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Wednesday 27 January 2016

Native tree on our boundary alongside the creek, in full flower. Unfortunately I don't
know the name of it.

Jonquils in flower under blackwoods we planted on arrival, by our front gate.

Mist in the valley

Me laying old concrete blocks in holes in farm track

Rainbow over hills to east of house

I certainly know how to create a rod for my own back. Every week seems to be busier than the last. I'm always dreaming up some new scheme or acquiring a new animals, without shedding any old schemes or removing many of the animals. These last months have been made worse by the 'drought' gripping Tasmania and by what appears to be an even greater increase in the onslaught of browsing native animals, mostly pademelons (little wallabies). Of course, summer is our busiest time any year, with all the babies appearing on the farm, weeds rampaging through the paddocks and the need to be carting water for animals and plants. In addition, we have begun growing veggies, making liquid fertiliser and letting out a suite of rooms on AirBnB. The long warm evenings encourage you to work all hours, as to come inside and relax seems the height of laziness when there is so much that needs attending to outside. To cap it all I heard just today that my operation has finally come through (for endometriosis) and will take place next week (apparently there is no such thing as getting decent notice in the Tassie healthcare system). There is never a convenient time on a farm and with a school-age child, to be out of action following surgery, but just a week ago when both Bronte and Luke were at home on holiday, would have been distinctly better timing! However, we shall just have to try and make it work somehow.

This is Sooty, our new buck rabbit, when newly acquired. He's a darling, a real softy who loves
cuddles and throws strops when being ignored. Sometimes he runs around his hutch with his food bowl in his mouth.
The picture above shows Sooty when only 8 weeks' old. He's grown exponentially (or so it appears), first outgrowing his little hutch, then getting bored in the old apple crate that's usually used as a baby bird brooder. Just 2 days' ago he was ousted into his own roomy pen within the larger bunny pen. I needed his cage to accommodate all the baby birds to date so that some new chicks could benefit from the only other heater lamp. The chicks popped out a day early, so I was forced to work into the late evening contriving a bunny-proof pen for Sooty in the corner of the big pen. Concerned that he would try to climb out I over-hung the fences, and to prevent him digging out I folded wire out over the ground on both sides. He seemed a little forlorn when first put outside but seems to be getting accustomed. I give him a scratch each day and plenty of dandelions (his favourite).

Outbreak of unexpected baby bunnies
We had four white doe bunnies in the big outdoor run - or so we thought. One day 8 tiny bunnies emerged from the hut much to our surprise. Around the same time, one of the 'does' seemed slow and sickly. Luke managed to catch it and we noticed its ears were bunged up and looked infected. We'd had an old buck die from a similar thing in the past. Luke and I treated it with betadine and anti-everything zinc cream and only then noticed that it was actually a buck! We'd just bought Sooty and had decided to try and control breeding a bit more than in the past, so we kept the sickly guy in quarantine in the garage and treated his ears regularly. He must have been an old boy, because he stayed thin & bony despite his ears clearing up and eating well. Having been quite wild he became quite tame and would rush out for his dandelions. However, I found him dead in his cage one morning, with a mouthful of food. He'd been fine the night before. I hope it was just old age.

This calf had been running with our neighbour's cows that are agisted on our land. I found out
it belonged to another neighbour who'd sold its Mum and had run out of feed on their land. We offered
to give it a home so here it is!
Jet the calf is our new acquisition. She's half Angus and half Dexter (a miniature all-purpose breed), so it's debatable how large she will grow. Hopefully she can start our planned beef herd in the future, or we would have the option to milk her if we bred from her. We had fun and games capturing and then re-capturing her. The neighbours herded their cows into the stock yard and separated Jet out. However, they forgot to tell me straightaway, so when I did find out she'd been in there about 24 hours with no food or water! It was already late in the day so there was no way I could get her back to our place that evening. I supplied her with cut grass and water and we all went down to get her the following day.

The neighbour who had owned her kindly lent us halters and a stiff rope. We managed to get her lassoed and half coaxed, half towed her into our stock yard and tied her there with food and water. I forgot what was going on but there was a reason we couldn't take her all the way home that day. The next day, she'd escaped from the yard and was roaming the roads. After what seemed an age we managed to lasso her again and Luke and I towed her home (by hand), with Bronte coming up behind with the Suzuki to give her a little nudge when necessary. I tethered her in the paddock recently vacated by Toby (our goat buck) and Tree (our doe that never falls pregnant) but daren't let her roam in there because she'd not been trained on electric fences and indeed in her short life had proven to be something of an escape artist.

