RIP Goldie

Goldie, it would appear, was 9 1/2 years old, which isn’t bad going for a chicken. She came from a breeder down at Rokeby who had hatched the chicks for the display at the Royal Hobart Show. That happens in October each year, and the oldest photo I have is datestamped from January 2003.


and here she is a little older, with two of the others from the same batch. [Amber the clack one in front is still with us]

Amber and Goldie

Goldie used to like weekend lunches – where possible we take our weekend lunch outside and eat it on the steps at the front of the deck. She’d learnt to sneak up behind us, ready to clean our plates when we put them behind us. She also used to hide in the (outside) laundry to lay her eggs, or climb/fly up onto the bench hopeful that we’d left the lid off the chicken food tub again. Goldie was a Modern Game Bantam, if you were lucky enough to pick her up it was possible for your fingers to touch around her – but then she’d flap and show you how strong she was by pushing and flapping out of your hands.

Her last few days were quiet – I gave her a bit of water through a syringe, but the fact she let me pick her up showed her age. She is now next to a nectarine tree in the new fruit tree area alongside the driveway. A quiet but strong character. Let there be more chickens like you, Goldie Girl.

We’re back … but rain stops play

Gee, I knew it had been a while since I’d updated CGF Blog. But not since October? Oops!

We have been busy in the garden, and with other projects too (sewing, supporting exam study, sorting through bookshelves and decluttering)

Let’s recap in reverse chronological order shall we?


a morning finding places to put the zucchini and pumpkins (me), and turning compost and clearing out the chicken shed (R). As part of the pumpkin quest I put two more out over the back fence, gave them heaps of compost and watered them in well. Not sure how appropriate it is given that it’s a nature strip zone, but we now have a sprinkler permanently set up over the fence in the hope of increasing the harvest by making it easier to water. The chickens did the hard work of spreading this batch of compost around the blackcurrants and blueberries.
Spreading compost - Chickens do it best
Rain stopped play shortly after lunch until I realised a couple of days of rain and showers was perfect for planting carrot seed as it needs to be kept moist to ensure germination. So on with a coat and hat and out in the rain to plant seeds. Interplanted with rocket seed as a quick germinator and easy salad greens before the carrots get too big to need the space.

What’s in the garden at the moment?

Tomato plants are doing well – nice sturdy plants and gaining height. Some small green ones on the plants. More to be planted out. Especially on the side fence behind the chook shed. I *did* plant some there and have had to replace several already as the chickens dug them up. And my best anti-chicken measure? Which also does double duty as a heat bank? Two bricks, one either side of the stem with a gap just large enough for the stem. Even the big chickens can’t move the bricks!

We put in a bed on the uphill side of the chook shed as it became apparent the path would be quite wide and a potential maintenance issue.We put the portable pen there with some broody chooks in it. The sunlight and lack of a nice dark nesting box helps them stop being broody. They got a pile of horse manure and grass clippings to mix into the soil. After about a week they had done a lovely job of garden bed prep. In there are 4 tomatos, basil, and a cucumber (Shh, don’t tell Robin about the cucumber)

Our horse manure mountain has proved a wonderful resource. Bags are emptied into the compost and spread on garden beds.

The semi circular bed in front of the chook shed has been doing well for a first year bed. The plants are all thriving, but I do notice the difference between the section that has roof overhang – quite a bit drier, so that needs a bit of extra care.

Current harvests:

Snow peas, lettuce, purple cauliflower, herbs

Back in late October we harvested the first of the pink eye potatoes from the Poly Bed – the carpet underlay and chook shed litter has rotted down beautifully to make a rich compost. The potatoes are buttery and luscious.It will be fabulous to plant into for autumn/ winter crops.
First Pink eyes of the season

The kiwi fruit vine now has a steel reinforcing mesh trellis. The mesh is set out from the wall so the plant won’t cook in the heat of summer sun. We finished putting it up last weekend and the vine is already twirling around the mesh, growing visibly each day.

Trellis up now for Kiwi Fruit Vines


Curcubits and #Tub10

Strange progress this weekend, at this time of year everything has started leaping out of the ground, overwintered vegies and herbs have gone to seed, there’s a reliable 6 eggs a day from the chickens and seedlings are getting visibly bigger by the day.

