Farm Planning

Hi Everyone! Well after 3 years I thought I had better do some work and write something on the blog, so here goes.

We recently completed the Regrarians Online Farm Planning Course and found it very helpful in structuring and prioritising where we are heading with the farm. The course is structured around the Regrarians Platform which is a design system Darren Doherty has developed from PA Yeomans Keyline design principles and methods. Some of you older folk may know of PA Yeomans; he was a wealthy mining engineer who, amongst other things, did a lot of work with dams and moving water through the landscape to drought proof farms. His nephew also founded Ausplow and invented the DBS seeding bar which was based around PA Yeomans work with his Yeomans Plow (I will do another post which goes deeper into this later).

The Regrarians Platform layers consists of the following and are organised in order of permanence i.e how difficult it is to change them:29939732_182936922356936_1059512765_n

With this as the base we started developing the farm plan, looking at each layer and what’s needed. The first 3 weeks focused on defining our context, which is basically, our specific piece of land, its climate, topography and resources, who we are, what we like, our finances and how we envision our future landscape and lifestyle. This took a lot of brain power and many hours of discussion but was very worthwhile. It enabled us to see the bigger picture of what we want to do with the farm and why. The basis of looking at holistic context is integral to the farm planning process and sorted out our dreams from the realities. If we want the farm to be producing enough income to cover a mortgage and cost of living then our production systems need to reflect this. Once we weighed up how much money we have to play with, then the best options started to become clearer. For anyone who wants to find out more about this process, this website provides a good overview.

The next stage of the process looked at understanding keyline geography/geometry and creating our farm map using google earth. I found the keyline geometry quite hard to understand however after a while you start to get the hang of it. Yeoman’s states that all landscapes are divided up into primary land units and all have the same basic land shapes and flows. His basic premise was spreading water through the landscape, ultimately from the valleys to the ridges through use of dams with flood irrigation and subsoiling in a specific pattern relative to the contours. After having a survey done I identified the keyline cultivation patterns. I have managed to locate a yeomans plow and will be subsoiling the entire farm in the next couple of months. Here’s a look at how the keyline patterns are applied on the farm:

Keyline contour map

The next couple of weeks moved through the Regrarians platform layers and developing the concept plan based on what was needed and relevant to what we want to do on the farm. We developed a basic concept plan using google earth which is very much still a work in progress. We are currently working through the business planning and budgeting so I won’t go into exactly what we are going to be doing at this stage as it may still change. But here’s a sneak preview below:

Farm concept plan

The last few weeks of the course looked at what our priorities were to move forward and working through any problems we had with the various elements of the concept plan. We developed a hit list of what needs to be done and by when. A lot of research, budgeting and planning still to go but it definitely feels like we have a bit of traction now; we just need to keep things rolling even if it is at a slow pace!!

All in all we found the course very worthwhile and extremely good value for money given you would pay thousands in consultant’s fees if you were to get someone in to do it for you. If you are interested, here are the details of Regrarians. Next post from me will be around the keyline subsoiling, stay tuned!!

 

 

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Curve Ball – 2017

A lot has happened since October last year, mostly personal so I’ll cover that in this post. Then I’ll see if I can finally convince Ashby to share a post about the regrarians farm planning we completed earlier this year.

**warning deep and meaningful post ahead**

December 2017 threw a huge curve ball at us and knocked us about. My father passed away suddenly. To lose someone you’ve looked up to for as long as you can remember and thought was going to be around forever, is heartbreaking. We’re managing to stay afloat and use our family and friends to lean on.

Life always seems to have surprises around the corner, some good, some bad. I think we tend to surpress the good when we see so much bad everyday. To the friend/s that are fighting cancer, losing a loved one, the terrible news we see each day, the list goes on.

A lot of my grief has involved ignoring the situation. With a child, in more ways you’re forced to get out of bed on the days you prefer not to and get on with it. They don’t understand the extent of loss, and I guess in a way we try to shelter them from this being so young.

But these life shit-uations provide perspective, unfair perspective but perspective nevertheless. It makes you feel thankful for what is in your life. Your family, friends, children, roof over your head, food etc. The key is to not lose that perspective, but we tend to be unfairly reminded again in the not too distant future.

Life’s too short to be caught up doing something you don’t want. Whether that’s a job, friends with someone who has a negative effect on your wellbeing or other negative situations. Also noting it’s much easier to write this post than actually practising what I write.

Until next time. Caity x

One Step Closer…

Hi all, we’ve sold our house! I have waited to post the below blog until finance was approved. But read on to find out how it felt the next day after the deal was done!

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So it’s happened. I can’t believe it. I’m still in shock I haven’t even really shared the news far and wide. We got an offer on our Perth home last night, before we went to market. And we accepted it..

