Pumpkin palace is growing brilliantly with the warm weather! Although we had a run of days in the high thirties and even up to 41.3C one day, the garden has survived, despite an unfortunate set back with our bore pump deciding to give up. We went for one week with no watering at all, and the following week with limited water until we had the new pump installed. We had some losses during that time, but most of the veggies hung in there and bounced back with a few good soakings.
We have an abundance of beans, zucchini and daikon radish already, and the pumpkin, rockmelon and cucumbers are well on their way. In fact, for the first year we have decided to try growing zucchini vertically to save space, and so far it is working brilliantly!
The aquaponics has been mixed, with some things growing like crazy but others not surviving the onslaught of the slaters. Tomatoes, laksa leaf and galangal in particular are taking over!
It has taken us a while to get the berry beds set up the way we wanted them, but they are now going well also, with the raspberries in particular enjoying the location! We have started picking the odd berry, but soon there will be more ready to eat!
And finally, the quail roosters were dispatched and processed for the freezer- a very straightforward job compared to other animals. The place is a lot quieter now- they certainly made a lot of noise for such small birds!
The girls are laying away like crazy, so we are giving away quail eggs as well as pickling heaps to eat later.
Well, the quail really do grow quickly! It was no time at all when we realised the perfect brooder we had made for them simply wasn’t big enough! Fortunately the weather was warming so we were able to relocate them outside (but still with heat). This was much more hygienic for them and for us!
Because they were now in a larger area, it was also easier to keep up with the supply of food and water they needed. As the weather warmed up further, and they grew, we were able to use straw as the bedding and remove the heat sources. Now they are completely off heat and are well settled in.
The roosters are now crowing, though the females are not yet laying, and now we are getting ready for our first go at processing quail.
The adult quail, along with the hens, are laying so many eggs we have been pickling them as well as giving lots away to family and friends. Along with the lacto-fermented peas and the jars of sauerkraut always in the fridge, there isn’t a lot of room!
It has been fabulous to see so many orchids and wildflowers blooming on our property this year too- they just seem to have popped up randomly.
The incubation was a success! We had 15 of the 17 (after a late addition of 3 extra) eggs successfully hatch, and now, a week later they are eating and growing at quite a rate!
Day 15 was lockdown day, where the turning bits of the incubator were removed and gravel paper laid on the floor of the incubator. This is so they can get a good grip when they move around and reduce the possibility of splayed legs (which can happen if their feet slip around).
We also made sure the brooder was set up and ready, and ran the brooder plate to make sure everything worked. We used a deep tub, cut out a hole in the lid and replaced it with this mesh that could be opened and closed quickly and easily.
Day 18 we awoke to three hatched, and then throughout the day and into the evening, the others hatched except for two eggs! They were very noisily chirping around!
The next day, when they were dry and fluffy, we transferred them over to the brooder box. We felt they were a bit cold, so added a ceramic heat lamp which seemed to make them more comfortable for their first week. Now, just over a week later, they are eating and drinking huge amounts, and growing at a rate of knots!
Now we have to be so careful when we open the lid, as they jump straight up in the air!
Our quail are going very well, and after a slowing down of egg production over the coldest months, they are picking up again now.
Apparently their fertility reduces significantly as they get older, and because they don’t really get ‘clucky’ and sit on eggs, we decided to incubate some. Our goal is to produce some fresh breeding stock and hopefully some left overs to use as food- something we haven’t tried as yet!
We gently cleaned 14 eggs collected over the 3 or 4 days, and at the same time ran our incubator at the required 37.5 degrees celsius to be sure it was stable and working well.
Once we were sure it was all working well (first time using it since moving almost 3 years ago), we set the eggs inside.
While the Janoel 24 doesn’t have a specific quail egg holder, it’s movable parts have enabled us to incubate and hatch duck, turkey, chicken and guinea fowl eggs….and now quail eggs.
Well, remember when we needed to purchase water at the end of summer? Well, after loads of rain over May, June and July, we realised we were loosing water instead of storing it all! We had noticed some seepage starting on the concrete tank, but it got much worse very quickly and obviously needed repairs to ensure we stored as much water as possible for the next summer.
Fortunately, someone was able to come quite quickly and do a repair. We will see how it goes, and possibly invest in a tank liner if we still have issues with this 40 year old tank!
And….further to the rabbit post and their amazingly quick development… here they are now at 7 weeks old, almost ready for weaning (which mum Kep certainly is ready for!).
After a long break while we were getting sorted in McCarthy Park 2, it has been lovely having rabbits again! Our breeding pair Kep and Marloo, who we got as youngsters, matured over the past year, mated and gave birth to 9 kits on 31 May!
