Thursday, November 28, 2013

Piglet Mania!

well .... new life has been added .... our pig, Lucy, gave birth to a fabulous litter of piglets.

the journey to this point has been pretty challenging.  facing the world of first time pig birthing was pretty daunting.  as each day passed and we saw her belly grow, we kept wondering when???  when???? when??????  just watching her waddle around, heavy breathing, lumbering to get cooled off in the heat was enuf to make us feel very sorry her!

oh good grief!  would you have those piglets already girl!  

because it was our first adventure into pig raising, i read up heaps ... and heaps.  did all the text book comfort things of patting her belly when eating and stroking her behind the ears .... talking to her.  all this to ensure that she was comfortable with us being around the piglet when they were born.  discussed what to look for with farmer friends here who have done it before so we were ready for the big day.  what kept coming up was the key things to look for in a pig about to farrow.

  1. nesting .... gathering up all the straw she can find to build her warm and cosy nest to have her babies.  this would indicate that she was about 24 hours away from farrowing.
  2. loss of appetite.  not wanting to eat because all her energy was going into preparing to give birth.
  3. when gently squeezing her teats if milk discharges that means she is hours away from giving birth.
did she nest?  nope!  
did she have a loss of appetite ... not a chance .... ate like a horse the morning she gave birth.
any milk discharge? not a drop.

so it would be no surprise then that hubby went out to do the morning feed and said she is big ... but no signs yet .... and when i went out that afternoon with the kids there were 10 little piglets getting cozy with mama!

it's 36 hours later and we've lost two piglets.  not sure if it is because she rolled onto them, or because we had an unusually cold night.  either way .... those sorts of things are to be expected as part of the natural cycle when you choose to raise your animals in a more natural, pastured way.  she is a good mum though ... and is now eating heaps to keep up that fabulous milk those babies need.

so, we are on to the next leg of this adventure .... growing the piglets and keeping them safe (i reckon for the next week they will still be vulnerable to a predatory bird that hangs around and the inevitable fox).  we move to our 100 acres in 3 weeks (yeah!) and at that point we'll begin the weaning process .... but mum will help with that as she is ready to help them grow up.  teaching them to feed out of a creep and taking solid food .... all that fun stuff.  will have to see if they break the stereo types with that as well!

oh .... and all that stuff they tell you to do about stroking her belly, feeling her nipples, talking to her during the last stages to ensure that she is comfortable with you around the piglets?  well, she got that one right!

a friend on FB said that she reckons the kids will have a hard time eating one of them.  ... hmmmm maybe .... but they'll get used to the process.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

what the??????

we certainly can't claim to be the first to have taken a new fork in the road.

when we left Sydney two+ years ago we were following a dream.  one of creation care activists ... living off the land in a sustainable way that honoured this world that our Father in Heaven has blessed us with.

it has been a wild, fun and wonderful two years .... but it's time for another change.  another re-jig of that dream to build on our strengths and assist in our weaknesses (oh yea!  we have heaps of those!).

strength:  what am amazing sense of community in this beautiful little country town.  we have been overwhelmed with the acceptance of us, our children and our desire to live this sort of life.  people here are happy with a simple life and always ready to lend a helping hand.  how awesome is that!

strength:  we found that we actually do have tenacity!  some folks were not sure we could do this ... but we have persevered and continued to face each challenge and make the best out of what gets dished out to us each day.

strength:  willingness to be wrong and learn .... 'nuf said!

weakness:  niave.  big time ... probably trusting in some folks more than we should with regard to how our future unfolds.  but at the end of the day, we'd rather be naive than to be cynical.  if you want to know more about that .... come on over and have a bottle of wine in hand!

weakness:  age and time.  lets face it, we aren't spring chickens any more .... and while hubby is an amazing man .... he can't make more than 24 hours in a day.  so when it comes to building and putting infrastructure in place, it became very slow and things just couldn't get done.  and even more importantly .... it was a bit of a drudge.  working a full time job and trying to help with the farm was just too much!

this whole situation was further exacerbated by the fact that all the banks decided that they didn't want to cover the risk of the house we wanted to build.  too risky, too different .... just "too" .... <sigh>  which has left us feeling deflated and defeated.

what next???

well .... chin up ... look at all that we have and trust our Loving Father for His provision.

so, we are humbly taking a deep breath and moving on.  to what????

to JustEarth .... mark 2.

