Everything’s go down on Serendipity Farm

Hi All,

Effel is increasing our flock, the wild birds are propagating exponentially and we have more eggs than we can even contemplate using and no egg cartons. I am going to put lots of photos of our flock in for you to see how big the 6 week old chicks are now. It seems like the whole world is gearing up to Christmas and the air is redolent with Christmas smells. Spices being furiously baked into Christmas puddings and cakes and all of the lovely things that we make for Christmas using the warmly scented spices like cloves, cinnamon and even cardamom. Serendipity Farm is redolent with scent as well. The only problem is, that the scent is quite obnoxious and is reminiscent of the odour of ‘dead possums’ (Steve’s exact quote). We normally don’t notice the ‘delightful’ scent of the Dracunculus vulgaris or Dragon arum as it is commonly known, because it is situated in the teatree part of the garden down at the front of the property. It has had a fantastic year since we moved in and stopped the advancing hoard of forget-me-nots from taking over and these amazing looking but most foetid of plants have started to advance themselves! There are natural swales where the water has flooded out of the drains and made its way through this area and the Dragon arum has followed the pathway of the swales. You really learn so much by just getting out there and doing things and taking an interest (and a good look) at what is all around you. You need to do it constantly, though, because otherwise you miss so much as the season’s change. I must admit…I wouldn’t mind missing the scent of this wonderous plant. My mum had them and used to remove the stamen in the centre to stop the stench. I guess they are attracting the flies away from the house, but we seem to have more than our fair share of blowies tapping on the windows to be let in despite the overwhelming lure of the Dragon arum. I guess it is all part of living in the country and the fecundity of the animal dung all over the place whilst being amazing for the soil, is probably not doing much to diminish the fly problem.

Here is Effel, one of our blue wyandotte hens. She has been faithfully sitting on 7 eggs for about 3 weeks now and before that she was sitting faithfully on nothing for a couple of weeks only leaving the nest at a racing dash to get a drink of water, a peck of food and a lightning dust bath before returning at top speed to her nesting spot. Effel has 3 teeny fluff balls so far and hopefully by the end of the day she should have a couple more. She is doing her best to be invisible in this picture

We have a very interesting mix of chicks. Who knows what some of them are! This set of 4 were hatched out by the wyandotte hen in this picture. She has been an amazing mum and has stuck with them even though they are old enough to be on their own. She appears to have 2 white leghorn hens, a black one (no idea what) and possibly a wyandotte. We are no wiser about what is a rooster and what isn’t (obvious by taking Yin, previously a lesbian and now a fully fledged male…) and don’t care. We most certainly did the right thing in buying in 2 dozen eggs to give some variety to our flock.

Here is Big Yin doing his best to show off to you all. He is a prime specimen of wyandotte manhood and has spawned 9 babies so far (and counting…)

It’s a fantastic time of year to be living on Serendipity Farm. The weather is starting to warm up a bit and we can expect a regular temperature in the low 20’s. The sun is shining, the sky is an amazing blue and the water is reflecting all of the greenery that has grown so manically over the last few months of well-spaced rain. It’s been a superlative year for plants, but in saying that, it is probably going to be an amazing year for fires and so we are doing what we did when we first moved here, almost to the day a year ago, and we are whipper snipping all of our paddocks. Apart from not wanting to receive an infringement notice in the mail, we don’t want to contribute to the problem of property owners ignoring the risks of living out here in the bush. I learned something last year that was most interesting. I love to find things out. I wouldn’t be a good magpie if I wasn’t ready and willing to research things that interest me and so I did a bit of research about planting your property or garden full of native plants. Everyone tells you that it is so important for your native birds…your wildlife etc. What they DON’T tell you is that Australian Native plants are extremely combustible. Most of them are full of essential oils (just crush a few leaves and sniff and you will see what I mean) which are also volatile. I didn’t really believe this until I heard about the properties that did the best in the Victorian bushfires. The gardens that didn’t burn to the ground were full of English specimen trees like oaks and ashes and beech trees. They didn’t burn, because these trees are not full of these volatile oils and so were more like trying to burn damp grass. Unless you have an amazing amount of heat, these trees are not going to burn. Aussie bush plants are designed to go up in flames, to facilitate a massive bush burn and to then come back like the phoenix rising out of the ashes. So many of them actually need fire or smoke to germinate and as horticulturalists and gardeners we know how to soak or spray them with smoke water to get them to do so. Have any of you tried to burn off pittosporum? Unless you want to get the fright of your life, don’t put too much of it on your bonfire at once or you will regret it! Steve and I learned this lesson the hard way by tossing an entire small tree onto the fire. It was freshly cut and not dry and it was like watching Mt. Vesuvius erupt! To reduce your risk of bushfires, be very careful about the species that you are planting. The birds and wildlife do need our help in growing food and shelter plants, but our native shrubs and trees should not be used exclusively, especially those full of volatile oils. I know that there are a lot of people out there that will disagree with me…but I am living out here on a property full of eucalypts, bordered by other bush blocks full of eucalypts and am planting out European natives like you wouldn’t believe! Sue me if you have a problem with this, but I will be too busy bums up, head down planting for our properties future to care.

