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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Flaming Pig

Things are starting to dry out and get back to normal at last after more then 200mm of rain over the past couple of weeks. Not that I really know what normal is, maybe I’d be better just saying less messy. Floppsy has been breaking out the last few mornings, I’ve figured out where she’s getting out and now I just need to fix the hole she has made in the fence before she entices more pigs to escape. She’s a real pest when she gets out and if she gets into the Cooks garden then we are both toast.

The river peaked again on Thursday, only slightly lower then it has on previous occasions. It’s still running well and if it stayed like it is for the rest of the year we’d be happy. We love the sound the running river makes, at night you can here the water, the banjo frogs bonking away, the water various birds and rustling of the leaves in the poplar trees. It’s so peaceful I lay awake listening for hours – probably why I’m tired some mornings.

I was lucky enough to be up just before dawn this morning and watched the sun rise over the mountains, there was a slight summer mist and heavy dew on the grass. The pigs were up early as well, snuffling around in the paddocks it was so peaceful and tranquil. It’s such a shame it only lasts for a short while before the traffic, planes and flies drown out the serenity.

Over the weekend began to make the Cook her wheat garden, the pigs (hog tractors) had done a great job in clearing and digging up the area and all I needed to do was fence it and turn the ground over. So hopefully by autumn we’ll have a nice patch of wheat ready for making into winter bread. The Cook was looking at the patch last night and we were talking about the wheat, she asked how were we going to husk the wheat when it was ready, we’ll work that out when we get to it I said – I’m pretty sure she’s gone to work and the first thing she’ll do is Google it.

The latest batches of piglets are getting bigger, and there mums are looking great – summer piglets are so much easier on the mums. We’ve got pigs going in all directions at the moment as well. It seems every body wants there own, which is good for the industry and good for small farmers.

Yesterday we had our first venture into spit roasting a pig. I had picked out a nice little pig (36kg without head) to try out my brand spanking new 40kg rated pig spit! If it went well I was taking it to the world. So I arrived at 5am at an undisclosed location, in Canberra, with all my equipment on a trailer. Unfortunately the ranger couldn’t get there before 8am to unlock the gate so I had to push the trailer last 200m. This took me back to those PT sessions in the army when we pushed trailers full of water jerry’s around Lavarrack Barracks – SGT Lawson always said we’d be grateful to the army for training us to do this one day.

Anyway, I got everything set up and working by 6:30am, lots of joggers in Canberra around that time. We stuck the pig on the spit and realised it was six inches too long, that was no problems – we had a saw. So, at 6:30am me and another guy are holding this pig down, covered in a sheet, on a park bench – somewhere in Canberra. Sawing the head off was pretty easy in the end and onlookers seemed to disperse quickly. We got the fire going and had the pig nicely rotating over the coals. Everything seemed to be going well and my off sider decided to clear out and pick up some more heat beads.

So off he trundled, I sat down and started to get the baste ready for the pig. I suppose the spit had been going for about an hour when the counter weight must off broken off and threw the pig out of balance, this inturn broke the shear pin on the motor and the pig stopped turning. I walked over to the pig to take a look at what had happened. The pig was too heavy for me to take off on my own and the coals were going well at this stage, so I decided I should hand turn it. I walked over the trailer to grab the handle when I heard the fire roar into life, the pig had been dripping fat onto the fire and things started to get exciting. We had placed the spit under a very large elm tree, the branches were well above the spit and in the beginning we thought it would be fine. But as the fire took hold of the spit and the pig it started to catch the tree as well. So, there I was watching the brand new spit, a 35kg pig and a rather large elm tree burst into flames only 200 metres from Parliament House – crap. I tried to rescue the pig but it was just to heavy, then I remembered I had put a bucket in the trailer, so I grabbed that and ran down to the lake to fetch some water. By the time I got back everything was well alight, so with a fairly large feeling of helplessness I started tossing water on the coals – with much relief the water worked and after the second bucket the fire had died out.

So now I just had a very black pig, a scorched tree and a burnt out spit to fix before 1:30 pm. Luckily some people form the office arrived and set to scrapping the black off the pig and somebody else fixed the motor, by 10:30am we had the pig turning over a nice bed of coals with a bucket of water at arms distance just in case.

By 1:30pm the pig was done to perfection, the Cook turned up to inspect our achievement ( I had rung her earlier for advice, but had to hang up because she was incapacitated by side splitting laughter) and was very impressed. I haven’t had the courage to check the spit out yet, I think I’ll leave that for the weekend.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's a jungle out there

I managed to get stung by bees twice on the one ear on Saturday. I spent the weekend with one giant ear and one normal ear – very uncomfortable. Worse thing is now I’m down two bees.

We’ve hatched a nice brood of chicks this week. I don’t recall how many there are now, but they are all looking good and healthy. The Wellsummer and the Arcona chicks I picked up the other day are looking good as well. They are getting a good covering of feathers and should be ready for the out side soon. Unfortunately we lost a duck last night to the foxes, just one is unusual, I’ll have to have a look around with the spotlight tonight.

We’ve had a lot of rain, over two hundred millimetres to date in the past couple of weeks. The poor old pigs houses are flooded out and they are sleeping under the stars at the moment – I need to get in and scrape out the mud. We’ve sold a few as well, which is good and usual for this time of year.

The bees have been keeping my busy. I had to make up some frames for the hives and then discovered a new swarm had occupied one of the boxes in the shed – that’s how I got stung. The Cook never told me about them, she knew, and I walk across their flight path twice, she did ask if I was allergic.

My lawn mower is dead and the lawn is shoulder high at the moment – it’s got way past being scythed. I do the paths and around the taps still with the scythe – but I think I heard a Hoop Snake last night so we’d better be careful. There’s a big bunch of piglets keeping the dog occupied as well, she just loves following them around and making sure they don’t get too far away from mum.

We’ve also invested in a Solar Farm for the property. It’ll be erected in February and be producing electricity for both us and the grid. It’ll combat future price rises in electricity for the time being, but nobody knows what’s happening there.

The Cook has been making some great bread rolls lately and Sunday lunch was a true testament to her talents. We had beautiful bread rolls made from freshly milled organic wheat, fresh ham from the farm and garden salads. All this followed by her now famous rhubarb cake – just delicious, wouldn’t swap her for a tractor!

Last week also saw the last of this year’s pigs go off to the abattoir, I thought we would have trouble hitting 60kg dressed on them but the biggest came in at 73kg which was excellent and of the five they averaged 58kg which was perfect. One is destined for the spit roast which is why the average is a little below 60kg, my spit roaster can only handle a 40kg pig.

I had a chance to visit Mrs D during the week and was lucky enough to try a selection of her Mulberries – very yummy!! I’ve never had a white mulberry before, they were very nice. The Cooks berries are going well to, we went down the garden last night and tried some red currents and ‘a’ logan berry I think. She was so proud of it, it was very big and very juicy – it fell of the bush whilst she was showing me and Ben nearly snapped it out of her fingers, she managed to get half!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Going Slowly

Keeping moisture in the soil may not seem a real challenge if you live somewhere like Central Queensland, Kent or Maine. You may never have to experience the depth of Drought that we have just emerged from here in the South East of NSW. But it sends a clear message – use this time to prepare for the next one, because the next one will probably be worse.

