Saturday, 27 September 2014

Mulga-Bill goes on holiday

You don't necessarily need to own a lot of land to be a farmer.
We started "farming" while we lived on half an acre.
If you look around your area you may find residential lots of eight or more acres. The residents are quite often looking for someone to put sheep or cattle onto their land to keep the grass down. We have more than a handful of such blocks and we make good use of them while saving our sixteen acre "home property" for the house cows, calving and lambing.
It goes without saying that respect must be shown to the landowners.
Caring for our stock and providing for their every need is our job, not that of the landowner. 
We need to maintain the fences and manage the pasture well by not over grazing, so we always keep a close watch on both the stock and the land and move the stock before this happens. Where there is bare dirt you will always get weeds growing, not to mention a dust bowl.
Generally, the landowner will provide the necessary drinking water for the stock or an arrangement can be made.
Always notify the landowner when you plan to take your stock out.  Always close gates and leave the property as you found it, or better still, leave it looking better and tidier.
Don't arrive early on a Sunday morning to feed or move your stock. Be professional and above all, be considerate.

After work yesterday evening we moved our young bull, Mulga-Bill to the property of friends a few kilometres away.  He walked onto the trailer happily because he wasn't stressed and we offered him his favorite treat, bread!  Our trailer has a drop down ramp as well as a sliding gate so we can load up anywhere provided we use our transportable home made yarding system.
He got stuck into "work" just as soon as he walked off the trailer and met his three new girlfriends. He will stay there for approximately ten weeks to be sure they are all in calf before we move him on to his next place of "work".
Now that the bull is out of the way, we brought home our young heifers from one of the other blocks that we have the use of and of course we notified the landowners a few days before.
The heifers are not ready to be mated so we needed to get Mulga-Bill away until they are old enough. Our general rule is to mate up heifers after they are fifteen months old.  They need to be at least two years old before calving. Any younger than that and they are not grown sufficiently for the burden of pregnancy and birth.
Two trailer loads took care of Klaus, the twelve month old steer, and then the two heifers, Bubble and Lavender. They all loaded well with the help of their favorite treat, bread. No stress for them or us.
Klaus is on the menu for next month when the on-farm butcher will visit.

        Klaus is ready for his journey and the portable yards still in place behind the trailer.

                                           Heifers, Lavender and Bubble, on the next load.

                            Bella, Daisy, Willow, Klaus, Lavender & Bubble. Our little herd.

There was no thought of taking photos during the transportation of Mulga-Bill, but I did remember to snap some of the other cows during our moving and loading.
Lavender (now eleven months old) is a Jersey X Murray Grey heifer that we have raised to be our next house cow.
Today Brian started working on training her to learn the routine of being a milking cow. With gentle coaxing and working at her own pace, she will learn to walk into the milking parlor, eat chaff from the feeder while her head is held in the bales and accept being patted and handled. Started at this age and while she is small there will be no stress or bad experiences to remember when her time comes to be milked for the first time, after her first calf is born.
When people ask politely on a Friday afternoon "what plans for the weekend?" I shrug and try to come up with something exciting, but for us living "the good life" the reality is that there is work to be done every weekend. It's never ending, but to us it's always exciting.
We had our morning coffee sitting on the verandah overlooking the paddock with the cows all munching happily. By 10am we had achieved all the cattle movements and were ready for the next jobs on the list.

                                            A large garden doesn't look after itself.

                                                    Some hives needed checking.

                                 Lacto-fermented bread & freshly made butter for lunch.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Daisy takes a break (& so do we)

