Friday morning found the editor and I awake before the sun had even risen. Usually, it is an unwise person that would attempt to discuss important matters with me before breakfast. No one is safe in that regard and even the editor is shooed out of the kitchen should she attempt cheery banter before breakfast. It is fair to say that I’m not an early morning person, but on Friday, I made an exception.
That exception was for the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo which opened its gates on Friday morning at 8am. The expo is held every year in the town of Seymour which is on the Goulburn River. Seymour is a long drive from here through predominantly rural roads and it usually takes about an hour and quarter to get there.
From past experience the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo is a hot and sunny event which I prefer to attend in the early morning thus escaping the heat of the afternoon. However, there is also another reason that I prefer attending the expo early in the morning.
That other reason is because the Seymour and District Poultry club take over a large pavilion at the expo. The poultry club offers a huge selection of chickens (and other birds) for sale - raised by their club members - including various heritage as well as the more usual breeds.
On the expo day, this means that the earlier that you visit the poultry club, the more likely you'll be able to select and purchase the best of the best of the chickens on display. Them chickens, they sure sell fast!
And so the editor and I were there early critically examining the various chickens for sale. We had many earnest discussions such as: “That one is listed as a hen, but don’t you reckon it looks like a bit like a rooster?” Amongst other such silliness. We did eventually more or less agree to two lots of chickens comprising: three black leg horn’s; and two isa brown chickens.
Fortunately you can pick up the chickens when you leave the expo which means that you don’t have to carry them around all morning in the hot sun.
All that decision making so early in the morning left me feeling hungry so we enjoyed a Polish cheese kransky sausage with onions in a bread roll and listed to bluegrass music whilst sitting on hay bales in the shade of a tree. Such is life in the country! The couple that were playing the bluegrass music were very good and they’d clearly lovingly made their own instruments from scrap. In between songs they told stories of the history of bluegrass music as well as the instruments. They earned their busking tip.
Whilst chickens, music and food are an important part of a farming expo, they’re not the only part. We visited many displays of small holder farm machinery where we drooled over machines that we would like to own, but probably never will (how about that portable mill?), there were animals for sale, hardware knickknacks, craft stuff, chainsaw artists (they make great timber wombats), plants and pretty much everything you could ever need for a small holding. I even met a dude that manufactures steel water tanks from sheet metal and has a side line producing raised garden beds. I intend to purchase some steel raised garden beds from him over the next few weeks to replace the rusty ones here.
All good things come to an end though, and the sun was fierce and the day heated up and so we left the expo and drove our way home again (with the new chickens, of course).
|Chickens on the run! The new chickens arrived in boxes waiting to join the chicken collective on the farm|
Once the two boxes were inside the chicken enclosure, I opened up the first and tipped out the two Isa Browns.
|The two new Isa Brown chickens were unceremoniously tipped out into the chicken enclosure|
The next box to be tipped out contained the three Black Leghorn chickens. Observant readers will note in the photo below that an egg also dropped out of the box with those chickens. At the expo the birds were described as “point of lay” which is about 22 weeks old, and I was left with no doubt that that was a true statement! The thing that was not disclosed about the birds was that they are bantam chickens. Bantam is a fancy name to describe a smaller breed of bird. From hindsight it was obvious that the new chickens were bantams! Bantam chickens are quite good because whilst they produce smaller eggs, those eggs are not much smaller than what a full sized bird would produce, and the birds themselves eat far less than a full sized bird. My only concern with the bantams is that the other much larger chickens may give them too hard a time.
|The three new Black Leg Horn chickens and an egg were also unceremoniously tipped out into the chicken enclosure|
The world of chicken is a rough place until the pecking order is properly established. On the day of introducing the new chickens, a few wing, chest and beak fights broke out.
|A few wing, chest and beak fights broke out between the new young gun chickens and the older established order|
Eventually the new birds more or less settled in to life in the chicken collective at Fernglade Farm.
|Eventually the new birds more or less settled in to life in the chicken collective at Fernglade Farm|
It was hot at the Seymour Alternative Farming expo, and it has been hot here too. The valley below this mountain range is looking very dry and crispy. However, there is still a lot of green and colour in the gardens here despite that heat.
|There is still a lot of green and colour in the gardens here despite the hot and dry summer|
Over the past few weeks I’ve been continuing to fill up the firewood shed with cut and split seasoned firewood for the coming winter. We have never been this organised with firewood before and it is a real pleasure seeing the original firewood shed fill up. I often quip to the editor that firewood in the shed is like money in the bank – but better.
|The original firewood shed is rapidly filling up|
The replacement cowl (which is the fancy name for the bit at the very top of the chimney connected to the wood heater) arrived in the mail this week.
|The replacement stainless steel cowl arrived in the mail this week|
The above photo shows the replacement cowl on its side with the bottom facing closest to the camera. It is an impressive piece of steel work and it serves the function of stopping rain from falling down and into the chimney (for those that are technically inclined a chimney is described as a flue in this circumstance) and possibly rusting out the wood heater. The interesting thing about the old cowl was that when I removed it from the chimney, I discovered that the top half of the old cowl was made from stainless steel and in very good condition, whilst the bottom half was made from galvanised steel which was mostly rusted and full of holes. The old cowl was one of those situations where a manufactured item looked like you’d expect it to look like, but the materials used were not up to the job and so it failed. The only reason for that situation to occur is that it saves the installer a few bucks. I’m finding that many manufactured items are like that these days.
|Using a rubber mallet to tamp the replacement stainless steel cowl onto the wood heater chimney (flue)|
I used a rubber mallet to gently tamp the replacement stainless steel cowl onto the wood heater chimney (flue) and then anchored it with three metal screws to stop it from blowing away in the wind.