The other day I talked about change and this preparation is all part of that. The solution we have arrived at is a blend of NSF, Permaculture, organics and biodynamic and, of course, our own experiences. The solution we are moving towards involves constructing a number of swales across the length of the farm paddocks, the swales are lined with deciduous trees on the up hill slope and fruiting trees, shrubs and bushes on the down hill slope. Between these swales we will run our pigs on a linear rotation with smaller paddocks for winter and larger paddocks for summer. This will also involve portable water and pig arks to complete the system.
The idea is that the pigs will live amongst avenues of trees providing both shade and a food forest for ourselves and the pigs. The deciduous trees and pigs provide the nutrients for the fruit trees and the swales transfer the water and nutrients back into the soil. The trees also provide the shade and protection from wind which decreases the amount of surface evaporation.
This is very close to the Dehesa Farm (thanks Emily) style from the Iberian (Spanish) Peninsula where the famous Spanish Bellota Hams are produced – start to see the idea. Unfortunately we’ll probably never get to the point where our pigs can roam between the trees – but the kids should. The Spanish use acorn trees, which we will also use, as well as, Hazel nuts, apples, pairs and persimmons. In thirty years we’ll have the most beautiful autumns you could imagine.
This, unfortunately, isn’t going to happen over night and it means a lot of planning, fence moving, tree planting and water pipe installed. Not to mention the earth works!
Thanks to Russell for his link to Sugar Mountain Farm as well, I read their Blog often and have watched some youtube videos they’ve done. I didn’t realise they ran their pigs in the woods however; again a little slow on the up take!
The Cook went off to listen to Joel Salatin from PolyFace Farms speak about his farming system, I had seen his DVD, read some of his book and seen a farm using some of his methods - so I stayed home and help feed the pigs. She was impressed with the apprenticeship and intern programs that farms like his run in the US, another farm I’ve read about called Nature’s Harmony Farm has a similar program. The folks at NHF, Tim and Liz, have a podcast which is really good and worth listening to as well.

We have totally underestimated the demand for our – now famous Bredbo Valley View Farm Christmas Hams. The Cook and I have been inundated with requests for more hams this year. Unfortunately our problems getting a butcher mean we couldn’t do hams this year. I’m trying to organise the means to get a pig or two processed so I can do my own – but it’s becoming a race against the clock.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Most people wouldn’t have given it any consideration, it never crossed my mind until recently – but now it’s going to change the whole face of the farm.
Back in April I talked about change and renewal, about how we were reassessing what we do, why and how. We looked at moving the farm to somewhere with more rain, Tasmania looked nice, but for various reasons that didn’t work so we decided to stay put. So that change didn’t happen – sorry Dad, I’m not going into politics.
So, to continue in regard to change. We attended a talk at the Natural Sequence Farming AGM; it was about farm planning, trees, permaculture and general farm philosophy. We had always intended to raise our pigs as naturally as possible and we thought that meant free range, but included pens, straw, shelters, wire and gates. But then somebody, out of the blue, made a statement “you know pigs are forest animals?”
I didn’t know what to say, I’d never even really thought about it. But it made sense. And put it all together with planning, trees, permaculture and animal welfare and it made perfect sense. We’d even seen it, talked about it – but never put it all together.
As an example, the pigs in the front paddock. They have trees, and they love nothing more then laying in the shade on a summer’s day, both the Cook and I have talked about it but never really connected the dots. Additionally we’d also had a sow escape and have a litter in the bottom of the paddock a while ago as well, we didn’t notice until a few days after they were born that the pig was missing. But the piglets were the healthiest and hardiest we have ever had. They had no shed, no shelter just long grass, shrubs and trees. They survived frost, rain and possibly foxes huddled together in the nest mum built in the low shrubbery.
We now let mother pigs out into the paddock to farrow, there are only mothers and piglets in the paddock and we try for one sow at a time. And it’s working, better then we ever expected. The other night, Harrison accidentally locked a mother pig up; separating her form her litter. The next morning I went looking for the piglets expecting the worse – but there they were, camped under a bush totally hidden right were she had left them. Mother and piglets were reunited after feed time and every thing was fine.
Climate is the other consideration; it has become obvious that the rain in our area now falls in pulses. We get large amounts over small periods with large drying gaps between events. We need to condition our farm to deal with this and thrive, instead of standing back and praying it will rain before everything dies. Fortunately, it appears there is a relatively simple solution to all of this and the results will speak for themselves.
I’ll talk about our plan in my next post – til then.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Attack chook

Monday night I went to pick up the Bees from Monika. It took a while for all the Bees to come home to their box – but by 8pm I had them on the back of the truck and heading home. Monika help load them – I don’t think she was 100% sure about what we were doing (don’t tell her – neither was I). I unloaded them as soon as I got home and hopefully they awoke to a nice Valley View sunrise this morning. Surprisingly there was no rain this morning, its forecast for later today, and then warm and fine for the rest of the afternoon.

I had to get myself a new hoe handle, broke two on the weekend chipping weeds; weeds in these parts can be pretty tough. But it was probably the rocks that broke the hoe, weeds just hide them – it’s a conspiracy.
Of course I didn’t get home until late Monday and the pigs were very pleased to see me roll the feeds out at 9:30pm, well after dark. I managed to get everybody penned, fed and looked after, including myself by 11:30pm ready for a 4:45am rise to collect the bread in the morning.
And the $23 chicken the cook bought – just superb, we haven’t had a chicken that good for a long while. And with Harrison at school camp there was even some left over for lunches.
Tuesday night I came home to find the house driveway had subsided into the gas pipeline. Unfortunately the previous leaser of the TSR had ploughed across the drainage channels we had put in and helped cause the problems. I didn’t see the holes at first and had dragged the trailer load of bread across it before I realised what was happening.
More mushrooms coming up in the garden – but I’m not the only one eating them now, looks like the Possums are helping them selves to some as well.
I walked in the house last night and The Cook was limping around the kitchen, I asked her what was wrong and got;

“Bloody rooster! It attacked my foot today” to which I replied,

“Okay, the rooster is only so big how did it hurt you that bad?”

“It spurred me in the foot – it went right through my gum boot!”

- at this point I'm thinking it isn’t going well for the rooster, her foot had swollen up like a foot ball and was turning a nice shade of blue. I was starting to think that Coq au Vont was for dinner.
It didn’t help when I said “great now I have something for the blog”.  The rooster survived, I'm borderline.
In the next couple of weeks we’ve got pigs going off for processing. Unfortunately we couldn’t get any hams done this year, we couldn’t find a butcher. Maybe we’ll have some during the year instead. I’m starting to think I might make my own for this Christmas.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wet, wet, wet.

The rain keeps falling, so far this month Valley View has had 95mm of rain in the gauge. We are luckier then some, Cooma has only recorded 40mm and others only a couple of kilometres down the road had less.

It’s all about weeds at the moment, whilst it’s to wet to spray in the paddocks; I’ve been chipping out weeds around the house yards. My hands feel like balloons on the end of broom sticks, and I can barely close one because my fingers are swollen, guess I’ll just have to harden up a bit more.

I was driving home on Friday afternoon, as usual listening to the ABC when I heard a familiar voice. Great interview Mrs D, Great topic – compost, and you came across as very professional and elegant – well done!
We had some friends come out for a visit on Saturday afternoon, Little Pig was on her best behaviour and took all the belly rubs on offer, at one point even Floppsie got in on the act.

