We have ducklings!
Babies on the farm are always a delight, ducklings especially. They are the cutest of the cute. These sweet ducklings are extra special as there mother is Jennifer who earlier this year was attacked by a fox. You may recall the story from May.
We lost Clarissa, a beautiful large white Aylesbury duck. We thought we had also lost Jennifer her pair (the Two Fat Ladies - Clarissa & Jennifer) however I found Jennifer wounded in the garden covered in blood and very traumatised.
Jennifer was a very sick duck. She had been mauled around her head resulting in a lot of swelling including swelling of her brain. However it was clear she was a survivor and not of faint heart. After much intensive nursing she got back on feet and with the loving support of brown duck she re learnt her life as a duck. Jennifer still has a slight list when she walks (acquired brain injury) but is managing really well. Little Brown duck (she is really a very light tan) is still by Jennifer's side acting as a co-parent as you can see from the photos above. Jennifer and louis (or louise - our male Aylesbury cross) will breed us a nice big flock of meat ducks eventually, with brown ducks' support of course.
A good news update on Jennifer our sweet Aylesbury duck of strong heart who survived last week’s fox attack. While her wounds have mostly healed and she no longer requires medication, she still has someway to go to full recovery. She has sustained some brain damage that has affected her ability to stand quite upright. She has a list or a lean. But whether this will be permanent only time will tell. In all other ways she is behaving like a normal duck.
They wander around the garden together searching for snails and generally being ducky. They are very sweet together. They share lunch together then brown duck heads to the gate and requests to go back to the flock. It is truly wonderful to share this nurturing. Many thanks to Dr Louise.
We had a murderous visit by a sly Reynard to the duck pen overnight. Every time you become complacent Reynard will take advantage of the smallest opportunity. We lost Clarissa, a beautiful large white Aylesbury duck. We thought we had also lost Jennifer her pair (the Two Fat Ladies - Clarissa & Jennifer) however I found Jennifer wounded in the garden covered in blood and very traumatised.
Emergency first aid - a dose of Rescue Remedy primarily for the duck and a dose for me as well; clean the blood away, assess the wounds, antiseptic powder, then a warm contained space with plenty of water with glucose or honey. Jennifer slept most of the day, but it was clear that she would require antibiotics. A visit by the vet, some pain relief and antibiotics, now five days later Jenifer is still alive although not out of the woods. However it is clear she is a survivor and not of faint heart. She greets me every morning with a little quack and sits quietly during the day enjoying the sun.
Unfortunately I can offer no guarantees on how to fox proof you poultry pens other than for trial and error, but I can provide some basic information on poultry first aid. Shock is the major danger and cause of death for poultry when surviving the traumatic event. Rescue Remedy is excellent initial treatment for shock in all poultry and also can be a great help to you the owner. If there are no obvious injuries, keeping your traumatised poultry warm and contained is an essential component for managing shock. Make sure the bird has water with honey or glucose. Hopefully your beautiful hen or duck will survive the next 12 hours and will be well on the way to recovery.
Any injuries your bird may have sustained will require different considerations and actions.
It is possible to manage many injuries without veterinary intervention, but this should not be attempted without some basic knowledge of animal first aid and a basic understanding of their physiology, welfare and characteristics. Always consult your local vet with any concerns.
If you want to know more about animal first aid please see our on-farm course in July on Basic Animal Care and Welfare. The course aims to provide practical knowledge and skills to manage livestock on a small scale.
It’s been a hectic few weeks here at Wynlen House. Not only with the increased farm activity associated with Spring, but also because we have been involved in a couple of very special events. The first was a visit to our small farm by Culinary Director Chef Sean Connolly and from The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room in Sydney. Our small farm was chosen as a destination as part of a The Morrison’s Oyster Experience competition. The winners headed to the South Coast to visit the Bay Rock Oyster Farm and Wynlen House.
The second special event was our participation in the Queanbeyan/Palerang annual Arts Trail. Being privileged to have sculptor and rejenerative farmer Victoria Royd’s work on display. Victoria has worked as a contemporary jeweller, & public artist (sculpture and installation). Her artwork focuses on the human condition particularly issues of female identity in western culture.
Victoria returned to Braidwood in 2008 to manage the family farming business. She is passionate about Regenerative Agriculture with an emphasis on Soil health to produce nutrient dense food. Victoria feels privileged to be an Artist and Regenerative Farmer. She believes that these two occupations are similar in many ways in that they both are creative processes; require problem solving and they can both bring healing to mind, body, soul and to mother earth. This is probably the driving force.... wanting to create a healthy environment, to heal ourselves and the planet. In 2011 Victoria won the National Carbon Cocky Encouragement Award. She has an Angus breeding herd and the farm also is producing garlic with 90% of the crop being cold season cultivars such Duganski, and Spanish Roja which is a Creole group garlic. Victoria’s work will remain on display for Braidwood Open Garden weekend and Aring of the Quilts on 25th and 26th November.
