Friday, April 21, 2017

The new chicken run

While I was traipsing around in the southern forests on Easter Monday, David installed netting over our fenced orchard containing six young apple trees, two pears, a peach, two plums and two cherries. The new net is not designed to protect our young trees and their fruit, but chickens! I currently have eight young pullets around 13 weeks of age, six of my favourite Barnevelders and two very pretty (and large and strong) Huon Blues, a new breed under development by Paul Healy. They are such beautiful birds, I'm so happy to have them. It's part of replenishing my flock, which has dwindled due to random deaths and disappearances over the past couple of years. The orchard is the perfect place for them to forage, but there's no shelter. It's out in the open and basically a smorgasbord for hawks. Except now it isn't. Now, these beautiful young girls get to roam around a large fenced area, pecking grass and bugs, protected by white overhead netting. They are having a great time.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Adamsons Falls

After an easy stroll of one hour return to Duckhole Lake on Monday, I drove a short distance up the road to the start of the Adamsons Falls track. It was a perfect sunny autumn day. This was a varied walk, including grey mud, red mud, brown mud... nah, only joking. As much as I didn't enjoy the cutting grass and mud sections, they were interspersed with such beautiful trees (including many of my favourite, the myrtle beech), ups and downs, fallen trees, singing lyrebirds, colourful fungi, finally arriving on the mid-platform of the falls. The walk takes about two hours return. I can't believe I did not pick up any leeches on this walk, but I did find one on my wrist after pruning a couple of trees in my garden on the weekend.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Duckhole Lake

The Duckhole Lake walk is included in the 60 Great Short Walks of Tasmania booklet and app, as well as many local tourist guides, but when we moved to Tasmania it was closed for repairs. Finally I got there today. It's a beautiful walk, only an hour return and very easy. Almost all of it is on duckboard, and follows an old forestry tramway. The lake itself is a flooded sinkhole that's part of the Hastings Caves landscape. I wanted to check it out over the Easter long weekend ahead of a walk I am leading there this month.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bloody rabbits

I know, I know, it's Easter, but I'm not feeling very charitable towards those cute little bunnies at the moment. Everyone around here has been complaining about the growing plague of them over the past year or two. They are super cheeky. There are piles of droppings on the lawn right close to our house. You can see below their attempt at ringbarking one of my young plum trees, and below that my latest attempt to foil them - that's the trunk of an apricot tree painted with bitumen rubber to deter chewing beasties. I've painted all the exposed trunks of the fruit trees and the olive. In the bottom photo, you'll see the fine tunnel a rabbit has dug in one of my freshly dug over raised garden beds. I won't be planting carrots in it.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mount Nelson Signal Station Brasserie

I had a day off last Thursday. I know, big news, right? We'd had notice from the power company that there would be an outage all day while new power poles were installed. Rather than juggle working locations, laptop charging and wifi issues, David and I both took the day off. What a treat that turned out to be. First up, knocking over a to-do list of items in Kingston and Hobart, everything from get a long-overdue X-ray (Susan) to buy a new suit (David). Tick!

The weather was beautiful, so on the way back, we decided to drive up Mount Nelson and have lunch at the Signal Station Brasserie. It was our first visit, but won't be the last. Our food was absolutely delicious. Nice Tassie wine list, lovely garden surroundings (dog friendly) and Derwent River views. And it's only a short drive from the centre of Hobart. My only gripe would be the lack of Tasmanian cider on the menu. There was only a commercial Aussie one, which seems a crime when Hobart is surrounded with fantastic local cider brands. The brasserie would be a perfect afternoon tea spot too - the cakes and scones arriving on the table near us looked excellent. We've added this place to our "when we have visitors" list and will go back soon, perhaps followed by a walk around Mount Nelson to work off the cake.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Introducing Vladimir

Last week I moved our new young Barnevelder cockerel (now known as Vladimir) in with the three older ladies, using the common trick of placing him in the shed at night so he's just there when the hens get up in the morning. After a bit of confusion about where he should sleep for the first couple of nights, when I went to shut the shed door last night, he had wedged himself between two of the ladies on the top perch. They didn't seem bothered, so all is peaceful in the hen house. Hopefully he turns out to be a good rooster and not as aggressive as Russell and Sebastian were.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Le Weekend in Cygnet

The French flag flew on top of the Cygnet Town Hall. The car park opposite featured a collection of old and new cars from the French Car Club of Tasmania. The town was draped in blue, white and red. From baguettes to berets, it was all there. Le Weekend Cygnet is such a great idea for a town with a French history. With our (Swiss) dogs in tow, we strolled around town, stopping every few metres to chat with locals and visitors. But the highlight was a relaxing couple of hours spent at Pagan Cider. The dogs were allowed (no, welcomed) inside the shed to hang out with us on the cool cement. French films played and cider flowed. We had a very tasty lunch from the Tickled Rib food van and a couple of blueberry and quince ciders. Just a terrific afternoon. If you like the sound of it, Le Weekend continues tomorrow!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hazy days of autumn

As the temperatures start to drop and the summer bushfire danger abates, the forest burn offs begin. Some are conducted by Forestry Tasmania, some by Parks & Wildlife and some by private land managers with permits from the Tasmanian Fire Service. Many people hate it due to the thick smoke and pollution it causes (and the health risks for those with breathing difficulties) and due to the risk of fires getting out of control, like one in the north of Tasmania this week. I'm in two minds about it, living right next to forestry plantations, many privately managed. I'd prefer a few fuel reduction burns now to out of control bushfires next summer in dense bush with poor access for firefighters, but agree with the concerns above. And I'd still prefer we farm timber than destroy more old growth forest that may never regenerate. The water bombing helicopter has been flying past our place since 6.45am today, I guess to make sure the burns from the last couple of days are out. Hope the haze clears and we have clear blue skies again soon.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Small Farms Expo 2017

