Hope you are all enjoying the podcast. You can either listen to the podcast directly using your Internet browser or you can simply download (using the Save Link As option) the file to listen to later. Enjoy! Let's get on with the blog...
It is hard to believe that only a year ago, we were constructing the new chicken enclosure. The chickens here are very grateful (or, so I believe) for that new chicken enclosure as it provides them with an all-weather outdoor protected run which is attached to a sturdy steel hen house. There has been so much rain over the past few months, that had the chickens remained in their old enclosure (which was eventually converted to a firewood storage shed) that those chickens would have been unable to venture from their previous hen house as they would have huddled miserably in the doorway whilst contemplating the very muddy conditions – of which they wanted no part.
The new chicken enclosure however was constructed to withstand sub-optimal chicken weather and so now the chickens enjoy a charmed life and their health has improved markedly. The hen’s now turn their beaks up in disdain at snow or heavy downpours and simply get on with their important chicken business. Part of the new hen house and enclosure was constructed on a substantial concrete slab so that the chickens enjoy dry housing conditions despite the worst that the weather can throw at them. And I was thinking about this today as the rain fell and the wind blew, about just how hard it would be to construct that same concrete slab this year.
In the past two months 324mm (12.8 inches) of rain has fallen over the farm. Fortunately, this week in between bouts of rain, the sun has also shone. With the increased sun, the solar power system has been generating respectable amounts of power and the house batteries are starting the slow process of recharging. That sun combined with the rain has produced the most excellent display of rainbows this week!
|Rainbows have been a regular feature this week over the farm as the heavy rain has combined with the sun|
All of the water systems at the farm work towards getting every drop of water from whatever source into the soil. From there that water accumulates in the ground water table. Not everyone pursues this strategy and an alternative strategy with water is to move any water off to another location altogether as rapidly as possible. With the recent sudden increase in rainfall, I can see from this eagles eyrie high up on the mountain side, that there are many locations in the valley below where water is now pooling above the ground and forming what looks to me like a swamp.
In other parts of the valley it is now possible to see where the water moves across the surface through various paddocks.
|In the valley below it has become possible to see where the water moves across the surface through the paddocks|
The recent rain has given me time in recent weeks to turn my mind to stories and other philosophical matters.
One of the joys of writing this blog is the ongoing dialogue that is shared with the many thoughtful and intelligent commenters who take the time to post a comment. Many weeks ago now as part of that ongoing dialogue in the comment section, I received a very insightful comment which was: For a vegetarian, I consume a lot of meat.
My friends are likewise baffled by my philosophical stance in relation to the consumption of meat. Other people who discover my preference for consuming a predominantly vegetarian diet are also curious and confused about the issue.
I must now out myself as: A mostly vegetarian. What I mean by the term “mostly vegetarian” is that at home I consume vegetarian meals, but once outside the confines of the farm, I eat whatever is being served with an eye to quality food.
Diet is one of those topics that can produce strong displays of passions as everyone feels it necessary to defend their chosen turf. I on the other hand, believe that everyone exists on a continuum somewhere between the Vegans and the Protein cohorts. I have total respect for people at either end of that continuum as not only are they making complex dietary choices, but those people are constantly challenged and judged by yet other people who are usually testing them to defend their values. I on the other hand tend to fly below the radar and not make a big issue out of the whole diet thing. If someone wants to feed me meat, I respect the animal and consume the meat. Done.
Long term readers will recall that I am careful where I spend my hard earned money. This mode of living is also known as being “tight”. For those that are curious, my “mostly vegetarian” concept is compatible with my “tight” philosophy. You see, my experience on this farm of growing edible plants, I quickly learned that it is an inefficient process to grow plants which I could potentially consume and then feed those same plants to other creatures so as to build protein stores in those creatures. Obviously, I am unable to consume pasture and herbage, but the wildlife here can consume that and that is my preference and gift to them.
However, as a method of food preservation, turning plants into protein is a great idea, thus the traditional popularity of the mid-winter feast where an animal is slaughtered and cooked during the very depths of winter. However, the winters are milder here than in other corners of the planet and I am able to grow edible greens and fruit all year around. So despite the dark night, the driving winds and the very heavy rainfall here just outside of the window, if I so chose, I could grab an umbrella and pick enough greens and citrus fruit to make a meal. If I wanted a bowl of stewed rhubarb that is no problem at all as there are dozens of that plant to choose from. Potatoes, no worries, I accidentally dug up some today and I then cut them up and gave them to the chickens. But for me to eat the chickens would be very inefficient and costly when I could simply eat the greens myself. It would also mean that I would have to commence the process of breeding chickens which is a more complex task than simply keeping hens for both eggs and manure, and that is something that I have no desire to do at this stage in my life.