That's worked well except for one occasion when the tether came apart from where I'd tied her and Bronte had left the gate open (!), and she wandered off again. I found her pretty promptly, down in another neighbour's property (a mad neighbour with whom I'd had previous run-ins). I straightaway asked if Jet had caused any damage and he started on me immediately. Feeling tired and fed-up I lost my temper, shouted at him and then burst into tears! Not very dignified. Anyhow, she's back in the pen and Toby and Tree are now back with her, because we finally got some rain after weeks of drought and I didn't want them staying out all night without shelter. Still got her tethered though, sigh, because I still haven't found time to tidy the grass which has grown through the electric fence and get her trained on it. Thought I'd tether her close to it for starters, so if she wandered into it, she'd get zapped (but without being able to escape).

She pulled me over the other day. I picked up the tether and she suddenly ran and swept me off my feet. I fell heavily onto shoulder and hip where I have lovely great bruises.

Rosie, flat dog

Rosie, exceptionally muddy dog. She jumped into the ute and promptly
shook herself, covering me in dirty water. Despite the very dry weather there are still springs running
on our land, under the sedge and tea-trees. Rosie chose to explore these while I was
spraying Californian thistles.

Bruce had one of his irregular tidies. If I don't trim his fur, it can reach almost to the ground under his belly. His fur is ridiculously thick and long such that no ordinary electric clippers will work on him. He hates the hot weather, which we've been having rather a lot of recently, so I try to keep his fur as short as possible. I really need a pair of sheep shears. I noticed that they still sell the old-fashioned hand clippers for sheep in the local ag-store, but they were around $60. Above I am actually bathing him after his trim, much to his annoyance. It was sufficient indignity for him to be trimmed with scissors - he shows his displeasure by snapping at me during the procedure. Below his is both trimmed and clean. Unfortunately, now he is mostly covered in horrid buzzies (some sort of acaena). I've given up trying to get them off him because he makes such a fuss. Instead he pulls off the ones he can reach and spits them out all over the laundry floor overnight.

A tasty cooked treat for the goats. We get the scraps from a local cafe which makes
waffles and other sticky treats. The goats and birds love their cooked stews.
The pictures below show the reinforcement I've had to undertake on the small goat paddock. When Bronte was building his car-port and greenhouse, the baby goats were very young. He kept switching off the electric fence because it runs close to his structure, and then forgetting to switch it back on. Consequently, the young goats learnt that the electric fence was nothing to fear. Despite isolating the small paddock so it was running at over 8,000v and zapping them all, they did not unlearn those early lessons. Consequently, they were walking through the fences as though they weren't there. Mostly this was not too much of an issue but then they started attacking Bronte's young oak trees. This did not go down well to say the least. My only option was to shut them in the smallest paddock and reinforce it. This took several weeks owing to me being busy with lots of people needing their gardens mowed and weeded.

I used a right mish-mash of techniques as you can see below. I'd crocheted and netted a fair few metres of baling twine fence so I installed that. Elsewhere I just added three more live wires to the 5-strand fence. In some places I strung wire mesh from the insulators and electrified that along with the braid strands. Lastly, I fixed one section using plastic orange barrier mesh that I'd picked up from the Hobart Tip Shop. It looks a little like someone has been yarn-bombing the fence. It may not be pretty but it's worked to keep the little horrors (well not so little any more) in. Trouble is that because they are in such a relatively small area, coupled with the very dry spring and summer we've experienced, it's been a full-time job keeping them fed. I have to cut browse for them two or three times a week, hence the build-up of enormous piles of sticks in the paddock. They also get barley and molasses and any scraps I can scrounge, including rather a lot of out-of-date milk. Kids can be fed with cow's milk, so it's perfectly OK for them to drink these left-overs, although the books say nothing about banana milk-shake or iced coffee...

I've sourced barley from north Hobart. I buy about 250kg at a time, making it far cheaper than bags of goat pellets or meal. I add the molasses, make sure they have a good calcium intake and provide them with mineral and salt licks. It seems to be suiting them.

