Archive for the ‘Vege Gardens’ Category

Projects Underway

March 13, 2018
It seems like it has been a fair while since I wrote, so I thought I should send a catch up email with the happenings at the Howe’s.  We had a lovely time in January with some friends of our boys who came to visit from Albany.  It was a blessing to spend time with them and their little ones, who were a delight, if rather exhausting.  🙂  Caleb and Sam are still struggling with health, but Sam is on some new medication and treatments that are helping with his anxiety issues, and he is working on his major aim to get his car license this year.  Lydia does not have her licence yet either, so we are still running her back and forth to her work where she is an old hand now.  Hopefully she can go for the driving test this year too.  To be fair we are mostly waiting for a couple of small things to get fixed on the automatic car before they book the test.  Now Josiah is able to get his learners license too.  Yikes!
The garden has been going well.  I have been bottling tomatoes, munching on cucumbers and cooking raspberry sauce as well as freezing and giving raspberries away too.
I weaned Smokey the calf (well, he can no longer really be considered a calf at 10 months old and as big as his mum!) which means we are generously supplied with milk at the moment too.  The milk is nice and creamy too.  We only got 8 rolls of hay this year from the friends paddocks we harvest, due to low rainfall in November.  Still, that was better than the original 3 we had back in the drought but not as good as the bumper crop of 16 last year.
We installed a nice big reverse cycle air conditioner in February.  The old small one had cracks in the plastic and leaked, so a new one was in order.  It is much more powerful than the old one and quite economic on electricity usage once it gets going.  It is a good feeling to cool the building down using the power of the hot sun outside!  We have also been clearing up around the place.  In particular we moved all the tractor implements up the back next to the wrecking yard.  The area they had been in was very overgrown with sedges and it was hard to find the things you wanted!
Implements - slasher and grader blade

Implements – slasher and grader blade

Once we had moved everything we were able to use our new (to us) slasher to clean the area up.  Kim also took the time to slash the reeds on the western lake area, the lower paddock and across the creek.  That gave him a good opportunity to get experienced at slashing!  I wish I had taken some before and after photos, because it felt a bit like land reclamation.  We also bought our most expensive tractor attachment so far – a backhoe.  I think it is Kim’s new favourite, and it has been used pretty extensively already.  Unfortunately it developed a bit of a leak in the hydraulic hoses when it was last used, so we have to fix that soon because we have even more jobs lined up for it!
We have cleared up the edge of Lydia’s arena in preparation for making a shed to cover some of the cars.  The shed will encroach on her arena about 8 metres, but we have promised to clear an equivalent amount at the other end to make up for what we are stealing.  The shed will consist of two 20’ containers with a roof between them, and also a 40’ container as a back wall and workshop.  That should give us a nice chunk of rodent proof storage space as well as a nice dry area for Kim to work on cars during winter.  In the long run we will enclose it as much as possible, cement the floor, and put windows, doors, shelves, benches, a wood heater and running water etc. into the largest container.  Kim would love a hoist for the cars sometime in the future too.  At this stage only the 40’ container has been delivered, and the 20’ ones should be coming this week to be offloaded onto the levelled blocks we have ready.  The roof pieces will be inside one of the 20’ containers and then we will have the fun of assembling and mounting it.
We have also been making progress with the micro hydro power plans.  Firstly we had to rig up a box and filter for the water intake and installed it onto the pipe.  The new backhoe came in useful in an unexpected way for that particular job.  We extended the arm down into the water so we could use it as a hand rail to stay steady while thigh deep in water on the slippery slopes of the water pickup area.  It worked a treat.
The pipe then comes out of the other side of the bank and we had to get various adaptors joined up, along with a big butterfly valve, so that it could be hooked up to the 5” irrigation pipes we have bought.  Finding the best options for the pipe adaptors was a major achievement in itself, with options and prices varying wildly.  We are pleased with the end result though.
PipeConnections copy
There are now another 52 pipes waiting for us to join up and test the seals for leaks.  I imagine it will take a while.  🙂  Then we will want to fill the trench back in to protect the pipes.  Originally we planned to ask the man with the excavator to do that, but we should be able to do it with our backhoe now.  It may come down to a choice between spending time or money.
At the far end, down near the homestead, the pipes (more adaptors required) will connect up to the turbine that Kim managed to pick up second hand.  This will turn the water coming out under pressure into electrical power.  Kim has been organising a way to mount the turbine and allow for the run off to go back into the creek.  It takes a lot of time to research various options, make decisions and finally get around to implementing them.  We were hoping that the shed and micro hydro could be mostly in place before winter.  Time will tell!  Just at the moment all of the family has been coming down with a particularly nasty cold, one after another, which will no doubt delay our progress for a while.  (As I write Kim is propped up in the lounge room, feeling miserable and having regular coughing fits, some of which leave him feeling like he can’t breathe, and he is hardly able to talk without coughing.  His chronic fatigue will no doubt kick in with a vengeance if he doesn’t improve quickly.  Sigh!)
Lydia and I have been attending some local dog shows again, which has been interesting.  We had been told that we were on a waiting list for a pembroke corgi puppy with a breeder in Hobart, but when we checked again we discovered that the breeder had forgotten to add us to her list which was now so long she didn’t want to add to it.  It was pretty disappointing, but it was hard to be annoyed with the lady who was over 80 after all!  However at the shows we made friends with another lady who bought a pup from a breeder in Queensland, and we now hope to have a pup in less than 6 months from that same breeder.  This breeder seemed somewhat more organised at least, and prioritises people who want to show the puppies.  Fingers crossed.
SheffieldShow1 (1)
Meanwhile old Lupo continues to astound us by still being with us.  She is largely blind and deaf and her back legs are quite wobbly and I really, really can’t imagine that she can last much longer!  Okami adores her and will miss her terribly once she is gone, so I rather hope that we have the new pup arrive about the same time as Lupo goes.
Lupo asleep

