Thursday, 21 September 2017

Spring Has Arrived in the Barossa

The grass around the house (loosely referred to as a lawn)  is growing a foot a day; or so it seems now that I've taken over that job. 
The bees are swarming!
The honey flow is happening!
The sheep need shearing! 
The garden pots suddenly need watering!
The vegetables are all ready to eat at once!
How did we ever cope with Spring when I was working at a paid job?

Looking out of the north facing door to the top of our hill in the distance. The self seeded cherry plum trees that shade part of the poultry run is a riot of pale pink. Before we know it, the trees will be in full leaf and there will be small plums falling on the ground for the chooks to gobble up.

The "lawn" needs mowing every week. I've taken over this job since proving to Brian that I wouldn't break his new lawn mower. I didn't know there was such a thing as a key start lawn mower, so none of that "Start ya bastard" stuff is required. Nor have my shoulders dislocated with the .#@&%* pull start rope. I quite enjoy doing it, the chooks love the fresh lawn clippings and the compost heaps get a boost from the clippings too.

Every day is packed full. Poor Brian! At work all week, and flat out farming all weekends and evenings during the week. I try to get him to bring in some help, but he loves doing it all, especially the shearing and crutching. We're lucky he's proficient at it, as shearers are getting very hard to find when they're needed.

It was time for some of my bottle fed babies to fly the coop, and to join our bigger sheep in paddocks on the other side of town. Gavin, Coco, Carrie and Tex joined Big Lambie and all the other lambs and ewes.
Brian backed up to the ramp and moved them out to find the other sheep. I couldn't get out of the car or speak at all. Not from sadness, although the feelings are bitter sweet at this stage of their lives, but if they heard my voice they would have wanted to follow me.

 Our supplies of honey dried up a couple of weeks ago, but now we're in full swing again with honey flowing from the hives.

The farmgate shop is stocked again, and the customers are showing their appreciation by emptying the shelves every couple of days.
Brian and I are both working around the clock to keep up with the demands of  honey and bee keeping supplies.
Our past workshop attendees who are now bee keepers themselves, are now appreciating the amount of energy (work) required to keep a bee hive operating healthily.
As well as being called out daily to collect swarms, we're getting requests for more bee boxes and frames to house the expanding bee hives.
As I sit here at 8pm on a Thursday evening,  I can hear the steady tap tapping sound of Brian making frames out in the shed. It's where he has spent every evening for the past eleven days until 9pm.

Part of today's harvest from the rented bee hives. The people who rented the hives for a year have finally been rewarded.

Only two bottle fed lambs remain, and Poppy the heifer calf is weaning off milk, so there is some excess milk again. If I stockpile milk for the babies over a couple of days, I have an entire ten litre bucket of fresh warm milk to put through the separator every few days. With all this lush green grass in our paddocks at present, her milk is incredibly creamy.

With too many jars of jam open in the fridge, I made some jam macaroon slices to use up some of it. OK... there was another reason! I needed a peace offering, and it had to be good.
Feeling most embarrassed after the sudden realisation that I forgot my hair cut appointment last week, I delivered a small hamper of goodies to my beautiful hairdresser, Rachel.
How did I forget? What was I thinking?
My eight weekly hair cut is my one luxury that I wouldn't miss for Quids! Hmmm... forgot to transfer the date from the appointment card into my diary, didn't I?
Or am I beginning on that slippery slide down to you know where?
Time to learn a new language perhaps... in my spare time!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

It Can't Be...Can it? September..!

Spring has sprung! Another spring is here, and it's quite unbelievable how fast this year is galloping along. I've lost my blogging mojo lately as there isn't time in my days to sit at my computer when there is so much else happening. 
 Well, there has been a bit of writing going on, but it was for Grass Roots magazine; the first article published and another article is ready for the next issue. 

