Piggies and No Knead Bread

Tractor Updates

The pics don’t show the full wonder of the work Jake and Elwood are doing. Here they are head down, digging into the root zone of the pasture they are working on. To be fair, they don’t seem to act like it’s work. They bounce around the field they’re in, ears flapping happily when they are on the run. Mostly running towards me or Mrs Highclere in the hope we’ll drip food in their vicinity. You can see a little of the effects of their noses in the soil in the second pic [left]. The pic on the right is close up of the eaten roots. The outcome is a light fluffy mulch spread across the entire area. There are some exposed areas of soil and that does not please me but on the whole the system is working as designed. The hope is for the mulch to dry out and act as a medium in which to grow the next crop. That will probably be a brassica crop used to fumigate the soil and remove the nematodes. That will be crushed as the second crop starts to come up. I’m thinking spelt under sown would work but I have a few weeks to decide.

No Knead Bread

This is a dead simple recipe. It removes the troublesome business of spending time kneading the dough. Basically this bread has four ingredients: 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of water, 1 desert spoon of yeast and a splash of salt. The ideal flour is a “strong” one. That is, with a higher protein content than cake baking flour. The best I’ve found is Wallaby Bakers Flour. I’ve tried other brands and they don’t seem much different from standard plain flour. I’ll be sticking with the Wallaby.

This method requires the four ingredients to be mixed together until the dough forms a ball. I use the bakelite handled bread and butter knife in the picture to the left. The dough is at the stage I want it. At this point I cover it with a tea towel and leave it, usually over night but sometimes just a few hours. It all depends on the mix, the weather and when I want the bread.

During resting the dough and the yeast do their thing. The mass doubles in size, roughly. I turn this onto a floured surface and stretch the dough into a long oblong. It is then folded in on itself by thirds. A third from the left, then a third from the right. This is then placed on a flat baking tray on some baking paper or scattered flour, your choice. I leave it a few hours and cook for 18 to 23 minutes in the hottest setting in the oven. It’s ready when I tap the bottom of the loaf and receive a lovely hollow echo back.

Turn the loaf onto a cooling rack. About twenty minutes later I’m “testing” the loaf. If it’s been awhile since I’ve baked I’ll probably be half way through the loaf before I think: I should have made two!

This link will get you to a piece I did on bread making a few years back: https://soundcloud.com/mrjonmoore/bread-test-6


A Week of Questions?

Raspberries, in April?

A week of some strangely warm weather. As reported by the ABC news this past fortnight, we have been experiencing temperatures some 4 to 8 degrees above the average.

This has had some odd effects. A single raspberry cane pictured left was in flower a week or two ago. As you can see there is fruit setting, in April. We have had some light frosts. Nothing too crisp. I’m not sure if this an effect of a changing climate. N = 1 is hardly enough data points to draw conclusions. A sudden bushfire on the east coast last week, completely out of season, might push things to N = 2. Indeed there are many data points. How this will affect the rest of the raspberries and next years’ harvest will have to wait. If anyone else has seen odd climate based effects, I’d love to hear from you. These things are troubling.

Pig Tractors Growing?

As wee piglets do, Jake and Elwood have been growing nicely. In theory they should be receiving half their feed from the field they are turning over. This seems to be happening. The boys are Large White crossed Saddleback and so were built for outdoor living. As you can see from the pic, they throw their whole head into the work at hand. They lift the pasture and chew through the roots. They leave large swathes of untethered pasture floating above the field. A kind of vegetative carpet spread across their enclosure. From the YouTube videos I’ve seen, they will eventually eat this “carpet”. I’m considering broadcasting vetch over the area for a huge organic matter bump before next Spring.

This can then be cut for hay after I’ve broadcast a cereal and it’s a few inches tall. This is the Fukuoka method. All these things are yet to be decided. Options swirl through the mind as I lean on the fence and contemplate the process. The answer will come in its own time. The speculation is pleasing to the soul.


A Recalculation and a Way Forward

An interesting week.

A little catch up. I harvested some calendula petals this week for the Highclere Herbal Tea enterprise. They dried remarkably well in the oven, set to low and left for a  couple of hours. I’ll leave them in their container for a week to see if there’s any moisture I missed. I’ll be able to tell this if we end up with mould growing on the petals. I had toss out some rose petals which turned very nasty because of retained moisture. Mrs Highclere took delivery of a small food dehydrator this morning. It’s full of apple pieces at present. I’ll give the petals a whirl in it when I can score some time with the new toy.

One Rooster Less Or Is That Fewer?

