I’m at home today feeling guilty, nursing some odd bug that makes me giddy and nauseous. I came home yesterday morning from work and wasn’t able to go in again today. It’s afternoon now & I actually feel much better, adding to my guilt. I thought it might be the precursor to the cold that Luke has, but there are no obvious cold symptoms. I have assuaged my guilt somewhat by getting some work sent home so I can get on with that over the next couple of days. As a part-timer, any time out amounts to a large chunk of my working week.
I sometimes think I keep working flat-out until I hit a wall and just have to stop for a day or two. Last weekend was particularly horrid, with 3 days of working outside in non-stop rain. Plus on Sunday I was attacked by the horrid Clive, our turkey gobbler, got scratched by Murphy cat trying to administer to him and was scruffed-up by the goats when treating their feet in the morning.
The rain has been incredibly persistent. The last time I remember it being as bad as this was our first spring here, when Luke was just a month old and we were living in the mouldy caravan. Bronte’s Dad came to visit and I think it rained for 8 out of the 9 days he was here. It’s English rain, drizzle that depresses you and soaks into everything. This morning there was 28mm in the rain gauge, a couple of days’ ago it was 32.5mm. Almost every day it has been in double figures. I can see the creek raging from inside the house. We’ve even had more snow on the hills surrounding us. The Sleeping Beauty range has looked most wild and remote streaked with snow and mist. It’s hard to believe that much of Queensland has been declared a drought zone and NSW has been ravaged by bushfires.
There is a huge waterfall above us, which flows down from the top of Wellington Park. It’s called Hutchison’s Falls and comes down in 3 giant cascades, plunging down to form Rocky Creek. How well we can view it as we near the end of our valley and enter our gate is a measure of how much rain there has been. For the first time last week, the second and third cascades had merged, making one mighty flow of water beneath the first stage. I would love to get up there for a proper look. It’s apparently only 2km off the East-West track, a 4WD track which goes right across the Wellington Range. Trouble is, you need to acquire a key for the boom gates from Parks & Wildlife in Hobart, and return it afterwards – plus there is no path to the Falls, so the way may be impassable. The alternative route is to follow the creek upstream. But this is only practical at times of low flow, so the Falls would not be so majestic. It would be great to see it from the air.
|Our waterfall and creek after weeks of rain|
Murphy’s on the sofa with me with one back leg in the air wondering whether he dare lick his nether regions. Somehow he got a hole in his skin under his tail – something he’s had before. It was driving him nuts on Sunday. I poured tea-tree oil on it & when he licked himself he started foaming at the mouth and running around the house like a crazy cat. I calmed him with some of his old medicine – a pill that stops his skin itching and a steroid. I always hang on to these things because you never know when they will be needed again. 2 days of that treatment and he’s healing up well. Trouble is he scrabbled when I was trying to get pills down him & I ended up with scratches and bruises on arms and hands.
|Murphy hanging out of his bed|
When I went into the turkey run and crouched down to put the food out of the rain, there was a mighty ‘FWUMP’ on my back. I turned around to find Clive bustling up to have another go at me. Until then he’d never attacked me – only the WWOOFers and Bronte and Luke. I can’t let him be boss, so I ran him around the pen and bashed him back every time he went for me. At one stage I picked him up and threw him across the pen (all 10-15kg of him). Unfortunately I don’t think he’s cured because when Luke and me went in there Monday night to check for eggs, he came strutting up and was clearly getting ready to attack. It was particularly inconvenient as I was piggy-backing Luke (in his school shoes) across the muddy entrance.
Later in the afternoon I went outside again to try and finish fixing the bunny pen fence, where we’ve added a ‘skirt’ of aviary wire to the outside to stop bunnies tunnelling in and out. The grass had begun to grow through and in clearing that from under the wire I scratched all my knuckles and fingers. I went to work on Monday looking as though I’d been dragged through a cactus field. To add insult to injury it began raining when I was halfway through and I was soaked by the time I finished. Bronte and Luke had gone golfing on the Glen Huon course and came back all smiles as it hadn’t rained there.
