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

Friday, November 28, 2008

I'll have a half!

It's late Friday night and I've finally struggled to the computer. We had another storm this morning and follow up this afternoon - 15mm more rain altogether. We may make it htrough another summer yet.

Being Friday I had to go into town and get feed. I was about ten minutes out when the cook rang and asked if I had taken the lambs milk powder out of the back before I left - Of course, not! Back I went - which was lucky, I was just about home when I spotted teh old black Lab making his way to the pub again. A good couple of hours before opening - he's keen. So I ducked off the road and stuck him in the back of the jeep.

I got soaked loading the feed into the jeep. Camberra had about 15mm in thirty minutes, it just pelted down (OK - keep it in perspective we are having a drought and I know Queensland gets 15mm in five minutes twice a week).

Everything is green. Remind me one day to tell you all about the TSR - I really hope the Department of Agriculture or the NSW Minister for Agriculture would disolve the RLPB's and hand the TSR's over to the Lands Department. We've landed next too the only TSR in the state that is allowed to be ploughed, and what really makes me mad is the joker who ploughs it half heartedly plants something and then nothing but weeds grow. And because it's on our western boundary - where we get all our prevailing winds from, the seeds blow straight into our place. No place for conservation farming in the old thinking around here! Luckily he's so lazy he dosen't spray the weeds or fertilize or lime the paddock.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gardening glory

Yesterday was nice; cool, cloudy and calm. We received approximately 1mm of rain as well, of course that happened whilst I was feeding the pigs. The cook spent most of her day in the garden, with the aide of a couple of new garden tools she has almost dug the entire area over. We have Asparagus, potatoes, garlic, lettuce, zucchini and mobs of other veggie’s sprouting through the soil.

The pump was pulled up from the river last night – don’t want to leave it down there just in case we get a storm. There are storms rolling in from the west at the moment – hopefully the kids get home soon so they don’t get wet. Harry stepped on a brown snake walking home the other afternoon – it’s because he has such big feet, the poor snakes can’t get out of the way quickly enough.

Might have to build a loading ramp for the pigs this week, been putting that off for a while, but finally the time has come to roll up the old sleeves. Hopefully we get some rain tonight and not too much storm.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The river returns

Golly gee whiz – I got all excited and forgot that I hadn’t done anything yesterday. Good news is the river is flowing again and we have clean clear water. I dragged the pump down onto the river last night and started pumping as soon as I noticed the water was flowing.

Mr Fox appears to have been feeding on our pullets again. I counted them on Friday and there were eighteen – come Sunday night there were only five. We weren’t out side all weekend because of the rain, but we were out most of it. The fellow down o the village hasn’t called yet about going out shooting, I’ll have to give him a ring.

The chap who was supposed to be buying my piglets hasn’t called either. However I did notice he has his tractor for sale on allclassifieds- might be something going on there I don’t know about.

Harry, well what can I say, Harry has been bringing home his exams from school over the past few days. Needs a little work in some areas, but at least he is passing. Reading his answers I can see a very strong resemblance to the type of exam answers I gave as a High School student - this is going to be one scary ride for his mother!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rain, hail, ice and snow - but it's November

Pretty slow old weekend – what with all that rain we had! 31mm over the weekend , and what a relief. Nothing flowing down the river yet, but we don’t expect that for a couple of more days. We’ve got more mud then the pigs know what to do with, but they seem happy enough with it.

But not only rain - we had snow, ice and hail as well. Saturday was freezing and Sunday wasn’t much better. I was supposed to go to a local Grasslands Field Day on Sunday, but due to the pigs’ houses needing some running repairs because of the gale force winds, I was about half an hour late. Just in time for everybody to be leaving. Rather not have had to stand out in the weather all day anyway.

I was wrong about the stove – it’s just the oven that’s busted, not the whole thing. At least we still have hot plates, well three out of the four, the other one never really worked.

Pictures are back, I used the Cooks little point and shoot. Not the best quality – but I am trying. In fact today’s photo is by the Cook of George the lamb, he’s getting ready for bed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ahhh, what the hell.

I like slow days, days where the world does nothing and you can just drift along – but that doesn’t happen anymore. I attended the NSF AGM last night, only about eight people there, but it was worth while. The committee is going to do a field visit in February, of both Valley View and Billilingra – our next door neighbour.

