What the heck happened to the temperature, the weather God clearly took 1 March seriously and turned the cold air on!
I'm on two sets of clothes per day, something warm for when I drag myself out of bed and something cooler for when the sun heats up about 9.30am, about when I'm running around feeding and watering the mums and their 36 chicks. We seem to be the proud owners of a bunch of hens that take great pleasure in playing hide'n'seek with their nests, hence why we have had hens and chicks emerge from the undergrowth with ridiculous frequency. I thought all the girls were going into their moult and the fertile season was at an end - well it appears it is for many, just not at our place!
I was somewhat relieved after selling 22 pullets and thought that was the end of the young ones for a while... famous last words. It is worth noting that I have since discovered 3 more hens hiding with eggs so suspect my problems aren't over yet. My good husband is past the eye rolling stage and is now starting to ask some serious questions, as well as reminding me of my self chosen total number of hens... which reminds me of a sign board I saw the other day which said "When in doubt... mumble". There is a fair bit of mumbling going on. My housing shortage for mums and chicks has reached crisis point - and having being firmly told it was my problem to sort, I did - my neighbour is making some fabulous little houses... pictures next time :-)
This blog comes after a long radio silence - I've thought about writing this a lot but life went crazy and I could never find a good time (plus I have to negotiate computer time!). So today I got inspired, while simmering a pot of Jamaican Pineapple Jam, to catch up on where we are at.
Rod & Rodney, our new romney rams, arrived in January and are having a ball with our romney ewes. We opted for romney rams this time so we can breed our own replacement ewes. Our main mob of ewes are 5 this year so another year or two will see them out and our new girls will take over. What this means though, is that any orphan ewe lambs born this year will have to be bottle fed until weaning at 3 months old so I know winter this year will be spent making marmalade and bottle feeding lambs...
This is our first summer where the grass has died. We've had days where we watch the yellow and blue rain clouds on metservice head towards us, we've rubbed our hands together with excitement at the pending rain, only to have it part like the red sea as it reaches us. Oh the disappointment.
With no real rain on the horizon we made the decision to send half our steers off to sale, and while it was a disappointing result under the hammer, I guess that's the nature of farming - you take the good with the bad.
The orchard and vege garden have been very productive, in fact so productive that it has been an effort to keep up with it all. "Be careful what you wish for my husband said", I hate it when he's right. After peeling numerous buckets of peaches to preserve, I got smart and ordered a dehydrator. Love it. I've since dried peaches, tomatoes, figs, bananas and apricots. Great to store as a snack for the rest of the year (well actually I can't see them lasting more than a month or two the rate we're going). My 38 tomato plants also produced well - apart from eating fresh, we have semi-dried tomatoes in olive oil, frozen chopped tomatoes and frozen roasted tomatoes with garlic, tomato relish and tomato and chilli jam. The best of all, however has been the Damson plums. I've got good stocks of Damson jam, Damson Farmhouse chutney and lashings of Damson gin - I think I'm going to slur my way through next summer!
My newly created garden, planted in September last year, has grown amazingly well but with that growth comes a whole lot of cutting back. I'm now the proud owner of a number of roses but I'm sadly lacking in knowledge on how to care for and prune them. Madam President has kindly offered to come and help - I love my mother-in-law!
Another busy few months ahead, but plan to be better about my updates...
And with it the urgency to attend to the 1001 jobs around the farm that were deferred over winter. While it's great to have the sun out and warmer temperatures - it means one thing, the lawnmower gets a very frequent outing (each outing is about 4 hours so I imagine the neighbours are hoping the wind isn't blowing their way those days).
The ewes and lambs are doing well although the change in the season bought some dirty bottoms so in came Mr Shearer to crutch the ewes, making it a more pleasurable experience for the lambs going in for a feed I'm sure. The first of the "butter ball" lambs will be drafted for sale at the end of November with the balance taking their first truck trip mid December.
The bulk of our steers have wintered over very well and are looking nicely rounded with glossy coats - the advice of our stock agent is move this lot along while the sale prices are high and get in some smaller mouths to feed over the summer months, so it will be an early start on Thursday to get them in the yards and ready for the truck at 7.30am. Fingers crossed that we can replace them with some smaller models for a reasonable price! The good husband always protests about getting rid of them as he's trained them to come to his call for paddock change - ah well!
