Sweet Sugar Cane - for Coffee

Monday, December 14, 2015 Stephen Kelly 0 Comments

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 Stephen Kelly 0 Comments

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

Monday, November 23, 2015 Stephen Kelly 0 Comments

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015 Stephen Kelly 0 Comments

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.


Steadx 2015

Wednesday, November 04, 2015 Stephen Kelly 0 Comments

I will be presenting at STEADx 2015 this year, in Brisbane. My talk will be about Go2Asset, our Permit to Work SAAS system.

STEADx (Spatial, Technology, Engineering, Architecture and Design xpo) has been organised by QSSA (Queensland Spatial & Surveying Association).

FRIDAY, 6 NOVEMBER 2015 FROM 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

I will be presenting at 11:30 AM, which is 2.5 hours into a 3 hour session, so people will be starting to get tired and thinking about Lunch, so I will be aiming to do an exciting, interesting talk to get people to listen to what I am saying.  

"How you give contractors access to infrastructure anywhere in the world" Peepel everywhere. Is my talk title.

I will be talking about how do  you allow contractors to access data anywhere in the world, and what it is like dealing with Clients, Customers, Contractors and staff all over the world.

Time-zones for remote workers are becoming more critical for remote workers than their location is, due to improving technological advances, such as collaborative software and VOIP phone calls.

I will put up a longer post about how the talk went and a link to the PDF of my presentation. I am looking forward to presenting, but as always get slightly nervous as the event draws closer.

The SteadX program can be found here.


Baby Ducklings - 1 day old

Sunday, October 18, 2015 Stephen Kelly 0 Comments

The baby ducklings wandered out side their nest today, for the first time, they oldest of them would be about 24 hours old now.

In the picture below, you can see that there are 12 baby ducklings, the mother (Crystal), and a few eggs, so there still may be more ducklings.

Crystal and 12 of her ducklings

There is another duckling that is not in the picture, that we helped out of the shell, it appeared that it was having problems. They had broken their shell, but did not seem to be able to get out of the shell. So we helped them out of the shell, and put it back in the nest, the mother has been sitting on them since - so we can not tell how they are going.

We do not expect that Crystal will leave the nest again today, so we will have to wait until tomorrow to see if this one survived or if there will be more ducklings. We do not expect that there will be any more, although about 5 of the eggs remaining are showing signs of having ducklings inside them - you can see the darkened shape of the duckling through the egg.

It is interesting that when the ducklings are outside the nest, the mother keeps making small noises, as if to say "I am here still" or "this way home".

We have just spent about 20 minutes watching the ducklings, as they have started eating and drinking and it is a warm feeling watching them see the world for the first time. The ducklings also seem to be curious about Thistle (another mother duck sitting on eggs) - which is in the pen with them and the ducklings will go and look at Thistle and sit outside her nest and watch her.

I picked up one of the baby ones, and it is amazing how soft and warm they are, the mother was getting a little upset, so I returned the baby to her.


Baby Ducklings have arrived

Saturday, October 17, 2015 Stephen Kelly 0 Comments

We have been eagerly waiting for our new ducklings to arrive, we noticed the first one about midday today, then when we check at about 1:00 pm there was six of them, with one of them being only about 15 minutes old.

I was having a meeting with Stephen from Geolocarta and we both went down and looked at the ducklings, there is something special about seeing something so newly born. One of the ducklings was still visibly wet so must have just appeared from within the egg so was probably only 15 minutes old.

There was a total of 26 eggs, so we are hoping that we will get about 15 ducklings from this batch.

Crystal and one of her first ducklings, with an egg.

We were going to give some of these ducklings away, and sell some of the rest to a local produce place, but have decided that we will keep most of this batch, and give away the next batch. Crystal was a different genetics, as she was bought in as an adult so we can keep these ducklings and use them for breeding. 

Also Jo likes white ducks and since the mother is white, we are hoping that we will get many pure white ducklings from this batch, it appears that the duckling in the above photo will turn out to be pure white. 

Ducklings are yellow and/ or black when they are born, and as they get their second feathers, the black areas stay black, and the yellow areas become white. 

Looking forward to seeing how many ducklings we will end up with in total, we will know by mid afternoon Sunday, as all the ducklings will be born within a 24 hour period.  