On the animal front we have a multitude of baby birds. 5 more turkey chicks (no casualties this time) and 17 hen chicks. I wonder if the turkeys benefited from being with the hens which are so much quicker at finding food after birth. Some of the hen chicks are quite unusual – the offspring of our 2 Opington roosters we bought from the Ranelagh sale several months back. Some are grey with white tips to their wings. I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out. We’ve got another batch of eggs in the incubator (mainly turkeys plus a few chicks). By the time they hatch in 3 weeks I need to have the first lot of turks outside. They are really not going to be pleased. Plus I must renovate the old covered peacock run first as it is looking distinctly dilapidated having been empty for many months.
My goat fence has not progressed one iota since the last post, largely because I’ve been overtaken by jobs such as mowing and chainsawing. As it’s been so cold and wet, we’ve ended up needing firewood for far longer than we planned. Luckily we were given the opportunity to get a load of wood from our neighbours who have felled some trees to reduce the fire risk on their property. Luke and me went up there and started with a massive ute-load of willow for the goats. Their goat, Aggy, climbed into the front of the ute – cheeky thing – and we had quite a job to persuade it to get out. Then it tried to follow us home and we had to shoo it back and then drive off as fast as we could. The next day we went back for an even larger load of firewood. Of course it’s all quite green at present, but we’ve had to make use of some, not just for the indoor stove, but also for cooking up pig food outside. In addition, we’ve made several trips to a large dead wattle on our new land, which collapsed during some of the appalling winds we’ve experienced of late. Although the wood is wet from the rain, it is at least drier inside.
The rain has sent our grass into a growing frenzy. Of course as usual it is not growing in the goat paddocks (being eaten to the ground by the pademelons), but around the house we are finding it difficult to keep up with the necessary mowing. Even with the ride-on to do the flatter, larger areas, it is still a big and wearisome job. Mowers just aren’t made strong and practical enough for terrain like ours. And the longer we leave the job, the harder it gets. Last time, we got our then WWOOFer to rake up most of the cut grass from the banks around the house because otherwise it looks quite a mess and gets slimy and horrid when it rains. The bunnies and hens got all the cut grass to scratch around in and eat.
I’ve seen some mini harlequin sheep. I think something like that might be the answer to our mowing problems if we can ever get a fence around the house. We’d need to protect a few trees but it would be a small job compared with the constant mowing of present. This breed of sheep apparently doesn’t require shearing or crutching, being self-shedders. I think there are similar, but larger, breeds such as Wiltshires. You may ask why we bother with the mowing, but if we didn’t the area around our house would be a haven for snakes and would be an awful fire risk. And aesthetically, it would look pretty terrible.
The goats have coped fairly well with all the rain and cold weather. But their feet have required a great deal of vigilance. There are usually a couple that have to be treated on feed days. We’ve just provided them with a load of new bedding and also spread 25kg of zinc sulphate at the entrance to their huts. I’m hoping that will make a difference. At some point I ought to reinstate the goat foot bath, but in retrospect I built it on the wrong side of the yard. To come into the yard via the foot bath, means coming through an area which quickly turns into a quagmire. I’m still giving the goats the run of the 4 paddocks. The reduced herd means I can get away with this and they are less likely to get worms when they can forage more widely. I have been doing their hooves every 4 weeks, which is rather trying but necessary to keep their hooves in good order. I’m planning a real sort out next week: hooves, feet treating, worm-drenching, and replacement of all lost collars and ear-tags. One of the younger goats has managed to rip her ear-tag right through the ear, splitting it in two.
Shortly after the last post I got Brian the Boar into the old ‘farrowing pen’ alongside the sows. He zapped himself a couple of times on the electric fence and soon got more cautious. He has settled in well and seems pretty happy. He’s got some grass to graze, a cosy hut, loads of good food and the girls within oinking distance. Last week I opened up the wet corner pen so that he might have access to the feeder. Whilst we’ve been feeding him in the open, I think the currawongs and cravens have been eating much of his food. I’ve dropped plastic containers into the concrete feeder, as it never was the most hygienic of surfaces, even for the pigs. Brian very quickly got the idea, even though he does have a tendency to put his front legs in too. I’m hopeful that I can soon introduce Peppa into his domain, although I haven’t quite worked out the logistics of that manoeuvre! I suspect that if I put the trailer in the girls’ pen, Blaize will be first in. So perhaps I shall have to catch her, then let Brian in with Peppa and then put Blaize where Brian is now.
