Monday, December 6, 2021

Goal Setting

When Kim and I decided to sell Anabank and purchase a new property, we had a rough idea of what we wanted and so started looking online first. We soon realised that before we could get serious about looking at potential farms, we really needed to work out what we wanted. It's not until you actually sit down and reflect, and have a focus question, that you can really map out some ideas.

Back in mid July, we set our selves the task of answering the following questions:

Where/What and How do we want to be and live in 10 years time? And what do we need in a property and in our life to get there and to enable us to enjoy the rest of our lives.

So, sitting out in the sun, with some contemplative music playing, we both wrote some stuff - I wrote a lot, Kim wrote a little - however, we were very closely aligned.  This post is some of my goals, and now that we have our property, some bits may not fit, and that's okay. The goal won't change too much, just they way I get there might. 

We will have a small home, with a big kitchen. A home where people are comfortable to take a seat and just "be".  Grand kids will be able to run in and out and sit and a cuppa and a snack. Maybe leaving the big family meals to the boys to organise! A thriving veggie garden that is half wild with flowers, herbs and veggies. Where strawberries spread everywhere! When the grand kids come, they can wander through the garden eating whatever they can find.

A food forest for fruit and nut trees, with asparagus, sunchokes, sweet potatoes and pumpkins.

Chickens for meat and eggs. Sheep and goats and pigs too......

Smoke house setup, as well as a meat preserving room and cheese cellar.

A designated meat processing area - also to use for preserving and drying the surplus from the garden.

Our house maybe small, but I'd like a tiny house or two for accommodation for family and friends - The house is always open for friends and family to visit.

Property - I don't care about the size, as long as I can run a few milking cows and all the other animals. I'm happy to be bigger so that Kim can have a cattle herd.

Regen Ag - Mark Shepard's Restoration Agriculture (read more here) with some multi species cropping. If they boys want to, they can grow cash crops, otherwise I'm happy to just have rows of mixed trees - fruit, nut, legume, timber, deciduous trees, in between pasture to rotate animals through.

It will be a healthy, vibrant, food growing paradise, that we can encourage other people to follow in our example. We'll create community and celebrate life. I will be happy and relaxed and content.

What to look for? 

  • Good land - run down isn't a problem
  • A plain house or and old house, not a modern one
  • An existing orchard, preferably with nut trees as well as fruit.
  • Old buildings, wooden yards.
  • Some cleared land, but also some forest for harvesting timber and/or firewood.
  • An hour from the Sunshine Coast.
Serenity fits the bill pretty well, but there's going to be a lot of things I want to do soon. We've told ourselves that we won't do any major work for a year.....that's going to be tough! We will however, spend plenty of time planning, observing and making changes to said plans! We are lucky that there is already a reasonable amount of paddocks, so we can rotationally graze the cattle, although the water infrastructure is not as good as we'd like, so that's tempting to do straight away. There's a good chook pen, but I'd like to make changes that allows them to free range better. There is an orchard with nut trees (and wild macadamias), although I want to plant so many more trees. The goats and sheep are in movable electric fences, which we'll continue with - still need to source some pigs.......

The yards don't have a good milking setup, and while I'd like to have a dedicated space, that will have to wait. 

The property has been over cleared and is very hilly (steep!!). We will eventually do some tree planting on contour - using NSF (natural sequence farming) principles, and combine this with restoration agriculture principles. 

The house garden and orchard are pretty and neat and tidy. There's lots of lawn to mow. We need to plan how we can better manage this and turn it into a permaculture paradise so that we don't have to work so hard keeping it tidy! There is lots of flowers which I love, as I've never had the time to have a flower garden!

We got our small and old house! 

No old buildings, but a very big shed and storage container. I was actually photographing the kangaroo - the first and only one I've seen on the place so far.

Theres two rows of pines that have been planted (this photo and the next were from before it rained - it's very different now.)

Some of the cows - we bought some with the place. We definitely need to get some trees planted, but that will come in time.

The focus for the short term, is to plant out some of the trees that we've already got and to get a vegetable garden pumping. This has some challenges as the gardens around the house are basically straight clay. The house has been put onto a dug out hill and the gardens and orchard have just been covered with hay and planted, so there isn't very good drainage for my veg and too much drainage in the orchard. We're encouraging weeds as they are building soil (well, that's my story anyway). 

Sorry for the long post.......