Lupo asleep on the ramp

Kim has not been getting much time to take photos lately, even when he has been more healthy.  He hopes to find the time to do some more once his “to do” list gets a little more under control.  Along with the projects we have undertaken, he still has to spend quite a while maintaining the vehicles.
He tries to take whatever opportunities he can to enjoy his hobby, even if it is just snapping a scene he passes while running errands,
…or the bug he sees while waiting for an appointment.  🙂
Green Bug
A rather major decision we recently made was to pull away somewhat from our local church.  We will still be attending the Sunday services at least once a month, and going to the local Bible study and I will continue to run the craft group.  However the rest of the time we will be going to the larger and more active church in Launceston that we went to when we were living over that way.  We feel the need to have some deeper teaching and wider fellowship than we are able to have closer to home.  It was a really hard decision to take, but has so far been working out well, and things have been organised so that the services at Mole Creek are still able to run without us.  Our new church is conducting a kind of survey at the moment, with people asking their friends how they would finish the comment : “Maybe I’d be a Christian, but….. “.  If you are willing, I would love to hear how you would finish that comment.  If not, that is fine too.  🙂
Kim and I have plans to make a quick trip to WA in May for my nephew Luke’s wedding.  We are looking forward to spending time with my mum and dad while we are there, but are not sure if we will be able to catch up with many other folk at that time.
Anyway, I think that is most of the news for now.  I hope you are going well.  Blessings to you all.

New Year Happenings

January 5, 2018

Hello and welcome to the new year!

