I can scarcely believe two months have gone past since the last post. We have been very busy as usual, with an early spring prompting frenetic efforts to keep on top of the grass growth around the house. It's been somewhat like painting the Forth Bridge - as soon as I finished, the first lot I'd mowed needed doing again. Also, the last few weeks I've been under the weather and indeed haven't been able to go to work for three weeks now. The endometriosis I had twelve years ago has returned with a vengeance. I can cope here doing things at my own pace and resting when necessary. But work was just too much. I was also stressing out badly trying to keep up with everything and keeping up appearances at work.
The following three photos are depictions of the vast swathes of mowing we've had to do. Mostly by hand owing to the steep banks.
The following pictures show a parade of Hobart's only battalions of soldiers (two I think), to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Hobartians leaving to fight in WW1. They paraded down Macquarie Street and were greeted by various officials at the Town Hall and given the freedom of the city. Whilst it was clearly a solemn occasion, it was also somewhat comic as the 'soldiers' were such a mixed bunch. Many were podgy and were all heights and ages. They certainly didn't look like a lean, mean fighting force. I said to Bronte that god help us if we were ever attacked and we only had that lot to protect us!
For a time we had a plague of cute baby rabbits that mostly all got ill and died overnight. I had a long chat with a guy who came to buy some hay. He was horrendously overweight and told me several times that he hadn't been well. Honestly it looked as though losing a few stone would cure most of his ills. Anyhow turned out he had 300 or so rabbits at some stage so was quite an expert. Seems we shouldn't be feeding them carrots nor substituting horse pellets for rabbit pellets. He said they had experienced massive losses of babies before they worked out the correct diet for the young ones. I found it very helpful. I've since cut out all the scraps and they get just pellets, hay and the grass and clover available in their pen. Strangely, although heavily grazed by the rabbits the grass in there is in extremely good condition and has a really good crop of clover. This is in contrast to the rest of our pasture which is heavily grazed by pademelons to the point of non-existence.
Bronte is not altogether keen on the swallows because they try to nest on lights and poop on the house walls and deck. I admire them for the huge migrations they undertake twice a year. I agree that they shouldn't nest over windows or on areas of the house we can't clean. We compromised on allowing one nest above the kitchen deck (built on a floodlight bracket) so we could watch them come and go and Luke could see the fledglings when they hatched. Below is a tiny swallow that I took briefly from the next to show Luke. The bottom picture was taken by holding the camera in the 2" gap between the top of the nest and the iron roof. It looks like four babies, but only two have fledged. Bronte got heavily dive-bombed by Mum and Dad when he ventured onto the deck - I'm sure they knew he wanted to get rid of their nest! Another pair nested under the office above our tiny side deck. This is a regular haunt and is already heavily splattered with swallow poo.
After giving up laying eggs in the woodpile, mother duck laid a further clutch in one of the nestboxes in the bunny and hen run. Six little fluff-balls hatched out, but within three days only one remained. Not sure what caused the massacre - whether the rotten goshawks had them or they just didn't get any sustinence, we'll never know. I'm pretty sure Mum and Dad are brother and sister, so they may have had bad genes. Even the remaining one has a limp although he seems to get around. Saw one of the ghastly cravens land in their run yesterday and they may well be the assassins. Mum is already laying another clutch. This time I'll put them in the incubator and see if we can ensure a better survival rate. To my amazement, the gestation time for Muscovy ducks is 35 days! I might let Mum do most of the work and just move them into the incubator for the last week or two. At least when they are born I can keep them warm and ensure they have access to the right food.
