Take a photo tour of Franger Farm : how we’re homesteading on our suburban acre.

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For the last five years, we’ve been slowly turning our suburban backyard into a miniature farm on a journey towards a more self sufficient life. here’s a quick photo tour to show you exactly what can be done in suburbia if you’re striving for a sustainable lifestyle.

Seasonal vegetables

Seasonal vegetables

Growing fruit and veg.

Spring harvest

Spring harvest

We grow most of the vegetables we eat and quite a bit of fruit, especially in the summer months. We have numerous veggie beds around the backyard, one is completely given over to the production of potatoes, the others rotate with seasonal veg.

One of the large backyard veggie beds.

One of the large backyard veggie beds.

 

Some of the first fruit trees we planted are now giving us nice crops of fruit, we’ve added more trees most years, some of these have yet to start bearing fruit, trees are a long term project.

 

We grow some soft fruits, we have a thriving strawberry patch, which we have finally found a way of keeping the weeds and the birds out, we also grow blueberries and raspberries.

Blueberries.

Blueberries.

The strawberry patch.

The strawberry patch.

We plant some purchased seedlings, but most of the veg we grow is started from seed in our greenhouse.

The greenhouse.

The greenhouse.

Keeping chickens.

Franger Farm chooks.

Franger Farm chooks.

The chickens are essential to our backyard farming project. As well as giving us a supply of fresh eggs, they eat our kitchen scraps, weeds and give us chook manure which we use to fertilize our veggie beds and fruit trees. The straw bedding from the chicken coops also goes back on the garden bed as mulch. our chooks produce enough eggs for us to sell extras to our friends, which covers the cost of their feed.

Reggie the rooster.

Reggie the rooster.

we have a rooster ‘Reggie’, so our eggs are fertile, and we’ve begun raising our own chicks. We also have a broody hen sitting on some eggs at the moment, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that she manages to hatch something soon.

Our latest batch of 'chooklets'

Our latest batch of ‘chooklets’

 

Rabbits.

 

Although our rabbits ‘Mushroom and Garlic’ are pets, they work hard for us. They are devourers of vegetable scraps and producers of much poo, which can be added to our growing beds without needing to be composted or aged in any way.

Mushroom and Garlic.

Mushroom and Garlic.

Worms.
We have two worm farms that we use to process our kitchen scraps. In return, they give us worm castings and worm wee, both of which can be used as fertilizer on our vegetables.

 

Our worm farms

Our worm farms

Pest control.

 

Snickers, farm cat.

Snickers, farm cat.

Let’s not forget another hardworking member of our team ‘Snickers’ the cat. He found a home with us after the family that owned him felt unable to cope with his hunting habit. Let’s just say that he a perfect fit for us and will kill any pesky critter that has the nerve to venture near our veg or our chook runs!

 

The  Micro Farmer.
The Micro Farmer gets involved in all the chores on Franger Farm, from collecting eggs and feeding chickens, looking after the chicks and rabbits to planting in the greenhouse and weeding the veggie beds. He loves to be outside, which is were he spends most of his time when he’s not at school.

The micro farmer, hard at work.

The micro farmer, hard at work.

Anyone can have a micro farm in their backyard, it’s just a matter of scaling it to fit. You can make use of the paved areas around your house by adding raised beds. Try hanging baskets filled with lettuce or tomatoes under the eaves, grow a passion fruit or grape vine on the pergola. The possibilities are endless, your imagination is the only limit!

Herb beds at the back of the house.

Herb beds at the back of the house.

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Star shaped choc chip kids cookies with Miss Franger Farm.

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Miss Franger Farm made these great little cookies the other night to take to school for an end of term party, and they went down really well with her friends and the teachers.
She used a basic cookie dough recipe from http://www.taste.com.au then added her choc chips. You could add anything you like to this basic dough to make so many different types of cookie. Here’s how she did it.

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

125g (4.5oz) butter, softened
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup custard powder
milk and white choc chips

Method.
Preheat oven to 180C (356F).
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until it’s light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. You can add your choc chips at this stage if you’re adding them.

beat until fluffy.

beat until fluffy.

Don’t forget to lick the beaters!

Licking the beaters is essential to the success of this recipe!

Licking the beaters is essential to the success of this recipe!

Sift the flour and custard powder over the butter mixture and combine using a wooden spoon.

Sift the flour.

Sift the flour.

Flour your bench to prevent sticking and roll the dough to about 5mm thickness, then cut your cookie shapes.

Place your cookies on a baking tray covered with baking paper and cook for 15 minutes.

Place  on a baking tray.

Place on a baking tray.

