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Sunday, October 13, 2013

The free rangiest free range, quality pasture fed farm animals around.

BY now I hope you've all heard that pasture fed fat is good for you, so rich in Omega 3 oils which are so important  especially for youngsters. Its sugar that is bad . Well good, because producing sugar is energy intensive and by contrast, meat , eggs and milk are the most sustainable diet items on our farm.
I so love chooks. We have several chook houses on our farm, each one houses a maximum of 25 hens and a rooster. So everybody knows each other, and everyone's happy.  Im told that 80 % of a chook's daily manure output is deposited at night from the perch, so I an really happy as by putting copius amounts of dry hardwood sawdust and shavings in the house once or twice a year, I can easily collect deep litter for making compost any time I want to. YEs it takes time to collect the eggs and to  let out the chooks at mid day after they have laid most of their eggs ,and to lock them back up at night, and to set up and maintain the vast array of "paddocks " we make of birdnet for them to graze in. It is especially terrible to find them in the garden uninvited. This does happen  with monotonous regularity I'm afraid. Its like you put some compost, mulch and seedlings out and water them and woe,  the fowls  must smell the earthworms and make a super effort to break out. They lay  really nice eggs though.
Our system for the chooks is hard to photograph. I 'll post a  photo now  of the chooks in a bird net room, but its hard to see the lay out unless I get up a big tree. It is like 2 long pens coming off a central house, we alternate from the "humungus pen" ( 50 m long and 4.5 meters wide,  built from recycled barn) to the pergola which goes off at right angles to the Humungus. There are little doors for chooks all along each side of the pen so they can be rotated through at least 20 "paddocks" . These paddocks are made of bird net and there in lies the weakness. They can make their own exit if they try hard enough. I bought some recycled ex vineyard Black birdnet and it is so much stronger than new white we bought, plus visually more appealing.Also, you have to look the little door at night as only the pen and house are fox proof. If you have daytime foxes I would suggest the proper thing but expensive , the electrified poultry netting and solar panel you can buy through Allsun in NSW. Or a good Marema dog, again expensive. Or an Alapaca wether. Or all of the above in bad fox area. Once it is all set up the theory goes that you grow veges in the vacated pens which are all weeded,clear of slaters, slugs and snails, and fertilised a little. The chooks certainly won't deal with kike as they tend to eat out all the comfrey and alfalfa and leave the kike, which they eat only when desperate.
 Anyway , know that our animals all live on pasture , some recieve biodynamic grain too, but obviously the bare minimum cause it is expensive. Check out the well protected goslings, 5 out of 5 surviving crow and fox so far. Spring on the farm is so lovely. Keep the rain coming for just a while longer Patchimama.




I know the pigs are in here somewhere

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Of Worms and wheat reveling in the rain

For the first time in about 7 years we are having a proper wet winter. Our Rainfall is double last years to this date. The soil everywhere on the farm is feeling like rich chocolate mud cake, and the plants are looking so happy, seeds are coming up easy, and life is altogether sweet. Is this Mother Nature reminding us of how easy it was to grow food before climate change?
Worms have bred up to very healthy populations in the soil which is properly wet for once. This is actually our worm farm.

Chrissi helped us plant wheat in May. We mulched it with old hay. The ground was just starting to get wet for a few inches down

Here's the wheat 3 months later
Hey piggies, you did  an awesome job of ploughing and fertilizing, bless your curly tails.

I 'm not sure which is wheat and which is rye at this stage, but Im hopeful of a few loaves of bread at least. In farming Ive learnt not to get too hopeful, rats or ducks or weather may get it yet. But it is looking so good, so far.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

TWo workshops, a curry van, a speech and a market in one week....Whew!


An enthusiastic group of Southwest people participated in Bee Winfield's workshops last weekend at Nannup's Flower and Garden festival. The importance of growing our own fruit and veges organically was stressed, with slides of research showing the effects of pesticides on children's cognitive development & the links between commonly used organo-phosphates in agriculture to ADHD and learning difficulties. They learnt how Round Up was found in the urine of every subject tested ( 1000 + people in Germany)and saw how plantations of soy, palm oil and timber cutting are destroying the lungs of our Earth ( the rain forests ) at a rate of 6000 acres per hour. This loss of vegetation, and the burning of fossil fuel has resulted in serious climate change already. Facilitator Bee Winfield said " Conventional Agriculture is a major contributor to GHG , and a dying occupation, however organic growing can save the Earth. She stressed that through our buying habits "we create the world we want."
Bee said "Artificial fertiliser is not only contributing to climate change and air pollution by its manufacture, but when applied to soils,  kills off the soil food web. This is why foods are so low in minerals compared to 30 years ago. She said "The marketing to children of junk ( processed) foods is really killing our children and our planet. Obesity alone is bankrupting our health system."
A slide of an orang-outang clinging to a lone tree after bulldozers clear felled several square miles of his rainforest home for palm oil, prompted Yvonne to share how her partner & son were currently trekking in a Malaysian rainforest & had visited a tribe whose children are sick and dying from the poisoned creeks flowing from the palm plantations. The point was brought home by an array of left over snack chips, waves and rings from a function held in the same hall the night before.
After a lot of grim news, came the exciting news that our farms and gardens can become healthy eco systems which rely on a web of pest and predator. The group was encouraged to view a pest outbreak as a breeding ground for predators, and shown how to bring insect eating birds, reptiles and bats to their horticultures. The "soil food web" contains 1/3 of all living things on Earth. Tilling and use of fungicides annihilates important microscopic life formsBee claims that  3 years or less after conversion to organics a farmer will find no use for chemicals and use less fuel.
The school kindly lent Bee an older microscope for the workshop, to analyse soil from the community garden pathways and compare it to soil microbes in composted beds. Unfortunately we lacked magnification and couldn't see much, although a Manjimup boy managed to focus in on a leaf, to his joy. An aerobic compost heap teems with "good guy " microbes and we saw microscopic slides of a bad bug nematode being lassoed by a fungal hypha. We then saw a tomato root unprotected by mychorrizal fungi with a root eating nematode going right in to feed! There were also slides of predatory nematodes which consume root feeders types .
The workshop culminated in a compost tea brewing demonstration. After a few days aeration the tea is full of beneficial bugs which when sprayed out on the leaves and soil can "miraculously" improve soil structure and water logging, get rid of pesticide residues, prevent nutrient and lime applicatons leaching away, increase nutrients in plants (because the microbes dissolve minerals from our sand, silt and clay and hold them near the plant roots in plant available form), and reduce watering costs by up to 70%. A well fed plant does not send out stress signals which attract " Natures Garbage Collectors"…… the pests and diseases. The reasons why properly made compost gives plants resistance to pests and disease are only now coming to light with the advent of the electron microscope.
Two  brave little boys , one clearing the swale as the  big boar  they were feeding some oats rose to his feet!! 
On the Sunday ,16 participants coming from as far away as Perth, Collie, Donnybrook, Bridgetown, Northcliffe and Manjimup attended the Swale workshop. They were pleasantly surprised to learn about the myriad of benefits this cheap, easy & quick water harvesting installation can bring . After the workshop the group car pooled to Merri Bee Organic Farm to see the good growth of citrus and cattle fodder trees on 5 young swales. The sun shone for the first time all weekend on the sparkling water of the Blackwood river flowing by. The visitors were charmed by the sights, scents and sounds of spring on the farm, and were all very grateful to Bee and  Well Being Warren Blackwood who funded the workshops.
The secret Life of Soil " series , exploring how to make good compost and teas from it  will be an extraordinarily educational day at the farm commencing on   November 2nd. Home gardeners and farmers will learn  more profitable ways to grow healthy productive plants. This will cost $60.00 with optional lunch from the farm of $15.00, all organic of course. Please book early as places are limited . Email Bee : beewinfield@westnet.com.au.




