Red light, green light

I am sitting on the floor of the caravan as I write this blog. Harry has just crept out of his under-the-bed-den to come and snuggle in my lap. Rach has gone to bed early coz she isn’t feeling 100 percent today. It’s 8.05pm. I’m writing this blog from my laptop, although we have no internet in the van, I can post it later from up at the office in daylight hours. It’s nice to be writing from the comfort of my home – a luxury I haven’t enjoyed since leaving Byron some 4 and a half months ago.

I have had a great day. I worked at the markets on Sunday just gone, which afforded me a day off today (Monday). It was a glorious, sunny day, so I spent the time catching up on ‘outside’ projects. Currently, I am working on building pathways to allow us to get to our new compost bays without getting stuck in clay and mud. Our entire site is situated on very clay-rich soil, so we have had to import this stuff called crusher dust – which is very fine gravel that sets firmly to form a base on which you can walk or drive – in order to make our site livable. We ordered a load when we first arrived, and we just heard the prices were about to go up, so decided to order another load for future use.

The crusher dust is mined from various sites – so the colour of this load is somewhat darker, more orange and sandier than the last, which was white and full of small grains of gravel. The different colour triggered my creative soul and today I made a mandala for Rachel using the orange crusher dust overlain on the older white looking crusher dust. The theme I chose, a favourite of Rachel’s and mine, is the wonderful Yin-Yang symbol. She was stoked with the result and I thoroughly enjoyed creating this big outdoor 2-D sculpture. Its look nice and fresh now, but we are both going to enjoy watching it disintegrate back into its surroundings over the coming months.

Started with a sketch in the gravel...

Began to infill using small & large spades...

Created definition using small black pebbles...

Harry & Rachel check out the new mandala...

The finished pathway creation...

Creativity is such an important part of farming and sustainable living. You are constantly problem-solving various questions:

  • How will I overcome this challenge?
  • How can I adapt things to suit this environment/weather condition?
  • What would work well here?
  • What other projects fit well with our current activities?
  • What tool would work best in this situation?
  • How can I get around this without spending unnecessary funds?

In the past couple of weeks, Rachel and I have been doing a lot of creative thinking and problem solving about possible future projects. We have been thinking quite seriously about doing chickens on a large scale as a independent enterprise which would bring us our own income. There’s no real pressure for us to do this – its just something we wanted to explore because we feel passionately about having some chooks, producing our own eggs – and then these business ideas started to percolate – so we decided to follow them and see if they led anywhere or not.

We use a traffic light system for anything we go into – and you will often hear us say that if we get a clear run of green lights then a project is a definite goer, but if we get orange lights at any point we slow down until we confirm a green or a red. It’s failsafe. So we decided to pursue the chicken ideas until we got a clear signal one way of the other.

Its not until you basically decide to do something that you get down to the nitty-gritty of what would be involved. Its an important process to go through. We read every book we could find – we started to talk about it constantly. We watched DVD’s and we consulted Rod and Tania. At first we had lots of energy to go ahead and then….we noticed some orange signals…a little bit of overwhelm at how many chooks would be required to make a decent income, then we started to make calls to find out what might be involved from a council perspective. And that’s where the chicken train became de-railed. The council of course has red-tape for everything to do with starting a new enterprise and in the end, we decided this was too much hassle for right now. It was a big red light.

That’s not to say we won’t pursue it in the future, but we have enough on our plates with farming organic vegetables, especially as we are coming into our peak season. Our focus right now is learning to harvest a bunch of new vegetables (silverbeet, european spinach, coriander, rocket and more) and to do it in the fastest time we can. Our aim is to be able to pick and pack between 200 and 220 bunches of whatever needs to be picked in our morning shift (3 hours). We are closing in on that target and working closely with our more experienced team-mates is helping us achieve that goal.

I don’t know if that sounds like a lot to those who are reading this – but I can tell you from experience – its a lot of bunches to pick in that space of time. So for now dear readers, we have decided to just keep learning about growing food, but we fully intend to get a few day-old chicks in September-October (that’s the time they are available) and start a small flock to supply eggs for us all here on the farm. By starting small, we can ease into it in a more relaxed way and see if the whole raising chickens thing really floats our boat – if not, we just keep it small and keep farming.

Have a great week,

Cheers Michelle


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