Start of my Doctorate

Start of my Doctorate

I have officially started my Doctorate, as of yesterday (26 July 2016). It will take me about 3.5 to 4 years to do. My supervisory team is in place and we are ready to begin.
My topic will be to create a locational model for maximisation of return from Bee Hives, by estimating the type and amount of honey produced. This is an area of research which so far has had little if any research performed on it.
I am doing a Professional Doctorate, which differs slightly from a PhD, in that it is more industry focused, and allows a much wider subject area. I will be covering six academic disciplines for this Doctorate namely :-

Disciplines I will be studying

  • GIS
  • Remote Sensing
  • IT
  • Aerospace
  • Business
  • Agriculture.
My internal project name will be '7ofBees', a play on 7of9 from Star Trek, as I will be integrating technology with Bee's. I will be setting up a blog for my doctorate at 7ofBees.com in the next few days.
I am estimating that I will be recording about 100 billion data points for my research
If you know of anyone interested in this topic please feel free to contact me at Steve@sjk.net.au

Ducks - Donald and his Family move on to a new farm.

We have sadly decided that we will move our flock of ducks onto a breeding farm. This recent wet weather has made it hard for the yard to handle this number of ducks, and we were having to do a lot of supplemental feeding. I will also be starting my Doctorate very soon, which will be on Bees, so we will be getting more bee hives and hence the ducks will have to leave.

It has been an amazing experience having ducks here, and once we move to a larger property we will continue to raise ducks again. But the number of ducks that we want to keep is just not that practical in 1/2 a suburban backyard, the other 1/2 is for Spock our dog.

Mother and Baby ducks - eating Fresh LettuceWe woke up Tuesday morning, to find a new batch of ducklings that the mother had hid pretty well from us, the mother and babies will move to the breeding farm.

In spring, I will be getting a second Australian Native Bee Hive set up here, and will be using this one for much of my doctorate studies.

We are very happy with the breeder that we have moved our ducks on to, we have known him for several years, and when his staff have come here to pick up ducks, they are very gentle and caring towards all the ducks. They said that they will keep them together as one group and use them as breeders.

There was 4 generations of ducks that had all grown together, and cared and looked after each other. The backyard feels a little empty now, without the constant noise and activity of the ducks, but Spock (our dog) is happy that he can get into the backyard again.

We will miss seeing the ducks and interacting with them everyday, but we both feel that the time is right, and that we made the right decision of where to send the ducks.


Animal Cruelty

On Tuesday (19 Jan 2016) morning I witnessed an incident of animal abuse that is still making me upset. To me having animals is not a right, and should be considered a privilege.

Our neighbour has a small friendly dog, that often breaks out of their yard, and into ours and plays with our younger dog (Spock), we don't mind when this happens, and we let them play for a little while and then take their dog home. That morning I heard a bark from the front yard, and thought the neighbours dog had paid us a visit again. So I walked out the front to check that he got in the yard OK.

Instead I saw a 18 to 20 year old person, holding a dog up buy a collar attached to his neck, one foot off the ground, essentially hanging the dog. He was on the footpath in front of my neighbour's house, so I yelled [loudly] at him to stop what he was doing. He heard me, turned and looked at me and then ran off down the street. I was in my dressing gown, so I quickly changed and took off after him.

Sadly, I did not catch the person, though in reality I was not sure what I would do if I caught him. My basic plan was to catch up with him, call the police (non emergency) and take it from there. If the police did not respond, try and get the persons details or follow them until they returned home, and then contact the RSPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

Since I was not able to catch the person, I rang RSPCA and reported this person, so that if there was other complaints about him, there was a paperwork trail. I do not think I will see that person again, as I do not think he will walk down our street again. I went for a walk yesterday trying to find him (and capture some Ingress portals).

Animals rely on us for food, shelter,protection and kindness, and if you are not capable of giving animal that - then you should not be able to own an animal. I have told several of my neighbours about this person, and they are also on the lookout for him.



Sweet Sugar Cane - for Coffee

I recently planted two varieties of sugar came that were given to me by a good friend. I have yet to determine the exact varieties, but will do that as they grow larger. One is a commercial variant used to make sugar, the other is an eating variety.

I want to grow sugar cane as part of my plan for the farm. So that products that the products as much as possible will come from the farm. For example for coffee, I will capture the water for the coffee from the farm, grow the coffee on the farm, the milk will come from cows on the farm, and sugar will come from sugar came grown on the farm.

This crop of sugar cane will be a learning experience, as I learn the processes of growing and refining sugar cane. I put in 4 stalks of each of the two varieties, 3 of one type have sprouted, and two of the other type has sprouted. Giving me 5 plants. See pictures below.


5 Sugar cane plants in my front yard. 


I will not be refining sugar to crystalline sugar, I will be refining it to a liquid as it is very hard to make sugar crystals at non industrial scale. I will probably do some experiments with creating some crystals. 

The sugar cane grew really quickly for the first 7 weeks, and are now over a meter tall, but it has seemed to stall in the last two weeks, it has thickened up at the base, and I have noticed that there are now side shoots on a few of the plants (See Image below). One Sugar cane plant is a clump of about 6 to 10 stalks. I think the plant grew rapidly with the nutrients that were already in the soil, and has used all of them, so I added some fertilizer to them. We cleaned the duck hutch today and removed the straw and duck manure, mixed in some composted cow manure, and added some worm compost water, and added it around the plants and gave it a good water. 

New Stalk to the side of the main stalk.

I will be crushing the sugar manually from this first crop. As there will be such a small amount and some of the crop will also be used for replanting. I am hoping to he able to keep this 'stream' of the plant going for the foreseeable future to remind me of the friend that gave the original plants to me.

