People per Hour

Saturday 14 December 2014





Summer has officially started but there is still not a great deal of evidence for it. The rain has finally eased off although Bronte’s golf holes are still full of water and the ground squelches as you walk down to the creek from the house. We’ve had one or two warm days but it’s stayed mercifully cool so far. I’ve booked up for our hay to be cut & baled, but suspect it will be mid-January before they can even get on the land without churning it up. As usual I expect they will come just as we go back to work, so we have to fit in the hay carting around work hours.

This period started with the Huon Show. Noriko (Nori) our first ever Japanese WWOOFer, came with us and seemed to enjoy herself. I found it much less enjoyable this year, with too many noisy rides and sideshows and less about agriculture and farm animals. It was also almost unbearably busy. Bronte and Luke queued for the bumper cars and took forever to get their turn. I did enjoy the ferris wheel, which is very stately and prim compared to other rides which twirled their shrieking passengers upside down. There were great views from the top of the wheel over the Huon Valley.










I sussed out the opposition in the crafts area. Someone from Blackmans Bay had done some superb crocheting, which has renewed my determination to produce some articles for sale on Etsy. I’m currently sewing in the ends on the multifarious squares I’ve been making over past weeks. Given that I’ve used lots of different colours & changed colour frequently, this job is also going to take weeks.

On the farm we’ve have 4 deaths, but considerably more births. We’ve hatched our 3rd lot of eggs and now have a total of 20 young turkeys and 25 young chickens. Two turkeys from the latest batch died within a few days of hatching. One was like the runt of the batch, a tiny little yellow fluff ball. I kept it indoors in the incubator and fed it special food but it just turned up its toes one night. The six eldest turkeys are outside in the old covered peacock run. We took them down there in sacks and tipped them out into the long grass. There they stood like little statues, their feathers ruffled and necks stretched, eyes bulging. Turkeys are always the same when you move them. It was a scream to watch. Their growth has slowed up now they are outside but they are already halfway grown.








One other death was an accident. We had determined to catch the two teenage geese down on the dam, bring them into one of the pens to eat the grass and then eat them when they were fully grown. However, we had to pursue the flock for quite some distance in order to round them up & then we couldn’t tell them apart! I nearly sat on one only to find it had a tag on its wing and was therefore an oldie. We did catch one and I gave it to one of our German WWOOFers, Sabine, to hold while we tried to round up the second. However, when we gave up and went back to the garage it seemed the poor goose had just died in her arms! Rather than waste it I skinned & gutted it straightaway. It had a huge distended stomach full of soaked grain and I think the shock and the full belly had been too much for its heart.


I’ve decided to leave well alone now. Next year once the birds start sitting I’ll take a load of the eggs & put them in the incubator. Trouble is the nests are quite vulnerable out in the open, despite them nesting deep in the sedge. Indeed I found a goose egg just today on the drive near the garage! As soon as I picked it up Rosie went all peculiar so I know she was the culprit. She’s stolen eggs before from the garage after the girls have collected them from the hen & turkey runs. The geese don’t stand a chance if Rosie goes down there when we’re not around & terrorises them.

We collected half a dozen peacock eggs and put them in the incubator. Quite quickly the bathroom where the incubator was kept, began to smell. I sniffed and then candled the eggs. Two were rotten – or on the way to becoming rotten – whilst the other 4 were infertile. I think perhaps our male is still too young. He displays regularly but only has a half-length tail. When the female started nesting, he got quite aggressive towards the two poor guinea-fowl, who chittered horrendously in retaliation. Luckily there is peace again in the pen now.

The final death was intentional if not planned. Brian the Boar, of whom we’d all become very fond, developed a wanderlust and began walking through his fence – despite it being at 6,500V with chicken wire on the outside dug into the ground. He learnt that if he didn’t touch the electric fence with his snout, he could put his nose under the bottom wire, lever up the chicken wire and then shoot underneath without getting too bad a shock. The first time he got out, it seems he was rummaging in his concrete feeder looking for food and somehow broke off the immensely sturdy lid on the ‘fill’ side. The heavy lid fell on the fence and crushed it & I think he just squeezed out through the feeder.

