January 2013 Facebook Farm Statuses

  • I’ve decided to start a farm blog. Right now it’s just the intro page, but I’ll start transferring my journal and FB stuff across shortly. Stay tuned…
  • Just spent a quarter hour trying to get pictures of a pig’s penis for Beck Archer. While disturbing, the really horrible thing was what the big boy was trying to do to the little boy to make said pictures possible. Let’s call it… “prison relations”.
  • Was just reading a commercial chicken site and they had the following under the title “Interesting Facts”:
    “An average meat chicken will eat 5kgs of feed in its lifetime, which is approximately 42 days…”
    That’s 6 weeks! Chooks need three things to develop all of the nutrients we need: 1. Exercise, 2. Fresh green forage, and 3. Time to develop. We keep ours 12 to 14 weeks, they range over fresh food, and get lots of exercise. You don’t realise the difference until you see and taste it.
  • Crashed the tractor today. It had a full load on the carry-all and so had no steering. I was using the independent rear brakes to be tricky and steer it between a fully loaded skip and a trailer. Turns out, I’m not as tricky as I thought.
    It potentially could have tipped the tractor on me or trapped my leg between tractor and skip. Somehow I came away relatively unscathed, but half of my pinky toe-nail tore off. Yes, I crashed my tractor and broke a nail. Bwuahahahahahahaha.
  • Question: What do you do when you’re stacking wood in the house paddock while belting out a Cher song at full volume and your neighbour drives slowly past, looking at you incredulously through their open window?
    Answer: You finish strongly and own that shit!
    On a related note, I might love Cher more than most farmers… or straight men.
  • “Why are there pigs in the orchard?!” Not much more than a year ago I would never have guessed I’d hear Linhda say that sentence, and especially not with that level of panic in her voice.
  • Was planting out the last of my corn earlier when I came across a freshly dead mouse. The only mark on him was a small, wet wound. I’m fairly certain he was bitten by a snake. Trust me, that’ll make the rest of your time in the garden a little nervous…
  • The tank for dad’s enviro-cycle septic was delivered today. It’s about 10 feet tall and maybe 8 across.
    Your mission now David, should you choose to accept it, is to fill that giant receptacle. With poop and pee.
  • We’ve had tradies here all day, two of which were plumbers putting in dad’s envirocycle septic. They left the *big* backhoe here, so I went to check it out. Maybe have a sit in it. Maybe make some vroom vroom noises. Maybe see how the bucket went up and down. Maybe just drive it up and down a few times. Maybe use it to reach a couple of high limbs in the pine trees that have been bugging me and knock them down.
    BUT they took the keys with them! They don’t trust me!!!! Stupid vroom vroom noises aren’t the same without the engine going…
  • I pickled some cabbage as a bit of an experiment about 4 weeks ago. Linhda and David were less than complimentary about it. I just cracked one of the jars and it tastes awesome!
    I was going to say “it tastes slawesome” but Peyton threatened to hit me.
    In summary, all three of them can suck it.
  • Happy Australia Day. God bless all those lucky enough to live in God’s own country. 🙂
    On a related note, we picked up the guest of honour for our party today. Weighing in at an impressive 28kg, he’s about a third bigger than I was expecting. He’s now trussed and spinning over charcoal. Fingers crossed…
  • Today, for the first time in a year, we’re having a weekend day off of farm work. At the same time, today is probably the fifth day in the last six weeks that I’ve worn deodorant. In fact, it’s the second day in a row! Look at me, Mr. Fancy Pants!
Miss January. Hubba Hubba!

Miss January. Hubba Hubba!

Australians All Let us Rejoice… For Pigs!

January was insanely hot at times. We’re about 75km north of Adelaide, and a lot further from the ocean. The result is our hot days are invariably 3 or 4 degrees hotter than the city.  We’re also exposed, and despite the wind-breaks all around us, the hot northerlies can be vicious.

The heat was beating the potatoes up, so we rejigged the irrigation giving it taller risers.  That worked well, and allowed us to keep the water up to the spuds over the hottest days.

Bigger risers on the spuds.

Bigger risers on the spuds.

 

Even though they weren’t quite ready yet, we ended up harvesting some potatoes to make potato salad for Australia Day. I think I’m a long way from getting the spuds right, but those we harvested were pretty bloody good.

A giant spud!

A giant spud!

A big part of the rest of the month was trying to finish off the stock yards and doing so around the heat.  We ended up working for a few hours in the morning and night, and also making sure that we got two or three hours in after work during the week.  By the end of the month we were almost done.  The only part left is extending the race through the largest yard so it can open into The Patch.  This requires punching a gate through the existing fence, and changing around a box section.  That’s not needed right now, so we’ll leave it to the cooler weather.

The stock yards almost completely finished.

The stock yards almost completely finished.

Photo-bombed by a baby,Tink, and Bruce!

Photo-bombed by a baby,Tink, and Bruce!

The race along the front works a treat!

The race along the front works a treat!

 

The big success story here is the race that we have running along the southern end of the yards.  We designed it so that the gates that empty into the race butt up against posts, meaning they block the race when open.  We can open up a couple of gates and easily herd animals from one yard to another without any fuss at all.  We can also put our stock ramp at one end and herd them into the trailer. This had been the aim of the design all along, but it was all theoretical until we actually tried it.

January saw our first stock failure too, and it was 100% my fault.  We picked up 26 day-old meat chooks from Gawler.  I’d ordered two dozen, but we invariably get one or two extras. They live in my old snake vivarium for the first few weeks, and normally when they’re little we just give them shallow containers of water. However, having so many at one time, I thought I’d rig something that held more water.  My great idea (/sarcasmOff) was to cut horizontal slits in an ice cream container, the theory being that they’d be able to get their heads in to drink, but wouldn’t be able to climb in.  As it turns out, they could actually climb in, and 23 of the 26 managed just that.  If only a few got in, or maybe half of them, then we would have been okay.  As it was, a dozen or so were on the bottom and basically held under water by their brothers and sisters in the top row.

We lost about a dozen right away. I put the ones that weren’t obviously dead under the heat lamp, and we managed to salvage 11.  This wasn’t a huge loss, as the 15 we lost cost barely $10, but it was a learning experience. We had planned on doing two big lots a year, just to make the process more efficient. Now we’ll probably do 3 or 4 smaller lots.

Meat chooks hanging out while their house gets cleaned.

Meat chooks hanging out while their house gets cleaned.

This guy is a couple of weeks old... and ugly.

This guy is a couple of weeks old… and ugly.

Moved out to free-range.

Moved out to free-range.

I put the meat chooks out a little earlier than normal. It was warm enough to have them out, and I like it when they’re free-ranging. We’ve had problems with Tatyl in the past targeting the meat chooks, and so took precautions.  I built up the retaining wall blocks around their run, and removed any chance that Tatyl could squeeze under.

