Monday, December 10, 2012

Greenhorn Mistake

so ....

thot we were invincible, did we?
thot that whatever we did would be just right and not need changing?
oops .... that's pretty naive!
found consolation in the fact that most people go through it.

our plymouth rock chook population has been cut by a third .... from 12 to 8.

the  culprit, we believe, is a fox.  typical scenario .... got in under the bottom edge of our geodesic dome.  i was angry, upset and then realised that it all happened because of our stupidity and naive belief that we were safe.  i have to say that with our neighbors well over 50+ free roaming fowl ... i was certain that anything would go after them before us.  but twas not to be.  ours were just too tempting a contained feast.

we lost one rooster and three hens.  guess that decides our breeding group!  we will have two roosters at the end of the day that will become dinner.  but the five hens that are left will go with Bob and become our breeding group.  one rooster can apparently cover about five chooks with a high level of fertitility .... so we'll give that a go.

and in the meantime, we have created a meter wide wire skirt around our chook dome. that is covered by corrugated iron and pallets and bricks just to make sure .... a veritable fort knox of safety!

happy to report that while there was obvious signs that something tried
to get in again ... we had a completely safe chook population!
hubby and i have also been talking about what chook dome generation #2 will have ... and we figure the skirt will go on straight away with ag pipe wired on around the edges which can be staked into the ground.  it's about learning from our mistakes .... so each time we do something, it should be better.

the other added benefit of the corrugated iron at this point is that it helps define the meter wide path around the mandella that we will lay cardboard on and mulch on top of that for our walk way.

i should also add that we have succumbed to the need for eggs and bought three isa brown point of lays from a local breeder.  so they have joined the clan now too living in our movable a-frame tractor until the permanent chook hilton is in place in our food forest.

and one final addition to the family.  we had been wanting to get a dog .... specifically a livestock guardian dog (gee, would've been great given our recent loss ....)  but we were having problems working out logicistics and were concerned about our middle son who is a tad afraid of dogs.  so we ended up getting the kids an early christmas present .... a rescued collie x lab and her name is bella.  isn't she divine!  i am sure eventually we will get a maremma .... but in the meantime .... bella is a sweet, smart girl who our kids adore and all have fun bonding with!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mandala's, Chooks and IKEA

our first geodesic chook dome is done!

hubby and i laughed a bit because we liken it to IKEA furniture's ability to test a relationship.  if your relationship can handle putting together a piece of IKEA furniture (or a chook dome!) then it can survive anything.  and you bet!  we survived and boy!  are we happy with the outcomes ... it means that we can seriously start putting our mandala beds together!

but i have to digress a little and pay thanks to those who deserve it .... because while i am sure they don't realise it, they have played a significant role in this little accomplishment and inspiring us along this path and setting an example that we can EASILY follow (and i SO mean that!).  a bit of a hat tip to them first.

to the folks at Purple Pear.  we had never really considered the concept of the Mandala Garden, and how you can use chickens as an integrated part of the process until we spent a day with them on their property in the Hunter Valley.   it was great to see the rotational grazing and dense nutrient rich soil that their chooks created in their lives on the farm.  to get an idea of the process they went through, have a look here.

to a permie guru Terra Sancta Permaculture, thank you for hearing our desire to combine function and beauty and encouraging us to use the mandala as an integrat part of our farm.

there was never a more complete, easy to read, and thorough resource on how to build a geodesic dome than what the guys at Milkwood have done.  take a look.  it is easy to follow and i know that as hubby and i stood in the middle of the paddock pieces bits together we had the iphone at hand with this page up so that we got it right.

 we like the geodesic dome because the interlocking pieces strengthen the dome as they interlace. easy to move isn't even a doubt.  and the way that the function of the chickens doing their job and making scrumptious soil to plant in and the beauty of how a mandala garden can function together is a thing to behold.  if you've never heard of a mandala garden before .... do a google search and you'll get a myriad of different and gorgeous concepts for how they come together.  for us, the mandala is a circular bed, with a keyhole centre that you can walk in.  our design will be a centre mandala with circles all the way around.  i reckon that if you had an view from a plane it might look a little like a daisy.  in the end we'll have two of these, each with a geodesic dome moving the chooks around and fertilizing the soil and cleaning the beds.  yeah!!!

