Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monty the Hereford Bull

Our heifers have grown a bit since we bought them six months ago. No longer lightweight shaggy animals, they have grown large, fat and shiny. As a reward we have provided them with a little male company, a three-year-old Hereford bull called Monty. We bought him at Smithton and trucked him home on Friday. He has a very good temperament, which is important as Michelle and I work our cattle on foot. In  August – September next year we should have some calves on the ground.

Lookin good.


Blondie and Ginger

Catch that Swarm

Our two beehives have become four. I had been inspecting the hives early in the week when I noticed the queens had moved up out of the brood boxes and were now laying eggs in the supers. Even to a novice beekeeper like me, they had obviously started to outgrow their home so I ordered some additional brood boxes to enlarge the hives. The theory was good but Mother Nature had other ideas. The very next day the bees decided it was time, left the hive and created a swarm.

When keeping bees you learn new skills and acquire valuable knowledge, and the most important knowledge is who to ring when you need to ask questions. In my case that vital store of information is ‘Barry the Bee Man’ a professional beekeeper who lives up near Rowella. 

I rang Barry, it was all so easy - “just throw a large carton over the swarm, that’ll hold them until you get some boxes”
How do I get the bees in the new hive? – “Just dump them out of the carton in front of the boxes and they will find their own way in”, he said. “If they don’t go, just push them in with your foot”.  Could it really be that simple?
It really is this simple to get the swarm into their new home.

I am probably a little blasé when handling the bees but this time I got fully suited up, smoker at the ready – and it turned out to be a complete overkill. The swarming bees were easy to handle, crawled up into the carton just as Barry said they would, stayed there while we drove to Rowella and picked up some new boxes and when dumped on the grass in front of the new brood boxes, they immediately walked in to create a brand new hive.

I decided to split the other hive before they swarmed, transferring one brood box to create a new hive.  This involves pulling the hive apart to check for queen cells on the frames and making sure the new hive has a good number of healthy queen cells to ensure they can hatch another queen. Without a queen the hive will simply die.

Robbing the hives has become a relaxed chore, the bees are predictable, they don’t get aggressive and there is little chance of getting stung. Separating the brood boxes and inspecting the frames is a very different affair; no amount of smoke is ever going to calm the bees while their home is pulled apart. The sound of kamikaze bees hitting the bee suit is a little unnerving at first and while the determined bee can still sting you through the protective fabric, their sting is mild and little more than an occasional nuisance.

We should get lots of honey.

I set the two new hives up on our top boundary where we join some bush and forestry. The scrub is flowering nicely with lots of blackberry in bud so we should get plentiful honey production.

Monday, November 14, 2011

More of the past; Love at first sight.

I have never found it easy to write from the heart; it relies too much on the courage to delve deep into your psyche, to face your vulnerabilities and expose them to the world.
Some years ago as a mature age uni student I had to write a personal reflective assignment for one of my first year units, Communication and Case Studies. The premise was that engineers don’t communicate well and so all budding first year engineering students had to maintain a journal for a semester, not writing anything useful – nothing technical or valuable, just reflecting on their emotions and feelings as a first year student.
I commenced mine with the proposition that “men of my age don’t have feelings” and wrote quite a few pages expounding on this hypothesis. No way was I mentally prepared to become a SNAG (sensitive new age guy). I studiously avoided any reference to thoughts and emotions and in spite of this, or just possibly because of this, I attained a distinction for my efforts.

Now a little older, I realise it is time to try again , reflecting on life, love and happiness. If a man is lucky he has two great enduring loves of his life, one is his wife and the other is his mistress. A wife is forever and though his time with his mistress may be short and bitter sweet, nevertheless she will always remain an important part of his life.

At the grand old age of nineteen, I first discovered love; something that I hadn’t ever known was missing in my life. After working in the bush for a couple of years, I went to Brisbane for a short holiday and met a stunning young lady who took my breath away. She wore a yellow blouse with a small giraffe embroided on the left breast, a tailored black skirt and was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.  Wide brown eyes, a mop of curly hair; I was in love! Totally gone. Our first date was with a couple of her girl friends in tow as chaperones. Obviously hopeless romantics, we went to see Rocky IV. Not too sure what it was about. I can no longer remember how but we managed to ditch our chaperones somewhere early in the evening and ended up at King George Square.  Nineteen eighties King George Square was light years away from the grubby concrete expanses of today, it was a parklike oasis in the heart of the city with plenty of quiet seclude spots for young lovers to while away the evening.
Michelle Stradbroke Island 1980
I wouldn’t call it a whirlwind romance; a whirlwind has connotations of frenetic wasted energy, rather it was an instant connection of the heart. For the first time in my life I bought jewellery, a silver chain and a small white gold heart with a diamond in the centre. Her parents were definitely not impressed.

