Diary of a Cackleberry Farmer (Winter 2016 Edition)

My favourite hen, Moppet
My favourite hen, Moppet | Source
A cackleberry
A cackleberry | Source

Back by Popular Demand

Well, my valued Friends and Followers, it's been awhile since the last edition of the Cackleberry Farmer series was published (6 months in fact: A Cackleberry Christmas 2015). At that time I felt the series needed a break and I personally needed to concentrate on a few different things.

At that time I wasn't sure if I would continue the series, and felt that a Christmas edition was as good a note as any to finish on. However, some recent prompting from a few of my friends (mainly Eric Dierker) has encouraged me to resurrect it, at least for one more edition. Reader reaction to this chapter may determine if I continue to write more in the future.

In the Chicken run
In the Chicken run | Source
Nesting boxes
Nesting boxes | Source

Winter

With, Autumn, and then Winter comes shorter days and, invariably, at least for the small-scale cackleberry farmer, that also means a decrease in cackleberry(egg) production. At this time hens begin to moult (lose their feathers) and also require a minimum amount of sunlight per day in order to encourage them to lay. So, from the beginning of Autumn and for up to three months onward you will generally experience a drop or ceasing of egg laying.

Here on the Cackleberry Farm we went from getting six eggs per day to nil, nought, zilch for around six weeks. Then last week I was surprised to find three precious cackleberries in one nesting box. Since this discovery I have been locking the chooks in the hen house/chicken run each night and not letting them out to free-range until 11 or 12 the next day. I have been getting one egg per day since, so at least one of the girls is doing her job. Though it isn't paying for the feed of 14 fowl in all.

Soldier on parade
Soldier on parade | Source
Nothing is sacred, especially if it is food
Nothing is sacred, especially if it is food | Source

Cock-a-doodle-doo

Unfortunately, from the last two clutches of chickens the majority have turned out to be roosters, resulting in us having a population of eight hens and six roosters. This is far from an ideal ration as roosters have an extremely high libido and like to have a harem of hens to themselves.

The long-time dominant though quite placid rooster, Soldier, has been displaced as the alpha male by another younger upstart (yet to be named) and cock fights are becoming common place. This, added to the dueling "cock-a-doodle-doos" to wake us each morning is prompting me to have to make an unwelcome but necessary decision.

I have been trying to give away roosters with no success, so the only real alternative is to sharpen the axe. I won't go into gory details, so let's just say - chicken stew or soup are hearty and satisfying Winter meals.

Axe and chopping block (for chopping firewood)
Axe and chopping block (for chopping firewood) | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Haven
The Haven
The Haven | Source
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A beautiful sunset viewed from The Cackleberry Farm
A beautiful sunset viewed from The Cackleberry Farm | Source

The Haven

Most of our (spare) time over the last three or four months has been devoted to cleaning-up, clearing, and renovating our other nearby property. Our situation is a little complicated, but putting it simply, the Cackleberry Farm is really two different properties situated about five kilometres apart.

When my wife Kathy and I first decided on our tree-change we purchased a 40 acre block and christened it "The Haven." Here, with the help of our teenage sons, we built a livable shed, with small solar array, and where we resided for three years. This was the original "Cackleberry Farm."

Trying to cut another long story short - some extended family members had to move from where they were living and asked if they could rent/buy our property. As Kathy's health was not the best and it was becoming difficult for her to manage without a permanent/reliable power supply and running water to the house (and we new of a bigger and fully powered house available to rent) we agreed to sell them the property. We moved to the house owned by friends on an alternate 50 acre property just five kilometres away.

The deal was they would rent for a year then use part of the rent as a deposit on the purchase of our land. However, one year became two, then three, and eventually we were told they could not get a loan as they already had outstanding debt.

So, we were left paying rent on one property and mortgage payments on another, as well as trying to maintain two acreages. We have been struggling but managing to do this for the last three years. Finally, three months ago, our mortgage was finalized leaving us $520 per month better off and and able to start saving for a new solar system for 'The Haven'.

Hopefully, by the middle of 2017 we should have enough money saved to pay for that and other renovations (touch wood). When that is done we can move back.

In the meantime we have been building in the rear patio, brush-cutting, mowing, planting new gardens, tree lopping, fixing gutters etc. Approximately two days per week have been devoted to restoring 'The Haven'.

