Monday, 23 June 2014

Confused chickens and tree stumps

They say that life puts theories to the test.

A couple of weeks ago, I remarked that I could never understand why people stated that chickens were stupid. For their size, they seemed to be reasonably alert. They know when the wedge tail eagles are flying overhead looking for a tasty chicken sized snack and they all communicate as a flock and run for the cover of the trees.

When the Kookaburra sings, the chickens stop and listen to whatever message the wild birds are providing.

Yet over the past week, I've come to think that chickens are not stupid, they simply just don't like change.

Over the past few days, I've improved - from my point of view anyway - the vestibule to the chicken enclosure. The chickens haven't liked it one bit and now refuse to use the new vestibule to exit the hen house. They'll all peek outside into the food forest, but not take a single step onto the pleasant all weather surface. The inside of the chicken house has a concrete slab, so I don't believe that they're having troubles with the flag stones in the vestibule. Maybe, they just don't like change...

The vestibule became a very necessary addition after a visitor to the farm thought that they'd check out the chickens and their enclosure. Well, I never quite expected that the visitor would stand in the open door way to the chicken enclosure - reluctant to enter, marvelling at all of the chickenness - and then suddenly all of the chickens went - WOO HOO - it's an early orchard scratching and digging time - at very high speed. It wouldn't have been a problem except that Poopy the Pomeranian was roaming around the farm, spotted the chickens and in the ensuing chaos decided that an Isa Brown "frizzle" chicken would make an outstanding early dinner snack.

Oh well. I've had to scare the chickens into using the vestibule and it seems to be slowly working for about half of the flock.
This is one of the cheeky one year old Araucana chickens who is a little bit flighty.

At this time of year, the 14 chickens - all bar one of whom are heritage breeds - lay about 1 egg per day. Yesterday the first of the larger blue Araucana eggs was delivered. For the past month or so, only the Silkie_chickens have been on the lay. They generally lay during Autumn and early Winter because unlike most chickens, they do not seem to have to regrow their feathers after the summer moult during this period. Chickens generally can not regrow feathers and lay eggs at the same time, so Autumn is generally a lean period for egg production.

It hasn't all been about the chickens though as I'm in the process of increasing the water storage here and hopefully adding another two 5,500 litre water tanks (1,450 gallons).

However, being on the side of a mountain, means that there is no flat land, so any flat land has to be excavated. I can't afford to pay for an excavator to come in and dig out the site and neither do I wish to repair the damage that those machines do. Therefore, I chose to dig out the site by hand.

Nothing is ever easy though as huge rocks (volunteer garden bed retaining walls) float through the clay / volcanic loam and there are some tree stumps which I'm pretty certain pre-date white settlement. One of the stumps was so big it took four work days to remove. Fortunately the other four stumps seem to be a little quicker (or maybe, I'm just getting better at digging them out and cutting them up?).

To put that stump to the right of the water tank in the photo in perspective the diameter of the green water tank is 3m (about 10ft).

The site itself will probably take another week or so of work before it is ready to receive the new water tanks. I also intend to build a steel lined wood shed on the site too.

The excavated top soil is going to good use too as it becomes new garden beds. You can never have too much flat land.

The soil has plenty of organic matter in it as I have been mulching that area for several years now.

The weather here has been generally cool and cloudy and at about 4pm, it is 6 degrees Celsius (43F) outside and probably won't cool down much more over night due to the cloud layer. However, the humidity is about 99% and so far this year there has been 385mm (15.5 inches) of rainfall.

It is interesting to note that because of the warm winter, many of the fruit trees have not as yet gone fully deciduous. The large tree to the left of the stump is a snow pear (which is an ornamental pear).

14 comments:

Joel Caris said...

Hi Chris,

Congratulations on the new blog! I'll be checking in. I always love hearing about your homestead and work, as our lifestyles have some alignment and you always have excellent insights.

I once bought the line that chickens were stupid, when I was a kid. We had some backyard chickens and the main thing I remember was the ability to hypnotize them. I didn't properly appreciate what fantastic creatures they were (though I held no ill will toward them, either.)