The last time, we managed to get him back in with the girls, thinking that perhaps the interest of having female company would be sufficient encouragement for him to stay. The girls ran him around a bit, even though he was so much larger than when I first collected him. Then he just decided he was off again and went straight out through a multi-strand 8,000V fence. We’d already fetched him back from over 400m away, this time it was approaching twilight and Bronte and I looked at one another and knew we'd run out of options.


Bronte did the deed and we left him to drain where he fell having turned him nose down on the slope. The following day I had to butcher him. Bronte hung him from the tractor shed using the front bucket on the tractor – that certainly made things easier. He must have weighed 100+ kgs. Luckily it had been cold overnight and it was a cool morning. It took me most of the morning to skin, gut and reduce Brian to 9 big roasts. We’ve just finished the first of those and I’m pleased to say it was absolutely delicious. No trace of boar taint. So we’ll probably have one of his big hams on Christmas Day. I’ve decided if we get another boar, it’s going to be a really big one that will sort those girls out straightaway!

Still not sure what had got into Brian’s head. He had heaps of good food, a cosy hut filled with hay and the two sows right alongside him for company. His paddock was quite wet after the heavy rain but there were still dry areas and long grass and weeds in which he could dig. We just seem to pick boys with an urge to roam.

I took the WWOOFers recently to get a load of potatoes to cook for the pigs and just before Brian’s demise, we cooked a huge batch. The weather turned warm and so that the food would stay relatively fresh I had the bright idea of taking all the buckets down to the creek. I lodged them as best I could along the bank, almost submerged in the water. Overnight, there was 14mm of rain and 3 of the buckets disappeared! Despite Bronte saying I’d never see them again, that they’d be out to sea by now, I despatched the girls and Luke down the creek to try and find them. From the house we heard an awful lot of shrieking and wondered what was going on. When they returned soaking wet, it turned out they’d found the buckets really quickly, lodged against a fallen tree & had spent the rest of the time jumping in a pool and splashing one another. Much to my amazement the German girls had worn ‘waterproof’ trousers although the water had been so deep it had run straight into their wellies (gumboots)! Since then we’ve looped rope through the bucket handles and secured them to the bank and the makeshift ‘fridge’ works well.




Some WWOOF pics:






Much of our time these days is taken up mowing and weeding. I just can’t get the WWOOFers to do a decent job of weeding. Often they walk right past the weeds and they only half-heartedly chop the ones they do see. The language issue hasn’t helped. I tried on several occasions to get them to chop a load of thistles under a large pine tree on our new land – and they still haven’t done it properly. I think we shall just have to get on and do it ourselves. Bronte and Luke took the current WWOOFs up the goat hill today to get mostly fireweed and foxgloves. I also sent the WWOOFs onto our neighbour’s land last week to chop all foxgloves within about 20m of the boundary. I sought permission first of course – after Bronte had laid into them the day before about their weed problem. There are two fit 20-somethings living there and it wouldn’t take them more than a week to clear their whole block. Unfortunately they are exactly upwind from us.

I took Luke up the road and we cleared all the weeds growing on the verges above our new land and one evening I tackled a huge batch of foxgloves and thistles that was growing on an old rock pile. It was almost dark before I staggered back. Luke and I have also ventured into the wilderness at the bottom of our plot to have a go at the new fireweed that’s coming back this year. I spent weeks last summer crawling around under wild roses, brambles and other spiky bushes, clearing out everything I could find. As there are no old fireweed bushes still standing, the new growth must be from seeds that have been in the ground a couple of years. I’m surprised actually, at how good a job we did last year. There are very few thistles coming up in the new paddocks that we chopped last summer. Even the docks and fireweed are significantly reduced.

Bronte’s also tackling patches of bracken that are encroaching onto his paddocks. He’s off out this evening, re-chipping the new growth down on the edge of the hay paddocks. If you continually keep at the bracken it does eventually run out of energy and give up. For the Californian thistles which come up in great swathes, the only answer is continual mowing, regular spraying or intensive goat foraging. The goats have done a good job at the top of our hill. Not only has the huge Californian outbreak up there been decimated, they’ve also trampled the bracken and other brush, such that it’s opened up the whole area.

