Archive for the ‘Visitors’ Category

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.

Family Visit and other updates

May 29, 2017

We just had a terrific time with my folks who came to visit for 2 weeks.  They stayed at the Mole Creek Guest House, which we thought would be rather more comfortable for them than it would have been here – with an ensuite and level floors and other such luxuries.  🙂  They had a lovely view of the creek and gardens from their rooms.

Autumn Leaves at the Mole Creek Guest House

We decided to all have some time off ourselves, to make the most of the short time we had together.  Given that the folks are not quite as spry as they used to be, we did less long days out and hiking and more short day trips, and we went to a few places that none of us had ever been to before.  To begin with we visited the Deloraine Museum.
Cathy at the Deloraine Musum
and saw the Yarns display there, which was quite fascinating and very well presented.

Deloraine Yarns Display

 We saw water birds and platypus in the wild at the Tasmanian Arboretum too, which was a more interesting place than I had expected.
Tasmanian Native Hen (Tribonyx mortierii)
One of the longer day trips was to the Wadamanna Hydro Power Museum, via the Great Lakes up on the Central Highlands.
Turbines at at Waddamanna
We had a lovely $5 fish and chips lunch at the Breona Pub on the way.
Cathy, Vern and Judy at the hotel in Mienna having lunch.
It was also interesting to visit Home Hill, the home of Tasmania’s only prime minister Joseph Lyons and his family (thanks for the idea Auntie Judy!).
Sam, Lydia, Cathy, Judy and Vern in the dining room at Home Hill
The other long trip we did was to go up the Tamar Valley where we stopped at Platypus House, Seahorse World and the old Beaconsfield Mine.  This was a rather special trip as all of the family managed to come along for once – it did make it a bit expensive though!  We managed to time it well so that we had the platypus tour to ourselves and all the critters were out and about for us to see.  They have some echidna there too.
It was nice to be able to see the platypus from under the water for once.  Kim got a lovely bit of video which I hope to put up on my blog soon.
Platypus (Ornithorhynchus Anatinus)


Then next door there were lots and lots and LOTS of seahorses!
After that we went down the road to the Beaconsfield Gold Mine museum.
There were plenty of hands-on activities at the mine, which made it fun and interesting.  We ran out of time there in the end, and would enjoy going back again one day.
Grandma at the Beaconsfield Mine Museum
Vern, Kim, Caleb, Josiah, Lydia, Sam and Judy at Beaconsfield Mine Museum
The photographer kept busy as always!
Mum and Dad were also dragged along to various church related events, of course, and did lots of talking!
Judy Pascoe
Dad’s new hearing aids get the thumbs up.  🙂
Vern Pascoe
They also got to watch us doing some odds and ends around the block – including re-running the water pipe from the new pickup area down to the house,
The 1 1/2
and hooking it all up.  The water pressure is much better, and should not slow down and need pumping anymore as it self primes with this new system.
Turning the pipe back into the pickup area was a bit of a difficult job.  The pipe didn’t want to turn, the banks were slippery and the water was freezing – so we had to come up with an innovative solution.  🙂
Sadly the time flew past, and all too soon Mum and Dad had to head back home.  I confess to getting just a little bit teary!
Judy Cathy and Vern at Launceston
Qantas did a great job of helping them on and off the planes on their trip though, Mum even got to have a wheelchair ride up the ramp.
We were very sad to see them go and our life has somewhat reluctantly returned to normal again.  Still, we are left with lots of good memories, and Skype is wonderful to catch up on.
I’m not planning on drowning my sorrows, but I did end up with 95 small bottles of apple cider on the weekend.  🙂  I hope it tastes good when it has fizzed up a bit.
In other news our fridge died recently and we had to look around for a replacement.  We decided we should take the effort to find one which suited our new off grid system and used very little power, which reduced the options a lot and pumped the price up a fair bit in exchange.  In the end we bought a fancy Fisher and Paykel and I am left with a bit less freezer space, which I miss, but a lot more fridge area, which I am enjoying.  It also gives us filtered cold water and ice cubes!  It was another big expense (sigh) and was a major job to shift it into the shack, but hopefully it will work well for many years to come.
The new fridge
Lydia and I also went down to Hobart one weekend to go to a dog show.
Lyd has a bit of a passion to breed corgis, and this seemed a good way to contact some breeders and see what the scene is like.  We saw a lot of corgis, both Cardigans and Pembrokes, and have definitely decided that we would prefer a Pembroke.  Having Okami has made us realise we enjoy having a cheerful dog, and the Pembrokes seem pretty cheerful while the Cardigans come across much more soulful (but don’t you just love that face!).
The result is that we have our name down on one breeder’s list to get a female pup, possibly in about 6 months though it may take longer.  There is a major lack of available corgi puppies in Australia at the moment.  We stayed overnight in Oatlands and watched some dog herding in the morning before heading home.  We even saw a corgi herding, but I have to say the Border Collies were better at it.  🙂
And I think that is all our news for now.  Best wishes