The Cook sent me a text half way through the meeting, seems she has blown up the oven – great, next to hot water that’s my favourite appliance! This, just after I put the last bit of “spare” money we had on lay-buying a new camera – double bugger. It was funny, the second I gave the young lad at he camera store my money I had a horrible feeling something else expensive was going to break, blow up or die.

The flyblown sheep is getting much better and is walking around the living room now with out the aid of a stick. She still likes her cold tea in the evening and lightly toasted muffins in the morning. The Cook took off early this morning for town – left her travel mug of tea and purse at home – the dill!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rain - wonderful rain!

At last – some rain! Overnight we scored a total of 14mm, not a lot but more in a single day then we’ve had since May. Down the road at Michelago – 28km away they had over 50mm, lucky buggers.

Yesterday afternoon I had to attack the fly blown sheep with a syringe of water and blue spray to clear out the infestation in her tail. It was horrible, the damned Cook had decided to go off to work and left me with it, and yes, I did wash my hands before I cooked dinner. Last night I went out to check she was alright, we left her out on the lawn because it was clear and mild, when I got out to her I could she two sets of eye’s in the torch light. By the time I got down to her second set of eyes had gone, at first I had thought it was a goat, but I’m pretty sure it was a fox.

Whilst I was down with the sheep I heard a possum growling in the trees by the river – we haven’t heard that since we left Murrumbateman, and its nice to know they are about.

So now it’s rained we are going to have to be extra careful about fly strike over the next couple of weeks. We also have to watch how the weeds grow through the oats, and the market garden – maybe we will get potatoes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drought is the only news

Heres todays ABC news stories about the Monaro from ABC Rural;

The previous generation had the best of it says Monaro sheep and cattle breeder

Todays forecast rain could be a life saver for the dry south coast and Monaro. Many Monaro producers are this week making critical decisions on selling stock as water runs out. Andrew Hain is on the dry Monaro plain near Cooma. "We are the third sand dune from the airport" he jokes. Mr Hain says the previous generation had the best years on the land. However he believes the ongoing drought is part of a cyclic weather pattern that will change, eventually. "In my lifetime 1968 started the droughts, and they have followed on with monotonous regularity" he says. Mr Hain says the adverse conditions make producers strong. "There will be some tough decisions made by the end of November" he says.

Running out of water on Monaro

On the western Monaro plain, toward the mountains, Gordon Crowe is farming in the drought at Rocky Plains. He says he is making critical stock decisions this week as stock water is running out on one of his properties. Mr Crowe is a conservative stocker and still has dry feed on the property. As yet he has not had to buy feed for his sheep or cattle.

40 year drought

Dave Jardine also farms at Rocky Plains, where the dry conditions are making producers consider the stock levels yet again. he says the drought conditions have been with the district for most of the past 4 decades. "Since 1967 - 68 we've been in one long dry period" he says. He says his farm has fared better with rain this year and has had 12 inches of the average 34 inches a year. "It's been a long time since that average" he says. He says farming on one third the rain makes them resilient and canny farmers.

Record Drought

Monaro, far south coast and southern tablelands are in the grip of drought. Near the Victorian border around Delegate, David Mitchell is preparing to feedlot core breeding stock as a drought survival strategy. He will put the first 3,000 of an anticipated 5,000 breeding ewes into on-farm feedlots to survive this drought. Mr Mitchell says this years lack of rainfall is a record breaker. "Unless we get 90 mm by the end of the year, this will be the lowest rainfall on record" he says of the 82 years of rainfall records on his farm.

Big cattle selloffs

As dry conditions continue in the states south, livestock selloffs are underway at large regional saleyards. Leann Dax reports over 30,000 cattle were sold at Wagga saleyards yesterday. The Monaro is holding it's 2nd special drought store cattle sale later this month at Cooma.

Is there an animal in the house?

I keep finding hairs on my key board – I think they are mine, I wonder if I’m losing my hair? I hope not, I’d probably have a pretty ordinary looking head. There’s no water left in the river, a few small ponds further up, but nothing we can pump from for the house. I’ll have to get a backhoe in to dig us a hole in the sand in the next week or so.

There was supposed to be someone turn up and take a mob of pigs away on Saturday – but they never showed up. Don’t you hate that, I spent all Saturday morning waiting for these people and not even a phone call. I finally plucked up the courage to take a look at he oats yesterday, that’s looking pretty sad as well. If, and I mean IF, we get the forecasted rain tomorrow and the next day it may pull through, if not the oats will only be good for grazing.