We are currently starting some early stage research about how to make a sugar crushing machine to extract the juice from the cane. The left over husk of the plants will be fed to the farm animals. At the moment we will feed the left over stalks to the ducks, but eventually we will also feed them to pigs and other farm animals. 

Unfortunately I no longer have sugar in my coffee, so I will not be able to taste much of the sugar. 



Becoming a Doctor

I have enjoyed doing my MBA, and have decided to continue with my study. I will be undertaking a Doctor of Sustainable Agriculture.

This consists of a year of course work, and then two years on a Thesis. I do not have to decide my Thesis topic, until the end of my first year.

There are three areas, that I am considering at the moment,

  • An Alternative way to grow and market coffee
  • Measuring animals in 3D to determine sale value and growth rates
  • Determining nutrition load thus animal carrying capacity of fields from UAV's.


Over the coming months, as I get time, I will do a post in a bit more detail about each of the above.

This is my completed application form. I am about to press submit. I still have to provide other paperwork, such as scanned copies of my degrees, although last time, that was not necessary.


The cover of my Doctorate Application form


Acknowledgment of Application 


PeeWee - the 'Runt' update

My wife has named the runt, I am not keen on naming them yet, as we do not know if it is a male or a female. It may be a male, that was intended for slaughter for the table, but now if it does turns out to be a male, we will have to sell him as an adult.

We suspect that it is a female, and we will be keeping him and would eventually be giving them a name anyway.

I was down feeding the ducks and noticed that the mini swimming ponds we use for the ducklings was getting a bit dirty - so I emptied them out, washed them and refilled them with fresh water. Pee Wee walked over and had a drink from the pool, and then proceeded to jump in for a swim, within ten seconds of him being in the fresh clear water, he decided to do a crap in there and dirty up the water.

This did not overly surprise me as Ducks need to crap a lot, as they are flying animals and need to be able to get away from predators, so they have a very fast digestion system, and ducks crap all the time, all over the place :).

In the photo below, you can see the mother duck (Crystal) - helping to clean the runt.


This photo shows mother (Crystal) and father (Donald) - watch as Pee Wee has a swim.


Yesterday we separated Pee Wee and gave him his own food and water so that he could eat as much as he wanted and was not pushed off his food, It seems the extra attention we gave him has done him good and he seems to be a bit bigger today, and more confident going in for the food, although we are still keeping an eye on him.

Life and Death with Livestock

This was a sad week this week, as we lost one of our ducklings, we found it drowned on Thursday morning, which was not a very pleasant way to start the day. Somehow it managed to get into a bucket of water, that it was not able to get out of. We were aware that water can be dangerous for small ducklings, as they don't have all their feathers yet and find it hard to get out of some water areas.

I had noticed on Wednesday afternoon, that the old ducklings (about 5 weeks old) - were now able to just reach into the large buckets of water and start drinking from there. So we were very surprised to find one stuck inside the bucket the next morning. We can not determine how since they were only just able to reach in - they were able to get totally in the bucket. We are presuming that it must have jumped and fell in and just managed to get it just right to accidently fall into the bucket.

Due to the heat at the moment, and how clumsy ducks are we have about 15 different water containers for the ducks in the yard, we are careful with the water levels and height of the sides of the containers so that ducks don't drown. I now empty the bucket out when I do the last night check on the ducks and put the bucket upside down, so that no more of the ducklings can accidently fall in there at night time.

Selling some ducklings

On Friday morning, we planned that we would sell some of the small ducklings, as we had too many of them here 22 ducklings in total, 11 who were 5 weeks old from Krystal, and 10 from Thistle who where 3 weeks old. We were going to sell 6 of the three week old ducklings to Brookfield Produce, this too was a slightly sad event, as we would never be seeing these ducklings again.

It was a stress full time for all concerned, the mother duck, was not happy, the ducklings were scared, as I was chasing them around and trying to capture them, and I was feeling bad, scaring the ducks. I also managed to get a few small scratches on my hands from grabbing the ducklings.

We then transported the ducklings in two boxes and transferred them to a cage, at the shop. This would be the first time that they were not on grass and only had duck mash to eat. It was a sad feeling standing there watching them get used to their new home, as all six of them clustered in the corner I was going to take a photo of them for this post, but decided against it.

Thistle now has four ducklings left, we did this deliberately as we thought it would be cruel to take away all of her ducklings, especially since we are planning on keeping all of the older ones for the next few months.

Growth Rate

We have noticed that one of the older ducklings is noticeably smaller than all the other ducklings,  of the same age. The ducklings are started to get quiet large now and we can start to estimate which ones are male and females. A Muscovy Drake (male) duck will end up about twice the size of the Muscovy duck (female).

The top picture - the black and white duckling at the top, we think is a female and you can see that the duckling that we are worried about is much smaller than the female. The white duck in front is the male duck from the first picture



The Bottom picture shows what we think is a male duckling, and the duckling that we are worried about the size of. You can see from the image how much smaller one is than the other.




From this batch of ducklings, there is only one, and the first of any duckling that we have had that is a mixture of very small section of black and white - creating a grey effect, whereas all the other ducklings have been large areas or black and large areas of white.

The younger ducklings of which we have the 4 left, there is only 'grey' duckling in there as well, and he seems to be a bit smaller as well, although it is hard to tell at this stage. We are not sure if this duckling is just the Runt of the litter, or if there is something 'genetic' about ducks with that coloring.

We will be keeping an eye on the ducklings and see what happens over time and hope that he continues to grow. We also keep a closer eye on this one at feeding time to make sure that he is not kept away from the food.