Sunday, 29 December 2013

Little bird lost - and then found

The other day while hiding inside out of the heat watching the cricket we heard a loud rip and crash.

A large branch of a Blakley's Red Gum had crashed to the ground taking with it on it's way a branch of a White Box and a good few meters of the fence line separating the House Yard from the Lower Nursery Paddock - one of the paddocks that our sheep lamb in.

We popped our heads out to take a look, sighed and then went inside again out of the heat.

The next morning while it was still cool we decided to inspect the damage and to clear the fallen timber from the fence line. The Lad got to with the chainsaw and soon we had a great pile of future winter fuel to show for our efforts.

Thankfully the fence wasn't in too bad  a condition - all the wire was recoverable and after The Lad got to work with the gripples (they are handy thingies for joining fencing wire together) and fence strainer, we again had an intact boundary. (Skilled isn't he?)

Soon we realised there was a more serious outcome of  the fallen tree...

We found this little fellow on the ground out of its nest. A baby Dusky Woodswallow had lost its nest and its parents. I took it inside and gave it a little water. When it looked like it had revived I took it outside again and set it up in the shade while we continued the tidy up of the fallen tree.

We could see its worried parents flying around and calling to the little bird. The baby bird called back.

Soon it was up on its feet. It somehow climbed down from the little 'nest' I had made it in the shade in the top hollow of an old tree stump and was again on the ground.

Soon we saw it climbing, very ably up a Rough Barked Box tree near the chook shed, all the while with its parents cheeping (encouragement?).  Soon we lost track of where it was.

Did it make it to a safe place where its parents would continue to feed it?

Whatever the outcome we were amazed at the persistence of the parents to find their baby.We were amazed that after such a long period the baby bird was still alive. (We estimate that it was out of its nest for about 24 hours). We were amazed that the baby bird had the strength and skill to climb the tree.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The North Wind

Most Christmas carols don't work here in Australia. While Northerners sing of snow and sleighs and getting cosy, we are sweltering in 35c plus heat. Consequently I have always found most Christmas carols irrelevant, mostly just making me cross at the hemispheric bias to our world.

There are however, a few good Australian Christmas carols. My favourite is, 'The North Wind'. The first verse is the most appropriate to us at Highfield.

The North Wind
( in Southern Australia a north wind is a hot dry wind)
The north wind is tossing the leaves

Wind blown eucalyptus leaves
The red dust is over the town

The swallows are under the eaves 

Swallow nests in the eaves of the new shed

And the grass in the paddock is brown

The golden brown glow of the main paddock in the afternoon

As we lift up our voices and sing

Cicarda shells left behind in their mission to sing from the tree tops

To the Christ child, the heavenly King.

My bush star made from peach stems
Have a wonderful and safe Festive Season. Stay cool if you are in Australia (or elsewhere in the southern hemisphere) and stay warm if you are in the north.

May your gardens prosper whether they are under shade cloth or a cloche.

Sunday, 22 December 2013


(Note to readership: large pictures of meat follow if this is likely to offend, please click elsewhere.)

Another big week for us. Last week we took our first big babies off to the abattoirs. This week I visited the butcher to ask them to cut up the lambs for me.

The butcher had collected my lambs from the abattoir on our behalf and it was time to make them into the cuts we wanted.

These first two lambs didn't hang for very long -  ideally they would have hung for a few more days but being the week before Christmas the butcher's fridge was stuffed full of hams and turkeys!

It was great to watch the butchers at work and witness their skill with the blade. Thank you Joseph!

I would have taken more photos but I didn't want to disturb them at their work. I was delighted to see that  the cuts I had chosen resulted in very little wastage.

On getting the lambs home I decided to take photos of some of the cuts, dressing them with home-grown garlic and rosemary.

I was really pleased with the cuts and also the colour and quality of the meat. I tried to assess it as if I were at the butchers shop selecting my own meat. "Would I buy this?", the answer was, "yes"!  Especially the shanks - can't wait for shank-worthy cold weather...

We have already started sampling the cuts. I was worried that they may not be very tender given they had
not hung for long, but they were tender. A rack of lamb shared with The Lad was juicy and sweet as racks should be. It was especially delicious seeing the lamb accompanied by roasted roots from the garden (potatoes, French onions and garlic).