Farmers don't bother with wheel barrows.

Farmers don’t bother with wheel barrows.

Oh, and just to rub salt into the wound, I found a proper store-bought waterer that I’d forgotten about a few days after losing those chooks…

January ended up being a big month for getting stock too.  We were running a little low on meat, and while we look to have a glut of meat in the mid-term with pigs and cows all coming of age in several months, in the short-term we’d been buying BBQ meat.  With that in mind, we sourced a goat and some sheep.

We got a little boer wether from Linhda’s friend Brett down the road.

Howard the goat!

Howard the goat!

Strictly speaking, the goat was more to keep Tinkerbelle company than anything, but he’ll end up going for meat. In hindsight, we probably didn’t need the goat, as Tink gets on pretty well with the pigs and there are always free-ranging pigs for her to hang out with.

We also got two sheep.  One is a damarra, or a “fat-tailed sheep”.

The damarra, or "fat tailed sheep". He needs to be fed on a little.

The damarra, or “fat tailed sheep”. He needs to be fed on a little.

Damarras are shedding sheep, meaning they don’t need to be shorn or crutched.  This one was about 11 months old, and a little skinny.  We plan to feed him on a bit, and depending on our meat needs, potentially for a few months.

The other sheep we got was a breed we’d not seen before.  The guy we got it from said it was a “Broad Lace”.  I double-checked the name and spelling, but can find no trace of that breed of sheep on the interweb.  Either way, it’s about 18 months old and is huge!

It might not be obvious, but this boy is solid!

It might not be obvious, but this boy is solid!

The guy we bought him from was a guy we’ve dealt with before.  He’s a largeish guy, being a bit bigger than me. Together we struggled to carry the sheep from his ute to the yard, and I predict we’ll get a lot of meat from him.  The plan was to get him done mid-February so we’d have enough meat, and particularly BBQ meat, for visits from my brother and his family.  That plan has slipped to early March due to my work travel.

One interesting thing of note was that Tink does not get on well with sheep at all.  I had, probably naively, assumed that the goat and sheep would get on well, but I could not have been more wrong. I let the damarra in with the rest of the animals, and Tink spent about a half-day beating the living shit out of the poor bugger. To the point where she cornered him in the 3 x 3 shed we have in her yard and broke her own horn beating him.  I ended up locking him up in his own yard, which I think works better for him anyway. He wasn’t at all happy free-ranging, and didn’t really even graze. We got him cheap as the guy selling him had run out of feed. I suspect this poor boy had been penned for most of his life and hand-fed.

Beef, goat, and pork all in the one picture.

Beef, goat, and pork all in the one picture.

The cows snuck into the back garden. Bruce was all over it though. And by "it", I mean their butts.

The cows snuck into the back garden. Bruce was all over it though. And by “it”, I mean their butts.

Can you pick where the stand-off fence was?

Can you pick where the stand-off fence was?

We also got a new drake. We’ve had a couple of clucky mums, and I feel like we’re wasting our time by not having them pump out babies.  The boy we got came from up north (Eudunda I think), and the lady kindly delivered him to Roseworthy for us.  He’s much bigger than our last drake, and his yellow feet and lack of wattle makes me suspect that he’s half Pekin Duck. Either way, he should work out well.  I’ve named him Ron Jeremy II, as he’s also a short, fat guy who’ll be getting lots of action.  He’s probably 2 months from being able to get that action though. 🙂

The big one in the front is the new drake.

The big one in the front is the new drake.

At the same time I picked up a dozen fertile Muscovy eggs for a clucky mum we had.  As it turns out, she stopped being clucky that day, so the eggs ended up going to the pigs. 😦

We had been planning a pig-on-a-spit for Australia Day for a while, and spent a bit of time cleaning up in preparation.  This included ripped out and revamping the backyard veggie patches, the smallest of which (Linhda’s) had become overgrown with couch. That’s now my patch.

One day it's a dirty stock water trough...

One day it’s a dirty stock water trough…

The next day it's a clean stock water trough...

The next day it’s a clean stock water trough…

And then it's a giant esky!

And then it’s a giant esky!

We hadn’t been sure of which pig to do. My plan was to go with the smallest spare boy we had, where Linhda wanted to go for the largest.  We compromised and went for the second-smallest.

On the way to "the other farm".

On the way to “the other farm”.

Making friends at "the other farm". I call them "single serve friends".

Making friends at “the other farm”. I call them “single serve friends”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In reality, the smallest may have worked as the boy we took dressed out to 28kg! We’ve not done this before, and so had been guessing at the weight but had never guessed that big.

We got him back whole from the butcher, who also gave us an amazing tour of the abattoir and explained the entire process to us.  I also managed to secure an invitation to go watch the animals get processed. To be honest, I have no real desire to go watch that, but part of what we’re trying here is making sure that our animals are treated well, even up to the point where they’re slaughtered. I’m confident that’s the case, but actually observing the process will make sure.

Scoring, oiling, salting, and situating the pig took longer than expected, but we finally managed to get him started.

Dressed and good to go.

Dressed and good to go.

Scored.

Scored.

Trussed, oiled, and salted.

Trussed, oiled, and salted.

We ended up changing our configuration several times, and the location once, but the result was fantastic! We also have the process pretty much worked out now, and the next one will be even better.

And so it begins!

And so it begins!

Crackling!!!!!!

Crackling!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite the heat, we managed to get some more veggie patch work in too.  I moved some strawberry plants around, removed a couple of chilli plants, and planted out some chilli seedlings we had.  This makes the western edge of the larger backyard veggie patch a permanent bed, and it works quite well.

The permanent chilli and strawberry part of one of the veggie patches.

The permanent chilli and strawberry part of one of the veggie patches.

I also prepared the rest of that bed for planting out. I managed to get a couple of rows of turnips and suedes in, but my work travel and the heat stopped me finishing the rest. As soon as I’m home long enough to babysit them, I’ll plant out some more carrots and beetroot.  I managed to get the rest of the corn planted in The Patch too.

The thing I’m most excited about is getting some late-season tomatoes.  I’ve never tried them before, but they can apparently extend right through autumn if put in the right spot. If they work, and I honestly have my doubts, they have the potential to extend our harvest out to six months.  These went in the smaller of the backyard veggie patches.

We managed to get some pea straw from Farmer John to use as mulch.  We’ve seen quite a bit of pea straw around lately (it’s that time of year), and much of it looks super dodgy, being badly tied in loose bails. These bails, which cost us only $20 each, are tightly bound and just gorgeous!

$20 a bail? Don't mind if I do...

$20 a bail? Don’t mind if I do…

I did manage to find the stormwater pipe leading from under the pavers to the tanks while revamping and cleaning out the backyard veggie patches. The problem was that I found it with my spade.

