when your tank runs dry

when your tank runs dry
and your hens stop laying,

you haul discoloured
garden water in big pots,
saving every drop,
and you gather half empty crates of eggs
careful not to crack a single one
all spoken for, needed –

when your livelihood depends
on the length of the day,
able back, rain drop –
when you fall short

why is it so easy
to take for granted,

a farmer told me once
to hold everything lightly,
I think he was saying
things will come and go,
seasons, unknowns,

everything grows –

am I beholden to my generation
defining my worth
in what’s done or earned,
how my peers see me –
or am I free

to care most about
how we do a thing,
the discipline and faithfulness
to look back and remember
not what I did, but who I was,
learnt, loved, worked, rested.

what pastured means

IMG_8382 IMG_8380cropped-eggmobile.pngA question we are often asked is what our “pastured eggs/chicken” means and how it differs from “free-range” labelling. It’s a confusing business. The words “free-range”, together with most egg carton and meat labels invoke images of lush, pristine, green grass pasture – ethical, wholesome, healthy… but the reality is sadly disappointing.

In typical big “free-range” egg operations, chickens are kept in the thousands in large sheds – they have just enough space to move their wings and can “access” through a door or “pothole” the outside world – which, if the chicken can physically get to the door, is unlikely to resemble green grass. The chickens often have their beaks clipped and their grain feed is cheap and genetically modified, possibly even imported. No wonder cartons of “free-range” eggs cost little more than cage eggs…

IMG_8373IMG_8378Our “pastured eggs” are quite different. They are produced by small batches of chickens that live on real grass pasture – in the open air, with space to move, peck, dust bathe and forage, they move to new fresh pasture on a weekly basis, they experience changing seasons, with freedom to lay where they please, a home free from chemical cleaners and bleach, a diet of garden scraps, insects and bugs, and grain feed that is wholegrain, not genetically modified and Australian-grown. In short, they are beyond free-range and free to express their chicken! These photos are genuine representations of our chickens.

As it stands, there is no legally enforceable definitions for egg production systems in Australia – other than the consumer’s rights to honest labelling – but if you don’t really know what a label means how can you demand transparency? We are advocates for “certify your own” – there is no better way to know how your food is grown and raised then when you are able to connect with the farmers and producers themselves. And the easiest way to do that is to find who your local producers are and support them.
IMG_8334You can buy our pastured raised eggs through Watts Fresh, KynetonHealth on High Street, Lancefield and at our regular farmers’ markets. You can also preorder our pastured meat birds through Watts’ or directly by email to handtoground@gmail.com.

through the seasons

threesisters1 threesisters2 threesisters3 threesisters4 threesisters5  I love watching how the seasons change this beautiful landscape we call home – the dry browns of the summer, green grass after autumn rain, frosts of winter – the hills in the background are called “the three sisters” and they are special to me because I have three sisters myself, and I have walked to the top of each of them now. I have walked round that dam so many times – when I was pregnant, slowly stepping by the waterside as my toddler looked for fish or frogs, and lately I’ve been carrying a babe wrapped to my chest, walking for fresh air… They say farmers are paid in sunrises and sunsets and I guess it’s true – there’s a wealth that one collects watching these earthy wide open scapes change with the seasons…

happy chicks

febdays15 febdays16 febdays14febdays13 Last week we welcomed our first batch of baby chicks – 300 day old layers. They are happily settling into their bespoke brooding houses and beginning to scratch and explore their surrounds. Our three year old is of course enamoured with them, and learning how to hold them gently! Early morning and night Alex goes in to check their water, top up feed, close up windows and turn on/off heat lamps – although it’s summertime the nights can be cool and in the beginning the risk of the chicks getting cold and trampling each other is high. They will slowly be hardened off the night lamps in the coming weeks. Now it’s all hands on deck to get the mobile coop built so they can move into a truly free-range existence on the pasture…

