Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Midsommer Murders have nothing on this place

While Max considers the dinner arrangements, I'm out there committing random acts of violence on his behalf.  Keeping chickens also means keeping rats,  I've discovered.  They'd taken up residence under the chook pen and were only discovered by our yard patrolling Cocker Spaniel inspector Bennie.  Chief farmer and husband decides to put rat bait under the hen house far out of reach from anyone other than a rat.  The plan appeared to work, until today.  One delirious and not at all well looking rodent ventured out to escape the scene of its not such a good idea last meal.  And of course Bennie found it.  Bennie doesn't quite know what to do with it and as chief mouser was still tucked up in her flannelet high vis jacket laden bed, she offered no instructions.  Ordinarily Minnie would hunt out the mice and direct them into the courtyard where she can share the game with Bennie.  They go halves.  Not as in, here I'll play with it and then you can play next, it's more, here's your half.  That game usually ends pretty abruptly.  So no Minnie to instruct, Bennie keeps barking at the toxic rodent and I'm worried he's going to pick it up and bite into it.  So I quickly pick up a nearby shovel.  And I'm not a shovel wielding kind of person either.  I hate violence.  I can't watch anything more violent on TV than really old James Bond films where baddies just fall to the wayside.  So with a heavy blow I land the rat enough spade to cease its pain.  And then sincerely apologise to it.  But it just looked at me with tail and legs still twitching.  I apologise again, and repeat the blow.  This time a few less twitches but not the intended outcome.  Jeez, this is hard for me you know!!  I'm not sure if I'm more horrified at my pummelling an unfortunate creature to death or the fact that I'm incapable of even doing that.  Struggling to keep Bennie as a spectator, when he's back is turned I swiftly shovel up the almost dead rat and fling it over the fence into the bushes to die a less eventful death.  And I stop apologising. I can't be sorry for something that I didn't completely. do.  Two cats you say!!!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Apples keep coming

Apple season rolls on.  Ruth at the monthly Bream Creek Farmers Market has some of the best pink lady apples around.  At the Farm Gate market the couple from down south might still have some Geeveston Fanny's but you can only have what they've picked the night before.  We've been loading our crisper with freshly picked apples now from about March.  Including our own, home grown provided we got there before the grubs.  Given our large chicken population in the garden, I was surprised that the local moths even had the nerve quite frankly.  Knowing that apples lose their love in the fridge, we're doing apples every way and every day including sliced matchsticks on yoghurt for breakfast topped with home made toasted honey and oats, coconut and hazelnuts, we're eating apple teacake courtesy of the Australian Women's Weekly Cookbook, even without the 1970's burnt orange and lime tiled kitchen to match.  An apple and blueberry crumble will make a showing again for dessert tomorrow with Ruth's tombolla sized blueberries she's still picking off the bush from down Huon way.  Being a colder climate down in the Huon Valley I suspect there's no need to cold store fruit there, you just leave it on the trees and eventually it will freeze.  It was a tiny two degrees as I headed off to an appointment yesterday morning.  I put on my hand knitted scarf that is half scarf half blanket and headed into town.  Hobartians have heaters of every sort for every occasion.  The only weird thing is that they don't call it air conditioning, they call it a heat pump.  Known to me as a split system heating cooling air conditioning unit, they say they only ever use it for heat, so that's why.  A tradesman once entered my Hobart office and said he'd come to fix the heat pump.  I said good luck finding it, looking around for some kind of plumbing apparatus.  He must have thought I was completely clueless given I was sitting under the wall mounted heater.  Lost in translation, not to worry.  Now back to those apple recipes.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Sounds of the season

I've only just adjusted to Autumn, and just now they're telling me that winter starts next week.  I'm not ready.  I'm still admiring the golden leaves on the oak tree in the front of our property that's over 100 years old and the dampness of the grass on the ground.  The chooks are finally laying eggs again which means we don't have to go shame faced to the egg sellers at the farmer's market every week.  Our friendly beaked community are more prepared for the weather than I am.  They've allocated laying boxes and found perches around the garden when there is no room at the inn.  The lavender bushes are slightly flattened where they've rested weary feathered bottoms at night and the top of the veggie patch polly tunnels have provided a rooftop view for our guinea fowl.  It's a funny sight of an early evening when I step outside the back door with chook feeding container in hand to see about thirty birds rushing towards me like long lost friends.  And whilst I used to think it was just about food, now I'm not so sure. Last Sunday we had a mild, sunny day and spent most of it doing jobs around the garden.  I ventured out to the back paddock in the early afternoon and perched myself on the old wooden picnic table.  It's a lovely look out towards the green hills up the back and you could almost imagine you are all alone.  Very peaceful.  And after a few moments I was joined by head rooster Cyril (pictured above).  He jumped up onto the table and sat beside me on my left.  And then one of our Wyandotte hens also jumped up on the table on my right side and stood there, with us all looking out at the view.  It was quite a moment shared.  There's so much more to the interaction between us and animals but I guess sometimes we rush around so much it goes unnoticed.  I'm only beginning to understand the different noises our birds make.  The guinea fowl have a few sounds, one resembling a rusty spring, and the other is someone trying to start a car, unsuccessfully.  The amount of rooster crows we hear is extraordinary, all different and one that actually even says 'cock a doodle do' like a human would.  Some of the younger ones don't quite reach pitch and some just sound rather painful.  So bring on winter.  I guess if the chooks are up for it then I am too.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

That's not all wool...