On Sunday I managed to fit in an NSF Field Day out at Braidwood, Peter Andrews was there and the rain managed to hold off until the end. The Farm we visited was very impressive and the difference between the NSF property and his neighbours was telling. It would have been interesting to see the contrast during the worst of the drought. The owner had placed compost heaps containing dead animals, road kill, plant waste, discarded soil form dam bottoms, rock dust and other biowaste around his farm on the top of slopes, you could see the nutrient plumes flowing down the slope by the way the vegetation changed.

Sadly on Sunday we also lost one of our longest living farm critters, poor old Licorice the Guinea Pig died after seven years of squeaking, we noticed something was up the day before when he stopped squeaking for his food, so we sat him out on the lawn in the sunshine for the morning and he was gone by that afternoon - the Cook is going to put him under a rose bush today. I think he had a good life.

Have you ever really considered the real cost of food?? The Cook went off to the farmers market, she met a friend on the way in who told her she needed to try a chicken from a certain stall holder, she then ran into a stall holder we know and he told her the same – farmers market version of viral advertising! Anyway, off she trots to buy one of these great chickens. To look at the chicken you can see it’s something special, firstly it’s large, larger then normal store bought chickens. It’s got a healthy looking skin, sounds strange, I know – but it looked good. It was packaged in a simple plastic bag with a label. The chickens are pasture raised, down the coast some where; I’m not sure if they are grain fed as well.

The price for this treat, $23. Was it worth it?? We’ll see tonight, the Cook is doing her magic on it, can’t wait to try it – I’ll let you know how it goes. And what do I think about a $23 chicken?? If it’s more nutritious, tastes better, is grown better then $23 is the price we’ll pay. But first I have another hive to pick up, I left a box with Monika so she could paint it, and low and behold before she could do anything a swarm set up house in it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Drought is over - for now.

Snakes are about again – my favourite time of the year! Shadow nearly got bitten on Sunday, she put herself between a big brown snake and a bunch of boys staying for a sleep over. I was standing about twenty feet away chipping weeds and didn’t see a thing until it was all over.

It’s also that time of year again for AGM’s. we had the Bredbo Landcare Meeting a couple of weekends ago, a very informative talk from Martin Royds, a local farmer who won the carbon farmer of the year award a couple of years ago and is up for a farming diversity award this year. He talked about the importance of soil condition on the nutrient value of food and how he uses native species to drought proof his property.
We had the Natural Sequence Farming AGM the other night also, we had a presentation from Matt Kilby from Global Land Repair, he talked about different processes, the cross over of NSF, permaculture, soil biology and the relationship between trees, grass, fungi and bacteria.
I had a birthday, but I’ve still failed to grow up any, it passed quietly and the less said the better. I’ve sold a few pigs, some as pets – Scruffy has gone to a new home to be cared for by a family and she took a young fellow with her as company and ten other girls have gone out to new homes as well.

The Cooks garden is looking a treat and the strawberries are plentiful. Young Ben browses the bushes on his way in from the school bus. There are hundreds of young berries all over the patch; we haven’t had a crop like this since we arrived on the farm.
And the rain, last night alone we had 50mm, the road to the house was a river, dams on the TSR overflowed, our dams are all over flowing and luckily I pumped on Saturday because the river is up and brown once again.
Our total for the month is above 80mm, which isn’t bad when the monthly long term average is 65mm. It’s bringing on the grass and the weeds, so early December is going to be pretty busy for us.
With the rain we have had a bumper crop of mushrooms all over the farm. The Cook carried a monster lot up from the garden the other day and decided we would have them for dinner. She cooked them up; they smelt great, made some toast and scrambled eggs to go with them. I love mushrooms; I dished my self up a nice plate full and grabbed a couple of pieces of toast. I had started to eat them when I noticed she was only having eggs, I asked her why? She said “I’m not 100% sure they are safe to eat, so I’ll se if you survive and then I’ll try some” - I survived, the mushrooms tasted great, she’s eaten them since now she’s satisfied they are okay. At least now I know I am useful!
I’ve nearly finished the pig yards and just have to fill the loading ramp yard with dirt. We gave them a test run the other day without the dirt and it went pretty well. We got all the pigs we wanted onto the trailer with a lot less fuss and bother – I didn’t even swear which made the Cook very happy.
We are going out to have a look at a farm near Braidwood later in the week, on the farm they are using a lot of the NSF principles, native grasses, increased soil fertility and strict rotational grazing regimes to great effect.

Monday, October 18, 2010

They're back

They’re back – and everything is well in the world again. I managed to survive a couple more pig maulings, one in a most delicate place and a month of cooking for myself.

I’ve managed to procure a number bee boxes at a good price, it involved a quick trip one evening down to Bega, but now I have enough to get myself started. As you may recall, Mrs Duck had provided me with my first swarm, temporarily housed in a broccoli box. Mrs D was going to give me a hand to move the bees into their new home, but she convinced me that I’d be okay to do it myself.

I now wonder if she has ever really read my blog? Surely she knows I stagger from one disaster to another, I appreciated the confidence – but, as Mr Spock would say – ‘Logic would suggest Jim’.

Ben and I moving the bees
Not being a skilled bee keeper in any fashion I knew one thing, or maybe two. Firstly I needed a bee suite and secondly, I probably couldn’t do it on my own. So, I borrowed a couple of bee suites and recruited a trusty off sider. Ben was wrapped that I asked him, just having celebrated his 12th birthday he was pretty chuffed he was going to do something so grown up. And operating the smoker was right up his alley.

So, we donned our suites and under mother’s watchful eye made our way to the bee box. Mrs D had told me it was easy, just plonk the frames full of bees into the new box, tip the left over bees in front of the box and that’s it. So we attentively lifted the lid – expecting the bees to swarm all over us in a very angry manner. However nothing could be further from reality. The bees stayed on the frames, we placed then in the same order into the box, shook the rest of the bees out of the old box and walked away. The bees were very well behaved, no angry girls, not much smoke and no stings. Unfortunately, I only had one box ready, so I need to put foundation on some others, get a queen excluder and stick a second super on them.

What I didn’t say was when I picked up the new boxes a new swarm was busily making one of the boxes its own. These boxes had been in storage since 1992, the guy had dragged them out for me to look at in the morning and came back to find the swarm hard at work. Its not a large swarm so we’ll see how they go.

So Mrs D confidence was well founded, her gifted bees did her proud and are now busy making the cook a fine box of honey for her winter cups of tea.

What else has happened – well over 60mm of lovely rain. The river is up again and the grass everywhere is green. I’ve never seen it so green and every dam in the country between us and Canberra is over flowing, we have never experienced such a great spring. Of course, with that much rain the pig’s house got as bit flooded, but that has dried out now and everything is well.

The Cook’s garden looks a treat, her potato’s have grown six inches and strawberries are thick and flowering – luckily we have bees, and the asparagus has been glorious. She spent the whole day in the garden weeding and planting today – she’s pretty happy with her new tap as well.

Unfortunately the rain has delayed the finishing of the pig loading ramp and yards, but the rain was well worth it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bee'n Buzzy

Our new Bees in the tempary home

I've had a number of messages on the phone over the last couple of days - but none more welcoming then from the wonderful Duck Herder.  Somehow, karma had alerted her that I had managed to track down some second hand barely used bee boxes.  I don't know how she knew - but she did.  She rang me with the news that she had a swarm and I could have it if I wanted - hell yeah!

