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Showing posts from February, 2014

Frugal city living - clothes

Living in the city during the week and attending work in the CBD has forced me to update my wardrobe - frugally.  I wrote about frugal city living - food last week, and if you missed the post about me being in the city during the week, catch up here.

At my previous job I was provided a uniform and everyone wore the same thing. I didn’t mind that at all, it was comfortable and I didn’t have to think about what to wear. Also nobody judged me on what I was wearing, as long as I was neat and my shirt was tucked in, I just blended in with everyone else. In the city, apparently, we still need to dress for success, which I just find an inconvenience. Sure I like to dress nicely occasionally, but I don’t like to have to think about it every day and I don’t like to have to spend money on clothes that might be better spent on farm gadgets and fruit trees. But if I turned up to work in jeans and t-shirts I would not be respected, so I do have to make some effort to dress appropriately (alth…

Branding our cattle - Part 2 - how to brand

As I said in Part 1 (registering a brand), I do not support the compulsory branding of cattle in QLD, but unfortunately under the QLD Brands Act 1915 (Section 24) it is illegal to sell unbranded cattle, with the penalty being 6 months jail!  So we will continue to brand them until the law changes (believe me, I'm trying to figure out how to make that happen).



Options for branding
The traditional method of branding is "fire branding" in which a red hot iron brand is held against the skin of the cattle for 2-3 seconds to leave a permanant mark.  I have read all sorts of rubbish about it not hurting the cattle, but I've seen for myself they can be standing in the crush perfectly calm and as soon as that brand touches them, they will struggle and cry out.  Of course it hurts them.

There are a few alternative methods if you MUST brand.  One is freeze branding, which uses dry ice to mark the skin of the animal.  This requires special equipment and more work, but apparently …

Project water tank shuffle - How to move a water tank

We finally decided it was time to replace our old water tanks.  We've known we would need to do this since we moved in about four years ago.  The first week we owned the house, Pete was whipper snipping around the tanks and they sprung several leaks!  Since then we have regularly dealt with leaks by drilling in a tek screw.  They were gradually getting worse, and we recently had a hail storm that resulted in multiple leaks and one of our roosters had realised that he could just peck the tank when he got thirsty and make a giant chicken nipple.  Time to get some new ones!

The reason the tanks were so leaky is that they were old metal tanks and must have been quite cheap at the time.  They were very very rusty.  The tanks store the rainwater that runs off our house and shed roofs.  They are our only source of drinking and household water.  Luckily we had one good tank that must have been installed later, so we knew we could just replace the two rusty ones, and we would always have t…

Frugal city living - food

As you know, since November I’ve been working and living in Brisbane during the week and returning to the farm (and Pete) on Friday afternoons. Even though there are many temptations to spend money in the city, our savings account has continued to increase, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on frugal city living, starting with food.

Every day I watch my work mates leave the office to buy lunch. When I started the job here I decided I would not be buying food and so far I have stuck to this even though I only have a limited kitchen in my unit. I’ve written before about our habit of freezing leftovers, and that is how we avoid buying lunches, there is always something in the freezer to take for lunch. I have also taken frozen leftovers to eat for dinner through the week and Pete has that option too if he doesn’t feel like cooking. Each weekend we cook up a big batch of something in the slow cooker and top up the freezer supplies again. We cook things like casseroles, curries, s…

A natural deodorant solution

Deodorant has been on my list of things I’d like to make for myself for a while now. I have been using a natural deodorant from Miessence for ages, it only contains aloe vera, baking soda and essential oils. And it works ok. To be honest I don’t really care that much, I don’t even use it if we are going to be doing farm work all day and not going anywhere special. I use it on work days, but I sit in air con, so I don’t sweat much. If I’m going out in summer, no amount of deodorant is going to control sweat in the climate we live in (hot and humid), but I will apply deodorant anyway, may as well try to smell nice. So if you’re picky about these things, I’m probably not a good reference point if you actually care what you smell like!



Anyway, I’d better start from the beginning before I get into making deodorant. I changed from conventional deodorant to the natural brand a while ago because I wasn’t happy with all the extra ingredients. See this link, which lists ingredients of concern:

Teaming with Microbes - book review

I am coming to realize that the science I learnt at university is no longer current, even though I graduated less than 10 years ago. The study, and more importantly, the application, of microbiology in soil is one area that seems to have advanced significantly and it is difficult to keep up with each new discovery. Fortunately, Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web is a good summary of both the current scientific research and the practical applications in our gardens and farms.

The first half of the book is a summary of different types of microbes and larger soil life, including bacteria, archaea, fungi, protozoa, worms and invertebrates, as well as a chapter each on soil chemistry and the physical nature of soil. Each chapter gives an explanation of the role that each type of microbe pays in the overall “soil web”. I summarized some of this information previously after I attended a course on sustainable agriculture, however there was far mor…

How I use herbs - Mint, Peppermint and Spearmint

As promised, this year I am going to post more regularly about herbs that I grow and use.  I'm going to start off with mint, because its something that grows so easily, but for a long time I wasn't sure what to do with it all!  
Mint is a member of the Lamiaceae family and originated from Europe. There are many different varieties of mint, and in my garden I grow peppermint (Mentha x. piperita), spearmint (Mentha spicata), and another one that I just knew as "mint", but I think its actually Egyptian mint (Mentha niliaca). All the varieties have similar care requirements and similar properties, so I will just write about mint in general.