In my more recent chicken communings, I've come to realize that they're really quite clever and inquisitive creatures. But you're right--I don't think they like change much at all. They are very routinized creatures (I am, as well, so this is no knock on them) and don't seem to like those routines being disturbed. They also don't much care to be told what to do. You can set up systems to corral and guide and cajole chickens, but don't think you can effectively control them with brute force. Aside from a good butchering, brute force doesn't work well.

But clever, yes. Sometimes silly, oftentimes grouchy, other times completely mystifying, but in no way stupid.

They can be very sneaky, too. I have 21 chickens now: 19 layers and two roosters. A couple weeks ago, I did my nightly count before closing up the coop and realized I only had 20 up on the perch. Concerned, I went looking about to see if I might find the other one. There are usually two options in that scenario: either dead or off nesting somewhere. I hoped not dead and saw no telltale signs, such as a poof of feathers. So I went snooping.

The problem is I have the chickens set up so they're fenced out of a few areas I don't want them--the garden, mainly, and the house entrances--but are otherwise free to roam, including into the adjacent pasture that stretches for acres. Granted, they don't tend to stray too far from the coop, but they can roam quite a bit when the day's not too hot and they're out to find some tasty treats and discover new scratching grounds. As such, there are quite a number of meters of blackberried fencelines they could be tucked away in, as well as rushes and weedy patches and so on. In other words, quite a number of potential nesting sites.

I searched for a half hour, perhaps, poking my nose into a wide variety of places, but I found no chicken. So it continued to go for the next week, though after a few days I wasn't keeping much of an eye out any more. I suspected something had snagged her, though I still thought the nesting a possibility.

Well, a possibility indeed. About a week after she went missing, on a rainy day, I came around the front corner of the house after being outside for a bit doing some work, about to put away some tools, when I saw and heard a chicken in the driveway. There she was, wet and bedraggled, squawking loudly. It only took me a moment to realize it must be the missing hen. So where the heck had she been? Well, she had slipped past the fencing into the off-limits area and had made herself a nest with about a dozen eggs in a small patch of weeds right at the corner of the garage. She'd been tucked away there for a week. My roommates and I had been strolling by her multiple times a day, and not a one of us ever realized she was there.

Sneaky.

I was half tempted to let her keep sitting and see about getting some chicks, but I didn't want something to get her over the next couple weeks. So I cleared the nest. She didn't much care for this and, despite barely managing to herd her back in with the rest of the flock, she was back on the nest that evening when I returned home. So I snagged her--much to her chagrin--and placed her on the perch with her flockmates, closed them up for the night, and thus ended the Great Spring Nesting of 2014.

Anyone who says chickens are stupid either hasn't spent much time with them or simply hasn't been observant during that time. Regardless, they've yet to come to appreciate the clever mind of a chicken.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Saw some Troll Bane at the local gardening / feed store :-). Do not feed the trolls.

Ah, chickens. Don't know if I told you but my Barnevelders were just about wiped out by coyotes. Just one little crop bound hen left, who doesn't lay, anyway. if I were a better farmer, she'd be on her way to the stew pot. I wanted more Barnevelders, but to order, you need 20 or 25. Way more of a flock then I need. I found a local breeder but his roosters seemed to have fertility problems, this year. Shooting blanks, I guess. So, I was in a bit of a panic to get chicks before the chick season was over. I also took in two chickens who were survivors of a neighbors flock that was also hit by coyotes. The neighbor had passed away and his brother, my landlord / friend / neighbor let me take the chickens. A black and white Wyandotte (I think) and, maybe a Partridge Wyandotte (I think. You look up pictures and there is so much variation within a breed.)

It was hard finding a good duel purpose chick. Makes sense when I think of it. Most people around here go for meat, not many like me, starting a flock of good dual purpose chickens. But I found some Wyandottes. So, I guess I'm switching my allegiance. Got to stay flexible. So, I got 8 that turned out to be 5 buff and white and 3 black and white.