I bit the bullet and started reducing our excess rooster numbers. I don’t particularly look forward to the business of ending a life but too many roosters, especially as they are starting to reach sexual maturity, will only lead to unpleasant fighting. The rooster was transformed by Mrs Highclere into a magnificent version of Coq au Vin. I can still smell the aroma as I type. Two more to go. They don’t know what’s coming, I never let them run around after dispatch and I always thank them for the food they are providing.

Cakes and Biscuits!

Mrs Highclere has kept a ginger carrot cake in the freezer until two days ago. Well into the swing of the pascal period and wanting to experiment with a new icing pattern she disappeared into the cake studio. Two hours later I received a message to come down with the phone to photograph the result. The basket weave icing is a thing to behold. I have no idea how she does it but she does. I might also state the cake was delicious!

This week started with a different treat. Unbeknown to .Mrs Highclere, my grandfather and I used to enjoy a particular sort of biscuit (cookie for my North American readers.) known as a Monte Carlo. Imagine my surprise when I found Mrs Highclere had created a homemade version. I must admit they are even better than the originals. I’m sure Graffy Apple ~ the grandfather who brought apples to counter the chocolate my grandmother used to bring ~ would have loved them too.

The Recalculations

With the discovery of the steel tape measure Mrs Highclere and I did an accurate measurement of the grazing space. It turns out what I thought was a 500 square metre pig field is actually 630. Looking at the pace of the work the piglets are doing, I think they should be on a much smaller area and moved on more quickly. To that end my calculations resulted in eighteen 200 square metre fields. These will be much more useful for grazing management and pasture renovation. I laid out some corner posts to give me an idea of the new smaller fields. I think they’ll work. Nine down each side of the long narrow space that is our land. Between the two rows of fields will be a 2 metre alleyway which will act as another field.

This arrangement will be perfect for adding a few sheep to run four fields ahead of the pigs. We will see what breed best fits our requirements. My first thoughts are a dairy breed but we will see.

Until next time.

Jon M

Let Sleeping Piglets Lie

The Piglets

Jake and Elwood continue to do the work they are employed to do. Seen here during their after luncheon siesta relaxing in the sun, out of the wind. Their field was supposed to be 20 metres by 25 as paced out by moi. I found the 30 metre tape measure and it turns out they are turning over 18 metres by 34. Considerably larger than I’d calculated. I guess my paces are growing with age.


We also have two hazelnuts. Multi stemmed, a bit messy and not actually producing any nuts. They will be rehabilitated over winter, if that’s possible. The ag department says our area is unsuited to hazelnut production but we will see. If I can get them to produce I’ll take cuttings and use them as a portion of the hedgerows I’m planning. The idea is to cut the place up into as many small fields as I can. I’ll then rotate the pigs through them rejuvenating the pastures and growing crops as we go. Some of these crops will be just to feed the pigs as they pass through, some will be for us to eat and/or sell.

Potato Harvest

When we first arrived on the place there were lots of spuds sticking out of the ground. I collected them, buried them under straw on top of cardboard in an old garden bed. I now need the space for the next rocket crop so I pulled them yesterday. Not an enormous harvest but they went in late so I’m happy. We have some slowly roasting as I type. The house smells very good.

Chicken Tractor

The Polish chooks are now ensconced in the top part of what will become the vegetable gardens for the house. I pushed the mower through what was left of the pasture in the top of that area, fenced the geese out, electrically and the girls are now tearing up the remnants of the grazing. Fertilising as they go. Two days on the same ground and I move them along what will be the first of the garden beds. Broad beans already in. Snap peas and standard climbing peas are due to be planted out next week. Chicken tractors are such a good idea.

Highclere Herbal Teas

We made our first herbal tea sale this week on that old standby, eBay. I made an error with the postage so the customer saved $1. The listing has been adjusted accordingly. Start with what you have and grow from there. Sound advice that.

The slow, steady work continues.




Escapees and Solid Fences

This week in Highclere was one of escapes and solid fences. I understand this may sound contradictory but there you go. The escapes were lead by the chooks. The Polish hens took off, over the fencing,  into the radish patch I’d left to go to seed. I didn’t see them until too late. The radishes were stripped clean of their seeds. The other  chooks [Left] decided to explore the paddock areas where the geese and piglets are doing their things. Of these six roosters, three will survive the cut. More on that process in a later post.

The piglets are now a week on property and seem to be doing the things piglets are supposed to do. Their fencing, the electric stuff is holding firm, as advertised on the box. The piglets themselves are snuffling around their 500 square meter field, digging out things that are apparently there for them. They bounce around and their ears fly as race to their little shed when they spot the feed bucket. Much grunting and squealing accompanies these mad dashes to the housing and the feed.