I've also got fourteen guinea-fowl eggs and five peacock eggs incubating at present. Mrs Guinea-Fowl has just gone broody after laying around 30 eggs! I read up a bit on guineas after we found poor Mr Guinea-Fowl dead in the water trough. Not sure what occurred but there were a lot of feathers spread around the pen. Whether he'd had a go at the male peacock and came off worse and finally copped it in the water trough we'll never know. So annoying not knowing what's going on in these pens at night and other times we're not around. We can only surmise. I'm assuming that Mrs will continue to lay fertile eggs for a couple of weeks, so I'll put the clutch she's sitting on in the incubator when the current lot have hatched. The first clutch of peacock eggs turned out to be infertile and I rather assumed the new lot would be the same. However, when I stupidly cracked one open to check I found a tiny peacock inside. Now I'm treating the eggs with a whole new reverence. We've waited three years now to get fertile eggs while Mr Pea has been growing up.
Whilst being off work I've been driving myself ragged trying to think of ways to make some money without having to go back into an office job. The endo is going to make it difficult to keep regular hours, even for an easy part-time job and I'm anxious to do what I can on the farm to keep things ticking over and tidy. The following is a family photo taken with the camera on timer to send to one of the weekly mags. They were asking for families to test recipes and I volunteered us (you do get paid). Pity I've got my farm clothes on, no make-up and hair in a mess. I've since had a reply so hopefully we'll get something come through soon. Luke and I have also been madly completing puzzles and filling out prize coupons. If we ever win a prize I will probably have paid for it in envelopes and stamps.
I even had a mad fit and did a load of online surveys that give you a chance to win prizes. That was something of a mistake since now we are bombarded with twenty or thirty e-mails a day from these companies. Also, I got caught out with people sending me premium rate SMSs ($6 each!!!) until I unsubscribed. In addition, we had to field numerous calls over the following couple of weeks with people trying to sell us stuff. I said to Bronte that the aim had been to make money not get suckered into buying stuff.
As noted in the last brief post I have also set up a 'shop' on Etsy, featuring my lace crochet, crochet bedspreads, scarves and Henry's sheepskin. Shop to be found at: https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/SedgefieldDesign?ref=hdr_shop_menu
I've also sold all our excess hay - around 75 bales in all. I reckon there is going to be a shortage of hay this year, particularly on the Eastern Shore, so we should get as much in as we can. The lack of rain and a pademelon population explosion has reduced peoples' hay harvest. I was amazed that people were travelling so far just to pick up 10 bales of hay
|Murphy's a scream in this photo. Looks as though he's|
seen a ghost.
I had two weeks' off in late September/ early October, owing to the school holidays. I have to choose tasks to do that will interest Luke as well as being useful. Fire is always a good choice. We collected all the branches and sticks in the goat paddocks - from where we'd carted browse to them - and piled them all up on top of the hay that lay where the hay dispensers had stood. It was a dry, slightly windy day, so not ideal conditions for preventing bushfires! However, we kept the fire small(ish) and had great fun being pyromaniacs. At one point I thought my electric fence would go up, but happily the wind changed. The mix of ashes (potash - potassium hydroxide), rotting hay and goat poo would make wonderful fertiliser if we could ever find an efficient way of loading it and spreading it on the hay paddocks.
The following two pics are a striking example of the losses owing to pademelons. The first shows lush grass that had inadvertently been protected from grazing by a mesh of sticks, the second is just a couple of metres away and consists mainly of moss. Instead of grazing an area consistently paddies hit bits of that area really hard, to the extent that the grass can't get going and weeds and moss take over. This year, the evil buzzie-plant has gone rampant and taken over all grazed and mowed areas. I've tried mowing it really low in parts of the goat paddocks to try to prevent it seeding. Once the burrs mature they stick to anything - goat fur, wally fur, dog fur, one's laces and socks. It's better to wear wellies despite the warm weather during summer, purely for this reason. Poor Bruce with his soft fur and little short legs, becomes covered. I sheared him again recently with the scissors but he's already got buzzies stuck round his snoz.
So bad has the paddy problem become, despite Bronte shooting fairly regularly, I invited guys from NRM (Natural Resource Management) and the wildlife biology branch of the state government, to our farm. Both were extremely helpful and good value (ie free). The former gave me lots of good ideas about management of weeds and strongly advocated focussing on improving grass growth, rather than just addressing the weeds. He basically said that we would never get on top of our weed problem without changing our land management strategies. The latter had heaps of information about control of paddies and is going to loan us some humane traps until another landowner needs them.
