Thursday, December 9, 2010

dams full, grounds wet and more

the interminable rain let up for the morning, so we managed to get outside and catch up with a few chores.

I had started the new stone retaining wall and steps,

First rock in place
to replace the rotted old wooden ones and managed to get a lot more work done but then I ran out of rocks.  Need more rocks for the walls but also some smaller, odd shaped ones to chink up stones to get them to lay flat and to use in gaps, more rock hunting when it dries out a little so I don't get bogged!.  I would say 60% complete and i have started tamping sand into the cracks around the joins for the rocks used for the steps.
Steps part way through construction

If I turn around from the steps and look East, I can see how full the Dam is, the jetty (LHS) goes under if the inflow is faster then the outlflow, the outflow (far RHS) is still running in this pic
A full Dam

Mini Hydro Electric
The creek has been running for the best part of a month and has made me think about using a mini hydro that I can install in the creek itself, if we wanted more power, instead of Wind.  The wind here is very intermittent but the creek runs after heavy rain (no sun on the solar panels)

Toni has been busy in the garden trying to mitigate some of the damage from the rain Finding some aphids in the corn, she brewed some Lantana Spray to use against them. It works really well apparently! but most of the time is spent weeding !

Kitchen Window
The banksia outside the kitchen window is in flower, a few of the local honey eaters taking advantage
White Cheeked Honeyeater

Lewins Honeyeater

We have a couple mousetraps around the place and every now and again a mouse gets caught, we promptly feed the mice to the local Kookaburra's
Kookaburra feeding on a mouse !

who really seem to enjoy them !  The willy wagtails however are nesting close by and take offence to any bird entering their territory, much to the other birds chagrin
Willy wagtail attacking the feeding Kookaburra

Friday, November 26, 2010

Growing, harvesting and digging... and more !

Toni has been active in the garden. The rain has been insistent, with more to come apparently, it has destroyed some of her hard work but the other day she managed to harvest some of her garlic, hang it in the shed to dry then bring it in to hang in the pantry.
Garlic, drying, ready for use
Planting more potatoes, carrots, attending to her corn, beetroot, lettuce, picking strawberries etc keeps her very busy in there.

Rock steps and wall
I have been scouring old borrow pit sites for some time, gathering rocks in preparation for redoing the steps of the outdoor area. They were built  with wood laid on the ground and of course have become rickety with rot over time.  This is what it looked just as I started the digging.
Starting the dry stone wall and steps
I have to dig out the remainder of the soil, on either side, and then lay about two courses, matching it to the new stairs I will have in place.  Hopefully, even though it will be a first attempt, it will look good and outlast the house itself !

With summer under way and plenty of rain, the grass is growing crazily but the kangaroos do a good job in the main yard, with it only needing mowing infrequently The guinea pigs a good job in the orchard, albeit at this time of the year even they struggle to keep it down.  Combined with the chook manure, sun and rain, the chook run grows as I watch it, so it needs to done weekly but having just widened the door, I can get the ride on mower in there now, oh happy day, it can do 80% of the yard and Toni's love of using the whippersnipper sees the rest being attended to.  We use the cut grass by drying it in an old shed near the chook yard and using it to line the laying boxes in the chookhouse, the old stuff going onto the compost pile as well as for mulch around fruit trees.

Stink Bugs
One of the scourges of having the orchard netted is that birds can't get in to demolish the stink bugs on the citrus trees.
Juvenile stick bug in action on our citrus trees

 These dastardly pests have been busily sucking the sap from new growth, so it was time to do something about them.  Wearing rubber kitchen gloves and carrying a bucket of soapy water I removed thousands off the citrus trees a few weeks ago but I decided I needed to follow up and removed a few hundred that I had missed last time, probably one more attempt in a few weeks to remove the last few will do me.

Other Stuff

The chickens have been busy making more babies, we now have three pullets, four that are about a month and a half old and another four that are a week old.

The constant rain has seen the Dam full to overflowing, and the lillies and ducks are lovin' it
Male Blue beaked duck getting ready to take off
One of the many water lillies on the Dam

Nesting Kookaburras
and the Kookuburras have built a nest in a large tree in the front yard, they merrily made a hole in the side of the large ants nest that was in the tree. I thought they were just going after the ants but it appears they had baby making in mind from all the frenetic work they had done. The ant nest provides food for the babies and insulation as well.
Just about to leave the nest

They busily come and go all the time, with food for the babies

More flowers
of course the plants are enjoying the rain, still bursting forth with flowers, most of them I have no idea about, though the Agapanthus (native to southern Africa) I do.
Agapanthus blossom about to open

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

more lantana, Geckos and fruit trees

We took the opportunity with the rain having stopped for the day, to go out and clear some more lantana, with the soft ground it was the best time to pull it.  We were adverse to using poisons so the regime we used was to clear an area by pulling it all out by hand and then come back about a month later to get the bits we had missed or the bits that might have struck again and then return about 6 months later to get any small vines that may have started to grow from seed etc.  We are aware of the damage this method can do in terms of erosion, especially near creek banks but thought it a fair trade off to the persistence and dangerous nature of the poisons. See this article on Round Up for more information

Anyway, enough pontificating, this was the area we had cleared about a month ago see this old blog post for a before photo and now and after photo

A month after being cleared of lantana

One of the many advantaged of having the area cleared of lantan is some of the native wildflowers can peek through,

Wildflower in bloom

this one was about the size of a match head and was taking advantge of the warm spirng weather and copius rain we have been having.

