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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Top of his Year

Young Ben is the proudest kid in Bredbo this morning – and rightly so. Last night, unbeknown to him, he was awarded the top of his year at Monaro High School. He was also awarded the top in two subjects and received an award in recognition of his achievements in Maths outside the School. Both Mum and Dad had a tear in their eye when he walked up to receive his award – we are so proud. He's the one on the right – check out those curls!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

we've got mail

This is an enmail I recieved last night from a pig I sold a couple of weeks ago (I didn't know it could type or I wouldn't have sold her).

Dear Martyn,

I did not realize at first what was happening but I am deeply disappointed that you abonded me in such a way without even saying good bye. I arrived at this strange place where I had to stay over night in this awful trailer next to a strange pig lady with some funny spots on her coat, she was not nice to me at all, next morning we were unloaded into a paddock and I felt so lonely. Then there was this man with this foreign accent who tried to touch me all the time.

But finally I have settled in , the other pig lady is quiet nice to me now - her name is Lotti and we eat from the same plate, and I enjoy by now the different diet - no boring Wonder White anymore but some green grass and would you believe it some organic ( don't know what that

means) Coconut flour in the morning for breakfast and some potatoes for dinner!! The only problem is that there is a constant garlic smell in the air! Very annoying indeed.

All in all I feel very happy and at home now and I do not miss you at all anymore!!

Warm Regards

Olga (they call me Olga now - not very funny)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Cooks Chooks

The Cook has decided to start a Chook breeding program for Plymouth Rocks.  We already had a Rooster and after some hunting around she managed to get a couple of hens.  However the Plymouth Rock is one of those chickens that is a good layer and great eating bird - but a lousy mother. 

So I managed to borrow a couple or three hens from friends and was given some fertile eggs from another friend who had recently bought a couple of hens that were running with a rooster, but had wormed them and didn't want to eat the eggs - sigh!

The Black ones are Plymouth Rocks
 Anyway, The Cook had troubles with the incubator and had thought that the eggs wouldn't hatch , but come Sunday evening chirping sounds emanated from the incubator and we now have 9 Plymouth rock chicks - maybe more when we get home.  She put a dozen eggs in and getting nine to hatch is pretty good for us.

In response to our current snake problem Old Nev sent us one of those Snake Repellers, they work on sonic waves and deter the snake from coming to close - Thanks Dad, we'll let you know how well it works.  We'll put it in the garden first as that's the place we see the most, and The Cook spends most her time.

Yesterday we received a package from the Diggers Club, The Cook had put in a combined order with another friend, thanks Annette, for some seeds and plants.  So we spent an hour in the pouring rain last night planting things.

Speaking of rain we've been getting some, Spring rain is great!  However alot of farmers are concerned that we didn't get any winter rain and that will affect the pasture growth later on in the year - we'll see how it goes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the Garden

Gardening has been the major activity around here for the past few weeks. Growing enough for a year is a real challenge, and puts a lot of emphasis on getting things right first time. The Cook is the head gardener ad I am just the muscle, however this year I do have my own gardens – one of Red Indian Maize and another of two different varieties of beans. I'm planning on doing another this weekend for pickluing cucumbers

Our Garden 13 Nov 2011

I’ve also built two trial Hugelkultur beds, unfortunately for me the Cook has planted Zucchini on them - not my favourite. Hugelkultur is a system where you mound earth and sod over a pile of logs, the logs are supposed to do two things; firstly they contain a lot of the nutrients from the soil and when they decay those nutrients are released into the soil and are made available to the pants, secondly the wood absorbs a lot moisture and stores that in the ground. A third positive is the growth of soil biota is increased and helps transport the moisture and nutrients to the plants.

Although most people recommend using a Cedar type log for your Hugelkultur mound mine are Poplar because that’s what we have here. In the long run it will mean that our mounds don’t last as long as they could, but we have a fairly good supply of Poplar so I’ll just have to rebuild them every other year if they work out.

Same Garden 13 August 2011

We have a huge potato crop, it’s about 400 m2 and it’ll be interesting to see how many potatoes we get and how long they last us. For the first year the Cook is trying Sweet Potato, it’s only a couple of plants to start as a test.

Ben had a birthday recently, his favourite present is a rocket set. We’ve had two successful launches to date. These things are pretty amazing and for a pyromaniac like myself a lot of fun, so far we have launched the rockets 180m into the air, Ben has ordered larger rocket engines to see if we can get higher.

We’ve also been experimenting with grain. We are planting wheat whenever we move a pig pen, so far the results have been good, apart from the bit where the goats stuck their heads in and ate around the edges of the plot. We’ve been using old water tank halves to grow the wheat in to keep the pigs away. Unexpectantly we’ve had oats come up as well, I’ll have to talk to my feed man about that.

We’ve continued on with our Holistic Farm Management course, we’re finding it enlightening. We’d really not had a plan or a method for analysing our decisions against our goals. The course has covered a lot of ground, last session where on grazing management and how properly managed grazing can increase the triple bottom line.

We’ve sold a lot of pigs lately, by the post Christmas sales we’ll only have a small number of growers, about 8 and our breeders left – I may be able to take a holiday with the family. It’ll cut our costs for the rest of the year, most of the breeder sows should farrow some time in February which will give us pigs in time for next Christmas.

Next lot of Growers

The little black and white pigs are growing in front of our eye’s. We’ve never had piglets grow as quickly as this. They are a real scream to watch run around the paddock, they travel as a pack everywhere they go, sleep together and eat together.

Weeds are still and issue and all those Serrated Tussock plants I didn’t get are happily seeding at the moment, I think in the balance of things I am getting the upper hand and should have that problem well and truly under control in a couple more seasons.

Our bees are happily going about their business, filling their boxes with the nectar of the gods. I’m hoping this year I’ll be able to harvest my fair share. The garden hasn’t started to bloom yet, so once that flow starts we should be right.

We’ve been getting so many eggs from our chickens it’s hard to know what to do with them all. I think we live on quiche, we’ve been having it three times a week. I’m still not exactly sure how many chickens we have – yes I know count the legs and divide by two, for a few days we were getting 22 eggs. It’s slowed down now, some of the hens have decided to start sitting, and we had our first brood hatch the other day in the bottom of the spit roaster. With another forty or so eggs to go it doesn’t look like chickens are going to be a problem for us this year. I’m hoping to have our Strawbale Chicken Coup planned and teh foundation s down over Christmas.

