Friday, April 10, 2015

Autumn Farmers wanted!!!

We Autumn Farmers would really love to enable and educate anyone at all who is interested in learning the ins and outs of pastured-chicken farming. So we're very excited to announce 2 opportunities right here on our farm, for all you budding chook farmers.
The first is Autumn Farm Chook School, which is a one day intensive held right here on the farm on Sunday the 14th of June. We'll introduce participants to all aspects of our CSA, from day old chicks to slaughtering and marketing. There'll be a tour of our little community abattoir and a delicious farm lunch, as well as theory and practical hands on activities. Spaces are limited, so please email us if you're interested.
Chief farming lady Pearl, in one of her many delightful floral aprons
The second exciting thing is that we are looking for a passionate, engaged, hard-working intern to join us for 3 months of learning, working, and chicken-wrangling. We are also in the process of hand building a strawbale home, so there is also an opportunity for you to participate in and learn about natural and strawbale building, if you’d like.
Tiny offgrid strawbale house
As an Autumn Farm intern, we would anticipate that you would work an average of 4 hours per day, 6 days per week, at tasks including (but definitely not limited to!)
-all aspects of chicken farming, from caring for day old chicks, moving the pasture houses, feeding, watering, transporting,  slaughtering and marketing
- construction: there’s always something being built, whether it’s a composting toilet, a brooder house, a chicken tractor or a strawbale home
- vegetable-growing: we grow food for ourselves, and occasionally sell excess to local cafes and shops
- compost-making: we make hot compost using waste from the abattoir
- bee-keeping: we have a Kenyan top-bar hive
- cooking and preserving
- this year at Autumn Farm we will also be running a pasture cropping trial, planting a food forest, and introducing sheep into our pastured farm enterprise, so it’s likely you’ll get a taste of all of these fun things too.
The view down the valley
We will provide you with a rich learning environment, with opportunities to learn everything you need to know about running a pastured poultry CSA and a small community abattoir. We have a cozy caravan for you to sleep in, and will provide you with healthy and delicious omnivorous meals. Bathing infrastructure at Autumn Farm is fairly rudimentary, so if you’re not going to be happy with an outdoor solar shower and the odd fire-bath, this probably isn’t the right job for you.

We ask that you are
-self-motivated
- aligned ethically with the ideals of sustainable, regenerative agriculture and/or permaculture principles
-prepared to do the work that needs doing
-willing to agree to a one-week trial on our farm

We are willing to consider couples and/or families, though the caravan is equipped only with a double bed. We are also happy to support writers, artists or other creative people who would like a peaceful place to live and work in exchange for helping on the farm.

If you are interested in coming and sharing in our farm, please send us an email – autumnfarmbega@gmail.com - telling us why you’d like to come to Autumn Farm. What are your inspirations and aspirations? You don’t need to have any experience, but you do need to be willing to learn and work hard.

How exciting is that? We're super excited about meeting some new people and sharing in our knowledge, so if you or someone you know is interested, please please PLEASE send us a message!


Photos of our farm by Jay



Sunday, March 8, 2015

A tiny mouse house for a bee suit

While I'm reasonably happy with my current 'crazy person' bee outfit, (cobbled together using various pieces of clothing, pants tucked into socks, and an old insect net which I found at the markets), now that we've got our beehive full of bees, I feel like I need to upgrade.

Not that my current getup doesn't do the job - I haven't had too many stings - but it makes me nervous, which means I tend to check the hive VERY quickly, and perhaps not as thoroughly as I should.

So I've decided to buy a proper bee suit. With a proper hat, and proper gloves. Exciting.
To raise funds for this purchase, I'm silently auctioning off the tiny mouse in a tiny house I crocheted at the beginning of this year. It's adorable, and won first prize in the handmade toy section at the Bega show! 
The mouse, house and blanket are all crocheted using 100%wool. The house is lined in polka dot fabric, and the lid/roof zips on and off so you can get your mousie out to play and then tuck it up in bed when it needs a rest.

To be in the running to win this little mousie house, you just need to send me a message - pearlandelspeth at gmail dot com - with your offer. In a week's time I'll announce the winner. 