The grass has continued to grow apace and feels somewhat like the Forth Road Bridge at present. I no sooner finish mowing all the bits that Bronte can’t do with the ride-on, than I need to start at the beginning again. I can feel another bout of mowing coming on tomorrow morning. I’ve also brush-cut all the long grass and weeds coming up around the banks of the ‘veggie’ patch and sprayed all that was coming up inside it. I got the girls to rake up what I’d brush-cut and spread it on top as mulch. Looks so much neater now. My exposed fence-lines have all gone pleasingly brown after I sprayed them some weeks ago, as has the grass and weeds coming up in the gravel around the sheds and on the drive.






I’ve managed to do a bit more work on my new goat paddock. I’m taking a new approach this time around, doing all the bracing and fitting insulators etc as I go along. I’ve not progressed far over the past week as I’ve reached the corner where I need to build a feeding yard. It’s half-way through now. I’ve also been putting up giant tree-protectors around the 6 of Bronte’s trees that will be inside the boundary of the new fence. It’s difficult to get the WWOOFs to help with much of this - it would take so much time to show them what was required, plus much of the tie-wiring needs a lot of hand and wrist strength. I’m using 3.5mm tie-wire now, whereas I could only really manage the 2.5mm when I started a few years’ back. Bronte’s cross, because the goats have breached one of the tree-protectors in the last paddock I built and have stripped the bark off one of his pine trees – such that he’s sure it will die.



Tree protectors in progress


Because it’s continued to stay cool, I’ve still had to collect firewood from time to time. We’ve already burnt quite a lot of the green wood that Luke and I collected from our neighbours. Since then, I’ve made a couple of trips to a big dead wattle that fell on our land in the strong winds of early Spring. Unfortunately it’s fell across a deep ditch so wading around in the mud is no fun – neither is sliding around on the huge cow poos at every step. The first time I took the chainsaw, but the blinking thing kept cutting out on me and I got fed up with having to re-start it every minute. Last time, I just went with a WWOOFer and the bow-saw and we managed to bring home a huge ute load. Of course, I get the blame for anything that goes wrong with the chainsaw even though Bronte’s already bent the bar so that it goes through everything sideways.

Other excitements (!) on the farm have been the presence of a fair-sized tiger snake in one of the nest boxes. Celia, a WWOOF from Hong Kong, put her hand in and got the eggs and then noticed something move at the back! I’ve since encouraged them to slide the front away (to let in light) and also to use an ‘egg extractor’ that I made the following day - basically a scoop on the end of a long pole. We have dealt with the snake and I’ve also put down rat bait around all the bird huts to discourage rodents and hence snakes.

I asked the girls to dig up a large rock on one of the tracks I use to take hay to the goats. It’s not easy to see under long grass and sometimes I hit it with an awful bump in the Suzuki. I sent them off with spades and the crowbar, but they were soon back. Firstly, they dug up the wrong rock and then when they started on the real target, they disturbed a nest of jumping jack ants, that seethed out and took vengeance. Two of the girls were bitten on their legs (through thick trousers), one in two places. Luckily neither suffered an allergic reaction – I didn’t tell them that more people die in Tasmania each year from an adverse reaction to jumping jack bites, than from snake bites!

Other than the Huon Show we’ve had relatively few outings. Nami (another Japanese WWOOFer with a great grin) and I took Luke to a schools’ Triathlon over in Bellerive, on the Eastern Shore. We had to take his bike, swimming clothes and towels. It was the most loathsome day you can imagine, very cold, wet, windy and grey. The ‘swimming’ bit was in the sea, but was luckily very short and close to shore. Most of Luke’s grade just hurtled through the surf on foot without bothering to try and swim. They then had to run to where the bikes were stowed, get T-shirt and shoes and socks on and bike for around 2kms. Having helped Luke and his mates to get changed, we then lost them completely as the bike track was out of sight further along the shore. The next we knew they were running past us in the opposite direction. We saw Luke twice but completely failed to find him at the finishing line. We finally caught up with him shivering with cold and almost blue. Together with one of his mates, we hustled them to their kit-bags and got them rubbed dry and rugged up in warm clothes. It was still early in the day but I asked the teachers if I could take Luke home, I wasn’t sure he’d last the rest of the day in that awful weather! I think it was terribly brave of him and I was very proud that he’d just got on with it without complaining.