we have found a place, just 20 minutes from town that will give us more than we could have ever dreamed of.  a house (albeit not hugely sustainable .... but we can fix that!), 2 dams, a lagoon and 100 acres.  and more importantly .... some basics already in place with a big shed, fire trails, a cattle yard .... you get the picture .... INFRASTRUCTURE.

so much more than we could have ever imagined (and isn't that how God loves to work??? giving us more than we could dream of??)

so watch this space, yet again.  looks like the dream is growing .... allowing hubby to do his full time job and enjoy our home as well ...

here we go again!!!!!  building JustEarth on a different scale, in a different way.  but still using those creation care / permaculture principles of people care, earth care and fair share.


p.s.  if you want a squiz at our new place, you can see it here ....

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Angry Birds...

i have angry birds .... very angry birds!

or at least that is my assumption.  how do i know you ask?  well ... we have gone from 6-8 eggs a day to 0 ... almost overnight.

yeah ... a big fat ZERO.

consider this a life lesson in changing the accommodation arrangements for your chooks.  i have given them a piece of my mind ... told them to get their act together or they would be chicken soup.  but i can't do that.  you see, i know the real reason .... and it's just one of those farm life lessons.

  • we moved the geodesic dome to a new spot .... which meant fresh grass.... yippee!  but also meant a lot of jostling about as they moved.
  • i had not one, but two broody hens.  one i let sit on a clutch of eggs.  the other i kept shoo-ing off the nesting box area ... she was taking up the entire area and wasn't allowing the other girls on the nest.
  • i have two isa browns that were in a seperate a-frame ... and moved them into the geodesic dome for the short term.
  • egg fertility rate has gone down significantly.  we hatched a clutch at just over 50% fertility.  the last batch that i gave to a teacher for their classroom with only one hatching from that!  ugh!
  • and to top it all off, i was rude enuf to throw the broody hen that hatched a clutch back into the geodesic dome and take her chicks away from her.  how dare i!

the only saving grace is three young layers i bought a few months ago that are finally starting to come good .... so i am getting a few eggs from them finally.

so i reckon it will take a few weeks ... hopefully less.  the broody hens are off the nesting box finally so all have access again.

i am missing my eggs.  both for cooking and for hatching.

really looking forward to that empty nest being full again and my angry birds not being so angry any more!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fertility Update

been away on a few holidays and spending family time together ... but back on deck now.

we have been hatching chickies! .... current run is 4 hens, 5 dinners (oops!  roosters), four with a broody mamma and 9 in a classroom being carefully watched!  so tick ... that is end is going great!

and the piggies are having fun being pigs!  whoever coined the phrase happy as a pig in mud certainly knew what they were talking about.  

and now we wait .... for our dearly beloved pig, Lucy, to farrow ..... three months, three weeks and three days.  we believe she is about 2 1/2 months in. you can tell she is taking care of herself.  when given the choice between fresh water to wallow in and bulking up the protein, she is going for the food every time  (whereas Polly just goes for the mud!).  we are hoping she will be a good mamma .... if she is we will keep her as a breeder and keep the piggies coming.  she is a beautiful girl and we would cross her with a pure bred berkshire next time.

let me be honest ....i'm a bit nervous about the whole thing.  we have never done this before ... and you can do all the reading you want ... your first time is always the scariest!  animal husbandry 101!  and because we aren't living on the block, she could start farrowing and have problems and we aren't able to help her.  but we will keep our eyes peeled for all the signals that farrowing has started and keep a vigil then.

did a post on facebook the other day .... 
saying guess the pregnant piggie ....
can you tell????

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Increasing Our Protein Options

  • so we have a freezer full of pork ..... yummmmmo.
  • we are getting more eggs than we know what to do with.
  • on the dam our calves contentedly eat grass and grow into what will be great beef for our table one day
  • most days i am cooking with at least one or two things from our property (unless of course the neighbours sheep and goat habitually get in and decimate your cauliflower, broccoli, peas, kohlrabi, etc..... you get the picture).

and this all makes my heart very happy.

but we need to close a loop on our need to buy in our protein .... gradually and when and how we can.  i'm happy to report we starting to seriously do just that.

we are finally hatching our own chickens.  meet our first four additions, future layer and three dinners (oops, roosters!).  how can i tell that at a day old?  well, that's a story for another day .... lets just say its in the breed you choose.
hellooooooo chickies!
our goal is to be raising enough chickens so that we can have one - two chicken meals a week.  so that means roughly three birds, which can't be processed until they are 4-5 months old.  gestation period is roughly 21 days, and we have a small incubator (9-12 eggs) with a roughly 70% fertility (our rooster is young his rate will increase dramatically in the next year), and the odd broody hen, we should do great. come the new year we should start having regular chicken meals on our sustainable table!

