Christmas Greetings

December 20, 2017

Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year from the Howe family.

Lydia’s cat modelled the Christmas hat this year and I’m pleased to say that no people were harmed in the taking of the photo!
(Nor was the cat, she was not overly amused though, but forgave us when we gave her a brush after the event).

Cathy, Kim, Caleb, Sam, Lydia and Josiah.

Family Photo: (left to right) Lydia, Okami, Sam, Josiah, Cathy, Lupo, Kim and Caleb


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.

Time Out

September 8, 2017
A couple of weekends ago Kim and I took the opportunity to slip away to the East coast of Tassie.  We have wanted to see Wineglass Bay for a while now, and it seemed like a good opportunity since Lydia had some time off and could help look after things at home.  We stayed (another winter 2 nights for the price of 1 deal) at the Lodge in Freycinet National Park and arrived late afternoon on the Friday.

The Hazards certainly stand out when you drive into Coles Bay, with their rocky faces above the trees.

The cabins looked rustic but were nice and comfortable inside.  We had a family cabin which had the benefit of having a tiny kitchen so we were not reliant on buying meals.

Inside the Lodge itself was warm and spacious,

and had a wonderful view over Great Oyster Bay.  The sunset on Friday night was pretty spectacular starting off yellow then going orange and finally turning pink.  The creator God can put on an amazing light show!

Saturday broke cloudy but dry, however Kim had a headache and I spent the day snuffling and sneezing with a head cold!  We decided we were not up to the Wineglass Bay walk, but contented ourselves by driving around doing some sightseeing on smaller walks.  This is Kim at Friendly Beaches.  It brought back memories of the beaches in Albany with it’s squeaky white sand.
Our favourite walk of the day was a boardwalk near a lighthouse with spectacular views of cliffs and over the ocean.

They had a telescope set up so you could view these rocky islands that had seals on them.

Zoomed in on Kim’s photo you can see the seals even better than with the telescope.

Bennets Wallabies seemed fairly common in the area and fearlessly put on a show for the tourists,
and we saw wombats at Friendly Beaches too.
One feature of the whole area are the pinky coloured rocks.  They definitely stand out and are moulded into lots of interesting shapes.

Sunday morning we awoke feeling somewhat better, and decided we would make the attempt to climb to the Wineglass Bay lookout.  The track to the bay itself was closed for upgrades, so we didn’t have to feel guilty about not going the whole way.  🙂  The weather started sunny and windy, though it had deteriorated to rainy periods by the time we got back to the car park.  Kim’s chronic fatigue has been pretty bad lately, but there were seats along the path so we just took the walk slowly and rested whenever he felt the need.
The track itself was easy to walk on with some interesting boulders along the way.
Towards the end of the track we had been warned there was about 300 steps to climb, which proved pretty accurate.
It was a cold and very windy trip, but we finally made it to the lookout and could cast our eyes on Wineglass bay itself which, despite the wind, looked pretty calm.
Given that it was winter and not terribly accomodating weather it was surprising how many other folk were in the area and making the climb.  Even the lodge would have been at least 3/4 full.  I think the place must be frightfully crowded in Summer, so we were just as glad to be there at a quieter time of year.
Finally we headed back home via St Marys.  We drove through Elephant Pass, which I remember petrified me when we visited Tasmania 25ish years ago.  This time I drove it without any concerns at all – I guess I have adjusted to Tassie roads – plus I was not on the cliff side which definitely helps!  We managed to arrive in Launceston at 4pm so could go to the afternoon service of our favourite church “The Branch”.  All in all it was a nice trip away, and some time out that we rather felt we needed.
Just around the corner from our place there is good progress being made in building a replacement bridge over the Mersey River.  The old bridge is still in use with the new one being built alongside.  It is interesting to see them working on it, they have a large pontoon in the river that they can take the big machinery down onto.  They have been working for a few months already and will be a fair bit longer still before they are done I would think.
And that is enough news for now!  Take care all.