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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I’m still trying to sort out our PigPass, this allows me to sell pork from the farm to the public – it’s a kind of Quality Assurance guarantee. It’s bread day and of course it’s an early morning drive into town. We had a little bit of misty rain when I left the house, but I don’t think it amounted to more then 0.2 – 0.5mm’s.

It’s time for the orphans to be exiled to the pig yard. One of the little dears has started jumping out of their box. I was making their weetbix last night when I got a real fright as she ran her wet nose up the back of my leg. So; maybe tonight there will be no animals in the barn/house.

The bushfire started by lightning in the State Forest to our west is still going. It’s a week since it started. Another broke out on Thursday about seven kilometres to our south west as well, but that fire has been out for a couple of days.

I nearly locked George in with the pigs this morning. The trouble maker pushes his way in to get a feed of bread in the morning and because it was dark I didn’t see him. I think he would have been quietly upset and rather put out if I had of left him there. I wonder if they would have eaten him???

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lots of stuff

I hate snakes – especially big one’s, and we’ve acquired the biggest nastiest Brown Snake you’ve ever seen in the feed shed. It’s been around all summer, the Cook came face to face with it a couple of weeks ago and it’s been seen hanging around the water trough as well. On Saturday I was organising myself to make the pig feeds for that afternoon. I had arranged the buckets in the normal order and saw a couple of mice run across the floor. I was just about to ladle the first lot of feed into a bucket when a huge snake head struck out at a mouse from between the feed bins. An instant change of pants was in the making and luckily the Cook had installed a diphibulator outside the feed shed as well. I gathered myself together and called out, in a high shrill voice, to the boys to get the camera and the big shovel, but by the time they got there it had escaped under the floor of the feed shed – which is ever so comforting. Of course now nobody wants to go into the feed shed at all – COWARDS!!! Sometimes I seriously consider taking up drinking again.

The Cook spent most of her weekend in the garden. She pulled out tonnes of weeds and built a new compost heap – which truth be known can probably be seen from space it’s that large. I finished her Moo-Poo pit and she spent a lot of time pushing our flat tyred wheel barrow around picking up cow pats. If it wasn’t for old Buzz’s cattle breaking down our fences and crapping all over our paddocks she’d have nothing to compost.

We picked a huge Moon & Stars watermelon – the only one that really grew well. It’s one of the heritage varieties that we grow; you probably wouldn’t see it in a shop. Anyway, I took it inside to weigh and it broke the kitchen scales – and NO I wasn’t holding it and standing on the scales, so we used the bathroom scales. It weighed in at 8.5kg, I have to photograph it tonight so we haven’t opened it yet – but can’t wait until we do.

There are still a lot of tomatoes in the garden and the zucchini grow regardless of what I do. A few onions remain, we picked the last beetroot and a serious number of asparagus and garlic have come up from self seeding. The Cook’s cabbages seem to have survived the wombat attack and are now growing well inside their tree guards. That’s sauerkraut for months – maybe zucchini isn’t that bad after all…

The Cook invoked the third rule and had the kids working in the garden, much to their dislike. They work pretty hard if you supervise them well, but don’t take your eye off of them. We had the usual antics, poo throwing, filling in the others hole whilst hey weren’t watching and the old favourite - worms down the back of the pants. The Cook has made a compost tea in a barrel beside the garden. I was “lucky” enough to there when she took the lid off – smelt like the septic tank from a curry house in Darwin – stinky!!!!!!!!! I suppose I should be careful, the Cook is from South Australia – and those guy’s have a reputation when it comes to Barrels…….

The dog has the best life; she spent yesterday rolling in the grass, catching grass hoppers and eating them, chasing the goats, playing with George, sleeping and taking baths. Every time I fill up the trough beside the house she thinks it’s an invitation to take a bath. She waits until it’s full and she thinks nobody is watching and then she dives in – she just sits there watching the world go by, I probably need to get her a shower cap. Her total displacement, being a fatty, is about half a bath tub. Sop she wastes a lot of water.

Now I said I’d get back to the Marketing side of things this week. There is another couple of ways to sell your pigs which I didn’t cover. Some people I know sell theirs on consignment or contract. Usually this is done to a specific order or requirement. Most people do this on a fixed price as well – which can be beneficial as you are assured of the price and can factor in all the known production costs.

And lastly are the sale yards. Regardless of the type of pigs you have you will get the sale price per kilo live weight for your pig here. From all the reports I’ve heard there is no premium for organic, free range or quality. You will occasionally get people looking for a particular pig and you may get a slightly higher price, however; that’s not something you can count on. The current price at the sales is about $3.80 for a porker and $3.50 for a baconer. Growers, the last time I looked were $200 and weaners $135.

