Posts Tagged ‘Australian farm life’

Winter is almost over. It’s been cold and finally in the last day, it’s started to rain. Where I live the average annual rainfall is about 1800 mm. Instead up until yesterday we’d only had 286 mm all year. That’s only about 15% of our usual rainfall and its now the end of the 8th month into the year. So 2019 has been really dry. In fact, 99% of the state of New South Wales is currently in drought. Some outback towns has started to run out of water and are trucking it in at great cost. We all need to be more water wise. 2 minute showers, using grey water on your plants- it’s totally ok, I’ve been doing it for year- learning to flush the toilet with a bucket of grey water too helps. I often do my washing down at my Mum’s who is on town water. It costs $260 a load of 12,000 litres of water here. It’s quite expensive when you have to keep buying it. For about 20 years here, we never bought any water. We have bought a lot in the last few years- at least 4 or 5 times a year. Currently, our garage back up tank is empty.

I just cleaned out the front gutter on the house. Hope we get some more rain tomorrow, but at least the grass will green up a bit when it starts to grow come September first. It always starts to grow then. Guaranteed. But at the moment , the climate is no longer guaranteed. I think we need to get used to not having much water as other people will have to get used to being hotter in Summer. All I know is we all need to plant more trees. If you get anything from this blog, go and plant a tree. The world needs you to. Go on! YOU can do it!

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Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #19

Posted: September 16, 2017 in Chickens
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The last time I wrote we’d had too much rain, now we haven’t had enough. My Dad used to say that farmers always complain about the weather- now I know why. It’s coming into major planting season , the season when you look back on last year and hope to do better this year. So I got some corn seeds in last weekend but the wind blew off their straw cover and I probably haven’t watered it enough. I do hope every year to grow some decent corn, so far I haven’t. We had a few drops today and I was hanging out until tomorrow , Sunday, to see if it’d rain a bit more before I put precious water on the seeds. Iv’e planted a boysenberry and a few more grapevines  and a smattering of brassicas which Swamp has mostly pulled out anyway.

Swamp is our swamp hen raised from a tiny peet last year. Until recently when my daughter pointed out the difference between male and female swamp hens, we thought Swamp was a girl but he’s a boy. He follows us everywhere gets on top of cars, has helped me build the new duck house and even pecks on the side window insisting on me getting out  to feed the poultry. Swamp was becoming an institution around here. Unfortunately, Swamp has been missing for two days. I am hoping he’s simply seen a female and flown off after her, I’m really hoping he’s not been taken by a fox!

The daffodils are flowering really well this year. I have more than enough to sell but they are selling quite slowly. I will need to find more outlets to sell them next year. In January, I’ll lift some bulbs. They are a good seller as well.

The chickens are doing ok. We are getting about 7 eggs a day at the moment and they are a lovely variety of colours, pale blue, blue, green and white as well as a nice mid brown. The Araucanas are laying well. I’ve got 16 eggs in the incubator and we’ve raised 10 chickens so far this season. I’m planning on getting pure bred eggs and raising a whole lot more. There’s always lots to do. Happy Spring everyone and here’s hoping we get some decent rain.

Some of our chickens are quite wild. I blame their black leghorn mother for their free-spirited nature. Despite my best efforts, a little group of hens- a white-Silkie cross, a black speckled Silkie-cross and a something crossed with something else- actually a quite beautiful half golden, half speckled hen- remain obstinately unconfined. They can pretend to be tamed by going into the old duck house at night to get a feed of wheat, then they get through the netting roof and perch in the luxuriantly rampant kiwifruit vine that’s atop the pen. Only if its raining do they deign to perch in the small lean-top chicken house in the duck pen.

By day, they  youthfully indulge in massive attacks on the worm and slug population of the property. Busy all day, they roam and scratch in leaf litter to their heart’s content. I grumble at them wondering where they’ve hidden their eggs now. One particular hen, the white one, I particularly watched one weekend morning to see where she went. I was surprised to say the least, when I tracked her back to the house. She was sitting on eggs in a nest not 3 metres from the front door  under a  group of aspidistras. We allowed her to settle for the night and then we struck. I grabbed her while my husband collected the eggs- 15 in all and we marched triumphantly with her and them to the garage where I’ve set up a nesting area in a hutch cage. We carefully arranged the eggs and left them with her, covering the hutch so it was nice and dark. We left them happy they were absolutely safe from foxes.Of course this hen complained and clucked defiantly  seeing her unrestrained nature- but I was confident that she was broody enough to settle down on the eggs again.