A friend of mine from my army days took our goats away the other day. They’ve gone down the coast for a job getting rid of Blackberries and Fireweed. My friend, let’s call him Phil, kept the goats locked up and fed for the first few days, then let them out to graze. Unfortunately he had a massive storm that afternoon, and the goats used to living in our shearing shed during storms decided to find some shelter – and haven’t been seen since. So if you’re driving between Bombala and Bredbo and see four goats, two white one Boar and a ginger one with dread locks let me know.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ssssssummer time

Snakes are out in force this year. this is the third Brown one in the house yard in the past four weeks.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Forward Pack the Kiwi’s would desire

The Cook took this photo on the weekend, reminds me of my days as a lose head prop in the Army Rugby Team. These guys have really been fun to have a round, they stick together, they make funny noises and they turn up in the strangest places. Last week I was doing the pigs water, I heard a piglet grunting – I thought down by the river. It was getting dark and I thought maybe one of the piglets had been caught by a snake. So I grabbed a shovel and headed down towards the gate. As I went past the old windmill I heard the little grunting sound again, I looked down the well and there was a piglet! Luckily we still have one small child, he was lowered down into the well to rescue the little fellow. The well is only eight feet deep and dry, luckily filled with old leaves so it was a pretty soft landing.
These guys also ended up in the Canberra Times on Grand Final Weekend – with 22 of them and all being black and white I thought it was a sign that it would be a Collingwood final

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Permaculture Update


I thought I'd gather together all my threads of thought about our permaculture going's on into a single post. I'm also doing this from Word 2007 which has a publish to blog feature.


Zone 1.     Well so far this has been a total disaster – let's ignore it for a while longer.

Zone 2.     This is where the action is, all except one of our newly planted fruit trees has survived the winter. Unfortunately one of the locally acquired apple trees perished – these things happen, and luckily we have a couple of replacements in pots ready to move in. The cook is busy exploring the garden beds and picking out the weeds between all the things that she let go to seed. She has never had much success with carrots until now, seems self seeding is a good way to grow them. And like everything else in our lives we have no control over it.

    We've made a huge potato bed this year which has been filled with a variety of different spuds. We're planting them under layers of mulch this year – so I've got to get more mulch. It was interesting to see after about an inch of rain the water began pooling in the contours of the potato patch – which is what is supposed to happen.

     This weekend I'm fencing around the Solar Power Station and we are turning the ground around that in to gardens as well. I'm planning to grow pumpkins, beans and corn in that area. Once I've fenced I also need to move the water trough as well.

    Our asparagus is shooting up, tasty little suckers they are, I've only tried a couple so far. The strawberries are all coming back after the pigs dug them up at the end of winter, so we are interested to see how they bounce back. The raspberries are spreading as well and we're looking forward to a good crop of those.

    I've almost completed transporting my 1000 bricks from Canberra to home. Once I have them all at the house I can get the bobcat in to level the pad area for the outdoor kitchen, the bricks are for the smoke house and the base of the wood fired oven.

        We've installed a proper watering system this year. I'm using wobble tees on four foot posts to water the veg garden and potato's, I'll do a similar thing for the pumpkins and corn. It works – but you can't have too many on a single line and, to make it work better I need to step down to 1 inch pipe from the 1.25 inch.

    This weekend is the Murrumbateman Field Days, which we always go too. The Cook spied cheap mulch out that way the other day so we are taking the trailer to bring a load back – permaculture involves a lot of mulch and the sooner we can make out own the easier it will be.

    The Bees are busy, all the hives are active and working hard, I'll have to check the Queens in the next couple of weeks to make sure they are up to the season. I'm hoping to harvest enough honey to see us all the way through the year.

        Last year I built a worm farm, but we decided not to put worms in it until spring – I filled it with cow manure from the paddocks and let it sit. We were having problems with one of our bathtub troughs so the Cook decided to change one of the worm farm tubs for the trough – she discovered that we had been farming worms all along.

Zone 3.      We had a nice surprise the other morning; our Black Angus cow 'Becky' had her first calf, we haven't been able to get close enough yet but we're pretty sure it's a heifer.

Zone 4/5.     Due to last year's season we had an explosion of Serrated Tussock, I'm still dealing with is around the house and front paddocks. Out the back it just dominated a lot of places; I decided to get in on the councils helicopter spraying and we managed to get 16 ha of unmanageable weeds dealt with. I know spraying isn't a permaculture type solution, but we needed to compromise on this to stop the problem deteriorating.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who's your daddy?

Bredboshire Spotted

I’d like to introduce the world to the rarest pig there is – The Bredboshire Spotted.  This breed is not only the rarest breed of pig there is, but the newest.  Currently only 16 are known to be in existence, and all are located in a farm on the banks of the Bredbo River.
Penny keeps the piglets together

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A big red horse

Got to tell you I had better things to do then blog the last few days, the weather here has been fabulous, nothing below zero and days have reached 20 Deg C. It’s just like Spring!

This the hole in the bathroom window - the window is covered in ice -it's 9am

But of course, things are still happening. We had kids’ soccer on the weekend, visitors up to the wozzu and jobs that went undone.

I bought the Cook a new toy, it’s big and red and hopefully will make her busy life a little more bearable. It’s the biggest garden tiller you’ve ever seen. You may recall that we use our pigs to do a lot of the digging around our place, but sometimes we need to finish things off a little better then the pigs are capable of, and the poor old Cook has a crook back, so digging isn’t something she likes doing. Hopefully as the ground becomes better we won’t need to dig.

In a perfect world, and following permaculture principles of low energy inputs this is more desirable, however we need to get to a point where that is possible for us.

I bought it home in the small trailer, we used ramps to load it on, but I don’t have any of those at home. I decided if I unhooked the trailer I could tip it up and roll it off. There was nobody around when I needed to unload so I did it myself, I untied the tiller and then I unhooked the trailer, unfortunately the tiller was at the back end of the trailer and the trailer tipped up rather suddenly. The tiller rolled down the tailgate and headed down the hill – strait for the cooks car, holy crap! I gave a semblance of a chase and managed to knock it off course just before it hit the car, not so lucky were three pigs, a dog a rose bush and the back fence, I haven’t told the cook yet.