Here we have our group of 3 ‘black babies’ that were deserted by speckled bob when they were about 3 weeks old. As you can see, we have 2 ‘black ones’ (no idea what and Australorp was NOT one of those breeds listed by the person that sold me the eggs as an option so who knows!) and a lovely dark barred Plymouth Rock pullet that I am hoping beyond hope manages to stay out of Felix’s clutches till she gets too big for Felix to attempt. Pingu is the only other dark barred Plymouth Rock that we got and we know that she is safe…unless she makes a run for Steve’s music room door at full pelt and try to escape into the waiting jaws of either Bezial or Earl like she tried this morning!

To all of you out there feeling the short end of the stick at this time of year, stressing out and trying to get marking done, take a look at how flat out this lot are…

Here is the ‘missing hen’ shall we call her Houdini? She still has 5 babies despite not being included in the flock yet and spending her nights outside. Earl tried to dispatch both her and her babies 2 days ago when she tried (most stupidly) to migrate to the other side of the house via the ‘back grand canyon’ which is a small area between the dogs enclosure and the tall rocky embankment. I had to peel baby chickens out of spiky aloes for 10 minutes after we tossed Earl into the house and the hen spent another 10 minutes calling the other 3 babies out of the tall grass. They have built in survival instincts and this lot are 9 parts feral and so I don’t doubt that she might even manage to raise all 5 of them despite Felix trying her hardest to scoff a few this morning. Good Houdini sat firm and Felix was not so stupid as to try to get her off those tasty little fluff balls…

Here is where some of the chickens spend their days, under the deck stairs. As you can see, the forget-me-nots are all over the place and despite my best efforts, are resisting my attack. I am not at the point where I am admitting defeat and so this lot will be duly pulled out but I fear that my dicky knee has left a window of opportunity for the forget-me-nots to stuff our soil full of forget-me-not seed bank…oh well…I will just have to keep whipper snipping for the next 5 or so years. At least I won’t be bored! :o)

Steve is whipper snipping the forget-me-nots for the second day. He ran out of fuel yesterday and so had to stop but it’s a great day to be standing under the Teatree’s in the dappled shade removing a problem that is going to take a fair few years to tame. A little bit of work and this place starts to give me internal smiling fits. I don’t know if you understand what I mean by that, but it just makes me happy. We often get a bit overwhelmed by the extent of work required to get this property to where we want it to be. We have to remember that this entire acre of landscaped garden (as it was when my dad and his partner bought the property) was actively maintained by 1 elderly lady. If that isn’t enough to put this work into perspective and get us to feel suitably ashamed of ourselves for whinging so much, I don’t know what is! It takes a while to get urban dwellers into country living mode. It would have taken less time but we have been slogging away at studies for a while now and even though that might sound like a convenient excuse, the final unit of our studies was a doozy.  Next year we are tackling a brand new Diploma course titled “Diploma of Landscape Design”. Should any of you constant readers require/desire a revamp of your tired old gardens (you especially Nat :o) let us know and we will pencil you in to see what we can do with our new found skills…

This is the view back towards the river from the garden beside the house. It’s a most idyllic place for chooks to live. Lots of areas under trees and shrubs to scratch. Lots of places to hide from hungry preditors (of which we have many) and all sorts of greenery, insect life and amusement for hens of all walks of life. Aside from that, they have humans doing everything that they want including making them pikelets and throwing puff pastry over the deck for their enjoyment and feeding the ferals so that they are not inclined to attempt chook scoffing any day soon. Who wouldn’t want to be a chook down on Serendipity Farm?