It has been astounding to see the development, and no wonder rabbits have overrun Australia when you see how quickly they mature! Here is a series of photos to highlight….
1st June- Kep (Nyoongar for rain, as we bought her on a rainy day) pulled out lots of belly hair to make a nice soft nest for her babes- 4 pink and 5 black.
5th June, already getting their hair though their eyes are still closed. The pink kits are now ginger, like their dad Marloo (Nyoongar for red kangaroo).
11th June, looking more like baby rabbits with more hair and longer ears!
12th June, eyes now opening
19th June, we now need two hands to hold them!
26th June, they are all now out and about and eating (and pooing)!
That took 26 days…. not quite four weeks old! The next month will bring more growth, and a lot more cleaning the cage until they are weaned at around 8 weeks.
Well, we have had a bit of rain to top up the tanks, so no need to buy water for a while at least But it is so cold! One weekend morning it was minus 2.1 still at 7.30am!
A few plants suffered with the sudden chill, so now we are trying to protect them with nets to see if that helps them bounce back in spring.
Preserving has continued, with a bit of a reshuffle in the produce room needed to fit it all on the shelves. It has also been a bit tedious writing the contents on each lid (in case we forget what is what!), so now we write on the shelf directly with chalk!
We had such a great pumpkin harvest this year, so some was chopped and canned in some broth ready to make pumpkin soup, mash or add to casseroles- yum! There are still loads of pumpkins to harvest too!
And in exiting news, our Flemish Giant rabbit ‘Kep’ (Nyungar for ‘rain’) is due to have babies any day! She is looking particularly large around the middle, and has started pulling out fur to line a nest behind her crate. This will be her first litter, so fingers are crossed all goes well for her and the kits.
It has been a busy month with the weather cooling down! One thing we had to do, which we never have before, is buy water! The tanks were very, very low, so over a period of a month we bought 45,000 litres to top up before the rains came.
The pumpkin palace has been thriving, with loads of pumpkin to harvest soon once they have dried out more, plus luffa and a few delicious honeydew melons!
One of the biggest jobs for this cooler period was planting out about 200 plants down the driveway. We noticed over summer that the ‘grass’ didn’t last well at all, despite being watered a few times, so we decided to plant some native bushy plants to eventually cover this area. Then it will look better all year round!
And finally, there has been more and more preserving! With plenty of beans, carrots, passionfruit, pumpkin, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumber, the water bath or pressure canner have been busy most weekends!
We recently bought some quail, and they are so cute, and today they started laying their beautiful, tiny eggs!
They are gorgeous, and quite friendly, though we need to keep them in their cage as they get very easily startled and fly straight up!
Their cage has a wooden floor covered with some dirt and shredded hemp. There is a shelter (including some strategically placed branches), their feed container, water container and a diatomaceous earth/sand dust bath, which they LOVE!
We are still learning about what garden treats they like, but have discovered they love flowers (rose, chives, society garlic) and chopped up lettuce. We have had them for a month or so, and today they gave us four eggs, the first of many!
We bought the quail egg scissors off eBay to make it easier to open them, as their shells are quite tough.
Next to the quail cage, we also have another cage for chicks to grow out before they roam with the laying hens. This has a divider down the centre so we can grow out two lots at once, either ducks or chicks (currently we have two lots of chicks each with their mama hens).
We have a wooden floor under this cage also, after trialling with just dirt and not succeeding! The mother hens are so energetic with their scratching around that they made holes for chicks to escape, and the food and water were constantly getting dirty. With a wooden floor and a layer of straw as the bedding, it all stays cleaner and is easy to clean out and refresh.
It continues to be a great year for produce so we have continued to preserve what we can. We have added ratatouille with home grown tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant to the shelves, as well as pumpkin (perfect to make quick pumpkin soup in winter), carrot and bean mix, pickled cucumbers, and some ready made meals using home produce.
We have had an abundant supply of passionfruit, so this weekend we preserved 2 litres of passionfruit pulp to use in winter and 2 litres of passionfruit skin jam!
The softened rind was scooped out with a teaspoon (taking care not to get any skin as it is very brittle), and added to a pot with lemon juice and the pulp of 12 fresh passionfruit. This gave us 7 cups of mixture, to which we added 6 cups of sugar. After boiling for about an hour and a half (and checking for consistency on a plate), it was poured into jars.
it is delicious!!! We are looking forward to trying it on some toast or scones, but think it could be good as a chutney with some cold meat or with a cheese board!
The produce room is certainly getting full, even though we have been eating some of what we have preserved!