Newbie with a micro-farm

15 posts

Member for

2 years 10 months
Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 04/14/2016 - 08:33

Newbie with a micro-farm

Hi all,

 

Another newbie here, from South-West Victoria, completing on 5 acres in the next month and then the hobby dream begins!

 

Rough plan:

Yr 0 - Chooks (start 5-10 then increase to 20), install multiple large growing beds

Yr 1 - Sort out pasture on paddocks and observe land for a season cycle

Yr 1 - introduce some hives to the property

Yr 2 - plant mixed orchard on now fertile land (thanks chooks!) - and Hops!

Yr 3 - introduce a few lambs to the pasture to fatten up, and more bees!

Yr 4 - Perfect my brewing reproducibility and start selling my own beer (thanks Hops!)

Yr 5 - Sit back, relax, and grow fat off the land!  Convert a combi van to start selling at markets etc...

 

So much to learn, so much to read, and no doubt a lot of trial and error to come.

 

AB

Forums
Last seen: 02/07/2019 - 17:41
Joined: 11/23/2011 - 09:38

Hi AB,

 And welcome. Your plan sounds good. Suggest planting a couple of crops of beans or legumes before the orchard goes in. Beans will increase the nitrogen content in the soil, and saves on using artificial fertilisers. It would be a good idea to install drip irrigation when planting out you orchard. This will maximise growth and also save on water, which from memory can be very expensive in Victoria.

 

 Before you introduce your lambs, check out plants poisonous to livestock (Merk's Manual on line) to make sure there are none in your pasture and check fences are not only lamb proof, but dog proof too. Wild dogs or even just the neighbours pet dogs can be devistating to livestock.

 

Oh, forgot to add, if you shed your sheep at night you can rake up the droppings. The droppings make fantastic citrus fertiliser, probably better than chook manure as it is longer lasting than Chook manure and doesn't cause a build up of phosporus in the soil as chook manure can if used over a long period. Keep sheep droppings and manures 15 cm out from the trunk of the trees as it can burn the bark and roots if it is direct contact with them.  

 

Good luck,

Barb

Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 04/14/2016 - 08:33

Thanks for the welcome and advice Barb, all good stuff.

 

We've started doing a little reading about regenerating the pasture, but until we get in and start soil sampling etc... it's all just learning.  Ideally we'd have the chooks and lambs wandering around both the orchard and field paddock, but the trees will likely need a year or few of protection prior to letting livestock in.

 

We'd really like to go the permaculture road, inspiration from Miracle Farm / The Permaculture Orchard (http://miracle.farm/en/).

 

Drip irrigation is probably the way we'll go - I've been reading up about Swales but the property is very flat, is sandy loam, and we don't get a lot of rain...  Drip irrigation ticks a lot of boxes!

 

Thank you again for your advice

 

AB

Last seen: 02/07/2019 - 17:41
Joined: 11/23/2011 - 09:38

Hi AB,

Yes have used a lot of Bill Mollison's theory over the years.I can see his book in my office bookshelf as I type this actually. Sandy loam can be great for growing fruit and vegies, especially if you add a lot of organic matter to it to help it hold water better. You may need to check that it is not hydraphobic by pouring a little water onto the surface of the soil to see if it absorbs water or if the water just sits on the surface or runs off it. If it doesn't absorb it then you may need to add lots of organic material and perhaps some soil wetter.  

If you are putting guards around your fruit trees, the trick is to make them as wide as 1 1/2 times the longest stretch of the animals necks, you are protecting against. Believe me, that is longer than you would think, as I have seen them standing on tippy toes with their necks stretched out an incredibly long way to get at citrus and other fruit trees. Goats and cattle are really good at that and goats actually stand on their hind legs to get at fruit trees. They have a curve behind the shoulder blades to allow them to do that as goats are browsing animals. Sheep are a better bet for eating weeds and trimming grass in the orchard as they are less likely to damage foliage or bark or eat the drippers as goats and cattle are prone to do. In one day, the goats on a friends property ate over three hundred micro sprays ($1.35 each)  in their mango orchard.

