Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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.

Queenstown etc.

July 9, 2019
Last weekend The Mole Creek photography group had a subsidised overnight excursion to Queenstown and Kim and I went along. It was a VERY winding 2.5 hour drive, but we got there in the end and stayed overnight Friday at an AirBnB. Saturday morning saw us wandering around the quiet little town with our fingers crossed that it wouldn’t rain too much during our tour.
The tour took us into what was a nearby, but once very isolated, tiny town for workers at Lake Margaret hydro power station. In between bouts of rain the mad photographers got to explore the area and take a bunch of photos of the derelict buildings, amongst other things. Apparently you can only access this area now on a tour. There was a bunch of historical information, and it was interesting to learn how the people lived back in the day.

Queenstown was a copper mining area for many years and the pollution pretty much annihilated all the vegetation on the nearby hills. They used to call it a moonscape. There have been challenges since the mine closed with trying to regenerate the land and reduce the spread of pollution, especially from the slag heaps, but there has been a great improvement since 1994 (I think it was) when we came over for a holiday in our kombi camper. I still remember the shock of seeing the barren ground of Queenstown after driving through the densely treed areas of Tassie’s south west. There is still a noticeable difference, but shrubs and trees are starting the get a foothold there now.

At the end of our tour we had a look through the old Paragon Theatre which has been reopened in a somewhat altered state and is being used for community events. It was an interesting old building and had a lovely atmosphere.

Kim and I decided to hang around for the return of the steam train before driving back home.

You can take a 4 hour trip on the train at the moment, with morning tea and lunch but it is pretty pricey. During the tourist season they have more trips, including the option of going in a separate carriage without the meals for a discounted price. 🙂

It rained pretty solidly on the trip home, which would not have been so bad if we had not run over a rock on the way that flattened a tyre and actually broke the wheel. They don’t call that part of Tasmania the Western Wilds for nothing! Thankfully I had my wonderful mechanic husband with me to change the wheel for us. 🙂

The short days lately, which are either wet or freezing, are meaning we are not getting a lot of progress done on the various projects we have on the go. However I did manage to put a splash back up in the kitchen on Saturday using some laminate that was left over from the bathroom renovation. Kim talked me into preparing for the job by putting fresh pine lining over the old lining, which had some gaps.

That meant the job took a heap more time but it definitely gave a better finish. It will be really nice to have the ability to keep the sink area much cleaner now.

I also put up a funky towel rail in the bathroom that I had been working on. It has the rail mounted on a nice knotty piece of Huon pine which is then mounted on the wall. I intend to varnish the pine with shellac in the long run, but the weather is too cold at the moment.

Poor Willow got an abscess on her face a few weeks ago. She looked pretty strange with her eye squashed shut. Thankfully it healed up with only one trip to the vets and a dose of antibiotics. About a week after that she came down with gastroenteritis – I think it was caused by her finding an abandoned chook nest in the bush and eating all the eggs. At least I didn’t need a trip to the vets for that problem, she just got to spend a day or two on a chicken broth diet until her tummy settled down.

We have another dog show to go to this coming Saturday which will be Haru’s first. We were going to take both corgis but Willow has finally come on heat, so we will probably leave her home. The corgis have a love/hate relationship. Often you will find them playing happily together and then the next minute, at some perceived insult, they will be snarling and snapping ferociously. I’m pleased to say that it seems to be mostly just noise and action as they haven’t really damaged each other yet, but it is pretty annoying. Hopefully they will establish their pecking order soon – there are varying opinions in the family as to who will end up as top dog. It is definitely different having three dogs, and somewhat harder to keep on top of the training. I do find it amusing though when I find them all waiting for me outside the caravan door.

As part of my job searching I have become involved in a project called Community Voices in Devonport. Being part of the project means that I have to sing in a choir – which is pretty funny as I keep losing my voice these days. The project is supposed to give more individualised support for people who have particular issues that make them less attractive to employers. One of my issues is the long period (12 years) since I last worked, so all my experience and references are quite dated. One of the suggestions was that I could do some things for the choir that will show that I still do have some admin skills. For example last week I did up a PowerPoint presentation of the song lyrics for choir practice, so I guess my hope is that the co-ordinators could be more recent referees for me. Since I have a bunch of sick folk at home and plenty of projects to work on, I really only want a couple of days of work per week or just a few hours a day which would bring in enough money to get by. I keep applying…. which is all I can do I guess.
Anyway, I think I best finish up for now. Best wishes to you all.