Gecko suprise
The other night I was surprised to see this fine fellow clambering up the inside of the wall of the house,

Robust Velvet Gecko

what a wonderful Gecko !! and HUGE compared to the Asian Gecko so common in my recent home in North Qld.

More Fruit Trees
Our fruit trees from Daleys Nursery arrived today. Two Pecans, a Passionfruit, a Black Sapote, two Japoticabas and a Dwarf Mulberry, all designed to give us lovely fruits and nuts (hopefully) in the future.  We will get around to planting them on Friday hopefully.

Friday, October 29, 2010

rain... rain... rain.... and snakes

The rain has been fairly incessant, Toni managed to get into the garden for 1/2 a day to do some weeding but a lot of the veggies (eg Potatoes etc) have been destroyed, oh well, such is life on the land.  I had to dig a few water bars on the road to stop the driveway being eroded and have been pulling more lanata, which comes out so easily in the wet soil.  The Dam we use to water the veggies etc is full, bt the irony is the the veggies don't need watering !

The perennial creek running through the property has been flowing strongly
Small creek  on the property, in full flow

and the fern forest in the rain forest, beside the creek

Fern forest

Speaking of life on the land, dealing with snakes is one thing that can be a little disconcerting, so far we have had a large red bellied black snake in the mulch pile, no doubt looking for a warm place to relax but scaring the crap out of Toni when she went to get some mulch of compost for the garden.  A couple days after that  a smaller red bellied black snake going for the baby chickens, I managed to catch him JUST in time and yesterday there was a small carpet python going after the baby chickens again !  We managed to catch it before it had any success, and we relocated it many miles away
Releasing a relocated python

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Farm Dam stocking

We have two dams on the property, one in front oft he house used for water for veggie gardns, taps outside etc and the other "over the ridge and far away" isn; tused.  For soem time we had been thinking about stockign it so I finally got off my butt grabbed a dook from the libary and orderd some Yabbies and Glass Shrimp (for yabbies to eat)

The idea is to let them breed up for a year, and then stock the Dam with some Silver Perch or some Bass next year.  I think it's a good lookin' Dam, as far as Farm Dams go :)

Southern Dam, the one to be stocked

They arrived today, I had to go into town to pick them up.
Yabbies and Glass Shrimp in styrofoam boxes
Packed in two styrofoam boxes.  Here's what a "box of yabbies" looks like

A box of yabbies !

 I put the shrimp, in their bag, into the Dam water to equalise the water temperature a little and then started seeding the Dam in various locations with the yabbies

You will obey your new Yabbie overlords !
 and then did the same thing with the Shrimp.

I was advised to leave them for a year before adding the fish, Perch or Bass or perhaps both.

I still have to put some logs, branches, snags etc in the Dam for them to hide in.  The fish will eat Yabbies and Shrimp.

I will come back in a couple months and try to catch a few, see how things are going !

Friday, October 15, 2010

more nature...

One of the many reason for moving here was to enjoy nature by living in nature.   With spring still in full flight, the flowers are more gorgeous everyday, I recently grabbed the camera and took a few more happy snaps around the property, my photography in no way does justice to the beauty of nature.
Walking Iris


The Callestomns are incredibly vibrant

along with the birds enjoying their nectar
Rainbow Lorikeet

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rain, Lantana and Yabbies

It has been raining off and on for about three weeks now.  We have had to watch our power usage but that's okay, working with nature was one of the reasons we went "off the grid". The rain has done a fair bit of damage to the veggies etc but that's the way of things.  It doesn't seem to have put the chickens off and two more hens have gone broody and now have baby chicks, the females for laying, the males for eatin' !

We have taken the opportunity to pull a whole heap of lantana while the ground in soft, we hope by working at it in sections we will have the block cleared in about 2 years or so.  It's fairly endemic as a weed down here, very widespread.

Here's an old pic of a "lantana mountain" , the first patch we cleared.
Toni atop lantana mountain !
and this is one of the patches we recently attacked (before shot)

Next path of lantana to be attacked !

