Posts Tagged ‘farm stories’

It’s Spring and everywhere is green again after five long months of drought. I visited some local gardens on display last weekend and they gave me lots of ideas to improve my garden. One thing to do is plant trees/bushes with contrasting foliage to give depth to all that green! Purple and maroon as well as red look stunning against a green backdrop. I like the way people raised garden beds with rock walls and separated gravel from lawn using pavers in curves. A simple but effective garden plan was  using raised beds made from treated pine and filling in pathways with gravel. This made a more formal garden but one that would be quick to create. They grew both veggies and ornamentals in this garden.

I saw lots of different ideas for chicken houses. Most had a covered area and then an open wired in run also with a roof. The chickens looked fat and well fed and were bedded on sawdust or straw. One group of all female hens were so fat they almost waddled. People also used tiny wire on the lower sections of runs to keep out mice and rats- a great idea. I was amazed to see how many plants grew under huge fir trees that dropped pine needles. This also made a good mulch for informal pathways.

I have growing in the garden at the moment: silver beet, kale, lettuce, beans, strawberries and have sown carrots, potatoes, zucchini and orange eggplants- that’s right, quite unusual and apple shaped. Hope they come up. Its a bit too cold for tomatoes and some of the seeds I’ve sown are slow to come up due to the cool weather. Recently, we have still had the wood fire on at night.

The animals are thriving with almost 30 new chickens on the property in various stages of growth from day-olds to about 10 weeks old. We have two hens looking after them, the rest have been raised in an incubator. One hint is to put some older chicks in with the day-olds in the brooder to teach them to eat and drink and to give them company and warmth. They all seem to get on very well and end up pals for life! The young female turkey now has a new male suitor and he struts around displaying his big white but slightly mud-stained feathers. We also have 6 new ducks- 3 pekins and 3 new muscovy females. The pekins are very pretty and they just love being let out to nose around for worms- its as if they have never been on grass before! They are very attractive ducks with cute faces and look like the Jemima Puddleduck of Beatrix Potter fame.

I let the ducks and chickens out for some fun today after work and several of the male muscovies were looking disgracefully dirty, I was hoping they’d go for a dip in the duck pond, maybe tomorrow. While I haven’t go much fencing done in the last few weeks, at least I have been saved from doing endless watering!

Adios, amigos.

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Notes from’Rivendale’ #22

Posted: June 8, 2018 in Chickens
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It’s Winter and the burning log fire is going. The heat from it is the most comforting thing when its bleak and wet outside. Outside in the paddock, I bedded down the best 10 hens with a frizzle rooster and the one remaining turkey after I returned from the US two weeks or so ago. I called it putting them in ‘lock down’. My reasons were thus: They are in the strongest house which is big and has lots of light and nesting boxes. It should be fox-proof. And I can see if having them in close quarters helps them start laying.

Well to report something good at last, they have started laying. Well two of them have. And interestingly enough, they seem to eat less food because they are less active. I give them all the best scraps form the kitchen and greens as well. Today I got them shell grit. They love scratch mix and for some reason, its cheaper than pure wheat grain. I also feed them a laying mash, often hot with scraps mixed through. They really love this.

The other hens and roosters who are free range have produced no eggs. The ducks are loving their new pond which the wet weather has considerately filled up. So the muscovies are looking blindingly white instead of murky mud splattered brownish. The weeds I have so far put in the pond, the ducks have equally enthusiastically eaten so getting a real pond ecosystem up and running is a work in progress at the moment. All the pens have feeders made from plastic down pipes which allows me to go off for a few days and know they will be fed well. The material on the floor of the ‘lock down’ pen is straw though I plan to buy a shredder and put all my scrap paper through it to make litter for them. I noticed a few years ago that worms love this mixture of shredded paper and chicken poo and some of them were massive in size when I was digging up the litter to put on vegetable beds. It’s a good way to recycle paper too. Time to get in some Winter greens in the vegie garden. Have a great long weekend, fellow travellers in life.

Last weekend two fabulous sunny days, wow! This is after about 5 weeks of rain everyday. Still, up on the Highlands, we don’t flood like those poor people in Queensland and northern NSW whose homes have been washed away and emersed in flood waters for days. On my birthday, I stayed back in town for coffee with friends. It had been raining all day and was getting heavier. From the coffee lounge, we heard ambulances and fire engines race down the street. It was nearly 5, I decided I’d better head home and was hoping the roads were still open. Kangaloon Rd was full of stopped traffic so I turned back and headed back to Moss Vale where I quickly saw the reason for the emergency vehicles. A side street was flooded and a car partly submerged. Those residents wouldn’t be getting out of their home for a while.

