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Thursday 12 September 2013

Taken at 6.00am in case it had melted by the time it was light!


My desire to share the excitements of the last couple of days has finally overcome my desire to either sleep or crochet in the few minutes of peace between work episodes (of various types). Opened the curtains at 10 to 6 this morning & it was a sea of white outside! Snow everywhere – not just on the hills but on our deck and as far as you can see down the valley. Quite amazing. Proper snow too, not slushy, mucky stuff. Luke terribly excited: “Wow, that’s really awesome Mum”, and later: “it’s really beautiful, as you open the windows it makes a big picture”. It was similar yesterday morning, but there was less and wetter snow. Luke and I ran around throwing extra grain to the birds and getting a very sorry-for-himself peacock back into the run. He’d got out somehow and had been stalking miserably around the run for two days. He was awfully bedraggled, his newly growing tail dragging through the wet snow.

Prior to the snow, it had really felt like Spring had arrived. The most robust of my bulbs had struggled triumphantly out and the crack willow had budded with a burst of fresh green almost overnight. The pussy willows were covered in sticky, furry buds and my little pear tree was a froth of white blossom. I don’t know how the local orchardists will cope with this late snow and frost. If there has been enough snow they may be OK – the snow should blanket and insulate the blossom to some degree. The welcome swallows are back – a week earlier than last year, they’ll wonder what’s hit them. The frost was such that it was with difficulty that I melted 2 inches of snow and ice off the windscreen of my new ute ..


.. Yes! My new ute. Finally spotted a ute on Gumtree last week that looked perfect: a Holden Colorado, 2010, 93,000kms, full service history, flat-tray, dual-cab, 3l turbo diesel, for $22K ‘negotiable’. I immediately rang & arranged to go up to Carrick (just south of Launceston) the following day, a Friday. Luke opted to come with me so we gave him a day off school (he did have a cough ..) and he and I set off at 7.30am. It was a quite exhausting day – over 6 hours of driving. But it was a successful visit. I bought the ute for $21K, we visited an Alladin’s Cave of metalwork art and had fun singing to CDs, playing I-Spy and ferreting in a tiny cafĂ©-cum-junk shop in Campbell Town. Luke was supremely uninterested in the ute, but blown away by the metalwork art! The ute runs lovely, it doesn’t break stride in 5th gear when going up steep Huon Valley hills, has a lovely quiet cab, excellent waterproof covers on the seats for the dogs, a bull-bar and tow-bar etc. Of course, having found nothing for weeks, I spot 2 similar utes for less money in Sunday’s paper. I hope they had very high mileage!

The guy I bought it from is an agent for Europcar. The car had been used by someone working for 2 years on the new windfarm in the north of Tassie, commuting in it each day. It’s got the usual little marks and a tiny dent that you might expect, plus a missing bar that protects the back rear light cluster, but nothing material. The guy drove it down yesterday for me to the Hobart Europcar office & Bronte kindly drove me back yesterday evening to pick it up. This morning, Luke and I sat in the warm interior and pressed a button to put it into 4WD – that’s right, ‘pressed a button’. In the Courier I had to select 4H or L on the extra gearstick then clamber out with a pair of pliers and lock the front wheel hubs. I’m just not used to such luxury.

I’ve got the Suzuki Swift onto a few online sites. I need to sell it and the ute pretty quickly to cover the $10K loan I took out & repay the bit I’ve borrowed from our joint savings account. However, I don’t want them to go too cheaply either. So far I’ve had a few texts – one guy who said he was coming to look and then changed his mind and 2 others that I think are probably scams. They said they wanted the car & could I send bank details by e-mail. One had a most convoluted story that he probably hoped was convincing, but all it did was make me suspicious. I said to Bronte that when someone actually phones with an enquiry then I shall feel more confident.

I need to clean both cars today and get a few more pics of the Suzuki onto the websites – I only had old ones to put up there & apparently you are meant to show clear photos of the registration plate. So it’s animal feeding, finding out how the peacock got out, getting firewood in and cleaning the car today, amongst the usual washing, cleaning, cooking stuff. But – more luxury – I actually don’t have to go into Huonville this afternoon. Luke’s soccer season has finally finished which means no soccer training on Thursday afternoon and hence no tearing around madly this morning in order to make it to school by 2.30pm and then getting the groceries, mail, animal food, DVDs, library books etc. I can do it at my leisure tomorrow – whoopee.

