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14 October 2013

Wall of mist, Crabtree Road, early morning

Rain, snow, sleet, hail and cold winds are driving me indoors and hence I’m forced to abandon my fencing plans for the moment. The weather has been quite atrocious. We woke to snow on the hills this morning and we’ve had regular downpours over the last two weeks. Yesterday we just managed to run all Luke’s 9th birthday party activities in the few windows of opportunity between periods of rain.



Bruce, for the entire party

We started with present-opening and balloon fights indoors, then started on a round of putting on Bronte’s renovated course. On the second hole, the heavens opened so we ran for the tractor shed for piñata-bashing. Luckily that took an age, by which time the rain had passed. Bronte and Luke had as usual built an indestructible piñata which Luke and I had painted to Mona standards (we thought). The putting was eventually completed, but the tug-of-war competition was curtailed by snow. Enthusiasm un-dampened, the kids charged up the outside stairs and hurled water bombs at a target before tumbling inside and stripping off wet socks and coats.


We had hot pies, cakes, home-made biscuits, fruit and other party food, which kept them busy for a good half hour. When asked which was the best bit of the party Luke said ‘the food’ which pleased me of course! I’d had to make 2 cakes – one for his actual birthday on Saturday and one for the party, plus fancy(ish) icing and cornflake honey joys. Our two WWOOFs did sterling work helping keep the boys under control and making scrummy biscuits for the party.

Today, following a rubbish-run, we pulled down the balloon trail from the bottom of our road up to our front porch. The rubbish pile was larger than usual. As the goat float is currently occupied by Brian the Boar, we loaded the rubbish onto the back of the ute and the recycling onto another trailer (minus lights or number plate). Good job Bronte wasn’t here. It looks so much tidier in the tractor shed now. Unfortunately we lost rather a lot of paper en route and had to pick it all up on the way home – mostly from the bottom of ours and Crabtree Road. Luke turned it into a race of course and ran home in order to beat the ute, leaving me and Julis (our sweet Taiwanese WWOOFer) to pick up all the bits he dropped.

Needless to say, my birthday last week passed almost without notice! However, I did get some nice home-made truffles from the girls and brownies for dessert. They also laboured to make Chinese dumplings and salad for dinner, which were scrummy. Bronte bought me the perfume I’d requested (I’d just squeaked the last bit from my previous bottle on the last day of work before my holiday) and Dad and Bridget sent money – most of which I spent on Luke and animal food.

Girls starting out on a walk near our house

Luke has been at home for 2 weeks and I rather thought I was getting ‘rid’ of him back to school today. However, one of the parents at the party yesterday informed us that it was a ‘pupil-free’ day today – how annoying those are! However, it since transpires that it was in fact a school day! So Luke will have some explaining to do tomorrow. I’ve also had 2 weeks off work, for a break and to try and get some stuff done on the farm. Inevitably I haven’t done half of what I planned to do. With Luke at home the first week, the weather, birthday preparations and unplanned emergencies, I feel that little has been achieved. I get so very frustrated.

The WWOOFs are great, but as with all WWOOFs the opportunities for misunderstandings are infinite!  Selena, a French-Canadian, has been company for Julis. We also had Taiwanese Pei for a short while – quieter but equally pleasant. Selena is a great cook and very confident for an 18-yr old. We have very much appreciated them cooking our evening meals and clearing up afterwards. However, I can’t help but be dismayed by the amount of time WWOOFers now spend either on our PCs or on their own smartphones/ tablets or other devices. Even when travelling around with us, they tend to spend the entire time staring at screens rather than soaking up the present experiences. No further WWOOFers are on the horizon. We’ve had various enquiries, but either from people who then change their mind, or from single males or people whose English is not good (it’s just too stressful trying to convey the nature of certain tasks when it is difficult to communicate verbally).


I am rather dreading going back to work. The volume of work had built up considerably prior to my taking leave, which is why I was so keen for a break. In fact I intended spending a day of my holiday finishing up a couple of projects I was unable to complete before leaving. However, I just haven’t been able to bring myself to think about work (other than an uneasy feeling of trepidation at the back of my mind). I’m not good at handling the stress these days. Also I’ve had a cold that seems to have hung around for weeks leaving me coughing at night and wheezing through the day.

