Some weeks here, life will throw mysteries at you. I’m sure it is some sort of test, well, maybe it is anyway?
For three days this week, my emails simply disappeared. Who knows where they went in the meantime? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps they had a quick holiday in Cairns, Queensland, which is many thousands of miles north of here, just to soak up some warm rays and catch some surf? I trust they were careful of both the jellyfish and salt water crocodiles whilst they were off enjoying themselves? Eventually however, the problem was corrected – with a bit of technical assistance – and the emails all reluctantly worked their way back down south to the cool climate mountain range here. I hope they’re not disappointed with the winter weather here compared to up north?
That wasn’t the biggest mystery I had to deal with this week though.
Yesterday, the fourteen chickens produced nine eggs. However, one of the eggs was the size of a quail egg:
|Yesterday's eggs with a small mystery egg at the front|
|Mystery egg with a more normal sized egg as a comparison|
When a chicken produces her first egg of the season, it is often slightly weird and I believe that this maybe is the case here – hopefully anyway. On the other hand I hope that it is not some mystery quail which has somehow snuck her way into the chicken enclosure as that would be a bit strange and also very hard to explain
As the daylight hours lengthen at the farm here following the winter solstice (June 21st here), the chickens start to produce eggs again. Sometimes, the first egg of the season has a slightly soft shell and when you pick it up you accidentally put your finger through that egg shell and the contents spill everywhere. On the other hand this is great news for the dogs as they love eating eggs and any excuse will do for them. However, I have never before seen such an undersized egg before.
The life cycle of a chicken at the farm here involves moulting (losing) some of their feathers during the heat of summer. Chickens feathers are the equivalent of a human wearing a thick woolly jumper, so on a hot summers day where the temperature is in excess of 40 degrees Celsius (104F) recorded in the shade, the chickens have to moult feathers so as to lower their body temperatures. Eventually, the autumn weather arrives, the air temperature cools down, the daylight hours shorten and the chickens decide to regrow their feathers. Unfortunately for humans, chickens can’t regrow feathers and lay eggs at the same time. Therefore, egg production declines and almost ceases during the late autumn to early winter.
It is interesting to note that commercial producers of eggs get around this natural life cycle by leaving the chickens under artificial lights, often in an enclosed barn. The chickens in those conditions possibly don’t have a clue as to what is going on and continually lay eggs. However, this process also strips the birds of calcium and they live a short life of often less than two years. In comparison some of the chickens here are four years old and they still lay very well.
The exception to the above natural life cycle of chickens moulting during summer are: silkie chickens, as they seem to operate on a completely different life cycle altogether. A silkie chicken will lay about 80 eggs per year, but because they do not appear to moult during summer, they lay eggs during the cooler months of autumn and winter. The other advantage of silkie chickens is that they generally have very pleasant personalities and are quite happy to act maternally to many of the other chickens here. Unusually, silkie chickens are not even at the bottom of the pecking order as they appear to have a no-nonsense attitude with the rest of the chickens.
On the negative side, Silkie chickens don’t produce a lot of eggs during a year. However, fresh eggs when there are no other eggs is alright by me.
In other farm news, the blackberry enclosure received a few more posts this week. I also installed the metal gate for the blackberry enclosure on the corner post. This metal gate was originally a security door which I purchased second hand from some dude in Melbourne. The security door had a bronze perforated sheet (mesh) which was used to make an excellent bushfire screen over one of the windows on the shed here. However, I was left with this heavy duty steel security door frame which I didn’t have a clue what to do with.
With a little bit of imagination, the security door frame has this week been cut smaller so that it is a useful gate for the blackberry enclosure. During the week, I also welded a latch onto that steel gate frame.
However, nothing is ever simple and after I attached the steel gate to the timber post for the new blackberry enclosure, I realised that the entrance wouldn’t be wide enough so as to able to easily move the wheelbarrow into the blackberry enclosure. This was because the corner angle was less than 90 degrees.
After a bit of thought, I moved the entrance to the blackberry enclosure and installed two new posts:
|New timber posts with steel gate on the blackberry enclosure|
The local engineer turned up to assess the blackberry enclosure building works and found that all was to their satisfaction:
|Kookaburra assessing the engineering for the timber posts|
It was slightly drier this week at the farm, so the excavations for the new water tank site continued. Actually it was good to take a break from the excavations over the past few weeks as the plans for this area have morphed into something very exciting! The change in plans, are the result of a few good ideas thrown around over the weekend. The ideas were not obvious even the week before. Hopefully a new water tank should appear here over the next week or two before the winter rains start to die back (there is a bit of a lead time between the act of ordering the water tank to the delivery of the tank to the shop).
|Excavations continue for the new water tank site|
The excavated soil has been used to build up the new garden beds just below the water tank excavation site:
|Excavated soil is used to build new garden beds|
Also, this week the first signs of spring can be seen here as both an almond and a clump of jonquil bulbs have produced the first spring flowers:
|Almond - Johnston prolific now in bloom|
|Jonquil bulbs now in bloom|
I went a bit crazy with the video camera here this week and produced two videos! What’s going on?
The first video continues to look at the water systems at the farm here and this video shows the house water system:
The second video is much more fun because one evening when I was out supervising the chickens free ranging through the winter orchard I decided to go wildlife spotting. The wildlife put on quite the show that night too. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do (watch for the kangaroo with the joey in her pouch):
The farm is in a thick cloud right now and it has been raining for most of the afternoon. The temperature outside here at about 8pm is 6.0 degrees Celsius (42.8 F) and so far this year there has been 542.2mm (21.3 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 534mm (21.0 inches).