Monday, 2 October 2017

Ready, aim, splat

Ah, Spring!  A welcomed season from blistering cold winds that howled through the gaps in my old front window frames.  Spring means new life and nest building. Unfortunately my house has proven, year on year, to be a reliable host of our new mum and dad Starlings.  Like going back to the same seaside shack every year, they choose the inside of my front verandah roof with the late afternoon sun and a room with a view.  Whilst we've been known to be on the generous side with our own menagerie of bird life that includes a good proportion of bantam chickens and guinea fowls, I draw the line at bratty Starlings that outstay their welcome and crap all over the front of my house.  After a Sunday of washing down windows and removing bird pooh from the entrance of a very old weatherboard house that doesn't deserve such ill mannered treatment, I resorted to the only defence I know that doesn't involve a twelve gauge.  A bird of prey.  Now this little feller came from the hardware shop because apparently they don't sell either real or stuffed ones (to my absolute disappointment) and so with beady bright eyes and a plastic bobble head, he had to do.  So Bobble Head as he is now referred to, was placed on the verandah and told to ward off anyone bird like that refuses to see the sign, no room at the inn.  However unfortunately since Bobble Head was engaged in verandah duties, we've had some serious westerly winds come through which continue to blow him off his verandah perch, down the steps and into the rose bushes.  Initially I didn't want to secure him because the Starlings would wake up to that pretty quick and notice that he doesn't leave his post...'yeah, that old plastic bobble head trick, hah, hah, hah!'  So I went out yesterday to collect poor BH to find him rolling around the porch like he'd been on the sherry all night, and noticed that some brazen Starling had managed to plant one right on his head, in between his eyes.  I can only imagine what careful planning that took.  So having failed dismally with my bird of prey defence, I'm at a loss as to what to do with those recalcitrant Starlings with precision aim.  I wonder if the hardware store sells something, perhaps a little more concerning, like a Pterodactyl.  Don't suppose I could get a stuffed one anywhere?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The shared table

We've had five new baby lambs safely delivered on our farm - with no help from us whatsoever.  Phew!  Dodged a bullet there.  Bettie heroically delivered three.  She was pretty big, and very uncomfortable. We've got perhaps one more to come and have pretty well given up on names.  We started with chalky but then a few more chalkboards arrived and now we are struggling to tell them apart.  Did you know you are not allowed to call a blackboard a blackboard any more?  Head farmer and husband found this out in the local hardware store recently searching for blackboard paint to put up on a wall in our preserving room.  He was momentarily denied service by a surly store woman as she corrected him over and over again, saying 'No we don't have blackboard paint.  We have chalkboard paint'. So that's how the little guy on the left got his name.  There's a theory on farms that once you have a name you don't end up on a plate.  That will certainly be the case on our farm.  These little guys will grow up on this five star animal resort being none the wiser.  And costing us a small fortune as ute load after ute load produces more bags of animal feed with not much grass around, for the privileged mouths and beaks on this property.  Unfortunately they all support the shared table philosophy, that what's in your bowl is also mine when you're done with it. The chooks are eating the leftover lamb feed pellets and the thought of this now entering into our food chain via eggs scares me - just a little.   About 11pm every night Bennie our best in class cocker spaniel sneaks down the stairs to polish off the cat's food provided we haven't given Max's food to Minnie as she sits at the kitchen window looking in like something out of the movie Oliver, just not quite so undernourished.   Max won't eat anything that isn't out of a can or pouch and Bennie's gastronomical experiment with eating blood and bone out of the garden beds ended badly all over my new lounge room rug.  So food is a shared experience in my home.  Sometimes I wish it wasn't though.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The locals here even look different

In Bennie's former life, before moving to Tasmania we used to go for a walk to the local coffee shops. And where we lived, there were many.  He would sit under the table and stair longingly at waitresses until he got their attention.  What was hard to explain was that those cute puppy dogs eyes are all about the toast she was carrying and not so much about her. These days there's not much coffee on our walks, and definitely no toast stops.  He's done well considering he's not 'off the land' as they say.  He's had to adjust to new surroundings.  He's learnt that chickens lay eggs that must be delivered without breaking onto the back door mat.  Not an easy task for a dog, but rewarding if you do break them!  He's learnt that roosters are not to be messed with and there are some seriously good smells in the veggie patch when blood and bone gets throw around.  He's now trying to get his head around baby lambs.  They sort of look like a dog...a kind of poodle perhaps?  They don't smell like a dog and they don't play like a puppy at all.  In fact he looks a bit bewildered by them.  Having been a high achiever in his puppy school years, Bennie thinks all dogs should have the same schooling as him.  I imagine he introduces himself to all animals as 'Hi I'm Bennie, best in class what's your name?'  This would be pretty well lost on a bunch of sheep who neither sit on command or stay when told.  Before moving here we used to walk past the local community veggie garden that had a bright red, life size sculpture of a cow in it.  Bennie used to bark at it every time and tell it off for being there I guess.  He's not quite so cocky these days.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Unable to defrost my dining room