Now on the Illawarra Highway, I was reminded by the warnings of my friend , Sandy, that the SES said only 15 cm of water rushing over a road was enough to make a car drift and be washed away due to the sheer momentum this much water has. All was going well, despite the heavy rain, when I came to a causeway rushing over the road. It wasn’t really deep but I remembered the warning. Also I was driving the Golf, not a good car to tackle any depth of water so I stopped. I think people were annoyed behind me, but I wasn’t going to risk it. A police car was parked on the other side of the causeway facing Moss Vale and I tried to yell out to them. I got out and checked the water. No way. I was going back. Another Police car drove up next to me, a big four wheel drive and I told him I was turning around. He went through ok but I turned my little Golf and headed back to town. Thinking I wasn’t going to get home today and I’d have to stay with friends in town, I tried Sheep Wash Road hoping it wasn’t flooded as well. Luckily, I got to the Kangaloon Rd turn off and was grateful. For once I was glad of its hilly terrain. I negotiated it well and was on the downhill run to home. Beside me, masses of muddy water was washing off the paddocks and down the incline onto the road. I scooted home.

My driveway was a miniature creek. I have never seen so much water running down it. At last I was home. The trip had taken twice as long as normal. And who, may you ask, was happy in this torrent? Two groups on the farm, the cat, our all black Foxy, was inside ensconced in the warm, her belly full; and the ducks, happy as Larry, white as snow from all the fun in the puddles and small lakes on the farm. Their bellies full of worms and small creatures flushed out of the ground and the lush as ever green grass. It’s good to know, something enjoys torrential rain. It’s a timely reminder to all small farmers to keep livestock that actually do enjoy your climate. Where we live is too wet for sheep. When the climate was drier , they seemed to do ok but I’d never keep them now. They get foot rot and fly blown and other equally horrible diseases. They do better on the less lush grass and solid soil out west. I’m sticking to my poultry.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Hi all!
Writing is important to me but sometimes life makes you stop and take stock for a while.
The Viking novel will continue when I get back into that groove but at the moment it’s on hold. So I thought I’d write about my small farm, some of the stories that we tell and retell at the dinner table which are usually funny and sad at the same time.
I was offered and took care of two very aged farm animals who had been brought up together, a sheep and a goat whose owner had gone into a local Aged Care facility (Old People’s Home). We had been watching a funny TV series at the time called ‘Summer Heights High’ starring Chris Lilley and his character name was Mr G. Mr G had a dog called Celine whom he taught to do tricks, so we called the old sheep Mr G and the female goat, Celine.
Mr G was indeed very ancient. His legs were like sticks and he was extremely skinny, as old people get too. He had only one tooth left in his mouth but still managed to eat the abundant grass we have here. The kids fed him bread and patted him but he usually just stood around looking old and feeble. Celine was an angora goat whose light and fluffy goat is not really suited to this climate and its extreme weather and storms in Winter. However, I agreed to take them as they had been kept in a back yard and I thought our 4 acres would be like a retirement home for them.
One day Mr G disappeared. I was perplexed because he hardly had the strength to wander far and the kids and I searched thoroughly but he couldn’t be found. About a day and a half later, I was sitting eating breakfast pondering where Mr G might have gone when I had a sudden revelation. Maybe he had fallen down somewhere, but where? I raced out to the paddock, there was only one place he might have fallen into. The wombat hole. Those of you unfamiliar with wombats, they are a short fat furry native animal whose nocturnal wanderings include digging deep holes in our red dirt in sleep in during the day.
Sure enough, there he was, Mr G was head first down the wombat hole with only his hind legs sticking out! Andrew, my son, helped me pull him out. Amazingly, he was still alive. I got water and forced some into him and we pulled him onto his legs. He was wobbly and unsteady but had miraculously survived his ordeal despite his age. After twenty minutes or so he was able to walk. He joined Celine in the chook paddock well away from wombat holes.

The poor old fellow lasted a few more months until he had to get shorn. We put a coat on him but he was so thin, like a white stick insect, but he didn’t last the night. He was happy at least for the six months he lived with us. Celine lived on a month or so longer.