Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The devil of it is...

Decimated! That's what I told Trev, and for once he didn't make some smart remark about whatever I was talking about being divided into 10 parts. The chicken pretty much was. There was a leg here, a leg there, no head, but guts and feathers galore or is that gore. To make things just that bit more odious the surviving chooks were tucking in with carnivorous cannabilistic pleasure that did not bode well for my breakfast.

What had done it?
Trev diverted himself from the house site to make the chook pen quoll proof, because we guessed that was the most likely culprit. He even painted, 'No quolls' on the new door, but Australian animals have the lowest IQ of any animals something to do with the harsh climate and the need to devote only the smallest of resources to the biggest user of energy. I doubt the animal can read.

We borrowed a trap from a neighbour. We set it.
5am the next morning we caught it. Trev went out to check and came back with the news that we'd snagged ourselves a Tasmanian Devil. They have made up for having a very small brain by growing very large teeth. And though he was only a young animal, about the size of a cat, when he opened his mouth you had to flinch. More um, factual information about Tassie Devils can be found here

No problems. Tasmanian Devils are becoming rare through a number of human related causes, but also through disease, a facial tumour that kills. 95% of the Tassie devils are wiped out in the northern parts of Tasmania - and they've never been as prevalent in the south. So it was good to see he was healthy. Not so happy about his chook eating proclivities though. What to do, what to do? We rung Parks and Wildlife to see if they had any studies that required healthy critters, it seemed like a win win situation if they did. No, but they were happy to take details of his whereabouts and state of health. It all goes into a database recording the move of the disease and the numbers of animals remaining.

Trev went to work (he's packing cherries and driving trucks) and I was left with my new toothy (and very smelly) carrion eating friend. I released him. Only he wouldn't go. I banged something hard on the 44 gallon drum, it must have been audio hell inside there. But he wouldn't budge. So I tipped the drum upside down, but he found something to hold onto and didn't come out. Ok, I poked him with a stick. I wasn't about to stick my arm in. Nope. So I lugged the whole thing onto a wheelbarrow and pushed him over an electric fence and parked him right in front of a pile of fallen tree debris, lots of lovely dark cover. Nope. I figured he'd get out when it got too hot, so we left him. We came home three or four hours later, and he was still in there and the drum was hot to the touch. I doused the drum in cold water, the wee guy was looking heat stressed. But he wasn't leaving. It was obvious he was waiting till dark so we kept the drum cool and by this morning he'd vacated. Hopefully the experience was so negative he doesn't feel like a return trip.

Lesson learnt ... Lock up your daughters! AND your hens.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Da House

There is progress, but it's slow. We've had an extended drizzly period through spring that has been very frustrating. The ecowood oil we use needs 48 hours without rain, and there wasn't two days in a row without drizzle for 6 weeks. Trevor, who has always had a lot of head hair, almost lost it. However, the weather has finally changed and progress has gone ahead. Now Trev has two or three weeks fulltime work to haul up progress again. But once finished we hope to use the income to have someone come help him on the roof. It's very nice to know the wood stage is pretty much finished for now, and that the roofing material is onsite (except for the insulation, which is only an order away). I'm always looking at home good things look and how far we've come, but Trev is always seeing what's not happened and what more there is to do. To try and make things tangible for him I made him a mud book celebrating his progress. I've been taking lots of photos so putting 40 or so of them in order was a great way to see how far its come. It's taken close to 2 years to get to this point. I hope that once the roof is on that things will even out for Trev. A space that can be worked in regardless of the weather.

I help him out as much as possible. I'm on the 'dumb end' of every tape measure, I can balance one end of a 3.6 metre board on my head while I clamp it to the side of the house, and 'walk the plank' on one of Trev's ingenious temporary scaffolding jobs and generally do the best I can to make things easier. But I'm well aware that Trev is the brains, brawn and the ingenuity behind it all. I slink back into the garden (which is not only growing up but out at an alarming level... about an acre all up now, a weeding logistical nightmare).