scenes from summer

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 9.06.45 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 9.03.41 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 9.03.24 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 9.03.11 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 9.02.08 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 9.06.28 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 9.06.58 PMwe find ourselves caught up in the busyness of the summer season – the care for the animals and the arrival of new ones – the ever growing garden, daily pruning and harvesting – the preparations for the year ahead – the beginning of new projects – constructions – the heat – early mornings and late evenings watering, watching, milling – the many popsicles licked and dam dipped in – the almost two-year old adventuring – tractor driving – the thirty-one and twenty-four year olds adventuring – tree climbing – laundry loads – seedlings raised – tiny oak forest – cups of coffee drunk – bottles of kombutcha brewed – crows barked at – escapee ducks – fresh milk moustaches and nasturtiums picked…

we resolve for a splendid 2014 – for what will unfold – for plans and unknowns – for more time to stop by here and document for savouring the life so full, wonderful, enfolding us here.

(all images through alex’s lens – instagram.com/alexwdsims)

make hay…

haycutting14haycutting01haycutting03haycutting02 haycutting06 haycutting05haycutting11haycutting07haycutting12haycutting13When dinner has long since been eaten and dishes are cleared away. When the babe is laid down to sleep and it’s still light enough to read a book or potter in the garden beds or trace the lines of a fallen tree. We head out for a walk in the open. We greet dusk with nimble steps. We jump over puddles on the earthen road, slowly drying up.

We stop by the dairy herd and far off across the landscape we see the steers, all contented on green grass, chewing cud. Next we check on the broiler chickens madly scratching their grassy bare-footed enclosure. Then we make for the pasture…

The grass has been freshly cut for hay and stretching out across the fields are windrows of drying stalks. I take my shoes off and feel a portion of it with my soles. Dry, faintly warm and crunchy. Every so often we come across a round mass of thick grass, still damp underneath. A remembrance of what was once there… A mobile hen house and its five-hundred or more residents, gifting the ground below with scratch and poo – the grass growing bigger, richer accordingly. I am reminded of the season, the cycle of things here. The many faces of the landscape; the creature that provides for us so well, provides for the land that provides for other creatures. Begin again. Because this pasture is managed intentionally, organically – we have lush grass for grazing, long grass for hay which nourishes the cows in the winter months, hay for the hens laying boxes. eggs for our breakfast. meat and milk for our savouring.  organic matter for the grass, fodder for the worms underfoot, cover for the grasshoppers, beetles and tiny marching ants.

We walk, hop, jump and skip over the soon to be hay. We lie down and make angels. We try to outrun our furry friend. We capture with lens and breathy abandon.

Night closes around us and we make for home. The horizon is shadowed with indigo clouds, laced with terracotta underthings. Far off lights of the nearby town. The red buzz glow in the direction of the big city. The rocky outcrop of mount macedon. Ahead I see my lover, hands full of dried grass, how handsome he is the half light, worked hands, gentle heart.

I love how summer turns us into dusk explorers.

– Emily

a new outlook

IMG_2197IMG_2219IMG_2308_2IMG_2181IMG_2247_2We are almost two weeks into life here at taranki farm, and firmly in love with our new outlook of windswept hillside, grassy pasture, bush forest, myriad ponds, garden, and farmyard creatures.  It is stretching us too – the cold and windiness; the 6am chores tending to hens, chicks, ducks and pigs; the temporary accommodation in a tiny converted garage; the toddler’s lingering cold and wakeful nights…. stretching and refining us to take hold of the day and enjoy all it has to offer – frost, sunshine, sideways rain, juice from your own orange tree, greens from the garden, farm-raised meat from the freezer, fifth change of clothes for said toddler, mud baths, nose bleeds, blossoming orchard, lively dinner conversation, squawking ducks, calves wriggling in their mama’s bellies, eggs still warm in the hay… Part of me feels so new it all, part of me feels like it has always belonged.  More soon…. Emily xx