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Sunday 21 July 2013

We’ve had over 40mm of rain over the past 18 hours and our land is sodden. The creek is raging, visible from the house as  foaming white water. Bronte went out to take photos and look at the waterfall. I said to Luke to keep an eye on Dad because if he slipped in we might never see him again! There is standing water on all the paddocks and impromptu streams pouring down the hills. Unfortunately I was out in it most of the day, feeding the animals and preparing to leave them for several days. I cleaned out all the waterers and bowls and re-filled them and did what I could do keep them comfortable. They’ll get one more feed before we leave. I’ve been through three sets of clothes and my week long head-cold feels worse than ever.

The goats are the hardest to keep comfortable in such weather. Whilst they have their huts, they are liable to pick up feet bacteria when it is so wet. Today, Luke and I scraped their yard and made a temporary foot bath at the entrance with 25kg of Zinc Sulphate. Am unsure how well it will work, but it’s the best we could do in the time available. Yesterday, Luke and I tramped into the bush in the big goat paddock armed with bow-saws and cut down several large blackwood branches. The best way to keep goats healthy is to ensure they have plenty of browse. That lot should keep them going for a week or more, plus I can leave them with a good feed and six bales of hay.

Bonfire on goat hill
Last week, Luke and I gave them a complete going-over: clipped their hooves, treated their feet, vaccinated and drenched them. Can’t do much more! As Bronte says, the goats are more trouble than they are worth. Not that Luke would ever let us part with them. They do make a tremendous job of clearing blackberries and thistles though. An area of their big paddock that was totally infested with blackberries, is now almost clear. They are quite engaging and comical too. When I clip their hooves, the others get bored and start rubbing their heads on mine, pinching my hat, interfering with my back-pack, beating up the one I’m currently working on .. generally causing mischief.

It was not easy driving around the plot today. Having taken the Suzuki down to the turkeys and pigs I couldn’t drive back up the steep hill leading to the drive and garage. Eventually I zig-zagged up on uncut grass, but it was quite a struggle. To get up to the goats I put my foot down on the gravel section and tried to get enough momentum to get us up to the yard. We made it with much fish-tailing – and had a similar problem when driving into the paddock alongside the hay racks. Luke thought this was most exciting.

Luke’s been on school holidays for the past 2 weeks, so he’s been obliged to come around with me to see to the animals on Thursdays and Fridays. Bronte had to babysit on his Monday RDO (rostered day off) and took Luke to a soccer clinic in Kingston. Tomorrow is one of these wretched ‘pupil-free days’ on which they don’t offer vacation care. So Bronte has had to take a day’s hols and now has to take Luke with him for his pre-op (Bronte has to go in for an operation in a couple of weeks’ time).

One of the younger chickens had been broody for some time so I was obliged to transfer it to the anti-broody cage. However, at the time it was snowing and icy cold, so I hadn’t the heart to put it in the unroofed cage in the peacock run. Instead I hung an old cat carrier from the roof of the garage and popped her in there for a few days. She was decidedly unimpressed. It did the trick – much ruffled, she returned to the others un-broody. A few days later, Luke collected a massive egg from their nest box – 100g. Maybe she’d been storing it up!

In the snowy weather I managed to trip over the pig fence when stepping in with a heavy bag of apples over my shoulder. Unable to do anything to save myself I dropped with all my weight onto my right knee onto the hard-standing I’d so painstakingly constructed a year ago. My poor knee was badly grazed and uncomfortable. It was difficult to bend for some days despite putting ice on it for 20 minutes.

You’ll have gathered that we’ve had some very cold and wet weather. It did snow here, but was not cold enough to settle (although it felt it when I was out early feeding the animals). Luke kept on at us to go to the Hartz Mountains, but neither me nor Bronte could summon up the energy or the enthusiasm. Instead I took Luke for a walk up to our neighbours who live at 600m altitude. It took us 40 minutes to trek into a winter fairyland. There was probably close to 100mm of lovely powdery snow. While I sat by their fire drinking hot cocoa and eating custard creams, Luke tore around outside with our two dogs and that of the neighbours’. It was getting dark on the way down and having got wet in the sleet and snow on the walk up, we were quite chilly by the time we reached the car. The following day, Bronte took Luke up Jeffrey’s Track in the Suzuki and found more thick snow. Luke had a great time building a fort and playing snowballs.

