Our first full month in the house was incredibly hectic. This was made more so by the fact that I was offered a big promotion right at the start of the month that had me travelling a bit more. I spent most of the month interstate, though was home for the weekends.
We did a heap of standard maintenance type stuff, including:
- Fixing rain water drainage that had been let go.
- Fixed some more plumbing. I swear that every tap on this property, both inside and out, leaked when we moved in.
- Trimmed trees and stacked fire wood.
- Had our new machinery serviced.
- Welded up our trailer.
- Made feed/water containers for the stock.
- We were able to reclaim some stock sheds that had been left in the back paddock.
- Generally cleaned up the shit that had been left behind.
These are basic farm day-to-day chores that we do all the time; however, that first month was full of this kind of work. The place had been a rental for several years and then empty for nearly a year, and was in dire need of some TLC.
We had some nice early self-sufficiency wins, specifically in terms of water, raising meat, and our veggie/fruit areas.
We have two rainwater tanks situated at the back of our “little” shed. They collect the water off the shed, car port, and maybe a quarter to a third of the house. We estimate that they total about 27k litres of water, which isn’t much more than a tenth of what the property can collect.
I bought a pump for them, and we worked out how to both use the tank water for the lawn and veggies and also how to hook it into a drum so we can fertilise out of it.
We also organised some grey water capture, but found that there’s already a system in place that takes much of the grey water straight out to the lawn area. That works poorly, but at least is better than dumping that water.
One note on the lawn: I hate lawn. With a passion I hate it. I can’t think of a more wasteful use of resources or my time. However, we have dogs and my beautiful girlfriend is determined that the dogs have grass to crap on. My compromise is that I only water it using grey water or rain water, and care for it as little as humanly possible. I want to reclaim some of it for veggies, but it has two big trees in it that make it too shady.
We took our first sheep to “the other farm” right at the start of the month. “The other farm” is what Linhda calls the abattoir we use. We were really very luck in that we found a butcher with its own abattoir about 20 minutes from where we live. We book the animal in, drop it off on the weekend, and then go back a week later for the meat. It’s also super-affordable when you’re talking about things like sheep and goats.
This was quite a big step for us. We hadn’t had this sheep for long, but we’d still hand fed and bonded with it. We’ve always been a family that is top-heavy with pets, and keeping our own meat animals was something I’d seen as a big challenge for us. However, it all went well and within a week of moving in we had our own farm-reared meat. To be honest, the sheep was too small and we should have left him for a month or three longer. We were a little impatient though.
We also got some more ducks, specifically to breed for meat. We chose Muscovy as the breed, which is actually a breed of goose rather than ducks. Either way, they breed without human intervention, lay nice eggs, and are pleasantly ugly.
My kids got us a couple of citrus trees for Christmas, so we created a citrus area. We fenced it off to use as a meat bird area, allowing them green forage while keeping them away from the dogs. This is also where the existing fruit trees are, of which an apricot, lemon, and the big mulberry survived. This means some nice windfall fruit for the birds also.
The big job for this month was reclaiming the horrid ornamental garden as productive area. It was full of privet, bitey prickly conifers of both the prostrate and standard varieties, geraniums, and agapanthus. The vendor hadn’t even been able to tell us exactly where the septic tank was because they’d allowed this horrible garden to grow over everything.
Reclaiming this part of the garden involved lots and lots and lots of digging, chopping, and grubbing. There was nothing for it but to manually drag all of the crappy plants out, after which we carted in nice organic loam. The soil here is thick, sticky clay, so we opted for raised beds.
It took a long time, over the hottest part of summer, but we ended up with the largest bed, which would be a big veggie patch in any suburban garden, turned into a productive bed growing corn, carrots, tomatoes, and chillies.
There were also some miscellaneous things of note to happen in January. Firstly, we moved dad in. This went quite smoothly, though his 3m x 3m shed did fall on him as we were moving it. Don’t worry though – I was able to get some good pictures before I dragged it off of him.
Secondly, we experienced our first snakes. In fact, we had three. They were eastern browns, and are the second deadliest land snake in the world. The really curious thing is that our neighbour, who has lived in the area for nearly 60 years and who has lived next door for nearly 25 years, hadn’t seen a snake for a few years.