Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Big Boys Toys!

Where have the past three weeks gone? We've been flat out. 

We have some exciting news!
You can now find our preserves and other exciting creations at:

Farmhouse Direct is an on line farmers market, open 24/7. It showcases some of the country's best produce. For us the challenge has always been how to reach a broader market. We believe we will be able to share our preserves with customers around the country. I've spent the past week uploading data and Frans has been taking photos of our products. 

Check out our page HERE:

Please feel free to share our Farmhouse Direct link!
We've also set up a Facebook page for Otway Fields. You can follow our crazy adventures on a more casual basis. Plus, you get to make comments on what we're doing! We'll share what we're growing, cooking, making and farm life in general.

We have been busy with a number of projects. The work on the cabin is in limbo as we wait for a few more details to be confirmed. In the mean time Frans and our neighbour Graham moved the old water tank to a new resting place at the back of the house. The moving of a tank is chicken feed when you have a bit of rope, a plank and some good old fashioned common sense. First the tank was lashed onto the forks of the tractor.
Frans then guided Graham through the yard, past the new shed, through the gate (watch the post!) and on past the chook house. 
It would probably have been a good idea to take the washing off the line before the tractor and tank kicked up a cloud of dust as they bumped past! 
The photo above shows a part of the back yard, or if you want to be fancy, the orchard. The ground is bone dry. The chickens scratch around and make lovely holes anywhere they can. Frans has a plan brewing where he's going to make a mobile chicken tractor to follow the cows around the paddock. It's something we've been talking about for a while. Hopefully by Spring we'll have a new chook system in place. The backyard can then be 'prettied up' and we won't get  frustrated with the holes the chickens make!

As you may know, we planted our first garlic crop last year. We want to plant more this season. To do this we needed to dig another garlic bed. So Graham to the rescue. (What a dream neighbour he is!) He came over with his trusty old tractor and harrowed a big long bed for us. We carefully worked out the siting of the bed. Had to be East/West. A bit of squinting into the sun, and we all agreed on the direction the bed had to be. 
This little job took about 20 minutes. If we had done it ourselves it would have taken a week! 
Below Frans is pacing out the bed. 30m long by 3 meters wide. 
Graham then drove his tractor back to his place, swapped the bits at the business end of the tractor and came back to create two nice raised beds.  
All that was left was for Frans to flatten, neaten and make holes in the tops and for me to follow with a hose. We sprinkled some chook poo onto the beds and we've been watering the beds every few days to get some good biology happening in the soil. We'll be ready to plant in a few more weeks. 
And just beside the new garlic bed we've planted another 9 olive trees. In time they'll provide a break between our fence and our the neighbours. 
One of the things we've learned since we came to live in the country, is that good pasture doesn't just happen. Farmers are scientists, biologists and eco specialists when it comes to their land. Feeding cows so they can be milked is a huge endeavour. Not only do the cows need feeding, but so does the soil. With the correct inputs! We had our soil tested and we decided we will add a good dose of lime to our paddocks this year. So early on Monday morning, the co-op man in his big shiny piece of farm equipment turned up to spray lime dust all over the farm. 
He took off in a cloud of choking dust and headed down to the far corner of the farm.
He spread the lime all around and headed back for the top gate. Ah, notice the wood pile on the right of the picture? Well, we're just waiting for the fire season to come to an official end and we'll be having another 'opera in the paddock' evening.  
A rather tight squeeze and the big spreader made it back out of the gate.
We're hoping the weather will give us a bit of rain to allow the lime to soak into the ground. In the mean time, Frans is still feeding his cows twice a day by hand. They love him!  
We've had very little rain over summer. It's been the driest summer since records began for our area. This is the channel that usually funnels water into our dam.  
And we've come to the end of our apple season! We have picked buckets full! This year we're storing a few boxes. We wrapped the good apples individually and packed them in apple boxes we got from the supermarket. We'll store them in the shed. They will keep for a good few months. This will enable us to keep using our own organically grown produce in some of our preserves. 
Our Worcestershire Sauce is made from these apples! It is delicious! If you've never tried home made W. Sauce, then you must give it a go. You'll be converted. It took Frans 26 years to be convinced that this stuff is great on fried eggs and toast. Now he has it all the time!
The sign of a good home made Worcestershire Sauce is a good layer of sediment resting at the bottom of the bottle. 
I've been picking cucumbers every few days. There are only so many we can eat, so I've been pickling the rest. Sweet pickles, and Dill pickles. I'm looking forward to trying them out after their one month rest in the pickling brine! 

Now this has been a very long post! That's what happens when I don't put something up for a couple of weeks! My apologies!

I'll leave you with a photo of the newest farm additions. We have acquired 9 baby chicks. They came from Melbourne where they were hatched by incubator at a kindi. The children got to see the magic of chicks hatching, and we got to keep the chicks! We're hoping that some of these will be roosters.... (that way we can add some free range chook to the freezer!) 
Have a very happy week!

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