“What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it.” – Charles Dudley Warner

Busy days spent gardening… enjoying the excellent weather and working on improving our food security by trying to grow more of our produce.  The weather has been especially great, with lovely warm days, inter spaced between cooler days with a little light rain.

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I fenced the gardens with light wire. I also staked the larger tomatoes with some lengths of wood I cut from some fallen trees.

 

I contacted a local chicken producer and ordered a dozen Australorp chicks when they hatch from the incubator.  They are a little more expensive then I would have liked to pay (actually, they are twice the going rate), yet they are local… and I would like to support them.  This deadline will help to light a spark under me (I hope), meaning I have to commit to the endeavor.  It is pretty daunting… trying to start whatever it is I am doing.  I keep experiencing moments of self-doubt and worry, which is normal.  I am worried that I will fail, or that I will end up worse off for trying this… which is silly.  Worse thing that could happen (or so I choose to believe it to be the worst) is that all the chicks die due to some accident or illness.  This isn’t that serious a problem for me (for the chicks, it is a major problem).  I also worry, what if I can’t sell any?  To which I answer – then I have a freezer full of high quality, pasture raised, chicken.  I am not 100% sure if what I am doing counts as a business, and what do I have to do about this?  I have read information on the Australian Tax office website and it is pretty confusing.  It seems to come under the Hobby category, yet I am not 100% sure.  It states that I should talk to a tax lawyer about all the concerns, yet I will have to put that off till later as I can’t afford this at the moment.  I will have to continue my internal debate as to what I am doing for another day.

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An Australorp chicken image I located on BackyardChickens.com Hopefully I will have some images of my own to show soon.

 

I have also talked to my neighbor about the use of his land for raising chickens.  I told him that I want to raise the chickens in a cage type structure, and he was more than OK with it.  He actually gave me some advice on it, and took me to see his chickens so that I could see how he set up his chicken run.  He advised me to be sure that I build it out of strong wire, as there are Quolls in the area.  Quolls are a Carnivorous Marsupials that live in many parts of Tasmania.  While cute, they have the capacity to destroy entire population of a chicken coop in a night.  My neighbor told me that before he had properly fenced his chickens, a Quoll entered their coop and killed every chicken.  This was welcome information, as my plan had included very light fabric mesh to protect against birds… I would therefore need to reconsider that idea.  My neighbor also advised that I should ensure that I have very closely woven wire at the bottom section of the cage walls.  His cat has a tendency to stick it’s paw though the wire to kill young chickens when their curiosity gets the better of them and they come to see what the cat doing.

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“How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” – John Burroughs

Last weekend my whole family and I attended the Huon Vally Show.  It is a rural festival for the whole Huon Valley, showing various displays of interest.  My children had some art in an art show and won a couple of awards, which was very cool.  We all got a big kick out of the animal shows, such as the dog show and the farm animal displays.  We also sat for an hour watching the equestrian events and a demonstration by some elderly lumberjacks (one of them was 80 years old!  I remarked to Kitty that he was much fitter then I… she didn’t disagree, which is a little disappointing).

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George Cowen, one of the older participants in the wood cutting competition. This image is from the Huon Show website.

 

One thing of major interest to me was the chicken displays, showing the winners of the breeds in each category.  I spent much more time than my children wanted me to spend examining each breed and making note of the better qualities of each.  I was very interested in the Orpington Buff, Orpington Black, and a very confident looking Australorp Rooster.

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While I was checking out these magnificent animals I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who owned several of the entrants in the competition.  He told me some very interesting information about raising chickens on pastures, telling me that he does this in Bridgewater (to the north of Hobart). I was told that it takes him 5 minutes, from killing a bird to having it fully dressed on the table…. all plucked and everything.  I was amazed at this, telling him that it took me around 10 minutes to do this, if I skinned the bird.  He gave me some points for plucking the bird, such as keeping the water between 70-72 degrees Celsius to ensure that the feathers come off easily.  He told me that the feathers on the bird that are hard to remove can be removed by taking a handful of feathers and scrubbing the area.