I tell you what... I really hung onto that cheque.  Hated parting with it at the bank last week. It's the first time I've ever been paid for writing, and it was such an honour to write for my favourite magazine. The accompanying hand written note from founder and co-editor Meg is tucked away for keeps though. 
My articles are on Natural Sheep Care using Bio-dynamics and Organics, and there are lots of other fabulous articles in there as usual.


And now to bring you up to date with what's been happening here in the past month.
Chicks hatched out in the incubator. We had too many  Cornish Game (meat bird) hens in our flock, and not enough Australorp (egg laying) hens so Brian incubated eggs from both breeds to give us meat for the freezers, plus replacement laying hens.
When the chicks were strong enough to leave the incubator, usually 12 to 24 hours after hatching, they were placed in the brooder enclosure under a light to keep them warm and to get them moving about, eating and drinking, for another 24 hours, before being introduced to their foster mothers.
I took little videos of the chicks in the brooder to go onto my Instagram, but I'm not able to put them on here. (Another skill to learn on my list)
Three hens went broody during the time the eggs were in the incubator, so we kept them sitting on an egg each. The eggs were marked with a smiley face to differentiate them should they be picked up  with the daily egg collection.

The fenced off nursery section of the chook house. Note the small opening in the wall. 
When the chicks were strong, but still only a day or two old, each foster hen was moved, one at a time, into the 'nursery' section of the chook house. Approximately twenty chicks were placed under each hen while we waited and observed until she talked to them and settled them all underneath her.

The small cut-out opening allows outside access into a separate yard during the days, away from the other hens, but is covered over at night keeping them safe from predators and sheltered inside the nursery. 


There have been bottles on the sink, and milk stains on my clothes constantly for five months! Is it any wonder that I'm counting down these remaining few weeks until this lot are old enough to wean? That early arrival of the first bottle lamb in June has extended our usual three months of lambs by two months. Too much... too long..!!

Little Trevor, my 'special needs' baby, is going ahead now in leaps and bounds. His malnourished and bent bones are gradually straightening out, his little belly is round, and his legs are developing muscles. He will never amount to being a proper sheep, but this gutsy little fellow will always hold a special place in my heart, and will live out his years here.
Still too small to be tailed and castrated, we'll wait until he looks ready.

The ewes have learned the routine. Each night we bring them down to the small paddock nearest the house where they huddle together and protect each other's lambs from foxes. 
In the early morning I open the gate for them to wander back up to the hill paddocks. A new paddock every few days.


It's much quieter and relaxed around here now that Mulga Bill has gone for another 'holiday'. 
Bulls, even quiet bulls, love to throw their weight around, literally! He rubs himself against gates, trees, sheds.  Lifts the hay rack and moves it to various parts of the hay feeding yard. Tries to intimidate anyone and everything that comes into his space. The heavy tyre on the rope gets a good workout, usually in the middle of the night (boom,boom,boom) on the shed wall, but if it keeps him occupied that's a good thing. A gate is saved from wrecking for another day. a tree branch stays connected to the tree for another day longer!
The hay bale is lasting twice as long now that he's gone, and that's another great thing. So we will not see him again until after Lavender's calf is born, due in December, and by then she will need to be mated up again.


 And suddenly it's bee season again. A stack of new boxes ready for filling. Note these boxes are branded with my initials since I've become a registered bee keeper along with Brian, so our holding capacity is greater now, and so is our workload!

Out today at some of our apiary stands, checking the health of the hives, adding super boxes and excluders, making notes of what we need to do next. It's shaping up to be a good season, and we're hedging our bets by having bees in many different locations.

The Bee-keeping workshop on October 8th is fully booked now, so we will open another date for the next workshop soon. Preparations are now keeping me busy, in my free time.

