Baby lambs in our neighbour's paddock. Two sets of twins. They're about 10 days old
Spring has sprung here at Otway Fields. A myriad of different flowering bulbs are pushing through the warming ground. Daffodils, crocus, nemesis and ranunculi to name a few are bringing colour and fragrant perfumes to the garden. New blossoms are appearing on the fruit trees and the roses are starting to bud with new growth. Snapdragon & poppy seeds are sprouting in the greenhouse, and tall blue cornflower seeds have been cast in an old cattle feeder near the driveway. In a few weeks I will plant sunflower seeds along the old shed wall; a sunny welcome to all who venture down our driveway.
Our gardening challenge will be to keep unwanted guests out of the garden. We had an unexpected visit from a confused herd of cattle early last week. They had escaped from a neighbouring farm and decided to take a fast run down the gravel road in front of our place. We went to investigate where they had come from and were side tracked at a nearby neighbour’s house. It was ‘happy hour’ and we were urged to leave the cows (“They’ll be fine” said Mr M) and we spent a pleasant hour getting to know them. Our tete a tete was interrupted when the objects of our excursion rampaged through the very pristine garden of said neighbours. We hoofed (pun intented!) it out into the garden and sent the cattle on their way down the long drive back to the road. We got home later to discover that the cattle had been through our garden too. Hoof indentations were tell-tale signs that they had wandered up our drive, circled the compost heaps and traipsed around the big shed. We will need to get a cattle grid at our gate. It will be more practical than a conventional gate which would need opening and closing every time someone leaves or comes home.
A little ‘Duck & Chook News”…. Little baby ducks are growing into bigger ‘teenage’ ducks. Their feathers are no longer fluffy and yellow. They are turning white. Their little tail feathers are forming and they love to shake them! Frans has re-jigged their ‘pool’ so that it is deep enough for them to have a paddle in and he has built them a little house that keeps them warm at night. So no more makeshift cardboard boxes. They are fascinating birds. We could hang over the duck enclosure and watch them for hours, but there is work to be done! They will shortly join the chooks in the chicken palace.
Today we had 4 eggs! The most in one day. That is an 80% chook laying success rate. We are proud of our girls. Nala has learned to look after them. They are woodland birds, and love to scratch around under the hedges. Sometimes they escape into the paddock. There are usually a few anxious minutes of trying to locate our feathered friends. So far we have not lost any. Touch wood!
Work around the farm is continuing. There is something to do every day. Frans cut back the berry patch earlier this week. We have raspberries and thornless blackberries confined to a large netted area. This is to stop the birds from destroying the fruit. The raspberry bushes get cut right down to the ground and the blackberry canes get pruned. It was a time consuming, frustrating and swearing kind of task, but we managed to cut the patch down and mulch all the canes. Now we wait for the flush of fruit in the coming months. We are also lucky to have around 8 blueberry bushes. Muesli with fresh berries on top for breakfast is going to be a treat which we look forward to! Now I just need to convince a local dairy farmer to let me have some unpasteurised milk to make some natural yoghurt. Mmm… I’m not sure how successful I’ll be as it is not legal to buy ‘raw’ milk at the farm gate.
My tasks around the yard are focused on vegetables. I’m preparing garden beds to get the Summer crops into the ground. Before I can plant however, I am digging out old plants, weeds and turning over the soil. It took me a few days to work my way through the potato patch. I harvested two big baskets of lovely organic spuds. Some big, some small. We have enough potatoes to last us for months. Then I shoveled spade after spade of compost into the beds. It’s back breaking work but incredibly satisfying. I have planted up the greenhouse garden beds and they are being monitored closely (nose to the ground!) to spot the first signs of sprouting seeds. Frans has unclogged all the sprinkler sprays and the watering system is working like a dream.
A couple of weeks ago we planted two truffle infused oak tree saplings. We were given these young trees as a ‘tree change’ gift by a few of my lovely girlfriends from Melbourne. It may take a while (around 4 years!), but we are looking forward to eating Spagetti Tartuffo.
Frans paced out the necessary distances between the two oak trees. We have placed them in our ‘top paddock’ which we will keep free from cows. We need to add a few more fruit and nut trees to our list. We will use this area for our additional trees. We would like to add a couple of figs (black and green), apricot, plum, bay, kaffir lime, chestnut, almond and hazelnut. This list of course is not exhaustive. There are whims and wants that will change our plans constantly.
This past week we received our pack of cattle tags and applicator. Opening the package was exciting. The covering letter from the Department of Primary Industries was addressed to “Dear Primary Producer”. What? Us? Yes! We had to apply for our own property identification number in order to buy cattle. We sound like ‘cattlemen’, but sadly our herd will consist of two cows and two calves. We are able to run 4 cows on our little farm. That is enough. Our neighbour is a cattleman and he will help us purchase our little herd. We will be doing that in a couple of weeks. We have been waiting for the ground to dry as it was an incredibly wet July. So stay tuned for when the ‘cows come home’!
Giant 'ear piercing' equipment! Fashion accessoris for cows....
And finally, another sign that Spring is on the way..... Frans was cutting back the hedge around the pool a couple of days ago. He had almost finished slicing the hedge level with the fence all the way around, when he came upon this little nest with two chirping little birds in it. Needless to say, the hedge cutting has not been finished. Instead, Frans piled some of the cut branches back around the next. We don't know what the little birds are, but we suspect they are starlings.