In the cold weather I thought we needed some hearty food, so I made a rabbit pie. I actually made proper puff (flaky) pastry – it took most of the day, rolling out and adding butter and then back in the fridge (over and over). The pie was pretty delicious and Luke and Bronte both enjoyed it. It kept us going for 3 days. It will be some time, however, before I can face doing that again (although I did put a big lump of pastry in the freezer).

We’ve been kept busy chopping and packing firewood and getting it over to the house during this cold spell. We get through maybe two feed-bags of wood a day. We've had to get plenty ready for our house-sitter and her Mum who will look after the dogs, cats and house while we are away for a few days. I found her on Gumtree and she's local and not too expensive so it's great for us. While the other animals shouldn't need anything, it's nice to know someone can keep an eye on them.

Bronte’s been very busy re-covering the drive – all 400m of it. We had an outrageous quote which we’ve managed to reduce to a quarter. The guy brought the gravel and tipped it out of the truck as evenly as possible, then Bronte used his tractor and new grader blade to level it as best he could.

The final third of the drive was laid on a day that Luke and Bronte had arranged to do the North-South mountain-bike track on Mount Wellington. I had spent some hours on my new fence line, brush-cutting and mowing, but by late afternoon I realised I needed to do something about the gravel. The forecast was for rain the following day, so it would become difficult to spread. I did the best I could for a couple of hours with the shovel and then ran the Suzuki backwards and forwards over it (Rosie-dog kept following me backwards and forwards until she finally got the message and slunk back to the house).

Eye bloodied by bracken stalk when cutting fence-line

The guys finally came home from the North-South track around 5.30pm – having left at 10.00 in the morning! Having cycled the track itself and then having a barbecue with those of Bronte’s work colleagues who’d also come along, they ended up having to cycle from the north of Hobart (Tolosa Park), right down nearly to the waterfront, in order to get a lift! Luke already had a cold and it was pretty remarkable for an 8-year old kid to manage that distance. Someone took a great video clip of Luke cycling unsteadily along a stony section, stopping and then toppling sideways out of sight! I’d been worried that once again I would be the driver, having to take them up to The Springs, most of the way up the mountain and then have to meet them at the other end. Thank goodness one of Bronte’s colleagues was able to meet them at Fern Tree with a bike trailer this time.

I thought I’d done a good job on the drive until the gravel settled over the next few days and began to resemble corrugated iron - particularly in headlights at night. Luckily Bronte had arranged for an extra load of gravel to be tipped in a heap, so he spent most of yesterday tractoring it to low spots with the front-end loader and then using the grader to even it out. Having spent all of Thursday and Friday together, Luke and I ended up entertaining one another all day Saturday too. When Bronte came in and asked if we’d mind if he spent half an hour compacting the gravel down with the ute, we both yelled ‘YES, we DO mind’.

Our car problems (well, actually my car problems) have continued. The Swift was making a dreadful noise from the rear passenger side and it was almost certainly worn bearings. I booked it in one Thursday afternoon only to get a call from school to say Luke was sick. So, unable to hang around in Huonville with a sick kid, I had to cancel and go pick him up in the ute. The following Thursday I tried again. This time, the garage confirmed it was the bearings but then said they were unable to fix the car that day! Finally, I booked it in a third Thursday and had the usual trouble trying to work out how I was going to get home and then get back to pick it up. In the end I left the ute in Huonville the night before and then got an opportunistic lift in with a neighbour to pick up the fixed Swift.

The first quote for new bearings was outrageously expensive. Bronte kindly rang around and in the end the entire job was cheaper than the original quote for just materials! Over these 3 weeks, I've had to drive the ute into work, being concerned that the Swift’s back wheels might seize up or even worse, fall off! The ute, having done 195,000kms, performed admirably, and being a diesel, was much less stressful to drive up and down the hills to Hobart and back. Although it was somewhat difficult getting in and out without covering skirt and tights with mud. I’m fed up with our cars costing so much money and Bronte had the good idea of trading in both my Swift and the ute for a newer ute, one that could be used for the farm and commuting. Even if it wasn’t great on fuel, we’d still save on registration, insurance, maintenance etc. Not so great for the environment, but better for our bank account. They’ve started selling Great Wall utes here for about 30-40% less than anything else on the market, so they are definitely worth checking out.