But right now I'm trying to organise a short break in October to get away for a few days in our newly purchased Avan..
The logistics involved in going away...!!! (insert eye roll)
All work and no play is making a certain person a bit cranky and a tad grumpy, (not me) so I pulled rank and bought it! Yes, just like that! 
I have wanted one for years, and recently decided that life is too short not to use the good china, so, after looking for the right one for many months, this one came on the market in the City near us, and we brought it home a few days ago.  You may notice that we drank to its good health and longevity  that same evening, pretending to be on holiday.
And that, my dear friends is quite enough for you to read in one sitting.
If you made it all the way through, thank you!


Friday, 18 August 2017

Save the Date... Sunday 8th October 2017 - Bee-keeping Workshop for Beginners

We are now taking bookings for our first workshop for the season on Sunday 8th October 2017.
A fun day of learning and interacting with a small group of beginner bee-keepers in an informal and friendly atmosphere.

Morning tea and lunch is provided.

Meeting new friends and networking at lunch time.

Some folks are more popular with the bees than others!

We will start the day by learning the ins and outs of the hive and equipment.

Then we get into some hands-on bee keeping projects.
Bee suits and equipment will be available to purchase on the day.

This one day course for beginners will cover all the basic aspects of bee keeping to give you the knowledge and confidence to get started with keeping your own hives.

This is what some of the participants said about the workshops from last year;
 " Did the bee keeping course today
fascinating, there was an overflowing fountain of information and experience from Brian & Sally . Really worth the day to do. I highly recommend it even if you don't want to have bees but are just interested in the topic. Great day" (Pip)
"Absolutely fabulous day. We have hives but learnt so much. Good networking with others. Sally and Brian are beautiful, caring and sharing people." (Sue)

9am - 4pm-ish (depending on the day, it may be a 5pm finish)
Cost: $100 per person, includes morning tea and lunch
To reserve a place please contact.... Sally or Brian at Jembella Farm  
Email -  
Text - 0473 493 413

Click here to look back at  Bee keeping Workshop Nov 2016
and  Bee keeping workshop Jan 2017

Thursday, 17 August 2017

That List

I don't think I'm the only person who, all too frequently, finds herself so overwhelmed by the "To Do" list, that nothing on the list gets done at all because I'm not sure where to start, or I'm not really in the mood for doing any of them.
Of course the routine daily tasks are always done, otherwise there would be hungry animals, no food on the table, and we would be living in filth. No it's not those tasks that I'm talking about here.
My list goes something like this;
     Write Blog
     Take bee suits to the tailor for zip repairs
     Make appointment to have my Tax done
     Finish next Grass Roots article for submission
     Design & print new jam jar labels for the Farmgate shop at our front gate
     Pot up new plants for selling in the farmgate shop
There are many more things on my list, but you get the gist!
So! Here goes, I'm working through my list and starting at the top.. Write a Blog Post..! And gee it feels good and virtuous to be making a start. aaahh!
I may even pot up a few plants later when the rain stops, just so I feel doubly good as I'm ticking off my accomplishments for the day, when dozing off to sleep tonight.
My poor blog has been neglected lately. I think of so many marvelously interesting things to write about when I'm out in the garden, or working with the sheep or cows, or whipping up a meal that just happens to turn out surprisingly well. But, when I find the time to sit at the computer, it's all gone, the brain is frizzled, the cupboard is bare.
So today, please bare (bear?) with me as I try to catch up on what's been going on around here.

It must have been May or June that I picked the pumpkins that grew at the bottom of the vegetable garden last summer/autumn growing season. The photo at the top of the page shows the various shapes, sizes and colours of the harvest, and yet the seeds I planted were all Queensland Blue!!
This would have to be the cheapest and easiest staple vegetable for anyone to grow who has the space for rambling pumpkin vines that have a mind of their own and grow like Triffids. These were grown from the grey water that gravity feeds down to the orchard and pumpkin patch, so no cost at all, apart from my energy to move the grey water hose around daily.
Now we're enjoying them roasted with almost every evening meal, mashed in cakes and breads, in soups and stews,  roasted caramelized pieces in green salads with home made egg and oil mayonnaise.