I thought there was a bee meeting on that night so I headed into town, I'd pick up the bees on the way home.  No meeting - I was a week early (I can hear the Cook sniggering from here)  Anyway Mrs D turned up at the designated spot, smoker and tape gun in hand and we rustled them all up and stuck them in the back of the truck.  I could here them buzzing about as I drove home and, to tell you the truth it was a little bit eary.  By the time I got home and puilled up at teh spot I was going to leave them in it well oast 9pm, I opened up the back door of the truck and was a little concerned by the number of bees - outside the box!  There wasn't alot I could do, I needed to get themn out of the truck so I decided I just had to suck it up and walk them over to their new home.  But luckily they were all well behaved and polite and stayed on the box for me.  It was a little bit concerning that I had to walk across the paddock in the dark carrying them.   

 I am constantly being stalked by the Bredbo Black Panther, he marches around the farm following the same track all day.  He meows at me as he goes past and will sit on the trailer whilst I do the pigs breads in the morning, happy just to watch.  He follows me everywhere in the evening so I don't forget to feed him and ends up on my lap most of the night.

We have had some new visitors the past few nights outside the kitchen window.  It's the first time we've seen possums here up close - I had seen one down the river last year but this is the first so close to the house.

I can't wait until everybody gets home, it's been three weeks and I'm ready for my own holiday now.  It takes me ages to feed up and water on my own each morning and night and add watering the garden, pumping, a few odd jobs that pop up and time really escapes from you.  I was planning on doing so much and really have managed to do so little, oh well hopefully the new loading ramp and yard will be finished before they get back. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I got an earfull

Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking, most of the times I figure that I don’t think enough, I suppose it could be laziness or just an over dose of self confidence – luckily the cook wasn’t here to hear me swear ( I think I made a pig blush!). How hard can it be to lay a couple of hundred of metres of poly pipe and fit some taps?? I think the easiest part was getting the roll of pipe off the truck by myself, chasing it down the hill and rolling it back up was a little difficult, and time consuming. I knew it had all gone wrong when I cut the ties around the roll and it exploded like an out of control slinky toy.

Anyway I managed to get it untangled and dragged out, with only a couple of kinks and one tap in a wrong spot – pretty much a success for me! I just need to wait until it rains so I can dig it into the ground (I’m sitting here laughing at myself – I think I’ve disconnected from my reality drive)

So now we have water to all the pigs paddocks and the kids won’t have to cart buckets of water to some of the pigs and the hoses run much better than before. In fact now we can water all the pigs at once and fill the feeds with water at the same time.

I tried to move the goose sitting on eggs yesterday, which ended in tears – for me. For some reason I think she was really attached to her spot, after coaxing her off the eggs with some yummy wheat, I bent over to pick up her eggs, I was trying to be really careful not to break any, I had planned to put them in the covered pen in a nice corner with some straw and other nesting material, but that was soon forgotten as she grab me by the ear and started swinging. Of course, I swore – which didn’t help, her mates all came running and soon I was on my hands and knees with a goose dragging me by the ear and five others honking and hissing all around me. I think the dogs were entertained, they watched from the safety of outside the chook pen.

Thankfully the goose let go after a few seconds (felt a lot longer), she’s still outside the covered pen and she keeps a weather eye on me whenever I go in there now.

I did a bit of shopping today, at the local rural store. I picked up some gear for a new set of pig yards, I had promised my mother I’d build them for the cook last time she was here – and now she might be coming back so I’d better get that done before she arrives (BTW Happy Birthday Mother OXO). I have a plan, I need a new loading ramp and a race, so I had a talk to the guys at the local steel yard and have all the options figured out – in other words they’ve confused the hell out of me, but I figure it can’t be that hard – right ??

So that’s tomorrows job, I need to dig about seven post holes – that’ll be fun, I love digging holes. I am also planning on having a go at shearing George. I got the shears out the other day and sharpened them up, they are an old set of hand shears, but I’ve got them nice and sharp. I took them out yesterday to see if they were sharp enough – normally I can just walk up to George and give him a pat, but he took one look at the shears and headed for the gully and blackberry bush and didn’t come out until I went back into the house. Next time I’ll take them out with me when I do the bread and have a go whilst he’s feeding his face out of one of the buckets – well that’s my plan.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

End of another week

Well, The Cook has taken the kids for a little break and I’m here looking after the place on my own. It was a frenzy of massive proportions the two weeks before she left. We had to spray 500 over the paddocks, get the cattle in and all the general organisation of going away.

We managed to do it with about five minutes to spare and the loss of only one finger – just kidding mum!

Since they have been away I’ve managed to reduce our poultry numbers somewhat. I made a pond for the ducks – it’s rather deep so the ducks and geese can have a good time diving and swimming. I didn’t realise that the roosters would try swimming as well! I’ve lost two so far and have to only open the pond when I’m in the chook pen, I feel like a life guard – and even with me standing there I’ve still had to drag a couple of roosters out of the water. Roosters aren’t the only things I’ve lost, three ducks have died and I wasn’t sure why – but now I know – the Turkey has been standing on them trying to mate, so know I have had to lock up the turkey, until spring is over. I must track down a hen for him in the next week or so.

Sadly that’s not all, I went out to feed Archer tonight and found he had died in his sleep, he was stretched out in his sunny spot and had just gone to sleep and not woken up. So tomorrow I need to dig him a great big hole in the flower garden. No more trips to the pub old fella!

Archer, in blue collar, Penny and Shadow

I had planned to do a lot this week – apart from the duck pond, but I spent a far bit of time collecting acorns in Cooma and sorting out animals. The horses led me on a merry chase down the river – my boots are still drying out, and I’ve lost the cattle out the back again.

I have to try and shear George this week – with the hand shears, he's overdue and it should be fun being his first time.

I got a great big bite from a pig this morning whilst I was feeding out the bread. It’s left an impressive mark, a bruise and drew blood. Luckily she got me on the elbow joint and not the arm proper, I think she would have broken it if she had got me on another part of the arm.

Had my first snake contact on Sunday, I lifted a box to make way for some feed and it slithered out at me, I lifted my skirts and ran screaming like a girl to the house, the snake was quickly moved on and I don’t think it’ll be bothering me again this year.

We’ve had a pig napping incident as well. Five pigs in all were taken, all small one’s – don’t know how they did it. But the Stock Squad found them bought them home – in the back of a ute. I’ve had to keep them separated from all the other pigs for the last six weeks. I also had to put tags in their ears – that was an experience, the boys helped, they tackled the pigs to the ground whilst I fixed the tag. The first one was fine, didn’t make a sound – we were all worried because we had never done it before. The second one squealed wildly and made us a little shy about doing the rest – but after five minutes we had them tagged and a month later they are still in – thank heavens.

So, this coming weekend I’ve got fencing and weeds to spray, I need to fence off the duck pond – that’ll need a roof as well and general tidy up – never a slow moment here. I need to check the Cooks garden as well, the days have been lovely and warm and I may need to water some things.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time to pick a fight

Just when you thought it was safe to post your latest Blog update you come across this I urge anybody reading this to follow the link and read the article.

Monsanto is already the ugly big brother of modern agriculture. My personal belief is that their patenting genes related to food production is immoral and unjustifiable. If we, as a society, allow this behaviour to continue we risk affordable food production in to the future.
So please read the article and leave a comment – I don’t want this to go unchallenged!