One of the big pile of sticks being burnt. Luke and I burnt another two last week. After
weeks of very dry, hot weather we had had some rain, so we thought it would be pretty safe. However,
once the fire got really hot it started creeping across the short grass. We quickly stamped out these
runaways and didn't feed the fire for a while! One problem with lighting fires is that our mad neighbour's
polyethylene water pipe runs across the paddock. It's grown in so it's difficult to spot. However, if we lit
a fire on it, we'd soon have our own geyser!

Toby (our goat buck) and Tree, his apparently barren companion, are shown tethered amongst
blackberries. Their separate small paddock is similarly dry with little grass. Fed up with feeding
them and cutting browse for them, I had the bright idea of tethering them amid blackberries and long
rough grass on one of our ridges. It's remarkable how quickly they can clear an area. Toby is like an
eating machine. Only trouble is I have to cart water to them every other day (Toby gets through about
8 litres in two days) and move them regularly.
The photos below show some of the goat mums and babies soon after birth in October last year. All the Mums had twins or triplets, apart from horrible Tree who was barren as usual. She's lucky I needed a companion for Toby otherwise I'd have turned her into mincemeat after two years of no babies!

Nell with Kelly and Jello. I haven't castrated Jello. He's a pretty kid, with a stocky
Boer look to him, more like his Mum than Toby. So I decided to keep him as a buck, for
mating with those does who are not his blood relations! Nell did have a third kid,
but it was dead when Luke and I found her soon after the birth. It may have been still-born
but more likely she hadn't properly cleaned it up - it still had membrane and mucus around
its nostrils. She must have had the babies overnight when we couldn't keep a close eye
on them all. I suspect that with no experience of triplets she just concentrated on the first
two and took no notice of the third.

Milly with her triplets Gilly, Jilly and Dilly (very original I know!). Luckily
Milly has four working teats and she's a big strong goat, so she has raised them very
successfully. They seem not to have suffered at all.

Nan with her very pretty babies, Dan and Gran. We named the latter in honour
of Nan's late Mum, who'd died a month or two earlier. She was the old matriarch
of the herd.

Super-White with Snowball and Custard. Super is aptly named. She eats anything
and everything and unlike the other goats, lost no condition when feeding her twins. Her
feet are great, hooves hardly need clipping. Never gets sick. 

Luke holding baby captive while it awaits vaccination.

Happy Primrose buried in Blackwood branches I'd cut for them. Poor Primrose and her pretty sister Chilli-White are
now orphans unfortunately. Their Mum Billy, was one of our more robust goats, but she was getting old.
After a heavy rain (the only one of the summer) there must have been a mass-hatching of worm eggs and
somehow Billy was the only one who ingested a large load. I first noticed a swelling under her chin and
remembered reading something in my goat bible about 'bottle-jaw'. I looked it up and discovered it was
associated with a large Barbers-Pole worm infection. Luckily I had the right drench at hand and treated her, but
rather than recovering as I hoped she seemed to go downhill. After more research I found out that Barbers-Pole
damages the lining of the stomach and it can take months for the animal to recover. Iron and B12 was recommended.
I treated Billy carefully for several days and she seemed to rally and was eating a little. But then one day she
went down on the ground and I knew then it was hopeless. I couldn't get her too stand for more
than a minute or two and I'd seen goats at this stage before and can almost never nurse them back to health.
The following morning I went up with heavy heart with the gun, but she was already dead.
Luckily the twins were almost weaned by this stage.

Luke with little Cutie-Pie, one of Dusty's babies. She's the only one of the
kids that shows a bit of Toby's Anglo-Nubian domed head.

Dan posing for his Gumtree advertisement photograph!

Dan and Gilly off on their travels to a new home.

Leopard and Smiley with smart new collars from their new owners. We've
had regular updates from the new owners (who hail from Bristol in SW UK), so
we know they are happy and healthy. Unlike a goat of ours that we had sold a couple
of years ago who we recently found tethered on her own in a dust bowl. Have tried
to buy her back with no luck so far.
Photo below shows one of the rotten sheep. We usually get a couple of early lambs in early summer, to keep down the grass in the big bird runs and old pig pens. They then get put in the freezer and their fleeces turned to sheepskin. Last year's were tame and baa'd all day and pushed you around when you went in. These two are the opposite. They are so skitty it's hard to feel much love for them! We were herding them out of the peacock run into a larger area when one decided to refuse to move. Here Luke and his mate Josh are dragging it into the pen. It seemed pretty chilled about this manoeuvre.

