With all things being equal

The day and the night that is. Happy Equinox hippies. ๐Ÿ™‚ We are on the lighter side of it now and heading fast into Summer. ๐Ÿ˜€

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 climbย 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ˜€ And destroying my gardens of course. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 nudiesย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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?

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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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 soย never good at so it’s a great learning experience for me too. ๐Ÿ™‚

Shedding and shelving and sprouting and stuff

I spent yesterday afternoon building a new shed for our, hopefully soon to have permission from my husband toย get, goats. ๐Ÿ˜€

I did a little rough maths the other day. We go through a LOT of milk in our house. I drink a glass a day, the kids and I all have a hot chocolate “coffee” in the morning and that alone uses 700ml of milk. I usually make us yoghurt and we have custard at least once a week. Orik is also only 18 months old and although I continue to breastfeed him we supplement with milk so he too drinks a lot. I also make milk kefir although this doesn’t use that much really. Still and all on a heavy milk day we can use 3 litres a day – up to 21 litreย a week! We don’t buy Coles milk at $1/L so we conservatively worked out at between $4 and $5 for our 3 litreย bottle. So if we say 20 litres a week at $4 per 3 litreย that is about $28 a week. Per year? Continue reading

Just some updates

Lots happening here. Lots of little bits and bobs. A few big things too. ๐Ÿ™‚ I made our first harvest from the greenhouse garden last night. I harvested a nice big spicy peppery handful of rocket from the greenhouse garden for our dinner. It’s a little immature but I couldn’t resist the verdant greenery any longer. We had chicken cacciatore (or something similar to cacciatore) for dinner last night and in lieu of spinach to throw in, in went the rocket leaves. It was delicious. ๐Ÿ™‚ The tomatoes were home bottled (down to my last few bottles now) and the olives and onions bought via Highland Heritage so it was a mostly local meal. Sadly the chicken was dug from the depths of the freezer where it has been sitting on it’s polystyrene tray for some time. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Like the lamb we had for dinner the other evening. It was a freezer find but I think that’s the last of it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I diced up turnips, potatoes, pumpkin, onion and garlic (all locally sourced and organic) and threw them in the schlemmertopf with 2 lamb shanks and a bottle of tomatoes. YUM! Absolutely delicious. Both of them are wintery meals I know but call it practice. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I can get the meals right before I have to learn to cook in Ignisa. ๐Ÿ™‚

And someone put herself to bed.

Someone put herself to bed.

Asleep on the dining chairs. I reckon we might have worn them out!

Asleep on the dining chairs. I reckon we might have worn them out!

We’re also a house under construction again. We are currently building a small shed where Martin can keep a few of his bits and bobs and we can store the boxes of stuff we have until we have the time and space in which to unpack. We are also building a woodshed, something we are in desperate need of. hopefully we can then clear up the random piles of wood dumped around the place which are both unsightly and snake havens. My plan for today is to get around to building my raised garden beds with their hugelkultur concept and hopefully purchase some compost and get the beds in and rotting down. I want to be planting out garlic in a few weeks! I would also dearly love to have our back garden resembling something other than a council tree cut down site. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The giant moth next to Allegra's hand.

The giant moth next to Allegra’s hand.

We had some wild weather over the last 2 days too. Thursday the kids and I were privy to Mother Nature throwing a small but intense hissy fit in which I think she threw several large items of furniture down the stairs given the sounds of the thunder that rolled and rumbled around overhead for nigh on 5 hours. Most of them were quiet rumbles but we did have the dubious pleasure of jumping out of our skin after several intense flashes of lightning immediately followed by large loud cracks of thunder. For someone who really doesn’t like storms all that much, I think I did a pretty good job of not frightening my kids. That’s one of the things I hate about parenthood, having to hide your fears so as not to frighten your kids. Given Jasper’s reaction to the large moth that was on his foot I would say that my fear of bugs hasn’t been sufficiently well hidden. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Best bit about our wild weather though was the heavy rain accompanying it. I believe there was large hail stopping traffic only a few kilometres away on the freeway but the only hail we saw was small enough to melt within seconds of reaching the ground. Still, hail in February?

Helping themselves to Daddy's breakfast. I hope you weren't hungry honey.

Helping themselves to Daddy’s breakfast. I hope you weren’t hungry honey.

The crazy weather has done something strange here though. Autumn has come early. ๐Ÿ™‚ Our poplar trees are changing their leaves to yellow and dropping them down over everything. ๐Ÿ˜€ As much as digging wet and soggy leaves off everything is annoying I am looking forward to raking it all up. Raking I hear you say, oh how fun (insert sarcasm there) but I see it as finely scattered compost! ๐Ÿ˜€ Once they’re raked up I will be mowing them which is the closest thing to a mulcher I have, them laying them on top of the branches in the garden beds before covering them in soil. The rest will mulch the garden beds or go into the compost bin to start breaking down for next Spring.