In the kitchen
Tis the season for comfort food, and nothing beats thick chunks of sourdough dipped into a hot bowl of soup.

Three of the seven bottles that live on the kitchen bench for these few months of bottle feeding lambs. My days are punctuated by feeds, but it's getting easier with the bigger lambs requiring only two daily feeds now. The two babies (Peewee and Trevor) are still getting a lunchtime feed, so anytime I might need to go out, needs to be arranged between feeds. Oh, and the update on Trevor.. after eight days of painstakingly dripping milk down his throat, he suddenly started suckling hungrily from the bottle. There were hoots of relief and jumps for joy last Sunday!

A nest of eggs was found under one of the big trees at the edge of the chicken enclosure so I "floated" them to see if they were still fresh enough to use for baking. None floated so they were all OK to use, thankfully.

The farmgate shop does a good trade in biscuits, so I need to make a batch of these twice each week, and sometimes more often.

I was gifted some limes, so I put them with some of our lemons to make a big batch of marmalade.

A few small jars to go into the farmgate shop.
Today I'm making orange marmalade, so there should be enough to last us until next citrus season. I love it on sourdough toast, but it's also very good in casseroles, fruit cakes, puddings, and home made icecream.
And speaking of icecream, Cheryl at A Simply Good Life has posted a Mary Berry recipe for icecream. I made a trial batch and will stick to this recipe from now onward.  Smooth, creamy, and economical, but deliciously luscious with a good mouthfeel.

Farm stuff

 We "marked" the larger lambs on Saturday. This is ear tagging, vaccinating, and putting elastrator rings on tails, and in the case of the males, elastrator rings on their scrotum. It's a stressful time for both ewes and lambs, so we get it done as smoothly and as fast as possible. It does cause them some pain for the first thirty minutes, so we try to have them back with their mums as soon as possible so they can have comfort suckles.
Good organization is the key. Have all the equipment in good working order, and work methodically. After we draft off the ewes, Brian does the job, while I re-load the ear tag gun, load the elastrator gadget, hand him the syringe, and write the score of boys and girls.


Bee season is just around the corner, so with a 20C day on Sunday, we drove to all of our four apiaries to check every hive.  Notes were taken by me, the assistant, as to the health of each hive and what is required in the next few weeks.
Extra brood boxes will be added, excluders will be inserted, some of the nucleus hives will be transferred into full size boxes, supers will be added to the strongest hives. Overall, we're really pleased with how well they have all wintered over, with a loss of only one nuc hive.
Our customers have been keeping us busy during the week with their orders for boxes, frames, and various bee equipment as they too prepare for the coming season.


 After a few warm days in the high teens, we're now back to severe wintry weather with rain, which is very much appreciated. Alan loves his coat, but Meg is always on the go, has thicker fur and sleeps inside so no coat for her.
So now, hours later and after many interruptions, I'm just going to click on 'Publish' and tick this one job on my list.
Cheers to you and thanks for coming over for a read.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Oops.. Official update and What comes first? The chicken or the egg?

Well I don't quite know what happened with the rough draft that I tapped out last night. Just goes to show that my senses are obviously impaired by my blurry lamb brain. I thought I had clicked on the "Save" icon, but there we are, the great blogging master in the sky overruled and did a "Publish" instead.
I'd planned on finishing it off tonight with today's progress, but I'm afraid to say that not much progress has happened with his feeding. Still no suckle reflex, and I'm tipping milk into his mouth hourly just to be sure he has something nourishing keeping him alive.
Every time I went to feed him he had made his way into the paddock with the ewes and lambs and was wandering around trying to find his mum. It was easy enough to pick him out, he is so thin, and was easy to catch and feed him, so in the end I left him out there because the weather was fine and he was happiest with the ewes. I observed him walking to each ewe, trying to suckle her sneakily when she wasn't looking and when her own lamb was suckling. This little bloke sure is streetwise. I suspect he's been keeping himself alive by doing this at his previous home.
Tonight I've brought him in to be with the other bottle lambs in the safety of their lamb shed, and will continue with feeding him as best I can for as long as he stays alive, or decides to give in and suckle from the bottle.
There will be no night time feeds though...I've had a stern talk to myself about toughening up, but I do take this task of lamb raising very seriously and will always put in the extra effort to ensure I can survive a weak animal. An early night, sleeping all night until early morning will be much appreciated tonight though.

