Works continue apace

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

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A harvest meal, real food, Freecycle and bartering.

We dispatched our first chicken last Sunday. One of our roosters has been limping for a few weeks and he hasn’t improved so the decision was made to end his misery, despite not having reached maturity or harvesting age. His end was as quick as we could make it with no prolonged suffering and he has been waiting in the fridge, resting until we were ready to cook him up. I decided to roast him, despite the lack of meat on his scrawny carcass and so he was roasted with some Chinese 5 spice rubbed into him, with plums inside the cavity and around, roast spuds and peas and corn. I wouldn’t say it was the best meal I’ve ever eaten, not by a long shot but it was tasty. The plums which I had bottled the other week were sour but the rest of the meal was good. The bones are now simmering on the stove to make stock (waste not want not) and I am feeling comfortable with our decision to raise our own meat.

 

Roast chook stuffed with plums, surrounded by crunchy spuds and more plums. Best looking meal I’ve ever made that’s for sure. 🙂

 

I had a friend come visit today and we were talking about food. She jokingly asked what “real” food we had in the house, referring to conventional supermarket foods and we went to have a look in my fridge, freezer and pantry. What we found makes me beam with pride. There are a few condiments, vinegar and the like, frozen peas and corn and a few leftover berries, milk, a beer (home-brew is on the cards one day) and a few other bits and pieces. I am proud to say we make the gross majority of our food from raw ingredients. 😀 I don’t have an issue with buying things and I am sure I will in future but I love the fact that I can “damn the man” and make it myself. I just wish I could find a recipe for homemade Vegemite. Supporting Kraft, even as infrequently as one buys Vegemite sticks in my craw. 😦

Who says you can't sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage - the kids can play in them :D

Who says you can’t sleep the baby in the drawers? Yet another use for repurposing some old drawers into underbed storage – the kids can play in them 😀

I love a good bargain but even more than that I love a free bargain! I mean who doesn’t? 😀 I love Freecycle for that reason. Freecycle is a place to list your unwanted goods or to put up a wanted ad if there is something you are after. You will not be offered things like a good car or the latest LED TV but people list unwanted books, furniture, unused garden items (gravel, plants, seeds), kitchen items and occasionally some pretty wonderful items too – I missed out on a knitting machine once which I sought for a friend (I already have one) – as well as the more commonplace. I’ve seen requests for glass jars, school uniforms, newspapers, yarn, and offers for kitchens (we listed our old one), topsoil, kindling, hot water units and more. Almost anything goes although different groups have different policies and those policies differ often around the placement of wanted or offering animals/pets.

The other day an offer came up for a 6 seater extendable dining table, something we have been after for quite some time. We have 5 of us crammed around a 4 seater table and Martin or I end up sitting on a folding chair as Orik’s high chair clips to a normal chair. I fired off a reply as soon as I saw the ad and was lucky enough to be offered the setting. The description wasn’t encouraging – laminate and timber – so I was expecting an old, possibly late 70’s early 80’s brown wood look laminate table and the matching vinyl chairs but needs must. I was jaw-droppingly surprised to discover we had just become the new owners of 6 lovely high backed chairs and a deep reddy-brown timber veneer extendable table with only a little damage. I am stoked! 😀 Freecycle, you RULE! We have some more stuff to list now, including our old table as well as some other unwanted items that are too good to throw out. If they don’t find homes on Freecycle then it’s off to the op shop. I love the idea of eBay, Freecycle, Gumtree and any other similar webpages, just like op shops, as they do one HUGE thing. They keep usable items from ending up in landfill. There is nothing wrong with our old table except its size but without a second hand market out there it’s a perfectly good and undamaged item that will sit there for all eternity (glass doesn’t decompose).

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner - first time I've used it and I "canned" chicken stock.

The excitement of lift off and pressure building int he pressure canner – first time I’ve used it and I “canned” chicken stock.