He told me a fascinating story about the olden days, before supermarkets were common and when chickens were not usually sold dressed.   He told me that there was once a man who was amazingly fast at plucking chickens.  This man would come home from work and begin killing and dressing chickens, working for a couple of hours he would produce 60 or so chooks – the man’s wife would deliver them to butchers the next morning.  One of the larger chicken producing companies had a chicken plucking machine that was also amazingly fast.  Apparently, they challenged this man to a plucking competition.  The man accepted and on the day of the challenge the machine started first.  The machine apparently plucked the chicken in 30 seconds, which is extremely fast.  The man then stepped forward and he plucked a chicken in 27 seconds, which is unbelievably fast.

Now, to end this entry, please be amazed by this weird chicken I saw at the show, sitting on a bench and drinking a cup of water.

 

“…the plants know things we haven’t imagined yet.” – Phil Rutter

I have been considering how I will initiate this plan I have for producing chickens.  I have been looking at producing a “chicken tractor” type pen, to allow me to keep my chicks safe from predatory birds (there are many eagles and crows down here that would love to have a chick for their meal), safe from Possums and local pets (such as dogs and cats), and ensure that the chicks are moved onto new grass at a regular rate.  I have encountered a problem with this… the size of the pen I want to/will build will be around 3m long by 2m wide.  Sounds fine to you?  It did to me too, until I remembered that chickens require a certain amount of space to be happy.  According to the books, chickens need around 1.2m2 in order to be comfortable and not feel crowded.  My 6m2 pens would only enough space for 6 chickens (or fully grown chickens).  Discovering this I felt a little crushed, I had such hopes for giving this a try.  I couldn’t make a pen large enough to fit 20 chickens, as it would be 5m by 5m… way too big to move easily.  I told Kitty my concerns and she was a big help in showing me that I was thinking too large.  I didn’t need to start with 20 chickens… I could start smaller and build up to that.  In addition, I could consider having 3-4 different pens of the 6m2 size, allowing me to have the chickens safe and secure.

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A crude diagram/plan I made in Paint, giving you a rough idea of my proposal.

 

Kitty is right, I don’t need to go in with 20… it would be smarted to start smaller, with 6 chickens and watch how this works.  I don’t know how often we would need to move them, which is crucial to this working.  I could start with the six, and document the amount of time that it takes them to eat the grass in their pen, as well as how long it takes for the grass to grow back and how often we need to move the pen.  This will give me an easy first step before moving deeper into the pool of chicken wrangling.

 

I have also been busy, with planting more seeds and building up more garden beds.  I mentioned that I bought/was going to buy some new seeds.  I found a few of interest, although they are pretty expensive, they are locally produced.  I planted these out the other day into some cardboard toilet paper rolls that I have been saving, which is something that I read about this technique from the Little Garden Company.  Some of the seeds germinated within the 24 hours of being planted… something I don’t think I have seen before.  This is a huge difference to the old seeds, some took days or weeks to germinate, before growing into a spindly looking seedling.

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You can see the seeds in the bucket, waiting for their time in the sun.

 

Speaking of the old seeds, I decided to get rid of those old seed packets.  I sorted out the expired ones from the viable ones, and placed all the old ones in a container.  I estimated that I had around 10,000 seeds in there… sounds like a huge amount, yet some of the seed packets had 1000 seeds within.  I decided to spread these seeds on to various bare patches of dirt (most of which I had to create myself, as things are growing everywhere).  I figured, if some of them work, great… I might get some food and harvest some seeds for next year.  If none of them work, at least the bugs have something to eat.

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The seeds on one of the garden beds, waiting to be covered with soil.

 

“The important thing is to just get started. Because once you show people you are willing to do the work all kinds of opportunities will present themselves.” – Curtins Stone

I was listening to a few podcasts from Permaculture voices, with Diego and I was really inspired by episodes 8 and 26.  These episodes, Curtis Stone covered the concept of SPIN farming  which was interesting in itself, and the other was Paul Greive in episode 8 who talked about Primal Pastures, really fired my imagination.  I was really charged with the prospect of taking some of these ideas and putting them into a different direction for my goals.  Curtis Stone said a lot of things about his amazing business, growing food in an urban area and selling the produce at market gardens or city restaurants.  I was inspired by the way he took a chance and it really worked out for him.  I was also impressed with Paul Greive’s easy steps to a business… steps so easy it could be something I might be able to emulate (in my own style).