I cleverly found where the rainwater pipe was... with my shovel.

I cleverly found where the rainwater pipe was… with my shovel.

Looking back, January was surprisingly productive. It was way hotter than we’d expected, which is something you learn to deal with when you live in South Australia.  We adapted how we worked though, and managed to keep up with pretty much everything that needed doing.

Found this in our paddock. It says "Imperial Quart" on it.

Found this in our paddock. It says “Imperial Quart” on it.

Found this in our paddock. It's fascinating!

Found this in our paddock. It’s fascinating!

 

Planning The Patch!!!!

Prior to moving into our dream place I had plenty of time to wait. Waiting is about what I’m worst at, and so I used that time to plan. In particular, I researched and planned my veggie patch.

I’ve grown veggies a lot, but never on this scale.  I used my smaller-scale experience plus the interweb to work out the best approach.  I refined my requirements to be:

  • I wanted to do some staple crops in bulk. These would be things that:
    • We like and eat a lot of.
    • We could easily store and/or preserve.
    • I wanted to do crops that might have cross-over into stock food.
    • I wanted a rotation system. Because I wanted tomatoes and potatoes in my rotation, that meant a six-bed rotation system.
    • I wanted to grow enough to last us an entire year, through a combination of seasonal eating and preserving/storing.

I’ll include the original plan here, firstly because a lot of work went into it, it’s a solid plan, but alos because it would work well in that form still.  I’m writing this after our first full year here though, and if there’s one thing we’ve found, it’s that the plan is fluid .  I’ll note the things that we think we’ll change in the second year at the end.

THE PATCH PLAN (Year 1)

BED 1

Curcubits – pumpkin, cucumber, watermelon, rockmelon

  • Pumpkin:
    • Plant Sept – Dec
    • Harvest 15 to 20 weeks
  • Cucumber:
    • Plant Sept – Feb
    • Harvest 8 to 10 weeks
    • Can grow in with corn to save space       here
  • Watermelon:
    • Seed trays in August
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 9 to 14 weeks
  • Rockmelon:
    • Seed trays Sept – Oct
    • Plant out Nov – Dec
    • Harvest 10 to 16 weeks

Summary:

  • Bed busy September to February
  • Can start most plants early in hothouse

Followed by:

  • umbrelliferous (carrots) – want first planting around April/May
  • allium (onions) – want first planting around April

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Lime soil after harvest
  • Need to wait 4 weeks before manuring soil, otherwise lime will lock up the nutrients
  • May be able to grow green manure, but only a month or so probably means applying composted manures

 

BED 2

Solanaceous – tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, chilli

Legumes – peas, broad beans, snow peas

Solanaceous:

  • Tomato:
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 8 to 17 weeks
  • Capsicum:
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 10 to 12 weeks
  • Eggplant:
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Jan
    • Harvest 12 to 15 weeks
  • Chilli:
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 8 to 17 weeks
    • Can grow in permanent beds, but I think I like the idea of keeping them annual

Legumes:

  • Peas:
    • Plant April – Sept
    • Harvest 9 to 11 weeks
  • Broad Beans:
    • Plant March – June
    • Harvest 12 to 22 weeks
  • Snow Peas:
    • Plant April – Sept
    • Harvest 12 to 14 weeks

Summary:

  • Solanaceous:
    • Bed busy October to March
    • Planting out October – December
    • Harvest around March
  • Legumes:
    • Bed busy March to September

Followed by:

  • Curcubits – pumpkin, cucumber, watermelon, rockmelon
  • Needs to be ready by around September
  • Several months of no activity
    • Either green manure, or
    • Legumes

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Superphosphate – directly after legume harvest or green manure

BED 3

Crucifers – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustards, turnip

Chenopods – silver beet, spinach, beetroot

Crucifers:

  • Brocolli:
    • Seed trays in Feb
    • Plant out March – April
    • Seed trays in Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Nov
    • Harvest 10 to 16 weeks
  • Cauliflower:
    • Seed trays in Feb
    • Plant out April – May
    • Harvest 15 to 22 weeks
  • Cabbage:
    • Seed trays in March
    • Plant out April – June
    • Seed trays in Aug/Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Nov
    • Harvest 8 to 15 weeks
  • Horseradish:
    • Plant Sept – Nov
    • Harvest 16 to 24 weeks
  • Mustard Greens:
    • Anytime
  • Turnip:
    • Plant Sept – April
    • Harvest 6 to 9 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 3 successive plantings
    • Can grow in bed 6 if necessary – bed 6 is mostly just carrots and so should always have space and it’s a full 3 years from this rotation.

Chenopods

  • Beetroot:
    • Plant July – April
    • Harvest 7 to 10 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 2 or 3 successive plantings
  • Silver Beet
    • Plant Sept – May
    • Harvest 7 to 12 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 2 or 3 successive plantings
  • Spinach
    • Plant March – May
    • Harvest 5 to 11 weeks
    • Probably not needed if we’re growing silver beet

Summary:

  • Crucifers
    • February – hothouse
    • March/April – plant out
    • August/September – hothouse
    • Oct/Nov – plant out
    • The main crucifers keep the bed busy for nearly 12 months
  • Chenopods
    • Busy from July to May
    • May have a month or two to green manure

Followed by:

  • Solanaceous – tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, chilli
  • Needs to be ready by around October
    • This clashes with the second crucifer planting
      • May be able to have the second crucifer harvest early and a late tomato planting  – will need some experimentation
    • Can have the tomatoes etc ready ahead of time in the hothouse

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Composted manure and lots of it
  • If the second crucifer planting is skipped, there should be a few weeks between the first harvest and the tomato etc planting

BED 4

Corn:

  • Plant Sept – Feb
  • Harvest 11 to 14 weeks
  • Start planting in Sept, have 5 or 6 successive plantings maybe 3 or 4 weeks apart
  • Grow cucumbers between the stalks
    • Cucumber:
      • Plant Sept – Feb
      • Harvest 8 to 10 weeks

Followed by:

  • Crucifers – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustards, turnip
    • Needs to be ready by around       March/April
  • Chenopods – silver beet, spinach, beetroot
    • Needs to be ready by around July

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Composted manure
  • Should be a month or so downtime      before crucifers go in

BED 5

Potatoes:

  • Plant Aug – Oct
  • Harvest 15 to 20 weeks
  • Bed busy from August to March

Followed by:

  • Corn
    • Needs to be ready by around September
    • This clashes with the last onion planting, garlic, second leeks planting, and spring onions
    • The way around this is to leave the last onion planting, garlic, and leeks in until the last spud plantings.  Plant spud out in free parts, and progressively plant it as the alliums are harvested. This means we’ll have to be careful in what order we plant out the alliums – onion, garlic, and leeks in particular.

