Works continue apace

We’re hard at work once again here, this time upgrading the chicken/goat pen. Continue reading

Morning routine

Anna is settling in well and learning the routines of our life. She watches the door for her breakfast in the morning and when she sees me come out the look just intensifies. Then she follows me as I follow my feeding routine.

The routine starts by collecting the 3 different bowls of food from the back deck. Into the first and largest bowl goes some lucerne chaff. Anna loves lucerne and being in chaff form makes it easier to eat for her. One of the reasons she’s a little on the skinny side is that she has come a cropper with something hard at some time in her life and broken off the teeth on one side of her mouth. Foraging and chewing up tough plant stems isn’t easy for her with only one side of her mouth able to bite. So she loves the chaff as she can munch it down with ease. I then fill an old colander with some chook grains then finally a small round plastic take away dish with chick crumbles. Stacking these all up and then balancing on my way down the stairs I head for the greenhouse.

Excuse the toys and sundry all over the place - we're focusing more on the getting things done than the cleaning up.

Excuse the toys and sundry all over the place – we’re focusing more on the getting things done than the cleaning up.

Inside the greenhouse I have my grain sprouting set up. I also have a cheeky mouse who has resisted attempts to bury and drown him out. Next step is find a cat and Here’s hoping it’s a hungry or playful cat. I do NOT like feeding rodents. Anyway, I take a tray of sprouted grains and put half in Anna’s bowl with her chaff, close up the greenhouse and head to the chook pen gate. Can I still call it a chook pen with chooks, ducks AND a goat?

Anna at this point has been watching me in the greenhouse but then follows me at a prance up to the gate where she waits for her tucker. She knows already that I won’t feed her just anywhere, but only in her bowl inside the shed. Still, she waits eagerly, trotting in front of me much like a large dog with hooves, not trying to get to the food but desperate to be where it is. “Hey Anna. How you doing lovely lady? In the shed you go. Come on girl, out of my way. Into the shed. Thaaaat’s a girl, here, head out of your bowl til I tip in the food. I know you’re hungry but out f the way. Here it comes.” Yes, I keep up the chatter as I visit with my lady. 🙂 Once she’s chowing down I head into the now fortified chooks side of the shed to tip in their grain. Mandy greeted me very loudly this morning with a “Hey lady, hurry up there. I’m STARVING hungry as that mean old goat keeps stealing our food. I hope you’ve sorted it this time already!” To which I reply with a “Hey Miss Mandy. Has mean old Anna eaten all your food again? Sorry lovely. Here you go. I’m sorting it out for you at the moment but here’s hoping the newly locked door stops her in her tracks.” A quick look for eggs, a release of the roosters and then back out of the chooks shed. We bar the roosters into a nesting box each at night so they can’t arch those long necks to wake us at the 2-hours-before-the-crack-of-dawn that they consider dawn. They still manage to crow but nowhere near as much or as loudly. The only problem is we have the room to lock 4 in and we have 5-6 crowing roos.

We’re also looking at a different feeder for our various fowl as we’re wasting a lot and we also want to stop the goats from accessing it. Yes, goats. I’m planning for the future when Anna has babies. 🙂 I’ve started off following up inspiration from Gavin from Greening of Gavin fame. He has a new chook feeder that is working a treat for him although won’t work so well with our ducks but the inspiration has helped immensely. Thanks Gav. 🙂

My wonderfully green veggie gardens in the background

My wonderfully green veggie gardens in the background

Once the chooks and duck are done I head out with the last and smallest bowl for Miss Blackie and her chicks. If I fed her first I would be mobbed by hungry creatures clamouring for their food so she and her babies wait until last. I tip in their food, check that their waterer has enough water for the day, pat anything I can reach or catch and then close their pen back up to keep them safe and to keep Anna away from their food. Being crumbled pellets it’s really not good for Anna at all so it’s vitally important she can’t reach it.

Animals fed, I bemoan the cold (it was 2 degrees out there in fairly thick fog with frost and dew earlier this morning) before heading back inside via the feed bins to deposit the various feed carrying bowls and containers ready for tomorrows run (and Anna’s dinner run too). As much as it is insanely cold I don’t mind the morning feed run. It’s quieter and more peaceful than the same run required inside I can tell you. 😉

I feel distinctly farmer-like in my gumboots and feeding our livestock, but a little less so when I consider that I’m in my oh-so-sexy knitted trousers (hey, they’re warm), a woolen jumper and crocheted hat. It’s a good look but it is warm so I don’t care. 😀 If it’s not raining or nothing is pressing inside I also stop and just stand and soak in the glory of the morning. The sun was just over the hill and sending light-sabres of gold through the trees as I stood, breathing in the clean (but icy) air this morning. It’s pretty much a perfect winters day. 🙂

Winter sun seems so special. I can see the smoke from the wood-fire and the dust motes dancing in those beams as I type.

