Sunday, 23 March 2008

The recycled pram

Caleb and his mate Stan have assembled themselves a go cart from the base of an old pram. It even has rudimentary brakes, not that that helped Caleb much when he 'cart wheeled' out of control and through a blackberry patch. An entire box of bandaids later... but no doubt he will give you the low down on that story himself. It's been fantastic watching them careening down our hill dodging goats, sheep and tree stumps. Apart from a bike helmet each there is no real protection from electric fences (which are difficult to pass through at speed) and other obstacles, so they've got quite good at it. It's quite a steep slope and I enjoy watching them walking up it as much as I do seeing them speed down. At last, an activity that rivals The Age of Empires!

Apple Picking Season

Trev's abandoned the building site and is instead, seen at regular intervals picking apples in the orchard across the road. I've helped him with two five hour days, but mostly he picks four bins of apples a day - and then knocks off and comes back home. It's hard work, I have bruises on my shoulders just from the weight of the bag straps, and the ladder work isn't much fun. But once you're in the rythym of grabbing two apples and lifting them sharply up while placing your thumb at the apex of the stalk and the stalk attachment and placing them in the bag that hangs around your neck and moving on to the next two it's almost meditative, it certainly helps you sleep well. The bag, once full, is unclipped and the apples slide gently out the bottom of it to ensure they're not bruised. A tractor races around the orchard picking up full bin and replacing them with empty.

It's a beautiful place to work, Nuju runs up and down the rows and kids run around eating apples and generally getting in the way, it's like a scene from a bygone era and it's all just 100 metres away.

This is Trev's second year picking. I'm not that keen on him doing it as his AF is triggered by strenuous work and he has it almost permanently at the moment. And he won't give himself an inch, and collapsed during one recently day - the 36 degree heat didn't help. The only way I could get him to stop was to take his place.

I've been picking up fallen apples and chopping them up for the animals who seems to be happy enough to chew through a motza of them. We're doing our best to keep up too.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Tatoes and Matoes

Took me a day to do it, but I unearthed three overflowing wheelbarrows of potatoes, weighing in at about 120kgs (we've already had at least 2 wheelbarrows full) and around 20 kg of tomatoes, and planted out 65 broccoli's/cauliflowers in their place. I found heaps of big fat juicy worms, which is very gratifying as there were none at all when we first got here and I despaired of the soil, plus lots of small frogs, which I think I have correctly identified as the smooth skinned tasmanian froglet. They are in the thousands, again, very gratifying to see garden life.

We still haven't had a real rainfall event since December. About to run out of dam and domestic tank water. Supposed to be 30 degrees today, it was 36 on Friday and Trev, with Atrial Fibrillation, picked apples under the hot sun, and ended up collapsing. I finished off the day for him but he was back out there the following day.

Trev's hard at work again today, this time he's dropping trees for fence posts up at a neighbours place. We need to replace the fence and as quickly as possible as the goats have found there way into the neighbouring orchard (after having been shown the way by the two rams Butty and Choppy). They're now tethered till the fence is repaired, and I spend way too much time chopping them foliage and hand feeding them. They are also expert at getting themselves tangled up in the rope, and of tangling me up in the rope and upending me, which can be painful, but more usually provides injury to my dignity.

The neighbours are still laughing about how early one morning I woke to discover the two rams were in the apple orchard (again) and I raced down with a bucket of grain to entice them back out again. I was wearing my dressing gown. I couldn't entice them back through the fence and had to take the road. I had two full grown rams jumping at my outstretched arm to get to the grain, when I saw a freshly hit wallaby on the side of the road, poor thing... but also, pragmatically, now a good source of dog food. I swooped down picked it up by the tail and continued to run, with the two rams jumping up, and now a dog on the otherside jumping up at the dead wallaby (about 10kg of dead wallaby), me running down the middle of the road, still in my dressing gown huffing and puffing and praying no one is currently looking out their window.

They weren't, but they all want a reinactment. Not likely.

The rams now live at the next door neighbours, and they turn up at the fence line to say gidday fairly regularly. But I'm glad they're gone.

Then Bella decided the electric fence wasn't such a big obstacle. I was already over the electric fence and halfway through the barbed wire when she realised this and decided to rush at my bucket of grain and shoved me through the barbed wire (I ripped out hair by the roots, clothes were rent, and the air was too; with a torrid stream of invective designed to relief angst, but more likely succeeded in raising the neighbours concerns about the seemingly mild mannered me).

