Three Years in lantanaland

Well it's been almost three years since the delivery truck backed down the slightly washed out and steep driveway and dumped our meagre possessions onto the deck in a crazy race against a developing thunderstorm. I'm going to do a few video pieces of the different bits of the farm so I thought it'd be good to do a bit of a breakdown of what I expected to have done and what I wanted from the farm.

CHICKENS - the big plan for the chooks was to be breeding my own and eating them. Well I've done that but not exactly like I planned. I've only just raised the first batch of my crossbreed chickens up. I've eaten a few meat birds that I've raised up and a few ducks. When the guinea fowl are numerous enough I'll definitely be having a kcrack at them as well.

I've lost a lot of chicks and young birds to carpet snakes, who view my pathetic attempts at coop building as a sort of drive through takeaway. Add in a fox attack or two and I've learnt the hard way that if you want your birds to free range then you'll lose some birds. The next stage is a large fully everything proof pen with a straw bale house. Spend the time and the money to make sure they are safe at night and when we are away.

The guinea fowl experiment continues. I have a lot of ticks and long grass and only six ranging birds so I guess it is a bit early to call on that experiment.

DOG AND SPA - we have both these things, so The Wife is happy.

FRUIT AND VEG - I am going to be honest, I have failed, almost miserably in this department. Lack of infrastructure, poor soil, poor management has meant that I have had sporadic results at best. Bananas and mulberries have been the biggest success in the fruit tree department. I've killed a lot of trees through too much/too little water, overtaking by weeds and animals eating them. The best plan is to put the tree where you see it all the time. This is real basic stuff in permaculture but for some reason I thought I could put trees half way down a hill in six foot high grass and still remember to water them every couple of days. Yeah right.

Now just about all my trees are on my walk to the cows every morning and I ensure that they are looked after. Well rotted cow manure on tap doesn't hurt either.

I must have lost about 20 artichoke plants to the chickens, ducks and goats. My herb garden is nothing to write home about, but I have discovered sorrel in a big way this year. My dreams of big bunches of thyme are only realized when asleep. I've had some good pumpkins and tomatoes, but never enough to make the excess into tomato sauce or jam.

Again, the soil improvement you can make with manure is beyond belief. The new garden beds between the sugarcane bales with the manure from the holding yard for milking has been one of the best I've done. Thanks to Twitter mate Tammy I finally have a horseradish plant that is growing and I have five, FIVE artichoke plants that have survived. So I think things are on the improve there. I am planting tomatoes all over the place, in the hope that they will go a bit wild and provide me all year round. The litmus test for me is carrots and potatoes. And that has yet to be achieved.

BEES - last year was a bad year, too wet all summer. But that rain should mean good flowers this year and if we get on a good flow I will try and split the hive to get a second one. The hive is fairly strong, I have a bit of hive beetle but not enough to threaten the health of the hive. I never have enough honey to go around so two hives would be handy.

THE HOUSE - other than the spa, which was a condition of buying the house from The Wife, the house has been pretty much unchanged in the last three years. This year will see the deck done, not before time, I have to get my guests to sign release forms before they walk up the front steps. Once that's done we'll replace the carpet downstairs with something cheap and that will do for a good decade or so.

THE LAND - the cows have done an amazing amount of work clearing out the land. We have walked though bits of the land we had not seen in the three years. I am now on a pasture improvement program to try and get more value out of feeding the cows. The next big purchase for the herdshare will be a hedge trimmer. It will go thought the thin lantana like something hot through something else that melts easily.

THE COWS! - one of the big reasons I moved to Lantanaland was to have cows. All the traditional methods of smallholding revolve around the the house cow. I cannot thank my herd sharers enough for giving me the chance to get these beautiful animals. Like everything I attempt, it's never turns out exactly as planned. Milking is relatively easy, now that I have a technique down pat. Making butter has proven beyond me, much to my huge frustration. How hard can it be! The dairy products made have been of varying quality, as to be expected.

So what's left? Pigs are the other big small holder staple, but they might be next year, judging by The Wife rolling her eyes every time I mention them. I need another paddock for the cows so I can start rotating and spelling. Get more fruit trees in. Write more about the fantastic, beautiful place in which we live. Shoot some video. Stay happy.

That's pretty easy here.

- Lantanaland from my iPad

Location:Adelaide St,Tweed Heads,Australia


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