We’ve Expanded!

We’ve been looking for a second place for a long, long time. We had huge expansion plans, none of which would work on our modest block at Templers. We spent, quite literally, years trying to find the perfect place.  A few things were defeating us.

Firstly, we live in the middle of South Australia’s bread basket. While that makes our surrounds quite pleasant, it also makes them quite expensive.  All of the places close to home were out of our price range.  At first I didn’t think they would be, but that leads me to my next point…

Secondly, the current lending rules are prohibitive to most people who want to buy rural property.  This is a big one, and I’m going to devote a whole other blog post to how shit this is, and how I believe it risks the longevity of our farming community.  We had a nice deposit, we had some equity in our other places, and we had income to service a loan. However, even a relatively modest $300k property meant we would require a $110k deposit.  How does that even make sense?!  I won’t bang on about it here, because I’ll never shut up.  However, think about any farmers you might know. How many of them are first generation?  I suspect the answer will be none of them, and the current lending rules are a big part of that.

Thirdly, there’s a dearth of nice-sized farmlets, which are smallish holdings – bigger than a hobby farm, but not broad-acre farm big.  Those around us tend to get snapped up by the big guys, and were probably beyond what the bank would lend us anyway.

We started looking further and further afield to find a place, and one that we could afford.  We could get land close to home without a house, as we’d be able to go back-and-forth to feed. However, finding a block of land that had water was hard enough, and finding one with water and power turned out to be impossible.  Finding smallish (sub 100 acre) blocks without a house was difficult, and it meant that the only lending option was pure rural.  They sometimes popped up with houses, which solved the water/power problem and made the lending easier, but it often more than doubled the price.

If we went further out we could find affordable blocks, though we faced the same power/water issues.  However, we’d need a house so we could spend the night, and that of course forced the price up.  We ended up looking at dozens and dozens and dozens of places over the course of a couple of years.

We ended up finding a place at Lochiel, which is slightly less than an hour north of us.  It was perfect – over 70 acres, lots of infrastructure, and a nice house.  Even then, it took us finding an amazing bank business loan/mortgage guy to help us get it over the line. Seriously, the hoops we had to jump through to make this happen were incredibly frustrating. I got my stubborn on though, and we ended up settling on a place on Christmas Eve.

And yes, the house still uses those kinds of keys. We also found out just how expensive it is to get them cut!

And yes, the house still uses those kinds of keys. We also found out just how expensive it is to get them cut!

 

This is the only real picture I have of the house. While the house wasn't really a consideration for me, it is genuinely very nice - 9 foot ceilings, timber floors, 4 bedrooms + study, new kitchen etc. To be honest, I like it more than the place at Templers.

This is the only real picture I have of the house. While the house wasn’t really a consideration for me, it is genuinely very nice – 9 foot ceilings, timber floors, 4 bedrooms + study, new kitchen etc. To be honest, I like it more than the place at Templers.

I wasn’t sure how to approach this blog.  Should I pontificate about the block, the infrastructure, and the house? Should I bang on about the work we had to do?  Should I describe all of the things we want to do there?  That all sounded like way more work than I wanted to do on a Monday night, so I figured I’d make this mostly a blog in pictures.  We’ve taken enough of the bloody things since we found out we could have the place, so I might as well make good use of them. 🙂

I’ll start small and work my way up…

This is a stumpy lizard, or shingle-back skink. Linhda calls him Lionel. They're everywhere, and she calls every one of them Lionel.

This is a stumpy lizard, or shingle-back skink. Linhda calls him Lionel. They’re everywhere, and she calls every one of them Lionel.

Lionel pops up everywhere.

Lionel pops up everywhere.

On the back porch.

On the back porch.

In Bruce's bowl.

In Bruce’s bowl.

Eating our grapes off the vine.

Eating our grapes off the vine.

And he even pops up from around things, just to look snake like and give you a little fright.

And he even pops up from around things, just to look snake like and give you a little fright.

This old plough is lovely, but huge and in exactly the wrong spot. We wanted to move it, and had to do it before we could build any fences.

This old plough is lovely, but huge and in exactly the wrong spot. We wanted to move it, and had to do it before we could build any fences.

I wasn't sure the Ranger would be able to move it.  The plough must weigh a tonne or two, and it's not exactly in good repair.

