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Wednesday 23 March 2014

Cloud streaming from top of Mount Welllington - taken from the Huon Highway

Smokey sunset over Grove

Wild sky over Grove

First frosty morning

These last weeks have been filled with making things in order to either save or make money. I’ve produced soap, hand-wash, more blackberry cordial, moisturiser, spicy tomato sauce, green tomato sauce and a hakea nut plaque – which promptly sold for $10 when I took a stall at a local garage sale last weekend.

Bronte reckons the soap is the best I’ve made. I used green oil pastels to colour it and a big bottle of eucalyptus oil for perfume. I’d intended using melted wax crayons but couldn’t track any down in Huonville – oil pastels were all I could find. They didn’t really melt in a bowl over boiling water, so I added several dollops of olive oil to help the process. Usually whatever I add for colour ends up turning murky brown once in contact with the lye (sodium hydroxide), however I was gratified to find that this batch stayed a bright light green. The smell has also remained strong. I made 32 large bars so we’ve got plenty of spares!

Luke kitted out for soap-making!

Soap just poured into moulds

I made another batch of blackberry cordial, so we have (or rather had) about 20l. I’m the one that drinks most of it (Luke having decided he doesn’t like it) and I’ve consumed rather a lot. The blackberry jelly didn’t set first time around, so I had to reheat it all and add extra pectin. It’s great now, nice and wobbly! Luke loves the jelly so it baffles me why he won’t drink the cordial which comprises almost identical ingredients.

I used the last three bars of our lemongrass soap to make hand-wash. I looked up various recipes on the net and made up my own in the end. I gave instructions to the WWOOFs who largely made it – with help from me. I’m really pleased with it this time – it’s a rather foamy gel, which works fine in normal pump bottles. We added tea tree oil, salt, moisturiser, glycerine, olive oil and honey to the grated soap and melted it all into a thick paste before gradually adding more water to get the right consistency. The girls went into a giggly panic went it separated into liquid and foam! I managed to convince them that if they turned off the heat and kept mixing it at intervals it would eventually thicken – although I wasn’t entirely sure myself.

Handwash prepared for the sale - I got the little botttles cheaply off eBay 

Our last two WWOOFs for this season, making handwash

I managed to collect around 10kg of over-ripe tomatoes at a giveaway price and converted them into spicy tomato sauce. It’s perhaps a bit more liquid than I would prefer but it’s perfectly useable. Great with chips, burgers, sausages and even salad. I guess it’s somewhere between tomato ketchup and sweet chilli sauce. I’m a major fan of the latter and have it on just about everything. Luke’s decided it’s too spicy and refuses to eat it, even though I’ve told him that once our open bottle of ketchup is finished, I’m not buying any more.

Sauce 'sterilising' in boiling water - best I could do! I did sterilise
the bottles first

Luke and Bronte have been nurturing some self-set tomatoes on the ‘veggie’ patch. I think they grew from some tomatoes that were in the trailer when I emptied it after having transported a pig. They also transplanted a few tiny ones that were growing near one of the pig feeders. They put up a temporary chicken wire fence around them to keep off the wallabies and tended to them every evening. Finally, we agreed that the tomatoes were never going to ripen so they picked a bucket-full of green ones and I transformed those into green tomato sauce. This sauce is a little thicker and not so spicy. Hopefully, Luke will eat this one! I spent ages pushing the red sauce through a sieve but didn’t bother with the green sauce as the softer seeds seemed to be incorporated into the rest of the mixture after pureeing.

The moisturiser has not been quite as successful as my other creations! It’s very thick and oily such that I hesitate to use it on my face. As I’ve run out of bought stuff I try to apply it thinly and then wipe off the excess. It’s great on my arms and legs however, just takes a while to apply. It also makes great lip balm. I read up on various ways of making moisturiser and was a bit alarmed by the potential complexities of making an emulsion of fats and water. Hence, the decision to use just fats – the aim was to use some of our home-produced lard. The strange thing about the mixture is that it has an instant warming effect! I could probably swim the channel in it – or squeeze through a tight hole. I used beeswax, lard, rosemary essence (for smell and its preservative qualities), olive oil and almond oil. My guess is that I used too much beeswax which has somehow had a thickening effect on the other oils. I’m going to try melting it down and lighten half with coconut oil and have a go at adding water and emulsifying the other half. Might end up with nothing useable!