I’ve been trying to get all the washing done before we go away, so we have our pick of clothes. This has not been helped by the awful wet weather and by Luke forgetting he had a pocketful of beads. We’ve had to change the pump twice on our rotten Bosch washing machine firstly for a coin, secondly for a safety pin. I was sure the beads would bust the pump impeller again. It made a most awful noise, so I had to drain the water, remove the pump housing and pull out all the beads I could find. It seems to have done the trick, although beads do still keep turning up inside the drum.

We watched another Michael Mosley programme recently – this time on intelligence, IQ tests and whether one could improve one’s test performance. There was a guy with an IQ of 195 – although he seemed to be a bit of an unpleasant dork! At the end the presenter took the Mensa test and scored 154, which is pretty darn high. Of course we felt compelled to have a go ourselves! I’ve been doing lots of puzzles since Bronte bought me this annoyingly difficult book which I keep in the upstairs loo. Plus I still have puzzle pages from the Daily Mail newspaper from when we were in the UK last year – and I do all the things in the Mercury each day. So I felt I was in with a chance of a good score! Luke and Bronte found an online test and did one for a 12 year old and scored a combined total of 175! I said that was 100 for Luke and 75 for Bronte. Then I did aproper test for my age and scored only 136 much to my chagrin – although when I checked the answers I had got hardly anything wrong. Bronte said it was probably time-dependant. I’d considered this but since there were no instructions I’d assumed I had plenty of time and spent ages checking my answers. This may be self-denial, but it’s comforting.

I feel inferior enough when I receive the regular CAM magazine from the University of Cambridge. All other alumni seem to be doing something terribly worthy, intellectual and profitable. There was an interesting article this time around (usually I glance through it and then – because it’s thick and glossy - put it under the tub of bird scraps to soak up any spills) on what the universe is made from including quarks, neutrinos and the like. Still no real good candidates for dark energy and dark matter.

Had an interesting experience late last week when a woman knocked on our door unannounced and having established that there was a child in the house, said she was authorised to give us $40 if we completed a questionnaire on his mental state. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I agreed, only to find the whole thing took over an hour. Plus it made out Luke to be a mentally unstable delinquent. Does he answer back or argue? More than once a week? How long has he been like this? Is he often energetic? More than once a week? How long has he been overactive? Does he fidget or wring his hands? More than once a week? How long has he had this compulsive behaviour? Does he often not listen? How often has he had this problem? And so on. At least I got my forty bucks.

Just before the school hols, I picked Luke up from school on the Thursday afternoon as usual. A pile of lost property sat on the concrete with a note to say whatever was left would be donated to charity the following day. So I had a quick sort through and grabbed a couple of size 12 school jumpers, a nice fleece and a warm coat for Luke. Luke kept saying ‘they’re not mine Mum!’ – while I was going ‘sshhh, they are now’. I cut a couple of apple badges off old T-shirts, sewed them onto the jumpers, gave everything a wash, wrote Luke’s name in the necks and felt quite pleased with my bargains.

I took an equally lazy and budget approach to my ironing recently. I never had to iron until I started work again, now all manner of tops were piling up in the office. One nice breezy, sunny day (an anomaly), I put all the ironing in the laundry tub to get thoroughly wet then hung them on the line on coat-hangers to drip dry. I thought myself so clever until all the coat-hangers kept blowing off. In the end I pegged the clothes onto the hangers and taped the hangers onto the line with parcel-tape. It did work, although I’m not sure it took any less time than ironing!

We’ve been greatly enjoying the sport recently and all the British successes, although it’s not good to see the Aussie cricket team playing so abysmally. Unfortunately, we saw little of Wimbledon, Aussie TV choosing not to show highlights or any coverage at a civilised time. So we never did get to view the Murray:Djokevic final which sounded like a classic. So pleased for Murray even though he’s a dour, unlikeable old stick. Then I’ve been hooked on the Tour de France, watching highlights in the evening whenever possible. Chris Froome seems like a real good egg, so it’s great to see him doing so well. Anyone who can cover those distances and altitudes and still sprint at the end, gets a thumbs-up from me. I like Mark Cavendish too, although he’s a bit brusque. Richie Porte, our own Tasmanian cyclist, has been a pillar of strength in the Sky team and I doubt if Froome would have made it without his support. Then of course the British lions rugby team whopped the Aussie wallabies, Man U beat the A League ‘Allstars’ 5:1 or something equally embarrassing, and now the first two Ashes tests have seen the Aussies go down to England (very convincingly in the second test). It all started with the Olympics last year, this new-found British sporting confidence.
Luke being destructive in the garage