A Mysterious Wind

Standing outside hanging the washing on the line in the evening (because I was out all day and this was the first opportunity I’d had) when from out of nowhere, I heard a sudden rushing wind.

I looked around expecting to see trees bending and swaying beneath what would be a massive onslaught, yet all around me remained still and calm. Well, except for the raucus calling of the sulphur crested cockatoos seeking a place to nest for the night.

They flew directly above me, something I always find a bit nerve wracking. Fortunately no parcels were dropped. It was then realisation dawned. The flock, a good hundred strong, was the cause of the rushing wind I’d heard. The beating of over a hundred pairs of wings sounded like the wind rushing through trees. Impressive.

But funny too. There were three stragglers desperately trying to catch up to the main flock. The wing beats of three cockies was not impressive at all. About five minutes later the same thing happened. This time I knew to look to the sky to watch the cockatoos fly by.

Lemon Butter

‘Gourmet Farmer’ for the win, yet again 🙂 We watched the final ep of season 3 and when it was over Brydon said, ‘I want to do some cooking.’ I’d been planning to make Lemon Butter for about a week, so I said we could make it tomorrow. I thought it was too late to  a start cooking then. But his ASD insomnia kicked in and it was 1am before he (and I) were able to go to sleep. I reckon we could have made it in that time! Needless to say we were a bit zombified the next morning.

At the moment we have two trees heavily laden with lemons – they’re not huge lemons yet, but there’s lots of them – and we have a third tree that’s beginning to fruit. I think it’s time to start using them a little more vigorously, not just picking the occassional one to squeeze into the guacamole or over the fish. Also on the list of lemony things to make is Grandma Phyl’s lemon cordial, cheesecake, perhaps even marmalade and I’ve seen a recipe for preserving lemons. But first, I want to make Lemon Butter.

So that is what we did. I made sure it was pretty easy for his first attempt at cooking since moving to the new house, so had already sterilised the jars and gathered all the ingrediants and utensils. We were using the Thermomix whch also made it easier – no cooking over a hot stove, something he is actually quite terrified of (one of his sensory issues is being incredibly sensitive to pain, which makes him fearful of burning himself).

He read the recipe, squeezed the lemon (after learning about sticking it in the microwave for a few seconds to make it jucier), cracked the two eggs using our fantastic egg cracking gadget (Tim bought because he’s sick of dropping eggshells into the cooking and the boys love using it), helped me weigh the butter and put the sugar in the Thermomix, pressed all the buttons and in 3 seconds we had caster sugar! I did all the bits that required using a sharp knife 🙂

He added all the ingrediants to the Thermomix. Pressed all the buttons again and eight minutes later we had delicious Lemon Butter. This recipe didn’t make a lot, but that was fine, we needed to try it out first. Needless to say, by the time it was chilled and ready to eat it was already half gone!

We have a friend with a house cow, so we’re going to ask her if she could spare some butter – maybe we could even go round and make some! That would be fun 🙂 So that the next time we make Lemon Butter (which will be soon, we’re going to make it for Xmas in July gifts) we’ll be making it with our chemical free, home grown lemons and fresh from the cow butter. When we get chooks, we’ll be able to use their free range, chemical free eggs too and then the only ingrediant not grown by us or someone we know, will be the sugar!

Brydon plans on doing more cooking using the Thermomix. Yay! He liked the fact that he could cook hot stuff with a much smaller chance of burning himself, and that it was so quick and easy. Me, I dream that one day one of my boys will be a gourmet chef and help me with the cooking 🙂

More on Chooks

I was liking the idea of getting some fertile eggs and hatching our own, but after all the reading I’ve done I’m thinking we’ll give that a miss. Very complicated for first timers methinks!

Now I’m thinking that we’ll get 4 week old chicks that have already been sexed – 1 rooster and 12 girls. The advantage of this is we can handle them while they are young and get them used to us, which in turn will give the boys enough confidence to collect the eggs.

I have to say, at this stage, I am leaning towards either Barnevelders or Wyandottes as good dual purpose, pretty birds. Dual purpose is definitely a goer with Tim reckoning he could kill a bird after watching Matthew Evans do it on ‘Gourmet Farmer’. ‘As long as the knife is sharp,’ he said.

However, if I’m not so concerned about pretty, perhaps a good dual purpose would be the Light Sussex or Australorp. But, if we are just going for egg production, then maybe the Ancona. Of course, I could just get a mixed flock, but that would make breeding difficult. Hmmm…decisions, decisions, decisions.

After a few more days of research and talking to people and thought processing time, this is what I’m now thinking. Maybe to begin with we don’t get any roosters, but have a mixed flock of the different breeds that I am particularly interested in, maybe two of each of my top 5 or 6 breeds…or even one of each.

