Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas chicks

A lovely present on Christmas day: the sight of two mother hens outside in the sunshine fussing over the four little chicks that hatched. It's hard to spot them, as they tend to disappear under the hen as we approach. A lot of the eggs did not hatch, and one chick died trying to get out of the shell, but we are still happy to have four healthy chicks being cared for by the hens and out free ranging. It's one thing to see them hatch in our incubator; quite another to see it done how it should be. Super cute. Last night they took themselves off into the bush and slept the night out there, but all still there in the morning - so far so good.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Barnevelder hen birthday cake

Brilliant, isn't it? My birthday cake, made by Michelle from a photo David sent her of my own chooks. If you want to see more of her work, visit the Cakes by Chelle Facebook page.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The hatch

For three weeks, two of our hens have been sitting tight on a clutch of eggs in the shed. Finally, when I went down to let the chooks out this morning, I heard cheeping coming from under one of the hens and she looked a little perturbed. Have not sighted any chicks yet, but I'm hopeful it won't be long! It's the first natural (i.e. non-incubator) hatch we've had, so we're pretty excited.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Summer solstice sailing

Three years ago, a beautiful 1930s Danish ship showed up in Franklin after a round the world voyage. The family who sailed her here decided to stay. Now, this summer, you can spend a Sunday afternoon aboard the Yukon, sailing down the Huon River enjoying locally sourced produce prepared by chef Ashley and Jacinta from Pantree Produce. It was an amazing special treat for my birthday. The whole experience was understated, relaxed, personal - an afternoon on the river with friends and great food. "The duck we are eating came from that hill over there," says Jacinta, pointing to the hills south of Franklin. "See that roof there? That's the house they came from." Fresh peas, broadbeans, beetroot, peaches, berries, river herbs and flowers, pink eye potatoes. To drink: local wines including a sparkling chardonnay from Wombat Springs (also in the hills of Franklin), Seven Sheds Ale, a stunning pinot noir from d'meure wines at Birchs Bay and home made limoncello - and yes, the lemons were also from Franklin. We could see where most of our meal was grown. David and Ea who own The Yukon told us the story of her restoration and how she came to Tasmania. We got to explore below decks - the galley, engine room, bunks and bathroom. Wonderful.

I have been completely and utterly spoiled this weekend. First, my dear friend Cheryl flew down from Sydney - a surprise visit plotted weeks in advance with David. I had no idea she was coming until the car pulled up in the driveway on Friday. Cider and burgers at The Apple Shed on Friday evening. Saturday morning shopping in Wilmot Road, Huonville and at Salamanca Market and relaxing in the garden in the afternoon. And then yesterday's feast on the Yukon. Happy, happy days.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Many people in Tasmania do lots of different things to make a quid. Take local Huon Valley ceramic artist and farmer of saffron, olives and lavender Lisa Britzman for example. Her business Campo de Flori (field of flowers) had an open weekend for Christmas so we took the opportunity to visit her cute Glen Huon studio yesterday. I wanted to add a few of her ceramic Christmas decorations to the tree David made from sticks this year. Aren't they beautiful? I was left amazed at what she and partner David have achieved on their land. Diversified income streams are a necessity for many and a dream for some, especially in rural areas where full time jobs are few and revenue from one line of business not enough to live on. It's great to see this talented lady making a go of it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

In defence of flowers

I don't normally allocate space in the garden beds for flowers. Sure, we have 'accidental' flowers that pop up, like the daffodils that appear in ever greater numbers each year in the front paddock and some flowering bushes (native and not) planted by the previous owners. Growing food plants is more important and many of them look beautiful too. But this year, I got some free cottage flower seeds in an order from the Diggers Club and some poppy seeds from our lovely local vintage store Shop@Franklin and decided to mix them in with the vegetable beds to look pretty and attract the bees. The day after sowing the tiny poppy seeds, we had high winds and heavy rain and months later, nothing had sprouted at all. So I planted out some onions and leeks in that raised garden bed. Of course, only then did clumps of weedy looking plants start to appear. I didn't pull them out in the hope they might be poppies. Sure enough, the first variety has started to flower. In this week's damp and misty weather, the luminous dark red flowers look fabulous against the bright green grass and grey skies. I'm sold - more flowers from now on.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Birds on the nest

Two of my Barnevelder chooks have gone broody and have been sitting side-by-side on the nest since last week, looking very serious indeed.

This would be unremarkable for most hens, but it's the first time my Barnevelders have sat on eggs for more than a few days. They have been bred not to be broody... a trait that is for the most part good when you want chooks for eggs or meat. For many poultry keepers a broody hen is pest. But I'd love to have a batch of chicks that we have not had to incubate ourselves, so I am letting them sit. We have a huge oversupply of eggs at the moment anyway. However, I am not counting any chicks before they are hatched. The two Australorp girls in our little flock have both sat on eggs for a few days before giving up on the idea. If you are wondering what that hen is sitting behind, they are pipes underneath the sink in the luxury pickers hut that is our chook shed! The girls like to lay eggs under the kitchen sink.

Meanwhile, the first chicks this season from "our" welcome swallows have fledged, but still return at night to perch in the rafters on our balcony. Or, as they have done tonight, back in the nest, even though they are now too big to fit! They are so cute. The swallows showed up early this year, unlike last year, so we are hopeful they will have at least one more batch of chicks before summer is over.