Forget the election

You all know my favourite thing in life is food. And there is a lot going on in the world of food at the moment. The political parties are biffing it out over who has an agriculture policy, and surely food security and bio security go hand in hand. The intensive pig farmers are trying to get people to boycott Coles and Woolies pork and shop at the farmers markets because of the debate over sow stalls – I say bring it on, for once the intensive guy’s are doing something I agree with. I bet Michael Croft at Mountain Creek wished he had as many pigs as us ready for the markets.
There is a lot out there affecting our food security. Various media reports have suggested that the world will approach peak Phosphorus by 2033, some disagree saying we will be able to reduce our dependence on P before then and can stretch out our supplies for a few more years. Problem with these things is you can never fully understand the way they derive their figures – does this include worst or best case population growth? They are talking about recycling human and animal waste to capture P and send it back to the farmers. The flaw in this argument is that only 50% of food crops grown are actually consumed and that means you only delay the inevitable - not stop it. And unfortunately with current agricultural methods we can not survive without it, our whole sustainable agriculture model depends on P.
It’s back top the same old question – what’s the definition of sustainable?? Is it being able to replace enough nutrients in the paddock to allow continual harvests or is it an holistic approach of managing the soil; it’s nutrients, microbial and fungal communities, the moisture and carbon content and the structure above and below the surface so that farming improves the overall soil health not degrades it.
I think Dick Smith has the right idea, bring the root cause of the problem to the fore. Population, what is a sustainable population?? By definition it’s a population that has no net effect on the landscape. I’ve heard the arguments form the business leaders – no population growth means no increase in productivity, which translates to no huge amounts of money in their big fat pockets. But the true cost of trashing the planet isn’t paid for by them – we pay for it, our taxes pay for it and the third world suffer for it.
I received an email from a like minded soul recently, he asked me if he could write a guest post for the Blog; he’s sent the following –

Guest Blogger Dan Grifen
Sustainability Through the Consumption of Things Conserved
"In other environmental issues we tell people to stop something, reduce their impact, reduce their damage," - US Ecologist Gary Nabhan

Since the beginning of the green movement, there has been a rise in the number of organizations and businesses that are doing their part in the promotion of sustainability through conservation. As human beings, we're told to reduce our carbon footprint, consume less unhealthy foods, and spend less time in the shower! But let's take a minute to step back and look at this from a different perspective; one that Gary Nabhan strongly suggests.

Gary Paul Nabhan, phD., is a Arab-American writer/conservationist whose extensive farming work in the U.S./Mexico borderlands region has made him world renowned. Specifically speaking, Nabhan is known for his work in biodiversity as an ethnobotanist. His uplifting messages and attitude towards life and culture has granted us access to multiple beneficial theories including his latest of eat what you conserve.

According to The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, about three quarters of the genetic diversity of crops has been vanishing over the last century and that a dozen species now gives 90% of the animal protein eaten globally. In accordance, just 4 crop species supply half of plant based calories in the human diet.

Nabhan claims that by eating the fruits and vegetables that we are attempting to conserve/save, we're promoting the granular dissemination of various plant species. But this goes beyond what we typically buy in supermarkets, particularly because of price and abundance. We must remember to try new things and immerse ourselves in the very concept of diversity. Keep in mind- the benefits of splurging for that costly fruit/vegetable supremely outweigh the cons. Not only are you promoting biodiversity and further eliminating the needs of farmers to remove rare, less purchased crops off their agenda, but you're also effectively encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Agriculturist Marco Contiero mentioned that "biodiversity is an essential characteristic of any sustainable agricultural system, especially in the context of climate change. . With sustainable crop efforts being lead by the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) and the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) the duo plans to provide a more sustainable crop that can withstand natural disasters, avoiding food shortages like Haiti is experiencing. Contiero goes on to state "We need to ensure this is the basis for the future…" – This is exactly what Doug Band, the CGI, and the IRRI are doing by engaging in sustainability efforts.

So remember, next time you're in the supermarket picking out a common variety of navel oranges or strawberries, turn your attention to something that's a bit more exotic in nature. The same goes for salads/salad ingredients; shop outside the norm, picking spices and vegetables that you wouldn't normally incorporate into your everyday diet. During such economic downtime it isn't always easy to maintain the same level of grocery shopping intrigue, but we must also not forget that in this sundry of foods we can find fun!

Dan Grifen – Supporter of all things green and progressive.

Dan rightly identifies the problems we are creating by ignoring biodiversity – and it goes deeper. Genetically manipulating animals so that we exclude the effects of natural evolution is another problem. Our environment has changes significantly over the past decades. People insist on intervening in the natural evolution of both plants and animals to adapt with the new, evolving effects of a changes climate, ultimately this can only lead to the extinction of these species due to their inability to adapt. Now I could go on and on about this, but if you look at this video from Landline you’ll see where we could be headed. .

Lots more stuff to talk about - lots of rain as well.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Snowy Hills
Back in July I wrote and didn’t post -

Well, the brass monkeys are working overtime here in Bredbo and I’ve been too soft to face the cold of the computer table to up date my Blog – yes, I take total responsibility for the lack of communications.

-12.9 Degrees Celsius – cold enough for me. No hot water for morning showers all this week and last, the water in the washing machine was still frozen at 6pm the other night and we couldn’t wash the kids uniforms – the poor old Cook thought her brand new washing machine was busted. But it’s warmed up now, it was only minus 8.9 over the weekend – lucky us.

It’s even been to cold to chase of foxes with out ugg boots and beanie, suppose I should wear more, but my luminous white body is well camouflaged against the frosty grass and the shock and awe I reap on the fox - if it doesn’t kill him it’ll have him in therapy for years.

So when I left you all the Jeep was sitting in Pambula awaiting a new power steering pump and the trailer was outside Bega awaiting me to pick it up. Since then the Jeep is back on the road – just another example that a combination of lick, spit and a whole lot of Gaffa tape will fix anything. Of course this time I also needed to use super glue, my spit just ain’t doing the job these days. I managed to get down to Pambula and pick up the Jeep, grab the tailer and drop it off home, stop for a pee and get back to Canberra for an appointment before noon that day – which is quite an achievement for the old girl.

Unfortunately the Jeeps long term prognosis is not good. The radiator is showing signs of failure and I have to keep a close eye on the fluid levels, the gauges are all failing and I’ll really not sure what’s going on half the time – with the car. But the game changer happened the other day when one of the kids closed one of the back passenger doors and the front passenger door fell off. It gets really cold driving down the foggy frosty Monaro Hwy with an inch gap around the door. So sadly we are on the hunt for a replacement for the old girl.

I’ve got a step closer to getting prepared for the spring arrival of some bees. I have purchased a stack of timber to build my first boxes, Monika and her partner form the bee club came out the other weekend to help – but it was too cold to stand outside and use power tools so we opted for a cuppa in front of the fire.

School holidays are her and that has to be the Cooks favourite time of the school calendar – skiing starts when they go back, always a highlite for the term.

The Cook spent a week in Adelaide; I think the kids have just about recovered. The work load doubles for everybody when so goes and the cooking takes a noticeable down would spiral consistent with the amount of time she’s away. And don’t ask about school lunches – luckily the kids like (maybe now ‘liked’) vegemite. And I’ve got to find a better way of telling if shop bought ham is off as well.

And as usual with the drop in temperatures comes the colds, Harry and the Cook have both been suffering bad coughs and a nasty tummy bug. Luckily Ben and I stayed far enough away not to become infected.

I tried to do some fencing last weekend, but every time I bent a piece of wire it snapped – a good indication it was just too cold. I managed to get some done this weekend, the pigs are now totally surrounded by pig mesh netting – now I just need to get the electric back on and put in a few more steel posts and we should be right again.

Forward to now.

