Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Summer in the Garden

Good old Agapanthus. You either love them or loathe them, but if you live with very dry summers they will quickly become your friend.

With their green strappy leaves they always cast a soothing cool impression in the driest of gardens, driveways and gate entrances. The tall stems of blue or white flowers are the added bonus at this time of year when there is not much flowering.

 The honey room and meat processing shed, fits comfortably in the landscape with Aggies softening the edges.

It's dry. Very dry, but the earwigs are still just as active and destructive, so we have brought in this new line of bug control defense.

In total there are six new Pekin bantams. With their short feathery legs they can scratch all day among the plants without doing much damage besides moving the mulch.

With access to all areas of the large house yard gardens, the smallest bantams are able to squeeze through the spaces in this wire that surrounds the kitchen garden...

... and so far they have not damaged this section of young basil and coriander plants, preferring to scratch around the rhubarb plants where multitudes of earwigs live; but I know I need to put some wire cages around the seedlings ASAP.

Bird netting and temporary shade over the pumpkin plants. I've left little gaps so the Pekin bantams can get underneath to keep cool and to scratch out earwigs.

(Photo by Emma)                                                                        
 In the large vegetable garden however, another family of bantams work hard all day to keep the earwigs and harlequin beetles under control. These are Jap bantams and are even smaller than the Pekins.
We cover the small seedlings under wire cages until they have grown large enough to withstand a little bit of scratching around the base of the plants.  The little Japs don't inflict any damage to the grown plants as shown here among the zucchinis, with small capsicum plants still under the wire cover.

As if earwigs, Harlequin beetles and scorching heat aren't enough to challenge any gardener, we have plaques of sparrows too.  These little pests love to peck the tiny new beans and all tender young shoots, so some Christmas tinsel is this week's scare away tactic. We need to change the scare every week because they become used to each method we try.

Every gardener has their challenges and we need to find ways of dealing with them without using chemicals or brutal means.
In the north of our country gardeners and poultry keepers are dealing with huge lizards and various feral animals. I'm not sure I'd like to come face to face with a wild pig or a carpet snake.. ergh!!!
Ooh, our little Jap bantams would be easy pickings for a huge snake.

How do you deal with your gardening challenges?

Cheers and thanks for dropping in.

Sally XX

(Photo of Jap bantams by Emma A Simple Living Journey)

Saturday, 5 January 2019


My friends following along on Facebook and Instagram will be familiar with this cow by now, but I've been so slow in keeping this blog up to date due to an increase in workload and no energy remaining in the tank at the end of each day.  I'm not complaining, I bring it all on myself and have no one to blame.
In November we went to  our local livestock market to buy a ram, but as there were none suitable for us, we wandered across to the cattle yards to have a look before returning home with an empty trailer.
In the yards of beef cattle this Jersey stood out from the crowd, looking very frightened and nervous. 
I could see nothing wrong with her and suspected she was being culled from a large dairy due to her small size udder and teats. I also noticed she had not been dried off, there was milk in her perfectly formed, but small udder.
Just the day before this I was wondering how I would stretch Lavender's nine litres per day among the calf, pigs, poultry and have enough left over to make some cheese.
Here was what appeared to be a miracle right in front of my eyes.
Of course my heart was beating fast and I went off to the office to inquire who was selling her. Maybe I could find him/her to ask the history and some details before making a rash purchase. But although I was told the name of the dairy farmers, they were not present at the sale.
Back to the pen I went, examined her carefully, and after a short discussion with Brian, decided to bid for her. We'd take our chances.
When the hammer fell on our bid of $300 I was just a big silly grin in tears. The lady sitting next to me asked if I was OK. I nodded and croaked out something like "We just bought a Jersey"

Onto our trailer she walked and it was when she looked at me with those big Jersey eyes that I knew she was our Honeysuckle cow.

 I had a good feeling about this cow,  was confident we had the experience of years of training cows, and was determined to make it work.
Her udder was increasing in size by the evening so we made a makeshift laneway, using a couple of long gates, and ushered her into the milking parlour.
She was shivering with fear, fought her head against the bales that restrained her head over the feed drum, and hardly let down any milk.
I wish there were photos of us wrangling a fully grown cow into our dairy, but it was all hands on deck. A few touchy moments of dangerous risk taking on our part, and more than a few moments of thinking that we must be crazy.

By the third day we took away one of the gates and coaxing her into the milking parlour became less stressful for all concerned.  She began letting down all of her milk and needed milking twice daily.

During those first few days I spent lots of time with her to gain her confidence in me.  I knew she came from a large dairy, so would have had minimal human handling or gentle human interaction.
I phoned the dairy, previous owners, who were not very forthcoming about discussing her history with me.
Fair enough, a strange type of cow woman ringing them out of the blue, they probably don't have the time for chit chat. Well, actually, if it were me selling a cow I'd be overjoyed if a nice lady phoned me to tell me that my cow went to a good home instead of the butcher. Oh well, move on Sal.
To their credit, they emailed me a photo of her herd card that told me she was born in 2015, had one calf in Dec 2017, and had not conceived again when given access to the bull in February 2018.

After a week of training, she soon became eager to trot up to the milking parlour as soon as we open the paddock gate. She happily munches on her special feed mixture in the bales and her milk production has increased slightly.
Lavender seems such a huge "humpalumpa" now against petite Honeysuckle, and the girls are getting along happily together.
Milking times are a little more involved, with both cows waiting to be milked in the mornings, and Honeysuckle is milked again in the evening. I'll eventually drop her back to once a day milking when her production decreases, but for now there are so many mouths (and beaks) to feed with all of the milk.
The new challenge for now is closely observing the timing of her estrous cycles so we can have the *AI man here at the correct time.

We called in the AI man three weeks ago when Poppy came into estrous (on heat) and we waited with fingers crossed for the twenty one days, hoping she had conceived. However, last evening she showed all the signs of estrous, jumping onto the other two dairy cows and generally being a real pest in the yards. I called the AI man who agreed to call again this morning. But wait a minute!
Honeysuckle was due to come into estrous last Tuesday and we thought we had missed her conception time, thinking all the action had been going on the night before. We added that into my detailed notes about what signs she displays at which time during her most fertile period. So when Poppy was jumping on Honeysuckle last evening, we saw that Honey was also a bit fidgety and showed all the signs that it was actually her that was on heat. 
This morning rolled around and it was clear that both of them were on heat. What are the odds? I phoned the AI man to ask him to bring two semen straws instead of just one.
Two cows, one visit. ;-)
The above photo shows them waiting in the yards next to the dairy this morning. When the AI man turns up I like to have cows at the ready so he can get on with his task immediately. Within ten minutes both cows were brought into the bales, one at a time, where they munched happily from the feed bin while they were inseminated.
The AI man was paid in cash, a bottle of wine and a tub of honey, before he went on his way again.
Being ready when he arrives, and paying him immediately is showing professionalism and respect for the people we need to call in to help us with the tasks that we aren't skilled at, and consequently, they never hesitate when we call on them.

 And just to be a show-off, here is one of the cheeses I've been making with Honeysuckle's delicious raw Jersey milk. A runny camembert style with a Roquefort bloomy rind.
The calendar is marked twenty one days ahead, and we will be watching for any signs of estrous activity around those few days and nights. Fingers crossed that it will pass without event.
It's times like this when we wish we still had our own bull but the management stress of a large bull on a small property is an even bigger problem, especially when dairy cows need to be brought in for milking every day.
Why do we do it? Ha!
Thanks for dropping in and my wish for you is a year of happiness, good health and and abundance of all the good things in 2019.
Be kind.
Sally XX

*Artificial Insemination

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