Another catching job that I don’t fancy is that of grabbing the two teenage geese by the dam. In fact I’m slightly foxed as to how we shall manage, given that our dinghy has developed a leak. We may have to creep up behind them in order to drive them away from the water. If we leave it much longer, we won’t be able to tell the teenagers from the adults and they will also be able to fly. I want to catch them as we need the younger generation for the freezer. The geese eventually produced one more gosling last week. It must be tough as it managed to survive being incubated on a partially submerged tiny sedge island and then presumably swim to the shore. Next year I think we shall have to take some eggs for the incubator rather than rely on nature. Plus we could do with some geese to eat the grass in the bird runs – the turkeys are just not keeping up with the growth.
I’ve greatly reduced the bunny numbers by catching 8 recently for the freezer. I concentrated on getting grey bunnies only so that we could get back down to the big white pair and the black doe. However, I managed to shoot the black doe by error one evening! I haven’t told Luke and luckily he hasn’t seemed to notice. We also discovered a litter of tiny new-borns which I was obliged to put down having killed their mum. I felt rather awful about this as they were the cutest little things. At least it was quick. I can’t see a way to avoid a possible recurrence of this in the future, since I can never be sure if there are babies being suckled. I suppose the best bet is to only cull in the middle of winter – whilst bunnies can breed all year (like wallabies) I guess they would be most likely to breed in the warmer, lighter months. Anyhow, the feeding needs of the bunny pen were getting out of hand, whereas now it is all much more manageable. They even leave some of the food, instead of gobbling it in one day. And they don’t eat the hens’ food now either!
While I haven’t managed to do any work on the new goat fence, I have done some fencing. Apart from finishing the skirt on the bunny fence I finally tackled the fence either side of the front gate. Cow no. 5, a black and white one from across the road, kept getting out and roaming threateningly close to Bronte’s trees just inside our driveway. The rather crappy bit of old fence and string was just not substantial enough to keep no. 5 out (“I am not a number ..”). We had some wire mesh that I’d picked up cheap from various sales, so I’ve finally put in a half-decent fence. We’d always meant to do something really smart but that seemed so far off over the horizon, that any improvement was welcome. Bronte rather snobbily said that it looked ‘amateurish’ but I thought I’d done a reasonable job given the amount of rocks under the ground.
We’ve had some different WWOOFers come and go. We lost our lovely Julis and Selena soon after the last post, but we’re thrilled that Julis plans to come here for Christmas. We then had our shortest WWOOFer ever, a girl who arrived on Friday afternoon and left the following lunchtime! She went with Bronte and Luke to Little Athletics on the Saturday morning and got a text to say she’d been offered a job in Hobart. We were awfully relieved actually since her English was very poor. As we have a variety of jobs and the need to communicate sometimes complex instructions, it’s important that our WWOOFers have a reasonable grasp of English. We then had Frances from Taiwan, a young girl who seemed to us to have little interest in things on the farm, but who it turned out was quite shy and also terribly homesick. We so often learn most about our WWOOFs the day they leave us! Their comments in the guest book are often very surprising. It always surprises me for instance how much they seem to have gained from the experience and how often they have greatly enjoyed being part of the family and doing many different things. Frances had excellent English, learnt under her own auspices, such that it was almost colloquial. Frances has now left, but we have the very sweet Nori (Noriko) from Japan. Very softly-spoken and eager to please. Another Japanese girl will join us on Monday.