Alas, in the morning, I parted the cover to find her still angry and the eggs all stone cold. She hadn’t sat on them at all. Angry with her myself, I let her out. There’s no point in trying to make a hen go broody again. You can’t make a hen do anything. However, seeing I have an incubator I thought I’d set them all in case any were still alive. However, I wasn’t confident as the night had been very cold- it was the start of winter after all.

Every day, I checked the eggs and put water into the incubator. After a week, I candled them and the very dark masses inside the eggs made me think there may be hope. I actually broke one whose insides looked irregular and sure enough it was rotten. Not much hope for the rest then.

A little after a week in the incubator, I heard a cheeping. Sure enough, one egg was peeping. So I put the darker mass eggs off the turning rods and onto the bottom of the unit so they wouldn’t hatch and fall. That evening, a little black chick hatched out. I left him overnight to recover and in the morning went to check on them. There were 7 tiny chicks all hatched at once! I was amazed. It is remarkable how nature persists despite terrible odds. Two more hatched out . The remaining eggs were given time to hatch but didn’t. Meanwhile the 9 were so cute- little balls of fluff  of many different colours. Their mother had obviously been mated by a variety of roosters.

Today they are about 4 weeks old and eat out of my son’s and my hands. They have a lovely turtle shaped light as their mummy to keep them warm and also a night heat light overhead. They have yet to see daylight out of the cage, I’m waiting for a milder Winter day before I put them in an outdoor rabbit hutch for a few hours. How they react to the sun for the first time- well that’s another story.

Adios, amigos.

 

 

 

The duck house and yard is completed, or so I thought. Having ushered the ducks and drakes into their new home, I was rewarded for all my hard work and effort in the ‘spare’ time I could allow to build the complex with most of them flying back out of the enclosure! Only the really fat ones stayed because they are too heavy to take flight- which was about 4 of them. So, hoping to give them extra room while we went to Sydney for a few days, instead they went back into their old much muddier home. Even the enticement of only feeding them in the new enclosure did not change their minds. The only solution is to  put wire overhead in the enclosure which I did not think about when I made it so big. So I will have to fence in a section and enclose that. So, ducks: 1, Owner: Nil.

I sold two of them the other day to a woman who wanted a few friends for her male duck. We will have to eat some eventually, I mean, that’s why you keep these big meat birds called Muscovies isn’t it? I have been putting this off and a friend has volunteered to help- so it’s a fact for the future.

Today I had to rescue the Tuckling. You all know the Tuckling from previous writings, ie the duck raised by a turkey. She is now mature as was amply demonstrated today. I heard her quacking loudly. Racing over to the pen, I saw her head firmly planted in the mud while one of the drake brutes who’d got locked up with the turkeys et al  last night was mounting her. Needless to say, I sent him on his way. Poor little Tuckling, will she really give up the notion of being a turkey now? The turkeys just stood by and watched, not very understanding of them was it? However, nature will reign, even if the Muskovies are busy hunting less dominant males into submission for ‘The Act’ as well. The other ducks keep out of their way and somehow manage to return to the pen at night looking white and relaxed. I am nervous however. Last year at this time we ended up with a population explosion of ducklings, so I am busily hunting for eggs and keeping them locked up until midday in the hope that they won’t start building any hidden nest and sitting. I want the eggs, damn it! They are so big and tasty. They are equivalent to two chicken eggs in weight and size at least.

Sayonara, it’s raining and the ducks are having a free swim in the  huge puddle that collects in our driveway and I have other writing to do, so until next time.

The turkey Mum called Speckles you already know about only successfully raised one of the turkey poults previously mentioned. This poult is now almost fully grown and is looking like a female. It’s daddy, Mr T, adopted it and they spend all their time together.

Speckles, unfazed by the loss of the other poults immediately started laying eggs again- about 10- and started sitting on them. She wasn’t aware apparently that none of them were fertile due to the fact that the male had not been with her in the enclosed pen. I wasn’t absolutely sure that none were fertile either, he had visited once or twice. So, poor Speckles sat on the eggs again. After about 5 weeks with none hatching I decided to remove them. She went spare so I washed them and put them back. Soon they stank so much that 10 metres away you could smell them.I don’t think that any of you have smelt a worse egg odour than the smell form these rotten turkey eggs. I threw them as far away from the pen as possible.

