We are 'professional peasants' living on a small farm just outside Perth, Western Australia, growing veggies, ducks, chooks, turkeys, rabbits, sheep (Wiltipolls), guinea fowl, bees and even fish ('barra' in summer and trout in winter) in the swimming pool! We combine our day jobs with making the place work in as sustainable a fashion as possible.
One year ago we revegetated ‘the oval’, a very large area of lawn that was completely unnecessary ………. what a change in just 12 months!
Although we lost a few plants in the final heat wave that hit Perth in summer, the majority of plants did very well. We have just replanted those that had died, and filled a few empty areas, and it looks absolutely fabulous! It is such a nice entry to the property now, and a lovely place to sit and watch the birds.
The rescued grass trees are growing well, with only two that didn’t survive. The rescued zamia have also done well, with only one loss.
After a very long and hot summer, the rains arrived and really refreshed the parched garden! In particular the ‘oval’ is looking fabulous! We lost quite a few plants over the scorching heat waves, despite some watering, however those that survived are doing really well.
It looks so, so much better than when we moved in….
We just love the effect now, and it will be even better in another few months or so! For the story of how we transformed the ‘oval’, check here.
It is fabulous having ducks once again! When we moved to McCarthy Park 2, there was so much to do we needed to limit the animals we brought, so we sold our Pekin ducks,geese and turkeys, bringing only the chooks, fish and bees (that was enough at the time!!)
But…… we really missed them! We did some research to find the best type of ducks to keep in the orchard to help keep the bugs at bay and to tidy up any fallen fruit. We had enjoyed our Pekin ducks, but discovered Ancona ducks are a similar dual purpose duck (meat and eggs) but tend to be quieter and calmer- this was attractive as we were really loving the peace and quiet of our new McCarthy Park!
As they are a heritage breed, they were not easy to come by but we managed to get very young ducklings at the perfect time to slip under a clucky hen!
Australorp hens make fabulous mothers, and have regularly brought up turkeys, ducks and guinea fowl for us rather than using an incubator!
Over the next few months while they were being nurtured and kept warm, we started building the ‘decagon’.
When all was complete and ready to receive, and the ducks were big and strong enough to live alone…………
………they were carefully transported from the chook run to the duckagon in the orchard!
They are loving their new home, and are certainly calm ducks! Once they have really settled in and are used to their daily feed in the same place, we will be able to let them out to roam in the orchard, and return each night to be safe from foxes.
The Perth heat has continued into February, with further days over 40! The garden is suffering a bit- showing the effects of prolonged heat. Despite that though we have continued to harvest plenty of vegetables, especially the usual summer gluts of zucchini, cucumber, green beans and tomatoes!
We have gifted lots to family and friends, as well as made tomato chutney, frozen cherry tomatoes ready for winter casseroles, ratatouille with the zucchini, fermented, pickled, made zoodles (zucchini noodles). It feels like a never-ending supply at the moment, but we are trying to preserve as much as possible for when there is not such an abundant supply!
It has been hot for the bees too, and we had to put up a gazebo to provide more shade during the real hot spells. It has been very successful, and there has been less ‘bearding’- the mass of bees on the outside of the hive- like in this photo the day we put up the shade.
Despite the heat, we have had a good honey harvest this season, collecting almost 30 litres!
Well, after some very changeable weather leading into summer, we have had a couple of weeks of scorching temperatures with four days in a row above 40 degrees Celsius!
We went out regularly to top up bird baths, rigged up a gazebo over the bee hives, and tried to stay cool ourselves. Despite the heat, we have had some great bird visitors including a Grey Shrike Thrush, Rainbow Beeaters, and Scarlett Robins, as well as all the usual.
We even, amazingly, had an echidna!
Our insect visitors really crank it up in summer with the sunshine and heat, and it has been fabulous to watch the Blue Banded Bees and this fascinating stick insect.
With the warmer weather, (although those over 40 degree days are tough!), the aquaponics, orchard and dirt gardens have thrived and provided kilos of nectarines, peaches, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet corn……….
Of course, with all that produce, a lot of preserving goes on! Our favourite chutney is Nectarine Chutney, which is also great made with peaches. We made so many jars of Nectarine Chutney though we decided to make some Peach Jam to give out as Christmas presents (and of course to keep a supply for ourselves!)
And finally, to finish off 2021, our first full year at McCarthy Park 2, the beehives are thriving and after a couple of poor seasons we had a great harvest of 24 litres of honey.
There was a considerable amount of wax cappings so this was cleaned, melted and strained to provide nice blocks of wax- the colours are amazing!
We use the beeswax for a variety of home products and remedies, including wax wraps to use instead of a plastic wrap.
We are thrilled that the billabong is becoming a regular waterhole for the local Carnaby cockatoos! They come and bathe and drink, making quite the racket in their gusto!
We have also had regular visits from an Oblong Turtle (or perhaps visits from several, not sure!).
These turtles, also known as Long-necked Turtles, wander at least 500m from the water’s edge to nest!
With the warmer weather but still plenty of rain, the garden is blooming!! The roses have been in such abundance we have been picking them to dry petals for a family wedding coming up soon.
The rest of the garden is enjoying the weather too, and is such a pleasure to work in and look at!
It is always great to harvest our own food, which we do on a regular basis. Recently we harvested a couple of red cabbages to make the next 12 month supply of sauerkraut. One batch just cabbage with a few cranberries and caraway seeds, the other included home grown fennel and chilli too- yum!
Work on the billabong has continued and it is now complete! it looks fabulous and has already been visited by local birds including a flock of Carnaby cockatoos. A solar powered fountain just adds a little something during daylight hours.
Well, every now and then we are getting some warm spring sunshine, in between the rain and cold winds! Despite the cold, our pineapple has finally ripened….and it was delicious!
The end of winter brought with it a big tidy up in the aquaponics systems- it was amazing how much was removed to make way for spring planting, but the grow beds still looked lush and healthy!
One of our final development projects is to create a ‘billabong’ as a habitat for frogs and a water source for a variety of native animals. A big hole was dug (with a bobcat fortunately!) and lined with plastic. We then filled it with water to let it all settle prior to trimming the plastic, adding stones around the edges. Still to come are the Western Pygmy Perch to eat any mosquito larvae, and some water plants!
Well, the rain continued into August! This has been a good thing though……. as it brought the Noongar season of Djilba during which there are clear sunny days in between. Our winter planting is dong really well, though some of the tube stock in ‘the oval‘ has suffered from the heavy rains and storms….and we suspect, rabbits……so needed replacing. The addition of a small electrified wire around the perimeter has now stopped the rabbits, and the plants are thriving.
The succulents in the garden have really enjoyed the cool winter, and many of these are flowering for the first time.
With the change of season, we even saw the first Monarch butterfly! Although these are not native to Australia, they have become very common in some areas and when we first moved into McCarthy Park 2 there were so many.
The Djilba season also is the time for magpies to prepare their nests, and we have seen our resident family of magpies collecting fibre from ropes and from the palm trees. they also love the occasional snack left over from the dogs!
Along with the rains, we have seen even more fungi.……some varieties we have never seen before!