On November 3rd Nannup Shire presents David Piggott Ba Sc who will present “Argentine Ant control the Natural way “ Community action is fun , easy , low toxic and WORKS!

 
Details as they emerge.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Time to Spring into action as Flowers and Gardens bloom !


We looked around yesterday and realized the weeds are on the move, the almond trees are blossoming , the banjo frogs are jamming down in the swamp and spring is springing. From now till Christmas we will be flat out in the vege garden seeding, weeding, mowing,  transplanting and mulching. I got my chilie , capsis tomatoes and eggplant planted in seed trays in the plastic house yesterday. Its a great time to put in peas and  potatoes direct in the garden. A month form now sunflowers, corn  and pumpkins can go in.  I will  admit to you we are just getting to transplanting the onions and haven't pruned the grapes yet. I did achieve bamboo cuttings recently.
We've been happy to host a young lady from Japan this week. Yuka is learning English and helping us out with a bit of weeding, tree planting and sales at markets.
Weeding the garlic and onions that did get planted on time.

 So wet at Karridale, the swales are more like dams, the paddocks are saturated and the swale mounds maybe the best place to plant tagasaste. Plenty of willows and poplars have been planted out  to bind the soil and feed the cattle and earthworms.
Bee and Yuka staying at the weeding task.

At Nannup Flower and Garden Festival this weekend, we will be cooking an all organic curry or two for the event, to be served with organic rice. Also from the Organic Food Van our roasted macadamia and pecan nuts with banana ice cream should not be missed, plus I will be  presenting a workshop in Nannup at 11.30am at the shire on both Saturday and Sunday. Our farm tour to show swales in action will be 4 pm Sunday at the farm ($20 a head, free tastings of produce ) Come and get an earful of great  growing advice this weekend!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Don't want to blow my own bugle but......


Sometimes when my stars for the week mean I will need to deal with criticism from many quarters and Im feeling like a failure, I turn to my testimonial page and just read....
Thank you so much Bee and Stewart for an amazing day, extremely educational and extremely delicious!! Please also add my new email address to your making list. 


This was one of the best workshops I've ever done, the learning was immense.  I was so excited I went foraging yesterday on Dad's property, looking for fungi, which I'm pretty sure I found in the composting layer on the forest floors.  I collected lots of samples from a variety of high biomass areas and I'm going to have a bash at using the samples to inoculate compost and soil at home....see if I can boost up the fungi levels!



 Just wanted to let you know, we had the rump roast rubbed with fennel seeds last night and tonight, and it was some of the most delicious meat we have ever had. So moist with the fat, and so tasty. So nice to eat meat that I didn't have to worry about - because I knew it had had the most perfect, happy life right till the end. Could just enjoy it for two reasons - firstly, it was perfect, so I didn't feel bad that some animal died for an average tasting bit of food, secondly, because I knew she had a good life. Plus, lots of lard saved for future roast potatoes. Food of the gods (apart from mash of course). The main difference I noticed with your pork compared to ordinary pork, is that the fatty bits are nice to eat, not a flubbery, grainy, nasty jelly mess like from other producers. Loved it, let me know when you are raising more meat of any kind, and we will have some. S J
I come in a few times to the organic markets when i lived in Belmont for your lovely roast beef, best I've tasted. J.M.

The lamb chops were amazing. The fat on your animals tastes completely different than other meats, it is crispier if that makes sense (even better than other organic grass fed meats). I wonder what it is that does that? The raspberries were the best I ever had, so firm and tasted just like raspberries if you know what I mean? I loved the yoghurt, it tastes more sour but I like that (and so does James). The more sour/fermented it is the more lactobacilli and other bacteria there is. Also it has less lactose, which is better. You can really taste the difference between yours and other organic yoghurts (which are only done for 6-12 hours). The bread is really delicious too.  RT
Hi Bee,

Thankyou so much to you and Stew for a fun, entertaining, informative and simply wonderful day. I learned so much and can't wait to get started with putting into practice some of the things I learnt today. It sure is daunting suddenly having 10 acres to manage with no farming experience let alone permaculture or biodynamics! but i am very willing to learn and have a go to help give the best nutrition to my family and do the right thing by the environment. Thankyou so much for opening your lovely home to us and being so generous with your time and knowledge. I feel very lucky to have been able to come along and am so glad I met you guys before listening to everyone else telling me that I must "make roundup my friend"!  