We tried the loin chops sprinkled with sumac and eaten with  a watermelon and haloumi salad (my home-made haloumi too). It too was also delicious, sweet and tender. I didn't photograph the meals - my history with meal shots is pretty pathetic.

Lamb gifts have been given to friends for their Christmas cheer and we will be having a lamb-focused meal for our Christmas table. It seems the right fare for the feast.

Now that we have trialled the abattoirs, the butcher and the lamb, we are ready to go. Our next big challenge will be selling our lamb from paddock to plate - direct to lamb lovers in Sydney and Canberra (and points in between).

I wanted this post to document this last part of the journey of my lambs and to demonstrate our excitement at providing for ourselves. This post is not intended as a promotion to my blog readers. (But, if you'd like some lamb delivered to your door, get in touch or visit the farm website: Take a look at the Produce menu.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Has bean

My borlotti beans are now largely has beans.

They were planted quite early for us ( in September) and most survived the late October frost. They have produced a few beans for me - I ate them at their green stage as there was little else coming from the patch at the time. I found them quite good green.

But then they started to turn yellow and wither. On pulling the plants up I found that many of their roots had been nibbled off.

I suspect it's the chafer grub.

Certainly I find them when I am digging thru the patch. I usually toss them to the chooks when I find them.The chooks just love them. Looks like the girls will have to do some work for me!

But here is the weird thing, it seems that it is only the borlotti beans that are effected.

Why is that? Other beans are thriving as are other plants in the neighbouring beds.

Have you any idea what's happening?

Sunday, 15 December 2013


Today was a landmark day for us (and for our lambs). Today we took our first two lambs to the abattoirs.

Big Mumma's boy on the day of his birth
It has been our aim to raise happy and quiet sheep. We have spent time in the paddock with them so they are familiar with us being around. We have taken care to move our sheep on foot without dogs or bikes or horses and as a result they move with minimum stress. As we have predictable routes around the property, often the sheep move where we want them to move with little direction from us.

We have watched the lambs being born,  play with each other, climb logs and look down wombat holes.

Playing on the way to the lambing paddock
We have kept the foxes at bay with their guardian alpaca friends.

Eric and Leslie on duty
We have grazed our sheep entirely on our plentiful  and mostly native pasture - no grain finishing or feed lots.

The main dam
Now our lambies born in August have grown so quickly. They are all strong and chubby and practically lift their mothers off the ground when they suckle.

Today, it was time to take two our the biggest lambs to the abattoirs to stock the Christmas fridge, feed some of our friends and family and to do a practise run with the butcher for our lamb paddock to plate venture.

Today, all that work we have put into having the sheep comfortable with us paid off. Today, when we drafted, loaded and transported the two chosen lambies, all went smoothly and calmly. It felt good to say "thank you and goodbye" to them when they had had such stress-free lives.

I have always loved eating lamb - it is truly my favourite meat. I have never before however had to take responsibility for their birth, health, life and death. I have in the past, like most of us, simply bought lamb from the butcher.

I thought that today I would feel terribly uncomfortable with taking the lambs off the property where they were born on a short trip to the abattoirs but I didn't. I did feel a sort of pathos but is was more of a tenderness and gratitude rather than pity or sorrow.

While I am not at all religious, it has always seemed a proper thing to thank an animal (not a God) for its life. Today I had to live that (at least to an extent).

I think they had good lives, certainly they had lives where gentle care and handling was of great importance.

Thank you lambies and thank you sun and grass for keeping the lambies well fed.

New born twins

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


Above the chook shed towers a Rough-barked box tree.

It provides shade for the chooks in a hot summer and a nesting spot for a Dusky Woodswallow.

Amazingly the bird has nested in the peeling and deeply fissured bark, not like other birds nest, in the fork of a tree,  in a hollow, in a nest hanging from vegetation...

I think you'll agree that  building this nest was an achievement as was spotting it!  Amazing twitching Lad and amazing photography!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Harvest Monday - 9 Dec '13

It's been slim but pretty pickings this week. The sunflowers have been the focus - picked both for cut flowers,

and as chook food.

As far as vegetables go I have had my first zucchini, a lovely Gold Rush from seeds provided by Nina (actually, just checked - they were from Bek)!

