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Wednesday 15 June 2011

It seems barely possible that another week has passed. It’s been so busy here that at night I’ve fallen into bed with the same overwhelming relief you feel when you are really unwell and have finally succumbed to the need to lie down. Today has been no exception & ended with Bronte & I out in the cold & dark, digging the ute out of the veggie patch where I’d got it firmly embedded this afternoon. With poor foresight, we stored all our hay in a shipping container (intended as a large garden shed) then spread goat manure knee deep over the access to it. With the rains of last week (which amounted to over 75mm in the end) it has turned into a sludgy mess – the ute just sank into it, whereas the little Suzuki has skimmed across the top. I had to get many bales out for bedding as well as feed which was why I chose to use the ute. I feel terribly guilty as I ended up being unable to phone into the Environment Tasmania Management Committee meeting this evening.

Two of the bales were for Vicky the sow and the two piglets still with her. I threw one bale over the fence & in the time it took to get the second one, Vicky had already pushed and pulled the first bale into her hut. Pigs are remarkable creatures. I braved the mud and pigs to cut the twine & help her get the hut all cosy once again. I’d managed to catch the other four piglets yesterday & move them to the weaning pen, having fitted nose rings to prevent them from making too much of a mess (much like having one’s ears pierced – it just deters them from digging too much). I really need a more workable system. Currently, weaning involves me getting in the pen & grabbing piglets by the back legs (they squeal deafeningly during this operation), climbing back over the fence & stuffing them in something to transport them to the weaning pen. I’d left it a few too many weeks & the piglets were almost too heavy for me to manage. Needless to say after four I was exhausted (& covered in mud from head to toe) & the remaining piglets were too wary to let me near them. I plan to have another go tomorrow. I’m afraid that three are destined to be roasts in the very near future.

I’ve just had to break off typing to investigate strange noises on the front deck. I threw open the front door not feeling very brave then Bronte thought to release the dogs (barking madly) from the laundry. They quickly traced a possum which was clinging to the top of one of our porch posts. Possums are incredibly cute-looking but are brave, fierce little creatures. They appear quite clumsy on the ground but are more agile when climbing. Close up they have extended paws almost like hands & padded prehensile tails. When cornered by Bruce the dog they courageously stand their ground, leaning back on their haunches with front legs extended outwards, hissing through their teeth. Bruce is half terrier and very tough, but even he hesitates (I’m glad to say) to tackle a possum - although they drive him crazy.

It’s bitterly cold outside & the decks and cars are iced up already, although it is only early evening. In the mornings the grass crunches with frost & the hose I use to get water to the garage is stiff, refuses to uncoil & releases only a trickle of water. It’s not till 9.30 or so that the sun comes over the mountains & the sun is most welcome after the heavy rain of a week ago & the dull overcast days of the weekend just gone.

I’ve got Luke at home at present. It’s the second week of a short break before Term 2 starts. Luckily he & I get some respite from one another when he attends vacation care on occasional days. Bronte has taken a few days off too & he & Luke have spent them scooting around on the new buggy we indulged in when we went to Agfest in early May (Agfest being the premier agricultural show in Tasmania), playing cricket, kicking the footie (the pointy one) & watching kid shows on TV. On the other days, my work rate has necessarily gone down as I juggle farm duties with child care.

Apart from pig-weaning this last week, I’ve also been engaged in a great deal of donkey work: unloading and bagging around 400kg of piggy apples & an even larger amount of piggy potatoes, and shifting 34 extremely heavy bags of goat manure. It wasn’t until I started scavenging for cheap feed for the pigs that I realised the extent of food waste from agriculture, shops & food-processing plants. For rural economies such as ours I can’t help but imagine how a bio-digester would be an ideal way to generate renewable electricity. Bio-digesters are different to the burning of biomass, being instead like giant composters, releasing methane which is burnt to drive generators & providing as a by-product a great source of soil improver. Talking of renewable power, I heard the inspiring story of Woking in the UK, which now generates 98% of its own power & thus is very nearly off the grid. This story was in its infancy when we left the UK & it’s great to hear that it came to such successful fruition. The same man that drove the Woking project, is now in charge of a Sydney initiative which aims to create a virtually carbon-neutral city by 2030. All power to his elbow I say.

The abbatoir story progresses. I have received many replies to my e-mail circular, which seems to be radiating in ever-increasing circles, even reaching the state department of economic development, someone from where rang me yesterday. I got up before 6am yesterday morning in order to fire off letters to local media, but I’ve yet to hear if any will be published. The imminent closure of the abbatoir was also featured on local radio this morning – whether as a result of my mini-campaign I have no idea. I am hoping that with all this extra publicity a buyer might be found before the end of June deadline, or failing that, a lead buyer/ operator supported by a consortium of small investors might keep the business going.

On a different & brighter note, I now have a shiny new-looking ute. It came back from the garage on Friday, cleaner than I can remember it with a heavily bling bull-bar & grill. Of course it’s got somewhat grubby since, not least when I nearly buried it in goat poo this afternoon, but I’m still chuffed not be driving a ute with a sad, crooked front. My bubble was burst somewhat when after picking Luke up a couple of days ago, the engine started making an awful noise & losing power. I thought the exhaust had blown or come adrift from the engine, but thankfully it turned out to be just the inlet hose to the turbo which had shaken loose.

In between farm stuff, Luke and I took a day out on Saturday to support an art workshop organised by & on behalf of the WWPG up in the forests of West Wellington. Having admired & speculated on the sculptures produced during the previous weekend’s workshop, we continued down to Billy Browns Falls, which was in spectacular form after the tremendous rain of the previous week. Then back to the studio to reflect our impressions of the forest in clay. The children produced a range of great objects using clay & items picked up on our foray to the Falls & all of us had a fun, uplifting day.