November, it’s all about the maintenance, harvest, preserving… oh, and guns…

It seemed like all we did in November was tread water. We did a heap of work, but it was mostly maintenance without a lot of things that felt like progress.  Looking back, however, we did okay.

The piglets grew a heap.

The piglets are getting huge!

The piglets are getting huge!

They needed their own kind of maintenance though.  We planted out the back paddock with a mixture of barley, peas, and rye, and we found that the rye seeds get stuck in little piglet eyes.  One of the advantages of having super-tame pigs though, is that they stand still when you pick that stuff out.

That rye seed came out of that piglet's eye.

That rye seed came out of that piglet’s eye.

There were a few days where I’d pick out 2 or 3 seeds from various piglets. The lesson here is to avoid rye next year.

We also had some good friends come out for a BBQ, and to meet their piglet in person.  To me, that’s about the biggest win we could ever hope for.

Pete meeting Gianna, his piglet.

Pete meeting Gianna, his piglet.

Probably our biggest pig progress was the fact that we put Honey back in with Boris.  We had 11 piglets left, and didn’t need both mums in with them. We want to control how often we have piglets, mainly aimed at getting spit pigs at just the right time for birthday celebrations. 🙂  We want a spit pig for May, and so put Honey back with the big man. I think they may have been together for maybe 5 minutes before they were… consummating their undying love. By porking. Pun fully intended.

Boris and Honey having complete disregard to the fact that some of their kids are watching from the other side of the fence.

Boris and Honey having complete disregard to the fact that some of their kids are watching from the other side of the fence.

And just in case it wasn't clear, here's a close-up.

And just in case it wasn’t clear, here’s a close-up.

This is Boris' post-coital mud bath. It's the porky equivalent of having a cigarette, or rolling over to go to sleep.

This is Boris’ post-coital mud bath. It’s the porky equivalent of having a cigarette, or rolling over to go to sleep.

Lastly in pig news, here is a gratuitous pig shot, because Boris doesn’t get enough attention.

This is why we can't have clean water. Ever.

This is why we can’t have clean water. Ever.

We did a heap of maintenance on the veggie patches, which takes a surprising amount of time.

We're getting better at growing potatoes, but I think we still have a long way to go.

We’re getting better at growing potatoes, but I think we still have a long way to go.

The zucchinis were coming on nicely.

The zucchinis were coming on nicely.

We learned to pick the squash when they're maybe palm-sized, rather than dinner plate sized like last year.

We learned to pick the squash when they’re maybe palm-sized, rather than dinner plate sized like last year.

The pumpkins are loving life.

The pumpkins are loving life.

We were also able to harvest quite a bit. We had a big win, and also learned a valuable lesson.

Firstly, our beetroot harvest was amazing.  We’ve found that we use beetroot in hot meals like roasts, but also cold meals in a couple of awesome salads. We also preserve it in the form of relish and pickled beetroot.  I grew a heap more this year, wanting to see how much we could use, and we’ve ended up with a couple of dozen jars of relish and about four dozen jars of pickled beetroot.

Sometimes size really does matter...

Sometimes size really does matter…

We were harvesting this much pretty much whenever we wanted.

We were harvesting this much pretty much whenever we wanted.

Bulk beetroot processing!

Bulk beetroot processing!

This has given us a good idea on exactly how much we should grow next year.  We’ve also learned that we prefer the globe-shaped beetroot, and the Derwent Globes in particular.

This is one of our batches of pickled beetroot. Between the pickled and relish forms, we probably did this 6 or 7 times over the October to December period.

This is one of our batches of pickled beetroot. Between the pickled and relish forms, we probably did this 6 or 7 times over the October to December period.

We had over an inch of rain over a couple of days in the middle of the month. Our garlic was done, in fact potentially a week past done, and I decided that would be a good time to harvest it.  We planted 7 different varieties, and something like 150 plants. Linhda did her normal stellar job at plaiting it, but we found a week later that some had gone soft.  It turns out that you need to harvest it in dry conditions, or at least let it dry before hanging it.  We lost maybe 10% to 20% of the harvest, though we’re using it to make an organic insecticide and we’ll still have more than enough for the year.  It’s a good lesson though.

I had some beeswax sitting in a jar for a while, and couldn’t quite find the right way to melt and use it.  I did a heap of research and found a method that has you basically boil it in water, sieve, let a disc of wax form, and then repeat but sieve it through cloth.  This was super-simple and gave us gorgeously pure wax.  I think it’s slightly more dangerous than the other methods though, as the wax is apparently quite flammable. However, it worked like a champ, and I made a candle!

This is the first time around, when the bigger impurities have been filtered out.

This is the first time around, when the bigger impurities have been filtered out.

This is the second time around, when the second filtering removes the rest of the impurities.

This is the second time around, when the second filtering removes the rest of the impurities.

And I made a candle! Seriously, I am oddly proud of that candle, and show it to pretty much anybody who visits.

And I made a candle! Seriously, I am oddly proud of that candle, and show it to pretty much anybody who visits.

We also started to get eggs from the Australorps.  By our calculations they were 17 weeks old, and maybe 19 weeks at the absolute outside, where we weren’t expecting eggs for another 5 to 10 weeks! The eggs are small, but they’ll get bigger.

We’ve been looking at aquaponics, the method where you grow fish and use a hydroponic set up to filter and recycle the water.  We found a local-ish guy who has tertiary qualifications in that area, and who sells the equipment. We booked one of his tours, which took us to commercial aquaculture and hydroponic set ups, and then to his place for the aquaponics set ups. It’s fascinating, and is definitely something we’ll look at once I have a poly-tunnel organised.  My aim is to grow our own barramundi and yabbies, though it might take a while to perfect the method.

I think the best way to get a sense of the progress we’re making is to look at the amount of food we eat that comes from our property.  We have entire meals where the ingredients were grown by us.  We have a heap of other meals where only one or two things (e.g. sweet potato or mushrooms) come from the supermarket. It really does give you a huge sense of achievement, especially in those months where it doesn’t feel like you’re doing much that leads you in a forward direction.

Everything on this plate came from my property...

Everything on this plate came from my property…

... except the cheese sauce.

… except the cheese sauce.

Lastly, we had some wild life in our sheds. One morning I found a blue tongue in our big shed. It was a cool night and he’d come in to get warm. He was beautiful, and I made sure he slipped away safely.

This guy was in the shed and a little cold one morning. I made sure he got safely away. I've got a soft spot for our scaled brothers and sisters...

This guy was in the shed and a little cold one morning. I made sure he got safely away. I’ve got a soft spot for our scaled brothers and sisters…

Later in the month we had a rat in the little shed, which is only one of the few we’ve been able to catch. I actually really like the rats, but we need to control their numbers. It’s one of those uncomfortable necessities of farm life… 😦

At least Bruce is impressed with my masterful rat catching skills.

At least Bruce is impressed with my masterful rat catching skills.

2 thoughts on “November, it’s all about the maintenance, harvest, preserving… oh, and guns…

  1. Pingback: Big self-sufficiency steps were made! | The Atherton Farm Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s