Monday, 30 December 2013

A floor made from old tyres

My eldest daughter is home from university, having finished her degree. She will be living at home until she graduates (July), meaning that we now need more room. When she left for uni three years ago I erroneously  assumed that meant she had left home so I converted her bedroom into a craft/storage room. Having failed to comprehend the vast array of time off uni students have; I then had to relegate her to the fold out lounge for semester breaks, study weeks and holidays. Now she is home for a six month stretch and in need of a space of her own. It was decided to build a floor on the inside dirt patch that we always planned to cement (but didn't) and move the lounge area there so she could have a room with a window next to her sister.

Having looked around for the cheapest option we decided on 'yellow tongue' flooring over a suspended frame of some kind. Some research revealed that foundations and piers are often made from old tyres, so it was off to the massive pile of old tyres left at the front of our property by a previous owner. We have been using these tyres for many purposes over the years and we hope to clear the pile by 2020 or so by making them useful.

After an expensive trip to Bunnings, we were ready to build.....

The yellow tongue ready to be painted.

We painted one side with a water proofing paint containing tar.

The second coat made them much darker.

The site of the future lounge room.

We leveled off the floor and began to lay tyres out.

The old dog looked on; confused, as we built.

We found a place in the creek where gravel washes into a basin and collected a trailer full.

The tyres were filled with gravelly soil mixed with cement and left to set. 

Black plastic was laid down and the yellow tongue screwed down.

This turned out to be a bit too bouncy for a lounge room floor; so the panels were taken off and we all stood scratching our heads and looking for a solution for a while.

Eventually we got some 4' X 1' timber from my parents scrap pile (sorry 'might be useful one day' pile) and screwed it down to form a base for the panels.

Everyone had a go at the drill.

The panels were then screwed down over the black plastic liner (painted side down).

The floor was then painted with floor oil (which includes a varnish)

And the holes where filled with spak filler.

We now have a new lounge room floor and will be lining the ceiling and putting up wiring for lights tomorrow. My daughter has room for a bedroom of her own and we have used thirty three tyres from the pile. It looks great and feels good to walk on too. I am thinking of renaming our house 'the rubbish house' because we use so much rubbish in the building of it.

What do you think of our new floor??

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Square foot gardening update number two

The trailer bed I planted using the square foot gardening method is growing really well. I am pleased with the results, mostly. Some of the squares are not growing as well as I would like for a variety of reasons, but the bed looks great and I will be starting to pick greens for salads very soon.

The climbing and bush beans are thriving (as you can see), they are heading up the trellis and some are even growing out the top of the net.

The baby salad greens are ready to harvest too; don't they look yummy.

The little cucumbers are finally up and starting to grow. The beans are providing competition for light though; I will have to remember to plant the climbers further apart next time.

The Ceylon spinach is thriving and is ready to use but the mizuna, onions and carrots have not taken off as I would have liked. The germination rate for the carrots and onion was low too.

The eggplant is up and growing well and the Tokyo bekana is ready to eat but the silver beet is struggling and I am down to two in the square.

The capsicum is a seedling as none of the seeds I planted germinated, but it is growing really well.

So far I am impressed with the method, even though I will have to fine tune the planting a bit next time.
My advice to myself so far is;

Plant climbers with at least one square between them to minimize crowding.

Plant advanced seedlings of most vegetables (not carrots or beans).

Plant extra carrot seed, at least three per hole, to allow for poor germination.

Plant fast growers like beans two weeks after other seeds to reduce over shading of seedlings.

Elsewhere in the garden........

My marigolds are looking beautiful at the moment.

I have a big pot of Lemon Balm (Melissa) coming up right beside the door.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Happy Litha to all

Yesterday was Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere (which includes us). The Earth's annual journey around the sun has bought us back to the peak of solar strength and the promise that 'this too shall pass' and winter will come again.

Every year we head to water for our Litha celebration; it pays to have water close when playing with fire.
Litha is a celebration of the sun reaching the height of his strength and a realization that everything is cyclic and even the awesome power of the sun waxes and wanes. We decorate the altar and surrounds with sun symbols and imagery. We perform a ritual to say thank you for the light and heat that let us live on this planet, then we party.

Decorating the tree behind the altar (facing North)

The altar is coming together nicely too

I love the twisted branches of this tree.

The Sun Lord's mask.

My partner wearing his Litha crown.

The Sun Lord in a light hearted moment.

The mask after the ritual, hanging in the tree, watching over our revels.

The Sun Lord casting the flaming spear into the water to symbolize his current strength and the shortening of the days from this point onward as the suns strength wanes towards winter.

Feasting from the altar.

The spear is floating in there somewhere

Happy Litha to all. I hope your day was as pleasant as ours.

