Garden

We have babies!

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It's been a pretty exciting week here for the kids.  Not only is it the Easter school holidays, but we also got to watch our first lot of baby chickens hatch! Kind of fitting actually... you know, eggs, easter, transformation, new life...you get my drift ;-)

Anyway, Hei-Hei, our plymouth x wyandotte hen has been clucky on and off since november last year.  So this last time I noticed her sitting on the eggs,  I decided to let her have 3 to incubate and tried to get the other hens to lay in the other nesting boxes. Well she had other ideas and by the time the first egg hatched, there were 16 eggs under her! She'd been stealing other eggs without me noticing.  And all at different times of her sitting on the nest.

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It takes roughly 21 days for an egg to develop into a chicken and hatch.  I knew many of the eggs hadn't been under her that long and I wasn't sure how long she would continue to sit once the first one had hatched. So we just watched and waited.  Each day for 6 days, a new chicken hatched.  By then mama chook had had enough and started taking the babies out of the nest.  

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So we have 6 baby chicks, 4 black and 2 yellow.  They are super cute and growing by the day. Millie our dog has taken guardianship and likes to keep watch of the babies which is also super cute.

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With so many predators around - snakes, hawks, goannas, eagles etc. - I'm trying not to get attached and let nature do what nature does but I must admit, it really is a sweet sight to see mama chook with her babies scratching around in the sunshine.

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As for the remaining 10 eggs, Issy and I tried to save them by putting them in a basket in a small room warmed by a heater but after 3 days with no success we conceded that they must have gone too cold the day Hei-Hei left the nest so we pulled the plug (the heater plug that is).

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So here are our 6 babies...Hoping for hens but past experience has prepared me for the possibility of many roosters - eek! Lucky my neighbours are nice!!

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Rome wasn't built in a day....and neither was our chook pen

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Many (many) moons ago, I got the brilliant idea that 'we' should build a chook pen out of the timber from the falling down house next door.  After a little bit of persuading, Jamie agreed and so began the next adventure of our home farm. One that took slightly longer than expected but was definitely worth the wait.

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Most people, from what I hear, knock up a chook house in a weekend. Not us. The little cottage next door was actually built from timber that was the existing Queenslander where our house now stands so rather than let it all go to ruin, I loved the idea of preserving some of that history here on our property. The entire cottage is made of hardwood, which seemed awesome to me, I love old hardwood, but as it turns out, is not the easiest material to work with and definitely led to several broken drill bits and many curse words uttered from Jamie's mouth throughout the entire, lengthy process. 

Here are some pictures of 'us' building our chook pen...

 The four posts in the ground are treated pine. Things got more difficult after that.

The four posts in the ground are treated pine. Things got more difficult after that.

 Note Jamie's facial hair which is the true indicator of just how long this process took. Also note my daughters keen fashion sense. 

Note Jamie's facial hair which is the true indicator of just how long this process took. Also note my daughters keen fashion sense. 

 My hunk of burning love pulling old iron off the roof to fulfil my vision...he was mostly swearing at the hardwood by this stage so I took all my photos from a safe distance where I could ignore him and pretend he really enjoyed what 'we' were doing.

My hunk of burning love pulling old iron off the roof to fulfil my vision...he was mostly swearing at the hardwood by this stage so I took all my photos from a safe distance where I could ignore him and pretend he really enjoyed what 'we' were doing.

 Giving the hardwood a break, we went on to building the fence.

Giving the hardwood a break, we went on to building the fence.

 The nesting boxes are on the side of the house and can be accessed without having to go into the chook pen.

The nesting boxes are on the side of the house and can be accessed without having to go into the chook pen.

 I bought an old set of french doors along with heap of old casement windows and a few other bits and bobs from a beautiful old queenslander in Bulimba.  The little square windows and the rectangular one that you can see in the picture before and below this one, were left over from the french doors that we installed in our back entry way.  The rest of these gorgeous casement windows are going to be used to enclose part of the barn sometime in the future.

I bought an old set of french doors along with heap of old casement windows and a few other bits and bobs from a beautiful old queenslander in Bulimba.  The little square windows and the rectangular one that you can see in the picture before and below this one, were left over from the french doors that we installed in our back entry way.  The rest of these gorgeous casement windows are going to be used to enclose part of the barn sometime in the future.

 Chook house hangs...charlie is entertaining his siblings with his new party trick doing the 'tuck'.

Chook house hangs...charlie is entertaining his siblings with his new party trick doing the 'tuck'.

 So close! Jamie is just figuring out how to attach the rooster weather vane.

So close! Jamie is just figuring out how to attach the rooster weather vane.

 Jamie actually made me this rooster as a birthday present about 8 years ago, but we moved house before it made it to the chook pen.  It's been in the shed ever since waiting for this very moment.

