Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Why did the chicken cross the road... or travel 35km

Well I can honestly say I don't know!
But what a bizzare and busy day she must have had! I also think if you believe cats get 9 lives, then I'm not sure how many chickens get but Dwt must have used almost all of hers.
She started the day by escaping the dogs by running under the car. I later scouted underneath to find no sign of her, so figured she'd made her way back to the others... how wrong I could have been.
As when I came out of work, to head home. There she was stood in front of my car?
Now I can not explain how, but there she was 35km from home, just stood on the side of the road.
It wouldn't be so bad, but the car was booked into the body shop repairer for an assessment. Good job they didn't keep it today, or we may never have gotten her back.
So after 20 minutes of chasing her around my car; eventually with assistance from 2 colleagues, and a passing car almost running her over! I caught her and then had the challenge of getting her home.
So I was grateful to those colleagues for their help and for searching their cars for the bag (breathable cloth) and shoe box; that I used to transport her home.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Piggy watch and grwoing your own discussions

Well 'Christmas ham' has not come back into season; following her first season post piglets in December. As I said 3 week ago, we did see interest from Smokey (our bore). So we are hopeful that this means we have another litter due. If we are right, it should be the end of August! So fingers crossed, guess we shouldn't get too carried away, as they say about counting your chickens before they've hatched- guess the same caution should be applied to piglets too.
This news did stir some interesting conversations at the weekend... along with mixed feelings about eating some of our home grown produce. Funnily enough the veg and herbs used had a far less divisive response than the knowledge that our guests were enjoying our home raised chickens and pork. I wish we had taken the time to take photo's as it was an impressive spread- Matt is an awesome cook, and the weekend was no exception.
Yet again we had requests for the recipes to many of his dishes... something I may share soon. (If he lets me!) In other discussions one of the largest issues seemed to be either having looked into the animals eyes (having met them previously), or that we name our animals.
Now whilst we do not find the culling process easy, we do enjoy our animals both in life and death. And once you take that action, you cannot take it back... just do them justice. And whilst we name and interact with our animals, even if they are to be for the plate (eventually), we know they have had a happy and healthy life... and everyone had to agree that you could taste the difference.
Other than our feast and the associated preparations (grass cutting and strimming, house cleaning etc)  things remained reasonably quiet at Maes-y-Delyn this week. We did receive (and have since put together) our meat bandsaw and mincer- for future porkers (and other livestock). So just the cold room to get sorted (nothing too big!).
I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of my rotary hoe; birthday gift from the Matt... Cannot wait to give it a run!

And I'm afraid, a few more losses. Even though we raise poultry and livestock (as I'm told poultry is not livestock?) for food, it is still always sad to lose one without reason. Thursday our female poult passed. She had gasped randomly over the last few days. We thought it may have been that she was too warm (as she had plenty of water etc) and I tried treating her for any potential respiratory infections (using a chlorine based spray). So we're not sure, maybe she was never going to be strong enough after all she was one of the survivors of our firs incubator disaster (power went out, more than once and stopped development of almost all our eggs).
Then Sunday, following 36 hours of observation we made the decision to put down one of or female geese. As she had lost weight and was losing control and power in her limbs. It was not an easy decision, but having tried (in vein) to save our drake, who appeared to have had similar symptoms early this year. We felt it was kinder in the long run.
That and we are planning a short camping trip this week. So it would be unfair to leave our house sitter with a sick goose.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Soil tester arrived

Well the 4-in-1 soil tester I ordered for the worms arrived yesterday. I also had a note to collect another parcel (that they were unable to deliver), so am guessing that will probably be 'The Worm Book' I ordered to help with keeping a worm farm!
The soil tester I can use for the veg patch at least; though I have not idea about that level of detail! I had hoped they would have arrived sooner- for the worms sake! But the book (at least) will be heading straight for EBay.
We have a few other items en-route, but will fill you in on those when they arrive!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Our week of hoping our pots were still there