New addition to the family - NOT PLANNED!
The good husband took some steps to get rid of a feral cat that has been hanging around. It has always made us nervous, particularly when we have young chicks free ranging around the gardens. Well this time he was certain that it had been despatched. Well done! New problem - that evening when he went out to lock up the barn he heard a very faint meow and discovered a very tiny kitten, eyes still firmly closed, in the paddock all alone. One of his endearing traits is that he can't walk past an animal in need so kitten was duly stuffed inside his shirt and placed in a blanket in the hot water cupboard overnight to keep warm (it's a very old hot water cylinder that probably radiates more heat than our heat pump!). Next morning as my coffee was delivered to me in bed came the news of the kitten and a suggestion that maybe a trip to vet to get supplies may be my first job for the day. Oh please!
My immediate thought was to re-home this little treasure as soon as possible as I certainly didn't have time to bottle feed a kitten every three hours and to make matters worse, not two weeks before we had confirmed our purchase of two girl Russian Blue kittens, due to arrive from Christchurch in December. What has happened however, is that this little darling has wormed his way into our affections and will no doubt be staying. He has been named HARRY - seemed appropriate as he is a ginger with a mind of his own. I'm crossing my fingers that Harry and his two new posh girlfriends will be the best of buddies!
...and just to top it all off - I have since seen the feral cat (Harry's mother no doubt) looking none the worse for wear...
Then there are the chickens - Colin the Rooster has been doing his business successfully and one of our Buff Orpington hens went broody, sitting on a clutch of 12 eggs in a sheltered spot at the back of the house. Excitedly I marked off the 21 days on the calendar and on time two chicks peeped out from beneath her - great news. I kept a watch on how many more hatched but after nearly two days she abandoned the nest with only the two chicks in tow. You guessed it, the good husband was in there inspecting the remaining eggs, one of which had pipped but that was it. Out came the incubator and in went the remaining eggs while he "tutu'd" with the pipped egg. He "assisted" the chick out, and as it fluffed up quickly and seemed strong, we bundled it out with the new mum (who by then has been put in the new mum & chick coop) - luckily she accepted chick #3 without question. End of nice story - NO.
Long story short - you should never interfere with eggs right!
Another two days passed with the eggs in the incubator and still no action so my recommendation was to biff them over the bank as they clearly weren't viable and I didn't want exploding eggs inside. Well curious about what had happened to the rest, it seemed a perfectly good reason to tutu with another egg - unbelievably a chick was still alive in one and was "assisted" out - this one did not fluff up well, couldn't stand up and was 98% likely to die. For days it feels like, we coerced it to eat and drink and despite all odds it stayed alive. Our daughter named it SCRUFFY. So Scruffy continued to improve but was lonely in its box with just the heater, food and water. I suggested that maybe I buy a day old chick to be its friend so it would learn to socialise. Expecting a NO answer, but getting a YES - I made a phone call and was in the car before he could change his mind. Only trouble is that I couldn't decide on which one to get so I bought home 8 - you can guess the reaction right...
We came to the conclusion that another hen was obviously laying in the nest while the broody hen was sitting!
So there begins the next problem - where are they going to live as they have outgrown their box inside and Alice, our Gold Laced Wyandotte, is also due to hatch a clutch of 8 eggs tomorrow and will have to share the small "mum & chick" coop. No other option - on to Trademe and buy another little coop to handle this growing bunch. Oh dear.
and that brings us to the garden. The most neglected part of the farm. I was due to have my garden visit last week but my one half day in the garden in 4 months wasn't sufficient to bring it anywhere near visitation condition. I had to put off the garden club until next year when hopefully, as the good husband says, I will have plenty of time to play on my garden projects. At least the plants have flowered despite the lack of attention...
Bee hive maintenance has been high on the agenda for a while now as September/October is swarm season and for what appears to be little or no reason, the bees will swarm and you run the risk of losing the majority of a hive. Still being very new to this bee keeping thing, we have heard and read a lot about it, it just hadn't happened to us - until yesterday!
