Farm Club

2018/05/06 deej 0

The first rule of farm club is..  please do in fact talk about farm club. Tell anyone you know who might be interested. Encourage other people to start their own versions – maybe we can make it into a movement.

Farm club is a combination of a (hopefully) practical co-op for food sharing and an attempt at a real-world version of a gifting/barter economy. The idea is that members offer “shares” in whatever they produce, along with what they need back to keep producing the thing, and other members sign up for those shares.

So in our case, we produce eggs. We’ve tried selling them directly, either for eating or hatching (we have roosters, the eggs are fertilised), but it’s hard. Working full time and trying to do a weekly or fortnightly egg delivery run is hard; working full time an hour to an hour and half commute away from home and trying to maintain social connections, and spend time with my kitties and my geese and my chickens, have a little bit of time to myself to write or read or play, AND doing a weekly or fortnightly egg delivery run is well nigh impossible. I just don’t have time, or the energy.

Plus, chickens aren’t machines. They don’t lay an egg a day all year; they molt, or a fox comes past and tries to get in (and fails, but still, it does them a frighten), or the weather turns cold or gets too hot, or something happens in their little chickeny brains and they stop laying. Or they find a cache of delicious bugs or something, and they go berserk laying like they’re mental (2 eggs a day from some of the hens, for no apparent reason). To reliably produce enough eggs to sell, we need to actually over-produce, which means we then have an excess to try to sell (but then we have the same problem of supplying the demand once we generate it) or to use up ourselves (our diet is already egg-heavy, we really can’t effectively use any more).

Thus: farm club. It’s a variation on the idea of people jointly buying and owning a cow or goat, and all taking a share of the milk produced by the jointly owned animal (this idea has been used by people wanting raw milk, because while it’s illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption, it is legal to use the raw milk form your own animal).

In this version, we’d offer a number of bird-shares for eggs and farm club members could sign on for one or more of these egg shares. Each share is equivalent to a half dozen eggs a week, and the ‘cost’ of your share covers the feed for producing those eggs (either directly as chicken feed, be that commercial grain-based feed or fruit & veg e.g. excess fruit from a loquat or lilly pilly tree, or in $$). We’d set a day and time (and frequency) that farm club members could come and pick up their eggs (thus sorting out our distribution issue) – for us it would be one Sunday afternoon per fortnight (Fresh eggs will last up to 3 months in the fridge, a fortnight won’t hurt them or you). If the chickens aren’t laying, or are laying less than usual, we’d post an update saying that there are no eggs that week, or that there are limited eggs.

 

farm club spreadsheet

* One standard 10L bucket  of fruit/veg scraps is approx 2 kg, but feel free to bring more if you want. Best options are greens (celery tops, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce), fruit (lilly pillies, loquats, strawberry tops, bruised bits of mango or peach, the seedy bits from the middle of melon, watermelon rinds,apple cores) or chook-friendly vegetable scraps (cooked beans, corn cobs, the seeds from pumpkin or cucumber, peas or green beans, cooked potato or sweet potato). Leftover cooked rice, barley, couscous or pasta is also okay. No citrus or onion please, and nothing mouldy (those should all go into the compost).

I haven’t worked out all the bugs from the idea, but I think it has possibilities. For example, as we start producing more things, farm club will get different types of shares that members can sign up for – and maybe even some different types of shares that other members produce.

Check out the Farm Club page – it’ll be updated as we work the idea out further. 🙂

Sustainable Living

2016/09/01 deej 0

This week I spent two full days on a process workshop, learning about the ‘product owner’ role in an agile software development or business process. That might not sound like it has much to do with farming or sustainability, but you’d be surprised.

 

I’m not going to bore anyone by describing the agile process, but it’s basically about efficiency, about doing more with less and getting results quickly. And if you think about it, often when we talk about sustainability, we’re really talking about efficiency.

 

We absolutely want to protect and maintain the ecological systems that support us, that provide us with fresh water and clean air and nourishing food. We want to have forests to walk in and oceans to swim in and wild animals to look at and feel good about. (Be honest, that’s what you get from wild animals existing, isn’t it?)

 

But we don’t really want to give up the lifestyles we’re accustomed to. We want clean energy and nutrient-dense food and awe-inspiring old-growth forests and for there to be baby whales in spring, and we also want an abundance of space to live in and food to eat (cheaply and conveniently available, please), and good healthcare, clothing and housing and toilet paper, and roads, and computers, and the internet. We don’t want to decrease our own standards of living. Which is understandable, since it’s pretty good to be us right now. *

 

(* And by “us” I mean those of us lucky enough to live a wealthy country, to have education and jobs available to us, to have enough personal wealth to fall into the ever-shrinking middle class, and enough leisure to care about the future.)