Hi Bee

I had a great time on the weekend, i was amazed at how quick you could feel at home in your home. For me it was great to meet you three in away that i felt you can live ge free and organicly and still fit in with society. Already have started my worm farm. Also has changed what i buy from the shops and working on the bigger plan. I even found myself looking up land in Nannup on sunday night.

I dont realy have much constructive critism, as it was great. I felt i learned a lot more once it was the three of us rather than saturday morning when we were with others that already knew a lot more, it got a bit complicated for me. So i think it would good if possible for people at similar stages to spend the weekend together as we had.  Also i think the more hands on stuff on the farm it what i remenber the most and would encourage that side the most.

I enjoyed it a lot  and would love to come again in the future.

In regards to the market, do you need to pre - order. What time does it start. Is there any chance you will have anymore of that berry compot, already finished it, yum. Were after yogurt, ice cream, bacon, avo and what size do the hams come in (i realy like the ham we had at lunch)

Regards b
thankyou so much for a truly wonderful stay.
i felt so nourished on every level.
it was a perfect mix….
just had your milk- best milk I have ever tasted in my life
Just did the course last weekend, it was absolutely brilliant! Such a beautiful farm with many happy animals.Organic farming has been a viable way of farming for thousands of years, things went wrong when scientists brainwash you into believing that food should come from a laboratory or a factory. Do the course and you'll learn how to grow your own in a natural sustainable way! Michele
Thank you so much for a fabulous weekend – Gres and I both thoroughly enjoyed being part of your organic farm and family and taking away so much information with us. We are very keen to start with small projects; baking our own sour dough bread, starting a worm farm, investigating a water tank, being aware of GM foods and buying the non-GM alternative and only feeding the kids organic meats, fruits and vegies. 
Dear Bee, a big thank you to you for having me in your very interesting Gourmet gardening weekend permaculture course. It's such a prestigious experience to see how permaculture works on your farm..and all these wonderful films we got to see and amazing food we got to taste. I am so glad I came. I will try and source some ingredients to make my first sourdough. I look forward to receiving the recipe. Also could you tell me the name again of that herb growing in the patch upslope from your compost? Epi...ti.
Hi Bee and Stew .Thank you so much for such a great weekend! It was so informative and we look forward to implementing things in our garden! Will be in touch soon
Again thank you for a great weekend. Emmy


And from a couple of youths who want to go all organic but are struggling to afford it:
Its just that we know that your produce is the best in Australia, and at the most outrageously good value prices, and we not only want to eat your stuff but also support you in what you do as much as we can. We have been thinking of a trip down south soon, and we will definitely come say hi and help out when we do!
 These emails were unsolicited and mean a lot to us .  Honestly, if I had a dime for very time we've heard people say or  email "  Your eggs ( or meat) is the best I have ever tasted by far" I would be a rich Merri Bee
 This letter today I am very proud of. (Remember if you want a good speaker on GM I 'll be there in a flash): 
Club B,
Silver Chain,
Peninsula Road,
Bridgetown 6255
01-08-13
Bee Winfield,
3 Thomas road,
Nannup.


Dear Bee,
Thank-you for giving your talk “Healthy Soil - Healthy Food -
Healthy people - Healthy Planet” to the members of Club B on Friday 26th July 2013.
What a wealth of information you gave us. It really was a fascinating
presentation and stimulated a lot of interest in the members. Some of the information you gave was totally new to many of us. It was obvious that you had done a great deal of research and we were grateful that you made the information available to us.
Thank-you for giving us the little 'GE' pamphlets on the foods so we will be able to do more careful food shopping from now on.
Thank-you for taking the time to come to Silver Chain to give this
excellent presentation to our members. It was very much appreciated.
Kind Regards,


E. W
On behalf of Silver Chain
and Club B Organising Committee.

On behalf of the Balingup Small Farm Field Day Committee, thank you for your time and contribution to the field day with your composting demonstration.  

It is wonderful to have an experienced practitioner working with the stuff day in, day out, as you are on your Nannup farm.   

You made it accessible and interesting to people, and your detailed knowledge on the topic was appreciated. 

Thank you again for making the 2016 Field Day a memorable and successful event.

Kind regards,

Janine Milton

Coordinator BSFFD Committee


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Snack foods are made by burning down the Amazon rainforest.

Snacks of chips are burning down the lungs of the Earth. Forests are being burnt to make way for palm oil plantations . The oil goes in to snack foods.  Please sign the petition ( Link in blue)
 If you are hankering for some chippies but dont want to support multinational food companies who wreak havoc on orangatangs may I suggest you  buy organic lard from our cell grazed pigs and make your own ? Munch away while healing the planet with your purchases.
 When the sows pictured below have turned that lot of grass into manure and urine and body mass they will move to the next small paddock between swales. Earthworms and smaller biology will convert the leavings into humus (that's carbon you know, carbon that was once in the air). Humus will remain in the soil for hundreds of years unless ploughing takes place whereupon it will be released as CO2. Trees will grow well on the edges of the paddocks to supply the air oxygen and us animals delicious fruit. If we are to survive on the planet , we will do so by harmonising with micro and macro biology. Had some Lard on popcorn last week. It was  rather  nice and negative  carbon emmissions.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Western Australia's Native Forest




