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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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!
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.