Archive for May, 2011

Cars

May 25, 2011

We have been rather concerned about our old vehicles lately, the Kombi is a great workhorse but being such a large vehicle it is costly to run, and it is after all 38 years old.  Then we have the Passat, 32 years old itself, which has been run off it’s wheels since we got it and which seems to be falling apart at the moment.  It is in need of some serious down time while it gets worked on.  Poor Kim has been struggling to keep it on the road with his limited health, while one thing after another has been going wrong.  Meanwhile he is never finding the time to work on the Audi which we are hoping to get going and replace the gearbox in.

So on Saturday, in a rather unplanned event, we bought another car.  It is a Seat Ibiza 1995 model.  It cost us $1000 which providentially was exactly the amount that we had available in our bank account.  It looks like an ordinary car which somehow feels very strange!

The interior is like new.

It  has had a bingle in the front, and has a few dents but is basically sound and looks quite nice.  More importantly it has only 110,000km on the clock and is supposed to run on the smell of an oily rag, which will be most useful to us who live well away from anywhere.  Kim has already put new tyres on the front and adjusted the headlights so that they actually point at the road, a great improvement from one pointing at the trees and the other at the bumper.  He is now looking forward to doing NOTHING!  And he can relax about the Passat and put it’s repairs on the back burner for a while.

So, are you thinking that Kim has finally betrayed his Volkswagen commitment?  Never fear, underneath the labelling it turns out that a Seat Ibiza is basically a VW Polo made in Spain.  When you open the bonnet everything has VW labels all over them.  :}

Funnily enough we would never have bought the car if Lydia had not become sick on the way to work, causing us to return home early with the newspapers and then Sam, who was uncharacteristically down early for breakfast, saw the advertisement quite by accident as he was flipping through the paper.  We are very thankful to God that it all occurred that way, as it seems like the car will be very good for our needs.

With the weather cooling down for Winter, it was -1.7 last  night and is still only 4.7 outside at 9:30am today, I think that the thing I am going to enjoy most are the car’s heaters! Anyway, I best be off now, I have been putting off feeding the chooks waiting for the day to warm up but I don’t think I can wait any longer!

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Guinea Pigs

May 16, 2011

Here are our guinea pigs!  Well, okay, obviously they are really chooks, but what I mean is that these are the hens who are being our guinea pigs in the sense that they are the privileged ones who are trialling living in the tent.

During the day they scratch around in the bush within the confines of the electric mesh and at night they roost in the tent and get zipped up inside as an added precaution against the quolls.  In the first day or so two of them escaped and went back to their old roost, but the remaining six have settled in well.

Our sooky calves have grown!  They are looking big and shaggy these days and must be almost 6 months old.  They are living the good life in town munching grass and being spoilt by every one who knows them.

They seem to be staying quite friendly, especially when you take them buckets of lucerne!  Twinkles will happily let us rub her all over, which promises good things for her potential life as a house cow.

Lydia has been working for a few days raspberry picking, and hopes to get another two weeks work there before the season is finished.  It is working out well as she is able to catch a lift with another lady in town who is also working there.  The farm has rows and rows full of raspberry canes, it is quite amazing to see them all.

Time for an update

May 6, 2011

We’ve been progressing with the pigs lately.  Both Stunner and Trouble are in the freezer now and even though they were both about 2 years old the meat is still tender and tasty.  They had a good long life for pigs I reckon, so I don’t feel bad that their time had to end at last.  Horace the boar is the next on the list, with Pink and Skinny Minnie being saved until later when they have put some condition back on after weaning their piglets.

I am glad that the pig numbers are going down as it has been a bit of a juggle moving them around.  For example, Mirax is due to farrow again soon so we moved her into a paddock of her own last week.  That is so easy to say but was much harder to do.  To get her there we had to move her through the piglets area.  I really didn’t fancy coping with a big pig chasing lost of squealing little pigs all over the place, so I decided that the solution was to shut the piglets in the trailer hurdles and then Mirax could just walk through with no distractions into her own paddock.  Of course the easiest way to get the piglets into the hurdles was to put food in there and sure enough they were happy to crowd in and eat.  Mirax came through the gate readily enough, leaving Erlestoke and Pigachu behind, but she then discovered some spilt food outside the hurdles and was so busy munching away that she just didn’t want to leave.  Then she smelt the food inside the hurdles and was rooting up the end of them trying to get to it!  Most worrying, to both me and the piglets inside!  And Mirax is so big now it is no mean feat to move her when she doesn’t want to go.  Pushing and shoving was having no effect, but with Kim valiantly holding the hurdles down I finally managed to get her attention by sprinkling a trail of grain all the way through the piglet area to where she was meant to go.  I was most relieved when she followed the trail to her new paddock.

It is a fairly major ongoing expense to feed all our pigs so it was most welcome when we had a call from a gardener in Deloraine offering us some acorns that were otherwise headed for the rubbish tip.  So last week Lydia and I loaded the kombi with numerous sacks full of raked up acorns to try out.  About half of the adult pigs quite like them, as do the piglets, though a few of them sniff at them and then look at us as if saying “where is the food?”.  We sold the last 9 piglets yesterday which worked out well.  The people who came to get 2, took 3 instead, and the guy who came to take 4 took the remaining 6.  Funnily enough the 6 were taken by a farmer who is going to run them under his oak trees to clean up the acorns there.