Snow has fallen on the mountains yesterday and for most of the day it was better spent inside. We had periods of rain, hail and ice and bitingly cold winds. Not that this allows us to rest, there was still pigs to do, things to fix, fences to check and general day to day jobs to do. One of my favourites is the weekly trip to the dump, never go there with out running into somebody and being ski season it’s a full on mission impossible just to get across the highway to get there. I swear it’s only two hundred metres down the road and takes half and hour.

We had a visit from James last week. He spent a few days helping out around the place, we managed to do some fencing, put in a corner post and steel posts – I’d recently purchased one of those pneumatic post drivers – why I didn’t do that sooner I’ll never know. The amount of time and effort this one tool will save is just mind boggling.

Other things that have been happening – we’ve picked up more roosters, and this time it wasn’t my fault. The cook was responsible this time – which takes some of the pressure off of me.

We had an NSF working party and put in a leaky weir to help slow down the water travelling down one of the erosion gullies. It took us all of two hours to collect the rocks from a non conservation site and an hour and a half to build. I still have to get some gravel to make a bed for the overflow and get some reeds during the spring to line the edges.

We also bought in a load of round bales of straw for the pigs. They weight about 500 kg each, getting them onto the trailer myself is a bit of a challenge but I’ve managed so far. It’s about a quarter of the cost of getting square bales from the feed store so well worth the effort. The biggest part of the cost is the transportation; thankfully we’ve found somebody whom delivers at a good rate.

I thought Belle the cow was going to calf the other day, her udder has enlarged and she seems to have dropped her belly. I found her on her own in the paddock, she ran off when I approached, but there was no sign of a calf when I looked around. I am hoping that it hasn’t come yet, but I’m still concerned that she may have lost it.

The horses have been causing problems, a brumby from next door has taken up residence with our three and continually leads them astray. About eleven last night the dogs started barking, I got outside just in time to see the horses galloping down the road towards the creek. The brumby keeps pushing the gate open somehow and letting everybody out. I think they spent five minutes helping themselves to the pig’s bread before they headed off as well.

I still haven’t had time or the space to start my Bee Boxes either. I have the timber, the tools and the screws – but alas not the time. I’d better get a move on before spring arrives, I may have to take some time off shortly to get stuck into this.

What’s bugging me?

I like to catch up on Landline every Sunday – but I don’t always get to. A couple of weeks ago they had a very interesting article about Samoa and how they are trying to convince the locals to eat more fresh food from their gardens and stop importing tinned food. It’s hard to believe that people would choose to eat tinned carrots over fresh, or spam over fresh fish. The change in diet has had many effects on the population’s health and well being as well as a dangerous reliance on imported food.

But it’s not just a problem in Samoa. We are selling off our agricultural land to foreign interests who are farming and exporting the produce with no return benefit to our economy or food security. It’s not just the fact that they own vast tracks our best land; they are also buying up the water. With the MBDA Draft plan out after the election, which rumour has it includes a 90% reduction in irrigated agriculture in the basin over the next twenty years, it’s hard to see the logic in this. Surely it’s in the Governments best interest to restrict the ownership of rural land and secure thousands of rural jobs by making these countries import food from our farmers?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Not for Profit pigs........

We had a lot to do this weekend and I was rather determined not to let it stress me out. We had sent Ben off to friends for a sleepover Friday night, the rest of us were off to Bega for a Scything day and deliver some pigs to a friend. There was no way I was going to load the pigs Friday night, it was too cold for them to spend a night in the trailer and I wasn’t going to load them in the dark either. So we got things going early Saturday morning, calmly loaded the pigs, and set off for our first stop in Cooma. The Cook had made a lovely Humming bird cake that morning and we happily settled in for the trip. I needed to stop in Cooma to pick up a couple of essentials, we pulled up under some oak trees and Harry feed the pigs acorns whilst I stepped into the hardware store.

In no time we were on our way. Now, the drive to Bega involves the adventurous, not for the faint hearted, or sain, drive down Browns Mountain. So with a dozen pigs in tow we beetled on down towards the drop off. Just before we started our decent I pulled over to let a couple of cars pass, we would be slow so I didn’t want to hold people up at the start. When we pulled over I noticed a strange sound coming from the engine bay of the Jeep. It was one of those really good sounds – you know the one it’s a grating, crunching, bearing gnawing, fingers on a chalk board sound. I figured it ment trouble – but I’d gone too far to go back and Bega was closer then anywhere else now. So we continued down the mountain.

We had made it abut half way when I noticed that the brakes had pretty much gone, and the comments form the Cook about smelling something burning weren’t helping the stress levels either. So, we pulled over, glad I didn’t get out. Smoke begun billowing from the front of the car, the brakes must have been really hot. We waited for a while, started the car, still making it’s horrible noise and ventured on. We finally found the turnoff to our destination and I managed to heave the car around to head down a single lane dirt road heading off into the distant hills. I decided if we were leaving the highway I’d better check out the car first, I got out and lifted the bonnet – holy crap – not a pretty sight.

We had blown the bearings in the power steering pump and there was power steering fluid everywhere, the fly wheel was squealing and the fan belt was on it’s last legs – but I’ve seen worse. It was only a few kilometres to the farm so by unanimous declaration (mine) we drove on.

Luckily we made it to the farm and unloaded the pigs, took five minutes to gather our thoughts and sat down to enjoy some lovely Pumpkin Soup – thanks Liz. I called the NRMA and settled in for the next hour and half to await the tow truck. Thankfully he was half an hour early and I abandoned the Cook and Harry and set off for Pambula – 60km down the track. We arrived at the NRMA depot in the dark, luckily they had a car for me and I set off back pick up the Cook – I wasn’t making dinner, not after everything that had happened so far.

I did get a little geographically embarrassed on my way back in the dark – but I eventually got there. I picked up the Cook and Harry and we headed home – they slept and I drove.

On Sunday I was picking up feed, I’d ordered a double load because of the cold and so we had some spare if the feed man couldn’t deliver again in the near future. Without the Jeep it took numerous trips in the small car towing the little trailer, that was Sunday shot as well – and the Cook had sent Harry into town to see a mate so I was left to unload everything on my own. My shoulders are still sore.

What else have we been doing?? I would tell you about me having to lance an abscess on the angry Barrows arse – but it still makes me gag just thinking about it. Archer spent the day at the pub on Monday – neither the Cook or I remembered to tie him up before we went to bed, and as usual there was a message on the answering machine when we got home.

We had over 50mm of rain as well. All in the one weekend, flooded out everything form the pigs to the feed shed and the chooks. We never get good steady rain, it always just happens in one great big event and then everything dries off beyond any use. I did manage to move the pump at 4:30am one morning before the river rose, I hjaven’t been down to see what he water hole is like yet after the flood either.

So, anyway, good things do happen as well. Youngest Ben received three awards at School last week. He got the Kool Kid award for being the coolest kid in Stage 3, we received a note from his teacher in the mail about his good work on the School Radio Program and he won third place in the RSL Essay writing competition from the Cooma RSL Sub Branch (we had to ring somebody up to find out what his one was for) – maybe he can write the Blog. He also did very well in his sports carnival.

I have finally replaced the gate on the chook pen – for which the Cook is very grateful. It’s steel mesh with a steel frame – hopefully pig proof. It even has a great latch on it that the Cook herself picked out. The latch is strategically placed so you can’t open it from the inside, you know - so the chooks can’t get out. Unfortunately I didn’t realise Ben couldn’t get out either, until he failed to turn up for dinner one night.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back so soon??