The bottom line is that we could be losing around $17.5K's worth of grass growth (were that grass used to feed beef cattle) owing to paddy grazing. That is estimated at around 80% of our grass production. Those are amazing figures. The trouble is the only way to control the paddies is either to shoot through the night (regularly changing one's time, torchlight colour, motor noise etc), or fence them out. It seems that over the longer term, fencing is the only viable option. It's unfortunately rather expensive and I have virtually no money now (it having all gone into the new land we bought, Bronte's greenhouse, fees for the surveyor and geotechnic guy we used etc) and Bronte is loth to spend on the farm (unless it's for trees, a tractor implement or his greenhouse). Hence, another reason why I desperately need to earn some money to plough into fencing.
Apparently there are grants from time to time, but there is a great deal of competition. I'm keeping my eyes peeled because I've got some ideas of using different sorts of animals in succession to tackle the various waves of weeds that succeed one another before resulting in something resembling pasture that could be used for beef cattle. In our roughest areas it's hard to imagine any other way of tackling it. Trouble is I have used electric fencing in all the goat paddocks which means it's impossible to wally-proof those areas unless I can find a non-conductive, durable, UV and claw resistant plastic that's competitive on price with wally-wire or good chicken wire. Time to start crocheting all that baling twine into net ..
In high hopes, I took Luke to a big farm clearing sale in Ranelagh recently. There were several rolls of exactly the right type of chicken wire for fending out paddies. However, these sales are now frequented by monied hobby farmers who haven't done their research before bidding. The wire went for $20/ roll more than I was quoted by a local rural supplies company. Likewise all the tree stakes that Bronte wanted. In fact they went for almost twice the sawmill quote I'd been given. I'd also expected a poultry sale in conjunction with the farm equipment so had taken containers hoping to pick up a male guinea-fowl or another female peacock. We were disappointed on this score also. In the end we returned home with just two extremely heavy rolls of normal 2.5mm strand wire, which we did pick up cheap. There were more things we could have bid for, but I'd had enough at that stage.
The following are the pictures that Luke and I created from the covers of the cheapo David Attenborough DVDs that came with The Mercury newspaper for a couple of weeks. They make a nice feature in Luke's room. Blu-tak failed us so I've nailed them onto the plaster board with tiny pins.
Bronte's car-port and greenhouse is taking shape. It is going to be quite a large structure but it should look good on the patch of hard-standing where we once had our caravan, shipping container and small tractor shed. The design of this construction has caused Bronte much head-scratching and re-work. It's an odd shape owing to the lie of the land so the angles are particularly challenging. Likewise finding the means to fasten three horizontals to the single pole at front-centre. Said pole having been our 'builders' pole' or meter pole when we were building the house. It had stood looking forlorn and untidy until a few weeks' ago when Bronte suddenly decided to grub it up. I'd planned to chainsaw it off around 3m off the ground because it supported my clothes line. However, Bronte replaced it with one of our Koppers Logs which looks much neater - even if the line is rather lower and saggier than before.
The greenhouse is intended for growing small trees and veggies before planting outside. Also we'll be able to grow good capsicums, cucumbers, tomatoes etc that wouldn't do so well outside in our short season. At present, the garage is full of small would-be trees. Bronte and Luke planted a load of cuttings from the bare-root fruit trees that we bought a few weeks back. Whilst they looked promising at the beginning, few have actually taken root and most have unfortunately died. We do have a great crop of self-set apples from the piggy apples but as most fruit trees are grafted I don't know how they'll do. Bronte planted all the bare root fruit trees we bought in a couple of rows a short way behind the tractor shed. This is the beginnings of our 'orchard'. Quite how we'll manage to protect them from the ravages of paddies, possums, birds and wasps, is quite another matter.