We had the chance to give it a run on Sunday and managed to turn over the whole garden in less then an hour – that used to take us four weeks or more. We’ll have to change the way our garden beds are, but makes it possible for us to really start thinking about our option s for a market garden or CSA.

We had some seriously cold days last week, I think it was Friday when we had the coldest day in the district for 17 years. The diesel in the car turned to jelly and I couldn’t go to work until 10am when the truck had thawed. Unfortunately the Cook pumped water on the Thursday and I didn’t empty the pump, so when I went down to pump on Sunday it was sitting on the side of the river split open like an oyster – bugger.

It’s going to take a few weeks to repair so I’ve had to replace it, we’ll have a spare now I suppose.
I started picking up the bricks for the wood fired oven on Saturday, in the rain with Harrison, 1000 bricks is a lot, specially when your loading them by hand.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cold - Rather!

This was the view down the drive at 7am this morning

Frozen thistle - covered in frost
    It's lunchtime and I don't think the Cook is out of bed yet.  No water for showers or shaving so I'm starting the day a little scruffier then usual.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mountain Music

This is something nobody else will care about – but I do,

Where I grew up we had a country music radio station, there’s not one out here, nor can I access one across the internet – and I don’t like the US ones either. So at home we tend to have the AUSSTAR tuned to CMC a lot. My all time favourite country band is Alabama, I grew up listening to them. Theirs was the first tape I bought, the only record I’ve every owned and the first CD I ever purchased and played. It used to be a ritual for me to play the Alabama Christmas album every year, until it mysteriously disappeared.

As a lad I listened to Alabama late at night, as way back as 1980, we listened to Alabama when we made our Friday night trips to the Canungra Pub, or something like the Rathdowney Dance or on bowling trips to the Gold Coast. I could never get the guy who played the music at the local Rodeo’s to play it – his loss (I made him listen to it on the way to work instead). I took my Alabama tapes with me when I joined the Army and listen to them all the way through recruits and Puckapunyal.

I had Alabama playing in the Hilux the first time I took the Cook out , that was in Townsville, and most of the times I took the Cook out. We even managed to go to an Alabama concert when we were in America back in 1993 – it was their last concert for a while and it was in Nashville, Tennessee – I’ll never forget it, I’d wanted see them for as long as I could remember. We even went to their home town of Fort Payne Alabama – people really do drive around with deer tied to the front of their cars.

I often remember their songs whilst I’m doing stuff around the farm – one of the more common ones being ‘I’m in a hurry and don’t know why’ closely followed by ‘Can’t keep a good man down’ – and of course whenever I’m thinking about the Cook it has to be ‘Close enough to perfect’.

Anyway, the other day I had CMC on whilst I helped get the kids ready for school – I was dropping them off. A song came on, I couldn’t see the TV as I was in the kitchen, I said to the kids “that sounds like Alabama – who is it?” We have the smartest 12yr old year 7 kid in Cooma living at our house and he said “Brad Paisley” and I said “are you sure? Sounds like someone else”.

As the song went on I started to recognise rifts and lines from old Alabama songs so I just had to have a look. It was Brad Paisley – he was super imposed onto old Alabama film clips, interesting I thought, then the song followed an old and familiar line and who else but Randy Owens, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook singing the chorus from ‘Mountain Music’, they’re looking old, but – I was back in the 80’s, for a second or two.

And the kids nearly missed the bus.

So there you go after 31 years a great band can still make a Bill Board number one hit and bring the memories of those 31 years flooding back like it was only yesterday.

Thanks Guy’s.

(google Old Alabama )

Monday, July 25, 2011

A month later

Fencing has been high on the agenda again lately, and we are finely seeing some results. The horses have a new paddock, we can keep the cows out of the River and we can give the summer horse paddock a rest. Soon we’ll have a third horse paddock and protection for the shelter belt trees. The boys helped out a lot with the fences, Ben was his usual self, and he had a great time cutting wires with the new bolt cutters – seeing just how close he could get to my fingers. I got tired of it after a while, so whilst he was cutting a wire as close as he could to my finger - I screamed a blood curdling, shocking, howling scream and grabbed my hand. He thought he’d cut my finger off, and the look on his face was priceless. Harry was the first to catch on to what I had done – he’s still laughing; boy, Ben is going to get me back big for this one.

We had our annual weed inspection a week back – that was preceded by a few weekends of weed spraying in the conservation area. I really hate spraying, I think it’s the time of year and it always needs to be done when I have a hundred other things to do, continual breakdowns and malfunctions didn’t help either.

Worst of it all is after a good season the weeds are thick in the back of the farm and I’m going to have my work cut out for my getting too them before they start to go to seed – luckily with the spray kit I have I should be able to get on top of them, plus we will be using a helicopter to get the biggest infestations and the hard to access areas.

The Cook and I have been to a couple interesting events lately, we went to a lecture on Holistic Farming at the Fenner Institute at ANU. The lecture was given by Allan Savoury the founder of the Holistic Farming Institute in Zimbabwe. He talks about pasture management in brittle environments, how to use managed grazing to get the best out of your land. Like me, he’s dead set against burning pastures and he’s got the science behind him to show how bad it is for long term management. The Cook and I have signed up to do the Certificate Course at NSW TAFE this semester.

And speaking of TAFE, I’ve been asked to run a field day for the local TAFE on the farm. They want to look at planning conservation work, incorporating NSF activities in a conservation setting. As well as that I’ve been invited to submit an abstract to talk at the 2011 Harald Jensen Lecture run by the NSW Branch of the Australian Society of Soil Science.

There have been a number of NSF days and meetings, more Field Day planning and general stuff. I attended a talk this week about farm biodiversity and food production which focused mainly on biological farming techniques, which are different to biodynamic farming by Maarten Stapper. It was an interesting talk and I was glad I went as it helped me better understand where biological farming fits into the whole picture.