Part of the Cackleberry Farm garden
Part of the Cackleberry Farm garden | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Household water supply rainwater tankThe tap replacing the one I destroyed with the ride-on mowerThe offending ride-on mowerSpare water tanks for gardens and livestock
Household water supply rainwater tank
Household water supply rainwater tank | Source
The tap replacing the one I destroyed with the ride-on mower
The tap replacing the one I destroyed with the ride-on mower | Source
The offending ride-on mower
The offending ride-on mower | Source
Spare water tanks for gardens and livestock
Spare water tanks for gardens and livestock | Source

Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head (I wish)

Challenges of Rural Living

Living in a rural area has so many advantages over town or city living: fresh air, wildlife, trees, open spaces, starry skies etc. But, it also has its challenges such as remoteness, slow or unreliable Internet, no stores close by etc.

Yesterday it rained - Hurrah!! Ballogie received 25mm of lovely fresh rainwater. This followed three months of virtually no rain at all. Now, to city folk this may be no big deal because water is always on tap, but to us "blockies" it is. We do not have a town water supply and we have to rely on collecting our own water in tanks.

Normally, we have enough water to get by from one rain to the next, but this time we weren't so fortunate, and that is our own fault.. or mine anyway. As I stated previously, when living a rural life you can't take things for granted and need to exercise more care in most situations.

My wife and I drove to Sydney (14 hour drive) to visit our daughter for two weeks.We arranged for a lovely couple to house, dog, cat, and chook sit for the time we were away. All went well. but when we returned home I decided to turn the sprinkler on to water the garden which had been a little neglected.

Well, around two hours later, I realised "Oops..forgot to turn off the sprinkler." The result - half a tank of water lost. Then, two weeks later, I am on the ride-on mower. Being careless again I drive too close to the water tank and, voila! I snap the tap (faucet) off the tank. jumping off the mower i desperately try to stop the flow of water ( the story of the boy with his finger in the dyke sprang to mind).

The result of this carelessness - loss of the remainder of the household water supply. There was no sign of or prediction of imminent precipitation occurring so I was forced to purchase a truck (tanker) of water = $260 to fill said tank.

Life on the Cackleberry Farm is never dull.

Humphrey the cat relaxing under the passion fruit vine
Humphrey the cat relaxing under the passion fruit vine | Source
My writing desk
My writing desk | Source

Time to Write

My production of articles here at HubPages has declined these last few months, I admit. How I have found time to write at all is beyond me, but I guess passionate writers somehow manage to do that. If nothing else, I am passionate.

All going well I will try to be more active going forward. I hope you enjoyed reading this edition of the Cackleberry Farmer. Time will tell if there will be more to follow. Let me know in comments if you'd like to read more in the series.

Finding time to write
Finding time to write | Source

More by this Author


Comments 50 comments

Siva222 profile image

Siva222 3 months ago from Chennai

Nice one. I liked it. Hope to read more on this.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Siva, I appreciate your comment and taking the time to read this.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 months ago from Shelton

I still think this is a wonderful entry Jodah.. I enjoy reading the Diary of a Cackleberry farmer.. good stuff my friend :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hey Frank, thanks for the continued support and encouragement. Much appreciated.


Buildreps profile image

Buildreps 3 months ago from Europe

It's always nice to read articles of this series, John. Nice to see how you manage a farm at the other side of the globe.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for following this series, Buildreps. I am glad you find our Aussie farm life interesting.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

Humphrey is lovely as are those chickens eating. The new upstart should be named "Rocky," as he seems to be quite the fighter.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi, Flourish. Humphrey is very affectionate. Thanks for the suggestion of the name for the new alpha male rooster.."Rocky" it is.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

You make me homesick for my youth. An old Ben Franklin stove to cook on and a hand pump for water. The mundane for you is exciting for us city folk.

Thanks for treating us to another edition. And please regale us more often.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Eric, you encouraged me to resurrect the series, so this one is for you. I know the Cackleberry Farm is popular with my followers but gets practically no other traffic (though that isn't so important). I shall try to keep these coming but it may only be about three a year instead of monthly like before.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

Now imagine having 150 quail and forty of them are males when you only need twenty. We had a butchering day last week and I did not enjoy it at all.

You just hit upon the major drawback to raising egg-bearing fowl....winter! Here, unless we keep a light on in the coop for sixteen hours a day, our hens will not lay. Period! No amount of coaxing from us will do it, and like you said, it then gets pretty costly raising them during the winter months.