Another concept I love that I am just delving into which is fast becoming the new black, at least in my circles, is bartering. Swapping this for that. Offering your goods or services in exchange for other goods or services. Effectively buying things but without exchanging money. It’s fun and it’s challenging, just like op shopping. 🙂 The challenge of locating what you need is far harder than just walking into a normal store and grabbing the item off the shelf. Now where is the challenge in that? I LOVE the thrill of the op shop hunt and the open mind that you must have too. You may not get exactly what you dreamed of but that’s the joy, the flexibility. 😀 Well, bartering is the next level up from that! Not only are you searching for what you want BUT you must have something to offer in exchange that the items owner wants. It all of a sudden becomes a dual challenge. You find yourself assessing your goods and services, what you can offer, afford to spare or are willing to give up. Recently I had made a wonderful barter swap with a fellow blogger and hippy Narf7 from Serendipity Farm in Northern Tasmania. Steve carves the most amazing and wonderful spoons from locally sourced timber, some even from their own farm and I have been gagging to get my hands on one of these amazing works of art. But what did I have that I could swap. Turns out I was rich in 2 things that Narf7 was after, sourdough starter and knowledge and kefir grains. We faced the potential problem of customs as Tasmania is pretty rigid regarding the importation of anything that could harm their beautiful island so seeds and plants are out (sorry Narf7, otherwise I’d split my mangel wurzel seeds 50/50 with you) but after discussing the issue with my local postmistress I was pretty sure it would be ok. I bundled up Audrey the sourdough starter into a couple of leak-proof layers and did the same with the offspring of Kiefer our kefir grains, threw in a handknitted dishcloth and some rye flour which I pulled out again. I figured it wouldn’t clear customs and rather than tempt fate it was better to leave it out. It arrived yesterday and both the kefir and starter as settling into their new homes. 🙂 MY parcel arrived today. 😀 In exchange for my items I have received not 1 but 2 hand-carved spoons and some parsnip seeds (the ban on posting seeds only works one way 🙂 ) To say that I am happy is a major understatement! I AM STOKED! My salt spoon is the sweetest cutest and most practical little spoon perfectly suited to its job. It now lives in the vintage ceramic salt cellar I purchased off eBay a while back, helping to spoon Himalayan salt into my cooking and baking. As or my second spoon, I am not sure what its purpose will be quite yet but rest assured it will be an honoured position. I feel very very proud to be the owner and recipient of not 1 but 2 of these gorgeous spoons.

My new celery top pine salt spoon. :D

My new celery top pine salt spoon. 😀

It's so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

It’s so little and cute and perfectly sized for its job.

My second piece of art.

My second piece of art.

 

LOVE how the spoon "bowl" sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

LOVE how the spoon “bowl” sits proud f the handle. Your attention to detail and craftsmanship is amazing Steve.

Well, here’s hoping for an early night. I AM trying to get to bed before 10 and be up before 7. Truly!

A rough few weeks

It’s been a rough few weeks here really. Not all bad and not all negative but still and all, I’m looking forward to February very much as it means January will be over.

We added some more chickens to our flock last Friday, 5 more Dorkings (that’s the last of them) and 2 Chinese Silkies who will be our incubators next year. These 2 are also pets for the children. What funny sweet little things they are too. Sadly this morning when I went to check on the flock I was unable to find Mrs Silverpants, the children’s favourite silky. I eventually found her, drowned in the ducks swimming water. I have an awful feeling I heard her fall in last night too as I heard a squawk last night but figured it was the usual of a chook pecking another and thought nothing of it. The guilt this morning… And yes, I know. But I still feel awful. 😦 Blackie, our other little silkie is doing well without her companion fortunately, although I am on the hunt this morning for a replacement Mrs Silverpants. We also lost 2 of our Dorking chicks to Coccidiosis, a common enough illness that young chicks are susceptible to. That’s how John the chicken died. So yet again poor Jasper is trying to get his head around death. I am profoundly glad we kept the death of the 2 other chicks from him. 2 chicks dying has been enough to thoroughly upset him.

Mrs Silverpants (dec) and Blackie, our 10 week old Silkies

Mrs Silverpants (dec) and Blackie, our 10 week old Silkies

Martin has been working hard to clean up the last bits of the old house and get it ready to rent out. The Real Estate agents are coming out tomorrow to take photos and get it listed which is very exciting. John our builder and Martin have both done an amazing job and I am once again reminded of what an amazing husband I have. I am looking forward to having that house rented out and no longer being a drain on our time. We need to spend that time here. BOY do we need to spend the time here.

One of 2 frogs/toads found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds.