The other major outing was almost equally grim! We had two German girls staying with us for just over a week, with Nami, the Japanese girl. On the last day, I said I’d take them somewhere nice and gave them some options. We decided on the Pelverata Falls walk, since it’s fairly close and is a decent walk. Almost as soon as we got in the car it started raining quite heavily. I’d let Luke stay at home that afternoon so he could come with us, so we were 5 in all. Several times I said something like ‘it’s not too late to change your mind’ – really rather hoping that they would! Luke was quite adamant that he was still going regardless of the weather. The Pelverata Falls walk is a 2-hour round trip if you’re fit, and it rained for the entire time. It didn’t really matter that we were wearing raincoats and gumboots, because after a time we were all saturated. We had to push through wet bushes and grasses which soaked our trousers and ran into our wellies, the water poured from the trees above in the wind and ran down our necks. We were just about OK when we kept moving, but when we stopped to look at the waterfall (which was truly impressive) we were concerned re developing hypothermia! I shared out my stash of nuts and sultanas and we set off back.

Luke and I were at the front and as we got colder I suggested we sped up. We almost jogged most of the way back and even then could barely keep warm. Luckily we had some warm dry clothes in the car, but I had to put mine on over a soaking T-shirt which didn’t really do the trick. All the way home we had the heater on full blast and were fighting to de-fog the windows. I’ve never been so pleased to get home and change and finally warm up. Can’t believe Luke managed it so readily. He’s one tough kid. Funnily enough we were meant to be going to a twilight Little Athletics meet afterwards, but it was no surprise when that was cancelled. In fact so many meets have been cancelled that we are running way behind.









I’m afraid I haven’t found the time and motivation to write my little anti-biomass generator spiel to the local paper, but I haven’t forgotten and hope to do it sometime soon. I’m continually stumbling on stories that make me cross and am often thinking of writing to the paper. Unfortunately I almost never get round to it. The latest is the nonsense about installing light rail in Hobart and a cable-car up Mount Wellington. Just a modicum of common-sense thinking would show that such projects could never be commercially viable in a tin-pot country town like Hobart (sorry, ‘City’).

We get 600,000 tourists a year and even if every one of those paid $25 to go up the mountain in a cable car, it would still be years before one paid off the capital cost. And why install an inflexible mode of transport like light rail in a town of 200,000 people when mini-buses do the job perfectly well? If concerned re their environmental footprint, gradually replace them with electric units that are charged with hydro-power. Whereas a perfectly sensible idea like installing a small cafĂ© with viewing area on top of the Mountain is continually being knocked back by people saying ‘you can’t despoil our Mountain’. Frankly the top is already a mess of old buildings and car parks. A new small building with spectacular views, employing the best architecture, could only add to its appeal.

The other thing that’s riled me recently is the Aussie test cricket team’s aggressive and rude behaviour on-field. Not only did Michael Clarke warn a British batsman to get ready for a ‘f…ing broken arm’ but he was backed up by eminent recently-retired cricketers. I thought it was awful behaviour for someone at the top of the game, who should be setting the highest standards and acting as a role model for Aussie youngsters.

I won’t mention the terrible performance of the British team ..



Luke's gone puzzle-mad at present - these are some examples of 500-piece
ones we've recently completed. We finished one of them in just one day.



Murphy helping with one of the puzzles



Cat under bedcovers



Sunday 1 December 2013

Just a few photos that didn't seem to fit with the last blog ..