I've picked small amounts of borlotti beans,

and some of the last of one of the plantings of radish.

Just as well I still had a stash of broad beans and potatoes. Looks like I will soon have to head to the green grocers...sigh!

That's my meagre pick for the week. How has yours been?  I'm contributing this post to Daphne's Harvest Monday. Pop over to hers to see others' harvests.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Our logo!

We have a logo (and a website)!

The lovely people at Handmade Web - Emma and Anthony -  did  the logo for us  for us.  I've been doing the website which has been a pleasant challenge.

We really love the logo and we hope that it portrays our aims of both conserving our rare woodland and farming great lamb.

Soon we will be trying our first lambs, soon we will be selling lamb packs from our farm gate. 

We've been here just over a year now and it seems that we have come a long way in such a relatively short time. What a year it has been!

Friday, 6 December 2013

New chicks on the block

Yesterday we welcomed some new chicks -  5  Buff Orpington cross chicks 2-3 weeks old.

We've decided to buy chicks young  as a way of adding to our small chicken flock.

The baby roosters will become our own home grown supply of chicken meat ( it's very exciting to take on a new little venture!) and the little hens will give us eggs in exchange for good food and shelter.

For the moment they live in an old wooden box  in the shed protected from the cold weather we are having. When it's a little warmer I'll pop them into the predator-proof chook shed.

Welcome little chicks!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Now that I have had my 5 minutes of fame in House and Garden  it's back to 'normal' life and blogging and today that means sunflowers!

Each summer I grow sunflowers.

In the past I have grown them for their beauty mostly as a cut flower and to brighten the patch.

But here at Highfield they have multiple purposes. In this hot summer climate, they provide shade for other crops in the patch.

The spent heads will be given to the chooks for them to pick on.

When the plants have faded I will do what I always do and dig them in as a bulky green manure.  I find that they break down surprisingly quickly.

This sunflower, this big single flowering yellow one, came to the patch ( I'm guessing) from the chicken seed mix in the chook house litter I use to mulch the beds -  a seed that escaped the chickens' beaks perhaps. It certainly isn't a variety I had planted, I usually plant seeds of the darker toned flowers and the ones that produce multiple flowers per plant.

But  I love the idea that this plant has come from the chooks and will go back to the chooks.

Right now it is offering a little shade to the corn patch and I am hoping that the bean seeds recently planted will use it as a climbing frame too.

I am really enjoying the challenge of thinking out multiple purposes for everything we do. The sunflowers are a great example.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

We are in House and Garden!

We have been profiled in House and Garden magazine! My blog even gets mentioned!

Well, the article isn't really about 'us' and it is certainly not about our house or garden. The article is actually  about the Nature Conservation Trust - the body we are working with to protect the endangered habitat on Highfield.

It's the Jan '14 issue ( which strangely is already on the newsagent's shelves). Take a look if you are interested.

Please ignore the photo of the Herefords on my neighbour's property mistakenly assumed by the photographer or editor to be my Dexters. It's a shame, my Dexters are much prettier...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Harvest Monday - 2 Dec '13

Just when I think I am falling head long into a hungry gap the garden seems to surprise me.  In this last week I have started picking the borlotti, which I am going to eat green  (or red and green). 

A second planting will take advantage of hotter and dryer weather to come and the beans will be dried for winter feasts.

Readers of yesterday's post will have already heard of my surprise potato harvest. I now have a very full basket of Sebago and Desiree!

The first of the fennel crop planted in August was picked this week too. This one seems to have matured quite quickly - the others planted at the same time will take a while longer to thicken.

Looking at this week's pick, I am thinking of a borlotti, potato and fennel salad...

I've picked quite a few beetroot lately which have been roasted and eaten in salads with pomegranate molasses dressing and home-made feta.

And there has been a few radishes too eaten dipped in homous.

Unphotographed, there have been snow peas which are now sadly all picked and their tops used to mulch the tomatoes. I've also picked lettuce, 'Salad Bowl'  and they along with a little mint have gone into other salads. I continue to snack on the odd mulberry eaten straight from the tree.

That's been the pick, what's coming in from your patch?

I'm contributing this to Daphne's Harvest Monday. Pop over to hers to see others' produce.


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