Aside from the wonky shot, here is the ‘silent sentinel’ and his erstwhile companion “the red terror” watching down on the world below. This is what Bezial does best. Watch things. He watches the cats…the wallabies…the potaroo…the hens and chicks…the ducks…the sparrows…anything really. When we come out and find him watching things he puts his hackles up and gruffs a bit as if to say “I am protecting you all from that sparrow flock down there” but really we know that he is just a voyeur! Your not fooling anyone Bezial!

I have been collecting seeds again. For a year we didn’t propagate much at all apart from the odd adventitious bit of ‘stuff’ that waved itself in our faces and forced us to notice it. We didn’t have time to propagate AND study and what with everything else that has happened over the last year and a half, we were frankly not into nurturing baby plants when we all needed a bit of nurturing ourselves. We are back in form now and as such our eyes are starting to wander to good cutting material and seed collecting. I saw a lovely tea tree the other day hanging over a tall fence. It had enormous seeds on it and large soft pink single flowers. I collected a few of the seeds and their capsules are opening and spilling out the tiny seeds everywhere. On our walk this morning I couldn’t help but notice the Prostanthera lasianthos out in flower all around us. It is commonly known as a native mint and the leaves reflect this when crushed and are reminiscent of the Western Australian Agonis flexuosa (Peppermint tree) that grows all around the coast right up to the sand dunes. Have a look at the flowers in this Wikipedia article…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostanthera_lasianthos

They apparently grow well from seed or cutting. As they are endemic to this area, they should grow well in our garden and should provide great bee pulling power and native habitat for our wild bird population. This is an example of where an extremely volatile plant can be used interspersed with European plants to give a fantastic result. When the shrub, which can grow to 5m, is not in flower, it is a somewhat nondescript plant with dark green leaves and a nice, almost birch like trunk. When it’s in flower it is spectacular. Totally covered in pretty white flowers it takes your breath away and as such is a ‘must have’ item for our garden. I have been checking out sources of cutting materials as we take our dogs for their walks in the morning. I love growing things for free and it probably heralds back to our colonial past, when our ancestors had to make do, grow it themselves, share things around and simply ‘survive’ until they learned how to live in this vast wilderness we now call home. It must have been a heck of a culture shock for the early settlers here, but settle they did, and in surviving this inhospitable land, they developed into the iconic ‘Aussies’ that we are today. I am very proud to be Australian. I am proud in being able to question authority. I am proud of our education and our ability to think laterally. I am also proud that despite all odds, we are still here! All kudos to those that went before us. Some of their methods were dubious, but we all owe them a debt of gratitude for what they went through for us for our standard of living today.

Wasn’t that patriotic? I thought so :o). I am feeling decidedly Christmassy this year. I had been going through a slow decline of my Christmas spirit over the years but I think that moving out to the scrub and having lots of time to get back to nature, work things out for ourselves and start doing things that we never thought possible have given me a greater appreciation for just how lucky we are and how much we have to give thanks for. Christmas is the culmination of the whole year and a time when most of us (apart from airline staff and petrol station attendants and the medical confraternity etc.) get to have a bit of a rest and take a look back on our past year. What have you accomplished this year? We can now put “Dip Hort.” after our names. We can also walk down through our property without coming out the other side covered all over by forget-me-not seeds. There are still areas that are covered in blue, but we are a long way from the wilful woman who when pushing the lawn mower, ignored her father saying “make sure to get those bloody forget-me-nots in that second garden!” and deliberately mowed around them because “they were so pretty”. I got what I deserved. A big fat life lesson accompanied by socks, underpants, bra’s, jeans, t-shirts and even hats COVERED in ‘bloody forget-me-nots’ and I have no one but myself to blame! I guess that is the importance of life lessons, you have to actually go through them to learn from them. No point anyone else telling you because if you are stubborn like me, you tend to poo-poo other people telling you what to do and just head out there and find out for yourself. When I was so covered in forget-me-not seeds last year the very first time that I tackled whipper snipping the teatree area and had them stuck to every inch of my body with my eyelids stuck to my eyebrows I suddenly remembered wilfully leaving that patch of forget-me-nots…and I smiled. Not because I was temporarily insane, but because I had most definitely learned a life lesson that day! I doubt that I will ever change. I like learning my lessons myself and figure that is what life is all about. You don’t learn anything if you never take a chance at failure. If you are perfect…you never learn!