Then she figured out that if she grovelled really low and kept inching forward she could get under the barbed wire too. Hence, two tethered goats tangling my legs.

Keeping animals is 1% feeding and care 99% fencing.
Caleb recently helped out and became resident goat herd, to keep the sheep away from the goats feed, it kind of worked. However he's totally engrossed in the John Marsden Tomorrow series at the moment.

Having said that we're getting a new goat, a Bristish Alpine in the near future, after her offspring have been turned into goat pies, which a local chef will be turning them into for Medieval Mayhem, which is on again this year, along with the race for the highest blood pressure reading.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Notebook Magazine

There's an article out in the latest Notebook Magazine about our family with some beautiful pics. You check some of it out online

House and Garden

I admit to being slack about updating the blog of late, but it doesn't extend to the rest of my life, which is almost at stage pop! I think there must be some kind of psychological disorder around trying to stuff too much into one life. I've got to the stage recently, that reading fiction, (which I usually love) has become too frivulous an activity and now I read only non-fiction, and not half enough of that as I'd like. Reading Peter Singer's The Ethics of What We Eat, in very short installments just before I fall asleep. Hopefully it will promote my vegan tendancies, as I was vowing six months of vegan/vegetarianism on January the 1st (Trev's birthday), but as his father died and there was the resultant turmoil, it was quickly put aside.

Bottled 52 jars of honey last weekend. All up we've had about 60 kilos of honey so far this year. Which isn't bad for a first years effort, and after losing half the colony when they swarmed.

The job has been made far harder by the annual influx of millions of European wasps. Though, in true permaculture spirit I have put them to work cleaning up my sticky honey barrel, and cleaning the honey off the beeswax. They're very efficient.

I made the mistake of putting two boxes of 'stickies' the frames that have had their honey spun from them. In the greenhouse, thinking it was a good weather protected area to allow bees,bumblebees and wasps to clean them up for me, and filled the greenhouse with them, half of which then had difficulty locating the exit. Eventually all was resolved.

Trev and I enjoyed watching a few wasps try and enter the hive recently, only to see them unceremoniously tossed out on their heads again by the guard bees. Great bouncers they are.

The cover article of the latest ABC Organic Gardener Magazine is on the basics of backyard beekeeping. Written from the perspective of a novice beekeeper (me) a few more years yet before I profess to know much of the intricacies. But I have learnt how not to get stung too often. No new stings in the last few months or so. Three layers of protective clothing gets very hot, but better than being stung. ABC Organic Gardener

Spent half last weekend in the garden digging trenches. The BOM have given Tassie a prediction of 10 for rainfall in April, 10 being the highest possible indicator of rainfall. So I've dug new beds with trenches for drainage, and filled these with sawdust from the mill. Planted out chinese celery, Carentian Giant leeks, savoy cabbage, paleface cauliflower, romanesco brocoli, a mix of heirloom lettuces, including drunken woman, Hollow crown parsnip, chantenay carrots, all season carrots,hunter river brown onions, white onions, beetroot, Rainbow chard, english spinach, parsley. Quite a lot of it, has been transplanted wildlings, as I enjoy letting things go to seed and then having a swing around in circles and scatter the seeds garden frenzy, hence interesting things grow in weird places.

Photo is of Trev in his Hawaiian shirt standing at the garden gate, my newly trenched and dug garden, and of course, the house behind him. Four more beams up since then, the big, big ones. Trev sighs alot while passing conventional houses, 'Look at those beams', he says whistfully, 'they look so flimsy'. But you know he'd rather deal with them than our oversized jobs.

Homeschool is going well. Caleb is sprinting along making up for lost ground over the past two years. We've quickly realised how little has been achieved, and how much has been lost since our last homeschooling round. Especially in maths. He's even starting to enjoy art, which is a formidable task to reunite him with his artistic ability.

I borrowed a stack of art books from the library and Cal and I looked through them together, me trying to pick up on any latent interest. I pointed out a particularly well drawn giraffe and said, 'Oh, isn't that a beautiful zucchini!'
Only I hadn't heard what I'd said, I'm already turning the page and Caleb is looking at me sideways, 'Ah, mum, that's not a zucchini, it's a giraffe', whereupon he fell into hysterical (and protracted) laughter, now whenever we can't think of a word we say zucchini, though Lions are now cucumbers.

Needless to say I'm chopping up the rest of the zucchini's and feeding them to the sheep and goats, somewhere along the line I've eaten one too many