Luke - Little Athletics boy

There have been a few echidnas around recently - this one
was digging itself out of a large hole

Replica logging truck in Forest Centre on outing to Geeveston one
rainy weekend afternoon

Poor orphaned padamelon joey that I kept cosy for a while
before we decided we couldn't possibly look after it

Submarine docked at Hobart waterfront

13 November 2013

 








I’m at home today feeling guilty, nursing some odd bug that makes me giddy and nauseous. I came home yesterday morning from work and wasn’t able to go in again today. It’s afternoon now & I actually feel much better, adding to my guilt. I thought it might be the precursor to the cold that Luke has, but there are no obvious cold symptoms. I have assuaged my guilt somewhat by getting some work sent home so I can get on with that over the next couple of days. As a part-timer, any time out amounts to a large chunk of my working week.


I sometimes think I keep working flat-out until I hit a wall and just have to stop for a day or two. Last weekend was particularly horrid, with 3 days of working outside in non-stop rain. Plus on Sunday I was attacked by the horrid Clive, our turkey gobbler, got scratched by Murphy cat trying to administer to him and was scruffed-up by the goats when treating their feet in the morning.

The rain has been incredibly persistent. The last time I remember it being as bad as this was our first spring here, when Luke was just a month old and we were living in the mouldy caravan. Bronte’s Dad came to visit and I think it rained for 8 out of the 9 days he was here. It’s English rain, drizzle that depresses you and soaks into everything. This morning there was 28mm in the rain gauge, a couple of days’ ago it was 32.5mm. Almost every day it has been in double figures. I can see the creek raging from inside the house. We’ve even had more snow on the hills surrounding us. The Sleeping Beauty range has looked most wild and remote streaked with snow and mist. It’s hard to believe that much of Queensland has been declared a drought zone and NSW has been ravaged by bushfires.

There is a huge waterfall above us, which flows down from the top of Wellington Park. It’s called Hutchison’s Falls and comes down in 3 giant cascades, plunging down to form Rocky Creek. How well we can view it as we near the end of our valley and enter our gate is a measure of how much rain there has been. For the first time last week, the second and third cascades had merged, making one mighty flow of water beneath the first stage. I would love to get up there for a proper look. It’s apparently only 2km off the East-West track, a 4WD track which goes right across the Wellington Range. Trouble is, you need to acquire a key for the boom gates from Parks & Wildlife in Hobart, and return it afterwards – plus there is no path to the Falls, so the way may be impassable. The alternative route is to follow the creek upstream. But this is only practical at times of low flow, so the Falls would not be so majestic. It would be great to see it from the air.







Our waterfall and creek after weeks of rain


Murphy’s on the sofa with me with one back leg in the air wondering whether he dare lick his nether regions. Somehow he got a hole in his skin under his tail – something he’s had before. It was driving him nuts on Sunday. I poured tea-tree oil on it & when he licked himself he started foaming at the mouth and running around the house like a crazy cat. I calmed him with some of his old medicine – a pill that stops his skin itching and a steroid. I always hang on to these things because you never know when they will be needed again. 2 days of that treatment and he’s healing up well. Trouble is he scrabbled when I was trying to get pills down him & I ended up with scratches and bruises on arms and hands.

 
Murphy hanging out of his bed


When I went into the turkey run and crouched down to put the food out of the rain, there was a mighty ‘FWUMP’ on my back. I turned around to find Clive bustling up to have another go at me. Until then he’d never attacked me – only the WWOOFers and Bronte and Luke. I can’t let him be boss, so I ran him around the pen and bashed him back every time he went for me. At one stage I picked him up and threw him across the pen (all 10-15kg of him). Unfortunately I don’t think he’s cured because when Luke and me went in there Monday night to check for eggs, he came strutting up and was clearly getting ready to attack. It was particularly inconvenient as I was piggy-backing Luke (in his school shoes) across the muddy entrance.

Later in the afternoon I went outside again to try and finish fixing the bunny pen fence, where we’ve added a ‘skirt’ of aviary wire to the outside to stop bunnies tunnelling in and out. The grass had begun to grow through and in clearing that from under the wire I scratched all my knuckles and fingers. I went to work on Monday looking as though I’d been dragged through a cactus field. To add insult to injury it began raining when I was halfway through and I was soaked by the time I finished. Bronte and Luke had gone golfing on the Glen Huon course and came back all smiles as it hadn’t rained there.