the negative???  the chicken wire.  it's a bit of a pain really .... and will never look "nice".  just ain't gonna happen .... but the fact is the chickens don't care what it looks like as long as they have food/water and a perch they are just fine.  so i've let go of my innate need for this to look nice and it works.

this is a huge step forward for us ... give the chooks a week or two on the area, throw in a bale of hay for them to work, scratch and poo in ... and then i'll be able to start considering what yummy end of summer veg we can plant!

electrical conduit ready to be cut

the calculations can bend the brain.  measure twice and
cut once was truly the method we had to use!

our first batch of chickens!  LOL!

and so it begins to rise ....
i told you it was light weight and easy to move!
coaxing our two month old plymouth rocks
into their new domicile.

our version of "pasture poultry"
all done and dusted thank you very much!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

meet Bob ...

... with his girls Babs, Brenda and Bee (the 3B's).

Bob (aka the rooster) is in the very back .... he has the pink comb.  he wasn't the most aggressive
or assertive, but my research would indicate that you want a protector not an aggressor.
these guys will form our breeding group. a huge step forward in the cycle of life here at JustEarth and an important one.  successful breeding means that we will be in eggs and roast chicken as long as we manage the process properly.  our first foray into sustainability from a meat perspective.

the idea for us is that we start with something we can handle and learn from.  when we lived in the blue mountains we got utility chooks as layers and enjoyed the eggs and learning about the best way to manage and care for chickens.  now that we are comfortable with that, we are making the leap into the world of heritage chooks.

heritage animals are important, and if you want to learn about our choice for plymouth / barred rock ... you can read that here.  but our kiddo's have grown and grown ... starting life as these small little fluff balls, and becoming gangly teenagers.  the boys are starting to fight so it is time to separate out the best boy to have a harem .... (being a male on a farm is really only good for you if you are at the top of the proverbial pecking order!).

have had to do a fair bit of research on choosing the best birds as hens and which would be the ideal rooster, etc.  i highly recommend the book The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, by Harvery Ussery .... fabulous resource .... truly.

it will be a while before we are getting new life out of these birds.  if we had older hens or an old rooster it might be different ... as they would be inclined towards breeding straight away .... but given the length of warm days and nights here in the Northern Rivers of NSW, i reckon by early next spring (that is August for all you folk north of the equator) we will have new chick life becoming part of the life force at JustEarth. .... maybe earlier .... but that is the aim!

the diagram below represents the chicken cycle at JustEarth.  an aside .... i am sick and tired of buying eggs from the store.  so what that means is that i am going to kick start our layer hen flock with 5 or 6 point of lay isa browns in the next week or two (geodesic dome #1 goes in this weekend) .... to start rewarding us with some yummy fresh pasture eggs ..... nom, nom, nom .....

an aside for those of you who are wondering about names.  there are two reasons you see.  one is to preserve the lines and prevent inbreeding (although not a huge issue).  the other is well, in ode to one of our favorite muso's Sandra Boyton ... and her little ditty about a boy with numerous pets ... all named Bob.  ergo Bob and his brood of "B" girls .....

and if you were wondering what happened to the other 8 chickadee's (we started with 12).  well, they are enjoying life as our first true "pastured poultry" ... and loving it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rhythm of Life ....

JustEarth .... it's been home for almost three weeks now and i can feel it in my bones.

... that Rhythm of Life beating strong in our day to day routine ...

it is satisfying and comforting.

everything seems to be doing what it is supposed to do.  
  • there is pleasure in knowing that if you put a seed in good, healthy soil it will sprout and give you food for your family
  • there is satisfaction in seeing chicks grow into gangly chickens, learning to perch and eat scraps ... seeing them grow into what our Creator intended them to be
  • there is joy in watching water be used to wash with and then used again to feed plants that will grow and fill my children's tummies
just getting up each day .... planning and thinking about what comes next to improve the soil, make it healthy and grow good stuff. 

even getting to know our neighbors, and their errant animals!  we have ducks, geese, chickens, and guinea fowl that come on to our property .... which is fine for now .... i reckon a dog will be coming soon!  and that should take care of that.

