When Tom and I met, it didn't take long for us to strike some common ground. We had both wanted to live on farms since we were little people. The longer we were together, the more we knew that our future together would involve making that goal a reality. So, some 6 years later, we sold up Tom's house (and our home where we had just experienced our second baby's homebirth) and began our farm change adventure.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Still here!

It's heads down, bums up here. Summer was full on, then school started and the rollercoaster of life hasn't really slowed down around the bends.
We've sold cattle, bought cattle, sold and bought again and the rains came in May, mercifully later than they did last year, as far as we're concerned.
The CMA has been doing great work by the creek with fences and weed eradication.
And we have a house cow! Well, she's a heifer, so no milk for a while yet. Pics to follow!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dung Beetles!

Spot the farmer...
Yup, that's the one - excitedly pushing a horse poo into a manure collector and inspecting the exposed ground for holes and jumpy, black beetles. Our summer season dung beetles have come out to play again! We definitely didn't have any beetle activity over the cooler months, so we'll have to look into getting them in, though they're probably not compatible with pugged paddocks and constant rain - we'll find out soon enough.
Spring rain. It's ubiquitous! Which is a nice change from previous years, and if I thought we had lots of grass last year, this year is really taking the cake. And like dessert, the horses are filling themselves with gusto. So much so that we've had to muzzle the small ponies to protect them from explosion. We'll give them a few days' break from the grazing muzzles, because their facial skin is adjusting to them and needs resting. Then back to gastric restraint.
The animals are in more abundance than I thought possible. The frog-song is just sensational at night, which must be giving the snakes plenty to be happy about. We've not noticed a problem with mozzies, so I'm assuming there is a finely tuned balance that I'm happy to work with, there!
The kids and the Big Fella saw an echidna on the train tracks the other day, and the wombats are pottering about, oblivious to our daily goings-on.
Just recently I've been pondering the acquisition of some bird life. Big Fella has been working on learning chooks, and they're not too far off. My own ideas are less immediately useful in terms of food production, but may be useful for house yard safety measures: peacocks. Granted, I've never had to live with one, but I think I would love it. Noisy, yes - we have some very insulated walls and our neighbours have constantly barking dogs and some roosters, but they are all about a kilometre away from us, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue. We'd have to figure out how to give them an aversion to roosting on our roof, to keep our water supply clean, but there are plenty of trees around here for roosting we can divert them to. We have a fox population, and we have dogs, too - the dogs easy, the foxes...we're already not seeing eye to eye. On the plus side, peacocks are associated with lowered snake activity - which I'd only appreciate around the house yard, as we all accept that snakes are around and serve a purpose in the bio-habitat. We is cool with snakes. Just don't want to have the kids stumble across them when they're playing where they're supposed to. So. Peacocks. Watch this space...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Horse Whispering