How does Mint grow?

Mints have a habit of invading garden beds, so I keep mine in pots, even then they sometimes manage to throw out a root or a stem and try to get out into the garden. Mint prefers moist conditions and prefers to stay cool, so keeping it in a pot also helps me to move it around into suitable positions as the weathe…

Who is a farmer?

Following on from my post “the truth about farming”, I wanted to discuss the meaning of the word farmer, because I few people in the comments thought that they weren’t farming. As you can see from my alias, I consider myself a farmer, and I consider anyone who is growing any food to also be a farmer, whether they live on 100s of acres or in an apartment.



The word farmer can mean someone who profits from raising livestock and/or cultivating land, but it has a broader meaning, as someone who farms. And a farm can just mean a place where livestock are raised and/or land cultivated. That means that if you grow something to eat by cultivating land, even if its just a few pots of herbs, you are a farmer.

I don’t want to take anything away from farmers who do earn a living from their work, I think farmers are amazing, hard-working people, and we are all lucky that they want to dedicate their lives to feeding the rest of us! However, I think its also helpful to empower everyone to realise…

What I've learnt about puppies

We’ve had Taz for just over a month. She’s my first ever puppy, and Pete’s first in 10 years. Neither of us were entirely sure what to expect from Taz when we bought her home from the local markets one weekend, but so far she’s been pretty clever and only wee-d inside once since we got her! Here’s a list of things that I’ve learnt from Taz so far (and an excuse for lots of Taz photos):



Puppies sleep a lot. Taz is very active first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon, but the rest of the time she likes to sleep (especially in the dirt under the house!)
Puppies and old dogs can be surprisingly compatible. Due to point one, so far Taz and Cheryl have been just fine together because Cheryl, at age 11, also likes to sleep a lot. Cheryl is also active morning and evening, so fits in well with crazy Taz time. Cheryl has also been quite helpful in entertaining Taz during her active time, and for this we are very grateful to Grandma Cheryl.
Puppies don’t mind being confined duri…

Using a sourdough cake starter for everything

Since I first recieved my sourdough cake starter "Herman", I have been enjoying experimenting with using it to make cakes, pancakes and biscuits (cookies).  I can adapt just about any recipe to Herman, and he adds a slight sour tang and creates a light fluffy batter.  Here's what I do to adapt a recipe, just use all the same quantities, but combine them in a different order: Melt the butter in a pot over a low heat.  Stir in the flour, rapadura (sugar), and flavours (cocoa, ginger, spices), and add a slurp of Herman and any other liquids, put on the lid and leave the mixture at room temperature for a few hours (you can start this in the morning and bake in the afternoon, or even put it all in the fridge after a few hours and bake it later the next day, just depends on the outside temperature, in winter you could probably leave it out overnight).When you're ready to bake, add the egg and a good heaped tablespoon of baking soda (leave out the baking powder).  The bakin…

Farm update - February 2014

We got a little bit of rain at the end of January.  30mm at Nanango and 50mm at Kumbia.  It started to green up, but now its drying out again, we really need some decent rain to get our grass growing again.
And of course it rained just when Pete had started a major project of removing our two old rusty water tanks and replacing them with two new plastic tanks.  We had one other good tank, so we had water, but the rain came when Pete had disconnected all the downpipes that normally feed the tanks!  We have plenty of water though, it was just so typically that it will be dry for so long and then rain when you are trying to do something!  I will post more about moving the tanks around, I think Pete did a really amazing job to get it all organised and completed in one week (mostly when I wasn't home too).

I posted about the garden on Monday... its not going great, but there's a few things to harvest each week.

And in chicken news, we hatched several (sorry I forgot the numbers al…

Garden update - February 2014

The harvest basket is looking a bit empty, and its mid-summer!  We have lots of lettuce, basil, kale and tat soi. A few small carrots, mini capsicums, chillies and gem squash.  The beans are many, but tiny, so I picked them all to make the plant start again and grow some bigger ones.  Also garlic chives in the basket.  January was hot and dry until right in the last week we got 30mm at Nanango and 50mm at Kumbia.  The grass went from burnt brown to flouro green in a matter of days.  We were watering all our grey water, and doing extra loads of washing to make more grey water, as well as the upturned beer bottles throughout the garden.  That's enough to keep things alive, but there's nothing like some decent rain to really get plants to grow and produce.  So next month there might be a bit more in the basket!


Here's what's growing.  Lettuce, bush beans, I planted some more tomatoes and rosella, and there's a mini capsicum in there too.  You can't even see most o…