Winter sun seems so special. I can see the smoke from the wood-fire and the dust motes dancing in those beams as I type.

The best bit of all though? Miss Anna is becoming more and more comfortable with me. She’s a bit antsy about me stroking and touching her all over at the moment but gets a little more comfortable every single day which is great. Slowly slowly is the motto here, patience is something that I am generally not so never good at so it’s a great learning experience for me too. 🙂

A day off from the slog and back into it with gusto.

I’d reached the point where I was very nearly sick of the sight of Ballan. All work and no play had pushed to boundaries of my sanity and it’s been a long time since we’ve had a holiday so, when the weekend of the Kyneton Show came rolling along again we were very keen to go.

Last years show was very nearly a wash-out with showers on and off all day long. It was a day for rain coats and gumboots and yet, still a lot of fun. This year was much finer with some cloud but a goodly lot of sunshine too. Makes for a much more pleasant day. Like last year, we met up with friends from Trentham and with 4 adults and 8 kids off we went. First stop was the local politicians stand to collect helium balloons for those that wanted them and then on to the Kyneton Baptist Church stand where Jasper and Allegra got some help to build a bird house. It was well thought out and a brilliant concept – grab 2 bits of wood off this pile, 1 from here, another 1 from that pile and 1 more from the other pile then come back and nail it together. I was most impressed by the patience of the man who helped Jasper to build his as Jas, armed with a hammer, would suddenly be no longer watching what he was hammering as he was fascinated by the show train that kept whizzing past. It was a sheer miracle that fingers weren’t hammered I tell you. 🙂

We’d forgotten to bring our pram up so we were faced with the idea of carrying 2 rather heavy wooden bird houses back to the car or around the show. Fortunately the next stall offered to hold them for us until we returned. 😀 We bypassed the kids painting tent in favour of the miniature coal-fired traction engine, which of course being crazy Thomas the Tank Engine fans, my children simply adored. THIS year however, Jas actually had a ride on it. We saw the show train (again he went on it this year), the petting zoo, reptile stand (how CAN people wear snakes around their necks), the raptor exhibit (how glorious is the wedge tailed eagle!), pony rides and all the usual side-show alley amusements.

Steam powered coal driven traction engine

Oh so happy to be here

 

The wedge-tailed Eagle can have a wing span of up to 2.27 metres (7 ft 5 in) and is one of the largest birds of prey in the world.

By this time we had hungry kids and hungry adults so we sought out some shade and tipped out the contents of our bags. A pretty divine lunch of sausages in bread with all sorts of yoghurt, fruit, veggies, dip and other such yummy fare followed. MUCH cheaper and healthier option than buying lunch there, and tastier too I reckon. Ironically, last year there was a huge line for the big corn-dog hot chips van. This year its attendants all looked incredibly bored. In all fairness it was a much colder day last year too.

On our way to our picnic patch we had arrived at the one and only even I wanted to see. The fowl sheds. 😀 Chooks galore! I tell you though, you can hear them a mile away, with roosters of every size, colour and shape imaginable all crowing their little hearts out! I was mightily impressed with several of the birds in there. Firstly was this GIANT and I mean absolutely HE-UGE Australorp Rooster who I would have to say is the most impressive rooster I have ever set eyes on. He stared regally down from his cage like a haughty king surveying his domain. He really was exquisite. I reckon he was the size of a good-sized turkey just to give some perspective. On the other end of the scale were the Old English Game roosters and there was this one little fellow who was about the size of Honey, our smallest Pekin Bantam hen who strutted around like he owned the joint. For anyone who has ever read the Belgariad, this fellow was DEFINITELY a Prince Kheldar of a rooster. And the crow on him! Far bigger than you would credit his tiny body for. He must have got stage fright as I walked past though because he muffed it at the end which made me giggle. There were also geese which honked at us as we wandered past, 1-5 day old chicks, including quail chicks which were much bigger than I would have thought, ducklings that I would guess would have been 6-8 weeks of age and some ducks too. I got to see my first real Muscovy duck and I am most definitely impressed with them. The 2 drakes were also very regal looking and unlike all the roosters and ganders all making their presence known, the stood there silently surveying the chaos around them. The duck also just stood and watched and not a sound did any of them make. It backed up one of the reasons I had for choosing Muscovy ducks – they are known sometimes as quackless ducks as they only quack in times of extreme stress. I’m sure our neighbours will appreciate that.

