Bredbo Valley View farm - providing quality education in Permaculture and sustainable living practices.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A beautiful morning in Bredbo

Well, apparently I spelt weaner wrong – more then once, for this I am sorry. Yesterday was a beautiful day out here, sunny and warm. My lovely wife, whom I can no longer name, has been working hard on the garden and it’s looking great.
We are still trying to plan out our conservation and preservation work. Bush Heritage has given us some ideas to ponder, but it’s still up to us how we proceed. Good news is that one of the neighbours is getting involved which will totally change the dynamics of what we can achieve on one part of the property.

I’m sorry there is no caption with the photos. Most of them would appear to be self explanatory; today’s picture is of the Travelling Stock Route (TSR) adjacent to our property. We are waiting to see what the Department of Lands decides to do with this mid next year now they have been transferred from the Rural Lands Protection Board.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cold, Foggy and -3.0

Cold and foggy this morning! We had a little bit of rain last night, less than a millimetre, just after dusk - I thought it might snow. When I got out to the car this morning all the doors had frozen shut – I had pig feed in the back I needed to get out. By the time I had the car open I’d woken all the pigs.

The fog wasn’t that thick, you could see the blue sky peering through. It’ll probably be another glorious Bredbo winters day. The snow has gone off the ranges which is different to last year when it hung around for weeks. Yvonne will be happy; she’ll be able to get into the garden for a few hours today.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Community Subscribed Agriculture system - according to WIKI

This is an extract from Wiki on CSA, it covers the main points and addresses how it is done in other countries. Subscription farming, as it is known here in Australia, is growing in popularity and is probably one of the most sustainable forms of farming practiced.

Our farm will provide chemical, artificial fertilizer and GMO free food, using only heritage fruit and vegetable varieties. Our goal is that everything we use on the farm in the production chain will eventually be a product of the farm.

Subscribers can also have personal choice of which vegetables are to be planted and which varieties of fruit we would plant. This of course is provided they are able to be grown within our climatic zone and suitable heritage seedor root stock is available.

In the future we also plan to be able to supply eggs, pork, mutton and beef under a similar system. If you would like to find out more please comment.

What is Consumer Subscribed Agriculture.

CSA generally is the practice of focusing on the production of high quality foods using ecological, organic or biodynamic farming methods. This kind of farming operates with a much greater-than-usual degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders—resulting in a stronger than usual consumer-producer relationship. The core design includes developing a cohesive consumer group that is willing to fund a whole season’s budget in order to get quality foods. The system has many variations on how the farm budget is supported by the consumers and how the producers then deliver the foods. By CSA theory, the more a farm embraces whole-farm, whole-budget support, the more it can focus on quality and reduce the risk of food waste or financial loss.

In its most formal and structured European and North American form, CSAs focus on having:
a transparent, whole season budget for producing a specified wide array of products for a set number of weeks a year;

a common-pricing system where producers and consumers discuss and democratically agree to pricing based on the acceptance of the budget; and

a ‘shared risk and reward’ agreement, i.e. that the consumers eat what the farmers grow even with the vagaries of seasonal growing.

Thus, individuals, families or groups do not pay for x pounds or kilograms of produce, but rather support the budget of the whole farm and receive weekly what is seasonally ripe. This approach eliminates the marketing risks and costs for the producer and an enormous amount of time, often manpower too, and allows producers to focus on quality care of soils, crops, animals, co-workers—and on serving the customers. There is little to no loss (i.e. waste) in this system, since the producers know in advance who they are growing for and how much to grow, etc.
Some families have enrolled in subscription CSAs in which a family pays a fixed price for each delivery, and can start or stop the service as they wish. This kind of arrangement is also referred to as crop-sharing or box schemes. In such cases, the farmer may supplement each box with produce brought in from neighboring farms for a better variety. Thus there is a distinction between the farmers selling pre-paid shares in the upcoming season's harvest or a weekly subscription that represents that week's harvest. In all cases participants purchase a portion of the farm's harvest either by the season or by the week in return for what the farm is able to successfully grow and harvest. The largest subscription CSA, with over 4,000 families, is Farm Fresh To You established in 1992 in Capay Valley, California.