Getting a Few Things Done

January 14, 2017

We have had a few things happening since I wrote last September that I thought I would share.  The most important has been the fact that we finally became fully off grid last Spring.  We had a couple of weeks of ‘heads up’ before the power pole was disconnected and cut down and we were on our own!  We scrambled to mount and wire up more solar panels on the roof ready to be connected.  Our little roof is now crammed with solar panels!  There are 3kW of solar panels at the house and 1kW at the caravan with another 1kW awaiting connection there.

House with 3KW Solar Panels and 24V Batteries
We struck a problem when the new deep cycle batteries we had ordered did not arrive as promised, so we had to rely pretty heavily on the generator for a couple of weeks.  Finally, after being messed around way way too much, we cancelled our battery order and bought a second hand, but very good, 36V forklift battery pack.  We pulled all the individual batteries out and set up a 24 volt set at the main building and joined the remaining 12 volts with our old 12 volt set to create another 24 volt system over at the caravan.  These batteries have actually worked out better for us than the ones we had been going to use as we got more storage capacity. The batteries are very heavy, so we moved the old ones using the tractor. 
We were able to change from our original 12V plans to two 24V system because we managed to pick up a brilliantly priced secondhand 24V 3000W Latronics inverter for the house and a 1800W one for the caravan.  A bunch of GSL MPPT controllers manage the solar panels.  Both Latronics and GSL are Australian brands and seem very good.  It is all working well so far, though Winter will definitely challenge us, but we do have the generator for just such moments.  Kim has plans to buy a Victron 24V 100A charger which we can use to charge the batteries from the generator, which should help too.  It is all a bit of a learning curve having to be careful with the use of the power at times, but Kim bought some Victron battery monitors that are a real help for monitoring how the systems are going.  It is rather nice having the two separate systems as we can draw power from either or both of them, which gives us the option of resting one if it’s battery power is getting low.  There is still more work to do before Kim will be happy with it all, but the house system is almost done and the caravan system is working, though Kim wants to move and modify the inside wiring somewhat.
We want to put in a micro hydro system as well and now have plans for the water pickup spot for that, and even a man with machinery lined up to do the work, but that is still a job that must wait for the future.  Meanwhile it is nice it think we will never have another bill from Aurora Energy!
You may have heard that my lovely Mum gave us all a fright last year when she became very unwell.  We thought she might have had a stroke as she had developed neurological symptoms, but it turned out to be caused by high calcium levels in the blood.  After a few weeks in hospital she returned home much improved, though still weak.  My sister from America, Linda, was able to travel over and stay with Dad and Mum for a few weeks and help them out during this period, which was a real blessing.  The folks are back on their own again now and are managing fine, though my other sister, Alison, is keeping a close eye on them.  
I managed to get a picture of Kim with our current fleet of cars.  We have gone very French with one peugeot, two citroens and the VW caravelle van.  We still have the VW beetle too but it does not get used very much.  Kim does all the maintenance and repairs which consumes a fair bit of his time.  In the last few months he has had to deal with a broken windscreen, a chipped windscreen, re-gassing an air conditioner, fitting an air flow meter, replacing an alternator, replacing a starter motor and replacing a fan control circuit as well as oil, filter and tyre changes.  With all the travelling for Lydia’s work and other things we do an awful lot of kilometres!
Lydia recently had local man do some clearing so she could have a nice level area to ride her pony on.  Rod spent two days in his little excavator pushing down trees, cutting off the tops and roots and putting them onto a burning pile.  He also dug out some large stumps and buried them, then roughly levelled the whole area.  He did a great job and having all the branches, roots and scrub burnt at the same time was a bonus I was not expecting.
We dragged all the logs away and lined them up to make it easy to cut them into rounds and split the rounds into firewood.  Another bonus of the job.  Sadly the tractor blew a tyre in the process, rather terminally – another repair job for Kim to add to his list!
The area cleared is about  25m wide and 42m long.  Lyd finds it good to ride on with plenty of room for circles and jumps etc.  There are a few small roots and things sticking up but they don’t seem to bother the pony at all.
We have set up a small soccer goal at one end for the boys to use (if they ever get a few minutes when they feel up to it!), so they can enjoy it too.
Immediately after the new year we had my sister Linda and most of her family come to visit after spending Christmas in Perth with our folks.  They did a bunch of touring around and we tagged along as best we could.  In this photo we were doing the Dove Lake circuit at Cradle Mountain. It was really lovely to spend some time with them all and the time passed all too soon.