Nearly all of the dams are dry, some have only mud and a puddle; the rest are just dust. It really only took a couple of weeks for things to turn around, one day the river was flowing and the dams half full, then a couple of days of wind and hot weather and it’s all changed. We have a portable tank and some troughs for the stock if things get any worse – but hopefully it won’t come to that.

Everything else is going fine, saw an enormous brown snake up at the feed shed yesterday, scared the hell out of me. I cleaned the shed up after that so I could see the floor. Goats keep escaping up to the rocks – they love it up there. Have a bloke from town coming out this week, hopefully, to shoot some foxes. I was told he shot fourteen across the river from us on the weekend, unfortunately they have to go and there is no other choice.

The Cook – god bless her, went out to check the sheep last night – any excuse to ride one of the horses. She came back with a fly blown ewe under her arm and dumped it on the back lawn/dust bowl. She ended up half shaving the poor thing from the waist back and smothered it in purple spray. Goodness knows what the sheep was thinking? Anyway, Shadow the dog got kicked out of the wood room and the sheep took her bed for the night. It seemed ok this morning – but now the animals in the house/barn are getting bigger! And to top it all off, I don’t think she washed her hands before she cooked dinner. On the up side however, the Neem oil has appeared to work on the sheep’s lice problem.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No break in the weather

Warm, with a breeze and a little cloud cover – no rain. We are seeing a lot of large clouds move across the sky but not a lot of action out of them. I’ve got a guy coming to pick some pigs tomorrow. Hopefully I can sell ten or more.

That will give me the ability to put in a couple of new fences; one around the quarantine paddock, one down the road side of the truffles and one out the back of the garden – that will keep the pigs contained and out of the veg garden.

The goats have been exploring the rocks out the back. They don’t like staying up there at night, always heading back to the house for a sleep. Funny how they never liked the house paddock before – now they won’t leave it.

Ben has his school fete tonight, that’ll be a trip into Cooma this afternoon for the Cook. She’s in the kitchen now baking up a batch or two of biscuits.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Summer is here

Boy was it hot yesterday – 29 Degs, the pigs drank nearly all their water troughs dry by 4:00pm. And here I was thinking I wouldn’t have to fill them up twice a day anymore. I sent a bunch of emails off to different people talking about projects and grant applications but I’ve received nothing back as yet.

I was out watering the truffle trees last night, I noticed that the tree in amongst all the weeds and grass was growing really well. The others, growing in the cleared area, with tree guards and stakes are all doing poorly. I think I’ll stop mowing around them and see what happens over the next couple of months. If only I could show you a picture!!!

George the Lamb and Beccy the Calf are going well. George now sleeps where Archer the dog used too. Archer now sleeps outside on his chain. Today I’m heading into the feed store for a weeks supply, must remember we need milk powder for the poddy’s.

It’s hot again today; hopefully we get a cool change tonight. Everything is brown, and so very dry – even the hardy Love Grass is dying. We’ve lost a couple of the older sheep, we’ve found three dead so far. But hat was to be expected, they were all in pretty ordinary shape when we picked then up.

The Cooked has hatched another brood of chicks, about fourteen in all, I think we have nearly thirty chicks running round – hopefully they make it to egg laying age and beyond. The cook is putting in the Turkey eggs next, we’ve got room – really, there’s no animals sleeping on my side of the bedroom YET!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Asleep at the wheel

Sorry, we had visitors yesterday and sort of threw me right out. Our visitors were from Bush Heritage, we had some discussions about what we are going to do with the conservation work and where to start. We’ve come to the decision that we need to tackle the Tussock Grass on the back sections and thicken the native pastures to increase the ground cover.

The Bush Heritage folks are really keen to help us restore the property back to its original landscape. We had a chat about the NSF side of things as well. Luckily they seem pretty open minded about this and are willing to give it a try. The next meeting of the NSF is Thursday week here at he Environment Centre at ANU in Canberra – guess where I’ll be?

I went out to the Rural Store at Hall and picked up a new water trough for the pigs yesterday as well. I’m pretty confident that he pigs won’t run out of water before we get home now. The new trough is about three times the size of the old one and I’ve put both of them out with the gang.

One the baby Boars ate the lat of the corn seedlings yesterday. The fence went down for a couple of hours, unfortunately. We plan to plant some more this weekend – should only put us a month behind, but lack of rain is the big thing. The creek is really low – wish my camera worked, I’d show you all. I’m thinking I may need to start digging the channel out from the main stream – looks like I know what I’m doing for the next week.

