fiasco farming



Mostly my fiasco farming posts are for giggle value.

They're a trawl through the many, many mistakes we've made in the first two years of this enterprise. Sometimes a bit embarrassed, always self deprecating, they're kinda the backbone of the book we might write one day when we're far enough in to be credible and far enough away from our early mistakes to make them into amusing anecdotes.

Some weeks though, they knock us off our feet. We just had one of those. 

It started with a delivery of day old meat birds last Wednesday. 

We'd finished processing the coffee for the year and we had a big bucket of parchment, which is the sawdust-like husk of the dried coffee bean. We put it into the big brooder pen as soft carbonous matter under the day-olds. 

Twenty-four hours later thirty of them were dead. 

In retrospect maybe it was obvious. Maybe it had tiny shards of green coffee bean in amongst it which the birds thought was grain. We don't know. It all happened at once, we figured it out, we got them off it immediately and the rest were fine. Big shock though. Really sucked. 

It was the middle of a 10-day-straight work week for me of baking, Schoolhouse and markets. 

Two days later was the Very Hot Day. 

It started out hot.

Adam misted the meat birds. Kept all the water for all the animals cool. Made sure everyone had shade. Gave the pigs a big mud bath. 

I was at the Schoolhouse and called to say I was coming home early. He couldn't speak to me because the laying hens were dropping dead one by one in front of him. 

We knew the meat birds were at risk in the heat but we thought the layers were OK. Turns out they weren't OK in mid-forties heat. 

We made a good effort to water them and cool them off, but in the end we lost about thirty birds overall between broilers and layers. 

I was trying to formulate a solution to make sure it never happened again, different shelter? different water system? when Dad reminded me it was officially the hottest day on written record in Australia and it would probably not be that hot again for another 60 years.

Let's hope so. 

And then. As we were sitting down to dinner, the much-antipated cool southerly wind arrived. The roof of our back verandah flexed. Henry announced he was taking his dinner inside, the wind was too noisy. We told him to sit down. Unusually, he got up, picked up his plate and said, you can stay out here, I'm going in, and the chicken caravan just blew away.

We all leapt up and looked over the back fence, it wasn't the chicken caravan thankfully, but one of the broiler shelters, cartwheeling out of the paddock and smashing down on the other side of the electric netting fence. 

Adam ran to attend to the most expensive things first: the windmill and the chicken caravan, and Dad and I ran to the broiler pen to survey the damage. Those poor birds had had a bad day. I don't think any were actually injured as their shelter went flying, as they were all outside of it anyway. 

We had an empty shelter which we moved in, and Adam repaired the torn netting fence. Henry quietly finished his dinner inside. 

We went straight into a weekend of a Saturday and a Sunday market, and they were spectacularly good market days. My beloved sister Naomi called me from Hong Kong to sing me a happy song on her ukelele right up until which I held it together perfectly. 

The fruit trees and the coffee trees took a hammering, but the veggie garden including the new pumpkin patch all look OK. 

I got my camera out late this afternoon to take some photos and it's been so long since I picked it up the battery was flat. I do, however, have an iphone. 


Shelter in need of repair.


Seven week old broilers in the paddock this afternoon.


Fixed yard hens with an open run behind them, White Leghorns and a few elderly Isa Browns. 


Chicken caravan hens crowding the fence to say cheeeese.


Teenaged Barred Plymouth Rocks all OK.


Super pregnant mama pig running at me for a back-scratch. Piglets due in under 2 weeks!


Veggie garden only a little bit worse off for the heat. NOTHING will stop those zucchinis!!


New pumpkin patch is, well, a bit patchy – but we'll have Hokkaido pumpkins at least!




It's incredibly dry, the ground is cracking and occasionally our sense of humour escapes us entirely. It's been a pretty awful week. But we've got our own amazing chicken liver pâté in the fridge, our own pork & fennel & sage sausages in the freezer and fresh zucchini coming out our ears and we get to wake up and admire these hills and it's not as hot as it was on Friday and we've got a couple of weeks off markets and as my Dad says, it always rains after a dry spell. 

Everybody here is fine. 

And soon there'll be pumpkin. 



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