Six weeks ago I decided to take a decent break from the blog. As much as I love writing this thing, the pressure of publishing every single week was getting to me a bit. I just needed to concentrate on other things for a while.

And I think in many ways it’s worked. I’m still figuring out my ‘bigger goals’, but I’m a lot closer to them than I was. I’m less tired, at least.

I’ve very much enjoyed the break – possibly too much. Writing this feels a lot like dragging myself back to an office job after 6 weeks of glorious freedom.

Still, life went on over the break. I’m not very good at sitting still and there was a mountain of things to do while it wasn’t raining (which, thankfully, it’s been doing less of this summer).

So here’s some of the things that happened while I wasn’t posting.

Cleaning troughs

Each year Richard and I traipse out to our troughs, remove all the water and whatever else has fallen in there over the past year, give it a scrub and refill it.

It’s not a long process – between the two of us it takes about 30 minutes per trough – but it always feels like a big job.

For the first time, we did all three of our troughs this year. Normally we do two. The third one used to be a nice ecosystem filled with aquatic plants and tadpoles, but as I was ‘out the back’ spraying the gorse, I noted it had been taken over by algae and kikuyu.

A round concrete cattle trough with grass growing up the sides and algae growing inside. Also our dog Roxy in the shade of the trough.

Whatever life it had supported seemed to have buggered off and the water was no longer clear, it was just gross. Our cows don’t tend to use it, but our neighbour’s cows do.

An empty round concrete trough. Richard and Roxy look on.

So this year Trough 3 got emptied, swept out, and refilled with fresh water too. Tick, tick, tick!

Bye, Alaska

In 2021, we ended up adopting some random chickens from a customer at my former workplace. Four of them turned out to be roosters, and we kept one. He was white, so we named him Alaska Thunderfuck after one of my favourite drag queens.

Then, in early 2023, one of our chooks went ‘clucky’ and we left her to sit on 6 fertile eggs. The result was Pam and Tommy – the first (surviving) chicks we’d ever managed to raise.

Unfortunately, that left us with a decision – two roosters is too many. Either Tommy or Alaska would have to go at some point.

Still, that was a decision we didn’t want to make. And the boys were pretty peaceful. They weren’t quiet, but Alaska was clearly King of the Castle, and Tommy wasn’t making waves. It was good, until it wasn’t.

The first sign was when I walked outside and caught them fighting. It was absolutely silent, which was probably the freakiest part. I took a video, set it to Kung Fu Fighting, and posted it to Instagram.

Then, a couple of weeks later, we woke up and Alaska was covered in blood. His white feathers were red. The fights had got properly violent, and things had clearly changed within the flock.

Alaska the rooster, alone and covered in blood.

Alaska was off sulking in a corner. Tommy had all the girls. By the end of the day, Alaska had escaped the chicken enclosure and exiled himself to another planting.

Now, practically speaking, Tommy is a smaller rooster. He was also semi-hand raised. He’s a bit easier to control, and – at least the theory went – might be a little gentler on the girls. It was time to say goodbye to Alaska.

So before the sun rose, we found Alaska in his lonely spot, and took care of the job. It was quick and humane. He didn’t see it coming.

We buried him beneath a macadamia tree. He’ll provide shelter and shade to the generations of chickens that come after him.

The flock has settled down and they’re more harmonious now. The girls are looking better with fewer injuries. It wasn’t easy, but it seems to have been the right move.

Eating fruit!

Our second arm of bananas began ripening in mid-December and I felt determined to use them. The problem with 100+ bananas all ripening at once is you have to eat them quickly – we didn’t quite get there with the first arm.

Home grown bananas.

Banana loaf, banana cake, banana muffins… we ate a lot of bananas. Our dogs even got banana splits (complete with bacon flavoured doggy ice cream) for Christmas dinner! And we still couldn’t do it, so we shared the love through our local food pantry as well.

Last week, I noticed we had another two flowers starting. So if you’ve got creative ways to use bananas, I’d love to hear them.

The berry house really started pumping this summer too. With a couple of season’s growth, the blackberries came in, followed by the boysenberries, yellow raspberries, and then the blueberries.

A selection of homegrown berries, including strawberry, blueberry, yellow raspberry, blackberry, and boysenberry.

Genuinely, I think the berry house is one of the best ideas I’ve had since we’ve been here. For a while there we were pulling out half a kilo every day or two. We’ve got a big bag of berries in the freezer just waiting for apple season.

A glass of boysenberry soda.

My favourite use had to be boysenberry cordial. When we were young in the early 1990’s, our parents took us berry picking at a friend’s boysenberry farm.

Mum picked up and kept a pamphlet of recipes which I had since inherited, and the cordial was just dying to be made.

So on New Years Day I went and picked half a kilo of boysenberries and made a bottle of boysenberry cordial.

It was all gone in 2 weeks. I particularly enjoyed it with a shot of home made/grown limoncello, topped with soda water.

In the garden…

In the garden I got to weeding. I weeded paths and I weeded garden beds. I covered the paths in bark mulch and the garden beds in massive piles of grass clippings.

The result is a much tidier garden. It’s quite empty and a few beds are just sitting there doing nothing – but that’s not a bad thing. They’re being fed by their grass piles (which also inhibit the weeds coming back) while I figure out what goes in there next.

Garden beds and pat

We harvested the rest of the garlic. I got garlic, but it is tiny and sad. It made me sad, and I still haven’t processed a lot of it.

So after weeding one of the ex-garlic beds, I decided to do something that would make me happy. I turned the bed into a patch of sunflowers, using seeds I’d saved last season. It hasn’t flowered yet, but I think it’s going to be pretty impressive when it does.

I’ve spent my summer harvesting endless self-sown rocket and cilantro for salads, wraps, and sandwiches. My “lazy gardening” techniques are really paying off for me. There’s zero work and the reward is food.

I learned a lot from my first year of peanut growing, and this year the crop is looking really promising. The strawberries also came right after their dismal winter. I’ve never had plants that looked this healthy!

My little collection of dahlias are doing amazing too. I was given a bunch of seedlings a few years ago, and while there are definitely more stunning dahlias out there, the ones I’ve got make me (and the bees) happy.

Mulch moving

When I published my last post on December 10, I had moved 223 wheelbarrows of mulch. I’m up to 306 now. And yes, the mulch pile still exists – though barely.

I’ve almost finished this incredible task. It has taken close to 5 months so far – so if you’re sick of hearing about mulch, I assure you: so am I.

But getting that pile shifted really allows us to get on with some kind of house project. We’re really starting to talk about a house now. The first step is to get the drainage done. That will remove the water from our two best house sites and potentially leave us with the opportunity to reinstate a natural swimming hole in the future.

With the heat of this year’s summer, the idea of a swimming hole is definitely a thought that keeps the motivation going to keep moving that mulch!

And more…

Of course, that’s only part of what we’ve been up to, but it’ll have to do for now.

This year looks like it’s going to be interestingd. I can’t wait to share our progress with you.