Monday, November 10, 2008

NSF Field Day

Weekends are wonderful things. I get to do all those things I couldn’t do on my own during the week. Saturday started early with the Cook harassing me out of bed – “You need to get up” she said, “all the pigs are in together”. Tiberius’s breeding program required him to service a couple of the sows that morning – sorry I hadn’t read the farm notice board before I went to bed.

So whilst we were out putting pigs back I caught the little Boar that I was taking out to Michelago that morning as well. The little bugger put up quite a fight, and I’ve got a good scar on my nose to prove it – I should learn to hold them better, he took me by surprise and head butted me right on the bridge of the nose. We stuck him in the trailer, threw him some bread, and headed inside for breakfast.

About 10:30am we headed off to Michelago and after driving around for a while, stop for directions and finally found the property we were looking for. It was a nice property set right in the base of the Tinderry Mountain Range. They had an old run down farm house and lots of lovely old trees scattered across their property, it was a beautiful setting. We left the Boar happily getting to know his two new companions – a pair of Saddle Back sows. From there it was into to twon to drop the kids of for yet another sleep over.

Sunday I was up early again and off to a field day for the Natural Sequence Farming (NSF) Association out at Muldoon Farms on the eastern side of Bungendore. I was stopped twice by the police on the way, firstly for a vehicle check at Hume and then for a breath test just outside Bungendore.

The field day was very inspiring; Peter Andrews was on hand to talk about NSF and how he applied his ideas to the Muldoon farm local catchment area. The results they had achieved after just two years were very impressive and it was clearly making a difference to the biodiversity of the creek and surroundings. Peter spoke about pioneering species, trees that will grow anywhere, but after tie die out and are replaced by native species. These pioneer plants help return the soil and environment back to a point where the conditions are optimal for the native plants to regain dominance in the landscape.

He also talked about how the system helped to contain fire and over time reduce the incidence of fire in the landscape. There was also a lot of talk about weed control and the role of local government and their development decisions. Overall it was pretty positive.

Having had a day or so to think about what I saw yesterday, and contemplate what it all really means I can’t help but wonder. There was obviously a lot of money involved in the property that the field day was held on – would of the project gone ahead if there wasn’t a government grant to pay for the work? Would of the owner paid for the work out of his own pocket with out the grants? Cynical I know, but, business people are just that business people.

It was nice to see that he K2C coordinator was there taking notes, it’s important that as many people from as many diverse interest groups see what is possible. After all we are all working towards the same goal in the end.

Anyway, the Cook and I will battle on, we’ll take away the lessons we’ve learnt here and apply them where we see fit. I think our own mix of conservation farming, sustainable farming and elements of the NSF will get us to where we want our property to be in the long run. Hopefully the kids will appreciate all our work when they take over the farm.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New to the family

So the fun continues - we have a new family member, George. George is a two week old Merino Lamb. Our friend Jane sent the Cook an internet add for him yesterday, I was told to call the guy and see if we could get him. Irony is that the lamb originally came form the property behind us and is from one of Buzz’s sheep. So we picked it up in Canberra and drove home with it sitting on the Cooks lap whilst she slept all the way home.

It has been adopted by Ben, or more accurately it adopted Ben and is now living in our house. So far this is the largest of the farm animals to make it into the house. He’s quite charming and sweet, has really long legs and he’s frisky, loud and tenacious.

Looks like I‘ve sold the remainder of the big piglets. This will give me a bit of breathing space to have some of the porkers fattened up for processing. It’s supposed to rain today, the weather reports now say tonight – hopefully it’ll happen soon.

I’m off to a Natural Sequence Farting field day on Sunday – it’s out at Braidwood which about 140km from here so looks like an early morning. I’ll write it up for Monday if I’m not too tired.

Hopefully Monday will see the return of Photo’s as well – still got to send the Cook off to do a few extra shifts so we can replace the old one. I’m looking forward to that!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Somebody make it rain - please!

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside! Kids left the back gates open yesterday whenthey went to herd the troublesome goats in off the rocks. The horses escaped and are now living in the rock paddock - which is OK except for the damage it will do to their feet. We'll have to keep a close eye on that.

The potatos and corn we've planted is starting to struggle - whats left of the corn anyway. We'll need to start watering if it dosen't rain in the next week. I still haven't been able to get out the back and check the oats - don't really know if I really want too just yet.

