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Saturday 23 July 2011

Well, it’s a while since I last put pen to paper so to speak. What’s happened? We’ve gone from snow, to frost & sun, to rain & back to frost & sun. Today was glorious following a hard frost & foggy whiteout first thing. We woke one morning to find several centimetres of snow on the ground & Bronte & Luke lost no time in racing up the goat paddock hill to sledge down again. Bronte’s first run (on a large plastic mattress bag) was one of the funniest things I’ve seen for a long time – akin to the most bizarre of the bruising slow-mo’s shown on Wipeout!

Last weekend we drove up into the Hartz Mountains National Park – plenty of others had the same idea. There must have been around 50cm of snow on the ground with blown drifts very much deeper. We followed other peoples’ ruts as we crept up in the ute – surprisingly first meeting some friends and then the family who’d bought a pig & Charlie-the-goat off us recently. A whole family hitched a lift with us, clambering into the back. We came to a point where the ruts petered out & decided discretion was the better part of valour & parked. A couple of other vehicles continued but promptly got stuck. We were amazed at how many ordinary 2WD saloons we saw trying to come up the road. We had a great time tramping through the snow, throwing snowballs and admiring the other-worldly scenery.

On the animal front, four more roosters bit the dust last week and I have a female turkey in the ‘sick room’ in the garage. This time of year is hard on the animals even with the best of food and housing – and the turkeys refuse to take shelter even in the harshest weather. This one looked pretty poorly, slow & not keen to eat. I thought a few days out & worming might do the trick. She’s looking well again but too suspicious of her doped mash to eat much. Hopefully, she’ll get desperate enough to finish it soon. Past attempts to force-feed birds with medication have been singularly unsuccessful so I don’t propose trying it again. The four new goats have been playing up. I feed the goats in a yard with sturdy wire fencing over 1m high so I can lay out their food without them trampling me & their food into the ground. The first time the new goats were introduced to this Chloe leapt clean over the fence & the others went through the electric fence again to try & get at the food. Needless to say they were all hauled back to the fence to be zapped – in order to remind them to respect the fences! They haven’t been through any fences since, although Chloe tried her leap again – I saw her take off & yelled, she checked in mid-air & fell flat on her back in mud. It seems to have put her off trying again!

I have at last started clearing a route through a jungle of bracken & scrub for a new paddock fence. In a couple of hours I managed a 40m long strip (~4m wide) & retired exhausted. Given that the planned perimeter is about 800m it is going to be a long haul.

In line with a decision to try & reduce my workload somewhat, I’ve regretfully decided to sell Vicky - our faithful & fertile sow – and her loyal swain Connor the boar. Vicky is in pig again & were they to remain I’d have another load of piglets to castrate, nose-ring, wean & feed in a couple of months - and a new paddock would be needed as the current ones are becoming mired in mud. Luckily I’ve found a good home for them both & they should be off in a couple of weeks.

We’ve still got two young ones from the last litter – Stripes, a ginger female and Stumpy, a neutered male (so-called because he’s a trifle short in length).

I plan to transfer them into the ‘veggie patch’ once the others have gone & thereby freed up an electric fence energiser. The veggie patch has been under construction for around 2 years now. It’s such a mighty edifice that we’ve never been brave or foolhardy enough to finish the corner bracing by balancing over 3m in the air. It’s frustrating that it’s still not done. The plan is to use the pigs to level the ground & mix in all the layers of mulch and goat poo that have piled up in there.

An equally painful decision was to resign from the Environment Tasmania Management Committee. I hated to do it & feel in many ways I’ve let them down; however having made the decision I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. I hate to do things by halves & felt I’d just not been able to commit the time needed to fully keep up to speed with activities & policy or to attend General & Annual General Meetings. Not that I’ve completely abandoned my environmental campaigning – I’m still active in the WWPG (albeit less so than last year’s frenetic pace) & continue to do a bit of stirring via letters to the editor. Last week I wrote to The Mercury’s angling correspondent re the publishing of triumphant pictures of people who have caught giant Bluefin tuna – a creature dangerously close to extinction. Re the woodchip mill which the government planned to finance (& subject of my previous letter to the ed), I’m pleased to say that it has now been sold to an environmental consortium. It also seems that the state is teetering on the brink of an historic forestry resolution.

Other tasks completed recently include a new batch of ham & re-graveling of the area outside the garage. I’ve been lent a fantastic book called ‘Charcuterie’ by Jane Grigson. I can’t even imagine making most of the creations in there, but it’s nonetheless inspired me to try some of the simpler recipes. So, according to instructions, I left my chunks of ham in brine for 19 days & then boiled them in a ‘court bouillon’ – basically water with the addition of onions, carrots & cloves. I allowed one lot to cool overnight in the cooking fluids & the other I took out 20 mins early, glazed with a mix of brown sugar, honey & orange juice & baked for half an hour in the oven. It’s now all in the freezer, but a sample tasting suggests that the glazed one is overly salty, but that the soaked one is juicy & delicious. Shortly, I’m going to have a go at making sausages although I’ve no easy way of getting the mixture into the skins. I’ve got visions now of making chorizos & salami!