On the animal front we have a multitude of baby birds. 5 more turkey chicks (no casualties this time) and 17 hen chicks. I wonder if the turkeys benefited from being with the hens which are so much quicker at finding food after birth. Some of the hen chicks are quite unusual – the offspring of our 2 Opington roosters we bought from the Ranelagh sale several months back. Some are grey with white tips to their wings. I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out. We’ve got another batch of eggs in the incubator (mainly turkeys plus a few chicks). By the time they hatch in 3 weeks I need to have the first lot of turks outside. They are really not going to be pleased. Plus I must renovate the old covered peacock run first as it is looking distinctly dilapidated having been empty for many months.

 
 


My goat fence has not progressed one iota since the last post, largely because I’ve been overtaken by jobs such as mowing and chainsawing. As it’s been so cold and wet, we’ve ended up needing firewood for far longer than we planned. Luckily we were given the opportunity to get a load of wood from our neighbours who have felled some trees to reduce the fire risk on their property. Luke and me went up there and started with a massive ute-load of willow for the goats. Their goat, Aggy, climbed into the front of the ute – cheeky thing – and we had quite a job to persuade it to get out. Then it tried to follow us home and we had to shoo it back and then drive off as fast as we could. The next day we went back for an even larger load of firewood. Of course it’s all quite green at present, but we’ve had to make use of some, not just for the indoor stove, but also for cooking up pig food outside. In addition, we’ve made several trips to a large dead wattle on our new land, which collapsed during some of the appalling winds we’ve experienced of late. Although the wood is wet from the rain, it is at least drier inside.

 

 
 

The rain has sent our grass into a growing frenzy. Of course as usual it is not growing in the goat paddocks (being eaten to the ground by the pademelons), but around the house we are finding it difficult to keep up with the necessary mowing. Even with the ride-on to do the flatter, larger areas, it is still a big and wearisome job. Mowers just aren’t made strong and practical enough for terrain like ours. And the longer we leave the job, the harder it gets. Last time, we got our then WWOOFer to rake up most of the cut grass from the banks around the house because otherwise it looks quite a mess and gets slimy and horrid when it rains. The bunnies and hens got all the cut grass to scratch around in and eat.

 


I’ve seen some mini harlequin sheep. I think something like that might be the answer to our mowing problems if we can ever get a fence around the house. We’d need to protect a few trees but it would be a small job compared with the constant mowing of present. This breed of sheep apparently doesn’t require shearing or crutching, being self-shedders. I think there are similar, but larger, breeds such as Wiltshires. You may ask why we bother with the mowing, but if we didn’t the area around our house would be a haven for snakes and would be an awful fire risk. And aesthetically, it would look pretty terrible.

The goats have coped fairly well with all the rain and cold weather. But their feet have required a great deal of vigilance. There are usually a couple that have to be treated on feed days. We’ve just provided them with a load of new bedding and also spread 25kg of zinc sulphate at the entrance to their huts. I’m hoping that will make a difference. At some point I ought to reinstate the goat foot bath, but in retrospect I built it on the wrong side of the yard. To come into the yard via the foot bath, means coming through an area which quickly turns into a quagmire. I’m still giving the goats the run of the 4 paddocks. The reduced herd means I can get away with this and they are less likely to get worms when they can forage more widely. I have been doing their hooves every 4 weeks, which is rather trying but necessary to keep their hooves in good order. I’m planning a real sort out next week: hooves, feet treating, worm-drenching, and replacement of all lost collars and ear-tags. One of the younger goats has managed to rip her ear-tag right through the ear, splitting it in two.

Shortly after the last post I got Brian the Boar into the old ‘farrowing pen’ alongside the sows. He zapped himself a couple of times on the electric fence and soon got more cautious. He has settled in well and seems pretty happy. He’s got some grass to graze, a cosy hut, loads of good food and the girls within oinking distance. Last week I opened up the wet corner pen so that he might have access to the feeder. Whilst we’ve been feeding him in the open, I think the currawongs and cravens have been eating much of his food. I’ve dropped plastic containers into the concrete feeder, as it never was the most hygienic of surfaces, even for the pigs. Brian very quickly got the idea, even though he does have a tendency to put his front legs in too. I’m hopeful that I can soon introduce Peppa into his domain, although I haven’t quite worked out the logistics of that manoeuvre! I suspect that if I put the trailer in the girls’ pen, Blaize will be first in. So perhaps I shall have to catch her, then let Brian in with Peppa and then put Blaize where Brian is now.




