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8 August 2016

We have had some lovely sunrises ... probably due to pollution ... smoke haze
from all the wood burners probably .. we probably aren't helping!

Autumn and winter misty mornings. I never tire of seeing the different mist
formations in the hills and bush

Lenticular cloud over the mountains. This weird type of cloud formation is quite
common around here. Sometimes we get disc-shaped UFOs hanging in the sky

Luke and me at Agfest - major agricultural event in Tasmania. We went on the
coach which is a bit of a endurance event in itself. Takes about 3+ hours each way. I had the
added frustration of trying to work on Luke's tablet. I was editing academic papers for a
socially dysfunctional Saudi who was researching child abuse in Egypt. Apart from the fact that
we had major language difficulties his papers were pretty dire and there was no way I could
get them into publishable form without spending maybe 3x the hours he'd allocated. In the end
I had to tell him I couldn't do it for the money and he got even more cranky than he'd been up until
then. I managed to bite my tongue and give him a half-way decent review. Then he accused me of
making fun of him! I looked back through his reviews and saw that other people had similar issues with
him especially an American freelancer who'd said he was abominable!

Tassies only bullock team at Agfest. I love these great gentle beasts.
They must weigh nearly a tonne each.

Chainsaw carving at Agfest

Ducks and bunnies eating together. The bunnies are quite capable of driving
the ducks away. 5 of the bunnies now in our tummies ... I had to give the
ducks plain boiled barley or wheat to stop the bunnies being carnivorous. The bunnies will
quite happily eat bird food with meat and all sorts in it. Unfortunately that's fatal for
the young ones - but the older ones seem to thrive! Not quite such cute bunnies
any more eh?

Frosty goats and cows. Recently sold the 2 cows as it was becoming a real
headache keeping them fed. No grass plus the hay was running out. Sorry to see them go
particularly as it turns out poor Wilma was eaten. Apparently she turned out to be pregnant
and she was too young which meant that there would likely have been problems. Jet is
happily making friends at her new home. I haven't yet told Bronte and Luke that Wilma
was to be eaten. I thought they would both be quite upset - I was when I heard.

Beautiful autumnal Tupelo. This is one of two trees that we planted in honour
of Mum when she first came to visit us. It never seems to get any bigger. You can see how grey
and sere the grass is around it. Autumn came early for the trees and was over in a flash. The dry
perhaps made them drop their leaves extra-early.

Chicken frenzy.

Last batch of hatched hens released into a bigger area. There were 25 at this
stage. Just recently counted them and there seems to be only 19 now. Reckon the
rotten quolls have been gradually taking them. A couple of weeks back I processed the
batch prior to this - 12 nice juicy roosters. It always seems such a same as they are such
beautiful birds. As always though the boys are surplus to requirements!

Didn't manage to sell all the young guinea-fowl - alive, but was able to sell them ready
for the oven. Terrible job plucking them - the skin kept tearing. It was also mega-wasp
time (we had an awful lot of wasps this year) and they were swarming all over me & the
fowl as I tried to pluck and draw them. A chef over in Cygnet has bought them and put
them in the freezer. I've had no feedback as yet on the torn skin and wasp chew marks! Or whether
they actually tasted OK. We haven't tried eating them ourselves. Also got 5 surplus young
peacocks at present. Wondering whether to eat them (!) or try to let them free-range. I'm lothe to
inflict them on the neighbours if they take to wandering. But would love to have them strutting
around the property like the ones around stately homes in England. I need to put some nice high perches around
for them prior to release and try to dissuade them from perching on our deck railings (peacocks do
really huge noxious poops!).

Mad Mr Duck being moved in with the bunnies. Just look at those talons! Muscovies
have webbed feet and claws - this enables them to roost rather like hens. This guy is much too fat
and heavy to fly up to a roost however. 

