A little news and my baby bird saga

February 25, 2020

Well, I thought it was time to bring you up to date with the happenings at Milkenunny before we head off on our overseas adventure in just over a week.  So soon!!  After that I imagine I won’t be talking of anything else for a while.

 

Kim has struggled with a long run of bad health, numerous kidney stones and a cold and stomach wog all took their toll and made his chronic fatigue syndrome worse.  Lately he has begun to improve, but has to be very careful of himself to ensure he recovers properly.  Nevertheless, we have made some progress on his container shed.  A friend came over and helped Kim to mount the uprights of the hoist, and to raise the top beam up and bolt it in place (no mean feat!).

Then we waited for some warm dry weather and painted the floor with 2 coats of an epoxy paint which should seal it and protect the surface somewhat.  After that the tractor came out and we moved a bunch of gravel over to make a drivable ramp into the shed.  Now we can finally park cars in there again!  The hoist needs a fair bit more work running cables, attaching arms and motors and all sorts, but that can be done at a later date as it is out of the weather.  🙂

Earlier this month Willow, our first corgi, finally came on heat.  That meant a (very) early trip to the airport so she could fly off for a week to Queensland.  She had a successful mating with a handsome Pembroke corgi over there, and then came back home again.  We will not be able to tell if she is pregnant for about 4 weeks, but fingers are crossed!

Twinkles milk supply slowly reduced with my limited milking routine, and the calf is drinking it all now.  That will be one less thing for the family to have on their plate while Kim and I are away.  My hen also managed to hatch some chicks.  She lost a couple, but is doing well with the remaining 4.  We hope that one of them will be a nice natured rooster.

Then a few weeks ago I found a bird’s nest upside down on the path as I was doing my morning chores.  On a whim I picked it up and discovered two healthy and hungry chicks inside!

I phoned wildlife rescue, trying to find a carer for them, but was told instead that if I couldn’t find the parents I should take them to the vets to be put down.  I’m afraid that, foolish woman that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to do that and so I took on the role of momma bird instead.  We thought they must be wrens, as we have heaps of them here, and everything I read said that wrens would be out and about in just a few weeks and that they should be fairly readily accepted by the family groups in our yard.  Accordingly I researched feed mixes and had them on an interesting mix of egg, breadcrumbs, insectivore mix and grated cheese.  I supplemented that with maggots and chopped up meal worms.  Yum!  I also pulled out the heat pad that I used for the pygmy possums.  Anyway, they thrived!

After just a few days they looked a lot more like birds and wouldn’t stay in their nest anymore and didn’t need any extra heat.  Mind you we were keeping them in the lounge room of the caravan and annexe that Kim and I use for our sleeping accomodation.  I brought in some branches and they settled nicely into sitting on them.  The next stage was to get them to start to feed themselves, instead of needing me to feed them by hand.  I made some tiny feed bowls out of bottle caps and hung them in the bushes.  I also dug out an old cage so I could take them to my volunteering work with me.  I was very excited when they began to occasionally feed themselves, although they still wanted to be hand fed as well.

It was good to have the cage as I could sit it outside in a bush on a warm day to get them used to being outside a bit.  Just over a week after getting them they looked really sweet, and it was plainly obvious that they were not wrens at all, but Silvereyes.  We added honeyeater mix to their food blend.

They continued to grow and mature, developing better feathers and a greater activity level.  I ended up with the room getting rather messy and full of branches for the babies to fly to.  I would change them for fresh ones a couple of times a week, and they began to really enjoy fossicking through the leaves in search of goodness knows what.  I think their favourite was the gum tree, and they would find leaves stuck together by insects and pry them apart to see if there was anything good to eat in there.

Finally we decided that they were looking pretty mature, flying well and being generally quite active and that we should let them go.  They still would happily eat food off a spoon, but were also happy to eat from my hanging bowls.  I managed to find a wildlife carer not to far away who had looked after lots of birds, and he was helpful and encouraging and agreed that releasing them where they were was the best idea.

Since they had been living in the building with the window open to ensure they acclimatised to the outside temperature, releasing was as simple as taking the flyscreen off the window one warm and mellow afternoon.  I tied a small gum sapling to the hand rail outside to give them easy access, and hung some feeders in that as well.  They considered the idea for a while before taking the plunge, but then they ventured out into the big wide world.  We have a nice bushy Japonica close by that they quickly flew into, and then they could work their way to the big gums and wattles nearby via some other bushes.