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I mentioned that I have been trying to grow seedlings at my property in my mini-greenhouses.  While I want to do this to have seedlings ready to go straight into the ground when it is ready to grow, I have also had a mind to produce enough to sell at a local market stall.  I thought it might be a great idea to get to know people, make a little money, and try to make a little business.  With the failure of my seedling crop I have had to re-assess this plan (as well as reconsider how I went about the process… I need high quality seeds to produce a high quality product).  I haven’t abandoned the idea totally.  I will continue with my attempts to grow extra seedlings, to sell, and if I don’t sell all the excess I will plant them in the garden.  In fact, I noted the other night that one of my seeds has already germinated… as a small shoot has disturbed the ground.  An obvious and excellent sign that things are working well.

 

My new thoughts were to take the opportunity to use some of the land which my neighbor owns.  I may have mentioned this before yet I will mention it anyway, when we bought our new house the real estate agent mentioned that the owner of the paddock had offered (to the previous owner of my house) the use/rental and or purchase of the paddocks behind my house.  In fact, just the other afternoon I was chatting with my neighbor and he gave me permission to use his land to teach my children archery (with a compound bow I bought for the children to learn).  He told me that he is happy for me and my children to use his land whenever we like.

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The paddock which has motivated me to try something new.

 

This leads me to the idea which I would like to put into action.  Pastured Poultry… it is something which Paul Grieve has done so I am not being original, yet it is something which I think I can put into practice with out putting my family in a difficult financial situation.  My plan is to source a supply of 20 chicks (or fertilised eggs along with an incubator) and place the chicks into a moveable pen on my neighbor’s paddock (with his permission).  Kitty could move them daily (or even twice daily) while I am at work and we can try to develop a market for live chickens that would be ready for sale in 12 weeks.  I could also investigate selling them at local markets, etc.  I will post some more information on this soon.

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Now, I realise that this is alot to aim for… especially for the guy who can’t finish 90 days of Tapout without an injury or finish my 13 skills… yet as the quote Curtis Stone said, “The important thing is to just get started”.

“Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?” – A. A. Milne

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Here is the Rogue Rooster.

This weekend I finally resolved our issue with the rogue Rooster.  I caught him on Saturday roaming through my garage so I managed to pick him up without too much fuss.  I had my slaughtering knife already sharpened and stored in the sheath so I had no need to mess around with that.  I was able to calmly carry him out to the killing cone and remove his head.  It sounds a lot weirder to type it than the process itself. I have been processing animals for several years now and I have managed to have it down so that I can, sometimes, do it with little emotional connection.  Please don’t get me wrong, I took no pleasure in the process, despite the Rooster decimating our Strawberry, Blueberry and Current production for the year.

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This was taken a few seconds after I killed the Rooster. I wanted to place this here to show the killing cone (a traffic cone I bought from a recycle shop) and how easy it makes the process.

I remember the day that I killed my first animal, which happened to be two piglets who I had raised from birth (I had actually assisted in their birth).  I had prepared for it very extensively, reading several books on slaughtering and butchering pigs, watching a couple of videos on butchering, and even attending a seminar on butchering.  I had collected and sharpened my knives, sorted out a process to heat water so that I could remove the hair from the pigs, and cleared my whole day of any events so that I was free to do what needed to be done.  I had ensured that the piglets did not eat the day before (as my books advised) and as always provided them with plenty of clean water.

I started early on a Saturday morning, taking a large breakfast and a couple cups of coffee to get myself in the right frame of mind.  Taking my rifle, ammunition and hearing protection out the pig pen I stood watching the pigs.  The morning was cool and clear, a beautiful Autumn morning.  I loaded the rifle and prepared to take aim.  As I did this an internal dialogue began in my mind…

Once I killed these animals I would never be able to go back, they would be dead.

Once done, I would have killed an animal for my own benefit, did I have the right to kill these animals?

Such thoughts roamed through my mind as I stood watching the pigs in their pen, loaded rifle in my arms.  I thought to myself that if these animals were not to be eaten, they would not have been born.  Without the need for the meat I would not have allowed their parents to breed.  I told myself that the pigs had a good life.  They had spent their early lives with the mother.  They had played with their siblings.  They enjoyed good food, water and shelter.  I protected them and I actually helped them to be born.  I thought about how could I eat meat if I were not prepared to go through the process of preparing the meat myself… how could I enlist other people to do this when I could not do it?  Finally, how could I be a Prepper if I could not provide for my family.  This seemed to calm my racing mind and I came to the realisation that no matter how distasteful this was, it was something which needed to be done.