My latest bacon recipe has been a big success.  I bought some saltpetre mix from the internet with some hickory chips for smoking and made a maple syrup cure from the Redback trading company website which everyone seems to like.  It almost tastes more like cabonossi than bacon to me, but is still very pleasant.

Our sookie calves continue to munch away on the grass in a neighbouring paddock to the church in town.  They are growing bigger all the time but continue to be sweet and quiet.  I  do miss them being so far away but it is much better for them to be on pasture than eating hay here.  One day I hope we will have some pasture here too.  Patience, patience!  We still have Izzy and her calf at home.  There are plans in the works for yards but they haven’t reached the top of the priority list yet, so remain just plans.  More patience required!

We received our first electranet fence the other day which is an essential part of the free range chook system that Lydia wants to set up.  It is a movable electric mesh fence to keep the chooks safe from quolls whilst they are being moved around in the bush on the block.  We have been considering different options for portable hen houses too, and recently picked up a cheap tent that we are going to use for the time being so that we can try out the system with our current pullets.  I think it will be pretty funny having bush ranging chooks living in a tent.  🙂  It seems pretty crazy but you have to try things sometimes, there is not too much to lose after all.  Hopefully by the time the tent dies we will have made a more permanent house for them.

One missing hen reappeared a week ago with 16 chicks in tow.  We discovered that she had been hiding in the bush in a bladegrass nest sitting on 2 dozen eggs.  I think she did a great job hatching so many as she is just a small hen and amazingly enough they all manage to snuggle underneath her.

Then just yesterday another small dark hen appeared from the bush with yet another 16 chicks!  I haven’t been able to make them stay inside the safety of the electric fence yet so I hope the quolls don’t get them.

We bought a dozen CSIRO Leghorn eggs and hatched 10 of them under a broody hen.  They are supposed to be good layers but it looks like only 4 of them are hens.  Leghorn’s combs grow very long and we are not sure how they will go in the cold weather here but we will have to wait and see as they are certainly not long yet.

Our turkey numbers are down to 7.  Our old gobbler was taken by a quoll a month or so ago.  He had been sleeping outside of the electric fence for so long that I had decided that he must have been too big for a quoll to take on, but I found out the hard way that I was quite wrong.  Then we sold a young gobbler to one of the guys who were buying piglets on Saturday. He will get to have his own flock of hens so I wish him well.  That leaves us with no male unless one of the two youngest poults is a gobbler, but I would quite like to get one of a different bloodline anyway.   Our hand reared turkey hens are driving us a bit crazy, one of them chases us around pecking at our heels when we feed the chooks and the other two carry on and chase Josiah whenever they are up at the house and he is outside.  They need to remember the farm motto of “be nice or be dinner”!

The cooler weather is definitely starting now and the plant life is slowing down in response.  We haven’t had a lot of frosts yet this year but I am sure that that situation won’t last long.  I planted a bunch of Tagasaste seeds this year and am keeping the seedlings in pots in the greenhouse over winter.  I hope when they are mature that they will be able to survive the frosts, but for now they need a bit more TLC.  Tagasaste is a good stock feed bush I am told, so it would be a useful plant for us to have.  I  believe that the deer farm in Mole Creek has Tagasaste growing so I am hopeful to establish some here as well. Our soil is not the best so it remains to be seen how it will go, worth a try though.

I have been involved with a homeschooling group up north of the state and we recently had a gardening swap meet one morning.  It was fun.  Josiah and I took along some bags of manure and some seeds and seedlings.  For everything we took we were given a token which we could use to get something that someone else had brought.  Our manure went fast, much to my relief as I really did not want to take it home again!  We brought home some garlic, walking onions, iris bulbs, jerusalem artichokes and agapanthus.  Josiah really enjoys the homeschool get togethers, he loves playing with the other children.  I’ve got to know some interesting folk there too.

Lydia is going well.  Her casual work at the guest house has finished now that the tourist season is over.  She is looking for more work but really wants to get started on the organic egg business soon, as that is what she really wants to do with her life.  She loves the country life, her chooks and her sweet horse.  Zorro was lame for a few months, after throwing a wobbly when his cow was moved out of his paddock, but is finally sound again.  He has a lovely nature and always comes when called but can be silly when he is in the mood.  Typical horse!

Caleb and Sam continue to be unwell.  However their latest doctor actually seems to be taking their problems seriously, and seems prepared to work through their issues methodically and thoroughly in an effort to help them.  Caleb is awaiting an endoscope appointment and is working through various treatment options in the meantime while Sam is currently on a course of the antibiotics for that bacteria that causes ulcers.  It would be wonderful if they could have their health improved one day.  Meanwhile we are thankful for what God has given us.  Sam had his 21st this year and is now the proud owner of an Apple iPad.

Kim is still struggling with his chronic fatigue.  He has heaps of things he wants to do and finds it very frustrating to be limited so much by his health, but is happy that he can at least do a bit here and there.  The cars seem to continually need his attention lately, no sooner does he fix one problem than another appears.  That is one of the realities of living with cars as old as ours are I guess.  However he has finished installing the LED lighting in our main building and we are now running all those lights directly off of the 12V batteries.  They work really well.  Kim also had a big birthday this year, turning 50 in April.

Well, that is the news for now.