Standing in the kitchen peeling onions I happen to look up and there were bees everywhere - a YELL to the good husband and out he went. The bees had literally just gone around the corner from their hive and had gathered on a branch, interestingly they moved a further two times within the next hour until they found something more sheltered. It just so happened, Phil (a more experienced beekeeper) had come to do our AFB (American Foul Brood) check and arrived at the time of the swarm. He was fascinated as he had never seen the swarm so early in the process, only the end result when he was called out to capture a swarm. Between Phil and the good husband they came up with a cunning plan - which I must say went very smoothly and the swarm bees are now in a new hive in a different location - we may re-queen this hive to minimise the risk of them swarming again as apparently once a hive has swarmed it is more likely to do it again.
We passed our AFB check and all the hives have had their spring varroa treatment completed before the first honey box went on so we are all good to go to collect honey - the weather just needs to cooperate so the bees can actually get out and forage!
And lastly, the kitchen was in full swing preparing for the Labour Weekend market at Awhitu. Very happy with the response with both repeat and new customers - some local, some visitors to the area.
Our stocks were either out or running very low on a number of our range - so we added a few new product lines - Choko Chutney (who guessed this was going to be the best seller!) and Red Onion & Port Jam (2nd best seller on the day).
We are booked in for the Xmas Market at the Pollok Hall on December 17th so I'm currently sourcing local fresh strawberries for jam and I am also experimenting with a pickled strawberry recipe. As well as this, I'm also working my way through 100 kg of pickling onions (and no my good husband, you are not having all these to yourself!).
Lambing is officially finished - thank goodness! It was a good excuse to have a drink (or two) in celebration.
It can be a very tiring and challenging time - there is the sense of satisfaction helping out the mums experiencing a difficult birth, feeling sad when a ewe or lamb dies despite your very best efforts and the joy of leaning on a fence post at the end of the day and watching the lambs race around in their gangs.
Last year lambing started in June and finished in September - ridiculous! This year 95% of lambs were born between the 12th and 17th July - during the worst storm we've had, it was a nightmare made worse as the good husband and I had picked up a nasty bug compliments of a visiting friend - thanks very much :-(
It definitely hasn't been without its challenges - 8 major prolapses and a few dead prems within the month leading up to birthing - we're (well actually the good husband) is a pro at getting the prolapses back in place with the assistance of a retainer and 7 out of 8 ewes went on to lamb successfully.
We are pleased that we have been a source of entertainment for our neighbours as they have watched the rugby dive to catch the ewe with a stuck lamb hanging out (mostly the dive was unsuccessful LOL). Perhaps I will suggest it is something the good husband should practice in the off season...
We've had some huge singles born (6kg+) and some equally large twins but we've come to the conclusion that triplets wreck the mums so we are happy to stick to the big healthy singles and twins.
And as for not keeping any of the 17 orphans that have come inside this year... well that hasn't quite gone according to plan...
The rest of the orphans went out the door as fast as they came in as calf club day pets to some fabulous homes and I'm really enjoying getting the photos and updates on how they are doing.
And just as the dust settles it is time to bring them all in to ring the lamb's tails and give them their first vaccination as well as some feet maintenance for the ewes, something that has had to be postponed while they were heavily pregnant and afterwards bonding with their lambs. Groan.
With an extra 190 mouths to feed we are hoping the spring growth kicks in very soon and the rain eases - it feels depressing when everything is so sodden and it's hard not to make a mess wherever you go.
Roll on spring and summer - we need the good weather for the building project we have underway, our refencing projects and getting the grounds and gardens back looking like someone loves them - sigh.
In short, bees are fascinating creatures and there seems to be a never-ending amount of information to learn about them!
We started with four hives in December 2016 and we were fortunate enough to gather honey during the honey flow season between December and March/April from these four hives. Just our luck, it appears 2016 was the worst year for gathering honey for about 50 years. We did get another four small hives that were the result of a split later in the season but they were all about boosting the strength of the hive, not making honey.
Don't underestimate the time commitment you need to make when having bees, there is regular hive maintenance required throughout the year and also the financial commitment to purchase the "hive" (boxes, brood frames, honey frames, hive mat and lid, queen excluder and bee return and either a frame feeder or top feeder for the winter months) bee protective suit, hive tool and brush, smoker and most importantly, the cost of attending a bee course - recommended for all newbies and a big confidence booster as you begin your journey as a beekeeper (apiarist).