I'm praying for at least one rooster. One fellow (?) seems a bit larger than the others. And, his plumage is a bit different. So, maybe...

Chickens can be endlessly interesting. I moved my chicks out of the brooder in the laundry room and have them fenced off in a corner of the hen house til they get older. The night I moved them, they all jumped one poor little chick, who I removed back to the brooder for a couple of days. Then I slipped her back in after dark. All was sweetness and light. I think it was just the stress of the move that set them off.

One night, I was peeking around the corner of the hen house door, watching the chicks. The old Wyandotte hen made a funny sound I'd never heard her make before. All the chicks hit the ground! Well, enough about chickens.

Tree stumps. When I moved in here, there was quite a depression in the driveway. My landlord speculated that it was some ancient tree stump that had finally rotted out. I've been tossing everything that comes to hand in the hole. Stray gravel and rock, some dried out slab clay a friend wanted to get rid of, kitty litter .... It's pretty evened up, now.

I'm accessing your blog through ADR. Odd. Your blog spot doesn't come up using a Google search, or several Google searches I tried. Even cutting and pasting it in the address field didn't work. Mysteries of cyberspace that will probably work themselves out.

Looking forward to more posts from you. Your reports from "Down Under" are fascinating.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Joel. Yeah, there are a lot of similarities in lifestyle between here and your place. It is really good hearing about your place and your journey too. I haven’t sold any produce, but instead use it as a form of social currency, so I’m really interested to hear how it goes. People are always delighted to get some of the produce from here and I’m getting to know who likes what.

Speaking of which, a neighbour helped me out of some trouble today when a few trees fell across the roads in the extreme winds here and blocked off every access point to the farm here – I tried every sneaky back road that I know about too. As a bit of a confession, I’d travelled out to see whether there had been any snow higher up in the mountain range during the storm and take some photos (it’s a bit of a novelty here). Needless to say I couldn’t get home again and ended up pulling trees off the road for an hour or two as a penance! I’ll post some photos on next weeks blog.

How funny is your chicken story! Thanks for sharing. The chickens here are often grouchy and unappreciative, but they are always fun to have around as your story clearly shows. What surprised me is how strong their individual personalities are and just how varied they can be.

I’m really glad to hear that you got your girl back into the flock too.

Hi Lewis. Thanks mate, I’ll check for that Troll bane in the post. Hehe! Nice one. It is great to hear how your place is coming along too. I often wonder about your goats and chickens and appreciate the news from afar.

Sorry to hear about the loss of your Barnevelders to the coyote. They are a good all-round bird too and an excellent choice. 20 to 25 chickens is way too many in one flock! Spotted wyandottes are an excellent choice too. It will be interesting to see if you get that rooster. To be really honest, I can’t tell when they are less than about 4 to 5 months. The tail plumage is the first sign – to me anyway – although people say all sorts of things. I hope you get your rooster.

A mate of mine lost his flock of Barnevelders to a fox too, so I hear you.

Over here you can either buy fertilised eggs, day old chickens, or at a poultry auction / sale. I’m a bit of a sucker and buy at the poultry sales at agricultural shows and it seems to be an OK method. A local place not too far from here has a semi regular poultry auction, but I wouldn’t know whether I’m getting ripped off or not.

Did you ever work out how the coyote got into the chicken enclosure in the first place? Foxes, eagles, cats and dogs are a bit of a problem here. Something always wants to eat chicken!

The chicken world can be pretty harsh. I recently had a chicken with a slightly bent tale and all of the other chickens pretty much killed her by starving her of food. She is now in the worm farm. A New Zealand guy remarked, “if you have livestock, you’ll soon have dead stock”.

Glad to hear that you’ve sorted the stump out in your driveway. The timber here is so dense, it just doesn’t break down – even after the tree clearly died during the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires.

Cyber space is a law unto itself. Someone, somewhere understands it, but tis not I! hehe! Thanks for trying the google search anyway. Stay tuned!

