Friday, January 22, 2016

Recycling with Ducks

If you have kids, you know about food waste. Or you have a superpower that I don't. We have a fly problem on the farm (and in our house-- a post for another day), so if food is left out for more than 2 seconds, flies land and poop on it. Our kids don't eat stuff in 2 seconds. They take a bite, realise that life is waiting, leave and return. Sometimes we just wash it, but in general I take flies pretty seriously. Which is to say, we're working on actual sitdown (onthefloor)-having-proper-conversation meals-- but it is not simple, and there is waste.

Enter the ducks. Firstly, they hunt flies. Which is already awesome.

Our animals have already added a whole new layer of efficiency to our recycling system, and it fills me with so much excitement that I'm shaking as I type this. Ok. That's the coffee.

Previous system: Food waste-- Worms--- worm castings--- trees. Not too bad. But a pretty short cycle.


Food waste (usually freshish fruit and vegetable scraps)-- guinea pigs (then, what they don't eat in a couple of hours)-- Ducks (then, what they haven't eaten by evening) -- Worm bin (then... and this is super cool-- the soldier fly larvae come and start eating stuff before the worms, which creates a pretty good physical split in the bin between my much loved worms, which I don't want the ducks to eat, and soldier fly larvae, who I DO want the ducks to eat)-- ducks-- back into worm bin(worm castings)-- trees
Natural born hunters

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hana is 100 days; we have ducks and guinea pigs

First, we got two guinea pigs: Hamster and Golden. Someone was moving and couldn't keep them and so we were asked to take them. Eug has a thing for rodents so here we are. They're pretty cute. We'll get them to work on the farm somehow. No free lunches here! Wait. We're all about free lunches. We'll let the piggies contribute poopy hay. 

Not in order of importance: Hana is 100 days old. 100 mostly very good days. We are so grateful for her, and we celebrated with dumplings.

We also made the carport thingy into a makeshift duck enclosure using scrap wood, and got 7 muscovy ducklings from 2 farms an hour away in the northern suburbs. The temp in the northern suburbs was over 41C. With that kind of heat, we just had to try to get the ducks as quickly as possible then make a run for it.

We're hoping that muscovy ducks will be quite hardy and provide us with both eggs and meat (You ask: do we know how to kill a large clawed duck? uhh no. Not yet. But we'll learn). They're also good foragers, so the enclosure is just for them while they're young, to teach them some lessons about home, then they'll free range. In the meantime we're trying to fix our fence with our neighbour, so that their chickens are separate from our ducks and our ducks are safe from dogs. Our first year seems to be a story about fencing. Fencing fencing fencing.

Even though they're from 2 different farms, they immediately became their own ridiculously tiny herd. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mole rats, gale force winds, and burnout

I don't think I've spoken enough about mole rats here. They are these huge creatures that burrow with their teeth. One day we had a fig tree, the next day it had just completely disappeared. The same for our goji berry bush, and a horrendous number of moringa trees.

Added to this, gale force winds. These are intense winds, where you can't be outside for any length of time because the sand will whip into your eyes and you'll run away crying. Especially if you're a small kid. If you're an adult, you'll want to but you are trying to not freak out in front of the kids quite so much. Added to this, water restrictions (which aren't so bad but the trees desperately need water during the wind). And the neighbours' chickens. Which is to say, we're not going to get much of an annual harvest this year. 

All this, plus three small children, amounts to a stage of life that is totally wonderful, on the one hand, and totally awful, on the other. Which I suppose is everyone's life, but it bears repeating. We have moments of being the picture-perfect family, and sometimes I get emails-- not often, but sometimes-- from people who want to do the stuff we're doing. Not that what we're doing is so different from the average person-- but sometimes, in fits of self-aggrandizement- I present it as such. I'm inclined to think a lot of homeschoolers and homesteading blogs do the same. I think we do it to reassure ourselves. 

Which is a long way of saying, if we were relying on this being our homestead to save money and be the source of most of our food, water, wood, etc-- we'd be pretty stressed right now. It's a very long view, and it may not work out (we pray it does). We have a ten year plan that may get us to self-sufficiency in eggs, meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and (hopefully) honey. Being able to have such a long view is a huge luxury. So what we are doing is already stretching us a lot, and the way it is vaguely sustainable is a) we built well within our budget, even when we went over-budget, and we're also really into the idea of God providing. So faith + practicality means we're not financially stretched; we have margin to make inevitable mistakes. In fact we're counting on making mistakes. b) while I technically have a full time "job" right now, it is the most flexible and wonderful job in the world, and it only lasts 2 more years. We're trying to save more than half of this income so that after my job is finished we have some options in terms of getting ourselves more time.