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

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

December 2018

Hello friends!
It's been such a long time since I sat here at my laptop tapping out some words to journal our life and happenings here at Jembella.
This was the purpose of the blog, after all, but life generally gets in the way of sitting back and writing things down. So today's post is a catch up on what has been happening.
To those readers who also follow me on Facebook and on Instagram, you can expect to see some photos that you've seen before. Although these two platforms are also a great way for me to record my living journal, I realise there are dear friends who don't use them and the only way they can see what we're up to is by reading this blog.

In late October we drove to collect our two female piglets from Peggy, our friend and free-range pig breeder.
In years past we have always bought three piglets. One for our freezer and butchered at home, and two for selling the meat. 
By law, to sell the meat we are required to have them butchered at an accredited abattoir. However, due to our disappointment with the local abattoir, (read.... rough treatment of the pigs at their final hour of life was clearly evident  on inspection of the carcasses at collection time) we have decided not to sell our pork. We bought only two pigs because it will be manageable for us to butcher both pigs here at home on the same day, to our own ethical requirements. This pork will be for our freezers and shared with friends and family who have helped us out in various ways.

 They are living a good life and dining out every day on restaurant scraps and surplus milk. Soon there will be orchard fruits that we collect from under our trees of those of our friends.  I've often heard it said that home grown food animals "have a good life with just one bad day" but it is really important to us that our animals DON'T have ANY bad days.

Also in October we attended our local Angaston Primary School 140th anniversary.
One of my longest time friends (I won't say oldest)  joined us and we found our Grade 3 teacher, Miss Hahn. She was our favourite teacher and she is still a gorgeous lady.

Little Stretch seemed to be growing up and not out so I purchased a bag of "Calf grower pellets" which he would not eat!  I tried feeding him by hand, but he spat them out so I  taught him to drink from the bucket and add the soaked pellets to his milk rations twice a day. Almost immediately we could see him filling out.

 October Beekeeping workshop at Jembella Farm

November Beekeeping Workshop at Jembella Farm

We had the great pleasure of running two Beekeeping classes in both October and November. both of them fully booked out.
Yes, they are quite a lot of work to organise, especially so because I do all of the catering of morning tea and lunch, take all the bookings and do all the marketing and publicity, but they are enormous fun. We see people learn about keeping bees and then return to buy their equipment and bees, and then we mentor them through the beginnings of their new adventure. 
Brian and I both believe that knowledge should be shared. We shouldn't take it with us, as was the attitude of many older apiarists who we peppered with questions during our early years of beekeeping. 

Forty chickens hatched in the incubator and then placed into the care of three broody hens.
Another sixty eggs are in the incubator and due to hatch next week.  Most of them will be chicken for our table plus a few replacement layers and breeders.
I bought a chicken from the supermarket last month when our supply in the freezer ran out. It was a big disappointment and my plan is not to buy from the supermarket again! 

 After a tricky growing season..low rainfall whilst growing and then a downpour of 25mls after cutting... we actually got some hay baled. Phew!! 
Hay is so expensive to buy this year due to the shortage, and we can breathe a huge sigh of relief that we have enough to supply our stock for the next two years.

Cutting enough chaff from our new season hay to feed the cows when they're in the dairy for milking.

The nets are on the fruit trees. The birds are becoming hungrier and coming in closer than ever before. 

A reminder to take extra care when near the netted trees as snakes are often caught in the netting that touches the ground. This one had its head caught in the netting that covered the blueberry bushes. The only way out was to remove its head.
The week before this, Brian had a surprise as he lifted the lid on one of the hen's nests to find a Red Belly Black snake curled around half a dozen eggs. 

 This is the time of year for re-queening our hives if the Queens are getting old. We ordered (and received in the post) six Queens form Queensland last week. 
Brian's Queen breeding program is going well, with five young Queens gone to new homes last week.

And as if life wasn't busy enough, we found this sweet girl at the cattle sales last week. 
Her arrival has been challenging and eventful, but with great joy too.
Honeysuckle deserves a blog post all to herself, as you can see I'm completely smitten.

But before I go, I want to tell you about a beautiful new blog from a friend who I met through this blog and then through Instagram. 
Great things are meant to be shared and I think you will love Fairy Wren Cottage
as much as I do.
Jude is a wife to Michael and mum to fifteen year old Liliana. They live on a few acres in delightful Tasmania, in a cottage they have renovated together into something out of the pages of Country Style magazine. Truly, you will drool over the photos that Jude so cleverly styles and displays on her pages. But it's not just about beautiful things and a life of total fantasy. Jude suffered an injury a few years ago that has changed the way she has to live, and then young Lil also suffered an injury.
Jude writes about the ways they have learned to adapt, learned to be positive and grateful for the simplest of things. 
 (Lordy, don't most of us need a reminder at times, to be grateful for our good health and mobility that we mostly take for granted?)
This little family have a genuine love for animals, especially ducks, guinea pigs, chickens and dogs that is heartwarming to read about. Jude writes about and shares tips on permaculture and organic gardening and animal care, cooking, baking, sewing and crafting, homeschooling etc.
 Her beautiful mantra of "Bloom where you grow" rings true in my ears.
I honestly wish Jude lived just down the road from me, she is just the kind of friend we would all love to have. Oh and did I mention that she also writes for Grass Roots Magazine? Yep! 
So go over and have a read, I think you will be charmed.