it is amazing how precise they can be as they are getting
ready to climb out of their shell!
welcome to the world!  the first home grown
JustEarth chook!
saying hello to #2!
hellooooooo broody mama!

btw ... if you have small children, it is a fascinating process to include them in.  candling the eggs from the get go to see if they are fertile .... checking progress, watching them hatch.  it is a great hands on education for our kiddos!

the next step will of course be ensuring that our animals pay their own way.  we need to be raising enough chicks and a plethora of eggs so we can sell these to the local community.  the proceeds from these sales will help cover feed costs and ensure the ongoing viability of this endeavour.

i wonder if i see turkeys, geese and ducks in our future?  i don't know!  would be a good way for the kids to earn some money and learn fiscal responsibility.  but..... in the meantime ...

we do what we can
where we are
with what we have.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sincere Gratefulness

had you wondered where i'd gone?  not anywhere actually .... but the challenges of a dead computer and pathetic internet ... well ... it just won out.

but we're back now and spring is in full swing, and we are beginning to seriously eat off the land and i am very grateful for this.

we processed our first pig a week ago.  and its just one of those experiences that utterly affects you when you realise that this animal is giving the ultimate gift it could to you .... food for our family.  our boy had a great life, and lived the way a pig should live ... on pasture, rooting around, getting muddy.  it is a step that if you are going to live sustainably that you have to take.  taking very seriously that if you are going to live off the land, you have to care for the animals that you choose to raise and ultimately eat.

so i am grateful .... for the opportunity to live this life and provide for our family.  and when it's an animal you have raised from a new life .... it makes it even more special, knowing the personal relationship you have had with the food that is on your plate (tonight that happened to be an egg/leek/onion/broadbean pie with ham steaks! ymmmm).

and the beauty of his life is that he has left behind a pregnant gilt ... a beautiful new cycle of life!

so here is just a pictorial ode to our pigs ... enjoy, as we have enjoyed them!

saying goodbye to reepicheep ... thanks mate!

Monday, June 17, 2013

slow days update

winter .... or at least as close as it gets "down under" is starting to hit.  the nights are getting very brisk, but the sun still shines brilliantly during the day. nights bring on the need to huddle under a quilt with a good cup of tea, while the day brings more necessary maintenance on the farm and planning for spring.

there will be much to update soon .... but i thot i'd give you a picture of the slow life these days .... and how we pass our moments.

the piggies are doing an amazing job getting our orchard cleared.
probably another week and we'll move them on.  

hubby has fallen in love with our piggies .... they
have amazing personalities and love getting their daily

the first of my broad bean beds .... have i mentioned
just how much i love broad beans?????
the early season potato bed.  we are moving a chook
tractor in front of it and adding sections as we go, putting
yummy chicken manure in the bottom.  broad beans will
go in the middle of each bed as a companion and
soil builder.  
haven't mentioned our cows lately.  this is stray ... they
are loving the easy life and eat lots of pasture and leave
us with fabulous manure.  both are suffering from a bit of
grass belly right now, so we have added cottonseed
to their diet. they are 9 months ... we will have to start thinking about
processing them towards the end of the year.
the green manure on the front of our future orchard is coming up
nicely.  it makes me a bit warm inside when i think about what they are doing
under the surface!
and of course, where would we be in winter without a bit of planning?  this is the start of what we think is the final itteration for our orchard design.  it incorporates a bit more than just tree's .... and should be visually a delight!

the next few months will be quiet busy for us.  lots of planning and getting ready for spring ... and along with that we should be building our house!  so we will have lots of things to be keeping you up-to-date with!