Thursday, October 15, 2015 Stephen Kelly 0 Comments

Ducklings - new life. 

As I sit here and write this, we have two ducks (Crystal and Thistle) who are brooding, with Crystal's eggs due to hatch today or tomorrow and Thistle's eggs due two weeks later. This will be our 3rd and 4th batch of baby ducklings, and each time we still learn something new and are getting better and better at the process.

I read a phrase recently that has stuck in my mind and I keep thinking about it

"If you have livestock you will have dead stock" 

Which we realise if we are going to move to a farm and raise animals, this is something that we will have to get used to. I always get very attached to my animals and we spend a lot of time and money looking after them and making sure that they are as happy and well fed as they can be, so it is sad when you see that something goes wrong.

This morning when we went to check the ducklings, we found a dead duckling that was not perfectly formed and was dead. It is always disturbing and sad to find something like that.

We only have a small number of livestock at the moment, namely 5 ducks, and 1 hive of Australian Native bees. We also have several pets (2 dogs, 1 cat).

Delta and Ducklings, one of them would be Thistle.
When we have a batch of ducklings, we consider them as livestock, rather than as pets, as the original 5 ducks are, and do not name the ducklings, unless we decide that one of them will be kept, and then we will name them.

We are thinking that we will keep and then slaughter a small number of male ducks from one of these batches, as we will need to start eating the ducks soon, if we want to start moving towards a semi self sufficient life style. This is something that I am not looking forward to, having to take the life of an animal that I would have seen born, but realise that is the natural cycle, and will give the animal the best life and death that is possible. I will have a friend that is a butcher come and help me with this the first time that I do this, and will research how to do it so that there is least stress for the animal.

Since we can not yet determine the gender of the ducklings until they are older, we will not be able to determine which will be males and females, as we will also keep some of Crystal's ducklings to increase the size of the flock of females. We think that about 8 females is the right number for our one male (Donald) for the space of the yard we have here. We also think that 8 females should give us a sufficient number of eggs for us and our neighbours.

Every hour or two, I continue to check in on the mother ducks and make sure that they are happy and healthy and have water and food, and to check for baby ducklings. The last few times we were able to tell that the ducklings had arrived by just walking near the duck house from the chirping of the baby ducklings, which is a very distinctive sound, and surprisingly loud for an animal that is so small.

Once the ducklings have hatched I will put some photos up here.


My connected world

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 Stephen Kelly 0 Comments

I have opportunities and resources that were never available to my parents generation, predominately brought about by the IT and Internet revolution. I am a child of the 70's and lived through the cold war and threat of Nuclear war.

Now, I have friends and acquaintances from all over the world, and find it very interesting speaking to them about their different cultures, customs and upbringings, and even the weather.

I grew up in country Queensland, Australia. I had what would be considered a very stable childhood, my parents were married my entire childhood, and I basically did my entire schooling with one group of people, many whom I am still in touch with now through Social Media. I currently interact with someone from my primary or high school at least once a week.

I think the seeds of this idea began about 5 years ago, when I launched http://Peepel.com (which was an on-line office product, I have now re-purposed the brand to this blog) and was contacted by +Svetlana from the blog http://proxy.com, requesting an interview with me. I agreed and we connected over Skype had a long conversation over Skype, over the next few years we kept in touch as we released new features and over time we became friends and now have regular chats. To me in many ways my friendship with +Svetlana symbolises to me much about this current openness of the world, the fact that as a child I had real fears that 'the Russians will nuke us' and often couldn't sleep at night, as a child wondering when the bomb would drop, and now I have a friend who is Russian.

Recently I saw a question on LinkedIn from a young man in Pakistan, about his Master degree in GIS and what area and University he should do his studies at. Since this is an area I am familiar with I looked at his profile to see his background and to suggest some ideas for him, we keep in sporadic contact generally discussing GIS topics of interest to us both.

The fact that on an average day now - I communicate with people in several different countries as a normal part of my day highlights that the world is becoming a smaller place. Through Social media and other mechanisms such as Skype I am slowly trying to befriend people from different cultures and locations all around the world, I know that this will not be quick or easy, but I look upon this as a chance to expand and understand new cultures.