For sale sign alongside the main block we are trying to sell. Look how
incredibly dry it was just a couple of months' ago. Since we put this sign up it has
barely stopped raining. We've had a few viewings but no offers, sigh. While this land
remains on the market we are stuck with working all hours to try and cover the mortgage and
keep our heads above water. I try to make a buck wherever I can providing it fits in with all
Luke's activities and school hours - and the needs of the land and animals. This year so far I've
sold hay, young goats, meat, a couple of Etsy things (goat skin, wally skin and lace), blackberries, the cows and
peacock feathers. I've written business plans for a start-up uber-style business for an Argentinian who kept
sending me 'hugs' by e-mail, and a fashion start-up in Sydney. Got myself in tremendous knots with the
financials but think I've not got a good template in place for doing all the forecast balance sheets etc. I've done
more things for the IT guy in Sydney who I've worked for on and off for the past year or so. This time I've been
putting together user stories and test plans for a new website. This was all new to me, but rather suits
my Aspergers brain. Still don't know if I've been doing it right because have had no feedback as usual. He's asked
if I want to do some of the actual testing, which is fine by me. I've written articles on smart devices as
part of a series on the internet of things - that was interesting and quite fun - and a whole 25-page guide
to setting up and running a business start-up in the UK. More recently I've picked up a client in Hobart who
actually pays me a half-decent hourly rate, for who I've been doing proposals. Got one on at the moment
which I should be working on instead of doing this. In addition I worked on election day (2 July) from 7am through to 11pm - quite a gruelling but interesting day. Now I'm doing the census because it is another thing
you can do in your own time. Also had the occasional AirBnB booking through autumn and winter (including my boss on election day!). So as you can see, with one thing (and almost total lack of WWOOFers owing to the change in 2nd year visa application rules) and another I've had little time for the farm and suddenly it's starting to feel as though Spring is in the air and I've not got any of the fencing in that I planned nor even started on the major part of the NIGs project for which I
gained a grant - which is due to be finished by the end of the year! Aargh!

Bottlebrush flowering at wrong time of year.

Bruce upside down in semi-darkness, not happy as he gets trimmed. Already
now he is back to his usual hairy self. Bruce will be 14 years' old in November. He's in
pretty good shape for an old dog but he's got very deaf. He's always liked to hang around us
when we've been mowing, brush-cutting or angle-grinding, which probably hasn't helped! I came up
behind him in the Suzuki and he suddenly realised I was there and jumped about a foot in the air.
He's got more affectionate in his old age and is actually an altogether nicer dog now. Bronte caught
him howling softly on the deck yesterday! What was that all about? Bronte thought it was because
I'd gone off with Rosie and Luke in the car and left Bruce behind.

Dark Mofo was a bit of a let-down this year compared to last year. However, we
didn't go into what were probably the best exhibits as you had to pay for them. And we are
too tight to pay!

Weird exhibit of lit bottles with faces on the ceiling which were 'weeping'
into a dark shallow pool.

TMAG (main museum in Hobart) glowing in the dark.

Typically surreal Dark Mofo exhibit.

We've had a lot of fires recently in an effort to tidy up the goat paddocks
from where I've piled up browse for them to eat.

We had a huge dead gum felled as we didn't feel capable and we were a bit
concerned that it could be a hazard. Also, it promised to make great firewood. We've been
gradually sawing it up. I made a start but had problems with the chainsaw. Bronte did all the rest
- keen to use his chainsaw once he'd discovered a super-dooper sharpener. I've since brought a
new chainsaw off the net but haven't had a chance to use it yet. Bronte keeps eyeing it up.

I got the ute stuck on a bit of a hillock trying to get past the gum so that it would
be easier to load. Tried and failed to shift it with Luke so had to give in and ask
Bronte to help. Poor ute sat there overnight looking forlorn and abandoned.

Huge rings of firewood back at the tractor shed. We've got a great mass of firewood
now which is an unusual position for us. Normally we are scratching around mid-winter trying
to find more wood. Unfortunately the heavens opened as soon as the gum was felled which
meant that the wood was soaked through. It's gradually drying out in the shed. We've also got loads of
wattle because huge branches blew down on our fence which Bronte tidied.

Once it finally started raining, it didn't stop. It's only in the past few days that we've
had a bit of dry again. Everything has been so incredibly soggy. This is Rocky Creek
in flood.

Crabtree Rivulet swollen with heavy rains.

Aerial photo (from Huon News) of Huonville under water. One of the worst floods
since the 60's apparently. Most of the shops were flooded including a little supermarket
which had just installed new fridges and freezers. The river rose by 4m and was brushing the
underside of the bridge.

More Huon News photos of Huonville under water. Shopkeepers and residents are
now calling for levees to keep back the floodwaters. Imagine such a huge wide river
rising by 4m - hard to comprehend such a volume of water.

Water catchment up on Rocky Creek. Luke and I walked up there as part of my
role as a census field officer. It's been great fun having to explore all the back roads visiting
out of the way dwellings. The census comes around every 5 years and where they can't verify all
the addresses they still use field officers to go to each house and deliver census forms and try to make
contact with the residents. Some of the tracks here are amazing, with people living several kms up 4WD
roads. You drive up them wondering if you've made a mistake and then suddenly emerge on the top of a hill
with amazing panoramic views to all sides. Luke was most jealous when we visited a couple of houses that were
about 600m up. We are only 230m so don't get the bulk of the snow. Luke's snow mad. He's determined
that he's going to live in Alaska or Siberia when he's old enough!

