It’s important to say right at the outset that our family is omnivorous. The topic of food philosophy is a complex and often controversial one and the point of this post is not to go into detail on this (although I am happy to do so at a later stage), but I think it is important to understand that our path to self-sufficiency includes the raising of animals for consumption.
The first animals to be added to our eco-system were of course chickens. Chickens are a very practical and multi-purpose providing eggs, meat, feathers, scrap disposal, weed maintenance, fertiliser and pest insect control. With a free-range working flock of 7 hens and 1 rooster we have pretty much hit self-sufficiency with eggs but of course adding meat into the equation means that we need some additional birds for that purpose and while we have had one successfully broody chook in 2 years waiting for a not particularly baby-oriented batch of hens to decide to sit would not get us very far so an incubator was required. Last year I bought a cheap ‘first go’ incubator from ebay. It worked successfully the first time, with eggs purchased at great cost from a breeder. The second time with purchased eggs, not so much. A batch of guinea fowl eggs was particularly unsuccessful although it finished off the ones the chicken got sick of sitting on (they take longer than chicken eggs) with perfect results. It was obvious that if this was going to be a regular activity a more reliable ‘Fake Chicken’ would need to be obtained.
Luckily Noven and his parents banded together to get me a new one for a Solstice/Birthday gift. I promptly set it up with eggs from our working flock: This is an ‘industrial’ incubator (although the smallest one available) which has temperature and humidity control as well as automatic turning for up to 24 chicken eggs (I fit in 22 but that was probably 2 too many of our big eggs). Then there is the waiting…. and the waiting….
Three weeks later though we were rewarded with this:
The successful eggs hatched over the three possible days with two a day early and two a day late and a total successful count of 12. Not perfect, but I suspect that at least one of the hens is laying eggs that are not well suited to producing babies as they seem to have a very thick membrane under the shell and only one of them was successful (with a little help).
Now of course all the little babies are ensconced in their warm brooder box, eating, sleeping and making a mess as they should 🙂
Once they have their feathers in they will go into the nursery yard and the cycle continues….
The success of the earthworks from the previous year encouraged me to organise to complete the planned major landscaping in May this year. This time I organised to hire a bobcat digger from the nearby pastoral station. This piece of machinery was much better than the dingo digger that I used the previous year being a bit bigger and more comfortable to use. I had access to the machine for two weeks this time so I was confident that I would be able to get everything done. It certainly helped that I had used the dingo the previous year though because it only took me about an hour to get back into the routine of the skid steer mechanism so I was able to be much more productive.
I started by finishing of the ‘lake’, digging the deepest part that I hadn’t been able to finish the previous year and using that dirt to build ‘Hecate’s Hill’ wrapped around that cove. This will be the only part of the waterscape except the reed bed graywater system to have permanent water – being the retreat zone for our fish when the lake is finished… but that’s a ways off yet. After the end of the first day with the bobcat the shape of it was there though.
The hole looks much deeper than it is because of the hill right next to it – a handy illusion 🙂
With that area of the yard now finished it was time to move onto the second acre where eventually our animal yards will be situated. I had marked out the plan with spraypaint and pegs as that system worked well the previous year, but this design was about three times the size and much more complicated – basically a figure of 8 of ‘waterways’ with varying depths to encourage water flow when we get rain and deep areas to act a pig wallows. These low points were to be surrounded by the corresponding ‘hills’ formed from the dirt I was moving. None of the hills are particularly tall. It took me about 5 days constant work to get it all done but I did! It’s quite difficult to get good representative photos of it. I would love to get an aerial shot one day. Now we will leave that area to settle (although I may plant some green mulch species on part of it in spring) for a year before planting it heavily with fodder appropriate natives that will allow our animals to free range as much as possible as well as stabilising the soil, blocking wind and creating a micro-climate that will grow more effective the more trees we can get in.
Before I took the digger back we also got some local shale gravel delivered to spread on paths and clear areas. This fine purple stone is the most amazing material and we are blessed to have access to an abundant supply. I am pretty sure that will all that we had delivered we will have enough for all the landscaping I had planned. I spread it out into smaller piles situated near where it needs to be used but it still needs to be laid out on the paths and clearings – a big job!
It’s so amazing to have all the earthworks done though! The shape of the land is there, like the first pass on a marble sculpture; the details will come but the character of the work can be seen now I think.