Five days later I asked Michelle to marry me. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that we were meant to be together. We kept it quiet for all of two days while I bought a diamond solitaire engagement ring and publicly announced our engagement on April fools day.  For some strange reason, nobody seemed to believe us – stunned silence would have to be an understatement.  The hardest part was ringing the girl that I had been going out with only a week earlier and telling her I was engaged. I may be mistaken but I got the distinct impression she may have been just a little miffed.

We were engaged for just over twelve months maintaining a true platonic relationship until we were married. Looking back their seems to be no good reason why we waited but at the time it was important to Michelle and if you really love someone, you accept, however reluctantly, their decision. I was also living over a thousand kilometres away, which made it a little easier, though for some strange reason I acquired a life long aversion to cold showers.

Getting married 1981

In over thirty years the passion has never dimmed, the flame has never flickered. Michelle has been my greatest strength and my ultimate weakness, my soul mate and lover as we journey through life, hand in hand.

And I must not forget the mistress – lets just say she was four years older than me, a dignified American lady of impeccable breeding. No one will ever describe her as beautiful; she was already long obsolete by the time she left Lock Haven, Pennsylvania in 1956, a stubby little tube and fabric aeroplane born into a world of streamlined polished aluminium, a deafeningly noisy relic of an earlier time, but she flew like a homesick angel and kept my young family safe in the air for many years - but that is another story for another time.   
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nooooo........ It's Nesting Season

More on our geese and their nesting ups and downs.

They are so cute.
This is our first time amid goose nesting season and boy I don’t know if I want to go through it again next year. It’s drama upon drama and I’ve been on tender hooks watching out for the goslings all the time. I seem to be glued to the telescope and binoculars during the day counting the different groups of goslings to make sure they are all still there. We’ve got a few different hatching times which means there’s some bigger goslings and some very small ones. The smallest goslings belong to Hoppy (she hurt her leg awhile ago and has a slight limp) and her partner Mr Hop. They were the last pair to hatch their brood and I think they are first time parents. I am always keeping an eye on this family as she has already lost two little fellas. I hate it when animals die I get a bit upset. I remember years ago always bawling my eyes out whenever any of my poddy lambs died. I had little graves for them all over the place. Silly I know but what can you do.

Some of the sweet little darlings.
The first lot of goslings to hatch were Deloraine grey girl’s brood. She did a very good job and kept all six of them nice and warm and together with her. When it was time to leave the nesting box and take them out into the big wide world she had an entourage of minders willing and ready to help her keep them safe. These included three of last year’s male goslings and two other grey girls who each had failed attempts at nesting. They made their nest on a slope and they also co nested together. Every time they fussed with the eggs they’d move down the slope a bit further and some of the eggs would end up not under them and hence got cold. Every day I’d come outside and they wouldn’t be in the same place as yesterday.  Next to hatch hers was Mrs Quiffy, so called because she has a quiff of feathers on top of her head and it looks like a quiff hairstyle.  She outdid everyone else and hatched eleven little darlings in the corner of the chook pen underneath where the chooks roost. Thank goodness the chooks always stick their bums the other way when roosting so she never got poo rained on her and the nest.  She’s hatched a family before so she’s a good mother and she also ended up with some minders to help her and Mr Quiff out.

Out for a stroll. Mum, Dad, goslings and Minders.
Next lot of goslings to hatch were from Mr and Mrs Ostracized. I named them this because leading up to mating and nesting season this couple were always getting banished from the group. They nested nicely in one of the nesting boxes and had five goslings. They are a good couple and look after their brood well. Last lot of successful hatchings are of course Mr and Mrs Hop and their three. It’s amazing the size difference between the first lot and this last lot with just a matter of weeks between them. Now last but not least is the poor other grey girl who decided to nest in one of the chook nesting boxes. She sat for ages but for some reason she wasn’t successful. She was so desperate to become a mum that one day we checked on her and she had pinched one of the chook eggs we had put under the clucky chook in the nesting box next to her. We know it was from there because it had the date written on it. We felt sorry for her so we gave her some chook eggs of her own to sit on. We are now awaiting the outcome of this. We also have two other clucky chooks sitting on eggs on top of hay bales. We will be overrun by chickens soon. Oh no, not more poultry worry. Nahhh the chooks will be right looking after their own………….I hope.

