Spring has sprung in the desert!

Over the last couple of weeks I have been watching the season unfold and with the Equinox just days away it is clear that the tide has turned and the hints of summer coming can be felt in the warm afternoons and clear, long evenings. Spring here is a tumultuous time as the temperatures switch and the winds blow out the cold of winter, but before the hot weather settles in and we bunker down for the height of the year I have been enjoying the beauty of this fleeting season in the desert and I thought I would share some of it with you:

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A couple of weeks ago, a sign of the start of the season was the explosion of colour across the road where they have a beautiful patch of Sturt’s Desert Peas. We plan to have a wildflower corner where we will locate our beehive eventually, but in the meantime it’s really lovely to have them so nearby

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Then came the mulberries! they are loaded with fruit and looking lush with their new leaves. Hopefully the fruit can stay on this year and we will get a beautiful harvest later

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Emu babies!! these were spied on a mission to Wilpena Pound, but there is a small family of two chicks in the town…. so cute!

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The quince is out in flower. Last year we had 11 fruit off of this tree even though it was only its second in the ground here. I am looking forward to seeing how it goes this year.

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All the fruit and nut trees planted this winter have shot out (this is one of the pomegranates). I was a bit worried about some of them, especially the almond and the granny smith apple as they were a bit slow, but all good!

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Seedlings of summer bounty to come – pictured are squash, eggplant and various capsicums.

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Yesterday the last of our final personal batch of chickens for the year hatched 😀 We are going to incubate a batch for the local station and will hopefully do some guinea fowls before it gets too hot, but with these 16 we have a total of 28 chicken babies so that’s enough for now!

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The Tale of the Fake Chicken

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: Fake Chicken (1)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:

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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 🙂

Fake Chicken (3)Once they have their feathers in they will go into the nursery yard and the cycle continues….