Some farms are dedicated entirely to CSA, while others also sell through on-farm stands, farmers' markets, and other channels. Most CSAs are owned by the farmers, while some offer shares in the farm as well as the harvest. Consumers have organized their own CSA projects, going as far as renting land and hiring farmers. Many CSAs have a core group of members that assists with CSA administration. Some require or offer the option of members providing labor as part of the share price.

Some CSA's have evolved into social enterprises employing a number of local staff, improving the lot of local farmers and educating the local community about organic/ecologically responsible farming. Australia's Food Connect is a unique social enterprise that is now competing with the major supermarkets.

Typically, CSA farms are small, independent, labor-intensive, family farms. By providing a guaranteed market through prepaid annual sales, consumers essentially help finance farming operations. This allows farmers to not only focus on quality growing, it can also somewhat level the playing field in a food market that favors usually large-scale, industrialized agriculture over local food. Vegetables and fruit are the most common CSA crops. Many CSAs practice ecological, organic or biodynamic agriculture, avoiding pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. The cost of a share is usually competitively priced when compared to the same amount of vegetables conventionally-grown, partly because the cost of distribution is lowered.

Method of distribution is a distinctive feature in CSA. In the U.S. and Canada, shares are usually provided weekly, with pick-ups on a designated day and time. CSA subscribers often live in towns and cities - local drop-off locations, convenient to a number of members, are organized, often at the homes of members. Shares are also usually available on-farm.
CSA is different from buying clubs and home delivery services, where the consumer buys a specific product at a predetermined price. CSA members purchase only what the farm is able to successfully grow and harvest, in essence CSA members share some of the growing risk with the farmer. If the strawberry crop is not successful, the CSA member will share the burden of the crop failure by not receiving strawberries for the season or receiving lower quality strawberries. CSA members are also more actively involved in the growing and distribution process, through shared newsletters and recipes, farm visits, farm work-days, advance purchases of shares, and picking up their shares.

An advantage of the close consumer-producer relationship is increased freshness of the produce, because it does not have to be shipped long distances. The close proximity of the farm to the members also helps the environment by reducing pollution caused by transporting the produce. CSA's often include recipes and farm news in each box. Tours of the farm and work days are announced. Over a period of time, consumers get to know who is producing their food, and what production methods are used.

Share prices can vary dramatically depending on location. Variables also include length of share season, and average quantity and selection of food per share. As a rough average, in North America, a basic share may be $350-500 for a season, for 18-20 weeks (June to October), with enough of each included crop for at least two people (perhaps 8-12 common garden vegetables). Seasonal eating is implied, as shares are usually based on the outdoor growing season, which means a smaller selection at the beginning and perhaps the end of the period, as well as a changing variety as the season progresses. Some CSA programs offer different share sizes, also, a choice of share periods (eg. full-season and peak season).

Winter in the Garden

We have started our veg patch in the front yard were the old orchard once stood. So far we have planted our garlic and onions. Did you know that Australia exports the vast majority of our home grown garlic, leaving us with imported foreign rubbish that is washed in chemicals before it can be allowed into the country.

So this year we will be growing as much garlic as possible so we can take the best and largest for planting next year – the rest we eat! We also want to grow as many pumpkins as possible to keep as pig feed for next winter. There is a couple of broccoli coming up inside the half tanks. These are great for bringing on winter hardy plants, the sun warms the metal during the day giving the plants maximum warmth during day light hours. They also reduce the amount of frost that covers the garden.

The compost heap will be getting an upgrade as well, now we have a good supply of cheap straw we can afford to turn over the pig pens more often. This should increase the amount of plant matter we can get into the soil.

