Archive for August, 2013

Variety Spicing Up Life

August 11, 2013

Hello there from wet and wintery Tasmania.

Things have warmed up a little since my last email and we have been getting some good rain over the last few weeks, (133mm so far this month and 287mm last month) filling up our annual lakes and making feeding the stock somewhat of a more muddy and slippery job.
The horses had to abandon their Summer paddock and shift to higher ground, but the cow and calves still have a narrow path down to the bottom paddock that they can travel along.  It doesn’t help them much as the bottom paddock is under water for the time being, except for one or two small corners.
I keep telling the rain it can slow down now, usually when I am outside disconnecting wires from the electric fence that are now under water, but we are forecast rain for the next few days regardless.  All pretty normal for winter at Lake Howe!
Harry, our last 2yo steer, was quietly dispatched over a month ago when we were still having that run of frosts.  I was very pleased to have the job done before the paddocks flooded.  Harry had had a good life and had no stress at the end as he got to stay in his home paddock until the last moment.  I was rather reminded me of the Footrot Flats comics to have a carcass hanging in the tree for a few days, although we had to wrap it all up in a tarp in case of rain.  We only have one tree that suits hanging the steers, and it was only just tall enough!  We really must not let them get so old in the future.  We decided that there was no need to take it to the cool room in town this time around, since the outside world was doing a good job of being a freezer anyway.  Our wonderful neighbourhood dairy farmer came and did the butchering again for us.  He does such an excellent job, and it is all hands on deck for the 2-3 hours when we have to cut up the meat for mincing and weigh and pack the various cuts of meat before putting them in the freezers.  We got about 150kg of lean meat which should last us a little while.
In June Kim and I attended a Christian homeschooling conference in Hobart which was run by the Family Integrated Churches group from the USA.  We really enjoyed the two days, were challenged by the talks and got to meet some lovely families from around Tassie too.  It was a very refreshing time, and we wished we could have had taken the whole family with us to meet all the young folk there, but of course the older boys were home sick and Lyd and Josiah stayed to look after them and the animals while we were gone.  We could only sleep two in our friend’s caravan too, but we really appreciated getting away ourselves and being able to focus on God’s word and it’s application in our day to day lives.
I have also been spending some time child minding over the last month or so, which has been a bit, well, exhausting actually. 🙂  A family from church were expecting their 7th child and we wanted to give them a little help and some time alone before the new baby came.  My part in that process was to do some child minding.  I had forgotten how tiring it is to keep an eye on a bunch of small children, and to settle their disputes!  I did get back into the hang of it though, and even remembered some of the craft projects that we used to run at playgroup.  Finally, two weeks after the due date, I got a call at 6am to come and care for the children while mum went to the hospital, along with dad and their little chronically unwell child, to welcome a new baby girl into the world.  And the family was all back together 12 hours later, healthy and happy.  I’m back to supplying a meal once a week now, which is rather less tiring.  It was fun to get the know the children better though.
Bonfires have been burning around our block lately, as we have taken advantage of the safer wet weather to get rid of what seems like innumerable piles of sticks and branches.  The only trouble is that it takes a while to get the fires to burn, since the wood is wet, wet, wet.  However it is good to clear things up somewhat  We also put a borrowed grader blade attachment on the tractor and had our first attempt at using it.  It was going brilliantly too, until it broke!  It was 40 years old, and when we investigated it had obviously been partly cracked for a while through the plate that the blade attached to.  However we now have to pull it all apart so that it can be welded back together, and the enormous bolts that have been done up tightly for the last 40 years are really not keen on coming undone.  Kim is planning to get cylinders for his oxy set again and is hoping that the application of heat will help to free things up.  Thankfully there is no rush as the farmer we got the implement from does not use this particular blade anymore, and is happy for us to get it fixed in our own time.  It actually looks like it will be very useful, and we would like to buy it if it works out.
Kim is pleased to report that he has the VW Wagon back on the road.  That means that he now has a Type 1 (Beetle), Type 2 (Kombi) and Type 3 (Wagon/Fastback/Sedan) all at the same time.  He has owned all those types before, but never all at once.  Sadly our Seat Ibiza car broke down again and this time it was decided that it was not worth fixing.  How can it be that we can keep 40 year old cars going easier than we can keep 20 year old ones?  Perhaps it is a sign of our throw away society.  However Kim’s brother Paul has kindly given us his Toyota Corolla, now that he has upgraded to an Audi, and so Kim has been working on getting that re-registered here.  All going well it should be happening next week.  I have to confess that I prefer to drive the more modern cars, although modern to us is still going to be a 1993 model!  Not Kim though, he much prefers driving the old VWs.
Josiah has been enjoying some variety through our homeschooling group: helping to plant potatoes with a farmer who uses Clydesdale horses (although to be honest Lydia enjoyed that outing more than Joz), a Drama workshop which he loved (although he overacts frightfully) and gymnastics too (which is great since it wears all the kids out!)