I still want to go back to the ethics of farming at some stage. The question about where are the ethical limits in regards to both production and inputs. The increase in farm monocultures is also worrisome; we don’t even notice it these days because it has become so normal. But why do monocultures survive and thrive – I believe it’s because conformity so much easier to manage. Every body from Government to big business loves vertically integrated commodity markets – it’s easier to govern and manage, it lowers the cost input and improves the share holder return. But conversely, what does it do to the landscape, the environment and the community.

There is also the question of localisation vs Globalisation. Has the pendulum swung? I know the governments of the world are banging on about protectionism and the likes – but at the local level do we really care. Localisation is something that should be encouraged by the small producer, it’s the only leverage against people like the Woolworths and Coles that we have and the best way to bring people back to their senses about what really is ethical, fresh and value for money. I could go on – but!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Old fella's

OK – so we have a market, what other considerations are there? I‘ll talk about those next week; so keep coming back. It’s important you have some idea about what you need to do to get your pork to the table.

I stopped on the way home last night to look at a number of apple trees that grow along the old highway. I pick apples from the trees for the pigs and was wondering how many there were on the ground as it’s getting close to picking time. The trees aren’t that far from where I saw one of the dead pigs beside the road.

I drove down to the trees had a look around, I couldn’t find a lot on the ground – not much on the trees either, well not as much as usual. I walked down to the oldest tree near the old railway line and started picking a couple when I noticed some thing dark and low in the grass moving slowly out of the corner of my eye. You’re all thinking another wombat story – but wait. I jumped about a metre in the air thinking it was another pig – okay maybe not a metre, no fat jokes James.

After my heart went back into my chest, I settled down and had a proper look and discovered it was an old narley black Wallaroo. He was moving around the tree eating the fallen apples. I think he was deaf because he didn’t seem to notice me at first. When he did, he moved away slowly and then froze – still as stone until I left. I decided that he needed the apples more then me and I moved onto another tree. I went back later and he was still there so I took a picture of him. He’s got a lot of grey coming through his coat and his ears show the scares of many fights.

So I took a bag of apples home for the pigs, they were very happy; apples are one of their favourites. The sheep have started to come down for feed in the mornings as well – they’ve discovered the bread. As soon as they see us moving around they come streaming over the hill like wildebeests stampeding on the Serengeti.

The Cook was out helping the DPI get their sheep back today. They found all twelve, one’s staying on the property and adding nutrient to the soil – the rest they’re still trying to muster ;) We never had any problems getting them down to the yards. They are putting them back onto the love grass trials area for a few days to finish their survey.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A day in School

Yesterday I attended a DPI run Stockplan course in Cooma. Of course I was the only pig farmer in attendance and nobody else really knew anything about pigs. But I did learn a lot about sheep and how to assess your feed strategy and plan.

The other day I talked briefly about marketing, the article I included was supposed to illustrate one end of the marketing scale. There are two other options, both less time and resource intensive, and probably not as lucrative as the Pasture Perfect outfit – but worth the effort all the same.

Firstly there is the sale of growers to the Islander and Maori populations. Pigs hold a very special place in the cultural traditions and social occasions of these people. Two people in our area previously supplied this market and booth turned over a considerable number of pigs. I’ve been told that they often turned people away.

It’s an easy market to enter – just place an advertisement in the local Fijian paper, put up a couple of flyers at the local Tongan Church hall or find somebody in the community and hand them a card. I’ve talked to people at the supermarket, be bold – they’re all very friendly people.

That’s the easy market – the harder market is the Europeans. They expect a lot more for their money and will haggle you down as far as possible. I had one gentleman bring receipts from the pig sales in Young to prove he could get a cheaper pig; I was told I shouldn’t charge so much for suckers because they cost me nothing and that my pigs weren’t fat enough. The secret here is not to be offended – they don’t mean to be offensive it’s just the way they do business, just be firm and friendly.

They also have their specific and traditional wants, some want suckling pigs others want weaners for spit roasts and others two year or older fat sows for sausage making. You won’t always have exactly what they want – and they won’t take anything else so don’t even try.

Somewhere in the middle of these is marketing to friends and relatives through word of mouth. The fellow I bought my first pigs from worked this way and swore by it. It’s a lot more forgiving and a lot less stressful. My brother works this fledgling pig enterprise this way and seems to be enjoying it.