Speaking of compost, I’ve decided that once I harvest my spuds I will use the 3 spud boxes as temporary compost bins until the spring. I can then empty them out to enrich and top up the garden beds and then have my 3 boxes back for more spud planting in Spring again. Waste not want not on the space I say and the opportunity to have 4 cubic metres of compost is way too much to pass up. ๐Ÿ˜€ I guess I had better get that wheelbarrow tyre fixed so I can lug some chook poo around. ๐Ÿ™‚

My pantry of preserves. Not enough. 'Tis never enough.

My pantry of preserves. Not enough. ‘Tis never enough.

Another one of our roosters has been tagged for culling too. The glorious bird started his cock-a-doodle-dooing the other day although he’s been quiet since. If he stays that way he can stay but we must be courteous to our neighbours. How things will change after peak oil. A rooster will be seen as an asset, not a nuisance. Yet another reason to look forward to the coming crisis. ๐Ÿ™‚

Valentine’s Day passed quietly for us here. I was given a small rustic heart shaped box (which I can and will reuse) with a few small chocolates inside and Martin received nearly 5 litres of piccalilli pickle which I made for him and bottled in the Fowlers Vacola. We then spent the evening watching an episode of Life on Mars, a British TV series we both love. It was a pleasant evening but not particularly commercial. I don’t hold with spending a small fortune just to tell someone you love them once a year. If you can’t say it on the 13th or 15th of February, or any other day of the year, why bother on February 14th? I don’t mind the small fuss made as I know our love isn’t something that only happens for 24 hours once a year. It is in everything we say and do throughout the rest of the year too. In fact, my amazing and wonderful husband believed in me enough to move from Spotswood to Ballan upon my whim (yes he believes in the dream too but he believed in me and my dream before it became our dream if that makes sense) and although he may clutch in fright at his wallet when I mention my next crazy hippy idea and panic at the long list of unfinished jobs we have, he listens, researches and supports me in my wild dreams. He also does a lot of the hard slog, without complaint. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m such a slave driver. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Piccalilli success!

Piccalilli success!

Well, the day moves on and we are still eating breakfast here so it’s time to get a move on.

Silver Grey Dorkings

A friend (in the blogosphere and hopefully that I will get to meet one day) Narf77 who blogs over at The Road to Serendipidy has asked me to post some pictures of our chickens. So, here goes. ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ve chosen to go with silver grey Dorkings, a heritage dual purpose breed of chicken, raising them for meat and for eggs. Dorkings are one of the oldest known breeds of chicken.ย One of the earliest known mentions of the Dorking was by the Roman agricultural writer Columellaย during the reign of Julius Caesar. In his text,ย Rei rusticae libri, he described the breed as, “square-framed, large and broad-breasted, with big heads and small upright combs…the purest breed being five-clawed”. Plinyย also described a similar bird with an odd number of toes in his Naturalis Historia. Although Caesar noted that poultry was already raised in Britain prior to his invasionsย in 55โ€“54 BC, the Red Dorking is believed to have been introduced in Great Britainย by the Romans at an early date where much of its development continued to take place. [Source Wikipedia]

This is a great page for photos of Dorking chickens with some fantastic pics of the silver grey Dorkings. These chickens are unusual in the sense that they have this extra toe (5 per foot), but apart from that they are pretty much the image of a classic chicken. The big chest, long drooping tail feathers on the roosters and they’re just so very roostery if you know what I mean. The girls are nice motherly looking hens and they are supposed to be good mothers too. They’re also white egg layers which I believe is unusual as it seems that depending on the colour of the earlobes, a hen will lay brown or white eggs. Dorkings have red earlobes but lay white eggs. Funky. ๐Ÿ˜›

They’ve a good reputation for tasty meat too and I am very much looking forward to tasting what chicken is supposed to taste like (as opposed to the fast growth hybrid birds we buy in the supermarkets these days that don’t have much flavour). They are a slower growing bird and a friend has assured me we will not see eggs ๐Ÿ˜ฆ nor hear any crowing ๐Ÿ™‚ for 6 months which means they’re not viable for commercial growers who want fast returns for less feed. I don’t mind though. I like doing my part keeping a heritage breed and as they are considered good foraging birds and they will be free ranging too, they can eat our scraps, chase lizards and eat worms, all of which we have in abundance. Any roosters are on limited time though. Their first crow signals their final countdown (our neighbours won’t tolerate them crowing – full respect). I might be able to source some eggs if I have a broody hen and get her to hatch them for us too. How lovely will it be to watch and wait with the surrogate mumma hen and then hopefully watch the eggs hatching and then her teaching her babies how to be fine hens. I sure hope so. ๐Ÿ™‚

A silver grey Dorking hen

Silver grey Dorking chicks. I think they are female as they have the brown head markings.

Dorking feet with that extra toe

A glorious silver grey Dorking rooster. Wish we could keep one

And here are some pictures of our little chicks at the moment.

They are peep peep peeping all the time and come running to whichever side of the pen we walk, although they’re still a little leery of the human hand. I’m very much looking forward to having their pen ready so they have more room to run.