I started a second garden in the wiener paddock, but Star has gone in there to be separated from her piglets. Hopefully she won’t dig the garden area too much before she’s ready to rejoin the herd. You can see the difference in the soil quality; surprisingly, they used to grow Lucerne in this paddock. The soil is really lacking in any carbon content, we know from the soil tests that it is phosphate deficient, so getting carbon into it is a high priority. We’ve started to grow green manures, and I’ve also planted some various hardy millets, these will be grazed and then dug in as soon as spring brings on the growth.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Snow, rain and hail

It was a truely glorious morning, the sun shone right up until noon. But it's cold again this afternoon, we could see the snow falling on the ranges since about 9:00am. At lunch time you could see the weather moving out too the east and it appeared to be snowing out Jerrangle way. By late afternoon it was raining lightly and you could clearly see the snow on the eastern ranges.

Over all we had 2mm of rain - enough for me to get out and spread some french millet seed around the pigs paddocks. After that, it was time to retreat to the warmth of the house, and appreciate the wood, Ted from Chakola, had dropped us off the night before.

National Tree Day in Bredbo

Sunday Morning - packed the kids in the car and headed down town to help out at the local Land Care groups annual tree day planting. Meet a lot of people that are new to the area which was nice.

There was a good crowd with about forty people all up which I think the committee was pretty pleased with. We planted some new trees along the border of the park and spread some mulch out that the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council had provided - many thanks to them.

At the end of the day we were all given a tree from teh Council and a sausage - dosen't get any better then that!!!

Straw for the pigs

Well as it's getting rather cold I decided to call Dennis and get some round bails of straw for the pigs. I hooked up the big trailer and off I went. We had a little trouble getting the bails opnto the trailer at first, Dennis ended up pushing the car and trailer down the hill trying to get the bails on.

By the time the two bails were loaded, and we'd tied them down, I think IO was at my 2 tonne limit. Getting back out onto the highway was a nightmare, the roads were jammed with snow traffic - I really shouldn't do this stuff on the weekends.

I got the straw home and I couldn't get it off the trailer, it was stuck tight. So me and the eldest spent the rest of the rather sunny and fine afternoon unloading it bit by bit straight into the pigs shelters. The pigs thought this was great! There's still plenty of grain left in the straw so they spent the afternoon snuffling underneath it.

By 10:00pm that night, and another cold one too, they were all happily fast asleep, didn't hear a peep. Which was good because we had weined the latest piglets that morning as well.

Another Cold Morning -9.0

It's still cold. Minus nine degrees this morning - no water because all the pipes have frozen. I sat and watched the themometer as the temperature drop four degrees in about twenty minutes last night. I had to go to bed before 10:00pm just to stay warm.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Still Cold -3.6

Matt from Bush Heritage is back today to do some more of his ecological survey work – and you guessed it, it was drizzling when I got up. Pigs were having a little bit of a sleep in, so I’ve left them to be fed a little later once the sun is up.

We’ve got too many roosters, currently there are four Hamburgs, one Golden Laced Wyandotte, a red one, a yellow one, two Pekin crosses, Ricky the Pekin, a hand full of Silkies and a couple of big black ones. Every time I go up to the feed shed they jump out and start attacking me. I think there aren’t enough females for them all, and the frustration is building. I need to find that recipe for Coq au vin.

Anyway, it’s still cold here today, not as cold as yesterday, but still cold. Can’t wait until spring!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's soooooooo cold! -8.4

Here's another example of how cold it was this morning. This is a water trough in the pigs yard, frozen solid. The dog was up to no good again, I think she was up robbing scraps from the chooks after Ben fed them.

New Arrival

“Bella” the cow had our first calf last weekend. It’s the second bull calf of hers that we have, the first one came with her when we bought them. The older one known as son of Elvis, is for sale.

Frosty Morn's

Cold, cold, cold! I went out to feed the pigs this morning at six oclock and thought I’d check the temperature before I left the house. Four degrees inside, minus eight outside – bloody cold!!

The water and feeds were all frozen, I have to be careful on mornings like this that I don’t tip the feed out on top of a piglet, it comes out of the bucket in blocks about the size of four house bricks.

When I got up it was nice and clear, the sun was coming up over the Jerangle hills and the full moon was setting over the Namadgi. By the time we went out to take the kids off to the bus stop it was all fogged in. Hopefully it’ll clear for a nice day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Garden Pleasure

Well, Provided we can keep the Goats out, we should have a really nice garden this year. Our crop of garlic is in to start things off, as well as, a load of onions. I can't believe the Goats eat the garlic tops, have they no pride.

