Apr 26, 2013

Milk, Honey and Money

Phew! Time flies between blog posts and there is plenty of change taking place at Bunya Breeze.

The first notable hiccup I'll get out of the way as quickly as I can is that yet again there is uncertainty with regard to employment and income for our little household.  As this job Vicki has is yet another creative industries type thing it has not really come as a surprise. The modern world just doesn't consistently demand enough art to keep any job in this area stable. Vicki and I were musing this morning that it must be almost ten years since we had jobs in which we felt truly secure. I'm also concious of singling artists out for special attention, this may be the way the whole world is going, I wouldn't know :P. Everyone involved in this latest episode has at least been honest and open about things, there will be no grudges held or bitterness from employer or employee (or employees husband). This is a good way, or even essential way to handle things in a small town, you can't afford to be bitter because everyone knows everyone, and its not good for you anyway so we'll do our best to stay positive and amiable.

Even if the job does some how continue the uncertainty means my holiday on the farm is likely to come to an end sooner than anticipated. I've already started snooping around for some job opportunities in the area. If I can be fussy I'd rather something part time and local so I can still spend as much time here as possible. I'm not really looking for anything art related which on the one hand opens up a lot of possibilities, but on the other renders my previous experience irrelevant and leaves me open to the old 'over qualified' response when applying for jobs that don't necessarily require intellectual qualifications. But we will see how we go. I'm definitely not afraid of a bit of hard yacka.

Meanwhile, and much more interestingly, the poly-face nature of our farming system continues to take shape, we have pretty much reached our full compliment of animal breeds now which is very exciting. The biggest new addition is Ellie the cow. She is a Dexter, is 3 years old and is 4 months pregnant with her first calf. Eventually, after looking as far afield as Nambour and The Sunshine Coast we found a registered breeder right in our street, which is great because he was able to deliver her for free and is just up the road if we need any further help or advice.

She is a delight, a real curious little thing. Every time we move her she devotes some time to looking things over and sniffing everything, when I am out or in the paddock she follows me around (from a safe distance for now) watching everything I do. There was an inevitable few days of mooing and moaning after the move, she has lived as part of a herd until now and it can't be easy adjusting to just having us and some sheep for company. In some ways we feel like the timing of her arrival is the perfect remedy for our potential financial woes, she makes us smile every time we look at her.

In spite of my earlier post we still have the sheep, after finding out what we could sell them for we decided they need to stay and earn their keep for a while yet before we part with them. We are keeping Ellie in the same paddock as the sheep, keeping cows and sheep together is called a Flerd (Flock+Herd). Ellie is used to sheep as she was raised with them around, the sheep on the other hand are pretty scared of Ellie for now. It is odd because in our earlier experiments with keeping the sheep and Archie the horse together we found they were very outgoing and in spite of Archie's aggression would get very close to him. They give Ellie a very wide birth though, often breaking into a run to dash across to another corner of the paddock when they think she has gotten too close. I'm pretty sure they will get used to her in time.

Last night Ellie escaped from the paddock, and broke my new expensive portable electric fence in two places along the way. We don't know why, its possible she was spooked by something. So we will probably take to keeping her in the safe (and studier) house paddock at night. This would have to have happened when she became a mother and we start milking her anyway so its no big deal.

Ellie is slowly getting used to me being near her, I can usually walk up and give her a pat on the back or neck now without her moving away. Whenever I lead her somewhere I make sure there is some food waiting for her at the destination so she is stating to realise I have good intentions. In the weeks ahead I'll be building some milking bales (probably out of old pallets rather than bought timber now that money could be tight) and I'll start feeding her in them regularly so she gets used to going in there every morning without any stress.

At the other end of the animal size scale I acquired a bee hive the other week at a Permaculture group meeting. David the bee keeper I bought them from was very generous, lending me a whole bunch of equipment without any need of an urgent return.

Moving them was interesting, Myself and Permie neighbour Elizabeth drove home from the meeting late in the afternoon with the hive in the back of the little hatch back with us. But in spite of our trepidation the journey went very smoothly without a single escapee in transit that we noticed.

They wasted no time getting to work and I see many of them now in my garden, working the flowing couch grass and in the trees. My friend Jack (a bee keeper himself) was happy to see we have quite a few Narrow Leafed Iron Bark trees around because they are just coming into flower and will be the bees main source of food through the winter.

Another Permie friend Judi also gave me a handy book on bee keeping that has been good to have. I have read a lot on-line but I found most of it assumed you have a basic knowledge and then tries to steer you in one direction or the other from there, while the book starts out by outlining the basics which I need.

The bees won't need a lot of attention in the immediate future, they have just had their honey harvested before I got them and need some time now to make sure they are stocked up for the cold winter, during this time the honey is more for them than us as they feed on it to keep warm.

About the only animal change I can potentially see for now on the farm is that we might swap sheep for goats at some point, but i need to learn more about the potential of keeping goats and cattle together first because I'm not too keen dividing up our animals into many more separate groups (which makes more work). We have some neighbours who have shared some goats milk with us a few times and I'll tell you fresh unprocessed goats milk is bloody delicious. The total number of actual animals will of course have to fluctuate in response to the way the climate treats us over time, but for now we have plenty of water and the pasture is looking good.

The garden is proving quite productive in the last little stint of warm weather, I have over 15 Watermelons near ready for picking, about the same amount of Spaghetti Squash, 10 or more Pumpkins and an absolutely ripper crop of Tomatoes just starting to ripen. On the way among many other things are loads of Beetroot and Chinese Broccoli. Plus now I'll have cow manure to add to my compost, making it even more fertile.

So life goes on at Bunya Breeze. The farm, its animals and plants offer a reassuring consistency, even when things change they respond as they should and guide us as much as we guide them. While the semi fictional world of commerce, employment and even the love of the first half of my life art, shifts under our feet and attempts to tip us off balance with almost comical frequency. Is it any wonder the world is in the grip of a depression epidemic when for many engagement with the real rhythms and connections of life, the great adventure they offer and long road of discovery they reveal are considered optional. Vicki and I have so quickly evolved to a point where we cling to the farm for comfort and reassurance, it simply makes sense, always gives as much as it takes. We are safe here, our quality of life is magnified here and the title of this blog rings truer than ever. 


Bart Beswick said...

It is great to read about these adventures, Ian! Cheers.

Frank said...

Most people panic with just one bee in the car!

Mark Osberg said...

Keep up the good fight.

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