Thursday, 6 December 2012

Farm Photos

At last it's time to swim in the creek!

One of the forest creatures

Newborn Pip
Lucy's daughter Mimi
Buddha's Hand

Bountiful Bananas

Tiny Chicken

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Raising Calves

Here's another post adapted from one on the Co-op Blog

New babies are always exciting!  We have had calves born here on the farm (Wags and Mimi) and calves we've brought here and fostered onto Lucy (Honey and Poppy).  We've never raised calves ourselves though, Lucy has always helped.  You can read lots about our journey with a house cow and calves throughout the co-op blog and here this blog.

One week ago, a new little guy arrived - Red.  He's being raised for the freezer and is a by-product of the dairy industry.  I tried to foster him onto Lucy alongside Mimi (who is a big girl at over 4 months now), but Lucy's not exactly keen on calves which aren't her own!  So I began bottle feeding him.  I had some frozen milk from when Lucy first calved (with colostrum) and some powdered calf formula from the feed store in town.

Bottle feeding a calf with calf formula is something I remember doing as a child.  Also trying to convince them to drink from a bucket by letting the calves suck our fingers.  It was lots of fun, even though newborn calves are quite pushy and can easily bump a child over!

By the end of the week, Blossom arrived.  She's an old Jersey Nanny cow who has come from my friends' farm.  She used to live at a dairy and worked hard making milk for sale and then raising calves.  She has the sweetest disposition and has not only adopted two more calves we got from a dairy (below), but Red is also mostly feeding from her now too!  He still has some bottle milk, but he's getting used to feeding from Bloss which is fantastic.

You can read about calf-raising here.  And if you have experience with raising calves, or other baby animals, please Comment!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Three Day Sickness

Last month, our 22 month old heifer, Poppy, was ill with Three Day Sickness.  Locally known as 'three day', this is a fairly common disease in tropical and sub-tropical areas.  It's mostly spread around here by buffalo fly.

"Bovine Ephemeral Fever (BEF) is a viral disease of cattle and buffalo. Typically, affected animals are only sick for a few days, hence the alternative name - Three Day Sickness."
 from this site.

This disease is preventable by vaccination.  We choose not to vaccinate our stock, so this wasn't an option for us.  There is a homeopathic treatment available for it, but we did not have any on hand.  I'd consider keeping this in our animal first aid box though, as we've had success with using homeopathic remedies on our pets and livestock.


Poppy went down in a treed area on the edge of our furtherest paddock.  She was partially protected from the elements there, but a long way from the house, and from water.  Several times each day we trekked through long grass, and sometimes pouring rain, to tend to Poppy's needs.  She was upright, not lying on her side, which was a good thing!

Before we realised it was Three Day, we treated Poppy with a remedy from Keeping A Family Cow - molasses, apple cider vinegar, plain yoghurt and epsom salts.  We figured it'd keep her bowels moving at least, while we figured out if she'd eaten something awful or was suffering from something else.

Our main concern was that Poppy have access to cool, clean water that she could reach from her sitting position.  We mixed molasses into the water which encouraged her to drink plenty.  She was still urinating and deficating the whole time she was down (4-5 days), and shuffling away from her waste - all excellent signs.  We treated with injectable Vitamin C every time we went up to see her.  We always keep this on hand as it's so useful for a wide variety of illnesses.  The whole time she was sick, Poppy was able to drink and swallow and apart from when we first found her, she was alert, bright-eyed and calm.

At one stage, buffalo flies were annoying Poppy, but it was too difficult to rub neem oil on her as we usually do.  A friend suggested that we try using aerosol insect repellant designed for humans.  We don't normally use chemicals, but with Poppy being so still (a natural defence to flies is to brush through tree branches and long grass), and the rain being so heavy, we decided to give it a go.  A quick once-over with the low-irritant spray and she was fly-free for days...  Makes me wonder what they put into those magic cans!  Eeek!