Of course, if you've got a bee suit lying around, we can just do a direct trade...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The next big adventure

Almost 3 years ago, we broke ground to make way for the tiny handmade strawbale house we currently call home. It was a momentous occasion for us, full of mixed feelings, and it was the beginning of a journey that basically consumed us for the following couple of years.

Building the tiny house was always a bit of a 'suck it and see' kind of exercise - to find out if we could really build our own house. Turns out we could! It was really hard at times, but it was always rewarding. And we so thoroughly enjoyed the experience of building, and have so thoroughly enjoyed living on our land, in our little handmade home, we're doing it again.
4 year old barefooted pirates are invaluable on the building site
In the last few months we've begun to slowly make moves towards building a second, slightly less tiny, slightly more luxuriously appointed (internal plumbing!!) handmade strawbale house. We don't have heaps of money, and we certainly don't want to go into debt, so things will be slow-going, as we plan to save a bit, build a bit, over the next few years.
Shadow of a shovelling lady
Building the tiny house has given us an excellent perspective on what we really want and need from a home, and what we can and can't manage to build by ourselves. We've discovered a few things we're going to do differently second time around (45 degree pitch roof? No thank you!), and a few things we're definitely going to do the same (strawbale? Most certainly!). If you're thinking of building your own home, it's something to seriously consider: I believe that building this place was the single best thing we've done in the last 5 years. The knowledge, skills and perspective it's given us - not to mention the savings in rent and bills! - have been absolutely invaluable, and we're very grateful to have had the opportunity.

So what are we planning to build next?
It's pretty basic: a strawbale rectangle with a skillion roof, containing 3 very small bedrooms, a fully strawbale-enclosed cool pantry (bigger than the bedrooms - food storage takes priority over sleeping space in this family!), a nice, open, functional kitchen, a beautiful warm eating area, and a lounge space with a wood fire that doubles as an oven and stove. 
Oscar and my dad laying the pipe that will carry our greywater directly to an absorption trench in our zone 1 garden
External walls will be rendered strawbale, internal walls will be framed using recycled wood pallets, clad with reclaimed corrugated iron and fence palings. Our experiences over the last few years of bathing outside have prompted us to forego an internal bathroom in preference of more kitchen space, with a primitive, outside greenhouse/shower-room combo to complement our existing firebath, which we love so much! We're also going to have another outside, composting toilet.
Footings full of water, which our dogs think of as purpose-built doggy-lap-pools, much to the detriment of the footings themselves
But for now, all we have is a kind of muddy area with some footings full of water, and pier-holes full of frogs, and occasionally children. 
Oh and a 110 000L tank that is collecting water off its own roof until we get it hooked up to the house. Not terribly appealing or inspiring, but it's a start, and our minds and hearts are busy and full, as we dream of this next big building adventure.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

We're back!

Well. That was the biggest break from blogging I've had since I started the blog some years back. There have been times in the last 6 weeks where I've wondered if I was going to come back to it. But hey: this thing is a record of our adventures, and the adventuring ain't stopping here. It's a place for us to rant about the things we're passionate about, and we're passionate about a lot. It's a place for us to share stuff and (hopefully) teach or inspire people, and there's a lot to learn. So we're back.

What have we been up to since the canceled party debacle?
Heaps of stuff! And also heaps of relaxing!

We have a little break from chicken farming over the summer because we find the chickens really struggle with the hot weather. Also, chicken farming is bloody exhausting, especially after the year we've had, so we need a break!

Life without chickens is roomy and free and relaxing. There's space for new friends, foraging (blackberries! plums! raspberries! oh my!), baking, crocheting, quilting Australiana-themed baby-quilts, reading, swimming, eating, old friends, bee-swarm-catching, a trip to the big-smoke for circus shows and visiting, and general merry-making.

After processing our last batch of chickens for the year and (happily) providing delicious chicken Christmas dinners to the people of the Bega Valley (and one lady who comes all the way from the Snowy Mountains for our chicken!) we headed out to the coast for a luxurious 2 week holiday with some of our nearest and dearest. It. Was. Amazing. Eating, swimming, reading, crocheting. Repeat. Oh, and we harvested a bucketload of native wild raspberries, which we dumped onto a baked ricotta for New Year's dinner. 
Not a bad spot for an afternoon of foraging
There are no words to describe the deliciousness, but here's a picture...
When we came home to the farm the garden was ridiculously overgrown, but we didn't mind. We harvested and made merry.