It seemed quite strange that night to have no baby birds in the building.  I looked around at dusk to see if they had returned, but there was no sign of them.  However, the next day, as Kim was leaving the building, there they were, flying into the little gum and asking for breakfast!  They were hungry and very tired and I coaxed them back inside for a few hours sleep.  However they were recovered again by the afternoon and enjoyed flitting around the bushes nearby before retiring back into the building at dusk to sleep.

Yesterday morning they headed out again and disappeared for a few hours, before returning for more food out of the bowls in the gum, and hanging around the bushes again.  I was out a lot today but had to refill their bowl a couple of times and did see one of them feeding in the afternoon, before taking off back to the gum trees.  They have a good startle reflex, but are otherwise fearless of Kim and myself and will happily eat while we are walking past on the ramp.  It is nice to think that they can learn to live outside and hunt, but still have the support of the feeders when they need it. Hopefully in just a little while they will become completely independent.  Some Silvereyes in Tasmania migrate to the mainland in Winter, but if ours don’t hook up with a flock that go, they may be some of those who stay here instead.

 

Kim has enjoyed being able to get nice and close to take pictures of some birds that are usually too high up in the trees and too quick moving to easily photograph on our property.

And that is enough news for now!  Best wishes to you all

A busy start to the year

January 18, 2020

Hello All!   I hope the new year is treating you well.  🙂

2020 is the year my father turns 90, and so it was decided that a celebration was in order!  Dad’s birthday is the 4th January which very conveniently fell on a Saturday this year.  I flew over to Perth the Thursday before and got picked up by my sister Alison and taken to her home in Lower Chittering.  On Friday we cooked up some sweet things for the catering, and welcomed Ali’s daughter Amy home from Broome for the party.  Ali had already prepared all the savouries before hand and her daughter in law, Sasha, was preparing a fantastic cake in the shape of a toolbox – very appropriate for my Dad.
Saturday we headed to the folks church and set up for the celebration.  My other sister Linda was over from Canada and all her family had collected with Mum and Dad for Christmas.  They came to the church hall too, replete with fruit and vegetable platters and dip, and we set up the building with some lovely table decorations that Ali had prepared earlier.  The celebration went well, lots of lovely people, plenty of food, good speeches, and the weather not as hot as it might have been.  The younger generation of the family were all wonderful, helping out with preparations, serving and cleaning up too.
I went and stayed with my folks after the party, somehow managing to squeeze in with Linda’s family who then left one at a time over the next couple of days, returning to jobs and life in San Francisco and Sydney.  I headed home on the Tuesday while Linda and John were able to stay until the end of the week before returning to Canada.  It was wonderful to catch up with my folks, my sisters and their husbands as well as the nephews and nieces from both families, even if it was only for a very brief time.  🙂
It was also nice to be in Perth for a Sunday so that I could go to church with Mum and Dad and meet their new pastor and see the growing congregation.  After the service they had a shared luncheon, and they also made it a bit special for Dad’s birthday.
Meanwhile, back at home, Twinkles produced a healthy heifer early in the morning of the Sunday I was away.
She was not due to calve for another week, when I would have been home, but it turned out she couldn’t wait that long.  I had been watching her udder enlarge the week before and I confess that I had been a bit worried that she wouldn’t last the distance.  In the end Sam managed to handle the first few days of milking without me and the little girl had no trouble feeding so it was all good.  It is the first time Twinkles has given us a live heifer, we had begun to think she could only throw bull calves.  This calf is a beautiful glossy black girl who looks so very much like her mamma.  Her name is still undecided.  The family didn’t seem to like Glossy Flossy which was my first thought, so I have started calling her Blossom, but after her antics the last couple of days I am wondering if Little Miss Feisty mightn’t be more appropriate.  She has been kicking up her heels, slipping under the fence and chasing Willow the corgi!
Normally when the cow is newly calved I milk her twice a day in order to keep her milk supply up, however with Kim and myself booked to go overseas in March I am following a different plan this year.  I have been only milking each morning and hope that Twink’s milk supply will slow down a little and that by March the calf will be taking it all so that the family don’t have to milk while we are away.
Just to reinforce the bad timing of my trip to Perth, the day I left we had a paddock of hay slashed in Mole Creek and turned into small square bales.  We have always had round bales before, but I thought it might be worth trying the squares as they are easier to transport, and I wanted to try a new contractor who only does small squares anyway.  We ended up with 170 bales which all needed moving fairly quickly so we could cover them from any possible rain.  I managed to transport 2 loads of 20 bales in our Caravelle van before I had to leave for the airport.  Sam and Kim did another 2 loads and Sam and Lydia did a further 5 loads over the next couple of days to bring it all safely home.  We have it stacked on pallets and under tarps at the end of the pony paddock, as it will probably be the ponies who use it all.
