Lifeboat Farm

Hello world!
August 18, 2012, 9:40 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Welcome to! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!


Our newest arrival
June 6, 2012, 9:31 pm
Filed under: The House

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of Holly Elizabeth Monks! Our newest farm worker was born on Wednesday the 30th of May at 10:18pm weighing just 1212 grams (about 2.5 pounds for the imperial types).

Holly and Karen are recovering well, although Holly has quite a few weeks ahead of her in the Neonatal ICU (NICU) as she was only 30 weeks along when born.

Making compost lasagne
May 3, 2012, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Environment, Garden, Pasture

One of the key principles of both organic and permaculture farming is to minimise external inputs to your farming system. Given how important soil is to farming and gardening, growing your own soil is a great strategy. Autumn is an ideal time to get some compost put away for the coming Spring. Whether it’s to top up the garden, or to fill up new garden beds, there’s no such thing as having too much compost under construction. At its simplest, a compost pile uses the same processes as nature to break down organic matter; Bacteria and small critters digest the organic matter, leaving behind rich soil.

Almost any organic matter can be composted, but a few ingredients make the whole process of creating soil that much faster. You can get also get technical with the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in your compost, but experience (and your nose) are really all you need to perfect your technique.

Carbon sources are things like leaves, dried grass or hay, wood chips, or even paper. Nitrogen tends to come from fresh green matter like plants, or animal manures. My favourite ingredients (and what we have to hand) are horse manure from the paddock or stable, old hay, straw from the chicken house, and soil from the last batch of compost as a starter.

We spread the ingredients in fine layers, just like making a lasagne. In the early stages, most of the bacterial activity will happen at the edges of the layers, where the different ingredients meet, so lots of thin layers will compost quicker than a few thick ones. The layers of previous compost act as a starter – providing lots of bacteria to kick-start the composting process.

Here are our latest farm helpers Tanya and Andy, layering up the lasagne. It’s a pleasant morning’s work, building the pile. The individual ingredients don’t smell, and as long as there’s plenty of air getting to the pile, it won’t either.

You can use almost any system to contain the compost. We use some spare boards and some old bits of warratah to retain them. The pile can be open to the weather, but if you’re expecting torrential rain it might pay to cover it with some old carpet. You want the pile moist to do its job, but not soaked.

The chickens quite like helping and will gladly spread the new compost everywhere in search of tasty bugs. I don’t want to deprive them, but that’s why we use the boards – to keep everything in place long enough for it to compost.

After a few days, the pile will start to heat up. That’s a good sign that the compost heap is getting into action. You should be able to put your hand right into the centre without it getting burned (seriously, it can get that hot). If the pile is too hot you’ve probably got too much nitrogenous matter in there, so ease back on the animal manure next time, or add more carbon to the mix. Ideally the pile will get up to 65 degrees C to kill any pathogens or weed seeds in the mix.

In about a month we’ll turn the compost to help aerate it and by Spring there should be a few cubic metres of rich, dark soil to fill up  new garden beds or spread on the pasture – all home grown.

Crusty sourdough loaf
March 20, 2012, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Food, Recipes

This is one of my favourite home made breads. It’s a crusty sourdough made from our own sourdough starter.

Crusty Sourdough Loaf
2 cups of lukewarm water
1 cup of sourdough starter
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast or fresh yeast
5 cups of high grade flour
1 tablespoon of salt

There’s not much to it. Just mix the water, starter and yeast together and then add the flour and salt. Mix by hand for about five minutes or put everything in your bread machine and use the dough setting to mix it for you.

The dough should be quite wet and have a shaggy appearance. Put it in a bowl and cover with cling film, or inside a shopping bag to rise until it doubles in size. Leave the bowl somewhere warm for about two hours or somewhere cool overnight. The longer you take to rise the dough, the stronger the flavour will be.

When you are ready to bake the bread, split the dough in two and knead well to restart rising then put the two doughs into loaf tins. Alternatively, you can make the bread any shape you want and just put it on an oven tray. Loosely cover the dough with plastic again.

Let the dough rise again for about 45 minutes while you heat up the oven to 200-220 degrees C.

Bake for 15-25 minutes, depending on what shape your dough is (flat, wide bread will cook quicker than a taller loaf) and how crusty you want the top to be. It helps to mist the top of the dough with water just before you put it in the oven.

The crusty top and chewy, tangy sourdough flavour of this bread make it a great any-occasion snack. It toasts well too!

A wee flood
March 3, 2012, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Environment, Weather

This is our neighbour’s place in the midst of the so-called “weather bomb”. Their usually small, tranquil stream had grown considerably.

Our sourdough starter
December 18, 2011, 1:39 pm
Filed under: Food, Recipes

I’ve tried a few sourdough bread starters over the years but this one has been the easiest to start and produces a great sourdough bread. The only reason I’m starting it again is that I managed to kill my last one. As it turns out, sourdough starters that contain dairy don’t like to be left out of the fridge long term.

This recipe is from one of our favourite bread books – Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible. It’s definitely in the “if you only buy one…” category.

Sourdough Starter

2 cups of lukewarm water
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast or fresh yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar or honey
1/4 cup of nonfat dry milk powder
1/3 cup of plain yoghurt
2 cups of bread flour

Feed for the starter

1/4 cup of water
1/3 cup of bread flour

You’ll need a medium sized glass bowl with a loose-fitting glass lid (or gladwrap is fine). Pour the warm water into the bowl and sprinkle the yeast, sugar and milk powder over the surface. Stir with a whisk until dissolved then stir in the flour and mix until well blended.

Loosely cover with a glass lid, gladwrap or a double layer of cheesecloth and let stand at room temperature for at least 48 hours, whisking the mixture twice a day. You can leave it for up to four days, depending on how sour you want the starter to be. The mixture will start to ferment and bubble with a clear liquid forming on top – just stir that back in.

On day two to four (depending on when you want to stop) it’s time to feed the starter. Mix in 1/4 cup of water and 1/3 cup of bread flour, cover again and let it stand overnight. Store it in the fridge, loosely covered and feed it again every two weeks.

Using the starter

Bring it to room temperature before using.  Remove the amount of starter you need then add one cup of flour and 1/2 cup of non-fat milk to the remaining starter. Mix well and let stand at room temperature for a day to start fermenting again, then refrigerate. I’ve found that if you are using and replacing the starter regularly (once a week or more) you don’t need to feed it as well, unless you want to grow the starter to the point you can split it in half and give some away to another keen baker.

The starter will improve with age (my last one was nearly a year old when I killed it). It should smell of pleasant fermentation – yeast and alcohol. If it starts to smell foul or develops a pink colour it has probably succumbed to an airborne pathogen – discard it immediately and start again.

It helps to leave yourself a note for the first few days’ activities so you don’t have to keep diving back to the recipe.

A bucket of mushrooms
December 17, 2011, 12:46 pm
Filed under: Food, Garden

We recently bought a bucket of mushroom starter from local outfit, Parkvale mushrooms. It’s currently living in our firewood box outside the back door in the relative cool and dark. We’ve harvested over a kilo of mushrooms from it so far, and more keep coming up. At the current price of mushrooms it’s already paid for itself! Aside from the economy, the taste of just-picked mushrooms in our salads and on pizzas can’t be beaten. They’re easy to look after, don’t take up much space, and start producing immediately – ideal for the kitchen gardener.