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Thursday 1 September 2011

First day of spring – yeehar! However, looking out of the window it’s grey, windy and drizzly & feels cold and decidedly unspringlike. Despite the weather it must be spring as there are signs of it everywhere: our clumps of snowdrops are flowering (the only bulbs out of 600+ we planted, that survived), the swallows have returned (a week earlier than last year), two of the geese started sitting today and the hens have gone into egg-laying overdrive. Out of 6 laying hens, we are getting 5 eggs most days now. I’ve started saving some for the incubator. One of my high priorities now is to protect all our birds’ eggs from the rapacious cravens (forest ravens). One swooped into the hens’ run yesterday while I sat here working, nabbed an egg a careless hen had laid outside the coop & was off before I could react. The turkeys are further away under the trees and hence are even more vulnerable – particularly since they prefer to lay their eggs in the open, rather than in a hut. I have a plan to string fishing line from a tall wattle in the turkey run out to the fence, like a spider’s web. I’m hoping the cravens will fly into this & be put off from trying again.

It’s been a high-stress couple of weeks, even by my standards, with goats kidding, a job interview, making a book character outfit for Luke for school (a red goblin from Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood), muck-spreading, kennel-building, bird moving, transferring Vicky the pig from pen to trailer to another trailer – on top of all the usual tasks. I caught and moved the youngest 3 chickens from the peacock run into the interim-age chicken run with Henry the Wellsummer cockerel, from whence they promptly escaped. I found them the next day in the young pigs’ pen, which is where they stayed as I didn’t have time to recapture them. Eventually they found their way back where I wanted them, presumably because they were starving by that stage. The 2 oldest hens have moved into the main hen run with Nigel the Australorp cockerel where they are happy & have started laying. I’m now eyeing up 2 roosters who need to go to freezer-heaven in the next couple of weeks.

Nigel the Australorp rooster, pictured with Bertie bunny & Scruffy
So far we have just 8 goat kids, I’m sorry to report. It seems to be a bad year on the goat-front. Most of the mums who have previously had twins, have only had the one this year, one aborted early on and another 2 are looking worryingly like they may not have any! I believe it is all due to the run-away worm problem I had much earlier in the year. I had problems getting on top of it & I think it affected fertility. Plus I had 2 does who ought to have been pregnant but couldn’t be put to buck as they’d had kids too early, courtesy of Charlie the poison dwarf, who got through the fences at them. I’ve still got 2 older does that I bought a couple of months ago that should kid very shortly. But altogether the tally is going to be pretty low. Having said that next year should be a bumper one as I’ve got on top of the worm problem and we have an extra 10 or so does coming on which can be put to buck in March/ April. Still having feet problems – no sooner do I fix one hoof than another one gets sore. I really need a concrete yard - at present the feeding yard harbours diseases and it doesn’t stop raining long enough for the yard to dry out.

It is as wet as I’ve seen it here, the grass is sodden such that everywhere squelches as you walk, and my track up to the goats is almost impassable. In fact I managed to get the Suzuki stuck last week, a virtually unheard of incident. I then almost got the ute stuck trying to rescue it and missed sliding into the seasonal creek by the skin of my teeth. I had to take a rather scenic route to get to the Suzuki in the end and even that was tough. When I’d pulled the Suzuki out (Bronte asked who was driving the Suzuki – no one of course), the bog from which I’d extracted it self-healed, closing up the ruts - it was spooky to watch!

The weekend just gone was somewhat hectic with visitors, muck-spreading and pig-moving. A friend of ours came around on the Saturday morning with her daughter, who is Luke’s age. They played in the same room with different toys, without apparently interacting, for an hour or so, before finally the ice seemed to have been broken and they actually began talking to one another. It’s quite bizarre, particularly since they’ve been friends since they were babies. Then later another set of friends arrived for dinner with their trio of youngsters in tow.

I must say I excelled myself on the food front this time. As Lucy is an excellent cook I felt I had to make more of an effort than usual and I’d planned the meal for a week or more (cooking is not really my forté). We had home-grown and -made chicken liver pate with port and orange, home-grown and -made pork terrine (courtesy of the heroic Jane Grigson), with home-made French bread toasted in the oven; followed by home-made goat burgers (delicious) and potato bake (also delicious) and salad; followed by banoffee pie which I adore. That’s the one where you boil the can of condensed cream in water for 3 hours so that it turns to caramel. Even my pastry base (made with egg yolks) was a triumph. We were so replete afterwards we could barely move! Poor Bronte had to go for a walk late at night and slept part of the night on the sofa with indigestion – serves him right for being such a glutton! However, I was equally bad as I had 3 servings of banoffee pie the following day to finish it up! Yum. After the meal the kids were fired up and ran riotously around the house until it was thankfully time for their beds!