Happy sheep in long grass at the beginning of summer. Same area now brown
and largely burnt to a crisp. Just a few green sprouts.

One of the hen runs which Luke and I scalped. It was full of long grass and the
birds kept laying wherever they felt like it, which made it a full-time job finding eggs. My
idea was to brushcut all the grass and cut out the bottoms of the bushes so there was nowhere
cosy for a nest except in the nest box. Worked a treat! Grass has since grown back but is
now sere and dying.

Very laid-back chick taking his chances with Rosie and Luke.

Same chick chilling.

Blasted cravens (forest ravens) kept going in the nest boxes and stealing my hens' eggs.
Building tunnels into the next boxes (above and below) seems to have helped. Proper coops would be even better
of course, but I've not got that advanced as yet. I did buy the wood once and came up with a design
but I left it so long, Bronte used the wood for bracing his car port and I lost the will to make coops
with so much else needing doing.

Collection of peacock and guinea eggs ready for incubation.

Peacock with first 2 hatchlings. Her other eggs didn't hatch. We managed to rescue
one little weak cheeper who we put in the garage under a heat lamp with baby
guinea-fowl. The other peahen, hatched all 5 of her eggs! They are much more successful
hatching their eggs than I am in the incubator. The only worry are the quolls and devils that are
present in large numbers in the bush behind their pens. So far (fingers-crossed), I've managed to keep
them at bay. Mr Peacock is also quite fierce if anyone goes near his offspring. We've got one other that hatched
in the incubator, so we've got 9 young peafowl this year.

Mr Peacock in full plumage.

When Mrs Duck was sitting on eggs, she would come to visit me in the garage
each day for a feed of wheat.

10 ducklings! So sweet. We let Mrs Duck hatch them and then bring them into the garage
for a couple of weeks until they are strong enough to find their food and water in the larger
pen that the ducks share with the bunnies.

Above and below: Ducklings in covered pen near peacocks. I didn't put them back with Mr Duck and the bunnies because we were fearful of goshawks which were menacing the area. Unfortunately this turned out not to be such a good choice. When the ducklings were half grown and still completely helpless (their wings take a long while to catch up with the rest of them), a Tasmanian Devil chewed a couple of big holes in the wire and took the lot overnight. I was gutted. They really would have been 'sitting ducks'.

Just before Christmas I speculatively put us on AirBnB, not expecting an immediate response. We got 2 bookings almost immediately. The first people booked to arrive at 8pm on Christmas Day. I had to have a mad couple of days trying to get everything ready. It involved moving Luke and his bed and essentials into the spare room upstairs. He's got the best room in the house how. It's above the one shown immediately below so has that lovely corner picture window and also has an opening window to the west so he can see up the drive, almost to the gate.

We sorted all his books, toys and clothes and amassed a mammoth Vinnie's donation. We took this to Vinnies and came home with a bureau, large coffee table, 2 painted chairs and a pair of small red tables - all Ikea seconds in our new local second-hand furniture shop (and a good bargain). We converted Luke's old room to a sort of kids room-come-lounge and tea/ coffee area and tidied up the WWOOF room to be a main double. Had to pull out all the old WWOOF clothes and boots and scrub everything. Luke and I had to do a quick sortie to buy a used single bed off Gumtree, for the next booking, which included kids. The second single is a foam mattress on the floor which we can put away if not required. There is barely room for 2 beds in that room, with the bureau etc in there. I wanted the bureau so people would have somewhere comfortable to sit to use their laptops (if people still have such things) or write letters (ha-ha).

I took the impulsive decision to go on AirBnB because we'd had almost no WWOOFer enquiries this summer. The government has changed the working criteria to enable qualification for a 2nd-year working visa, to make voluntary work (and specifically WWOOFing) inapplicable. So the enquiries have just disappeared. We've had one set of WWOOFs so far (see below) and hopefully have another couple coming for a few days later in Feb and a Japanese girl who has booked for 2 weeks in late March. I've blocked off the rest of February on AirBnB, given my imminent surgery.

Main double room

Main double room (walls are as above photo, not this weird pink that's come
out in this photo.)