Luke is very interested in all these growing things and spends ages peering at them all when we go outside. He and Luke have planted some of the enormous quantity of seeds they collected during autumn and wiinter. These are in trays in a netted dome by the house. However, I'm not so sure they'll do any better than the single tray of seeds (from a yellow ground-cover plant that seems to have survived on one of clay banks) that I planted. None came up to my mortification although I think getting doused with rust-water from one of our precautionary bush-fire 44-gallon drums, probably sealed their fate.
All the young goats are getting on well. Well, actually, not all of them because I managed (somehow) to run one over the other day. I'd filled the ute with browse mainly from wattles overhanging our drive and drove very slowly into the goat paddock. As usual all the goats came streaming out as soon as I opened the gate and started standing on their back legs to get at the foliage. I tooted my horn a couple of times and edged in very carefully. I did hear a small despairing 'baa' but felt no bump and thought nothing of it. When I stopped poor Fanny was lying dead just inside the gate. I was totally flabbergasted and still can't work out how it happened - for one thing even the back axle is right at the front of the tray. I can only imagine that she put her head down right in front of the tyre to grab a leaf or something that had fallen down - although there is no evidence to support this.
It would have to be one of our favourite goats, one of the lovely chocolate-brown and white twins from Granny, our champion goat. She's the one who had the quads. Anyhow, so that she didn't die in vain, I later skinned and gutted the carcass. We've now got what will surely be ultra-tender goat meat in the freezer and a rather soft and lovely skin salting in the garage. On the subject of skins, I've got a back-log. I've still not properly finished Rocky the goat buck's hide, although I have given it one major scraping. Seven rabbit pelts have been salted and are now pickling/ curing under plastic. Presently I've got a table top laying on top of my brooder cages in the garage on which I prepare the hides. However, in around a weeks' time I'll need the cages for young peacocks and guinea-fowl. Not sure where I can do the hides then. Not sure Bronte will want me taking over the dining-room table!
|Salted rabbit skins|
|Part-way through scraping Rocky's hide|
|Rocky's hide treated with my home-made pickle cure|
Apart from the bunny babies dying from so-called 'natural causes' we also lost a handful to the following goshawk, which had been hanging about for weeks. We found headless bunnies and thought at first the culprit was a quoll that had somehow found its way into the pen. However, when I set up the possum trap baited with the remains of a bunny, I caught the goshawk! I don't think he'll be coming back again. I took him inside to show him to Bronte and Luke and at one stage I let go of his talons and he clamped them around my wrist, the claws going straight through my thick gloves with considerable force. Bronte had quite a job prising him off me. Apparently, raptor's talons lock in place when they catch their prey, so they can fly off without dropping it.
We've also seen a white goshawk frequently of late. It seems a strange evolutionary tactic to be so visible. It stands out starkly against the dark eucalypts round about. I wondered if this might be the mate of the one I caught but don't know if they cross-breed.
|Goshawk deterrents hurriedly erected on the eve of Luke's birthday party.|
We strung streamers, CDs and fluorescent pieces of board on ropes. Not altogether effective
as it certainly hasn't deterred the currawongs nor an exceptionally cheeky craven.
Luke and I have been trying to snap some 'cute' pet pics for the mags we're currently buying. The following don't quite fit the bill as it looks rather as though we are forcing Rosie to the ground.
This is rather a cute pic. Maybe I should submit this. We've been fighting a battle to keep the hens laying with regular use of the anti-broody cage. However, it suddenly occurred to me last week that the hens probably wouldn't go broody if there were no roosters. And since I've decided not to breed from the hens this year, the roosters are actually surplus to requirements. Also I've come to the conclusion that the brown breeds tend to be more reliable layers with larger eggs. I'm sure the roosters eat a huge amount of food. So Luke and I caught them both and culled them. I've put the breast fillets in the freezer - they'll be fine in a stew or curry. I cut out the thighs and drumsticks and have cooked them for the goats together with the thighs from several wallabies that Bronte had shot. That should save a fair bit of money on dog food.
|Rooster boy (now culled) having escaped to try and round up his hens|
in the anti-broody cage
Luke has recently gone through a lego-mad phase and the low wall between lounge and dining room is chock-a-block with his creations. There is also a massive aeroplane with various powered parts and a crane which can lift items off the ground with surprising precision.