All this frenzied making of things was motivated by two causes – one to try and save money and secondly to have produce to sell at an annual sale in Mountain River. The sale was last Sunday and since it was so close to Easter I also made a batch of scrummy hot-cross buns to sell. It made for a manic weekend of preparation, stall-tending and animal-feeding, but was worth it in the end. I didn’t make a load of money but enough to feel the effort was justified. The soap was popular and I sold something of everything, apart from my crocheted items. A bit disappointed re the latter, but it was perhaps not the best market for them. I’d made another scarf, a lacy one with beaded tassels. A number of people showed interest and admired the items, but no-one was prepared to buy.

I’d persuaded Bronte to make some bread boards and he made three great ones. One was in blackwood chain-sawed out of a large firewood log. The others were made from a large, weathered plank which lay in an old shed on our plot when we first bought it. Since then it had languished at the back of the tractor shed. When Bronte started cutting into it, most of the length split in half. After he’d cleaned up the remainder it became clear that it was rare Huon pine. It was the characteristic lovely yellowy-gold colour with incredibly close grain reflecting the slow growth of this tree which can live for thousands of years. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to sell any of these boards, but again it just depends who turns up on the day.

The sale was quite poorly advertised, with not nearly as many visitors as the previous year. Like a dummy I completely forgot to take any photos of the stall, which is a shame as it looked very attractive. Bronte and Luke spent quite some time with me and for the rest of the time I crocheted a new scarf.

On the farm, the guinea-fowl saga has continued. As you know I lost the first batch of babies in the incubator when we had an extended power cut. The second batch was successful despite another couple of power cuts. I was ready for one with the inverter but the other caught me out but luckily was short. We had 9 cute babies that survived and are now just over seven weeks old. I put a few ‘for sale’ cards out at work and in the Grove Shop and a chap from Mountain River bought two this week. I hope they survive because we found one dead a few days before he arrived and another died a couple of days later. No idea what had caused this – perhaps a combination of cold nights and trying to introduce them to adult food mixed in with their crumbles. I’ve since put the timer back on so they get heat for a few hours overnight and may have to keep them inside for a couple of weeks longer than planned. We had our first frost recently so it would be a bit much for the poor little mites if they went outside now.

Trying to save a sick guinea-fowl keet

Amazing the guinea hen laid a third batch of eggs – I could hardly believe it. We had no idea how long she’d sat on the eggs (because the WWOOFs had been feeding the birds over the previous week) or even if she’d begun sitting at all. We transferred them to the incubator and I carefully turned them and checked them for 28 days expecting cracks to appear at any time during the last few days. On the 28th day, Luke and I finally candled them. Four were obviously infertile and the rest seemed odd and unformed with the air gap large and slanted .I concluded they were probably no good and wondered if they’d been started and then died half-way through for some reason. We cracked one open to check and it was full of half-formed bird gunk. With regret I tossed them all into the food-scraps box.

The following day I was putting something into the scrap box and heard a cheep. I was mortified and quickly found something with which to open the eggs. All of them - excepting the one I’d cracked open and the four infertile ones – had fully grown viable chicks in them. Three were alive amazingly but very weak. Bronte had switched on the incubator while I opened the eggs so I transferred the three live ones (still in half their eggs) into that to warm up. Some hours later I carefully extracted them and left them to dry. Just before going to bed I dribbled some sugar water onto their beaks to try and give them strength. In the morning, one was dead but the other two were very much alive. It was Easter day and they were like an Easter miracle. I was terribly upset at having effectively consigned the others to death. I couldn’t believe how unlucky I’d been to have cracked the one bad egg.

On Easter morning Luke helped me move the older keets into the adjoining brooder cage and set up the first one for the two remaining chicks. Worryingly, they straightway showed signs of badly splayed legs, one worse than the other. It was perhaps a product of their bad start in life and also because there were days when I was working and only turned them twice a day. That might also have explained the very slanted air gap and why I’d misread the candling. Determined not to let these ones die on me or have to be put down, I carefully taped their little legs to bits of card and pinioned them into suitable containers – one into a large matchbox. I released them the following morning and to my great pleasure and relief they started walking properly once their legs had strengthened. It’s still early days and I’m not counting my chicks so to speak, but I’ve got my fingers crossed!