Mud in the goat paddock got atrocious. I proposed building an interceptor channel to
try and deflect the water coursing across the hill and divert it out of the paddock. Luke and his chum
were only too keen to help. I said we were like Basiljet building huge sewers alongside the Thames
or the Dutch draining the fens. My musings were lost on the boys. Goats have been shut in
one paddock because my electric fences are ageing and falling to bits - plus the wretched wallabies
have been wrecking them. The young goats also kept walking through the fences. Managed to get one paddock
reinforced and working really well. Just in the last few days, me and Luke tackled the stretch of fence
that separates the main goat paddocks from the rest of the farm - and more crucially - Bronte's trees. Haven't tested it
but think it's working well, so the goats have been let out to roam. Trouble is there is no feed out there and
I'm having to ration their hay. I also give them cooked barley, bread and veg scraps when I can get hold of
them and chopped apples from the nearby orchard. Trouble is if they pig out on the apples it can upset their stomachs.
I've been dragging browse to them but there's not much left for them at this time of year except for wattle and blackwood.
They will only eat the wattle when desperate and the blackwood is not really their favourite.

Successful drainage project. Luke with his chum from down the road: Angus

You can see how yucky this corner of the paddock had become. The water was sheeting into
the paddock from across the hill to the left.

Completed channel: worked a treat.

Various hides, washed and drying. I've been very lax on the hide front with maybe
30 or so awaiting attention - mix of wally, goat, sheep and rabbit.

Bronte cleaned the glass on the wood heater and you could see
reflections in it for the first time.

I've been advertising my peacock feathers. One school girl bought
50 from me and used them to create the mane for this lion - part of her year 12
arts major. Very imaginative! I've even started to create an Instagram account on which to
advertise them. Very 21st century for me, given I'm not a great fan of social media in general.
I really hate facebook. I don't like the format, the look or the functionality. Instagram appeals to me
because it is nicely visual and uncluttered. Thought it would be great to display feathers and other very
visual items for sale. I had to research all these various social media platforms for the fashion start-up.
That's how I picked up on Snapchat - which had also been mentioned a number of times on the
BBC's Techtent show which I listen to. Luke's now on Snapchat together with some of his mates at
school. It's an interesting idea and I can see it totally eclipsing facebook as its immediacy and
ephemeral nature appeal to youngsters.

Little burner created for cooking up small quantities of goat, bird or dog
food, without having to use the gas burner.

Siphoning some of my noisome fertiliser water out. Luke and Rosie enjoyed
helping. Its made a massive difference where it's been used. Small patches of grass
are now vivid green and many times longer than the grass alongside.

Luke, Bronte and Luke's chum Josh did the North-South trail on Mount Wellington.
Josh is mad keen on cycling but perhaps not so experienced as Luke. Both kids fell off and
Josh was covered in bruises and scratches when they'd finished.

More fire-starting activities during the school hols.

Luke (above) and Josh (below) mud-splattered after I took them cycling along
a substantial section of the Pipeline Track. It was about 7degC, drizzling, foggy and
wet! I looked much the same. Our trousers/ shorts were soaked through
with liquid mud (most uncomfortable) and we had mud stripes up our backs. Despite the
conditions we had great fun. I heard a lyre bird and the kids enjoyed oohing and aahing over all
the waterfalls we saw en route. Got very close to cathedral rock, an awesome rock-face which
loomed out of the mist at us. Unfortunately I forgot to take the phone with me on the ride! Coming
back down on Bronte's bike (can't find any means of pumping my tyres up at present) was a very
bruising experience - I vowed to tie cushions to the seat and handlebars next time! Josh very smug as he
has suspension. My poor hands are already in an awful state as with arthritis, particularly in the top knuckle of each
finger and the main thumb joints. Being vibrated violently on a mountain bike didn't do them the world
of good.

Luke and Bronte went walking on a track we'd not tried before up on Mount Wellington
and found these unusual rock formations.

We've been teaching Luke to drive the farm Suzuki (just on our land) and he
enjoys this immensely. He's starting to get quite good. If he can drive that he'll be able
to drive anything when he's older. It seemed like an important skill for him to learn and it
means he can do things independently if the need arises. For instance he drove himself and a mate
down to our waterfall to see the flowrate and took a bale of hay for me up to the goats.