Western Austrralia's  plantation timber industry ( which we should all support ) is failing. It can't compete with the bargain basement prices of our last remaining native hardwoods . Our government  sees votes in  "jobs for the boys" in sawmills. Outlandishly generous timber amounts were promised to millworkers  in my town of Nannup by Terry Redman MP before the last state election. Logging took place last year in vast areas which had been preserved by all governments since 1920 as high conservation value. This year logging is to continue all winter.   Jarrah is a  fantastically good fire wood (millable logs are currently burnt in the Alcoa smelter at Wagerup thanks to Minister Redman's pricing of just $5 a cubic meter, less than blue gum plantation waste which was planned to fuel the smelter.
Couldn't mill workers be employed planting spotted gum and other species of  fast  growing structural timber, on cleared land? 
These mills will inevitably have to close as we've  cut down nearly all the native timber that was here when white man arrived 200 years ago.  Jarrah seedlings  take about 300 years to grow .Like Karri, vast amounts of Jarrah was  cut down and shipped out  all over the world from the early 1900's. But in the early days this was done manually, didn't destroy the understory and employed a lot of people. Nowadays it is mostly done by machine, flattens everything, spreads disease and the Forest Products Commission runs at a financial loss!  The government logs large areas then kindly turns them into  " National Parks " so that  they can boast about the area they have reserved. They know there is nothing left of economic value in these so called National Parks for the next 300 years!


Jarrah is nearly all gone, and along with it, world heritage ecosystems and biodiversity. The Black cockatoos pictured below are critically endangered. These individulas are being rehabilitated at David and Dee Pattersons sanctuary in Nannup. They were found emaciated and  starving to death  because ...these birds need to eat the seeds from 100 Jarrah or 50 Marri gum nuts a day.

A Scientists' Statement on the Protection of Western Australia's South-West Forests was 
launched last week.
You can  download a copy of the statement and access the YouTube clips here. There was some good media coverage, including an article in the West. We are hopeful that the strong statement made by so many eminent scientists, many of whom are experts in their fields, has been heard and that their recommendations will be acted upon.

The Auditor General's report into the supply and sale of our native forest timber was tabled in Parliament today. The report confirms that our forests are being mismanaged and that waste and environmental breaches are being overlooked by the Government's logging industry. WAFA has put out a media release and will follow up with a more rigorous response to the report in the coming days.

Forest Legacy hosted a very successful and inspiring forest tour last weekend. Congratulations to Patrick Weir, Maggie Burke, Jo MacDonald and the team. You can find Forest Legacy on Facebook and on their website.

 If you'd like to get involved in the WA Forest Alliance who do tireless work to save our precious biodiversity contact Jessica Chapman on 0457 441 102 or jessicachapman@hotmail.com

The EPA will be releasing their report and recommendations on the next 10-year Forest Management Plan in a few weeks time. There will be an important opportunity to put in appeals. Phone Jess Beckerling  WA Forest Alliance 0488 777 592
Photograph: Family Photo: Forest Redtail Black Cockatoos (L-R) Dad, Bub and Mum.
Taken at Jamarri Cockatoo Sanctuary Nannup. Courtesy Philippa Beckerling.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SWALES: Water capture and storage, .Carbon Capture and Storage

Swales are a water harvesting , food forest  establishment system which work for centuries passively building topsoil and holding water in the landscape which would otherwise run off into the sea. Swales have been proven to green the desert, manage salt, reverse land degradation and restore deserts to productive landscapes. Geoff Lawton's  acclaimed video "Greening the Desert" (available on You Tube) shows that swales work   in the some of the most arid zones of the world . When landscapes are rehydrated and revegetated with swales, springs and streams flow once more. See our swale page here: http://merribeeorganicfarm.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/swales.html

5 swales dug March 2011
We dug our first swale in an extreme drought year , 2010. Only 450 mls of rain fell for the year , less than
 half our average. The longer , greener growth  in the middle distance  is where the swale is. No grazing had taken place in this paddock  when pic taken.

                                               
Add caption



Join us for an interactive workshop  where  Stewart Seesink and Bee Winfield will give you the lowdown on surveying  a swale with a laser level or a simple “A” frame you can make yourself. With contours marked out, a couple of  hours work with a tractor or some while longer with a spade can generate long lasting  extreme benefits to the environment at very low cost. We have planted cow fodder trees along our swales such as tagasaste, poplar, willows , sapote, coprosma, grapes and figs. Most have done well without irrigation in extreme conditions.


Farmers and small holders particularly welcome. We look forward to  you registering your interest. When 10 people have, we will set a date.
Cost : $75 per person. Please RSVP to Bee   beewinfield@westnet.com.au 





Friday, May 17, 2013

Good Bug Bad Bug


                                                                                                      Good Bug         Bad Bug

What bugs you in the garden? What can be done to save our precious plants from attack WITHOUT resorting to harmful chemicals?

 Lots, actually! ...            .

 Hear interesting Organic pest control tactics with Bee Winfield from Merri Bee Organic Farm

Bee says it’s all about  BALANCE ....and using our big brains. Come and learn some tricks and maybe share a few of your own !

When?   Nannup’s Flower and Garden Festival  weekend.... Saturday August 17th,  11.30 am till 1pm .  

 Where?  Adam Street     Shire office       Shirley Humble Room 

Proudly Supported by the Warren Blackwood Heal Programme.  Morning tea provided                                         


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We recently had 2 Marvellous Woofers stay with us for 42 days. Julia and Matze were great! , Responsible, reliable, concientious and with all that, great to talk to. They weeded lots of kike and replaced it with terraced beds of alfalfa which we hope takes off. Julia and Matze became adept at moving pig fences.

Integrated pest Management



This is a long article but if you are bugged by bugs you may find something useful somewhere here.

 Integrated pest management ( IPM) 
The definition given in Wikipedia for IPM
“In IPM, one attempts to prevent infestation, to observe patterns of infestation when they occur, and to intervene (without poisons) when one deems necessary.[1] IPM is the intelligent selection and use of pest control actions that will ensure favourable economic, ecological and sociological consequences. [2]
I prefer to just say organic pest management.  In organic gardens, a web of life , an ecosystem of pest and predator, build up over time, and most pestilence is short lived  and seasonal. By the time you realize there is a problem and reach for the garlic and chili to make a spray ( recipe at the end) , its over.
Some pests are an ongoing problem however, and need to be managed if we are to eat a full diet.
It is amazing  how  a person in Nannup will have a different range of difficult pests to a person in Margaret River.
Bill Mollison says we must observe our pest and then out –think it. See  what works in nature and apply it.
The mainstream reaction to a pest outbreak is to buy in a pesticide, herbicide or  fungicide ………… but that hurts us ( and other non target species) . I don’t think  the satisfaction of seeing your  little plant wreckers dying before your eyes is worth getting cancer in 20 years over. Besides, if very toxic chemicals are used habitually , pests  may build up an immunity to the “icide”.

