that these guys are so low maintenance.

Did I say low maintenance? Well that is only until your ram starts limping and is diagnosed with a small case of foot rot. Then he needs to be caught every day for a week and have iodine sprayed on his feet. These guys were not raised as pets, they are from a farm where they live with hundreds of other sheep and are not handled so they don't like being caught. The first couple of time we tried just tackling Falcon, it kind of worked, but he is so strong it was not a long term solution. At one point I found myself slung around his neck while he dragged me all around the yard (sorry I don't have video or pics of that but I suspect it was very comical), it was stressful and potentially dangerous for both Falcon and I. Eventually we set up a race made of old shipping pallets which did the trick, he is all better now.

As you can see we have reached a point where we can feed them by hand now, that's about as touchy feely as they are going to get I think. But that's fair enough as long as they are happy.

Delivery day

Synchronised munching

After all the rain the land is bursting with sheep food, they have both put on a fair bit of weight since they arrived. It will be interesting to see how they go through the dryer winter months. 

Falcon has turned out to be quite the escape artist, he isn't stopped by an electric fence, apparently their coats insulate against the electricity. So we have a portable enclosure made of Dog wire we can move around, making sure they have plenty of food and shade on hot days. At night they come into the dog proof paddocks with Archie. They all get on pretty well, accept when the sheep get too close to his feed. One of our neighbours has had a couple of wild dog attacks on his sheep since we have been here so we have to stay vigilant.

I've heard people say sheep are stupid, don't believe it for a second. Maybe a better way of putting it is that they are less likely to want to do what you want. When we were having to catch Falcon daily, every time he would recognise the way we managed to corner him the day before and take evasive action. He kept us on our toes, outsmarting a sheep is not as easy as you might think.

And now just to finish some random Molly fun :)

PLEEEEASE can we play fetch some more?