Yet, when I look out the window it doesn’t feel like there’s much that *has* to be done right now… when I stop being delusional, I know in ten days time when I want to plant out many of my seedlings I will need some clear space in the garden beds so #Tub10 is declared – a large plastic tub of ‘no longer wanted’ plants will be cleared each day for 10 days. Things like coriander, carrots, rocket, beetroot, chervil are all going to seed.

First Day #Tub10 Carrot going to seed

They look so pretty and they have prevented other more troublesome volunteers from taking root. Not to mention the gazillion parsnips that resulted from my reckless shaking of seed heads. Who says parsnip seeds are poor germinators? Many of the parsnips I weeded out yesterday were eating size. And the little ones were eaten enthusiastically by the rabbits, our ‘Weed Processing Units”.


I’ve finished off the new bed out the front of the chook shed, and planted their climbing bean & cucumber sunshine screen at the bottom of the trellis. A golden zucchini and white button squash accompany some mixed lettuce at ground level. I am hoping the afternoon sun will treat the plants well, and the laserlite behind the cucumber will give an extra boost of heat and protection. And a great big fence of chicken wire at the front to protect them from marauding chickens.
Shade bed for the chookshed

As a reward for being the first pumpkin seeds to germinate, the Whangaparoa Crown pumpkin has been planted in a compost circle and will be encouraged to climb up onto to the roof of the straw shed. Hopefully baking in the sun will encourage many pumpkins! The remaining assorted pumpkin, zucchini, squash and cucumber seedlings got potted on, and spaces mentally allocated. The surplus may be palmed off onto unsuspecting visitors :-)

Whangaparoa Crown Pumpkin

On Friday I noticed someone (I have a prime suspect) had flapped into C6, the bed with brassica seedlings and trampled them. So I moved off the extra wire protection from the salad greens nearby. Only to find the prime suspect aka Gardening Turkey in there later decimating the salad greens while we ate our dinner on the deck. We need to look at higher wire around the garden beds, or perhaps as the first measure, more bamboo stakes to hold the wire more firmly in place. Gardening Turkey was just trying to live up to her name. And we’d grown her such a nice salad too.
Gardening Turkey

Scavenging and Seeds

Last weekend I drove around the corner into a neighbouring street and saw a skip full of bricks and other building detritus. Happy! We’d been dropping into the tip shop on a semi regular basis looking for bricks to continue our garden bed edging and not having any joy. As we were loading the trailer for the second time with an assortment of half and three-quarter bricks (very sensibly, the people who had been demolishing the walls had kept the good whole bricks to themselves) another neighbor wandered across the road enquiring if we wanted to buy some good, cleaned bricks. You betcha! Another trailer load of bricks. And some sheets of concrete reinforcing mesh to make trellis for the kiwi fruit. We’d been thinking we’d need to go look at mesh and then arrange it to be delivered. Instead, we picked it up and walked it home!

Skip Scavenging Success

Last weekend I also planted out carrot, radish and beetroot seeds. After a very wet Friday, the soil was ready on Saturday. I used the cornflour slurry that Steve Solomon recommends to spread the seed a bit thinner, and keep it damp to support germination.
Carrot Planting

Carrot Planting

Squeezy bottle full of seeds in a slurry


I also used some of the Renew fertiliser I picked up at the Farm Gate Market. It is made from wood pulp waste and poppy waste and composted. A local product that uses waste to create something valuable. The texture is great – light and spongy when wet and holds moisture well. On the to-do list is to go buy a trailer load.

Renew Fertiliser

Renew Fertliser

This weekend started with a soil blocking ‘workshop’ with Mum – to see if the soil blockers were comfortable for her to use (I didn’t want to be responsible for damaging a weaver’s hands), and to start her off without having to make a huge batch of the mix.
Soil blocking with Mum #1

Apparently they travelled well and made it home to their place in one piece.

Soil blocking with Mum #2

I continued on the theme with planting lots of seeds, and ‘potting on’ some of the tiny soil blocks into the larger ones. So easy to just pick up a little cube and drop it into the larger block.

