I have spent some time this weekend working on my 13 skills, in particular, Canning. I had plans to put away around 3-6 kilograms of cherries today, yet I was unable to procure the ones I had in mind. I have a friend whose parents own a cherry farm. I had made plans to pick up a large amount so that I could preserve them, yet when I went to the location to pick them up, no one was there. Maybe I mixed up the location or the time, I don’t know. Anyway, I decided to not let the plans go to waste so I picked up 700 grams of cherries from a local produce store.
I do own several cherry trees (5 trees I believe), yet as you can see from the below photo, they are some time from producing anything. I had in the past lost several bunches of cherries to aphids who appear to attack one of my cherry trees relentlessly. That tree died a few months ago, so I am keeping vigilant for any attacks on my last cherry trees.
The method I intended to use was one I picked up from Edwardian Farm, episode 11. I found that the advice that Ruth used for preserving the cherries which she was provided seemed so sensible. I also used a little info I picked up from Homesteading, by Abigail R. Gehring. Ruth’s advice of adding sugar till it stops dissolving sounds so obvious I am surprised I had not heard it before.
The process of making cherries seems very simple, and you can see it done in the Edwardian Farm episode. I did feel that the syrup I made was a little too sweet, yet I am not too concerned. The sugar will keep the bacteria out, as will the sealed jar.
Only one jar you say? Yes, apart from the bowl to the right which I was sampling. While this is only a little success, I am going to call it a victory and claim I have completed my canning skill. I realise I am clutching at the goal I have set. It would have been more fulfilling to make a large amount of canned cherries, or tomatoes as I had intended, yet I am unable to source the materials to do this. Still, one jar of canned cherries is much better than no jar of preserved cherries.
I have spent the last week or so watching the news reports of the fires which have been destroying homes in NSW. This situation brings to mind the events which my family and I encountered in March of this year, where our home was threatened. I remember the fear which we felt as the fire drew closer to our house, yet as we were fortunate and did not lose any property I can not know what these people in NSW have felt. One article I read on The Guardian that there has been a 400km long fire front, threatening communities in NSW. The Herald has some exceptional images which show some of the horror that someone can experience in the face of a bushfire. I recall very vividly the fear which gripped me as I came home after work on the first day of the fire which threatened my home in March. The road to my home was closed by the police, who advised me that I could not go to my home. I pleaded that I needed to get home to evacuate my family, to which he replied that I would have to wait. Fortunately I knew alternate route to my home, routes which I doubted the police would have closed. I raced home via these back roads, all the while terrified that my family was already in danger. Throughout the whole weekend fear was always close at hand. Living in these sort of conditions is very draining.
As the signs are pointing at the fire season getting an early start this year (considering that we are not even in Summer), I spent an hour or so checking our roof gutters, clearing debris. It is only a small job, yet it could prevent any sparks from catching hold in the event of a bush fire.
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.
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.
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.
With the start of 2013 come new ideas and directions. Every day, while at the office in which I work, people ask me questions on my farm or animals. Several times a day I am asked about growing food, solutions to people’s garden problems or on raising animals. After answering a question on rabbits recently, a friend made a joke that I should write a blog. I realised that there is so much interest in my lifestyle that a blog could be fun and might be of interest to many people. This has led to the creation of my blog.
I live with my partner, Kitty, and our four children on 20 acres in the south of Tasmania, Australia. The origin of our change in lifestyle could be traced to five years ago, when we lived on the mainland of Australia and were suffering through the middle of a 5 year long drought. Rain was scarce and my garden was suffering from lack of water. A few years prior to this I had purchased John Seymour’s The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency and was thoroughly inspired to get back to basics. This book explains John Seymour’s views on Self Sufficiency and gives a brief introduction to a huge range of topics as a gateway intending to be an beginners guide to the subject. Reading this book really opened my eyes to the possibilities of producing my own food and wanting to get back in touch with my farming roots. I wanted, despite the enormity of the task, to emulate John Seymour. I have since realised that this was foolish and that I should follow my own path, yet I continue to be inspired by John Seymour’s work and the efforts of many others in this field.
After much deliberation and research we moved to Tasmania 4 years ago, looking for a remote location that had sufficient rainfall and a more temperate climate. We were very fortunate to find our dream house on 20 acres in a rural area close to Hobart (the capital of Tasmania). The house was built by a small family who sold the house as they wanted to move back to the city. Very little had been done to improve the land, with only a few trees planted, and a large fire break around the house. This seemed perfect for my family and would allow us to move in and, from the beginning, to work towards a self sufficient lifestyle (or as close as we could get to that goal).
Since that time we have worked hard to reach our target. I work weekdays in the city, which is a major hindrance to working on the property, and because of this we have had to convert our original plans so that little input is needed to continue with our dream.
I hope that this blog may provide people with some inspiration as well as knowledge on how to, or not to, achieve your goal.