In my last post I mentioned losing some birds to swollen ‘knees’ and bad limps. I went back over everything that might have changed for this last batch of birds. The only thing I could think of was that the commercial chick crumbles changed during this time. One bag that I bought looked quite different from previous batches. It appeared darker and the lumps were much bigger and differently formed – as if they’d been milled down from full-size pellets. It had been a nuisance and we’d had to use the pestle and mortar to make the bits small enough for tiny birds to swallow. This suggests that the formulation had also changed and not for the better. Since I’ve started adding extra calcium and vitamins to the feed, the birds have improved. Ones that were beginning to limp have got better. Only one turkey now has a slight limp, but it doesn’t affect its mobility and it’s not getting worse. Clearly the limping was owing to the dreaded rickets. I’m not taking any chances now with the keets, I’m adding minerals and milk and egg to ensure they get enough vitamins and particularly, calcium.

I continued to lose the occasional bird to some unidentified predator and continued to set the trap daily. In the end we caught four quolls! They are meant to be rare, but we’ve seen increasing numbers over the last few years, even as road kill. These are the small Eastern quolls, beautiful glossy creatures with pointed snouts and pink noses. They are dark brown to black with white spots and a longish tail with white brush at the end. They are incredibly fierce little animals and snarl and fight when cornered. I relocated ours several kilometres away and we’ve had no trouble since. One unfortunately got itself half in and half out of a tiny hole in the trap and I had to put it down in the end. The chap who bought two guinea-fowl also mentioned that he’d seen more quolls around of late. Good for the quolls of course, but not so great for poultry-keepers. They can squeeze through tiny gaps in fences and climb like squirrels.

The birds have been eating us out of house and home, therefore even though they were not as mature as I would have preferred, I have culled the oldest gobblers and roosters (except Clive the Attacker of course). Clive has been a bit more subdued of late perhaps because he’s moulting and feeling sorry for himself. I’ve been able to feed his flock, catch birds and wander around in his pen, without fear of attack. We’ve now got four turkeys and three roosters in the freezer. The others are too young as yet. Unfortunately the remaining young turkeys seem to be predominately male. There is only one big bronze hen with Clive at present, so I’m hoping the younger reds turn out to be female.

Giant egg laid by our champion egg-layer
Our new ducks are getting much bigger now

I’ve clipped the goats’ hooves twice in the preceding weeks, the last time just a few days ago when I also drenched them and treated their hooves for rot as a precautionary measure, now that the rains have started. I also tackled the awfully smelly Rocky the buck. He kicked and fought me the whole time while Henry the sheep looked on in horror and tried to steal Rocky’s bowl of food. I had tied Rocky to a stake with a belt and as a secondary measure also fixed the tether chain to the stake and around his two collars. The collars were loose when he arrived but now he’s filled out with good care and food they are almost too tight.

Rocky with a bit of bush caught between his horns!

When I’d finished I walked him by the tether up to the does. Luckily he came quite readily and I didn’t have to haul him. Henry walked faithfully by his side. The instant that Rocky and Henry came amongst the girls, the herd dynamic was upset. Goats scattered in all directions, Rocky snorted and bristled and Henry run amok. A few days later they do seem to have settled and Rocky is most certainly the boss. No one else is allowed to eat from his trough or his side of the hay dispenser. Henry seems a bit at a loss however, as his friend has now deserted him. I’m planning on despatching poor Henry shortly and am looking up how to tan and clean sheepskin with the aim of having a further item to sell.

Rocky upsetting the goats

After moving Rocky and Henry I opened up the new gates between theirs and the farrowing pen in order to let Blaize through. Now I’ve got Blaize and Peppa in separate neighbouring pens. They are due to farrow in around 3 weeks’ time, but already Blaize is restless and collecting dry grass, bracken and other nesting material. She had been pacing around the pen and actually got out earlier this week. I looked out the window to see her barrelling around on the outside of the pen. With Bronte’s help I lured her back in with some tasty food and then had to repair the damage to the fences. It seems a short had occurred when some insulation had slipped and having detected that the fence wasn’t working, she set to work to destroy part of it. Once it was fixed up I heard a couple of squeals from her as she tested it again with her nose. Blaize seems happier in the new pen on her own and I plan to give them all a load of new bedding material today so they can nest-build to their hearts’ content. Their behaviour is really quite endearing.

Blaize collecting nesting material

Luke and I had a bonfire in her new pen in order to clear up all the sticks left from feeding browse to Rocky and Henry. Blaize was most intrigued and ran off with a bag of kindling I’d bought with us. When I walked around the fence pulling up bracken she started collecting it. Also we found several twiggy branches that she’d carefully arranged in one of the huts. Yesterday afternoon I sprayed around all the three electric fenced pens near the house including Blaize’s. She followed me round twice (I do both sides of the fence to ensure a clear strip), most curious to see what I was up to. I just hope it had time to work as it poured with rain overnight.