 

So what we want is to achieve the same standard of living, the same goals, with fewer resources – so that there’s more to go around for other people and for ecological health and for the non-human species we share the planet with. We want to live more efficiently. We want to do more with less. And if you think about it that way, it becomes clear that we’re probably not on a winning path, because (as any IT professional will tell you) there’s a limit to how much more you can do with less.

 

That isn’t to detract from some of the ideas which are being implemented. More sustainable agricultural production and agroecology are a great idea. Renewable energy is a great idea, even if photovoltaic is one of the worst options for true full-life-cycle sustainability. Improvements in building and fabrication technology, using 3D printing to build houses and fabricate industrial parts is amazing, and I’m excited to live in a world where that’s happening. Growing your own food, or participating in local growers collectives is a fantastic way of reducing inefficiencies due to food transport. But none of those things address the core problem, in the same way that recycling is great but doesn’t address the core issue of garbage creation by a throw-away society.

 

I don’t necessarily have a solution. But I think we need to start reframing the problem, and coming up with ideas that are more workable than ‘give us the same ever-improving lifestyle, but use fewer resources to do it, regardless of the ever-increasing human population’. Because that one just isn’t going to work long term.

we have a little list..

2016/08/14 deej 0

Last weekend, the auto-waterers for the chicken coops went in. K spent most of Sunday digging and cutting sections of hose, attaching taps and connectors and the float-valve controlled water dishes to each of our coops. We have two up-cycled 200 L plastic olive barrels as the water reservoirs, which should only need refilling every couple’ve weeks even in summer. It’s a pretty big item to tick off the to-do list, because making sure the poultry have access to fresh water all day every day through summer is a real pain when using the standard pet-shop waterers (max size: 10 L; max lifetime: 2 yrs of UV before they crack and leak). And the chickens are our only actual productive farm element so far, so it feels good to get them sorted out. Especially since they’ve started laying again.

 

This weekend the coops got sand to cover the incredibly awful muddy muck that the ‘deep litter’ had turned into with the rain, and corrugated iron roofing over half the run area so there’s some outside space which will be mostly dry in the rain and shaded in the summer. Neither of those things were on the list, but they should have been. The next actual list item is doors for the quail cages, and fully enclosing the chicken runs to make them fox proof (as opposed to merely fox resistant, which they are now).

 

On the water-related front, the next big thing (other than getting the last water tank in, and placing a 10,000 L fire tank near the gate) is setting up some auto-watering for the fruit trees. Another few olive barrels and some drip lines, ideally with auto-timers, would save us hours and hours of work every evening through the middle of summer. Last summer we watered the fruit trees by hand, with watering cans, every day.

 

The list is a little daunting, but it’s good to have the entire list of things to do up as well. It’s stuck on the pantry door, and every time we finish something, it gets crossed off the list. We brainstormed all the things we could think of that we need to do, and agreed that until next year no new items can be added to the list. So it will get smaller, and we won’t have the despair of trying to catch up with an ever-growing list. We started with 95 items on the list, and we’ve completed 9 so far (with another 3 or 4 which are almost completed, but not quite). There are quite a few items which are in progress, too. It seems slow, but – like watching trees grow – these things do take time. We’re getting there.

June 22: wattleseed pancakes

2016/06/22 deej 0

Of the many species of wattle native to Australia, several produce seeds which are suitable for use as human food. Edible wattleseed has rich nutty, chocolate and roasted coffee flavours, and is well suited to both sweet and savoury uses.

 

Australian aboriginal peoples ground dried wattle seeds to form a flour, which was then baked into damper (traditional campfire bread). The green seeds of some wattle species were also eaten, cooked and consumed as a green vegetable like peas or fresh beans. Wattle seeds have also been used as food in some areas in West Africa, where the wattle trees were introduced to provide a fast growing tree for firewood and windbreaks.

 

Laboratory testing and human dietary trials have shown that wattle seeds are highly nutritious and safe to eat as a base or staple foodstuff. Nutritional analysis shows an average protein content of approximately 26%, an average available carbohydrate content of 26%, and a fibre content of around 32%. Wattle seeds also have a low glycaemic index, as their starch content is digested and absorbed slowly, although their energy content is high (approx. 1480 kJ per 100g). The seeds can be stored for up to a year, or sometimes longer, before being ground, with no perceptible deterioration in flavour or food quality.