How did your blackberries go? It is a real nuisance here because the local council sprays poison on them, so I have to go to remote locations to pick them for fresh eating and jam.

Regards

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris; The goats were a loan from Brother Bob the Bachelor Farmer, a neighbor. Brother of my landlord/friend/neighbor. He passed away, very unexpectedly, this spring. In bed, a smile on his face with his trusty dog by his side. We should all be so lucky. I've been helping clear out the estate, on top of everything I have to do here. The family had lived on the place since the 1880s, and, as farm people sometimes do, tended to be a bit of a hoarder. Something I fully understand :-).

I got quit a few goodies for helping out. Had to reign myself in. I probably could have gotten a goat or two, but decided the chickens, cat and dog are enough for now.

The Barnevelder chicks were promised over an over again, and I kind of panicked as the chick season wound down. I could have gotten Barnevelder eggs through E-Bay. There are several people who have a really good feedback record. There is a poultry auction in the area, but I've never been. I've got a bit of a social anxiety disorder that has only gotten more intense since I've retired and don't have to interact with people, much, anymore. Not that that feels like a bad thing to me. :-). There is a "Rooster Board" at the local feed store. So, if I don't have a rooster in my batch, may be able to pick one up, there. Or, screw up my determination and finally make it to the poultry auction.

Yes, I figured out where the coyotes got in and have beefed up my chicken fortress. More to do. Last week my neighbor put down a feral bull (hanging weight, 400 lbs.) and there were quit a few eagles, buzzards and ravens around. Nobody was picked off. My chickens have quit a bit of cover in their run. It's a huge old horse breaking corral that's overrun with vegetation.

Live stock / dead stock. Too funny. When I had the goats, one day, one was down and seemed in distress. I roared over and got Bob. I learned a lesson that day. On our way to see to the goat, he simply said "Animals die." Turned out the goat had got his chain wrapped around a little piece of, a tiny piece of stump and had managed to pin himself to the ground. No harm done. Silly goat!
I know I over worry about my animals, but I'm getting better :-).

Well, the goats really knocked back the blackberries, but I let them get a bit out of hand. But I'm knocking them back and making sure they don't come back. Some areas I'm throwing two layers of cardboard on, then well rotted straw. Some soil and a cover crop of clover. Some compost. Work them into good planting beds.

Don't know if you remember it, but years ago, Dr. Spock hosted some tv series that was "Mysteries of ..." Anytime I have a computer problem, his voice rings in my ears .... "Mysteries of .... Cyberspace."

Well, I'd better get to mounding my potatoes. I got three industrial strength plastic bags, cut a few holes in the bottom, put in a bit of soil. As the potato plants grow, you keep pulling up the sides of the bag and adding more soil. You may get as much as 50 lbs per bag. More than enough for me and some to spread around a social currency. I'm trying 3 different varieties. See which I like best. Spent soil can go into the compost heap.

Regards, Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

PS: My little cat Nell doesn't bother the chickens. Nor do the Siamese from next door. There seems to be a mutual curiosity, but that's about it. Maybe because Nell came from a farm with a lot of chickens, about. There are a few feral cats in the area, but our domestics seem to keep them at bay. Don't know how they're going to be with the little ones, however. Another reason to keep them penned up in the coop til they get some real size on them. On to the potatoes ....

Phil Harris said...

Hi Chris
Just passing by - will drop in again.
I picked up on your discussion with Bill & JMG about soil and elevation.
Here at 55 - 56 deg N elevation really matters. Not much arable above 200 - 250m. The arctic is not a lot further up the hillside.
Over the other side of ‘the pond' at the same latitude it is Hudson Bay and tundra. We get the benefit of the north-coming convection that brings the warmth and wet westerlies off the Atlantic. On the eastern side where we are it is much drier and superb winter wheat country. Had the world yield record for a while with Denmark - now topped by an outfit in N Zealand.

