2014/2015 Summer Garden Planning

Monday, August 25, 2014

Over the last couple of weeks I've been starting seeds for our summer vegetable garden.
This past year has been a difficult gardening year for me.  After our dismal failure last summer (running out of water)  I was almost ready to throw in the towel & never garden again.  In fact, if you were to drive up our driveway right now that is exactly what it looks like I've done.  A tangled mess of weeds & overgrown plants are everywhere.  It's only when you look very closely you see that there is however a few small sections that are maintained.  My strawberries, my new roses, my winter vegetable garden.  Besides that....I really need to get working come spring.  
Dave & I discussed our gardening position before I even began planning our garden this year.  Our primary issue affecting our garden in summer is water.  The past two years of smaller than average annual rainfall & scorching hot, dry summers has drained our dams.  We need our dams to hold sufficient water to feed our stock. Unless the Lord provides large quantities of spring rain (Please Lord) I won't be able to pump for our gardens from the dam.  So I can't count on water from there.
We have come up with a few solutions, but I will post about them later because otherwise this will be a post of gigantic proportions....

In an attempt to use up the large amount of seeds I already have ( hmmm...I may have a teeny, tiny seed collecting addiction) I decided to try not to purchase any additional seeds this year.  Since I can only plan on a smaller than normal area of garden due to watering issues,  I started just the basic seeds.  Then I went through the seeds & found everything that will be out of date before next summer.  I have either started them or put them aside for planting.  Needless to say it is a little larger than our original "tiny, drought-proof" plan ~ I need to pray for rain!

Already started in punnets:

* Wild Sweetie Tomatoes ~ I like to use a cherry tomato variety as well as a normal one.  I've always had success with cherry tomatoes & I hope this year will be equally as productive.

* Amish Paste Tomatoes ~ These are a great 'all rounder' & are fantastic for canning.

* Mini White Cucumbers ~ These are the only kind I've had success with previously & even that wasn't very successful.  I'm hoping I can baby these into being more productive.

* Roselle ~ because these were some of my free seeds from being a member of the Diggers Club & they will be out of date if I don't use them.  I'm hoping to use these for jam as I've heard it's lovely

* Basil ~ this is leftover seed from my wonderful 2012 garden where I had basil growing abundantly. It grew last year before dying out.  I'm hoping this year the seeds will still be fertile enough to give us some wonderful plants ( especially as I just used the last of the frozen basil I had from 2012 & so we desperately need more).

* Oregano ~ I have oregano slowly growing in another section of garden, but I'm hoping to get a bit more.  We have pizza every Saturday night & oregano always tastes lovely on it.

* Sunflowers ~ I love sunflowers. I hope these grow!  I have never had success starting them directly in the garden ( this may be due to the varying number of chickens that roam around our house).  I have grown a few that were started in punnets.

* Zinnias ~ I've had no success with zinnias & I really want to as I adore looking at photos of them & I've heard they are supposed to be easy to grow.  These needed to be used anyway.

* Marigold ~ I always love the 'pop' of colour the marigolds give to the garden & this is one I have had success with.

I plan to plant directly:

* Pumpkin ~ I have 4 packs of various seeds: Australian Heirloom Mix, some saved from a Qld blue, some saved from a neighbour's butternut pumpkin.  I shall see what I decide to attempt to grow.

* Black Beauty Zucchini ~ because there are far too many delicious sounding recipes not to have a couple of zucchini plants.

* Beetroot (Heirloom Mix) ~ I hope to get a large patch in & growing as soon as spring is officially here.  My plan is to do this so they will be grown, picked & preserved before the hot, dry days of summer are upon us.

If we end up with extra water I'll add in:
* French Charentais Rockmelon ~ I've always wanted to grow rockmelon.  I've never had success yet which is why I won't try unless we have sufficient water.

* Sugarbaby Watermelon ~ I dream of growing watermelon.  I've tried & tried & tried.  Maybe this time I'll be successful IF we have water.