I’m pretty definite about having the Ancona. They are good layers with striking feathering, although they can be a little flighty, however once they’re used to you they settle in nicely. I like the Australorp which is a good dual purpose breed and bred for Aussie conditions. I love the Wyandotte, they are so pretty and reasonable layers. I’m also pretty definite about the Barnevelder, which is striking and a really good dual purpose breed.

Also in the mix we’d like an Araucana for the blue green coloured eggs it lays – that was a special request from Brydon (blue is his favourite colour). Also under consideration from my reading so far are the Light Sussex, Faverolle, Welsummer, Adulusian, Minorca, and maybe some bantams, especially the Silky.

I think having a variety of birds to begin with will be fun and will help us decide which breeds work best for us and if there are any breeds we’d like to specialise in at a later date, and it will definitely help us work out which breeds cope best in our environment. If we do breed, we’ll be working on keeping the breed pure and if necessary, learning how to breed back to good utility birds that deliver on their promise, not just look good for the show ring. However, if I could manage to have both – good utility birds that are good enough for showing – then that would also be really good. The biggest issue I think I’m gonna have is making sure I get utility birds and not show stock.

Just read a timely article in the ‘Australasian Poultry’ magazine called ‘Best Breeds for Climate Change’ by Megg Miller (who also publishes ‘Grass Roots’ magazine) which addressed some of the issues I’ve been having in regards to what breeds to get, especially in the heat. I’ve also been given the number of a local chicken lady who may be able to help me as far as that goes too.

Chooks

Our aim it to get ourselves some chooks soon, so right now I’m researching chook breeds. We don’t want commercial hybrids like Isa Browns, the same way I don’t want commercial hybrid fruits and veggie seeds, so I’m looking into heritage and rare breed chooks. I’m partial to something interesting, a chook with a bit of colour.

There are so many different breeds! I didn’t realise I’d have so much choice! So far breeds I’m considering are: Faverolle, Dorking, Ancona, Plymouth Rock, Lakenvelder, Australorp, Andalusian, Barnevelder, Houdan, Minorca, Orpington, Light Sussex, Welsummer and Wyandotte. However, I’ve not been through all the breeds yet, and I’m not sure if all these breeds are available in Australia.

To help with making a choice I am in the midst of constructing a table listing all the points that are important to me, trying to gather most of my resources from Australia, considering that is where we live. It’s quite a big affair. I’ll publish it at some point, when it’s mostly compplete, with hopefully a list of the chooks we chose.

We don’t have a chook shed yet, nor do we have a chook dome for our planned circle gardens, but we have come to an arrangement with our neighbours. They have an empty chook shed and yard and hadn’t decided whether or not they would get chooks, so I proposed us getting some chooks and keeping them in their chook shed and sharing the eggs. They’re doing up their chook shed even as I write this! We won’t be ready to have chooks in our mandala garden system for quite some time yet and I am so sick of buying supermarket ‘free range’ eggs where my idea of free range of chooks roaming around in big paddocks is not necessarily the reality.

Something I found really interesting was how different the yellow of the eggs are from true free ranged chooks to the free range ones I’ve been buying from the supermarket. I saw the hard boiled yolks of a friends free ranged hens eggs and they were almost a curry yellow green in colour. At first I thought they were curried eggs, but no, it’s because these chooks free range. My supermarket free range eggs are not that yellow when hard boiled! Apparently it has something to do with the amount of fresh greens the chooks get!

Interesting colour is an important factor in choosing our chooks, but it’s not the only one. Mostly we want fresh eggs, so we want chooks that are decent layers, and we want chooks that are nice meat birds too as we plan on eating any roosters we get. We also want chooks that are placid, not flighty or aggressive. They need to be hardy too. We get 40 degree days here in summer, thankfully not regularly, and in winter, at night, it can get  down to -5! So the girls are going to need to be able to cope with both the heat and the cold.

Tatong Tattler Post – July 2013 – Permaculture Adventures in Molyullah

This month’s been a busy one, especially with preparing for a Minecraft themed birthday party. Should have started making the props months ago! So between the usual running around and preparing for the party, not much else got done.  However, I’m happy to say, the party was a great success, running for two days over the Queen’s Birthday weekend. ‘It’s the best themed party we’ve ever done,’ said our eldest. He’s now planning his superhero and villain themed party. It’s a good six months away, so I guess we’d better start preparing now!