Our neighbour called to say there was a late swarm of bees at his place, so we caught it in an esky and installed it in our top-bar hive. We've been waiting for a swarm for 2 years since our last lot of bees got hive beetle and evacuated, so that was a happy day.
Me in my "crazy person" beekeeping 'suit' and Gunnar in his proper suit.
The roadside plums came on, and we had a harvest-and-preserve party with some new lovely friends.
I finished a custom baby-quilt order for an Australiana fan in Sydney. Love this quilting bizzo...
The blackberries have come on, so we're harvesting and freezing daily. When the season's over and we've got our haul, we'll have a massive jam cook up. In the meantime, we pick and pick and eat our fill.
Locavore dinner parties with friends, including plum cakes with Jersey cream!
And in between it all we've been working at our off-farm jobs. I've started a new job at the local wholefoods co-op, which is AWESOME, and of course we've been running and working at our little abattoir, which continues to process for small-scale chicken and duck farmers and backyard growers around the traps. Sometimes, the abattoir cleaning (not processing!!) is a family affair. 
The kids don't mind at all (it's an excuse for us all to hang out together playing with high-pressure hoses, after all), and we feel it's important for them to see us (and share in) working hard for the things we believe in.

Oh and I've been thoroughly enjoying exploring the instagram world. Never thought I would, but there you go. Life's full of surprises, right? 

On the immediate horizon we have another little break and then we dive head first into building and chook-enterprise-expansion and abattoir overhauling and school and uni and show season and roadside-apple-and-peach season and all the other busy-ness that comes with this life we're living. I'm excited.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Blessings on the helpers

When I was having chemo, part of my healing-through-gratitude regime involved making plans and daydreaming about the massive thank you feast we would throw for all the people who helped us out during that supremely crappy time. I felt that even though things were not that awesome for us during those months of treatment, I still had so much to be grateful for, and I still felt super lucky. Maybe even more lucky than I feel normally. It's true I did have cancer, and I did have one of my boobs removed, and I did go through chemo, which was gross. But I have an incredible, strong, kind, compassionate and loving partner, and 2 beautiful kids. I have an extended family who love me. I had an amazing day-bed out the front of our beautiful little house on which to rest, overlooking a sweet little valley farm which I love. I live in a country with (kind of) free health care, which meant I was able to have the treatment I needed to give myself the best chance of survival. I have access to an abundance of all kinds of nutritious foods to heal body and spirit. 

And I found myself among a community of people who helped out in all kinds of ways. There were people who came and helped Pearl move the chicken houses, and to help load chickens on processing day. There were the people who brought us meals. There were the people who put money into our bank account to pay for herbs and vitamins and medical bills. There were the people who processed our chickens the night I had to unexpectedly go to hospital with neutropenia. There were people who bought us massages. There were people who knitted things for me. There were people who gave me Reiki, and people who gave me acupuncture. There were people who brought us firewood. There were people who lent us their showers and spare bedrooms. Awesome, right?

The party planning started off with me emailing one of my favourite artists, Phoebe Wahl, to see if I could buy one of her images to use for the invite. What I love about Phoebe's art is it's warmth and vigour and heart - all the things I wanted for our party. Because she's lovely, she happily obliged.
Food planning involved the procurement, fattening, killing and processing of a lamb, which our friend David took care of for us, other than the boerwurst sausage-making, which was a team effort.
We bought veggies and salad greens from all our friends with market gardens. I, with the help of 2 very special ladies, made 25 litres of rhubarb and strawberry champagne.

For party favours, I lino-cut a 'thank you' stamp and stamped it onto serviettes I'd made, for people to use at the party then take home and use over and over.
My mum and her partner made a dessert, my nana made her signature custard kisses and a 'thank you' fruitcake, and Pearl's mum made brownies.

Everything was set.

And then it started to rain.

Plan B for Bad weather was to move the party to the incredibly beautiful Quaama Hall. Ain't no way 60 people were fitting in the tiny house.

Saturday morning, the hall was booked, as it seemed like the rain would never let up. And it didn't. In fact, by sunday morning, the day of the party, we, along with food enough for 70 people, got flooded in as the river broke it's bank and covered our main road to town with over 2 metres of fast-flowing water.
The give way sign at the bottom of our road, on the morning of the party
Not really the kind of development you want on the day you've been planning for months.