Another catching job that I don’t fancy is that of grabbing the two teenage geese by the dam. In fact I’m slightly foxed as to how we shall manage, given that our dinghy has developed a leak. We may have to creep up behind them in order to drive them away from the water. If we leave it much longer, we won’t be able to tell the teenagers from the adults and they will also be able to fly. I want to catch them as we need the younger generation for the freezer. The geese eventually produced one more gosling last week. It must be tough as it managed to survive being incubated on a partially submerged tiny sedge island and then presumably swim to the shore. Next year I think we shall have to take some eggs for the incubator rather than rely on nature. Plus we could do with some geese to eat the grass in the bird runs – the turkeys are just not keeping up with the growth.

I’ve greatly reduced the bunny numbers by catching 8 recently for the freezer. I concentrated on getting grey bunnies only so that we could get back down to the big white pair and the black doe. However, I managed to shoot the black doe by error one evening! I haven’t told Luke and luckily he hasn’t seemed to notice. We also discovered a litter of tiny new-borns which I was obliged to put down having killed their mum. I felt rather awful about this as they were the cutest little things. At least it was quick. I can’t see a way to avoid a possible recurrence of this in the future, since I can never be sure if there are babies being suckled. I suppose the best bet is to only cull in the middle of winter – whilst bunnies can breed all year (like wallabies) I guess they would be most likely to breed in the warmer, lighter months. Anyhow, the feeding needs of the bunny pen were getting out of hand, whereas now it is all much more manageable. They even leave some of the food, instead of gobbling it in one day. And they don’t eat the hens’ food now either!

 
 

While I haven’t managed to do any work on the new goat fence, I have done some fencing. Apart from finishing the skirt on the bunny fence I finally tackled the fence either side of the front gate. Cow no. 5, a black and white one from across the road, kept getting out and roaming threateningly close to Bronte’s trees just inside our driveway. The rather crappy bit of old fence and string was just not substantial enough to keep no. 5 out (“I am not a number ..”). We had some wire mesh that I’d picked up cheap from various sales, so I’ve finally put in a half-decent fence. We’d always meant to do something really smart but that seemed so far off over the horizon, that any improvement was welcome. Bronte rather snobbily said that it looked ‘amateurish’ but I thought I’d done a reasonable job given the amount of rocks under the ground.





We’ve had some different WWOOFers come and go. We lost our lovely Julis and Selena soon after the last post, but we’re thrilled that Julis plans to come here for Christmas. We then had our shortest WWOOFer ever, a girl who arrived on Friday afternoon and left the following lunchtime! She went with Bronte and Luke to Little Athletics on the Saturday morning and got a text to say she’d been offered a job in Hobart. We were awfully relieved actually since her English was very poor. As we have a variety of jobs and the need to communicate sometimes complex instructions, it’s important that our WWOOFers have a reasonable grasp of English. We then had Frances from Taiwan, a young girl who seemed to us to have little interest in things on the farm, but who it turned out was quite shy and also terribly homesick. We so often learn most about our WWOOFs the day they leave us! Their comments in the guest book are often very surprising.  It always surprises me for instance how much they seem to have gained from the experience and how often they have greatly enjoyed being part of the family and doing many different things. Frances had excellent English, learnt under her own auspices, such that it was almost colloquial. Frances has now left, but we have the very sweet Nori (Noriko) from Japan. Very softly-spoken and eager to please. Another Japanese girl will join us on Monday.