One of the clucky chooks nesting on hay bales.
The unsuccessful grey girl now sitting on chook eggs in the chook box.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Circle of Life

Mum with three girl and three boys.
The circle of life has completed with the hatching of the first of our goslings. One of our pilgrim geese has successfully hatched all six eggs that she was sitting on. We were a little concerned for the safety of the baby goslings with all the adult geese crowding about so we put a pen around the nest to provide some protection - we needn’t have bothered. The day old goslings promptly got out with the rest of the geese and when we tried to catch them to put them back with mum, the whole flock instantly came to their defence with a united display of aggression while keeping the new goslings safely hidden behind a shield of wings. No way is anything going to get too close to those goslings if they can help it.

Dad gives a warning hiss- Stay away from my family!

Pigs And The Small Farm

Pigs have to be one of the ideal animals to keep on a small farm. They are intelligent social animals that thrive on pasture when supplemented with a quality commercial pig feed. They quickly settle into a routine with ours coming in for a nap around 10 in the morning. They become very quiet and easy to handle with the sows learning to roll over and give a low rumbling purr to show their appreciation for a good firm belly rub. Even the boars are quiet though I think Fergal our Tamworth boar quite fancies Michelle. She thinks he just has a rubber fetish and is only interested in her gumboots but I am not so sure.

Exploring a new paddock. We last had pigs in here four months ago. The grass has grown back well.

Their reputation for being hard on fences is unfounded in my experience. They are however great escape artists and will never miss an opportunity to explore if a gate is left open. Some of our pig paddocks have a ringlock fence and for others I use a single electric wire about 350mm above the ground. In twelve months we have never had a pig even attempt to push through the ringlock fences. Electric fencing is a cheap and effective way to control pigs though some animals take longer to learn than others. The sows learn very quickly to be aware of the electric fence; they first investigate it very carefully with their snout, quickly discover it bites and never touch it again. The boar however is a very different animal. Fergal simply lowered his head and proceeded to push under the wire. An ear-splitting squeal later he was through wondering what the hell had just bit him. No way was he going back near that wire so I had to let him back in through the stables. When we rotated the pigs through a new paddock the process was repeated, again under the wire, again the ear-splitting squeal and again I had to let him back into his paddock via the stables. It’s a good thing he is so quiet and will follow you around like a dog, as I know from experience it is very difficult if not impossible to make a stubborn adult pig do anything it doesn’t want to.

This paddock will be pig free untill the grass has regrown.
Forget the oft-repeated statement that pigs stink. Properly housed free range pigs don't smell. Pigs are naturally clean animals and if allowed enough space to roam, will maintain a toilet area some distance away from their sleeping quarters. The secret is in allowing them enough space to establish their native behaviour patterns. I have found that it takes around an acre of quality pasture to keep an adult pig in feed. We leave our pigs in a paddock until it is mostly turned over and then rotate them to a fresh paddock. It takes four or five months for the grass to reclaim the moonscape once the pigs are removed.   Because our pigs have continuous access to quality pasture they require much less feed. In winter each of our adult pigs gets 1 kilogram of a commercial pig feed per day and this reduces to 700 grams in spring and summer. This equates to just less than 40cents per day in winter and 30 cents in summer.

The pigs and chooks on Leven River farm have formed a natural symbiotic relationship. Whenever the pigs are out turning over the paddock, the chooks are close behind. They have learnt the feeding is pretty good with a constant supply of worms and other insects as the pigs fall into their natural rhythm as a four legged plough.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fruit Trees and Farm Signs

We recently started a new fruit tree orchard. It’s always good fun going to the plant nursery to select new plants for the garden. John and I bought bare rooted fruit trees, which are in abundance here just before Spring. We ended up with Peaches, Apricots, Nectarines, Cherries, Pears, Green Gages (which are a European Plum more suitable to colder weather) and two Heritage Apples. We also picked up Raspberry canes, Blueberry bushes and English Gooseberries. We left the shop with arms full of plants and a lot less in the wallet. Although they may be expensive at the time fruit trees are an investment of lovely homegrown fresh fruit for many years to come. There’s nothing nicer than standing under a fruit tree munching into a homegrown piece of fruit. Every day I wander down to look at all the new shoots and flowers appearing on these new trees and give them words of encouragement…grow…grow…grow.