A holed rock hanging in the tree.

A rock with a hole in it (naturally formed) is called a hagstone. It protects the area it is hung in from negative energy and if you look through it maybe you will see the faerie world.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Using Guinea fowl for tick control.

We have been keeping guinea fowl for years. When we were managing (and working) a bio-dynamic avocado orchard we used them to keep down insect pests in the trees and paralysis ticks on our house cow. Now we keep them to reduce tick numbers for our sheep and dogs, and because it seems too quiet without them after all these years. They are exceptional insect hunters and will eat adult ticks by the thousand, they are also efficient watch dogs and escort snakes and goannas from the yard very swiftly (except that one time when they chased a black snake into the house instead). They do however have some unique characteristics................

The flock collectively have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder); they tour the perimeter of the yard at a specific time each morning and afternoon and if anything is out of place they will stand and cackle at it for about fifteen minutes, examples of 'out of place' are leaving a pot upside down when it was previously the right way up, parking the car two meters closer to the house, leaving a shovel leaning against the fence or a visitor's car is parked in the driveway.

Individual guinea fowl will behave in a bossy way towards chooks, dogs, sheep, ducks and sometimes humans when food is at stake. You can see the warning in the body language of the guinea fowl in this clip, he is warning the rooster off 'his' grain.

They don't like to sleep in a pen at night but will go as high up the tallest tree they can find. Ours come gliding down to the ground at dawn with much squawking and cackling.

 One of our dogs; Jess, has been obsessed with one particular guinea fowl for some time and she sometimes gets a bit overwhelming for the poor boy. He sometimes flies onto the top of the chook pen to get a break from her. This clip shows her patiently waiting for him to come down so she can protect him.

In my experience, guinea fowl are terrible parents; they hatch too many babies then try to walk them too far and don't protect them from predators (kookaburras, goannas, foxes, currawongs, butcher birds, hawks and snakes here). We get around this by finding the eggs and giving them to a clucky chook to raise, this has the added advantage of making them less flighty in nature as some of their behaviors are learned from their parents.

The latest batch of guinea fowl keets with their (no doubt bemused) mum.

There is some debate about whether guinea fowl actually help control ticks; here are a few articles on the subject to help you make up your mind. For my part, I definitely think they make a difference.

a comparison study of biological and chemical tick control

a home-grown view

an effectiveness study

An 'against' article.

Another 'against' article

What do you think? Would you keep them?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Afternoon storms bring fertility.

This week there have been storms every afternoon. While I was house sitting I managed to get some amazing photos of a storm moving over the house.

I am so glad the milking and feeding were done by the time the storm hit.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Learning to milk goats

I am house sitting (well dairy sitting) for a friend who has a goat dairy. Consequently I have had to learn to milk goats. Having grown up on a dairy, I was fairly confident I could manage goats; however they proved a bit harder to milk than I imagined. Goats are very different to cows when it comes to milking.

The dairy has mostly Saanen and Anglo Nubian  milkers. They are a pretty lot. There were billies, dry does and babies to be fed daily too.

The first milk I did was guided by my hosts and involved advice  about how to hold the teats and not to pull downward when milking (different from cows there). The procedure they follow is outlined here. It took me an hour to milk one goat and my hands were very sore. I was to milk between two and five goats twice a day (panic stations). As I had to catch the bus to work at 7.30 am and milking and feeding had to be done before that, I decided to call in backup for my first morning; my daughter (fortuitously home from uni) came over and stayed the night to help out with the morning milking.

By the end of the week I had my timing down to fifteen minutes per goat and was able to get it all done in time for the bus. Afternoons were more leisurely affairs when I got to watch the babies play and the maremma herd dog in action.

My daughter milking her first goat. She has done AI, embryo harvesting and ultrasound on them but never milked.

The milk is taken to the gorgeous milk room where it is strained and bottled. The amount of milk given by each girl is carefully recorded for future reference (some were giving 3 litres per milk)The milk room is then cleaned and the floors swept (the dairy is swept too).

The milk room. I have dairy envy (even though I am not milking at the moment).

The bales where the milking happens. How neat and tidy is that!!

The waiting room, An undercover area with hay and water where the girls to be milked wait for me to get to them.

Some of the girls I was milking.

They are curious and intelligent ladies.

There is a maremma dog to guard the little ones

The babies are a joy to watch.

A little saanen doe, looking like a fairy animal.

One of the many shelters; one for each paddock.

I have really enjoyed learning a new skill and spending time with these pampered goats. Having lots of goat milk to drink is a bonus too. My fiend also makes cheese and soap from her milk (both are beautiful products).

 Have you ever thought about having a dairy? cows or goats? People tend to be either a 'goat person' or a 'cow person' which are you?