This week we are having a short break from the farm heading to Albury for the NSW Landcare Awards presentation night and then to Bathurst for the weekend where we are speaking at the Rahamim Ecology Centre.
Finally an update on the farm. The long awaited arrival of the goslings is not happening. Unfortunately after sitting for over 40 days I finally had to remove the eggs from our determined female geese only to find, very disappointingly, that none of the eggs were fertile. Now we have a dilemma. We have a very handsome gander with 2 wives (they mate for life) who is either too large for successful mating or has lost his potency so to speak. We are not sure how to proceed from here. Hopefully our short break away will provide some perspective on this matter.
;It is a busy time on the farm and in the market garden at this time of year. The weather warms up the days get longer (especially with daylight saving) and there seems to be so much to do. Much of this activity is focused in the garden. Today for example, we removed all the frost protection covers; weeded, weeded and then even more weeding; planted broccoli, leeks, lettuces and radicchio; pumped water from our neighbours tanks as he doesn't use it; and sprayed the entire garden with "eco oil and a touch of pyrethrum to keep the plague proportions of aphids in check. At this time of year when the weather warms up and it is very dry, aphids are a major problem. They build up very quickly across the garden and start causing damage before their is enough time for the beneficial insects to be attracted to the garden.
Apart from the garden activity, there is also a lot happening with the animals. There are the two geese sitting on eggs and the gander is alternating between forlorn, loneliness and the aggressive protector. Every so often there is a cacophony of alarm honks as a chooks or a duck wanders near the nest. Speaking of ducks, our three girls, have taken to wandering the street as the drains are still offering some nice green grass. Then of course there are the turkeys. They are growing rapidly and today we moved them to some new grass. Amid all this activity there was a long roar of sound as our bees swarmed. Just another interesting day on the farm.
A note of caution to end on. With the warm weather it is very tempting to plant out the summer vegies, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkin, beans and so on, but there is still some cold nights and frost around. On Saturday morning we had a light frost forming a thin layer of ice on the water bowls. While the temperature did not drop much below zero, it is enough to kill or severely damage summer plantings . Be patient, in our cold climate it is better to wait until November for summer planting.
Spring has been topsy turvey on the weather front. Nice cold mornings including -6, very warm days up to 23, 70km winds and NO RAIN. It is very very dry. Spring always likes to throw a weather curve ball and it certainly has so far.
Our two female geese Netta the elder and Thelma, her 2 year old daughter, are both sitting on eggs and taking impending motherhood very seriously, being cross with intruders of any species and barking warnings at one and all. Manuel Talouse the Goose, Mani for short, the father to be, spends most of his time forlorn and alone with brief stints as the knight in shining amour protecting his maidens. Another two weeks should see a significant extension to our goose family.
A final reminder for this week is that in this dry weather, it is really important to make sure there is plenty of water available for all your stock. Ducks need lots of water. All the poultry are drinking much more and this will only increase as the weather continues to heat up. We also need to remember to have shallow bowls of water with rocks and twigs for bees and other insects to access around the garden. These smaller creatures in times of drought also need to have water available.
Today (Monday 11th September) we collected the little turkey poults from the hatchery in Bargo starting the process for Christmas turkey. Turkey poults are picked up or delivered as day olds. In fact this is the case with all poultry. In the first 24 hours of their life all breeds of poultry and water fowl can survive withour food or water as they are still being nourished by the egg. However they do need to be kept warm and have good air circulation. It is critical however that they receive food and water as soon as possible. Mortality rates can be quite high if food and water are delayed beyond the first 24 hours.
All the preparations for the poults needs to have occurred before their arrival. Ideally you should set up the brooder area 48 hours before the poults arrive. This is particularly important in cooler areas like Braidwood. This gives a chance for the bedding material to warm up and to ensure that the heat source is operating properly. These cute little babies need to be kept warm and cosy. We have a dedicated small shed to be our brooder house. A brooder is a place where young poultry are raised until they have enough feathers keep themselves warm. It should provide protection from predators; protection from moisture; be free from drafts; have good ventilation and most importantly a reliable heat source. In fact all the things that a mother provides for her young. For a heat source we use heat lamps with globes that produce heat but no light.