Big Fella has started training the littlest fella - Hawaii, the Shetland Pony. He's been getting him used to having his feet handled, a pony pad on his back, being led up the road with Small Boy whizzing by him on the pushbike. Who'd have thunk it?
Small Boy and Mia are progressing in leaps and bounds. Not literally, thank goodness! Boy has got his pony to canter this week, and that's a huge achievement. The next thing, of course, will be to teach him how to ask for a canter without chasing her into it, but she's a responsive little thing, and that won't take long, I suspect - some time in our small yard on the lunge should be productive. At this rate, he'll probably be working Hawaii for Small Girl, and improving his horsemanship out of sight.
She's always up for a chat and a smooch
Dante is getting a ride once weekly, at this stage, and getting fitter in body and brain. He's even stopped 'stalling' on the road, and those large rolls of silage no longer threaten his self-esteem - it's just shadows in the late afternoon that send him packing, ever so slightly.
We've had a solitary young koala come back for a few days, before winding it's way back up or down the creek's biolink. It watched as we fed horses, put out washing, showered and arrived and left home. We're pretty sure it's the baby of the mama and baby dyad we had from last Cup Day, and from time to time this year.
Going solo this Spring
Snakes are getting their snakey groove on again. We had a sighting near the caravan last week, as one was attempting to grab a spot of take-away frog. Unfortunately, the beautiful reptile went hungry after a certain Big Fella pursued photographic glory and moved the prey onto the road. Amphibian killed, snake hungry and no photo taken...t'was, sadly, all in vain!
We're reconsidering the proposed house site up the top, taking into consideration orchard siting and how to orchestrate horse yards and function areas. As the shed dwelling takes shape we can stretch out in here, get comfy and get our thinking caps on. It gives us time to save some bikkies, gather knowledge and think about what we need and want from this farm caper.
Big Fella is nearly finished with all his course requirements and has a map with several overlays for all the farm planning he's going to have to fill me in on.
I cleared away the grass that was growing over our veggie patch and rediscovered the beetroot, the spring onion, silverbeet and carrots hidden in there. At the next Coal Creek Farmers Market it is rumoured that there will be seed potato for sale, and for that I am impatient! Although, if we grew our own potatoes, what excuse would I have to go to the Kongwak Market every Sunday morning? Hmmm...I'll have to get my thinking cap on. Herbs that I have growing in planters are largely happy, still - parsley, chives, thyme, marjoram (or oregano, I can't remember now!) and sage. The lemongrass is nonplussed about how much water the planter retained over winter and will need to be sweet talked back into growth. Big Fella has a collection of bare rooted apple and pear trees that need a home in the ground. He's still shaking his head over my cumquat tree purchase - can someone tell him that cumquats are a perfect little sourbomb, and that it's quite reasonable for a sour-tooth like me to forget to also buy a lemon tree, in my fervour to take home said cumquat?
The paddocks are drying out after a particularly wet winter and summer couldn't be more eagerly anticipated! I sort of can't believe outdoor showering as a mode of cleansing survived the soggy, wet season...and that I don't hate showering on a wooden pallet with corry walls...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Can you hear it? The sound of grass growing!

Yes, followers, the rain is on a Mexican stand off with some weathery thingies going on that the Bureau can explain, and I barely understand but know it means warm weather!
When the cold returns (and surely it doth) our flora will be thrown into melee and shock, as will the animals, who's skins and fur are completely confused and think it's time to do unseasonal things - like molt. Meanwhile, the paddocks that were looking beaten and near-barren are springing to life - new grass shoots rise from the pugging, the wattles are in full, yellow splendour and...the flies are out.
Anyhow, I can't wait to cut our first season of hay. Oh, and to build some fashion of hay shed for it. Now I'm just getting ahead of myself. Easy to do when the breeze blows cool off the creek, interrupted by gentle thermals coming in off the hills and it's the first week of August, when buds and baby native animals are tucked away out of the frost!
I guess I'll have to take some photos soon...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Still here...

