Saturday, October 27, 2012

A lot can happen in a week

Our sitting duck has hatched 8 eggs! The cracking began last Sunday morning. When Frans went into the chook pen to feed the chooks, the first eggs had hatched. Mother duck is very protective over her little ones and kept them well covered for most of the day. Sara managed to lift her wing to see what the yellow fluff ball count was.
To think that this shell had a little duck growing in it for 5 weeks! Nature is amazing. 
Frans removed the eggs that did not hatch after a day or so. Not much of the broken shells remained. They were eaten by the mother duck and some of the chickens that were brave enough to get close to the little ones. 
It was thrilling to see one of the little chicks emerging from it's shell. 
And a day later, they're waddling around the secure area. We learned our lesson last time and Frans put a baking tray (that's where it went!) with stones in it down for the little ducks to drink from. They can't fall in, although they still climb all over their drinking water and food. They get fed a special meal for the first few weeks.  
A pity this pic is a little out of focus, but I couldn't resist putting it in today's blog. This little chick is soo cute! 
And 5 days later, Mamma duck has taken her little ones on their first big adventure into the orchard area. They burried their little beaks in the grass, all the time keeping an eye on Mum. When she moved, they did. They kept together and didn't venture far from one another. 

We have a second duck sitting on another clutch of eggs. They won't be ready to hatch for another two or three weeks. The weather is much warmer compared to the cold winter when the first lot of eggs were being hatched. Only two out of 20 made it to full time. And both of those little ducks are now history. One drowned on day two, and the other was taken by a fox a couple of weeks ago. We hope that we can get the ducklings we have now to adult status. Part of our philosophy of living on the farm is to grow our own food. That includes raising animals to eat. It may sound cruel, but I'd rather know that our ducks, chickens and cows are raised with respect and in good conditions, than eat something from a supermarket shelf wrapped in foam and plastic.
Frans and I went on a very interesting farm excursion with the local land care group. Our trip took us to three sites close to the Grampians. It was a long day. Up at 5am and home past nine. We visited a test site for canola. That's the field on the top left pic in the collage below. It is not a GM crop. They're trialling growing a winter crop in this area. We then went to an organic farm that grows flax seed. The farm is called Waltanna Farms. They also press their own oil and make a number of products from the seeds. I bought some meal and cracked seeds to try in my bread. It was impressive to see a small farm producing quality organic products. The bottom picture is at the farm. This is their compost pile! Good, rich smelling stuff! Bottom right is a drive-by photo of the bright yellow canola fields we passed. Last stop was at a sheep farm. The owner of the farm was very switched on and his sheep paddocks were green and lush. Farming is a science. I think that city folks would be amazed at the knowlege that farmers have and need to know to produce food for us to eat.
Remember apple season, way back in March? Well, Frans juiced a big bucket of apples. I had the brew sitting under my writing table for a while. I finally bottled it.  

And so... will it be wine? Will it be cider? Will it be vinegar? We will wait and see! 
With summer fast approaching, we're spending more time in the yard. Some days we dig, turn, weed and plant, with only a few stops along the way. A special treat is to stop for lunch and enjoy some of our produce. This was our lunch one day this week: broad beans! Yes! zucchini pickles and our own salad veggies. Add some local goat cheese, a few olives and a little Italian salami and you have a feast! All that was missing here was the glass of wine. But... we had work to do! 
Our very first Artichoke. Grown from a little stem that my friend Kathryn Hailey sent to me from Canberra. How to prepare it? Lots of flicking through recipe books and trawling the internet. I finally found a recipe that sounded pretty easy. I needed to make this as an entree for four people to share. I made Roman Style Artichokes. I adjusted the ingredient quantities as I only had one choke. I also popped a cup of podded broad beans into the saucy wine and cooked them along with the artickokes. Four of us sat around the baking dish dunked fresh bread in the sauce and ate the artichokes one leaf at a time, with juices running down our arms. Along with a glass of bubbles it was simply delicious! I can't wait for a few more fruits to grow and be ready! 
 Little birds. Love them. But not when they sit on our car mirrors looking at themselves and poop on the doors. They also make nests. Lots of them, in the rafters of the carport. I went to use my market basket that hangs up near the back door earlier this week. And this is what I found inside. A perfectly created nest! What opportunistic these feathered creatures are!
This a the 'chilling' corner just off the kitchen. The windows allow for gazing towards the Otways, watching the weather roll accross the sky. A nice spot to sit and just 'be'. 
Did I mention that we've been busy these past weeks? There has been a lot to do in the yard. Lots of weeding for a start! Why not weed as they grow you may ask? Well... winter. Rain. Lots of it. Not always easy to get outside. The warmer weather allows us to get outdoors and get working. Here Frans is pulling creeping violets from an area under the netting where we have some fruit trees and three long raised vegetable beds. Nala keeps us company wherever we my be in the yard! Se doesn't mind lying on the dirt either! 
A few days later and all the weeds are gone and I've mulched the entire area. Even the strawberries have a layer of clean mulch around them so that the red strawberries (in a few weeks!) will rest on the straw and not the ground. We bought a HUGE bale of barley straw for $25. It was a 500kg block of solid mulch. Getting it off the trailer once we got it home was rather interesting. We had to use a second car to pull the bale from the trailer. It was amusing to say the least! 
And I'm leaving you this week with a photo of two very expressive faces waiting at the back door to be let into the back yard. Roxy and Nala.
Have a happy week!

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