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Composted manure and lots of it
  • Potash

BED 6

Umbelliferous – carrot, parsnip, celery AND lettuce and turnips

Allium – onions, garlic, chives AND Brussels sprouts

Umbelliferous

  • Carrot:
    • Plant Sept – May
    • Harvest 12 to 18 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 3 successive plantings
  • Parsnip:
    • Plant Aug – Oct
    • Harvest 17 to 20 weeks
  • Celery:
    • Seed trays in Sept – Oct
    • Plant out Nov – Dec
  • Turnip:
    • Plant Sept – April
    • Harvest 6 to 9 weeks
    • Probably squeeze in 3 successive plantings
    • Can grow in bed 6 if necessary – bed 6 is mostly just carrots and so should always have space and it’s a full 3 years from this rotation.
  • Lettuce
    • Had been left out of rotation
    • There should be room in this bed

Allium

  • Onions:
    • Seed trays in Feb
    • Plant out April
    • Direct Sow May – Aug
    • Harvest 25 to 34 weeks
    • Planting
      • Seed tray, plant out April
      • Harvest around Oct/Nov
    • Planting 2
      • Direct sow May
      • Harvest around Nov/Dec
    • Planting 3
      • Direct sow Aug
      • Harvest around Feb/March
  • Garlic:
    • Plant April – June
    • Harvest 17 to 25 weeks
    • Plant shortest day, harvest longest day
  • Spring Onions:
    • Plant Aug – Oct
    • Harvest 8 to 12 weeks
  • Leeks:
    • Seed trays in Feb – March
    • Plant out April – May
    • Seed trays in Aug – Sept
    • Plant out Oct – Dec
    • Harvest 15 to 18 weeks
  • Chives
    • Grow pretty much whenever and can use to fill in around garlic and leeks
  • Brussel Sprouts
    • Seed trays in Feb – March
    • Plant out April – May
    • Not sure where to put them, but  they’re good with onions so this bed will probably work

Summary:

  • Can keep the bed going the entire year with just carrots and onions

Followed by:

  • Potatoes
    • Needs to be ready by around August

Soil preparation for rotation:

  • Composted manure and lots of it
  • Should have months in which to grow green manure

CHANGES AFTER YEAR 1

Strictly speaking, the above-described plan was revision 0.  The very first plan had a permanent bed running length-ways across the front.  However, starting in January and extending through to April we’d cleaned out a couple of horrible ornamental beds in the back-garden and turned them into productive areas.  They probably add up to 80 to 100 square metres, which is a decent size, and they are now our combined permanent and over-flow beds.

Some of the other changes we’re going to make include:

  • Our irrigation. The plan above doesn’t have the irrigation (that was hand-drawn on a hard-copy), but we’ve changed and rechanged that particular plan a few times.  I might make a separate post about that though.
  • We originally planned some cruciferous vegetables over the summer months (Bed 3). Experience has shown us that this is a little tough in The Patch, though it might work in the slightly more sheltered permanent beds.  This summer had some ridiculously hot days, and though we have plenty of wind-breaks to the north, the hot northerly winds still tore the leafy green veggies to bits.  Rather than battled with these over the hot months, we’ve found ways that we can easily freeze things like cauliflower and broccoli, in which case we’ll just grow more over the cool months.
  • This means that Bed 3 can lay fallow for much of the year, and potentially all of the year.  I like this plan, particularly because this is the bed that preceded the corn.  Corn is a very heavy feeder, so the corn (Bed 4) can always be preceded by some green manure.
  • We’ll grow all of our cucumber with the corn next year. We tried it as an experiment this year, and it works well.  We also grow peas along the fringe of the bed, using the corn as support.
  • We’ll change the corn bed a little, planting less densely, and leaving some rows free entirely so we can grow zucchini in between.  This will hopefully give us more ears per plant, and actually increase our harvest.
  • We were never entirely clear on how much of an particular thing we’d need to last us the year.  We now have a much better idea, and so will:
    • Grow more onion.
    • Grow more garlic.
    • Grow less cucumber.
    • Grow more pumpkin or melons in place of that cucumber.
    • Grow less chillies.  In fact, I’ll keep some plants in the permanent bed and not bother growing them annually in The Patch at all.
    • We’ve also been able to refine our timings:
      • I used to grow tomatoes starting in October at the earliest, and wouldn’t be planting probably even as late as January. However, we started some here in August/September, and I’ve found a late-harvest variety that we planted in February. This will have to change year-to-year depending on the soil temperature, but it has the potential to extend our tomato harvest to cover nearly half the year.
      • Similarly, we found that we could plant corn much later than we normally would, and can extend that harvest by a month or two.
      • I found that garlic here comes in a little early, probably due to the openness of the beds and the heat we get here.
      • I’d normally grow carrots 12 months of the year. However, the seeds are susceptible to drying out, which means growing them over the December to February timeframe is a little tougher.  Rather than starting them then, we’ll plant them out early and have them established well ahead of summer.  The beauty of carrots, and particularly the stump-rooted ones we use, is that they keep in the ground and don’t bolt. We literally pick them only as we need them, and use the store as our larder.
      • Most of our staple crops worked well, though not all as well as I’d like, and we can now try some things that we’ve not grown before. In particular, I want to try:
        • Brussel Sprouts.
        • Suede.
        • Turnips.
        • Sweet Potatoes.
        • Sprouting Broccolis.
        • All different kinds of legumes.
        • Potato Onions.

It’s now February, 2013, and we’re slowly coming into the transition from warm to cooler weather crops.  I’ll break the hothouse out again shortly, we’ve ripped the tomatoes up to hang, are harvesting and preserving corn like crazy, are nearly ready to harvest the potatoes, and we’re looking at preparing a couple of the beds for the cooler weather.  I’m quite keen to try out our plan changes, see how they go, and then further refine it for next year.

The Patch's rotation system in a picture!

The Patch’s rotation system in a picture!

December 2012 Facebook Farm Statuses

  • I realised yesterday that much of my life now deals with discussing poop, planning what to do with poop, and managing poop. I’m still working out exactly how I feel about that…
  • We sold two pigs on tonight and learned some valuable farm lessons:
    1. A 25kg pig, struggling and screaming, is pretty much the same as trying to carry 50kg.
    2. A 35kg pig, struggling and screaming, is a two-man lift.
    3. Trying to coax a pig over with food so you can gently lift and cradle it is a waste of time. Seriously, just corner and tackle it.
    4. True farm folks have no qualms about jumping into a pig pen without shoes on. Using that logic, I am far from being true farm folk.
    5. Handling pigs means you get covered in pig mud, both the literal and the euphemistic kind.
    6. Related to point 5, after handling pigs it’s best to get your clothes off on the front porch. Linhda that explains the ripped and muddy pair of shorts on the front porch when you get home.
    7. Pigs really have the potential to more than pay for themselves, and actually to fund other farm projects.

