Rabbits!

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.

Watch out for the next post!

It’s getting chilly!!

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.

April Update

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!

Delicious!

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!

Thank goodness for the post hole digger which really helped with preparing the holes!

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!

Quail!

We recently bought some quail, and they are so cute, and today they started laying their beautiful, tiny eggs!

The quail house

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!

They love having a bath in the diatomaceous earth!

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!

So cute!

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).

Chick house

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.

Preserving continues…..

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!

After scooping out all the passionfruit pulp….

We placed it into the water bath canner and processed for 10 minutes….
and now we have jars of passionfruit pulp for winter, with no doubt much more to come!
A quick google search for what to do with passionfruit skins (as there are so many), found a recipe for passionfruit skin jam….
about half that load of passionfruit shells was boiled in water until the rind (not the skin) was soft, then into the fridge to soak up more water overnight….

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!

Some things had to be rearranged to make room for the preserved passionfruit!!

Home Preserving

We often have quite an excess of produce during its season, and while we are happy to share around with others we also like to preserve for later in the year. In the last two months we have made nectarine chutney, lemon and mustard seed chutney, ginger picked carrots, and pickled tomatoes- all with home grown fruit and vegetables.

We also really enjoy ferments and picked, and make our own sauerkraut and kimchi with as much of our home produce as possible.

In the photo behind the fermenting sauerkraut, there are (top left to right) baked beans (not with homegrown produce but a favourite recipe!), spiced tomatoes, preserved lemons, herb infused oils, chutneys, peach jam, kefir lime marmalade, sweet chilli sauce, ginger pickled carrots, and pickled galangal. The other shelf on the left is home ‘farmacy’ using home grown herbs and honey/beeswax from our hives. Favourites are calendula salve, bumps and bruises balm, lip balm, wood polish, shoe polish, and calendula lotion bars. Home remedies include mint tincture (for upset stomachs), rosemary or oregano tincture (for upper respiratory symptoms) and ginger tincture and rose tincture combined with honey for sore throats!

Making our own products for food or health are a great use of home produce, and also help us to be more sustainable. We also make our own reusable gift bags to save using wrapping paper, and beeswax wraps to avoid using plastic wrap.

Berries!

Since moving to McCarthy Park 2, we have trying to find the best place for growing berries, as we had in McCarthy Park 1……. the chickens eat them, the ducks eat them, they frazzle in Perth’s hot summers……..

In our continuing attempts to reduce the amount of lawn, bit by bit, we came up with the idea of raised grow beds near the aquaponics. This area has a few benefits- the animals can’t eat them, they get morning sun but afternoon shade, they are contained (so they don’t get out of control), and they are close to the house (and the blueberries) for easy picking!

Unfortunately it is quite late in the season so we may have to wait until next year to get any berries!

We have several potted blueberries, which fruit at different times so providing us with plenty to eat and plenty to freeze for later in the year!

Everything is blooming!

The weather has been very odd here in Perth, with some warm sunny days in between cold, wintery days. While some plants have suffered from the unseasonal cold, the majority are going well with the additional rain.

The orchard now has 11 trees covered to protect them from fruit fly and/or parrots….although today we did notice an Australian Raven having a good attack at one of the nets! There is flat peach, nectarines, loquats, pear, avocado, and several plumbs all safely under cover- fingers crossed!

The roses too are really blooming and add such a lovely colour to the garden! Thankfully this year’s quite severe winter prune was successful!

And ‘pumpkin palace’ has really taken off, despite a couple of set backs with a chook getting in for a short while! We have grown pumpkin, luffa, cucumber etc vertically for some years now, and it saves a lot of space as well as being safer due to snakes. We rotate the garden beds around the chook run- currently last year’s pumpkin palace is fallow and we add all the chook scraps in there for them to eat and scratch around. Another is sown with wheat and lupins as a ‘clucker tucker’ area. The third is this year’s pumpkin palace!

October update!

Our fruit tree netting system is proving to be very successful so far, with a total of 7 (and soon to be more) of the fruit trees in the orchard now being netted- 3 plums, 1 loquat, 1 flat peach, 2 nectarines. The avocados are flowering and soon will be netted too!

The ducks are now safely returned to the duckagon in the orchard, after having to secure them in the chook run as they kept getting out! We had to upgrade the fencing (see the orchard fence above). We also installed a lovely swimming pool for them, which they love.

They have been laying really well, but have had no inclination to sit on the eggs, so we gave some to a clucky hen and now have ducklings!

Spring 2022

Spring has arrived in Perth, and is evident with the fabulous colours in the garden at McCarthy Park!

The clivias are a fabulous splash of orange in the garden, and look amazing in a vase!

The bees are very active and bringing in lots of pollen. We have taken advantage of the weather and had a good look inside, even showing friends who are interested in getting into bee keeping. There was plenty of brood and some good honey reserves they can now add to.

We recently bought a couple of female rabbits– a Giant mix, to restart our rabbit breeding (for food) program, after selling them all prior to moving to McCarthy Park 2. With the lovely warm weather we have been able to bring them onto the grass to enjoy the fresh air and get lots of handling, as well letting the dogs get used to them.

Bruce getting acquainted with Kep and Kaanya.

Spring has also been a great time to establish more wormwood plants around the chook run. This has been a goal since the chook run was completed at McCarthy Park 2, as wormwood is a natural insect repellant and anthelmintic, meaning it can reduce or eliminate parasitic worms if ingested. Last spring and summer we grew plants around the chook run in the ‘pumpkin palace’ (the area around the chook run is divided into three, providing fallow ground and growing space which are rotated each year).

This was to get the plants really established before the chooks were let in once harvesting was completed, and to let the leaves poke into the chook run so they could peck at them as needed- apparently they will leave wormwood alone most of the time and only ingest when they need to self medicate. We also put a sprig in the nesting boxes at regular intervals to repel insects.

It was a great success, with the wormwood growing sturdy enough to cope with the chooks once they had free access to them in the old pumpkin palace. We have now planted around the other sides in this year’s ‘pumpkin palace’ and will let them get big and strong before letting the chooks in to this section, again once harvesting is complete. This now gives us a complete wormwood barrier around the entire chook run!

The plants in the foreground are recently planted, while those in the back ground were last seasons plantings. These have been eaten by the chooks but have remained strong and vigorous despite that.