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Monday 24 October 2011

I’m feeling somewhat shamefaced having lain down for a few minutes in order to catch up on sleep lost through coughing – and woke up nearly two hours later! Too late to go up the hill & continue clearing my new fence-line as planned, in fact too late to do anything useful outside. The weather’s turned foul again and it’s high time I caught up with events. 

The last couple of weeks have been characterised by endless computer troubles which have eaten up an enormous amount of time. We bought a new computer a few weeks ago from a Hobart City Council auction. Not having the patience to wait, Bronte bought the first decent one that came up, which happened to have Vista rather than Windows as the operating system. I’d set it up with the old screen and had begun finding my way around it & loading software but had been rather daunted by the prospect of trying to transfer e-mail information and other files. However, I was suddenly forced into action by the old computer beginning to disintegrate. At first, we couldn’t send e-mails (although we could receive them), then we were unable to search the internet and the internet options in Control Panel became locked. We were able to get around the e-mail issue by using a gmail account, but without access to address-book groups such as the WWPG it was most inconvenient. (If bored by computer stuff, skip the next few paras ..)

I had a steep learning curve to climb. Vista was quite different to Windows & took a great deal of getting used to – things were displayed and filed differently and often called by a new name. I took a bit of advice from my neighbour (the weather wiz) and also a friend in the business who lives locally. I was reluctant to transfer the old satellite internet connection & decided to risk moving to mobile broadband with Telstra. That entailed an age on the phone and some days awaiting the USB modem but it was simple to set up & operates OK if not super-quick. I have the modem on a long cable pinned high up on the window flyscreen to get a better signal.

One of the first hurdles was to sort out the issues with Vista and also the HP software that kept annoyingly popping up every time anyone tried to do something. First of all I had to disable User Account Control as it asked for permission each time software was opened, then delete the HP tools and security software containing something called ‘credential manager’. It was driving me potty by asking if I wanted to save login details after every keystroke. It’s easy to write these things, but they caused hours of work – searching for files and looking up how to do things on the internet. Then for some reason MS Office failed to work & it seemed the disk had exceeded the number of allowable activations. I had to bypass the internet & ring the Aussie MS number which eventually granted me an access code. 

I tackled e-mail then – firstly importing everything from Outlook Express into Outlook, such that I could put it into a format that could be transferred to Outlook on the new PC. Unfortunately before this could happen, Outlook Express lost all our e-mail addresses – all 297 of them. This was a blow, but there was nothing to do but persevere. I created a .pst file, put it onto an external hard drive & loaded it onto the new PC along with all our photos and other files. Again, this took an age as the old PC took 20 minutes to transfer each folder. I imported the .pst file into new Outlook and was relieved and amazed to see all our old e-mails appear in the inbox. I then spent an interminable amount of time going through these e-mails to retrieve our e-mail addresses. Luckily there were occasions where I’d done group e-mailing and forgotten to ‘bcc’ the addresses. I eventually populated Contacts with all 297 addresses once again! However, alarmingly, I could not find these when trying to send an e-mail & spent some time trying to work out how to display them in the address book. Then I couldn’t even locate incoming e-mails. Talk about a frustrating time. It seemed that Outlook was using the old .pst file as the default and not displaying our new account.

The next task was to download all the freebie programmes we use such as AVG, Nitro pdf Writer, Free Download Manager (fabulous programme for people with unreliable internet connections), Adobe Reader, Shockwave, Flashplayer and some sort of image/ photo editing and drawing tool. After some research I chose Paint.NET which also necessitated downloading service pack 2 for Vista plus the NET framework. Even now there is more to do – load on Picture Project & AutoCAD, replace all our download ‘favourites’ in Explorer and re-build the WWPG mailing list. I’m looking forward to simply using the computer again!

Despite the computer and the usual farm work, we’ve had some excitements recently. It was my birthday a couple of Sundays ago – the weather being dodgy we opted to visit MONA rather than the Spring Fair at the Botanical Gardens. It certainly lived up to expectations and the more ‘fringe’ items failed to shock us. Apart from one notable exception (a video installation) these did not seem gratuitous and appeared to have artistic merit. There were some weird juxtapositions of exquisite ancient pieces displayed alongside flamboyant modern works. We started at the bottom & worked our way up (all of MONA is underground – much of it hewn from the rock) and by the time we reached the top and third floor, we were museumed out & failed to give it justice. We took Luke through the parental guidance areas and had no need to worry since he was transfixed by the hand-held gismo handed out to patrons in order to look up info on the displays. Afterwards we had a pleasant lunch at the Hogs Breath Café and went home replete. Bront brought me a directional electric fence tester and fault-finder which has already proven very useful!

Three days later it was Luke’s 7th birthday. We made a fuss of him on the day & I made a load of little chocolate cakes and took them to school for his classmates. I made gigantic profiteroles for pudding in the evening which we managed to scoff in two days. We arranged a party for Luke on the Saturday afternoon but for some reason he only invited three friends. As it transpired, that was quite enough and the assembly hovered on the verge of chaos for the three hours everyone was here. It poured with rain, so most of the outdoor activities we’d planned had to be abandoned in favour of indoor archery (arrows with suckers which stuck to the windows – Bronte drew a T-Rex as a target), 'pin the tail on the pterosaur' and 'hide and seek'. Another load of baking was required to produce an orange-flavoured birthday cake (delicious), ginger biscuits (odd) and brownies (yum). One of the lads was still sitting there eating long after the others had moved onto another game. We did get outside in the end & the kids smashed the piñata, cuddled the chicks and goslings and had a few rides in the go-kart (we couldn’t start the one with the engine so had to stick with gravity-assist only). We heaved a great sigh of relief once everyone had gone!