There was a garage sale in town the other day - I bought a great chicken cage for $40. We've put all the chicks in it for the time being, but Ben keeps bringing injured ones back to the house - I think there is more in the house then in the new cage. It looks like they are getting injured from being pecked - I suppose that means we'll end up with all except one in the house again. At least we'll know who's the top of the pecking order.

The Cook sprung me with the loot I'd made on the pigs and wanted to spend on fencing - now I'm off to the Rural Store to get a new trough for the pigs. In one hand - out the other!

Still have a lot of briers to clear up in the gullies, which I can't say I'm really happy about doing in summer. Every step I take along the gullies is a step closer to another snake. I saw a gaint brown snake onthe Nimmitabil River bridge yesterday, must have been six foot long or more. It wasn't there on the way, I only saw it on the way back. Hopefully we don't have too many of those buggers on our place.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What - no pictures????

Has it only been a week? How time flies. Lots has happened over the past week, we’ve had hot dry winds, sold some pigs and fixed the Jeep. Everything is drying out really quickly now, twice last week we had hot winds over 90kph lasting all day.

The Jeep has come back, new water pump and all – works wonderfully. Unfortunately we had to sell one of the children to pay for it. The pig paddocks are bare dirt at the moment; hopefully we will get some new fencing in over the next couple of weeks which will help solve that problem. They are still digging the incredible holes in the yard – for what purpose I don’t know, but it doesn’t appear to be escape as I first thought.

I managed to get out into the back paddocks and clear away a lot of the brier bushes over the past week as well. These things are extremely thorny rose like bushes that grow anywhere. I’ve noticed that they are growing right across the district, but I am amazed they are growing so well in the dry.

OK, you might have noticed that here is no photo today – well, we had a little accident with the camera – did I say we? No I meant the Cook had an accident with the camera. She was going into Cooma with the kids, I’d left the camera on the front seat of the car so she could take some photos. Not wanting to take the camera to Cooma (it was a high end Sony DSC F757) she thought she’d put it in the washing machine for safe keeping. When she got home, she decided to do a load of washing – chucked it in and off she went. The morale to this story is that digital camera’s don’t survive the spin cycle. So I don’t know what I’ll do for the short term, I wonder how many pigs I need to sell to get a new camera.

So I was pretty upset. Anyway, this weekend we went to an open farm day at an Organic farm over near Gundaroo (that’s near where we got the sheep from). It was an interesting day and we ran into a lot of people we knew, and caught up with others we hadn’t seen for quite a while. It was interesting to see how other people approached the market garden side of things, we took away a few good ideas and the Cook walked away with some new tools. Looks like more fencing and a lot of irrigation to start putting in.

The sheep are settling in to their new paddock, we’ve lost two that we know of. Probably from age, but I’ve got to go up and take a look at them tomorrow to see how they are holding up. Hopefully I’ll get them down for crutching and drenching in the not too distant future.

Beccy the calf is a bit of a wag. Harry has been feeding her lately but he went for a camp over the weekend. So we went out to feed her, she had come right up to the back of the house looking for dinner, she had her tongue out ready to take the bottle but just wouldn’t. She wouldn’t take it from the Cook, Ben or me. As soon as Harry arrived home the Cook gave him the bottle to feed her with and she went straight onto it. I think she has problems!

Speaking of problems – I’ve got to find a better way to capture piglets. Our first paying customer arrived on Saturday to pick up her piglets, at the time they were still running around in the paddocks. I hadn’t fed them in the morning figuring I’d wait and feed them when she arrived. This was fine until I caught the first pig and put it in her horse float. After that I couldn’t catch any more. At one stage Ben was hanging onto one whilst being dragged across the paddock. All the two ladies could do was stand and watch the commotion. Anyway we finally got three of the four piglets caught and put in the float. The final piglet, a girl eluded us for about half an hour and three loaves of bread. Finally, she ran out steam – or weighted down by bread and we caught her. Next time I’ll have to feed them lots and try catching them whilst they are asleep.

Well it’s Tuesday already, the next lot of pigs have left the farm bound for Borrowa. They were a little easier to catch then the first lot, which was lucky because both the kids were at school. The two groups of people who came out both had similar stories to ours about run down farm houses with no water and atrocious plumbing, bad electrical wiring and incredible cold. As bad as that all sounds, it was nice to know other people share our experiences – and survive. So I’m nine pigs lighter and have money to expand the pigopylous - what could possibly go wrong to muck this up!

BTW – lots more happening, just haven’t had tie to put it all here yet so keep checking back for updates – photo less updates that is.