On the fifth day, I was rocking Poppy on the spot as I usually did (to encourage her to shift her legs because of the risk of injury from poor circulation) and she seemed to want to get up.  I enlisted the help of my husband and we rocked and shoved Poppy until she suddenly lurched onto her feet and wobbled away, eating grass as if nothing had happened.

Poppy had only been AIed (artificially inseminated) three weeks before she became ill, so we're watching to see if she is in calf.  Overall she was bright as a button the whole time, and soon after getting to her feet became as active and round as before she got Three Day.

Beginning Beekeeping

Originally posted at: Simple, Green, Frugal Co-Op

Have you heard about how much trouble honeybees are in?  Bees aren't just a means to obtaining honey, bees are actually responsible for the pollination of most plants which provide food for us.  They play a vital role in the survival of our society!

Bees face many challenges, and beekeepers can help increase healthy honeybee populations.  In pesticide-free areas especially, even if you don't want to be a beekeeper, you might like to offer some of your land (or rooftop even) for someone else's hives.  As well as producing honey, having bees on site helps increase the productivity of gardens, farms and orchards.

For awhile we have wanted to have our own bee hives.  As well as pasture land, we have rainforest, a large mixed orchard, a macadamia grove, wild food and flower gardens and numerous wind/privacy breaks of native trees.  We have had some hives here for a few years that belong to someone else, but for various reasons we decided to learn more about the honey bee business ourselves...


First I got a few library books, which explained some basic beekeeping info.  We still had many questions, though, so we asked a friend for advice.  He is part of a beekeeping club locally and was a wealth of info.  We asked more people we knew with hives and got some conflicting information, but also a lot of local knowledge.  We found out what we'd need to buy, and what we could borrow.

Some equipment we bought through our friend in the beekeeping club, and some we bought online.  We did look for local secondhand items, but there was nothing around.  It cost us about $900 to buy a full suit, tools (lever, smoker, brush, uncapping comb), two brood boxes (the bottom box where the Queen lives and babies bees are made) and two top boxes (where the honey for us is made and retreived).  There's also frames, wax sheets (to speed the process up), a queen excluder and possibly more bits and pieces I haven't noticed!  It was quite an investment, but we hope that the money will be recouped in honey before too long.  How fast the hives are filled with honey really depends on the weather.  I've heard that locally, hives have filled more quickly in the past couple of months than they have in years.  Weather events like cyclones affect honey collection around here.  We have the advantage of the bees having multiple sources of food, so supply is affected less than with hives situated in a monoculture orchard, for example.  Our permaculture-inspired property of course enjoys the benefits of having many thousands of bees here as well!

We have been doing a bit of maintenance on the hives which are here (with permission) now that we have a full bee-keeping suit and smoker.  The colonies are strong, and the honey is a nice mixed blend - good news for us as we set up our first hives.

Below are a few resources we've found useful so far.  I will post more of our honey journey once we've set up the hives!

Beekeepers' Associations (Australia)
Bee Facts
Become a Beekeeper *

* Check with your local department of agriculture or primary industries to find out about regulations and licences required where you live.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

It's a Girl!

 Lucy and her heifer calf Mimi, born 29th December 2011.

 Lucy and Mimi.  Lucy is quite protective, but Mimi is very friendly and curious.

Mimi, 2 days old.  I love the little bottom lip stuck out!

Mimi feeding from Lucy's giant udder!

To see a Jersey calf being born in photos - click this link.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Alternative Animal Care - Paralysis Ticks

This is Rocket, our mini-foxie cross Jack Russell terrier.  He's a small dog, and only about 8 months old now.  Recently, Rocket got a paralysis tick on his neck.  By the time we noticed it, Rocket was already ill - ears down, irregular breathing, no appetite or thirst and he was having difficulty with balance and mobility.

The tick was removed swiftly, without squeezing.  By squeezing the tick, more neurotoxins are released into the host animal, so it is very important to not squeeze the body of the tick.  People often panic about the head being removed, or not, but from what I have read this is not the most important factor to consider.