I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to find the market you are comfortable with and stick to it. It’s very hard to produce enough pigs for one market alone – never mend trying to service two or more.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Marketing 101

The number of emails and phone calls I get from people asking about pigs is growing. I’m no expert – just ask the Cook, but I have learned a few things over the last couple of years. Most people’s interest, if course, is the revenue side – but I’m not telling how much we make. How much they are worth is conjectural, but I believe you shouldn’t sell a pig for less then the price printed in the Stock and Land newspaper.

There are a huge number of variables you need to consider, the biggest is how am I going to market my pigs. You can do this a number of ways, however; knowing your market and its particular needs is just as important. This article from the Sydney Morning Herald provides a perfect example. Tomorrow I’ll talk more about what markets are available.

This organic pig went to market

IT'S an impressive sight: 1000 pigs, snuffling and grazing their way contentedly across wide, open green fields. These Berkshire porkers live on a 200-hectare propery west of Tenterfield in northern NSW, where they roam pesticide-free pastures of lucerne and grasses with special rain and shade shelters designed for their comfort.

After their morning feed of organically formulated pig food and supplementary minerals, the pigs - separated into groups according to their age and size (breeding sows, as all mothers should, get a little extra special treatment) - spend the rest of the day playing, sleeping, grazing or foraging.
The certified organic property and free-range lifestyle seem a happier environment than most commercial piggeries, where animals are often confined to an indoor pen with little chance of experiencing the sun on their backs or dirt on their trotters.

Jack and Miriam Neilson, owners of Pasture Perfect Produce, began raising pigs in 2001, after moving out of the beef cattle industry into which Jack had been born. "There are not too many certified organic free-range piggeries in Australia," Miriam says. "We did some calculations and found that pigs have a high conception rate, they can throw a litter twice a year."
Then they had to choose the breed. "We wanted a coloured pig so it could withstand being outside in the sun and we stumbled across the Berkshires, which were being advertised for sale," she says. They bought two at first, Daisy and Doris, then looked for blood lines from around Australia to build up the stock to about 100 breeding sows.

Miriam started out naming each pig but only she could recognise them, so she gave that up (and she was running out of names). She tries not to have favourites, particularly among the pigs who are headed for the table at eight months old, but admits that a couple are quite special. "If one of my boars sees me in the paddock, he stops what he's doing and runs over," she says. "They love a scratch on the head or a belly rub. They'll lie down and roll over."

Jack and his parents had been farming beef cattle in central Queensland, using more sustainable farming practices since the mid-1990s, but he and Miriam wanted to take it further.
"Jack has always had asthma and skin conditions, and when we cut preservatives from his diet it went away," Miriam says. "We felt a responsibility to farm foods without chemicals or additives."
When they began selling their free-range meat at farmers' markets in 2002, the response from customers made their efforts worthwhile. "Once they bought the products and tasted them, they realised how sweet pork should taste. We also castrate our males, so there is no boar taint to the meat," she says.

From free-range farming, the next step for the Neilsons was to try to find a chemical-free way to cure ham and bacon.
They had already stopped adding commonly used nitrate to the meat "but after feedback from customers at farmers' markets, we decided that there had to be an even better, or more natural way, to cure the ham and bacon", Miriam says.
After doing research on the internet and phoning people all over the world, she finally found a food scientist willing to help. "A lot of people didn't want to know about us, they were all very secretive and closed-mouthed," she says. "And most food processors or butchers were under the misapprehension that cured meat had to use nitrates for legal reasons but we pointed out that was only for fermented or dry cured meats."
The couple also faced opposition from processors and retailers who said the shelf life of organically cured ham or bacon would not be as long but Miriam believes there is enough demand to warrant slightly shorter use-by dates.

Organic cured products are not new in Australia (or around the world) but the Neilsons believe the process they have developed to treat their free-range pig meat is an Australian first.
For cured meat products to gain organic certification they have to be processed without the use of nitrates or other chemical preservatives. Commonly, organic ham, pork and bacon are cured using a salt brine, often coloured with beetroot powder to keep the meat looking pink. Once the meat has been cut, however, and the beetroot starts to oxidise, the meat loses its pink colour.

The Neilsons' method uses natural anti-oxidants to preserve the colour and the flavour of the meat. They received their official organic certification in December, after a year of development, testing and convincing processors to follow their recipe.
"For anyone in the food industry it's the same - you have to push for what your customers are asking for and what you believe in," Miriam says. "Now we just have to educate people about the difference between free-range products and organically certified ones."