* Honey & Cream Sweet Corn ~ this is almost out of date so needs to be used, but it's not really worth trying unless we have water.

While this looks great on paper, sometimes gardening is messy, sometimes it's a failure & always it's a lesson in trusting God who does provide for all our needs.  I wish you every success in your gardening efforts this coming summer (or winter if you are a northern hemisphere dwellers). I like to remind myself that gardening is about learning lessons for the coming years.  I haven't always had gardening successes, but I surely have learnt a lot!

Blessings Friends

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Sunday Psalms

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
young men and women,
    old men and children.

Psalm 148: 7,10,12

July Days...on our farmstead

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

July ushers in one of my favourite seasons here on the farm ~ lambing season!  Sure, we are kept running the whole month through ( & throughout August as well), but it is so wonderful having new life here on the farm. July was also a time of hosting visitors, our winter break & watching adorable piglets grow! By the end of July some of the crops & wattles had begun to flower.  I just love the world filled with blossoms! 

Unlike last year when lambing season began right on time, this year the ewes held out a little longer.  We spied our first pair of twin lambs on the 4th July.  After that they began to come fast & furiously in that common first flush that tends to happen in a flock of sheep.  We have been blessed with a fairly uneventful lambing season so far.  We have only lost a few ewes & had to pull just a couple of lambs. I always find that first lamb pulling to be the most difficult mentally.  After that you seem to remember that as 'icky' as it is, it's not as bad as your brain leads you to believe.

The day after lambing season began, Delores dropped her third litter of piglets.  I just adore babies of any kind & to have lambs & piglets arriving at the same time keeps smiles on our lips.  The antics of baby animals are captivating to watch.  At three weeks old the male piglets were castrated.  A neighbour who owns a piggery comes & does the job for us.  Last time I wasn't around, but this time I distracted Delores.  After last time when she broke into the shed they were using & my twins had to scale the walls in fear of being attacked by a frantic mother sow we decided to have someone watching her (as well as two doors between her & where it was being done!  We also found that keeping a female piglet with her kept her slightly more relaxed than previously.  It certainly is amazing though how loudly a piglet can squeal though.

Our first poddy "Noisy"

On the 6th July we got our first poddy lamb.  This one was a great one to start with as it drank well & was strong & able to go right to their shed.  (You can hear it on the piglets 2 day old free ranging video.)  Needless to say it is very noisy & has since been joined by varying numbers of friends who join in chorus every time they spy one of us in the houseyard.  If we dare to cross the threshold into their paddock  area, we are mobbed!  It's a wonderful problem to have :)

My parents were visiting during this time & it was great having extra hands around.  Dave, Dad & the boys fixed up our 'Chook nook' (hen house) which  has allowed it to be about 4 times the size of the area we were using.  This meant that we now have 3 sections where we can house chickens.  We  then moved our older set of chicks (May's hatching) over into one of the sections.  We still allow them to free range each day, but it means that they are free to have their own food & water without having to brave the larger hens & roosters to get it.  I love our new Chook Nook!

We also butchered two of our excess rooster.  I knew we had too many roosters & had to get rid of a couple.  When one of them attacked my rear end one morning while I was getting grain from the silo for the cow we very quickly knew it had to be done ASAP.  That rooster was almost going to be one of the ones that stayed, but the attack made my decision really easy (it hurt).  We ate him a couple of nights after butchering & he was delicious!

Wattle beginning to blossom
I spent some time planning out my summer garden.  This time I did it with the expectation of another hot, dry summer with limited water since we have not had sufficient rain to fill the dams (we are praying for that).  I love planning a garden, but at times dream about having excess available water just so I could have the garden of my dreams.  I remind myself to be ever thankful for what we do have. We also continued to harvest our winter greens from the small winter garden!