We have joined the Franklin Bee Club - there are multiple benefits of joining a bee club, information and support from like-minded people, the ability to hire their commercial kitchen (for a small fee) to extract your honey and having your honey sample/s sent to the appropriate company to test for tutin. If you intend to sell your honey, it must be extracted in a commercial kitchen and you must have the appropriate information on your labels including contact details for the honey supplier, nutritional information and batch number (check out Ministry of Primary Industries website for details).
Regular hive maintenance is important to check brood boxes for the presence of eggs, larvae and capped brood. If no eggs or larvae are present in any of the brood frames it is possible that the hive may have become queenless and is therefore a problem. Depending on the time of year will depend how you manage this situation.
Varroa Mite and American Foul Brood (AFB) are the two big issues that have to be dealt with. Varroa Mite is much more common and can be treated with a range of different products at regular intervals throughout the year. AFB luckily is not that common but is terminal for the hive. The hive in its entirety is required to be burnt to eliminate the risk of spreading to other hives. You are required by law to have your hive/s registered and have a qualified person undertake an AFB check once a year.
We are fortunate to have neighbours who have large amounts of QEII and covenanted bush - which our bees made a "beeline"for, although they did spend quite some time in the paddocks on clover flowers and general flowers within the house garden area but that seems to be once they had exhausted their bush food supply. Our honey was the colour of gold and tasted oh so sweet. I can vouch that having a small amount of honey in your morning coffee is much better than sugar
We have been feeding our small hives with sugar syrup for a few months now to keep them strong through the winter months as they had very little in the way of honey stores. They have a frame feeder in their second brood box but we have decided to change to a top feeder as there is less disturbance to the hive when topping up the syrup. I purchased the top feeder units complete and spent this weekend painting them "Paisley" green to separate them from the blue of the brood boxes and yellow of the honey boxes.
My encouragement of this decision was probably a reaction to a multiple stinging incident where I got cocky and didn't suit up to help my good husband top up the feeders. I was standing to one side filling and handing him the jug when he opened one hive that had been joined with another (after it became queenless probably more than likely following a varroa treatment). It was immediately apparent that they were annoyed at the interruption to their day - there was a lot of noise and a lot of bees errupted from the hive to deal with the offenders. The good husband was safe, I was not. They were all over my face, in my hair, on my clothes and I was petrified. I walked slowly away and stood still in the shade (like I'd been told to do) - that didn't help! I was being stung so I started walking faster towards the clothes hanging on the washing line trying to use a pair of trackies and my mothers bloomers to get the bees off - that had limited results... by this time I was a bit tearful and calling desperately to the good husband who was still filling the bloody feeders... finally I got to the house and most of bees had given up and moved on (or died after stinging) and I was left with two stings on the face, three on the back of my head and two on my leg and I didn't know what to tend to first but I was grateful that I had a huge container of malt vinegar to bathe my wounds.
Don't be scared however - I should have known better and put my suit on and my good husband should have taken his trusty smoker - you live and learn.
To all those professional bee keepers who go suitless and gloveness... I admire your courage!
It hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for having bees and I'll be out there tomorrow SUITED UP helping to change the feeders over.
Next update will be on lambing, so far we've had three prolapses and a dead prem lamb - not a great start!
The good wife
Hover over the photos below to get a brief description
I don't think there has been many days in the past few months when the preserving pot hasn't been in use. In fact, I'm about to order a second one along with another jelly straining bag - hopefully then, it won't be such a juggling act!
Madam Secretary gave me a garden diary around xmas time (probably to write notes about the garden in!) but it has been repurposed into writing what I've made each day - looking back I've even surprised myself!
