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Thursday 21 March 2013

It’s a misty, drizzly autumn morning here. Yes, autumn seems to have arrived at last – although summer is determined not to leave gracefully. Yesterday was 25°C, but now that the days are that much shorter and the nights so much cooler, the sun no longer has the fearsome strength of earlier in the season. Rain is still rare. We had one day with 22mm, but little beyond that. Nonetheless we are slowing returning to greenness – fields are fighting back to life from the burnt crispness of summer. It will probably be only weeks before we are wallowing in mud and wishing it were dryer again.

I’m writing this while on the phone to Testra Bigpond once again. Bigpond are our so-called ‘broadband’ supplier. What a joke that is. The hours I’ve wasted trying to contact them, explaining our problems and waiting on hold, must amount to hundreds now. We have a Wi-Fi modem which was apparently going to solve all our problems – and it is nice being able to connect on the laptop from different rooms in the house. The problem is that whilst the connection is apparently fine, the internet and e-mail still work at extreme snail speed. Much of the time, such as now, we can’t even open the Google home page. It’s clearly a problem with the infrastructure, the tower, and that Telstra has signed up too many users. But no-one will actually acknowledge that. When I first installed the modem, our cordless phones connected to it so that neither the one in the office nor the one in the garage had a dial tone. I’ve somehow solved that just by swapping phones around, but then we had a chap ring to say there was a problem on our line – which was never actually resolved. Because our land line is so antiquated we are unable to get ADSL broadband.

We’ve had a switchover in WWOOFs since the last posting. Peter and Magdalene have left us unfortunately. They were a great help. We never had to tell them how to do anything twice, they had loads of commonsense and also cooked the evening meal on the nights I worked. What a help that was! They did all the dishes, cleaned up the kitchen after themselves, made scrummy cakes, worked really hard with Bronte on the fences and were pleasant and intelligent companions. What more can you ask? The new pair are also very nice but don’t have the practical sense one always hopes for in WWOOFers. I’m almost getting to the stage of being WWOOFed-out. The little irritations such as having to clean kitchen worktops when I get home from work and having stuff lying around in the kitchen, lounge and dining room, are starting to add up. Also, I always feel under pressure to make a proper meal in the evenings, whereas sometimes we might just have a bit of salad or something on toast when I’m tired and there’s just the 3 of us. Of course, no WWOOFers would mean me having to do all the animal stuff on my own again, but at least now with feeders for the birds and pigs and waterproof hay dispensers for the goats, that needn’t be such a chore. The only things that would need daily care are the 3 new baby turkeys in the garage.

I mentioned we had 5 turkey eggs in the incubator, for which I bore little hope. Amazingly all were fertile and one hatched out by itself. I got the others out when it was clear they couldn’t make it on their own. Two were very weak and one had the first signs of splayed legs. Those two died within the first two days despite my best efforts. The other three are full of life. Luckily the heat lamp worked fine with its new bulb and they are flourishing on crumbles, milk, eggs, chopped grass and dandelions, and occasional bits of chopped cooked wallaby. They are quite cute and it’s strange to think they will grow up to look like little dinosaurs with bald heads and red flappy necks.

The drizzle has now turned to full-on rain so the WWOOFs are kicking their heels in the living room. I’m really disinclined to do anything today (I’m still on hold to Telstra at present…) having felt decidedly under the weather the past few days. I’m achey, tired, bloaty and generally crummy. About a million jobs have accumulated: car washing, checking and rat-proofing, fixing the goat fences (again), goat-hoof clipping etc. That’s on top of all the fencing we need to do in the new areas. If only my energy and time could keep up with all my plans.

In the evenings, now that the peg-bag is finished, I’ve started an endless cycle of mending. I bought a load of second-hand school jumpers and T-shirts & they all need darning, fixing and/ or the school badge sewing on. I’ve also patched a pair of my work trousers and Bronte’s added a ripped pair of shorts to the pile. Can’t see me getting around to much crocheting in the near future. At least it is therapeutic. I want to start making trousers and shorts for Luke but can’t seem to source any material – I would turn to the internet again if it was working.

Have finally got off the phone to Telstra (whilst on hold have also been through all today’s jobs with the WWOOFs and chatted about what we still have to do). As usual there is no resolution. It is being escalated and also being put through as a complaint to a case manager – for what use that will do. So frustrating.