Second room. Decked out as a kids' room, but we've actually had groups of
4 adults which I hadn't really expected. Not sure how to differentiate on AirBnB. Have
had to add a surcharge for extra people over 2, in order to cover extra work/ breakfasts etc.

Bathroom dedicated to AirBnB guests.

The funny thing about our experience is that several groups have expected to be able to cook in the evenings in our kitchen. With one group (chap and his two nice but manic boys), we actually came to an arrangement whereby he did the cooking for all of us and I did all the clearing up and contributed to the food! It worked OK for us and I hope it did for him! Anyhow we have only had positive reviews so far. I do provide a good breakfast, various home-made breads toasted, home-made yoghurt, loads of spreads, fruit and home-produced eggs cooked however people want them. Pretty substantial! I've tried to make it clear on the site that we are not self-catering, although we are perfectly happy for people to make a sandwich, heat something up etc, just not a full-blown cooked meal.

Last lace doily I had on Etsy was sold. Here it has been washed and pinned out
for ironing and shaping (called 'blocking').

Small goatskin on Etsy. Hasn't sold so far, rather to my surprise. I'll have
to look at the pricing. I tend to be over-cautious re postage costs having been
stung a couple of times. I have discovered couriers now and they may well be
cheaper than post for larger/ heavier parcels.

Bennetts Wallabies skins soaking, reading for tanning, softening etc. I sold
one before Christmas but didn't get around to finishing it until just before my op. Got
it as soft as possible but probably needed more work. Guy makes pouches for bush-walkers/
campers. I had another order which I cancelled because the fur started falling out and I didn't have time
to do another before my op.

I sold a couple of these gift boxes off Etsy for Christmas. They contain blackberry
liqueur, Happy Pig Soap, pepperberries and lip balm. The boxes are decorated with
Xmas colours and themes via decoupage. What a time that took!

We went to a Big Bash League cricket match at the Blundstone Arena to see the Hobart Hurricanes, get rather thrashed! Pity really because they had won the previous home game. They started off the season quite well, but faded rather quickly! Big Bash is quite entertaining because they only play 20 over innings and slog a lot of 4s and 6s. There is also a bit of crowd entertainment and razzmatazz with fire blasters and fireworks. Me and Bronte are a bit old school and grumble about the loud music, awful emcees and the constant adverts on big screens. The thing that I hate most though are the awful mascots. Some poor sod dressed up in purple with a lightning bolt coming out of his shoulder making him look like a hunchback.

The following photos are of my revoltingly smelly home-made liquid fertiliser. In 44 gallon drums I'm putting nettles, used tea-bags, left-over bones/ carcasses, dolomite or lime, wood ashes and heaps of disgusting poultry and rabbit poo. I then top it right up with water and leave it to fester. I've tried various methods of extracting it and applying it to the ground. I first tried to filter it, firstly with aviary mesh and then through straw. Also tried old t-shirts and other bits of material. The mesh worked a treat and took out all the big lumps. However, I had in my head that I'd be able to use the sprayer to distribute the diluted results, which meant I had to get all the little bits out. It was hideously slow trying to get it through straw or material and then when I put it in the sprayer the nozzle constantly blocked up. I removed the nozzle and just let it flow out, but then I had to refill the sprayer every 5 minutes. It clearly wasn't a practical way forward. So now I just stick with the mesh, push it right down into the drum and scoop out the liquid with a bucket. To get it onto the paddocks I've been filling all the buckets and containers we've got with dilute fertiliser and then just tipping them out on the top of slopes. Impossible to know if its made any difference this year, because it's been so dry.

We went to a big garage sale at nearby Willie Smith's Cider House, as part of Tasmania's big garage sale
day. There were a whole range of stalls from different people. Someone sold two Highland cattle! We came home
with a massive haul including the chair pictured above and the rubbish knife block below. Also a 3D jigsaw, club hammer
and various other oddments. The chair was a good score - $130 for an unused electric recliner. It's massively
comfortable and replaces one of our old club chairs which was peeling terribly from sitting in the sun. I'm part
way through trying to cover the other one.

This photo and the two below are of the lovely garden I do over on the Channel Highway. I was going
over there once a week doing 5 hours for $20/ hour. However, I was getting so much demand more locally
that I tried to resign from this job owing to the 45min drive. However I was tempted back when offered
$25/ hr plus an extra $25 for the driving. I only go once a fortnight now, which is much easier and a
great deal. However, I'm going to have to stop after my op.