On the Sunday Bronte & Luke went out while I saw to the animals and loaded up 30 or so heavy bags of goat manure onto the ute. Later Bronte drove the ute slowly around the hay paddock while the automatic muck spreader in the back (me) threw the muck out. It didn’t take long but was somewhat exhausting! Now Bronte has to do his bit and harrow the paddock tomorrow before the grass gets too long for it to make any difference. I’m onto my last 2 bales of hay now, so I’m hoping the grass grows fast – I don’t want to have to buy more for the goats. I plan to eke it out by cutting them some extra browse (blackwood and wattle for instance). I’m afraid the goat fence-line for the new paddock has not progressed since the last entry.

Later in the afternoon the buyer came for Vicky the sow (she was able to collect before mid-Sept after all). I’d got Vicky into the trailer on Friday surprisingly easily and I wasn’t about to let her out again. Manoeuvring the trailer into place had been a delicate operation as there were several evil blancmange-like areas I had to avoid. Then I had to set up gates either side to ensure she couldn’t make a bolt for it. Connor made things awkward by getting in too, but I managed to poke him back out. Vicky’s greed was her undoing – once she tasted the food I was able to put up the back ramp and bolt her in. Then the Suzuki managed manfully to pull the trailer back up the hill and I parked her in the tractor shed. Vicky was so cross at being shut in she systematically set about wrecking the trailer over the next 2 days. I’ve since had to carry out repairs on the flooring. I felt bad about her being shut in such a small space, but then remembered with a shock that most pigs live their entire lives in even smaller areas. We really should be ashamed of ourselves.

The following day I moved the 2 small pigs into the run next to Connor so that he wouldn’t be lonely. That was a labour-intensive task as I had to set up a laneway with electric fencing. Luckily once I’d constructed it and baited it with a line of cooked potatoes, they happily – and of their own volition – trotted down it into the new pen and were promptly locked in. The laneway then had to be broken down and tidied away. Once I’m sure they are used to one another I’ll open the gate between the pens and let them all be together.

The interview was for Business Development Manager at the Huon Valley Council. It was a 2-day/ week job and therefore might have been possible for me. It fit squarely into my areas of experience and frankly I could have done the job standing on my head. In fact I could have brought a whole lot more to the role than requested, given my previous jobs. However, I have just heard that I was not selected. Apparently, I scored highly on technical skills, but not so well on planning and organisation or on customer service! What a laugh! I’m possibly the most organised person I know and I plan everything I do meticulously. It’s hard to imagine that the person they’ve chosen could be any better. Not that I want to appear immodest but I do know my strengths (and weaknesses). And customer service is also another strength, goodness all my jobs have been customer-facing and I complain bitterly about the complete lack of customer service generally exhibited here in Tasmania. I wasn’t even asked about customer service at the interview. I can only imagine that these are excuses and that the real reason is that they didn’t think I’d fit in or they didn’t want me for some other reason. Most likely because I stir things up – just this week I had a long letter on forestry issues published in the Huon Valley News, sent in response to the diatribes published the previous week, courtesy of some of our more right-wing politicians.

In my spare time (ho ho) I’ve continued with my marketing consultancy work, which has hotted up a bit recently, carried on with the deluxe 5-star rated double kennel, and crocheting in the evenings when watching a bit of telly. I’m disappointed the kennel isn’t finished yet, but it’s so nearly there. Trouble is the spec has changed with Bronte insisting on a hinged (but still insulated and wind-tight) roof. Sigh. On the crocheting front I am busily fastening together 156 squares to make another big, colourful quilt. It will make my last one look like a pale, dull object in comparison! All my wool comes from oddments found in op shops and also from unpicking hand-knit jumpers. I’m crocheting it together with a lovely vibrant gold colour from just one of these jumpers. My neighbour wants a crocheting masterclass – not sure I’m the right person but will do my best!