Save our Toothy!
Toothy the long haired dachshund who can be seen happily lurking in the background of the photo with the cowl above is occasionally bad tempered. No, please don’t defend Toothy, it’s true and there is no getting around that fact.
Anyway, the other night, Toothy decided to pick a fight with the gentler natured but much larger dog Poopy the Pomeranian (OK, he’s actually a Swedish Lapphund, but don’t go giving him airs and graces!). Needless to say that Toothy lost that fight. However, Toothy made the unfortunate error of having that fight in the middle of the night which in turn woke me up. Toothy received the same sort of reaction from me had he decided to do the same thing before breakfast (Please recall that I’m not an early morning person).
When cooler heads prevailed the next day, the editor and I discussed the situation and decided to separate the two dogs by constructing a new and smaller kennel purely for Toothy’s use.
The scrap plywood was gathered into one place. Being naturally tight with resources, a template was drawn onto each of the plywood scrap pieces so as to minimise any potential waste.
|The gathering of the plywood scraps took place in the shade|
The individual plywood pieces were cut out of the scrap and then screwed together. Before too long a brand new Toothy sized kennel was constructed. Observant readers will note in the photo below that the roof is deliberately hinged so that any dogs attempting to hide in their kennel can be easily removed.
|Before too long a brand new smaller Toothy sized dog kennel was constructed from what were previously scraps of plywood|
The festival of blackberries continued this week and we added more fruit to the collection which was then frozen. When enough fruit has been collected over the next few weeks, we’ll produce a blackberry and rhubarb jam.
|The festival of blackberries continued this week and we added more fruit to the collection which was then frozen|
The heat has meant that the tomatoes have also been rapidly ripening this week.
|The heat has meant that the tomatoes have also been rapidly ripening this week. The right hand tub is freshly picked oregano for a home made pizza|
However, we are not the only ones who have been enjoying the tomatoes, because one night this week a wallaby succeeded in breaking into the tomato enclosure through the gate. The evidence was overwhelming.
|A wallaby broke into the tomato enclosure and left plenty of scats as evidence of its daring night-time raid|
I’ve since placed a heavy duty steel mesh fire place screen over the gate and that may keep the wallabies out of the tomato enclosure for the foreseeable future.
|The author looking less than impressed because a wallaby broke into the tomato enclosure through the front gate|
Soap, it’s basic!
Here is an update of this week’s activities with the soap making.
|The soap mix was poured into the silicone cake mould and left to set for a few days|
|After a few days the soap had formed solid cakes and they could then be removed from the silicone cake moulds|
|The old and the new soaps. The soap on the left is from a prior batch whilst the soap on the right is from the current batch. Observant readers will note that the soap cures to a white colour|
The ingredients for soap making is as follows:
- 380g (13.4 ounces) Olive Oil - usually a very low grade of oil will produce a good soap
- 50g (1.7 ounces) Caustic Soda (Sodium Hydroxide) - clever people can make their own lye using wood ash and water, but I have not tried this
- 140g (4.9 ounces) Water
The recipe for soap making is as follows:
- Common sense plays a big part in this recipe - Do not splash any of the solution onto you at any time and/or handle the soap cakes until they are firm. If you do get a splash on you wash with water and seek medical assistance. Use gloves at all times.
- Add the caustic soda to the water slowly and carefully so that it doesn't splash. It is a chimical reaction and will heat up, so you have to wait until it cools down to 32'C (90'F). Be careful not to breathe in any vapours rising off the mix
- At the same time you need to heat the Olive Oil to 32'C (90'F)
- Into a glass jar, pour the caustic soda/water mix (i.e. the lye) into the now warm olive oil and then stir for a couple of minutes
- Leave the glass jar in the sun or next to a heater for a few days. You will have to stir the mix regularly (I reckon it was about eight times per day) as it is an emulsion. Obviously, don't leave it in an area where children or pets can get to it and don't touch the mix or they can get chemical burns
- Over time there will be more soap paste and less oil in the mix
- Once there is only paste, pour it into moulds
- Leave it for a few days to dry and harden and then turn the now firm soap onto a tray
- The soap will cure to a white colour over the next few months. Do not use the soap for at least 2 months.
The temperature outside now at about 7.00pm is 21.9'C degrees Celsius (71.4'F). So far this year there has been 55.8mm (2.2 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total 49.4mm (1.9 inches).