 

The main species used are Mulga wattle (Acacia aneura), Elegant Wattle (Acacia victoriae), Silver Wattle (Acacia retinodes), Coastal Wattle (Acacia longifolia var. sophorae), and the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha). Coles Wattle (Acacia colei) is widely used in West Africa. Coastal Wattle is described as having a rich, nutty flavour, while the Elegant Wattle has a darker, more coffee and chocolate flavour. All of these species grow happily across a range of Australian dryland environments, and will thrive on 400 – 800 mm rainfall per year, in well drained soils. The Coastal Wattle and Elegant Wattle tend towards a shrub form, growing 3 – 5 m tall and branching lower towards the ground; Mulga may do the same, or may grow as a tree, depending on the environment. The otehr species grow as small trees, 6 – 10 m in height.

 

Wattleseed is often used as a flavouring agent for bread, ice-creams, pastries, cream, pancakes, biscuits, or cakes. Adding up to 1 tablespoon of ground wattleseed to baking, or 1 – 2 teaspoons to ice-cream or cream gives an elegantly aromatic effect. Ground wattle seed can, however, also be used in place of ground sorghum, millet flour, or other gluten free flours in baking; this will give a richer wattleseed flavour to the end product.

 


 

Gluten Free Wattleseed Pancakes

 

2 cups finely ground wattleseed (or 1 cup ground wattleseed and 1 cup millet flour)

1 – 2 cups lukewarm water

¼ cup milk

(optional) 1 egg

1 – 2 teaspoons honey (or to taste)

pinch of salt

oil for frying

 

Instructions

  • Combine the milk and warm water. If using egg, beat the egg in with the water and milk.
  • Sift the ground wattleseed into a bowl and gradually pour in the warm water, mixing well as you do so, to form a smooth batter. If the ground wattleseed is not fine enough to sift, you may wish to grind it more finely with a mortar and pestle – otherwise thepancakes come out with a gritty texture instead of a smooth crisp finish.
  • Set aside and rest the batter in a cool place for 1 – 4 hours.
  • Beat the batter with a wooden spoon (do not whisk), while heating a pan or skillet.
  • Pour or ladle batter into the pan to make a saucer-sized pancake (or several smaller pancakes) and cook until crisp. You can turn it once if desired, but it is not essential. The pan or skillet should be quite hot; the batter will stick if the pan is not hot enough.
  • Serve with honey, jam, or fruit chutney. These pancakes are reminiscent of dark, nutty rye bread.

 

NOTE: For a vegan version of these pancakes, omit the egg and replace the milk with orange juice.

 

 


 

Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons:

June 4: dehesa australis

2016/06/04 deej 0

Dehesa (in Spain) or montado (in Portugal) is a type of agroforestry practised across the Iberian Peninsula. Traditional dehesa is an oak woodland, mostly cork oak (Quercus suber) but also holm oak (Quercus ilex), with various shrubs and grasses – and sometimes crops – growing under the tree cover. In many areas livestock are grazed under the trees; cattle and sometimes sheep graze on the shrubs and grasses, and pigs are herded through to eat the fallen acorns.

 

In an Australian context, a similar system of value-add agroforestry seems very plausible. The tree component could be any one of a number of tree crops – cork oaks and holm oaks would work just as well here, but so would carob (Ceratonia siliqua), several types of wattle (Acacia spp.) with edible seeds or foliage which can be used as supplementary feed for grazing animals, mulberries (Morus nigra), or Eucalypt species which have valuable timber. Forage shrubs could be grown under the trees – the smaller wattle speces, old man saltbush (Atriplex nummularia) – and both annual and perennial grasses and legumes. Then animals could be grazed under the shade cover of the trees.

 

This idea is one that I (and other people) have been playing with for awhile. Half of the property is currently forested with regrowth bushland, mostly Marri (Corymbia calophylla) trees and parrot bush (Banksia sessilis). My plan is to plant cork oaks, holm oaks, edible-seeded wattles, and stone pines (Pinus pinea) as the woodland trees. Through the area allocated as pasture (not currently wooded) I’m putting in mulberries, wattles, carob, olives, and honey locust.

 

A few weeks ago, I planted a selection of wattle seeds. Many have sprouted, and yesterday I gently teased out the individual seedlings and replanted them into tree tubes. Next: mulberry cuttings, and (hopefully) the sprouting of the cork oak acorns and stone pine seeds.

 

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