We love going to the annual Huon Small Farms Expo out at Ranelagh. We don't have a small farm, just grow a few veggies and have a few chooks. But it's great to look at all the equipment, livestock, seed and feed available and think, "maybe one day". This year there were some great talks from experts, about everything from fencing (how to keep wallabies and possums out, and let your resident wombat in without him destroying your fence) to value-adding to farm produce (in this case, a potato grower who now supplies potato salad to the major supermarkets and makes real vodka from potatoes). Have a listen to this interview with Mark Jessop from the Huon Agricultural Society on ABC Radio's Country Hour about it: he did a great job of explaining why it's such a popular event for people in the valley and beyond. And have a look at this lovely little video from Harcourts Huon Valley showing a drone's eye view of what it looked like on the day.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Old school mouse traps work best

A couple of days ago some mouse droppings appeared under the fridge. Time to set the traps. First night out and success! One little mouse quickly dead.

We've battled mice in the chook shed before and found the traditional, low tech sprung trap on a wooden base work better than any of the fancy new contraptions. Not so for rats. They are way too smart to be caught in the larger version of the same trap. Unfortunately, we had to resort to using poison on the large and healthy family of rats that moved into the chook shed last spring.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

#BeBoldForChange in the valley

Our local business enterprise centre hosted a dinner at Home Hill Winery for International Women's Day on 8 March. How lucky we were to have a panel of speakers of this calibre tell their stories and provide realistic and practical advice for other women in business.

From left to right:

Frances Bender, executive director of ASX-listed salmon producer Huon Aquaculture. One of things she talked about was the impact of technology on women's lives, now that the ability to work from home allows many the flexibility they need to continue in their careers.
Diane Tompson, managing director of the Powercom Group of companies. She said it was important to "just ask!" if you don't know something and to put your hand up for roles and opportunities even if you don't believe you are the perfect candidate. Chances are, that person doesn't exist.
Adriana Taylor, Commissioner of the Huon Valley Council. Adriana mentioned the existence of "two glass ceilings" - one that can be overcome, and one imposed by women on themselves.
Rosie Martin, speech pathologist, founder of the charity Chatter Matters and 2017 Tasmanian Australian of the Year. One sage piece of advice Rosie had when asked if she had any regrets or things she would do differently was "start earlier!" Good point...

Panel moderator Polly Venning did an awesome job of asking insightful questions that got everyone thinking. And you can't beat Home Hill for beautiful surroundings and great food and wine. Who knows, it may become a feature on the annual calendar.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Restocking, part one

Three out of my four Barnevelder hens are moulting and off the lay, and this summer, I didn't have time to incubate a new batch. It's a lot of work and not compatible with business travel. And we'd have to acquire some eggs as we don't have a rooster at the moment. So when an email arrived from a friend over the long weekend that they had 17 two-day old chicks free to good home, I jumped on their kind offer. One of their hens had taken herself off to her own private nest and managed to hatch 17 out of the 20 eggs she was sitting on! So we collected eight super-cute balls of fluff on Sunday (seven yellow and one black) and reduced the load on mum. Although I felt kind of sad taking them away from her, in a few weeks I guess she won't want to know them.

The new chicks have now settled in to their new temporary accommodation in our garage. They are a mixture of mainly New Hampshire with some Australorp so it will be interesting to see how they turn out and which sex they are. They look quite different from Barnevelder chicks.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The day the ice cream ran out

The first day of this year's Taste of the Huon festival dawned damp and misty. But by mid-afternoon, we were hungry and headed to Ranelagh to sample some of the tasty things on offer. Blueberry cider from Pagan Cider. A pork empanada for me and a corn bun filled with pulled pork and ranch sauce for David. Some of the 'smallest pancakes in town' a.k.a. dutch Poffertjes with icing sugar and cream. And an ice cream sandwich: two biscuits filled with salted caramel crunch ice cream. All delish. Unfortunately for the stallholders, it wasn't terribly busy, but we had a very pleasant time indeed.

Today was a completely different story. I was on volunteer duty with the Huon Valley Dog Walking Association, checking parked cars in case there were dogs left in them. Dogs are not allowed at the event, so sometimes people unaware of this bring them and then decide to leave them in the car while they pop in for a while. And just like kids, dogs left in cars when the sun comes out can die very quickly. It was sunny and hot and the crowd was huge. The sea of cars stretched off into the overflow paddocks. The queue for the ice cream stalls was long. By 2pm one ice cream maker had sold out and the others were making a killing! There was even a queue for the free sunscreen.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The opposite of Tasmania

This week I was lucky enough to travel to Dubai for a work event. I've been through the airport several times but never been outside before. Most of the time I was in the huge 5-star Jumeirah Madinat resort and conference centre complex, modern but built to look like something ancient. Kind of like an Arabian Disneyland, a little too perfect. I got up before dawn so I could walk along the water and get some photos to post on social media (for work of course... also below!) Many of my photos feature the striking sail shaped Burj Al Arab, which changes colour constantly during the day and lights up at night. You can't help it when it grabs your attention every time you see it. From the natural beauty of Tasmania to artificial beauty. Both beautiful, just different.