Spring has meant more activity on the farm. Although we haven’t had goat kids this year, the birds and bunnies are breeding happily. The geese have been hiding in the sedge sitting on eggs, with Arthur the gander on border patrol. So far we’ve only spotted 3 goslings (so green and cute) although one has since gone missing. Arthur was incredibly fearsome when we approached. I’ve seem horrid cravens* diving into the sedge around the dam – hopefully they are only eating unhatched eggs. It’s a trial keeping Rosie away from the dam, I’m sure she wouldn’t be able to resist eating the goslings.

We found 2 white geese that had been abandoned near the turning to our road. Two ‘wild goose chases’ have since come to naught. We tried to herd them up to our dam but just as we were collapsing with exhaustion they took to the air and flew back over our heads back to where we’d started. Luke fell whilst crossing the creek and spent the rest of the day on the sofa holding an ice pack on his knee (limping pitifully when getting up for anything). The geese are still where we found them and seem quite happy. Perhaps at some point they will hear ours honking and fly up to meet them.

We’ve incubated one batch of turkey eggs and have 7 surviving little eating-machines in the brooder cage in the garage. I have been putting a tall cardboard box around them overnight to ensure they stay within the warmth of the lamp (despite the difficulties of ensuring they don’t overheat). However, I completely forgot last night and found one poor little mite stiff and cold this morning – even though the thermometer below the lamp was at 38 deg C. I was really quite upset.

Water bowls in incubator to increase humidity for hatching.
Onion bag mesh is to stop  baby turks from drowning!
These little guys were showing signs of splayed eggs. I popped them into these
soap moulds overnight (with elastic bands to hold them in). Their legs were fine
the following day.


The little turkeys were particularly fond of out-of-date chicken roll and I’ve now acquired some similarly out-of-date Kransky (a meat and cheese smoked sausage). In addition, they are eating crumbles with stale milk or egg mixed in, plus chopped grass, clover and earthworms (whenever one is unfortunate enough to show itself). There are another 17 turkey eggs in the incubator, although I’m not too hopeful as we’ve had broodies that may have started some of the eggs before we began collecting twice-daily.

The anti-broody cage has been in constant use. Recently, I grabbed 2 turkeys that were piled together behind a small clump of cutting grass. Not knowing which was broody I intended putting both in the cage – however as I was taking them through into the next pen, one actually laid an egg there and then! Poor old bird! Clive the turkey gobbler has been particularly protective and attacks the girls when they go into his pen. I try not to laugh! I leafed through an Agfacts poultry leaflet this morning and it confirmed that the ‘key to snapping birds out of broodiness was discomfort and isolation’. Oddly we’ve only had one chicken broody this season so far (the same one, twice).

We’ve been collecting hens’ eggs twice daily for the last week and put 15 or so into the incubator with the turkey eggs this morning. That way all the eggs will hatch out on the same date (turkeys take 28 days to gestate, hens: 21).  I’ll need to renovate the old covered peacock run within the next 8 weeks so that the baby turks have somewhere to go without being eaten by hawks and cravens*.

In the hope of producing more piglets, we bought a new boar last week – ‘Brian’, a Berkshire:Great White cross. We had to go to Garden Island Creek which felt like the middle of nowhere. Brian is 5½ months old, pretty much able to start working, but the sows are having none of it. I had the idea of parking the float in the pig pen for a week so the girls could get used to him. I was concerned as he’s only around half their size at present. However, after parking the float (a trial in itself), it poured, snowed and blew a gale and I felt poor Brian would be awfully cold and miserable. Luke and I went out intending to sheet the float to at least to keep the rain off. Brian was desperate to get out, so I weakened and stupidly decided it would be OK to free him early. Peppa had spent the last day asleep alongside the float and we’d falsely assumed it was ‘lurve’.

Blaize with cream on her nose

As soon as Brian ventured out, Peppa and Blaize began nosing at him - and then pushing and biting. Brian ran around the pen squealing and then went straight through the 8,000 volt electric fence.  He let Luke and I approach him as he nuzzled at the grass and I managed to grab one of his back legs. For the next 20 minutes we gradually maneouvred and dragged him back the 60 or so metres to the float. Luke bravely held the marauding sows at bay except for one occasion when Blaize lunged at Brian and Brian leapt away and pulled me flat on the ground. I somehow managed to hold on and was dragged through the mud until I could halt him. It would have been fun to watch but was pretty stressful at the time! Eventually we got him up the ramp to the float, but at the 11th hour, he jumped off the top of the ramp sideways and my poor hands and lower arms were so tired I just could not hold on any longer. I collapsed on the mud on my back whilst the squealing resumed and Brian trotted off through the fence and up to the veggie patch.