Teeny Weeny soil block seedling

Transplanted mesclun seedlings

Also using a standard sized tray, it is possible to fit 180 tiny cubes! I’ve got quicker at picking up individual seeds and placing them in the little indentations too, meaning only one seed per block. Less work down the track, for only a little more care at the beginning seems like a good deal to me.

Planting 2 October

Despite adding some more shelf space in the greenhouse, i’m getting tight for space. So some seedlings, the sturdy cucumbers, beans and zucchinis etc as well as some delicate tomatoes have gone into some plastic storage tubs aka cold frames on top of the chickens’ sleeping area. The idea being during the day the sun will warm them up, and at night the chickens will provide some background heat from underneath.

Chicken heated seedling area

Robin started the new garden bed outside the chicken house. When we built the new shed we were concerned it might get rather hot in summer as it gets full sun through the day, much more than their old shed did and we don’t want roasted chook. So the roof trusses were extended over about 60 centimetres so we could attach trellis and grew climbing beans up to make a shade front wall for the chooks. And get more vertical growing space too. Today, Robin started by removing the clover we’d planted, and any grass, and moved it into the chook shed for them to pick over and scratch.

New garden bed

To get them scratching the exposed earth in the new bed I scattered some seed, and suddenly the soil was covered with the girls. With some more encouragement (seeds) in the evenings the girls should have the area prepped for planting by next weekend.

Spring Weather

The beautiful apricot blossom is out, and thus the windy spring weather comes and 'thins' the crop. Last year we agreed we needed to thin out the fruit more to protect against brown rot on the apricot trees. Also we promised the apricot trees we would prune them once their sap started moving. The wind took care of the first item, and we pruned the bottom apricot tree on Saturday morning. Above the blossom there were long whippy growths about 5-6 foot tall which we lopped off. And that tree looks comfortable again. The shape of the tree makes it possible to climb up inside it which made pruning easier.


A bonus this weekend was the free green waste disposal at the local council tip. After we emptied the trailer which was jam packed with about 6 months of tree prunings, we refilled it with mulch – $10 for a cubic metre. Bonus upper body workout shifting it to the front garden when we got home. The rain yesterday has washed away some of the stink too. Ewww – smelt like compost with fish waste. Cheap though. That'll be my garden job this coming weekend – spreading out the wee mountains of mulch and pulling out/ burying some of the emergent weeds.


The chickens are averaging 4 eggs a day at the moment. And I'm saving the small ones (about 25 grams each) for an egg curry as part of a dinner with friends on Friday night. Should be decorative.
‘scuse the mud on the eggs – it’s been damp here and the chooks have muddy feet.

First eggs for late winter 2011

Also – go buy a pressure cooker. Seriously. Lamb Tagine in 25 minutes? Deliciously tender and flavoursome.

End of an Era

The old chook shed met a timely end on the weekend.
Considering how dodgy the construction felt after 13 years of service and many, many repairs, the chicken shed took a bit of effort to demolish. Most of the wood came from the Tip Shop, and the roofing iron came out of a skip around the corner as Martin and Angela were having their house re-roofed the same week. The plastic over the netting on the open area was recycled from a previous greenhouse. The large timbers horizontal on the ground were rotting but still sturdy enough.

Old Chicken Shed demolition

Demolition underway

Ruby cat peering in where the netting was removed

Ruby cat peering in where the netting was removed

Old Chicken Shed demolition

Can you see the smile on his face? Of course you use an axe for demolition work.

Old Chicken Shed demolition

and a crow bar


The point at which we curse the invention of reinforcing weldmesh for concreting. Who put that in there????


Autumn colours

it seems hard to see where the old shed fitted on the left. The apricot tree and black currant bushes were leaning over it, so they occupy the now empty air space.


Mid-Week Update

Being back at work has meant a shift in my garden time. At the end of yesterday I came home in the dusk, slid on my gumboots and dug some carrots to add to dinner. The need to reconnect with the mud soil was strong. The carrots were a nice addition to a feed of cannelini beans simmered with a pork hock until it all went sticky and delicious. Carrots and leeks added last night upped the vegetable content.

carrots, beetroot, spuds

carrots (orange and white), beetroot, spuds

Yesterday, the chickens were noisily settling down for the night and sorting out who was sleeping where in their new shed.