My mind sorted out, I raised my rifle, flicked the safety off and took aim at the first pig.  My first shot went through the rear part of the skull, the area which housed the brain.  I was using hollow point .357 ammunition so the pig dropped immediately with a few kicks of it’s leg.  The second pig was startled by the sound of the shot and quickly moved over to the side of the pen.  I chambered another round into the rifle and took aim at the second pig.  I had to wait a few seconds till the right angle was presented to me for me to take the shot.  This, again, seemed to kill the pig instantly… or at least this is what I hope happened.

Afterwards I did feel regret, I actually had difficulty in eating the meat as every bite reminded me of those piglets.  Even cooking the meat made me feel a little sick, as I could swear that I smelt the live pigs.  Kitty told me that I was imagining this, as she said that the meat smelt delicious and tasted great.

While I have now managed to, usually, detach myself from the emotional aspect of slaughtering animals… I still, sometimes, find the meat makes me feel a little uneasy when I eat it.

Do any of you have a similar feeling when you killed your first animal?  I would be interested in reading your comments on how you have felt about this.

“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” – Franz Kafka

I am really making great progress in my development of preserving meat, as per my list of 13 skills.  My latest batch of Biltong went better than the last one.  The meat has turned out to be more tender in the middle… a little bit more moist.  They were also a lot less salty that the first batch, yet with a little more flavour.  I allowed a friend with whom I work to try a piece.  She said she doesn’t eat jerky at all, yet she didn’t mind the Biltong (although she said it could use a little more salt).  With this in mind I made another batch on the weekend, using Corned Beef as the meat.  The Corned Beef was $6 a kilo, so I bought the smallest one I could, a 2kg piece.  I documented the process so I will write something about that in the future if it tastes good.  In this batch I didn’t wipe off all the salt as I did for my second attempt at Biltong, so that this batch will retain more of the salty flavour.  I did encounter a small problem when I ran out of space in my small cardboard meat drier.  I got around this by making a second drier out of another smaller box.

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Preparing the Biltong

While preparing to attend a friend’s home on Sunday night to watch a DVD on Permaculture and discuss the concepts therein, I thought I would take along the last batch of Biltong to share with the other people who would be there.  On examination of the goods I noticed that a few of the pieces had some mould growing on them.  The Biltong had been kept in a non-airtight container in my backpack.  I suspect that the container was heated up and as the Biltong was a little moist on the inside, they created a warm, moist environment for mould to grow.  This is something to consider for future storage of Biltong.

Interesting information came to me on the weekend.  Apparently Australia has been in the grip of an egg shortage these past few months.  Kitty and I have not realised this as we are provided with all our eggs from our small flock of chickens.  We also don’t pay much attention to the local news service, due to its tendency to focus so much on sports.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-07/avian-flu-cause-egg-shortage-in-major-supermarkets/5189492

This article from December last year explains that an Avian Flu caused the culling of around half a million birds.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-03/nsw-egg-production-down-due-to-bird-flu/5134346

While an egg shortage is not what I would consider the end of the world, it could be a real inconvenience.  Several of my friends have chickens to provide their eggs, so they would probably not notice this shortage and it is good to know that some people are looking out for their families well being by maintaining a small flock.

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Guilty!

On the topic of chickens, I mentioned previously that my chickens had destroyed our entire Strawberry harvest.  We now only get a few strawberries at a time.  I had tried to put my hens in my fenced chicken pen, yet they always escape (even with clipped wings).  Today we discovered that the chickens have now demolished our blueberry harvest… which is devastating!  I need to do something about these chooks and I have decided that if I remove their Rooster, they may stay in the pen with the Rooster that lives there.  It is worth a shot.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill

I have started this year by renewing my commitment to lose weight/getting fit.  I weighed myself on Monday and I weighed 138kgs… this puts be back around the weight I was in the middle of last year before I started my fitness program and 5 in 2 fasting diet.  Definitely a little disappointing, yet not unexpected.  I did eat a lot of food over Christmas.  This week I have begun my exercising by using the Tap-out program which I used last year.  I am really struggling to get through each video… so tired after each one that I find it difficult to get up off the floor at the end of each DVD.  I know from past experience that this will pass and I will eventually be able to complete each DVD without too much pain.  Until I reach that point I will have to put up with the pain and exhaustion, and my kids are helping me a little with that.  One or two of my children will usually try to exercise with me in my training room, doing a couple of push-ups or star jumps… whatever the exercise is at the time that they feel like joining in with me.  They also help out by refilling my glass of water when I drink finish drinking it, and passing me the towel when I need to wipe my face.

