Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Weekends work for one

Well what a busy few days I had with Matt being away. I ordered a truck of soil as I had a few things I wanted to do. We still needed to fill the areas where we had moved the tanks. I removed the Yukka tree trunks and weeded the garden bed beside the shed (that we had ear marked as a herb patch) and I wanted to build a few new garden boxes and fill a few large pots. 
So the truck I had booked for Thursday morning, eventually arrived 3:30pm. I had already pulled up and weed matted the shed half of the path last weekend. I then pulled up the mid section to allow for the truck to deliver the soil between the house and shed. This also meant taking down the dividing fence and temporarily disconnecting the electric fence.
I wanted most left in the rear garden and the rest in/ near the herb patch, so that I could replace the fence and reconnect the electric fencing, before I begun barrowing. Having it nearer the tanks, also reduced the distance I needed to move it. Made sense… This did not do quite to plan. At the nearest point, there is approx 4.5- 5mters between the house and shed. The truck driver took many manoeuvres to reach this point; damaging many of the remaining pavers in the process. To be honest I didn’t think they were anywhere near her travel path. By the end I was just grateful that she didn’t hit the house!
I did attempt to match the pavers however Bunnings offered some in that size (450mm x 450mm) in white, ours are cream at $18 odd each. So as she obliterated 14/15 and there were 2 previously cracked I decided to space out the existing and fill the remaining with stone chips, instead. So built the ‘wet patch’ up with earth, then laid weed matting (as for some reason this wasn’t done when the original path was laid). Then lay pavers and stone chipped.
I did manage to get her to dump the majority of the soil for the front in the herb patch. The rest was for barrowing and filling random wholes that we had yet to do. From the previous owners dogs and other low patches, here and there. The majority was for my veg patch.
Yesterday we moved the remaining soil from the front into my two new doorstep pots (though I haven’t got any plants to put in them yet). And barrowed the rest to my veg patch. We then levelled and planted out (and sowed) our herbs.

Herb patch, being watered in

Herb patch planted out

I was surprised by the stock of seeds I had accumulated, ready for our herb patch. We transplanted an exisiting Basil and Mint plant (from my veg patch, a second reamins there as a back up). We rehomed the Bay tree, central to the patch, so it should have ample room to grow . As well as planting out a few chives and oregano recently purchased- I have had no luck raising Oregano from seed? We also planted out the two chillie plants we had had in pots on the patio table along side and a ginger plant. And then the seeds; Tarrogan, Lemon Balm, Cumin, Corriander, Parlsey, Dill, a few varying types of Basil and a scatter of lavender along side the shed door.
Madog making the most of the view
The mound out the back had shrunk. Some of this will fill my pallet veg boxes. Once I have them solid and secure. The remainder will fill around the tanks, as this is going to compact and need topping up. Til then it makes a great observation point from which Madog can watch the world go by.
In other farming news, Matt agrees our ‘Christmas ham’ (a Berkshire cross Saddleback pig we picked up at the beginning of the year, for the freezer whilst we waited for our own piglets and pork supply) is looking a little podgy. Given I witnessed Smokey (our resident Berkshire bore) mount her just over a month ago. This could mean she’s expecting… This would be both exciting and problematic.
Exciting in, especially if my dates are correct; she would be due a few days after my family arrive to visit. And in that after much waiting we would have piglets here. Problematic, however in that our lack of piglets to date could be put down to Smokey (our resident Berkshire gilt) and that Smokey is evidently 'working'. And we wil not being having our ‘Christmas ham’ for Christmas dinner wiith my family, as planned .
So I guess this leaves us with what to do with Streaky? She is now almost 14 months old now and ‘primo’ size for pork. Yet we have still seen little action and she doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of being in-pig and I am still unsure whether she’s even coming into season. We did think we saw a difference in her the other week, and Smokey was sniffing around her. But I am not sure if we are seeing what we want to.