If all goes to plan, we will be leaving our first ever home in 6 weeks. I almost feel as though I’m losing a part of myself! Is that weird?! Probably! I said to Ashby earlier this week, I’m not sure I’m ready to leave Perth. Very few of our friends actually live in Perth now but it’s still that central location for everyone to meet and catch up. I’ll miss that.

Work has not been all that enjoyable lately. But still I’ve worked hard and for the most part it was enjoyable. I liked my job up until recently. Now the thought of starting over at a new company or our own company is rather daunting.

That fear of change seems to be so deeply embedded we find it hard to take steps towards a more fulfilling life (what ever that be). Even if we’re not that happy in the one we’re leading.

Ashby for ever my helpful life coach. Reminds me to concentrate not on what we would loose, but what we are gaining. Walking down the terrace this morning, visualising walking in the forest put a smile on my face (during the day obviously, the whole nighttime forest scenario very much still creeps me out.. I’ll get there) Also got me thinking maybe everything will be ok.

The move isn’t imminent, we’re lucky my parents have a house in Perth where we can stay as long as we need. But watch this space, we’ll be starting the Regarians farm planning course next month which will help plan our next steps.

Are you taking a big step? How have you found it?

A little face lift

Hi All, our most recent work on the farm has been rather exciting! The main house has had a face lift. We had the ensuite and bedrooms painted. I’ve included some before and after photos below! I can’t wait to see it in person eventually. We also had the handy man fix some minor things and complete some unfinished DIY jobs from the old owners. Makes it seem more homely already! 

Ashby has been busy also, with two trips in the last two months. He has completed the new water system, along with help from the plumber and electrician. He has also removed the internal fences with that handy knock-about tool. He tells me it’s much faster than a tractor 😉 

Currently we are away in NSW on our working holiday. Will write a blog on that when we get back home. Until then…


Project Regen 2016

Yes that’s right 2016, this post is a blast from the past. Here goes. In late 2015 we decided we wanted to fence the brook and plant more trees to help regenerate the area. There are numerous exotic species on the brook which have out competed the natives which are more beneficial for a healthy waterway. This was the main aim as well as being able to keep livestock out of the brook in future.

The project was made up of two stages:
  • Phase 1: Planting 500 trees (seems like not many, but trust me it is!
We started planting Easter 2016. We managed to plant majority of the trees at this time, but still had some left which we would plant when we were fencing. WOW what a job. I wasn’t as physically fit as Ashby, lets be honest I hadn’t been landscaping for 6 months and desk jobs don’t quite prepare you for planting trees. All holes were dug manually (don’t look at me, go Ashby), some by shovel and some we used the pottiputki (something I never knew existed). We were thankful that my sister and brother-in-law were able to help.
  • Phase 2: Fencing the brook
We completed the fencing on the June long weekend. My mum and dad assisted as our very own fencing contractors. This was great for Ashby to remember his long forgotten fencing skills so if need be we can do it on our own next time. I’m not sure I will be a very good assistant though. Whilst they were fencing I finished planting the last of our trees and completed the all important lunch runs.
All in all the project turned out quite well. The fence looks great and will allow us to offer the paddock to our neighbours for their cows and to run our own stock in the future. The success rate for the trees wasn’t that great, we would do things a little differently if we had to do it again. For example using the pottiptkis meant the trees weren’t buried as much and therefore washed away easier or didn’t take as well. We had such large rain falls at the end of 2016 some of the plants were washed away, others taken over by weeds and some eaten by animals. But there are still some survivors, which we check on each time we visit the farm.
 Here are some photos of our hard work.

2017 plans

Happy New Year all! I can not believe how fast 2016 went. I have a feeling that 2017 might go past even quicker!

We had a baby boy (Arden) at the start of November and this has been a learning experience for us all. This has brought a whole new perspective to our plans and timeline to move to the farm. Arden is now 13 weeks old so I feel as though we have made it through the rough first weeks and feeling a little less tired to write a post while he sleeps.

We had our first stay at the farm as a family in January, this was nice but rather uncomfortable given there is no furniture there. While we were there Ashby was working on fixing the water system to make it more efficient. The old system was pumping water from the bore directly to the troughs, these will now be gravity fed from a re-purposed tank instead meaning the pump doesn’t need to run as frequently.

2017 might just be our busiest yet with the farm. It will still consist of planning and knowledge gathering. But our activities will increase with the likely move sometime in 2018 (SCARY!).

We have decided the best way to gather knowledge will be to go, see and work on a farm that is similar to our vision. With this in mind we will travel to the Byron Bay area this year and work on a farm for 2 weeks (as well as spend some time to relax). We found the farm through the organisation willing workers on organic farms (Wwoofers). Basically Ashby and I will work and our food and board will be free. This is something we would also consider offering on our farm in the future.