Happy to crunch through raw dry wheat, they sniff suspiciously at scarlet runner beans, oversized zucchinis and past their prime carrots. Eventually these disappear too but only after the crunchy wheat.

The collection and drying processes continue for the raspberry leaf, blackberry leaf and rose petals for the Highclere Herbal Teas. The spearmint is also growing a pace as we race against the coming of winter.

The spearmint tea is a refreshing pick me up like I’ve not had in long while. We may not have much for sale this season but next year looks very promising. Garden beds are being prepared for winter crops which I’ll follow up with herbal tea specialty crops. The pigs will be further through their rotation by then so larger plantings will be on the cards. camomile looks promising. I have winter to research and order seeds!

Until next week.

Who is it? Jake & Elwood!

Now Google wench, the lady in the maps app, has taken us to some unusual places. I often messed with her head while we were in Ireland by deliberately taking side roads and lanes to explore new places. Today she took us, not to the address Tony, the vendor gave, but straight to the shed we were actually heading for. Who’d have thunk it?

We were off to collect two piglets. Mrs Highclere suggested we call them “Jake & Elwood”.Seemed like a good idea. She has form. Chester, for the cat was her idea too.

We arrived at a shed on a dirt road through a property. “You have arrived at your destination.” Really? I jumped out and wandered into the shed. The pen full of piglets looked like the one in the ad. This was the place. Sure, sure, this was the place. I had no mobile coverage and Mrs Highclere’s phone was doing weird things. A restart and twenty minutes later she was able to message Tony.

Longish story short, they and we arrived home. I’d built a mobile shelter for them and popped them in there. Half an hour later they we running free across the paddock. Well, 500 square meters of field. (That’s an eighth of an acre in the old money.) I noticed a pallet I’d placed across the doorway to confine them for a little while was down. As I walked across to their space, I heard a grunt and a squeal. They had discovered the electric fence. It worked. I knew it worked on geese as reported here. So the boys are settled in. I’ve checked in them a few times. The snuffle away, big ears flapping in the wind. They appear to be in pig heaven.

We added them to the mix on the place to act as land renovators. Instead of slashing, ploughing and reseeding with a tractor, or even horses (there’s a clydesdale stud across the road.) We will be using the piglets. A slower option but I like that. I read somewhere that a pig is a shovel in front, a manure spreader at the back and a bacon factory in the middle. These boys are destined for the freezer. They will have the most fun filled piggy life until then. And they’ll improve the fields as they rotate across them.

They are good animals to have on the place.

The Gander Tests the Electric Fence!

Polish Chickens

The new girls are settling into their accommodation. They do a really good job of preparing garden beds. It takes about two days for them to do so. The housing then moves to the next piece of ground and so on. Much easier than using a shovel and much better from a carbon standpoint. More as the beds are prepared and planted.next week.

Bigger Chicken Tractors

The space in the Polish chicken home is a bit cramped for the six girls. We still have six roosters and a hen from the original flock of five week olds we acquired back in December.  I’ve been collecting slightly damaged pallets from Bunnings for just this occasion. The basic shape is taking place. I’ll add a nest box or two to the rear, perches and some wire to this basic shape. Not a right angle in sight but form is following function for this gig.

The Geese and the Electric Fence

Today I turned on the electric fence. I spent much more time outside Fridays. Thursdays are blog post writing days for Jon Moore Podcasting Services. Today is just this quick post. As I was sitting outside preparing my thoughts, I heard the geese. But not as usual. A honk in a regular pattern. Honk, pause, honk, pause and so on. A quick inspection revealed the gander on his back with the wire wrapped around his left wing. I didn’t take a pic, the animal was in trouble. I ended up having to turn off the power and cut the wire. The gander gave me a nice little nip on the forearm which is starting to throb and swell up as I type. The gander looks to be ok. He’s sitting in the paddling pool recovering. One the up side, the fencing works. Piglets soon!

Highclere Herbal Teas

Yesterday I started collecting material herbal teas.We’ve begun with raspberry leaves. Blackberry leaves next. There’s also rose petals, later rose hips. There’s also some heartsease growing so we are underway. Given time, I’ll post some tasting notes and let you all know when the teas are listed on eBay. We are in clean, green Tasmania on great volcanic soils. I’m working on the assumption that this climate and soil will grow complex, tasty, health giving teas. Time will tell.

Until next week, bye.