Another eventful weekend at Valley View. But before that – Thursday evening the Cook made her first Lasagne with homemade pasta sheets – how good was that?? I am a lasagne lover from way back and I’ve got to say it was the best I’ve had for years. Funnily, we were sitting wondering how long we needed to let it cook for when Italian Food Safari came on – and they were making homemade pasta for Lasagne – problem solved, thanks Maeve.

Friday afternoon I was in the feed store picking up some feed after visiting the local rural store. A bloke rocks up with a box under his arm and asks the guy behind the counter if he could task a rooster to sell. “Not a lot of demand for roosters in suburbia” say’s Jim, “you could advertise them in the paper maybe”

The guy looked a little worried; I asked him if it was a good looking rooster? So he gave me a look – he was a very nice looking young roosters. I said I’d take him, and the guy said “hang on and I’ll get the other two out of the car.”

So off I headed to Mrs D’s house trailer load of feed, fencing wire and three roosters. I picked up the new Khaki Campbell Drake and headed home. The drive gives a good amount of time to think up and rehearse what I’m going to tell the Cook. A number of reasons for increasing the number of roosters on the farm came to me along the way – all of them very lame. Finally I settled on the reasoning that if I keep collecting roosters soon there has got to be a shortage – and I will be able to corner the market, and yeah I know, she didn’t think it was a good excuse either.

So the kids settled in the roosters and drake – he took possession of the KC Ducks strait away, and I tried to make myself as small as possible whilst the Cook muttered something to herself. Funny thing was, she was cooking omelettes for dinner, which didn’t make it easy to change the subject – I even got heckled by the children.

Saturday I headed off early to the Love Grass workshop. It was an interesting meeting, managed to discover a new strategy for dealing with invasions but overall it was the same old same old and by the end I was wondering why I bothered.

On the way home I got to pull in at the local hardware shop and spend a little quality time window shopping for tools. I picked up a couple of odds and ends and headed out. I then pulled in to the supermarket to pickup date roll and milk. When I pulled into the car park I noticed two chickens scratching around in the bushes between the cars. I thought it was a bit strange, there aren’t many houses close by and the chickens looked well enough. When I came out they were still there and scratching around in the bush close to the car. So I walked over and picked up the bigger of the two – an Isa Brown. The other one was a Bantam – probably a Buff Orpington or something similar. I chased it into the bush and caught it also, so there I was standing in the bush with two chickens, one under each arm. What’s that saying – a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – somehow I think it doesn’t apply here??

So I sat the two chickens on the back seat – on my jacket all the way home. I didn’t need to think up any wild to tell the Cook this time, which is lucky because I was all out of creative ideas after Friday. So this time when I rocked into the kitchen with two chickens under my arm I was greeted a lot more civilly.

Sunday was freezing – minus 8 Degrees C in the morning. I don’t go outside until it’s at least 5 Degrees C. Old Nev called us with some disturbing news - Matthew (my Brother) was off getting his Pony Club Instructors License this weekend. You'd need to know the family history for this but they must have got him drunk or promised him something to make him do that - I can't wait to see a picture of him wearing jodphers on his blog. If he doesn't have any I think the family should all chip in - can't have him doing pony club improperly attired, what would old Di say??.

It took a while to warm up – but by the time Land Line was over I was outside fencing. The ground remains cold, especially on cloudy days with out the sun, and by 6pm I was well and truly cold and ready to get by the fire. Luckily for me the Cook sent the kids out with a cup of tea and orders to give me a hand at about 4pm which helped me get the job done.

Of course, for me the weekend ends when I get the kids on the bus on Monday morning. So after chores I stuck the kids in the Jeep and headed for the bus stop. We stopped to feed the sow near the gate and as is normal I turned off the car to give Harry the keys to lock the gate. Unfortunately when I tried to restart the Jeep it cracked a sad and refused to start. “Quick - start walking to the Bus” I said to the kids and raced back up to the shed to grab the spare battery and jumper leads. In ten minutes I had the Jeep going and managed to reach the kids just as they made it to the gate, I got a couple of dirty looks, but at least they made the bus.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yep - it's cold.

The cold weather is upon us – as usual for these parts it started with ANZAC Day. Unfortunately it also causes me problems with the pigs fencing – every year it’s the same, we get failed wires and shattering insulators. What’s made it worse this year is that the fence went down between the Boar and the Sows and now I’m looking forward to the first week of September as being a very “labour” intensive.

So we’ve had our first Minus 4’s, Monster Frosts and thick all morning fogs. Everything is damp or frozen and scraping ice off the windscreen at 5am is becoming a chore. But the days have been warm – after the fog clears at least.

We’ve only had about 12mm of rain since our big falls earlier and everything ha died right back. We still have some feed and the dams are almost full – but it won’t last the winter.

So what has been going on at the farm? We’ve had a Birthday, a 21st Wedding Anniversary, Mothers Day and our 3rd anniversary on the farm. Also the return of Doctor Who and Robin Hood on ABC always something to look forward to over the winter months.

The Cook scored really well on Mothers Day – a brand new Schnitzer Grain Mill. She’s been milling wheat for various meals ever since. A friend loaned her a pasta making machine and we had a great time making our own pasta, a little more practice is required – no wonder Italians had such large families.

She also got a hand cranked (Amish) corn schucker and her own scythe – she’s a little concerned about hidden messages.

We’ve also been selling a few pigs, some went to the Farmers Markets, some went to be fattened for Christmas and some are going to be breed. We have been pretty happy with the current condition of all our pigs going into winter and looks like it’ll be our best spring yet as far as the pigs go.

Unfortunately the fencing has taken a back seat the last few weeks – but that is about to change. Also, our weed program has been given a boost with the arrival of some new equipment to make our spraying program a lot more efficient and effective.

Ben has started Soccer – he’s the star Goal Keeper for the Cooma Cosmos. So far this season they are 2 wins and 2 loses.

Unfortunately we had a fox in the Chook Dome they other day and he killed a few of our chickens and four ducks – one was the drake we were given by Mrs D. Luckily she has a spare and I am picking it up on Friday evening. He was a lovely drake, full of character. We think he was taken protecting his girls from the fox as they were all fine. I hate foxes. It came back a couple of nights later, not long after I had gone to bed. It got a real shock when a large naked man sprung at it, with a stick cleaned in his hands, from the shadows as it tried to corner another helpless duck. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get a good swing at it – must have been the cold, and it got away. But I’ll be waiting – in the shadows, when it returns.

I’ve been told that the family is running a book on what the change is I was talking about – good luck guy’s – there’s no hints. Sometimes things just don’t happen how you expect they will. It’s been three years since we moved onto the farm – one of our goals was to be full time farmers by the end of five years, others included - pay off the mortgage in ten and be as self sufficient as we could before we retire – of course the Cook would put in  - renovate the house as well (she's a little over the Kitchen and Bathroom). We are on our way to achieving some of those goals, others might have to wait.  I think I might add getting rid of the rats in the cieling as well.

One of our biggest problems has been the transport of pigs back from the abattoirs. I think I approached this problem with a number of incorrect assumptions which tied me into a narrow mind set. Of course the principle key to success of any business venture is innovative thinking – and I fell into the trapped of trying to do it the same as everybody else. Having slipped the chains of imitation I can see my errors and am working on a new logistics chain for our product which should prove to be far more robust then the current method and a lot more efficient.