Now that our chickens are 6 weeks old, I have been trying to find out what breeds they are by looking online. I have come to a single conclusion…I am most probably not going to ever know what most of them are. It’s a pretty safe bet that most of Yin’s babies are Wyandottes. By the way, Effel doocark has started bringing her progeny into the world. Steve noticed an empty eggshell and that is the first sign. We have learned a lot about chicken hatchings since we first started out a bit like Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall and his first new lamb. Fussing about and generally getting in the way. We are just going to leave Effel alone and hopefully she can bring some more fluffballs into this world. I will keep you posted.  She has 3 so far (how is THAT for keeping you posted :o) but with all the Wyandottes being such a large breed the babies tend to climb up amongst their feathers and who KNOWS how many she has. I don’t fancy lifting her up as she has a particularly vicious peck at the moment so I am just going to let nature take its course. I have just been feeding the dogs and the hens and ducks some pikelets. I made them especially for them and they all enjoyed them, especially the dogs who had theirs dripping with butter. I am so glad that Steve couldn’t part with Yin. Apart from increasing our flock threefold, he is the best rooster and looks after the whole flock, making sure that no-one gets left behind. He spends his days crowing (first and foremost), calling his flock (they all ignore him) and rounding them up to herd them off to bug laden pastures. He has paid us back time and again for the food that he eats and he is now more like part of the family then a food guzzling waste of space that most poultry sites claim roosters are. What he is, is a founding member of our flock and a natural part of chicken life. I think that the hens need Yin more than just for protection. They need him to boss them around and herd them and as someone to look up to. It’s a family thing and to see him pecking around calling all of the babies over to him is lovely. They aren’t his babies, but he doesn’t care. He is just doing what nature tells him to do and he is doing it in an exemplary fashion. Thanks Yin. No stew pot for you (or any of the others that turn out to be roosters as we are sooks :o). Have a great day and don’t let your brains turn to mush with all of the end of year stresses that most of us seem to be under.  I hope that the chickens in this post will lull you into a sense of happiness. They are certainly happy :o)

Here are the pack of 4 chicks that are the biggest and best cared for thanks to their mum the wyandotte who has never left their side and made sure that they always got the best of all the food that was thrown in to the chicks and broodies. They are in the side garden area and as you can see, it most certainly is a haven for hens and chicks.

This last photo is of the ever diligent Yin who has brought some of the members of the flock over to the shrubs where Houdini is holed up with her chicks. He is trying very hard to get her to join the flock so that he can keep an eye on his babies. He isn’t forcing her out, he is just pecking and scratching and making it look like there is a whole lot of wonderous food right here next to him to lure her out. He has been trying this every day and one day she will bring her babies out and join up with the rest of them. For now, keep pecking and scratching Yin, you are doing an amazing job :o)

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. mum
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 13:35:55

    It has been raining all morning,& everything is nicely washed down & fresh again, including me! Another suggestion for that secretive hen is Jeanii, as in I Dream of, she keeps dissappearing. She has done well to keep the chicks safe too so far. I can see you have done lots more clearing since I was over last Easter too. You have given a delightful old garden, a new lease on life love, both of you. I am looking forward to seeing what has come through it all. When all your trees you are planting, mature a bit, it is going to look absolutely stunning. Have a think of water traffic in years to come going along the Tamar, in autumn & seeing all the wonderful hues of the leaves. Another thing, when they drop, all you need do is rake them around the trees! the best food ever for any trees, as I used to do with mine. Forget me knots will remind you of dad won’t they, but they are nice. they fill a space,& the whipper snipper will soon get rid of them. A bit like bracken, keep at it till they give up the ghost. Till tomorrows info

    Reply

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