The year that was – 2013

Much to my surprise 2013 has come to a close. And as is natural at this time of year I am reflecting over the year that was.

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With all things being equal

The day and the night that is. Happy Equinox hippies. πŸ™‚ We are on the lighter side of it now and heading fast into Summer. πŸ˜€

True to form we spent the weekend in the garden, trying to get done all we need to do. Our fences are finished and had a test run with 5 kids under 7 on Saturday afternoon when my nephews came to visit us. Jasper, clever little fellow, showed us where the greatest weaknesses in our perimeters are within 5 minutes. The gates. They are easy to climbΒ and we then had the chance to recite the poem “swinging on a gate, swinging on a gate. 7 little sisters and a brother makes eight” although ours was more like 4 boy cousins and Allegra makes 5 but oh well. πŸ˜‰ We can easily put some chicken wire over the gates to stop the climbing but with them opening it we need to think about what steps we take.

Sitting on the deck eating hot chips for lunch. This is what we can see.

Sitting on the deck eating hot chips for lunch. This is what we can see. A LOT of mess!

And lowering clouds that threatened and pulled faces but didn't follow through on their threats.

A large woodpile to be moved and glowering clouds that threatened and pulled faces but didn’t follow through on their threats.

The fences have also opened a lot more of the garden up to us which the kids have been exploring and loving. πŸ™‚ We have some cleaning up to do there with a huge expanse of roofing tiles that need to be cleared (some will be broken up and used to create a base for the 3000L water tank we’re putting up to catch shed run off) but they’re pretty brittle sadly and not much use other than to add to cement to stabilise it or as a rock base underneath something else as the edges are too sharp to leave exposed. Another shameful waste. 😦 If anyone can think of any other uses…

Over the fence and down near the creek.

Over the fence and down near the creek.

Saturday also saw me out in the front garden digging up the area where I plan to plant my asparagus. There is old lino underneath small white stones and copious weeds that need to come up. I’ve discovered though that despite some widely variable weed-mats (plastic, lino, carpet underlay etc) and other interesting gardening choices we have one thing really going for us. The garden has worms. Yeah, I was going to write that we had worms but figured a little bit of class wouldn’t go astray this once. πŸ˜‰ The pebbles above the thick clay and lino layers are absolutely seething with worms. I feel like a murderer every time I dig as I can’t but help hurt some of them. So, I tried paying Jasper to collect them and move them to the hugelkultur and blueberry beds but even at 10c a worm he piked out after 40 worms.

So when I found out that my 6-year-old nephew is learning the value of money and saving up and was keen to earn his money I offered him the same deal. He collected just over 100 worms in a space probably 1×2 metres! :O We capped his earnings at $10 (as I was fast running out of money) which he was stoked with and he had a blast diving on worms like a hungry chicken whilst his dad (my brother) sat and watched (he’d hurt his back again sadly) and I dug. It was a really lovely time to be honest.

We talked gardening and worms although he prefers his worms hanging on a hook suspended in the water. I sent them home with various seeds and instructions on how to best plant them too as they are burgeoning gardeners, more for the curiosity than the intent of truly growing things I think, but I am stoked. πŸ˜€ I hope the green thumb bug sticks and Jayke continues to grow and then eat all the wonderful foods he grows. I hope for his sake the Summer is kind with warmth and rain in perfect balance (but this is Australia in a time of climate change so I’m not holding my breath) to give his garden the best possible start. I’ve also offered to buy some worm wee and castings from him when his brand new worm farm gets up and running. I spoke to my sister-in-law this morning too and after a few more jobs and a bit more pocket money Jayke had enough to buy what he had been saving for. πŸ˜€

He earned $4 and my garden is much happier.

Jasper earned $4 and my garden is much happier.

Sunday morning saw me finishing off the last few metres of chicken wiring under the edge of the shed to prevent escaping chooks and then for the first time in months the funny buggers were let out to free-range. They’ve been kept in to prevent garden damage as they have been marching straight under the house and out the front and have even headed towards the neighbours which, considering he trains greyhounds for racing is not in the best interest of the birds. They are now, with the fences in place and barrier wiring finished, safe and welcome in the garden. πŸ™‚ We need to build another small free-range access door for them so they don’t need to traipse into Anna’s run and then out to the garden, and so they can wander in and out as they please (to lay and such) too but on the whole it was lovely to see them out in the garden eating bugs and grass. πŸ˜€ And destroying my gardens of course. 😦

A messy back deck and free-ranging Dorkings.

A messy back deck and free-ranging Dorkings.