On a related topic, a year from now might see us with significant amounts of excess pork if anybody is interested…

  • Pigs crunching up prawn heads is the grossest noise ever! Seriously. It’s nasty.
Linhda's Christmas present to me - home-made signs for my babies!!!!!!

Linhda’s Christmas present to me – home-made signs for my babies!!!!!!

Harvesting and Preserving…

December is traditionally quite warm in South Australia, and 2012 was no exception. We’re about 75km north of Adelaide, and our temperatures are normally 3 or 4 degrees hotter. I’m not exactly sure why, but guess it’s because we’re further from the ocean.

The warmer month kept us from doing everything we wanted, but we adapted by making sure we put in a few hours after work during the week.

Being Summer also meant lots of harvesting, and we tried to make the most of that.  We went all-out on preserving and storing producing for out-of-season consumption.

Purple carrot harvest. I think we'll stick to our stump-rooted variety, as these bolted a bit too easily.

Purple carrot harvest. I think we’ll stick to our stump-rooted variety, as these bolted a bit too easily.

Our first eggplant!

Our first eggplant!

We ended up getting dinner plate sized squash!

We ended up getting dinner plate sized squash!

The Patch in the morning. Pretty...

The Patch in the morning. Pretty…

The garlic was ready a full month ahead of what I was expecting. We had some super-hot days, and I think that finished them off. Linhda plaited them like a champ!

Linhda's great garlic plaits.

Linhda’s great garlic plaits.

Hanging garlic!

Hanging garlic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had planned on growing an entire year’s worth, but we might be a bit short.

We also harvested all of the onions, and Linhda got to try her plaiting skills again.  This was also supposed to be enough for a year, but we might only have half of what we need.

Our onion harvest. Not quite the year's worth I wanted.

Our onion harvest. Not quite the year’s worth I wanted.

The onion harvest hanging.

The onion harvest hanging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a great learning experience. We now have a good idea of how much we need to grow next year, and the area we’ll need in which to grow it. Linhda’s also much better at plaiting… 🙂

Our chillies went nuts this year. I really need to not grow them for a year or two, but I love growing them so much! The bushes are really very pretty, and nothing says Summer to me more than heavily laden chilli plants.  However, we still have enough frozen and preserved chillies from last year to last us all through this year.  We did run out of ground chilli, but it didn’t take much to restock that.

I used a needle and thread to make strands of chillies to hang in the kitchen.  I have 4 in there now, and they’re actually quite attractive.  I did a strand for Linhda’s sister, and we’ve given away a fair few chillies to friends.  The chillies are still producing though, and I’d be surprised if we manage to use half the crop.

Chilli thread! They ripen and go red as time goes on.

Chilli thread! They ripen and go red as time goes on.

We’ve also had a few preserving days.

Before, before, before picture.

Before, before, before picture.

Before, before picture.

Before, before picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The preparation takes a surprising amount of time, as we have to peel, chop, and salt pretty much everything.

Before picture.

Before picture.

We’ve experimented with a few different preserves and combinations, and so far haven’t had a real failure.  Linhda has tried a heap of different chutneys, including things like bulking it out with zucchinis and squash. All of them have been excellent.

Linhda's *amazing* chutney.

Linhda’s *amazing* chutney.

Pickled dill cucumber.

Pickled dill cucumber.

Pickled cabbage experiment.

Pickled cabbage experiment.

I pickled the smaller onions after our harvest, and experimented with solutions and things like chillies. YUM!

I pickled the smaller onions after our harvest, and experimented with solutions and things like chillies. YUM!

Preserving morning done!

Preserving morning done!

We also wised up when it comes to the preserving and bought some bulk materials. Buying things like vinegar, sugar, and salt in supermarket quantities just wasn’t cutting it.

20kg salt, 25kg sugar, and 25 litres of vinegar. Bring on the preserving!

20kg salt, 25kg sugar, and 25 litres of vinegar. Bring on the preserving!

Our last harvest experiment was a dehydrator. Dad and I found some plans on the interweb, discussed them at length, and modified them to suit our own ideas. We used mostly recycled materials, a Perspex lid being the only thing we bought.  The bottom is clad in black plastic, has some intake baffles cut down low, and has a metal baffle (a recycled BBQ plate) to both heat up and force the warm air where we want it.  It works like a freaking champ, and we tried both home-grown tomatoes and apricots.

Home-grown tomatoes in the dehydrator.

Home-grown tomatoes in the dehydrator.

Home-grown apricots and store-bought peaches in the dehydrator.

Home-grown apricots and store-bought peaches in the dehydrator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While our grown produce was doing big things, the animals were also motoring along.  The pigs were growing pretty much only like pigs can.

Bruce loves the pigs, but was not at al comfortable with this level of intimacy.

Bruce loves the pigs, but was not at al comfortable with this level of intimacy.

Helpful babies being helpful.

Helpful babies being helpful.

This is as close as Domino would ever get to the pigs.

This is as close as Domino would ever get to the pigs.

Bruce knows he's safe when they're eating.

Bruce knows he’s safe when they’re eating.

The cows were slowly eating down our 2 acres of wheat, though in a controlled way via our stand-off electric fence.

You can clearly see where the cows have been allowed to graze.

You can clearly see where the cows have been allowed to graze.

We managed to get some barley from our farmer neighbour. He had a small quantity (small to him) that he put aside for us from a smaller paddock he takes care of.  It turned out to be 1.28 tonnes, and he charged us the wholesale price for one tonne.  It turns out that it costs us less than 20 cents a kilogram, which is a fraction of what we pay for store-bought stock feed.

This is the easy way to load over a tonne of grain. I was expecting lots of work with a shovel...

This is the easy way to load over a tonne of grain. I was expecting lots of work with a shovel…

Barley, like any grain, needs to be cracked or soaked before being fed to stock.  The energy uptake from the feed is increased incredibly over giving them whole grains.  Our daily process changed to include soaking buckets of barley morning and night for the pigs.

We managed to finish most of the rest of the pig yards over December, finishing the separate yards and running water to each of them.

Gratuitous Sheldon shot.

Gratuitous Sheldon shot.

The pig yards coming together.

The pig yards coming together.

Bruce laying next to the trench for the water. He didn't move, even with the pick hitting right next to him.

Bruce laying next to the trench for the water. He didn’t move, even with the pick hitting right next to him.

We designed them so that they can be fed and watered with no need for the person doing the feeding and watering to enter the yards.  This is mostly for Linhda, as the affectionate babies can sometimes make her a little uncomfortable. 🙂

The water is in!

The water is in!

This is the hole we cut into the chook yard so Linhda can feed the babies without getting in with them.

This is the hole we cut into the chook yard so Linhda can feed the babies without getting in with them.