This is their web site for more information.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Less foxes

You know how I said there was rabbits in the veg patch. I thought I'd get up early this mornig and try to catch the rabbits stealing the Cooks seedlings. So I sneaked out of bed - stealthily (I know - how can such a big bloke be so stealthy?) I tip toed down to the garden and peaked over the fence.

At first I thought I was seeing things, a rabbit of the size I've never seen before. I 've seen hares before and it wasn't one of those - then I noticed, remember it was still darkish, that it was very round, and wasn't moving the way a rabbit does. I decided to bathe it in light and switched on my torch - blow me down of it wasn't a small wombat. I've not seen to many in the wild, so I was pretty chuffed. So how do I keep wombats out?

The fox shooters came this morning, I went out with them for a walk, but I had things to do so came back early. On the way back I spotted a fox playing in the grass, it was a large fox with a very cunning look on it's face. I know they have a den in the blckberri bush close to where I was. The fox, once it saw me, took off up the hill and started to yap at me, obviously it was trying to draw me away from the den. It stop several times and stood looking at me yapping, after about ten minutes of sitting on top of the grassy ridge above the den it took off over the back towards the river.

When the shooters got back they told us they had shoot a single fox. I went to take a look, the fox was an old vixen. It had grey hair all over its body and muzzle - I'd guess it was 8 -10 years old. Taking an older animal like this is probably good. These are the animals that start taking easy targets like our chickens because hunting is too hard. And because rabbits are such a problem I'd rather have a couple of young foxes taking rabbits and the odd chicken then no foxes at all.

Thanks for the reply Mad Cow, I agree small is good and small is better. The markets in Canberra probably do have the snob factor - I haven't been to many, usely the Cook goes early. We would love to start our own market onthe farm - we'll see how we go.

I went for a walk this afternoon to look at our NSF site. I hjaven't walked the whole length of it yet. It was a lovely Autumn day, and teh afternoon was warm with a nice sea breeze. I didn't realise what time it was and the light starded to fade quickly. By the time I got back it was nearly 7pm. Whilst I was out there I saw another two foxes - almost put my foot on one - so there are still plenty out there.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Is commercialisation the problem?

By now everybody has heard of ‘food miles’ or ‘slow food’ and ‘locavore’ or eating local. In an exchange of emails with a lady this week I posed the question;

“We know those guys and have visited their farm, it will be interesting to get their point of view about how big an enterprise like theirs can get before it "crosses the line" and becomes just another commercial scale - high input, farming system.

And in reply I received the following,

“I think that the size issue is a really important one for us as a society.

It seems to me that your question is correct - that if a free-range enterprise gets too big, it can end up being an eco-disaster, so we need to look at when that point is reached, and how farmers can make a decent living within that parameter. It really struck home to me when I was looking at the vege issue locally.

The Farmers Market is great, but lots of the vegies come a long way. Making a go of vegie farming in our eco-system, with its unreliable rainfall, cold winters and very hot summers is a real issue. Even growing your own has been a challenge in the last summer for me - I feel we have a lot to relearn! I guess the good thing is to realise that there are lots of others out there thinking about it to, and doing something”

So, the question is - how do I tell if I have crossed over from resource effective to resource intensive? Should it be obvious? Surly, if I’m using organic methods, the more I grow the more income I can generate without affecting the environment. But – what about the energy and resource inputs, are they the same per animal as they where before?

With the more waste and the more energy used for production the larger the environmental impact. The smaller the operation the less resource intensive and the environmental impacts are minimal. And there is waste at both ends. If there is an over abundance of product then there is a higher likely hood of waste at the both the producer and consumer end. Is it the farmer’s responsibility to manage this as well?

It would seem that size is an issue. Is commercialisation the problem or the answer? Is it economics? I can reduce costs by increasing the scale – but what are the environmental impacts of this and are they really justifiable. How big should one farm’s market share be? These are very complex questions and I don’t know the answers.

If anybody has any ideas or opinions, I’d love to here them.
Next week I'm going to add a few things about raising pigs - an increasing number of people have been asking questions about this lately.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Road kill.

Today I’m a bit of a celebrity – at least in the eye’s of a couple of people here. I met two blokes from the PNG highlands this morning, their here doing a job on the conservation and heritage listing of the Kokoda Track. We got talking and I mentioned I had almost 100 pigs. Their eye’s opened as wide as dinner plates and they nearly fell over, one of them told me I was the riches man he’d met – if only he knew!! I suppose the Cook would have put him strait.