We are waiting for the tractor man to come and plough up our market garden area at the moment. We're going to kick the horses out of their frontyard and turn it into the greatest vegie patch ever. Last year we grew some fantastic heritage veg, with loads of taste and colour. This year we are increaseing the size to try and grow enough to sell.

Maybe we'll have a stall on the Monaro Hwy - look out for it this Summer!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dog

We have these two black Labradors, one female and one male. They are really good guard dogs, but the male keeps taking walks down to the town every weekend. This happened last year and he ended up at the Bredbo Pub - more than once. I'd get a phone call from the owner "hey mate, come get your dog it's closing time" . I'd have to jump in the car and go fetch him back.

So he's started doing this again, but now he's ending up at the Bredbo Pancake Parlour. I don't know whether it's a coincidence or not, but the female is also in season.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Natural Heritage

Preservation of natural habitat and conservation of natural resources don’t usually go side by side with farming. But being able to conserve our natural heritage means a lot to us. We’ve got more land then we need to achieve our aims. We also have limited resources restricting what we could get done, so we started looking around for help. Our goal is to conserve and restore as much land as we can, but still have it available for grazing when feed is tight.

I went to a Bredbo Land Care meeting where the local coordinator for the Bush Heritage Trust was giving a presentation on the Kosciusko to the Coast project (K2C). After the meeting I had a talk to her about becoming involved, they were very keen to have a look, and have been out to the property doing a number of plant surveys since.

The Ecologist who is conducting the survey always manages to come out on the worst days. Of course, he’s out there today and the forecast is for snow. Apparently it’s colder in Bredbo then it is in Tasmania where he comes from. But we love his visits, least we know when it’s going to rain for sure.

Other things we are working on include the processes of having the property declared a Flora and Fauna Sanctuary by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Having Greening Australia help planting some paddock trees on the western side of the property. Next is trying to get Land Care involved in helping to fix the river banks and feeders.

Remember Tree Day 27 July – plant a tree or two!

What are we about?

Our plan is to build a farm around rare and heritage breed animals and plants, being fully sustainable, ethical and having as many closed farming systems as possible. By achieving this we hope to live as green possible. This is all a tall ask when we are currently only working it weekends. We are planning to manage the property as a combination of small holdings or cells, each with its own unique function but feeding into a system. By the end, we should have about 220 acres of farm and 800 acres of conserved native grassland.

We are really big fans of the European style of community farming and the British Small Holder tradition. It would be really nice to see that type of thing happen here. At the moment we only have two neighbours, both traditional mixed farmers with about 10,000 acres each – we never see them. But smaller farms are starting to spread south from the ACT border. We also have a real interest in the Community Subscription Farming approach.

We love the idea of having enough room to be able to grow our own food and animals. In the next month or so we are having about two acres ploughed for a market garden style veggie patch, my wife grew some of the most amazing veggies in the small patch we hand dug last year. My wife is the real driver behind a lot of what we are doing. She is right into the Biodynamic and Organic farming approach - I just lift heavy things and dig big holes.

On the animal side of things - we have gone from three to seven to forty pigs in a year. We keep them free range, just out in a paddock. The pigs farrow in a stable on straw, there are no crates or stalls. Piglets must be one of the funniest baby animals to have around the farm – all personality, no fear and heaps of child-like character. Keeping them free range reduces the risk of odours and noise problems.

Apart from the pigs we also have goats, cattle and horses. I’ve milked one of the goats once and the cow has been milked a couple of times. I need to build a proper set of bails before we can do it regularly. We also have chooks, duck and turkeys to round out the menagerie.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Valley View Farm Blog is a day by day story of life on a small Heritage farm… Starting with three goats, two horses and a trailer load of chooks, we are a year down the track of our great adventure and more into it than ever!

So a year down and where are we?? Our pig production system is up and running. We are learning by our mistakes, discovering things as we move along. Thankfully there has been some good advice along they way. Firstly from Joe the guy we got our pigs off, and also Micheal, a local farmer running a similar farm to ours.