I've mowed this garden a couple of times. Approximately 6 hours of mowing on quite
rough ground, under trees, down rough paths, hauling the mower up a steep slope to get to various parts.
The first time there I got so hot I had to peel off my trousers and instead wore my long-sleeve
shirt as a skirt! Also mowed a path for the kids through a big paddock at the back of the property. Their
mower was a beast which was almost impossible to start and then shot gravel at me before the blades got
stuck underneath. Used our little 2-stroke next time and it was a huge job for the poor little machine.

Creek along boundary of above property.

Friendly pussy cat and dog at one of the houses I've worked at recently. I've done the garden a couple
of times, cleaned all the windows and cleaned the entire house on the day the lady moved out.

A massively windy night resulted in the gutter falling off the tractor shed.

Luke made a 'buzzie ball'. Every year we are plagued by these awful plants we call buzzies. I've tried
to identify them but all I can ascertain is that they are some sort of acaena. They are apparently indigenous to
Tassie. Each flower turns into a horrid little sphere of hooks which stick to socks, laces, trousers, dogs ...
You can roll up a ball of buzzies just like a ball of snow.

Selfie of me in spraying mode.

Pictures above and below are of hay-making. What a job! I spent countless hours in the weeks leading up mowing time, cleaning all the paddocks of buzzies, thistles, bracken and sedge. What a complete nightmare. I started by cutting and pasting sedge - ie using secateurs to cut the sedge and quickly painting the cut stems with strong glyphosate. After a while it was clear I would never get done at that rate. The plan was to try and open up new paddocks that we'd never cut for hay before, because the grass yield was very low compared to previous years. The drought had a huge effect despite us getting higher rainfall than in the valley. But the predations by the pademelons had the biggest impact. Great patches of grass were reduced to moss level. We were determined to cut as much as we could as hay was terribly scarce and prices were going through the roof. We heard stories of bales going for $20 each! In all past years we sold our surplus bales for $5.

This year we sold for $8 and $10 (for the very best quality). People down the road sold for $14, but we didn't want to rip people off. The bales were drier and lighter than prior years so it seemed fair not to take advantage. This year we had the sense to sell out of the paddock. Last year we carted 850 bales ourselves and then sold out of the sheds. This year we took 972 bales, making all my weeding efforts worthwhile. Luke and Bronte did a fair bit of weeding at various times as well. Selling out of the paddock was great except for one daft lot who managed to back through one of my fences (a double one with chicken wire and internal electric fence). I've been trying to fix it up but would have been quicker to rip it out and start again.

Despite the greater number of bales this year, I'm still concerned that we won't have enough for ourselves. Trouble is I've been feeding hay out at a much faster rate than I anticipated. Partly because the goats were shut in a small paddock for while because of their tree-eating naughtiness and partly because each bale had less substance than usual.

All the following photos were taken at the Hobart Show. We took Luke's chum Josh with us, so Luke didn't just have us to trail around with.

Cute Bengal cat in the cat pavilion (my favourite).

Evil emu.

Luke and Josh in inflated balls.

Luke on the dodgems. Josh was in a separate car.

Luke and Josh (and me) were fascinated by the decorated cakes.

Pig racing.

We all made creatures out of vegetables.

Random picture of me on the deck.

Luke continues to be absolutely cricket mad. He's had to watch almost every ball of every BBL, test, ODI and T20
competition over the summer. Above is a photo of him at a 3-day clinic in Kingston. He had enormous fun, loved every
minute - despite him not having any chums with him. He's been playing for Huonville Bulls under-12s and his batting
has improved hugely. He opened batting for them several times. His bowling was not quite so good but he did have
one fantastic game in which he got 3 wickets for 2 runs!

Luke (far left) doing a guitar performance at school. The teacher does
tend to hog the limelight in these performances. She uses a loud electric guitar so
we can barely hear the acoustic performers!

Luke turned 11 in October. His birthday once again totally overshadowing
mine. Next year I'll be 50 so maybe I'll get more attention! Having said that I'd rather
have no birthday attention and be 40 again! Bronte and I bought him a robot arm. I must say
I was rather dubious but Luke enjoyed making it and getting it to do various tasks.