Road kill has infiltrated my life today. Luckily we haven’t had to resort to eating it, although I am cooking tonight. But, back to the topic; a couple of weeks ago I noticed somebody had hit a rather large black pig, on the Monaro Highway, just outside Canberra. Yesterday, about ten kilometres further down the road, another big black pig has been hit. Obviously it had done a significant amount of damage to the vehicle that had hit it due to the wreckage at the scene. Both of these pigs where killed on the southern slope of dry gullies that cross the highway. The pig I saw the other day was also on the southern side of the river. I don’t know if this is significant, I suppose this may be to do with moving along the warmer ground.

There have also been a significant number of foxes killed on the road lately – I drive a lot, I need something to do. Autumn is the dispersal season for foxes; the young foxes which have grown over summer period are pushed away by their mothers. They move out to find there own hunting areas and territory – which is why they tend to cross roads and come in contact with humans more then other times of the year.

As I headed down the road this morning, counting dead foxes, I was lucky enough to come across our local wedge tail family having breakfast on the side of the road. I tried to quickly turn around and get a good picture of them – but a truck from the sand quarry was right behind me and frightened them off. They only move a hundred metres into the tree line. I took a couple of pictures, but without a good zoom lenses the quality is a little shabby.

Thanks for all the comments, I don’t always get time to respond. Also, hello and welcome to those who follow our Blog.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Is it rabbit season?

The pigs love these sunny autumn days, they laze about in the sunshine sleeping and snoozing the day away – I wish I was a pig.

Reality check! Autumn brings with it the many needs of the pigs to make it through winter. I still need to finish Tiberius’s shelter and do some work on the big pig house. There is also a lot of weed control that needs to be undertaken as some serious fencing that needs to be fixed. After following the boar down the fence line on Saturday I’ve discovered a whole new list of jobs to do.

I think it’s the last chance to give them a cleansing Garlic Brew and fill the lick box. The Cook has a magic lick formula that helps reduce the worm count and replace the trace elements the animals don’t get from the feed in winter.

Rabbits – nearly forgot about the blasted rabbits. The Cook was a little bit ‘upset’ last night when she discovered that the little rodents had eaten all of her cabbages she planted on Sunday – all gone! Not One Left Standing! DECIMATED!!!!! Looks like its open season on rabbits!!!!!!!!

We had a mob of cattle o the flat last night – which included Beccy. Looks like the Cook didn’t need to do all that running around after all. I think she is going out on Phoe this afternoon to try and cut her out of the herd. Can’t wait to hear the rodeo stories when I get home.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Boaring Day

We have so many piglets!! The little buggers are everywhere. Some are still curled up with mums in their nests; some are out exploring the big wide world for the first time whilst others are squabbling over who gets what at feed time. Luckily we have good mums, they don’t mind the crèche style accommodation. They all appear happy, the mums allow us in to look and touch the youngsters and their not trying to escape through the fences.

We had an unwelcome quest appear on Saturday afternoon. It had started to rain at about 4pm so I went inside to have a cuppa’ and sit down. The rain lasted for about half an hour or so, it was a nice drop of about 12mm. I decided once it stopped that I should start doing the pigs, so I went outside. I looked over at the pigs and noticed a pig outside the fence, I thought I’d fixed the fence but it’s not unusual that after rain the fence not work because it shorts out on the wet grass.

As I walked towards the feed shed I looked at the pig again – it looked really clean, but hey, it’s just rained maybe it stayed outside. As I glanced back at it a third time it turned towards me and I could see a bright white tusk silhouetted against the black body – it’s a wild boar! Where did that come from? I ran inside and grab my bow and a quiver of arrows. The boar was about 100metres away and there was nothing between us except long grass, I began to stalk it, through the grass. When I had moved to within 80 metres I convinced myself to have a shot; unfortunately I haven't fired the bow over 30 metres lately and I couldn’t get the range right. After the second arrow whacked into the ground below him he saw me and ambled off. I gathered my arrows and decided to give chase and see where he went; I was only 100 metres down the river when I came upon him again. I was a little surprised and still a little nervous about taking on such a large boar with only a bow – anyway, I shot another arrow in his direction, which probably missed, and sent him running into the bullrushes. I gave up the chase as the light was fading and I still needed to feed the pigs.

Unfortunately feral animals carry a lot of disease, parasites and unwanted genetics so our only option is to destroy them on sight. And I also noted the need to improve my archery skills before I go after another one of those.

I had a drive around the property on Sunday to check things out. Despite the rain we’ve had the gullies are still dry and the dams are almost empty. I came across a number of fox tracks heading towards the farm as well. I saw one this morning disappear under the wool shed as I came out to feed the animals.