Blaize and blaze - and Luke

While the WWOOFs were still with us I got them to work on cleaning up the hay sheds on our new land, down by the creek. They also pulled down a horrible old fence that was held up with old pallets and looked a real mess. I hastily had to replace the fence as the cows were in the paddock on the other side of the creek and could cross and get onto the road at any time. I’ve put in a posh new braced corner post, stakes and six strands of barbed wire, but still haven’t finished actually fastening the wire to all the stakes. There is a small gap at on end which needs closing and the sheds and the cattle yard need a lot of work. I intend eventually to put a fence close against the road so there will be a square cattle enclosure or somewhere where animals can be safely loaded/ unloaded. It will also stop all the cheeky four-wheel drivers from parking on our land. They regularly park across the gate down there and in front of the cattle ramp without knowing whether either will be used.

Big hay shed

Hay shed showing cattle yard alongside

Start of new fence

Big but rickety shed on other side of the road on our new land

Before I could start building the new fence, there was a lot of old junk to be moved, which had been too heavy for the WWOOFs. This included several concrete posts which must have weighed 100kg or more each. I managed to move them end over end, leaving 3 good ones for the new fence (eventually) and two broken ones which Bronte helped me load onto the ute. He and Luke visited me on the ride-on mower. They attach the old go-cart to the back so Luke can sit on that (or occasionally the other way around). I tried sitting on it and felt most unsafe being so close to the ground and exposed – I’m sticking to my little Suzuki!

All the large lumps of concrete, bricks and rocks which we cleared up from around the sheds, have been dumped up by the goat yard. There is a section between the fence and a spring-fed marshy area through which I can only drive in the middle of summer. I’d love to fill this so it’s useable all year round. I’ve had a pile of gravel delivered which still sits there. Really the aggregate they bought me is much too small and I need to get lots of larger fill down first.

My main priority at present is to paint the whole exterior of the house but it’s a trial trying to find time to fit painting in around all the other jobs – and earning a living of course! We decided that the windows should really be tackled first as they are in quite a state on the North and West sides of the house. I’ve managed to get the main sliding doors done around the upstairs deck – they probably represent quite a large percentage of window-frame area. Each has had four coats – two wet-on-wet undercoats and then two top-coats. Really I’d left it a little late and the frames would have benefited from being completely sanded back. That just seemed much too hard a job however and would have taken forever. Instead I’m brushing them vigorously with a scrubbing brush which removes all the loose paint, before cleaning with turps. So the finished windows do not look as beautiful as they might, but at least they are protected for another few years. I’m nervous about tackling some of the higher windows and am not at all sure how to do the very highest ones on the Southern end of the house, where the ground falls away from the house.

Newly painted lounge windows

Newly painted sliding door
Bronte has been planning to build a greenhouse with car-port attached on the site of our horrid old caravan. As usual he’s spent an age planning and researching, prevaricating and debating before actually getting on with it. I’ve had to listen endlessly to the merits of twin-wall polycarbonate over corrugated plastic and review several design iterations. Finally the only thing standing in the way of the build was my little electric fence which wraps around the site and made it difficult for him to get his ripper in. So yesterday I got us out there digging the outside trenches by hand. It’s amazing what can be achieved by hand. When Bronte took the first trailer of spoil down to the pig pen to empty it, he got caught against the electric fence and the whole trailer and Suzuki were electrified. Luke got a shock off the back of the car.

The three of us managed to finish the outside foundation trenches in the one day. I gave up at lunchtime having worked the mattock, pickaxe and shovel for 3-4 hours solid. My back and shoulders were complaining mightily and I needed to see to other things. Luke was a trooper and was able to wield both the mattock and shovel. The mattock is an amazing tool, but is just so exhausting to use! These strip foundations will be filled with concrete so Bronte’s got his levels and a solid base. He didn’t really want to use this site as it will block some of our views, but it’s the only logical place as it’s already flat and accessible with a solid gravel base. The greenhouse is going to be quite large, but I’ve said he can grow lemons, cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicum, chillis etc – not just baby trees!