We took him and some chums bowling during Luke's birthday weekend and
went to the really daggy Pizza Hut afterwards in North Hobart. The kids were happy
and chomped through tons of pizza, cake and ice cream.

On Luke's actual birthday we had to go to school. I'm afraid I hadn't made a posh
themed cake so had to hurriedly buy a cake (well half of one) and stick some candles in.

We seemed to spend much of the first half of the summer mowing. I was constantly mowing -
either at clients' properties, or at home.

I've been collecting these most unwieldy lumps of concrete and filling holes and bumps
in the track that goes down to the area where I have to fit my NIGs project fence. I need now
to get loads of smaller aggregate to top-dress these great blocks which are rather rough to drive
over at the moment! Blinking lumps weighed a tonne. I had an ad on Gumtree asking for rubble,
hardcore, gravel etc and this guy in Huonville contacted me. He was cutting up a load of concrete
paths and was grateful for someone to take the lumps away. It took about 7 loads because what you
can see in this photo is about a ute load, weighing close to a tonne. Poor old ute was down on its
springs and the back tyres were pretty flattened.

Laying concrete blocks.

Curious cow.

Cheeky cow!

Had to take this picture even though it hasn't come out clearly. Inside the wire the grass
is lush, long and green. Outside there is just moss.

Late snow. Bronte took Luke and Josh to the top of Mount Wellington to throw
snowballs at each other.

Before the start.

Rather rashly, we all took part in this year's Hobart Point to Pinnacle half-marathon. The route goes from Wrest Point Casino on the waterfront up to the top of Mount Wellington, at around 1200m, over 20 or so kilometres. Last year Bronte took part in the walking race and his brother Glen did the run (very brave of him). Last time Bronte did a load of training but none of us did any training this year! We were doing the walking race and felt fit (ish). We had to ignore the fact that under-14s aren't meant to take part (Luke is 11). We were fairly sure he'd be fine, but decided that we'd stop at The Springs (half way up the mountain) if there were any problems. As it was I was perfectly happy up to the bottom of the mountain and from then on found it an almighty struggle. Luke was way ahead, he finished 10 minutes ahead of Bronte and 38 minutes ahead of me! I could hardly move the following day, although Luke and Bronte were reasonably OK. None of us got blisters. I was the only person in the race to wear a skirt. I couldn't face doing it in Lycra and had no intention of exposing my legs in shorts! It was a great choice - cool and comfortable.

At the start.

Bronte and Luke already getting ahead of me!

Piper and good reception for the walkers at Fern Tree.

Turning to The Pinnacle.

Me at the finish! Made it, yay!

Pig-face flowering on our clay banks by the front door.

'Regatta' that Luke and a few of his class mates took part in at Franklin. They came' last
in everything but it was a laugh! We then had a mixed team of me and Bronte, Luke and one of
his tough chums and raced the pants off all the other mixed teams!

After the races.

Above and below: Smoke haze. We had several very smoky days over summer. Around 80 fires were
burning in Tasmania. The drought and dry lightning meant that areas that never burn were now burning. Something like
200,000Ha of World Heritage landscapes have been burnt. They may never recover, they weren't meant to burn. Pencil pines
and button-grass swamps don't come back like eucalypt forests. The fires were mostly in an arc to the west and north of us. We were very lucky that none of the fires threatened us, although the smoke made us rather worried for a day or so.

Never seen a 'hazy' forecast before. Thought it worth recording. We've also had ridiculously warm temperatures:
not extremes but just very consistent warmth, even overnight. Not surprising that 2015's global average temperature
was the highest on record and that it broke 2014's record by quite some margin. When will the world wake up and
do something about this issue!?

Latest batch of soap with mint puree, orange flower water etc. As usual all colour and
most fragrance disappeared as the soaps set! Still, it's nice soap, lathers well as always. I made it outside
this time to try and avoid all the mess in the house. I made quite a few small ones in the clear plastic glasses.
These are for AirBnB guests and WWOOFers, as well as going in the gift boxes.
Bronte's Dad has been a little poorly and Bronte was keen to get to see him over the Christmas break. It's quite expensive for us all to get from here to Adelaide and then on the Victor Harbor, owing to us having to fly via Melbourne and hire a car. So it was agreed that Bronte should go with Luke. I was a bit concerned that he might get bored but they did plenty of good stuff such as boulder-hopping on Granite Island and visiting the zoo in Adelaide. Sounds like a great zoo, I was rather jealous! The photos below are from this trip.

