Archive for February, 2009

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.

Farmlet Reader Signs Up for Hosting with BlueHost

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Thanks to Lifescapes International for signing up for hosting with BlueHost. Farmlet received US$90.

Back Again

Friday, February 6th, 2009

This post marks the beginning of a serious campaign to get back to regular Farmlet entries. We’ve had a busy time recently with my sister and her fiance getting married, as well as the normal business that comes with the height of summer and fielding a very lively little boy. The wedding was loads of fun for all of us, including Owen, who partied and danced until late into the night. The weather was perfect for the big day, the food was delicious, and the bride and groom looked radiant with happiness and love.

Simon and Heather

Notice how the feedies curtain matches the bridesmaids’ dresses

There’s lots going on around here on the Farmlet, and I have no shortage of things that I want to write about. I’ve already started on our year of the Rat wrap-up post, and a list of goals for the Year of the Ox. Yes, I realise I’m a bit behind the pace on these, but I’ll get there eventually!