David Suzuki points out that using pesticide is like fighting crime in a city by killing all the people…..obviously that would be extreme because only a very small percentage of the population are criminals. This is the same in the bug world….. there are many beneficial insects which will be wiped out in a spray event.  So many people say they try to avoid sprays but sometimes “ You  just have to, just a bit” .  After swearing to myself  I say  "well maybe, if you really know what you are doing, and who does when it comes to the complexity of Nature?"
Think of a pest outbreak as a breeding ground for a predator or a feast for chooks.
If something is really bugging us we must get out our magnifying glass, identify the pest, then do a little research and thinking.
Ways to increase biological pest control on your farm.

One of our greatest joys is increasing biodiversity on our farm.  By planting trees and understorey plants you provide shade, precipitation (even if only in the form of dew and condensation) and habitat . Plant  nectar producing , and/ or spiny native shrubs  to help bird populations increase . Water features, if only a bird bath,  are essential.  A hessian bag placed on the edge of a birdbath or pond will wick up water for the pollinating  honeybee to safely drink without drowning .  Water features and their aquatic plants breed frogs and dragon flies and provide a drink for all. Piles of rocks and logs provide reptile habitat. Hedgerows,  bat boxes, hollow trees  and / or owl nesting boxes (as mentioned) provide nesting sites for birds of prey and other insectivores. 

 Bats
 Stop using chemicals, let habitat plants grow  and life will come back. Is it just me ? I have bats swirling around my bedroom every night. Micro bats and big ones ....a nightly visit all summer long. Micro bats eat 600 insects a night. Bat boxes can be installed, plans available online, but just increasing vegetation will give them the habitat they need to breed.

BIRDS
Birds :  wrens , swallows , robins and finches  and other small birds. These lovely little insect eating birds are abundant and hop around when I hand water the garden, drinking from leaves and controlling insects. We have hardly a problem anymore with the cabbage moths and white butterfly which use to decimate the brassicas all summer.
 Contrast  a rich habitat teeming with birds, mantis, wasp, pollinating moth  etc with the conditions in the wheat belt, where farmers are filling in dams and removing all but one kind of plant. They do not having sheep in their rotations any more and are devoting their land to a monoculture of grain. Without sheep they are entirely dependent on artificial fertilizer  and herbicides, and without biodiversity they must rely on  pesticides. This is just how Monsanto likes it. Monsanto fund the universities which train the agronomists which advocate this lunacy.
History shows us time and again what can happen when we upset ecosystems. Chairman Mao in his  Great Leap Forward  (1958 to 62),  got the people to kill all the sparrows.  This action bought on the death of 70 million people in the great famine of China, around 1961. 
The Four Pests campaign was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward The four pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows.[1] The extermination of the last upset the ecological balance, and enabled crop-eating insects to proliferate.
The campaign against the 'Four Pests' was initiated in 1958 as a hygiene campaign by Mao Zedong, who identified the need to exterminate mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, and sparrows. Sparrows – mainly were included on the list because they ate grain seeds, robbing the people of the fruits of their labour. The masses of China were mobilized to eradicate the birds, and citizens took to banging pots and pans or beating drums to scare the birds from landing, forcing them to fly until they fell from the sky in exhaustion. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed. Sparrows and other birds were shot down from the sky, resulting in the near-extinction of the birds in China.Non-material rewards and recognition were offered to schools, work units and government agencies in accordance with the volume of pests they had killed.
By April 1960, Chinese leaders realized that sparrows ate a large amount of insects, as well as grains. Rather than being increased, rice yields after the campaign were substantially decreased. Mao ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows, replacing them with bed bugs in the ongoing campaign against the Four Pests. By this time, however, it was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust  populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the ecological problems already caused by the Great Leap Forward, including widespread deforestation and misuse of poisons and pesticides. Ecological imbalance is credited with exacerbating the Great Chinese Famine, in which at least 20 million ( some say 76 million) people died of starvation from between the years 1958 and 1961 characterized by widespread famine. Drought, poor weather, and the policies of the Communist Party of China contributed to the famine, Under the Great Leap Forward, Mao diverted of labor to steel production and infrastructure projects, burning the forests in back yard smelters .These projects combined with cyclical natural disasters led to an approximately 15% drop in grain production in 1959 followed by a further 10% decline in 1960 and no recovery in 1961.
Did deforestation cause the droughts which followed?  I would say so.  So lets learn from history and plant trees now.
Trees make habitat for many creatures including:
. frogs ( eat mosquitoes and moths ,  slugs and slaters )
. dragon flies
. lizards....  ( eat snails , slugs and rodents) and strawberries unfortunately.
. birds



Feed the SOIL
Earthworms ... their castings, and compost make healthy plants immune to disease. So found Sir Albert Howard . He also found that the animals which feed on compost grown plants are immune to infectious disease, even foot and mouth disease. If you feed the PLANT as opposed to the soil, aphis can suddenly appear. If you pile around your roses uncomposted manure, your rose bush  may get force fed nitrates. It may only want to drink water but has to drink liquid manure . This makes sappy dark green growth on the plant which may look good but because it is unbalanced ( excessive nitrogen) it may fall prey to mobs of aphis. Humus is what plants really want, and humus can save us from climate change. 

