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Thursday 6 October 2011

I can’t write this in the evenings as normal because I hired the box set of the first season of ‘24’ from the DVD shop & Bronte’s become obsessed such that we have to watch three episodes every night! If I miss one the rest won’t make sense. To salve my conscience I am gradually making inroads on the huge mending pile although it’s not doing my eyes much good. Several of Luke’s trousers have now been neatly patched and lengthened. After two beautiful days of sunshine and breezes, it is drizzling again today, so I’ve taken the opportunity to catch up.

Luke and I have started training for the Point to Pinnacle race in November! Bronte has been training for it (sporadically and not very enthusiastically) since earlier in the year, but owing to repeated muscle strains (he refuses to warm up before training believing he is still 30), he’s decided to enter as a walker rather than a runner. The race is 21km from the Hobart foreshore to the top of Mount Wellington at around 1200m altitude. So I’ve said we’ll walk with him but not hold him up if he wants to go faster. We’d become rather slack about walking to the school bus, but now we are marching there with renewed purpose through rain or shine. I’m not sure if there is a minimum age which precludes Luke and we’ll have to see how he copes with a dry run up the Sleeping Beauty track from Mountain River.

We got in a bit of practice by walking to Snug Falls the other week. We’d never been there before and were surprised to find it such a popular spot. It’s a fairly short, easy walk and at the falls themselves there are many flat rocks and pleasant spots to picnic, which is exactly what several families had determined to do. Unfortunately we were frog-marched back up the track at tremendous pace by Bronte because we’d somehow mislaid Bruce the dog on the way! I’d cut his hair with scissors the day before and was a bit ashamed to be seen with him he looked so peculiar – plus he often wanders off for ages & then catches up on our walks. On this occasion however, he’d obviously become rather confused and followed a different family back to the cars & then some way back down the road, before following a ute back up & finally meeting up with us again at the start of the track. Poor Bruce, he was so tired and so relieved to get in the car with us again. He had a large drink of water and collapsed. Rosie rode tied up in the back of the ute because I couldn’t face her throwing up on the back seat again. It seemed to suit her as she wasn’t sick this time.

On the way back we saw a Wedge-Tailed Eagle feeding on roadkill right at the side of the road – what a magnificent sight. Talking of wildlife, one of the WWPG members has just sent me footage of a healthy Tasmanian Devil feeding in one of the forestry coupes above us in Mount Wellington. It was such a wonderful thing to see and so sad to think that Forestry Tasmania is still clearfelling on the far side of West Wellington, within the 430,000Ha assigned in the recent Intergovernmental Agreement on forestry for ‘immediate protection’. I had a letter published again in the local paper The Mercury, highlighting this fact and noting that the demands of Ta Ann (Malaysian veneer factory in the Huon Valley) were driving the destruction of coupes from which over 70% of the timber will go for woodchips for which there is a declining market and no profit. 7% or less of the West Wellington coupes are suitable for sawlogs and around 20-25% can go for veneer. Given that the government ploughed millions of dollars into the set-up of Ta Ann and that so little has been given back in return, it seems a pretty poor deal. Ta Ann employs around 100 or so people but that is the only benefit it brings – and some of these people are brought in from Malaysia.

Along with a lady from ET and another from a campaign group on Bruny Island, I had the chance to highlight what was happening to the Federal Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, on Monday at a Community Cabinet event in Kingston. We were given around 15 minutes to present our case – we thanked them for their commitment to achieving a forestry deal and maximising conservation outcomes, explained why the nominated areas should be protected, showed evidence that Forestry Tasmania was still logging within the 430,000Ha and explained how plans were being developed to enable these areas to pay for themselves, if given appropriate backing. He was polite, reasonable and clearly exasperated with the State Government and with Forestry Tasmania’s intransigence. However, he gave the impression of being focused on the bigger picture – the end game in Mar-May next year when legislation is brought in to ensure wood supply and protect more forest. We may have to lie in front of the bulldozers yet!

On the environmental front, I’ve been harassed of late by the man who borrowed Connor and the trailer – we now call him ‘The Horrible Hogman’! He recognised my name from the public meeting I presented at earlier this year and saw from my blog that I was a part-time campaigner for the WWPG. He began sending e-mails with his point of view which is clearly pro-logging in its current form and had a couple of letters published in The Mercury which were somewhat extreme in nature. He thinks anyone present when an activist is arrested, should also be arrested and locked up and even those who have given money to a campaigning organisation should be guilty if one of that group’s members later commits a crime. While I understand the frustration felt by workers when their work is interrupted by protesters, there is sometimes a need for such action to bring attention to practices that ought to change. Even in a democracy we need these people to highlight injustices.