Kim’s brother Paul gave us a scare when he rolled his car one morning in the Gog Pass, between our place and Sheffield.  It was just one of those errors in judgement of speed when coming suddenly upon a wet and slippery part of the road with gravel on it at a particularly nasty set of bends.  He fishtailed for a bit, almost had it under control but then had to take another sharp bend which was just too much, whereupon he went up the bank, slid along it for a way and then slowly rolled all the way over, somehow managing to miss all the trees.  The car is a write off but thankfully Paul walked away with just a scratch, for which we are all thanking God.
Rolled Audi
The car was towed back here to be added to our personal wrecking yard which is hidden away up in the bush.  We then decided that we needed to make this dead car area a bit more useful, so spent a few days removing some of the smaller trees and running the grader blade around to clear some good paths and parking areas, then we moved all the cars into accessible spots. (Tractors are wonderful things!)  The result is quite good, and has made for a wrecking yard that will be far more useful for Kim.  We do use parts from the old cars so it is good to have it done.
Wrecking Yard
Lydia’s pony Silk has been a cause for concern too, as she suddenly became lame with the onset of laminitis.  Ponies are commonly susceptible to laminitis from good feed, but Silk had never shown any signs of problems before.  We have been steadily working on improving our paddocks, so I guess they finally have reached a stage where the spring growth can cause her some issues.  It has meant that we have had to isolate her in a “starvation” pen, where all she is allowed to eat is hay that has been soaked in water to remove a lot of the sugars from it.  She is not overly impressed with her new diet, but is steadily improving which is the main thing.
Silk in Pen
Meanwhile the vegetable gardens are coming along with the promise of a good harvest of peas, cabbage, lettuce, celery, beetroot, carrots, onions, tomatoes, cucumber and corn.
I even risked trying a quick growing melon this year.  Now if it can all just ripen before the first frost of the new year….  One has to be very patient with vegetable gardening in Mole Creek!
We have been doing well with raspberries this year.  Locking the chooks out early was the trick I think, plus lots of water.
We have a friend from church who had a lot of gear and urgently needed a place to store it, so we suggested he could put a plastic carport up and keep it here.  If nothing else we do have space!  All the gear arrived last week on the back of a truck and we spent the next morning shifting it all into place with the tractor and setting up the carport over the top.  Hopefully we have selected a nice sheltered place so that the carport will last.  Wind storms will be the challenge, but we have used these carports quite a bit and have some spare parts available if anything does go wrong.  I dream of large sheds and lots of undercover areas.  🙂
JDs Carport
I extended the ramp up to the main building yesterday, to make the slope less severe for Lupo, the old dog.  We put carpet on it too which seems to have made it a lot better for her wobbly old legs.  I have to admit it has made it a lot easier for my old legs too!
The kids are looking forward to seeing some friends who will be holidaying nearby soon.  We have loaned them our little Peugeot for their visit (and are missing it’s lovely air conditioner).  🙂  However Lydia has organised a couple of weeks off so we shouldn’t need to be driving so much for the time being.
I was wondering if anyone could help me to identify a couple of plants in our yard?  The first one is a bush which can reach a height of about 2m.  It has stalk with segments which are hollow like bamboo
Bamboo Type Plant
and it has pretty dangly flowers.  It seems to be spreading slowly around the yard, which is quite nice.
Bamboo Flowers
The second plant I only discovered this year in a bit of a hidden area.  It is also quite pleasant so I wouldn’t mind encouraging it to spread a bit more.
Yellow Flowers
Well, that is all for now.  Best wishes to you for the New Year.

Howes Things

December 3, 2017
It seems like ages since I last wrote, so I thought I best catch up on some news before the Christmas rush is upon us!  Life has been rolling on.  We had a very warm November and we missed the slow introduction to the heat, however the tomatoes, peas, cucumbers and other assorted vegetables are doing well.  With our improved water pickup area I can keep the gardens irrigated without the water pressure problems I used to have.
The raspberries are going a bit mad this year, and I have added some strawberries as well.
We were greatly blessed to have some good friends come and stay with us for about 10 days in October.  They helped us out with a couple of projects and we talked ourselves hoarse!  It was a wonderful time, though we felt rather bad that we spent most of the time at home rather than doing the tourist trips, but they assured us they didn’t mind. We did visit Woolmers estate on their last day here, which we had never been to before.  It was interesting to have a tour of the historic old house and look around the outside buildings and gardens.  They did apple crushing in this shed.

