October was mostly about gearing up for the warmer weather. Before moving to the country, Summer was easily my favourite season. Now that we’re completely at the mercy of the elements, and especially South Australia’s harsh Summers, I’ve done a 180 and love Winter. I wasn’t at all ready to give up my amazing cool-weather veggie patch, but the seasons apparently march on…
We tore out our legume bed at the start of October. It probably had a week left in it, but we had a long weekend and I wanted to make the most of it. TI then spent a half-day with our amazing rotary hoe and prepared the beds.
We then set up some irrigation. I can see this being a continually evolving process, but this year we’re drip-irrigating as much as we can, and we increased the height of the risers on the beds that we’re over-head irrigating.
We also had a different idea about supporting the tomatoes. We used star droppers and old sheep panel to make long supports. We’ll be able to weave the tomatoes through them, and then recycle them next year for the legumes. We found that our legume supports this year weren’t adequate, and resulted in some wastage.
We did a fair bit of harvesting too. The peas and beans all came up, and our beetroot is doing amazing things.
We also have tried artichoke this year for the first time, and it’s also going great guns.
We’re trying some different things this year. I’ve doubled the space between both the corn rows and the corn plants, allowing us to better grow squash/zucchini between the rows, and beans or peas up the corn plants. That’ll give us a quarter of the plants we had last year (around 250 rather than 1000), but I’m confident we’ll get 3 or 4 times the number of ears per plant. It should result in close to the same amount of corn, but a lot less work and water.
The last veggie thing we did was plant out some seeds in our hothouse. Last year we had the timing down pretty well, but I think this year we’ve left it a bit late. We have some store-bought tomatoes in, and I’d like to have the other half of the bed in within a month or so. At this rate, however, we’ll be lucky to have it in properly by Christmas.
We really did a lot of work in The Patch over October, and this entry really doesn’t do it justice. I did again reinforce to myself the fact that having farm equipment often makes this amount of work just a little easier…
We also worked on Linhda’s patch. We had two veggie patches up near the house, and the small one over the septic was a little problematic. It really doesn’t get enough sun, and the rest of the veggie patches add up to something over 400 square metres, so that poor little one was a little neglected. Linhda wanted an ornamental productive bed, so we converted the little one. It’s turned out beautifully, and is actually where our artichoke is. Apart from that, she has a heap of herbs, plus things like rhubarb and turmeric. She even threw in a couple of tomato plants and a capsicum. Oh! And hops! I’m growing hops in there!
Lots of the normal little farm events also happened…
The ducklings grew a lot, and transferred outside towards the end of October.
We got these via some fertile eggs off of gumtree, and they were advertised as Muscovy eggs. These aren’t Muscovy ducks though…
We got a slicer for the bacon. I was expecting a small, family-type slicer, but dad ended up scoring this giant industrial thing!
The mulberry tree started it’s short season, and the fruit was gorgeous. Linhda managed to make the best mulberry/citrus jelly I’ve ever tried. Apart from that, we ate our body weights in fresh mulberries straight from the tree.
We caught a rat in the roof. I put live capture traps up there a long time ago, but without ever catching anything. Dad heard something up there, I checked, and we’d caught a rat! The truly weird thing was that she’d been pregnant, she’d dragged some insulation into the trap as a nest, and she’d given birth! It was like catching 7 rats at once, mainly because it was actually catching 7 rats at once.
We organised a heap of hay from Farmer John next door. We got 2 bails originally, and he’s storing 12 more at his farm for us. These bails come from one or two kilometres away, which means the carbon footprint is hugely decreased. That’s a big win in our eyes. We’re also organising 7 or 8 tonnes of barley, but that won’t be until November. We’ll keep a tonne at our place in our handy dandy blue barrels, and will fill a 7 tonne silo John has at his farm. He’s done all of this out of the kindness of his heart, without us ever asking. I plan on giving him half a pig in return. He’s certainly earned it.
