Archive for the ‘Vege Gardens’ 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.

Some progress

December 3, 2019
Kim was really thrilled to get the concrete poured for the container shed floor on Friday.  This now paves the way (pun intended!) for him to install a hoist, which will make it much easier for him to continue his mechanical work on our fleet of cars.
Concreting copy2
We need to get some more gravel to smooth the way up to the floor, and Kim wants to paint the floor with some special epoxy paint to make it easier to keep clean too.
Concreting copy12
He has also installed our gas water heater booster.  We still have the benefit of the solar hot water, and can light the slow combustion stove if we want to, but do not have to, and it is nice to have that option.
We also purchased a diesel heater for Lydia’s bus, and Lydia and I were able to install it with a little advice from Kim.  She has used it a couple of times and it seems to work well, though it does make a bit of noise being actually inside the bus, but Lyd figures it will be well worth it in the cold weather!  She can set it to come on before she gets up which is rather nice.  🙂  We are thinking we will probably get another one for Josiah’s bus.
Due to some annoying issues with my job search provider I was not able to do the work experience I had hoped to, and still have not found any paid work.  However I am planning to volunteer at the Mole Creek Online Access Centre, and have a couple of training days coming up.  If all goes well I will be there every Tuesday and Wednesday for the foreseeable future, which leaves me free to continue with the Community Choir on Thursday mornings (which Josiah has started to come to as well) and I hope that I will still be up to running the Craft Group every second Friday.  The busy time of the year is coming up at home, so I will just have to see how I go.
My tomatoes are out in the garden now and looking good so far but Tassie, in it’s contrary way, has decided to go back to cold weather now that Summer has arrived, and we are expecting a minimum of 2 tonight.  Hopefully it will not go any lower and kill everything with a frost!
Kim and I went on an excursion with the Mole Creek Photography group last Saturday morning to Old Wesleydale, which is nearby.  It was a nice change of pace and the property and gardens were a delight, so I have included a couple of photos from the trip to finish up.
Cathy Westleydale2
Cathy Westleydale3

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.