Hungry babies!

Hungry babies!

We had two big stock stories for December though, one involving a purchase and the other our first sale.

We were able to pick up our milking goat, Tinkerbelle, in the middle of the month.  She had been with a billy for an entire month, but the people we bought her from weren’t confident that she’d be pregnant.  Unfortunately, there’s no real way to know until it comes around time for her to drop (March/April).  They’ve offered to have her back then to finish the job, but we know a guy who lives just down the road who has a herd she could run with for a while.

Tinkerbelle!

Tinkerbelle!

I'm not sure if she wants to fight him or play with him. He's not sure either.

I’m not sure if she wants to fight him or play with him. He’s not sure either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stock story that made me happiest was us selling on two of our pigs.  We had ended up with a lot more than we needed, especially after buying 4 boys to find a baby daddy for our girls.  We advertised them on gumtree, hoping to sell one or two and recoup some of our money. We had scored these boys at about half of what they’re worth, and so advertised them at a slightly higher price.

Obviously any pig we sell is probably going to go into somebody’s freezer. That’s no problem to me. I know that these animals have been raised with care, and at the risk of sounding wanky, with love.  They are fed well, housed well, given attention and affection, and they’re happy. Their lives may end up being short, but I know they’re happy. In addition to that, without the need for meat they’d not exist at all.

We had one guy come and look at the pigs, but I did not like him at all. He received orders from people he knew, found pigs online, and then processed them himself. I was picking his brain over how he did it, as it was a little business. I’m fairly sure it’s illegal, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t know things that would help me. He told me that little pigs like mine he’d kill with a hammer.  That’s right.  A hammer.  It was at that point that I decided that none of my animals would be going home with him, so when he haggled I wouldn’t budge a cent on the price.

Killing any animal is unpleasant, but an obvious necessity if you’re going to eat them. I know exactly how our animals are killed, have spoken to the butcher and had a tour of the facility. It’s done legally and humanely, where the animal is stunned and feels nothing. None of that involves being bludgeoned to death with a hammer.

I was a little disconcerted by that experience, but I had a young guy call asking about getting a pair for breeding. We hadn’t planned on selling any of our girls, but the idea of selling a couple on who were going to live and breed really appealed to me.  We got the biggest of the second lot of girls and the smallest of the last lot of boys, and split them out.  A young couple came to get them the day before Christmas. His dad was an ex-pig farmer, but was out of the business. He wanted home-grown pork again, hence the breeders.

It felt awesome to sell those pigs on. For one, we knew they were actually going to a happy life of breeding with people who knew exactly how to care for them. I even picked their brains over where they were keeping them, and it sounded like they’d set up the piggy version of The Ritz.  I think the biggest feel-good moment out of this, however, was the fact that we’d actually sold some animals on, had doubled our money, and had made enough to pay for the bulk barley we’d just bought.  It felt like a very real step towards true self-sufficiency.

Linhda insists on taking pictures of me. I'm not sure why.

Linhda insists on taking pictures of me. I’m not sure why.

November 2012 Facebook Farm Statuses

  • Off to look at a milking goat! I’m going to be ruthless and heartless in my negotiations. If she’s no good, then we’ll not buy her! If she’s not the right price, we’ll not buy her! If they won’t put their buck over her for us, we’ll not buy her! On a totally unrelated note, I think I’ll name her Tinkerbelle…
  • That awkward moment when you’re in your veggie patch at dusk, you turn around, and one of the owls you put there to scare off bird scares the living shit out of you. Unfortunately, nobody was around to see my super cool spinning ninja move, or hear my manly high-pitched squeal. Seriously, if that had been a real vampire, I would’ve owned that bitch.
  • On the go at 7am, farm work past 8pm, cooking dinner at 8:45. Roll on Monday so I can go to work for a rest. 🙂
  • SO freaking windy. We lost a huge branch off a giant gum and had a smaller tree snap in half. Most importantly, however, is the head is missing off of my scarecrow! He was creepy before, but now he’s downright disturbing. And every time I look out the window from my desk, there he is “looking” at me…
  • Okay, now I’ve found two things the pigs don’t like – celery and broad bean pods. It takes everything to stop Smoked from eating my stinky old volleys or steel-toed boots, but she turns her nose up at broad bean pods. Silly piglet…
  • Might be picking up two meat cows tomorrow morning. Don’t tell Linhda…
  • Today I discovered that cows eat a *lot*, and the fart and poop *huge*. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s revelation where I discover that pigs smell.
  • Today was a bad news/good news farm day. The bad news was that our post-hole digger wouldn’t start, and we needed to get the bulk of the pig runs done. That meant I was forced to go and buy a new one. The good news was that today I had the perfect excuse to go out and buy a new post-hole digger. And then I got to play with it all day. It was a great day.
  • The definition of irony: Being in such a hurry to get out and work on infrastructure so you can grow your own organic, healthy, <insert hippy reference here> food that you have a bit of cake and an energy drink for breakfast.
  • Considering buying more pigs. Maybe a future husband for my girls, but maybe a couple more too… I may have a problem.
  • We have four new piglets!!!! One of them is going to be our baby daddy, and the others are going to be chops, bacon, ham, sausages etc. It’s like The Hunger Games, only tastier.
  • Reading up on pig breeding, like you do, when I run across the following hints for a successful session:
    • Do not hurry the boar, let him work in his own time.
    • Talk gently to the boar.
    • Do not force the boar to mount the sow, but direct him gently to the rear of the sow.
    • By adjusting the female’s tail, attempt to let the boar insert himself.

Basically, I’m supposed to guide two 300kg animals gently in their love making. I might try candle light and mood music… I’ve alternated between feeling dirty and laughing as I picture all of this. Either way, it will certainly be interesting.

  • I have a couple of nice-sized cauliflowers that are a little yellow and hard, and I’m not sure if they’re okay or maybe need some extra water or something. I turned to google for the answer, which is pretty much standard for every single thing I do, and so searched on “cauliflower yellow and hard”. The first four returns were about veggies, and then I started getting links to sites about genital warts. /shudder
The babies *adore* Bruce, but he likes to play hard-to-get.

The babies *adore* Bruce, but he likes to play hard-to-get.

It’s All About The Stock…

November was a big month for progressing our meat self-sufficiency. However, we also did well on the veggie front.

November is nice and warm, and sometimes has some decent rainfall.  That can be good and bad.  On the bad side, we had a huge storm that dropped a giant limb from one of our big gums.

A storm brought down a big limb, but it luckily didn't do any real damage.

A storm brought down a big limb, but it luckily didn’t do any real damage.

On the good side, our veggie patch was going great guns, with everything coming along in leaps and bounds.

Cherry Tomatoes.

Cherry Tomatoes.

Zucchinis. Or Courgette if you're being fancy.

