Friday, 31 July 2009

One Year Anniversary

Its hard to believe that we have been living here permanently for just over a year now. We arrived at the property late on the 26th of July, just a breath ahead of the movers. Needless to say chaos ruled, particularly since we had to move all our stuff with the trailer as the semi could not make it up the grass driveway. Thankfully out little girl slept through that episode.

The food producing plants on the property at this time was rather poor (as can be seen from the first photo). Basically we had some pawpaw and strawberry plants bearing fruit. Sure we had a lemon tree, a Hickson mandarin tree, a Navalena orange tree, and a fig tree, but it was either out of season or there was no fruit (due to the age of the citrus trees or poor site selection in the case of lemon tree).

Over the course of the year we have made some serious inroads into increasing our food production capabilities quite significantly. I initially focused most of my efforts towards creating veggie beds. This was soon followed by additional fruit producing plants, such as the two banana areas.

At present we are self sufficient in lettuce, potatoes, snow peas, silver beet, mandarins, sweet potatoes, passionfruit, pumpkins, tomatoes, rhubarb, Asian greens, eggs, and a number of herbs. In fact, there is plenty of excess for some of the items allowing us to sell it to other members of the Samford Local Growers group.

It is also worth mentioning that there is a small quantity of produce such as oranges and raspberries. But certainly not enough to be deemed as self-sufficient at this stage. And if our chooks leave the strawberries alone, who knows maybe there will be enough excess for some strawberry jam.

During the past year, we have planted out a significant portion of the citrus orchard, although there is still more planting space. In a couple of years we will have excess citrus fruit, which is a problem I am looking forward to having. Our banana trees should produce heaps of produce this coming season. We have four different varieties, so I am keen to do a taste test comparison.

There are also heaps of other fruits, gingers, and other delights (such as Yacon or Jerusalem artichoke) which I am looking forward to. I have certainly learned that there is nothing as sweet as the taste of sustainable harvest, not to mention tasting new types of delicious harvest for the first time.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Chicken dance

A proper chook coop is long over due. While we have not had the chooks for that long, I had wanted to build a chook coop at the end of last year or beginning of this year at the latest. Of course things have not gone quite according to my idealist schedule. Our little girl often has that kind of impact on plans.

Although in reality, the biggest issue with progression of the chook coop was the design plans. The location for the coop is in an area which gets quite wet during heavy rain falls. Even though Rhode Island Reds are a hardy breed, I do not feel that it is all that nice to have them in damp conditions. Thus this meant either a concrete slab or raised chicken coop.

I really liked the idea of a raised chook coop, particularly after seeing one of the members of the Samford Local Growers constructions. His design was based on a BuildEazy chook coop design with a few tweaks such as a flat roof design. The dimensions for my coop are 3.6m by 1.8m, so I am doubling the size of the basic plans. This is so that I can divide the coop into two sections for future purposes.

With a raised coop design, I figure that rats and mice will have a hard time getting access to the interior. I also plan to allow the chooks access to underneath the chook coop as part of their main run, thus it will provide valuable shade during the heat of the summer.

There is still a fair bit of work to complete as only the platform of the coop in place. But at least in the mean time it will allow my little girl a great place to perform her chicken dance.

Rejoining the flock

Our injured hen has made an amazing recovery. She, along with the rest of the flock, had been attacked by a fox. She was the worst off by far, unable to move that much. She was able to lay an egg on the second or third day after the injury. If a hen has an egg on the way and is unable to lay it, then this can cause death; thus the appearance of the egg was a welcome site.

After the first week of recovery, she was able to visit the other chickens for short durations. I am sure that this helped her mentally, even if Rusty did attempt to get a bit amorous with her.

Finally after two weeks since the attack, her health improved enough so that she was able to roost with the others. So Rusty now has his full harem of girls back.

We got some coloured bands for the hens several days ago. We gave the colour red to the injured hen as it seemed appropriate. We also have orange, blue, and green bands. We have decided that these colours are now the names for the hens.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Fox attack

A week ago our flock of chooks were attacked by a fox. We had gone over to a neighbours place to drop off some garden produce and by the time we got back the sun had set behind the mountains. Unfortunately this was more than enough time for the fox to do some damage. I first saw evidence of the attack with the heaps of feathers around. Then after getting a torch, I was able to locate Rusty our rooster. He has lost a large area of feathers in front of his beautiful tail feathers. We were able to locate two of the hens, one of which was quite injured. However after lots of searching the other two hens were no were to be seen. We thought that they were fox food.

Thankfully the missing hens had the good sense to make a very long dash to one our other neighbours. This would have been a good 600m or so. They had put them safely in a cage and called later that evening. So we were able to collect them and bring them back home where they slept in the shed.

The next day, three of the hens were no worse for wear, even with some feather loss. Rusty however was very lethargic and did not eat or drink much. The injured hen was even worse than Rusty, having problems standing up and moving; let alone eating or drinking. So she was kept in a box inside.

We moved the chicken house inside the shed for the next few nights. Rusty rapidly recovered and started working the girls and crowing again. This included early morning crowing from within the shed (not a good way to wake up). So for the last couple of nights the chook house was put outside again.

Things were not looking that good for the injured hen as it was only in the third or fourth day that she started eating and drinking again. Her movement improved, but it is still messed up. I suspect that the fox got her by the neck and did some nerve damage. Anyway we will continue to attempt nursing her back to health. However she only has a month to recover tops, after that it is the stock pot. Hopefully it will not come to that.