That's enough from me today, and thanks if you made it all the way through.
Sal XX

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Spring Rush and Dear Friends

Dear friends,
Thank you for your  kindhearted  comments in regards to the loss of our Soda. I know you will understand why I did not answer each comment personally, and I hope you will accept my gratitude to each and every one of you for taking the time to write, in each case, the perfect words that were balm to my soul. You knew exactly the right thing to say. Wow, from people I have never met came comments, emails and phone calls with wishes that were perfectly soothing and powerful.
What a beautiful community we have here, and I'm so grateful to you all.

 The days are warming up and the Spring rush is on.  There is much to achieve each day, and now the watering routine has begun. I do wonder why I create so much work for myself, but I enjoy pots of colour and greenery around the place.

You know how concerned we were about getting a hay crop this year? The contractor arrived last week and agreed it was time to cut.

This smaller crop was lush, but the other paddock was not so, but he cut it anyway.  Oh what a great feeling of relief, but we must not count our good fortune just yet; not until it's bailed and put away in storage.
The number of bales will be well below our usual, but combined with our stored hay from last year, there will be enough to feed our cows and sheep through summer and get us through until October 2019.

Brian has taken two weeks annual leave to do our shearing, among countless other things that need doing at this time of year. Most of these were the ewes that we did not mate up in view of the dry season ahead. So no lambs for them this year, but they put more energy into growing an extra long fleece. Brian was doing some fancy footwork to handle the huge girls and shear their wool off.

At morning smoko on the first day.  I didn't recognize Coco with her wool off, but she was happy to see me and came over for a chin scratch after I snapped this photo. She was one of my bottle fed lambs from last year, now grown into a lovely strong ewe.

Jack of all trades, this bloke.

We butchered the steer. 
I helped bring him into the crush because I was familiar to him and he was relaxed around me. We didn't want him stressed.  I then swiftly moved the other cows into a far paddock before beating  a fast retreat while the men completed the job in a competent and professional way. 
I'm so very grateful to have people around me who are capable and can be trusted to do such an enormous task. As a meat eater, preferring to eat chemical free and ethically raised and dispatched meat, I can't stress enough the importance of taking control of the entire process from birth to plate.

 Hung for two weeks in our refrigerated cool room.

Our butcher friend helped us cut the carcass into all manner of cuts and portions. I chose to forfeit a couple of rolled roasts and gained these ribs instead. 
We enjoyed some of them slow cooked in a sticky Asian type sauce in the wood oven for dinner that night. Delicious.!

This is the advantage of helping our butcher, standing alongside him, and choosing the cuts as we go.
Brian helped me to make approximately 10kgs of mince with the off cuts and then I spent the remainder of the weekend packing the meat into meal size portions. It's a huge job that needs to be done with care to avoid any waste.
Most of the meat was packed into vacuum sealed bags and will store very well in the freezer for twelve months or more. The meat that we intend to eat first, within five or six months, was packed into ordinary plastic bags.

  Rendering the beef fat in the wood oven. 

For baking and soap making.

The weather has been cool enough to have the wood oven burning everyday, so there has been quite a bit of baking going on.

It has been a bumper couple of months for the Farmgate stall since our local Cottage Industries shop in the town closed its doors. People obviously love to access old fashioned home made foods.

There's bee work of some type going on every day now that we're into Spring.

Marking young Queen bees ready for sale. Red is the colour for this season.

Bee rescue call-outs are a daily occurrence at this time of year.

 Heavy work.

My goodness we've come a long way since our early days of hand winding the honey extractor under some bee proof netting strung over the Hills Hoist (wash line). We laugh about that now, and never take for granted our much easier set up that we've built up over the years. 
However, for all the modern equipment that we have now, our honey is still the same in quality. It is still spun from the frames without the use of heat, to maintain it's raw and pure goodness. 

 Lavender's calf Bertie is six months old now and it's time she was weaned.  

As we have only three cows on the property now, and I wanted to keep Lavender and Poppy together in the same paddock, I needed to buy a paddock companion for newly weaned Bertie. 
Also, now that Lavender is not feeding a calf, she needs to be milked twice daily. 
ALL that MILK!!!  What a great way to use up some of it by feeding a bobby calf?
A call to one of our local dairy farms on Sunday, and by evening we had this little bloke in our possession.  A Friesan bull calf, three days old, had been bottle fed on colostrum...perfect.  
Such long legs, we named him Stretch. 
Before we lifted him onto the back of our ute I slipped an homeopathic Arnica pillule into his mouth to reduce the shock that he would suffer from the short trip to his new home. 
I previously wrote about our use of Arnica here.

 Bertie, meet Stretch.
Bertie was reluctant to accept Stretch as a replacement for his mum; weaning time is stressful for all and there were a noisy couple of days.

But this morning peace reigns as the two paddock mates have become acquainted. 

So I think I've almost caught up on our news for now. I'll show you the vegetable gardens next time. 
Cheers until then.
Sally XX


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