Not a whole lot has happened on the animal front. I stalked around the rabbit pen a couple of weeks back and shot 4 rabbits. 2 are in the pot at present smelling rather scrumptious. I asked the girls yesterday to sort out the freezers to ensure we are always eating the oldest stuff first and asked that they get a lump of pork out to de-frost. I explained that the pork lumps are half-piglet shapes. I came home to find a small rabbit de-frosting! They must have thought I’d murdered all the piglets when barely a day old! Which is why we are eating rabbit today, not pork.

I came home from dropping Luke off at the bus one morning after Peter and Magdalene had left to find all the turkeys out on the paddock. They must have not shut the gates properly and the wind had blown them both open. The turkeys looked rather magnificent in all their glory. Luckily they allowed themselves to be herded back into the pen. Now we have an errant goose. She has presumably come from the dam where I put the 4 old females rather than culling them. She’s now hanging around Arthur and his harem on the wrong side of the fence. The girls tried to catch her without success and Bronte and I tried to creep up on her in the dark last night – and failed. She seems to have learnt how to fly during her time of freedom on the dam. Not quite sure how we shall catch her now.

My fishing line web across the top of the turkey pen is being constantly compromised – always in the one place, above the roost between two big wattle trees. Almost every time I go down there the line is down in that one place. I thought I had solved it by putting ‘skirts’ of chicken wire around each wattle tree, so that possums who get in the pen, can’t then climb the trees. I was convinced it was possums. But it has made absolutely no difference. My plan now is to make ropes of baling twine to replace the wire and weave the fishing line horizontally across it. I need Bronte’s infrared camera – shall just have to buy my own (with instructions this time).

Mostly, we’ve been fencing in our free time. We have our neighbour’s cattle on the new land, but most of the time they seem to be grazing on the wrong side of the fence! The post-lady rang us to say she’d been putting them back in the paddock regularly. They are currently in a paddock that we’ve finished repairing, but some are still getting out. The small ones seem able to get through or under most fences and the post-lady said she saw a large one jump over the fence! I think perhaps they have some kangaroo DNA. We didn’t realise quite how bad the fences are and however hard and diligently one works, it’s a time-consuming process fixing them up. We’ve spent the first 3 month’s agistment money on star pickets (steel posts) and have used most of them already. The large wooden posts used in the past have all rotted off at the bottom and long stretches of fence lie on the ground. I had to literally dig one fence out of the ground, where the road-grader had come past and piled road debris onto an already fallen fence. Bronte’s been working really hard on the fence and had some great help from Peter when he was here.

Above and below: fencing challenges on the new land

There was a fence along here, but had
been buried by the road-grader. I had to dig
the wires out of the ground & Bronte &
Peter came along after & put in new posts

My electric fences never seem to work properly now. Peter and Magda noticed it wasn’t working the other week so I walked all the fences trying to find what was wrong and it wasn’t until I’d done loads of small repairs and virtually all the way around, before I found that a live wire had been stretched and was touching the earth wire. It’s stopped working again and Bronte and I went out in the dark last night to see if we could see any places it was shorting out. It’s quite strange how it can spark within a single strand of braid. The only thing I can do is wrap wire around such places, but that causes sparking problems too.  I put pegs on the braid wherever we noticed it sparking. However, we didn’t go to the far side and didn’t find anything major wrong, so I shall have to walk around it again. This time I’ll start the other end. Bronte thinks my second-hand mains energiser is not putting out enough joules (?). I’ve actually ordered a 12J 120Km battery-powered energiser off the internet, which I think is waiting at the Post Office in Huonville for me. I plan to get another deep-cycle battery, a 120W solar panel and a regulator and run all the fences with that. I don’t know how to join batteries to make a battery bank however, so more research is needed. Only problem being that the internet doesn’t work ..

My work has been rather stressful over the past two weeks but seems finally to have settled down. I had several deadlines for the same day and the Monday was a public holiday. To try and take the pressure off I worked much of Sunday at home on the newsletter and a Powerpoint animation. It really helped as once I got into work I was able to get things done so much quicker. I’ve cracked through several Council reports now and feel I’m making progress.

We have managed to get out and about quite frequently of late. Partly we feel we owe it to the WWOOFs when they’ve worked hard for us and it’s good for Luke and us to get away from the farm for a time. While Peter and Magda were here Luke and I took them on a long walk up Rocky Creek (into which our creeks run). We’d not been up there before and as it was so dry and hot it seemed an ideal opportunity. Plus I was mega-stressed about work and needed to do some exercise and let off steam. It was a fabulous trek over boulders and under ferny banks, but hard work too. I just trudged through the water and didn’t worry about trying to keep dry. For once, I hadn’t tucked my trousers into my socks and when we returned I had two large leech bites on my legs and a mozzie bite on my bum. They itched like crazy for days. The following day I went to do some sawing therapy (on a big fallen tree that will yield heaps of firewood) and accidentally kicked my shin on a lumpy branch, right where on one of the leech bites. It still feels bruised today.