 

 

Cheers,

Barb

 

Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 05/31/2015 - 10:27
Sheep will strip every tree bare no matter how much pasture they have! They will also pull away tree guards, chicken wire, anything you may construct to keep them away from things you have planted. Then they break into your chicken coup to steal the chicken food, breaking the feed dispensers in the process... Sheep and I not on good terms at the moment.
Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 05/31/2015 - 10:27
Sheep may also chase chickens just for fun...sorry I'm not ranting, I am just beginning to agree when hubby says my pet sheep serve no useful purpose... Also I should note that my sheep were raised by a dingo, nothing is really straightforward at my place.
Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 04/14/2016 - 08:33

Hi Wynarling,

 

Thanks for the advice on that!  Sheep stripping orchards bare isn't something we really want, and definitely not breaking in to the chook shed!!

 

Changes to the design plan maybe?  We might put another fence around the chook shed to keep the sheep out but allow the chooks to get through.

 

Do you think lambs would be as destructive (or more!) - we're only allowed 6 sheep on the property so will probably fatten up and have someone butcher for us.  SWMBO doesn't think I'll be able to myself, she's right!

 

Keep the advice coming, so much to learn - start an online permaculture course in 2 weeks!

 

AB

Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 04/14/2016 - 08:33

Hi Barb,

 

On initial inspection it's very sandy sandy loam and I think we'll need to spend a good bit of time ploughing in organic matter and planting a decent spell of legumes / clovers if we can.  My dreams of a beautiful grassy orchard are probably a far stretch downunder!  

 

It sounds like collecting sheep poo from the adjacent paddock might be the way forward if they are destructive - the orchard will get a good 12-16 months of chook action before planting too.

 

And water, such a worry.  We'll probably install subterranean drip lines and mulch the [email protected] out of the tree lines, but as many trees as I dream will take a lot of water!

 

Thank you again!

 

AB

Last seen: 02/07/2019 - 17:41
Joined: 11/23/2011 - 09:38

Hi AB,

Haven't gotten back to you because I have been in hospital for three days. However, regarding the sheep destroying the fruit trees.

You need to use Sheep mesh with strainer posts about 50 m apart and star pickets in between at the correct distance about 10 apart and at the correct distance from the outside drip line of the trees- as detailed in a previous post to you. Chicken mesh won't stand the attacks of anything except chooks as it is too fragile. Sheep, goats and cattle are persistant and will push on chicken mesh until it gives, which is why sheep mesh is available. You can get it from your local rural supply store. If you look around the sheep farms in Victoria you will see that the sheep farms have mesh fences to stop sheep getting out. It is not all that much more expensive than good quality chook mesh, but much, much stronger and sheep proof. You run a line of good quality strainer wire at the bottom and top of the sheep fence and attach the wire to the netting with netting clips which you can buy at the rural suppliers and a small inexpensive netting clip tool too. Put a small access gate in the fence to give you access. So there you have it. No need to abbandon your plans for a few sheep.

 

Cheers,

Barb

Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 05/31/2015 - 10:27
Hi AB, I hope I have not put you off sheep! They really are a joy, and like all animals every one has its own personality, mine are between 7 and 8 months old now and are just going through their teenage rebellion stage. It coincides with being confined to one small paddock of a few acres, and they don't have constant access to their 'Dingo mum'. You may not have a problem with your sheep and the chickens, I would not change plans unless a problem occurs! My sheep are Dohnes, which are very forward. I am about to spray and prepare for my orchard in the next month. I have already fenced it in preparation to keep the sheep out, but am leaving them in there until I put in the irrigation. My soil is good, I am thinking of buying in some worm juice to put down once the weeds are gone. in regards to fencing, I would personally fence the entire orchard to keep livestock out rather than fencing around individual trees. Plenty of fencing advice out there, I tend to over engineer, so my picket spacings are at 5m, 8m is standard in my area for sheep though.
Last seen: 02/07/2019 - 17:41
Joined: 11/23/2011 - 09:38

Hi Wynarling,

Well, you learn something new every day. I have never heard of Worm Juice. Love to hear all about it. I am a cattle and goat breeder on broad acres, so tend more to contractors coming in to do my spreading and ripping. Thanks for the info and I'll look forward to learning more about the worm juice.