One of 2 frogs/toads found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds. I need to research my amphibians I think. 🙂

We’ve also come face to face with the information that there are venomous snakes within 50 metres of our house, a though that is sending chills through every inch of my body. Our neighbours have had to deal with the snake bites in their livestock and although we don’t know which species it is we do know that its bite is fatal to a half-grown bull calf and is likely to be a Tiger snake or a Brown snake or possibly a Copperhead too as I believe all of these are indigenous to the area. I tried my hardest to mow the vegetable garden grass yesterday but the mower hasn’t been working and conked out on me again yesterday after I got maybe 20% mowed. I’ll have another go today as tomorrow is going to be hot and that grass is LONG!

I had a bandicoot in my potato beds the other day and came away empty-handed. 😦 There may be spuds down further than I dug (I dug in about 9 inches) but it looks like the 1 thing I thought we would definitely harvest has not done what it was expected to do. The mulch layers haven’t rotted down like expected which is disappointing although I think I know where I’ve gone wrong. Once we do harvest anything that may be in there I’ll treat the 3 spud beds like compost bins and fill them up with the necessary before planting them with broad beans or the like. Hopefully by springtime I will have some compost that I can spread over the other garden beds.

I do have some good news to report though. I contacted my uncle on Saturday as we had recently purchased some used corrugated iron from him and we knew he had more. I gave him a call and teed up to purchase the rest and for once lady luck was on our side as he was driving from Bendigo to Warrnambool for work on Monday and offered to deliver it for us! We now have 30 or so sheets of corrugated iron, some ridge capping and a large metal tool box that he threw in thinking we could use it too. 😀 And at a bargain price including delivery as well! So, Monday morning saw me in the garden with a hand saw, tin snips, an impact driver, some roofing bolts/screws, some iron and the old red gum garden posts from the old home. With Orik in bed asleep the kids and I set to and built a raised garden bed to go int he greenhouse. We then loaded the trailer up with compost and filled the bed (again my wonderful husband helped here, shoveling most of a cubic metre in for us) before planting my mandarin tree (a gift from a friend who attended the home birth of Orik), the banana tree I bought from Diggers Club at St Erth the other day and a Lisbon lemon I bought last year from CERES which was pot-bound and on its last legs. Tuesday morning after we’d topped up the bed with some more soil we relocated some of the plants in the veggie garden which weren’t yet flowering and so won’t make harvest, into the greenhouse. We replanted several Siberian tomato plants and 8 or so capsicums and then filled in the gaps with seeds. We then planted radishes, carrots, purple beans, leeks, chives, rocket and coriander so hopefully in a month the greenhouse with be a verdant paradise of fresh smelling garden and burgeoning harvest. It was exciting and calming and very healing to get my fingers into the soil again. I most definitely need to do some more today. In fact the plan is to build another bed today once I finally wake up enough and locate my motivation (MUST get to bed before midnight).

Sawing red gum posts

Sawing red gum posts by hand. I used tin snips to cut the iron but no photos. Martin dislikes me using the more dangerous power-tools whilst I’m home alone.

Built garden bed installed in the greenhouse

Built garden bed installed in the greenhouse

 

Greenhouse garden planted out. Left to right are the mandarin, banana and lemon. Behind them the transplanted tomatoes, down the right are beans then capsicums. In front of the capsicums a row of radishes and a row of carrots in the middle, rocket up the back of the capsicums, then spinach planted to the left of the capsicums, then leeks in the sectioned off part, coriander behind the leeks and chives to the left. STILL more space for more seeds. :D

Greenhouse garden planted out. Left to right are the mandarin, banana and lemon. Behind them the transplanted tomatoes, down the right are beans then capsicums. In front of the capsicums a row of radishes and a row of carrots in the middle, rocket up the back of the capsicums, then spinach planted to the left of the capsicums, then leeks in the sectioned off part, coriander behind the leeks and chives to the left. STILL more space for more seeds. 😀

We also had a lovely visit from my parents on Sunday where we had a lovely and mostly local lunch in the garden. We had lamb riblets (the last of the non-organic lamb I had in the freezer) cooked in organic garlic, homegrown rosemary and home bottled tomatoes, served with fresh organic sourdough and salad. The salad was all organic or farmers market purchased (I’m not sure on the organic status of this stall) and it was all fresh and delicious. Dessert was sourdough cinnamon scrolls although calling them scrolls is more about their intended shape than the end result. Flopped scrolls still taste scrummy though. 🙂

Maxxie surveying his domain from on high.