You'd be forgiven for believing we'd been shaken off or washed away from our farm...but, no. My absence is due to getting caught up in all this life caper I've opted into. Meanwhile, we have survived one of Korumburra's infamous quakes (well, it's a quake by Oz standards - 4.3 magnitude), and what is increasingly being reported at THE WETTEST winter EVER down here in South Gippsland. So, at least it's not just us who are wading through mud to get to our cars and veggie patch...
So, we've got the paperwork that formalises the works on the creek through the CMA! A machine will come through and excavate these willows out of the creek, then the fencing will be done and in 12 months' time revegetation will be underway. I'm busting out of my sides for this to happen. What I'm also quite pleased about is that the CMA will be bringing a Cultural Liaison Officer on the day the machine will be here, in case anything of significance is found that needs recording or preserving. As the area will be locked up for biodiversity, I don't mind anything being protected in there (and I'd like to think I wouldn't mind protection of anything that were important to Bunurong Dreaming, no matter where on the farm it was). It's not likely, given how deep into the Great Southern Forest this are would have been, but being a waterway, you just never know.
Pasture has taken a great hit in South Gippsland, and giving the horses somewhere to hang out has been a challenge - they have been leading a very nomadic life, moving from strip to strip, with the help of some electric strands. Hay nets are de rigeur and the horses go just a bit nuts for their supplementary feed when it arrives. Not that the ponies need it - they are hardy little critters!
The shed is close to completion for moving in, and the wood stove is proving itself as a focal point for our family. We cook on it, we huddle around it to eat our dinners, and when children go down to sleep, I slip out to read and collect my thoughts in the evenings. I just can't wait to be living in this space.
This week, also, saw contamination of the creek via diesel spill, that I found myself attending, in my capacity as a firefighter. As soon as I realised it was in a drain closer to town, the mission was set to follow how far down we could smell the fuel. Despite reporting to the relevant authorities that we could smell it down as far as at least seven kilometres away, the Shire and DPI only got round to warning farmers today (two days later) that it was dangerous for stock to drink from the creek. All seems well here, and I hope the rest of the creek is unharmed. So, even if we'd fenced off the creek sooner we would still be facing the danger of contamination, because the troughs would be fed from the creek. Interesting scenario.
After a few days of beautiful sunshine, giving the caravan and road a chance to dry out from the ever-present mud, we are anticipating rain tomorrow again. It will flush out the creek, at least. That's the only upside I can think of at the moment - there IS such a thing as too much rain!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Oh, *sigh*!
Today we took receipt of a delivery of hay. For the horses. Had to bite the bullet. The grass finally got the memo that Spring is over (because we never actually got summer before Autumn came!) and has slowed right down, so the horses have had to have their diet supplemented and they are happy. Jack, the borrowed grey, is going back this week. He just hasn't responded to the grass the way he could have, and as he's established himself as a loner he doesn't even cut it as a paddock buddy anymore. He came to us before I knew how far off we were from acquiring a pony, and as we now have two of those, Jack is now redundant as a herd member. He's a nice boy, but he needs to have a purpose in order to remain, and his lovely owner will come to get him and ply him with extra feed over the cooler months. It takes some pressure off the feed situation here, especially as we don't have horse paddocks set up down here (the grand plan is for the top of the hill) and are making do with boggy facilities.
The big paddocks are fine for the bovines, and it has been decreed that they be left solely for bill-paying bovine use. It costs to bring in hay for horses, but it would cost so much more to bring in hay for the steers, so it was an easy call to make. I bought a hay square from one of the local rural supplier chains and I wasn't impressed, especially given that I don't normally even pay that much for hay. Dusty with a slight mouldy smell. For $10! First and last. I then called a guy from the local classified listings and even though it was on dark when he arrived, I liked the look of his hay and there was no dust cloud. I did have to go and buy the biggest tarpaulin I could find, though, as we have no hay shed. That is next on the agenda, I think!
The cattle market is down - weather, live export backlash etc, so these boys have to stand around and eat more grass before we send them off to the great big grass paddock in the sky. Half their luck! I'm learning to pay more attention to the stock reports in the local papers and the national rural rag. It's slowly making more sense to me, even though I get there after flicking through looking for horse news. And now that we've sold a mob, I feel less fraudulent talking to the staff in the rural supply shops who ask what we farm, and I say "Beef cattle"...cos we've turned cattle into beef! They really are lovely animals, and I'm not quite reconciled with their ultimate purpose. Things are so busy around here, though, that I have hardly any time to really think on it and go over it.
So, the cold is setting in, our Winter nights routine is forming itself and the shed will be ready soon. It's the season to make mulled wine and listen to the frogs singing a riot out there!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


The thing about living on a place before you build the final home is learning the environment and climate. There are things we will be able to tell a draftsperson or architect right from the word go to consider in the design, orientation and elevation of the strawbale house on the hill and its angles.
Down here for the shed there are elements we've come to realise will affect us differently through the seasons. The biggest one that comes to mind is the angle of the sun in the Winter. In Summer the sun rises and makes its arc up high over the hill all day long, until it sinks into the west, down by the neighbours' trees and hills. Just this week I came to a realisation about our hill - it's too high in Winter for the sun to reach over for parts of the day! The sun hits the shed and streams in through the windows in the early morning, by mid-morning it has crept behind the hill, peeks out again at about 3pm and from 4 onwards we are left in cool shadow again.
Luckily, we'll be toasty warm with our wood stove and all walls insulated.
Bringing me to the next point. In certain wind conditions, even if it appears to be a still day, we can hear the roar of the trucks on the highway (about 3kms away as the crow flies) as if they were on the next road down from us. Again, an insulated shed means that it can't be heard from inside, but the peace of the valley is certainly broken if one wishes to sup a mug of hot coffee under the trees, on these days!
Learning, always learning. And glad we haven't committed our ideas in strawbale and render just yet...