The feeding schedule becomes the most important aspect of raising turkeys and for that matter all poultry for meat. It starts from the day of their arrival until the day they leave for the abattoir in 16 to 20 weeks time. We mainly feed the turkeys a homemade mash. We don’t rely on prepared pellets. By feeding mash we can individualize, adjust and modify specifically to the animals needs. So just as organic gardening relies on the principle of healthy soils to create health plants likewise to sustain health animals resistant to disease they need to be raised on healthy soils and good food. All animals require healthy gut activity to maintain the balance of parasites and resist disease. By feeding our turkeys a homemade mash we can add mineral and herbal supplements to maintain their health. So just as Kentucky Fried Chicken is cooked with a blend of secret herbs and spices Wynlen House turkeys eat a blend of herbs and minerals.
Of course these aspects also form part of the basic tenets of any practice of animal husbandry. We consider how you raise, feed and care for your animals is vitally important. Our animals are raised with loving care. This does not mean that they are treated as pets but it does mean that we treat them with respect. We care about what they eat, their health, their housing and their environment. They live happy lives and this is very important to us. An animal that lives a happy health life will provide quality food.
Monday this week was the first proper day back at work in the Wynlen House market garden. Not the best of days to commence our regular farm & garden work routine. To ease into things on this classic August windy day, we set up a new pond for the geese (recycled, from the Green Shed in Canberra) and prepared a new night pen for them as well. It’s August and by the beginning of Spring the geese will be entering the mating season. Manuel Toulouse the Goose, Manni for short is our relatively new male and we want the breeding season to go well. Toulouse geese are the largest of the geese breeds and as geese prefer to mate in water, our small plastic sandpit ponds are not suitable for breeding. Hence the deeper larger pond.
Through the Autumn and Winter months our geese and ducks have been living happily together, but once the mating season starts the harmony ends, not only is there sexual rivalry, but the breeds become totally intolerant of each other. Early separation of the waterfowl flock before the breeding season starts, makes life in the farmyard much calmer for us all.
Geese are the most majestic birds of the waterfowl breeds, and have traditionally been a part of the mixed farm or small holding. As large waterbirds they only breed seasonally (in Spring) laying up to a maximum of around 40 eggs. Geese mate for life with one gander to between 3 to 5 females. Geese should begin their breeding life in their second year and the females can continue breeding up to 10 years of age. Ganders maintain viable fertility for up to 6 years of age.
Unfortunately, geese have a reputation for being aggressive. This is certainly true during the breeding season. Ganders can be very unruly and protective of their partners and once the females are sitting they will also not hesitate to hiss and bite. Incubation can take 28 to 34 days. Once the goslings hatch out both parents are incredibly protective, just as most new parents are, and coming between the parents and their goslings is going to see you definitely attacked. An angry goose, neck extended, wings spread, charging at you, is definitely a scary sight. If that goose connects with you, it can be a very painful experience. However, being sensible around your geese during this time, in particular keeping young children away, will mean far less tears or life long psychological scars. And with all animals who are being protective maintain eye contact, and don’t turn your back.
So some would ask why would you keep geese. Apart from breeding season they can be delightful birds and very sociable. They are always ready to have a chat, and generally like to broadcast to the world. Geese are not silent birds! They are great as watch dogs or should that be warning birds, and of course young birds (6 months old) are a beautiful culinary addition to the table. We keep our breeding flock for this purpose. We enjoy sharing our farmyard with these wonderful birds.
Where have all the small farms gone, long time passing.
Where have all the small farms gone, long time ago.
Where have all the small farms gone,
Broad acre farming has them, every one.
When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn.
Lyrics by Bronwyn Richards with help from Peter Paul & Mary
It was not that long ago when most farming was mixed and small scale. All towns small or large had small mixed farms producing grains, fruit, vegetables, meat, milk and eggs in their locality. It is only over the course of one lifetime that we have seen large cities such as Melbourne and Sydney loose the market gardens on their outer ring.
How did this come about? An easy answer is to say that population growth in our big cities means that the land used previously for producing food has been needed for housing. Yes this is certainly true of big cities, but what about smaller rural towns, where population has decreased and so have the small mixed farms?
This did not happen by accident, the shift to broadacre (industrial) farming was a world wide agenda endorsed by the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in the late 1960’s known as the Green Revolution. This began primarily as a humanitarian initiative to end world hunger. In fact, Norman Borlaug known as the "Father of the Green Revolution", received the Nobel Prize in 1970 credited, with the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of farm management techniques, the distribution of of hybridised seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. All leading to significant increase in agricultural production that saved over a billion people from starvation.
