A bittersweet end to 2019

Posted on January 1, 2020 by WormBiz

6 years since we started out here and it is hard to believe it has been our toughest year yet! The last 2 months have been particularly emotional for us and our small community. Catastrophic fires destroyed a total of 9 homes here in Killabakh and caused damage to many properties. Our farm came severely under threat twice, both times we believed everything we had worked so hard for was gone. A mix of luck, Pete’s determination, our small fire crew and a water bomber helicopter on one of the days all contributed to our place being quite unbelievably saved. A lot of our 10 acres has been burnt, we were lucky to only lose our water tank, some farm equipment, nursery stock and one of our tractors.

Fire is so tangible, unlike the slow but steady soul crusher that is this relentless drought. Farmers in our community and of course all over Australia are doing it so tough. This is a feeling we have been somewhat immune to until now as we had the foresight to invest in a water security earthworks project here in Jan 2018 which captured the last substantial rain we have had here. Our number has finally come up as slowly but surely both our water sources for the farm have dried up. We require approx. 3000L per day to run the worm operation in summer, Peter estimated our available water would last us up until Xmas eve 24th Dec. We formulated a plan to purchase a water tank for the trailer to cart water to the farm, this will be a daily occurrence until rain arrives and fills our water storage once again. This is absolutely not ideal for us as it is costly and time consuming. We can appreciate how lucky we are to have lasted this long considering our water usage and despite it all we will be in a good position when the rain does grace us with its presence.

We have been humbled by this whole experience as it has been a huge reminder to value the things most important to us. We pride ourselves on rising to challenges together and are confident in our plans and inner strength to help support our community and ourselves through this difficult time.

The start of the year feels so long ago, we took a trip to Fiji for a friend’s wedding and some much-needed family time. We visited a permaculture farm deep in the Sigatoka valley which saw us trekking through food forests and lush hills in the pouring rain. We were inspired by local villages natural examples of permaculture, sustainable off grid living and management of animal systems. We made some great connections and are looking forward to returning in the future with better local knowledge next time around.

After 12 months of living with a worn out home solar system which only provided us power during the day when the sun was shining. We finally were in a position to upgrade to a 3kw system, which has been life changing.

The worm operation has kept us on our toes this year with not a lot of time for much else. Tilly the tumbler has been hard at work which saw us supply many bags and trailer loads of nutrient rich worm castings to organic gardeners. Worms are in high demand resulting in record store and online sales and we enjoyed hosting many farm tours and garden clubs throughout the year. We have had a few worm fatalities in the post lately mostly due to the extreme weather conditions and package handling being out of our control. In early December made the difficult decision to suspend our online sales until March while we readapt our postage methods and the weather cools.

The girls are both well and growing too fast. Lacey and I have been enjoying learning the art of beekeeping, she was also very excited to perform in a local production “Marry Poppins” at the start of Dec, she nailed it and we are very proud of her. Elke is starting to boss her big sister around and loves art and crafts! Pete always has something on the go and is currently getting to know the new girl in his life, a 14 tonne excavator he has lovingly named “Jurassic”. I am trying my best to use any in-between time to work on my book “Homesteading 4 Immunity” which all going well is due to be published in Nov 2020.

Despite all our efforts and produce early in the year, the veg garden has unfortunately gone to rack and ruin as we simply have not had the water to allocate to it. Despite the lack of moisture our fruit trees were shaping up to bare lots of fruit. As the land became drier, bower birds have taken up residence here for the first time ever and despite our best netting efforts and even trapping and relocating birds there is not one piece of fruit remaining which is very disappointing.

A quick look at 2020

We are not expecting any decent rain or relief from these extreme high temperatures until at least March. Elemental ecosystems water retention expert Zach Weiss is coming back out from America to our hillside property in Feb where we will complete further earthworks to maximise our water storage and create more space for worm production. It will also be a great opportunity for Pete to polish his machine operation skills under Zach’s guidance.

We will be looking at taking on paid help for the business later in the year, lightening the load in key areas to spend time developing other avenues available to us. We are also committed to free up more time to grow food and go on more family adventures!

I am looking forward to improving our living areas this year, particularly the bathroom! Pete saved our wooden cubby shower house within an inch of its life from fire. I’m still not sure if I am happy or disappointed about that, I know he is definitely happy there is still no “rush” for a replacement! We also have our sights set on a worm packing shed with guest accommodation partitioned off at one end which will really see us streamline our operation, this is probably more like an early 2021 achievement.

It’s been a hard year, but we are confident in the foundations we have laid down and know how great our worming life will be again when the ponds are full, the weather is cooler, and the winter garden is flourishing.

Be safe and best wishes for the year ahead.

The WormBiz Team