Since I've been at home from work I seem to have been constantly at Luke's beck and call. I've attended two athletics carnivals, one excursion, taken him to cricket twice a week and collected him from basketball on Thursday afternoons. He won the following ribbons at his school's sports day, although he can't remember what ribbon went with which event. However, he recalls throwing the vortex 10m further than any other kid. He was selected to represent his school the following week in the combined southern schools athletics carnival. He was chosen to do the 1500m and long jump - in neither of which he excels. He didn't quite come last in the 1500m but was a good 300m behind the leaders. He did a little better in the long jump, but we never found out the actual result. I was very proud of his tremendous effort.
A compendium of Murphy-cat pics. He's such a hedonistic sun-seeker. He has actually ventured outside a few times recently (but only when the sun's shining).
When bravely venturing all the way to the garage, Murphy took a penchant to
the salting hide of Rocky the buck. It was as if it were catnip. His eyes went black,
ears sideways and he rolled ecstatically on the thick layer of salt.
Luke had his tenth birthday in October. As usual he determined to have the party at home rather than going out. Whilst this is the cheaper option, it means the whole weekend is wiped out with party preparation and supervision. We teamed up to make a cool pinata with an ugly ogre face. Bronte and Luke made the papier mache base and Luke and I did the painting.
The kids started with a balloon fight, then putting on our hastily mown course, tug of war, water bombs and paper planes off the deck, bashing the pinata and finally soccer targets. Bronte and I were quite exhausted at the end. I made a volcano cake, but used cakes bought from the CWA shop. Spent a fortune in there on cakes as I had to send some to school with Luke, have some for the party and then take some into work myself for my birthday. There was fairly meagre pickings for my morning tea at work, but never mind. Had I made all those myself I would have been at it from dawn to dusk. It took quite long enough constructing and decorating the volcano cake.
I had the bright idea of putting sparklers on top. These unfortunately set off the upstairs smoke alarm and burnt black marks into the wooden floor in the dining room! The kids were quite taken with them however.Thank goodness it was a nice day - it snowed on Luke's birthday last year!
|Not wanting to be left out Murphy curled up in the debris left|
after the pinata was wrecked.
|Water bomb targets. Ugly faces bungeed to rubbish bins.|
Although it may not have been high priority I renovated the peacock and guinea-fowl run recently. I was fed up with always having to duck down to walk around in there, plus the net was low enough in some places for the birds to catch themselves on it when getting on or off the roost, We had some lengths of poly-pipe that had been on the land we bought, near the hay shed. Luke and I spent an age fixing the net and I patched a massive hole around one of the wattle trees. I spent a couple of days rigging up new baling twine supports where the net was particularly low and then installed large arches of poly pipe (attached to steel star pickets). I also propped up some of the baling twine ropes the same way you might prop up a clothes line. Some of the posts around the edge needed bracing. Much more bracing is really required, but I'd spent enough time on it. It's great going in there now without catching my hair on it all on the time. It's made putting hens in and out of the broody cage so much easier too.
Since I'd got rid of the turkeys and not therefore bred any more young ones this year - and also because I'd not bred any chickens - the grass in the bird runs was growing like crazy. The paddies can't get at the grass in these runs. Rather than letting it go wild and becoming a fire risk, I thought I'd either have to brush-cut it regularly or get something else to eat it. I contacted a neighbour and bought a couple of just-weaned orphan lambs - a wether and a girl. They seemed so very cute at first and still look rather sweet. However, they are the sheep from hell. They stand up against my fences, baa pathetically and annoyingly all day and bash me about when I go in there. I made the mistake of giving them a bit of goat food, not knowing if grass would be sufficient for them and since then they expect it every time they see a human.