.... in the meantime .... grab a cuppa, snuggle under your favorite quilt and read a book .... there is always something reading that needs to be caught up on!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

leeks x 2

do you love your leeks???

that divine flavour that sweetens your favorite leek and potato soup????  its one of my favorite winter addictions .... just can't get enuf of them.

want a trick to getting more leek for your buck???  i mean honestly ..... have you seen the price in your local stores or markets?  they run at least $1.50 each .... and depending on availability it can be much more!

so here is my trick.  it will work if you grow your own, or buy from a local market where the roots are still on your little precious jewel.

take your leek that looks like this.

what you want is to cut it just above the roots, where the shaft bulges out a bit.
you'll end up with yummy leek for your dinner and something left over that should look like this.

let it sit for a few days .... no more.  you want the roots to just be drying out .... and 
really thirsty for a good drink in moist earth.

then you take it and trim the roots just a bit ...

this will give it something to, well ... grow into for lack of a better word.
you can also see how the top has started to come back already.

plant this little beauty in the soil .... right back in your leek bed, or wherever you want!  
plant just up to level with the top ... so you can barely see the white flesh through
the thin layer of soil.

and be patient ... give it about a week and guess what?

it's another leek .... 
or as i like to say .... 
two for the price of one!  
how great is that.

enjoy!  and be sure and use a few leeks this winter in some great soups and stews!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Refreshing Reminders

let's take a journey away from the farm.  i have been .... so why not come along for the ride?

last weekend i drove one of our cars down to Sydney to sell.  the market for a late model small cars is better there than in country NSW.   as a treat i took our middle son because he has been really pulling his weight lately and helping out.  boy!  am i glad i did!

it was ... refreshing.  when he is not in the shadow of his big personality big sister or bombastic little brother he really comes out of his shell.  chatter box, non stop talking, questions, all of it .... non stop.

i could say something about how anoying it can be to hear ...

mum.... what about
mum .... did you know
mum ...
Mum ....
MUM!!!!!  this is so cool!

you see ... i was focused on the task at hand.

and then suddenly here we sat in the Sydney Domestic Terminal, T2 to be exact, waiting for our return trip to the Northern Rivers.  eating a subway sandwich (don't go there!  it was better than any other junk food!) and watching the planes take off and land, be loaded and all that.  my boy was awe struck .... fascinated in that utterly boy way by all the mechanics of everything around him.

and i realised, with this great sigh of relief that this is a pick me up .... seeing how my son wants to engage with his world .... watching him grow.  it reminds me of why we did this move in the first place.

a better life
a richer existence
teaching stewardship to our children

all so that we have a world for our kids and grand kids to really enjoy ....

so that's all.  i encourage you to stop and look at your little tykes (or any that happen to be around you) and enjoy how they see the world and be .... inspired.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Ugly Veg and Those Darn Piggies!

fall is in full swing here in the southern hemisphere .... and you know what that means.  UGLY VEG.  yep .... tis the season!  there are all those fabulous winter veg we know and love .... brocolli, cauliflower, snow pea's and broad beans to name but a few.

but spare a thot for the humble ugly veg.  my two favorite?  celeriac and kohlrabi!  i love how they look ... how could you not just stop and stare at something like this at the farmers market?  if these gorgeous funky creatures were sitting there i would pick one up and wonder what unscious and juicy creations i could cook up with them!



versatility is the key ... well, along with variety!  both can be used cooked or raw (use shredded for a
my celeriac just waiting to go into the
veg patch!
coleslaw!  yum!) .... or used to fill out a hearty winter stew.  lots of people use celeriac as a straight replacement for potato in winter.  there are so many options.  try here for some celeriac options or this little gem for some kohlrabi links.  and who could ever pass up a Jamie Oliver option for the humble celeriac smash?

so give it a go .... whether growing or buying.  it's great to add a few new veg to your families palate and being creative in the kitchen is always cool!

and as a completely off topic addendum .... how 'bout those piggies!

truly ... it's a pigs life!

working on the last bit of the mini orchard .... and
then they'll be moved on to "greener" nose
plow pastures!  aren't they amazing!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

a life well lived

i was cranky for most of the morning today.  couldn't really figure out why until i stopped and thot about it ..... today was the day ....

today we would be processing our first chickens on the farm.

once i acknowledged the emotional turmoil going on in me ... knowing in my head it was the right thing, it was the road we had always known we would walk.  but talking about it / thinking about it is a world apart from actually doing it.

 it's really hard to describe the experience.  and honestly .... you probably don't want to hear the gory details (the pictures show a small part of the process).  what i'd rather focus on is the internal process and experience that i went through.

our commitment has always been to appreciate and use the animals that we own and grow.  to have them work with us, in a natural, happy and healthy way ... enjoying every minute of their lives.  knowing that their ultimate gift would be to provide a meal for us.  which meant that i knew that even in killing these chickens, they had lived a better life than any of the packaged birds you find in the grocery stores.  that helped a lot.

