People per Hour

Monday 1 July 2013

 
Lizard that Luke found recently. Not sure what sort, but it was very
aggressive for such a tiny creature. It constantly struck at us looked
to have a blue mouth. So possibly a young blue-tongue?
Beautiful metallic blue beetles that appear
to breed exclusively on the horrible ankle-height
buzzies (burrs) that plague our lives in summer.

Our peacock is doing his best to show off to his mate
even though his tail-feathers are barely half-grown.
 
 
The weather has been more than usually variable of late. Firstly we had a week of continuous rain – and I mean continuous. If not actually raining, there was a misty drizzle. It stayed at around 8 deg C for the entire time – night and day. It made working on the farm fairly dismal. Despite the non-stop nature of the rain, it didn’t amount to a large amount – around 5cm (2ins) in total. It was good to see the streams in spate and to have the noise of our creek back in our lives again.

Then it became very frosty, down to minus 3 here, which is pretty cold for Tassie. I preferred the frost to the rain, but my hands got awfully freezy, despite my Ninja gloves. The mornings were magical, with white rime on ground and trees, mist clinging to the hills and early sun lighting the top of the mountains to the west of us. Often, Crabtree valley would be filled with soft fog, either calm like cotton wool or roiling up the mountainsides. The views going to and from work have been ever-changing. On one occasion, the entire Huon Valley was filled with fog as I came over Vince’s Saddle (the highest point on the road between Hobart and Huonville). It was an arresting, surreal sight. The last slice of sun was slipping behind the fog to the west – the top halves of hills visible above the milky sea. I pulled over to take a photo but couldn’t do justice to the view. I drove out of relative sunlight into a murky darkness. According to the lady at the Grove Shop, the fog had not lifted all day – “the first time for years”.











Luke has loved the cold mornings and takes an unbelievable delight in playing with ice. Great plates of ice formed on the birds’ water – up to an inch thick. Luke found these endlessly fascinating. He even paddled in the mud in the pig pens, crackling the ice on the puddles – returning covered with mud from head to foot.

Luke forced us out of bed one Saturday at 7.00am to check the dams for ice. The larger one had some ice around the edge but had apparently been prevented from fully icing-up by the swimming geese. The smaller dam was frozen and Luke had great fun seeing what size of rock would skid across the surface and what size would crack the ice. The following day, Bronte and Luke again went early to the dams while I stayed in bed. Bronte came back soaked to the knees having slipped through the ice at the edge! A bit scary really, as the dam slopes steeply and there is little grip in the thick mud.

The same morning, the brass tap shot off the creek tap up by the goats. As there was no way of turning off the water I was forced to fix it with freezing water spraying in all directions at high pressure. Strangely, battling with the tap warmed me up, despite my soaking legs and face. Handling the icily cold metal wrench and tap in such weather was hard on the hands though. It was too fiddly for gloves. How Luke can spend so long handling ice with bare hands, I can’t imagine. The hoses have been largely unusable in such weather and have sprung leaks at several points. Sometimes I’ve resorted to collecting buckets of water from the laundry.

Over the last couple of days, the weather has changed again, becoming windy and mild. It was Bronte’s RDO today (rostered day off) and he’d scheduled for several loads of road gravel to arrive. He’s quite exhausted this evening having spent all day shovelling and using the tractor to shape and grade the gravel. Our 400m drive has survived quite well, considering we’ve done very little work on it in the 8 or so years since we had it built. But it was beginning to get rough on our cars and rainwater run-off was cutting channels in places where the drains had silted up. So we are investing in a thin covering of red gravel (a fine gravel with some clay to bind it) to smooth it out. Bronte’s been using the new grader blade and the front-loader on the tractor to clear out the drains where he can. The grader blade has been fixed up and strengthened by a local guy who charged a quarter of the price quoted by a firm in Kingston.



We’ve got a few other jobs done on the land. I manoeuvred a small iron water tank into the turkey pen, laid it on its side in the bracken and half-filled it with hay. In all the rain, the turkeys were the only creatures that hadn’t sought shelter and looked like drowned mini-dinosaurs, their feathers sleeked to their backs and scaly heads prominent. I hoped a change of shelter might encourage them to keep dry. It will make a good nesting box come spring too – one that the crows might be reluctant to enter, surrounded as it is by tall bracken. The turkeys are eating huge amounts and I think we may have to cull a couple, particularly the young white male that practically jumps onto my arm to eat out of the bowls before I can put them down.