Saturday gave us a Spring teaser.  A little warm breeze and some sun to soak through your skin.  Today no sign to be had.  The south wind coming under the gaps and cracks in my old house have come directly from Antarctica without so much as a stop for coffee.  My hallway is like a meat keeper.  I'm tempting to hang a side of beef in the dining room just because I can.  I have had a vase in there with a single hydrangea flower sitting above the mantle since about March this year.  It never died.  It's just frozen in time.  And again the wearing of three layers of clothing is a necessity to get from one part of the house to the other and as I write, I feel the wrap of my leggings and long pants around my knees.  Spring does this.  One day it's hard to bend your arms from the Kathmandu coatings and the next day you are peeling off the layers wondering if your hot flushes have returned.  It will be nice again not to have to gather kindling and babysit the wood fire.  Not that we don't love our seasons.  Just some of us enjoy the winter more than Max.  He moves from electric blanket to fireside and return.  Like the slow movement of a herd (of one) seeking greener pastures, he has an internal radar for warmth.  He's a winter fan.  He's dead keen on the side of beef idea as well.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

A face only a mother could love - but no one will own up

He wouldn't win any beauty contests that's for sure but Crossbeak has recovered well and is now part of the team.  He still struggles to eat with the crew and prefers to jump into the metal garbage bin where the seed is kept.  He can manage to scoop up the seed quite easily from there and chirps away happily, oblivious to the dinner mahem that descends most afternoons at feed time.  I was watching him the other day from the kitchen window where he jumped up into one of the potted pencil pines near the back door.  He must have spotted some insects camped in there and ploughed in face first.  Doris, not one to miss out on anything jumped up pushed him off and stuck her face into the tree.  I often wonder about Doris as to whether she can actually see or not.  I know it's a hairdo choice but sometimes I worry it comes at a cost.  I've seen her walk into the odd wall every now and again.  I guess the feathered beehive works as a buffer?  Spring is here and all the daisies are showing their faces.  Blossom is breaking out all over the garden with the trees along our road looking like they've been studded with bright pink popcorn.  Just need some warm weather now to get out and breath some life into the veggie patch.  We let it go a bit feral over winter and will soon need to reclaim it back from the chooks.  They dance in and out of the bird netting (what a joke) and dig up the leftover straw.  Our soil has enough manure now to just about grow a chook but we don't need anymore.  I'm on the lookout for broodie hens as the days grow longer.  We had a poultry population explosion last year and will need to keep it in check this year.  I'm not sure if they've heard of the one child policy, but we could do with it here.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Tin shed momentary calm

There's something kind of nice about sitting around an open fire in a tin shed on a windless evening watching the last burst of sun hit the hills at the back paddock before it quietly slips away.  We ended our Sunday with a glass of something and some good company to rest tired legs from bouncing around on a tractor (not me) and wrenching nettles out of garden beds (me).  Weekends are a time to literally eat into some of the oversupply we have of eggs at the moment.  Now, at about 5 a day of the ones that we can easily find...the others are for Bennie (pictured sleeping on the mat) to carefully place on the back doorstep unbroken.  Most of the time he's successful, but you can see the look of 'bugger' on his face when not, and of course he just has to eat the contents then.  Weekends usually produce a sponge cake (at least 5 eggs in that, tick), and a roast to slowly go round above the flames in the not so old but made look old tin shed.  Sunday nights are best relaxed but weary.  Unfortunately the evening bliss didn't last long after picking up dog pooh for a second time in the dining room that weekend (you might have heard me scolding the dog from where you are), or cleaning up another pile of cat vomit as Max's delicate constitution repels his offending dinner on no less than three bathroom mats as one is cleaned and replaced by another.  I was glad when the clock said bed time.  I settled into a good book about someone on a bigger farm with much bigger problems to worry about.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Crossbeak and the big reveal

Another busy weekend outside.  Our Sunday night legs begin to wane as the forever walking, bending and lifting jobs get priority.  Weed pulling has never been the name of a fitness class, but definitely should be, 'now dig, dig, and puuullll...those weeds'.  We do take time out for coffee with Minnie and our sheep (all bar one, oops) are all in lamb with Boris now the shepherd.  The three girls are heavy and happy to find anything green.  We've now started our two rows of espaliered apple trees so looking forward to some wonderful blossom (and hopefully fruit) in the coming years.   And my Friday drama was resolved by Friday evening.  Well actually, it wasn't mine, it was Crossbeak's.  He was ready in his cardboard box at 9am for his appointment with his vet for major plastic surgery on his beak.  He was excited and kept popping his little curvy beak outside the round hole carved in the side of the box for air.  We arrived at the vet and the nurse took him into surgery.  I waited nervously.  A little snip, surely that's all, I thought.  The vet came out and I asked "how'd he go?"  He replied, "Not so good I'm afraid".  My God, I panicked for a brief moment imagining the vet to have slipped with the clippers...but the vet advised his beak was a serious deformity that really couldn't be corrected.  He said he was surprised that he'd even lasted this long.  The vet was able to clip back some of his beak but it bled and he was concerned that if he knocks it, the beak may bleed again and this would need to be stopped.  So with some dabbed cotton tips for repair work, I took poor little Crossbeak home.  I guess it's like any plastic surgery, there is the swelling and bleeding before the healing but I wasn't ready for what I saw in the box when I opened it.  He was in shock.  He couldn't walk out of the box and his beak was not a pretty sight.  Why did I do this?  I thought.  Next time when mother nature throws me an abnormality I will but out.  I said to husband farmer, if our baby lambs are born with three heads, so be it.  Fortunately, we soon realised that little Crossbeak is more resilient than we thought.  He managed to recover from his ordeal, clean up his beak and was back eating out of the seed bin as he usually does by the end of the day, with a somewhat shorter and less curvy beak.  Phew.  It was a lot of stress for a mere $20 vet bill.