Zucchinis. Or Courgette if you’re being fancy.

Pretty excited to be growing squash for the first time.

Pretty excited to be growing squash for the first time.

We also tried freezing our own spinach for the first time, and it worked well.  We sometimes use frozen spinach out-of-season for things like cannelloni, and with a little planning we should never have to buy it again.

I bit the bullet and bought some corn seed online. For several years in the suburbs I’d been saving the biggest cobs and drying the seed for the following season. We had managed to get a smallish crop of corn when we first started our backyard veggie patch here, and I’d carefully kept and dried half-a-dozen cobs.  The problem was that I was getting a germination rate of maybe 10%. In the suburbs we’d get over 90%, but something went wrong here.  I did manage to get a few dozen plants going between my hothouse and the backyard veggie patches, but I needed, quite literally, several hundred.

It took me a good 2 months to admit defeat and buy some seed stock.  November is later than I’d normally start my corn, and we had about 500 to plant. We had discovered early in 2012 that we could plant corn right through to the end of January here though, so I modified my plan to include staggered plantings over 10 or 12 weeks.

November was also good for frugality. To be honest, I suck at being frugal.  However, from a self-sufficiency point-of-view I need to modify my behaviour to make sure we make use of the most cost-effective solutions. To me “self-sufficiency” means these things eventually paying for themselves. For example, we breed pigs, sell our surplus, and that in turn pays for their feed, making them cost-neutral. Subsidising the entire venture out-of-pocket, to me, is wrong. I have no desire to make money from this, but working it up to the point where it pays for itself satisfies me philosophically.

I’d started my frugality paradigm shift in September by sourcing some super-cheap posts for the pig run.  In November I continued the trend in a couple of ways. Firstly, we found a couple of sources of cheap feed. One was a fodder store at Mallala, where they make their own cow/pig/sheep feed blend for $10 per 25kg bag.  This stuff is awesome too. It’s a mix of cracked cereal grains, peas, chaff, bran, and pollard, and isn’t the over-processed stuff you normally get where you can’t tell the ingredients without reading the pack.

Another was our neighbour, Farmer John.  We were able to get some green barley from him that he was going to dump.

Free barley! The best thing was sitting in the harvester. That thing is a beast!

Free barley! The best thing was sitting in the harvester. That thing is a beast!

At the same time we organised to source some retail-quality grain at wholesale prices. We couldn’t get it in November, but we organised barely at around $200 a tonne.  That’s 20 cents a kilo, where processed store-bought food can cost easily 5 and 6 times that much.

We’d looked at things like the professionally built feed and water troughs, which can easily cost several hundred dollars each. Dad found a place that sells cheap food-grade drums, which we modified as stock troughs. Rather than $500, we paid $5.

Our $5 stock troughs. That's $5 for the pair.

Our $5 stock troughs. That’s $5 for the pair.

It even has a handy hole to hold the hose. FYI, I like alliteration.

It even has a handy hole to hold the hose. FYI, I like alliteration.

The babies eating from the $5 trough.

The babies eating from the $5 trough.

We started the pig runs early in November. They are probably our largest project to date, and actually extended into January. That was partly because our plan evolved as we went, but also because we had some very warm weather that kept us from always making the progress we wanted.

We started by ripping down the crappy old farm fence between the southern end of our orchard area and the back paddock.  We then made a large rectangle, basically creating a single yard.

We ended up having to beat down about 500 square metres of our crop to make the pig yards happen.

We ended up having to beat down about 500 square metres of our crop to make the pig yards happen.

Our reclaimed posts worked a treat!

Our reclaimed posts worked a treat!

We were aiming for straight, but only really managed straightish.

We were aiming for straight, but only really managed straightish.

The plan was to create 5 yards.  A larger one for when the breeding pigs cohabitate, then enough to split them out when the girls are pregnant, and to keep any excess stock. All the while remembering that we’d be free-ranging them over the back paddock for about half the year.

Bruce being a site dog. Oh, and the pig yard is coming along nicely.

Bruce being a site dog. Oh, and the pig yard is coming along nicely.

We originally planned to use a post-and-rail design, but ended up going for wire panels.  These will in no way hold back a full-grown Large White pig; however, we plan on using electric fences to contain them.  We’d seen this used to good effect in the first place we went to buy pigs. Our plan is to train them to the electric fence, after which the wire panels are almost redundant. They certainly do respect the electric fences, and are more than intelligent enough to be trained to them. We’ll have to wait to see if our theory works though, after which we may very well need to spend some time modifying our runs.

This is going to be the big yard where the breeders hang out.

This is going to be the big yard where the breeders hang out.

You can see the electric fence, which is especially important between hungry pigs and The Patch.

You can see the electric fence, which is especially important between hungry pigs and The Patch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We actually made more progress on the pig runs than we’d expected for November. We got most of the runs done, the electric fence in place, and some recycled shedding set up. I’m not sure I can overstate just how much work went into this, which explains why it ended up taking a full two months and part of a third to finally finish them.

Trying to get a sense of the size of the yards.

Trying to get a sense of the size of the yards.

This was going to be our milking shed. Now it's a farrowing shed. Either way, it's recycled and free!

This was going to be our milking shed. Now it’s a farrowing shed. Either way, it’s recycled and free!

This is what greeted me every morning when I went to feed the babies. The trick is getting in without them getting out...

This is what greeted me every morning when I went to feed the babies. The trick is getting in without them getting out…

The pig run plan includes a race across all five yards along the southern boundary. Basically, each yard will have a gate into a 1200mm wide corridor that runs east-west along one end of them.  This means that at one end we can set up the stock-ramp and load them into the trailer, and at the other I can have a gate into my veggie patch where I can contain the pigs with electric fences and have them clean out my veggie beds.  It also means that we can move them from run-to-run without ever having them outside the yard complex. It sounds complicated, and this plan changed several times, but the underlying theory is sound and I was really quite excited to see it in action. Especially because up to now our stock loading procedure has included a lot of running around, swearing, and herding stubborn animals.  The race didn’t eventuate in November, but the plan was tied down.

Our meat self-sufficiency progress wasn’t all about the infrastructure. We actually managed to grow our furry family significantly too.

Early in November Linhda and I went to see a milking goat. We’d found one advertised on gumtree, had done some research, and decided to go meet her.  As I’ve mentioned before our five year plan ended in pigs and a milking animal. We had the pigs, so it only made sense to fast-forward the milking plan.

A milking cow wouldn’t fit our lifestyle right now. We’d looked at Dexters, and though they were tempting, they still produce 10 litres of milk a day and need to be milked twice daily. The excess milk isn’t a huge problem when you have pigs, but with my travel and Linhda’s work schedule we couldn’t commit to twice daily milkings.  However, we found that you can milk goats just once a day, though you get less milk than if you milk them twice a day.