I wasn’t sure the Ranger would be able to move it. The plough must weigh a tonne or two, and it’s not exactly in good repair.

We ended up ploughing the ground between its old spot and its new spot just a little. :) You can see how we've cleaned up under the trees here.  Those trees are probably 50 or 60 years old, and I doubt they'd ever been trimmed back. We had to make it pig friendly and make it so we could walk under them.

We ended up ploughing the ground between its old spot and its new spot just a little. 🙂
You can see how we’ve cleaned up under the trees here. Those trees are probably 50 or 60 years old, and I doubt they’d ever been trimmed back. We had to make it pig friendly and make it so we could walk under them.

And this is the final resting place - behind the workshop.

And this is the final resting place – behind the workshop.

The place has never had front gates.  That may be because digging holes next to the driveway was so hard that I considered giving up partway through. :)

The place has never had front gates. That may be because digging holes next to the driveway was so hard that I considered giving up partway through. 🙂

 

The infrastructure on the place was what first attracted me to it.  The sheds are old, and a couple need some work, but every single one of them will be useful to us.  The implement shed alone is over 300 square metres! There are housing blocks in the suburb we used to live in that are smaller than that!

And don’t get me started on the loading yards. I would’ve bought the place for those alone.  They’re older than the house, which makes them over 60 years old, and they’re 100% hand-made.  They need a small amount of work, and we need to put in a lower ramp.  They’re freaking gorgeous though.

The implement shed. Seriously well built and HUGE!

The implement shed. Seriously well built and HUGE!

This isn't a great shot, but it has the Ranger for scale.

This isn’t a great shot, but it has the Ranger for scale.

The workshop. You can't see, but it has a pit on the other end and lots of benches.

The workshop. You can’t see, but it has a pit on the other end and lots of benches.

The last owners used this as a chook shed. I'm not sure what it was originally, but there are other foundations around. It might've been part of an original house.

The last owners used this as a chook shed. I’m not sure what it was originally, but there are other foundations around. It might’ve been part of an original house.

Inside the old chook shed, which is now one of my farrowing sheds.

Inside the old chook shed, which is now one of my farrowing sheds.

Longer view of the workshop. Those trees to the left are all cleaned up now and it's fenced off for the breeders.

Longer view of the workshop. Those trees to the left are all cleaned up now and it’s fenced off for the breeders.

This looks dodgy, but is awesome. It's an old fuel shed/depot.  It's perfect for storing grain - just back the Ranger up and cart the bags on/off.

This looks dodgy, but is awesome. It’s an old fuel shed/depot. It’s perfect for storing grain – just back the Ranger up and cart the bags on/off.

This is an old motor shed - around 3 x 7 or 8. We've also converted this into a farrowing shed, but will need to put up lean boards before putting a mum in there.

This is an old motor shed – around 3 x 7 or 8. We’ve also converted this into a farrowing shed, but will need to put up lean boards before putting a mum in there.

This is where it's at! These are my loading yards. So beautiful, and so freaking useful!

This is where it’s at! These are my loading yards. So beautiful, and so freaking useful!

We have a huge amount of work to do.  That started with clearing undergrowth out from the shade trees, and putting in a heap of yards/fences.  That was all over summer and the ground is more than a little unforgiving at times.  We were determined to not make the same mistakes we made at Templers, where we moved in over summer and almost killed ourselves by working in the heat.  That determination mostly paid off, though a few times I had to force myself to stop before the sun did some damage. Still, no risks, no rewards, right? 🙂

This is most of the rocks that came out of the hole I dug for the post in the background. That's from one hole, and I had to dig them out with a crowbar.

This is most of the rocks that came out of the hole I dug for the post in the background. That’s from one hole, and I had to dig them out with a crowbar.

The first yard we built was for the Saddlebacks. It was actually one of two huge yards, attached to a larger free-ranged paddock.

The first yard we built was for the Saddlebacks. It was actually one of two huge yards, attached to a larger free-ranged paddock.

Farmgenuity is using a triple truckies' hitch to pull the panel up tight. Impatience is putting the F100 into reverse to get it that bit tighter.

Farmgenuity is using a triple truckies’ hitch to pull the panel up tight.
Impatience is putting the F100 into reverse to get it that bit tighter.

Fencing is a family affair.

