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Friday 25 September 2015

Looking back at our house (dot in the middle), from top of 'Lone Tree Hill' where I was
installing one of my project shelter belt plantings. There's snow on them thar hills on the top pic.

Wall of fog across the bottom of Crabtree

We have had some fantastic snow days this winter. This shows the blackwood by our
gate and surrounding bracken and sedge, transformed into fairyland.  

Our drive buried under a carpet of snow. Luke ended up having 4 school snow days.
Bronte had 2 days when he couldn't get to work. Unfortunately, I was still able to
get to my gardens and had to work in the snow!

Early morning view south from our upper deck. Magical.

Jeffreys Track in the snow. Luke and I went up in the late afternoon in the little
Suzuki and walked up a side track. It was snowing steadily, the light was fading and it
was so still and quiet. Luke and I were thrilled.

Looking down from goat hill to the house in falling snow.

Bronte made Luke a fabulous sled. On the first day of snow, it was so powdery that the sled
wouldn't slide. On the next day, it was harder and more icy. Bronte and Luke both sat on the sled
at the top of goat hill and flew down so fast that they ran into the electric fence! We've got a
great video clip. That was even with Bronte digging in his heels both side of the sled trying to slow it down.

At the top of our drive, with a strange snow pagoda we built.

Faithful Suzuki up Jeffreys Track. It had a sulky fit and refused to go any further up.
Parking it with one wheel in the air probably didn't improve its mood.

Small bear (apparently with large snowball on head) up Jeffreys Track. Luke is snow
mad. He's still checking the temperature and the weather forecast regularly in hope. He was rewarded
earlier this week with a couple of cold mornings and a snow-covered Sleeping Beauty. I suspect that
will be the last of the snow for this year. Apparently it's the coldest winter here for 50 years. Idiots are writing
to the paper saying that disproves global warming. Can't people get into their heads the difference
between weather and climate?

Another view from our deck - to the north this time. We never got tired of the snow nor
of taking photos!

Two little snow creatures on Bronte's car, brought down from the top of Mount
Wellington. A couple of days' later the Pinnacle Road was closed and remained closed for
about a week.

Two gallant explorers about to hike up Sleeping Beauty from the top of Mountain
River. You can see our hoped-for destination back right. Bronte and Luke below,
also at the start of the walk. I've wanted to get to the top of Sleeping Beauty ever since we moved
here. Luke's motivation was to reach the snow line, which to me looked awfully high up, given
we were starting late in the day and were somewhat unprepared. I had a bit of a peculiar fit part-way
up - think it must have been a hot flush attack - and left a load of my clothes hanging from a tree.
We reached the snow, probably at an altitude of about 800m and the sky was very grey and forboding.
Being knackered I decided to turn around and let the other two plod on a bit further to the thicker snow.
Almost the instant I turned around it started to rain. I had no hat and just my T-shirt and thin (not
very waterproof) raincoat and it was also very cold. I have to say that walking back down for about an
hour and a half was a most miserable experience! Bronte and Luke overtook me towards the bottom - they
were running. Looked far too dangerous to me. I was jolly glad to get home and into the warm and dry of the house.
When I recovered my warmer clothes, they were all soaked through. To add insult to injury I'd somehow
managed to drop my newish camera - think the strap had caught on a stick and it had pulled the camera
out of my pocket. Despite drying it out carefully, it refused to work, so now I'm back to my old red one.
That takes pictures but the screen doesn't work (it has a permanent picture of a peculiarly pixellated
hand in green and purple on it), so it's sort of pot-luck what comes out when you put the SD card into the laptop.

Part-way up - long before reaching the snow.

This was taken on the second or third Sleeping Beauty expedition. The snow lay very
thick and much lower down the mountain. I didn't accompany them this time, having
other stuff I needed to get done. Bronte was in charge of 3 10-year old boys and our new Aussie
WWOOFer Ashlee. It would have been very difficult walking apart from the fact an ATV (quad
bike had been up before them so they were able to walk in its tracks).