We had a further good family day out at the Hobart Show last week. Strangely, there is a public holiday for the show on Thursday and then people are expected to go back to work on the Friday or take a day off. I’ve always found the show more of an endurance test than fun, so this year we researched a bit and discovered that Wednesday was farm day. Bronte took the afternoon off & we kept Luke home from school and had a great afternoon. The weather topped 29°C – the hottest October day for several years – there were few people there and we saw all the animals and events we’d looked forward to and had several rides in the fairground section. The first event was the Braap and BMX demo which was a favourite for Luke & Bronte. We were also there in time to see the ‘largest bullock team in Australia’, and it truly was large in every sense – tremendous horned animals yoked together to pull a wooden cart. We watched the pig racing display which included two pigs diving into a pool of water and Luke had a go on the climbing wall. Luke and I went on some sort of bungee contraption and I had to get off early as it was so knackering. I took Luke on a few rides including a scary underwater simulator where we were attacked by a mock great white! Poor Luke was terrified. We bumped each other on the dodgems and then Bronte bravely announced he would take Luke on a ride called the Hurricane – he got off looking exceedingly pale and had to sit down in the CWA tent to recover!

As you’ll note the weather has been very changeable. We’ve had a few fine days and some pleasant temperatures but inbetween we’ve continued to get heavy bouts of rain and cold spells. Today I waited until the weather had cleared a bit before venturing outside, at which point it started hailing horizontally.

On the farm front, we’ve had three deaths in as many days. On Saturday it was my turn to take Luke to Little Athletics so I got up really early to rush round the animals. Exasperated by Fifi, the last of our original turkeys who was constantly broody and laid only soft-shelled eggs, I sent her off to the great turkey pen in the sky. Later I cut out two substantial slabs of breast meat, which when tenderised and slow-cooked will be lovely, before roughly plucking the carcase and cooking it up whole for the pigs. If I’d had a spare pen where retirees could live out their natural lives I would have kept her, but we are short of pens and she was upsetting the other girls by bossing them around and kept sitting on other turkey’s eggs making them useless for the incubator (never mind that they are useless anyhow by virtue of being unfertilised).

The following day Bronte & Luke checked for eggs & found Boris bunny with his toes up in one of the hen houses. He’d been hale & hearty the previous day, bouncing around and chasing the hens. There was no sign of injury and he was in good condition, so his demise remains a mystery. Then today I found one of the youngest goslings dead in the goose run. Again there was no sign of injury but a little earlier I’d seen the geese chase off a horrible craven (forest raven). The cravens are getting bolder now they presumably have young. A wedgie (wedge-tailed eagle) soared very low over all the bird pens this afternoon so he must also be looking for food for young. Much as I admire the wedgies I’ve no intention of feeding them with our young birds. 

Also today, one of the remaining female turkeys had disappeared – it’s quite bizarre. They are in pens with 1.4m high fencing so getting out is not all that easy for fat, heavy birds. This was one I’d chucked next door into the weaning pen to try and shock her out of broodiness. Whether she’d just got fed up with me persecuting her and decided to nest in the bush or whether she was taken by a predator (no sign of blood, feathers or tracks), we just can’t fathom. Oddly, the dogs went crazy in the early hours last night – Bruce was barking madly down near the turkey pen and Rosie was yowling outside our bedroom window. Whether that was coincidental or related to the turkey’s disappearance I guess we’ll never know. So now we’re down to just three female turkeys – from five just a couple of days ago! And their wretched eggs are still infertile. We’ve given up and started eating the eggs instead of incubating them.

I’ve suffered a couple of animal attacks and injuries of late. When I approached the geese to retrieve their empty feed bowls Arthur the gander went bananas and leapt at me punching my arm with his beak. I was surprised how powerful he was. I can hardly complain – he’s just being protective - but I do wish they would realise I’m not going to attack them each time I go into their pen. The following day when I tried to catch Handlebars (one of the bucks), to do his feet and drench him for worms, he shook his head violently and his horns bashed into my wrist causing a large bruised swelling which has only just cleared up. Determined not to let him beat me, I pursued him round & round the pen until he finally gave up & shot into his little hut, from which I hauled him out. His flanks were heaving while I did his hooves, poor old boy, but he got his own back by making me and all my clothes stink of billy goat. I caught all the baby goats again in order to give them their booster vaccinations. Also did their hooves, drenched them and treated their feet at the same time.

A week last Sunday was a horrible day, with squally rain and even snow on the mountain flanks. Despite this, some of our hardy neighbours turned up keen to go fishing in the dam. We’ve had no luck recently at catching the trout we put in there as tiny troutlets a couple of years ago. However, our neighbours are clearly much more experienced fishermen as they quickly caught four and were going to throw them back until Bronte, alarmed, shouted not to. They took a couple and we kept a couple and it was a real treat having trout for a couple of evenings. The fish looked in great condition and weighed a little under 2kg each. I’ve been scheming about ways of catching them and plan to put a string on pulleys across the dam with removable lines hanging down from that. I thought we could set it up early morning or twilight and haul it in half an hour later, rather than standing there casting and re-casting for hours on end.

It has definitely felt like spring here recently despite the variable weather. One of the more noticeable signs is the cacophony of bird noise, especially in the mornings. The native hens scream and carry on at the least sign of danger, setting off the currawongs and the geese, the pair of ducks that have set up camp locally, various other unrecognisable creatures in the bush, the turkeys, then finally the peacocks, whose terrific wail tends to silence the rest and bring a temporary end to the commotion. Annoyingly, I’ve noticed that the two youngest peacocks that I’d thought were girls, are in fact boys. We'll have to advertise them because it wouldn’t do to keep more than one male with our two peahens.