Clean ute!

Luke's soccer team
I’m on another of my starvation diets. I’ve put on around 4kg of the 6 or so I lost over a year ago and was starting to get that sinking feeling when putting on my work skirts or looking in the mirror with no clothes on. Unable to stand the pain of constant weight-watching, nor as I discovered, this 2 days fasting, 5 days eating routine; instead I’m just going for the full-on eating hardly anything for a week or two (just breakfast, apples, pears & carrots). Am also doing sit-ups, because despite the farm-work my tummy muscles have gone awfully slack. I blame Luke.

Much has happened over the last few weeks. Before our few days of warm weather it had remained bitterly cold. With Bronte out of action following his operation, I was obliged to do all the wood-chopping, chain-sawing and carting. When we were perilously close to running out of wood in the tractor shed, I armed myself with chainsaw and sharpened wood-splitter and parked the farm Suzuki on our new land, alongside the creek, where there is a large pile of wood of all descriptions: felled pines, large timbers and parapet from the old bridge, wattles and tas oaks. I started with two huge rounds of ancient tas oak and managed to split them down. Just those 2 comprised a full Suzuki-load. Then I chain-sawed whatever was in reach and within the capability of the small chainsaw. I hauled back 2 more loads to the tractor shed and split the lot ready for the fire. I cursed the cows as I slid around in the mud and their poop, in drizzling rain. It took around 4 hours but I amassed a big enough pile to possibly last out the winter.


I had moved the pigs into a new, bigger and drier pen, but they were having difficulties with their newly-mended 44 gallon drum feeder. The mud was such in front of the feeder that their little legs sunk in & then they couldn’t reach into the feeder! So over a couple of days I bodged them some hard-standing using two old sacks of cement which had been in the garage since I did the last mammoth hard-standing effort over a year ago, half a pallet, some pierced, decorative concrete blocks (that Bronte had for some reason acquired from the tip shop) and gravel left over from the drive. Remarkably it seems to be working and I see the pigs happily troughing at all hours now.

After they had been in the new pen a few days, I went out to get the farm Suzuki to get ready for the big feeding session – and found Peppa pig standing by the tractor shed looking at me! It appears that when Luke and I had fed them previously, we’d forgotten to flick the switch on the energiser to turn it back on. Peppa was hungry and crafty enough to work out she wouldn’t get zapped and had gone on the run. By the time I had all the food ready she’d set off over the brow of the hill towards our neighbour at the bottom of our land. I had to chase her in the Suzuki and lure her back with apples & cooked potatoes. I’ve been diligently remembering the energiser since then and have heard a squeal occasionally as she tests the wire with her nose.


The birds, goats, rabbits, cat and dogs are all doing well. No bird losses over winter touch wood. I have finally fixed the currawong ravages to my net over the peacock run, although a largish hole remains around a wattle that needs to be patched. It is perhaps where Pasha made his escape. The guinea fowl are much tamer now and chirrup happily when I come with their food. The female peacock is so tame that she was under my feet while I fixed the net. Only Rosie-dog upsets them all. When she runs around the pen, the guinea-fowl set up a terrific racket. The turkeys have begun laying again. I’ve got a batch of 18 eggs in the incubator, due early October. One turkey has gone broody, so looks like I may have to bring the broody cage into play again. Two female geese have gone missing. Luke nearly trod on one in the sedge and leapt into the air when she hissed fiercely at him. I assume they are sitting on eggs.

The rabbits have been doing what they do best and there are now dozens of them. I shall have to thin down their numbers at some point. Also, wild rabbits (or perhaps escapees) are digging into the pen from the outside, aided and abetted by Rosie. This leaves holes which the babies use to escape. I’m fighting a rearguard action at present, blocking holes, but need a more permanent solution. Perhaps more aviary wire that I bend out at the bottom and peg into the ground.