We took a two week break from schooling while my parents were visiting.  This coincided with the NSW school holidays which I tend to try to do as it's nice for the children to have a break from schoolwork when their friends are off school.   We were all refreshed to begin right back to school after this time & it was lovely to spend time with Mum & Dad.   Third term is always a busy time for us  on the farm & so I reduce the extra subjects because we rely on the children to help out with the lambs as well as their normal chores. The only thing I added in was a new typing program I purchased. I've found that though Zai & Ellie have worked completely through the free program they were using, they need additional practice.  This can be completed independently & so is not any extra work on my part. There were some exceptionally beautiful days that saw us taking our books outside to bask in the sunlight.

Salami mince ready to mix up!
Very little extra went on in our kitchen this month, although we did make another batch of salami.  I tried valiantly to keep everyone fed with nutritious, filling meals & the occasional yummy snack.   Milk processing is a normal part of my week, however I haven't tried anything new during July.  We continue with the weekly ( actually with the way my boys are guzzling it, it's more likely twice weekly) yoghurt and also the weekly cheese making.   As soon as the weather turns warmer we are anticipating making ice cream!  
One of the most exciting additions to the kitchen has been  a brand new wood fired oven that we were so very generously gifted with.  What an amazing blessing this has been!  Not only does it keep us toasty warm, but it also means that we can use the oven  for cooking which allows another reduction in our ridiculously high electricity bill!  I am thoroughly enjoying experimenting on it & am slowly learning not to burn everything!

Winter seems to be flying by as we continue to count lambs, watch ewes, milk cows, raise chickens, homeschool children & dream about a garden.  What a blessing it is to have work to do!

Have a wonderful day friends

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Sunday Psalms

Sunday, August 17, 2014

He (God) covers the sky with clouds;
He supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call.

Psalm 147:8-9

Let's talk about house cows....(review)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Every morning Zai & I head down to the milking shed & spend time milking Bessy our jersey cow.  This would have to be one of my favourite jobs around the farm. Not only do I get to spend time with my eldest son, but I also get to lean up against the side of my nice warm cow and relax while I wait for her to give us her milk ( it's winter here & it's been cold lately)! 
 It's 22 months since Bessy dropped her calf & during those months we've been on a steep learning curve. Having a house cow is exciting, but it certainly isn't easy.  I had every intention of writing about our milking journey here, but to tell you the truth, the memories are laced with embarrassment at all the simple mistakes we've made.  Neither Dave nor I have had any previous milking experience so you can only imagine how entertaining our antics would have been to anyone who actually knew what they were doing. I would say we have a good handle on it now, although I'm sure in 10 years time I will look back & wonder what I was thinking...

Our Bessy

Recently one of my blog friends Farmer Liz from Eight Acres emailed me a complimentary copy of her ebook Our Experience with House Cows.  We have shared similar experiences with both our house cows' first calves being stillborn & having to get the cow to adopt another calf. We have both made mistakes that I'm sure everyone new to milking and cow ownership can attest to.  Ironically, we have both settled on using much the same equipment & have both had wonderful success with our house cows now. 

Our Experience with House Cows is primarily Liz's personal experience with their two house cows.  It tells the story of her journey with her house cows from novice to experienced.   I love the fact that as she tells her story in this ebook she also relays enormous amounts of thoroughly researched information to support her decisions. Farmer Liz is a vestibule of knowledge on this subject and she has a captivating writing style which is easy to read.  I love that there are many practical suggestions throughout the pages. 

The chapters include:
Why own a housecow? (including a section on raw milk)
Bringing home a house cow ( including how to transport & choose a cow)
Milking ( including hand milking, machine milking & training your cow)
Calving (including pregnancy care & cow mothering (which is very useful if you are like me & used to sheep who mother in a completely different way)).
Calf Care ( including fostering & weaning)
Pests, parasites, poisoning & preventing illness 
The home dairy ( yoghurt, kefir, cheese etc.)
Some really handy supplier websites for Australian house cow owners.
And so very much more...

 I was so impressed with Our Experience with House Cows that as soon as I read it I emailed Farmer Liz & offered to write a review for it.  I know many of the people who read here either have a house cow or are raising a calf to become a house cow or dream of having a house cow & this could be beneficial for you.