Bronte's Dad and Luke.

Luke on the dunes.

Granite Island.

Which one's Luke?

Mighty tortoise! I should have loved to see this.

Luke's chum 'Joe' kipping on the rocks. Luckily Bronte dissuaded Luke
from stroking it!

Luke with Giant Panda!

Took a piccie of these stamps which were on a small packet of 'D'-Ter', a substance meant to deter possums
etc from eating trees/ grass when mixed with water and sprayed on. The stamps are pretty old - Aussie stamps still with
the queen's head and some at only 6c and 7c! One cent coins were phased out an age ago. We've kept hold of them, you
never know, they might be collector items at some stage.

Bronte and Luke appeared home with a table tennis table recently. Quite a good buy actually. Surprisingly
it fits in the garage OK and can be moved quite easily. Luke has got really good in a short time, although after
being initially hugely enthusiastic, I've noticed that the number of games has greatly tailed off of late.

These photos are of a family working 'bee' to protect some of Bronte's trees. Wretched possums
were shredding them. Luke and I did a trial tree with corrugated iron cut-offs (from Bronte's car-port) - 'proof
of concept' I said to Bronte. Seems to be working well and most of the trees are recovering well. Oaks and willows
seemed to be the main targets of the possums although they like just breaking branches off everything else.

Photos above and below are of Bronte's greenhouse. A jungle of tomatoes, spinach, herbs and trees. We've had kgs of tomatoes off these plants.

Below are beds that I hurriedly made on the 'veggie' patch  in order plant out some of Bronte's seedlings from the greenhouse. It was never going to be feasible to finish the whole veggie cage in time, so this seemed a stop-gap solution. I made 3 beds in the end and planted out all manner of stuff including carrots, beetroot, peas, lettuce, sweetcorn, zucchini, onions, red cabbage, coriander and strawberries, most of which we'd grown from seed. Was pretty chuffed with the results. We have had huge success with the zucchinis which I planted out early under cloches. The most painstaking job was dibbing out onion seedlings - what a nightmare. We'll know to seed most of these straight into the ground another year.

Some of our produce above.

Silvereye fledgeling which took up residence on the deck while it was
getting used to its wings! Also found one dead which had flown into the windows. They
are such striking looking little birds. This one is in Luke's hand, so you can see how tiny
it is.

Tasmanian Devil (luckily free of the Facial Tumour Disease which has wiped out so many of
them) in one of my traps. This is probably the one (grrrr) which ate all my ducks. They have all
wised up know as I haven't caught any more since this one. I was advised that early to mid-summer was the
time that juveniles were on the move looking for their own territories and dens, so this might be why we
had a spate of sightings.

Echidna who hung round the house for a few weeks. Such clumsy, oddball little creatures.

Rare sighting of froglet.

Plover eggs on ground.

Tadpoles (and my shadow... ) in goat's water trough. Think they all eventually
turned into little froggies though how they got out I can't imagine.

Hole in trap! How the heck? Caused by a devil which had somehow managed to
break and bend heavy gauge wire. Just hope it didn't hurt its mouth and teeth too much in
the process.

Naughty white goshawk sitting haughtily on our chimney. Seemed very unafraid of me
standing below it taking it's photo. Previous day it I'd seen it sitting on the fence around my bunny
pen eyeing up all the babies! I had to run almost right up to it shouting, before it decided (unhurriedly)
to take flight.

Very few WWOOFer applications this year owing to the change in the visa regs as previously mentioned. Jarv and Michelle (who I stupidly didn't take a photo of) brought their own accommodation and pet with them! Dennis the Cat seen below with harness and lead - such a little sweetie! They were a great help on the farm and did a lot of the regular animal stuff, mostly while I gardened for other people.

Have started making yoghurt regularly. I use the yummy natural Mountain River yoghurt as my starter and also
add 'Natural Health' probiotic powder. I put it in the incubator to set and we've only had to buy the occasional starter
since then. I give it to Luke each day in his lunchbox with a spoonful of honey or jam or some chopped fruit. I have
heaps as well during the day.

Not sure why I took this pics except that Bronte's shirts and all Luke's bedlinen
just looked nice blowing in the breeze in the bright sun against the green backdrop!