'Christmas ham', Smokey & Streaky

We did initially set out to breed Berkshires, so if we have her for Christmas instead we have to look at replacing her. Again this leaves us with a decision to make- do we get another young piglet from a breeder (given there are only two within a reasonable distance and we can not use the one since our male came from there. And the other we’ve already had little luck with. And then we wait again, putting in more time and effort. Or do we search for an established sow; that we don’t know and have not raised.   And if I’m honest, we bought a breeding pair so that we could rear them from young, build a relationship and become more attached… Can I be objective about it? If she’s not producing the goods, can I eat her?
I also attempted to re-shuffle my birds. As the young Sussex cross chicks are now fully feathered and the brooder box was becoming crowded. The original four Indian Game chicks are also fully feathered, but still far too small to be placed in the outside run- as they could easily make it throught he chicken mesh. It’s amazing how much a of a size difference there is between these and our Sussex cross layers.
So to move the Sussex crosses out, I needed to make room. Therefore I decided it was time the English Game cross hens made their way into the main chicken run.
I had completely forgotten how athletic their father (our temporary resident pure Old English Game rooster) was! He initially escaped from the run and vanished for almost a week. Returning, where I eventually coaxed him into the general run. Where he stayed as he had food and girls. However he still roosted upon the 8 foot fence posts and was too fast to catch.
These were traits we had neglected to consider when we incubated the eggs this arrangement produced.
Putting more research into the bred, Old English Games are ideal for free ranging and require little food, as they are more than capable of sourcing their own. Unfortunately whilst I am happy for mine to ‘free range’ they are confined to an area of the garden during the day away from the dogs- for their own safety.
One o four colourful Old English cross hens
I did attempt clipping their wings last night. This was not successful as the hen immediately proceeded to scramble up the chicken mesh and roost upon the fence post. So most were returned to the enclosed run last night. The few that had made their way into the hen house we allowed to remain and I clipped their wings this morning. In an effort to limit their ability to make it into the dogs realm. Confinement for these birds is definitely not a long term solution and something I am not comfortable with. However as Matt pointed out, he would rather eat them himself instead of them becoming dog food… So I guess I have to give their future with us a little more thought, a pity given the colours that this cross over produced were varied and stunning! However a life of confinement is not acceptable to me and the chick run (whici is only meant to be a temporary solution until they are large enoughto stand ther ground amoungst the bigger birds and protect them from preditors- butcher birds, hawks, kookaburras etc) is becoming increasingly over crowded!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

One hen down

Went to feed the chickens and found one of our young Indian game hens dead in their hen house. Odd thing though she was lying flat on her back? In the open (well walkway of chicken house). Any other chickens we've lost to natural causes have been nesting and curled up... and they were older (least for their breed) this was one of the trio we bought in may. So she was only about 9 or 10 months old.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Solo at Maes-y-Delyn

Well I logged on to make a progress update from the weekend and I read that I have had over 970 views! That’s almost a thousand in afew short months.
Although we moved into Maes-y-Delyn over 12 months ago and I had begun blogging, I only started receiving views when I made an effort to blog more often and actually told people about it. So I am really amazing (and honoured) that I/ we have had so much interest. As I have loved writing this (though must admit I’ve been a little lacks over the past few weeks). So thank you. And I hope you continue to visit. Now back to the weekend.
Well I’m solo for the next few days. Matt left for the outback on Friday for a boys outback trip- camping, hunting and fishing. So hopefully they all come back in one piece with some great stories (and hopefully a few pics too).