Half-way up.

The top of Sleeping Beauty looking rather majestic.

The boys having ascended quite high up the mountain.

Josh, Luke and John reached the East-West track, which is at about
900m elevation. To reach the summit, you need to walk further along
the track and then up a separate path. By this time though everyone
was very tired and had blistered feet.

Tired boys on the way back down. The Huon Valley is laid out in the distance.

Welcome re-fuelling following the walk.

Ashlee stayed with us for a week. In her real life up in Perth, she works in a
cat home part time and also does another job. She just decided to take a week off and
chose us to apply to, which is rather nice. She was very good company and we were
sorry to see her go. She was also a great help on the farm. She very kindly bought us gifts when
she left - a travel mug for me which I've used virtually every day since, and Scattergories
for the family, a word game which we've played many times. Here she is putting out the baby
Rhode Island Red hens which we'd hatched in the incubator and reared in the brooder cages in
the garage. 

Shocked and stunned youngsters. They'd never seen further than the
walls of a wooden apple bin before.

Two-days' worth of eggs from our 12 layers. They gave up laying eggs over
winter much to my annoyance and then suddenly went nuts. 

So pleased to find this treasure at the Huonville Tip Shop for $2! It has been
invaluable in getting our wood-burner going in the evenings. Because we were somewhat
unprepared this winter, much of our firewood was damp or green, plus we had
very little dry kindling. Also, it's great fun! I wonder what its history is. It has a rather
naive engraving of a chalet and mountain scene on one side.

Talking of firewood, this is my enormous bruise gained whilst gathering wood. I had been
chain-sawing and then needed to move a big log. I pulled as hard as I could, when the bit I was
holding broke off and I flew backwards with no time to put out my hands. My hip connected with the
sharp corner of a square post lying on the ground. It knocked all the breath from me and I felt
unable to move for quite some time. Good old Luke came and comforted me as I gasped in shock. After
a lengthy pause I managed to carry on chain-sawing but that bruise plagued me for about two weeks.
Every time I moved in bed or sat down or drove, it hurt like crazy.

Ashlee at the Birch's Bay garden, taken by me from the top of the step-ladder.
I was working my way along the lovely long rose arbour, gradually tying-in all
the long runners and pruning back all the overgrown bits. It took me about 3 days in
all. I'm now worried that I've cut it back too hard, too late in winter and that it won't flower'
this year. Gulp.

Before: Mountain River garden. I was digging out these old hedging shrubs for them.
The roots were huge and went in all directions and straight down. It was a real job getting
them out.

After: Mountain River garden. Shrubs removed.

Hail at Birchs Bay garden.

Path at Mountain River garden. The gaps in the paving and rocks at the side
were jam-packed with weeds. I cleared them all out and filled the cracks with these
little white pebbles with which they were graveling the drive.

Mountain River garden: this was where I grubbed out all the old hedging shrubs.
I dug out this trench for the new hedging plants. I dug it down to the clay level. 

Little goats tied up having their hooves trimmed. Shortly afterwards, I loaded them
up in the goat float and delivered them to a new family in Kaoota. I'd decided to sell them
because they were from last year's batch which I'd taken from their Mum's after only 2.5 months
and they'd stayed small as a result. The Mums had been suffering from trying to feed twins and
triplets and I also wanted to have goats available as pets and/ or meat for Christmas. I shan't
make the same mistake this year.

I brought Toby the buck down to the paddock vacated by the little goats. He
maa'ed pathetically in a high-pitched non-bucklike manner as I towed him down. Here
he stands in a hang-dog manner tethered near a hut. I tethered him as I didn't trust him to
stay within the electric fence, at least not without a companion. Twice during the same day
I found him off the stake trailing the chain behind him. I think the post was just bending a bit
and allowing the chain to ride up and slip off the top. I stopped that by tying the post to the hut.
A day or two later I moved rotten Tree down to keep him company. She is the biggest pig of the herd
and yet for some reason has not fell pregnant in the last two years. She was the first kid born on
our farm and has excellent lineage with a pure Boer buck as her sire. However, I can't feel much
affection for her as she's such a maa-ing nuisance, always wanting more food. I think I need to
sell her and get a sheep wether or maybe just one of young ones when they are weaned to keep him
company. At least we could eat them when Toby goes back in with the does.

