Organic Vegies Are Delicious

hydroponicThere is nothing more rewarding that sitting down to the dinner table to enjoy a meal made from the fruits and vegetables that you’ve grown in your own garden. Living on our farm with its abundance of good soil and animals that help to provide a source for natural fertilizer, it really was not a huge leap for us to embrace organic gardening practices.

Organic gardening is an important part of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle for our family and the planet. Growing one’s own organic vegetables takes both perseverance and planning. Today and next week I want to show you some things to keep in mind as you are planning your organic vegie garden.

Let’s take a look at our soil.

It’s important to know the quality of your soil before you begin your garden. There are simple home test kits that can test your soil. If your soil is either too acidic or too alkaline, you will want to adjust your soil with natural materials and natural fertilizers to improve its quality before you start planting. If you live on a farm with a lot of animals as we do, you will have an almost unlimited supply of natural fertilizer for your organic garden, but it is also possible to obtain natural fertilizers from other farmers with animals or even some stores.

Of course, not all organic farming methods use soil, but if you have a large amount of farm land, soil is usually one of the easiest ways to grow organic vegies.

We have had people from all over commenting on our organically growing vegies.  They have asked lots of questions about our setup here. At last year’s Whittlesea Show there was an awesome set up which was a hydroponic vegies garden with goldfish in the base of it and the water from the goldfish is recycled with the vegies growing in pebbles. Of course you would have to top up the water level, but it was a different way without chemicals.

This image comes from Pinterest and if you pop over to that page you will find some other clever ideas for hydroponic and aquaponic gardens.

In our next post I will tell you more about organic gardening.  Chat then.

Balancing earth and technology

All small business owners will tell you that it’s difficult to balance work and family life.  When you run a farm it is even more difficult, but luckily we like a challenge.

I would never say that I was on top of technology.  (Isn’t that what kids are for?)  Some days, though, technology is definitely on top of me.

Website security and upgrades, updating information, adding new information, sending out email newsletters, battling the email inbox…  Last week my phone decided to stop working and I lost some information that I needed.  These are just some of the things we work on as small business owners.

For us, there is the ongoing work with the farm and our gorgeous animal family.  Feeding, cleaning out their “bedrooms”, keeping them healthy, taking those that need it for their ‘haircuts and manicures” all soak up time but animals also love some company, even if they tell you otherwise.  They enjoy it when we spend time just talking to them.

Annie's Cedar Farm Cottages

We also have the cabins to maintain and keep spotless.  We like everything to be as perfect as we can make it for our guests so the gardens are weeded and trimmed, and the interiors of the cabins cleaned until they are immaculate.

Now, should I mention housework?  Hmm, perhaps not…

There are days when the computer crashes, the cows decide to calve and the kids need to be picked up from school all at the same time, but that’s life, isn’t it?

Why do we do what we do?

We love it.

There is nothing better than waking up here in peace and serenity, and starting the day off with a visit to the animals for a morning chat over their brekkie.  We love welcoming our fabulous guests and getting to know them.  It’s wonderful to watch the pleasure on their faces as they walk around the farm.

Living and working on a farm is a busy way to live but it’s a great place to bring up your children and let them learn about life from the grassroots up.

On the days when technology seems to be out to get me I remember that I have a good backup system and support team and built-in tech gurus called teenagers.

On the days when the animals seem to be more difficult than those teenagers I remember that they are all “human” too and we all have bad days.  A little extra TLC does wonders.

Above all, running a small business from home means that I can enjoy more time with my family in this wonderful place, and can create a home-away-from-home environment for you.

Come on over and meet the farm family.

 

Through the eyes of a traveller

A regular guest of ours wrote this beautiful letter for us. We thought it only fitting to put into our blog. Thank you Liz and Karel.

I love coming to these cottages. We’ve been twice now, both times for 4 – 5 day stays. And d’you know why I love it? It’s QUIET! Upper Plenty is but 41kms from Melbourne but what you mostly hear when you’re up here is birdsong. Even the cows, sheep, alpacas and chickens are quiet – just quietly grazing away, on the enormous fields of the cottages.
And the cottages! Literally self-contained. We haven’t wanted for anything! Oh except when we arrived here for the start of our second stay and I thought Karel had brought up the bag of vegies, and he thought I had – and all we had was broccoli, which was not going to do for our stir- fry that night. So, I phoned Annie to see if she could spare even a carrot, and blow me down, if not five minutes later, Annie and Steve arrive on our cottage doorstep carrying a wooden bowl laden with leek, red capsicum, an onion, a carrot and two plump red truss tomatoes. That’s how generous our hosts are. So attentive! So wanting their guests to be totally comfortable.
I’m writing this on the penultimate day of our second stay. I’m out on the verandah, sitting at a glass topped table. The autumn sun is gently warming me, and the birdsong is beautiful.
I love coming here. Did I mention that?