Can sheep get too fat?  I understand the hungry argument for fat lambs but when they are pets stacking on the kilos, and visitors pass sheepish comments like 'they're certainly in good condition' we may just have a problem on our hands.  Our girls are expected to be heading for the maternity ward some time around Spring, and the plan is...or was, to shear them before they get too, ahem, big.  We may be too late.  They're barrels already.  When it comes to rounding them up it's quite possible we will need to replace the sheepdog with a forklift.  They've been very successful in extracting grain on a regular basis from husband and head farmer, and our generous neighbour recently flung them a hay bale which is now not much more than a few straws.  Rambo our visiting Ram (left) is two weeks away from the end of his vacation on our farm and I suspect it's going to take some doing to get him to go home.  He'll not want to get into that Ute because he knows that life on this farm is pretty damn fine.  He's been hand fed apples and has enjoyed the warmth of a purpose built sheep shack with water views and soft furnishings (old wool).  And Lambie (fourth from the left) belongs next door and is now too big to be hoisted back over the fence.  It is quite a sound when they come thundering up to you thinking you have food to offer.  A bit like a herd of wildebeest thumping through the paddock.  Can't be good for the foundations though.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Room for the chickens up top

Ok, this is not my bed.  But it was a bed I stayed in at a Bed and Breakfast recently run by a couple with exceptional taste in furnishings.  But I'm not just talking about a few quilted cushions and matching tassels, this mattress was the supreme being of all mattresses.  And now I'm ruined for life, alas no other mattress will ever be as good.  We couldn't have a bed like this in our house.  Firstly we have sloping ceilings in our upstairs rooms which would mean that the canopy would be more like a shelf just above your head.  And the curtains would be problematic for us too, as Max would be swinging from them on most mornings.  This bed was at a considerable height and we were warned that a step ladder is often required to hoist one's self on top of this pocket spring, latex covered surface of loveliness.  And way too high for a sneaky cocker spaniel to leap onto whenever I'm not looking.  It's a dead giveaway when Bennie's been sleeping on the bed as he likes to put his backside up against the pillows and kicks out the ones he doesn't like.  Clean sheets and doggies smells.  Yes, that would be a great accommodation offering.  Our house in its present form would fail as a bed and breakfast.  The rooster population rise early and sometimes can be heard as early as 2am (get a watch guys...) and Max starts the strangled cat wailing in the passage about 5am.  Bennie wakes up like something out of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, all singing and dancing going full pelt down the stairs and crashing at the bottom.  And then there's drive through Minnie screaming at you through the kitchen window when you do surface.  So that's why occasionally, just occasionally we like a night away.  Thank you Devonport Grand B&B.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Supersize Me Minnie puts in her order

Our outdoor cat Minnie appears at the kitchen window around meal times.  A bit like a fast food drive through window she places her order and waits patiently.  At the same time indoor cat Max is screaming for his favourite (whatever the hell that is this week) and Bennie the cocker spaniel knows that there is left over roast lamb in the fridge, and won't stop whimpering until it comes out.  Come dinner time it's pretty full on in this kitchen.  The drive through gets busy when the 30 odd beaks at the bottom of the window wait to place their order.  The chook food container sits on the bench everyday with the leftover scraps bundled in just before service.  Patsy likes her lettuce scraps, Ella prefers left over porridge, Dusty loves the bacon rind and everyone likes the date slice.  The Guinea Fowl prefer the seed and the little black hen we call Little Friend (because she's always at your side) likes to eat out of your hand and doesn't mind a pat while she's eating.  The sheep have sufficient green sprigs of oats to keep them going but Shirley is partial to her piece of apple and will come running at the sight of a core in my hand.  And then, by 6pm it's all over.  Unless we expect to eat.  Next please...

Thursday, 27 April 2017

It's a long way to the top if you want a sausage roll

We soon discovered that just because you have a book titled 100 Walks in Tasmania, doesn't mean you are equipped for bush walking.  But we decided to give it a crack anyway.  My idea of a walk of several kilometres would usually involve a large shopping district and a civilised lunch at the end.  Knowing that we were going to be a few hours at the mercy of nature with no Sherpa to carry the silverware, I buttered the date slices and packed the thermos.  Heaven forbid we find ourselves at any destination without access to life saving cups of english breakfast and cake.  So on this day of Anzac remembrance we put on our shiny Kathmandu outfits and headed off towards Mt Wellington.  We hadn't been driving long when we realised we had forgotten the milk and the tea bags.  We had hot water.  So having pulled into a nearby service station we now had milk, all two litres of it (they had nothing smaller) and a box of tea bags to add to the pack.  So off we went.  From Fern Tree at the base of Mt Wellington we walked the Pipeline track towards the Silver Falls.  Through eucalyptus forests with a steady climb for unconditioned legs like mine, I did at one point consider why we opted for this over a perfectly acceptable stair master at the gym, complete with off button, but soldiered on regardless. By now Tenzing Bowers, carrying the catering was far ahead of me.  After about an hour and a half our resting place was the Springs.  Only no springs that I could see.  We crossed a busy tourist road where the Springs Hotel once stood and now housed an information centre, covered gas barbecue areas and a coffee shop.  Yes, a coffee shop complete with not only coffee but tea and milk.  Nonetheless we sat down at the picnic table, made our tea and ate our date slice.  Although we couldn't resist a look at our summit cafe offerings complete with homemade cakes, pies and sausage rolls.  They looked too good to pass up.  We walked off with two steaming hot pork and fennel sausage rolls, with excellent buttery pastry.  We ate them out of the bag.  We were in the wilderness, after all.