The weather has finally forced me down off my ladder for the day, so I am going to spend some of my indoor time updating things. I don't think painting the house in the rain is really going to accomplish much.
Penny, I think getting some birds for your backyard is a great idea. Everyone should have a few. I would recommend chickens over ducks. The are very social, and fun to have around. You'll get some eggs, which is nice, and they will happily eat all your kitchen scraps. If you stick with hens they are fairly quiet ( roosters, apparently, are not all that necessary). The main problem with chickens is they can be a bit hard on the lawn and the gardens. They like to scratch in the dirt. If you can contain them in areas you want scratched up, this is a real plus. If you can't contain them, you will have holes in your lawn and quite a mess in the gardens. I would recommend one of the older duel purpose breeds. I don't know what varieties you can get in South Africa, but the bantam or hybrid varieties tend to be more nervous and prone to stress related problems. I don't have much experience with ducks so my information is somewhat bias. I can't wait to hear what you decide and how it goes.
Suellyn, it was great to hear from you. Welcome to the conversation. I am excited to hear what you are working on. If you want to contact me directly you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your comments on the environmental costs of travel again point to the difficult balance between local sustainability and global communities. I think it is important to find ways to meet our basic needs using local resources in sustainable ways. But we can't ignore the global community we are part of. Some problems are global in nature and must be approached with that in mind. Some resources are only available from limited sources and must be shared around the world. Some communities and families span the globe. It is critical that those connections be maintained. As long as we address the whole cost of global travel we shouldn't feel guilty about doing it.
Julie (bravely commented on the philosophy part of my blog), it's nice to have someone I don't know at all commenting on this blog. Makes me feel that the conversation is growing. I don't have a back-link setup on this blog, so I can't send you a message directly. I would enjoy reading your blog, if you would post a link next time you read this. I noticed the same thing in New Zealand you are describing Hawaii. Once that local production infrastructure is gone, it is a long hard road getting it back. It has happened around here too. Twenty or thirty years ago there were small orchards, farm stands, creameries, cheese houses, etc. Now it is all gone, and we are in a very agricultural area. Everything has been converted to corn and soy beans, or made into 5 acre lifestyle properties. Good luck with the cow. I really am enjoying ours, but I think dairy goats are a more sensible option for most people. They eat a lot less, are easier to handle, and give a lot of milk. We have one goat that gives almost as much as our cow. When we need to take her to the vet we put her in a travel box in the back of the mini-van. You can't do that with a cow.
We are at that in between point here at the farm. The summer garden is exhausted, but the fall plantings are not producing yet. The chickens are starting to perk back up after the stress of a long hot month. The grass is once again out of control (I guess I need more livestock, or someone to mow for me.) The kids started school last week. They seem to be enjoying it, but it has been a bit of an adjustment for me. I thought I would get a lot more done, but I'm still only one person and that seems to be a limiting factor. Wish I could swing some interns like Penny, but I don't know where I would put them or what I could offer them so they would stay.
This fall I have several projects I must complete. Painting the house, fence and water for the pasture, doors on the animal barn, and the foundation on the red barn. It should be an interesting few months.