We are both really excited for this adventure. This will be a test for our family and if we pass it’s likely we will do more Wwoofing prior to moving to our farm. This will be great experience to confirm and build on Ashby’s existing knowledge as well as make any adjustments to our design (yes I’m still working on Ashby to write a post for you on this).

The tenants in the back house (the one we will move into) moved out in November. As yet we haven’t found anyone else suitable. Although this has allowed us to complete some planned improvements, as well as make it more appealing to tenants (goodbye red bathroom!).
Quick look at the Items on our hit list for 2017:
  • Agree budget for start up. The focus will be on the market garden section of our design. We have been basing this on The Market Gardener book which has been very helpful and inspiring.
  • Removing internal fencing. Ashby has found a neat tool which we (ooops HE) will be using. It’s called knockabout. We will let you know how it goes!
  • Finalise the swale design and possibly start earth works
The last two are dependent on what type of tenants we find for the back house. We are hoping they don’t want any use or minimal use of the paddocks in their current layout.

Has it really been a year?

I have been thinking for some months now that I REALLY need to write a post to update you all. Well what I didn’t realise was it has been almost 12 months since our last post!! WOW time flies. It’s been so long I nearly forgot my password!

When I was thinking back to what’s happened in a year,  I realised it’s been quite hectic for us personally and for the farm. So I thought I would summarise and later expand on some key activities in subsequent posts (I’ll try to not keep you all waiting a year again!).

So personal things first. Ashby changed careers a year ago and moved from construction into landscaping. A big change and a move that has worked out well for us, minus a little extra money we could have saved, but as they say money can’t buy happiness. This has been great and meant Ashby has learnt skills to assist us with our set up of the farm and getting used to manual labour early (he tells me it wasn’t easy, hopefully given I’m rather delicate I won’t have to do too much in this area 🙂 don’t like my chances though!). Also on the personal front we’re expecting our first child mid November. Rather exciting and scary all at the same time. But lucky for you all, this has pushed me to writing these posts before we become a family of four (best not forget our dog Billy). Or for when we become a couple of nappy changing zombies, which ever way you prefer to look at it. But I do hear it’s very rewarding and all worth it.

Ok, so back to the farm. In the past year:

  • The tenants have stayed on in the two houses, we’ve tried a few handy men who seem to be scared of our long list of jobs
  • Ashby has salvaged two pumps and a hedge trimmer that were left when we took over (awesome!)
  • He also built from scratch a fire fighting unit, which was needed to complete the burning of some wood piles (must say it turned out pretty well).
  • We had lime and dolomite spread on the paddocks.
  • The back house nearly ran out of water, turns out the pump was just broken (the water set up is rather convoluted, one of the things Ashby is keen to change).
  • Ashby has been collecting “helpful” items for when we move. Pots and other things from his work, I am told you just wait Caity we are going to need all of this. We have been keeping these items  in the shed at the farm which works much better for me than our front yard in Perth!
  • One of our largest activities completed was the brook restoration project (fencing off the brook and planting of trees)
  • the start of (one of) our food forests
  • Ashby completed a Permaculture Design course and designs for our farm are well underway.

We’ll expand on these last three in later posts. Here’s a few photos from our trips down to the farm over the year. Until next time.

 

My ah ha moment

So just recently I had my ah ha moment with our future plans. You’re probably thinking you bought the property in April and it’s taken you 6 months?! Scary? Well some of us take a little bit longer than others (I.e Ashby probably had this moment more than a year ago, least I caught up right?!)

So back to my moment. Ashby read a book recently and has been begging me to read it. Call it my famous stubbornness (which my mum swears I got from dad), but it took me awhile to start, but I’ve finally got there!

The book is called Fair Food edited by Nick Rose, if you’re interested in sustainably grown, eco friendly food or in general think supermarket giants are dodgy this is a great read. It is a collection of short stories of personal journeys on the subject of fair food  (click here to view the book, click here for a related website).

The book, some stories in particular is exactly what we are all about. Sustainable, environmentally friendly food, where the supply chain is fair and equal for farmers. Rather than the current supermarket duopoly (a word I learnt), where farmers become price takers instead of price setters.

Someone the other day said that sounds rather hippy, and it probably is to a lot of people. But the reason why hippy has such a bad reputation still to this day is beyond me. Yeah they might have been a bit Psychedelic back in the day. But all in all that was a sterotype. For you to like nature and want the best for the earth so we get to experience it for longer, I can’t understand  why that’s laughed at these days. Especially with all the research into climate change etc.