Our friends Ivan and Svdenker processed our large sausage pig the other week. He was huge, we had him for three years and he was the last pig from our very first lot of piglets. They invited me over to their home to try some of the sausage they had made from previous pigs and check out their set up. The air dried hams was delicious, they still had one hanging and it was great to be able to see the process. I tried the sausage and it was good as well, more like a chorizo then pork sausage – the boy’s will be happy when I pick it up.

So the pig was killed on the farm – first time for us. The boys took the left overs up to the sky burial rock on Donkeys Knob, it’s a long way form the house – it’s a long way from anywhere. Anyway last night I took some rubbish out to the bin, it was dark, raining and just horrible out side. I had a torch, and as I went to drop the rubbish in I shone the torch into the top of the bin, all I saw was the shiny little eye’s the big tusks – and I started screaming like a 9 year old girl. It had slipped the Cooks mind to tell me that Shadow had dragged a 15kg pig head home from Donkeys Knob and deposited it on the front lawn. The Cook had come home and discovered it on her way to feed the chooks – in the light. I mentioned to her that it’s not a particularly pretty picture, a huge head staring straight at you out of a wheelie bin on a dark stormy night in the torch light. I think I have to burn those trousers as well. We are also considering installing one of those on the wall defibrillators you see in shops near the bin, just for me.

Sausages drying on wine barrels
I had to drive into town and pickup the pig’s bread in the snow the other morning – not something I normally have to do. It was a pity it was dark, I couldn’t take any photos and it was all gone on my way back. We’ve planted more fruit trees in our food forest and I picked up some black Mulberries last week to plant this weekend. I’m off to fetch another 22 tree’s tonight, these ones are feijoa and peach I think.

And we have a busy time ahead, the boy’s are doing their school snow sports again this year and The Cook is still studying. Just to give you an idea in August we have a weekend where we have the local chapter of the NSF AGM, the South East Permaculture Convergence in Bega, our Holistic Farming Course at Tarago and more.

I called in to visit - nobody was home, but I know what they do when they aren't making gardens!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Future Events

After a lot of discussin the Cook and I have decided to start a new venture here on the farm.  This has all been a while in the planning, but we are now happy to announce that come spring we will be running a series of workshops here on the farm.  The first will be - "Building a Straw Bale Chook House", some time in October.  The following workshop will be "Building a Masonary Wood Fired Oven" sometime in early November.  Both workshops will be two days, we have lined up some really good instructors, lunches will be provided and people will we welcome at camp over on the farm.

The workshops will cost around $150 for each weekend, and numbers will be limited to 15 people per course. If your interested leave a commetn with a contact and I'll send you more info closer to the date.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Winter is here

It’s official – if there were four of me I’d still be to busy to scratch. I mean, I can’t even sit down for a cuppa tea without something or somebody needing some attention. It’s been a awhile, so I’ll probably miss a few things out – but I better not forget to say thanks to my Mum for coming down from Queensland and paying us a visit, doing ALL our washing and being nice to the cat. And that seems so long ago now.

We had a field day out here a couple of weeks back and built some ditch and berm swales for the Cooks Food Forest. It’s all small steps, but we now have a couple of pears and plums planted. Unfortunately I managed to pull out an apple tree I thought was dead much to the horror of the Cook – for which I am unreservedly sorry darling.

Of course I’m still fencing, and last weekend saw me finish the first phase of the river boundary fence project. I still need to put in the gate, but once that has been done the horses and cattle have a new paddock for winter. I then need to extend the new fencing past the front of the house to keep the cattle on the river – on the river and not the Cooks garden.

Our Solar Array is up and running and we are taking energy from the sun and feeding it into the grid. We’ve already passed 100kwh feed back into the grid. We’re not to happy with the NSW governments decision to retrospectively reduce our tariff, luckily our local member only won his seat by the skin of his teeth – if it goes through parliament he won’t be getting our vote next election.

The Cook and I attended a Natural Resource Management Forum a couple of weeks ago, managed to meet up with some of our friends from the local NRM Groups including the local Catchment Management Authority. The forum was very interesting for the most part – the Cook kept passing me notes about the speakers as the day progressed, we’ve never been able to go anything like this together before, and it’s nice being able to compare notes instead of having to try and remember everything during a kitchen debrief – hopefully we organise the time to do things like this more often in the future.

I’ve finally planted (well, a month ago now) the Stone Pine trees that the Duckherder gifted us - I started to plant them whilst I was on my permaculture course and the Cook and the boys finished putting them in for me. If you’re out there Mrs D we need more, we are using them in our shelter belt along the western side of the farm. The plan is to plant them with other leguminous trees and some others probably nuts – possibly pecans, but oaks go well with conifers as well.

I finished my Permaculture Design Certificate over the Easter break. I met a lot of really nice people and learnt a lot as well. The course covered a lot of theory, but due to it not being a live in course there was not a lot of hands on. The Cook mocks me now because I tell her things she has been trying to tell me for years – I know – she’s always right, I should listen to her more – I’m a bad, bad man.

I wanted to catch up with Mrs D but the days were too long and I needed to get home to get things done for the next day, sorry about that Mrs D – I’ll catch up with you soon hopefully.

So we’ve had our first permaculture day, we built some swale or ditch and berm works for our new food forest. Starting small we’ve planted four new trees to compliment the three other fruit trees in the food forest area. I need to do more fencing – no really – I do, so that we can keep the infernal goats out before spring.
There are a swag of piglets running around at the moment and this weekend we’re moving some of them into the vegi garden for our winter clean out.

Last weekend we had a moment of confusion when Harry came in and told me we had a wild pig in the pig pens. I went out to look and low and behold a young boar had managed to force his way in with the sows. He was a very handsome young fellow, black and white – he looked like a Bentheim Black Pied, a rare native German pig which is crossed with the Berkshire in Europe, the only reason I say this is because I saw an add for one the other day (look them up on google).

I have done a little research and found that nobody has a record of these pigs ever coming to Australia – but somebody has one advertised for sale 100km from our place – in the same catchment. I’m pretty sure he was wild, but he did seem rather at home with the sows – anyway, I had no choice but to dispatch him. The Bottle Tree Creek/Rock Wallaby guys had a pig incident the other day as well I read – I wonder if they got that one?