Lydia is still doing cleaning for a couple of ladies in town and has done a weeks housesitting now too.  The housesitting included looking after the dog, cat and two wallabies who would come into the house and argue over the chairs some nights.  She can now report first hand that the little Tasmanian wallaby called a Pademelon smells really awful!!!  Caleb continues to study an online university course of Japanese at a reduced rate to allow for his bad health while Sam is running the medical gauntlet one more time with a new doctor who has started at our surgery.
Kim had a wonderful time the other weekend when he went to Queensland for an Apple II conference.  Now just to review for you: the Apple II was first made in 1976 and was the first personal computer in the way that we think of personal computers today (as in having a CPU, monitor, keyboard and disk drive).  Ever since then there has been a conference in the USA of Apple II enthusiasts called K-Fest.  Even when the Macintosh and Windows computers took over the mainstream marketplace, K-fest continued although numbers dwindled as was to be expected.  However, strangely, numbers of participants have been increasing over the last couple of years and some enthusiasts in Australia decided to have their own conference coinciding with the K-fest in the States this year.  It’s a bit of a retro computing resurgence.  Kim was keen to go to the Australian event, but was concerned about his health and the costs involved.  However the organisers and some participants encouraged him to go and they really looked after him, arranging to collect and deliver him to the airport and putting him up at a nearby home too.  Kim also managed to sell a bunch of spare parts to various folk who were going to the conference so that he covered all his costs with a little bit over.  He really enjoyed meeting face to face with the people that he has been chatting to online for many years.  He also found the information sessions and workshops interesting and fun, and from all accounts no-one wanted to leave when it was all over.
Meanwhile back at home we were preparing to get Twinkles, our milking cow, mated.  The farmer who owns the cattle down the road had said we could introduce Twinkles to one of his bulls.  So all we had to do was lead her down the road to his yards, coax the bull into the yards while leaving the other 30 or more cows outside, and leave them to it.  Yeah, right!  I was also worried about how long it would take to walk her the 1.5km down the road as she is not the most co-operative cow to lead.  The day dawned wet and cloudy and we managed to separate Twinks from her calf with no problems.  When we got her out onto the road she literally dragged us down the road!  We almost ran the whole way, and the cow would have been happier if we had done so.  However when we got her into the yards things did not go so well.  Twinkles decided that the grass in the yards was more interesting than the bull outside, and the bull was not going to have anything to do with coming through the gate into the yards while we unfamiliar people were nearby trying to keep the mob of cows separate.  Then he decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and he herded all his cows back up the paddock.   I’d never seen a bull herding his cows before, I didn’t know they did that and it was fascinating to watch.  He systematically pushed and shoved them with his head until he had them going where he wanted.  We were left rather unsure what to do, and so left Twinks there for an hour hoping the bull would come back down but it became apparent that he was not going to.  We had been concerned that the other cows would argue with Twinks, establishing a pecking order, and that she may end up getting chased and hurt herself and for that reason we had not wanted to just let her go into the paddock.  However in the end we decided we didn’t have a lot of other options so we led her up near the bull and let her go.  As it turned out the other cows had lost interest in her so we needn’t have worried, but the bull was most happy to give her his full attention once we were not in the picture.  We left her in the paddock for a couple of hours, hoping we would be able to pick out our black and white cow in 200 acres of other black and white cows later in the day.  And it was no real problem.  By the time we went back to get her she was ready to come home.  I think she was starting to miss her calf and she led really nicely back down the road to her paddock and to an enthusiastic welcome from Blaze.  Hopefully in 3 weeks she won’t come back on heat or else we will have to repeat the performance which I would rather not do.  Instead in 9 months time we hope to have a little Twinkles X Charolais arrive!  I went down the next day to get a photo of the big Charolais bull to send in this email, but he had been moved and a Hereford was in his place!
We were surprised when our water suddenly stopped running the other day.  When we went to investigate at the water pickup spot we found that the creek had moved, leaving our pipe high and dry!  Our creek at that spot is small, being only about 50cm wide and usually only about 20-30cm deep, but in winter it rushes past at an astounding rate, and the destructive force of moving water should never be underestimated!  We managed to shift things around to get the water pipe working again temporarily, but will probably need to clear a path to the creek at a higher point soon which will require a couple of hours with the chainsaw, brush cutter and mattock, and probably an extension to the pipe too.
And talking about water supply, the church’s water also stopped running the other week.  This time the cause was old rusted out metal pipes, and some of the men have been working hard to get them replaced so we can have running water at church again, not a nice job in the rainy weather.  We continue to enjoy our tiny church fellowship, and appreciate the roster of speakers who come to teach us on a regular basis.  It is also good to be able to serve by supporting one another as needed.  Our craft group has a good core of loyal attendees too, and it has been nice to get to know some of the ladies from around the town.  Most of them have a similar interest in self sufficiency and growing their own food, so they are fun and helpful to talk to.
Well, that is it for now.  Take care!