Heres some beneficial insects to welcome in:

Lady birds, ( aphis vacuums)

Spiders (voracious hunters of pests)
Predatory wasps.
Predatory mites


A word on  snakes 
 I don’t like around my feet but they do  eat many rodents.  Snakes  are  often seen where ever grain attracts rodents  and frogs ( everything eats frogs!)  Tiger snakes have 40 babies a year and can be scary when gardening  on chinampa  swamps .  We have lost 3 large pigs to snake bite. Preying on small snakes are kookaburras, eagles hawks  and other birds of prey ( which also get rodents)

Companion planting  and mixing up species throughout the garden are also good strategies .Plants often are affected positively or negatively by their neighbours. Jackie French has devoted one of her numerous, excellent gardening books to companion planting.  Its just a small inexpensive book. Highly recommended. BM mentions alleopathy and says  watch the following “ gum trees, pine trees, walnut and pecan, and sheoak with citrus. He recommends looking for examples of alleopathy in your neighbourhood and learn from it, Often if you insert a mulberry between 2 antagonistic trees  everything will be OK.
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Lures and traps .  half orange skins lying upside down in the garden can be a good collection device  for slaters. Similarly a wooden plank on the ground creates a  cool, moist dark place and can  be turned over to reveal a heap of beetles, slaters and slugs on a warm day. Similar chook feasts can be  created with rolled up newspapers....an earwig or several will often hide in there overnight and you can transport them to the chookpen in the morning.
The umbillerfera  family of plants ( carrots,fennel, parsley etc ) when flowering , attract beneficial wasps, so let some flower.

Hand squashing of troublesome bugs and removing the weeds they breed up on is also quite effective. One year I had a complete failure of potatoes due to a yellow hairy looking larvae defoliating the plants. It was the offspring of the 28 spotted bug.  I had a huge number of deadly nightshade plants at the time, thinking the ripe berries would feed chooks . I found that this is where the large population of 28 spotted bug was breeding. I pulled many  out and have kept them a little more under control since then, cause I like my spuds. I  haven’t had another incident.

Choose disease resistant plants
Select the most disease resistant plants from catalogues or your own non hybrid plants. Merri Bee Organic seeds offers offers  seed of many plants selected over many decades for disease resistance. See Bees B
Ducks on snail detail....Ducklings hitching a ride on mum
Bees Blog for the catalogue in the month of October 2012.

Some organic treatments for Caterpillars ….

Caterpillars come in many shapes, sizes, and colors and can do a lot of damage in your garden. All of them are essentially the same thing, they are the younger, larval version of a moth. The moth lays eggs on your plants, they hatch into caterpillars that feed on your plants until it’s time for them to create a cocoon and eventually emerge as a moth.
The best way to prevent an outbreak is to cover your plants with a floating row cover ( available from John in Northcliffe) just after planting, securing the cover down tightly with landscaping pins. Floating row covers are a light, mesh like material that cover the plant while still allowing light and water to penetrate the barrier. Put it over the plants loosely so that it does not obstruct the plants growth. The row cover will prevent moths from landing on the plants and laying their eggs, therefore preventing the larvae from hatching.
If the edges of the row cover are secured tightly it will prevent many crawling insects from accessing and damaging the plants.
If you don't have the ability to put down row covers (ex. tall plants such as corn, or plants such as squash that require pollination by insects cannot be covered by floating row covers once blooms appear) another line of defense is to use a spray insecticide called Dipel.


 Dipel contains Bacillus Thurengiensis (BT) a Bacillus which forms a toxin ONLY in the GUT of a caterpillar. It causes intestinal upset and eventual death in caterpillars that consume it. Feeding by the grubs usually stops within 3 hours of consuming Dipel and death occurs in a matter of days.

I have read conflicting information about BT. This is not surprising because of the involvement of the Genetic Engineering corporations, who have no hesitation in lying constantly. BT is a bacteria which only produces a toxin in the gut of a caterpillar. It has been used by organic farmers with no ill effects on anyone but caterpillars for decades. I I reckon the GM companies thought they would use the safe reputation/ name of BT to market their plants.

But the GM scientists interfered with nature big time . To create  BT corn they took the genes of the TOXIN that is formed in the caterpillar, and inserted it into the genes of the corn plant . This means every part of the plant is toxic. Even the corn cob is a registered pesticide! Obviously this could never happen in nature , one because it crosses  the species barrier which nature very rarely  does and in these rare cases the progeny is sterile ( horse and donkey create sterile mule) and 2 , naturally the toxin was only ever found in the gut of a caterpillar. Now it is everywhere! Well, lets confine ourselves to scientific research and say it is in the blood stream of pregnant women and their unborn babies in Canada. It is possible that by horizontal gene transfer the gut bacteria of these women ( and no doubt anyone else who has eaten a BT cornchip, eaten a chicken drumstick or a  steak where the confined animal was fed  GM corn, or drunk a “soda” containing high fructose corn syrup)  has become a living pesticide factory. Thanks Monsanto! Lets all march against you on May 25th.

In their attempt to market GM, Monsanto  say these crops use less chemicals. You know I use to think that maybe Gm was a good idea for this reason. But look into it for more than 5 mins, go to Green Peace and independent scientists for info and what reads like the script of a B Grade horror movie unfolds. Mr Murdoch isn’t telling us the whole story. You wont hear that GM Bt cotton is the major factor in the catastrophic failure of the Brazilian cotton crop. The crop has fallen victim to a plague of caterpillars, leading to expected losses of millions of dollars for producers. Of course the caterpillars, on being expoed to BT toxin 24 seven, developed an immunity quite quickly.

Brazilian cotton producers are now asking the government to allow the use of a banned class of pesticides to deal with the problem. But as the article shows, chemical pesticides are becoming less effective and so farmers are having to use more and more to try to control pests.

Let's bear in mind this latest example of Bt cotton failure next time a GM pusher claims Bt crops reduce insecticide use.