Anyhow I wrote back and tried to draw a line under the debate by saying we would have to agree to disagree on forestry issues. I remained polite and tried to keep the conversation light. However, his e-mails became more vindictive and personal, finally accusing me of telling ‘outright lies’. I lost patience at this point and asked him not to write any more to me and only to contact me again when my piglets were ready. This clearly incensed him because he then tried to send something to The Mercury via their website in my name and also sent a vindictive paragraph about me to the same paper. I contacted their very nice letters editor who kindly said he would not be printing either of these letters and advised me to go to the police. Hogman’s contention was that since I live in a timber home, use firewood and live on cleared land, I must be a hypocrite. What he fails to comprehend, despite me pointing this out on several occasions, is that I am not anti-forestry, just anti-clearfelling and the current forestry model as employed in Tasmania. It is too high-intensity and the economics don’t stack up. The cost to the environment is far too great when weighed against the meagre financial benefit. Plus the fixation on forestry means we do not invest in alternative and more sustainable enterprises that could better secure our economic future.

What else has happened over the last couple of weeks? I managed to castrate, vaccinate and treat the feet of all the goat babies. I penned them in a small section of the yard then contrived a velcro device to hold their little wrists so they were suspended over the front of a chair – so it was much the same as if someone were holding them for me. They were very indignant at such treatment and I always feel rotten putting the bands over their balls! Most were fine but little Tolly obviously felt the pinch afterwards and went and snuggled up with mum baaing pitifully. I’ve also finally got around to making a couple of mineral shelters – I just roofed a couple of the little tip shop desks we’d acquired a while back and painted them the same colour as the huts. All the babies have gone mad for the salt and mineral licks. Our soils are low in some minerals such as selenium and iodine so hopefully this will address any deficiencies.

Still not a lot of luck on the egg front. I candled a further 21 turkey eggs yesterday and all were infertile. I also broke open the three geese eggs in the incubator to find dead partially formed embryos inside. All a bit grisly. I still have about 30 or so turkey eggs in the incubator but don’t hold out any hope. The turkeys all seem to have stopped laying now for the time being and I worked out they’d averaged 13.6 eggs each! Just a bit under the 15 that I estimated as being the normal batch number. The challenge now is to stop them going broody so they’ll start laying again soon. I spent some time on the internet trying to work out what was going wrong and I’m wondering if William the gobbler is just not quite old enough. He looks mature and seems vigorous and protective but perhaps he’s not quite up to tackling the girls yet. I could try and source another gobbler or I could bear with him and see if he comes good and in the meantime concentrate on chickens. I’m still undecided. I managed to retrieve the unhatched goose eggs from Darcy Bussell’s nest and they smelt absolutely rank. Bronte said they couldn’t possibly smell as bad as dead pademelons (when I went to a carers’ training day at Bonorong they called them ‘stinkies’) but it was tenfold worse.

I made my second batch of sausages last week. Again I had to hand-stuff them - they looked and smelt a treat, but were still not quite right. Bronte says they are too crumbly so perhaps there is not enough fat in the sausagemeat I made. Luke loves them so at least I have one fan.

Luke’s gone jigsaw puzzle mad recently. We hadn’t done any for an age and I casually suggested a few weeks back that we do a puzzle and since then, he hasn’t looked back. He’s just finished another 500 piece one that was clearly too easy for him so we’ve scaled up to a 900 piece fiendish looking affair with a picture as complex as one of the Where’s Wally scenes. That might slow him up a bit. It’s his birthday next Wednesday so I suppose we have to go through the agonies of a party the following weekend.

It’s actually my birthday first on Sunday (45 – gulp) so I’m looking forward to some treats and pampering from Bronte & Luke (fat chance). I did get a little surprise through the post recently however – one of our WWOOFERs who had stayed with us for ten weeks, had remembered I missed not being able to buy Baked Beans with Sausages and had kindly sent me three tins (the parcel had been opened by Australian Quarantine)! It’s been a great treat eating them for my lunch. I have written a few references for her recently, so hopefully they have paid off.

Rosie has been in a bit of trouble over the kennel – in which I still feel a swelling of satisfaction when I come up to the laundry door – for chewing off all the sheepskin I put over the front to keep the wind off, starting to chew the wood and pulling out the loose bedding. I’ve give up and taken all the sheepskin off – they’ll just have to be draughty – put cayenne pepper on all the corners of wood she was chewing and confiscated the loose bedding. I pulled the rest out and secured it as best I could before stuffing it back in. Since then there have been no further incidences.

I’m starting to feel a trifle overwhelmed with spring so far advanced, Christmas coming soon and so many jobs needing doing. I need to put fishing line over the turkey run, partition off the main chicken run and build some coupes, finish clearing the fencing line for a new goat fence and and – well the list goes on ad infinitum. I’ve been a bit low in energy probably owing to stress from the Hogman incidents and the Community Cabinet preparation etc and am struggling to get motivated.

I’m always hamstrung when typing, by Murphy Cat. For some reason he has to be on my lap or somewhere inconvenient around or on the keyboard when I’m in the office. He likes the warmth from the anglepoise lamp and hates being in the lounge on his own. He’s got a new lease of life with his steroids and nutrigel and has mad fits of skidding around the house and wanting people to chase him. I keep telling him to go outside where Rosie will chase him as much as he wants ..