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Prime suspect.

I have mentioned previously that I have around 15 (or so… I can’t remember how many I have at the moment) Strawberry plants in my garden, all of them lovingly tended to by Kitty.  We have them fenced off to protect them from Possums and Wallabies, and we usually get more than enough Strawberries for all our needs in the Summer months.  Unfortunately our roaming chickens and rooster have found a way into the large Strawberry area and decimated our entire Strawberry harvest.  This is such a disappointment… we lovingly tend to these plants and provide them with all they require to produce food for us, then they are eaten by other animals.  I hope we still may produce some over the course of the next few months as I have found a few that are green, yet for now, we have no ripe Strawberries.  I decided to trim one of the wings on each of these birds and put them in a fenced area with my other chickens, to keep them from the Strawberries.  I have read in many texts that this will prevent the birds from flying.  Apparently my birds have not read the same books as I, and they can still fly with only one functioning wing.  I found them in the Strawberry patch the next day.  I will have to come up with a solution to this or we will have to resort to buying our Strawberries.

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See any ripe Strawberries here? Neither do I.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Denis Waitley

Last night I was flicking the channels on the tv when I chanced upon a television program I have heard of, yet never seen.  It was called Doomsday Bunkers.  The episode I witnessed was apparently episode three in the first season… I can not locate any other episodes so I would guess that the series was cancelled.  I can not say I am disappointed if this is the case.  The show had no real educational value and appeared to be an old fashioned “look at the freak” type show.  The show was broken down into three sections, in the first, the company which appears to be the focus of the show was developing and testing a “Tsunami Bunker” which is to float away in a Tsunami.  The second segment was on a woman who we were told by the narrator was terrified that a Nuclear reactor near her home would go into meltdown.  She had apparently predicted that this would happen soon, so she needed her Nuclear fallout shelter built and delivered in four weeks.  Spoiler alert for this, it couldn’t be delivered due to local laws until the roads had thawed.  She took this news very well, which was weird considering how urgent she needed the bunker.

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Please do not watch this show. There is a chance it will make you stupid.

I checked out a clip on Youtube of the first episode, just to see what they were about.  It initially appeared to be a little more educational then the third episode I saw.  Then I was very surprised to see a Neo-Nazi named Shea Degan purchasing a bunker.  It mentions his “Prepping Group” being called 88 Tactical.  The number 88 is used by Neo-Nazi groups as a signifier of their intentions.  I won’t say any more about it here, as I don’t want to write about such disgusting things, yet if you are curious about the number 88, do a search or check Wikipedia.  I found a comment on the Doomsday Prepper forum where Shea Degan responds to queries about the “88″ in “88 Tactical” being Neo-Nazi.  He replies that in Nebraska police code it means “Situation Secure”.  I ran a few searches of the web yet could find no information to verify this.  I guess we will never know, yet hopefully I am wrong and he is someone who innocently selected a bad name for his company.

Anyway… I got on a weird tangent there.  Basically, I found the show Doomsday Bunkers to be a poorly considered program, with little to no educational value.  The only thing someone will get from this show is that Preppers are weird.  Now, a show like “Gardening Australia” is a much more educational show.  Today there was a segment on protecting your garden from common pests.  In garden I have experienced a small problem with a large pest.  I have caught one of my Geese eating the leaves off my Potato plants.  I was shocked when I saw this happen, as Potato leaves are poisonous.  I assumed that the Geese would not eat the leaves, yet I was wrong.  The Geese are fine, appearing not to be suffering any effects of the leaves.

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As usual, my preferred unit of measurement… the iPod.

Finally, a bit of good news.  My chickens which I have raised from newly hatched chicks, have started laying eggs!  I noticed one of them hiding near my rabbit hutches and when I was in the area later in the day I found a small egg in the same place.  As you can see from the image above, it is smaller than the eggs layer by my more mature chickens, yet it tastes just as good.