The goats had a fit one Spring-like morning. I lay in bed and watched them racing around in circles, chasing each other in and out and around the huts, springing in the air with all 4 legs off the ground, butting one another and wagging their tails. They obviously felt the change in the air. I’d never seen them go quite so made before. It has been quite windy too, which can make them frisky if it’s not too cold. I’ve started on the hay that’s been kept in the shipping container. I love the warm, cooked grass smell in there – it reminds me of hot, dusty days and rippling meadows. The goats seem to appreciate the better-preserved hay. I am giving them 6 bales on Sundays now, instead of the usual 4, to discourage them from eating too many of the few brave shoots of grass that escape the pademelon ravages. It is just this time of year when they can get tummy upsets and pick up big loads of worm eggs.

Luke and I performed a rescue mission on a neighbour’s goat last week. It had apparently been acting unwell and mopey. We gave it a dose of worm drench, several doses of my magic goat formula and tidied up its feet and treated it for any foot bacteria. I actually used my thermometer for the first time (stuck it up its bum) and it had an elevated temperature. I prescribed lots of willow branches – the bark seems to do wonders for goats. Anyhow, it is apparently feeling better now. No idea what was wrong with it!

Rosie-Dog had a scabby snout and I’ve been treating her with zinc cream. She tries to lick it off but her tongue won’t quite reach. So then she tries with her front paws. However, it does seem to be working – again no idea what caused the scabs, but she’s always poking her nose in holes, mud and other unspeakables. Bruce has had a haircut, much to his annoyance. He was looking hot and hairy when we had our few mild days, so I tackled him with the scissors. It took about an hour, but despite him trying to bite me on various occasions, he did get a fairly severe trim. Luke got the same treatment the following day, but with the shears this time. He does look much neater now!


We’d been looking at old photos of Luke as a baby and young toddler. You forget how unbelievably cute and innocent they are. All smiles and curls and gurgles. I do hope I appreciated him enough at the time. The horrors of living in a caravan, with no family or friends around, a baby I wasn’t sure what to do with and Bronte out working on the house most of the time, may have overshadowed my pleasure in him – which is real shame.

Poor Murphy got shut outside for several hours in 2degC recently. What a commotion when he did come in – wowwing madly at us and prowling around disgustedly. He’s really not made for cold weather. Rosie got shut in the garage too one evening. She shot out like a catapult when I opened the door. Murph’s now lying on the desk under the lamp, his tail on the keyboard, in hyper-purr mode.


Bronte and Luke finally had their bonfire in the goat paddock. There had been a build-up of sticks up there from browse I’d cut over the winter. Luke had been itching to burn it and when we tried before it was just too wet. This time they had a raging inferno on their hands. Not satisfied with that, they’ve been out every evening burning the dead sedge in the seasonal creeks, which Bronte had sprayed. I can see the attraction because once you grasp the weed wand (it has a gas cylinder & once lit is like a long gas torch), it’s hard to resist burning something!

I’ve been continuing with my crocheting and have totally neglected all the mending. I’ve pulled more patterns off the net and am planning to make a sort of ‘sampler’ blanket. I have tackled my pillow though, sewing it such that it has a thick section where my neck is and a hollow for my head. I’ve been suffering a long time with sore shoulders, particularly my right side. Whilst I can’t cure that, the pillow does seem to stop the pain spreading into my neck and head, which is a relief. It’s not perfect, but certainly an improvement.

We had our federal election last weekend, which was an awful damp squib. I had planned to vote Labor, but when they started sending genuine refugees to Papua New Guinea and reneged over the forestry agreement in Tasmania, I changed to Green. At least I had faith in the candidate who stood in our electorate, she’s a lovely, intelligent lady – a progressive Green. Labor got back in again in our electorate (marginally), but the so-called ‘Liberals’ unfortunately won convincingly overall. I think people will live to regret their decisions. Tony Abbot doesn’t believe in climate change, has no problem with live animal exports, is planning major cuts in public services, has no truck with people of less intelligence/ opportunity than himself and intends to radically slow and emasculate the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (so badly needed). At least good old Andrew Wilkie got back in in Hobart – he’s an independent, the only person in parliament who seems to have real integrity and principles.

