Around the farm – an update

Thought I should check in and give a quick update on what we’ve been up to lately.  Up until the last couple of days the weather’s been very strange – days reaching 35 and 36 degrees (Celsius) and then waking up to 14 or 18 degree mornings.  The poor vegetable seedlings haven’t known whether to wilt or thrive.  Thankfully the weather extremes seem to have evened out now and the new transplants in the vegetable garden have finally taken off.  A couple of nights ago we had our first harvest from the new cucurbit &  corn vegetable patch: baby squash (a beautiful little pale green summer squash with scalloped edges, see pic above).

Chick Update

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The three dark chicks around two weeks old  (from left: Maggie, Sophie and Pam).  They’re apparently Wyandottes but I’m guessing they’re probably crossed with another breed of chicken.

 

The chicks are about a fortnight old now and starting to get their wing and tail feathers.  They’re endearing little things, their antics better than any TV show.  We stand around watching the chicks chase tiny flying insects attracted to the heatlamp on their brooder (it’s truly incredible how fast those little fuzz balls can move!), fighting over moths and trying to assert their dominance over their siblings before falling asleep in a big pile of little fluffy bodies.

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Chicks learning to scratch – Pam (left) and Sunshine (right) scratching through floor litter in search of any tiny seeds or dropped chicken crumble

 

Vegie Patch Update

Here, in our subtropical climate, we’re gearing up for the biggest growing season of the year; soon the weather *should* be dry enough and cool enough to grow all those traditional cooler climate crops – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks, carrots, etc. etc. Evenings are being spent pricking out newly emerged seedlings into individual pots (it’s too hot and stressful on the plants to be done in the middle of the day) and sowing new trays in preparation for the coming weeks.  After the feast-or-famine experience of our bean crop, I’m trying to be very careful to sow tiny amounts of a wide variety of vegetables and herbs often so we’re not overrun by massive amounts of the same vegetable – that’s the plan, anyway!

A few days ago I had a chat to the man running the local nursery  and he suggested holding off planting out anything until April (due to the possibility of cyclones and thunderstorms) and prepare vegetable beds for the upcoming growing season.  What can I say?  I half-followed his advice 🙂

Obviously I haven’t held off planting things in the garden (clearly I have no patience whatsoever), but we have been preparing new beds.  The old potato bed has had a makeover, becoming the new ‘Corn and Cucurbits Bed’ with stacks of compost, manure and gypsum added to improve fertility and drainage.  I’ve also raked the soil into long mounded beds and mulched the ‘paths’ in between (excuse the extremely make-shift fence!  It’s not pretty but it does the job for the moment!).  Here’s a photo (taken 11th Feb) after I mulched the paths but before I mulched the beds themselves:

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And here’s a photo taken three weeks later (3rd March) with transplanted seedlings growing strongly and direct-sown sweetcorn plants emerging:

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So, currently in the above bed we have growing:

  • watermelon
  • zucchini (green)
  • zucchini (golden)
  • cucumber (I’d write what varieties I planted but the labels I wrote rubbed off!)
  • sweetcorn (two batches of eighteen cobs, planted about three weeks apart for successive harvesting)
  • baby squash
  • and also a few Asian greens shoved in (part of the brassica family but ah well, they needed to go somewhere while the other beds are set up!)

There’s still quite a bit of space between the plants as they’re going to need room to grow and sprawl without becoming overcrowded.

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Asian greens awaiting a trip to the kitchen.  (Gee these things grow fast!)

 

The plan is to have a five bed rotation system – Bed 1 Legumes (peas and beans), Bed 2 Brassicas and Leafy Greens (salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), Bed 3 Roots (carrots, beetroots, sweet potato), Bed 4 Corn and Cucurbits (cucumber, squash, zucchini, corn), and Bed 5 Tomato Family (capsicum, eggplant, potato, tomato).  So yesterday we began extending the original vegetable patch to be big enough to hold two beds worth of vegetables and assembled two raised vegetable beds.  It’s amazing to me just how much room these vegetables take up!

The Guinea Fowl Keets Update

The keets are beginning to look like adult guinea fowl.  Their faces are changing as they develop wattles, losing their feathery covering and taking on more of a leathery appearance.  They’ve begun calling, making classic guinea fowl squeaks, clucks and alarms rather than their chick cheeps.  They’ve also started having little excursions out of their chicken tractor.  After an hour or so of freedom they make their way back to their tractor and I lock them up again.  At the moment they’re still quite timid, hiding in the bushes and scratching up leaf matter.   Two of our three older chickens have been bullying the keets when they’re out of the coop but nothing too over the top and aggressive.  It won’t be long till the guinea fowl are bigger than the chickens and it’ll be interesting to see what that does to the power dynamics.

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Midnight and Cherry escaping the heat, hanging out near the water trough

 

Cows Update

The cows are healthy and happy, continuing to wander about the paddocks keeping the grass down and having the odd munch on the lower branches of the old orchard.  Buffalo flies continue to be a nuisance.  We have to constantly change what product we use to counter their ever-evolving resistance.  I’m hopeful to come up with a better system of managing them by next buffalo fly season.  We’ve been doing a lot of research but it seems no method is 100% reliable, at least not for any length of time due to the flies’ ability to evolve and develop resistance.

And that’s about it!  Happy Monday to one and all 🙂

Julie

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