The girl we went to see is half Saanen. The people we bought her from bought her mother, a full Saanen, when she was pregnant. They weren’t sure what breed the father was. Dairy goats need to be pregnant every year or three to bring and keep their milk in, which explains why the mother was pregnant when purchased.

My experience with goat milk was… unpleasant. To be honest, I’d found it to taste a little rancid. However, I had tried a lot of goat cheese that I liked. I was conflicted when we went to meet this girl, but the guy who owned her was awesome! For one, he was building the straightest, most professionally built fence I’ve ever seen, which means nothing when it comes to goats, but did manage to impress the hell out of me. For another, he was super helpful and answered all of our noob questions. He even took us back to his house to show us the milking stand and let us taste the milk.  The milk was fantastic! It was rich and creamy, without any aftertaste at all.

The goat was gorgeous, though much, much larger than we expected. Saanen’s are the largest dairy breed, but you don’t realise just how solid they are until you’re up close-and-personal with them.  She was a sweety though, and tasting the milk sealed deal.  We left her there to hang with the buck so she could get pregnant, planning to go back a month later to get her.

We were facing a bit of a crisis when it came to our crop.  Our initial plan was to have a small breeding flock of either sheep or goats, which was part of the reason why we’d bought both breeds to feed-on earlier in the year. We’d settled on sheep, and in the middle of the year had looked at breeding stock online. However, our pig plans had changed all of that. With pigs and their potential to give us many, many surplus babies every year, we no longer needed a breeding flock of sheep. However, the wheat was too ripe to cut for hay, not that we had the equipment for that anyway. Reaping it was an option, but we didn’t have that equipment either, and the amount we’d get made hiring somebody to cut it uneconomical.

Our only real option was controlled grazing.  With that in mind, we went looking for the right stock, and managed to find Friesian steers.  Friesian is a dairy breed, which makes most of the boys good for only meat for obvious reasons.  The lady we bought them from worked at a dairy farm, and had managed to score 8 or so of the boy calves. The problem was that she’d bonded with them, and couldn’t bring herself to eat them.  She’d managed to have two of them processed by having a neighbour help her and split the meat, but she couldn’t eat it. Apparently she gave it away to family, but literally couldn’t eat a bite of it.  Add to that the fact that she had 18 sheep on the property that were in the same “pet zone”, as well as a Shetland pony, and her place was a dust bowl. She was desperate to sell most of them on.

Friesian’s obviously aren’t a meat breed, but from the research I did they’d been selectively bred over the years to increase their meat quality and are really quite good for beef.  They cost me $130 each, where the pure beef breeds seem to sell for between $500 and $1000 each, so I figured they were a good introduction to beef stock as well as a good solution to our crop eating needs.

Loading the new cows. This was the first real test of our new stock ramp.

Loading the new cows. This was the first real test of our new stock ramp.

That would be Fillet.

That would be Fillet.

That would be Steak.

That would be Steak.

Fillet and Steak being denied access to The Patch.

Fillet and Steak being denied access to The Patch.

Fillet and Steak exploring their new home.

Fillet and Steak exploring their new home.

More reclaimed drums being used as stock troughs. The whole drum cost us $18.

More reclaimed drums being used as stock troughs. The whole drum cost us $18.

The boys were 7 and 5 months old. The lady we got them from said they’re ready to slaughter from 10 months, at which time she’d gotten around 90kg of meat each from them.  At 10 months they’re only just starting to fill out though, so our plan is to keep them until 18 months or so.

Being hand-raised is a good news/bad news situation. It really does make them easier to handle and transport etc., but it also means they won’t leave us alone.

That tongue is awesome!

That tongue is awesome!

Fillet may have a drinking problem...

Fillet may have a drinking problem…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and I named them “Fillet” and “Steak”. 🙂

The cows turned out to be perfect for controlled grazing of our crop. We rigged a stand-off fence which we can move as required. The back paddock is basically L-shaped, which means we can step the fence along and gauge fairly accurately how much they’ll eat and how far we have to move it.

The cows are fascinating to watch too. Unlike the goats and sheep, they don’t bite their food off with their teeth, but rather use their tongues. When let into a fresh area of the crop they walk around and use their tongue to strip the heads from the wheat. Once the grain is gone, they eat the rest of the plant.  That means we don’t move the fence until the straw is just about entirely eaten down.  If they were left uncontrolled on the entire 2 acres, they’d do nothing but eat the grain from the wheat, make themselves sick, and potentially die.

Setting up the stand-off fence.

Setting up the stand-off fence.

Moving the stand-off fence. You can really see where the cows have been versus the untouched crop.

Moving the stand-off fence. You can really see where the cows have been versus the untouched crop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We weren’t done with the cows though. Browsing gumtree, which became a nearly daily ritual, I found some people selling 4 Large White entire males. They were maybe a little over an hour north of us, and wanted $250 for all four. We paid $150 for the first Large White male we bought.

We needed a baby daddy for our girls, and had been tossing up the idea of artificial insemination (pun fully intended).  There’s a pig farm close by where you can buy semen, and there’s apparently a half-day course that teaches you how to use it. While the thought of buying semen makes me giggle, it doesn’t quite sit right. This is our breeding program. We’ve chosen to breed pigs over sheep and goats etc., and buying in the male portion of that, be it a temporary animal or his semen, just doesn’t sit right with me.  That might be peculiar to my mind-set, and may not be entirely pragmatic, but I wanted to own and have a relationship with the boar that was going to sire our babies.

We really only needed one boy, and my plan was to go meet these 4 boys and choose the largest/best/friendliest. However, when I rang the lady told me that they were coming down past my place the following day, and they were that cheap price if you took all four. Basically, I could get all four delivered for barely $60 each. That was too good to pass up, so I took them all.

Our new babies!

Our new babies!

Trying to bond with the new boys by bribing them with leafy greens.

Trying to bond with the new boys by bribing them with leafy greens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our plan was to keep them a while and choose the best, which probably equates to the biggest, and eat the rest.

I’m not sure these boys are Large Whites. Or at least they’re not pure Large White. Our original babies are apparently “Large White with a touch of Landrace”, as explained to use by the people who bred them. These new boys have more than a “touch” of Landrace in them I think. They’re a couple of weeks older than our original pigs, but have always been significantly smaller. Their ears are also floppy, which is a sign of less Large White and more Landrace.  That’s not entirely a bad thing though. We want a bore that’ll give us babies that’ll grow quickly and large, but we also need one that won’t be too big to serve the girls.  These boys seem the perfect compromise. Fingers crossed…

Our bearded dragon also came back for a visit! I found him perched on one of the fruit tree stakes in the orchard, sunning himself and generally looking healthy and happy.

The Bearded Dragon back for a visit.

The Bearded Dragon back for a visit.