Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Goals for the Year of the Ox

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

1. The first goal has to be something for Owen, of course! Go for a walk, or spend time doing yoga or dancing with Owen every day. Owen loves to dance, and has progressed recently from squatting up and down in time to the music to doing cute little moves. We love dancing with him. It’s also neat to take him for a walk and watch him charge through the undergrowth, tackling obstacles headlong. It should be no hardship to reach this goal!

Owen likes to dance

2. Finish setting up chook house and run, and GET SOME CHOOKS! We are well on the way to achieving this one already, but have to keep up the momentum.

3. Install solar hot water.

4. Make camembert, feta, and hard cheese. Also do some goat cheese experiments in the spring.

5. Cure some of our own meat. Specifically, I want to have a go at making corned beef and corned tongue.

6. Experiment with cooking corn and amaranth.

7. Start milking the goats in spring. This is a big one because it requires that we arrange some extra goat housing and a sheltered place to milk goats. It also requires that we find a suitable buck for our dear Daphne and Lulu.

8. Start “bushman’s toilet paper” seedlings. I’d also like to start some other tree seedlings, perhaps including carob, Japanese raisin tree and stone pine.

9. Improve winter vegetable garden over last year’s effort. I have to hurry up and get organised for autumn seed planting if I’m serious about achieving this one! We are a bit pinched for space at the moment due to work on the chook runs, so I’m going to have to employ all my garden cunning to fit in the crops we want to grow.

10. Save onion seed, and plant our first onion crop from home-saved seed. The seedheads are already ripening on the onions, so I’ll be embarking on this project very soon.

11. Get rid of the kikuyu in the areas around the lemon and lime trees in the house paddock, and work on establishing perennial ground cover to keep weeds at bay. The chooks will have an important part to play here.

12. Complete Playcentre Course 2. This might seem a bit off-topic for Farmlet, but our local Playcentre is an important part of our lifestyle here. Playcentre is a parent-run co-op where New Zealand children up to age 6 can go for free. Playcentre funding depends (among other things) on having enough parents present who have completed Playcentre training courses. Peria Playcentre is small and rather struggling to muster enough qualified parents at the moment. Owen and I love going to Playcentre, and I’m keen to do my part to support our Centre.

13. Update the Farmlet website at least once a week. I haven’t got off to a very good start on this goal, but the year of the Ox is still young and there are lots of things I want to write about!

The Year of the Rat in Review

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

About one year ago, I wrote a list of goals for the Year of the Rat. Now that the year is over, it’s time to review the list. How did we get on?

1. Do “baby yoga” with Owen and have lots of fun. I’m proud to say that we really over-achieved on this goal. As well as having fun yoga time together at home, Owen and I arranged to get together for weekly yoga sessions with a couple of other mums and babies. This has been a lovely way to spend time together and make friends. Owen continues to enjoy some of his “baby yoga” moves, even as he’s becoming more interested in mimicking the “grown-up moves” that I do. He still loves to sit peacefully on my lap or in front of me while I chant Sanskrit prayers.

2. Build a chook house and chook run. I guess we score about 50% on this one. The construction of the chook runs is largely finished. Big thanks are due to my father for his work on this project. After thinking long and hard about plans for a chook house, and assessing our resources and building skills (Let’s face it: Building is not what we are best at.), Kevin has ordered a kitset henhouse. We can’t wait for it to arrive! There’s still quite a lot to do before the chooks can move in, but we are well on the way. We are looking forward to doing some big chook-system documentary posts for Farmlet once the show is up.

3. Install a solar water heater. Not done yet, I’m afraid, but steps have been taken. We have earmarked the funds for this project, and Kevin has been in touch with the vendors about the size of the system and how to install it.

4. We plan that calves and goat kids will be born on the Farmlet this coming spring. We had mixed fortunes on this one, with the bull not staying long enough for Rosie to get in calf. Still, Miss Scarlett Beef-Shanks (Coco’s calf this season) is thriving. We were especially delighted to see Coco deliver a healthy calf after the trouble she had the previous year.