A Brazilian commentator told us:

The article makes clear that the further agriculture gets from the natural production system, the higher the risk - as with markets.

http://bit.ly/XWlSLc


Bothersome Bugs at our place
Lots of free range chooks means we don’t have a problem with grasshoppers, slaters  and many types of pest beetle. I let chooks into netted areas of the garden for a week before closing them out again and planting seedlings, otherwise we would be overrun with slaters, which can chew big zucchinis off at the base overnight.   Chooks offer a great disposal system for fruit fly infested fruit and other bugs on plants. Is that aphis infested broccoli a pain or a protein source for fowls? Its all in your attitude . Of course your own chooks in the wrong place at the wrong time can be a natural disaster , like 50 small rotary hoes on the loose they can destroy your food source for the next 6 months in no time.

Pests are in purple:
Rats  
Food forests with a  perpetual food  supply are such a great thing for healthy well fed humans, and unfortunately that means the rats in a Permaculture are also very well fed , being opportunistic omnivores like ourselves….and they can build up to astronomical populations. There was a time when I didn’t get to taste  a cob of corn, or even buy in 100 day old chicks, as rats would decimate them both overnight. They ate all the produce from a 20 year old macadamia trees every year. The bananana  passionfruit vine all over the house was beautiful and insulated the house but the rats loved it too. At the moment I have much fewer rats but they have  a penchant for persimmons.
Solutions:
Keep vegetation a little distance from your house and cut back trees and vines that provide a ladder for rats to enter your roof.  Clean up debris like piles of old boards ….they  find cosy homes  under junk.
Fox terrier/Jack Russell   A good rat dog is an asset. Geoff  Lawton has one so it must be OK.
 OwlsWe stopped baiting rats about 5 years ago hoping the owls would come back. It’s lovely to hear the  owls at night now. First one was heard for about a year, then 2, now numerous owls, and I think they are active because now we get every cob of sweet corn again.
Basics of an owl nest box : 
At least 16 '' square floor space, 4 inch diameter entrance hole, low enough for fledging owls to scramble out of eventually, an access door to clean out the nest once a year, drainage holes in the corners, hung at least 12 feet off the ground preferrably in shade  and about  50 meters away from the area you want patrolled. Owls prefer not to hunt in their immediate nesting area. Parents feed baby owls ( average family size 5 babies)  2 to 3 rodents a night each. Parents eat one a day. Wow! I could soon give my cats away. I need 2 owl boxes in the hope that at least one is found and used.

Black Skinks. We have lots of these and have seen one catching and eating a rat .

Cats     Some say a neighbours cat makes a good hat but I disagree! Just the smell of a cat in the house can drive away rodents.  We keep our 2 spayed cats inside  most of the time and  let them out on dusk for a few hours.  There are still heaps of birds and skinks  around our house. Kitty litter of 100% bentonite clay is readily available and cheap and  emptying the cat tray under mulch around trees is good for them. Not the vege garden please, due to toxoplasmosis.