But since then poor Madog has valiantly raced up the garden to greet every little red car or dark 4x4 that’s turned up the road. And he looks so lost and disheartened as it continues to drive on. Even though he has peed on both our cars earlier that day- so is well aware that they are in the shed.   It’s the first time he’s been separated from Matt since we brought him home last year. Other than his time at the vets. So I hate to think how he would be if I went away for a few days… or worse both of us!
Ffion making the most of Dad being away!
Walking both dogs on my own has been challenging. I did manage both yesterday, although I did walk them away from any other properties that face onto the road, problem being its not that far. Not that either of them are badly behaved, but I don’t want to chance any confrontation. Given that Madog alone weighs about the same as me. Previous to yesterday I had walked Madog first and then taken Ffion for a run. Issue with this is placing the other dog in a crate til I return. With Ffion this is not a problem. Madog however howls the whole time- it’s a heart breaking sound! But I must persevere.
This morning was the first day I’ve worked since he left, so hoping to bring some normality to our routine. So all animals fed and watered as usual.
I didn’t have any trouble from Rocky this morning (our resident Light Sussex rooster). He did attack me, or more specifically the red feed bucket on Friday- soon after Matt set off.  So I am not sure what instigated this most recent attack, whether he could sense Matt wasn’t returning and was asserting some dominance. Or whether it was the red bucket that had upset him. As on previous face off’s, which appeared to have been his protecting of a mothering/ nesting duck. Or more recently a jealousy over particular chook who sort refuge on my shoulder (like a parrot). On each of these recent occasions I have had a defending/offending bucket, to protect myself. So I am unsure if he was getting in there first. As since he snapped the handle and I have used a blue one, he’s taken little notice of me? I am really don’t know whether birds, or more specifically chickens see in colour? I would assume so since the males are so colourful to attract a mate???  So I will avoid red buckets in future- just in case.
I had threatened him that I will keep one of the beautiful roosters growing out the front, instead. If he becomes aggressive. As all four of the first purebred Sussex chicks we raised have turned out to be roosters (even the smaller one I had hoped would be a hen).  I did sell one on Friday, to a friend of a friend- she’s driving about 180kms (112 miles) for him! The others will be dinner when Matt gets back, along with a few ducks- as they should be big enough by then. Although there’s two I’d rather save, but we can’t keep them- the lovely coloured male and what I think is the only hen.
The excess livestock
I think this Old English  Game cross is a hen
I was actually watching the end of ‘Gourmet Farmer’ Thursday night (sort of a Aussie version of River Cottage) a food critic Matthew Evans moves from Sydney (I think) to live off the land in Tasmania. They were actually ‘dispatching’ (their words) excess roosters, for the table (his first time). Something I can relate too. And their method was similar- though we don’t go for the whole head, and I am yet to try scolding to pluck, as we just skin ours. But one of the ladies helping him, and showing him how to do it quickly and effectively, as humane as this process could be was a previous vegetarian. Though now she feeds her family only ethically raised/ killed meat… mostly her own. I could relate to this and admired her commitment. But she made a very interesting comment. Her and her family eat chicken once a fortnight- to many households not that often. But as she explained this meant she had to undertake this unpleasant, but necessary task and kill 26 chickens a year… Now I had been complaining about how many roosters we had raised in the effort to raise a few hens to point of lay (we’re still waiting, though I think we have 5 Old English crosses from 9- our best odds yet). So as a roast chicken, will easily feed the two of us for most of the week- probably 2-3 dinners and lunches, plus stock. I guess with my family coming to stay at Christmas (so more mouths to feed) we will be grateful for our surplus roosters (and ducks) soon enough.
These guys look like little ET's when thier first hatched!

We also had a few hatchlings last week- 6 of the dozen Indian game eggs. They were al fertile and developing, but only half hatched... maybe this is what they meant by low fertility rates? But am so happy with the 6 we have, to go with the four slightly older ones. Am going to try a technique of feather sexing I saw a clip of. And then going to mark them and see if its accurate. Apparently it works on all breeds, just some are easier to distinguish than others... So will try and take photos tonight. The Indian games are so much smalle than out other chicks- even at the same age... they're just so cute!
 Otherwise I spent much of this weekend starting my big plans for Matt’s return. I’ve ordered soil; to finish the back (where we removed the tanks). I also want to raise the front path and line it with weed matting. So come the wet season our feet stay dry and to prevent so many weeds making their way up. And so prevent the dirt below mixing with the pebbles in the rain.
The path looked lovely when we first moved in. I just do not understand why they didn’t take the time to line it before they laid it?
I also plan to fill the garden bed that we begun clearing, beside the shed ready for planting out as a herb patch and filling all the wholes surrounding the house; from the previous owners dogs. Before using the remaining soil for my planned salad beds.  I’m planning on turning a few pallets into mini veg patches for salad leaves and smaller items such as my bunching onions. I also have a few more jobs planned around the existing patch- including lining and mulching the walkways between the beds. And building up the ‘wild’ bed at the end of the garden into fenced rows. I am hoping to use these areas to train my vine plants. So plenty to do!
The original clearing
Removal of the Jungle
So Saturday I made a start on the shed/herb garden. The previous owners had planted a few yuccas and other drought tolerant, spreading plants in it. I guess it was meant as a screen, since the living area windows over look the shed. But it’s not as if we don’t know its there? All these plant are common in landscapes, but according to the local Land care Association a severe risk to local and native vegetation. This sort of confirmed our thinking of taking them out. As this ‘tropical garden’ was not only now blocking any sunlight in the shed and I ad fears as to how far the roots had spread or would spread into its foundations. But the deal breaker came when I was weeding and found a snake skin. It wasn’t very big, but with good foliage cover and a potential  food source (as our chicks live in the shed) It was a no brainer- the tropical garden was coming out!
My lucky finger- swelling going down
Well Matt had cut them all down and we had bought a saw, specifically for the job. So I set to work… deciding cutting them down into manageable chunks would be a long and exhausting process. And since we’re planning on reusing the beds, really we needed the roots out too. So I set to work with the mattock, shovel and steel bar. The smaller trunks were freed Saturday, the larger had to wait until Sunday as I had to wait for the swelling on my left hand ring finger to go down and I had movement back. After my enthusiastic work led to my finger being wedged between the mattock handle and the concrete bed edging!

