Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from July, 2013

Moving house!

Back in December we bought a house.  Not a house and land, just a house that someone didn't want on their land any more.  The house is a "Queenslander" style, which means its up on stumps to keep out the snakes, termites and flood waters, and it once had a wrap-around veranda, which is now half built-in, but still very generous.  The original parts of the house are probably nearly 100 years old, with some parts added in the 1980s (and already tested negative for asbestos, phew!).

It has taken SEVEN months to organise all the council paperwork and for the removalists to be ready, but our house finally moved this week!




The removalist just has to put the roof back on and stump the house.  Then all we have to do is connect power, install rainwater tanks and septic system, replace the roof, install insulation and ceiling fans, paint the interior...... its fun to have a project!  I will show you around the inside as soon as the removalists have finished and its all settled on…

Free range guinea fowl!

We bought the guinea fowl as day-old chicks in December last year.  The idea was to raise them to eat the ticks that were affecting our Braford cattle at Cheslyn Rise.  I may have over-estimated how easy it would be to get them established on our property.  Now that they are 7 months old we can see that they are very different to chickens and we are starting to learn how to manage them.


I know everyone said that guinea fowl are noisy, but I didn't imagine they would be THIS bad!  They are currently living close to the house and they squawk nearly constantly, it really amazes me just how loud they are.  See the video below for an example of some guinea fowl noise.  We are gradually moving them away from the house.


We recently decided to let them free-range.  The first night we were able to herd them back home.  The second night was the same.  The third night they all decided to fly up into the trees when we got too close.  When Pete shook one of the trees they flew up again and on…

Homemade realfood muesli bars (granola bars)

During Plastic Free July we have been saving any single-use plastic that would normally be thrown away, so that we can assess at the end of July just how much plastic we consume and how we could reduce that.  Throughout the month I also tested ways that we may reduce that plastic as we go.  This isn't a competition, its a learning experience, so its not cheating if you start to change some of your routine as you realise where all the plastic is coming from.



One thing that I knew was going to be an issue for us was muesli bars (granola bars for those in the US).  We go through around a box of 8 per week, and at over $4 a box, they're not cheap.  The brand that I buy is in a cardboard only box, but the bars are individually wrapped in plastic.  I don't think that there is any alternative bar that we could buy that is not individually wrapped, so I started to think about making an something similar at home (also because I bought kgs of organic rolled oats in bulk and haven…

Planning our property - Keyline design

A concept that is mentioned frequently in permaculture is “keyline”. I started reading about it when I reviewed “catch and store energy”, but I got stuck, and now that I’m up to “design from patterns to detail”, I thought that I'd better figure it out.



What is keyline?
P. A. Yeoman (1904 – 1984) was an Australian engineer and agronomist who lived and worked in New South Wales. He observed how water flowed over the land and developed a system for harnessing water to build soil fertility without chemicals, which he called the keyline system. A keyline plan is developed for a property using the concepts of the keyline system. His ideas are published in four books, three of which are available free online:
Yeomans, P. A., The Keyline Plan (1954) Online versionYeomans, P. A., The Challenge of Landscape : the development and practice of keyline, Keyline Pub. Pty., Sydney, (1958). Online versionYeomans, P. A., The City Forest : The Keyline Plan for the Human Environment Revolution, Ke…

Learning canning and bottling

Of all the options for preserving what we grow, or can buy cheaply in bulk, I prefer to ferment or dehydrate.  These methods do not cook the food, so the raw enzymes are preserved, along with any heat sensitive vitamins and other nutrients.  However, if something is going to get cooked anyway, like tomato sauce, it doesn't really hurt to cook it into a sauce and either freeze or can it.

Lately I have been freezing everything because I didn't know how to can, but with our next steer due to be cut up and the gift of a bucket of lovely ripe tomatoes, I thought I'd better learn how to can, so that I don't fill the valuable freezer space with more tomatoes.



As far as I can figure out, canning and bottling are really just different terms for the same thing.  You either pour hot food into heated jars (overflow method) and seal them with hot lids, or you heat the food in the jars (waterbath canning).  These low pressure methods can be used for anything that is acidic, sugary …

Getting started with chickens - Linda from Greenhaven

Farmer Liz: Today I have another interview in my series on "getting started with chickens".  Linda from the blog Greenhaven lives in the country on forty odd acres with her husband and three of her children. As part of their effort to live in a way that is thoughtful of this planet they garden, raise chooks and live fairly frugally. They find chooks fit in perfectly with their lifestyle.


How many chickens (and other fowl) do you keep, what breed and what do you use them for (meat, eggs, slug control etc)?

Linda: We have quite a few chooks. We have an Australorp rooster and six hens. We have a Dorking rooster and three hens. We also have an Isa Brown and a bantam. We also have three geese.


The geese are a recent addition because we needed to keep the grass down in the orchard. Our chooks are for meat, eggs, pest control and to add fertility to our property. We carefully chose breeds that should be suitable for our climate and be good for meat. I recently wrote a coupl…

Growing forage or perennial pasture

Our property is 258 acres in total, with about 60 acres of ‘cultivation land’, which means that its been cleared of trees, it has contour banks to prevent erosion and it has been regularly ploughed and planted with forage or crops. Forage is anything that can be made into hay or fed straight to the cattle, whereas crops are grown for grain or seeds to sell (and the remaining straw might be baled or fed to cattle). Some species are available as either a forage or a crop variety, such as oats or sorghum. The forage variety will grow thicker leaves and seed late, while the crop variety is short and produces copious seeds. Growing forage is one way to supplement pasture, especially through winter, and to make a high quality hay, which can also be used to feed during winter.

When we first bought the property, the previous owner had planted about 10 acres with forage sorghum and cut it once to make hay. When we put the offer on the property the hay had just been cut, and by the time we owne…

Homemade vanilla extract

I have been thinking of making vanilla extract for a while, but it wasn't until I started making ice-cream, which required a tablespoon of vanilla and I quickly emptied the little bottle that I had bought years earlier, that I saw the need to make it in bulk.
Vanilla extract is very easy to make, and if you do use large amounts of vanilla, its probably worth doing.  All you need is dried vanilla pods and vodka or another spirit of your choice.  Just split the vanilla pods and put them in a jar with the spirit, give it a shake occasionally, and when it smells right, its ready to use, just decant the liquid into another jar, and add more vodka.  Or leave it even longer for a stronger extract.

I like making my own because I know exactly what is in it.  I bought organic fair-trade vanilla pods and used 8 pods in 200 mL of vodka.  I chose an expensive brand of vodka.  The vanilla extract that I usually buy contains sugar, so the one I made doesn't smell as sweet, but that allows …