Things have been busy around Lantanaland, as you would expect with a four month old and some things on the farm have been going good and some not so good but lots being done. The good stuff of course starts with The Boy. We had a lovely mothers day, woke up at 530am, gave The Mum a cup of coffee and her present and sent her back to bed (the present she really wanted). I rugged The Boy up and went and walked the farm, said hi to the chooks and cows, told Candy I'd be back to milk her in a bit, much to her displeasure. It was fantastic.
The other thing that has been quite pleasing is the beginning of the fruit orchard. I have planted (and killed) a few trees since we got here but a while ago we decided to plant out the slope between the house and the road as a little orchard. It is too steep to mow with the ride on, I let the cows clean it up for me but it is just a wasted bit of grass really and the trees that are on it now are either dead or straggly.
This time I have actually used some of my permaculture training in the planning. The area is what would be classed as zone 1 in permaculture, close to the house. In Beeso speak, zone 1 means somewhere you walk past enough every week that you'll remember to bloody well water the fruit trees. This is important as I have killed a few by forgetting to water them after I have them established. To be fair, I've also killed some with overwatering, there is no end to my talents.
So I have started on the steepest part, closest to the road. The soil is crappy, shaley stuff, so I cut shelves in the slope and planted the trees in some car tires I had. The mix I used was out of the chook pen. I have a little prison system going in the chook pen at the moment. The pen is not massive, big enough but too small to maintain any forage so I have been pulling out great big bins of weeds and tossing them in. The last time mum came to visit the weeds were 50cm deep. They happily pick and scratch and dig at them until they have broken down into a lovely rich soil. That's what I used to plant my fruit trees in.
All around the trees I have some chip mulch that I buy from the tree lopper guys. On the high side I planted comfrey. Comfrey is like a super plant in permaculture, great for chooks and cows, accelerates the breakdown of compost and the worms love it. What I wanted it for was its taproot. Putting it on the high side it will send down a incredibly strong taproot. When it rains the water will follow the path that root has made rather than just running down the slope and over the soil. It should give the soils a much higher moisture content. Comfrey also pulls up nutrients and trace elements from deep below the root system of the fruit tree, then you just tear the leaves off and drop them under the tree to rot down and enrich the soil.
On the low side, I planted a little retaining wall of lemongrass. Once established it will create a mini terrace that keeps the mulch and water in. I will finish off my transplanting some pintos peanut there in the wet season once I have my starter patch well established.
So far I have put in a nashi pear, a ruby grapefruit and a finger lime. A mate of ours, Jess, put me onto cheap fruit trees at the Powerhouse markets, so I'll be making a trip up there once the chooks have made me some more potting mix. I'd like to establish all the fruit I know I'll eat first, so some oranges, apples, mandarins, avocado and pear will be on the list. I already had some others in in other places so fingers crossed I can keep these alive and thriving.
The not so good news is the cow and the making of cheese. I was really hopeful of largish amounts of milk out of Candy but she is too good a mum. She is keeping most of her milk up for the calf. No amount of massage, warm water or coaxing will convince her to let it down. Letting the calf on to her for a bit works, but she then bolts the bales and feeds the calf. This is where my bales are really letting me down, no head crush, and no real way to keep her still after the calf has had a suck.
When the calf is in the next paddock she is a great little milker, trots on in to her feed and stands dead still while I milk her. It's only when the calf is close she turns into a cow that lists The Great Escape as her favourite movie. I was really hoping to be cranking out the cheese for the Herdshare by now, but alas I am only getting enough for our milk, a bit of milk for the herdshare and the occasional batch of feta.
Still, it beats buying home brand milk at woolies!