One of our new Peach trees.
Our big old fruit trees which were already here when we arrived are hopefully going to be the target for the birds etc that want to snack on some fruit. These trees are big and tall so we are hoping they will stand out more for the critters to home in on so they can leave our new trees alone. Well you can only hope. There are two giant Cherry trees, a very large Pear, an old Nectarine and three good producing Apple trees. They all produced lovely fruit last season and we were so excited to taste homegrown fruit again after many years of buying store bought. Our new orchard will also be where we will grow our Vegetables. Next job on the agenda is to fence the area with vermin proof wire to keep out all those little bunnies and things that visit at night.

Beautiful Cherry blossoms on one of our old Cherry trees.
There’s more news on the farm front also. We now have a farm sign with our farm name on it.  Last week I picked up John’s surprise present from the Woodcraft Guild in Ulverstone. If you are ever in Ulverstone go in and have a look at their wonderful handcrafted woodwork it’s just beautiful.  I asked them if they could make me a sign and they did a great job. It’s made out of a lovely natural bit of Huon Pine with our name spelt out in black letters. Did you know that Huon Pine is one of the longest living and slowest growing plants in the world and apparently it can grow to an age of 3000 years or more? I feel honoured to have a piece of this beautiful Tassie timber as our sign. I wonder how old it is. Finding the right place to display it and putting it up is another job to add to the list.

Our new Farm Sign waiting to be put up.
It’s so nice to have Spring here again. We survived our first Tassie Winter with no problems and didn’t even find it extremely cold. Next Winter we will have our wood stove installed and we will also have a lovely wood heater in the lounge room so things will be even cosier. Well all that’s left to say is roll on Summer and stone fruit season, yum can’t wait.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

All Hail The Gumboot

Pondering how nice Gumboots can be.

We’ve been living in our Gumboots since the start of Winter and probably won’t be out of them until Summer arrives and the last of the mud disappears. Then I’ll replace my good old Gummies with my Blunnies unless it rains some more. They have saved me from many a misplaced footstep in pig, cow, goose or chook poo. Winter is the rainy season here in Tassie and if it wasn’t for the Gumboot I don’t know what we’d be wearing in all the mud that gets around the farm during this time.

Gumboots sitting proud along with other family footwear.
Have you ever wondered who invented this little miracle of the footwear family? Well they say the Duke of Wellington asked his shoemaker to modify the 18th century Hessian boot. The new boot was made in soft calfskin leather and was cut to fit more closely around the leg. Then in 1852 Hiram Hutchinson met Charles Goodyear who had just invented the vulcanisation process for rubber. Goodyear decided to make tyres and Hutchinson bought the patent to make footwear. The all-waterproof Wellington type rubber boot was born and an instant success as farmers were able to come back home from working in the paddocks with clean dry feet. We love Gumboots so much they’ve even written poems about them. Here’s one I came across that’s rather good.

It can get a bit muddy around the place.
Hail unto the Gumboot Mighty.

Hail unto the Gumboot Mighty;
Yea who keeps my socks a-whitey,
Who when I tramp through muck and slosh
Keep dry the feet of McIntosh

In Summer months my love for you
Somewhat wavers, through and through
Until it rains but you provide
A place for Huntsmen to reside.

The dust collects upon your casing
“Till the time occurs for chasing
Slugs and snails and creepy crawlies
Which under you will suffer, surely.

Alas they stand but little chance;
Upon their bodies I will prance!
In the rain and mud and drought
If not for you, I’d be without.

Hail unto the Gumboot mighty
Yea who keeps my socks a-whitey.

By Tahlia McIntosh. 2005.

There are also songs about them. There’s one by John Clark “If It weren’t for your Gumboots” sung by his alter ego Fred Dagg.  You Tube link if you’re interested in listening:

Now days there’s not just the humble black Gumboot for Women, there’s all sorts of colours and patterns to choose from. I think they are great and love seeing all the different types around in the shops. So far there’s still only black and sometimes a dark green for Men but I don’t think they mind besides I don’t think I’d be able to take any man seriously if he was standing in a paddock with colourful Gumboots on. Our Gumboots have uses away from the farm as well. If it’s been raining when we go to a clearing sale or to the sale yards the Gummies are put into the boot of the car to be put on when we get there. A must have item is a garbage bag so you can put the mucky, dirty, mud dripping off the bottom pairs of Gumboots in to protect the carpet in the boot.
Yes it was definitely Gumboot weather back in January.