Argentine ants    These are annoying  not only they come into the house in plague proportions and infest ripe fruit ( I often have an argentine ant adhered firmly to my tongue pumping formic acid flat out) )  but because they  encourage sooty mould , mealy bug and other scale insects . I find them quite terrible. As usual prevention is better than cure ….best to not import them if you are free of them at the moment !  Therefore be very careful of potted plants which can be the way they spread. Also they may hitch to your place on visitors cars as  they eat the insects that accumulate on car radiators!
Baby powder ( in fact any talc) is a good control , they won’t  cross  a perimeter band of dry talc. Also water stops many a trail, but you need to put a drop of detergent in the water so it breaks the surface tension otherwise they walk on water.  Grease banding around tree trunks is effective  if you replace daily . Soapy water spray all over on effected plant ( usually noticed  because they have sooty mould) will get rid of them for a while.  The argentine ant gets rid of all other ant species, and protect scale insects as they farm them for honey dew.  I have seen a ladybird baled up by ants! These ants don’t bite much , only when you accidently get one in your eye or mouth. That’s not nice. At least they eat fruit fly larvae out of fruit, and termites.
The best control  is the borax method. Make a solution of one cup sugar to a cup of boiling water, add a heaped teaspoon borax, shake vigourously now and then as it cools. Pour a dribble into about 20 small containers. We use tiny plastic pill bottles with a hole drilled in the top, but you can use aluminium cans, anything that will stop the evaporation of the fluid  and exclude kids, pets and livestock, but  allow a small entry way for the ants to drink it.  Place these baits across trails of ants EVERYWHERE on the same day. This will eradicate the colony. It takes a few weeks for the solution to be fed to the queen and for her to stop laying eggs. You will see less and less ants for a fortnight ,then  blessed relief...none.  Borax is a mild poison so the baits should be collected up and stored away  till the next outbreak  in a years time gets you hunting for them.
Spider mite
As Above….control the ants! They attack the predatory mites which would in turn attack the Spider mites. Spider mites  are devastating and  often resides in glass houses in spring.  Spider mite makes a web on the underside  of leaves to protect itself from sprays and predators. They are prolific, precocious   breeders and populations can build up fast, decimating curcubit seedlings and beans.  The leaves go pale and then white then shrivel up and go brown. Plants often die. Predatory mites look rather like their prey and  start work immediately and do not finish until all the mites and their eggs are eaten. The time it takes depends on the amount of mite and also time of year. Predators slow down under cool, dry conditions and also will take longer to clean up large mite populations. They are most active in warm humid conditions, but can be attacked by ants.
Kikuyu grassThe Bane of my life. It  exudes a pheromone that stunts cultivated plants. Show me a fruit tree with kike crawling up its trunk and I will show you a pathetically small and unhealthy  fruit tree which could be decades old. Kill the kike and watch it flourish….see my blog for instructions on sheet mulchinghttp://merribeeorganicfarm.blogspot.com.au/search?updated-min=2011-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2012-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=4
 I  have succeeded in replacing a kike infestation with a food forest a few times by the sheet mulch method .
More ways to deal with it:  Keep  pigs in the area with electric fences on contour . Very effective on bracken too. Pigs fertilise while they weed too. Thanks pigs.
Dig out every root ( this  will take about 30 mins to do a square foot properly! ). 
Keep geese or a tethered orphan lamb to control  it along  fence lines.
Mow it repeatedly to improve the soil. This will eventually improve the soil so much that a new plant will come in to replace it. I believe it is a low succession plant with very little nutritional value to livestock. There  may be  a little value in  young actively growing tips.
Parrots
When it comes to keeping parrots off fruit….Net it of forget it. Campaign to stop clearing of native bush, in which they find more attractive foods than our fruit .  Plant decoy trees like capulin cherry. Don’t expect a cherry for yourself but they will stay off your apricots probably. Try  the scare gun, the fake hawke, CD’S and tinsel hanging in trees. Our birds are too smart to fall for that for long. Really you need to net carefully.
Kangaroos
 I have not much experience , last year being the first time we have suffered major damage to young apple trees.  The bush nearby had been prescribe burnt. Thanks DEC. All fruit and leaves were taken and branches broken.  
Kangaroo proof electric fence ? This will be worth the expense in the long term .  A dog  may deter, but  a kanga will kill often a dog , luring it to a dam and drowning it and or disembowelling it with his big toe nail. Once again, could we leave more bushland for native animals? Shrink the size of our houses, intensify our food production areas and plant natives on our land for the wildlife?  Be prepared to share your pine nuts etc with endangered animals like the black cockies.  They are really hungry. A kangaroo did the big toe nail gash thing on a birdnet supposedly protecting a lot of pink lady apples on a small tree the other night. Kanga must have filled her pouch and hopped away as the tree was stripped on one side.
termites
Numbats eat millions! Another critically endangered native animal. 
David Piggott  is an environmental scientist in Perth who runs an organic pest management  company adept  in termite control. www.systemspest.com.au  He utilizes lowest toxicity baiting systems and his vast knowledge of termites to destroy the colony that’s eating your house, without harming other creatures. He wrote the book “ Building out termites” which should be available through your library.  Baiting with arsenic trioxide is another way which environmentalist Dr Bob Rich recommends as quite safe if done properly.
Chooks love the protein of termites. We often put infested wood in the young chicken pen.
Stickfast fleas.
 Can be seasonal  problem on chooks. As usual a stitch in time saves 9 , and as soon as you see the first chook with fleas grab it and apply Vaseline and Eucalyptus to the wattles and comb affected.  Smother every ailment of chooks in Vaseline or in our case pig lard. It deals  with scaly leg mite and stick fast flea.  Continue treatment once a week for 3 weeks to break the life cycle of the mite or flea, and get all newly hatching juveniles. Clean out the deep litter in the shed and compost it. Replace with clean ,new sawdust /wood shavings etc. Beware of your sources : treated pine  and melamine chip board rubbish as ended up as mulch on permies gardens by mistake before now.   Soak each wheel barrow load of litter for 10minutes or so and tip onto the compost heap. Multiple good results will ensue from this action . 
Slugs and snails
One word ….Ducks.  As Bill famously says , in severe snail infestations you must have a deficiency …..
of ducks . You must get ducks and let them free range around the outside of the garden. Let them in to the garden in mid winter when they will do little damage to anything  but will clean up mollusc populations and their eggs . Iron chelate baits are successful and safe I am told. If poultry keeping isn't for you , you could also contact Rent- a- Duck,  ( Rent- a -goat is also available for blackberrys), sell salted snails for pig and duck food or even harvest snails for restaurants. Why not turn a pest into a profit?
Brown rot
Becoming more of a problem as heat and humidity has increased with climate change. Apparently a brew of seaweed, comfrey , stinging nettle  , chamomile and  horsetail is a good fungicide  if used within 48 hours of steeping and at an early stage in the disease. Damping off of seedlings can also be controlled with this says Linda Woodrow. Raw milk is said to work on Powdery mildew. A comfrey brew leaves and water is a complete fertiliser and so rich in silica it is a good fungicide and foliar feed in one. I have yet to try it, as the brown rot is a new problem for us.
On our farm , we find once the soil has improved (and take heart, it can be a lot of work initially but the application of lots of compost will effect a permanent change for the better!  ) we have little trouble from pests and disease. The biodiversity in organic gardens and their polycultures are a natural guard against crop disease.
Now if all else fails you can make up a general deterrent spray.

Home made spray deterrents

These are popular and recipes are easily found on the net. Here’s one I lifted thanks to  http://www.vegetable-gardening-made-simple.com/

Garlic Chili Spray

This garlic chili spray works really well on infestations of aphids, white flys, or mealy bugs.
Ingredients
·         12 large cloves of garlic (roughly one whole garlic bulb)
·         6 hot chili peppers, dried or fresh
·         2 cups water
·         1 tablespoon liquid castile soap (Shaklee, Dr. Bronner’s, or Kirk’s); you can use liquid dish soap, but make sure it does not contain a de-greaser and isn’t anti-bacterial
Directions
1.) Combine the garlic, chilies, and water in a blender and puree until it forms into a frothy orangey-pink concoction. Let the blended ingredients stand overnight to gain potency and so that the solids settle to the bottom.
2.) Pour the mixture through a strainer lined with cheesecloth (you can use coffee filters if you don’t have cheesecloth.) Make sure you get all the particles out; otherwise it will clog up your garden sprayer.
3.) Pour the concentrate into a jar with a plastic lid (it will react with metal.)
4.) Stir in the liquid soap and label the jar.
5.) When ready to use, mix 2 tablespoons of concentrate per quart of water in a garden sprayer. Anything stronger then this could cause damage to the plants so don’t get aggressive.
6.) Spray infested plants during the late afternoon. If you spray early in the morning, the sun mixed with the spray may burn the plants.
If one application does not clear up an infestation, you can do multiple applications, but put 2-3 days between applications.
Makes 2 ½ cups of concentrate.
NOTE: Do not use a garden sprayer that you have also used to spray poison or weed killer. Remnants of the poison can remain in the sprayer and kill your plants.