We have since burnt that pile  We don't use weed killer and simply pull it up, and pile it up.  We then rev-ist the area about 2 weeks later to see what we missed and then again a few months later to pull nay that have struck again.  Those two follow ups are usually very quick.  The downside of this method is it can cause erosion, especially around creek banks if you are not careful.

We have also ordered some glass shrimp and yabbies from Aquablue I just hope I can catch as many as these guys in this pic
Our aim !

We will be putting the yabbies along with glass shrimp for them to eat, we don't want to put them in the Dam we use for water because yabbies can do damage to Dams but the other Dam seems perfect and is not used for anything.  We will be letting them breed up and then adding some Bass and/or Silver Perch to catch and eat... we'll see how it goes and I will report back !

The solar shed was finally finished a couple of weeks ago.  We had been waiting for the doors to be welded up.  Looks very professional now

Friday, September 17, 2010

Harvesting todays food

One of the marvellous things about growing your own produce is harvesting it.. of course the BEST bit is the eating.

Some of todays produce for the kitchen
The photo shows produce taken from the garden, just before lunch.  We had already eaten the Mandarins we'd picked from the tree with breakfast !

Lunch is a potato and egg salad, with parsley and spring onion, all from the garden. Along with a chickpea salad, followed by fresh strawberries and Yoghurt.  The rest of the potatoes are for dinner where we'll have them with sweet potato from the pantry, carrots from the garden, with rosemary and garlic from the garden.... along with a Roast Pork from Woolworth.

Earlier in the day we had Eggs and Mandarins from the garden...with home made bread and home made marmalade.

This post is making me hungry !

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


At the moment the Friar Birds are back, the poor things must rate highly as one of the ugliest birds there is and are certainly raucous, I noticed them coming back at about the same time Sprig started, they seemed to leave mid Autumn.

With so many flowering natives, the honeyeaters are prolific
Scarlet Honeyeater

Yellow Faced Honeyeater
Eastern Spinebill

Blue Faced Honeyeater

as well as a variety of other birds

Spangled Drongo

Australia King Parrot
Kookaburras on the Old Gum Tree
Fairy Wren
Red Browed Finch
Blue Billed Duck
Sacred Kingfisher
Azure Kingfisher
Just a small sample and one of the reasons I love living here.

Baby Chickens are doing well, nesting boxes and Lemon Verbana & Mint Tea

The ISA Brown chook who had hew three chicks a couple weeks ago (see here) has been mothering them well and they are growing so fast
and in the last two days, two more chooks have gone broody.  "Elvis" an Arukuna (lays blue eggs), who is off in her own little pen, and has been there a couple days and I noticed just today one of the Cornish Game Hens has gone broody, so we'll throw a couple eggs under her as well.  We hope this doesn't start a trend or we'll have none laying and then a explosion of new baby chickens ... oh well, plenty of roast chicken dinners there then !

Chook Laying Boxes
A few months ago Toni scavenged some 20l plastic containers and I turned them into laying boxes for the chickens with the help of my handy jigsaw.  She scavenged another on the other day from her work and has me make another box.  I remembered to grab a pic, you can see an older one in the photo complete with "fake" egg (a golf ball) to encourage them to lay.  It's good to reuse, rather then recycle.  The old ones were cardboard boxes and had become quite decrepit.
Old laying box, (left), new laying box and jigsaw to cut the hole !
Automatic Chook Water-er
I aslo managed to get around to making another "automatic chook water-er".  Toni scavenged a few containers from her work for me.  I cut the bottom of a 15KG plastic conatiner of Sour Cream (green base) and reused an empty plastic Olive Oil Drum as the reservoir.  I used a plastic drum tap, a short length of  garden hose and some recycled bricks thrown out by the local brickworks as the stand.  I knew that my interest in science would help me out one day !
Automatic chook water-er
As the chooks drink the water, they lower the water level in the green container below the level of the bottom of the pipe fitted over the tap fitting in the bottom of the drum reservoir.  It then empties a little water, as the water level rises, it creates a seal and stops any more water coming out until the chooks drink some more, voila !

This is the second one I have made, the first one is inside the chook yard.  This one is for when they are free ranged outside, the previous owner used a kids potty ! I got tired of filling it and no, I didn't fill it in the traditional way one fills a potty !

Lemon Verbana Tea
Toni has just started brewing her own tea.  She uses a mix of Lemon Verbana and Mint,

(L) Lemon Verbana and Mint (R)

She then rips it up, places the mix into a tea infuser, puts the infuser into the cup and pours boiling water over it.

I find the smell pungent and dislike the flavour but Toni loves it.

I call it her Solar Tea; the plants grow in the garden from Sun and rain, she boils the rainwater we collect using renewable solar power collected from our solar panels and enjoys sitting on the front verandah, listening to the native birds and watching the chickens forage in the yard.  I can surely understand that sentiment !