the tree change Feed

Winter was.....

Winter 2012 was our first season at our little farm

Natural playground rope swing

It was the season we started Little eco's natural playground. First we made the mud kitchen and now there's a rope swing. There's plans for more

Squirrel glider stuck on a barbed wire fence 1

It was the season I realised that being 'closer to nature' also means experiencing more often the heartbreaking impact that we have on her. This is a dead threatened Squirrel Glider stuck on our barbed wire fence. It happens so often that getting caught on barbed wire fences is listed as a threat to the species' survival. (more)

Dead wombat preseumably shot due to mainge

I also experienced just how bad mange in wombats is. I'd noticed this wombat grazing by the road a few times and was contemplating phoning WIRES. But then we spotted him dead with a bullet hole in his head. Presumably someone put him out of his misery. Mange is a disease that causes deep skin fissures that become flyblown and septic and results in a long, slow and painful death. At least we don't yet have the horendous liver disease that is wiping out wombats in South Australia

Mowing the front paddock

I spent hours and hours mowing the front paddock (before fire season) in an effort to convince Daddy Eco that we don't need a ride on mower. I'm trying to look on the mowing as an opportunity to exercise rather than a huge chore. We won't be getting any grazing animals for a while yet so I'm guessing I'll be spending many hours behind a mower this Spring. 

Little ecos garden design

We also started planning our veggie garden. Little Eco drew up her own garden plans and captured the swales we plan to install on the slope above the dams. 

Pot belly stove shed

We spent many hours this Winter huddled in front of this pot belly stove.  Daddy Eco is living in the shed during the week (without power) so this is how he spent most of his Winter evenings. Alone and in the dark! Bring on Summer - when we'll all be together again. 

Mini solar hot water system

At least we now have hot water. A friend was horrified by my plans to create a compost heated bath so gave us this mini hot water system as a house-warming gift. It heats only 30 litres - but that is more than enough to do the dishes and give Little Eco a bath. (More shortly). 

Shared home

Winter was also the season we started sharing our city home with a treasured friend and her son. (More shortly). 

Vintage suitcases waiting for some editing

It was also the season I started doing some serious de-cluttering. We're planning on 'editing' our belongings before we move at the end of the year. I tried to decrease my fabric stash so that it would fit into these four cases. I failed but I'm hoping I can decrease my stash further on my second attempt. Despite saying that I could never be a minimalist - I'm now ready to embrace minimalism. (More shortly). 

Home made playdough birthday gift

There was also more than half a dozen gifts of home-made playdough. Playdough has been our preferred birthday gift this year. The year before it was bird wings refashioned from old t-shirts or a reinvention skirt. I wonder what it will be next year? 

Winter was also the season that I had a small farm real life reality check and learnt how to milk a cow.

I also started working full-time despite saying I'd never do so again.

I appreciate more than ever that living a dream involves plenty of short-term pain. Living apart from Daddy Eco and carrying two mortgages has been hard. But I'm certain it will be worth it in the long-term. 

How was Winter for you? I hope you are enjoying the first days of Spring as much as I am. 


Small farm real life reality check

I’ve had the pleasure of a peeking into the lifestyle of a few small farm families recently.

I enjoy being inspired by stories online – but nothing compares to real life inspiration. Or in my case, a real life reality check.

I'll continue to work once we move to our little farm. Thankfully one of my jobs is a work from home position, which means I can live in a rural area and continue working in a position I enjoy. But it does mean 'the farm chores' will need to fit into the few hours before 8.30am and after 4pm.

Visiting other small farm families and farm sitting has helped me appreciate just how much work having a small farm can be.

Farm sitting Purple Pear Organic Farm

Little Eco thriving in the farm lifestyle

Bella photo taken by Little Eco

Sir Bowie charles Photo taken by Little eco

Farm sitting Purple Pear Organic Farm for five days provided the reality check I needed.

Little Eco and I had a ball and she thrived in the farm environment (the above two photos were taken by her. I love her perspective). But it was hard work. Daddy Eco was off to work before light and home after dark so I had to deal with all the chores myself.

Purple pear geese

Purple Pear Ducks

Seedliongs

Another mandala garden pic

Veggie garden fun at purple pear

After the milking there were chickens, ducks and geese to be let out; seedlings to be uncovered and watered; and chickens to be fed and watered. And I was only doing a fraction of the chores Kate and Mark would usually do. In the evening the same routine would happen again - this time covering up and putting away.

If I'm going to have the energy to work after chores I'm unfortunately going to have to have far fewer animals.

There's one type of animal I'm certain we'll have on our little farm - something to milk. I haven't yet decided between a couple of Dexter Cows or a few milking goats.

I like the idea of a cow because I prefer the taste of cows milk and I like the idea of getting butter and cream which you can't get from goats milk. I'm keen on Dexters in particular because they are small and dual purpose (i.e. good for milk and meat).

On the other hand, I like the idea of goats because of their cheeky character and because they are easier to handle and transport. Jane (who I introduce below) told me a story about putting Honey (who I also introduce below) in the back seat of her sedan. Sure beats having to hire or own a trailer.

Visiting Kim and her milking goat

To help me decide between goats or cows I visitited Kim at her Little Black Cow Farmstay to try milking a goat.

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Honey her goat was very easy to handle and I was far more comfortable with her size in comparison to milking a cow.

I fell in love with the crazy character of goats and the milk actually tasted delicious. It strangely reminded me of liquid white chocolate.

So for now I'm leaning more towards goats.

Jane and her small farm paradise

I then had the pleasure of visiting Jane and her small farm paradise.