January - Jamaican Pineapple Jam (heaven on fresh bread with cheese and pickled onions)
February - bottled Black Doris plums, Plum & Rum jam (I hate the smell of rum - it all went in the jam!), Black Doris Plum chutney, Rhubarb and Orange jam, scoured charity shops for Agee jars (along with lots of other people - you can never have too many), picked blueberries with my daughter (which became a competition to see who picked the most - she won!), Blueberry jam, preserved 36L of peaches (from our trees), first honey extraction, Damson Gin (from damson plums) - I have to wait until August to break into this :(, Damson plum paste (tasty but too sticky), more Jamaican Pineapple Jam (everyone who tasted it wanted some)
March - Peach, Honey & Vanilla jam, preserved more peaches (getting sick of peeling peaches), picked quince and figs, Quince paste, Fig & Apple chutney, preserved 1L jar figs, first batch of pickled onions (anyone who knows my good husband knows this is dangerous!), Blackboy Peach jam and jelly, Quince jelly, Pear & Walnut chutney, pruned the plum trees with my good husband (heartening they had grown enough for a prune!)
April - Spiced Pear paste (learnt some lessons about pear paste not to be repeated!), preserved pears, put in a test batch of Ploughmans chutney, Feijoa chutney (smelt delicious cooking), preserved feijoas (for my mums breakfast), bottled Ploughmans chutney, my good husband broke open the first batch of pickled onions (a success he said), second test batch recipe underway, Quince chutney (after finding juniper berries)
... and I've still got some quince and feijoas to do something with...
Anyone who cooks knows that in any kitchen there is a certain element of trial and error - some recipes sound fabulous but they just doesn't turn out like the picture - let alone taste like they say!, other recipes turn out better than expected.
Most importantly, cook what you, and people you know like and will eat! With four boys in the family, there is never a shortage of tasters - let alone a number of friends who like to peruse the larder for new offerings (you know who you are)...
My goal is to produce food straight from our farm to the jar. My daughter is always saying "can't you just make plain strawberry jam!", well yes next year I will I say, when my strawberries in my vege garden are ready. Lucky for her the vege garden is progressing and Madam President has sourced me a lot of healthy looking strawberry plants.
For the next little while I'll be out on farm duties, helping with thistle control, working on getting some of the nursery plants in the ground, psyching myself up for lambing season (a crazy crazy crazy sleep deprived time) and waiting for the grapefruit to ripen. Whiskey marmalade is a favourite in this house. Hopefully the lime trees will produce a few fruit for me this winter so I can experiment with some lime marmalade.
Things I've learnt so far - I have a love/hate relationship with quince (mostly hate). I love to eat it but I hate making it, although jelly and chutney is almost a pleasure compared to paste and jam. It spits like molten lava - literally everywhere! and I still have the scar on my face from two years ago from misjudging the next "plop" - if only it didn't taste so good. If you do decide to have a go yourself - make sure all skin is covered, you have long dishwashing gloves on, a splatter shield in action at all times and biceps that can stir for more hours than you could think possible (ps. a full glass of wine or two and a comfy stool helps to pass the time).
Plum jam is my favourite to make.
Old Agee jars are hard to find, a must if you want to preserve your own fruit (and vege). I'm constantly on the hunt at charity shops and the like trying to find them. They can range in price from $0.50 each to $8.00 each. New screw caps and seals can be bought from most supermarkets - there is a difference on some old jars (rim thickness) which dictates whether you use the green or gold screw - so check what you need before you buy. I now have a good supplier of new jars (albeit in Wellington) which arrive within a few days of ordering.
I'll write shortly about the bees, but as I've booked a table at the Awhitu Country Market on 4 June - its all planning and preparation for what will be on offer at the market. Hope to see you there...
Quinces waiting for action !
I'm very fortunate that the gardener before me established an excellent framework.
My previous garden at Silverdale was a blank canvas (see pics under Our Story) - literally the house was built in a paddock and we started from there.
So now, just to have the height/age in some of the trees is a real bonus, let alone the variety of existing plants!
Much of the garden was overgrown and dear I say it, completely out of control! With the help of Madam President and my good husband (he who wields the chainsaw), I'm working to pull it back into order and put my stamp on it.
The garden has many different areas to it - none of which are finished! Experienced gardeners have advised me to finish one completely before moving to the next - excellent advice! I just haven't mastered the art of that yet - I keep getting distracted...