Once cooked, place on a rack to cool.

Enjoy your cookies.

Enjoy your cookies.

Enjoy!

Franger Farm’s easy as pie guide to drying chilies.

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Preserving your excess chilies by drying them couldn’t be easier, here’s how we do it.

Have a chili glut? here's how o dry them.

Have a chili glut? here’s how o dry them.


First select your chilies for drying, it’s best to use ones that are in good condition with no blemishes.
Select the best chilies for drying.

Select the best chilies for drying.


Find yourself a large needle and a good length of thread and push the needle and thread through the stalk of each chili. your chilies are now ready to hang for drying.
Use a large needle to thread the chillies together.

Use a large needle to thread the chillies together.


Hang your chilies in a dry spot, we hang ours in the pantry, for at least three weeks. They can then be stored in an airtight container until you need them. To use this method of drying, you need to live somewhere that is not too humid, as this may make your chilies go mouldy. If it’s too humid where you are, you can also dry them in the oven. cut them in half and remove the seeds. Place the cut sides down on a baking sheet. place in the oven for six to eight hours, they are ready when they start to turn brown.
Hang your chilies for at least three weeks.

Hang your chilies for at least three weeks.

Whole, dried chilies.

Whole, dried chilies.

Mr Fanger Farm’s fabulous wood fired pizza oven.

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There has been a lot of interest in our pizza oven from followers of our Facebook page, people wanting more details of how Mr Franger Farm went about building it.
Well, here are the details and the pics that we took as it was being built. As always, I wish we had taken more photos, but these should give you some idea of how we went about things.

The Franger Farm pizza oven

The Franger Farm pizza oven

Mr Franger Farm built a solid concrete base for his oven and then constructed a base of Bessa blocks, and left some space so that wood can be stored underneath. He needed a large paver to sit on top of his base, this is what the oven sits on, after some research, he discovered that it was difficult to get pavers in this size, and all the option were very expensive. The solution was to create his own paver by building a wooden frame and pouring concrete into it with some metal reinforcing at a cost of roughly $20. It took a few people to lift it into place, but it does the job.

The Bessa block base, concrete slab, calcium board and tiles.

The Bessa block base, concrete slab, calcium board and tiles.

At this stage, Mr Franger Farm purchased some items from a store specialising in pizza ovens. he bought some calcium board to go underneath the tiles that would make the bottom of the oven, this would ensure that the heat would reflect back into the oven and not disappear into the base. After some thought, he also decided that buying curved bricks would be worth the slight extra cost as it would make the whole dome construction easier.

The inside of the dome.

The inside of the dome.

Mr Franger Farm used a very large pile of sand to support the dome of the oven as it was being constructed, this was dug out once the dome had been given sufficient drying time.The chimney was placed at the front of the dome, just inside the doorway.

Adding the render, the insulating blanket and chicken wire can be seen here.

Adding the render, the insulating blanket and chicken wire can be seen here.

The dome was then covered with an insulating blanket and chicken wire, which held the blanket on and gave the render something to grip on to. The render was made with refractory grade cement, as was the mortar, which made it heat retardant and suitable for use in the construction of a pizza oven.Once the render was finished, we gave it a few days to dry out and lit our first our first fire!

The fire.

The fire.

Cooking in the oven takes a bit of practice, the fire has to be lit about one and a half to two hours before you’re ready to cook, to give the oven time to heat up. Once it’s hot enough, the wood is pushed to the sides of the oven and the pizza is placed inside to cook. If the oven is hot enough, the pizza should cook in about five minutes. We will usually cook a loaf of bread in the oven after the pizza is done, it makes sense to use the heat of the oven to cook as much as possible after you’ve gone to the trouble of lighting and tending the fire for a couple of hours.

Homemade pizza.

Homemade pizza.

The building of the oven was challenging in a few different ways. It was important to get the mix of the mortar right, and in hindsight, Mr Franger Farm would have made the dome smaller and the entrance tunnel longer. As with most things, once you’ve done something once, you find ways to do it better next time.
If you’re thinking of giving it a go yourself, Youtube is a great source of information. It’s possible to see the successes and failures of other people that have given the pizza oven a go, and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes yourself.

The pizza oven has been a fantastic addition to our garden and is very popular with our friends and neighbours. The pizzas are better than anything you will get from any pizza shop, and you can customise your toppings to cater for everyone. This is not a project that will be done in a weekend, but is well worth the time and effort and can be done for a fraction of the price of buying a ready made oven.
I hope this inspires a few of you to take the plunge and have a go at building your own backyard pizza oven.

Cooked to perfection.

Cooked to perfection.