Thursday, July 28, 2011

Out on the range

Before we got our chooks, I had every intention of letting them free-range around our place, except in the wallaby-proof fenced house yard. Then we heard the tales of quolls and devils decimating our neighbours' flocks and saw the wedge-tailed eagles soaring overhead, and I chickened out (no pun intended). Since they arrived as half-grown pullets, they've been inside their fully enclosed yard and hen house.

But to stay healthy, chooks need access to grass, insects, minerals, stones and so on. If the land is over-grazed, there's none of this left and they are likely to get sick. I hadn't realised just how quickly they completely decimate vegetation and soil in a given enclosed area. That's why permaculture systems rotate chooks through three or four separate yards during the year. Pity I didn't do the poultry course BEFORE I got the chooks.

In fact, most chook disappearances happen at night, when something breaks into the hen house. Thanks to the solid timber pickers hut that is now the hen house, and David's hard work fencing and reinforcing it, that's relatively unlikely. So for the past week or so I have been letting the girls out into the unfenced area, and gradually increasing the time they are out.

I still feel a bit nervous about it, with my main concern being our own dopey dog Baerli who has shown an interest in them (and anything else that moves) from the other side of the fence. But despite being agitated, so far at least, she has not jumped the fence to chase a wallaby or to chase after us when we walk down the road. And at least we have no foxes here... oops, contentious assertion, that one :-)

I also feel happier, seeing the girls out there kicking up leaf litter and foraging for tasty snacks. And in the late afternoons as it starts to get dark, I get to feel like the Pied Piper leading a line of happy hens back into the shed to roost for the night.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Starry nights, icy mornings

We have had some heavy frosts this past week. The puddles are frozen. Ice sparkles in the sunlight. Some days the frost hasn't melted at all in places, especially on the rocks. Many have a thick crust of ice and whole 'slices' or outer shells of rock crumble and fall off in an interesting weathering effect once the ice melts. There has been fog down in the valley, but up here on the hill it has been clear skies, sun, stars and frost. This frost-encrusted leaf was lying in the driveway on the way to the chook shed in the morning:


Thursday, July 21, 2011

All that glitters

I loved the following description of a certain type of blogger in a very funny recent post on chef Steve Cumper's blog:
My life is so dreamy and your isn’t
These bloggers are responsible for affluenza-like symptoms of envy in readers as they grow, harvest and cook in their desirable homes which resonate with overwhelming creativity and appreciation for the aesthetic life. A difficult life to emulate from one’s council flat.

I can see myself in several of the blogger types listed, but this one made me think. I have certainly felt envious after reading others' blogs. It's not that I feel jealous of their life - I like my own very much - but most definitely of their talents. The abundant vegetable gardens, creative photography, music, craft and DIY masterpieces, pretty pastel cupcakes and sumptuous dinner party menus... sigh. It's not just blogs of course. I have been an avid reader of Country Style magazine for many years while I dreamed of and plotted an escape from the suburbs, but I must say the pages full of creative people eating their own organic produce and raising delightful children on their stunning, historic rural properties mostly make me think: "how the hell can they afford it?!!" Are they all semi-retired investment bankers?

That comment on Steve's blog made me think about what we post and what we don't; what we are prepared to tell close friends versus complete strangers; what is the truth behind the photos on the blog. I guess tales of financial woes, health issues, battles with bureaucracy, family feuds, bouts of depression and stress at work are unlikely to make entertaining reading and best kept private. 'Be generous of spirit' is a wise guideline once given to me for online interaction, if you don't wish it to come back and bite you on the backside. Be positive. Glass half full and all that.

Looking at my blog this week, you'd think there I was enjoying the frosty mornings in the Huon Valley, looking out over our newly planted fruit trees and hiking in the great outdoors. But the truth is here I am in Sydney for work, sitting in a tiny fluorescent lit hotel room on my computer until late. Not exactly idyllic, but it most certainly means I have something to look forward to.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Frosty pawprints

David thinks I'm a bit obsessed about taking photos of footprints... wallaby tracks in the snow, Bernese Mountain Dog paws, Tassie devil tracks in the mud, my own footprints... okay he has a point. When our elderly cat Lilly ventured out on one of the very frosty mornings last week, David took this picture for me. Cute!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fruit trees are in

On the same day that we had five inches of lovely snow, I received an email from Woodbridge Fruit Trees to say that the trees I had ordered were ready for collection. Bugger. I really didn't fancy trying to plant them in that weather. Then it got worse... the weather that is. Driving rain, strong winds, then more snow. On the Sunday, we drove (the long way around due to road closures) to Woodbridge to collect our six apples, two pears and one apricot. I hadn't seen that much snow on the Sleeping Beauty range before.