Anyway, once lunch was over the kids all had a lovely time in the kids tent painting plastic bottles upcycled into pin wheel fans.

Upcycled bottle pin wheels – sorry about the dodgy photo

We headed off after that with 3 very tired kids and 2 almost as tired parents, but back to Ballan where Martin continued to work on Trevor whilst I made further progress on the chicken run before heading home for an ultra early night.

Today was a huge progress day. As we’d collapsed into bed very early last nigh, we of course woke early so Martin made the most of it and took off on the bike some time just after 6 whilst I lay in bed awaiting the bombardment of 2 children that never came. Jasper and Allegra actually slept in, 7:15 and 7:30 respectively! If a day at the show is what it takes to get a sleep in past 6:30 I reckon we need to find a show to attend every day! BRILLIANT! 😀 We dragged slowly through the morning, mostly due to me suffering a junk food hangover (I’d eaten some chocolate and chips (crisps) on the way to Ballan) as well as a raxed neck from lugging 14 kgs of baby on my back for most of the day. By the time we finally got to Ballan it was nearly 11 so Martin hauled off with the trailer and a sleeping bubba to pick up some tires whilst I got to work with my new tool.

I’d been dreading the need to sew together the different rows of wire we’d used to create the fence. Weaving in and out with wire then pulling it taut was likely to become tedious and extremely labour intensive very quickly and I’d been procrastinating all week about going up to the house to do it. A chance meeting and conversation with a lady I’d met at a Kyneton Transition Hub wicking bed workshop a few months back which was overheard by a friend of hers, resulted in me getting a huge get out of jail free card! She described to me a wonderful tool that would help me crimp C-rings around wire which would work perfectly to close up the layers of wire. A quick google search and a husband in Bunnings at 7am this morning meant I cut several hours worth of work down to about 45 minutes! Only need to finish securing the wire around the water tank, fitting the door and then doing up their accommodation (new roof, nesting boxes and perches). Hopefully the kids play ball tomorrow and I can get it done.

Crimping pliers

Pliers holding the C-ring…

… The ring holding the top and bottom of the chicken wire together…

 

… Crimping the C-ring…

 

… And done!

Due to some predicted low temperatures, my final job before heading home was to frost-proof my frost sensitive plants which so far, is pretty much everything I’ve planted. 😦 The beans (all 27 of them so far), the tomatoes, capsicum, corn, watermelons, pumpkins and zucchini are all buried under straw and even some dried grass from mowing and the spuds have been buried under compost. The kids and I will go up again tomorrow and I’ll move the mulch to go around the plants, not on them and then help the potato plants to come through a little more. They may be a little too buried for optimum levels, but protection was the main aim here.

The temperature in Ballan was forecast to drop to 3 degrees tonight which puts it in to the zone possible for frost. I don’t really understand yet about the conditions needed for frost but I do know that 4 degrees or under is the frost range but I’m not taking any chances. I’ve used whatever straw is available to bury my tomatoes, capsicums, beans, zucchini, pumpkins and watermelons. This is the tomato and capsicums under their bed of straw. I hope it’s enough.

Peekaboo capsicum

 

The spuds, also sensitive to frost, received a different covering – compost! If you bury their leaves they will turn into roots and potato roots grow spuds. I’ll go up tomorrow and dig out the tops of the leaves to allow them some more sunlight but tonight they rest warm under composted horse poo. Toasty!

Here’s a couple of other photos from around the place too.

Exciting times. This is my kitchen buried underneath its plastic whilst the house is painted!

The first harvestable item! A currant! Could be a black currant only half-ripe but I think it’s a red currant. They’re all mixed in together so it’s hard to tell.

 

Onions popping up and doing their thing

The radishes I planted in between the carrots are popping up. Here’s hoping they do better than the failed milk carton pot ones.

Mulberry flowers.

The tyre edging/garden being filled with compost

A temporary measure to contain the kids when we’re driving the car around or for safety around Trevor.

 

Orik in the animal nursery

No photos of Allegra from the show – she wasn’t so much into doing things this year and I didn’t get a photo of her building her bird box. 😦

Well, bed time for this little black duck. See you on the green side.