February 28, 2016

Keeping Guinea Fowl

I think I am a bit different and not necessarily a follower. I am strong-willed enough to take a risk and go my own way. This may be why I have always wanted Guinea Fowl. I did my research and I kept hearing of stories about guinea fowl perching in trees at night and living quite happily until one day in a single file line walking to the driveway of their home and leaving. Yet this did not deter me. I wanted Guinea Fowl! Finally a friend had some keets (babies) and gave me two. Gerome and Gemma the Guinea Fowl came to me as teenagers.  They lived happily with the chickens until after some time they started harassing the rooster. I have read that they sometimes will not allow roosters feed or water. After a while the relations with the rooster and the Guineas seemed to be getting worse so I separated the chickens from the Guinea Fowl. It is like they wanted to be in charge of the hens and do not like the competition from the rooster.

Gerome and Gemma (Helmeted Guinea Fowl)

Gerome and Gemma (Helmeted Guinea Fowl)

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February 6, 2016

Hugelkultur Garden Bed

I have been doing some experimenting with different types of no dig garden beds lately. I had an area in my orchard which has been driving me crazy with kikuyu growth and not really suitable to plant more trees there. I am trying a new garden in this spot. I am yet to be convinced that I will be able to keep the kikuyu out of the bed but it is worth a try. The bed is also in full sun which gets very hot in summer and will quickly dry plants out.

So this new method of bed making is a German idea called Hugelkultur. My mother tells me hugel means mound or hill in German. I admit I just like saying the word Hugelkultur :). The method uses unwanted branches, logs and green waste from your garden. These are things that are usually too awkward to place on your compost heap.

You basically pile all your sticks and logs up in a mound and cover with soil and mulch to make your garden bed. As woody material takes a long time to break down the bed holds a lot of moisture. The mound provides air pockets for plant roots, good drainage and plenty of rich organic matter.  Vegetables will thrive on the decomposing material.   The beds can be very big if that is what you wish, the sides are usually at a 45 degree angle which is believed to reduce soil compaction. Not only are you placing waste material out of site you are also saving money as Hugelkultur is cheap to build.

My bed is only small but its going really well. Little lizards seem to love it and I have also seen a solitary stingless native bee fly into the wood area so I am hoping it has a nest in there.

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Hugelkultur bed after two weeks from construction

How to build a Hugelkultur garden bed.
You will need:
Newspaper or cardboard
Sticks and logs
Dry grass or straw
Soil and or potting mix
A shovel

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January 27, 2016

Trimming a goat or sheeps’ feet


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Unless your goats or sheep live in a very rocky area you will need to trim their feet at least once per year. Just like humans, animals nails grow and get too long. Sometimes on livestock the nail will fold over and cause discomfort for the animal through lameness (limping) or the extra nail will break off. You can not rely on the nail breaking off as sometimes when this happens to much nail breaks off causing the animal further soreness. It is always best to keep an eye on your animals feet so that hooves do not start growing in the wrong direction which can happen if the hoof is too overgrown. It is best to trim your animals feet just after rain when their nails will be nice and soft and easy to cut.

If your sheep is lame and you inspect the hoof and all looks normal, check the oil gland which is located between the two hooves on each foot. Looking front on it appears just above the toes (hooves) in the centre. The gland lubricates between the toes though sometimes becomes clogged with dirt and blocked. It needs to be unblocked by squeezing gently. If it was blocked  a vaseline like substance will appear. Often this is a condition of rams which can easily be cured by you. Don’t forget to check all four feet.
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January 19, 2016

Conducting a Soil pH Test

Looking after, understanding and having an appreciation for your soils health is absolutely essential for any gardener. Soil acts as a foundation for all living things and in soil live thousands and thousands of beneficial microorganisms of which we need to make conditions ideal for them to help us. Soil pH is one of the easiest things to change in your garden. Soil pH is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline the soil is. Soil pH measures the amount of Hydrogen and hydroxyl ions are in the soil.  The pH strongly influences a number of soil processes including nutrient availability. Most plants have a preference to neutral pH which is between 6 and 7.

An easy and cheap method of conducting the test is through a powder kit which can be purchased from your hardware/nursery.

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pH test kit

You will need
Soil pH test kit
Spade or trowel

1. Using the spade dig down approximately 15cm so that you miss any organic matter on the top layer.
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January 11, 2016

Mozzie Pot

Summer time is well and truly here, which has brought rain and now mosquitoes. Apart from mozzies spreading disease to humans they can also give chickens fowl pox. I do not know anyone that likes getting bitten by mosquitos. Apart from their annoying buzz they also seem to go for the parts of the body which are sensitive such as your feet or parts you really do not want blemishes like your face.

I grow mozzie pots full of insect repellent plants and place around my chicken pens. I have recently made a smaller one for the outdoor table which could also double up as a herb source and nice looking focal point.

I used the following plants in this mozzie pot; pennyroyal, lemon thyme, cat mint, lemon grass and southernwood.

Pennyroyal – a peppermint scented perennial. Repels fleas and ants. Has purple flowers.

Lemon Thyme – a lemon aroma and mild flavour suited to accompany many dishes. Leaves are slightly larger than the conventional thyme. Repels mosquitos and has tiny pink flowers.

Cat Mint – a minty scent. Can be used dry as a tea. Repels insects. Has purple flowers.

Lemon Grass – a lemon scented coarse grass. Can be used in tea and cooking. Contains citronella which repel mosquitos.

Southernwood – a perennial plant that has an unattractive smell and taste to insects.

How to make a mozzie pot
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