so life is finding a normal for us.  the kids go to school, hubby off to work ... i always find time to have a coffee with friends and then doing odd jobs here at the homestead.  we're having a planning session saturday ... to quantify and prioritise our projects.  so i reckon we may be ramping up a bit after that!  

i can't wait!

and this is just a few photo's .... a glimpse of what has become normal for us.  enjoy!

our Plymouth Rock chicks are becoming gangly teenagers.  have been doing
some reading on sexing them and i reckon we have 7 hens and 5 roosters.  the lucky strongest rooster and two
of the hens will become our breeding trio to keep us in chooks!  

hubby mowing the "briar patch".  this area currently has a variety
of different things, but will eventually have all bush berries and produce.
now that we have mowed it, i reckon we'll be putting in a few log borders and
a mulch footpath .... which will eventually decompose and make great soil.

ok .... for all you sticky beeks who have wanted to know how we live .... here it is...
our little  compound.  the big caravan is the male quarters with the annex serving as
our tv room.  the smaller caravan is the female quarters, and the shed houses laundry,
a toilet and shower .... you can see the two solar panels behind the shed that provide
me with a luxurious warm shower each afternoon.

one of my blue berries.  i planted them only a few months ago .... but i don't
seem to be able to stop them from fruiting .... which only supports the fact that they love
our alkaline soil.  these berries mimick what we are doing with most fruit ... getting early, mid and late
season plants to give us the longest season possible.  yummmmm!

the start of our tree nursery.  in my excitement to have lots of yummy stuff growing on
our farm, i failed to remember that they need to be planted in good soil.  duoh!  and between being in
pots too long and getting some severe wind damage when being moved to the property, they are in need of
some tlc.  i am happy to report that after two weeks of being in nutrient rich soil, getting good water and
and undercover crop of legumes they are doing well.  this  area will double in size in the next week.

and this is what you get when errant geese come on your block.  we have a hay
bale down at the briar patch and this monsterous gem was tucked in a corner.  we used the floating
test, it passed and then had it for dinner.  yumm!!!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Plymouth Rocks Rock!

it's nice to know that good research pays off from time to time.  i have been wondering what would be the best type of heritage chicken to get for our purposes .... and that seemed to be the Plymouth Rock. 

you see, we are looking for a dual purpose bird ... a chook that can meet both our egg and meat needs.  it seems to me that you can find them on both ends of the spectrum ... but there are few heritage breeds left that can give you both meet and eggs.  my research would say that the plymouth rock was one of the last heritage breeds to truly give you both.  sure, they aren't as pretty as some of the others ... but at this point, as much as i love all the beautiful and varying breeds out there ... we need practical.  so the plymouth rock it is. 

and to show how committed we are to this wonderful breed, my family picked me up from the airport from my stay in the Philippines (wonderful trip, worth it's own blog post) and we picked these day old chickies on our way home.

so welcome to JustEarth my fine feathered friends.  you represent the start of a great lineage at our little homestead.  i look forward to seeing which one of you stands out as the best rooster and protector of his tribe ... your lucky future will mean making lots more babies to increase our numbers!  many of you girls will be added to our laying gaggle for num-num eggs .... and the rest of you blessed creatures ...

well, lets just say, i hear dinner calling!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Reality Bites, a few firsts .... and ta-ta!

reality is starting to sink in..... you see ..... in one week i leave to go with our school / church team to the Philippines to do some work there.  our deal was always that we would be living on the property by the time i got back.

egad .... feeling really sorry for hubby right now, leaving him to wear the brunt of the final pack up.  so have kinda stepped it into high gear ..... trying to get the things in boxes that won't be going with us to the property, and chucking out the stuff that hasn't been used since we've been here so it can't be that important anyway ....

yup .... reality bites!

but we've also got a few firsts to celebrate ....

our first strawberry!
i know ... it's only a flower right now .... 
but given they were planted but a month ago, i'm quite happy with them!

and we have our first wwoof'er (of sorts!).  

we couldn't have gotten the shed up without alex .... a keen, willing and able year 8 student who has a passion for farming and learning about how to make good soil.  thank you alex for your great attitude, ability to to be mature beyond your years and generally just being a great kid!  we look forward to having you help us out heaps more in the future!  (promise to include you in the geodesic dome build!)