Despite being swamped with party preparations we still had Cary from ‘Smarter Green’ come and quote us on solar. He was great. Friendly and efficient. He checked out where the shadows were coming from, got up on the roof, checked in the roof, asked us what we were after, chatted about other ways we can reduce our energy consumption…

Turns out he’s a former* Benalla boy and after visiting us, is thinking about moving to Molyullah. Totally understand why. J He has fond memories of Molyullah having won his first blue ribbon at the Easter Sports on his pony Cinders! Thoroughly recommend him if you’re looking into solar. Jeff also put in a fence pole and gate between our place and our neighbours so we’ll be able to access their chook shed without me clambering over the fences, catching my foot in the wire and falling on my face, which is bound to happen at some point.

Capeweed is popping up everywhere! But as we’ll be doing everything organically here, I won’t be using poison. That said, I don’t plan on letting it run rampant either. One of the many things I have learnt over the last four years is that you can learn a lot from weeds; they can tell you a lot about the health of your soil.

The presence of capeweed tells me that my soil is not healthy and balanced. A quick scan through Pat Colby’s book ‘Natural Farming, A Practical Guide’ reveals that among other things, the presence of capeweed in my pasture is an indication of a soil low in magnesium and probably also low in calcium. Pat Colby says, ‘It is the norm in tired, exhausted soils, which usually have a low pH to match.’ Natural Farming, p.172. Dolomite should help, but to be sure, the next step is to take a whole lot of soil samples and send them off for testing.

And now, back to the chooks. Last Tattler I made it known that I was interested in rare/heritage breeds of chooks and that I thought I might start my flock off with Australorps and Wyandottes. I’ve since met with two passionate chook ladies and now have a stack of resources to work my way through. There are so many different wonderful breeds to choose from! So which chook to choose? So far I’ve come up with a list of about twenty different possibilities!!!

We’ve decided on a mixed flock which will give us the chance to experience a variety of chooks and discover which ones are best. We definitely want dual purpose birds so we get eggs and meat, with a few layers thrown in to up the egg production. On the list are the Barnevelder, Langshan, Australorp, Welsummer, Araucana, Minorca, Campine, Dorking, Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red, Light Sussex, New Hampshire, Leghorn, Ancona, Hamburgh, Andalusian, Faverolle, Legbar, Indian Game and Transylvanian Naked Neck. I can get day old chicks from a local breeder and through her I could get me ten of the different breeds I’m after. But what to choose?

According to the chicken coop and run size I could comfortably fit 12 birds and a rooster, giving them about 1m square per chook (not that we’ll be getting a rooster any time soon). Apparently I could squeeze more in, maybe even double it, but twelve girls should give us ample eggs,. We were going to raise them all from day old chicks, but as they won’t lay for 5 to 6 months, we’re now thinking of doing a combination of point of lay pullets and day old chicks. That way we’ll get some eggs sooner and have the joys of raising chicks. However we’ll have to get more chicks than we need as half of them will probably turn out to be cockerels. They’ll be good pure breeds though, so although a couple might end up in the pot, there’s a good chance we’d be able to sell off the boys to people looking for good purebred roosters. Dilemmas, dilemmas.

* Note: I changed this article slightly to the Tattler version with the addition of the word ‘former’ in an attempt to make what I was saying a little clearer 🙂

Tatong Tattler Post – June 2013 – Permaculture Adventures in Molyullah

Permaculture Adventures in Molyullah

We are about to enter our ninth week of our new life in Molyullah! Finally we are living in our own home on a couple of acres and can begin working to make our dream of a sustainable, permaculture lifestyle a reality! Now we can dig holes and plant trees, or hammer nails, get extra power points, paint walls and put in skylights all without asking the landlord for permission. It’s a wonderful feeling!

While still unpacking boxes and customising our new house our first major step is to measure up the property and everything on it giving us an accurate plan to work off. Tim’s in charge of this bit – he’s good at systems, mapping and stuff. I’m his assistant as we systematically work our way around the property with measuring tape, graph pad and pencil,  marking in every tree, rock, tap, building… Once we’ve done that he’ll put it all on the computer and we’ll have our property plan to build our permaculture dream.

‘What is permaculture?’ I hear some of you ask. Very simply put, it is a blend of the two words, ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’. It was coined by a couple of Aussies – Bill Mollison and David Holmgren – to describe a system that mimics nature, a system where everything works together, and all things in the system have more than one purpose. For example, the chooks not only provide eggs, meat and feathers, but their henhouse can be positioned next to the greenhouse thus providing extra warmth for greenhouse plants, their manure is fertiliser and the chooks themselves are ploughs digging up the ground and scratching it over removing all those bad bugs, preparing the ground for planting.

Before spring we hope to have planted the twenty plus fruit trees we brought with us and have at least one circle garden started, so we need to finish all our measuring and plotting first! So while we’re doing that we’ll also be making compost, pruning all the winter pruning plants (I’ve got a basic idea now after trying to read a book on pruning – too technical for me!) and getting some chooks of our own.