The next big issue is the availability of strawbales this year. It's going to be tough finding any. The lack of winter rain has not really been made up for by the spring deluge and there hasn't been alot of planting going on. So if anyone knows of anyone who will be baling straw this year in Tassie, we'd be very interested to hear.

Raspberries & Goosegogs

The cherries and apricots are late due to the long cool rainy spring we've had, so we're almost entirely reliant on raspberries for fruit. Not complaining. We've been picking 2kg every 2 days. Raspberry cordials, jams, sorbets, milkshakes, raspberry yoghurts, even a raspberry mudcake to celebrate Trev's 51st birthday. Even the dog is getting into it. It took me a while to realise that as he padded along beside me he was sticking his head in the bushes and coming away smacking his lips. Can't blame him, but managed an 'Oi!' of horror when he decided it was easier to eat them straight out of my bucket. Truly scensational fruit.

To a lesser extent we've been into strawberries and gooseberries. Well, 10-12kg of gooseberries is pretty big, had a couple of gooseberry crumbles and froze the rest in a friends freezer. They're a buggar to pick with thorns as long and prolific as the fruit. The fruit almost tastes as sharp too. But love 'em. They're the easiest plants to propogate, if they don't self layer then chopping up the tips, and wood and plonkin them in damp soil will provide additional plants in a couple of weeks. Next year my harvest will be huge. Hopefully I won't have a blood loss increase to match it.

Drunken women and purple cauliflowers

I love buying vegetable/herb seeds, it's almost an addiction. I try to buy them because they are suited to the area, or hardy, disease resistant etc, but I must admit to a tendancy to buy because of the cool names appended to them. I have been having a ball asking friends, 'Would you like a drunken woman?' lettuce that is. Can't wait to see what Taxi tomatoes look like, or green zebras. Have also been indulging in oddly coloured broccoli and cauliflowers, they're bright purple, Purple Scicilian. Bought through The Lost Seed company, a Tassie woman started it up a few years back, heirloom veggie seeds of remarkable variety she sells to all states, even, I note, some to WA.


Well, I'm not so sure it's a lark playing around in the mud. I thought I was onto a kid friendly holiday activity in which I could appear to be the most congenial of hosts by offering a pile of clay, sand and straw and the wet end of a hose and get them in there and squishy with me. Not to be. One child (he's 3) took a tentative step into the muck and looked up and me and said plaintively, 'Bath?'
They were OK with playing in what I turned into slop with an array of interesting objects formed out of it, but no,and there I was thinking that boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dogs tails with a side order of mud. Perhaps the old rhyme needs to be updated to chips and cokes and playstation games.

I'm getting old and crusty and it has nothing to do with drying mud. Made myself a resolution to make 24 bricks a day - right before I had 2 full weeks working, but manage to get through them in the weekend. I need 524 of them to build a small 4 metre by 2.5 metre shed for storing beekeeping and gardening equipment, soapmaking, seedsaving and storing all those 'bloody' jars. I suspect there is an element of a need for a space away from the 6 X 3 metre shed that we gravitate around during the day is also a motivator.

I'm looking around for old windows, will have a go at using scrapwood to make a door. The roof will be scrounged from somewhere. Then of course I want to use the catchment area of the roof to fill a small pond in which ducks can quack, and when they're not doing that they're running around avoiding small seedlings and gently prying away the millions of slugs that plague the place. (picture Trevor with a smug look saying, 'yeah, right' to that concept).

I'll post photos of my mudlarking as they progress.

There's a blue tongue in the garden eating strawberries!

Normally he's resident in the greenhouse, he has his corner of mulch he likes to burrow into, and apart from flinching when anyone comes in, he tends not to move around a great deal. He (we call him Pointy, opposed to his predecessor, who was Stumpy)wasn't there one day, not thinking too much of it I rounded the corner and there he was munging down on my strawberries, there was a chewed pulpy mess on a number of strawberries on his path to his latest morsel.

We'd been given some bananas, they were past their use by date, so I offered one to Pointy and suggested it was a better alternative to my strawberries. He ate the banana, but he's a regular visitor to the strawberry patch. I'm going to have to learn to be quicker.