26 November 2013


What can I say about bees.

Barry the bee man who has been a beekeeper all his life has few words about them. He is still learning and surprised and intrigued.
Barry used to bring us bee hives every spring for our apple orchard pollination. We would pay him to bring them for a few months and then he would take them back, actually take them somewhere warmer for winter as he reckons they don't do too well here over the cold wet months. A few years ago I thought it would be a good idea if they moved in here permanently.

So we now have a few hundred thousand bees.

We are just beginners and are trying to learn as much as we can about a society that is so extremely complex that the more we learn the more our minds boggle. I think the reality is that we can never really understand what is going on

We listen and read and learn. 

Here we are checking the hives, and putting a new box on top of each one with a queen excluder between so that we can hopefully share some of their honey toward the end of summer. 

Oh by the way as part of my helicopter hobby I've also got a GoPro camera recently, and am loving it. This was all shot on this tiny little camera that can go anywhere.

Do you love bees?
Do you love honey?
Do you love GoPos?

Farmer Bren.

17 October 2013


As I said in my first post I am happy to be led down the garden path by you guys on topics, and Kelli got me thinking about one of my favourites. SEEDS.

I am always in awe and amazement at what a seed contains. It is mind blowing that tiny seeds can hold all the information needed to grow into their full potential whether it be a humble radish (maybe not so humble when you consider this beauty), or a majestic tree.
The diversity and complexity of each seed is nothing short of magical, and as I think about how high my favorite scarlet runner beans will get by late summer, I can easily understand the origins of the story of jack and the beanstalk .

Sow how do we grow our veg here (not a spelling mistake just my sense of humour)?

We grow all our veg from seed and almost always have. The few times we have bought in seedlings we haven't really had any success with them.

I'm not saying you should do this as each gardener or farmer has to find the way of growing that feels comfortable with them. If you want to buy seedlings from the nursery then awesome and if you want to buy seed and then save you're own seed to plant again then awesome to you too. But don't get caught up in which is the best way, or the way you should do it, just do it.

We have tried many different seed companies and I would say that my obsession with diversity follows through to them too. I usually end up ordering seed from at least a few of them, mostly because not one of them has all the seeds I'm after. I also try and buy only Certified Organic seed as it is a requirement of our certification but it also means I am supporting other Organic growers.

One of my favorite seed catalogues would have to be Diggers because of their diversity and their commitment to sourcing heirloom varieties. We have had a lot of success and enjoyment from heirloom varieties. The flavours, vigour, colours and diversity are astounding and something to be cherished.

We have almost always sourced open pollinated seed so that we can save our own seed if we want to.

I just love planting seeds and patting them down and eagerly checking on their progress. Sometimes I just can't wait and I will carefully dig around looking for the seeds and checking for any movement. I shouldn't really disturb them, but I do love seeing the tiny shoots sneaking out of their cases.

Kelli also wanted to know about our "planning and preparation process - such as raising seedlings for transplanting and succession planting.", but I don't think we are as organized as we could be and rather than me give you a how to I would like to suggest to you some wonderful resources that we have used through the years.

Joyce Wilkie & Michael Plane from Allsun Farm are farmers that I have long respected and followed. I have been long a long time customer of their great garden-farm supply company and purchased their CD-ROM very early on in our farm adventure. It is an invaluable resource and I am always amazed when I suggest it to people and they haven't heard of it. I remember sitting on our porch surrounded by our first garlic harvest with the printed out pages from the CD-ROM learning how to make beautiful plaits.

Steve Solomon is a man who knows a lot about seeds. His book Growing Vegetables South Of  Australia has been one of those books I refer to all the time. It is about growing in Tasmania and our climate here is pretty similar, but there is so much other useful info in there it would be worthwhile wherever you are. He also started an online Soil and Health Library that has hundreds of great free ebooks, most of which are out of print and public domain.

Well I think that's enough from me now.
Please keep commenting and asking as you see I do take your suggestions on board and a quick reminder that I have been replying to a lot of your comments, so flick back and check.

Farmer Bren.

05 October 2013

Free Range?

Free Range Eggs

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago got me thinking. I don't actually read the newspaper or watch the news on TV. I call it the bad news. I'll never forget an interview I heard once with a psychologist who was not surprised at the the number of people who struggle through their day having been woken by their clock radio telling them all the bad things that are happening in the world.

Wow I can see how people can digress in this blog thing.

What are Free Range Eggs?

I should have the answers. Some of the facts are relatively simple:

Certified Organic eggs are always free range. Something that I find people still don't understand. There are 7 different certifiers and logos in Australia.

Free Range Farmers Association , FREPA , Humane Choice, and others have strict regulations limiting numbers between 750 to 1500 hens per hectare. Check the Sustainable Table's site for a good comparison table.

Stocking rate is important but doesn't actually take into account grazing management.

Certified Organic producers are independently audited and inspected every year. As for the others, it's not so clear.

Eggs that say Free Range but don't have any Accreditation Logo could be anything.

But even these facts aren't that simple to find, or to understand, and I'll admit I might not even have the facts all right, and I am an egg farmer.

No wonder the consumers are bewildered and choice has made a super complaint (great name) about the situation.

Understandably producers are scrambling to identify themselves, with new labels such as Pasture Ranged Organic, and Beyond Organic. But I'm not sure if this helps or just adds to the confusion. I mean what exactly is beyond organic anyway?