The compost is easy! We’ve got piles of autumn leaves everywhere, and that alone is a magnificent source of compost. Combine that with the bunny bedding, kitchen scraps and bull manure from out the back and we’re well on the way. Should have some good stuff by spring.

We don’t have a chook shed as yet, but our neighbour’s do, and it’s empty, so we’re embarking on a joint venture – their chook shed, our chooks and we share the eggs. So now I’m researching chooks. We’re not going to have Isa Browns. I’d already decided that before reading White Gate Woof in the last Tattler. Isa Browns are boring and ‘everybody’ has them.

I met a farmer at the Tavern recently and when I asked him why he had shorthorns while everyone else has Angus and Herefords, he said, ‘because everyone else has them.’ It made me laugh. That is us in a nutshell. So no Isa Browns for us! I’m looking into rare breeds that are decent layers. But maybe we’ll start with Wyandottes and Australorps and expand into rare breeds later. I started the same way with growing our own food.

Tatong Tattler Post – April 2013 – The Molyullah Easter Sports Day Poem

Molyullah Easter Sports Day,
what a fabulous affair.
People came from far and wide
to see Molyullah’s wares.
At 8 o’clock the horn did sound
to welcome one and all
and give the Gardner family
their morning wake-up call!
Tractor engines throbbed and thrummed
and very soon, the smell of diesel engines
wafted through our door.

A leisurely stroll up to the gate
we wandered in, a little late
only three hours after the starters call.
We sauntered in, checked out the rides and food
– those most important things!
The jumping castle, that was the ride for our middle son
(‘twas the only reason that he’d come)
while our youngest one
tried his hand at Crash the Rat
and bounced that little ball.
We looked at the pole, the sheep
and the large hay bale
but to guess the height of one
and the weight of two,
we were sadly without a clue.

By now it was time to eat,
you can’t put hungry boys off for long,
so chips and meat it was,
with cans of soft drink too.
The meat was very yummy and scrummy,
but it was the chips that won our hearts –
whoever did cook those carvery chips,
the job they did it was superb
their chips a lovely golden brown
crisp and crunchy on the outside
but on the inside soft and fluffy –
the perfect chip to feed our family!

We watched the old tractors pull and pull
that heavy weight along the sandy track;
we saw the men chopping wood,
heard piggies squeal in the petting farm,
and children shout and scream
as we watched them ride that twisting, bucking bull.
The horse events went on all day
with showjumping and novelty events.
The bending, flag and barrel races
brought back memories
as I watched ‘Strike’ and ‘Invaders Girl’
battle it out head to head,
as they weaved their way through the poles
as fast as they could without knocking them down
then galloped down the straight so fast
it looked like they might miss.

And all the while
engines throbbed and thrummed –
spinning, churning,
clanking, whirring;
blue clouds of smoke and diesel fumes
strong upon the air.
The spinning wheel and jumble sale
were popular indeed,
and as I passed on through the crowd
I heard an older lady say
to an older gent,
‘I remember this when I was a girl,’
and his response,
‘And back then it was on the back of a truck.’

And now the day is over,
we’ve all gone home footsore and pleasantly tired;
the grounds are all empty and quiet
as everything’s packed up.
All that is left, the only evidence of
the Molyullah Easter Sports Day
are the 31 bins out the front!

Carla G.
April 2013

Tatong Tattler Post – April 2013 – Easter Sports

This was our very first Molyullah Easter Sports Day ever, having just bought a nearby property and moved in two weeks earlier. We had a great day. The only downside, in our opinion, were the European wasps buzzing around while we tried to eat our food which means there’s a nest somewhere nearby. Although we have to say we are happy that the Molyullah Easter Sports day is only on once a year as we moved here for the peace and quiet, serenity and mountain views, and with the Molyullah Easter Sports Day running there was not much peace, quiet or serenity, although we still had the mountain views. 🙂

A big thank you goes out to all who put in the hard work to make this day a reality – we noticed that for some dedicated people the Molyullah Easter Sports Day is a whole Easter affair, with people arriving from Good Friday onwards, camping out and preparing the grounds for the big day.

We hope to meet a few fellow Molyullah-ites at the next Molyullah dinner at the Tavern in May. Which we did – it was a great night meeting some local people and eating great food. Thoroughly recommend the Tatong Tavern for a meal if you’re in the area.

Tatong Tattler Posts

Since moving to Molyullah I have been writing articles for the Tatong Tattler, a small newsletter publication that goes out to the people of Tatong and surrounding areas.

Generally what I’ve been writing for the Tattler is a summary of what’s been going on in our permaculture adventures, although my first article was a poem about the Easter Sports. Anyway, I’ve decided to add these articles to my posts too. 🙂