I’m not a big reader – but since my course I’ve got dozens of permaculture ebooks to read. Somehow I’ve got to find the time, there is one I’m downloading at this very moment titled ‘Trees on the Treeless Plains ‘ by David Holmgren and is a revegetation manual that provides a design system approach and principles applicable everywhere to assist in the development of local strategies and design solutions. I reckon I’ll find this very helpful for our place and for a lot of the places we visit doing NSF work. I might even do a review.
It’s busy going forward as well, weeds to kill before an inspection in July, Kimberley from up at Jerangle is coming down to look at pigs this weekend, more field days to organise – not here thank goodness, and a long weekend of fencing – somewhere in this lot I’m going to have to get more pig food as well.

Jeez! I nearly forgot about one of the most pleasant days we’ve had out on the farm all year. Back a couple of weeks ago the Cook organised with another family or tow to have an apple crushing day – her hope was that somebody would be able to work out how our fruit crush works so we could make some apple cider.

So anyway we had a yard full of people, some copping, some mashing and some crushing, there were kids and dogs and by the end of it we had more juice then any of us knew what to do with. We’ve still got apple juice in ice cream containers in the freezer. So we now know how to crush the apples next is making the cider – Mrs D any ideas, you’re the alcohol specialist?????

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A ton of pork

Honey Lotus
It’s been busy, we are down to 15 pigs – to think before Christmas I was worried I’d still have 100 by winter. My weekly 2am starts have finished and the lady down at the Sydney Markets has almost a tonne of Valley View Pork. By all reports she’s very happy with the quality of the product. This makes us happy about the way we are doing things – even if it is a little harder then the norm.
Thinking back over the past few weeks it’s all been a blur. We had a weekend of field days - that was fun. People were picking up pigs, tractors slashing, and new electricity poles going in, a lads sleep-over and day to day life.

I spent one weekend driving out to Griffith to collect two lots of pig feed. The car towed the two tonnes of grain well – unfortunately I had a blow out of a trailer tyre on the way out, fortunately I was able to get a new tyre in Wagga and continue the trip. I’ll be up for another one of those in the near future.

Our solar power station has been put back until August now due to a lack of photovoltaic cells. Luckily for me they have also changed the way they anchor the posts (our system is too large for the roof) so now I don’t have to dig 20 x 1m deep postholes.

Spreading Seed
Myself and Tanya a friend of ours from up the road at Jerangle (wave), went out to Lynfield Park at Gunning and had a look at the amazing tree plantings out there. I’m not much on which tree is which – but that’s all changing (sorry Matthew). I was really impressed by the modification that planting trees can have on the microclimate of an area. It was my first real encounter with fodder trees, something I’ve recently become very interested in. The man who runs the property, John Weatherstone was great, he gave us a great briefing on the history of the property, his vision and how he accomplished what he had. As a bonus - at the end of the day he filled the back of my Ute with wool packs of seed trash, which is the pods and stuff left over from seed collecting. The trash contains loads of seed still and is good for sowing across rip lines in a paddock; we saw the results of John had done at Lynfield Park. I was also lucky enough to be given some Palonia seeds for the Cook – she has been wanting to try growing these for years, she was very happy when I arrived home, seeds in hand.

During the week on the way home one evening I spied a grove of Honey Locus trees on the side of Adelaide Avenue. These are great fodder trees and resist cold better then the carob trees. Animals feed on the large seed pods they drop in autumn. I pulled over and filled a feed bag with pods and took them home. Unfortunately, the pigs have found the bag and I’ve lost some of the pods – but at least they like them.

So the next Saturday a friend, Paul, from the NSF and I spent the morning out on the quad bikes seeding the top gully, I think we managed to do about and acre or so – now we need to wait for spring and see what germinates.

I attended a presentation about the water/plant cycle and its affect on Climate Change. This dealt with the establishment of micro climates to help cool the planets surface and about how if we control the amount of solar energy used to do activities other then just heat the soil we can increase productivity and mitigate the some CO2 generating processes.

Rip Line
The kids had a group of mates over for a sleep over as well; it’s a highlight of the school holidays for them. On the Saturday before everybody was due to arrive I had gone into Cooma to get some supplies. Whilst I was out Fatso the pig knocked over a beehive which is located quite close to the house. The Cook asked me to go have a look at it when I got home. The lid had come off the box and it was laying in pieces on the ground, I walked over top it and had a look, the bees appeared to be calm so I thought I’d give putting it back together a go. But they weren’t quite as calm as I had first thought; resistance began to grow, so a deliberate withdrawal to the house was in order.

I got into my bee suit and ventured back to the hive and began putting it back together. No sooner had I got out there and bent down to pick up the first box when a very savage bee managed to sting me right on the end of my rather big enough already nose. I swear he took a run up – I saw him coming, it was like a kamikaze – it all happened in slow motion. I’ve been stung before – but this ‘really’ hurt.

Wolf Spider
The rest of the bees seemed to sense victory and in a few seconds they were all over me – a second withdrawal was in order, this time I was perused and harassed for some distance. I returned after a short break to regain my composure, I took a long walk around the paddock trying to avoiding bees which were still following me.

A little while later, after I had managed to break contact with the bees I went back and fixed the bee box and made sure they were secure. I went inside to ice my throbbing – now humungous nose.

All the Cook was do was look at me and laugh, she had me sit on the lounge and put a bag of frozen corn on my face – that didn’t help, but at least I couldn’t see her laughing at me, just hear it. Poor dogs got a couple of stings as well.

The Cook has had her fair share of pain and agony this month as well. Whilst I was away one day she had to help somebody load some pigs. One of them was an awfully pregnant sow. Now, we tell people to bring a trailer, that we don’t have a ramp and that it’s hard to load up a ramp. And then people turn up with 4WD’s with crates on the back and we have to try and lift 120kg moving, thrashing, squealing pigs into it. The only guy’s that have done it well were the two Police Officers just before Christmas – but they have a lot of experience.

Anyway, the Cook is helping this fellow load his pigs, luckily the tractor driver turned up to do some slashing and was able to give a hand. But, in the struggle, the Cook managed to get her hand jammed in the side of the crate and crushed her thumb. She told the guy’s she needed to get some ice and ran back to the house – were she nearly fainted on the floor. Once she had regained he composure she stuck the bag of frozen corn on her hand and went back out to help the tractor driver change a tractor tyre. How’s that for tough! That’s why I do what I’m told.