Beccy the calf has joined the Bredbo Station Herd down by the river and we tried unsuccessfully to get her back yesterday. The Cook did a fair bit of running around up and down the creek trying to convince her to come home – but it was all in vain.

The Garden is looking pretty sparse at the moment and the Cook spent all day Sunday planting the winter veg. I think she had picked up some seedlings at the markets in the morning. Hopefully we can grow some cabbages and other winter greens if the rain continues.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Asleep at the wheel

Three piglets have ended up back inside – hey, the three little pigs! Anyway, we are still having problems when we have multiple births. The larger piglets force themselves onto the younger piglet’s mothers and starve them out.

The farm was quite yesterday afternoon so I took the time to attend my first Bee Association Meeting. It was very pleasant; I met a lot of nice people and now have an idea about what to do next. If I provide the boxes the people there will fill them with swarms over summer – then all I need to do is take them away.

I’ll spend the weekend looking for a good site for my first lot of bees, which hopefully, I’ll have by mid spring.
Forgot to mention - we had another 4mm of rain yesterday and it's raining again today - I haven't had time to check how much yet. Thankfully it seems the Autumn rain may come this year.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Radar picture - Tuesday's Rain.

This is the BOM radar image of the storm we had on Tuesday - it looks nothing out of the ordinary. I still can't believe how much rain fell in such a short period of time - but then again I can't complain, I've been wanting rain since Christmas.

And still more!

Some 24hour periods are just too long. I was out collecting more feed on Tuesday when the kids called me, it was raining at home – terrific. Ben told me it was raining hard and I might get stuck on the track on my way in – yeah sure!

By the time I got home the rain had gone – not a trace, the ground was wet and we had obviously had a decent fall. There was a lot of debris and soil mounded in places and the ground was very soft. I walked over to the rain gauge to have a look and was astounded to find it was full to overflowing – we’d had more then 25mm in about half an hour.

On a more thorough investigation I found water had flowed through all the sheds and half drowned Archer the dog, he was lying out in the sun drying off. I thought I’d better check the pigs, when we get really heavy rain water tends to run through their shelter.

I stuck my head in and was greeted with the sight of Floppsy lying in the mud with a piglet in breech. A sudden dread came over me - I’m not the midwife, so I panicked, got it over and done with, grab my work gloves and jumped into the pen. The rest is way too gruesome. After helping Floppsy I decided I’d better check out the other mothers, two more hade decided that the largest rain event in nearly two years was a good time to farrow as well. A couple of these piglets where lying in the mud half dead, I didn’t think they had much chance of surviving at all. So I bundled them up into a bucket and took them inside. I asked Harry to find the hair dryer and start warming the little things up and see if we could save them. After about half an hour they started to pick up. We force fed them milk out of a syringe and after an hour or so they were asleep on Harry’s lap. Altogether we had about six piglets in the house that evening in various states of revival. About half way through all this; it occurred to me that some of the piglets may not have had any colostrum, so I had to work out which ones and get them back out and on to a mum as quickly as I could. I spent a couple of hours holding piglets on nipples to make sure they received a good feed. By 10pm only two of the piglets remained in the house.

The next morning I went out to the pig house to see how Floppsy was doing, she was fine. I couldn’t see her piglet at first, but after a quick search saw it was sound asleep on top of a pile of pigs in the next shelter.

The Cook had gone off to work, so I was in charge of getting the boy’s off to school. I went in and woke them had a shower and grabbed a cup of tea. The kids launched into their chores and I went back out to the pigs to feed them – I was only away for half an hour. Another mother had decided to give birth in the mean time; her piglets had decided to scatter in various directions, through the mud and puddles, instead of making their way around to her teats. We gathered them up and two of them seemed very poorly, so once again out came the hair dryer – the buggers were still covered in afterbirth and muck. I fed them a couple of times and by lunch time I had them back out with their mum – well they actually have two, Floppsy is sharing these piglets. All together we had about 25 piglets in 24 hrs, of these two were born dead and two died after birth. Considering the chaos, mud and cold, we were very lucky.

After all that - the kids missed the bus and I had to drive them to school. I spent the remainder of Wednesday cleaning up and building a separator in the pig shed to keep the older piglets away from the new mums. I was told that piglets wouldn’t swap mums – but ours tend to drift between two or three different mothers depending on how large the litters were.

