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 pรขtรฉ 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. 



19 Comments on “fiasco farming
January 24, 2013 at 9:56 pm

And so it seems with life on the land…may some of the torrential rain we are getting in Central Qld drift your way!

January 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm

You make my crap week look good ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks Fi. x t.

January 24, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Wow Fi. Incredible post. Really feeling for you. Can I box you up some snow and send it Express Delivery? xx

January 24, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Oh wow. One of those weeks. Can only get better I’d say. Maybe if we all did a rain dance!

Cassandra Allen
January 24, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Your dad, the ROCK, what a man.
May things get better soon and wishing for it to be raining cats and dogs.

Melinda--Marshmallow Mudpie
January 25, 2013 at 12:41 am

Oh my goodness. What a week! Here’s to the hope that it can only get better!

January 25, 2013 at 4:42 am

Oh, you give me goosebumps. What a life. Looking forward to that book!

Mrs Homespun
January 25, 2013 at 6:13 am

What a heartbreaking week, here’s hoping there’s rain on the way.

Ngo Family Farm
January 25, 2013 at 6:19 am

Oh, those bad things, they always seem to come in waves! Wishing you rain and many good days ahead.

January 25, 2013 at 10:21 am

Bring on the rain is all I can say! Here’s hoping things travel more smoothly this week (but you wouldn’t swap it for the world would you?) xxx

Darren (Green Change)
January 25, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Wow, tough week! In the heat we lost one of our breeding (meat rabbit) does, plus the 8 babies she delivered 2 days prior. We also lost one of the young rabbits we were growing out. Thankfully we’ve still got the breeding buck, one breeding doe, and four growers. I’ll probably keep two of the female growers to replenish the breeding stock, but that’s not ideal since they’re the daughters of our buck. Will have to try to find an unrelated buck later in the year.

Our poultry all did well, no ducks or chooks lost. They just hung out all day in the deep shade under the trees, supplied (by Megan!) with lots of changes of cold drinking water.

Grass, fruit trees, vegies, etc did poorly. Even the comfrey completely died back, although it’s already shooting back from the fried stumps.

We had to buy water in for the house tanks last week, too.

The whole experience has put a bunch of new jobs on my ToDo list!

Mel Vallel
January 25, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Fi Fi Fi what to say, I was home in Engadine when the change finally hit and it sounded like a freight train coming up the gully so i can only imagine what it was like on the coast. Lets hope for cooler days and some pumpkins. And maybe just maybe i might make to the markets one weekend when you are there. xxx

January 25, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I’m with your Dad, I hope we don’t see another one of those for 60 years. We lost two hens to heatstroke and a lot of trees are badly burnt. Let’s hope for a wet autumn.

Bee Girl (AKA Melissa)
January 26, 2013 at 1:54 am

Oh man, what a week! I hope you are being kind to yourself and remembering it is all part of the journey. Hard lessons, though ๐Ÿ™

January 26, 2013 at 5:08 am

4 zucchini bread recipes:
Raw zucchini that you have peeled, and then use the peeler to keep making strips is an excellent noodle replacement. serve with any pasta sauce.
If you’re feeling wicked when it’s not so hot out, bread and deep fry zucchini sticks.
Shred zucchini and freeze in 1-2 cup lots. Great to whip it out and make a zucchini bread. I learned this when I was given a zucchini that was enormous.(as long as my forearm and as wide as my thigh – and I don’t have stick thighs neither) ๐Ÿ˜€

January 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm

What a week! When it’s one thing that goes wrong, you can cope with it. When it just keeps on at you, it can drag you down and make you question what you are doing.

But it’s good that you have your Dad there to help – practical help, and also with wise words.

I’m lucky as the only things I lost due to those really hot days were plants. Our nutso cat survived by lying flat out on the cool(er) tiles in front of the fan. But our neighbour lost 4 quail. There is basically not much you can do with conditions like that.

Julie @ tuicreektales
January 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

What a crap week – it made a great story though, not that that will be much consolation to you ๐Ÿ™‚ This is exactly why I love reading your blog, you keep it real. If more people knew about the trials of being a food producer they might grumble less at the cost of it, pay a fairer price for it even. Fingers crossed for rain.

January 28, 2013 at 10:24 am

Hi Fi – ths story is on the BBC website:

I hope you’ve had some rain by now – but not too much.

Keep your chin up!

January 28, 2013 at 7:44 pm

What an awful week- it’s got to get better. Here’s hoping you’ve had (just the right amount) of rain now.


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