During this trauma the girls were happily making scones in the kitchen, blissfully unaware of the mayhem outside. Luke summoned them out and despite being more wary this time around, Brian allowed me to get close and tempt him with the little turkey’s chicken roll. After gaining his confidence for some minutes I managed to grab him again. This time 3 other people leapt onto him! Selena fetched the Suzuki and her and I lugged him into the back. Then Julis and I held him in place and Selena drove into the pen and backed right up to the ramp. We practically rolled the poor pig head over heels into the float and sat on him while Julis and Luke raised and locked the heavy ramp. We snuck out through the side door and Brian heaved a huge sigh and collapsed sideways into his hay.

It was still raining but I was too exhausted to worry. However, I did finally get Brian more comfortable on Sunday morning before Luke’s party guests arrived. I tied a tarpaulin over much of the float to keep out the rain and gave him another bale of hay into which he can snuggle. Since then we’ve had another inch of rain and I’m not even sure I can get the float out of the pen. My tentative plan now is to either transfer him to the old farrowing pen (which needs repairs) or just leave the float where it is and string a new electric fence across the existing pen to keep the girls on one side and Brian on the other. Whether that would work I can’t tell - I really don’t want to lose another pig! The memory of poor little Winston still haunts me.

With the advent of Spring, the grass has begun growing in earnest around the house. It’s not of course growing where we’d prefer it to grow, ie in the goat and hay paddocks, owing to the continuing ravages of our pademelon plague. Hence I’ve spent much time mowing; heaving our heavy mower across slopes and hollows. It has become easier now that we have the ride-on – Bronte can do all the flatter areas. I’ve also mowed and brush-cut the remaining sections of the new fence route, which was then raked by the girls.


Jenny's mowing around the house

We’ve begun tackling the installation of reinforcements on the bunny fence. Between bunnies trying to burrow in and out and Rosie assisting by digging wherever she can sniff a bunny smell, we are subject to the occasional escapee. Rosie killed another tiny white one recently. I bought two rolls of aviary wire and angle-ground through them to create 6 rolls of shorter wire. The girls are fastening it onto the outside with netting clips and I’m coming behind to bind it tight to the wooden baseboard with nails and then tent-pegging it to the ground so it can be mown over. The girls started on the inside but contrary to my instructions they put the wire too far up the fence, rather than on the ground. Never mind, if we get a really good seal on the outside that should keep our bunnies in and wild ones out.



I’ve been doing a good deal more chain-sawing and wood-chopping. With the weather so variable we’ve been having more fires than might be usual in Spring. Just today, we gathered some more wood which I’ve chain-sawed and chopped. It’s not a large amount but I can only manage small amounts at a time – especially when some of the wood is like iron. There are large square lumps of dense Tas Oak which may have come from the parapet or base of the old bridge. Not only are they really difficult to cut through, they are almost impossible to chop. I sharpened both the wood-splitter and the chainsaw today, which helped somewhat.

With all the rain and mud, the goats’ hooves are growing fast and they are also getting foot problems from time to time. In a normal year, I would expect them to be much better by now. I trimmed all the hooves and treated their feet around 4 weeks ago and they now need doing again. I may set aside Thursday morning to tackle them. I can have the girls running around trying to catch the goats!

Went to Hollander Imports this morning in Hobart with the girls and picked up a load of fencing material for my new goat paddock. Not that I’m going to have time to install much before I have to go back to work. Hollander were miles cheaper than all other quotes I received – including Roberts and Mitre 10 in Huonville and two online farm material suppliers. They are ordering in Daikin braid which I’ve never used before. Daikin are a good brand so should be easily as good as the Gallagher Turbobraid I generally buy – Hollander quoted 100 ohms/km resistance which is around the same as 1.6mm steel wire.

Bronte has been gradually planting some of his trees, mowing with the ride-on and burning things! Burning stuff seems to be his chief hobby at present. Not content with spraying and then burning all the sedge in the seasonal creeks, he’s started on areas of sedge elsewhere around the property. We now have a large unsightly black area behind the tractor shed. Luckily, he frightened himself a bit last time because the flames got so large! He’s also been down to the bottom of the block to inspect our really rough area. Everywhere is extraordinarily wet, but the good news is that all my hours of pulling and chopping fireweed, seems to have paid off. I had a horrid feeling that he was going to say there was no change, but apparently the area is much better. I am quite chuffed and hope that we can get some more WWOOFs to help us keep cleaning up all our land over the summer. I’ve noticed that huge thistles are already coming up in places.