One thing they are not so good at is protecting your feet when stock stand on your toes but if you really want to go all out there is a steel cap model. Wow the wonders of Gumboot design. So we tramp through almost knee-deep mud knowing that our feet are safe and sound inside our Gumboots. When we take them off to go inside the house after a hard day in the paddock our socks are still clean and mud free. So thank you Gumboots and Hail to Thee.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Birds of a feather.

As the days lengthened and the temperature climbs, the geese are starting to pair up in preparation for breeding. About a month ago the geese changed from a harmonious contented gaggle into a fractious, noisy, bad-tempered rabble. We have one older pair that have successfully raised goslings before and they maintain a quiet dignified presence, aloof from all the squabbling. 

As the geese start nesting a problem arises for a goose  – where to nest. Our geese seem to have solved this problem with the simple philosophy of making their nest anywhere they see a chook laying. 

There's room in my nest for two.

Can't a girl get a little privacy?

 We now have co-nesting pilgrims, two pilgrims laying and sharing one nest, another pilgrim that has crammed herself into one chooks nesting boxes and one of the crossbred females has taken over the corner of the chook pen where we previously collected chook eggs every day. At this stage none have showed any interested in nesting in the goose pen or any of the goose nesting boxes.

With the longer days and warmer weather the chooks have upped their laying rate to a regular four or five eggs a day. Not bad for five free-range chooks. We are struggling to use that many eggs and they are starting build up in the cupboard.

Our chooks seem to enjoy the company of the saddleback pigs. They feed and roost in their own pen but during the day they are likely to be found keeping company with the three pigs. They have worked out that the pickings are pretty good if you follow behind the pigs when they’re rooting up the grass. Lots of worms and other goodies just lying there for the taking.

What is it with chooks? Provide them with the best in nesting boxes and instead they lay in their own special spots. One has made a nest on top of the hay bales, another has chosen the corner of their stable, one uses the nesting boxes and one lays eggs in the saddlebacks hay bed. This would seem a strange somewhat hazardous place to make a nest but, she’s black and white, they’re black and white – a little larger admittedly but who knows to a chook. 

One nest that the geese wont get.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The valley the sun forgot.

I have a confession to make; I lied on my census form. When coming to the religion question, I ticked no religion but that is no longer true; after the last four weeks I have discovered that I am a devotee of Ra the sun god. 

The weather has been cloudy and foggy with lots of rain, cloudy and foggy with a little rain or cloudy and foggy with no rain. Everything is wet, the pigs walk through four inches of mud as they come and go from the stables, the chooks and geese have puddled the ground where they stand and wait for us every evening and the garage is full of wet clothes.  The days are getting longer, spring is coming but the sun stays hidden. Some days seem to hold a glimmer of hope for the sun to break through but they come to naught. When I got up this morning I was stunned –light high cloud and no fog. Was the sun to reappear today? No such luck, by eight o’clock the fog had descended like a wet blanket over the valley.
I have heard that some historical evidence points to the suspicion that some time in the distant past the sun may have illuminated the valley and the people basked in the warmth. Doesn’t seem likely.
Must go now. I have to build a temple and make a sacrifice to Ra the Sun God and coax him into appearance.

A thousand feet down we are lost in the fog.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tamworth Pigs

“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” 
Winston Churchill.

We have just picked up some more pigs, four registered Tamworths, three sows and a boar. They travelled over from Victoria and these will form the nucleus of our second breeding herd. We met the truck at Sulphur Creek and bought them home in our trailer. It was not a great introduction to Tasmania; the wind was strong enough to blow the fleas off a dog’s arse, and cold driving rain. These pigs were originally due to arrive six or seven weeks ago but a combination of bad weather, difficulties with transport and me disappearing back to Australia for work put them on hold for a little while. They are about 9 months old and in pig so we should have our first piglets ready for Christmas dinner. Suckling pig. Yummy - should go well with goose. (just kidding)

Cold and wet

In comparison to our robust boisterous Saddlebacks, the Tamworths could almost be described as delicate. They have a very long straight snout and narrow head with a lean body.  They are an orange-gold colour and like most original breeds they are excellent foragers and really require an outdoor environment. The boar is “Fergal”, a good Irish name befitting a pig with Irish ancestry, and I have no doubt the sows will be named in turn. Comes back to the unwritten law – you can’t eat any animal that has a name.