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Out with the old and in with the new

Late September we finally settled Anabank, our home for over 30 years. Well, probably not our only home, but we bought it in 1990 and lived there most of that time. It was where our children grew up and where we battled finances form many years, so there's a lot of mixed feelings about it. Ultimately it was time to move on and the final couple of months were very tough on us - packing up 30 years takes a toll. I just realised that I'm still not ready to write much about that, so I will write about our new property.

We move to our new farm next week. We had been looking for a property in the area around the Mary Valley near Gympie for a few months. There has not been a lot on the market and we got very excited about one place, but then missed out on it. We had looked at it twice and both times after looking, we went for a drive around the back of it along a road that wound up through state forest. Both of these times, we stopped to eat a picnic lunch at the junction of two roads. It was a pretty spot with big hoop pine trees, with some old deserted forestry buildings on one side. We noticed a property near this that had quite a big gate across the front and you couldn't really see into it, but it looked intriguing. 

Fast forward a couple of weeks and we'd given up on buying anything in this area, so started looking further out around Goomeri and Bunya Mountains area. We had booked a couple of property visits when an agent we'd met up with rang to say that he'd found a place that might interest us. It sounded good, so we cancelled the other visits and went and checked out this place. When we arrived at the address to meet the agent, it was the property where we had stopped those two times! Serendipitous????

The property is called....."Serenity". I can't think of two people who need serenity more than us! ha ha.

Needless to say, it was as good as it sounded and we'll be moving there next Friday. It's about 20 minutes to Gympie and an hour and half to the Sunshine coast (on a slow day). 

Serenity is a fairly tidy place with a very tidy garden. The garden needs to be permacultured up a bit and the farm itself needs some regen ag improvements. Mainly it needs a lot of trees to be planted. My plan for this blog going forward will be to document what we do. Kim and I are both passionate about regen ag and seeing as he reckons he's too young to retire, then I think he's got a project on his hands. He'll have some help from the boys as they will be around - Benjamin lives on the sunny coast and Edmund and Maitland will be living closer and be involved in the development. So please follow along - I'm not really sure if you "follow" this blog, that you will get updates. There was an ability to get an email when I did a blog, but I don't think that is available any more - I may well have to change blog program.

More photos will come in later posts - once we actually move......

Monday, August 9, 2021

Update on our movements

We've been busy lately.....we have just recently sold our property "Anabank" - our home of nearly 30 years. We settle next month, so I'm going to leave that discussion until after settlement.....but needless to say, life has been busy with tidying and packing and of course looking for a new home. A new home that we haven't found yet.

So between trips between Cherhill, Aramac and Anabank, Baralaba and visiting family down the Sunshine Coast and Rockhampton, things have been hectic. We are back at Cherhill now and after three weeks away it was lovely to see my garden still surviving and thriving. The wicking beds over at Fortuna are amazing! I can't believe how much food is growing in the pods. I was over there today doing some gardening, planting more seeds, some of which I bought in Barcaldine the other day that had been grown and saved locally in the area. 

Tomato bushes have gone crazy - still green but not too far off.

Zuchini's have been bearing fruit for quite a while. They have that mould on them, which I always thought was from overhead watering. These certainly aren't overhead watered, so need to re think that one.

Pomegranate tree at Cherihill is flowering.

I came back to find a large area in the Cherhill garden full of self sown lettuce - wonderful!

My tomatoes are only just flowering. These (and the ones at Fortuna) were grown from seeds saved from Anabank. Last year while we were away, Chloe kept some seeds from tomatoes that had self seeded in the chookyard. They were originally from tomatoes from our neighbours. I love the continuation of gardening that you get when you start saving seeds.

Today found us mustering a mob of cattle on Fortuna. Time to do another branding and weaning. The weaners have been trucked to Cherhill this afternoon, so I'm sitting here listening to their bellowing. I went in one buggy and Kim and his 94 year old mother went in another. Nina on a quad and Edmund on a two wheeler, with five dogs, made up the  remainder of mustering team.

Recently I started a "weekly" newsletter. I use inverted commas, because I've been a bit slack over the last couple of weeks. I will be doing one again before this weekend coming. Basically I'll be sharing a recipe of something I've cooked that week. It maybe something I've made up myself or a recipe I've found on line. Last newletter I did, I shared the recipe for this slice. It's a delicious healthy snack that I've now made quite a few times. I found it in my sisters Donna Hay recipe book, but I also found it online, so I did share that link. I've made it again today with a mix of apricot and dates and used some different nuts. If you want to sign up for future emails, and you should be able to go back and look at old ones too, please do so at this Link

Saturday, July 3, 2021


This afternoon I sat in the sun and watched my chickens. Sounds a bit crazy I know, but they are cute chickens. It was also the first time I'd let them out into the big wide world, so I thought I'd watch them for a little while. 