We immediately began treatment with a locally made homeopathic blend for paralysis tick bite containing lathyrus sativus, ledum, hypericum, hydrastis aconite and tick nosode.  This remedy cost under $20 and the dose is 2 drops every 15 mins for 3 hours, then hourly, then 3 times a day as needed.  One bottle is more than ample to treat any size animal through a paralysis tick crisis.

We also gave him 1ml (500mg) shots of liquid Vitamin C.  We bought this from the local feed store for under $15 (we live in a rural area, in a city perhaps a pet shop or vet clinic would stock this product).  The syringes and needles are available from the same stores and cost under a dollar.  It isn't hard to inject this product, but do keep in mind that it's highly acidic and therefore painful.  We gave injections every hour for awhile, and then increased duration between shots down to twice a day once Rocket seemed quite well again.  Liquid Vitamin C is also an effective first aid treatment for snake bites.

For over 48 hours Rocket was hardly moving at all and had laboured breathing.  He was shivering and shaking due to the effects of the toxins on his nervous system.  He could not drink and we only put a little water or remedy on his lips and gums in case he inhaled the liquid due to internal paralysis.  On the third day, Rocket began to drink a little, but could not hold any water down until that evening.  Everyone kept asking us if we should take him to the vet, but we believed that the homeopathic treatment, combined with the vitamin C, would be successful.  We kept him cool and quiet and paid attention to his needs almost around the clock.

After the third day of treatment, Rocket was completely his usual self.  It was hard to believe how sick he had been.  We have been trying to keep him quiet due to the stress the toxins have had on his body, but he's living true to his breeding, name and personality - tearing about like a little rocket!

Now we are giving Rocket his homeopathic immunisation - a combination including Ixodes holo exactly as prescribed (3 drops every 2 months) and we are checking him for ticks at least once daily.

I'm sharing this story for other animal owners who want to have inexpensive, natural treatments at hand for tick paralysis, a condition which affects many thousands of pets and smaller farm animals (especially calves, foals and goat kids) in Australia every year.  There are commercial tick prevention treatments and antiserums, which are accessible through your local vet clinic.  These can be toxic and expensive.  For more information about paralysis ticks, including images, see this web page.  To access homeopathic preventative and treatment as I've descried here, seek out a local animal homeopath.

My local Animal Homeopath is:
Dina Glass
07 40976366

Dina does mail order.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


We often have too much milk now that I am milking twice a day again. One of my favourite things to do with milk (since I don't normally drink it) is make yoghurt. And this is the method I use:

Measure 1.8L of milk. Bring to 80 degrees C for 15 minutes (I use the Thermomix) - to kill off unwanted bacteria (this step is considered optional by some). I choose to work with 1.8L so that I can fit the finished product into my 2L Thermoserver.

Cool the milk to 37 degrees C, or, if you're milking a cow, you will have a daily supply of milk at the perfect temperature!

To the 37 degree C milk, add about 1/2 cup of prepared natural yoghurt ('starter') - either some you've made yourself previously, or the nicest store-bought natural yoghurt you can find (one with lots of good bacteria and no additives). Alternatively, add some powdered yoghurt starter (usually purchased from a cheese-making supplier, not the sachets in the supermarket).

Mix very gently to combine. If using the Thermomix, set to speed 1 for a few minutes so that yoghurt starter is mixed through well. If not, simply mix with a whisk very gently until the starter seems well combined with the milk.


Pour gently into a warm Thermoserver, Thermos, jars wrapped in towels, EasiYo maker, or any other way you can figure to keep the yoghurt at 37 degrees overnight. Do not bump or move, simply set aside and let the bacteria do its thing.

In the morning, you should have firmly set yoghurt - and it will become more firm in the fridge. You may eat it right away, or use it in different ways...

My children adore homemade jam layered with lots of creamy natural yoghurt - what a sweet treat! Plum is a current favourite. We love to strain our yoghurt through a cheesecloth (or chux) lined sieve (put a jug underneath) to make Greek-style yoghurt, or we leave it even longer to make labeneh - yoghurt cheese. To us, labeneh is similar to bought cream cheese and can be used in the same way. One more way we use a lot of our yoghurt is as a condiment served with curries, or made into raita. Yum!