I’ve been keeping up the maintenance on the goat fence. In places where there has been a tiny electric short, it gradually breaks down the thin wires in the braid, until it hangs by a thread and sparks loudly. I’ve replaced a couple of these and fixed up one of the huts that was rather holey. The goats are in full winter coats, beautifully woolly and soft and – apart from occasional foot problems from the wet ground – seem in good health. Had one scare with young Jill who looked forlorn and refused to eat. I fed her lots of my ‘goat-pick-me-up’ mixture of molasses, dehydration fluids, bicarbonate of soda, vitamins, olive oil etc, designed to cure-all or nothing. Remarkably she was back in good spirits a few days’ later. I suspect she’d pigged out on bracken or something equally unsuitable.

I’ve continued to work on the new fenceline whenever I get a chance – usually only an hour or two at a time, but progress is being made. I brushcut through a thick growth of bracken on Friday afternoon and was swiped in the eye by a thick stem when clearing the cut fronds by hand. By that stage I had removed my safety goggles. By Saturday morning I couldn’t open my eye, it was bloodshot, swollen and weepy and it made me feel quite miserable. Luke was most solicitous, patting my arm and dabbing my eyes dry with tissue – what a sweetie! I drove (one-eyed and slightly erratically) to Huonville and, after dropping Luke off at his soccer match, went to the nearby doctors. She said the eye was scratched and to keep it patched and use antibiotic drops. I’m pleased to say the patch is off and the eye is feeling pretty well back to normal now. Luke thought I looked rather piratical with my patch – said I was “Long John Silver’s wife”.


Part of cleared fenceline


Winston the dear piglet, never turned up and I fear the worse. Either that or he’ll wreak his revenge when a full-grown boar. Rosie-dog is still fascinated by the pigs. Each day it’s as though she’s never seen them before. She catches sight of one, her hackles go up and she races down to the pens barking. The pigs always come rolling up to say hello. Bronte says we should put Rosie in with them and see how brave she was then. The bunnies are doing well again. I fed them recently and crouched down to watch as six little grey bunny babies came out from their burrow under the hut to feed. What a bunch of cuties.

The pademelons are in plague proportions – possibly more than we’ve ever had on the land, and they are still breeding through the winter. I think they had a good summer - dry and warm - and bred madly. Now the grass has stopped growing and the weather has turned nasty, there may be a population decline over the next month or two. Bronte has been out shooting to try and keep the area around the house clear. It doesn’t seem to be doing much good as the amount of wallaby poo is without precedent. Road-kill numbers are up – it’s not unusual for there to be four or five wallies on the 7km of road between us and the Huon Highway. That’s not counting the ones who were not killed outright - poor things - that ran off into the scrub to die.

I came home from work one night and in my headlights saw a large dark lump on the road and two eyes shining back at me. I stopped just in time to allow a small spotted Eastern quoll to leave its wallaby dinner and get to the side of the road. Unfortunately in the morning, I found the quoll dead on the road (no sign of the wallie). They are such beautiful savage little creatures. Bronte looked outside the following evening from our deck and saw one of the big rare Tiger quolls – pale brown with less spots, about the size of a medium cat. It’s lovely to know they are around, but I don’t want them killing our hens!



The older hens have finally started moulting. They look the most terrible sight. One in particular resembles a grey and pink pincushion. Not good weather for them to lose all their feather protection. The egg production has dropped off a little, particularly since one of the young ones has gone broody and stopped laying. She gets most cross when I collect the eggs and haul her out of the nest box.





We’ve continued to have car problems (or at least I have). The work Suzuki started developing road noise which rapidly increased over the course of a week. Bronte thinks it’s wheel bearings. I had it booked in last Thursday afternoon, but I got a call from school to say Luke was sick so I had to go in the ute and drive him straight home, rather than hanging around for soccer practice and for Bronte to pick us up. I’ve got it booked in for this week and in the meantime have been driving the poor old ute to work – with 195,000kms on the clock. Since it’s had new glowplugs and fuel filter, It’s had a new lease of life. I was able to borrow Bronte’s car today since he was on RDO - much nicer to drive than mine. I suggested we swapped cars, which didn’t go down well.

