Archive for March, 2008

Farmlet Reader Contributes US$25

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Thanks, PM!

Corn and Kumara Harvest

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Somehow, despite our neglect, our corn crop came to fruition. The damage from shield bugs was not too bad in the end, but we did lose some to the birds. We are sure the crop would have been much bigger if we had side dressed with manure, or applied a foliar feed. Still, we are pleased enough with our first corn harvest. The colours of the kernels are beautiful. Some of them look as if they are lit from within! I am planning to string up the corn to dry. I think it will look wonderful hanging in the kitchen.

Indian flint corn

I am not sure if we’ll grow this variety of corn (“Indian Flint Corn”) again. In the end, we didn’t plant quite enough to have a viable population for seed saving, so our decision will depend partly on availability. Also, we have friends at Kerikeri and Takahue who are growing heirloom corn, and it might make better sense to grow the same variety they do — so that we could collectively maintain a bigger population for saving seed.

We have also started to harvest the first of the kumara. Kumara is a New Zealand sweet potato. We enjoy them baked, roasted, boiled, in soup, or even as the main ingredient in a variation on the traditional potato salad. We made a saute of peppers, zucchini, onion and garlic, added balsamic vinegar, salt, and olive oil, and mixed it together with cubes of boiled kumara. Very tasty!


When we lived over at Kaikohe, my Dad used to tell me to bend each kumara shoot into a U shape before planting it, so that the roots would be facing up towards the surface of the soil. This way, the tubers would grow close to the surface rather than growing impossibly deep in the soft volcanic soil. I decided not to bother with the U shape here on the Farmlet, considering that our soil is heavy clay. Now that harvest time has come, I’m amazed at how deep the kumara have managed to grow, even in our heavy soil. Digging them is proving to be a bit of a mission! Lesson learned: Next spring I’ll bend the kumara shoots as I plant them.

Handsome Tawny Visitors

Friday, March 21st, 2008

What were we to do? Time had passed, and suddenly we realised we were behind schedule in finding a bull to service our two lovely Jersey cows, Rosie and Coco.

Perhaps “The Ambler” could be prevailed upon to make a visit, as he did last year? Alas, when we called his owner we were told that the Ambler has been failing to perform of late. This was sad news indeed. What were we to do??

We decided to contact some neighbours down the road, who have a very fine herd of Red Devon cattle. Kevin and I had often admired these splendid beasts and rather fancied the idea of having a couple of half-Red-Devon calves on the Farmlet. There are several reasons why a Red Devon sire seemed like a good choice:

1. They are a “meat breed,” so the offspring should be very suitable for the freezer.
2. They have a reputation for being quiet.
3. They tend to throw fairly small calves — So should be ok for our little Jersey cows!
4. They are splendid-looking beasts with fine tawny coats. (I’m not sounding very much like a farmer here, am I!?)

Luck was on our side. Our neighbours had a Red Devon bull visiting their cows at the very time we called. Once he had finished his assignment with their cows, he would be able to come down the road to stay awhile with Rosie and Coco before returning to his owner.

At first, I had the not so brilliant idea of taking Rosie and Coco down the road to meet the bull. Kevin soon pointed out that we would run the risk of losing them somewhere on the way, since they are rather flighty when it comes to being moved, and we don’t have a cattle dog to help us. Getting the bull to our place could be managed by moving him alongside his entourage of very quiet Red Devon cows (our neighbour’s darlings!). At the end of his stay, we would just have to get him back along the road to our neighbour’s stock yards. Just get him back along the road? Just?? We solved this dilemma by offering grazing for a couple of the Red Devon cows for the duration of the bull’s sojourn. The bull would be much easier to move in their company. Our neighbours were really pleased with this arrangement, since they were short of grass, and we were only too happy to be able to help them in return for sharing the bull.

Never before were so many creatures seen grazing in the Farmlet paddocks! Our two cows, their two calves, the Red Devon bull, and two Red Devon cows. Seven cattle! And we only have about 3.5 acres of grazing — or 5.5 counting the extra paddocks belonging to our next-door neighbour. Luckily for us, it had been a warm wet summer and the grass in our pastures was doing incredibly well. As it turned out, our pastures were well equal to accommodating the extra animals. In fact, the grass will probably do better for having been eaten down properly.

Red Devon cow

We think we know when each of our two cows stood for the bull, and we dearly hope they are in calf. We had planned to keep the bull for two cycles to be sure that the job was done. Our plans changed after some drama with one of the fences on our neighbour’s place. Actually, it was the two Red Devon cows who knocked the fence down. They are much bigger, meatier creatures than our little Jerseys, and are much harder on the fences. The bull was pacing the fence line, eyeing up some heifers over the way, and poor Kevin was losing sleep over the possibility that he would escape and run amok. Suddenly it seemed prudent to dispatch the Red Devons while the rest of our fences were still standing. As far as our cows being in calf, we are just hoping for the best!

Coco’s behaviour seems to indicate that she is probably in calf. (This is very important to us, since she is our house cow. We need her to calve in order to secure next season’s supply of delicious creamy milk.) Her milk supply suddenly began to decrease after she stood for the bull, and Kevin has remarked than she seems much quieter and calmer since then, also. Actually, at the last milking, the decrease in milk supply was so striking that we became suspicious. Could she really be drying off so fast? She looks in fine condition. One explanation is that her milk supply is NOT actually decreasing that fast. Possibly her milk is being poached. . . and the chief suspect is none other than that cheeky, fat rascal Herman Beefsteak. We will have to see what develops at the next milking!

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.

Rangiora Eco Village

Friday, March 14th, 2008

I read about the new Rangiora Eco Village development in a local newspaper yesterday. I wanted to mention it because I know that some of you are in New Zealand, or are planning to be here soon. This isn’t too far from where I’m sitting at the moment, and I’d like to see more like-minded people in the neighborhood.

* hint *

Yep, you would need to bring a decent chunk of change, but it looks like you would be getting the total package, with community being the most important benefit.