Siddharth Kapoor 3 months ago

Nice pictures John. Interesting read my friend.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

I knew you could relate, Bill. Butchering is far from my favourite pastime either. I have been putting it off and would have preferred giving the roosters away. I feel for you having to do 20 quail. I won't resort to putting artificial light to the hen house either and it's too far from the power supply anyway. One egg a day is better than none, but I hope the rest resume laying soon.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you, Siddharth.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 months ago from Southern Illinois

I do enjoy reading about your life on the farm. I do not see how you find any time to write, but I'm glad you do. Humphrey looks like my cat White Paws. ( I no longer have him due to my stupid allergies!! ) I remember gathering eggs when we lived on a farm as a kid, and I loved it. I hope you will continue with your Crackleberry series.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 3 months ago

I love my little corner of the world where I have forest and orchard, a field of wildflowers--but I also have just a 15 minute drive to "civilization" (AKA shopping). I do not think I have the stamina or patience (much less the organizational skills) required to live as you do. I am sure that you are busy, but it sounds as though it is a happy, or at least satisfied busy.

Sorry about the imbalance in your hen house. Check my page for a hub on chicken soup.

Thank you for taking the time to share with us a bit more of your life on Cackleberry Farm. It's always a fun read.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for visiting the Cackleberry Farm, Ruby. It is a pity about White Paws and your allergy. It's a busy life but I love to write, so have to make time.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Linda, sounds like your little corner of the world is heavenly. We are a 45 minute drive to civilisation. I think I will be checking out your chicken soup recipe soon. Thanks for reading.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 months ago from Los Angeles

Hi John. It's great to see you back with the latest edition of life on the farm. I'm sorry that you had too high a ratio of roosters to hens and had to take the necessary but unpleasant steps to right it. We city people take so much for granted and would gain far more appreciation and respect for resources if we had to face the challenges of rural living. I am glad that you share your problem-solving strategy and your lessons learned. I hope that the summer brings you many cackleberries and time to relax in the manner displayed by handsome Humphrey! All of the best, Cat:)


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

You certainly live an interesting life.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hello Cat, thank you for reading. I am glad you enjoy this series and find it a good learning experience for city folk. I can't see myself getting bored or slowing down in the near future, but I seize any opportunity I can to relax. Oh for a cat's life. Humphrey rarely does anything strenuous.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Larry, it is certainly not boring.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 months ago from southern USA

Hi John,

I love your Cackleberry series and so glad you published another one to keep us up to speed on life on the farm. I can imagine all of the daily struggles of rural life, but then the benefits too. Oh, I know I couldn't be one to butcher the roosters ...but one must do what one must do!

We live in a small town now, but do have the tap water and I know it is a blessing for I can't imagine going even a couple of hours without running water. So, I still have a long way to go to being a country girl and living off the land. However, when I feel the need to go off grid, I will reread your interesting hubs.

God bless and take care


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

I was hoping that you would write another article in this series, Jodah. It sounds like you've had some challenges to face! I hope the future goes well for you and Kathy.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Theresa,

Anytime you need a taste of off-grid living just pop into the Cackleberry Farm. God bless.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes, Alicia, we have faced a few challenges recently...but they just make you stronger, right? Thanks for the well wishes. Glad you enjoy this series.


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 3 months ago from Florida

I did indeed enjoy reading another installment from the Cackleberry Farmer's Diary.

I think it's the simplicity of your lifestyle that I love the most. However, I know to use the word simplicity very lightly, as I also know how hard it is to live on a farm.

The beauty of the farm is wonderful though. I absolutely love your photos. They are so nice. All the animals certainly seem to be at peace on the Cackleberry Farm that's for sure.

I do understand that life does get extremely busy. I was just thinking how hard it's been for me to get here and write, and then I also feel so guilty because I can't get to a whole lot of reading. I try to get to some of my favorites, but it all has been pretty hard for me as well. I certainly get your struggle with writing here.

All in all, as always, John, this is a well-written piece out of your diary, and I always enjoy reading them. :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Missy, I always appreciate you finding the time to read my hubs. I know myself how difficult it is to keep up with what everyone writes. I often fall behind, and have to choose to read my favourites first. I am glad you enjoy the Cackleberry Farm series. You are right that life is simple here, but it doesn't always go smoothly. the trouble is if something breaks down you can't get a repairman out...you either fix it yourself or have to go without until you can get to town.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 3 months ago

I love your Cackleberry series, it reminds of my childhood, living with my grandparents. The work was constant but never done, when one job was done, time to start that same job over again.