 

Cheers,

Barb

Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 08/01/2017 - 09:03
Hi Barb, I use worm juice and bio-dynamic preparations to improve microbial activity in soil. Many of our soils are so depleted, particularly if herbicides have been used. Even in the far distant past. Once microbial activity increases everything grows better, with more vigour, pests cease to have such an effect. This is especially true if all spraying ceases, because after a few years, particularly if you plant attractants, beneficial insect populations increase and for me that has meant far less work, and expenses in growing all crops. Regenerative farming is becoming more and more mainstream because it works. And, an added bonus is that soils treated correctly, not only become massively more productive, but also develop the capacity to store large amounts of carbon (in excess of the capacity of trees) so helping capture the excessive carbon currently in the atmosphere. Which in turn (given that sufficient numbers of farmers get involved) will, over time, help restore, more normal patterns of rain and temperature. It is a fascinating subject, and there is loads of help if you are interested.
Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 04/14/2016 - 08:33

Hi Guys!

 

We've finally got the property, moving in this weekend and then the fun really begins.  Wandering around the property yesterday - it is very sandy loam, though I've not dug any holes yet to see what's beneath...  And it looks pretty dry crying

I think we're leaning more towards excluding the lambs from the orchard, certainly until the trees are well estabilished (probably 10 years or so!), and I'll be carting their poop around to fertilise instead.  Seems safer, and the chickens will go a good way to scratching it all in I hope.  The orchard paddock and middle paddock has some excellent fencing which looks (almost) rabbit proof.  But there are still rabbits around.  Any tips there?

 

We've used worm juice & castings in the garden for a few years now - I'd never thought about it on an industrial scale but it sounds good.  There are a few local producers who ship it in 200-1000L volumes too.  Getting the topsoil up to orchard capability will probably take us a couple of years of grass / clover / legume crops - the thought of trucking in lots of topsoil is frightening $$$$$ but may be an option - we could then build up some low banks / swales to plant along which may improve things somewhat.  But probably at least a year of watching / planning to go before we start thinking about trees.

First steps - once moved in I'm going to dig some holes around the place and see what's under there!  And hopefully fill the dam over winter...

AB


Edit:  So I've spent the morning on the property wandering around digging holes...  There's about 6 inches of sandy loam top soil, unfortunately it's sitting on a layer of thick, solid, clay...  Looks like heavy clay too!  I filled one of the holes up with water from a trough - and it sat, and sat, and sat... Took a good hour to really drain anywhere.

Now I'm thinking 6 inches (maximum!) is going to need a fair bit of improvement.  Luckily there is a lot of wood lying around.  It's going to take a lot of work:

Collect up all the dead / rotting wood.
Dig some trenches and bury the logs - HugelKultur style beds.
Cover with compost / mulch
Add in some Swales to collect surface water and direct the water through to the dam (about 200m away)
Plant orchard trees on top of HugelKultur beds - probably be a foot or so higher than the baseline ground level now...

A lot of work!

AB

Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 05/31/2015 - 10:27
AB, sorry to hijack your thread for a minute; Barb, worm juice is simply the liquid that has filtered through a worm farm. It collects a lot of nutrient on its way through and is very concentrated, so must be diluted for use on the garden. You use it in the same way as you would use seasol. I have seen it advertised in Wa in bulky containers, I have not enquired as to whether it is the concentrate or diluted already. It is advertised for broadacre use, so I imagine you would either treat your seed with the mix or spread it with a sprayer to treat the soil. My only experience with worm juice thus far is the stuff I made in my own worm farm when I was a city dweller. I will start a large worm farm here, but like many other farm projects that is on the not essential right now list, so I will look into pricing for a bulky container. Back to AB...
Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 04/14/2016 - 08:33
Hi Wyn, I'd love to hear how you go about building a super-sized worm farm. We've got the standard 3-tier back garden set-up, building a bigger system for farm-sized juice production would be a goal! I've seen a couple of places and 1 in Victoria that do 20/100/1000L volumes, I think a cheaper price if you bring your own IBC. Unfortuabtley my IBC was chopped in half for the Aquaponics... AB

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