Monday, September 5, 2011

Otway Fields

A month ago today we moved to our ‘tree change’ property in the Otways. We have named our little farm Otway Fields. We thought this would be a multipurpose name. It would work as a B&B and look good on a jam jar!
Stephen, Sara, Ami, Frans and Nala!

Moving day was a monster day. Two big trucks, three burly fellows, and about five hours later, everything was unpacked. We were very pleased with our movers. They did an excellent job. We had very little damage.

It took 3 blokes to push the doors shut!

Nala had to be chained up. We didn't want her taking off down the road. She just stayed in her bed and observed the proceedings from the sidelines!

Over the following week we unpacked and unpacked. Finding a spot for everything is always a challenge. I concentrated on the kitchen first. The last box I had packed at the old house in Melbourne was supposed to be the first box I would unpack on the farm. Unfortunately, it was buried in the far corner of the porch with mountains of boxes on top and in front of it. So no kettle. No plunger. Bugger. Fortunately our good friends who live just through the forrest  loaded us up with a basket of essentials. We could have coffee. Starting a day without a cuppa is just not going to happen. We were touched by the welcome we received from friends in the country. We had meals provided and I didn’t need to cook for 4 days. It was so easy. Norma made us a delicious pot of potato and chirizo soup. Prue supplied us with a lovely Moussaka. Our neighbours brought us fresh eggs.  We received welcome cards. We are going to love living here.

Packing space is a challenge. I've put all my entertaining crockery in the old fashioned cupbaord in the laundry.
All the bulk foods (tinned tomatoes, coffee etc) are also relegated to the laundry cupboard.

I'm learning to use the wood fired store. It warms the house beautifully.

We have slowly organised ourselves into a routine. We needed to purchase farm ‘stuff’. So every time we went into town, which is around 20kms away, we would make a list of things to do. Going to town for just one thing is not an option. There’s no just nipping down to Safeway for milk or bread. The trip has to have a number of requirements. We found the co-op. What an interesting shop. Horses bridles, sheep drench, fencing kits, lime for the chook shed, gum boots, bread flour… yes… bread flour! I bought two big bags of organic flour. (I’ve been baking my own bread for over a year now and will keep doing so). We changed our address details at many places. The beauty of living in a small country town is that there is never a queue. Going into the Vic Roads office is a breeze. No numbering system. Just walk up to the counter and do your thing. The same applied at the Medicare office, the Electoral office and the bank.
Our first few weeks on the farm have been a learning experience. We attended a course in Camperdown on Composting. It may sound boring, but it was a very informative day. The speaker was Dr Elaine Ingham, and American scientist who specialises in soil biology. We came away wanting to get our compost system up and running as soon as possible. The benefits are huge. The least of which is a reduction in the number of weeds you will have on your property. We hope.
In our third week we attended a two day workshop on Organic Farming. It was an introduction into the requirements and benefits of being certified organic. The rules are incredibly strict. We will endeavour to operate our farm by the organic guidelines, but unless we enter the market and actually sell our produce we won’t bother getting the actual certification.

The pool is behind the hedge. The two trees you see are crab apples.
The garden is beautiful. And vast! There are 5 enormous raised vegetable beds. There are lovely flower garden beds and plenty of fruit trees and ornamentals. I have a greenhouse which is a huge bonus. The weather here in the Otways is cold and wet during Winter. Spring is a little later here, so getting some seeds started in the greenhouse means we get our summer veggies going sooner. So I’ve created a spread sheet (record keeping is essential when planting up a number of garden beds) of all the seeds that need to be planted. The first batch of seed trays are sitting in the greenhouse being warmed. The beetroot has sprouted. A mini victory. I check these trays every day, inspecting them closely for the first signs of little green buds pushing their way through the soil.
I have claimed this corner of the enclosed verandah as my spot. I just love looking out of the windows. Mornings are usually misty. They are the best part of the day!

I've organised all my seeds according to their planting locations and times.

Nala keeps me company. It's truly a dogs life!

This is my temprorary potting bench. I'm sharing the shed with the chooks and the ducks.
The start of the seedling trays sitting in the green house.

The green house is big!
Don't believe that little red label! This stuff stinks!

We have done a lot of mulching with our new mulcher. What a dream. We had our fruit trees pruned a couple of weeks ago. I’ve also cut back some overgrown garden beds and pruned around 40 rose bushes. The mulcher just blitzes all the off cuts in a flash. We’ve had a few moments where we’ve jammed it with follage that is too soft or green, but we’re learning what can be mulched and what can’t. In the process we are creating a wonderful compost heap. This is biodynamics and permaculture at its basic level. Compost.  Beautiful stuff.

Nala is loving the farm. She is in her element. She has always been an inside dog. Spoiled one may say. Moving to the farm has meant that we have the challenge of dirty, muddy paws to contend with. Yes, we could just make her stay outside, but she’s an old lady now. And it’s cold outside! Yes, I’m a souk when it comes to Nala. She used to wake Frans up every night around 3 or 4 am to go outside for a wee. But since being on the farm, she sleeps in till around 7.30am! She’s exhausted from all her running around and exploring. So far she has not wandered out of the gate. The garden is big enough for her to play in. We need to keep an eye on her around the ducklings and chickens. She’s more used to the chickens now. But the ducklings still sound too much like her squeaky ball. She stands at their enclosure, licking her lips! “No Nala” is our catch phrase when she’s near the birds.
Nala looking very interested in the chickens....

Our ‘to do’ lists are growing! There are so many chores to be done. The trick is to prioritise them, otherwise we feel like we are not achieving much. There is wood to be chopped and stacked, garden beds to be planted, trees to be netted and the list goes on...

What beautiful moss you find on a piece of firewood....

Vegetable garden beds waiting for warmer weather before they get planted up.

At the end of the day, there is nothing more satisfying then to realise that 'we have done it'!

Stay tuned for more farm adventures!

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