Monthly Archives: May 2014

Finished our sowing (planting)

All our crops and pasture is sown. It’s a good feeling to have it all in the ground. Now we just need lots of rain to germinate the seed, and then keep it growing. By all accounts we are in for another el niño so it could be a dry year.

Here’s our tractor and combine (seeder). That’s Danny on the back checking that there’s still plenty of seed in the box.

Tractor photo

Here’s me about to take off to do the last few laps.

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And the view out the front of the tractor.

Tractor photo
And finally, the finished paddock…..

Sowing lines photo

Bring on the rain!!

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Lambing has started!!!

Our first lambs have been born. I know it happens every year, but its always very exciting to see those first ones. After six weeks of checking them morning and night in the cold and wet, I’ll be over it, but right now, it’s exciting.

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These are a little set of twins. They were born yesterday, and are looking quite robust already. Our actual due date to start lambing is the 1st of June, as we always put the rams in on New Years Day. (6 months gestation) However we always get a handful arrive early.

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Sowing the Lupins

Last weekend we finished sowing our lupins. Lupins are a legume and are a large round seed, as you can see below. They originated from the Mediterranean region and are quite high in both protein and energy so make a good stock feed, and in some countries are quite popular as a snack for humans.
Lupins photo

They are very pretty seeds, don’t you think?

Sowing Lupins 02

Below you can see the rows where the press wheels that run along behind the combine (planter) and press the soil down lightly to give a good soil to seed contact. You can also see that there is quite a bit of organic matter remaining in the soil. This is the stubble left over after last year’s barley crop was harvested. After the harvest we ran the sheep on the stubble, to let them forage for any left over grain that didn’t make it into the header (harvester). They also do a good job of trashing down all the stubble, and trampling it into the ground, making it much easier for the combine to get through it at sowing time. A lot of our neighbours burn their stubbles, and we have in the past too. It’s necessary when there is a very thick stubble, but if you can incorporate it into the soil instead, it can retain a lot of nutrients in the soil.

Sowing Lupins 03

Our lupin seed will probably be sold direct to another farmer for stock feed We hope to harvest somewhere between 50 and 100 tonnes from this 90 acre paddock, but when we are dealing with mother nature, and can’t predict how the season will pan out, the final quantity is always and unknown!!

This is a seed that dropped out of a bag around the shed and has started germinating in the moist conditions.

Sowing Lupins 04

We only have one paddock of pasture left to plant, and then we are finished our sowing for now.

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Starting the broccoli harvest

I picked the first of our broccoli last night. They are massive heads, and I think I picked them just in time as they will start spreading if I’d left them much longer.

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Obviously this is much more than we are likely to eat in the next week or so, so I cut them up into chunks and froze them. I know some people blanch it first, but I just didn’t have time so into freezer bags and into the freezer. It’s not great just boiled and eaten when I do it this way, although it is fine.  However, it is perfect to grab a handful to add to a casserole or stir fry.  Particularly when I am doing a slow cooker recipe, adding a handful of frozen broccoli helps to soak up some of the extra juices that always seem to be present in slow-cooker casseroles.

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There’s still lots more growing out on the bushes, so we should be well supplied for broccoli for a while.

We’ve had a couple of minor frosts in the last few weeks which has killed off the pumpkin vines, so I need to get out and collect the pumpkins now. That might be tomorrows job, today HAS to be an office day!

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Mushrooming Time!!

Its mushroom time!!  Besides our middle son – Danny, the rest of us LOVE mushrooms.  And we particularly love this time of the year when they are growing wild in the paddocks and we can pick them.  This was yesterday’s collection, just from the paddock around the house where Pickles our dairy cow spends some of her time.

Mushroom photo

It can be a bit of risk collecting and eating wild mushrooms.  We’ve been collecting ours for a few years now, so we are confident that they are safe, and if you are ever in any doubt, you are best to avoid it.  One of the main poisonous mushrooms that are confused with edible ones, is the yellow staining mushroom.  They look very similar in the paddock.  However apparently this yellow staining mushroom will bruise a yellowish colour and if you cut the base of the stem it is quite obviously yellow inside.  As you can see, the mushrooms that grow in our paddocks are white in the stem when they are young, and as the mushroom matures the stem turns a bit pinky brown inside.
05 Mushrooms 02

 

I’ve been doing some playing lately with reversing my lens to get some closeup – macro – shots.  I thought the undersides of the mushrooms would be perfect subject matter…..  What do you think?  I still need practice, as it is very difficult to hold the camera still, while I’m also hand-holding the lens, unattached and reversed, on the front of the camera body.  Its fun though, and can give some really interesting effects. 05 Mushrooms 04

05 Mushrooms

 

Here is a little group of mushrooms that I found this afternoon, as I was going around the sheep.  As you can see they can grow fairly big.  I didn’t pick these, as they looked too big, and they have a very strong taste when they are this large.  Also a couple looked as if a sheep had been nibbling on the side….!

Mushroom photo

That’s my boot in the photo, so you can get an idea of the size of these mushies!