We brought some chickens with us when we moved out to Cherhill. Chickens are a little like a garden, I can't live without them (a milking cow is almost as necessary, but not as easy to accommodate as chickens or gardens!)

My brother gave me 10 chickens. We did a trade - I gave him a nanny goat and he gave me the chickens. 3 point of lay chickens and 7 mixed sex young ones. There are now 6 young ones, which is why I was nervous about letting the chickens out and why I decided to sit and watch them. We aren't sure what happened to number 7, but we think she escaped and either the stray cat that seems to be wanting to live with us, or a hawk got it. There was no sign, just it not being there and sadly I can't even tell you which one it was!

The three point of lay chickens are all different - 1 plain white one, 1 plymouth rock and 1 "super" chook. The super chook is the result of my brothers cross breeding experiments. He's endeavouring to breed a very tasty chook. This was actually my idea, which he doesn't remember it being my idea and so doesn't like to give me the credit such an idea deserves. Anyway, I've been tasked with monitoring the super chook to see what sort of an egg layer she is. She's a three way cross between a naked neck, a malay game and..... I'm not sure whether it's a light sussex or a plymouth rock. She is quite unusual looking. And when I say point of lay, I'm being hopeful! No sign of any laying happening yet!

Here she is strutting her stuff!

And again here 

The 6 younger ones are a mixture too, although not cross breeds so much as just a mix of several breeds. They were the result of one days egg collection and put under a clucky chook. So I have 3 plymouth rock, 2 light sussex and 1 white one. I also have no idea how many will end up being roosters, but hopefully I'll end up with more hens than roosters. We have quite a few roosters in the freezer still. Now they were a good eating breed - wyandotte, and will most likely be included in my brothers breeding plans as we gave him one of them (a live one). 

Most of the girls are out enjoying their freedom.

Some of them took a little while to work out how to get out in the beginning. They aren't all smart, but they are so much smarter than the isa browns I used to have. They really are quite entertaining to watch. We don't get TV here, so lucky I've got the chickens (ha ha).

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Wicking Beds

 In our dry climate, nothing makes more sense than a wicking bed. For those that don't know what one is, it's a garden planter/pot that is entirely closed (no drainage holes) and the water is put directly into the base of the pot and the soil "wicks" the moisture up. A physical barrier prevents the soil from mixing into the water at the base. This link to a Gardening Australia youtube clip is how we've made ours.

We've made a few with this design but have used different materials for the base and the barrier, but have always made them from IBC's. They are a great design as one pod (IBC) makes two wicking beds which are a good size for a garden bed. We made one at the beginning of 2020 for Chloe (who is not a gardener) to have some herbs in - the herbs did very well so when we came back to visit early this year, we made another and planted it up. For these ones we used blue metal off the side of the road. One bed we used geotech fabric and the other we used some shade cloth. Both had compost as the soil component.

Oregano, basil, chilli, chives marjoram

This one includes basil, eggplant, zucchini and cucumbers. I did put some beans in as well, but they got a little overgrown. You can fit quite a few plants in them.

Recently we made some out at Aramac. We used red pebbly rock for the base, and two beds had geotech fabric, one had hessian bag and another had some old shade cloth as the barrier. We used soil from the yards and it's now over a month since they were made and the plants look amazing! I haven't taken recent photos, but everything is growing really well and I've been eating mizuna and tatsoy. The rest of the plants are flowering.

We use an angle grinder to cut the IBC in half. One half doesn't have a very good base so it's best to sit on a pallet.

You can buy this drain pipe in a roll and it will do several pods. I made some wicking beds in foam boxes while in Canberra. You don't need rock for them, just a section of this pipe laid in a zigzag pattern the base of the box is enough, with the geotech fabric over the top and then soil on top of that.

It wasn't easy getting enough pebble, so we used some big rocks and although they take up space that water could take up, they seem to be working pretty well. I think I've filled the reservoirs up twice in 6 weeks. The drain pipe is coiled around and then the rock is put in. We use a piece of poly pipe as the upright to fill through, but you could just extend the pipe up the side of the pod.

Once the rock is all level, a layer of geotech fabric (or shade cloth or some other item suitable to allow water through, but not soil) is laid over before filling with soil.

This area of the State is called the Desert Uplands. The soil is sandy and so I used soil from the cattle yards which includes a little manure. 

I added in some chook manure and hay to add some fertility.

Planted up - this closest bed has zucchini seedlings, which are now flowering (6 weeks later).