Jamie actually made me this rooster as a birthday present about 8 years ago, but we moved house before it made it to the chook pen.  It's been in the shed ever since waiting for this very moment.

 We used old branches for the roosting perches.  Apparantly natural branches are better for the chickens feet than uniform dowel perches and they have the benefit of costing nothing.

We used old branches for the roosting perches.  Apparantly natural branches are better for the chickens feet than uniform dowel perches and they have the benefit of costing nothing.

 Errmagod! Can you believe it? After about six or seven months, the chook pen is finally ready! Jamie survived and we still haven't filed for divorce.

Errmagod! Can you believe it? After about six or seven months, the chook pen is finally ready! Jamie survived and we still haven't filed for divorce.

So here is our chook pen! It's everything I could have asked for and more. It's rustic, charming, practical and built to last.  I love that its almost entirely made of recycled materials and all of it has a story to tell.  

 The 'Palais du Poulet' aka chicken palace

The 'Palais du Poulet' aka chicken palace

 Complete with windows and flower baskets

Complete with windows and flower baskets

 I sanded graffiti off the old door which resulted in this beautiful distressed look due to all the coats of old paint.

I sanded graffiti off the old door which resulted in this beautiful distressed look due to all the coats of old paint.

 The old door before

The old door before

 My little egg collector with his wooden eggs as despite all the effort, the chooks still refuse to lay. Probably has something to do with the fact that half of them have turned out to be roosters. But that's a whole other story!

My little egg collector with his wooden eggs as despite all the effort, the chooks still refuse to lay. Probably has something to do with the fact that half of them have turned out to be roosters. But that's a whole other story!

 Hardwood floors (which we've covered in black plastic and wood shavings for easy cleaning)

Hardwood floors (which we've covered in black plastic and wood shavings for easy cleaning)

 Their grain is kept in a sealed bin to deter rodents (and therefore snakes).

Their grain is kept in a sealed bin to deter rodents (and therefore snakes).

 The casement windows open and we are going to put some mosquito mesh over the opening so that they can be left open for ventilation at night whilst keeping the chooks in and snakes out.

The casement windows open and we are going to put some mosquito mesh over the opening so that they can be left open for ventilation at night whilst keeping the chooks in and snakes out.

 The nesting boxes open from the outside so the eggs can be collected without going in the pen but we are still fine tuning the lid as the hardwood is a bit heavy for the kids.  We also are yet to partition the space into smaller boxes as the chooks like privacy for laying. That will be next weeks job, as i mentioned earlier, the chooks aren't laying yet anyway.

The nesting boxes open from the outside so the eggs can be collected without going in the pen but we are still fine tuning the lid as the hardwood is a bit heavy for the kids.  We also are yet to partition the space into smaller boxes as the chooks like privacy for laying. That will be next weeks job, as i mentioned earlier, the chooks aren't laying yet anyway.

 The home made rooster weather vane sitting proud atop the home made house.

The home made rooster weather vane sitting proud atop the home made house.

 The chook run is huge and is shaded by a big mango tree.

The chook run is huge and is shaded by a big mango tree.

 I'm growing passionfruit along the front and side fences and star jasmine on the back boundary for a bit more shade and privacy.

I'm growing passionfruit along the front and side fences and star jasmine on the back boundary for a bit more shade and privacy.

 I still let the chooks out for a run every afternoon, even though I say I won't as they really enjoy attacking my herb garden and scratching the mulch off my fruit trees every single day.

I still let the chooks out for a run every afternoon, even though I say I won't as they really enjoy attacking my herb garden and scratching the mulch off my fruit trees every single day.

 Millie our maltese x shitzu thinks she is miniature old english sheep dog.  She likes to guard the chooks. She fits through the gate on the chook pen so spends quite a bit of time in there just sleeping under the tree and keeping an eye on the chooks.

Millie our maltese x shitzu thinks she is miniature old english sheep dog.  She likes to guard the chooks. She fits through the gate on the chook pen so spends quite a bit of time in there just sleeping under the tree and keeping an eye on the chooks.

 We have the funniest little kitten Tiger-lilly who has been joining in on most of our adventures. The chicken about to peck her is the nastiest chook I've ever met.  She beats up on all of the other hens and fights all the roosters except her brother pictured above who has taken a liking to her and only her.  Thus we've named her Cersei - if you're a GOT fan, you'll know what I'm talking about, if not, moving on....

We have the funniest little kitten Tiger-lilly who has been joining in on most of our adventures. The chicken about to peck her is the nastiest chook I've ever met.  She beats up on all of the other hens and fights all the roosters except her brother pictured above who has taken a liking to her and only her.  Thus we've named her Cersei - if you're a GOT fan, you'll know what I'm talking about, if not, moving on....