 

 

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Milk Fever in our Ewes

Milk fever, or hypocalcaemia is a metabolic disorder (calcium deficiency) that sheep, cattle and goats are susceptible to, usually in late pregnancy, when the draw on their calcium reserves is very strong.  It is usually seen in autumn and spring, when there is a flush of rapidly growing green feed in the paddocks, which is high in water content and low in nutrients.

Often sheep in the paddock can have a very mild case and not be showing any symptoms.  It is not until you try to move them that you aggravate the symptoms, and notice it.  This was what happened to us last week.  It has been SOOOOO dry up until the last couple of weeks, and we have been feeding out a lot of grain.  Then with the rain we have had a fabulous greening up of our paddocks.

Sheep and tree photo

One of the mobs of sheep, under one of our gorgeous big old red gums, on their way back to their paddock.

We always crutch(shear their rumps to minimise the risk of a spring fly attack, and around their udders to make it easier for their lambs to find the teats) our sheep about 4-6 weeks out from lambing, and this was last week.  At the same time they get their annual vaccination against diseases such as blackleg, pulpy kidney and other such clostridial diseases, which can wipe out a flock very quickly.

So whilst mustering and yarding the sheep I noticed the odd one showing signs  – weak appearance, stilted movement, and even the one or two going down.  Once they go down, they won’t get up until treated.

Luckily I did have treatment on hand, a subcutaneous injection of a 4in1 solution of calcium, magnesium (often these two are related in deficiencies around lambing time) phosphorous and glucose.    The ones that I treated early got up almost immediately, it is amazing how quickly it works.  However one went down in the yards over night, while waiting to be crutched, and she took two or three doses.  I ended up leaving her in the yards for a couple of days, so I could monitor her, make sure she was eating and drinking properly before taking her back out to the paddock.

Lime and salt lick drum photo

Our lick containers are very “low-tech”, just 20L drums, cut in half.

I have since put out lick tubs for each mob, and am supplementing their diet with bales of hay.  The lick tubs contain a 75:25 mix of salt and stock lime.  The salt is to make it taste nice (???) and the lime is to combat the calcium deficiency.   The hay is just to offer an alternative to the rich lush green feed which is low in calcium.  I also took them back to their paddocks in stages after crutching, so that they weren’t walking the whole way in one go.  Their first stop was at our large dam paddock where they had only good quality hay to eat for 24 hours, to build up their energy reserves, before heading the rest of the way.

I strongly believe that the ewes need to be crutched at this time – for their own benefit, to minimise the risk of them from getting fly-strike in the spring and also to give the new born lambs every chance of finding the teats easily.  However it is always a balancing act, and needs to be managed very carefully to combat the Milk Fever we faced this year, and also other metabolic disorders such as grass tetany (magnesium deficiency) and twin lambing disease (general energy deficiency).  We have been very lucky in the last few years, with little to no issues arising.  This year the seasonal conditions were against us.

 

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Adventures in Sweet Chilli Sauce

 

 

We have a couple of chilli bushes in the herb garden – a Jalapeño, and one of these below, I call it “mystery” variety.  Its very pretty, as the chillies are quite short, and the whole bush is more of a ground cover than a bush.  Danny has been keen to make some of our own Sweet Chilli Sauce, my boys LOVE spicy food –  so he picked a bunch of the reddest chillies and off we went!

Chilli plant photo

 

The recipe we used is one I made a few years ago and the quantities of ingredients depends on the “hotness” of the chillies.  I can’t remember where I got it from originally, but I did a quick web search, before we started and the general recipe is quite similar on lots of different recipe sites.bowl of chillies photo

 

First we topped all the chillies.  If they were a bit bigger I would have scrapped quite a few of the seeds out also, but that would have been a laborious task with our babies.  The chillies and three garlic cloves (because that was all we had, probably would have preferred to add more if we had them) into the food processor with about half a cup of vinegar.Chilli photo

Chilli photo

Once they were chopped finely I scrapped them into the pot and added 4 cups of vinegar and 3 cups of sugar.  Basically all I did next was brought it to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolved, then tasted it.    Ohhhh Boyyyyy! Very hot!  So we added another cup of vinegar and half a cup of sugar.  Dissolved and tasted!   Still veeeerrrrrrry hot.  Another cup of vinegar and half a cup of sugar.

Danny tasted it, he thought it was fine, but for me still a bit too uncomfortable to cover my spaghetti with it.  I remember reading somewhere that lemon or lime juice can act as a means of decreasing the heat in chillies, so I added the juice of one lemon, another cup of vinegar and another 3/4 cup of sugar.  Once it was all dissolved and mixed well, another taste and I was happy.  It still has a good punch, but at least it doesn’t leave you gasping!Chilli sauce photo

 

Once I was happy with the taste I left it simmering for about an hour.  This allows it to reduce and thicken.  Then we poured it into hot sterilised jars and sealed them.Sweet Chilli sauce photoYou would think with all that vinegar we would have had a bucket of sauce, but because it reduces so much, we were left with just under  2  litres.  Still with its level of spiciness we won’t need to use too much.  Also I probably should have only let it simmer for maybe 45 minutes as it is very thick – possibly a bit jam like!

I’d love to know other peoples recipes for Sweet Chilli Sauce…. let me know in the comments if you have a good link.

 

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