Apple crushing stone at Woolmers

One of the jobs Laurelie and I did was to put new netting over the area between the vegetable/chook cages and we raised it up with some light posts which makes it much more pleasant to walk in now.
One hen, who had a hidden nest, came out with a dozen chicks just this week, and we herded them into this protected area.  No hawks, crows or currawongs can get in there to harass her or her babies.
We have collected more implements for our tractor too.  We now have a slasher, smallish roller and a grader blade.  Kim wants to do a little more work on the PTO (power take off) before we use the slasher, but we have been trying out the grader blade on Lydia’s arena this weekend.
We also bought a battery powered Stihl chainsaw which has turned out to be a real work-horse (not our photo by the way). I just love it!  Lydia and I find the normal chainsaws hard to start and rather scary to use, but we feel very comfortable using this new machine, and it’s small size and ease of use has meant we use it for a lot of things.  Pruning is its primary intended use, and we have cut down bushes, saplings and young trees, chopped off branches from felled trees to make burn piles, cut firewood rounds and used it as a general saw for cutting pine lining to length.
The pine lining that we cut was used to renovate the shack the older two boys sleep in, affectionately called the Manor.  When the boys first moved in there we put woollen insulation on the walls but couldn’t afford the time or money to line it just then.  As a temporary measure we stapled old sheets on the walls to hold the insulation in place – and that temporary measure stayed there for 10 years!

Kim decided last month to upgrade their solar power system and needed a wall lined in order to mount the inverter, solar controller and fuses.  So FINALLY we did the proper job of renovating the Manor!  We first lined the walls and put a level floor in the back room.  Then we moved the beds in there and did the same to the front room.  Along the way it was decided to remove most of the division wall between the two rooms which has given the place a lovely open feel.  We still need to put in a replacement wood heater and do some other odds and ends, but it is already a huge improvement to what it was.  Then Kim finally got to wire up the new power system which started us off on the job.  The boys have been having fun sorting out a 12V car stereo system to use up there, complete with sub woofer and the works!  Speaking of the boys, they have also been thrilled to reconnect with a friend from WA, Judson, who has moved to Hobart with his family.  We had a lovely time when the family all came to visit one weekend.
Our old dog, Lupo, has been getting noticeably older over the last month.  Her back legs occasionally collapse under her and she has started to struggle to get up and down the ramp and step that she needs to negotiate to get in and out of the house.  She still stoically soldiers on, but we are not sure how much longer she will be able to manage!  Meanwhile the younger dog, Okami, has settled in well to the household.  She is naturally submissive and obedient which makes her easy to live with.  We made her an agility course out of odds and ends to be found around the property, and she loves the attention she gets when she uses it.
There are bending poles, jumps, a ramp, a table and a tunnel.
The bridge work around the corner is looking close to being finished now.  It really seems to be useable now!

Union Bridge nearing completion

Kim has had a lot of bad health this year, often seeming to get worse on the weekends.  Last month one of the health related emails he receives had an article in it about Aspartame which interested him greatly.  He did some more research and decided that this may well have been the cause of his recent problems, as we have been having diet fizzy drinks on weekends as a treat and it turned out that the main sweetener in them was #951 which is Aspartame/Nutrasweet.  His chronic fatigue makes him very sensitive to a lot of chemicals and since stopping the drinks he has improved a lot.  He still has CFS of course, but is now able to do more than he could and he hopes to be able to build up his strength again now.  I have taken to making home made ginger beer and crabapple lemonade as a treat to drink instead.  🙂  Interestingly Josiah has also noticed an improvement in health and energy as a result.
My own health has been pretty good despite various aches and pains, but I am currently having a lot of issues with carpal tunnel syndrome.  Whereas in the past it has mostly just been a problem in the mornings, it is now affecting me at any time of the day (like making it hard to type this email) and is especially bad at night when I can wake up in a lot of pain all the way up both arms.  My helpful chiropractor has given me some exercises to do and my physio sister has suggested some stretching and wrist braces too.  I also have a doctors appointment booked in a week so hopefully I can get it improved as it is a busy time of year with the gardens and slashing grass etc.  The wallabies are supposed to eat the grass in the front yard, but they are not keeping up and I have had to slash it 3 times already this season.  I wish I could grow grass in the paddocks as well as I can in the front yard!
Anyway, I guess I best finish up now.  Wishing you all the best.