Away from the farm, we’ve had a few outings. We took the girls to the Spring Festival at the Hobart Botanical Gardens a fortnight ago. The weather was reasonable and the gardens looked lovely as usual. Some of the stalls were interesting – Bronte was particularly taken by the solar-powered slot-cars. Luke and I were more interested in the food and the Punch and Judy. The latter was particularly horrid, since several people got eaten by the sausage machine and turned into sausages – although at least Judy and the baby were retrieved. After that, I drove the girls and Luke to the top of Mount Wellington. We’d taken 2 cars as we had 3 WWOOFs at the time. I’d fretted about the baby turkeys which had only been born the day before and eventually wore Bronte down so he went home early to check on them! Just as well, as the heat lamp was too low. It was cold and blowy on top of the Mountain as usual, so I sat in the car & did puzzles while the others looked around.


Luke and I both had a go on this mechanical bucking bull - thinking
it looked easy! It was impossible to stay on! The inside of my thighs ached
for a week afterwards. For some reason the guy in charge said to me: 'you're a
brave one, you'. At least made me feel as though I'd made a decent stab at it.

Top of Mount Wellington

Looking down on North Hobart from the top of Mount Wellington

I also took everyone for a hike to Billy Browns Falls the day before Pei had to leave. I’d forgotten that the walk is actually quite tough. I really struggled ascending the steep slope leaving the Falls and wondered if it was owing to my great age, since I had another birthday pending. It may also have had something to do with all the mowing I’d been doing in the days leading up to the walk. The Falls looked as spectacular as we’ve ever seen them and the forest was as varied and beautiful as I remembered. I swear some of the big trees had grown still larger.


A week earlier, Luke, Bronte and me went to see the Melbourne Victory A League soccer team play against Sydney Wanderers in Kingston. Quite a treat to be able to see a good soccer game so close to home. Melbourne Victory won 3:0 which was a good result. We didn’t see the first game which was Melbourne Victory reserve team vs ‘Tasmania’. Victory won 6:0. Melbourne Victory is now ‘sponsors’ of the Tassie ‘Victory’ soccer league and intend to play more games over here. We’ve had a quite dynamic chap in charge of Tasmanian soccer for the last year or so. He’s really increased the profile of the game. Unfortunately he’s now been poached by the NRL (rugby league I think). Luke’s soccer season has now ended – he was presented with a trophy of which he’s very proud. However, the A league season has just started – it seems Australia is running a summer soccer season, presumably so as not to be overshadowed by rotten Aussie Rules (AFL), which is a winter game.


Luke’s now started Little Athletics again on Saturday mornings and we’ve also signed him up for T20 bash – which will involve actual cricket games with the coaches coming out from Hobart. Bronte and me are alternating on Saturdays now – both of us being out of action for 3 or more hours each Saturday is just a waste of time. So they have to do without Bronte’s officiating skills on alternate weekends. Luke is facing stiffer competition now, from a girl in his age-group. She occasionally beats him in the races and high jump, although he always beats her at the throwing events. The discus and shot-put for his age-group are now rather larger and heavier than last year.

I haven’t yet mentioned my best news, which is that I’ve managed to sell both the Suzuki Swift and the old Ford Courier ute. I had to inch the prices down and ended up about $500 down on what I’d budgeted, but I’m just pleased to have sold them. The new ute is going OK, although I keep finding little annoyances vs my old ute – for instance it has a hand-brake between the front seats whereas before I had a nice space to put my hand-bag etc. Plus I’m not sure it’s quite as good off-road as the Courier. After parking the Brian trailer in the pig pen, I had quite a problem getting out. Not sure it always goes into 4WD when I press the button on the dash! Never mind, it’s reliable and useful and I’ve only got the one lot of registration, insurance and service costs to cover now.

My FOUR cars before I sold the 2 on the right

Not a very enlightening photograph, but I was so proud of
having replaced and fixed this tail light prior to selling the ute! Also
finally managed to find the source of the water splishing about in the panels
and get rid of it by removing rubber grommets from under the sills.

*Evil forest ravens (otherwise called ‘crows’).