Late last year we had the misfortune of having a quoll get in and kill a couple of chooks.  The biggest problem that this caused is that one of the birds killed was our rooster, and we only had the one.  My first thought was that perhaps this was the time that we should start to run our chook numbers down, but Kim was keen to have the option of breeding again if we wanted to.  So then the wait for a hen to turn broody began, and after a couple of weeks my old favourite “Pea” began to sit solidly.  This also happened on the day I left for Perth – it seemed a long and busy day!  I put about 11 older assorted eggs under her, and on checking the other night it seems that all but 2 were fertile.  I expect it will be another week or more before they are due to hatch so we we have our fingers crossed for healthy chicks and that there might be a nice quiet rooster among them.  We have now set up 2 elecromesh fences to completely surround the chook and garden areas and are hoping that no quoll can find it’s way inside through that.  So far, so good, and I know there is a quoll around but hopefully it will stay out!
My tomatoes are growing well and some have set fruit now.
As always time will tell whether we get the tomatoes to ripen before the cold comes back.  🙂  Vegetable growing time always seems to be way too short for me in Mole Creek, although there are plenty of climates who have more extreme weather than here.
For the last few years I have bought hay from a lovely farmer up north and he sent me another 18 rolls this year.  They arrived just the other day loaded high on a truck, and they have been tipped off and are waiting for me to straighten them up a bit and cover them all.  This hay will be more nutritious than the pony hay, and so is allocated to the cow and calf.
Kim has had the parts arrive for his hoist so now we just have to work out how to put it up!  I am very much looking forward to having the job done, if not to actually doing the job.  Those large beams weigh ~325kg each so it will be no mean feat to get them to stand up in place while we mount them into the concrete floor!  Kim hopes to get onto the job soon but between his chronic fatigue syndrome being made worse with the heat of summer, bouts of kidney stones and various colds and stomach wogs, he hasn’t had much health to do it yet.
We purchased a cheap little caravan recently from a farm nearby.  It is set up as a mobile chook house at present, but we are considering setting it up for possibly puppies in the future.  We have been waiting anxiously for Willow to come on heat so we can send her off to be mated, but she is not obliging so far.  It seems we have no choice but to keep waiting.  🙂  Hopefully we will have puppies one day!
The wattle trees have been going to town with their seed and seed pods this year.  A while back I had a visiting friend ask me what the trees were that were turning brown, and at the time I wasn’t sure what she meant.  Of course I should have realised that it was the Silver wattles that put on such a dazzling yellow display in Spring…
that then turn to and develop brown seed pods.
Once the seeds ripen, the pods open and drop and scatter all over the ground, and the ground is smothered in them in places this year.
The seeds are little black things which I guess birds and possums eat, but they can’t possibly keep up with the feast available at the moment.  We have even noticed that clusters of seed seem to accumulate around the tops of little ant nests on the driveway, so I wonder if they can store them up as feed too?  I fear that we are going to have a wealth of new baby wattle trees coming up in Spring next year.  I wish there was an international market for wattle seed, as Tassie could do some exporting and really help the national GDP this year.
I have been settling in to my new routine with volunteering at the Mole Creek Online Access Centre.  It is actually pretty quiet on the computer side of things and I don’t have a lot to do with helping people there, although it is nice when the occasional person needs a hand.  When it is quiet I can do things on my own laptop which I take in with me, which is nice, or I can try to improve my understanding of the computer programs we have at the Centre.  Another part of my responsibilities is to give advice to tourists who come and check out our brochures, and at this time of year that side of the work can be busy.  I enjoy chatting to visitors and helping them to enjoy their time visiting Tasmania and especially our lovely local area.
Anyway, I guess I have waffled on enough for this episode!  Best wishes.

Christmas Greetings

December 25, 2019

Just realised that I forgot to put up my Christmas picture for 2019!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas from the Howe family

Haru Christmas Hat1
 
Haru had the fun of modelling the Christmas hat this year.  It meant lots of extra biscuits, so she didn’t mind a bit, in fact the hard part was finding a photo where she wasn’t licking her lips!
We hope you have a blessed time this Christmas and a great New Year.  We are looking forward to the service at our small Mole Creek church on Christmas morning, where we sing carols and read the Bible stories which help us to remember the birth of Jesus, our Saviour.  Then we will head home to cook a hot roast dinner at our home, followed by sharing a cold tea at Paul’s place in the evening.  
 
Our hearts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by the numerous bushfires this year and the firefighters who are working so hard.  I think that many won’t be able to celebrate Christmas this year, at least not in the way they normally would.
 
Wishing you all the best