We also spent some time moving wood from out the front around to the wood lean-to, finishing off setting the trampoline up and moving it back to open up the garden a bit more and just general clean up. I have 1/2 of the asparagus bed area cleared and am now thinking I will build 2 beds instead of 1 but we shall see. I hope to finish digging up the rest of the stones and weeds today but if there is no lino or other weed-mat I shall just pull weeds and build on top. MUCH easier. πŸ™‚ I also simply MUST plant out my seeds today or I will have no tomato plants to plant out come November. So much to do and still so little time. At least I have a garden safe for the kids to run and play in. πŸ™‚

The Hawthorn is putting out leaves. Spring must truly be here.

The Hawthorn is putting out leaves. Spring must truly be here.

One lone daffy (past its prettiest). I shall plant out other bulbs down there later in the year.

One lone daffy (past its prettiest). I shall plant out other bulbs down there later in the year and hopefully pull out some of the sticky weed.

We also spent some great time with the kids. They were stripped down for Vitamin D again for most of the day and in the later afternoon on Sunday we had 3 nudiesΒ running around the garden having a blast. We also built a pirate ship with them using a few fence palings, a bike tyre, 2 chairs and 2 kids camp chairs. They weighed anchor, had a flag pole and even caught a whale. What fun and what imaginations. πŸ™‚

Our creek really does have some pretty little spots. Not bad for a storm-water drain with a glorified name.

Our creek really does have some pretty little spots. Not bad for a storm-water drain with a glorified name.

Last night saw me fall into serious unconsciousness around 10pm. Exhaustion and bed are a great combination and I love the feeling of being so tired that I’m melting into the sheets. Sheer bliss! πŸ˜€

Not much of our garden can be seen through the trees. I love our privacy.

Not much of our garden can be seen through the trees. I love our privacy.

What did you get up to on your weekend? Did you get stuck into Spring planting or Fall/Autumn clean up perhaps or just enjoy the sunshine perhaps?

Updates and another weekend

I feel like I’ve been in hiding for the last month. In fact, I pretty much have been. It’s been needed. I am still not back to normal (not that I could really EVER be considered to be normal πŸ˜‰ ) but I am getting there. I figured though I’ve been appallingly slack on the blogging front and there are several things I need to update on.

Firstly, I blogged about a giveaway that Missus Moonshine was having on her blog where the winner got to choose an outfit from Alicia’s Etsy Shop EvieandLiv. Well, I was the lucky winner of the competition. πŸ˜€ I chose a lovely upcycyled blanket tunic dress for Allegra which she loves and looks adorable wearing too. πŸ™‚ I haven’t taken a picture of her wearing it yet but I shall when next she’s dressed in it. πŸ™‚

Anna the goat is doing well too. She’s plumping up and the round of what may have been mastitis has cleared. She’s producing a little milk which we milk most of it out every few days although not completely. We don’t want her in milk at the moment as we’re trying to dry her off to allow her body to focus on gaining weight. Milk production takes a heavy toll nutrition wise and with her current state of underweight it’s not a burden we’re willing to place on her at the moment. We’re also working to get her into optimal nutrition in order to breed her again, hopefully in a month or two so we want nothing to be taking away from her. She is looking better every day. πŸ™‚

The gardens aren’t seeing much action at the moment but it doesn’t mean things aren’t growing well. The broad beans have the odd flower although they’re a less than impressive height. I must admit I am disappointed in our crops this last year but I’m also trying to remember that this is purchased compost, our first year of the veggie beds and the soil and the gardens also haven’t had the full benefit of experience and time. However, I have my second cauliflower head forming in the greenhouse. I don’t know that it’s had enough feeding to be honest but we’re learning. My greenhouse spuds are coming up in their cage on top of the citrus bed. Citrus don’t like their roots being disturbed but a cage of spuds grown on the surface doesn’t hurt them and any extra nutrients from the spuds drain through to feed the lemon and mandarin. πŸ™‚ In the garden beds proper I have 3 beds of garlic all looking healthy and 2 beds of potato onions which also seem to be doing what they’re supposed to. It’s hard to know with them though being an uncommon plant nowadays and also being my first year growing them but all seems well. πŸ™‚ The traditional onions and leeks are growing somewhat but not enough to make me jump up and down and the broccoli that I planted back when we first moved up here are still just growing away with no sign of heads forming. I’ve left them there in order to see what happens but I’m figuring nothing will happen now. Time for them to feed Anna.