Other news – I’m off to do my Permaculture Design Certificate next week. Looking forward to this, I’ve had to do a lot of reading prior to the course – which I don’t really like, but it has been very educational. I must thank Tanya again for loaning me some great books from her library.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Firstly – Happy Birthday Dad! St Patricks Day again.
Things are slowing down in the garden, I think we are getting the last of the zucchinis’, the cucumbers are slowing down and the strawberries are just a trickle. Can’t wait until our pumpkins ripen – from the one vine we’ve got almost a dozen large pumpkins!

I helped run the NSF booth at the Cooma show, we met a lot of nice people including Tristan and Jessica, they were great because they read the blog – see it really was me!
NSF Booth Cooma Show 2011

Anyway, they are taking over a property to the south west of Cooma and are keen to do things right, including using biodynamically. Hopefully our group will be able to help them out. Unfortunately it rained a bit at the show which kept the numbers down, it was also obvious that old heads aren’t as interested in NSF as all the visitors to our booth were either new land owners or hobby farmers.

Lamb after Cooking
We had a large group of people around on Canberra Day for a sort of open farm for friends. One of the pigs obliged by having piglets the day before, and the rain held off until everybody had left. We didn’t cook a pig this time we had a lamb, and keeping up the tradition managed to set it alight as well. But, having learnt at least one thing from last time we didn’t have it under a tree. The fire was quickly and calmly managed, I didn’t even know it had happened having been dragged off by the kids to see the piglets. I came back around the house to here somebody say (whom was linked to the last fire) ‘Help me scrape the burnt bits off before he gets back’.
The lamb was delicious, the cake table was superb, the company was great and the afternoon turned out to be very pleasant and enjoyable. We were so impressed at the generosity of everybody, we had so many salads and deserts, homemade rolls and bread it was truly astonishing.

Lamb after eating
Mrs D was in attendance and she brought with her a new Drake for our Khaki Campbell girls – it was love at first sight and I don’t think the girls have let him out of there sight since. She also bought the most magnificent mint jelly made by one of her neighbours – it was just perfect and made the lamb taste even better, hot and cold. Luckily she left it behind, I’ll return the jar for a refill later (the Cook would like the recipe hint hint).

We had a couple of set backs this week as well. Our pump got submerged for the umpteenth time after the creek rose suddenly on Friday. We had about 65mm on Thursday night/Friday morning, I left early Friday and the Cook didn’t notice the river – it probably hadn’t changed much at the time – by the time we got home it was well and truly up and the pump was bobbing around at the end of the pipe under six foot of water. I cleaned it up, but didn’t manage to get all the water out; sadly now she has had to go off to the Honda shop for a rebuild this time (yes because I tried to start it – it blow smoke for a second and seized, crap!). No showers for a week kids! The amount of rain we have had this year is unbelievable – nearly 200mm just this month alone.

Our feed supply man Greg, has come down with a sudden and very serious illness – I hope he gets well, and the Cook and I wish him all the best. Unfortunately we can’t get our feed that cheap or as good a quality anywhere else, so I’m off to Griffith this weekend to pick it up, that’s about 350km away to the west. It’s still cheaper then getting it here, and if I get a double order cuts down on the extra cost as well.

We’ve sold so many pigs this year. I’ve lost count of how many have gone, and last week we received an order for 20 over the next 4 weeks. So as well as driving to Griffith I’ve got four trips to Sydney in the next couple of months. On a rough count, we’ve gone from nearly 100 pigs to about fifteen or less by the time these leave. We plan on getting back to just our 5 foundation sows, their piglets, Little Pig, Floppsy and Fatso and the two boars. Specially now our feed man is out of action.

We have a couple of regular customers Ivan and Zvenda (sp), they have ordered another two weaners and are taking our oldest barrow to make into sausages/salami’s for us – half each. They are lovely people and ply the Cook with home made wine for a reduction on prices. They bought over a lovely shiraz the other day which we shared at the open day – I don’t drink, but was told it was very good.

Our Solar power station goes in a month which is very exciting. I’m waiting for the design drawings to come so I can get the holes and trenches dug – another job to do.

We’ve almost finished the first stage of new fencing for the Permaculture project and, probably not this weekend but the next, will have that finished. The small bull is back and the other bull and our cow are somewhere down the creek just waiting for it to be finished. I’ll get it slashed next week so that it’ll have fresh growth in time for winter.

So we are looking forward to apple picking and acorn collecting over the next few weeks as well – they say there’s time to sleep when your dead.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The seasons change

So much has been happening over the past couple of weeks, lets see if I can remember.

We had our field day with the Permaculturalists and the NSF the other week; it went really well with lots of good feed back, more about this later.
The Cooks Pumkin Vine
The Cook has been cooking. I saw over on Mrs Ducks blog that’s she’s been doing the same. My cook, beloved that she is, has made up a big batch of the best plum jam, bottles of spaghetti sauce and many, many cakes covered in wild black berries or choking with fresh rhubarb and zucchini. This woman is amazing she can turn a beaten up cucumber, an egg and two radishes into a meal fit for a King (or me – which ever).   Her garden is going wild at the moment with fresh garden vegetables a hilight of every meal,  hopefully Autumn will be kind to us.

The Cooks favourite
We had a visit from the Cook’s townie sister as well. She didn’t like Ricky the rooster and his 2:30am crowing. The first night she tried to sleep through it, the second night she tried to evict him off the veranda with her foot and the third night – she got out of bed, picked up the rooster and toddled off with him down to the vegie patch. She dumped him in the tomatoes and stomped back to bed. About two minutes later, after thinking about what she had done, she realised that if a fox took Ricky the boys would never speak to her again. So off she toddled back down to the vegie patch, curlers in her hair face cream on, and spent the next few minutes looking for the rooster (she said he was lost – I’m pretty sure he was hiding). When she found him, she tucked him under her arm and carried him back to the house (I didn’t tell her he had caught lice). She placed him back on the railing where he perches and went back to bed – if only Ricky could speak, I’d love to ask him what he thought of it all.