The same weekend we went up Mount Wellington with the intention of mountain-biking the North-South trail – a purpose built mountain-bike and walking trail which runs 12km from The Springs up on the mountain, down to Tolosa Park in North Hobart. I was the assigned driver (of course). Since we were unable to find anyone to hire mountain bikes Peter and Magda decided to run(!) the course. Since it is technically challenging I wasn’t expecting Luke to be able to manage it, but despite falling off a couple of times, he managed fine. The cyclists were beaten by the runners by about 15mins. In the meantime I spent a load of money on a new DVD/Blu-Ray player/ recorder. We were sick of our useless thing that didn’t work half of the time. Peter and Magda fitted it up for us and we’ve had no problems since. Not that we’ve actually tried to record anything yet ..

We also went briefly to a flower show in Hobart Town Hall. It seemed strange to be in rooms where I had meetings during the week. The big ballroom and a neighbouring meeting room had been opened through and were quite unrecognisable. The flowers were gorgeous – it turned out it was largely a dahlia show. Luke ate the winners of the ‘tastiest tomatoes’! The most bizarre exhibit was one that had virtually no flowers, but plenty of ceramic pigs and frogs in sunglasses on deckchairs. I took Luke to show him my office – he was quite impressed!


We also went to the Taste of the Huon even though I wasn’t particularly keen. It’s a right pain if you all want to eat different things as you have to queue three times over. We thought we should eat well as we’d been invited to our friends Lucy & Dave’s afterwards for ‘high tea’. We’d been told to expect ‘snacks’. Well, if that was snacks, I can’t imagine what a proper meal would be like. There were countless plates of delicious salads, baked potatoes, cous-cous, nutty bread and everything you can imagine. For pudding there was an enormous sticky chocolate cake with maltesers stuck all over the outside! We stuffed ourselves silly and could barely move that evening. Luckily the WWOOFers were able to do more justice to the food than Bronte or I. Even Luke let us down having eaten so much at The Taste.

We also took Peter and Magda for a short trip of 4-wheel driving up Jefferys Track. It was considerably rougher than I remembered, even in the ute, and the fabled improvements were not evident. Luke gets fed up with driving after a while and wants to walk. I walked/ jogged with him for a while and then he set off downhill and we barely saw him again until we got back to the house. He’d run about 5km! Rosie was torn between running with Luke and staying with us so maintained an uneasy equidistance inbetween. Bruce stayed in the ute on my lap. The following day, Magda announced she was going for a run and Luke joined her. They ran all the way down to the Grove shop (~8km) – with rest stops, but nonetheless a pretty remarkable feat for an 8-yr old. We’ve discovered that Little Athletics is doing a winter season of cross-country runs which Luke would love. However, the 8-yr olds only run 1km at a time and the meets can be anywhere in southern Tasmania. I think we might sign up and then just go to the convenient meets. On Saturday we’ve got the final handicap race and presentation day of the summer season.

Over the last week Huonville has hosted some events as part of the ’10 Days on the Island’ festival. It’s quite remarkable because generally Huonville hosts very little – nearly all such events go to Franklin or Cygnet. On Saturday afternoon we went to see ’21 circus acts in 20 minutes’. It was by a 3-piece troupe from Brisbane and they were fantastic! Luke loved it too. It was a mix of acrobatics, slapstick and clever tricks, all at high speed. Great fun. On Sunday afternoon Bronte and Luke went to ‘Little Big Shots’ – 6 short films for kids from around the world. They clearly enjoyed themselves and told us all about the films. I was just too tired to go along and I think the WWOOFs decided it was beneath them. We had to twist their arms a bit to come along to a band playing at the Town Hall on Monday evening called ‘Sprag Session’. They were an Irish outfit from Breton Island, Canada. Again, it was terrific foot-stomping fun and Luke loved it. I feared he would get bored and need to go home half way through, but he listened and took it all in. We nearly didn’t get in at all, because we got there a couple of minutes late only to find that it had been fully booked since the afternoon. However, we hung around and were able to get cancellations – they even gave the WWOOFs and Luke concession prices. It was a late night, but well worth it.

The rain is now turning torrential and starting to feel pretty chilly, even up here in the office. Internet still not working, sigh. Better gird my loins and get togged up for going outside. Bird food needs to be cooked, piggy brew needs emptying, goat fence needs fixing, car needs washing.