Leaps of Faith

It’s school holidays and I’m home alone! One son is on a ski trip, the other two are with their grandparents at the beach. This is the perfect chance to do some of those things that I’ve been putting off. So far I’ve cleaned out the chook shed, which had droppings and the grain the chooks choose not to eat, piling up and starting to stink. I put fresh sugarcane mulch in the nesting box and also lifted Sylvia, who is broody, off her nest to add more mulch under her six eggs. They’ll hatch in about a week. Sylvia is the worst mother in the world, but the one who goes broody the most often. She’s hatched more chicks than any of the others, even letting another chook sit on a nest for two weeks, only to squeeze herself onto the same nest for the last week, either ousting the other chook, or co-parenting the hatchlings. But she tires of parenthood quickly, leaving them to run after her when she takes off free-ranging. She even left one batch altogether when the rooster came enticing her back into the flock. None of her chicks has ever survived. One was taken at night by a snake and she spent all of the next morning wandering around calling for it, while the snake sat smugly on the rafters under the house digesting her baby. It’s the only time I’ve seen her show any motherly feeling. But she soon forgot, and after a couple of days, the snake did an enormous, stinking shit down the wall and disappeared.

We’ve hatched many chicks over the years but only one hen has survived to adulthood and a few roosters who were given away to be eaten–one of them by a fox. Most are taken by snakes, goannas or hawks. This time I’ve separated Sylvia from the others and mean to do my best to keep the predators out. Hopefully they won’t all be roosters and hopefully she’ll parent responsibly for a change. I’m prepared to give her another chance.Image

I find it very satisfying doing this work. We have our own fresh eggs–much fresher than anything bought in a shop. I’m not sure it works out cheaper, given that we still have to buy grain for them over the winter months when we get no eggs. But it drastically reduces the amount of rubbish that goes in our bin. All of our food scraps, bar any meat, goes to the chooks and is turned into eggs and manure for the garden.They also work at keeping pests down. Last time we had lawn grubs in our tiny patch of lawn I let the chooks loose on it and we’ve never had lawn grubs since. No pesticides needed.

I also potted two chilli plants I bought at the markets last week. I now have rosemary, thyme, parsley, basil, sage, chives, oregano, mint, bay leaves, kaffir lime leaves, two tomato plants, lavender, garlic, two pumpkin plants and some tiny kale seedlings. I also have a passionfruit plant waiting to be planted somewhere it can climb. The lemon tree finally gave us several lemons this year after seven years of care and we had one orange off the orange tree. The grapefruit tree had a sulk this year and we got no fruit, likewise the lychee. But I have plans to apply biodynamic tree paste which is supposed to work miracles–kind of like a mud pack for fruit trees.

A week ago I didn’t have to pick anyone up one afternoon and didn’t have to cook dinner, so I took the chance to apply the biodynamic 500 preparation to the garden. This requires a certain leap of faith and would make any scientifically-minded person think I was completely stupid for bothering. They might be right.

Biodynamic 500 is made by burying cow horns packed with manure and leaving them for several months before digging them up again. All this is done with manure from specific cows, at a specific time of year and at a particular point in the lunar cycle. It’s all pretty ‘eye-of-newt’, but people who use this stuff regularly swear by it’s magical properties. And one does not just stick it on the vege patch and dig. One must put it, a mere handful, into a metal (not plastic) bucket, fill with water and begin to stir vigorously one way, creating a vortex, and then the other, creating chaos and then another vortex. One must stir in this way for exactly one hour, late in the afternoon, outside, and then sprinkle it about.

So that’s what I did, while listening to a podcast on my computer to while away the time. The blurb on the packet says not to expect miracles straight away, but that it requires regular seasonal applications before one notices any benefit. I feel like I’m doing something good. I may just get RSI, or I may see a miracle.

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