Harry helping fence

We’ve been doing a bit of fencing- as usual. The Cook and the kids have been helping out as well. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve extended the garden out the front and started on the fence along the river. By the weekend we should be able to keep the neighbours cows out and our in. Once that’s finished, we’ll slash the front paddock, graze it over winter and then have the pigs plough it during the first rain and plant some feed crops out there for the next winter.

We had a visit form Lisa the Saddle Back pig. She was dropped off to be covered by our boar Tiberius. I have never seen a pig dig so much in my life. Our pigs have never turned the ground like this one. It was like the difference between a 100hp John Deere and a 15hp Kubota lawn tractor. Might have to invite his pigs over when I want to dig up my front paddock. The other thing she did was tip over the water trough – everyday! There wasn’t a single day were I didn’t have to jump in with them and turn the trough back over. In exchange for services we did receive a bag of very nice Biodynamic apples and a bag of Biodynamic Garlic – the Cook was very pleased.

Tiberius sitting and Lisa Laying down - water trough tipped over.

There’s been some big snakes about lately as well, and for the first time I‘ve encountered a rather large Tiger Snake. The tally for this year around the house has been seven brown and the tiger.

Lucerne Paddock - the little pigs love this.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fencing the Urban Homestead

Firstly I’ve got to catch up on the fencing. So far we have looked at where to fence and our tools – next is materials. These are the essential elements of a good pig paddock;

1. Hinge joint fencing – you need the 8x 80x15 wire. This means the wire is 8 strand, 800mm high with 150mm spacings. Pigs don’t jump so it doesn’t need to be high and if you need more height because of stock in adjacent paddocks you can always put on a top strand of wire. This comes in lengths of 100m.  If you are only fencing in your large pigs you can use one of the larger hinge joint sizes - which all come in 200m rolls.

2. High tensile plain wire – best off with the 2.5mm, it somes in 1500m rolls.

3. Medium tensile tie wire.

4. 165cm steel pickets, one for every two metres of fence.

5. Electric fence stand off’s – one every three steel posts.

6. End insulators – one for tying off the start and finish and one for each corner or bend in the fence.

7. I use gripples to tie my wire so you need one per join.

8. Gate and hinges. The larger the gate the better, you may need to get a tractor into the paddock or back up a float to transport a pig.

9. Gate posts and corner posts. I use the steel water pipe strainers, this is because I plan to move my paddocks around and want to be able to re-use as much as possible.  I almost forgot to mention stays - you'll need two for each corner and one for each gate post.

10. Insulated wire and joiners for the electric fence.

11. Cable ties, and

12. A good sense of humour or the ability to swear like a trooper.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Homesteading Humour

This came from a Queensland Newspaper after the recent flooding.

Our story this year is also about how ordinary people survive extraordinary events. Part of what it means to be a Queenslander is to laugh in the face of adversity. As I travelled through flood ravage towns I witnessed our sense of humour act as a source of strength.

At the Helidon evacuation centre I met an elderly couple from Grantham whose home had been taken by the waters. As they stood shivering before me the elderly gentleman was too overcome with grief to speak.

His wife, who was missing her top row of teeth, stepped in with all the tenderness of a lifetime partner and said; "Premier, this is my husband. The waters rose fast and I had to leave my teeth behind to save him. Right now I'm not sure I made the right choice."
They lost everything, but they still had each other, and they still knew how to laugh.

Stories like this that have been told and retold across the state. They have raised a smile amongst the misery and have they raised our spirits in our darkest hours.
These are stories told by Queenslanders, like Baralaba piggery owner, Sid Everingham, who was asked by a local reporter if he'd suffered any stock losses in the floods.
"I've had 30 sows and pigs go down the river," he replied.
The next day the front page headline said '30,000 PIGS SWEPT AWAY - PIGS FLOAT DOWN THE DAWSON". The locals wondered how they'd missed the avalanche of pork. Maybe pigs do fly after all.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fencing Part 2

I made a decision when we moved to the farm to always have the right tools for the job. Fencing tools can be expensive but I’ve found that expensive doesn’t always mean best quality. Ask around for what people recommend, field days are a good place to compare both quality and price.

Here are the items I’ve found essential for building your pig fence;

1. Good fencing pliers. Fencing pliers can range in price from $25 to $100 and as time goes by you’ll lose a few. I like to have a pair with the rubber grips for doing electric and a set without for tying Cobb & Co hitches.

2. Wire spinner. I bought a good one of these from Waratah; problem was it took me two years to work out how to use it. Since then it’s been a dream, you can’t run wire with out one.

3. Wire strainers. I bought an average priced set of strainers years ago and they have never let me down, I also bought two sets of the waratah ones when I bought my hinge joint strainers and they are just crap. They don’t always chain, the jaw springs gave out after a couple of uses and the wire grips chew the wire – I would avoid them at all costs.

4. Steel post driver. I have two and a pneumatic one. The mandrolic version is good for quick jobs, but if you’re putting in a hundred posts nothing beats the pneumatic driver. Steer clear of the Chinese copies (about $599), I got mine from Marchant Engineering in Sydney (about $2000) with a petrol driven compressor, it works a dream. I’ll probably invest in more air tools as I go.

5. Steel post lifter. You can’t get steel posts out with out one. Make sure it has a good solid large foot plate other wise you’ll just sink it into the ground when ever you use it.

6. Fence post shovel. You need a good one, I like the wooden handle version, I’ve had mine now for twenty years.

7. Heavy crow bar. You’ll need one with a tamping end. Don’t get the light weight versions, they may be easier to pick up but they bend easily.

8. Bolt cutters. For cutting wire, much easier cutting wire with bolt cutters then fencing pliers.

9. Shifting spanner. For attaching hinges for gates.

10. Level or plumb bob. For getting those posts strait.

11. Tape measure. Make sure it’s at least 5m, you loose a lot of these – and I’ve buried a couple down fence post holes as well.

12. 10lb sledge hammer – everybody needs a sledge hammer, don’t go cheap here. I’ve broken the head of a Chinese made sledgy, a rather large piece sheared off and hit me in the face whilst banging in a post once, so go for quality with a good handle.

13. 20 Litre bucket – for wire off cuts and carrying tools.