Liz Lipski
Melbourne

Australian Parrots

Merry Christmas to you.

Merry Christmas

On behalf of everyone at Annie’s Cedar Farm Cottages, I want to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

We love Christmas and I have been known to sing Christmas carols at the top of my voice as I do my daily work, much to the amusement of people around me and the possible embarrassment of the family.

I love the Aussie version of traditional carols and this one is a favourite.   Do you know it?

Dashing through the bush in a rusty Holden ute,
Kicking up the dust, Esky in the boot,
Kelpie by my side, singing Christmas songs,
It’s summer time and I am in my singlet, shorts and thongs.

Chorus

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer’s day,
Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a dusty Holden ute.

 

Here’s another one that I love and hope you do, too.  It’s Deck the Halls Aussie style.

 

 

Have a very Merry Christmas and we will see you in the New Year.

 

Carols by Candlelight

With theChristmas festive season not too far away, now is a great time to highlight some local Carols by Candlelight events that you can go along to when you stay with us.

Wallan Carols by Candlelight takes place on Sunday 9 December at the R. B. Robson Stadium, Windham Street Wallan.  The event starts at 4.00pm with food and drinks available and then the music begins from 6.00pm with Santa arriving at the end of the program at around 8.00pm.  This is a free event and you can also bring along your picnic basket and rug to sit under the stars as you sing along.  For more information follow this link for Wallan Carols by Candlelight.

Another event is Mill Park Carols by Candlelight which takes place on Friday 14 December at the Redleap Reserve, Redleap Avenue Mill Park.  Entertainment will be provided by a choir with over 50 members as well as the Diamond Valley Brass Band.

There will be plenty of activities for the kids and no doubt Santa will arrive during the night.  Food and drink will be available or you can bring your own picnic rug and a big strong voice to sing along to the carols.  For more information follow this link for Mill Park Carols by Candlelight.

One of our favourite events is Carols by Barnlight at Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary, 365 McHarg’s Road, Willowmavin (Just out of Kilmore)  The carols will be held on December 8th from 4pm – 8pm and yes, it is really held in a barn.  Take a farm tour and hear the animal’s stories before settling into the barn for carol singing!  You might even meet HipHop Bob nwith his smiley snout.  Find out more at the Edgar’s Mission website.

We are looking forward to Christmas, aren’t you?

Come and celebrate an early Christmas with us and join in with the local Carols by Candlelight.  You will enjoy it.  Book a cabin now.

All about Alpaca

Recently we had our alpaca shorn so we thought it a great opportunity to give you an overview of these great animals.  Even though alpaca come from South America including countries such as Peru, Argentina, Chile and the highlands of the Andes, they are suited to many climates and countries such as Australia.  Alpaca are related to llamas but are much smaller as llamas can be around twice their size. 

Alpaca are also relatively easy to manage and maintain which is one of the reasons why the popularity of owning alpacas has grown very steadily over the years in Australia.  Furthermore, the growth in Australia of alpaca farming is primarily due to breeding as well as for the fleece.  The fleece produced by alpaca is similar to cashmere in texture, silkiness and softness which makes it ideal for use in making a range of clothes, blankets and quilts.

Another interesting fact about alpaca is that they have soft pad type feet which means they don’t damage the terrain as much as other livestock which have solid hooves.  If alpaca are well looked after and cared for they will live for approximately 20 years.

Alpaca are also known for their spitting but try not to hold that against them!  They are usually calm and defenceless animals and the main reason they spit is that they are showing their displeasure.  It is their way of saying “no” and asking you to back off just a bit.

Alpaca are gentle by nature and can make good pets.  The next time you visit us come and meet our alpaca.

 

Alpaca at Annie's

Wild and woolly

 

alpaca at annie's

No, I’m shy.

alpaca at annie's

Don’t we look fabulous now?

Coffee Shops Nearby

When you next visit us consider visiting one of the local coffee shops in the area.  We have some excellent places you can visit and enjoy a great coffee as well as a meal if you prefer.  All these places are within a short distance from us.

Cafe Bookacino, Whittlesea Deli Cafe  and Health Kick Cafe in Whittlesea are favourite pitstops for cyclist groups when riding through this beautiful picturesque town.

Beveridge Tavern is a spectacular old style homestead located in the heartland of where Ned Kelly was born.  It was built in the 1840’s and is ideal for those sunny days where simply relaxing is the main business of the day.  In addition to the great coffee on offer there are also meals for lunch and dinner that are available.

In the township of Wallan you can visit Blue Denim, located in the main shopping area of Wellington Square or Hogan’s Hotel that has a bar and restaurant.   You might also like to have a cake with your coffee so visit Ferguson Plarre  Bakehouse or Top of the Town Bakery which are both on the main road.