Scarlett Beef-Shanks, about twelve hours old

5. Carrying on from #4: Extend the small goat house and build a milking stand for the goats. A big zero for this! This one just looked like too much to tackle last year. We decided to put off doing this work and breeding the goats for another year.

6. Undertake some cool cheese projects using fresh cow and goat milk.
I think we’ve made a strong start on the cheese. Owen and I attended a fantastic cheese making course back in October. I have already made kefir parmesan, aged kefir cheese, pressed curd, and ricotta. Still to come: cheddar, feta, camembert, and maybe gouda.

Heirloom tomatoes and homemade, raw milk cheese

7. Make delicious meals using meat raised on the Farmlet. Yes!! And I’ve enjoyed sharing recipes for beef liver pate and steak and kidney pie on the Farmlet website.

8. Experiment with grinding and cooking cornmeal, including some from our own corn. Oh, dear! I dropped the ball on this one. I still haven’t even figured out how to fit to corn augur into our grain mill. . .

9. Save seeds from more of our vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We’ve made some good progress on our seed saving. Some of the varieties we are saving include: borlotti beans, black spanish radish, black beauty zucchini, onion, cilantro, selugia bean, soldier poppy, cosmos, calendula, naked oats, pygmy torch amaranth, dill, and land cress. With the fruiting season now upon us, I’m also about to save seed from several varieties of tomato, tomatillo, runner bean, zinnia, and russian giant sunflowers.

10. Continue to battle kikuyu and work on “taming” the house paddock. We hope to work on weed barriers this year, with the aim of reducing the ongoing effort. We have done quite a lot of work on this front, due to the design of the chook runs we are making. We can’t wait to test our new barrier system when we finally get some chooks.

11. Attempt to make some more crusty fermented beverages. I’ve had a go at making a number of different fermented drinks: ginger beer, honey mead, and rosehip-hibiscus soda were all delicious. The last two were made using water kefir grains and honey from our neighbour’s bees. We were hoping to make wine from our grapes last year, as well, but the grape crop was pretty poor and it didn’t happen.

12. Raise some seedlings of “bushman’s toilet paper” to plant out in the garden. Can’t believe this one is still on the “to do” list after all this time. I’ve found a source of seed, so should buy it and get on with the project.

13. Last but not least: I want to write at least one update per week for the Farmlet website! This still seems like an excellent goal to strive for, even though it has seemed so unattainable over the past month or so. I’ll keep trying!

Well, that was the Year of the Rat in review. Overall, I think it was a good year for us here on the Farmlet. Lots of good stuff happened, but it looks like we still have plenty of work left to do in the Year of the Ox, doesn’t it! My next post will be our new list of goals for the Year of the Ox.

Bill Mollison, 1981: Permaculture Design Course Transcript

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Interesting, useful, free: Permaculture Design Course Transcript.

Research Credit: TF

Goals for the Year of the Rat

Friday, March 14th, 2008

1. Do “baby yoga” with Owen and have lots of fun. Any goal that relates to our precious baby would have to top the list, of course! I have a couple of neat books, Itsy Bitsy Yoga and Yoga Mom, Buddha Baby, which are helping us get started.

2. Build a chook house and chook run. We have had this on our “to do” list ever since we arrived on the Farmlet. Can’t believe we still haven’t done it. Disgraceful! Still, the extra time has allowed us to understand more about our land and our needs. Our chook run plans have changed and developed a lot over the past two years. It is now high time to put plans into action!

3. Install a solar water heater. Kevin has been doing the research, and has finally found what he thinks may be the right system for us. This will be a big step towards reducing our energy bills.

4. We plan that calves and goat kids will be born on the Farmlet this coming spring. This means we have to hook our cows and goats up with bull/buck, of course. I’ll be writing more on this matter very soon! Calves and kids mean fresh cow and goat milk. Yum! This year we hope to milk Daphne and Lulu (the goats) for the first time.

