Feb 9, 2013

2013 What a kick off!

Well its all about the weather, and I probably don't need to go into too much detail for any Australian readers. Suffice to say it was bloody hot and dry for a long time and then very very wet for a short time.  We had temperatures well above 35 degrees (often over 40) for at least 3 weeks and then an ex tropical cyclone dumped about 400mm of rain on us in 3 days. Needless to say, we didn't get a lot done around the farm in January.

Not that I'm complaining, we got off a lot easier than many in South East Queensland, or even our own street.  We were worried about fire through the heat and it didn't happen, and it turns out our property is pretty well placed to cope with flooding rain. As frustrating as it all was we really just had to sit it out and were lucky.

Here are some pictures looking down the hill from our house at different times. 2011 just after we moved in. Then towards the end of December when we were drying out big time, that's even before the record breaking heatwave, so you can see why we were worried about fires. By the end of the heat wave the grass would crack under your feet like corn flakes.

And now some current photos after the big rain.

During the heatwave the veggie patch took on a look resembling a miniature shanty town as I found every little piece of shade casting material I could. 

And this is it now. It has left us at a strange point in the garden, now we finally have water, but its too late to plant summer crops and a little too early for most winter crops. I've been planting a lot of beans and peas, and am starting some Brassicas in seed trays.

The meat chickens in their mobile chicken pen are progressing well and doing a fine job scratching up the pasture for us. The chicken wagon is working pretty well, apart from a wobbly wheel development this morning, but it shouldn't be too hard to replace. The meat chooks are road island reds, our favourite breed so far, these ones will be allowed to get a bit older as we will eventually be collecting and incubating eggs from them.

Speaking of eggs, around Christmas one of our house chooks turned clucky, we secured some fertilised eggs from a fellow farmer and put them under her. We only ended up with two out of a dozen  but considering they were sat on through a record breaking heatwave and born into torrential rain that's not too bad.


And here is just a random picture of a couple of our house hens getting cosy in a nesting box, they have six to choose from, but all seem to like using one at a time.


As soon as it dried out a bit I got stuck into a project I'd been thinking about for a while. Its a firewood shelter, hopefully keeping it dry and up off the ground so I don't find any red belly blacks in there. Its made out of old pallets from the tip shop, I love building with them, its like giant Meccano.

A great Idea I picked up from Permi farmer friend Farmer Liz, using toilet rolls as seedling starters, so you can plant them without disturbing the roots.

Some pretty big news about our sheep. We are pretty sure we are going to get rid of them. Its not that they have done anything wrong, its just that our original reason for choosing sheep as our hooved herbivores (needed to restore our land) was that they are supposed to be good companion animals for horses. The problem is that nobody told our horse, Archie is not too keen on spending time with the sheep, especially if there is any food around. 

Now factor in that we hope to produce our own dairy here on the farm. We already have a horse and four sheep and were considering adding another animal for milk, a goat or small cow. The result is a very crowded little five acres, I was having trouble seeing how we could make it work. This was all the result of some linear thinking, we already had the sheep and I was trying to think of a way to add to what was already here to get where we wanted to be. So stepping back I could see that the sheep were not really fulfilling the role we had in mind for them. If we get a cow with calf we can get milk and meat all from the one kind of animal. I also suspect that cows are going to be better at reviving our pasture, the established and popularised Polyface Farms use cattle in conjunction with chickens and I'm aiming at a miniature version of what they do.  

The sheep have been interesting and have given us quite an education in animal keeping, we will miss them. I kind of liked being a shepherd. We haven't forgotten company for Archie, Vicki has been organising some visits from a neighbours horse. This is Spook hanging out with Archie for an afternoon.

The last bit of news for this post is that Vicki has found a local graphic design job. Its full time so I have had to quite my two days a week of teaching in the city. I'M A FULL TIME FARMER! For now at least.


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