In order to accomodate an extra 5 people I had decided we needed to get busy working on the old bus, so we towed it up close to the house with the tractor, which was fun in a hair raising kind of way.  It was actually quite uneventful to get it roughly to the spot we had planned, but trying to get it sitting exactly where I wanted was rather a challenge with no brakes to speak of in a 6 tonne bus.  There was only so much control that the tractor had with just a bar between them and when the bus started to roll down the slope past the tractor I confess I was a bit concerned, and Sam and Josiah, who had been watching from the trampoline in front of us, sensibly took off.  It might have been my shriek that made them do that!  LOL.  The bus did stop okay though and we managed to back it up again and decided that it really didn’t have to be exactly where I had planned – close enough was good enough after all.  🙂
Then we did some scrubbing and re-flooring and general prettying up.  We did not have the time or funds to line the walls properly but managed to pick up some wallpaper at a charity and temporarily covered up the walls with that and made some curtains to keep out the 5am morning light.  Then we jury rigged some fly screens to the large gaping side and front windows and made some drop down blinds from greenhouse plastic.
Inside the Bus - ready for visitors
Finally we moved some beds into the main room, made a custom fitted narrow bed for the back room (the old smoking compartment), ran a power cable across and it was ready.  The reports were that it worked well, and since the visitors left our family have been using it quite a bit just to hang out in.  The large open windows make it quite airy and pleasant in the late afternoon/evening of a warm day.  It still does leak in a heavy rain though, so we need to do more riveting on one of the sides.  Ultimately we hope to install proper windows on the side and front and some floor coverings would be nice too.  One day…..
Inside the Bus - ready for visitors
We have also just had some hay baled.  We do not have enough grass to do it on our own property, but a friend of a friend has some pasture land with no animals to feed on it.  He had been just slashing it down but last year he offered it to us to make hay, since hay was so very scarce, and we were keen to have it.  We only got 3 rolls of hay last year with the bad conditions after the drought so we had no idea what to expect this year.  It was a pleasant surprise to get 16 rolls.
Then we had the challenge of getting them all home.  Last year we used a hand winch to pull a bale up some car ramps and onto our small trailer. Then we tied the bale down and drove it home.  That was okay for just a few bales, but 16 was going to be an awful drain on our time and the hand winch is not easy to use.  A more polished plan was needed.  In the end we borrowed a friend’s large trailer which has high sides and proper loading ramps and we set up an electric winch on it which could be run from a spare battery in the back of the van.  We can now winch the bales in with a minimum of effort, and it was great to find that the trailer fitted 2 rolls per trip.  It is much easier to find time to do 8 trips rather than 16, especially since we still have all the running back and forth to Lydia’s work to fit in.  So far we have moved half of the rolls home before being interrupted by 23mm of rain.  Now we are waiting for the paddocks to dry a bit before getting the rest as the caravelle’s traction on hills of wet grass would be a bit challenged, especially towing such a heavy load!
Meanwhile I have tomatoes, cucumber and corn coming up well in this year’s vegetable cages, and more corn planted at Paul’s place.
We may have mentioned before that we need cages to protect the plants from cute fiends like this possum!
Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus Vulpecula)
Pademelons are happy to eat their share too of course.
Bennett's Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus)
The cold frame worked well for raising my tomato, cucumber and corn seeds to a good size in time for planting.  Hopefully the warm weather will last long enough this year to get plenty of produce ripened – but over here you just never know.
Kim has done some wheeling and dealing on the second hand market to upgrade his camera again.  He now has to learn how to to get the best out of his new camera.  Also the programme that he uses to store and edit his photos is no longer supported and he has had to change to a different one, which is being even more of a steep learning curve to learn how to use.  However he still manages to get some great shots in my opinion.  Just the other day the insects were busy at Nawawntapu National Park near Lydia’s work and he got some lovely shots of a butterfly
Yellow Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa itea) on white flowers feeding
 and dragonfly.
This coming week the pastor’s wife and I are organising a Kids Craft Day at the church.  The main crafts will be jewellery making for various ages, cactus planting in cups and an adaption of marshmallow shooters that I am calling Sheep Shooters, as well as general paper craft and play doh.  It is the first time we have done anything like this and we have no idea at all how many children will turn up.  It will be interesting to see.  🙂
Well, I think that is most of our news for now.  Best wishes to you.