Ok, we are reasonably new to this, but I have to say we have thoroughly enjoyed it and I wanted to share some of what we have learned so far.
To be honest we had attempted crabbing in the past, but with little success- once we had a 6 pack of Gold! So the one time we caught something, obviously worth catching, some else checked them!
After our move to Maes-y-Delyn we bought a little boat. We had owned a boat prior to moving here, but it would have been far too big for using in the creeks. So 'Fred & Barney' has been an awesome investment.
To be honest I am not the best or most patient of fisherman and I do suffer with seasickness. So creek fishing is ideal for me... and crabbing is even better!
Crab's apparently only move in months with an 'R'- now how true this is, we are yet to see. As we have only been doing this for a few months. But it would make sense as these are the cooler months. Also, they apparently feed well after rains, as this introduces fresh water into the system.
Now there are some rules regarding crabbing in Queensland-
Each person is allowed a maximum of 4 pots
You can only take male crabs- the girls 'Jenny's' are to be released. This helps with maintaining future stocks.
Also males have to be over a certain size- we bought a guide from the local tackle store.
Male mud crab
These diagrams shows the how to identify the males and the females. Males have the narrower flap on their underside, females are very obvious when you see them up close.
Also it is true crabs claws are sharp, but more importantly strong, and they do not let go. So we still like to keep; what I consider a healthy fear of them.

Now our pots are basic ones from a local tackle shop- there are other varieties out there and I have seen a few home made versions. Ours are relatively inexpensive. Each pot is supposed to be identifiable- as I mentioned you are only allowed 4 per person, so each is supposed to have your name and address on it. This is not always practical, as ink tends to fade in water (even permanent, eventually) and labels can fall (or be taken off). 
You also need to secure your bait inside the pot. This can be a clip, or mesh bag; and for bait you want fish heads (which you can buy especially) or frames from fish catches. We have also used frames from our chickens too.- So nothing goes to waste.

So as it was March/April- both have an R and we have had (hopefully the last of) the rain. We checked the tide times and headed out.
Now to increase the chances of catching you want to leave your pots out through a whole tide cycle. Although I know many fisherman that if they are fishing, will drop a few pots in at the same time and pull them in before leaving... guess you have to be in it to win it, so always worth a go.
But as we are heading out just for crabs we tend to put them out on the high tide on one day and collect them on the second. This makes navigating the creeks easier... Or at least that's the theory!
As we are still new to this, we learned a valuable lesson on the weekend. We placed the pots out on Saturday and when we returned at high tide on Sunday, we couldn't get through to the furthest 4. And neither of us fancied swimming or wading, as if we're realistic there could be crocs amongst other things in the creeks.
Now there was only supposed to be a difference of 400mm in the high tides between Saturday and Sunday... But lesson learned, anything predicted below 5.5meters we would probably not make it through to our far spots... Also the tide turned so fast on Saturday, we were worried we may not make it back at all, if we wasted too much time.
So we collected the nearer four and headed home. This was upsetting as we had a few good crabs in the nearer ones, and knew there was a good chance of some being in the others. Just had to hope they didn't die or the pots taken before we could get back there.
Problem was it was this Saturday before we could get back out- as we had work, and either the evening tides were still too low or the day tides we were at work.  But gratefully we found all our pots! Granted there was nothing in them, and I was more relieved at this, as the prospect of finding something dead was not pleasant. So as the tides were larger this weekend, and reasonably timed we baited them and set them back out.
So yesterday we collected 7 of our 8- we lost one (after finding the other 4 after almost a week- we lost one!) but we did bring home 3 good sized crabs (and released many more smaller ones- so there's more for the future.)

Now we (or should I say he) ties our crabs up- there is a way of doing this (to which we are still learning), without (or to minimise) the chances of you getting pinched. I will film this one day and go through a step by step process. But at the moment, we are both reasonably new to this and I am not keen to push our luck- we are maintaining a healthy respect for these animals- as their pinch can and will do severe damage!
Once tied and transported home, we freeze ours. Though I do know there are other methods of dispatching of them, this we have found to be rather effective.