Bronte went off to Brisbane and left us for a few days, during Show week. So Luke and I were left to our own devices. I took Luke to the show on the Friday and we got almost blown away. The wind was so atrocious it picked up the dust and sand-blasted our faces! The guy in the dinosaur suit at the ‘petting zoo’ could barely stand. The wind took my most un-aerodynamic beret (pinned to my hairdo with a large hat-pin), ripped it from my head and hurled it into the horse arena. I lost the hat-pin too. The ferris wheel was closed, but other tall rides were operating – recklessly in my opinion. Oddly though, I enjoyed the Show more than in previous years. I think it was because there were much fewer people and Luke and I were able to spend ages oohing and aahing over the animals. This year there were Ostriches (just amazing), reptiles, white lion cubs (from Zoo-Doo) and baby devils. We went on several rides and had a go at the outrageously expensive side-shows – all we had to show for it all was sanded skin and a tiny guitar soft-toy.
I also went on a 2-day training course. I was not looking forward to it, since I have a terrible time not going to sleep in presentations. Luckily we were put in groups and had to work rather than listen, so I was actually able to stay awake. In addition, the presenter gave out fiddle toys. Unfortunately I managed to break 2 of them on the first day! They were a great saviour for me though. I wanted to take my crocheting but didn’t think it was the done thing! It was all rather tiring, because I had to drive back from the Skills Centre on the Eastern Shore of Hobart all the way back to Huonville to pick Luke up from after schools’ care each evening, before going home. A bonus was that I could take home the lunch scraps each day for the pigs.
Luke was pretty good at home the rest of the week and helped me willingly with the animals and other jobs. Unfortunately he did get me stuck on top of the shipping container and had to fetch the ladder to get me down! He’s taken to climbing the container every time we go there to fetch hay. I can get up OK, but getting down is a bit hairy.
We’ve all been quite constructive away from the farm. Luke has done super-well in his grade 3 Naplan tests, going off the scale in reading and spelling/ grammar. He was well above average in maths but did less well in ‘persuasive writing’ whatever that is. I actually went in to see Luke’s teachers shortly before the results came out. I’d been getting increasingly unhappy about the standard of maths and science teaching and the lack of teaching continuity. He seemed to have an unfeasible number of relief teachers during the year, added to the fact the teaching of his class is already split between 2 teachers and the class comprises 2 grades. I felt somewhat comforted following the meeting, but it will remain to be seen how it turns out. He’s certainly reported a lot more maths and science since then and even demonstrated some fun experiments the other night (how quickly a candle goes out when you turn a jam-jar upside down on it for instance).
Since his birthday, Luke has been building all the constructions he was given: a lego kit from which he’s made a plane, a helicopter and now a speedboat; a meccano kit that’s turned into a space machine; a fantastic little wooden kit of a pirate and octopus with moving parts, and, finally a real little glider. The last was from Bronte and he did most of the modelling. It needed rather more skill and dexterity than Luke can currently muster. Bronte’s also produced us an enormous breadboard from blackheart Sassafras. He bought a large lump from the Forestry Centre in Geeveston. We went there for a drive last weekend, only to find that some of the shops we planned to visit were shut. We still had a good time and scoffed tea and cakes. My contribution to the constructing has been to continue with my crocheting and to knock up a new batch of soap. I’m really pleased with the latter, I played safe after the rather disastrous carrot-juice experiment. It’s coloured with turmeric and perfumed with lemongrass.
I’ve continued to listen to my BBC and ABC radio downloads while working on the farm and often while driving to and from work. Most of the natural history and environmental shows are really quite depressing now. The science ones are more uplifting. There was an interesting show lately on what cities are doing to combat the urban heating effect, especially in this time of global warming. Several are now insisting on certain roof materials and colours. Flat roofs which used asphalt (eg in New York), can get up to nearly 200°F on warm days. Now a white membrane is often specified. Cities like Milan are greening their buildings, with large balcony plantings and green facades. I’ve sent the mp3 off to Bronte’s younger brother since he works in an industry that leases and renovates office buildings. If anywhere needs urban cooling, it’s Australia.
Also, surprised to read in our local Huon News that one of our Huon Valley Greens councillors is supporting the development of a biomass generator fuelled by ‘waste’ wood. Don’t get me started. How that can be perceived as ‘green’ baffles me. I won’t go into it here, I’m planning to pen a riposte, then I’ll post a copy here.
|Recent jigsaw puzzle|