I have been participating in a pilot pig farming course run by the NSW DI&I (DPI in QLD). It’s been really interesting and this last subject was marketing. It’s funny how you sometimes don’t join the dots until you are explaining yourself to another person. That’s when I had my epiphany about our logistics train.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Hey Mrs D

Somebody is advertisng a Khaki Campbell Drake for sale - it's only $10 and it's really close to you - hey, look, the lady has the same name as well - and phone number - that's strange?????

Did I tell you all about the time the Cook locked her keys in the car?? I was close by, in uniform, so She aked me if I could help - with out a second thought I immediately ripped off my pants and rubbed them against the door - it opened like magic. She asked me how I did it? I just said "they are my khaki's"........... The rest is history... Haha....

I shouldn't blog when I'm really tired.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Birds and Bees

Autumn is ‘the’ time of year here – lovely misty mornings, warm sunny days and cool quite nights. It would be nice if the whole year was like this.

I bet the bird watchers we had out on Sunday were wishing it wasn’t foggy. Bush Heritage and Greening Australia are doing a bird survey across the K2C area, they came out on Sunday to do the first autumn survey – unfortunately they came at 8am and the fog didn’t clear until past 11am. But, being true professionals they were able to identify a number of birds by call alone, it’ll be interesting to get the species list and have a look.

Fatso has been watching Hogan’s Heroes’ again – swear she could escape from Alcatraz that girl. I watched her on Sunday; she pushed the water trough against the wire, to short out the fence, then she squeezed out of a gap in the wire. She walked strait up to me and lied on her back for a belly scratch – absolutely no shame.

I headed into Cooma to start the April Acorn Hunt. My trees have a lovely crop this year, but the late rain has delayed the harvest a couple of weeks looking at the trees. I haven’t been around my other secret trees yet – give me something to do this week.

Anybody want a rooster?? We’ve got a couple of spare ones.

I went over an paid Mrs D a visit the other day and had a look at what her girls had bee’ n up too. She showed me her crazy hive frames – very interesting. I’d like to follow as natural bee keeping system as I can, and make as much as I can myself as far as hive boxes go. Mrs D has done a good job so far and I’ve offered to be an apprentice come spring so I can learn enough to confidently start our own bee hives.

I was supposed to muster the sheep on Sunday – I drove across the property and all I could find was Sheepie, Beryl and Mildred. Don’t know where the others have gone too. I walked up hill and down dale following the buggers for two hours before I lost them in a fold in the ground. They managed to sneak around behind me using dead ground – the damned things are so short in the long grass I just couldn’t see what they were up to. And I wasn’t walking up anymore hills that late in the afternoon. So, looks like I’m going back for another look next weekend.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Changing or renewal?

You know, the biggest teacher in life is experience, and with enough experience a person gains wisdom. It’s the wise man who knows how to divorce emotion from necessity and make decisions based on evidence and facts, not idealism and greed. What has this got to do with the farm – a lot, nothing, everything? All will become clear in the months ahead.

Not really impressed with the bacon we did recently. Way too much fat – I’ve never seen so much fat on our pigs before, I’m wondering if it has something to do with being summer pigs – most the others we’ve butchered have been winter pigs.

It’s possible I’ve got the carbo/protein balance all wrong in the pig ration - so it’s back to the drawing board. I think I’ll up the protein until the days are getting colder and see what happens. Also, I don’t think the butcher did as good a job as previously, the low nitrate brine may be an issue as well.

We’ve had our first frosts for the year. Two mornings so far – and one morning was below 0 degrees. The Cook is already complaining and a load of fire wood isn’t far off. Of course the first frost killed off the tomatoes, pumpkin and watermelon vines and all the other things in the garden that aren’t frost tolerant (like the Cook).

The Poplars have just started to turn yellow and soon I’ll be off collecting acorns again. I’ll have to go check out my favourite spots this weekend.

We had a very windy day on Sunday and spent a lot of the day in shelter. At one pint the chook dome (or humpy) was blown over and the chooks escaped into the garden – it took three of us to catch one rooster whom refused to go back in.

I suffered a another three in a row with flat tyres. This morning I had to change a tyre on the Jeep – like every year when the temp drops I have a series of fence issues with wires breaking and such as well – this morning was no different. So there I was trying to change a tyre, with a dozen pigs trying to help. Of course Fatso was the leader, she supervised everything I did and conducted a quality control test at the end – just to make sure. I ended up having to get the kids up to feed the buggers and fix the fence so I could finish changing the tyre.

We had the traditional School holiday sleep over with a bunch of young lads camping in the shearing shed. Glad it wasn’t me – much too cold to be sleeping outside. They had a ball, cooking dinner in a camp oven, roasting potatoes on an open fire and making damper. The Cook spent the time cooking cakes and biscuits and making hot milos.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Reaping what we have sown

Where the hell are you??? Well I’m back again, this time I’ve actually been away. I spent a few days up at Mudgee learning a few things and participating in a bit of a farm workshop. I travelled up to Mudgee with a guy from Bega who has just finished building his own straw bale house. It took us a day to get there and small place called Toene Valley to the East of Mudgee. It was a great place a lovely valley surrounded by limestone cliffs and eucalypt forests.

The farm I visited was only about 125 acres; they farmed Boer Goats Wiltshire Sheep and Galloway/Murray Grey Cattle. They used the Poly Farm model of stock rotation and cell grazing to manage their stock. It was very interesting to see the set up in action and I learnt a lot over the days I was there. They also ran everything on the farm off solar energy and had just installed a composting toilet the day we arrived. I like checking this stuff out – there’s nothing around here so there is nowhere to get ideas from or see how stuff works.

The other reason I was there was to learn how to use and maintain an Austrian Scythe. I’ve always been interested in learning all the old skills and teaching the kids as well. I didn’t expect it to be so hard, but like I say – if it isn’t hard it isn’t worth doing. And those words have bitten me on the backside a couple of times as you could imagine. Anyways, we did a couple of days of scything, cooked in camp ovens and drank billy tea. Food was good – they had an amazing ham ;) and killed a kid and lamb on the first day which we ate later. I haven’t camped like that for a very long time and it was nice reminisces of a long forgotten past.
We visited a hay bale sound recording studio close by, it was a beautiful building. The inside had been left with the bales exposed to assist with the acoustics; it would be interesting to see the structure in ten years time to see how well the bare bales have dealt with aging.

Did I manage to master the Austrian Scythe?? I don’t think so, but I’m practicing every day. It’s a very relaxing tool to use and I’ve managed to clear a fair amount of grass so far but my technique needs improving.

Our tomato harvest has started in earnest, the Cook was busy today making chutney’s, sauces and bolognaise. She was busy all afternoon. This afternoon I’d also brought home a load of hams and bacon from the butcher – when I walked in after feeding tonight the whole house smelt like real farm house.

On my way up the drive on the way back from town I spotted a long neck turtle wandering (how many times have spelt that wrong??) up the farm track, I pulled over and had a quick look at him to make sure he was okay – he seemed fine so I let him get on his way. The Grebe in the Grebe in the dam has hatched another two chicks and she is now swimming around the dam with three kids on her back.

The fellow I went to Mudgee with left a grain mill for the Cook to try out. She’s always wanted one and was keen to have a go. Between her and the kids they milled enough flour to make a couple of loaves of bread and a couple of morning’s worth of pancakes – looks like I can add one of these to the gift register.

Well it’s off to await the Easter Bunny, I wonder if he’ll end up beating the turtle up the drive??