Lifeboat Farm

New Garden Bed
July 22, 2008, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Food, Garden

Having filled up the raised garden beds I thought it was time to turn over some new, larger beds in the paddock behind the house. Luckily for us, it’s a funny shape that kind of sticks off another useful paddock so I’ve claimed it as garden and orchard space.

The first garden bed is made borrowing a technique from “Gardening When it Counts”, my new favourite gardening book. The theory goes, you use the plants to do the hard work for you – in this case, potatoes, with a side helping of garlic and shallots (just because they all need to be planted).

Step one: get some of the horses to graze the paddock to within an inch of it’s life.

Step two: mow the future garden bed until it’s almost nothing but dirt. Another of my helpers/slaves is keen to help.

Step three: dig a trench a spade-length deep and a spade wide, leaving the turf on one side. I had planned to use a string line to get the trench straight, but the tyre track from the quad bike provided a perfectly good line to follow. This one ended up being 20m long.

Step four: fill the trench with some well-rotted manure. In this case the horses kindly provided some a few months back.

Step five: push the removed sod back into the trench, grass-side down. This had the added benefit (for the chickens) of exposing lots of worms.

Finish by hoeing the soil to a slightly finer tilth. You end up with about a foot of loose soil on top of a layer of well rotted manure. You plant in the top layer and the roots can utilise all the good stuff below as they grow down.

The potatoes were sent to me by Karen’s Dad (thanks Dave!) and they’ve been in a light, cool room for about 8 weeks sprouting. The garlic is from our local farmer’s market and the shallots are NZ grown, but from the supermarket. Some onions/garlic/shallots get sprayed with an anti-sprouting compound so hopefully these shallots will still sprout.

Finally, here are the helpers – Nick, Louise and Amy – our friends from down the road. We made short work of the planting as a team, and managed to fill the entire trench with just a few garlic cloves left over.

Total time spent: 2.5 hours over a few days. As the potatoes grow up, I’ll scrape up soil from beside the row to mound up the sprouts. By the time I’ve mounded a few times over the coming months, there will be a bed of loose soil and paths either side scraped back to clay. All the good soil will be in the beds and when we harvest the spuds, the soil gets another good loosening up. The potatoes send roots down for a metre or so, but all the new tubers grow above the original seed potato, so the looser the soil you mound up, the easier the spuds will have it. Once the potatoes have done the hard work, we can rotate crops and plant something else in the bed next year.


Inside Chickenopolis
July 20, 2008, 5:31 pm
Filed under: Building, Menagerie

When I first posted the pictures of Chickenopolis, Roger asked for some inside pics. I finally got some snaps when I cleaned out the house this week (more compost!)

So here are some pictures…and as for dimensions, I used 2.4mx1.2m sheets of ply so the length is 2.4, the height at the front is 1.2, the width is 1.2…you get the idea 🙂

This is looking inside the half-front door that swings out.

Here is the left hand side, showing the egg boxes at the back. So far the girls are playing the game and 90% of the eggs I collect are in these boxes, with only a few on the floor of the coop.

New Compost Bin
July 18, 2008, 5:13 pm
Filed under: Building, Garden

Now we are stabling the old ponies at night, I have a new daily chore – mucking out the stables. In the permaculture spirit, waste from one process is a resource for another…you just have to figure out how to use it. In this case, I’m not picking up horse poo mixed with straw and sawdust, I’m harvesting a free source of great compost. The three elements provide a pretty good balance of nitrogen vs carbon – they just need a bit of time together to show their potential.

The bin is built into the side of a bank near the stables so it’s easy to get to and gravity unloads the wheelbarrow for me each morning. The slatted sides allow plenty of airflow and when it’s full I can leave it to sit for a few months (and probably build another one judging by the rate it’s filling up). It’s fitting that the wood was left over from the stables fit out.

Native Tree Planting
July 15, 2008, 3:48 pm
Filed under: Garden

A few weeks back we picked up a dozen native tree seedlings – all desirable to birds. They have all gone in the garden bank at the back of the house. The more trees we plant here, the more shelter the vege gardens will eventually have.

There are a few big areas of the farm we want to plant in natives so I’ll be watching the performance of these little guys closely.

Tree Lucerne in Flower
July 12, 2008, 2:28 pm
Filed under: Environment, Garden

Our Tree Lucerne is bursting into flower. This will become a great source of Winter forage for the bees (we’ll be getting them in Spring). I’m establishing a nursery to grow a few hundred new Tree Lucerne each year as a nursery crop for all the native plantings we want to do. Tree Lucerne is pretty special when you consider it fixes nitrogen in the soil, sends down very deep, stabilising roots, provides wind and sun shelter, animal fodder, firewood and it grows quickly. It’s ideal as a windbreak or nursery crop as you can do so much else with it.

The Ponies, Installed
July 10, 2008, 2:15 pm
Filed under: Building, Menagerie

Daemar and Jack on a sunny morning. They seem to be enjoying their new digs.

City cat doesn’t get it…
July 5, 2008, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Garden, Menagerie

Schmoo, our nice but dim kitty has 46 acres of farm to use as his own personal litterbox, but it seems he can’t shake his city ways.