I read on the grower's web site that it is okay to 'heel in' the young trees for a week or so by digging a hole in any garden soil and completely covering the roots with damp earth. I figured that the empty vegetable bed would do for a few days - nice soft earth and safe from chewing dogs and nibbling wallabies. So there they stayed until last Saturday, when I dug holes and planted them, topping them up with soil and mulch, while David extended the trellis arrangement for the espalier and fenced the whole lot in... again to stop our silly dogs from eating the manure and compost or pulling up the young trees. He also fenced in the two ornamental pears planted a few weeks ago and the apricot. I reckon it looks really great. Here's hoping that the trees will like their new home and give us plenty of fruit over the coming years.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Umbrella Point walk

Yesterday we walked with our social walking group to Umbrella Point on Bruny Island. We all parked at the ferry terminal in Kettering and walked aboard. It's free if you walk, but $28 for cars. Bruny Island looks very dry - in the settled part that is, not the National Park - with yellowish-brown grasses and sparse eucalypt woodlands. But we discovered that the ground was actually pretty soggy under that grass. We were warned to wear boots and gaiters, and thanks to the long wet grass, we all ended up wet from the knees down. Except for the two members of our party who came by boat and rowed ashore to join us for lunch!

The coastal views on Bruny are pretty and it was interesting to see the different levels of debris on each of the beaches and coves we passed, and the colours of some of the rocks. Those group members who had walked there some years ago were surprised how many houses there are now. Despite skirting the shore to avoid them, we ended up on private property where the owner was not thrilled about us walking through... he was nice enough about it though. I was a bit of laggard on the walk, the tail-end Charlie, which is not like me. Frankly I was a bit exhausted after a day of digging holes on Saturday... more on that later.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gratuitous tree photo

Doesn't this big wattle in our driveway look pretty dusted in snow?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wild wild weather

Thursday - five inches of snow. Friday - rain and gale force winds. Saturday - more strong winds, ice, rain. Today - more snow. All this water has to go somewhere... and a lot of it is rushing down Prices Creek and into the Huon River, which has breached its banks at Huonville (the road to Cygnet was closed this afternoon) and also at Franklin, where the swans are enjoying the newly submerged grass in the park.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


The girls have been doing a good job. Ever since the surprise earlier-than-expected start to their laying, followed by the discovery of a hen sitting on nine eggs, our four chooks have generally been providing an egg a day, sometimes two, sometimes four, sometimes none. The yolks are not all as yellow as I'd like yet, but the eggs are fresh and tasty, mostly around the 60g mark, and brown and speckled, just as Barnevelder eggs should be. This one is sitting in a Huon Pine egg cup given to us by an old friend of David's years ago. She must have known something. Eventually we brought it back to Tassie.

Friday, July 8, 2011

New trees

Late on Monday afternoon I planted two ornamental pear trees, to replace trees I removed recently after they were chewed by one naughty pup. They came from someone in the local Landcare group who was digging up 30 or so of them on their property and kindly giving them away. Monday night we had howling winds and I wondered if they'd still be upright in the morning. Thursday they were covered in snow. Today it is blowing a gale again. They look happy enough, but I'm still crossing fingers that they survive the transplanting and last long enough for me to put up some protective wire around them on the weekend to deter dopey dogs.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Let it snow...

As expected, we woke this morning to a beautiful, crisp five inches of snow. Once it was light enough, we spent some time outside playing with the dogs and taking way too many photos. Bit worried about whether anything buried under snow in the veggie beds will survive though!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Good timing

On Saturday, our wood heater was installed.

This morning, it started to snow.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Comedy in the Valley

Last night we headed into Hobart for The Comedy Forge, a huge line-up of comedians presenting new material at the dank-yet-cheery old Brisbane Hotel for only $2. Interestingly, we have seen way more comedy here than we ever did in Sydney, simply because it is so easy - no parking or transport hassles and it's cheap. There is also quite a comedy 'community' or 'scene' here with some terrific talent.

BUT... for all you folks who live in the Huon Valley and The Channel, you don't even need to travel into Hobart to see great comedy. The Brookfield Comedy Club is on the second Wednesday of every month, at Brookfield Vineyard in Margate. There's usually a headline act visiting from the mainland or overseas, plus a changing line-up of Tassie acts. Brookfield's restaurant is open for dinner bookings before the show. And then there's the Hobart Comedy Festival coming up later this month. Put it in the diary, come along and have a larf!