The industrialisation of farming that resulted from the Green Revolution has developed hand in hand with global food empires. One major example of this is Monsanto, a company that started as a chemical producer manufacturing DDT; Agent Orange and Glyphosate herbicides (Round Up); and is now the leader in genetically modified and hybridised crops; one of the major pesticide producers; and owns 26% of total world seed production.
It has also become clear in the 21st century that industrialised farming has failed to feed the world. The FAO estimates that the amount of food produced in the world could currently feed 12 billion people. (world population is estimated at 7 billion) Nonetheless, more than 1 billion are still suffering from hunger, whilst 1.5 billion adults are overweight. It also estimates that 40% of the total daily global production of food is wasted. 80% of the worlds soya bean production is used to make stockfeed primarily for intensive poultry and pig production for the 1st world. This is putting the Earth’s resources under increasing pressure and are symptoms of an unhealthy and unequal food production system.
Miguel Altieri, Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, summarises the major problems with industrial agriculture and global food empires:
They control 80% of world agriculture and promote monoculture farming. Industrial agriculture is:
(Terra Madre, 2016)
350 million small and peasant farmers are producing 50% of the worlds food. It is not about the quantity of land farmed but the key factor is productivity and energy efficiencies per hectare. Small farm inputs of 1 kilocalorie can produce between 15 to 30 kilocalories while the average energy of industrialised agriculture food production is 1 kilocalories to produce 1.5 kilocalories. (a kilocalorie is a measurement of the amount of energy in the foods you eat.)
We need to become conscious consumers and educate others to go beyond the passive role of consuming and take an interest in those who produce our food. In actively supporting local food producers, we become part of the production process. The term co-producer was coined by Slow Food to highlight how collectively our consumer choices can bring great change to how food is cultivated, produced and distributed.
We need more small farms and more farmers. Our food choices can make small scale food production a reality. So do go to your farmers markets and producer street stalls, introduce yourself, ask how the food is produced, and where it comes from, buy what you can. Support farmers who are creating clean, fair and local food on a small scale. Form a critical relationships with your local farmers because as co-producers this is how you can bring small farms back into our towns and cities and maybe take some steps toward making the world a better, more delicious and healthy place.
This is our small market stall in the courtyard of Provisions Deli & Grocery in Braidwood, NSW. Every Saturday morning we sell our vegetables and preserves and enjoy a chat with our friends and customers. We love exchanging recipes and introducing new and interesting vegetables each season.
Having a chat in the shade with vegetable and produce lovers, and dear friends Tim and Suzie.
Conventional wisdom says that small family farms are backward and unproductive. This is just not so. There is undeniable evidence that small farms are much more productive than large farms, if the total output is considered rather than the yield from a single crop.
Diversified farming systems, in which the small-scale farmer produces grains, fruits, vegetables, fodder, and animal products in the same field or garden, out-produce the yield per unit of single crops such as corn grown alone on large-scale farms. A large farm may produce more corn per hectare than a small mixed farm, however polyculture productivity in terms of harvestable products per unit area is higher than under a single crop with the same level of management. In the United States the smallest two-hectare farms produced $15,104 per hectare and netted about $2,902 per hectare. The largest farms, averaging 15,000 hectares, yielded $249 per hectare and netted about $52 per hectare. (Source:http://monthlyreview.org/2009/07/01/agroecology-small-farms-and-food-sovereignty/)
Polyculture has long been recognised as highly productive. Simple season extension practices and intensive polyculture were used by the market gardeners of Paris in the mid 19th century. Occupying 6% of the land within the city limits of Paris the maraîchers (market gardeners) produced enough food for the inhabitants of Paris (1.5million) as well as exporting to England. They averaged between four to eight harvest per year from the same piece of ground. The modern proponent of intensive market garden polyculture is Elliot Coleman.
Our small village farm in Braidwood is much much less than 1.5 acres (0.6 of a hectare). Yet from that small market garden we produce 2.0 tonne of produce annually. This does not include the meat and eggs we also grow. Small is definitely bountiful.
By managing fewer resources more intensively, small farmers are able to make more profit per unit of output, and thus, make more total profits—even if production of each commodity is less. In overall output, the diversified farm produces much more food.
Not only do small-to-medium-sized farms exhibit higher yields than conventional larger-scale farms, they do this with much lower negative impacts on the environment. Research shows that small farmers take better care of natural resources, including reducing soil erosion and conserving biodiversity. So in terms of converting inputs into outputs, society would be better off with small-scale farmers.
According to United Nations Food & Agricultural Organisation (FOA), small farm food production can feed the world. Every person that supports their local farmers market, their regional food producers and grows some food in their garden is changing the future of our world, one meal at a time.