Category Archives: Quail

In praise of the black soldier fly larvae

It’s compost turning time again but as the weather cools down I’m missing the black soldier fly (BSF) larvae. As the weather starts to warm again turning the compost becomes a hunt for the first BSF of the season.  If you’ve never seen one (and I apologise for the lack of pictures but I’ve never photographed one) they are quite large, long, thin flies, very different to your average blow fly. Google it. It’s good to know your friends in the garden and the soldier fly is one of them.

There’s lots of good reasons to get excited about seeing BSFs or their larvae.  First it’s a sign that the temperatures are warming up as BSF like days when it’s well over 20 degrees.  Second, chickens, quails and fish love to eat BSF larvae so I love gathering them for a feed (to chickens in particular who seem to like to discuss the flavour of what they are eating with their fellow feathered friends) knowing you are providing a protein packed sustainable treat.  Third, they are excellent composters and if you set up your breeding/composting container right they will self harvest.  This is because BSF larvae will crawl upwards when they are ready to change into a fly.  If you give them the right kind of ramp they will drop conveniently self harvest into a well placed bucket for you.  Convinced yet?

Maybe not.  I can understand that breeding larvae may not be to everyone’s taste even if they are quite well behaved and odourless.  But if you keep fish or feathered friends have a think about these creatures as a way to feed your pets.  There are some that advocate eating the larvae, I’m not sure I’d go that far, but encouraging them to help compost our food waste and getting a protein packed animal feed product out of it seems like a win win to me.

If you’d like to read more, here’s a blog dedicated to the BSF.

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The Perfect Pet

So the other night I was reading a book titled ‘the perfect pet’ to my four year old where the little boy wants a dog but ends up with a duck and finds that the duck is the perfect pet after all.

We talk a lot about pets at the moment.  My children are keen for dogs, cats, horses, parrots… you name it, they want it.  They carry the quails around like kittens and the quails cope and try to look dignified in the process (not an easy job).  I grew up with cats, and I love them still, but owning a cat just doesn’t seem like the right move anymore.  So what is the perfect pet?

If you have the space then I think the answer is a chicken.  Natural born composters and protein producers, chickens can be friendly and highly amusing.  We don’t have the space for chickens who need about a metre square of space per chicken plus a bit of room to run.  We don’t even have space for bantams.  We do have space for quails who only require 30cm2 per bird but they aren’t the composters chickens are.  They are excellent pest eaters and like nothing more than a cockroach but they are also fragile and need protection from cats, dogs and larger birds.

The quails aren’t enough though for my pet loving children so we are moving on to guinea pigs.  My hope is that these creatures may look a little more comfortable when being cuddled than the quails do.  The guinea pigs will not be ours.  They will be borrowed from time to time from our friends who live nearby to help keep the grass under control in their specially built seat come guinea pig tractor.

My hope is that this will hold off the cries for a puppy for a few months at least but if nothing else it will at least keep the grass neat.

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Little Things

A lot of us don’t have space and a lot of us don’t have time and some of us don’t have space or time and this is where growing little things comes in handy.  Here’s ten of my current favourites.

  1. Herbs

Don’t buy those plastic wrapped packets you get at the supermarket and often only use half of.  Grow your own herbs (or find a nearby house that’s growing them for you – there really only needs to be one rosemary bush per block).  If your kitchen is too shady for window sill herbs, grow double pots.  Keep one in the kitchen, the other somewhere sunny and swap them around when the one in the kitchen starts to look peaky.

  1. Lebanese eggplant

So much easier and better tasting than the larger fruit, and generally prolific.  The rule here is that the longer you have to wait for a fruit or vegetable to develop the more chance there is of something going wrong (think here pest attack).

  1. Cherry tom

Usually resistant to fruit fly and they come in all sorts of colours and shapes now.

  1. Dwarf fruit

Happy in a pot, I find citrus the most productive and useful.

  1. Quails

When your space is too small for chickens these are a great alternative.  We love our quails for their prowess at catching pests, their protein packed eggs and their general good looks.

  1. Leaf lettuce

Hearting lettuce is susceptible to attack from slugs and snails before you get to the good part of eating it.  Leaf lettuces are so much quicker, you can be picking leaves in a matter of weeks and can continue to pick as the weeks go on.

  1. Midyim berry

These native plants are delicate, shade lovers.  Their speckled berries have a unique flavour, very fragrant.  A small plant can produce a lot of berries if it’s in the right place.

  1. Garlic shoots

Why wait for garlic bulbs when you can eat the leafy green shoots – fantastic flavour and a continual crop.

  1. Broccollini

Same story as the eggplant.  Trying to grow vegetables as big as the ones you buy in the supermarket can lead to disappointment.  Brocollini is fast, tasty and a little bit fancy.

  1. Kale

I love cabbage but growing it has the same issues as growing hearting lettuce.  Kale is a fantastic alternative, very attractive in the garden and one of those foods everyone says we should be eating more of.  You can grow it like you grow leaf lettuces, picking off leaves as you need them while continuing to let it grow.

So, small space?  No time?  No longer a good enough excuse!

What little things do you like to grow?

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My Quail Story

I suppose my quail story started when my father started keeping them in an aviary he built in our backyard.  They lived happily underneath the zebra finches and their babies were so small they used to escape through the wire.  I don’t remember how long they were there or what happened to them.  The next time I met a quail was at a friend’s wedding where their eggs were on a plate, I ate a lot of them and haven’t eaten them since.

The story ends, or perhaps it really starts, when I stood with the principal of one of the schools I work in and suggested quails as an alternative to chickens (it’s a small garden).  I don’t know if it was the wedding food or the childhood memory but whatever it was, I mentioned quails, the principal thought it was a great idea and now here I am sifting through the compost for worms, slaters and maggots to feed the ever hungry quails.

I missed a bit of the story, it goes like this:

We bought the eggs over the phone and they were sent via Australia Post who were not careful, but some were incubatable so we incubated them, turned them lovingly three times a day, sent them off with friends when we were away and waited.  On the designated day I checked the incubator to find one hatched and another hatching.  We spent the rest of the day watching them hatch and have been watching them ever since.

Quails are great insect eaters.  My father harbours a not so secret idea to release them in great numbers to cure any grasshopper issues farmers might have.  Ours get particularly excited about cockroaches.  They also don’t require much space, eat leafy greens (like the outer leaves of iceberg lettuce), are independent from birth and produce beautiful speckled eggs from 6-8 weeks of age.  Ours are about 8 weeks old now and ready to move into their school environment.  The plan is to let them rotate on the raised beds where they can dig up the soil, eat any insects, add in some fertiliser AND provide a few little eggs to be included in the kids kitchen cooking experience.

All in all, a fun and useful addition to small gardens.

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