Our Experience with House Cows is available in pdf or ebook format.  For more information please visit the House Cow Ebook website. This is the book I would love to have had before I began this milking journey.  It may have saved me some of my embarrassing errors.

 As for my milking experiences ~ would you like to hear about them?  

Have a lovely day

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this ebook for my own resource.  I was not asked to write a review nor did I receive any remuneration for writing this review.  All views are my own. 

Sunday Psalms

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Talbingo in winter 2014

The whole earth is filled with awe at Your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
You call forth songs of joy.

Psalm 65:8

Our latest babies: Home-made baconers

Monday, August 4, 2014

We heard the rushing feet down the hall & knew that Zai must have an announcement to make. He'd been up early checking his pregnant sow just as the first rays of light appeared on the horizon across the valley.  Sure enough he ran in & triumphantly exclaimed that Delores had finally her piglets & all looked well.  Quickly, the whole family appeared in various forms of jackets & beanies over pyjamas, anything quickly grabbed to brave the winter cold. We rushed down to the pigpen to see these newest members of our little farmyard. 
Day 2 
But you see, that's not really when this story started:
It all started 3 months, 3 weeks & 3 days or so before.... 
( & their conception is far too good a story to not record (don't worry, it's G rated))

Day 1 am

It was a warm March afternoon & Delores had escaped from the pig pen again.  This is typical for her when she is on heat & no matter how assured we are of her being in ( & she never gets out at any other time), every time she goes on heat she find the weaknesses in our mobile pigpen set up. (FYI: We have now upped the voltage on the electric fence with a larger solar panel ~ it even makes Dave jump high!) .  Thankfully this particular time instead of heading off to visit a neighbour as is her custom previously, she had only found her way into the house yard.  Boris followed closely behind her intently annoying her as is his custom when she is on heat ( which is exactly why she escapes at this time).

Since we really don't like to encourage livestock of any kind in our house yard, we quickly went out to move them back  to their pig pen.  All was going well in the movement, Dave, myself & Ellie were steadily pushing them towards the gate when Delores stopped.  I don't know why, but conditions must have been right. She leaned up against the house & Boris efficiently did his job!
...And that, folks, is the closest to home our pork has ever been made! In fact for it to be any closer they would have had to be inside....

Day 1
When we made our way to the pig pen that event-filled morning, we found an exhausted Delores & 8 tiny piglets (one was a teeny runt that sadly died later that day).  They were so adorable.   We stayed just a short while as we didn't want to disturb the amazing bonding process taking place between mother & babies.  The rest of the day, however, found us at various intervals creeping down there & watching these little pink bundles through the fence. Watching piglets is so addictive!
Day 1 ~ we had just one spotted in this litter!

On the first day they do very little but sleep & eat ( like all babies).  Although they seem to almost double in size & ability each day of that first week!
Day 1

Much to our astonishment the next day Delores brought her babies outside for some time in the warm sun!  We love that our animals have plenty of space to free range. Our pigpen is only about an acre in size, but it works well for the pigs (once summer comes we do limit their space a little more as there is nothing for them to eat & so we need to compliment their diet).   I was able to creep into the pen & get some photos & video using my zoom lens:

The little piglets had such fun playing together & rooting around in the soil enjoying themselves!  

Day 2
 What a blessing these 7 piglets are to our farm! We ended up with 4 male & 3 female which is quite unusual for Delores who has primarily had male piglets in her past two litters.  We are also excited about the increase in size of her litter. We are hoping the extra calcium she has been getting in the form of left over raw jersey milk means she is carrying better. 
Day 2
 We are so excited about the prospect of pork, bacon, salami & a myriad of other products as we continue to experiment for next year (YUM) although at the moment these piglets are far too cute to consider eating.

(However I did notice this morning that their sides were getting longer: longer sides = more bacon ;). 
~ Did I tell you how much we love our home cured bacon??!!?? ~

Have a lovely day friends

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