Roll on 2013…

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Roll on 2013...

Mali at around 8 weeks old, photo courtesy Kalin Hayes.

It has been many, many moons since we last posted. We have been incredibly busy throughout 2012 and unfortunately our blog has suffered.

However, we are wishing our readers a Happy New Year and we will be back in 2013 with renewed vigour and a new focus in 2013. Here’s a hint…

Ducks...anyone?

Ducks…anyone?

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A time of firsts…

Amidst the chaos that ensues at this busy time of the growing season we have been experiencing a time of many ‘firsts’.

We have our first broody hens for the season.

Which has then led to our first chicks of the season.

We have our first baby rabbits.

Whilst making our first thorough inspection of our hives we have sighted one of our queen bees for the first time.

Can you see her?

We’ve also had the first bee sting (our intrepid blog photographer), eaten our first snow peas, garlic scapes and broad beans, planted tomatoes and our early potatoes are flowering.

Another milestone is the planting of our first fruit tree on the property, a bosc pear, an impulse buy at the local school fair.

It sure is spring time

Spring Farm Update

Like a lot of farmers/gardeners at this time of year I seem to be outside with my gumboots on before I am truly awake in the morning and I’m falling asleep on the couch just after taking them off at night. Daily job lists easily fill the back of one envelope and are rarely completed in the one day.

Blogging certainly takes a back seat, an inspirational blogger from Scotland,at http://stoneheadcroft.com/ has been known to catch up on his blog late at night.  I certainly am not capable of stringing 2 sentences together after about 7.30 at night, let alone publicizing my thoughts to the world.

So we’ll just have to settle for an update and maybe some of it can be fleshed out at a later time.

There have been birthdays and bonfires,

cute kids,

bunnies,

and growing piglets.

There have been births

'Births' of a sort, these radish seedlings have come to life despite some very attentive slugs.

Deaths

This unfortunate lamb did not make it much past it's 4th week (?), we have also lost 2 ewes in the paddock for no obvious reason.

and bottle fed lambs

Yes this lamb lost it's mother, and has managed to spray a good lot of milk in that greying beard that is visible.

Garden update to follow.

This is one reason why most of our chooks don’t free range.

'Bugger off, this is mine!'

Here in this part of the world we have an amazing number of raptors, this ‘swamp harrier’ (I’m fairly sure this is what this chap is) has caught what might have once been a large wattle bird.  Tasmania is the only place in the world where these birds adopt a migratory pattern, arriving in Tasmania in late winter, early spring, in time for the nesting of the hooded/masked plover.  They are a joy to watch in flight, as are most of the larger raptors.

We also have regular visits from whistling kites, wedge tailed eagles, brown falcons and a white goshawk.  The latter being possibly the most dangerous for free range poultry, as according to a local poultry expert Paul Healy, the goshawk is the only raptor that will attack from the ground.  All of the other raptors, apparently, will only attack from the air, whilst the goshawk will attack from the air and once on the ground will pursue it’s quarry.

I don’t think I have ever recorded a fatality (poultry or otherwise) from our friendly white goshawk, swamp harriers however have certainly taken a number of our chooks.  This is why at this time of the year the plovers are my best friend in the paddocks.  Yes they will swoop me if I am too close to their nest but, any time a raptor, or even a crow, comes into the area, one of the plovers will attack them until they move on, all the while making loud calls of alarm.  It is incredible watching such a small bird as a plover, working desperately, flapping it’s wings, to gain altitude, to take on a wedge tailed eagle.

Cue teenage boy (blog photographer on school holidays) to get a photo of a plover as I’m much too busy.

Weeding crew in training

I love to see a young man enjoying his work.

and a young lass.

The ground our young pigs are preparing for a late spring planting was once part of an old strawberry field as can be seen below

If you look closely you can still see the ridges for the strawberries.

Under all of those ridges, the black plastic, used in most strawberry fields, still lies in wait.  Until this young weeding crew

in conjunction with these tenacious little blighters

comes along.  The pigs dig up the plastic and the weeding crew collects it.  Just one step away from weeding our rows of veges.

Incidentally the young man shown here has already negotiated his wage for this job, negotiations with the young lass and our resident blog photographer are under way.

Photos by Kalin Hayes

Rollaway Nest Boxes

What is a rollaway nest box and why would you need one.  As the name implies a rollaway nest box is designed to allow the egg, once laid to roll away to safety after the hen hops off the nest.  This is beneficial for a number of reasons, less chance of egg eating, less chance of eggs being broken, cleaner eggs and cleaner nest boxes (no broken eggs).  Overall these benefits reduce wastage (broken and unsaleable eggs) and reduce handling time when collecting and packing eggs.  A single rollaway nest is up for grabs at around $60 and banks of 4 or more start at $200.  Needless to say I have been looking for other methods and materials that may come in a little cheaper.

First find your materials

Old lockers anyone?

Bringing back bad memories for anyone?

We were lucky to pick up two banks of lockers when we bought our place, I intend to keep some doors attached, to keep anything that may need to be under lock and key.  Otherwise the doors are not only a nuisance they are just a little bit dangerous, so far nobody has collected themselves on the corner of an open door.

Let’s see what we can make from these doors…

First remove your door...

Now let’s get creative…

Two side walls and the back wall, it is starting to take shape.

Just a little bit of trig (it's been a while, thanks to our resident maths teacher for the refresher)

It is important that we angle the floor of the nesting box enough for the egg to roll away but we do not want it to gather too much momentum, for that cracking moment, or that the angle is uncomfortable for our hard working ladies.

Getting that vital angle right

Looks ok to me, we are still very much in the experimental stages, this unit is Mark II.

Now to create something to catch the egg in, more scrounging reveals some plywood and other assorted pieces of timber.

Almost done, all we need is a hinged lid.

Another beef I have with the conventional store bought options is what they try to sell you to line the nest with.  Yes, I am sure that the Astroturf option does do everything it is advertised to do, and at $55 for a 15 metre roll it is definitely an option for cashed up poultry producers.  Possibly due to my genetics there is a stubborn streak that comes to the fore when undertaking such a project.

Enter feedbag nest liners

Quick look busy, the boss is watching.

The other end of the feed bag nest liner will be pinned down in the egg box to keep it taught, this will be down in such a fashion that it is relatively easy to remove when changing the feed bags every 2 weeks or so.

MK I in place.

The main mistake I made with MK I is that I mounted it on the side of the chook tractor, as I tend to move the tractors across the slope, where possible, this means that it seriously affects the angle of the floor; one of my vague moments.

Ready for installation

Time to get some exercise, I haven’t offered the little ones a ride up the hill after the first couple of times I took them up, it is quite a workout.

All the way up to the top tractor on the right.

In this picture you can see all four of our chook tractors… oh to have rollaway nesting boxes in all of them.

The current nesting box that will be replaced by MK II.

These old grasscatchers work ok, but they’re certainly not cheap anymore, $10 each from our local tip shop.

MK II in place with practice egg in sight.

Apparently it works.

Anyone care to comment on the seriously dodgy part of the whole contraption as seen in this last photo?  I really let myself down here and will fix it as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

I was up at this tractor today fixing the watering system and could see that three girls had braved the new nesting box.  Three lovely clean Isa Brown eggs.