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.
After a huge effort to get the aquaponics up and running, it has been great to consolidate a bit this last month. The aquaponics has really got going and is loving its new position on the east side of the house. In summer we will need some protection from the easterly wind, but in this autumn weather it is really cranking!
Both systems are going very well with good plant growth and healthy fish.
Also going well are the beehives, which is surprising in a way as it is well recognised locally as being a very poor season. Where some have had to feed their bees all through summer, we have managed without that and even did a small harvest (12 litres) as we downsized for the winter months.
Another finishing touch to the garden was the installation of a SubPod, a worm/composting system we are trying out as we decided not to bring our old worm farm (an old cast iron bath). So far it is great to be able to reuse those items the chooks won’t eat, such as tea bags, lint and tissues!
In February we moved our yabbies and aquaponics system to the new house, but both to temporary areas until we had some paving completed.
After much thought, we decided to set up a second aquaponics system rather than run aquaculture as we had at our previous place. This will enable us to keep Silver Perch year round as we like to do, but also run Rainbow Trout over the winter months as usual. It also provides more space for growing edibles!
Over the Easter break, we finally set up our systems in the area that was planned for them. This was no mean feat! One system was new and easy to position and set up from scratch, however moving the existing system without emptying each of the three grow beds and their lush veggies was quite an accomplishment thanks to ingenuity, perseverance and sometimes brute force!
Once the new system was set up and all the pipework complete, we used a spare tank to transfer the water and fish from the existing system.
With some planting out, we now had the new system up and running with over 60 Silver Perch. Now to tackle moving the established system……
A car jack was used to lift each leg of the grow bed enough to place the car wheel trolley underneath. Once all four were in situ, the whole grow bed was pushed into place on the other side of the house.
It was not without difficulties! But we succeeded!
The empty fish tank from the original system was dragged around and placed in position… and the pipework completed.
We ended up removing the pump and draining the swimming pool (using the pool water to transfer the fish over a few trips), and successfully transferred 120 or so fish from the pool to the aquaponics systems. Each tank has 90 or so fish in a variety of sizes from fingerlings to 40+cm long.
And we are now fully set up, with yabbies in the foreground and our two aquaponics systems on the right!
Gosh it has been a busy time! After 30 years on 10 acres, there has been lots to do at both the old and new places. Here is a summary!
We are thrilled to once again have kangaroos around us! With a nature reserve nearby, there are plenty around and they are very adept at jumping the fences to get some nice green grass. We often see them on the road or in neighbouring paddocks too.
Then there are the birds!! We see and hear so many native birds that we used to see occasionally in MP1, but now see in abundance, in particular Splendid Wrens and Scarlett Robins.
The insects also have been in abundance! Blue banded bees just love the white agapanthus in particular!
These have all been very welcome distractions when there has been so much do do, including a considerable amount of lawn mowing, until winter comes and we replace some with native plants.
Our downsizing to 5 acres meant a reassessment of what we want to do, so (for now) we sold our sheep,geese and ducks, and gave away the top bar and Warre hives. We relocated our two horizontal hives one night when it was cool enough to lock them in for a few hours, and they are going well.
The chickens are safely installed in their new pen….
And… we have had our first nearby bushfire. While bushfires are always a concern, this was far enough for us to practice and refine our bush fire plan for the new property without being too stressed.
Well, we have now moved.. to a more genteel and easier to manage version of McCarthy Park. It is a massive move, starting with the orchard in October, moving into the house just in time for Christmas, and soon to come will be moving the animals once we have their areas set up.
We are still exploring our new surroundings and learning about how this house and its surrounding 5 acres works, and while it is definitely an easier place to manage there is also a lot we want to do to make it ‘ours’. There is a considerable amount of lawn, which come the cooler weather we will reduce and add more native vegetation. We also need to cover and pave an area ready for the aquaponics, develop a vegetable garden, prepare the bee area and of course complete the poultry yards.
As we are settling in and still watering the orchard trees by hand, we have observed an abundance of wildlife, including our first snake at this place in the first week we moved in! Thankfully, we were able to capture and relocate it to a more suitable area. We have also seen lots of birds and insects…… and are looking forward to exploring more with the camera in hand.
While we are yet to complete the move with all the animals, we are loving McCarthy Park 2.0!
One tree we are not able to take with us to McCarthy Park ll, and will really miss, is this orange tree!
It has given us an almost endless supply of oranges, usually twice each year. Over the years we have given away kilos and kilos, made chutney, dried them, juiced them, preserved them…. and the all time favourite- orange brandy liqueur! Today we made 20 bottles, enough to give as Christmas presents! There are still plenty of oranges on the tree for another batch!
Time for a change….. and not something we expected to be doing after living at McCarthy Park for 30 years……… but…… we are moving to McCarthy Park II near the end of the year. Things have and are continuing to change a lot in our area, so we have decided to move.
When looking at what we wanted, we decided to ‘downsize’ from 10 acres to 5 acres, which still gives us plenty of room to keep the animals and grow the fruit and vegetables we want. It is exciting but somewhat daunting- after such a long time we have accumulated a lot, only some of which we will need!
The property we have found is perfect, with all the space we need, but not many fruit trees…… so we are relocating the orchard! We found Paul, a specialist tree locator and he has begun a month long process. The first stage is pruning the branches and digging around the roots.
Now we wait for up to a month for the trees to settle, before Paul and his crew return to move the trees down to our new property. It is a massive job, but we get so much delicious fruit from our 45 fruit trees we didn’t want to start all over again!
Well, what a year 2020 is! We are so lucky in Western Australia and so far are doing ok, but evidence around the world reminds us not to be complacent. Living on acreage is certainly useful for isolation, and for a level of sustainability. The orchard has been pruned and there is lots of new growth and flowers, the sheep have had lambs, the bees have managed the winter well and are cranking up, the paddocks have been sown and are growing well in the unusually mild winter we have had, and the citrus have continued to produce an abundance of fruit!
Spring has sprung with chilly mornings and the days warming up. We have had two lambs, the turkeys have been laying for the last week, and the first goose egg yesterday….the ducks won’t be far behind! It has taken a long time to build up a nice flock of Australorps again after the last fox attack, but we now have a lovely group of girls who are laying beautifully, and Louie the Bluey who looks after them just as he should.
nice flock of Australorps-black, blue and splash (with a couple of guinea fowl hanging around!)
first lamb of 2019
Despite the damp weather over winter, the bees have been active and held their own, and now look busier with the sunny days.
The orchard is now pruned and fertilised, and looks like being a bumper season. Apart from the citrus, the nectarines and peaches are looking very healthy with lots of flower buds. The loquat is bursting………
Loquats to come!
…….and the ice-cream beans are ripening….
Ice-cream beans, our first!
Fingers crossed for a great fruit season this year!