Spring is definitely springing… and rapidly! We have had a small amount of rain (4mm) and everything has just sprung to life. There are green shoots, bright buds, blossoms and blooms popping up all over. Also after our heavy pruning, many trees and plants are bouncing back with beauty.
The dam levels are starting to drop and streams running dry so we are very hopeful for some rain soon. Predictions have been for a late Spring rain though. With the warmer winter, it has meant some challenges and rethinking about land management and burning too. Always learning!
Being our first winter keeping animals has also been a steep learning curve. The forage is poor and animals use a lot more energy in the colder weather so we have to buy in more feed. This has encouraged us to start exploring growing our own feed, especially for the chickens. To move from bought in to fully home grown feed has always seemed too daunting but we are starting to make small steps and slowly make our way in that direction.
We started growing wheatgrass to supplement the chickens’ diet while greens are in short supply. We have also been lucky enough to get spent grain from the local Lions River Brewery to add to the pigs’ diet, alongside whey from Tatsfield calf-at-foot dairy and excess milk from our neighbour’s dairy. We are starting to see a bounce back of the areas impacted by animals in early winter. The picture above shows the earliest green shoots in an area where the pigs were. Because of the pigs’ impact, this area had very short grass during burning time which meant a natural fire break was created! Very cool.
The month has continued to be spent catching up on admin and business planning, lots of planning. When we first started running the farm, we expected to spend most of our time farming. We have learnt that we probably spend equal amounts of time on the business side as we do on the farm, with an increasing move towards more time spent on the business. In this regard, we continue to be immensely grateful to our committed staff members who help us out in so many ways.
As our load increases, we have decided to take on some volunteers for the new season. Our experiences in the past were not great but we didn’t have a clear vision and established routines to make it work either. While we still don’t feel that we have these in place, we feel at least further down that road and more prepared.
This week will see the 2019-2020 season kicking off!
Sadly, before new things can start, some things must come to an end. Half of our pigs are off on their last adventure this week. This is never easy and something we are often asked about. Some advice is to grow a harder heart, yet others say not to, to appreciate each life on this farm and feel every pain. We know that this sacrifice means that these pigs got to live their best life – they lived outdoors, they foraged, they dug, they rooted, they wallowed, they rolled, they got tummy tickles and head pats, we visited them and talked to them daily. It meant 5 less pigs living in confinement. 5 more pigs making a difference to the world. While that doesn’t change the world, it is a start… for now. And a lot of people who have the chance to eat better quality pork and not support confinement.
The second 5 pigs will stay with us another month. Timing has worked out well – we sold the last of our pork this past week. Last time since everything was such a rush and last minute that we didn’t have much time to plan exactly what cuts we wanted. This time we are more prepared with new recipes and product offerings.
PASTURE RAISED POULTRY
We welcomed 100 new layers to the farm this week after a growing interest in our pasture raised eggs. They have taken a bit of time to settle in, a day or two before they’d venture out of the egg mobile but they are learning from the other layers. We did this in the dark as everyone would be calmer.
We will be getting our first batch of chicks to raise on pasture this week. They will start off in a cosy brooder with heat lamps until they swap their yellow down feathers for hardier feathers and can then begin their life on grass, able to keep themselves warm. Like babies in a playpen, the chicks get very antsy quickly and keen to get outside! Raising young animals on the fringe of a season is always a challenge – for now the weather looks good and warm enough but can change at any moment. Spring can bring heavy rain and cold weather, with sneaky frosts and even snow!
Starting to layer up compost in our raised beds before prepping beds in the market garden. We are very excited about bartering chicken for compost from a neighbour – beautiful, rich, dark, old compost! It will be interesting to see the impact this has on our growing this season. Our veggies really took a backseat last season in between ramping up the animal enterprises, refining the guesthouse offering, and setting up multiple REKO rings! But we hope to be more focused this season.
These raised beds aim to feed us and our staff, leaving the market garden mostly for sale veg. By this point of the year, the vegetable supply is lacking so we are trying to get moving with these beds to feed ourselves again!
Luckily we have friends in REKO places so we can still get some veg – check out our BLT – homemade sourdough bread with our pasture raised chicken mixed with mayo made from our own eggs, our own bacon, and avo and lettuce from REKO friends!
REKO has been relatively quiet but we are starting to see it pick up again with the new buds of Spring. We have learnt a lot of tough lessons about being clear and intentional with REKO guidelines and what REKO Midlands stands for. It is always a challenge but worthwhile for sure!
New offering at REKO: Lemon and Thyme Spatchcock pasture raised chicken (lemon and thyme from our garden)
We will also be launching a new project later this week – Adopt a Hen. This has been in process for months and finally here!
Adopt a Hen will allow participants to adopt a hen on our farm and get free eggs in exchange! If you are interested, please sign up below and we will keep you up to date as the project launches. Signing up is not a confirmed subscription but just adds you to the mailing list for more information.