5. Carrying on from #4: Extend the small goat house and build a milking stand for the goats. The small goat house is all very well for two does, but certainly wouldn’t fit their kids as well. Something needs to be done about this.

6. Undertake some cool cheese projects using fresh cow and goat milk.

7. Make delicious meals using meat raised on the Farmlet. Yes, we have exciting plans for Herman Beefsteak when he reaches “the beefsteak phase of his career”! I’m looking forward to sharing some recipes. It’s especially nice to think that the first meat Owen will ever eat will have been raised kindly and cleanly here on the Farmlet.

Herman Beefsteak

8. Experiment with grinding and cooking cornmeal, including some from our own corn.

9. Save seeds from more of our vegetables, herbs, and flowers. As our garden matures and we discover which varieties of vegetables do best for us, we are committed to saving more and more of our own seed.

10. Continue to battle kikuyu and work on “taming” the house paddock. We hope to work on weed barriers this year, with the aim of reducing the ongoing effort.

11. Attempt to make some more crusty fermented beverages. In particular, we’d like to try making wine from our own grapes. We’d better hurry up with this project, since it’s already grape season!

12. Raise some seedlings of “bushman’s toilet paper” to plant out in the garden. This project was on our list last year, and I can’t believe we forgot all about it. I’m really keen to do this!

13. Last but not least: I want to write at least one update per week for the Farmlet website!

Best wishes to all for the Year of the Rat! It looks sure to be a busy and exciting one on the Farmlet.

The Year of the Pig in Review

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Best wishes to all for the Year of the Rat!

One year ago, at the beginning of the Year of the Pig, I set out a list of 13 goals for the Farmlet. With the year now over, it is time to review our goals and achievements, and to set new goals for the coming year.

Here’s the report on last year’s goals:

1. Have some earthworks done in the middle cow paddock, in order to create an irrigation dam and level a site for a barn. The cows will be fenced out of the dam area. (The area in question is already swampy and damp — not especially good grazing, but an excellent dam site. The elevation of the site will allow us to gravity-feed water to gardens and stock. We plan eventually to plant the area around the dam with trees, creating a special dam-microclimate.)

Yes, we had the earthworks done. Sites have been leveled for a shed and a large water tank. The dam filled up beautifully and has stayed full of water right through the summer. We have surrounded the dam area with electric tape and planted mustard and lupins in the turned soil to prevent erosion. Still to do: Establish the gravity feed water system and plant trees around the dam area.

2. Build a barn/shed in the cow paddock for milking, storage, and keeping calves. We need to have this in place by July, when the cows are due to calve. (In due course, we plan to collect rain water off the roof of the barn. We will install a water tank next to the barn, from which water can be gravity-fed down to to house.)

The barn/shed project was shelved. We have been grazing our animals down on our neighbour’s pasture, in the middle of which is an old milking shed. Having the use of this shed took the urgency out of our need to build our own. We still plan to build the shed eventually, but other projects now seem more pressing.

3. Fix the fences around the goat paddocks. We need to reinforce the fences and put in more electric wires, so that the goats can be kept in the paddocks without their A-frame collars on.

Kevin fixed the goat paddock fences, with the result that they are much more goat proof. What a relief!

4. Extend the goat houses to give the goats more space, and better access to dry feed during the winter.

We have not done this yet. Now, with the goats expected to kid this coming spring, this project needs to move to the top of the priority list!

5. Build a chook house, and get some chickens. We plan to start with a small movable chook house in the house paddock. This way, the chooks can help us to clear kikuyu and create new garden areas. (Eventually, we would like to have a larger number of chickens ranging on the pasture up the hill.)

Alas, we still have no chooks! Over the past few months, Kevin and I have started to change and refine our chook house/ chook run plans. We are determined to tackle this project soon.