We got a new chainsaw! My big Farm Boss is amazing, and I love, love, love using it. However, it weighs a tonne, and using it for an hour or three means sore arms, shoulders, back, ego the next day. I wanted something a bit smaller, and a bit more agile. The big one has a 20 inch bar, while much of the wood we cut is between 2 and 10 inches. Our mate Pete hooked us up with a Mini Farm Boss, which has a 14 inch bar. We cut the rest of our wood with it – somewhere between 2 and 3 tonnes. Some of the big stuff needed the big chainsaw, but a majority of it was done with the little fella. It was awesome!
I got a spider bite sometime in the middle of October. I had a red mark on the forefinger knuckle on my left hand, which at first I took for sunburn. It blistered over a couple of days while I was travelling for work, and soon turned into a full-blown mess.
I bit the bullet and went to the doctor (i.e. Linhda made me). The doctor decided to cut out the blister and put me on antibiotics. They wanted me to go back every couple of days, but I asked if I could just dress it myself. They put this sticky, medicated gauze stuff on it, which I had to keep on the wound as it would apparently eat into unprotected skin. It lasted a day, after which I ripped it off and just let it heal.
Linhda scratched herself too. It was nothing, but I like to stroke her ego.
And of course, there are pig things to talk about!
Boris managed to move his house so the opening was facing the electric fence, which means he was trapped. That’s not exactly news worthy, but it was pretty funny.
We split out 5 of the babies and put them in the spare duck run (before the ducklings occupied it). We were planning on keeping 11 to feed on – 1 for us, and 10 for friends. We had Lumpy, the little one with the abscess on his butt, and I was going to keep him until he healed at least. That left 3 excess to sell as weaners. I split out those 3, Lumpy, and Dopey, the runty piglet. Dopey was just not big enough to compete for food with 14 siblings and I thought he’d have a better chance against 4. It worked too, and he was able to get enough food.
I put an advert on gumtree, explaining exactly what our meat philosophy was, how these pigs were raised with love, all outlined in a half-dozen painstakingly crafted paragraphs. The only response I got was somebody wanting to come see the place, somebody wanting me to grow them pork, and somebody calling me horrible names because I’d dare sell meat animals.
I had a think about it, and added to the advert. I changed a few things around, and thought the result even better than the first advert. This time there were no responses. This puzzled me, as every time we’ve seen piglets on gumtree they’ve sold quickly, and the people we’ve spoken to have said they could sell their piglets three times over.
Linhda came up with a solution. She suggested I changed the add to be: piglets, location, price. I was sceptical, but did it. I was away for work and had a heap of phone calls. They all sold to the first guy to come see them. He actually wanted all 3 of our excess pigs, but when he turned up I told him that we had a fourth, as Lumpy’s butt was better. He didn’t hesitate and took all 4.
The really encouraging thing about this is that we had a few people, including the guy who bought these 4, who have asked to be informed the next time we have a litter. There seems to be a real demand for good weaner piglets, which means our meat should continue to pay for itself for the foreseeable future.
We ended up putting both mums together with all of the remaining piglets. We’d heard that sows don’t always get on when they’ve got babies. However, our two girls really are sweeties, they’ve lived their entire lives together, and the babies were slipping between the two runs anyway and getting milk from whoever would give it. I opened the runs up, and the two mums have been cohabitating ever since.
We also free-ranged the babies for the first time. We had to split the cows and goats from them, as Clarisse has horns that she likes to throw around when it comes to competing for food, and I didn’t want a baby getting in their way. The babies love being in the back paddock, which I think is a combination of being able to run around like mad things and the fact that there is zero competition for a whole heap of food.
Apart from that, the piglets grew like weeds and continue to impress with their cuteness. Almost everyone will come up without hesitation for a love, and several of them like to roll on their sides for belly rubs.
All-in-all, October was quite productive. We’re harvesting from The Patch, despite the change from cold to warm weather crops. Our carrots and parsnips are producing nicely, and our beetroot is the best I’ve ever seen. October was still good for leafy greens even, as the truly warm weather hadn’t started yet. We still have freezers mostly full of our meat too, which means a lot of big family meals that come entirely from our property. There really is nothing more satisfying…