Diary of a Cackleberry Farmer (Winter 2016 Edition)
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
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.
More by this Author
The fourth article in my series about life on my small acre hobby farm in the beautiful South Burnett region, Queensland, Australia.
One description of a piece of land 50 acres or smaller is a "hobby farm" because you don't earn enough money from livestock or crops to make a living. On our farm the main produce is "cackleberries."
Many people don't know the value of the plants around them. Do you see a dandelion as a weed spoiling the look of your lawn, or as a wild herb packed with vitamins? Everything in nature has a purpose.