The front gardens have ground to a halt sadly since my last update on them. When Martin was gathering wood from off our block across our creek the other week the chain tightening gizmo from his chainsaw came loose and has taken an extended vacation to the land of missing so we’ve been waiting for a replacement part which has just arrived so here’s hoping we can get some more trees chopped down soon. We’ve decided to forego hugelkulture beds for the rest of the garden this year though simply due to the time required but I think we’re going to do best by buying in straw bales for straw bale garden beds. They will rot down to produce good composted straw for the hugelkultur beds for next year. πŸ™‚

We’ve finally sorted out a way to get our washing dry over winter too. Friends of mine have a drying rack they built that hangs above their wood heater which is on a pulley system and we have blatantly plagiarised the idea. πŸ˜‰ We have a hexagonal play pen purchased when the kids were little, half of which we use as our fire guard but the remaining pieces have been used as lash up drying racks so we arranged for our builder to hook us up one too. I love it! With the fire roaring we can get jeans all but dry overnight and most other clothes dry faster. The sock hangers I built also allow us to dry our underwear and socks quickly (in the space of an hour if the fire is cranking) so it’s one more use we wring out of the wood we burn. We’re up to 5 uses now (heating the house, heating our hot water, cooking stove top and oven and now clothes drying) so i feel like we really are being conscientious about our fuel usage. WhetherΒ fossil fuels or not, judicious use of fuels, even the renewable ones, is a wise idea. Trees still take time to reach maturity so it’s not wise to squander that resource. πŸ™‚

Orik is also now in a big boys bed so I’ve been coming to terms with no longer having a baby. He’s still my snuggle-bug so I’m not struggling too much but for the past 5 years I have had a child under the age of 2 to cuddle so this is an adjustment for me. I’ve packed up the cot and put away the cot sized sheets and blankets. Orik is sharing a room with his big brother so I’ve been packing up the nursery too. I’ve met that last challenge with mixed feelings. On one hand I no longer have a baby but on the other hand I now have a spare room which has been converted into a room for us to do some of our educating. Yes, we are considering homeschooling our children. So this last weekend, whilst Martin sourced firewood from across the creek, I spent my time converting an old cot into a desk and moving furniture around to get a working set up for us. I think I’ve got something I can work with. πŸ™‚ The cot desk now just needs painting. The top will be painted with blackboard paint and I might see if I can attach a large bulldog clip to one end for a painting easel. We will see. πŸ™‚

In cleaning this all up I have also been working through more boxes and bags of stuff that’s still unpacked from the move. I’ve a box of books to return to my cousin from when she lived with us over 7 years ago (whoops) and I’ve also come across photos. Several packets thereof. πŸ™‚ I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. Many, like photos from my brothers 21st will be posted on to those for whom they are relevant. Others will be recycled but there are many that I wish to keep for the memories although I definitely have no space for the hard copies. I either need to sit and scan them one by one or find the extra money to pay someone to do that. I have the negatives for most of the pictures too. It sure takes up a bit of space so all I can say is thank goodness for digital mediums and terabyte drives. πŸ˜‰

We’ve also had to replace the glass on Ignisa. Just another frustrating expense really. I managed to close the door on a large piece of red-gum which broke the glass yesterday evening. Frustrating much? We dug out our electric oil heaters to warm the house and made it through a night that dropped down to around 2C in comfort. The use of electric heating grates at me but it is for only one night and sometimes needs must. Martin had a day off booked and so has changed plans to take the fire-box door up to Ballarat to get the glass fitted. Wood n Energy, through whom we purchased Ignisa repaired the glass whilst we waited to save us the drive up this afternoon to pick it up. Their service has been exemplary I must say and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone in the area looking for a wood stove.

The last lot of news I have is somewhat amusing. Mandy, our female duck had decided to sit eggs again and as I had a dozen in the pantry of her eggs I placed them under her warm feathery derriereΒ to sit which she did with pleasure. I have however been noticing the eggs disappearing one by one until we h=now have 4 left so it appears we have an egg eater. We’ve increased their food and hopefully we lose no more. However, Miss Mandy decided she wasn’t interested in sitting them any more the other day and deserted her nest. Fortunately for us we’d had a slight misunderstanding with eggs and Martin hadn’t realised that Blackie was once again sitting on some eggs. He brought them inside and it wasn’t until morning that I connected the necessary dots, by which time it was too late for Blackie’s eggs. She decided then to help take over from Mandy so when Mandy ditched her nest, Blackie took over. Another hen had also deposited an egg in the next and since I think they’re due to hatch at similar times, I’ve left it in there so Blackie is sitting on 4 duck eggs and a hen egg. It should be interesting to see what happens when they hatch. πŸ™‚

Well, it’s time for me to go and get into the day properly. It’s been a slow morning due to a week of very broken sleep as we’ve had a virus through the family this last week resulting in another hospital run with suspected croup last Thursday night I think (not croup, just a nasty chesty cough for Mr Orik which is on the mend), and we haven’t had good sleep since then. Β I hope you all have a productive week and hail the arrival of Spring on Sunday. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ˜€ 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. πŸ™‚

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 soΒ never good at so it’s a great learning experience for me too. πŸ™‚

A few updates

Well today was supposed to be hatching day. Continue reading