I needed to keep the does well-fed as they were close to kidding. We'd had some
tremendous bouts of rain, but I still thought I'd be able to get across rock paddock OK
to get some blackwood for them. However, I dropped into a seasonal drain and sank like a stone
with no forward momentum whatsoever. You can see that the poor ute is down almost to its
axles. I'm pleased to say that Bronte's little Jinma was able to pull me out.

Inside Bronte's greenhouse. He's dug out beds, removed all the clay and filled
them with loam and our own well-weathered compost (hay and goat poo).

Veggie seedlings left over from planting in the Birchs Bay garden. I stuck
these containers and installed them in Bronte's greenhouse. They are now outside in the
'veggie patch'.

Greenhouse packed with Bronte's seed trays - trees and veggies.

Another view of the greenhouse and car port.

Luke was selected to represent his school in the 5th grade maths relay
team. Each person would take turns to be the runner and would run back and forth
from the team to the adjudicator assigned to them, with the questions and answers. Amazingly
2 teams finished all the questions and got everything right! They were public schools of course. These
guys had barely got into fractions, logic and decimals. I asked for a copy of the questions and they were
pretty tricky. Luke's team did quite well for an average state school and in fact convincingly trounced the 6th grade
team! I was a bit disappointed that there was virtually no preparation for them beforehand. If we hadn't spent a bit
of time on questions with Luke, he wouldn't have had a clue. I've also got him doing about 20 minutes/ day on
something called the 'Khan Academy' which is a structured way of teaching maths. However, I'm not sure how
much Luke is learning. I think sometimes he just guesses or goes through the multiple choices until he gets the right
answer. I just hope that eventually some of it sinks in.

Luke did very well in his Naplan test. These are tests held ever other year and are designed to test all kids in
Australia against the same standards. He was off the scale for reading and spelling and well above average for maths and
science. He's still playing the guitar and performed a little recital to his class with his guitar teacher in
attendance. He played 'Wipeout', the Sean the Sheep theme tune (I typed up the words and the kids sung along), 'Hall of the Mountain King' and 'Waltzing Matilda'. He can read music now and can therefore have a go at any song. He's
joined the guitar group at school and will be in the guitar group that will perform at a concert to be arranged next term.
He's also been playing soccer over winter and is greatly looking forward to playing cricket again in the summer.

I like this straw bale 'minion' outside a house on my route home from the
Birchs Bay garden. For those of you who don't know, minions are the little guys from
the 'Despicable Me' films. They are quite cute and do all the bad guy's bidding.

Murphy-Cat is still going strong. This is him sleeping right in behind the base of the
wood heater. He squeezes right in there to get the last of the heat from the dying fire. He's
been a real heat-seeker during the cold weather, poor old thing.
This is my poor, horribly over-loaded ute, full of rubble from some people in Moonah
who kindly responded to my Gumtree ad asking for clean fill. Luke came with me and we
were determined to take it all and leave the area clean for them, but it meant might
back axle being at breaking point. See how squidged the back tyres are. I'm using the rubble to try
and fill huge wet holes in tracks on the farm. In particular, I need to have all year access to the
area I've got to fence as the main part of my NIGs project (for which I got the grant).

Rubble in wet area, having made very little difference ..

I dropped some huge lumps of rock into one of the wet holes and they virtually disappeared.

I've finally finished the shelter belts I'm installing as part of the NIGs project.
These two areas are strips planted up with native plants in order to try and intercept
wind-blown thistle and fireweed seeds from neighbouring plants. I've had to put in
cow fencing to protect them from the cows being agisted on our land. This was my first post.
I had to dig holes 60cm deep in heavy clay. I concreted the posts in and braced them
really well. It was my first proper bit of cow fence, rather than electric fence or chicken wire
around coops. Ashlee helped me dig the holes.