When an animal escapes... check the power is running to the fences 1st!

Well I got up Friday morning to find a suspicious creature roaming around the cows in their paddock... On further inspection I realised it was the lovely Sage!
How was she out?

So when I went down for their morning feed, I turned off the fence and marched down the garden, shaking the bucket loudly; not something I would do normally, as it winds them up- but that was my intention, I found out. Up she ran, stopping at the corner of the paddock, pondering her options. At first I thought she might head for the house garden, as the barb isn't as low and there's no electric fence. But she went for the pig pen fence; burrowing underneath, lifting the barb wire and (something I had never seen a pig do), pull herself along with her hind legs straight behind her (like a dog). Fortunately none of the others had ventured over with her, though this maybe why- as I have never seen any of the others do this. And the bore and other sow are probably that little bit too big- but am grateful Berky (our grower) hadn't, as he is much smaller still.
Knowing there was little I could do before work, I left- hoping I still had all our pigs when I got back. So on my drive home, I came to the corner, holding my breath as I counted 1, 2, 3 ??? Then I realised the cows were in their field, with an extra!

So when Matt got home, we set about solving this problem. Explaining how she had returned, twice. We agreed tightening the barb and lowering the fence lines would be most effective.
Sage thought otherwise. On both Saturday and Sunday we found her happily roaming around the paddock with the cows. To be honest if I could leave her roam the whole paddock I would, but it isn't secured for a pig. And the cows share other peoples paddocks,(as not all of them are ours- they're a sort of "community herd". Though at present it is just ours and our adjoining neighbour. I still don't think his neighbours would be best pleased if she ventured onwards.
So we added wire fencing to her 2 favourite spots, as a visual deterrent (as well as making it physically harder), as well as an added obstacle of another line electric fence, before the main area- where she was burrowing. As we were doing this, we added another (lower) line to the temporary fenced off section; the bit that is in recovery, so they have pasture of their own to graze on. As our Berkshire cross had ventured over Sunday morning, grazing on the seedlings and shoots that had begun to come!
It was then that we questioned whether all the fence wires were "live?"... They weren't. The lower wire running along the fence line to the garden was. But the second run was a return wire and it wasn't reaching the pig pen.
After about an hour of Matt carrying out the "leaf test"; which involves wetting a leaf and using it to make contact with the wire; so you are not taking the full belt of the fencing! We realised that a knot along the front fence had burned out. Given that we had tested it about a week ago, we figured the rain may have helped this. So with a little maintenance and a metal joiner, our fence was fully operational once more!
So far we have had four pigs in the pen and in their section... so hopefully I can go to work now, knowing they are safe and sound.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Easter long weekend

Well the Easter break is the only 4-day weekend of the year; provided you don't work bank holidays. And here almost everyone (especially retail) do! This is a cultural thing for us I guess, but many businesses make the most of the LONG weekend and close right through. No sale of alcohol on Good Friday and the fish markets are over run in the run up. Just not really traditions we are used too. I think Easter is almost as big a deal here as Christmas, or in some cases more so.
But after a few years, we were expecting this, so it gave us plenty of time to get on with a few jobs around the smallholding.
A bit of Autumn cleaning? Well we definitely gave the living areas, fans, vents etc a good clean. This is something I associate with the clocks changing (in the UK). Which was this Sunday- guess this is from my Nan... or my Dad. But then it would be 'Spring cleaning', but as the seasons are reversed here, I guess it would be Autumn cleaning... either way the house needed it, following the long, humid, damp wet season...so now it looks a lot fresher.
It's a little strange, as I guess we prepare for the winter here as we did the summer in the UK. As we actually use the outside more, and are relieved to be free, after weeks/months cooped up from the weather.
The garden had a bit of an Autumn clean up too. The patio and furniture was jet washed, the lawn is low and strimmed; though we desperately need a new stimmer/ whipper snipper- one of the things we could not get this weekend.
Most of the beds in the veg patch are weeded and mulched. I even put up a shade over the one garden bed and fenced almost all of it off- to stop the free ranging chooks from eating all my seedlings! Having the garden beds fenced off, should mean they are safe from the dogs too- so hopefully I can finally plant those Rhubarb seeds; Rhubarb leaves are highly poisonous, to humans and most animals. So I haven't been game to plant them... just in case- not sure I would forgive myself.
We put up the temporary fencing along the back garden. So the birds now have more room in the day, but cannot get to the rest of the back garden... in a hope that the lawn will grow back. It hasn't really recovered following the tank moving last year and it's already looking better. Now the birds are not eating the shoots as soon as they make it through the soil!
Sunday we headed out in the boat. As it was smooth and the winds were supposed to be good; Ideal conditions for a small vessel like ours in open water, so we set off... Every man and his dog, must have had the same idea, and no one appeared to be catching, just moving from spot to spot. So we cut our losses and headed back and take our chances in the creek instead.
This paid off- Some mighty muddies!