Bronte’s car seems to be irresistible to rats. The wax blocks he’d put in there have been eaten, and there is green poo and rat pee in evidence. He reckons a couple of his cables have been chewed. The dogs were sniffing around my car for a day recently and I actually saw a ratty-rat’s tail when I peered in one corner under the bonnet. Left the bonnet open for the day and I reckon it flushed it out.




Off the farm, we’ve had the delights of Dark Mofo to entertain us. This was a winter festival organised by the Mona museum. Our first experience was a bit of a damp squib. We went to a light and sound show that was extremely loud and lacked evidence of the ‘show’ bit. I hope that it was just that we were there at the wrong time. However, our second expedition was considerably more rewarding. We’ve had an installation called Spectra in Hobart as part of the festival. It’s a grid of 49 large white spotlights (each maybe 45cm in diameter) pointing directly up into the sky – creating a 15km high column of brilliant white light. We could even see it from here on clear nights. Up close it was quite dazzling. When we stood between the lights and looked up we could see the raindrops floating through the pillars of light. As you moved in and out of the grid, sensors were activated which changed the mood music playing around the base of the installation.






Then we went to the Winter Feast, which was somewhat like The Taste, but rather more entertaining. One of the big wharf sheds on the harbour front was lined with food and drink stalls with tables and chairs down the centre. It took some time to queue for our food but was worth it in the end. Nymphs of both genders wafted around, occasionally lifting up their skirts to reveal a garden of paper flowers on the inside!




Outside, there were fire pits surrounded by benches and various entertainers including an ex-pat Greek whose act was similar to that of John Cooper-Clark, a mix of poetry, rap and storytelling, all belted out at high speed. Luke was transfixed. There were giant barbecues and famous chefs cooking up their signature dishes.



The theme of Dark Mofo was red, hence the inside of the Winter Feast was washed with red light at one end and many of the local tourist centres and hotels were similarly lit on the outside to add to the atmosphere. The plane trees in Salamanca Place were complete with sparkling fairy lights and a further installation of a megawatt laser-beam was shone horizontally between the rows of trees. It was not a static display, but a sizzling, whirling lilac tube of light - really remarkable. By this time, we were frozen with cold and glad to get home, but it was certainly an evening to remember.






Our latest excitement is that we are off to see Melbourne Victory soccer club play Liverpool FC at the MCG on 24 July! We shall stay in Melbourne that night and fly to Adelaide the next day to visit Bronte’s Dad. Luke and I will come home at the weekend and Bronte will stay on for a couple of extra days. Should be rather fun. We’re hoping to engage a house-sitter to look after the dogs and cat and house. I can set up the farm animals with feeders and waterers.

I’m hoping the spectacle will cement Luke’s love of soccer. We’ve watched the Socceroo’s World Cup qualifying matches and are excited about them going to Brazil next year (even if the UK press has been having a few digs at Australia’s expense ..). If only Luke’s team could do a bit better, they just get flogged every Saturday. Luke has been scoring a few goals which pleased him but as a team they lack confidence and match-sense. The coach gets quite frustrated (and perhaps a little embarrassed) and even I cringed a bit last Saturday! Never mind, they are having fun and that’s the main thing.

I suppose I should mention the momentous and historic happenings in our Aussie parliament although I can’t get too worked-up about it. Kevin Rudd, who was unceremoniously dumped 3 years ago as PM and leader of the Labour Party, is now back in power, having been voted in over Julia Gillard by caucus (whatever that is). I felt a bit sorry for Julia really. I didn’t agree with the way Rudd was treated in the first instance, but I think Julia has done as well as anyone could in her position. She won an election and held together a hung parliament and passed some highly progressive legislation including the carbon tax, education reforms, mining tax and disability insurance.

I fear the ‘Liberals’ (Conservatives), will reverse all the good she has done and crack down harder on asylum seekers. I’d better not get started on that subject, having just listened to a BBC programme on the Hazaras in Pakistan – how they are demonised and attacked by the majority Shiite community. When you hear some of the personal stories of loss it’s enough to break your heart. I can understand some European countries wanting to limit immigrants owing to them having already opened their doors to millions over the years. Australia is not in that position and people who risk their lives and those of their families to board leaky boats in order to make their way to Australia, must be pretty desperate. And the number who make it here are tiny in comparison to those received by other countries.