Frosty dude kid with hen. He said the snow was giving him snow-blindness and
insisted on wearing sunglasses even when the sun wasn't shining. I was singing to him this
morning: 'Crusty the SnowMum, is going to bite your bum ...'

Couple more kid pics. On Hobart climbing wall for a birthday party and as a little
scruff in this year's school photo.

Below is a little 15-year birthday montage for Murphy-Cat. He turned 15 on 28 June. He's doing pretty well for an old purry-cat. He still looks and feels like a sack-of-cat. But his fur is great and he seems happy and well. He does live a life of complete laziness and luxury, barely venturing outside and moving only from lap to patch of sun to heat pad to fire. When I went in for my operation in February this year, poor Murphy suffered separation anxiety and lost a load of fur. All's well again now I'm glad to say.

NBN hut in construction. What that? you may ask. NBN stands for National Broadband Network. A company
has been set up to extend broadband across Australia. Fibre for the cities, fixed wireless for regional areas, satellite for
areas that can't be reached by either of the above. We were originally marked up as a fixed wireless residence but when
they came and did the test couldn't get a signal. We've been stuck on a 8Gb/ month expensive and deteriorating
'mobile' broadband plan for years' now, as we can't get ADSL or ISDN (our copper line wasn't suitable, then we were too
far from the exchange, then there were no more ports available ...). I was determined to do something about it as me and
Luke are always fighting over data. I like to download my radio shows onto my ipod and Luke likes to play his games online. I also need the internet for my writing research. After months - nay years - I eventually found a possible
solution - getting NBN installed where there is line of sight both to the tower and to the house, and beaming it
back to the house using a couple of paired antenna dishes. This is the NBN hut under construction in the garage.

Finished NBN hut - pretty cool eh? Unfortunately installing a solar-powered installation in the middle
of winter is not a great idea. Lack of sun and low light levels/ hours in the day plus frost overnight have all
conspired to reduce battery capacity and stop the solar panels re-charging them. Currently all my electric fencing kit is
there - both my solar panels, 3 x 85Ah deep-cycle batteries and my 30A solar charge controller. I had to buy a
new inverter with pure sine wave AC output and 2 sockets. Even that's not enough, because I've had to put the router
down there because for some reason I couldn't get internet at the house without it being pre-configured by the router at source. It's been a sorry saga. We had the installation done (by a particularly grumpy git who came in one of those
useless utes that's about 2inches off the ground) on 7 July and only went live on 5 August. I had to load all his kit into
the little Suzuki and get it to the hut for him and then when he left he (presumably accidentally) went off with the
PoE injector and power cable for our little access point dish. So I had to replace that (for which I am still waiting on a
refund), then we had a major storm and power outage for 2 days so I couldn't do any testing. Then power issues at the
hut made it difficult and when I did test it all I still couldn't get internet access. I managed to get our little dishes
aligned perfectly at first try. I used a carpenter's square across the face of the dish and sighted down it in order to make
small adjustments. Had to climb on the house roof to do it. Also managed to log into them with the laptop and get them configured. They worked first time. Bronte built us the most sturdy little shed and mounted the dishes in the first instance. The dishes are working at -49dbms which is apparently very good. They effectively create a virtual ethernet cable between them. Their speed and bandwidth capability is well in excess of what is supplied by NBN. From the house, I could log into the router at the hut with no delay - fantastic! But eventually we had to get a new NBN box. Not sure what - if anything - was wrong with the first. But now it works. Still haven't got e-mail and Voip (voice over internet) working satisfactorily but getting there. Also have to put Wi-Fi router in at this end so the mobile devices can connect. Can presently get e-mail in but have problems sending it, I don't know why. Also got the hut on a timer between 9am and 8pm which is a bit restrictive, in order to try and preserve batteries. Have thrown caution to the winds and invested a bit of my meagre savings into a new 130Ah battery (think my old ones have lost a lot of capacity), a 250W solar panel, a digital timer (I can then set it to say go off at 11.30pm and come on at 6.30am) and an MPPT solar charge controller (they are apparently up to 30% more effective
than the one I'm currently using - PWM). As the day's lengthen and we get a bit less cloud cover, the hut should work better and better. Come winter again though I'll probably have to invest in another deep-cycle battery and a voltage booster so I can charge the in-situ battery with another that I can re-charge at the garage. It's being doing my head-in learning about all
this stuff and hanging on the phone for hours trying to get our supplier to deal with our issues. Voip will mean that all
our phone calls will go over the net at a cheap rate - although I'll have to buy Wi-Fi phones or a cordless set with 3 additional hand-sets to replace our current crappy old things. I'd like to get caller ID this time. We'll then have 250Gb/ month and 25mbps speed plus phone calls, all for less than we are currently paying for our rubbish service. I'll then be able to enable Skype, connect the TV so we can download stuff and watch on-demand services and even watch stuff on YouTube!
A whole new world awaits!