Australian ecology is fascinating but fire adapted climax vegetation looks scary. We followed your and other experience with a certain fascination last year or so. I have done a fair bit of hand-digging in my day so I appreciate the graft needed for the extra water tanks. Keep it going.
All the very best
Phil

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis. Some people are very fortunate to pass on in such comfort. Clearing an estate cured me forever of hoarding! Glad to hear that you scored some free stuff too for your efforts: "chickens, cat and dog are enough". That is too funny.

No stress about the social thing, there's a place for everybody. I enjoy socialising, but I also enjoy a fair bit of quiet time too!

Chicken fortress makes me think that one day you'll have a moat around the enclosure with a full on draw bridge! hehe! There is a lady around here who calls her chicken enclosure: "Chookingham Palace". Spoilt chickens.

I worry about the animals here too. You'll be happy to know that this evening, 7 of the chooks here decided that the vestibule area with the flagstones wasn't that scary after all.

Blackberry jam can be pretty good too. The plants do tend to take over though and they can be impenetrable. I saw someone recently using the living canes as a safe place for chicks to hide in, which seemed like a clever idea.

Ha! There's a blast from the past. I think it was called "In search of" here. I used to watch all of the shows and read the books. Loch Ness monster!!!!

Good luck with the potatoes. It will also be interesting to hear how the cat goes. My neighbours cat has been patrolling the chicken enclosure at night keeping down the rat population. I wouldn't trust him inside the enclosure though.

Hi Phil. Great to hear from you. Man, that sounds cold! Elevation is critical here over summer too for the opposite cooling effect. It really does make a massive difference.

On the other hand the fire adapted vegetation is a right nuisance and I am unable to manage the forest as needs to be done. If you have a look at the photo of the house in the top right hand corner of the page, you'll notice some pretty big trees. The one just to the right of the house is well over 45m tall and possibly 50m. They tell me that in a big wildfire, the flames can reach 1.5x the highest point of the fuel (ie. the top of the tree). It is not something I really need to see... I met some people that went through the Black Saturday bushfires back in Feb 09 and they reckon that the people that stayed and defended had a much longer recovery time than those who left. Mind you, that tree looks close in the photo but is actually pretty far from any buildings.

Thanks for the nice words about the excavations by hand, only those that have done, know!

Regards

Chris

Les said...

Hiya Chris,
Nice new blog - hope you can keep at it, I'll be a regular visitor.

I really am going to have to learn your water wise ways - you've had nearly 400mm so far - ya lucky bugger - we've barely seen 100, & less than 30 in the last couple of months. The dams are 2m below full and at this time of year they'd normally be chokka. I'm really looking forward to the forecast El Nino (not).
And yet, your normal rainfall is probably similar to what we'll see in this incredibly dry year. And your soil does not hold moisture well enough to have a dam.
While you've trucked in a heap of organic matter, that can't be the only reason you are successfully farming in what I could only call "drought conditions". It'd be neat if you could talk to that at some point.

Nature is funny, though. Different paddocks, different climates. The grass has stopped growing mostly, but the peaches are peaching, pears pearing, figs figging and not a frost to be seen as yet...

Your soil looks fantastic at the excavations - is that imported OM, or the natural colour/condition?

And I have to admire your excavations - here it's all done with a crowbar, if it's done manually, though I admit to getting Big Norm in with his excavator for the larger holes...

Cheers,
Les

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Les. Thanks for dropping by and expect regular updates.

100mm of rainfall here to this time of the year would be a complete disaster. As bad as it gets. I feel for you having to deal with that. Yeah, I'm not looking forward to the coming summer either because of those El Nino predictions, the only thing that is certain, is complete uncertainty when it comes to the weather Down Under.

No worries, I'd be happy to talk about water here in future posts. Mind you, I've been bringing organic matter in here for over 7 years now so the top soil is getting deeper. It is exactly as you say though. Conditions can be different from one area to another on a farm, so you just sort of read them as best as possible and try out what has worked in the past.

The fruit trees here are mostly deciduous. Did you buy low chill varieties for your area? The figs here - like the nut trees - require a bit of extra watering over summer, but I keep moving them around so they probably hadn't got established root systems yet. How old are yours? I had a neighbour years ago, whose entire backyard was covered in feral fig trees. They'd obviously broken into the old clay pipe sewers.