we had a friend experienced in this process come over and walk us  through each step.  really needed the support and they were great.  because we had two roosters to process, it meant they did one, and then we did the next .... so that we had the hands on experience as well as watching an expert do it.

both hubby and i made ourselves look in the chooks eyes as they were dispatched.  it felt like it was giving them the dignity that they deserved.  will i do that again?  not sure .... perhaps it was also about my own
acknowledgement of the dignity of the process and the whole way that our world is intertwined .... how God intended it to be (He sais in his word that these animals are here for us to be caretakers and stewards of).

once the feathers started coming off it became much easier and was a process to be followed.  learning step by step how to walk it through and do it right .... burning off some of the extra feathers.  and when taking out the innards -- don't break open the crop or cut the gall bladder!

and at the end of it, we had two great birds .... now resting in the fridge before freezing.  i'm going to hunt up the perfect roast chook recipe.  i look forward to tasting this meat.  i've been told that this meat has a completely different taste to the store bought birds .... i look forward to finding out and enjoying the gift that these animals are.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Making Mandala's

moved the chickens again today.  a really exciting thing to do really.  it means that not only are we putting the chooks on fresh grass but that what has been left behind is ready to be made into a new bed.  it seemed to be a good time to review the past six months and the process we've gone through.   review is good for the newbie and good for us, because we've made mistakes along the way and the goal is to always grow and learn from that.

so let's start with the goal.  to create a series of keyhole garden beds that are not just functional, but beautiful as well.  in the true sustainable fashion they had to be easy to establish, easy to maintain and assist in getting us to a closed loop nutrient and gardening system.

so here is the goal ....

 six round keyhole beds .... borders of lavender and comfrey (great weed inhibitors!) 
we currently have nasturtium and marigolds planted in these beds, along with 
hyssop and borage as bug confusers.  
thee purple triangle beds have been built to enhance that bug confusion with more
gorgeous flowering plants that confuse bugs and attract great pollinators.  
the goal?  to utilize a geodesic dome and rotate our plymouth rock chooks around 
the beds, creating and reinvigorating beds as they scratch through bugs 
and deposit yummy manure for plant nutrition.

where to start?

this is where we started.  a single round circle that we put our chooks on.  we measured area's, not exact, but approximate, to decide where we should plant.  we knew we would start with the middle circle, so getting that placement is imperative.  we have continued to use this spare circle as we've gone around to help us gauge spacing.  and it's also kinda fun to see where the next bed will go.  the other thing we've done is that the kids have to do poop patrol and occasionally get a wheelbarrow of  cow pats that our calves deposit and put them in the the next circle.  it biodegrades well and the chooks love digging through and spreading it out.

bring on the chooks!

 this is our fort knox geodesic dome.  we lost 4 of 12 chickens to a fox / ferral one night out of greenhorn ignorance.  but we modified our dome and this does the trick.  a chicken mesh skirt covered by corrugated iron and bricks.  also begins the process of killing off the grass for when it's time to lay down the mulch.

so we'll go backwards now to see how the beds have developed.

this is our latest bed.  heaps of newspaper around the outside of the circle (helps to have a newsagent as a good friend for cast off newspaper!).  this is covered with a generous amount of mulch (another freebie from a council mulching!) the straw is infused with manure .... the chickens had been scratching through it for a few weeks.  more straw has been added and the bed will be allowed to sit for a few weeks as the straw starts to decompose.  we'll put pockets of compost / good earth on this soon and do some serious winter veg!

this bed has been going for about two months.  we have a pea macrame at the back, 
numerous broccoli, cavelo nero and my favorite .... broad beans!

and this is our first bed .... it was started about 4 months ago.  
We've had serious crops of snake beans, spinach, eggplant, okra and our ongoing 
favorite, kang kong (filipino spinach).  
gotta love the gorgeous array of colour.

one of the things we learned with this first bed was that we really needed to build it up higher before planting.  the beds breakdown fast, which is great for building up the soil, but means that we haven't had much depth to start growing things in. so, in the normal scope of things we should put the chickens on this bed next .... we are actually going to build it up first with more straw and compost .... and plant a big batch of root veg and green manure to further enrich the soil.

i reckon anyone should give this idea a go.  from backyard to farm.  this will be our "pretty feature" ... and it could easily fit in any backyard and provide you with a beautiful, sustainable veg garden!

a nice view up through our first mandala
bed .... you can see the little triangle
flower patch too!
a few quick resource links: