“The chicken does not exist only in order to produce another egg.” – G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World

My hens seem to think that I am playing a game with them… the game is Hide the Eggs from the Human.  If it is a game, I am loosing dismally.  I am gathering an egg each day, from 7 hens. I know that one has been broody, so she isn’t laying, yet the other 6 are active and I should be getting around 4-6 a day.  I have sent my daughter out to try to gather the eggs, as she is smaller than me (and probably smarter), yet she has had no success.

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So, either they are hiding their eggs, they are laying less (which is unlikely), or they are all being eaten by something.  If the latter is the case, I would bet on my dog Errol as being the culprit, yet it could just as easily be a crow.  Whatever the cause, I am now resorting to buying my eggs from the supermarket (one of the most embarrassing thing for a Prepper).  I may have to threaten the hens with an axe to get them back into form.  To get my broody hen to start laying again I have taken her from her self made nest and placed her in a chicken tractor by her self.  She has access to food and water.  I have left her there for 3 days, and released her on Wednesday.  So far she has forgotten about her broodiness and is acting like one of the girls.  I hope she gets back into laying soon.

I have also moved some of the Roosters which I hatched from eggs into the (now empty) chicken tractor.  This way I can be sure that I spread the food out evenly to all the chicks, and I also separate them for easier culling at a later date.

 

“Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting.” – Dave Barry

In many ways, fishing is a mystical art… one which I once knew, now foreign.  When I was a child I would go fishing with my father.  I started with river fishing in Canberra, where my father and I would wake early and dig for worms in the garden before heading out to where the Molonglo river enters Lake Burley Griffin.  We would sit in the shade of willow trees and fish from the bank, and I still vividly remember catching my first fish.  My father had cast the bait, yet as I brought in the Cod it was declared to be my fish.  We ate the fish a few days later after we had cleaned out the insides by allowing it to live in clean water (in the bathtub).

image from Wikipedia article on “Queanbeyan River”
image from Wikipedia article on “Queanbeyan River”

Years later, when in Perth, my father and I would take our fishing gear to the Sorrento, currently where Hillary’s Boat Harbour is located.  We would fish from the rocks of the Pier, although I recall only catching Puffer Fish.  I do remember the time fondly, despite our lack of success.

 

Fishing is a very important skill for Preppers.  Having the ability to gather a high energy food from the water, for little input of effort, is a very valuable talent.  This has prompted me to revisit fishing and attempt to regain, and increase, my knowledge of the piscatorial arts.

I have lately been spending some time down at the local Jetty and trying my hand at fishing.  Over the past 10 months I have periodically travelled down the road to the water and spent a couple of hours casting out my rod.  To be honest, I have little idea of what I am doing.  I have read many books on fishing, yet they all seem to be covering areas in other countries, or fish that are not available.  I have looked for videos on the topic, yet there seems to be a lack of information for fishing in Australia.  Everything seems to be tailored to boat fishing…. It is as though everyone else intrinsically knows how to do this.  As I said before… it has been a long time since I successfully fished, maybe 20 years.

I haven’t mentioned my attempts over the last few weeks, hoping to keep them all in my quiver and write about them all in a post which culminated in my success.  Needless to say (Spoiler) I haven’t had as much success as I would have liked.  With the warmer summer months I decided to start my attempts at a local beach, where (on a hot day) I took my family for a little fun.  While my children frolicked in the waves I waded out to knee depth and tried to fish from the beach.  The water was coming in to high tide and I wasn’t alone in my fishing.  Just 50m down from me was another man who was trying his luck, although he was further into the water.  He was much shorter than I, and I had to conceal my laughter as I watched him being dunked by waves.  After 30 minutes of fishing I had caught nothing, and almost been dunked by waves well over my 2m tall height.  I eventually called it a day and spent the rest of the time playing with my children in the water.

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A couple of days later I took two of my children to the jetty to try, ensuring that we arrived during the high tide.  As soon as we walked on to the jetty we witnessed two old men who were fishing, bringing in a medium sized salmon.  I tried a couple of casts, using a lure, yet I didn’t even get a nibble.  I thought I would have a chat to these older gentlemen, and they were very welcoming.  They offered me some of their bait when I told them about using a lure.  They also invited me to fish next to them.  I could see in their catch bucket they had caught around 6 fish each, so I accepted their invitation.  They gave me some pointers on my rig setup, and even gave me a sinker which was more suitable to the target of our fishing.  I cast a couple more times and the second cast I felt a nibble and a bite.  I pulled back and I had something on my hook.  It wasn’t big, yet it was something, so I started to wind it back in.  I then noticed my son watching with excitement so I called him over and passed him the rod, telling him that he could catch it.  Unfortunately, he was so slow in winding it back in that the fish soon escaped the hook and we ended up losing the fish.  The next cast I sent it out far, and within a minute of it sitting on the bottom I received a large bite.  I started to reel it back in, yet it was so large that I couldn’t make almost any progress.  The men told me they thought it was a Skate, which is a type of shark (similar to a Sting Ray).  After a couple of minutes one of the men came over and grabbed the fishing line and started to help bring it in.  Suddenly, the line broke and I was left to bring in a snapped line.  By this stage I was pretty sunburnt, so I said goodbye to the helpful men.  They told me they would be back next Sunday, so they would give me pointers then.

Since that day I have been back twice, each time I have left empty handed, yet always there is someone fishing relatively nearby who seems to have no trouble catching fish.  My repeated failures are very demoralising, yet Kitty has helpfully pointed out that one day I will look back and laugh at how much trouble I have experienced.  She said if I keep at it I will eventually learn all I need to know, which I know is correct.  I just have to keep trying.

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” – Leo Buscaglia

Before I steer away from the topic of Compost, I wanted to share some results I have recently received from my Compost.

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I came across this idea from a friend of mine, who told me he did this and harvested record numbers of Tomatoes in previous years.  The idea is very simple and doesn’t take more work than you would normally put into a garden compost pile.  I have been maintaining my compost, with regular (weekly) turnings.  The material within has been undergoing a great deal of breakdown, with even the dead mouse I found in the fodder bucket being reduced to a skeleton in a short amount of time.

 

For my garden I decided to fence off the compost area, as my chickens have a field day when they get into it when they eat every worm they can dig up.  I fenced the area when I have finished planting the seedlings.  These are the seedling Tomatos, Tomatilos, and Chilli, which I had planted in pots in my greenhouse.  They were the plants which survived the repeated attacks from the mice.

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Can you spot the Tomato Seedling?

I dug a shallow furrow in the compost, planted the seedling, and then used lawn clippings to make a layer of mulch (to prevent evaporation of moisture).  I was a little nervous doing this, I was concerned that the heat from the compost (or the chemical heat of the manure) would burn my seedlings.  After 4 days I have noticed that the seedlings are growing well, none show signs of shock, and I am hopeful that I may gather a record harvest of Tomatoes.

 

 

 

I have also been working on a new Instructable, or perhaps just some instructions, on how to make a passive Meat Drier and how to make Biltong.  I have tested it out with a batch I made on the weekend and it has dried very quickly… the end product is a little salty, yet it is still fine.  I have pinpointed my error in ingredients… I used Rock Salt instead of Sea Salt.

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Here is a sliver of the Biltong I was testing. I was using my Gerber knife (which I often wear while working around the garden) to cut it.

I will keep testing out the drier and the recipes until I am happy, then I will let you all know.

“Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.” – Jean Paul

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Not more than 12 hours after to sorted out my incubator to prepare for the hatching phase, the first chick began to make it’s escape into the great big world.  I had 12 eggs in the incubator and 6 hatched… not the best result, yet better than none.

You can see in the below video the first to break out of it’s shell… it is definitely giving it’s lungs a good workout.

Originally 5 hatched, and when I moved them from the incubator to the brooder on day 2 of life I noticed one of the unhatched eggs had a small hole from where the occupant had started to make it’s escape.  I left it alone and came back the next morning, to note that the chick had not increased the size of the hole.  I decided to assist by breaking the shell a little.  When I came home from work the chick was still not making any progress and appeared to be close to death, so I made a decision to break it out.  I, very carefully, removed the shell and peeled off the membrane to free the little bird.

I decided not to keep these chicks, so I sold them to a family who wanted to start keeping Australorps.  I still have the eight (or was it nine, I can’t remember) that I hatched a couple of months ago, so they are more then a handful at the moment.

 

 

 

“There is just one life for each of us: our own.” – Euripides

Last night I went to my incubator to finalise the pre hatching requirements.  I needed to cease the aspects that automatically move the eggs and also increase the amount of water to increase the humidity.  I admit, I don’t always do this step.  I do increase the humidity a couple of days out from hatching, the reason for this is that it helps to make the egg shells a little easier for the chicks to break out.  I haven’t stopped the eggs turning before… at least not until they have hatched.  In the past this has been a mistake.  I have lost a chick or two to the turning mechanism breaking their necks, or they can get their legs injured.  Last time I hatched eggs I turned if off once the first chick hatched, yet I recently learned that many people turn off their turned a couple of days earlier than I.  This apparently allows the chick to work out which way is up and to make a move to break out from the best location.  So I hope that I get a better hatch rate than my last few attempts.  100% healthy and alive would be a great result.

 

I took a little video of the egg a week ago, the quality isn’t great yet you may be able to make out the tiny life within the shell.  By shining the light under and into the egg you can see movement from within.  This helps to determine if the egg is actually holding a chick within… it can be hard to tell that you will get anything from all the effort of looking after the chicks, and seeing something move inside is a great motivator.  In addition to the visible proof, and I know this goes against the information I read… I am sure that the egg also feels like it weighs a little more than previously.  This may be my imagination, yet it could be due to the life within forming… and don’t they say that muscle weighs more than fat?  I will weigh them and try to compare them to unfertilised eggs.

 

 

 

Since moving my greenhouse I have been a lot happier with the seedlings.  I still have little creatures visiting in the night, yet it appears that they are just snails, and they want to eat the grain (not my seedlings).  I have decided that I can accept this and things have been going much better.  I still have a couple of dozen seedlings growing, and once I clear some space in the garden I will plant these out.  I am thinking about putting the tomatoes directly onto my compost bed.  I have been talking to a friend at my work and he told me that he has had record tomato harvests when he planted his tomatoes into his compost.  He said that the plants do not get burnt by the chemicals, and the little bit of heat the compost generates assist the plant growth.  I am willing to try this (although I will have to fence it off… my chickens would love to get to all the worms in my compost) so this is where they will probably end up.  My compost has really been working well these past few months.  I have created a cubic metre, turning at regular intervals and adding material when required.  I have found that some acorns I added from a collection I made last year have been really enjoyed by the worms, they burrow holes into it and seem to not want to leave when I examine the nut.

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Little worms in their home

I should ask, is anyone out there interested in this process of making compost?  Let me know in a comment and I will go into further details, otherwise I will try to stay away from the topic of organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment.

 

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin

Well I finally moved my greenhouse.  The day after posting my last article about losing 15 seedlings to my nocturnal visitor, the day I intended to move the greenhouse, I was greeted with an even worse surprise.  Over 30 of the seedlings which I had lovingly tended for over a month were denuded.  The mouse had destroyed them as well as attacked several strawberry seedlings which I Kitty had bought and I was holding there till I decided where to plant them.  I discovered this when I came home from work, and while it was a windy and rainy afternoon I set to work immediately (I shouldn’t have delayed for so long).  I moved the greenhouse only 5 metres from it’s previous location… now next to my chicken’s home.  It wasn’t going to be as protected from the elements as previously, as it was now in the open.

I then had several very busy days… days were I came home from work late and had no time to work outside.  During this time we had very high amount of sunlight, and as I had failed to water my plants for two days I lost half my remaining seedlings to wilting.  I normally check the greenhouse every day, yet I was just too busy to do anything for those two days and I am now left with around 2 dozen seedlings, a mixture of tomato, chilli and Tomatillo.  What an expensive lesson to learn.

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I did feel quite frustrated after this, experiencing this many setbacks is very demoralising.  I have decided that I won’t let it get to me… I can come back with planting seeds straight into the ground and still produce a lot of food for my family.

 

I have completed building shelves in my lounge room.  My family has a lot of books… in fact Kitty and I have many hundreds of books which have not been removed from boxes since we moved to our current home.  Now that I have built the first set of two shelves in my lounge I am able to unbox many of long missed books and set them up, ready to be read once more.

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I placed some of the books which I had handy, such as old History books, my Prepping books, and some of my kids books.  I also threw some boardgames on the top shelf.  Now to get working on the other half of the room.

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” – Mark Twain

Such a frustrating situation.  I mentioned in a post a week ago that I was intending to move my greenhouse due to the nocturnal visitations of a creature that was destroying my seedlings.  That was why I was cutting down some of my trees, to make space for the relocation.  Well, I didn’t actually end up moving the greenhouse.  The day after I cut down the trees I ended up catching the little scoundrel who was doing so much damage to my crops… it was a little mouse who ended up drowning itself in my fodder soaking bucket.

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So three cheers for the fodder system.

After this mouse was gone I noticed that the seedlings were once more safe, so I left the greenhouse in place.  This was all fine till the night before last, when I went to check my seedlings (which I do every day).  I found 15 had been cut.. something had nibbled the top from 15 different tomato plants.  I decided that definitely going to have to move the greenhouse now.  So I will move the structure tomorrow (the wind is a bit strong at the moment).

 

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As I am discussing the fodder system, I want to thank all of you who went ahead and voted for my Instructable.  I was a finalist in the “Live off the land” competition and I ended up coming second place (or third place, they have a weird system).  This has really inspired me to work hard on another Instructable for their next contest, which I will show here once it is complete.  I might even submit it to a few other sites just for the fun of it.  I am really surprised that my Instructable was so well received, so thank you to all of you.

“Most people seek after what they do not possess and are enslaved by the very things they want to acquire.” – Anwar Sadat

The week has been heavily focused on chickens and chicken issues, with the big news being that the Chicks have graduated to live in the chicken tractor.  The weather is now mild enough that they will not have any issues, and the tarp which covers them should keep most of the rain from wetting them.

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The chicks in their chicken run. That one at the front was very interested in my phone.

I also decided that it was time for me to gather another dozen eggs and pop them into the incubator.  I had been delaying my using this, as one of my children’s friends seems interested in hatching some of her own chicken’s eggs.  She was over a couple of weeks ago and asking me questions about my incubator.  She told me that she wanted some chicks, yet the hen who was sitting on the eggs failed to hatch the eggs.  I recommended that she try an incubator, which she seemed interested in attempting.

After she left I thought it might be nice if I offered her use of the incubator to hatch her own, yet as I haven’t seen her I decided to hatch some of my own… sense in letting the space go to waste.

 

I placed them in the incubator on Sunday night, so on the 13 November I should have some new chicks hatching.  It has taken a little longer than normal to gather the dozen eggs due to my girls production being lower than average.  We have had some rainy, windy weather, yet I place the blame on me.  I allowed three of the seven hens to go broody and sit on their own eggs.  Out of around 45 – 60 eggs (each hen was sitting on between 15-20 eggs) only one chick hatched.  So, the hens stop laying when they are sitting on eggs.  Even when I removed all the eggs as they had gone rotten, the hens dutifully sat on their empty nests (which was very sad to see).  So I need to stop letting my hens go broody, by collecting up all their eggs and not allowing them to gather too many at once.

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Here is the hen with her single chick

While on the Garage sale trail, on Saturday, Kitty and I managed to grab a large amount of bargains… yet that wasn’t all.  We also met many different people with similar mindsets that were friendly and eager to chat.  We saw many people’s gardens, discussed their production and learned a lot.  We both had in minds some items we were hoping to find… I wanted to find a cheap (yet good) Kayak or Canoe, Kitty wanted flower bulbs and a piece of furniture for our hall.  We set off early, around 7:30am, and went straight to Franklin.  Kitty had already located some places of interest, so we went to a house that was selling the two items I was seeking.  They had a couple of small kayaks (too small for me) and a large canoe (a 3 or 4 seater)… too large for me to take home or even get much use.  Still, we had a great chat to the home owner.

While visiting other places, Kitty bought a lovely set of retro table and chairs, as well as some very nice pieces of crockery.  I licked up an excellent book on raising livestock for $2 (containing many interesting pieces of info which I had never seen before), an electric grill, a huge family size tent (I hope to turn it into a greenhouse) for $5.  I bought a 6 cell Mag-lite torch (still working, for $2) as well as a bunch of other items.

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Many of the sellers said that there were much less people this year, yet I put the blame for that on the fact it was a long weekend (we had a public holiday on Thursday) and the almost ceaseless rain.  Still, the lack of buyers worked in our favour and we managed to get many bargains.

 

“In the Soviet army it takes more courage to retreat than advance.” – Joseph Stalin

I am, once again, having trouble in my greenhouse.  Before it was mice and possums, now… I don’t know what is causing my problems.  Something has been digging holes and tunnels to get into my greenhouse, and I have been battling this creature by covering up the sections of floor it exposes.  I have laid mouse and rat traps (all get sprung, yet I don’t catch a thing) as well as moving my seedlings to locations which should be hard to reach (on high shelves).  Yet the animal keeps getting in, eating around a half a cup of fodder a night, and then chews the tops off some of my seedlings.

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I have decided that it is time for a tactical retreat.  I am going to move my greenhouse again, lay down some weed-mat on the floor, and hope that the animal finds easy to access food on somewhere else.

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The tree before loosing too many branches

I therefore needed to move the greenhouse to a spot next to my garden beds.  I needed to cut down a tree which was blocking light from getting far into my garden… so it was something I had been planning to do for some time.  This is a large job and will take a couple of days to complete (as I only work on it when the conditions are favorable, such as no wind), as you can see from the below video, other factors often come into play… such as needing to rest after a close shave.

“We’re running the most dangerous experiment in history right now…” – Elon Musk

A week or so ago I uploaded my new Instructable to the Instructables website, covering the topic of my improved Fodder system. This was so well received that it was chosen to be featured on their front page, which is a great honor to me.

The Instructable uses images and text to explain the Fodder growing system, followed by a link to the Youtube video I created.  If you have an interest in the Fodder system I would recommend that you check it out.

If you enjoy it, or enjoy the work I do on this blog, I ask that you consider visiting my Instuctable and cast a vote for me in the “Live off the Land Competition“.  It is a competition for projects which assist in deriving sustenance from the land.  I am in the chance to win a couple of items which will allow me to put up more interesting content here on my blog.

 

As well as making Instructables, I have been running a little experiment in my garden over the last few weeks/months.  I planted out beans and peas in various areas to attempt to ascertain which produced the best results.

I planted beans in my raised beds, one with a piece of glass covering the majority of the area;

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the other raised bed had no covering.

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I also planted beans in the ground of my garden;

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some which were covered with a small poly tunnel.

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I was interested to see if there was a difference in the production from these two areas, and whether cold weather protection changed this output.  The results so far have been close to my expectations.  The covered beans have grown much more than the uncovered beans.  This is most likely due to the increase in the heat they would have received (the sun would have been magnified slightly through the glass and it would have warmed the soil more, and the poly tunnel would have allowed the warmed air to warm the soil and plants).

The plants that were uncovered had less impressive results.  The ones in the ground showed very little growth, the ones in the raised bed were better than the ground plants, yet they were not great.  Part of this could be the location in which they were grown, I have noticed that my beans grow much better in raised beds than in the ground.

The results of these experiments will assist me in deciding where to plant future bean/pea seeds.