My plant nursery is growing - well truthfully its a collection of plants I've bought and haven't yet planted - be it because that section of the garden needs another digger bucket of dirt or because I haven't actually decided where they are going... This, I can tell you, does my good husband's head in and he is constantly reminding me that they are there waiting for me (and for god's sake water them before they die!).
SOME of my garden projects are..
Shaded garden beside garage
I would like this garden to have a circular path around one of the current lemon trees and two tamarillos (the only place sheltered enough to even try growing a tamarillo). I will border the path with old pungas (we have a few lying around the farm!). Shade and semi-shade loving plants will suit this area. I am looking for some second hand pavers for the path and will then mulch in between to keep the weeds under control (hopefully). The two large lemon trees in this area are suffering from neglect and borer but I am going to nurse them along until my new citrus orchard lemons are in full production. There is a large avocado tree (also not in good shape from a rather unfortunate prune years ago and an oversized karo which at some point may feel the wrath of the chainsaw. We are exposed to the northerly and westerly winds so have to be mindful not to remove anything that is helping to protect the more delicate plants.
Pear tree garden by tennis court
This needs my good husband to bring me a digger bucket or two of good soil!
At the moment it is lower in parts than the lawn and holds water after a deluge of rain.
The digger previously removed a weeping willow that was starting to get quite large. We took some cuttings which have taken well and these will get planted around the other ponds on the farm - they are very attractive, good food for the bees and the stock enjoy lounging under them in the height of summer.
I will keep the trees to the left of the picture trimmed well each year. While they aren't my favourite specimens, they are providing a sheltered spot for the three fig trees I have planted on the tennis court side of the garden.
Once the extra dirt is in, I will plant with cottage style plants in shades of pink and purple.
Rebuilding retaining wall behind tennis court
This speaks for itself!
There were some old tree off cuts from around the farm forming a "retaining wall" and it probably worked reasonably well until my darling chickens undermined the entire section of bank. When I suggested to my good husband that we quickly need to build a nice new retaining wall, he said "add it to the list"! The best I got was the fence posts that were removed between the house lawn and the house paddock to lean against it! Not quite what I had in mind...
Reclaiming the house paddock for the garden extension
One rainy afternoon I sat with lots of paper and coloured pencils and made a start on my proposed new use of this space (well actually the good husband said I needed to get it from my head into a form he could see).
Unfortunately its rather difficult to photograph and put it up so apologies for the dismal picture!
The second pic is of how it used to look from the house towards the house paddock, the third pic is how it looks today with the post and rail fence removed and the paddock regularly mowed.
This area does include my vision for a swimming pool. I REALLY want a swimming pool. My good husband not so much (well actually not at all). He had the chore of maintaining the family para pool as a young lad and that has apparently put him off. Madam President tells me that in actual fact he hated any chore he was given as a young lad so it wasn't just the pool. I have tried to educate him on the fact that pool maintenance is largely automated now and all he'll have to do now is lay on the sunlounger with a beer and enjoy it!
I have made a bit of progress as he now refers to where the pool will be located so all is not lost. Yeeha!
This is by no means the end of the garden project list - there is much more to come... but its not all doom and gloom, here is a picture gallery of what's brightening up the garden early April...
Welcome to our first blog.
The driving force behind us wanting to share our experiences with you, is that when we needed information and advice on a multitude of subjects that were new to us, mostly it was hard and time consuming to find - everything from birthing sheep to the best spray to use on californian thistles!
We have been extremely lucky having wonderfully generous neighbours, the expertise of a great team at Franklin Vets (Waiuku), the very entertaining and helpful crew at RD1 (Waiuku) and Kane, our good natured stock agent from PGG Wrightsons who always delivers with good looking beasts, I do ask for "pretty ones" - is that the same Kane? - who have made us feel welcome and have willingly shared their knowledge when we needed it - many thanks to all of you!
So after 17 months on the farm and very used to gummies covered in poo, we can say we've survived without too many casualties and we are still talking to each other.
So where are we at...
Sheep - we have 150 sheep on the property made up of 4 rams (3 suffolk and 1 southdown), 6 orphan lambs from last season which somehow I convinced my good husband I HAD to keep. They are affectionately known as Wonky (pictured), Brutus, Jimmy, Lucy, Daisy and Rosie. Our stock agent has great delight in telling me they would be perfect now with a splash of mint sauce! These little munchkins still run to see their "mum" everyday (I deny it has anything to do with the bucket of sheep nuts I'm carrying). They also have their own house for protection from the weather and can be found peering out from the doorway at the slightest sniff of rain - oh dear! The rest of our mob (if you can call it that) are Romney ewes.
