Thursday, January 27, 2011

Weeping grass, Turkeys and orchards

The best layed plans have morphed over the last couple of months. We did have a long term plan of having Chickens in our orchard but somehow we have ended up with Turkeys. They got put in the orchard because Turkeys are very susceptile to coccidiosis, so you need to keep young ones in areas that have never had chickens or other poultry (apart from Ducks which do not get Coccidiosis i am told). So if i want to continue to have Turkeys then i may need to keep the orchard or other similar area free from chcikens. However there are some good points to having Turkeys (and ducks for that matter) in the orchard instead of Chickens. The Turkeys do not scratch the mulch away from all your young trees. They are also very keen on grass and lots of it - much more than Chickens and by keeping them on green grass you are getting amazing omega 3 packed meat at harvest time.

In the orchard i am managing some areas for short green grass which can be cropped by the birds as well as maturing grasses with seeds which are providing another source of protein. Weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides) is common in the orchard and is found over much of south eastern and east coast Australia. It is a perennial grass with creeping Stolons.

Weeping grass - Microlaena stipoides
 Aparrently research has shown that  although it os not a large bulky grass, the leaves are high (10 - 27%)  in highly digestible protein relative to other grasses and the seeds are full of high quality protein (up to twice that of wheat *)  It is being investigated as a dual purpose crop that is both pasture and grain production - but it is early days yet *.

Weeping grass in the lawn

The Turkeys definately eat the green grass as well as the seeds.

However the chickens are not without green grass as they get some free ranging time each day. I also have purchased some electric netting which will allow them to spend much more time on pasture - once it is all set up.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New years gifts and great balls of fire

We have now been here long enough - with plants in the ground long enough to have a few new years treats.
Our Sno-peas and Telephone peas are flowering after making it through the very hot day of new years eve.


There are regular pickings of salad vegies now.

 The nearly flowering things include Dutch pole beans, butter beans, Borlotti beans, Helen's white seeded bush bean,  and  Zucchinis.

Dutch Pole beans

The strawberries are really getting going now, putting on growth and sending out a lot more flowers. The tomatoes have quite amazing large fruit, on quite small plants in some cases.

Tomatoes setting fruit well

Boysenberries are now fruiting well while the raspberries of one variety are finishing up. The Autumn fruiting raspberry still has many fruit coming along and presumably will have fruit in Autumn as well.


A visit to a local stone fruit farm by the girls brought on a frenzy of preserving, stewing and drying. Rayner's farm have over 200 varieties of stone fruit and have a continuous supply of fruit for 7 months of the year. Farmers markets are their main customers. I think it is a fabulous thing because the fruit can be picked when at perfect ripeness. The Apricots are to die for . Apricots do not get any sweeter after they are picked although they may soften up. The tractor ride takes you around to the trees of the best ripeness and you all get a taste and pick from the tree if you like them.

We have also been gleaning from local roadside cherry plums and making lovely tart jams and chutneys. The last gleaning was quite an experience. On a hot windy day a piece of long bark dropped over the power lines above the busily gathering mothers and babes. An explosion of blue flames raced from the bark to the power box several times over -  amidst scattering and crying children. All very exciting for the Alice Springs visitors and maybe somehow responsible for the power outage at around the same time.

There have been many walks around the paddocks with our visitors,

often ending in the giant wombat burrow experience

giant "walk thru " wombat burrow
and the ferns and big trees in the gully below