Before we started digging

Huge caterpillar we unearthed

Bronte and Luke have gone completely seed and tree mad. They spend hours collecting seed from around the block and have made seed-collecting trips to Franklin and Hobart. The office is full of pots of seeds, to such an extent that I’ve been complaining about having no pots to put things in for Luke’s lunch. The garage and two outside apple bins are full of pots with various types of trees sprouting in them. I can barely get to the back of the garage now to get tools and other things from the rear shelves. I have to fight my way past 44-gallon drums loaded with pots of trees. Now he’s got a daylight lamp rigged up above them on a timer to trick them into thinking it’s not autumn. It was this seed-collecting that led to the hakea nut plaque. I was intrigued by the shape of the matching insides of the two halves of the hakea nut after the seeds were removed and felt it a shame just to throw them away. Hence I just stuck them to a roughly sanded bit of old apple bin plank and oiled them. I did manage to sell some of their tagasaste and laburnum seedlings at the sale last weekend.

 As well as tending the self-set tomatoes on the veggie-patch-to-be, they have also been watering some self-set potatoes. A few months’ back I collected some potato chips to cook for the pigs. They weren’t wonderful when I bought them and the pigs would barely eat them when cooked. In the hot weather most of the bags turned to mush and I tipped them out onto the veggie patch. Remarkably, some of these sprouted and took root. Unfortunately the wallabies have taken a liking to the plants and completely ravaged them. I always thought potato plants and particularly the little green berries that grow on top, were poisonous, but I must have been wrong (wasn’t it something similar that killed the mad guy from ‘Into the Wild’?)! It’s possible we have some wallabies with very sore tummies.

 Rosie had a sore tummy on Easter Sunday. I’d killed three birds and they lay out on the slope behind the garage to drain. When Luke’s little mate arrived to go on an Easter egg hunt with him they were both intrigued to see the dead birds lying there and poked them and chortled. Rosie then disgraced herself by pinching a rooster head and promptly swallowing it. The previous day she’d be in tremendous trouble after pinching a bunch of sausages from the pot in which I was about to cook bird food and later on the Sunday she filched something from the bucket into which I was gutting the birds! I was furious at her. She really is the most awful thief. Anyone would think she wasn’t fed. She also disgraced herself around the same time by peeing on the mat in the laundry (again).

I’m actually feeding the dogs mainly on wallaby meat now. It’s another of my cost-saving measures. I’ve worked out that we spend quite a bit on pet food. I’ve tried feeding it to Murphy-Cat but he thinks I’m trying to poison him. The dogs on the other hand, are most satisfied with this turn of events. Bronte has been shooting again as we are totally overrun with wallabies. You can barely drive to our gate at night without running down herds of wallies. So I’ve been cooking them in my big outside cook-pot and pulling out all the good meat and innards for the dogs. It’s not a great task! The dogs now just get a small amount of crunchies (to make sure they are getting all the right nutrients) plus plenty of cooked wallaby meat. Much of the inside freezer is now full of plastic containers of wallaby.

I’ve continued to work sporadically on my business plan for the farm and I’m starting to feel a bit more optimistic. There is no way I can truthfully put down numbers that show us paying off the mortgage on the new land and managing to make an income. But I can get to the point where our expenditure is drastically reduced and we need only make a further $22K or so to keep us going and pay into a pension. No room for luxuries or holidays however! The main things that can help are: micro-hydro scheme (to eliminate electric bills and make a little by selling to the grid); orchard (to provide fruit and nuts – and possibly truffles at some point - for us and the animals); veggie patch (food for us and animals) and a milking cow! This last may well be a sticking point with Bronte as it’s such a tie, but I’ve worked out that we spend nearly $3K a year on dairy products which we could produce at home with very little cost.

On the animal front, pigs seem like a possible winner, goats are a dead loss and beef cattle are a half-way bet. I plan to wallaby-proof the biggest paddock on our new land and get a small herd of Herefords. Wallaby-proofing is an expensive pain, but would increase the grass yield by several hundred percentage points. Wherever the wallabies have been kept at bay the grass is beautifully luxuriant. I keep eyeing up animals as we drive around and have been taking an interest in prices and markets. I’m really not keen on cows because of their size and their environmental footprint but it seems as though needs-must.

Goats are only worth keeping because I can sell individual animals as pets and weed-eaters. Also they will do a fabulous job of clearing our really rough areas when we can fence them. Pigs could follow and largely live off the roots of bracken and other plants that they can forage for themselves. I’ve just got to get all this written up and get Bronte’s buy-in – I expect that will be the hardest part! He doesn’t enjoy working at Council but loves the security, the salary, the pension and other perks. I may be able to draw him away by dangling the lure of building a house on our new land, but that’s a massive investment (we’d need an investment or bridging loan and a year off work) and quite high risk. I’ve also written in conservative sums for the sale of farm trees and various things we can make.