Had a bit of an accident with a petrol container when trying to light a fire outside.  Had a few
petrol issues just lately. Each one worse than the other. Managed to put petrol in the diesel ute (again) and
had to borrow a car from a nice lady at the local shop, drive to Huonville to buy 2 x 20l and 1x 5l petrol
containers, then come back and siphon all the petrol out using a hose from round the back of the shop,
before refilling. I was meant to be out on census work - ha ha. Luke was with me but he was
happily playing on his tablet in the ute while this was going on. We had the tablet with us because we
used an app for the census in order to enter dwellings, geolocate them and scan in the form barcode. A further
petrol incident occurred when I dropped a mixing container I was filling for the mower, and the petrol
shot straight up out of the container into my eyes and up my nose. I staggered into the laundry and rinsed
out my eyes, but it took several hours before my nose was working properly again and I could get rid of the
smell of petrol!

Last batch of home-made preserves. This is rosehip syrup. It's lovely stuff
- a bit like runny honey with a fragrant taste. Great with yoghurt or on toast or ice cream.

We've had a lovely amount of snow this year - although the main falls were during the school holidays when both Luke and Bronte were already at home so they didn't get any 'snow days'. Most of these pics were taken on Mount Wellington or up Jeffreys Track. 

Mrs duck is laying again which means she's always hungry. She's started visiting
me in the garage again, come rain or shine (or snow).

Murphy eating snow off the deck.

We had a terrific storm which brought down a heap of trees around us. Around 5 took down power lines in the hills just above us, cutting us and 4 other houses off. Most of the Huon Valley was off for a few hours, but we got stuck without electric from the early hours of one day through to mid-afternoon the following day. It was quite fun for a time although it got to be quite a trial making food, hot drinks or even flushing the loo. Without electric we don't have water in the house as there is a pump that brings water from the rain-tanks. So we had to bring in creek water for toilet flushing and my gas burner for making tea and heating food. I even managed to rustle up a hearty pasta. Luckily I had a 20l container of creek water in the garage which we boiled for drinking water, because the water coming out the creek taps was brown owing to the run-off from the hills.

The wind brought down this little tree which was about 6 years' old. I managed to
tow it to the goats despite it really being too heavy for the Suzuki and the ground being so
slippery. Had to keep jerking it forward a few inches at a time. Goats put their noses up at it
but have since stripped it clean. A large Luke snowball can be seen in the background.

Big wattle came down on our road blocking it to all traffic. This is the after-
math following the Council chainsawing it up. We didn't even know it had
come down because we'd not had to go out that day. Later, Luke and I went
for a drive to see the damage to the powerlines - it was pretty serious! Of course
I forgot to take my camera ... Sleet was falling in the hills in the background
to this photo.

Somewhere behind this load of wattle is the Suzuki. Bronte has got a thing against
wattles and is often out chopping the tops out of them (don't ask my why ...).
Here he is towing the off-cuts to the goats in the snow.
Doing a great job of sweeping the drive at the same time.

Wattle dumped alongside our drive by the Council from the fallen tree on our road.
Bronte (who's been in major chainsaw mode) has since sawn it up. It's got beautiful
markings. Currently it's still sitting in the rain by the drive. Come better weather I'll
move it all under cover in the tractor shed for next year's fuel.

Weird snow bobbles on native laurels up Jeffreys Track.

This is an imprint of my face in soft snow!

Lone kid. Bronte and I refused to walk any further.


Luke and I have learned a new word: Grauple. Apparently it means a mix of hail
and sleet. I think that is is what was falling in this photo and settling on Bruce - who
is clearly highly insulated! We were chopping wood for the fire - a task sure to
warm you up even on a freezing cold day.

More wattle moving. Bronte dismantled one in a hen run, which was threatening
to block our view and take over the hen run. It's left a skeletal tree which the birds can
perch on. Luke's planted a jasmine alongside it which can grow up it in time. I also plan
to use it as a base for a peacock and guinea-fowl perch for when I dare to free-range them.

Yaks in the snow. Well not yaks, young highland cattle. Luke and I call them
yaks. I always sing 'yakkety yak, don't talk back' at them and we occasionally take
them chopped apples. They've moved in just down the road and we often walk past them
when we go to the school bus stop. Luke and I still try to walk at least some of the way
 to at least start the day with a bit of aerobic exercise.