I do occasionally depart from my “tight” philosophy. The departure usually arises when I stumble across – or discover a need for – an item that is of such high quality that I can intuit that the product will have a long life and also enjoy much use. On Friday, I travelled into the big smoke of Melbourne to undertake a large number of tasks. I tend to accumulate a number of tasks before heading off the farm. One of those tasks was visiting a large shop which sells old style preserving equipment.
I instinctively knew that the visit to this shop would be dangerous as it would apply extreme pressure to my “tight” philosophy. And I was not wrong. It is a dangerous shop, and so it was that after a long and interesting discussion with the old bloke that ran the large shop, I purchased a fruit press. I also broke my general rule about buying the cheapest and smallest tool before committing to a larger and better quality product and so instead purchased the mid-sized fruit press. Oh, that shop is dangerous!
|The new fruit press was immediately put to use in pressing the apple which had been quietly fermenting away in the most recent batch of apple cider vinegar|
That afternoon, the new fruit press was immediately put to use in pressing the apple which had been quietly fermenting away in the most recent batch of apple cider vinegar. The next day, I picked an overflowing bucket of ripe lemons.
|The author picks a bucket full of ripe lemons. The bucket represents about only a quarter of all of the ripe lemons ready to harvested at the farm|
Those lemons were then cut into eights and placed in the fruit press. As space became available in the press, more cut lemons were added.
|The lemons were cut into eights and then placed in the fruit press. As space became available in the press, more cut lemons were added|
I’m starting to question the wisdom of growing so many lemon trees here as I am unsure what to do with all of the lemon juice and/or fruit. In Melbourne from my earlier experience of fruit tree growing, lemon trees suffer from a lot of problems. Those problems are absent here and the fruit trees are very prolific. From just that first pressing, I produced about 5 litres (1.3 gallons) of lemon juice which will be used to make: lemon wine; jams; for cooking; and added to preserves (eg: quince, the poaching liquid also forms the base of quince wine). What wasn’t used for starting a batch of lemon wine on that day was placed in the freezer for later use in the year.
All of the citrus peel was fed to the worms in the worm farm. If anyone has any other potential uses for so much lemon juice, please don’t be shy and leave a comment! Bear in mind that I have only now harvested a quarter of the fruit so there is a lot of lemon juice left to be harvested!
Earlier in the week we experimented with making peanut butter from raw peanuts. We purchased a basic peanut butter grinder which was of such low quality that we threw it out. That grinder was total rubbish and the bin was the best place for it. After a suggestion from a regular commenter of the blog, we ran the peanuts through the food processor and made peanut butter in no time at all.
In a feat of microbiology, we have also this week reverse engineered sake which is otherwise known as rice wine. It is very nice stuff.
|This week we have performed a feat of microbiology and reverse engineered sake which is otherwise known as rice wine|
It is not all food this week as in between bouts of alternating heavy rain and sunshine, we cleared out the tomato beds and set it up in preparation for next summer’s crop of tomatoes.
|The now dead tomato vines were piled up in the tomato enclosure|
I used the push mower to chip and mulch the dead tomato vines.
I then placed a layer of woody composted mulch over the top of the chipped and mulched material. The tomatoes for next season will then be planted into that soil mix in about late September early October.
|A layer of composted woody mulch was placed over the top of the chipped and mulched material and the tomato seedlings will be planted into that in a few months|
It is hard to believe, but on Friday a one in twenty year record warm winters day occurred of 19’C (66.2’F) before a late storm swept through and winter rapidly returned. I’ve noticed that in the orchard, the fruit trees responded to that warm weather and the sap can clearly be seen rising in the fruit trees as a different coloured wood.
|The sap in the fruit trees rose this week which can be seen in the different colour of the new wood on this apricot tree as the fruit trees put on additional wood|
Whilst I was travelling in the local area, I noticed by accident some very cool buildings which I wanted to share with you. One of those buildings was a bluestone (a blue / grey granite) windmill which most likely dates back to the 19th century and would have been used for milling local grains.
|I spotted an old granite windmill in the area once used for milling grains|
Last but not least, the barking owl who calls the farm home stopped by for a visit the other night and was nice enough to pose for a photo opportunity!
The temperature outside now at about 8.00pm is 5.0’C (41.0’F). So far this year there has been 622.2mm (24.5 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 570.4mm (22.4 inches).
Solar PV Statistics (from 4.6kW of installed PV panels)
Tuesday – 19th July Batteries started at 72% full and 3.6kW was generated that day
Wednesday – 20th July Batteries started at 71% full and 6.1kW was generated that day
Thursday – 21st July Batteries started at 76% full and 7.1kW was generated that day
Friday – 22nd July Batteries started at 82% full and 3.5kW was generated that day
Saturday – 23rd July Batteries started at 77% full and 7.8kW was generated that day
Sunday – 24th July Batteries started at 76% full and 7.8kW was generated that day
Monday- 25th July Batteries started at 81% full and 5.0kW was generated that day