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Jane lives the life many of us dream of. They live in a quaint stone cottage overlooking rolling hills and a river. There's huge orchards of numerous types of fruit, a veggie garden, chooks, her young daughters have their own horses, and they raise enough lamb for their family and friends. Jane cooks most of their food from scratch and whipped up a batch of bread rolls while talking to me and served them with greens straight from the garden.

But this lifestyle is a full-time job for Jane.

Not being able to get away

There's one thing all three families have in common - going away for a night or more is complicated. They need to find someone to mind the farm.

I travel for work regularly. For example I'm currently organising workshops in Scone, Deniliquin, Moree and Sydney. Plus there's trips to Perth and Canberra. All before the end of the year. So I need the farm chores to be simple enough for Daddy Eco to do before 7am and after 6pm. We also like to travel - so the farm chores need to be simple enough that we can tempt city friends to mind the farm.

Do any of you live on a small productive farm and still find time to work? Or time to escape? Or am I dreaming? 

I'm also over at Childhood 101 today: Literacy Learning Through Creating Books of Their Own.


In love with the morning milking ritual

Milking Patsy

I learnt how to milk a cow last week.

Little Eco and I were lucky enough to spend the week farm sitting Purple Pear Organic Farm.

The patient patsy the Jersey Cow

The gig included milking a gorgeous Jersey cow called Patsy.

Learning how to milk a cow was way up on the top of my 'skills I want to learn' list, so I jumped at the chance when it arose.

Little eco learning how to milk a cow

I spent two mornings joining Mark in the milking (Little Eco even had a go) and then we were on our own for five days.

Off to filter the milk

Filtering the milk

My efforts for day 1 & day 2 of milking

The results of my efforts on day 1 & 2 were a little pathetic. Patsy is nearing the end of her current milking season so is only providing around 1 litre a day. But my initial efforts didn't even come close to a litre. My single handed milking was pretty slow and awkward and I gave up once I felt Patsy had had enough of my fumbling around down there. Thankfully she's a very tolerant cow.

Blosum waiting for her milk

Blossum enjoying half time

I'm sure Patsy's calf Blossum enjoyed the extra milk I left her.

Day 3 milk

By day 3 I was a little more relaxed and found my rhythm. I even managed to progress to two handed milking. 

I've fallen in love with the morning ritual of milking a cow. The routine. The smell. The milk. The sunrise. I can't think of a better way to start the day and am looking forward to being settled at our own little farm so that I can get my own house cow.

Hows this for ridiculous!

It's illegal for me to drink the milk I got each morning. Despite raw milk from pure sources being extremely safe, and despite the health benefits of raw milk, the only people that can legally drink the milk are the owners of the cow - Kate and Mark.

I can legally feed Little Eco caffinated sugar-laden soft drink but am breaking the law if I feed her nourishing raw milk.

and of course I wouldn't dare break the law.......

Are you a raw milk drinker?

Interested in reading more about raw milk? In addition to realmilk.com which I link to above, I also recommed the article 'the white stuff' by Mark Whittaker. And for a laugh watch the video shared by Michelle in her post about raw milk.

edit: Liz's post on raw milk is also well worth reading.


Compost hot-tub

There's currently no hot water or electricity at our little farm. I'm actually enjoying not having any power, especially when it's combined with no mobile reception. But I must admit hot water would be nice. Last week I went three days without a shower - not something I want to repeat every week.

Today I stumbled across the perfect temporary solution - a compost hot tub!

Those of you reading this via email will need to pop over to the blog (by clicking on the post title) to view the above video.

The video shares how to create a hot-tub that is heated by compost. I'm seriously going to try this!

The video is one of the finalists in the Peoples Choice Awards for The Green Screen: Climate Fix Flicks competition. The competition is a new initiative being launched by Climate Scientists from Macquarie University, The University of Melbourne and Monash Sustainability Institute. Their goal is to raise awareness of the opportunities and positive effects of moving the world towards a low carbon future. You can view the ten finalists and vote in the Peoples Choice Awards here. Which is your favourite? 


Do you have a dream you’ve abandoned?

Fishing in the dam

I abandoned a dream of owning my own rural property years ago. I’ve wanted to live close to nature and grow my own food for as long as I can remember. But owning more than a backyard seemed like too much hard work. I warmed to our convenient and easy urban lifestyle. Good friends, like-minded community, diversity, opportunities, and plenty to see and do.

I convinced myself that I could fulfil my needs here in the city and we renovated our home like it was our forever home. We had no intentions of moving and were happy.

Off to fish again

Then Daddy Eco was offered a new job. It would have been easy to say 'thanks but no thanks' and continue as we were. We very nearly did.

But we spotted an opportunity. An opportunity for Daddy Eco to have his dream job. For me to have my little farm. And for Little Eco to enjoy a little more freedom to explore and create.

I also acknowledged a sense of regret that I felt about not fulfilling a dream.

Sharing fish caught

Having an ‘out’ made jumping easier

We put a time frame on the move. Seven years. The duration of Little Eco’s primary schooling. We decided that if things didn’t work out then we’ll move back. In the scheme of things seven years didn't seem too long so we embraced the opportunity.

Thankfully we found a property that ticked all our boxes.

As big as they get

We’ve just spent our first weekend at that property and have fallen well-and-truly in love.

We know we've made the right decision.

The star of the weekend was definitely the dams. Little Eco and her friends delighted in catching water bugs, fresh water shrimps and even teeny fish.

Do you have a dream you’ve abandoned because it all seems too hard?