Along with the various excursions and athletics meetings that I've attended on Luke's behalf, I was also obliged to take him the schools' triathlon held in Bellerive. Rather than competing as part of a team, he opted to do all the legs himself: swimming in the (very cold-looking) sea, cycling for 2km and running for 500m. I can see there are health and safety advantages in doing the swimming leg first (while they are fresh and energetic), but it's pretty horrible having to cycle and run in sodden clothing. Whereas the weather last year was extremely wet and cold, it chose merely to drizzle this year. It wasn't warm and I felt sorry for the poor kids. Luke was doing quite well but took an awfully long time to change into his cycling top and shoes. Then he cycled so manically that he had little puff left for the run. He came second in his school however and I was proud of the little mite. I wasn't so chuffed when we wheeled his bike back to the ute only to find that I and many of the people parked around us, had been given parking tickets. I've written an indignant note to the MD of Clarence Council - no reply so far.
|Premier of Tassie, Will Hodgman (hoggie), joined in the fun.|
|Freezing cold kids|
|Luke emerging from the water|
|It was all too much for one kid|
The following photos are from Luke's class excursion to Bonorong Wildlife Park. Bonorong is mainly a shelter for rescued wildlife and their aim is to return animals to the wild where possible. They run the rescue service for injured or sick wildlife for which I am one of the infrequent volunteers (usually called upon to put down wallies hit by cars or struck down by toxoplasmosis). They also look after a large legacy of forester kangaroos left there by the previous owner. The current owner Greg Irons, is a great activist for wildlife and speaks sensibly about the need to protect and conserve Tasmania's wild places.
Bonorong is also a registered breeder of Tasmanian devils, maintaining an insurance population, along with many other zoos around the world, should the wild devils all succumb to the facial tumour disease.
|Bonorong looks after some koalas rescued from a bushfire-affected|
area on the mainland, who needed a home. They are not native to Tassie.
|Grown rescued wombat, almost ready for release to the wild|
|Albino brush-tailed possum that arrived at Bonorong as a tiny joey.|
It can never be released owing to its obvious colouration.
|Sleeping blue-tongue lizards. These impressive skinks often get|
injured by cars and dogs
|The kids loved the kangaroos best because they were so friendly.|
The children were allowed to feed them and the roos loved a
scratch under their chins and on their necks. Then kids and roos lazed
together on the soft dirt.
|Blaze of buttercups in the old pig pens.|
|Evil foxglove growing in the tea-tree springs.|
Our neighbour's property is covered in these
pretty but poisonous and pernicious flowers.
|Lovely flowers sent by my work when they|
heard I was poorly. Their kindness has
really touched me, as has their
concern that I may be unable to return.
|This skeleton came in a great little kit|
from the 'book man' at work. He brings in
books and novelty items on a fortnightly
basis which you can choose to buy. The
little book which came with it was enormously
|Owl mobile recently made by Luke. The model was sent to|
him by my Mum, probably last Christmas.
We recently had a visit from Bronte's brother Glen and his girlfriend Ira. Glen had determined to do the Point to Pinnacle - the 'toughest half-marathon in the world'. The route goes from the side of the Derwent by Wrest Point casino (ie sea level) up to the top of Mount Wellington (approx 1200m above sea level). Bronte registered for the walk, which started at 7am, whereas Glen bravely opted for the fun which started at 8am. Luke and I drove down the old Huon Road to the turning onto Pinnacle Road. There we gathered with several other cheering onlookers and watched them both go past. Bronte ended up reaching the end a few minutes before Glen. Both did extremely well.
In the process of hauling willows for the goat, I managed somehow to break Bronte's immensely thick sisal anchor chain. To avert Bronte's ire, I offered to splice it (without having any idea how to do this). It took many hours to finally complete the job using a crochet hook and getting blisters on my fingers in the process. It may not look pretty but it is easily as strong as the rope itself. Works on the same principle (friction) as interleaving two telephone books.