Maxxie surveying our domain from on high.

Well, time to finish off the hot chocolate and get some shoes on and out in the garden or the day will be half gone. Not to mention the kids are driving me crazy to get out in the garden.

One of 2 frogs found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds.

One of 2 frogs found when we were relocating the Erlicheer bulbs to permanent beds.

What a fowl day

I’ve had a completely fowl kind of day. 😉 It’s been foul at times too but generally it’s been wonderful. The days started with my, big bum up in the air, chasing 9 silver-grey doring chicks around the garden to catch them and put them in our “dog” carry box to take them up to Ballan. THEN I spent the next few minutes in exactly the same pose boxing up our 3 Pekin Bantams. Following that I repeated the process fed, dressed and loaded 3 children into the car. We arrived at Ballan a little after 9, a minor miracle there! Jasper was as sweet as pie when we introduced the chooks to their new home. “Welcome to Balland little chickens. This is your new home, the Balland house. It’s very nice here”. Very sweet! He then let them out and promptly chased them around the pen. *sigh*

After unloading the chooks we loaded back into the car to go pick up our new ducklings. We were undecided between 3 girls, 1 older and 2 younger or a drake and 2 younger girls. I’ve learned several things today too. Here’s the list of things I’ve learned.

1. Ducks are cuter than chickens. Ok, you may not all agree but I think that 6 week old ducks vs 6 week old chicks the ducks will win hands down. Those ridiculous little wings and the fluff all over them! Too cute.

2. Duck poo STINKS! Ok so chicken poo isn’t exactly a fragrant rose one wants to sniff but duck poo stinks a LOT worse.

3. Ducks have surprisingly sharp claws. I’d never thought about it but they’re not just all soft webbing. They’ve got sharp claws, quite remniscent of those thorns one finds on new growth on rose bushes. Ouch.

4. Most important lesson of all… NEVER name something you are planning to eat! 😦 Yes, our ducks were purchased for the table, however, Martin being unsure if he could actually kill a duck or not, we purchased 3 girls just in case. However, it was me that committed the unforgivable (as far as animals raised for meat at least) crime- I named the 2 younger ducklings. So, let me introduce you to Milly and Molly who will no longer be on the menu.

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Milly is taking a bath in her drinking water and Molly is stretching her wings.

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They’ve been named after the childrens TV show characters Milly, a 7-year-old girl of dark skin and hair and Molly, a 7-year-old girl of light skin and bright blonde-orange hair (taken from here).

Here are some other photos from the day.

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Milly and Molly’s older sister, as yet unnamed.

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A temporary set up of a pond for the ducks. So far the ducks are swimming in their drinking water and the chooks are drinking from the swimming water. Go figure. The tyres will be filled with oil and stacked to provide access to the water as well as somewhere to get down and dusty.

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Nesting boxes, still a little incomplete, with a perch on top. i need to add a lip to the front of the boxes to prevent egg spillage and a ramp up to the perching area for the pekins. Nearly there.

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They avoided the scattered food, much preferring to scratch around for bugs.

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Still need to attach the roofing iron and guttering to get the water tank running but in the meantime they are in and happy.

Tomorrow I am off to Hoppers Crossing to pick up 10 more silver-grey Dorking chicks, all only a few days old. I had to buy an incandescent globe to use for heating their brooder box tonight and I was joyfully disappointed. Looks like the light bulb really has gone on of eco savings and there was a selection of maybe 9 different incandescents available – 5 different colours and 4 different flame shaped bulbs (2 screw in, 2 bayonette, each in different wattages). They’ve been replaced with halogen globes. They are still using a relatively high amount of power, at least in comparison to LED or CFL’s but I bought a 53w halogen bulb which is the equivalent of a 70w incandescent bulb. Stuck in my craw to buy it but I need the heat output for the baby chicks. Seems there is at least one more negative against LED’s. Well, if you raise chicks it is. Can’t wait to get them home. Pics most definitely to come.

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. 🙂

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. One of the earliest known mentions of the Dorking was by the Roman agricultural writer Columella during the reign of Julius Caesar. In his text, 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”. Pliny 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 invasions in 55–54 BC, the Red Dorking is believed to have been introduced in Great Britain 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. 😛

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 😦 nor hear any crowing 🙂 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. 🙂

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.