 Strangely despite the enormous labour of love, the ten chooks are still choosing to sleep in the tiny guinea pig hutch at night but they like to hang out in the house during the day.  As you can see, my animals are all a bit different and somewhat confused. I don't know where they get that from.

Strangely despite the enormous labour of love, the ten chooks are still choosing to sleep in the tiny guinea pig hutch at night but they like to hang out in the house during the day.  As you can see, my animals are all a bit different and somewhat confused. I don't know where they get that from.

 Caught the chickens hanging out in the house.  As soon as they hear me they come running out.

Caught the chickens hanging out in the house.  As soon as they hear me they come running out.

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And that's it.  I am just in love with my chook pen. It was worth all the cursing, fighting and broken tools. I really appreciate all the hard work that Jamie put in to make it for me. It's the best present ever. We will be finishing  a few things off over the coming week or so, making some signs, running a water pipe and building a herb garden around the outside edge of the fence so the chooks can peck through for supplementation. Then it's on to the next project...the pony stable!

 Happy days!

Happy days!

Spring in the garden

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Whilst the inside of the house is being painted, I thought I'd do some updates on what's been happening outside in the garden. The last couple of months have been kind of crazy as there is just so much to do both inside, outside and with life in general. We've been spending heaps of time outside just tidying up, planting and figuring out the design of the property. We've started building a chicken coup and have also been working out the best place to position the big veggie garden of my dreams. 

Spring is my favourite time of year and it really is just beautiful here at the moment. The place is green from all the rain and brimming with life. From tiny green frogs to finches nesting in the shed to spiders webs glistening at dawn, the garden is alive with activity. 

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I'm so excited that we've managed to bring our avocado tree back from the brink of death. It's been suffering badly since the cyclone and we discovered it had borer and other funguses attacking it. I think it may have been put under too much stress when we had the little brick shed next to it treated for termites back in April. Anyway after much deliberation about whether or not to hard prune it as its' branches were all dying and it lost all its' leaves, we decided to just give it a whole lot of love and see what would happen. Jamie pruned the worst affected limbs and I removed a lot of the soil around the shed and replaced it with bags of cow manure. Then I mulched it and continued to water and fertilise with a liquid plant food for a few weeks. Last week we had a few days of rain and it has just bloomed! It's a real sight of beauty when I look out of my kitchen window and its starting to fruit again at last.

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We mulched and fertilised all of our other fruit trees a couple of months ago as well and the mango trees are now loaded with fruit.

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The kids really love helping in the garden which is awesome. 

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My dreams of semi self sufficiency aren't exactly going so great but nevertheless I have been planting more fruit trees and have started a little herb garden that I've managed to keep alive. Just.

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Until the mango's ripen, I've come to accept that a handful of cherry tomatoes and an abundance of garlic chives isn't really going to feed the family so I went and bought something I know I'm good at raising - chickens! For eggs, not meat.

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I initially bought 6 little babies, four of which turned out to be roosters which is not really helpful to the 'home grown eggs' plan, so I went and bought 4 more this week who appear to all be hens. Fingers crossed. Chickens really are so much fun to watch. The chook pen is still under construction so they are currently free ranging about the place and sleeping in the guinea pig cage at night, which is fine as the guinea pigs are also free range (aka wild) and they prefer to sleep in the shed anyway.

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I am so entertained by my chickens. They follow me around the yard and often try and sneak in the house. I realised I have a bit of a problem when i heard myself say 'I have to go to bed early so I can wake up early to let the chickens out'. I'm going to miss them when they are locked up in their chicken coup, though I may change my mind once the boys start crowing.

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The chook pen, like most things around here, is taking an eternity to finish. But its starting to take shape and is going to be quite special when it's finally done. We are using bits of wood and iron from the old house next door which saves money but takes so much time to pull out.

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We've also had a bobcat in to level out the barn and clear a path to the creek which is currently bone dry!

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The bobcat was such a time saver.  In less than a day, our barn was levelled, trees were moved, paths were carved and holes were dug for the fences.

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My citrus hedge is still alive and I've added a few more fruit trees to the orchard.

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I planted two mulberries, a black sapote, a lychee, a rolinia, a persimmon, a blueberry bush and a dragon fruit.

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We planted a charlie tree too. 

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Now I'm trying to decide what colour to paint the outside of the house.  The coral is actually growing on me but I think we will end up changing it. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any good ideas as I'm open to suggestions. I need to decide pretty quickly as the painters are going to move outside once they've finished inside.

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And thats about it. Even though its a lot of work and we are finding many, not so pleasant surprises - rat nest under the kitchen I'm looking at you - I guess you could say we really are living the dream. The kids are happy, healthy and playing wonderfully with one another (mostly) and Jamie and I are so happy to be giving them this childhood. 