... and a bit of a ta-ta ..... you see ..... i'm off to the Philippines.  second home, cultural home of my children and a land close to my heart.  going over for 12 days with a team from our church and local school to do some work at the orphanage.  really excited.  one of the cool things for me personally is that as a part of the ministry of the home, i am assisting them in bringing on a sustainable ag / farm worker.  we should be finalizing these details while i am there.  and too .... a mob out of Western Australia is going to be coming across and getting the guys up and running with aquaponics .... so that will be a great step forward for the home with regards to sustainability.

ironically, i leave hubby and kids at home and reckon that i will leave this house, go to the PI and come back to living in a caravan.  lol ..... the PI will seem like luxury compared to what i return to .... but then it is truly living on the land and basking in the reality of "justearth" life ....

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Checklist time ....

 so ..... let's run through the check list.

as previously reported .... the caravan is on site.  check

 first (of many!) water tanks in ......


water tank filled ...

power pole delivered .....


power brought on to site  ....
(yes, need a post on why we are on grid vs solar right from the start)

kids being ever so cute and very, very helpful

i reckon there is a six-pack developing on that boy!

ok mum .... time for a break!  let's get muddy!

so some big ticks in the done box this week ......

next .....

  • getting the amenities shed up
  • fitting out the amenities shed so we have a working loo and shower!
  • getting the caravan up on bricks and stabalized ....then we can put the annex up and start moving our stuff in
i reckon we are still about 3 weeks away from moving.  as long as it is september i am ok with that.  that will leave plenty of time for spring planting .... i have heaps of things to plant .... tomato's / leeks / artichokes / beans / greens / onions are all ready to be planted out .... so biding my time .... but barely!  i'm really ready to start rockin' in the veg patch BIG TIME!

Monday, August 20, 2012

... update

so, the caravan is now on sight.

yep ... still needs to go up on bessa bricks and have it's final anchoring .... but it's there ... this will function as our sleeping quarters and wet/cold weather kitchen.  we will have an annex attached which will be
our living room.
the tent will go up as the kids playroom (or our bedroom in summer)

the water tank pad is in .... tank delivery and fill scheduled for this thursday.

the base for the shed is in now too .... grateful for friends in spite of a high wind day 
that meant the shed couldn't go up.    
the shed will house our loo, shower (got a great deal on a solar hot water unit 
w/ panels on ebay!), laundry and a small bit of storage.

power is supposed to be on this week too (going on grid for now .... just, well, cheaper!)

outdoor dinning / relaxing area yet to come .... have seen some great ideas that we will modify to work on this sight.  it will incorporate an outdoor campfire ... for which the kids have become our own junior version of "time team" as they dig up rocks on the property to put a ring around the fire.  man ... who woulda thunk it would be so hard to find rocks!  
but the kids are having fun digging them up!

where we are situated on the block will actually be the future hard core processing / storage area for our broilers, veg and flowers.  in addition we'll have great guest/woofer quarters already set up!  also keeps us well out of the way of the builders when the house starts (nope .... not doing owner builder, we just don't have it in us to do it!).

and in the meantime i have heaps of artichokes, comfrey, tomato's and leek seedlings that are just about ready to plant.  and i'm dreaming of having the irrigation system in to get the beans going, the strawberries have taken as have the blueberries ...and we are weeks away from ordering our first set of Plymouth Rock chicks .... our heritage breed of choice at this point.  

so .... the REAL countdown will start from when we have power on site.  we'll give our notice in our rental at that point and will have no excuse to not be powering forward .... 
excited ... check
terrified ... check
anticipating the adventure ... BIG check!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Coincidence? I think not!

just a short update today ..... but me-thinks it is no coincidence that as soon as we get the excavator out to start leveling an area for the caravan / shed / water tank .....

that life seems to be blooming in earnest at JustEarth!  have a look at the first broad beans, true edible and planted by yours truly veg at JustEarth ....!

and amazing .... the ducks have returned .... and they are having a ball!