6. Plant fruit trees. Build supports for passion fruit and kiwifruit vines.

We have planted some more fruit around the place — a guava, a naranjilla, a boysenberry, a couple of tropical apricots and a grapefruit. I have also propagated seedlings for more passionfruit (both purple and yellow varieties), cherimoya, plum and guava, and we have been given a small fig, a raspberry, a thornless blackberry, a blackcurrant and a macadamia nut. We have to find places to plant all these! The passionfruit have supports to climb on, and we have just been enjoying the first fruit. The kiwifruit still need a pergola to climb on. They are looking a bit wretched after getting a rather fierce pruning from Daphne — naughty goat.

7. Continue to expand and develop gardens in the house paddock – including barrier plantings to keep out kikuyu.

We expanded the gardens by a considerable margin this spring, clearing the area that we are now using to grow corn and beans. We also worked on improving the soil structure in the existing beds. I didn’t do much work on barrier plantings in the end.

8. Experiment with making kefir, quark, and various cheeses. (This will be happening after our cows have calved and we have a good supply of fresh milk. We also hope to continue making yoghurt and butter.)

We have enjoyed making kefir, kefir cheese, Caspian Sea yoghurt, and butter using milk and cream from our own cow, Coco. I have to admit, though, that since Owen came along, I’ve really only kept going with the yoghurt (we get through several litres of this every week), having killed off our poor kefir grains soon after he was born. I’ll have to get some more! We’ve also been buying butter, which saves time, even if it’s not as nice as making our own. I’ve had several attempts at quark, and all have turned into yoghurt. The yoghurt culture has obviously taken up firm residence in this house and seems set on colonising any milk that I leave out at room temperature! Not good news for my quark mission.

9. Experiment with making assorted fermented beverages — perhaps using herbs from the garden.

I have had a lot of fun with fermentation over the past year, including growing a ginger beer bug and making ginger beer using our own lemons. I’ve also made water kefir using lemons and herbs from the garden. Sadly, the water kefir grains got very sulky quite some time ago, and nothing I could do would revive them. I am now looking to purchase some more. We continue to brew kombucha.

10. Grinding flour and making sourdough bread has become part of our routine by now. I’d like to get into the habit of using the sourdough in some other creative and delicious ways.

Yes, during the past year I found some delicious sourdough recipes in “Full Moon Feast” — sourdough pancakes, crackers and scones. I have also used sourdough to make fishcakes and pizza crust. By now, these recipes have become old favourites.

11. Start growing some “bushman’s toilet paper.” We plan to start seedlings and plant them out in the garden when they are big enough.

Ah. . . ! I’d forgotten all about this one. But it sounds like a neat idea. We should do this!

12. Install a solar hot water heater to cut our power bill and increase our energy self-sufficiency.

Kevin has been researching our options in this area, and has finally found one that looks right for us. With any luck, we’ll soon be embarking on this project.

13. Keep a more systematic record of income and expenditure. In particular, I think it will be satisfying to have records that clearly document the changes in our grocery bills as we produce more and more of our own food.

I kept these records very diligently through until October last year. Since our little one was born, my attentions have been focussed elsewhere, to the detriment of my record keeping! I hope the records will remain a useful basis for comparison as the Farmlet changes and develops.

So. . . does that mean we’ve achieved 8 out of our 13 goals? I suppose that’s not too bad.

The Year of the Pig has been a special one for us. Our goats grew to maturity, the first Farmlet calves were born, Kevin learned to milk a cow and shot his first wild pig. I got my firearms license. We had a rough time when Coco’s calf was born dead and we had to mother a new calf onto her. . . and it was hard to say goodbye to our fabulous cow, Esmerelda, even though she was going off to an excellent home. Of course, by far the most significant event of the year for us was the birth of our precious baby: Owen Thom Flaherty, born on the 16th of November 2007, Year of the Red Fire Pig. Our very own dear little piglet.


Now I’ve started compiling a new list of goals for the Year of the Rat. I hope to post this list in the next few days, so please stay tuned.