Welcome Bradley and Darth to the flock.

Bradley- Jubilee Indian/Cornish Game rooster
Saturday we picked up 2 more Indian Game roosters. Bradley is a Jubilee male and Darth (Darth Vader Jnr) is a dark. Don't ask me where their names came from, but that was their names when we picked them up, so I guess they'll stick. But as Darth Vader Jnr's dad was Vader, (guess because he was a 'dark' Indian/Cornish game) then I think we'll stick to Darth for short.
Darth- Dark Indian/Cornish Game rooster
These boys are a little older than the others we have, and are already crowing.  They are settling in well, and definitely have their own personalities; Darth thinks he's a ladies' man, whilst Bradley likes and early night.
So hopefully when the girls start laying, we now have a few males; which we hope will increase our chances of fertility. And now with the wide variety of colours in the breed, we hope to get some interesting results too.

Where did I go wrong, with my worms?

Worms were a disaster!
Well i had ordered 2 kilos of composting worms- 1 for our bio-tank (of which I hope these are thriving, but I haven't been game to check. And the other kilo for my worm farm. As I intended to maintain our own stock; to benefit both my garden (through fertiliser) and be able to top up the tank, and maybe even occasionally treat the flock.
I had been fussing as they were in transit, with the long weekend fast approaching... however they made it to our house on Wednesday. Which was a relief, as I had left strict instructions to place them on the doorstep if we were not there. Firstly as I was worried I would they would be cooped up for another day, and secondly for the shade... Well they got one out of two. Thankfully my neighbour moved them out of the sun for me.
So to their new home. I had constructed a worm farm from 2 polystyrene eskies (foam boxes) I bought from the local veg store. Piercing holes in the bottom, side (near the top) and lid, using a small drill bit. I hen place damp shredded newspaper mixed with a bit of straw and manure through. And finally adding some shredded lettuce at the top and just underneath.
Then I place the holey, filled box on top of the second and scattered in the bag of worms. And shredded the damp cardboard (that they came in) in there too. Placed the 2 cloth bag they arrived (slightly wettened over the top, then replaced the lid. Covered the boxes with a damp hessan sack   and left them for the night. This I kept in the shed, to control the light and heat. I had read that they shouldn't smell, but they had a very distinctive smell!
In the morning there had been a lot of action... many had escaped through the upper air wholes and lid! I picked up as many as I could save. Some had already dried out. So with this in mind I Googled  my findings, to be reassured to know they were probably restless and exploring their new environment. Some others experience also suggested they maybe too wet. So with this in mind, and the other half suggesting I make another box with smaller wholes, I set to work.
Pierce the 3rd box with a smaller drill bit- but this time just the lid and base. Then transferred the contents into this box with some added dry shredded paper.
Well some success, they were not escaping. So I checked them again, before I locked the shed up for the night, still looked good... but they did smell? In the morning, they were all dead. Not a single wriggler...
Well the 'Worm book' and soil tester are still to arrive. I will probably b able to use the soil tester for the garden. But as for the 'Worm Book' I don't think I will be attempting farming my own again, any time soon... So maybe I'll EBay it.