Tonight, the negotiation was less intense between the chickens. The turkeys (just large chooks really, but that is their nickname) were nesting in the hay under the nesting box. Ginger had managed to get on the lid of the nesting box, for which she has my admiration – only last weekend I clipped their wings to minimise their flying ability. I picked Ginger up and tucked her inside the box with all the other bantams. There’s plenty of space in the nesting box for all of them, but I suspect the turkeys haven’t figured out how to use the ramp up into the nesting area yet. The term ‘bird brain’ definitely applies to those three.

The babies are getting noisier and noisier – they must be missing their late afternoon tea I was feeding them as there is a racket when I come down the back stairs at the end of the day. Jet is growing well but still the smallest. She prefers to stand in the food bowl to eat.

The garlic planted a few weeks back is up and about 10cm high in C2. No sign of life in C4 yet but that was planted two weeks later.

Preserving – 6 bottles of stewed apples last night, 5 bottles chicken stock are just about done in the pressure canner as I write. The pressure canner seemed like a crazy but good idea (number #45 i think) and yet it has been lovely to open jars of mexican beans and mince, or chickpeas and pinto beans ready to use. The chicken stock won’t take up space in the freezer, and won’t need defrosting on the nights we want to make a quick risotto.

Beep beep – there’s the alarm. Off to tend to my bottles of preserved goodness.

Girls Moving House

The chickens are finally in their new shed. As the dark fell tonight we watched some of them figure out the ramp up to their nesting area. And others just got up on top of the lid. Yes, talking about you Goldie and Cinnamon. This is despite me clipping their wings to cut down on their flying this morning.

Girls in the new shed finallyGirls in the new shed finally #2Ready and waiting for the chickens

Ready for chickens

Milly testing out the hay - approved!Nesting/ Roosting boxCutting the legs to size

Today the doors went on, the nesting/roosting box went in, and a bale of hay and some scattered grain welcomed the chickens to their new home.

The new shed was a major project for our house – Robin, Zac and I spent a lot of Easter with Ross and Glen helping and advising tirelessly, Ross’s concrete mixer and Andrew’s mitre saw worked hard, Andrea and Bill donated timber and helped with finishing touches today, Anita ordered concrete fixings, the guys at Uptons cut timber to size and tied stuff onto the roofracks for me, and the tip shop had some bargain timber and the perfect base for the nesting box.

There is some more to do, but the girls are now in and we can tackle the finishing touches each weekend.

Baby Chickens Update

One of the witches got put in with the babies to be their foster mother. So far it is going fairly well – The witch is not pecking the little ones, and they all scramble for the food together. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are friends yet though. Time will tell. Jet

The witch got chosen using a sophisticated selection process – who could I catch most easily. My efforts to get the babies eating out of my hand are being thwarted by the kittens – they love following me around in the garden and use the opportunity to roll around on the roof of the pen the babies are in. Not conducive to chick training. Maybe tomorrow I should try when the kittens are asleep.

The larger chickens are getting more interested. I have seen them hanging around the baby’s pen during the day and peering in.


new girls on the block – Pepper, Jet and Salt


L- R: Pepper, Jet and Salt

Well, we hope they are girls! Normally people stick to a new skirt or a magazine as an impulse purchase. At CatoGardenFarm we prefer chickens.

I’m a sucker for pekin bantams – they scratch well in the garden but don’t disturb huge tracts of ground, they forage well, and seem to have personalities. Our grown-up black pekins are known as “The Witches”, and there are three of them. Two were named after the aunts from Sabrina, Teenage Witch. And another two were named Clancy and Pepper, but we can’t really tell them apart so they share a name. Except for Cry-Baby who has a distinctive voice. There was another witch but she recently died of old age and is now fertilising the newly planted cumquat tree. Let’s meet the babies…

Pepper is the largest mottled pekin bantam, she is a week or so older and taller.

Salt is the smaller mottled pekin bantam. She has larger patches of white.

Jet is the smallest of the three and is basically black with a hint of white feathers on her head. She may develop more speckle as she moults and grows new feathers.

They came from Debbie in Kingston who had a beautiful assortment of mottled, gold, lavender and black pekins and a few other breeds as well. They new girls are about 8-10 weeks old and are now snuggled up overnight in a bed of dried grass in one of the portable pens under the top Moorpark apricot.

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