Of course other things happened during the day. I heard a strange sound coming from the feed shed at one stage and went to have a look. At first I couldn’t see anything, then I noticed a hawk on the cattle yard fence. All the sparrows had flown into a prickle bush next to the yards to shelter from the hawk and they were making an unusual sound – some sort of defence mechanism I suppose. The horses and cattle paid us a visit yesterday; they all wandered down from the back paddocks, spent an hour hanging out at the house, and then slowly meandered back to the river flats.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sleep well?

Finally I worked out how the pigs were escaping. The battery on the electric fence was flat as a tack – I’ve changed it now. The solar panel was giving enough charge to click the energiser over but that was it. So I’m hoping when I get home tonight all the pigs are securely contained within their paddocks.

We fixed the piglets escape route as well and that should stop them taking liberties around the garden, luckily the blighters are only small and don’t eat a lot yet. I also found time to fix a few problems with the Chook pen and all I need to do now is install another row of wire and that’s finished.

Water is still the issue and with any luck the path of Cyclone Hamish will push further south and we’ll get one of those terrific tropical low rain events. We can only wish.

The Cook spent most of Monday making sauces and Tomato bases out of the tomatoes she had picked out of the garden. We had a light frost last week; so putting what tomatoes we have to good use is important before they all go bad.

We had a win with the fox hunters. I went out with them on Friday night, we shot one just 300 metres from the house, but another two escaped – we’ll get those two sooner or later.

Sitting down to dinner the other night, Ben was talking about a topical issue; I think it was the price of gold. He said – “back in the olden days, when everybody lived like us” as they say, from the mouth of babe’s. So poor old Ben thinks we live in the olden days, in our tumbled down cottage on our drought stricken land with our daily battle against the elements and nature. He doesn’t know how lucky he is.
It did rain on Monday – very lightly, about 1mm in total; it was gone by the time the sun came back out.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How many?

I don’t know how many pigs we have at the moment. I know we have two inside and fifteen piglets out side – but I’m not sure how many others we are supposed to have. I might do an inventory this weekend.

The eldest piglets are at the exploring age. I’m hoping they don’t find the ducks eggs two quickly – we haven’t collected any for weeks now since the older pigs have been getting out.

The piglets have a game they play where they run around for a few minutes following a leader, finally the first piglet leads them into a giant figure eight pattern then slowly makes it smaller and smaller, until, finally the first and last piglets are following each other nose to tail – once they are all in the tightest figure eight pattern the cross over piglets crash into each other and all the pigs form a scrum, one on top of the other – a massive pile of feet, tails and noses everywhere.

We had our first cold night for Autumn last night. There was frost on the windscreen of the cars and bare metal gates. And to think last Friday it was so hot at the Show. The forecast is for days around 24 Deg and mornings around 4 Deg – I love this time of year. But this also means we only have a month to get the pigs shelters finished and the finished pigs to the processor.

I saw on a website yesterday a fellow talking about how dry it was and how the river near his farm had nearly stop flowing, and how surprised he was at the low soil level of moisture. He was telling the story about how he was digging a post hole and had to get a bucket of water because the soil was so dusty he couldn’t dig it with a post hole digger. The same fellow had only been saying in December/January that he was having such a good season. It’s surprising how quickly things can change for farmers, one minute everything looks like it’s going really well – next minute your carting water and hand feeding.

Today’s picture is the winner of the Best Any Breed Milking Goat at the Royal Canberra Show 2009.

We got your article Lynn – thanks, luckily none of our pigs are that smart!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Down the pub - AGAIN

Things are a little hectic today – it’s been windy and dry. The Temperature has crashed, we had a high of about 15 Deg C today, but otherwise a beautiful Autumn day.

I found Archer the dog on the veranda of the Pub this morning – you would think he’d know by now that it doesn’t open until much later. He was there at 6:30am, I think he’s got a serious problem!

The Cook is on a course and I’m off to pick up feed, a never ending job. Luckily we finally have our pig brand organised and all things porky will shortly swing into action.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pub Crawling

Busy one today – dog tore off to the pub again. I’ve had him on the dry the last few nights and I think it just got too much for him. I’m just lucky he can’t carry a six pack all the way home. I suspect he has a stash under the bridge.

There are a lot of rabbits about at the moment; they’ve eaten a lot of the carrots and vegetables that were left in the garden. We had two great carrots eaten down to ground level over the weekend and others just completely disappeared.

I managed to keep the pigs in at last. The Cook watched one go under the piece of fence I fixed the other night and witnessed a lot of squealing and grunting as the pig negotiated both the electric and barbed wire. Of course keeping them within their paddocks is as much for their own good as ours – they could get into allsorts of trouble if they started wandering off to different places.