Thanks for the nice words about the soil. I have added some composted woody mulch to that particular area over the past few years – but not as much as elsewhere, so being a darker chocolate colour was something I didn't quite expect. There was a bull ant colony in it so they were also bringing in organic matter and aerating the soil. Bull ants are a pain - literally. In the orchard proper, the soil is even darker again to an almost black loam from the huge quantity of stuff I've brought in over the years. It goes down about 200mm in parts before hitting the orange clay / loam again.

The natural soil colour is an orange volcanic clay / loam. Lots of minerals, but not much in the way of organic matter – the eucalyptus trees ate it all up and poisoned the rest. Where the sun bakes it, it can turn quite yellow. It was originally harder than concrete and digging holes for fruit trees was a real chore.

I like excavators, they do great work, really quickly. When the site cut was done here, I got the guy to deep rip about 2 - 3 acres. It was a gamble because if a big rain had come, the site could have washed away. I use a 6 foot wrecking bar to lever rocks and stumps, but primarily it is done with a mattock and a shovel.

Cheers. Chris

Joel Caris said...

Hi Chris,

I'm all about using produce as social currency. I'm just starting to get some produce, so my opportunities to do so are just beginning to open up. I have used eggs as social currency multiple times at this point, though I also sell them. I'm a bit more interested in selling eggs because I took on new expenses in buying the chickens and equipment for them as well as the ongoing feeding costs (which can add up on my small income, especially feeding them organic feed.) Granted, I have enough income to cover this above and beyond my previous expenses, but it's nice to make some of that money back and to keep my cash flow relatively even.

Still, I'm always a bigger fan of non-monetary exchanges. I don't put much stock in money, nor do I feel any particular affection for it, though I certainly don't deny its usefulness, either. But, unlike many Americans, I don't tie my worth to the amount of money in my bank account, nor do I find much of any joy in money itself. I want to pay my rent, eat well, not scrabble to cover necessary bills, and have a bit left over for an occasional book, hand tools, homestead equipment, and so on.

But I really enjoy giving away and bartering food. I do this some with the eggs, expect to do it more with produce, and do it almost exclusively with my homemade yogurt. I think I've received money for my yogurt once. Meanwhile, I've given away multiple quarts, have traded often for smoked salmon and nice cheese, and even bartered for a clothes drying rack to set up by the woodstove. I love it.

Anyway, the homestead goes well. The kale is growing faster than I can eat it and a number of other brassicas--broccoli, cabbage, romanesco--are closing in on harvest. Obviously, things are growing fast now with the summer solstice. I recently noticed some deer tracks in my garden, which makes me quite nervous, but they have yet to take a nibble out of anything, so far as I can tell. I'm pretty surprised about that. I'm in this weird gray area of trying to decide if I should aim to get a fence up now or just ride out the summer, hope for no major damage, and make it a fall/winter project. How badly do I want to tempt fate?

Then again, maybe I should acquire a rifle and the skill to use it. I do have a chest freezer with a lot of empty space in it, and it would hardly be a sad thing to fill that with venison. Still, I have a fairly strong aversion to guns.

Glad to hear of your neighbor helping you out with the fallen trees. I believe a few times now I've read of you receiving help from neighbors. You obviously know how to properly cultivate those relationships. It's so important in rural areas. I have such a relationship with one of my neighbors which has already proven quite fruitful--and I expect that to continue. The other neighbors, admittedly, I haven't gotten to know yet. I really should correct that oversight sometime soon.

Finally, I partly empathize with your stump extraction. I haven't had to dig out a stump myself--hence my partial empathy, as I don't know the full extent of your labors--but breaking ground in the side pasture where I have my garden has involved constant rock removal. It's not the best soil, heavy on the clay, and I can't believe how many rocks there have been to remove. I had the good luck of being able to borrow a tractor to do the initial ground breaking but have been working up beds by hand from there. I must have hauled a few tons of rocks out of the ground so far by hand. Next job is to consolidate the piles (though I still have more beds to work up and, thus, more rocks to remove.)