Further up the Northern Highway there is the Rose Garden Café located in Kilmore.  You can sit indoors in a country style restaurant or outdoors amongst the roses and other plants.  Once you have finished your coffee or meal you can wander through the nursery that surrounds the café.

Donnybrook Cheese Factory is another superb place to visit for a coffee. You can have a tour of the cheese factory and then select from a wide range of cheeses to enjoy with you coffee.   Also located there is the Monteleone Restaurant if you are after an a la carte meal.

Sometimes it’s nice to sit in a coffee shop and watch the world go by, isn’t it?

The Whittlesea Show is on this weekend.

Whittlesea ShowThe annual Whittlesea Agricultural Show is on this weekend!

This year the show will run from Saturday November 3 and Sunday November 4 from 9 am to 5 pm and it celebrates the Year of the Farmer.

The show is a fun blend of country and fun.  Farm animals, vintage farm machinery, arts and craft displays, sideshows, showbags…  It’s got the lot.

This year the free Robinson’s Circus will be back.  Under the Big Top you’ll see jugglers, high wire acts, clowns and even fire tamers.

If that is not enough, your children can join in the fun and games on Saturday with the Egg and Spoon as Sack Races.  Visit the Dog Show or ride a camel..  Watch the Grand Parade, go to the animal nursery, see the reptile displays and watch the CFA demonstrations.

Need more?

Come and see the birds of prey flying or cheer on the big men during the woodchop.  Watch the Show Girl competition or follow the stilt walkers.

The Whittlesea Agricultural Show is good old fashioned fun.

Admission:  Adults $15       Children $5 (6-14 years)

Location:
Whittlesea Showgrounds
Cnr Yea & McPhees Road

Why not take the chance to get away for the weekend?

Come and stay with us at Annie’s Cedar Farm Cottages and complete your agricultural experience.  We are only a few minutes drive away from Whittlesea and we’d love to see you.

Horse Riding at Upper Plenty

This is a perfect time of the year for some outdoor activities and horse riding is a fantastic way to experience the great outdoors.  Uncle Nev’s Trail Rides is only a few minutes away from us and worth visiting the next time you stay with us or are in the area.

Rides go through many of the open plains in the area as well as through the State Forest of Mt.  Disappointment.  You don’t have to be an expert rider as they cater for all skill levels from beginners to experienced and with over 60 horses to choose from you will also be matched up with a horse of a suitable temperament.

As they cater for kids from 8 years old this is great way for them to experience the surrounding bushland in a unique way.  Get to see many of Australia’s wildlife such as wombats, wallabies and kangaroos.

There is a great choice of riding adventures depending on your level of experience. Rides can also be arranged at twilight where you can get to see the spectacular sun set over the Upper Plenty area.

Also, the Great Australia Pub Ride is another great opportunity to ride through the scenic landscape and arrive at one of the local pubs where you can relax while you have a meal.

You can also bring you camera along so you capture some fantastic pictures.  Check out Uncle Nev’s Trail Rides and get to experience and enjoy the great outdoors of Upper Plenty.

Keeping our cows happy.

We love our animals and spend a lot of time caring for their health and happiness.

Some of our guests and children can be quite surprised at the amount of work involved in caring for farm animals, especially cows.  They think the cows look after themselves and feed from whatever they can find in the paddock.  If you are not familiar with farm animals, that is a logical conclusion.

In fact, there is not enough food in a paddock to feed cows for very long, despite the amount of grass that seems to be growing. Not all of the grasses are edible and some, like clover and bracken fern, can be quite dangerous to cows.  Some grasses are more nutritious than others, too.

That’s why farmers feed their cows every day.  We keep our cows healthy and happy by adding hay to their diets.  When you stay with us you can help us feed them.

 

Like any other animal, cattle need immunising against disease.  They have an immunisation schedule which begins in infancy, just like human babies do.

Our cows are also drenched periodically to help protect them against intestinal worms and parasites.

Lining up for drenching

The best way to tell that our cows are healthy and happy is to look at them.  You can tell if they are carrying too much or too little weight.  Changes in the texture of their coats will tell you that something is wrong so we check them regularly.  Our cows virtually tell us when they need extra help.

Cows are big, lumbering creatures with gentle faces and gorgeous big, brown, innocent eyes.  They wouldn’t hurt a fly and one of the things I love to do is to watch them with their young.  Cows have distinct “moo’s” and after a while it is clear when they are calling for their calves or telling us to bring out the hay!

When you stay with us at Annie’s Cedar Farm Cottages, you will be able to help us feed the animals and get close to them.  Working with these beauties is an experience you will never forget.