So we sent out texts and facebook messages telling people the party was off. Ironically, sunday turned into a beautiful sunny day, and we cheered ourselves by cracking jokes about it being a beautiful day for a party. My brother, who was visiting from WA got to spend some quality, flooded-in time with the kids. Some also-flooded-in-neighbours dropped by, and we had roast lamb for dinner.
Nice day for a party. Shame that 'lake' is covering the road to party-town
The next day we made 'Canceled Party Pickle' with all the zucchinis, squash and capsicums we'd bought. We preserved most of the harissa we'd made and froze the marinades.
We breakfasted on harissa and labne and cucumber and lettuce and asparagus and roast beetroot for days. It was actually divine.
Luckily, no food went to waste, between the freezing, the preserving, the eating and giving things away to all and sundry. And Oscar was thrilled to have Thank You fruitcake in his lunchbox today.

So what's the moral of this rather long-winded post? There're probably a few. One moral is that flooding waits for no man, and the river and rain don't give a crap about your plans for thanking people.
Another is that a jar of Canceled Party Pickle and a lovingly hand-made serviette, while not the same as an awesome party, is also quite a nice way to say thank you. And yet another is that all exercises in feeling grateful, whether the plans eventuate or not, are good for the soul. Even though we were sad our party didn't happen, we still feel grateful for all our friends, and the things they do for us. One day, that party's gonna happen, and we'll all be glad.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Handmade delights for giving

Are you by any chance looking for some delightful handmades to give to a loved one this Christmas? If you are, I may just have something for you, but you'll have to order this week, especially if you want something custom made to arrive in time for Christmas. 

Here's what I've got for you:

P&E gift certificates - these are handmade by me (of course!) using reclaimed kids' books and cereal boxes (lovingly saved for me by my nana). You give them to your friend/lover/mum/sister/daughter, they feel happy, email me, and we have a chat about fabric and colour choices then I make them a skirt. Just for them. They feel good in it, it fits them perfectly, because it was custom made, and it's special, I tell you. $70 (this includes postage of the card and the finished skirt)
If you want to buy someone a ready made skirt all I have left at present is this beautiful turquoise Birds  of Tasmania wrap 'n go. It's about a 12-14, and it's awesome. $50
Crocheted stubby holders are crazy good, handy and pretty unique. I'm into granny-ing them at the moment but I can do whatever. $12 each
Crocheted heart hair clips. Sweet as! $10/pair
Crocheted flower bangles. These are made using the rings that come off yoghurt and Vegemite jars and 100% hand-spun, hand-dyed wool. And they look awesome with some redpeg ecostudio recycled silver bangles too! (Dirty gardening hands optional). $15 for a set of 3
That's what I've got in stock, which I can send out tomorrow. If you email a custom order to me this week I could probably get it to you in time for Christmas, but you'll have to act fast! 
I hope your Christmas/holiday/gift-giving time is a handmade extravaganza!!!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fruit, music and brand new babies

Today I finished off a baby quilt I've been working on for a few days now. It's the first baby quilt I've ever made that's not been for a dear friend.
Normally when I'm making a baby quilt I channel a lot of energy and love into imagining the little person whose quilt I'm making, thinking of their parents, the life that's beginning, as I select the fabric and make the stitches. It's a beautiful process and I absolutely love it.
When I was asked recently by our friend Kate if I could make something for a dear friend of hers who's soon to have a baby, I was super-keen to make a quilt for her. And it came together beautifully.

Even though I've never met the soon-to-be parents, or their soon-to-be bubba, I still imagined and channeled love and joy as I stitched, musing on what adventures were in store for the new little family, and imagining how the quilt might figure in their daily lives.
Selecting fabrics and laying it all out, making pockets and tassels and mini-bunting, and then stitching it all together while meditating on life and love and growth and change is such a fun way to spend some hours. I love the process, and I love knowing that my craft is involved in a whole cycle of giving and receiving that's founded in love and a respect for handmade goodness.
Oh, and the quilt is part of a trade: you know how much I love bartering. So in exchange for the love stitched up in the quilt, Kate's providing me with music and fruit. How awesome is that?

Happy life, little bubba. May it be filled with heartfelt music, warm sunshine and sweet fruit.