Fencing in the snow. I had heck of a job getting the Suzuki up the hill in the winter
especially when carrying posts, wire, concrete and tools.
My finished fence. I'm very proud of it! I sourced most of the wire from a chap
on Gumtree on the other side of Hobart. It's second hand but really good quality.

Another view of my excellent fence - still needing a run of barbed wire along the top.

I was lucky enough to get a 'Green Army' team to help with the planting of the
shelter belts. Here they are at the top of 'Lone Tree Hill' (so called by Luke) putting in a line
of prickly acacias (acacia verticillata) and a line of leptospernum something. Unfortunately
the leptospernums were planted too close to the cow fence and the great leggy fresian steers that
were in there leant over and chomped them. Amazingly I think some of them may still
be alive. These were suckers that had come up around one of the natives we'd planted near the house.
Luke and I dug them up while the Green Army planted the acacias and fixed bits of the dodgy boundary fence.
I'm hopeful that these plants won't be eaten by the wallies since they don't eat the ones we've already
planted near the house.

Fording a little creek in the Suzuki in order to reach the pepperberry sheter
belt. A lot of branches and debris had built up making this too deep to cross. When I
cleared all that, the ford became shallow enough to cross and washed some of the silt away.
It's still extraordinarily uneven with big rocks both in the creek and either side. Also, although
it's not apparent from this photo, the banks on either side are steep and muddy with big rocks
poking through. So it's always a little nerve-wracking going backwards and forwards.

My finished pepperberry shelter belt. I put in the cow fence (on the left), but
with the help of the Green Army, I mended the boundary fence which was in a terrible
state (on the right), fitted wallaby wire up to about 50cm high, planted, watered and mulched
100 pepperberry plants and piled rocks on the folded-out 'skirt' of the wally fence to prevent
them the little blighters pushing through or under. It was quite a mammoth task. 

Most of the great Green Army folks who came here for 2 days to help with the shelter
belts. They work as volunteers for two months as a team, doing various environmental
tasks on farms and on community projects. Most of them wanted to do something similar
as a career. It's amazing what 10 or so people can achieve in 2 days.

Water flowing down the side of the road following a particularly
large downpour.

Bronte's Dad came to stay with us for about 10 days. I don't think he really wanted to come,
but his health is not too good, poor old chap and it was thought that it would do him good to have
a break. He wanted to go almost as soon as he arrived! He's somewhat isolated where he lives as all
his kids are scattered around Australia. It was nice for Luke to spend some time with his Aussie
grandpa. He had his 83rd birthday with us.

The amazing pine tree on one of our new paddocks. Each of the branches are the
size of a normal tree. Several of the branches rest on the ground.

Result of a black cockatoo attack on one of our small trees up goat hill.
They pull the branches apart to get at grubs inside.

Cows attacking my Suzuki. They stick their heads inside, bend the wing mirrors
and rub themselves against it. Each of them probably weighs more than the little car.

The following photos are of some of our trees in our so-called 'arboretum'. The colours are lovely in autumn now.



Various veggies, strawberries and little trees ready to be planted out.

We attended a Winterfest at a new cider place near us. It was part of the Mona
midwinter festival but was held about a month later. This photo shows the Aussie version
of Morris Dancers. All seemed a bit strange to me. I remembered the guys in white with red
sashes and bells on their ankles from my childhood in the UK and this lot with their home-made
raggedy and coloured outfits, just didn't seem right to me. The whole event was meant to be a
revival of the old rituals associated with celebrating the apple harvest and blessing the trees ready for
the following year. If anyone listens to BBC Radio 4's 'Archers' drama series, you'll know that they
do the same in the heritage apple orchard!

Barbed wire sculptures I rather liked at the Winterfest.