I’ve decided this statement actually made me proud. I replied yes my husband is very hippy. I’ll be honest I’ve already set boundaries and told him he can’t grow a beard to the ground and is still required to wear shoes (so the sterotype isn’t lost on me yet). But the concept of sustainable food and growing our own food is very exciting.

We can use our property to sustain our family (if/when that happens). We get to be proud of the produce we grow and make our landscape better and more fertile. We can rear our own animals and have an entire ecosystem on 15 hectares. Something we can control and create how we want and with what we want.

Whilst everyone won’t agree with our way of living or what concepts we will follow. That’s ok, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and way of growing things. But we will be concentrating on our own way of doing things, following concepts that we value and think could work. Could is definitely an important word here, because some things might not turn out the way we’d hoped, but as they say “in order to succeed, you must first fail”. Here’s hoping we don’t have to fail spectacularly first!!

Does this book sound like something you would like to read? Have you already read the book? Tell us what you think.

First Inspection

What a weekend we had a few weeks ago. We watched two of our friends get married on Saturday in Yallingup, Sunday saw us meet with a local earthworks contractor at the property and Monday was our first inspection of the houses since May. We also managed to squeeze in the time to meet some of our neighbours.

I think we have to stop jamming in so much into one weekend, but it’s so hard when you don’t live close by to organise things. Much easier to organise face to face and actually meet the people you are dealing with.
The earth works meeting went well. This is for a government grant that we are applying for to fence off the brook and a few other things. I will let Ashby tell you more about that in a subsequent post if it all goes ahead (keep your fingers crossed)!

The inspection went well looking back now,  although it was very overwhelming at the time. We tend to get this feeling once we have visited because there is so much to fix with the houses and land and when you are not there everyday you can’t slowly chip away. On top of this our hired handyman hadn’t really ticked off many items and we met the tenants for both houses. The tenants had a lot of questions and suggestions which we weren’t prepared for. The place in general has been very well looked after, our agent has been great in managing the tenants and property for us.

The main house tenants (the house we will move into) has too many horses and we have since found they are actually eating the wooden fence posts! Apparently it’s quite common, the tenants are going to replace the posts and hopefully any further damage will be minimised. The old house has some minor water damage, but has weathered winter rather well considering the amount of rain.

We met the neighbours behind our property and the ones across the highway. It was nice to meet people and share contact information in case anything comes up for either of us.

We have lots of things to plan after our visit. Number one will be listing our fix it jobs, so we can actually start ticking some off! We are very lucky, as we have a handyman living in the cottage house to help us out.

That’s all for now, feel free to email if you have any questions. I’ll leave you with a few photos from the weekend.

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lane way has seen quite a bit of traffic with the horses

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dam looks nice and full, hopefully we can fix it so it stays this way in summer

lounge room main house

lounge room main house

Their fridge was too big! considering knocking our this wall

The fridge was too big, we are considering knocking this wall down.

kitchen in the main house

kitchen in the main house

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cottage house

Shower in the cottage house

Shower in the cottage house

Checking the tank levels

Checking the tank levels

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Look at those posts!

When the rain comes!

Well it’s been a little over two months since we last wrote! To be honest  we have found it a bit hard writing about the property when we are not there however we had a chance to visit early August so I have a few updates to share.

Ashby wanted to see the brook at full capacity and didn’t we choose a good weekend! The property had over 100mm the week prior so there was water everywhere and lots of sticks and debris laying around from the rush of water. It wasn’t as pretty and magical as I expected but still great to visit. We didn’t get a chance to see the houses or sheds, as we have rented both houses and aren’t allowed to visit unless it is for an inspection. We hope to have one in October, which will be great to see the work that the handy man has done and the new bathroom in the cottage house.

While we were down south we also managed to have a tour of a fully functioning permaculture farm. This is a concept that we will be following along with some other concepts like natural sequence farming. Was pretty cool to see one in action and to see the sorts of things that we could create. There’s going to be lots of work and hopefully that will equal lots of reward!

Ashby has been busy with his diploma in horticulture and is still planning to complete it by the end of the year. I have started a free small business course online which has been rather interesting (click here, if you would like to know more).

We plan to incorporate learning’s from the course to develop our ideas for the property. Quite hard to pin point exactly what we will be doing, when we have so many ideas!

I have included some photos of the farm in winter and also our visit to the permaculture farm. Hopefully the next post will come from Ashby on the types of concepts we want to follow and a bit of background on why we are choosing to go down that path.

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So much water!

So much water!

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Permaculture Farm

Permaculture Farm

This compost heap warms water for an outside shower

This compost heap warms water for an outside shower

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Chooks

Chooks

Can you count how many edible plants are in the picture?

Can you count how many edible plants are in the picture?

One last walk before the trip back to the city

One last walk before the trip back to the city