Fencing is a family affair.

Our first race.

Our first race.

We learned from our other race, and made this one a bit narrower. You don't want them turning around.

We learned from our other race, and made this one a bit narrower. You don’t want them turning around.

We've not used this as a race yet, and need to extend it down towards the grower paddocks so we can run it into the loading yards.  That'll happen in slow time.

We’ve not used this as a race yet, and need to extend it down towards the grower paddocks so we can run it into the loading yards. That’ll happen in slow time.

We've seen a lot of pig paddocks/yards/enclosures, and most of them are super dodgy. There's something about housing pigs that makes people think they should throw material together rather than build something permanent.  Not these paddocks though - they're pro!

We’ve seen a lot of pig paddocks/yards/enclosures, and most of them are super dodgy. There’s something about housing pigs that makes people think they should throw material together rather than build something permanent. Not these paddocks though – they’re pro!

We made as much use as we could from the limited shade but building the breeder paddocks around the trees.

We made as much use as we could from the limited shade buy building the breeder paddocks around the trees.

We've had to run a heap of water too, and will have to run a heap more.

We’ve had to run a heap of water too, and will have to run a heap more.

The most terrifying tool on any farm. That's why I let dad use it. :)

The most terrifying tool on any farm. That’s why I let dad use it. 🙂

This is my pig lock (patent pending). The theory is that we can get in there with a vehicle, and close the gate behind us before opening the gate in front. It works well, but we need to modify the design a bit on the next ones. I may actually end up tearing half of this one down and rebuilding it.

This is my pig lock (patent pending). The theory is that we can get in there with a vehicle, and close the gate behind us before opening the gate in front. It works well, but we need to modify the design a bit on the next ones. I may actually end up tearing half of this one down and rebuilding it.

Our first pig shelter on the place.

Our first pig shelter on the place.

The pigs approve.

The pigs approve.

As does Bruce.

As does Bruce.

Shelter up, complete with shade. We modified the design a bit to allow us to tension the shade cloth. It works well.

Shelter up, complete with shade. We modified the design a bit to allow us to tension the shade cloth. It works well.

We'll stack the big half-tonne rectangular bales of straw around the outside before the wet weather hits.  They'll be snug and dry.

We’ll stack the big half-tonne rectangular bales of straw around the outside before the wet weather hits. They’ll be snug and dry.

Sometimes even a farmer needs to take a breather. In my defence, it was 35 degrees and super high humidity that day, and I was the one digging the holes.

Sometimes even a farmer needs to take a breather. In my defence, it was 35 degrees and super high humidity that day, and I was the one digging the holes.

The infrastructure and the house are nice, but the thing I wanted most was the land.  That’s what it was all about for me.

A bit of a panoramic shot facing west from down near the loading yards.

A bit of a panoramic shot facing west from down near the loading yards.

Facing the wind turbines. They stretch for miles.

Facing the wind turbines. They stretch for miles.

There's a block of scrub behind us, complete with kangaroos.

There’s a block of scrub behind us, complete with kangaroos.

From near the northern boundary facing the house and sheds.

From near the northern boundary facing the house and sheds.

Facing south and west from the back of the block.

Facing south and west from the back of the block.

I think those hills are called The Bumbungas.  I have trouble saying that without sniggering though.

I think those hills are called The Bumbungas. I have trouble saying that without sniggering though.

This is standing to the west of the house, and facing west. Believe it or not, that's an intensive pig farm just over those trees.

This is standing to the west of the house, and facing west. Believe it or not, that’s an intensive pig farm just over those trees.

Panoramic shot facing north and west.

Panoramic shot facing north and west.

Facing east along an old fence line. Most of the work we face is removing 50+ year old fences and making pig-friendly yards.

Facing east along an old fence line. Most of the work we face is removing 50+ year old fences and making pig-friendly yards.

And of course, we only have the land so we can keep animals.  The first animals we moved there were sheep.

The first animals we took up. We spent a good few weeks getting fences in before getting the pigs up there.  The sheep were pretty easy though - fire and forget in the back paddock.

The first animals we took up. We spent a good few weeks getting fences in before getting the pigs up there. The sheep were pretty easy though – fire and forget in the back paddock.

We got the sheep up for their annual shots.  This was the first test run of the loading yards and they worked a treat.