One of my most loved daily rituals has temporarily come to an end today.
I could have kept on milking Daisy for another few months, but her milk production has dropped off and Willow needs to be weaned off milk now that she's five months old.
A break in routine will allow us a few short holidays as well.
For the past week I've taken eight litres from her on alternate days in preparation for the drying off and she will now stop producing milk after a couple of days of swelling. I find this to be the most comfortable for the cow and I'll keep an eye on her, watching out for any signs of discomfort or mastitis.
Daisy gave birth to her first calf in October last year.  All of our cows are taught to foster other calves but she, being the highly strung little thing that she is, refused to accept another calf despite all of our efforts.
After trying all of our other methods of introducing a foster calf to a cow, Brian smeared onto the foster calf some of the placenta that we'd  frozen with this purpose in mind should the situation arise, with the intention that she would  lick the calf clean and then accept it.
Nothing we did would convince her to accept a new calf and so, after three weeks of trying we gave up.
Fortunately, Bella gave birth to Pumpkin a few days earlier and happily fostered the new little calf  (Lavender) that we had purchased from another dairy with the intention of giving it to Daisy.
When our cows are fresh in after calving, there is plenty of milk for their own calf, more than enough for household use (cheese making etc) and  sufficient for feeding another calf as well.
After the first four months, the calves can be weaned while another calf is brought in for raising. Generally, the cow's production will settle down to a steady amount and depending on the cow, if she has enough milk, another two calves can be raised. Or if for instance, I want to make lots of cheese every day, or feed orphan lambs, or grow pigs on milk, or if the cow's production has dropped I can raise just the one foster calf.
Another benefit of teaching cows to foster is being able to have small calves on your milking cow for a longer period of time. This gives us, the farmer, a bit more flexibility and freedom.
Of course the profitability of raising more calves has to be considered as well.
We can choose not to milk the cow on some days when we leave the calf or calves with the cow.  On the days that we want milk we separate the calf (calves) from the cow for up to 12 hours before we want to milk. This can be overnight if you want to do the milking in the morning, or separate the calves in the morning if evening milking is  your preference.
It's not a good idea to leave a calf of more than 5-6 months old suckling on a cow. The calf is getting very boisterous by this time and can damage the udder.
We also like to have more than one calf at a time so they have each other for company when separated from the cows. ALL animals will "do" better in company. They are happier, feed better, grow better and are generally healthier.
Daisy is due to have her next calf in April. Although, strictly speaking, we don't need to dry her off until two months before calving, we need to take a few short breaks away in the next couple of months before summer really hits.
Yes, even though we're living the dream, we too need holidays occasionally.
If she would comply to our wishes, and foster a calf, we could have put a new calf on her a month ago and retained our freedom to take holidays and have our milk as well.
She was initially inseminated on New Year's Day this year and, had all gone well, she should have calved in October (next month). However, things don't always go to plan and she slipped her calf at 3 or 4 months gestation. We had to start over again and call in the AI man once more.
Now that she's more experienced we're hopeful that she will accept foster calves next time around.  What a beautiful quiet milker she has become and we feel quietly proud to have trained her in the niceties of milking parlour manners and routine. Most credit to Brian who spends endless hours gaining the confidence of our new milkers, training them gently from when they are still small.
Her calf, Klaus, is booked in for the "on farm" butcher to visit next month as he will be a year old and perfect for the freezer.  The most nutritious and sustainable meat, straight from the paddock, no stress, no grain feeding (no irrigation, unsustainable farming practices and chemicals).
Grass Fed beef has finally found its place out there in the market place as more people realise the health benefits to the consumer and to the Planet.

I recently read about growing new plants from the old plant. This is a new celery plant reborn from the celery crown that would otherwise be thrown to the chickens or sheep. I've since planted every celery crown I find and if I can deter the snails, they will grow beautifully.

I love to have a couple of celery plants growing so I can break off a few sticks from the growing plants as I want to use them, adding them to soups, stews or in a fresh vegetable juice.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Making your own laundry detergent

Last year we removed the Hills Hoist & made this little kitchen garden in its place.
Brian built me another washing line that is more in keeping with the era of our 1911 built home.

The old cane wash basket & trolley purchased (cheaply) at a Garage Sale is just the icing on my wash line cake.

I started making our laundry detergent a couple of years ago. Not only do I save lots of dollars, I'm much happier about using the washing water on the garden.
In our dry state of South Australia we need to use all of our household water carefully and most people I know recycle some of their washing water onto their garden.
Like many people we used to bucket the water from the shower and washing machine, but realistically that isn't going to keep happening as we age and the buckets get too heavy for us.
So, one of the first things we did here when we started setting up the gardens was install a shut off valve on the water outlet pipe outside the house.
In our case the grey water from inside the house runs into a septic tank because we are outside the town drainage system.  It's still possible to install a shut off valve if you live within the town if your outside pipes are exposed above the ground.
Attaching a hose to this shut off valve we can divert the water from the bathroom and laundry onto various garden areas using gravity.
However, this water contains the residues of any detergents and substances used inside the house and can be detrimental to the soil and plants growing in it.  This is when I turned to making my own soaps and detergents.

                               Liquid Laundry Detergent
1 cup grated soap 
1/2 cup washing soda (Lectric Soda)
1/2 cup Borax
Melt in a stainless or enamel saucepan with 1.5 litres of water until dissolved .
Tip this mixture into a plastic bucket.
Add 8 litres of water & give it a stir.
Pour into large plastic bottles leaving a few centimetres at the top for shaking up when it gels.
2 litre vinegar bottles are perfect.
This will become quite a thick gel & needs shaking up to make it pourable.
Use approx 1/2 cup with each load of washing.
Suitable to use in both top or front loader machines.
It doesn't foam up but it gets the washing clean.

The recipe suggests either Lux Flakes or grated soap.  I use a cake of soap that I buy at the supermarket for a few dollars for a pack of five. Much cheaper than Lux and is just as effective. 
The easiest way of grating the soap is to get someone to grate it for you when they're sitting there having  cup of tea and watching you do all the work. 

Notice the space left empty in each bottle for easy shaking up of contents.

When using grey water on your garden it's best to alternate it with fresh water occasionally to avoid the salts building up in the soil. This gentle home made laundry detergent is much less toxic than the chemical laden commercial detergents. I've been watering our fruit trees and vegetable gardens with our grey water for years.

After a very wet winter we're not getting the Spring rains that we hoped for and the soil is drying out rapidly. The gravity fed grey watering system (a hose that I can move about) is trickling onto the vegetable gardens keeping things growing without costing us a cent in water bills. 

Brian has happily returned to work this week after seven weeks. His hip surgery was a great success and as we sat outside with our cups of tea this morning he explained his plans for redesigning the back garden. He's talking of building retaining walls and a pizza oven. Welcome back to the man I used to know Brian!!
The sun is shining and the garden beckons.
Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have a wonderfully productive weekend.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...