If you're waiting for my wise conclusion you might have to wait till I'm older and more cynical because as I heard Tim Minchin say recently to his old Uni;

"A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly from arse-holes, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others.
Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat.
Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege."
I think these may be some of the wisest words I've heard in a while, and what this means to me is that I don't have the answers, I'm still trying to figure it all out.

I could tell you that the best thing to do would be to get to know you're local farmer, shop at farmers markets, do you're research, even visit the farms you buy from, and these things probably will help you make an informed choice.

Or I could say that you should raise your own chickens and that is the ultimate way to know where you're eggs come from.

BUT I don't believe I should tell you to do anything. Do what you want. If it's important to you you will try, like me, to figure it out for yourself and not be told what is best for you.

Well what a rant. When you sit down and start writing like this it can certainly open up a can of worms, but as the earth would not exist without worms, maybe that's a good thing.

Farmer Bren

28 September 2013


Sorry about the typos in my last blog. I have since run it through spellcheck and found 10, (I can hear Kate cringing. She hates typos). But i will happily admit that I'm not a good speller and that I believe  spelling should actually be phonetic.

Thanks for all your comments, it was great to get so many for a newbie and I have posted replies to most of them in the last blog. I think that is what I will try to do if I can think of a direct reply and if not the questions will go onto a list that I will refer to for future blogs.

One last housekeeping thing and that is the blog layout. I'm not convinced it will stay, mostly because I can't get the photos as big as I'd like them, however there are some very cool features of this layout that you can try; On the upper left corner where is says classic there are another 6 layouts you can choose from to view the blog. My favourite is flipcard. Check them out and let me know what you think.

Ok, enough housekeeping.

I wish the clip above was a bit clearer and that I could have got a wider angle but I hope that it can still give you a bit of an idea of setting up of an enclosure for 200 chickens.

We have used electranets/electric netting/electric poultry nets, for close to 10 years now.

 I can't imagine keeping free range chickens without them. 

More later..


Farmer Bren.

21 September 2013

A new start


After staying off the web space for all these years, i am here..

Yes its farmer Bren here..

Up til now kate, my farmer wife has been the online voice of daylesford Organics. She has spoken here with such a beautiful and confident voice that i am in awe of her talent, even if she continues to be one of these artists that wont see and admit how good they are..You just have to read a few comments on foxslane to see how much her voice is appreciated.
I love her more than anything in the world. She inspires me and keeps me alive and happy. I believe that together we can achieve anything we put our minds to.

So why am i sitting here typing a few words (more than i have in a long time).

Maybe because i am searching for a next step for me.
Maybe because i might be able to help others in some way.
Maybe because there are things on the farm scene that need to be said.
Maybe because like her i have so much in my head that would be better out there..It seems to be therapeutic for her.

So here goes..I'm not sure if i can be anywhere as committed to writting as she is and when i will find the time to be here but i will see how it goes.

So what can i offer you here..
Well possibly like michael Lunig said recently.."It's hard to have your fumbling experimental thoughts, your vulnerable thoughts, you're half-formed inconclusive ideas, but they are vital". When i read this it sounded like he was giving me permission to farm the way i do, and maybe..I'm not sure yet.. i should share this with you.

I think that as there are soooo many things farm related i could go into but i will leave it up to you where i start.
Poor Kate gets so many questions on a daily basis about farm/garden /chook related issues that i feel i should start my blog or "farmlog" (i do love making up new words), by answering some of your questions or requests for topics.

So go ahead. What do you want to know?

I don't by any means profess to be an expert but i can share my experience and thoughts on many matters,  as i try to do my best to work with nature in a way that will enhance life for all involved.

Farmer Bren.

11 September 2013

moving the chooks along

This Friday the Blackwood flock of chickens, above, will leave our farm and make their home on another organic farm a couple of hours away.

I'm guessing that apart from the drive, the Blackwoods wont notice much of a difference between their old and their new homes at all. They'll travel along as usual dust bathing, eating, drinking, scratching for bugs, laying eggs, hanging out with their hen buddies and when dark comes, they'll even go to roost in the same houses they have since they came to live with us a year ago when they were one day old.

Our lives on the other hand will be very different indeed. 

The Blackwoods are the last flock to leave our farm and for the first time in years we will be down from 2,000 chooks to just 200. From 10 Maremma dogs to two. From two wonderful farmer boys to none.

This Friday marks the next stage in our organic farming adventure.

We're excited (and a little bit scared), we're happy (and a little bit sad), but we're really ready.

Hopefully our extra time will be spent trying to find a bit more of a self sufficient balance. Making, growing and doing more, and buying less. Hopefully scaling down the business will mean we'll have more time for other plans. And hopefully someday soon, the places we deliver to will stop calling us the egg man and lady.

So it is with much happiness for them and for ourselves that we farewell the Blackwoods.

Stay tuned for the next adventures.


PS We have a pallet load of poultry netting, as seen above, arriving from England any day now. Available for sale mid October. Please watch this space for details if you are interested.

05 February 2013

See you on Saturday


Long time no see.

So here's my idea; why don't you come along to the Collingwood Children's Farm farmer's market this Saturday between eight and one and see us for real. In person.

How much fun would that be!

We could chat, you could buy some gorgeous heirloom variety beetroot and some eggs, all certified organic and of course delicious. And while you are there your kids could dance around with the buskers, you could stock up on the freshest, seasonal, farmer's market goodies and make a morning of it.

See you there?

Hope so.