We got the sheep up for their annual shots. This was the first test run of the loading yards and they worked a treat.

We had 2.5 inches of rain in one day, which was both amazing and scary. The result was greenery a week later though, which is nice.

We had 2.5 inches of rain in one day, which was both amazing and scary. The result was greenery a week later though, which is nice.

The downside of having tame animals...

The downside of having tame animals…

You can't tell, but these guys are facing off against Bruce.  The one on the left is Robert, one of our rams.

You can’t tell, but these guys are facing off against Bruce. The one on the left is Robert, one of our rams.

Most of why we have the land is for pigs.  I want lots and lots of pigs.  We started by buying in a breeding herd of Wessex Saddlebacks, and our first litters should be dropping in April/May, 2016.  We’ve since then moved almost all of the pigs from our Templers place, including the litter Honey had shortly after the fires, and we bought in a heap of Berkshire piglets.  They’ll fill the gap in production caused by the fires, and we’ll be able to choose breeders from the best of the gilts.

A big boost to our plans to phase to heritage breeds - a breeding herd of Wessex Saddlebacks. This is the boar, Reggie (pedigree name of "Dominator"), Mable, and Ginger.

A big boost to our plans to phase to heritage breeds – a breeding herd of Wessex Saddlebacks. This is the boar, Reggie (pedigree name of “Dominator”), Mable, and Ginger.

This is Molly, Melba, Betty, and Lucille.

This is Molly, Melba, Betty, and Lucille.

Reggie doing what he does best. Well, the thing he does second best.  There'll be another picture of what he actually does best in a little bit...

Reggie doing what he does best. Well, the thing he does second best. There’ll be another picture of what he actually does best in a little bit…

Molly.  I think she might be my favourite.

Molly. I think she might be my favourite.

Reggie courting one of his ladies.

Reggie courting one of his ladies.

This isn't a great picture, but this is what Reggie does best.  He just prefers a bit of privacy...

This isn’t a great picture, but this is what Reggie does best. He just prefers a bit of privacy…

A Berkshire grower in our first free-range grower paddock. That's a hectare of space behind it, but it's more interested in saying hey to me.

A Berkshire grower in our first free-range grower paddock. That’s a hectare of space behind it, but it’s more interested in saying hey to me.

I like to tour the fences on the motorbike. The Berkshires seem fascinated by the bike, and like to chase it up and down the fence line.

I like to tour the fences on the motorbike. The Berkshires seem fascinated by the bike, and like to chase it up and down the fence line.

Reggie close-up!

Reggie close-up!

This is Ginger. She's gorgeous.

This is Ginger. She’s gorgeous.

Reggie with part of his harem.

Reggie with part of his harem.

Baby Berkies!

Baby Berkies!

It looks like the bigger baconer there is cracking a joke. She's a sweety.

It looks like the bigger baconer there is cracking a joke. She’s a sweety.

Always curious.

Always curious.

This is Honey's litter, born not long after the fires.  We converted the old chook shed, which is a solid double-brick structure, into a farrowing shed with attached free-ranged paddock. For now, it'll do for these babies.

This is Honey’s litter, born not long after the fires. We converted the old chook shed, which is a solid double-brick structure, into a farrowing shed with attached free-ranged paddock. For now, it’ll do for these babies.

They're good looking piglets.

They’re good looking piglets.

Chowing down on brewer mash, soaked barley, and peas.

Chowing down on brewer mash, soaked barley, and peas.

We’ll keep a boar and two or three sows at home, and use them to breed our replacement gilts.  That means that once we have the genetics set up, we can have a closed herd and mitigate the risk of introduced disease.  That’ll leave maybe four pigs at home, which will be a doddle.  With growers, we should top out at over 200 pigs at the Lochiel property, all free ranged and all happy.

This isn’t the end of our expansion plans.  Ideally we’ll end up with a lot more land, enough to keep our own cattle on our own property.  For now though, we have enough to ramp up our pig production to where we want it and to start our own breeding flock of sheep.  That in turn has allowed us to branch out to more markets, and we’ve managed to score a spot at the best market in the state, if not the entire country.  That’s a topic for another blog though… 🙂

2 thoughts on “We’ve Expanded!

  1. Pingback: A Year On… – The Atherton Farm Blog

  2. Pingback: Ration Change! – 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