Please keep the series going, I enjoy this very much.

Blessings and hugs my friend.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hey, Shyron. It is always good to get comments from you on my hubs. Glad this series lets you relive childhood memories. Sounds like I may have to keep it going :)


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 months ago from The Beautiful South

Can't wait to get roosters once I get more country to not bother any neighbors. I never understood that, hearing a rooster crow makes me settle in and sleep even sounder!

Always love your fun shares.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 3 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello John. I vote for the Cackleberry Farmer Journal to continue. I think it teaches us all something new each time. I have also predicted many times, that we will all once again live like you are living now. Your way is sustainable, us city folks are having trouble now with our way of living. We are running out of 'everything'


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Jackie, roosters crowing doesn't bother me at all either. they also seemed to have settled down and found their pecking order since I wrote this and have been fewer fights. If I could I'd send a couple over to you, though :) Glad you enjoy this series.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Mike, I appreciate you voting for these diaries to continue. I originally finished the series because I thought I was running out of new things to discuss and was in danger of boring everyone :) Glad to know that I do manage to throw in a few lessons along the way. My wife and I were worried about the way the world was going so we did a Permaculture course and a tree change so we could start living a more sustainable lifestyle. We still have a way to go, but it's an interesting endeavour.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 3 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

John, I am sure that you miss out on many of the frustrations of us city people. Of, course there is inconvenience of running the mower into a spigot. It does sound like a rugged life, how our grandparents likely lived. More power to you.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Simple lifestyles sounds more fun and less stressful.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes, you are certainly right there, Devika. Thanks.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 months ago from Stillwater, OK

Sounds like there has been a great deal going on in your neck of the woods. I, for one, enjoy the pictures and the the tales. I vote for future editions.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes, it has been busy here, Deb. Thanks for voting for more of the series.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 months ago

How enjoyable a read I had today with your article! I can just see myself doing the same with the water tank -- yes, finger in the hole to plug the dike. Glad you are coming out from under and starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Enjoy your farming!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi, Dianna. I am glad you found this to be an enjoyable read. Yes, sometimes I just get a little careless unfortunately. Thanks for the kind comment.


lollyj lm profile image

lollyj lm 2 months ago from Washington KS

I always enjoy your articles about the Cackleberry Farm, but I also understand how the realities of life get in the way. I love to write, but seldom find the time to do it nowadays. So if you continue your Cackleberry diary, I'll enjoy reading it.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

I am glad to hear that you enjoy this series lollyj, and would like it to continue. Life certainly can get in the way of writing but somehow I find the time. I hope to read more hubs by you too, soon. Thank you for reading and commenting.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 months ago from Central Florida

John, my face lit up when I saw the title of this post. I love the Diary of a Cackleberry Farmer series.

You certainly are a busy farmer/husband/father/writer/landlord!

Do you think Soldier will retain his title? He's so pretty - I'm rooting for him.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 2 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

John

It was great 'catching up' with the farm and how you folks are doing. We've kind of missed the cacklebury farm reports.

So the egg production is 'down' at the moment, I'm sure that won't be for long as spring and summer aren't that far away now.

You're right about finding time for the things we have passion for, most of my writing is done either early in the morning or 'between runs' at work, it can provide a bit of a challenge but it makes a 'mundane day' into a good one!

Really enjoyed catching up. Hope you continue with the series.

Lawrence


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

I am glad you were excited to see a new addition to the series Shauna. It appears I will have to keep the series going to keep my readers happy, though I will probably make it seasonal rather than monthly. I now keep soldier apart from the other alpha male, but he has his own hen so he is happy. I hope your job is going well, and I hope you get time to write new hubs soon.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Lawrence, thanks for visiting the Cackleberry Farm. Life has been so busy lately that it is difficult to find time to write anything for myself, but it is my passion so I manage somehow. Often as you say, early morning or late into the night. It does certainly brighten the day if you manage to write something inspiring or is pleasing.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 2 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Absolutely


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 months ago from Central Florida

John, I'm so far behind in reading and my muse hasn't punched me yet, although she's whispering in my ear. I've written down some headlines (ideas) as they strike me, but the full body just isn't there yet. I feel the itch coming. I'll scratch it when I'm compelled and simply can't help but spew. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yes, Shauna. I totally understand.

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