As part of the sums for the business plan I’ve calculated the performance of our solar panels. I looked up all our old bills and determined that our 2kW system generates an average of 4.8kWH/ day, which is pretty rubbish. The average for Hobart throughout the year is meant to be 7kWH for a system that size. I also looked up angles and shading and whilst our panels aren’t at the optimum angle that makes only a small difference to the power generated, compared to say the direction in which they point. Ours is pretty well due North so is ideal. I got on the roof to check the panels (as best I could) and gave them a good clean. I consulted with the supplier and they asked me to check the power generated each day for a couple of weeks. During that fortnight we generated an average per day of only 3.1kWH. On completely clear sunny days we got as much as 6kWH but on cloudy or drizzly days we generated nothing at all – which seems almost impossible! Now we have the choice of doing nothing or having an engineer come out. If he comes out and finds nothing wrong, we’ll have to pay $175 (which at 28c per kWH would take us 6 months to pay back).

Me on the garage roof

 It hasn’t all been work (just mostly). Before our last WWOOFs left, they took Luke on a bike ride via the back roads to Huonville, from where Bronte collected them with the ute. We voted – what a waste of time that was! We’ve now got a hard-line so-called ‘Liberal’ government in both Tassie and federally. The former’s first priority seems to be to tear up the Forestry Agreement that was so painstakingly negotiated between the forestry industry and environmentalists over a couple of years, and was eventually enshrined in law. Our West Wellington area is in the first tranche to be protected and currently has conservation reserve status. The state government has now said that it will repeal the legislation but will pledge not to log in these protected forests for six years. Hence they will change their status to ‘future potential production’ land. Our little West Wellington Protection Group met at our house the other week to discuss possible initiatives.

We decided to set up a Landcare group with the aim of rehabilitating the region before it loses its conservation status. If we start replanting along the roadsides for instance it will make it harder for Forestry Tasmania to justify going into that area again. The downside for us is that is currently fairly well-roaded and therefore may be one of the more accessible of the new conservation areas. We’ve become the Russell Ridge Conservation Area Landcare Group and now need to apply to Council for what assistance is available. I’ve got to get on and research the personnel in our local Forestry Tasmania group in order that we can find out their intentions should the legislation actually be repealed.

Luke’s Little Athletics season has finished. Luke won the under 9’s boys’ championship and was very pleased with himself. He also broke the turbo-jav (mini-javelin) throwing record in the last weeks. Now it’s soccer season again and while we currently have no matches, he’s training each Thursday afternoon. The games will start on Saturday mornings after the Easter break. We’ve rather been enjoying getting our Saturdays back now Little Athletics has finished. This Friday there is an Anzac day sports-day to which Luke is greatly looking forward. Bronte and I are not quite so keen!

We went to the Botanic Gardens a couple of weekends back for the ‘Treadlightly’ festival which was really rather a damp squib. We were expecting many more stalls and entertainments. I bought a small watercress plant (which I’ve only just remembered!). Watercress is another thing I thought we could try and grow and sell. The gardens themselves looked lovely as usual and Luke and Bronte had a great seed-collecting day, although they had to do it surreptitiously. I noticed that most of the trees are actually conifers, my least favourite type of tree. Bronte’s already planted loads of radiata pines around the plot, which I really dislike. They are also a declared weed! Afterwards we went to see the Lego movie, with which I was distinctly ambivalent. Luke similarly as he said the appearance of humans at the end spoiled it for him. I think Bronte got the most out of it!

On Easter Sunday we had our usual egg hunt. Last year it was just us and Luke so we decided (rather belatedly) to invite some of Luke’s friends. Most couldn’t come so it ended up being just Luke and one other. Bronte wrote some fiendish clues which sent the lads all around our land. I struggled with them but those two managed to figure them out. They were all quite exhausted by the end, including Bronte who had to go with them to keep an eye on them. I stayed back and dished up hot-cross buns and watermelon for the egg-hunters when they returned. This batch of buns was somewhat rock-like and I ended up feeding the remainder to the pigs today. They loved them. We are now awash with chocolate and can’t wait until it’s all gone so we can go back to eating properly again. While it’s in the house we are unable to resist, especially when we’re doing lots of physical work.

There have been lots of Forestry Tasmania burn-offs recently, the smoke often stretching from one horizon to the other. The photos are both beautiful and apocalyptic.