Banished from the smelly nest what did Speckles do? Why, she laid another egg and proceeded to sit on it in a different hut, the main turkey hut in fact. She continued to sit until one day , weeks later,I thought that maybe I ought to check and see if she’d hatched anything out.

Inside the hut in a very big nest all by itself was a poult. Ah, but was it? I looked closely. It was looking very yellow for a poult, so I picked it up. It was yellow. Then I looked at its feet. It had webbed feet.It wasn’t a turkey poult. It wasn’t a chicken. No, it was a duckling! She’d hatched out one of the duck’s eggs who had stayed for a while in the turkey house!She hadn’t laid that egg at all! I gave it some TLC in the brooder thinking I would put it under a broody hen. However, how could I take this little creature away from its adoptive mother who had sat for so long expecting something? I could not. So I put the duckling and the turkey mother in the enclosed pen and hoped for the best.

Today, it is still there getting bigger and with two chicken friends who inadvertently got into the pen too. The duckling has a turkey for a mother and its two best friends are chickens. Will it have an identity crisis?

Adios amigos, until next time. Life does suck at times, but not all the time.

 

 

 

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #6

Posted: October 26, 2015 in Turkeys
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It’s turkey time! Last week on Tuesday the 20th of October our first turkey poult hatched. He is all white ie fluffy yellow. He literally smashed his way out of the shell in record time and proceeded to nearly smash the other eggs in the incubator. I put him in the temporary brooder which is a cardboard box with a removeable polysterene foam lid and a turtle shaped light that the chicks love to cuddle up to. He was doing really well. The next day, got woken up early by a noisy hen outside that I thought was being chased by a fox- it wasn’t- and just as well too, as when I checked on the turkey chick he has fallen into his tiny water container and was almost dead! Wet and cold, I got him out quickly and dried him and then put the hairdryer on him then back into the incubator. It was touch and go for a while there but he recovered and I put him back with a tiny amount of water. the next day we had two little brown chickens out so I put them all together. As usual I spent a while trying to get them to eat the chicken crumbles and drink the water in the brooder. They didn’t get it. So I tried one of my tricks that works really well. I got a chicken who was about two weeks old and put him in with them. In literally seconds he was at the crumbles and so were they. In no time, he’d taught them to eat and drink. This is a good tip for those of you without a hen to teach your chicks. A hen is always best if you have a broody one with few chicks or one whose sat on duds.

Today three little poults are trying to hatch in the incubator, the last from this current batch. The turkey herself has sat unsuccessfully on chicken eggs!. I took her turkey eggs for the incubator and plan to return the chicks to her when they are established, so hopefully she will raise them. As they have hatched over some time, this is taking a while but we will see how this works out. Its hard to let go of them. Hope she’s a good mother. News on the three turkey chicks next time.

You do inevitably get feedback at times from the strangest of sources. I began , what I thought, was a nice straight fence made for under a $100 from treated pine sleepers and palings. I orientated the palings horizontally and spaced them out nicely. I concreted the sleepers in, using them as posts. The concept worked well. It’s not a fence for fencing anything in, rather it’s a way to ‘tart up’ the driveway, making the entrance to the driveway a bit more impressive. I plan to plant a series of natives along the fence when the small plants I bought recently have grown on a bit. So, I went out one morning to recommence constructing the fence when I noticed that the wombat who lives behind our garage in a hole dug into a bank, had left me an early morning  present. Was it a sign of approval? You be the judge. On top of my small but useful measuring stick and a sleeper on the ground he’d  left a sloppy green poo. Was this a subtle message about the quality of my work? Or rather was he marking out his territory, warning me he planned to burrow under the fence and undermine it in the future? Or was it that he really wanted  to know who was boss here and that any future constructions needed to be run past him first?

Contemplating his hidden messages I went up to the front of our property, where I have flowers, usually for sale and so have a few ‘flowers for sale’ signs there too. Mr wombat had been there before me and planted another nice sloppy poo on the flowers’ sign. I was beginning to feel victimized. Are all our endeavours ‘shit’ in his eyes? To increase his point, on each occasion he’d dug a few scratches in the dirt too. Just a warning, I thought that we weren’t to get out of hand. Perhaps Mr wombat reminds us all that as humans, we are just caretakers of this environment, not owners. That we should consider our constructions as part of a shared environment, not our own domain exclusively. I think that his not too subtle message has a meaning for us all.