I had planted out some seeds in preparation for building these wicking beds, but I had a little room so I did plant some bean and kale seeds in one. I watered the beds for a week or so after planting just to make sure the seedlings and seeds established well and to help the soil get moist and stay moist. It really only took a couple of part days to make these beds up and the only maintenance is filling the water reservoir occasionally and adding some fertiliser either once a year for herbs or whenever you change over the plants that are growing. I'm not sure what the life span is for a wicking bed made out of one of these pods, but I'd imagine that they'll last many years. 

You can pretty the pods up by lining the outside with timber or even sheets of tin for a rustic look, but I don't really mind the look of these as they are. I'll include another link for a design I came across recently from Limestone Permaculture.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

"Cherhill", Aramac, Western Qld

We have a new temporary home. Kim and I are going to spend the winter out at Aramac on a property called "Cherhill". We've been out this way on and off for a couple of months, staying with Kim's brother and family. His mum from WA has also been over, so it's been great to spend some family time with the House side.

"Cherhill" is one of the properties owned by them and the house is vacant at the moment, and as we love it out here, we thought we'd stay for a while.

I had previously set up some wicking beds and a new garden area at the home place, and had planted some seeds, which are ready to plant out now. I have decided that this time, I'll just do some container gardening so that if I'm not here when the plants are ready to harvest, I'll be able to move them easier to the other property. It's lucky that I enjoy (and seem to be practiced at) starting new gardens. There are quite a few things already here, so I've been watering and tidying up over the last couple of days. 

The rest of the story will be told in the following pics.........

 Power was put on in the early/mid 80's so a generator was set up to use when there were blackouts - you can see it out the front of the house near the power pole.

Also in the 80's was when they installed radio telephones (large tower). Prior to this it was just a party line. Some of you readers will remember them if you lived in the country. We didn't get a regular phone line in Baralaba until I was in high school (late 70's/early 80's) My friend used to work at the post office and was one of the telephone operators, so she always had the gossip!!! At Cherhill, we don't use that phone now, a small mobile phone aerial has been installed to replace it.

This photo above shows some of the buildings on the property. It's like a little town with all the sheds and this is only some of them.

The side entrance (and main entrance now) of the house. the little box bit is the kitchen and originally was a school house from Aramac. This was higher and has been lowered, a while ago. The main house is a lovely old house in bad need of a reno. It was built by the original owners of this property, which was won in a ballet. Not sure when but it was won by the grandfather of the previous owner, and he is now in his late 60's. 

The old meat house. Every property had one, but sadly they aren't used any more - except to store junk!

There's an existing asparagus patch - in need of mulching. Looking forward to harvesting that!

Bananas - two bunches which you can't see, but I did like the sun coming through them!

I brought some chickens out with me - 3 point of lay pullets of various breeds and 7 smaller mixed sex ones. I'm looking forward to some eggs!

So for the next little while, we will be calling this home and I know I keep saying it, but I really want to blog more often...... until then, take care.......

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Regenerative Agriculture

There is a person in this photo. This is what you get when you manage land correctly. this photo was taken in March, 2020 after good, but late summer rain, following a sustained dry period.

What exactly is regenerative agriculture? For many years, Kim and I have been saying that it's not good enough to be sustainable - why would we want to sustain a degraded environment? We need to be improving it. This is basically what regenerative agriculture (regen ag for short) is. It's improving the farming and grazing soils to a point that is even better than what they were before "modern agriculture". The "date"of modern agriculture is flexible - the Middle East, it may have been many thousands of years ago (around 10000), Europe, probably not quite as long, America - a few hundred and Australia is only young - since white man turned up, a couple of hundred years. We are rapidly desertifying our planet and a movie I watched a little while ago, suggested that we have 60 more harvests in America before the soil and/or water is gone.


The movie was Kiss the Ground and it's available to watch on Netflix - please watch it if you can. I'm currently listening to the audio book, which is available on Borrowbox - the free library for audio and ebooks. 

It's difficult to go into to an in-depth explanation of regen ag, and it's not simply organic farming. Animals are easy - they should be on pasture and free to roam - not locked up in yards or sheds. Cattle/sheep/goats etc on pasture only and managed in a rotational grazing/resting/mob stocking system.  Pigs and chickens on pasture (also rotational) and supplemented with grains grown by regenerative farming practices. 