Stacey Armstrong said...

Hi Chris,

I have followed with interest your shorter updates on your farm over at the ADR. You frequently give your weather bearings. I am wondering if you have a small weather station on your farm and if so where you put it and why. I have been considering starting to keep a temperature and rainfall log here and have been puzzling out all the factors to take into account.

I worked through the rain here yesterday morning while my chickens watched me from their covered porch. There has to be some very tasty kitchen or garden scraps on offer for them to come out into the rain!
We have removed stumps from our zone one area by hand (with a come-a-long for help) and by machine. Both have there joys!
Look forward to reading lengthier updates on your place and work.
Stacey

Joel Caris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Joel. No worries. As you replied to a previous comment, rather than creating a new comment, your comment went further up the comment list. I haven't quite worked out how to disable the reply to previous comment option. Any help would be appreciated!

Yeah, managing cash flow can be a bit tricky and chicken feed - particularly organic - is not cheap. Resting your sense of self worth on a bank account is a recipe for disaster. People really love to get fresh eggs here and I often field requests for them. I use those requests as an opportunity to talk about the life cycle of chickens and how they go off the lay during late autumn and early winter. Most people get it too.

Kale is good. I get cabbage moths here which the blue fairy wrens can't keep up with during the summer months so brassica species are a complete write off during that time. Deer tracks are something else again. It is very interesting that they did not stay in the garden. There are feral deer here but I have never spotted them in the orchard. A 6ft+ kangaroo is not to be trifled with no matter how big the stag or doe is.

There is nothing wrong with eating the deer and venison and it is very good meat. I just don't know about the whole gutting, skinning and seasoning bit. A mate of mine eats his own pork and chicken and I respect that, but I'm just not there yet.

Yeah, the neighbours are largely good and I met most of them through the volunteer fire brigade. However, there are a lot of people living up here that are commuters and they really aren't around much and this is a bit of a problem. To go forward as a community, we have to go backward if you get what I mean. I'm very careful with all of those relationships and have made the occasional mistake, but mostly people here are pretty forgiving. You wrote most excellently about it recently.

Oh yeah, I hear you. We call those rocks floaters as they float through the clay. I use a 6ft wrecking bar but also have an electric (solar powered) jack hammer with a cold chisel bit with which to break up larger rocks into smaller rocks. Rocks are very useful as they can provide ultra cheap and strong raised garden bed edging. Plus in your climate they would provide extra thermal mass during cold months.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Stacey. Thanks for the comment. What a great question. I have a small wireless (and solar powered) weather station. It has a rain gauge (which is not very accurate), outside temperature and humidity sensor and wind speed and direction monitor. It was purchased through ebay and has been thoroughly reliable. However the sender and receiver unit are in line of sight from each other and when the steel bushfire shutters are put up over the windows sometime reception can drop out.

For rainfall, I use a plastic rainfall gauge and it tallys pretty closely with the Bureau of Meteorology data for the area.

When I was younger people used to have temperature, humidity and air pressure guages hanging on timber plaques on walls and I've been considering obtaining one of these - old school - devices.

Hi Stacey. Do you have a weather station at your place? It can be handy to monitor the change in air pressure as it gives you a good 12 hour advance warning of storms.

Your chickens sound very lucky indeed! I've been recently planting and growing lots of herbs for the chickens to eat: sage; feverfew; comfrey and borage seem to be amongst their favourites. When the weather is wet I pick the greens for them and take them into their enclosure.

Stumps have their joys indeed. They're just hard work and the latest blog post shows that they can be like the iceberg that hit the titanic. I've found that an axe is better than a chainsaw because the axe won't go blunt when it hits soil. On old stumps here the ants and termites make mud tunnels through the centre heart wood of the stump which blunts a chainsaw in seconds.

Still, stumps are e a bit of a nuisance in a zone one area. Cheers and I welcome questions and feedback as I'm just muddling along here.