Another email from the Howes

June 11, 2019

We spent most of yesterday looking out at the rain bucketing down!  According to the new weather station that Kim set up in the front yard we had 88.7mm over the day.  It finally cleared up in the afternoon, but is still pretty soggy outside.  It seemed like a good day to start an email!

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So how are the Howes?  Up and down somewhat would be the best answer I guess.  Caleb and Sam’s health has been very poor since their return from Japan, but they struggle on.  Sam is also changing medication which isn’t helping.  Lydia is enjoying having her own space in her bus and is slowly upgrading bits and pieces in it.  She is not so busy at work at the moment with the chilly weather slowing the flowers’ growth down, and she doesn’t mind at all if she gets to come home early sometimes.  Josiah and I have been unable to obtain any work as yet, but we continue to search.  Kim has been struggling with his health too and is not getting as much done as he would like to, but is always kept busy working on keeping our fleet of cars mostly on the road.

I mentioned a few months ago that Lydia had bought a mini pony, Penny, as a companion for her riding pony.  The pony was a real cutie and we liked her, but she had one major flaw that made us decide we had to on-sell her.  She hated having dogs in her paddock and would chase them out with her ears back and her mouth open to bite!  Our German Shepherd thought it was a great game, but the Corgis were not too happy about it and, since we want to breed the corgis, we thought it best to move her on.  We found her a good home nearby and Lydia has since bought another companion pony to take her place.  The new pony, Annie, is settling in well and has been much better behaved with the dogs!

Silk and Annie

Silk and Annie

Kim and I travelled over to Perth to visit my parents a couple of weeks ago.  We would have loved to get back down to Albany again, but were not able to manage it this trip.  We were there for Mother’s Day and my sister’s 60th birthday and enjoyed a high tea at my nephew’s home.  His wife put on a splendid spread!

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We also caught up with my niece who came to visit from Sydney with excellent timing!  It was really great to just spend time with Mum and Dad who are doing so well to still be in their own home at 87 and 89 respectively!

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While we were in Perth it was the A League Grand Final at the Optus Stadium, and Kim managed to score a reasonably priced ticket and go along.  It is quite the stadium and, with about 56,000 people there, it was rather a different experience to being at home and he quite enjoyed himself.

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Back at home our newest corgi pup is growing nicely and is a lovely girl.  We haven’t managed to take her to any shows yet as there have not been any on – except in Hobart, and we didn’t want to go that far.  I think many events slow down for winter here as the days are so very short.  However we are booked into a show not too far away in July so will take both dogs along then.

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We finally bought some Seetroen glasses that we have been trying to get for about a year now.  The Citroen online store kept going out of stock and anyway they would not send them to Australia, but a wonderful friend knew some people in France and we managed to buy the glasses and get them delivered via them.  Kim was even brave enough to wear them on the flights to and from Perth.  They look pretty ridiculous but are meant to be 95% effective at preventing and curing motion sickness.  Kim and Sam have both found them to be very effective so far, and Kim was thrilled with how he felt on the flight.  I was even hoping that they might help with Sam’s normal chronic nausea, but that was too much to expect.

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Otherwise life just goes on with the routine things that happen at this time of year.  Our “to-do” lists seem to be never ending and I think we must be moving slower these days than we used to.  We have been lighting up burn piles and slashing fence lines, processing roosters, moving hay to feed stock and chopping wood to light the fires.  It all seems to take a lot of time!  Kim and I have also been sorting through cupboards etc in the caravan and annexe since it is all ours now that Lydia has moved to her bus.  Kim has been collecting cheap or free old macintosh computers lately, and the caravan seems to be filling up with them at a startling rate, so if I want to move in a spinning wheel or my painting gear I better move fast before all the space is gone.  🙂

Our current project is the 40ft container.  We want to put in some windows and a sliding door and to line and insulate it.  Then we will add some benches, cupboards and shelves and install an old fireplace that we have.  The plan is for Kim to have a nice workshop for all the mechanical and the electrical work that he does for us.  It will be great to have the tools readily accessible.  He will probably eventually set up a retro computer corner in there too, which will free up the caravan somewhat.  The old workshop that everything is squished into at the moment can afterwards be used to store car parts and the like.

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So, that is most of our news for the moment.  Kim is, however, seriously considering dragging me on a trip to the UK in March.  If anyone has any helpful tips on overseas travel we would be interested to hear them.  Kim’s tentative plan is to fly in to Dublin and drive through Ireland for a few days before taking a ferry to Scotland, have a little look around there and then take the train down to England for a look see.  It would be nice to make it to Wales too if possible before heading back home, having been away about 4 weeks all up.  It is still in the planning and assessing stages at the moment.  🙂

Best wishes to you all