Grain/pulse/seed growing is a little trickier. For many years Australian farmers have been changing over from "conventional" farming to zero till farming. This Conventional method is where you plough (till) the soil to get rid of weeds and to prepare a seed bed (similar to how most people prepare a garden bed). Zero till farming as mostly done in Australia, requires the extensive use of chemicals to kill weeds before planting. Sometimes this is done 4-6 times per year as the belief is that weeds are using up moisture that the future crop will need. The latest wisdom amongst regenerative farmers is that soil needs to have living plants in it all the time to retain moisture and enable the biology in the soil to become abundant. Tilling the soil (which is also why you should practice no-dig gardening) damages soil biology. The most common chemical used to kill weeds is glysophate and it destroys biology in the soil.

Tilling can damage biology, but it also releases carbon into the atmosphere. Living plants take carbon from the atmosphere and draw it down into the soil. Gabe Brown, who is featured on Kiss the Ground, has some great Youtube clips on this if you want to learn more. Another fellow is Mark Sheppard and his book Restoration Agriculture. While talking movies/books, Biggest Little Farm (on Stan) is an amazing example of farming regeneratively. I'll put some links at the bottom of this post, but be aware, you will get sucked into the rabbit warren that is youtube!

We are concerned about Climate Change, and rightly so.  The climate is changing and yes it's getting hotter (some places are getting colder) and yes there are more extreme weather events. Climate change is something that will be easily fixed and it's not really up to Governments to fix it. Waiting for "someone else" to solve the problem will take too long.  We as a human population, are doing the wrong thing for our environment - we are the ones that need to fix it. 

My thoughts are that there is really only one major thing we as consumers need and should be doing.

Change the way we consume - Food and Things

Food - support regenerative farmers where ever possible. It's really difficult to know if you are or not, unless you are buying direct from them.  The supermarkets will not be buying any of their food from regenerative farmers, it simply isn't being done at the scale that they would need to purchase at.  Not everyone is in a position to grow or make everything they need, so how you shop is very important. Please think before you automatically shop at the supermarket for food or other things that you can buy elsewhere. Yes, it may be more expensive (but not always) however, because you'll be spending less on stuff (as per the following paragraphs) you may be able to buy from smaller retailers or markets. This is also more likely to support a small local business, which is a win!

Stop consuming things that are made in ways that contribute to climate change.

Plastic - don't buy it (whenever possible). Don't buy food wrapped in it. Don't buy single use plastic items. 

Stuff - We just don't need excess stuff! Repair, and reuse. Try to limit buying new things - clothes, household furniture, electronics, everything. Think before you buy something - can you buy it second hand or do you in fact really need it? 

We need the world to have a lot of people doing good things imperfectly, rather than a few doing it perfectly. 

Grow some of your own food, support the local farmers market, order online from regenerative farmers. There are so many ways that we can do something. The sooner we get away from our reliance on the supermarkets, the better. 

The benefit of all this is that we will have a lot less pollution. Pollution is killing our oceans. Us humans aren't content destroying the land, we also want to destroy our water.

If we want to stop the use of fossil fuels to create power, think about the solutions. Is it better to use solar and batteries that require the use of rare earths, that are mined by child slaves? We can stop the use of coal fired power stations in Australia, but can we stop the use in other countries? Do we tell India and China that no, they can't have electricity? Is it better for poor people to cut down trees to provide the material to cook their food or perhaps use electricity or gas. Are we all going to be able to cope without air conditioning when the power fails, because there just isn't enough without coal fired power stations. Are we going to be happy with the price of power? Do we want nuclear power?

The solution isn't to completely stop the use of fossil fuels - this is also an almost impossible feat worldwide. Even if we did, we would still be losing carbon to the atmosphere - every time the soil is tilled, every time a tree is cut down, every time soil is left uncovered of plant material, carbon is released. Every plant that is actively growing, is actively storing carbon - drawing it out of the atmosphere and into the soil. It is the simplest and fastest way to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere and start cooling the earth. It is possible to feed the world farming this way - watch Gabe Brown and don't listen to Big Ag. The more plants growing, the more carbon is being captured and the biggest benefit of this is that more water will be getting stored in the soil!

There are a lot of components to a successful regen ag business and farmers/graziers shouldn't be demonised for doing the wrong thing. Everyone needs to be educated - the Governments, the farmers and the consumer. Starting with the consumer is something we can all do - we all consume - simply start shopping in a conscious way. Start supporting local regen farmers and stop supporting the big supermarkets! You can only change yourself, so work on that first rather than trying to push others to change.

Some Links:

For a definition and some good links: About Regen Ag

Gabe Brown Farming as an Ecosystem

Mark Shepard Restoration Agriculture

Biggest Little Farm Movie Preview