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Citrus Hedge

This weekend, we planted a hedge of citrus trees. Ever since I was little, the idea of semi self-sufficiency has appealed to me.  Now that I have children, the desire is even stronger.  

The plan is to try to get all the fruit trees in over the next couple of months so that they can get established before summer hits.  So we started with a row of various citrus trees along the Northern boundary.

The soil in this particular spot isn't great.  It's quite compacted as it was a driveway into the neighbouring property when the two were adjoined and it's pretty dense clay. We had some large holes drilled with a bobcat, however, since the ground is such heavy clay, the holes may act like a large pot, trapping water and causing the roots to go around and around rather than spreading out into the ground. 

 This is the ground we are working with.  The hole is actually much deeper but a heap of dirt fell back in.

This is the ground we are working with.  The hole is actually much deeper but a heap of dirt fell back in.

Lynette from 'Have a Dig' Nursery who I bought the trees from, suggested that we use a pick axe around the edges of the holes to loosen the dirt and encourage the roots to spread. To combat the drainage issue, we have built the soil up above the ground in a mound and have begun work to improve the surrounding soil. We are hoping that in time, continual composting, fertilising and mulching will help break down the clay and create a rich growing environment for our trees.

Here's how we did it...

 We used a pick axe to loosen the dirt around the edge of the hole.  We also put in a good handful of gypsum and then mixed some fertiliser and good soil in with the existing dirt.

We used a pick axe to loosen the dirt around the edge of the hole.  We also put in a good handful of gypsum and then mixed some fertiliser and good soil in with the existing dirt.

 I used gypsum to break the clay and Dynamic Lifter for fertiliser.

I used gypsum to break the clay and Dynamic Lifter for fertiliser.

 We mixed the clay soil and good soil from near our creek in together to fill the holes 3/4 of the way.  Then we planted the trees partially above the ground and made a mound around them to allow for better drainage.

We mixed the clay soil and good soil from near our creek in together to fill the holes 3/4 of the way.  Then we planted the trees partially above the ground and made a mound around them to allow for better drainage.

 Millie, my off-sider/horse manure stealer.

Millie, my off-sider/horse manure stealer.

 Once all the trees were planted, we sprinkled gypsum and dynamic lifter on the ground in between the trees and all around them where we hope the roots will eventually grow.

Once all the trees were planted, we sprinkled gypsum and dynamic lifter on the ground in between the trees and all around them where we hope the roots will eventually grow.

 Next we put down cardboard to suppress the grass and covered it in dirt and horse manure to build a mound that will breakdown into the ground below. We plan to continue adding compost and mulch to improve the soil.  (Notice jamie is out of his moustache phase and has now entered into skin head phase)

Next we put down cardboard to suppress the grass and covered it in dirt and horse manure to build a mound that will breakdown into the ground below. We plan to continue adding compost and mulch to improve the soil.

(Notice jamie is out of his moustache phase and has now entered into skin head phase)

 Then we put a thick layer of mulch over it and watered it in.

Then we put a thick layer of mulch over it and watered it in.

The varieties I planted are:

Eureka Lemon, Ruby Grapefruit, Tahitian Lime, Kaffir Lime, Imperial Mandarin, Empire Mandarin, 2 varieties of Valencia Orange (an early and late fruiting variety) and a Navel Orange. We are also going to add a tangerine when we can get our hands on one.

We've been told that we have to pull off all the flowers for the next three years so that the plants can put all their energy into growing rather than producing fruit.  I'm quietly hoping that they live that long. The neighbours pigs have gotten out and come to visit a few times this week so it's motivating me to get serious about our fencing. I've had another neighbours cows come wandering over once before and apparently they love fruit trees! The fence is planned for Jamie's next days off. Fingers crossed we don't get any more hoofed visitors before then. 

Here it is all finished...

 And me feeling pretty happy with myself that all the trees survived the night xx

And me feeling pretty happy with myself that all the trees survived the night xx

2 acres, a dream and a whole lotta work

We're a little bit excited about our soon to be new home.  I didn't really even take too much notice of the house when we inspected it.  But as soon as I saw these avocado's I was sold!  (Hopefully I don't come to regret this along with all my other impulse buys.)  Anyway, obviously I like trees and it's no secret I tend to inadvertently kill the ones I plant so I'm super happy that the property has established fruit trees.  Along with two of the biggest avocado trees I've ever seen, there's also mangos, coconuts, bananas and a small struggling citrus orchard.

Our plan is to try and grow everything we can. The entire 2 acres is flat and usable and it's equipped with a bore so water will never be an issue.  There's also a sweet little seasonal creek run along the back boundary. 

In all honesty, even though I can foresee things are going to cost a lot to fix, and even though we swore we'd never again buy something that needs work, I'm still pinching myself that we found this place. I know most sane people would run a mile from a house that needs this much work, but it really is everything I've always wanted