14. Fencing clip pliers. These are used to attach chicken wire or mesh wire to your fence. There are two types, and we use both, made by white’s wires; the plier’s type is fine for small jobs. The other is a spring fed pliers; they hold about 50 fasteners and are great for bigger jobs.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lets talk fencing - Part 1

Okay, let’s talk about fencing. I’m going to spread this out over the week so I can cover everything in as much detail as possible. So firstly here’s a list of considerations for where to locate a paddock or pen for your pigs;
1. Are you farming free range or are you just running them in a pen. This is important because it relates directly to paddock size and the amount of materials you will need. From our experience pigs are happier in paddocks then pens. They do less damage to the paddock the bigger it is, and as long as they are well feed they won’t try to push out of the paddock.

2. To minimise materials, pick as flat a piece of ground as possible, small pigs will take advantage of any weakness in your fence and undulating ground provides many.

3. Make sure it is close to a water supply or somewhere you can run water to.

4. Ensure there is shade in the paddock. Remember shade moves and changes through out the day, so check the area you are putting your paddock during different times of the day to ensure there is always shade available.

5. Make sure it is close to power, solar energisers are good but prolonged wet weather or a break down can get ugly if you don’t have a backup plan.

6. Keep your paddock close to your loading/unloading facility, vet crush and sorting yards – it’s probably best having them integrated.

7. Better to build the fences for the smallest size pigs you are going to have first. So if you are planning on breeding your pigs, it’s important to start by building a fence that will keep the piglets in and the predators out.

8. You’ll need to use electric fencing; there is no other option – honestly.

9. You need to identify an area to isolate any sick animal – you can use temporary fencing like sheep panels for this. But again it will need shade, water and electricity. Isolation paddocks are best located at the front of a property were access is easy and people, like vets, who may need to see the animal don’t have to come into contact with healthy animal and risk contamination.

10. Although a flat area is best ensure the area you pick has some drainage and is not located with in a flood plain or an area that runoff drains into a dam or creek. The high level of nutrients in the soil can cause problems, like algae blooms, for you after big rain events.

11. Pigs can cope better with the cold then they do with the heat, so it’s very important if you live in a place which has regular temperatures over 25 degs in summer to have a wallow. Wallows also help with the control of parasites and other skin conditions. We live in an area were lice are a real problem and the only way to control them with out chemicals is if the animals have access to a wallow.

Please feel free to ask any questions.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Some re-assembly required

It was really, really hot last night. Normally, when it’s that hot we have a fan in the bedroom to help keep things cool. The Cook decided that she was going to watch a movie so the fan was left in the lounge room and she promised to bring it in to the bedroom later when she came to bed.

After a while of laying in bed sweating, I decided to liberate the fan and forcibly relocate it to the bedroom – not hard she was asleep on the lounge with Dirty Dancing blurting out of the TV. At about 2:38am, the rooster started to crow, the Cook had in between managed to sneak into the bedroom and into bed. Something happened and the rooster startled her and she left the – walked past the fan, on her way out.

On her way back she trip over the fan and sent it crashing to the floor – boy, can she swear. The next half hour she spent, with a torch in her mouth, trying to reassemble our $10 pedestal fan from Aldi’s. She swore and swore, she couldn’t find parts and couldn’t fit bits back together. Finally, she stacked up enough of MY clothes around the base, a suitcase and other miscellaneous items that the fan stood on it’s own accord – but now it doesn’t rotate.

Some how she thought that all the swearing and banging and crashing hadn’t woken me up. As she very carefully climbed back in bed I rolled over and said to her – “If you had of asked, I could’ve driven a steel post into the bedroom floor and wired the bloody thing up, would’ve been quieter”

We’re still married.

And, Mrs Duck, after telling you the Ducks weren't laying the other day, they've layed two eggs between them in the last two days, isn't that a coincidence!

Friday, January 28, 2011


We are having a farm planning workshop with the NSF in a couple of weeks so we’ve started getting busy readying for this. If your reading this and interested in attending send me an email via the blog.

The aim of the workshop is to introduce people to the ideas about blending NSF with other alternates farming principles like permaculture and biodynamics. The topics we will addressing include;

1. Healthy landscape,

2. Healthy soil,

3. Sustainable production,

4. Drought proofing.

5. Food security

It’s taken me a while to discover the links between all these things, about how NSF, Permaculture, biodynamics and methods like pasture cropping are key to establishing a sustainable farming enterprise. And sustainability is the goal – in any type of season, which means all inputs have to be from on farm, non chemical and non petroleum based.

The map shows the area we will concentrate on for the project, after the workshop we will further cut it down into phases.
And why do we feel it’s important to create a sustainable farming enterprise, go here and read this - go here!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yep – been fencing, a lot lately. Still need to get my electric fence up and running again. It’s been down for a couple of days now and it won’t be long until the pigs work that out. Weed chipping has been another priority this week with things drying out we need to get the majority of the weeds out before they go to seed.


This weekend is going to be a couple of days of spraying weeds in the conservation areas. The tussock weeds have really taken off this summer and need to be contained and removed before they spread even further.

We’ve had a couple of snake incidents this week as well. Both down in the Cooks garden and both brown snakes. One keeps getting into the chicken shelter under the compost tubs. I was down there the other day and a smallish snake had managed to get in with the chicks, the mother hen was fighting it off and the seven chicks had climb up to the top of the wire and were hanging upside down watching the fight.

I managed to get between the snake and the chicken, but trying to get the snake out, stop the dogs getting the snake and protecting the chook was a challenge. It ended slithering out under the pumpkin bush back to the gully. The other one was a little more exciting, I was going out to move some fence posts, luckily I was carrying the shovel, this one was laying along side the steel water pipe stainer posts and when I picked one up I disturbed it. Unfortunately the snake turned on me and I had no choice but to wacked it with the shovel before he had a go at me. I really hate snakes!

Floppsy leaving her bath
I got up the other morning to squeals of delight coming from the old bath tub water trough next to the house. It was a lovely morning, probably about 23 deg and still, I went out to investigate and found Floppsy the Pig taking an early morning bath in the trough. I tried to get a photo but she is a little shy and prudish, so I only got her as she left. I could just imagine her sitting in the tub wearing a shower cap and washing her back with a loafer.