Guinea pigs and much more!

Yes, that’s right- guinea pigs! We read that guinea pigs LOVE eating grass and weeds, so decided to get some to base in the orchard. Due to the risk of predators, we don’t let them free range, but keep them in an enclosure around a fruit tree. So far we have two groups of boys- the brothers Huey, Dewey and Louie; and the brothers Pinky and Perky. So far it has been successful, in that they have stayed safe and are eating down the grass!

Dewey and Louie in their enclosure around the pomegranate tree
Huey, Louie and Dewey (L to R)

It has been a particularly busy January, not just with the new arrival of the guinea pigs. The ducklings are growing at a rate of knots, and we have now moved the four from mama hen and joined them with the rest of the ducks.

We also cleaned out the yabby tank, and were thrilled with how many there are! After moving to McCarthy Park 2, we kept getting losses and really couldn’t figure out why. The only real difference between the places was that in MP 1 we used bore water (as that was our only water supply), and in MP 2 we used rain water (as the bore water is ok for the garden but is a bit brown and sulphide smelly). Well, in desperation we eventually just started using bore water to see if it made any difference, and it obviously has! There are large, medium and small yabbies, lots of tiny babies, and at least a couple of females ‘berried’- with eggs.

mid way through emptying and refreshing the tank- gorgeous blue yabbies!
Just some of the yabbies, the smaller ones

It has been HOT, far too hot to work outside during the middle of the day, so that is a good time to preserve the harvest.

We have had an abundance of tomatoes, still (!), and have made sauces and given plenty away. We also dehydrated a few, to store in oil for snacks and pasta.

Also the hot weather encourages other inside jobs like saving and storing seeds from our home grown vegetables….

Over the years, we have tried a few different seed storage systems and methods (eg by season, by month), but this is the most successful for us- alphabetical order!

Chilly spring!

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.



Fire season preparation and……

We have had such a long, cool spring in Perth that everything grew, and grew so much that for most of November we have had to slash, burn, mow, rake and that isn’t just the firebreaks! Although we haven’t had to do much watering because of the cool, wet weather, it is certainly warming up now so all the sprinkler systems have also been put in order.

In between all of this, we have had goslings, ducklings, chicks…. and a late lamb! There has also been a pesky fox, brazen as anything, hanging around in the daytime as well as night time so it is a constant juggling act to keep the animals safe but let them get out of their pens to roam. There is never nothing to do at McCarthy Park.


Winter time- orchard, bees and animals

It has been a fairly busy month or so tidying the orchard trees, preserving the bountiful lemons, and of course getting firewood for our wood fire!

We generally do a summer prune, and a fairly light prune in winter but there has been so much growth on most of the fruit trees that we have just done a fairly thorough winter prune on most trees. It was a bit late for the apricots so they have been left, but everything else was reduced in height to ensure they can be easily netted and harvested.

Pruned and tidied orchard

We have had some bumper crops this last season, so a good tidy up was certainly needed! Also most of the trees are now big enough to remove the metal surrounds we had surrounding them so the geese and turkeys didn’t damage them. This makes it so much easier to whipper snip, fertilise and generally tend each tree.

Couple of remaining surrounds protecting the growing trees

Our lemon tree has been thriving, as lemon trees so often do! We have cut many into wedges for the freezer (ideal for adding to a refreshing drink- whether it is just water or gin and tonic!), and made lots of Lemon and Mustard Seed Chutney to add to the couple of remaining jars from last year. This chutney is a real favourite of ours and used almost daily.

Lemon and Mustard Seed Chutney

We have also sowed our ‘clucker tucker’ areas, adjoining the chook run. This provides a good supply of green food for the poultry when we need to leave them locked up in their pens.

Clucker Tucker

We recently purchased some more guinea fowl which were added to one of the clucker tucker areas to get accustomed to our place. In another week we will let them out to join our others, who free range the property.

New additions

As if there aren’t enough mouths to feed, we have been including a pair of Pacific Black ducks who are regular visitors to the dam and now the food supply!

Wildlife joining in

And another major bee event- we moved our Langstroth from the front paddock because with all the tree growth it is now in pretty constant shade, and hadn’t really thrived over the warmer months. We used the same procedure as when we moved the Warre some time ago- the hive was closed up one evening when the bees were inside, strapped up and tied to a trolly, and moved to its new location nearby the other hives.

Moving the strapped up hive

The hive stayed closed for three days, and a bush placed at the entrance. When the entrance was opened, the bees are forced to reorient due to the bush in the entrance. So far so good, there is coming and going from the hive and even bees taking pollen in. The plan in the warmer weather is to transfer the frames from this Langstroth to the new horizontal hive which was placed behind it ready. The horizontal hive uses all Langstroth components so is easily interchangeable (unlike when we have transferred to or from Top Bar and Warre hives), and has the huge benefit, like the Top Bar, of not needing to lift a full super. Unlike the Top Bar though, it will be easier to manage, and harvest, as it uses the Langstroth frames.