The problem!
Just weeding left
The largest trunk posed a bigger problem… how do I get it out? The answer, deconstruct the wall, some rope and the car!  I then weeded remaining soil and pulled out as much of the yucca roots as I could, ready for the new garden soil.
Half up
I also begun lining the garden path. Obviously this involved lifting the original pavers and stone chips, pulling out any (the many) offending weeds and grass, then laying the weed matt. Before relaying the washed pavers and stones… I am half way. The other end can wait until the soil arrives, to raise the low spot.
So still plenty to go. I am most excited about finalising my garden beds. And getting my new seedlings (mostly raised from seeds) in.  So hopefully I’ll have many photos by next week. And hopefully a surprised (but happy Matt).

Monday, 3 September 2012

Pig re-inforcement and fruit tree care

I know I have said this before, but it is true so I am saying it again- PIGS ARE VANDALS!
Yesterday we finally addressed the issue of their shed. Just after the new year we bought a shed (with a voucher we had been given), concreted a raised slab to secure it to, so come the next rain they could be high and dry. Since then they have bashed into it, rubbed up against it and generally tore it apart.
We had been meaning to do this job for the last few weekends. However Saturday evening the pigs made the decision for us by escalating their priority. As usual they had informed us they were low on water, by knocking the waterer over. So after picking it back up and re-filling it, there must have been some dirt blocking the drinking nipple. So in a tantrum they lifted the full waterer and knocked it over. It just goes to show how strong these animals are!
So Sunday we fenced the pigs into the other side of the paddock- much to their protest.  And set about fixing both.
So I cleaned out the shed, shovelling out and remaining hay and dirt. Then Matt removed all the blots, replaced and/ or tightened all the screws and then cut the shed just above the worst of the damage. We then lifted the good section off and destroyed and removed the rest.

 He then welded on a 400mm bash barrier, reinforcing the sheds outer skin. We are hoping this will prevent them from damaging the shed from the outside and limit how much movement it has from the inside. We then painted this and lifted the remaining shed back in. Securing it with blots both to the angle iron attached to the base and to the protective barrier.
Hopefully this should make it last a bit longer.

We waterer also needed so TLC, as they split it when they knocked it over. It has taken a few knocks so it was going to hapen eventually. So we will see how long it lasts this time. I try and fill it daily at the moment, as they have damaged the nipple on the second tank, so means it goes down alot faster. But if it doesn't flow fast enough or there's not enough water to weight it down, they are powerful.
I also took to clearing the turf from around my newly planted and existing fruit trees. I read that the root systems are not very compatible. So that you should give a foots grace (30cm diameter) for every year.   I’m not sure I quite cleared that far around the established trees. Though I was more concerned about ensuring the new trees established good roots, so sort of did the older trees for consistency. Until my weeding tool came off second best to the long grass and tree trunks of our unidentified ‘fruit tree’ that refuse to be separated.  
I only found 1 cumquat tree, which was disappointing as I had bought 2, which turned out to be 3. I don’t know if Madog got a bit jealous of the attention I was paying to the garden and not him, as he bit the top off one of the cherry trees as soon as my back was turned. Although he does like the fallen palm leaves and has chewed one of the little trees from the feature garden (that was already there), so this is something I am going to have to watch. I may need to find a way of protecting them from him. I was really happy to find the pomegranate tree I had planted. I did think this was lost, but it had been hiding in the longer grasses along the enviro system hoses- it’s really obvious where they run at this time of year.
So today I am off to buy some fertiliser and mulch on my lunch break and this evening I still have to find and dig around the trees outside the fence line (since Matt bent all the folks back on my weeder).  Hopefully we can grow some happy and healthy trees.

There is a pomegranate tree in this pic- honest!