Cattle - no milking here - just fattening. As newbies to farming, it was suggested that white faced blacks (we had to google what they were) would be the best solution for us, nice and calm, easy to manage - they were right, they've been a dream. We started with a policy of not naming any animal that would be sold or go to slaughter as it may cause tears before bedtime - mostly that has happened (mostly!). My good husband didn't go to the sales the day "Ginge" went through... We currently have 20 heifers at approx 400kg, 30 weiner steers at approx 180kg and "Big Red" and "Bubba Gump" (I said mostly!) weighing in at approx 600kg and we need a few more little ones but so does everyone else who like us, has stacks of grass!
The Dog - Tubby, the twelve and half year old border collie we took on with the farm (thanks to our daughter who fell in love with him at the property viewing!). This dog has cost us more in vet fees in the last 17 months than all our kids at the doctors in the last 27 years, however what a dog, hes just gorgeous. He's become my good husbands best mate and is at his happiest blasting around the farm on the back of the buggy. We won't spend too much time dwelling on that fact that he's scared of cattle, sheep, orphan lambs who want to play, chickens... you get my point. So he has been put into full retirement, a position he has embraced with all four paws. His mornings are spent in the dining room basking in the sun and in the evening in front of the TV/fire.
The Chickens - Colin the buff orpington rooster - Georgia, Bella, Henny & Penny our buff orpington hens - Flossie, Token and Betty our blue orpington hens - Alice the gold laced wyandotte and two stunning cockerels who need to find new homes (see our Livestock page). These chickens free range wherever they wish (and sometimes in the house when they find a gap) decimating the plants in my garden, moving mulch from the garden to the lawn, laying eggs everywhere but the hen house (currently in a bunch of canna lillies, under the deck and in the barn), laying stinking deposits on the deck and so on. I do love my chickens but would like to contain them to the orchard - that involves a new hen house, a birthday present, well thats a whole new blog on its own...
The Bees - my good husband has always had a fascination with bees, me not so much! However when we did get the opportunity to have some hives here at the farm, I enthusiastically jumped at the chance - as much for pollination of the fruit trees/plants and clover as well as doing our bit for the bee population. I must now admit to joining the swell of people who are fascinated with bees and really enjoy our hive management sessions. Our first honey extraction session was messy but fun.
The Orchard - somehow (I can't yet figure out how I managed it and I think my mother-in-law is still amazed) I convinced my good husband that the house paddock should be repurposed into an orchard/garden extension. It probably had something to do with the swell of fruit trees that kept arriving home and his unwillingness to let anything suffer or die needlessly (this includes plants luckily!). So with a "well hurry up and get a plan together" and "make sure you've got everything you need!", all said rather tersely from him who kept also reminding me that "he had much bigger priorities other than playing in the garden!", rest assured, I got that planting plan done quick smart and had everything ready for the big planting day/s and whola - the orchard looks fabulous and despite those westerly winds that bear down on us, the trees have survived and are thriving.
The Vege Patch - the xmas present - its getting there...
The Gardens - have you ever just stood and wondered where to start first? If so, then you'll understand where I'm at. I am however very fortunate that my mother-in-law, Madam President at the St Heliers Garden Group, has taken me in hand and is showing me the way. What she doesn't know about plants and garden planning, isn't worth knowing. She is generous with her time, advice, encouragement and is a constant supply of plants - for which I am forever grateful. There is a deadline, however, to some semblance of order in the garden as the local gardening group is coming for inspection in October!
This is a very broad overview - there is a long list of projects that will become fodder for discussion and debate moving forward...
A big thank you to Amy Hollier, designer and illustrator, who has patiently assisted us through designing and setting up our website, product labels etc. She has done a superb job and comes highly recommended.
I would also like to thank our son James, who has fantastic camera/editing skills and is credited with taking some of the great shots we are able to share on this site. Thanks mate!
Until next time...