JustEarth is truly coming alive with the 
sights and sounds of our Father's amazing Creation!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Countdown ....

 four weeks to go ... it's done and it's happening.  September 1 we will be on the farm.  so this is week 1 of 4, counting down to us living at JustEarth .... we may still have a few odds and ends to clean up at the rental after that date.... but we will be on the property by then!  i can't begin to describe the underlying sense of bedlam, mayhem, chaos and excitement that seems to be coursing through us right now.  and yes, utter terror also finds its way into that as well.

the best way to combat the terror is to get on task ... gett the mojo shifting.  so we've got our rough schedule of minor tasks for the week.  noting that i can do more running around than scott .... so a lot of that has to fall to me.  and that's ok .... cause that is what a team does!  i have to get the bobcat / auger organised, scott needs to order water tanks and a few other things. 

the biggy for me though is to start sorting ..... AGAIN.  

gee ..... i just wonder how much stuff we will be able to sluff off as we compact our lives yet again?  i wonder if i will feel a sense of freedom or loss?  i reckon there will be a bit of both.

and in the meantime, it was another weekend on the property .... 

Another gorgeous little green tree frog ... truly
can't get enuf of these little creatures.

a break in the mayhem ... let's go for a ride in the back of the trailer!

will have to write a whole blog on this .... the start of the
bush n berries maze .... 6 blueberries, kerriberry and
raspberry all happily ensconced in their little earth cocoons ...

ha!  gotta win over the neighbors .... we borrowed a friends ride on mower
and made sure that the front of the property was neatly mown...
already having dreams of our own country version of Costa's
Verge Community!

the princess isn't afraid to get her hands dirty .... planting tagasaste seeds ....
great legume tree's ..... both for soil and for fodder for animals!

and i saw this sign at the old Yorklea Community Hall out near us and was very excited .....

it's truly becoming a movement up here .... finally in our area!  the word on the street is that the Lock the Gate group is trying to find someone on each street out in the country who will work with the group and the neighbors to try and declare the street "CSG FREE" ..... gee .... might have to get a sticky beak into that one!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Quiet Revolution

all's quiet on the western front .... or JustEarth front .... so it seems.  been a while since i've posted.  lots of reasons.  distraction has been the biggest part of that, with three kids on school holidays!  more important things to take up my time!  and i wouldn't have it any other way.

but as school holidays started winding down, we found more and more time to be with each other out at the farm.  (is it a farm?  homestead?  property?  there are those who would laugh at me calling 6.4 acres a farm!)

it's a bit of a quiet revolution at our place right now.  friends have been helping out with major bits of slashing and mowing ... we had our first camp fire and marshmallow roast on the property. so quietly and slowly it's coming together.

we've opted to start with our centre section of bush n berries to get the gardens going from our design plan.  a fair bit of this is manual labor ... but with the mowing we have been able to lay the newspaper, manure and straw to begin the try at a Ruth Stout style of gardening.  more on that later, but suffice it to say that she wrote a book called, "How to Grow Without an Aching Back" .... so it's meant to be easier to get going.  and that is what we wanted .... to begin that process and start building the beds.

so i just thot i'd share a few pictures and how it's going.  i'm quietly excited.  i like definition and clarity.  and that is certainly starting to happen!  as you look at these beds .... remember .... we are working our way up the hill .... so these pictures would represent the bottom third of this area.

defining the beds.  also a bit of a perspective on the slope
and height of the winter grass.  that open space near
the bags is under debate at the moment .... i'm thinking
frog pond ....

i love this shot.  building a maze for the kids to play
in and pick their afternoon tea from!

The kids are helping plant out the River Cottage styled
Pea Tree.  It is a creative, rambling way to grow the pea's.
No doubt we will add more branches and twigs as
the pea's require them!
this shows the long straight bed we
have added.  Goes against everything
about growing on contour, I KNOW!  but
we will be drip irrigating and capturing
water in numerous other ways.  this will
eventually be the asparagus and strawberry bed.

a view from down the bottom of the hill to show the
slope.  we will have to combat this a bit.  more on
that in another post.  oh ... and that little bush to the
left is a lemon scented geranium!  smells divine!
so that is our short update.  plans go in to council next week to allow us to live on the land.  it's become far too complicated and i am frustrated .... but sharing these shots, and talking about what we will be growing ... certainly helps!