There were no eggs to put out for sale in the Farmgate shop all of last week while Brian saved enough eggs to put into the ninety egg incubator. The guest room has been commandeered as the hatchery, so there will be no room at the Inn if guests turn up during the next three weeks.
There are twenty five Australorp eggs for laying hen replacement birds, (any roosters hatched will be eaten of course) and sixty five Cornish Game eggs for meat birds for the table.

While cleaning out a cupboard I found our photo album with some photos of when we first purchased in May 2004.

And a recent pic.

Monday, 7 August 2017


Six lambs to bottle feed were definitely enough, but when we got another phone call yesterday evening, it was impossible to say no to another one.  While Brian drove off to meet the farmer and fetch the baby I prepared a colostrum mix that I feed to all new lambs, and started getting things ready for a new born. On his way home, Brian phoned to let me know that the lamb is a few weeks old, one of twins, and had not been getting his share of the mother's milk.

It's difficult to estimate his age, but comparing him to some of our lambs, we think he could be three weeks old, and in a very bad way. I have never seen a lamb in this condition before, dehydrated and severely malnourished, so it is quite a challenge.
As soon as Brian had brought him into the kitchen I gave him Arnica in pillule form, my favorite remedy for shock.
Even though he is older, and would have had his mother's colostrum soon after his birth, I fed him the health boosting colostrum mixture anyway.

My Colostrum Mix for Lambs
1 egg yolk
1 small dessertspoon of Cod Liver Oil
2 cups of cow's milk or lamb's milk replacement
Mix well, heat to body temperature, feed through a teat if the lamb will suckle, or a syringe if the lamb will not suckle.

We kept him in front of the wood stove and I got up to feed him twice during the night. The biggest challenge with this one is his age, he was wild, unused to humans, and although he is swallowing some milk, he is refusing to suckle the teat. I'm using all kinds of contortion yoga positions to hold him and carefully position the teat in his mouth so the milk will trickle in.
**Be careful when doing this though; if the milk goes into the wind pipe and into the lungs, the animal will contract pneumonia and die.
 When the rain stopped falling this afternoon I took him out to the paddock to meet the other lambs and he started gobbling grass like he was starving.

Friday, 4 August 2017

And then there were six......Lambs

First there was Oliver, otherwise known as Lambie, who was suffering an identity crisis, thinking he was a dog or a chicken. So I advertised my desire to take on some more orphaned lambs so he would have company and learn about being a sheep.
The two little Merinos arrived in time to be featured in this blog post and then a few more arrived.

And then there were four.

And another one, plus Lambie, makes six. They are all named of course. Gavin, Coco, Tex, Carrie and Peewee.

Our local paper caught on and thought it worthy of a feature. News travels fast in the country!

A mother's work is never done.

Feeding time.. one lamb on two feeds, some on five feeds and one on seven feeds... per day! (and through the night)

 Peewee spent two nights in front of the kitchen stove.

The towels were draped so he didn't burn himself on the hot oven doors, and a variety of furniture made up a little temporary yard for him. Meg just wanted to 'round him up'.
They're all doing well, but I'm starting to feel the exhaustion setting in, so I can barely put three (human) words together today. If I could speak to you in sheep lingo, that would be a different matter. 
In exciting news, I was fortunate to be asked by Grass Roots magazine to write about -you guessed it- the natural and bio-dynamic care of sheep!  The magazine is in the shops now.

And now it's time to warm up their milk bottles again!

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