I hope they do something about the education system in Australia. It has recently been shown to be one of the worst systems in the developed world and well below most Asian countries. I can well believe it. When I see what they teach Luke it baffles me. A bright kid is quite capable of being taught how to do sums without the complicated steps they take kids through these days. Talk about holding good kids back. Plus the lesser-able kids don’t get the chance to shine amongst their peers, and are in with the rough and tumble of mixed ability and mixed aged classes and lack the one-to-one attention they need. No teacher can possibly create lessons that meet the requirements of such mixed classes – it isn’t humanly possible. I’ve been sent a school parent-survey form, so I can feel a bit of a rant coming on.

The school had its book fair a couple of weeks back. As usual Luke had no idea what book character he wanted to dress up as and refused to apply his brain to the problem. He’s been reading lots of the Terry Deary Horrible History books of late and in the end I suggested he went as a Viking. We had a mad scramble the night before. I converted an old cap into a Viking helmet, Bronte made a foil shield and axe, one of Bronte’s old shirts without the sleeves did as a tunic, an old leather belt of mine went around the middle and my great-grandmother’s ostrich feather stole did sterling service as a Viking cloak! He looked quite convincing in the end. I had to take him into school that Thursday morning and endure an endless array of kids in character costume before Luke got to say his piece. It was quite a fun occasion for the kids however. The Horrible History books are great – Luke loves them and learns a surprising amount, some of it undeniably gory! I love the television show, it’s a scream.


We had a ‘Science Week’ here in Tassie, although it passed by with little fanfare. They did have an open day at the Grote Reber Museum of Radio Astronomy which I’d been keen to visit for some time. It was fun to see the huge dishes and Bronte listened to a long lecture on black holes and the expanding universe. We looked through telescopes and saw a sun-spot on the moon and saw people eating marshmallows frozen in liquid nitrogen. Local farms and wineries had stalls there so we ate lamb sausages and home-made brownies.


I excelled myself on the cake front last weekend. Bronte had invited a work-mate and his family over for ‘high tea’. He’d looked up ideas for little rolled up sandwiches of smoked salmon and cream cheese and I was in charge of cakes. I decided to do extra since people are always bringing in morning tea at work and I’d never taken in anything. Luke and I made cream slices with the puff pastry I’d kept frozen from when I made rabbit pie, butterfly cakes, flapjacks, walnut brownies with fudge topping, scones and mince pies (I found a jar of fruit-mince in the cupboard). Needless to say there was heaps too much, not only for the high tea, but also for everyone at work. I carted it all in including heaps of cream and home-made jams, but still ended up bringing some home (much to Luke’s relief). I was told that I ‘was a proper old-fashioned cook’ – apparently most Aussies buy frozen pastry and use cake mixes. A guy who I don’t think has spoken to me since I joined, informed me that my brownies were ‘quite delightful’. However, the cooking and the socialising, pleasant though both were, were quite exhausting – so don’t think I shall be doing either ‘high’ or ‘morning’ tea for some time to come!

Bronte has been busy planting trees, now that he feels more up to digging and bending, and he and Luke have been making bridges. Bronte suddenly got seized with the notion of making an arched bridge over the seasonal creek in the sedge bowl, which would take the weight of the ride-on mower. I’d made a lovely job of cleaning and tidying the garage, but now there is a rig holding treated pine planks in an arched shape in the middle of the floor, for me to trip over all the time. He’s been steaming them with the wallpaper stripper. I’m sure it will be quite impressive, but Bronte’s purism may mean it will not be strong enough to take the mower (he refuses to use uprights under the arch span).

Inspired, Luke also picked up the cordless drill and made his own little bridge out of pine planking from Bronte’s old ‘cottage style’ bed which I’d dismantled in another tidying fit a year or so ago. He made a remarkably good job of it. However, a misunderstanding led to tears and howls. He thought his Dad was making a bridge to go over the main creek, so insisted that his bridge be balanced on rocks across the creek. It worked a couple of time and then kersplash, it tipped and Luke fell heavily into cold water and hit his hip on a rock. Poor little mite, my heart ached for him! Anyhow, we now have it across the seasonable creek as a footbridge between the 7th and 8th holes on the newly reinstated putting course. Bronte mowed the course, replaced the flower–pots in the holes and put out the flags before our guests arrived last week. We all had good fun putting and remarkably I came 2nd after Bronte, despite my erratic playing.


Jenny pulling face in kitchen