 
Frances


Bronte went off to Brisbane and left us for a few days, during Show week. So Luke and I were left to our own devices. I took Luke to the show on the Friday and we got almost blown away. The wind was so atrocious it picked up the dust and sand-blasted our faces! The guy in the dinosaur suit at the ‘petting zoo’ could barely stand. The wind took my most un-aerodynamic beret (pinned to my hairdo with a large hat-pin), ripped it from my head and hurled it into the horse arena. I lost the hat-pin too. The ferris wheel was closed, but other tall rides were operating – recklessly in my opinion. Oddly though, I enjoyed the Show more than in previous years. I think it was because there were much fewer people and Luke and I were able to spend ages oohing and aahing over the animals. This year there were Ostriches (just amazing), reptiles, white lion cubs (from Zoo-Doo) and baby devils. We went on several rides and had a go at the outrageously expensive side-shows – all we had to show for it all was sanded skin and a tiny guitar soft-toy.



 








I also went on a 2-day training course. I was not looking forward to it, since I have a terrible time not going to sleep in presentations. Luckily we were put in groups and had to work rather than listen, so I was actually able to stay awake. In addition, the presenter gave out fiddle toys. Unfortunately I managed to break 2 of them on the first day! They were a great saviour for me though. I wanted to take my crocheting but didn’t think it was the done thing! It was all rather tiring, because I had to drive back from the Skills Centre on the Eastern Shore of Hobart all the way back to Huonville to pick Luke up from after schools’ care each evening, before going home. A bonus was that I could take home the lunch scraps each day for the pigs.

Luke was pretty good at home the rest of the week and helped me willingly with the animals and other jobs. Unfortunately he did get me stuck on top of the shipping container and had to fetch the ladder to get me down! He’s taken to climbing the container every time we go there to fetch hay. I can get up OK, but getting down is a bit hairy.



We’ve all been quite constructive away from the farm. Luke has done super-well in his grade 3 Naplan tests, going off the scale in reading and spelling/ grammar. He was well above average in maths but did less well in ‘persuasive writing’ whatever that is. I actually went in to see Luke’s teachers shortly before the results came out. I’d been getting increasingly unhappy about the standard of maths and science teaching and the lack of teaching continuity. He seemed to have an unfeasible number of relief teachers during the year, added to the fact the teaching of his class is already split between 2 teachers and the class comprises 2 grades. I felt somewhat comforted following the meeting, but it will remain to be seen how it turns out. He’s certainly reported a lot more maths and science since then and even demonstrated some fun experiments the other night (how quickly a candle goes out when you turn a jam-jar upside down on it for instance).

Since his birthday, Luke has been building all the constructions he was given: a lego kit from which he’s made a plane, a helicopter and now a speedboat; a meccano kit that’s turned into a space machine; a fantastic little wooden kit of a pirate and octopus with moving parts, and, finally a real little glider. The last was from Bronte and he did most of the modelling. It needed rather more skill and dexterity than Luke can currently muster. Bronte’s also produced us an enormous breadboard from blackheart Sassafras. He bought a large lump from the Forestry Centre in Geeveston. We went there for a drive last weekend, only to find that some of the shops we planned to visit were shut. We still had a good time and scoffed tea and cakes. My contribution to the constructing has been to continue with my crocheting and to knock up a new batch of soap. I’m really pleased with the latter, I played safe after the rather disastrous carrot-juice experiment. It’s coloured with turmeric and perfumed with lemongrass.

 

 
 

 

I’ve continued to listen to my BBC and ABC radio downloads while working on the farm and often while driving to and from work. Most of the natural history and environmental shows are really quite depressing now. The science ones are more uplifting. There was an interesting show lately on what cities are doing to combat the urban heating effect, especially in this time of global warming. Several are now insisting on certain roof materials and colours. Flat roofs which used asphalt (eg in New York), can get up to nearly 200°F on warm days. Now a white membrane is often specified. Cities like Milan are greening their buildings, with large balcony plantings and green facades. I’ve sent the mp3 off to Bronte’s younger brother since he works in an industry that leases and renovates office buildings. If anywhere needs urban cooling, it’s Australia.

Also, surprised to read in our local Huon News that one of our Huon Valley Greens councillors is supporting the development of a biomass generator fuelled by ‘waste’ wood. Don’t get me started. How that can be perceived as ‘green’ baffles me. I won’t go into it here, I’m planning to pen a riposte, then I’ll post a copy here.

 
Recent jigsaw puzzle