I didn’t tell you that the Cook bought some more chickens on the weekend. I was almost in Canberra on Saturday when the phone rang and it was the Cook. She had the Saturday paper and found some chickens advertised – would I mind having a look at them? I had nothing to do and so took up the challenge. I arrived at the lady’s house – a very flash house, and was taken out the back to the fancy chook house. She had already sold the ones I liked, so I had a look at a couple of Golden Laced Wynndotte. It was a lovely chicken and had a chick, which I had to take if I took the chicken - sure why not? I also ended up with a rooster and two Pencil Laced Wyndottes. I needed a couple of boxes to carry them home so I arranged with the lady to come back later and pick them up – which was fine.

I took Ben back and he, being the chicken whisperer that he is, rounded up the chickens and boxed them up for the trip home. So now we have a few more chickens to add to the foxes menu. I saw a fox on Saturday morning whilst I was driving around town looking for the dog. It was in the neighbours Lucerne field across the river from the house.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Making Jam

Blackberries – not the telephone sort, but the black sweet yummy sort that grows down the river. The Cook spent Saturday making jam from a bucket of blackberries she had picked that morning. Ben absolutely loves them and it’s not unusual to find him with a purple stained mouth and fingers during the picking season.

Today is supposed to be very windy and maybe we’ll have some rain. We spent yesterday afternoon putting things away before the front moves through – with 100kph winds forecast I didn’t want to take any chances of something shorting out the fence.

Only one pig escaped this morning, so yesterday’s modification to the fence must be working – almost. I was up early this morning because it’s bread day - the days are getting shorter and it’s now dark when I have to leave early for jobs.

I was watching the piglets on the weekend, they have a game they play which is very funny to watch. The start off by running around the paddock in single file, once everybody is in the line they form a figure eight and as they run it gets smaller until the front piglets catch up to the ones in the back. Once they catch up they crash into each other for the biggest melee you’ve ever seen. I’ve seen repeat this game many times in a day – free range is the only way to grow happy pigs!

Monday, March 2, 2009

A day at the show

It was a hot afternoon at the show. I arrived just on lunch time on the first day. Not a lot of the exhibits had opened and I was really there to look at the Goats and introduce myself to the bee people. The goat and sheep areas where adjacent to the gate I entered through so I was lucky not to have to walk miles to see them – it was also next to the diving pigs, unfortunately I missed their performance.

I had a walk around the goat enclosure and tried to ask a few questions. But I think the stress of showing and the heat made most people less then conversational. I really wanted to find out things like protein quality of feed for good milk and prices for good milk breeds – the Cooks reading this shaking her head. I found out that goats have a higher cream content in their milk than cows – something I didn’t know before. All the goat breeders had a mixture of breeds, nobody really concentrated on just one breed. I sat and watched the judging for a while, which was interesting, but I’m still not totally convinced I know a good goat form an average goat.

I watched the sheep judging as well, the classes where large and the judging was intense. Most classes I watched was for the Suffolk Sheep – I think the Merinos are judged on Saturday.

After an hour or so I decided to move onto the Bee stand in the pavilion to have a chat with the Bee Association people about their club and what I needed to do to get a site picked out and readied for a couple of hives. I met a gentleman named Pat and he spent a good amount of tie explaining the ins and outs of beekeeping and the benefits of joining the club. I think with activities such as beekeeping it’s good to gather as much information as possible before you leap in. I’m looking forward to attending the first meeting and learning more.

Saturday I spent most of the day running Ben around birthday parties in Canberra, so I wasted a good amount of the day. He enjoyed himself, he had a good time at the laser tag and won both his tournaments.

Back on the farm and we are still having problems containing the pig population. There are two larger pigs that continuously escape regardless of what deterrents I put in their path. Ben has marked these for processing at the soonest possible opportunity. Can’t say I disagree and I think the Cook is very keen to see the wiggly end of them.

Over the weekend they managed to get into the chook pen again and devastate the ducks laying boxes, they pushed their way into the feed shed and consumed the whole batch of evening feeds and have been pillaging in the potato patch as well. They look good, a nice layer of fat across the back and rather large hams, I mean legs – which undoubtedly will be their undoing. I spent hours working on the electric fence over the weekend. I’ve stained it and inspected it and cleaned the connections as well, but it’s still only working at about 50% of capacity – I even took a length of fence off the circuit. I am starting to wonder if the battery is starting to wear out. Luckily this morning only two had managed to escape and that was just prior to feed time. They both squealed when they pushed under the fence on the way in, so it’s working, they just seem to be ignoring it.