Horizontal hive ready for the transfer

The hottest Perth day for 24 years!!

Well, most of Perth stayed indoors as much as possible today, with the temperature reaching 44.4C…….that is 112F for those overseas! We knew some heat was coming (plus it is summer after all and we do what we can to prepare for the heat…and bushfire season.  We had put up shade cloth over the aquaponics grow beds, and the duck pen, and thank goodness we did that before today.

Shade cloth covering the veggies in the aquaponics

Shade cloth covering the veggies in the aquaponics

Late yesterday we gave everything a good deep watering in anticipation of the 41C forecast for today. As the temperature soared we turned on some sprinklers to give the birds some relief, and freshened up the water baths (check out the handy hints page) we have around the place.

Splish splash I was takin' a bath.....on a 44 degree day!

Splish splash I was takin’ a bath…..on a 44 degree day!

We also put on the ‘overhead’ sprinklers. We have these on the house in case of a bushfire, but it also helps to cool down the house (we have a tin roof); and we also have them on the rabbit house, again for both reasons. The rabbits had their two litre bottles of ice (also mentioned in handy hints) this morning, and then a new one at 3.00 to help them out some more.

The poor turkeys are hot, as they recently had young and they are too small to let out along with the ducks, geese and poultry. We turned on the sprinkler for them too, and this helped cool them down.

Geese again!

Well, after having no geese for a couple of years, we decided we really needed them…..even with the ducks! Ducks go where they like and tend to rummage for bugs and weeds rather than graze. The geese are grazers, and so eat the pasture in the paddocks, and since we haven’t had them any more we have had to mow in the orchard….there is NO WAY we are putting our Wiltshire sheep in the orchard to eat the grass, there would be no leaves left on the trees!

So, we decided we would get a small number of geese only for the orchard….we bought an incubator (something we had been considering for a while) and 8 fertile eggs. Of course after ordering and paying for the eggs she also offered us a goose and a gander (we had been unable to buy them previously, hence the eggs!!). So we now have an adult goose sitting on a few eggs she laid since being here, plus we have had four of the eight eggs hatch into cute little goslings!

We were so lucky to be photographing the first two hatchlings when the third egg hatched right before our eyes!

Starting to open

Starting to open

Getting there!

Getting there!

squeezing out

squeezing out



There are now four, and all doing well in a homemade brooder box!

Growing season!

Apart from a few extra hot days here near Perth, the weather has been great for the garden and animals alike, and everything is in abundance!

We have had a great supply of nectarines and plums…

One day's harvest of nectarines!

One day’s harvest of nectarines!

We have had a successful hatching of ducklings by one of our Australorp hens….

Mother hen and her ducklings!

Mother hen and her ducklings!

We also had a successful hatching of duckings from a mother duck!



And finally…a check on hive number two showed all is well so far, with lots of beautiful coloured pollen and plenty of brood…

Lots of colourful pollen

Lots of colourful pollen




Not all according to plan……

Life on a farm, no matter how small it is, does still have its setbacks.

We have recently had a ewe die. We are not sure why- it may have been a snake bite (they had just been moved into a different paddock that had been unused for a while). She was one of the 1 year old ewes that had surprisingly had lambs (usually they are two year olds), so perhaps it was related to the fact that she was too young. Now we have a 5 week old lamb orphan lamb…..fortunately the Wiltshires are a strong breed and graze very early in life, so it should be ok.

Our apricot and orange trees are far too big to cover with nets, so have been ravaged by fruit fly. They both produced an abundant crop, and we were able to use a lot before they were badly stung, but such a lot was wasted!

We have had good success with our turkey and poultry breeding….but not the ducks. Despite several different ducks sitting on eggs over the last few months, not one egg has hatched! There is one duck currently sitting, so fingers crossed………..

Winter update….

The aquaponics system is growing….and growing! We are giving away greens, and using them to feed the ducks, turkeys and rabbits because we have so much!

Growth up to 30 June, things are starting to get crowded!

The other veggies are growing well too, but not quite at the same rate as the aquaponics.

Winter has also brought the rain, and is filling up our small ‘dam’, which the ducks are enjoying very much!

Ducks enjoying a swim


We finally have ducklings!! After two previous failed sittings, and despite having to move the mother duck and eggs a week ago, we now have three ducklings! We are keeping them separate to the other ducks, as sometimes the drakes can be a bit aggressive apparently.

It is amazing how strong they are already!