Leven River Farm must be a bit of a culture shock for these pigs, they have been raised indoors in a shed, drinking from a nipple, feeding from an automatic chute, never wallowing in the mud or rooting through the grass. They have taken to their new life with gusto, lying in the grass, ripping up paddock and generally having a good time. They are very quiet and reserved, nowhere near as vocal or boisterous as our Saddlebacks but I am sure that will change as they settle in and feel more at home. 


I have noticed that people who keep rare breeds have a real passion for their animals and their welfare. I think this comes from the fact that the prime motivation for keeping rare breeds is never money; these breeds are rare because they failed that critical test of highest possible economic returns. There are plenty of animals that grow quicker, breed more prolifically and have better feed conversion ratios. I think people persist because they appreciate the intrinsic value of these old breeds. Me - I just like pigs.

Getting to know the neighbours.

The Tamworth pig breed originated in Sir Robert Peel's Drayton Manor Estate at Tamworth, Staffordshire, after the existing herd was interbred with pigs from Ireland known as 'Irish Grazers', that Peel had seen in Ireland in 1809. The breed appears among the least interbred with non-European breeds, and therefore one of the closest to the original European forest swine. They are a baconer pig and have a much leaner carcass than the Wessex Saddleback. They typically have small litters of six to ten piglets, which limits their appeal to commercial producers. They are very good mothers with a very high piglet survival rate.

We have had some difficulty in locating an unrelated boar for our saddleback sows, which is compounded by the fact that the bloodlines of our sows are clouded in some mystery. They are Dominator sired with some conjecture on the dam. I was thinking of joining them with the Tamworth boar but have been offered a suitably unrelated registered Wessex Saddleback boar in Victoria.
The new boar is of a Pilot- Beatrice bloodline and we have already christened him Horatio. I don’t know why but it just seems a fitting name for a saddleback boar.   He was going to travel over with the Tamworths but heavy rain around Gippsland has delayed his arrival for a couple of weeks.  Next a couple of registered Wessex Saddleback sows and our pig herd will be complete. Or maybe not; did I just hear a whisper about some Large Blacks that may be looking for a new home?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wallaby Fencing

We have completed wallaby fencing our top boundary. Our farm was the final link in a fence stretching for many kilometres that separates valuable pasture from the bush and forestry that occupies the high country to our west.
Wallaby Fencing. The final link.

The wallabies had been pouring in from the bush at night and stripping large areas of our top paddock bare. The case for wallaby fencing was overwhelming. Trials in four areas of Tasmania have defined the losses of farm animal productivity due to competing native animals. These trials showed that properly installed wallaby proof fencing is effective and over 35% more livestock can be carried.
The loss of productivity on unfenced pastures was again confirmed in a recent University of Tasmania study. It concluded that wildlife were taking 40% of available grazing on the 2100-hectare property. Exclusion fencing trials with wallaby wire again proved to be very effective in keeping wallabies from pasture.

Wallaby fencing is not a silver bullet; it requires regular inspections and maintenance to prevent wallabies coming through under the fence. One only has to look at the bush side of our fence to appreciate the number of wallabies coming out at night looking for an easy feed.

Wallabies are churning the soil to slush as they try to get an easy feed.

Of course Tasmania has a dark side, another option to control native animals, an option that is outlawed in the rest of Australia and the entire civilised world.
1080 poison.
Supporters of 1080 continually regurgitate the oft-quoted myth about the cost of wallaby fencing being prohibitively expensive for Tasmanian producers. This is a nonsense argument. The high carrying capacity of Tasmanian pastoral land with stocking rates sometimes in excess of one beast to the acre means that the cost of fencing per livestock unit is some of the cheapest in Australia. Lazy incompetent property management is instead propped up with publicly subsidised 1080 poison.

That anyone could still support the use of 1080 poison to control native animals such as the Bennett's Wallaby, Pademelons and Possums given the effective alternatives defies belief. The fact that this practice is still legal is proof enough that Tasmanian politicians are morally and ethically bankrupt.
Nothing that Tasmanians don’t already know.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How Not To Fix A Fence.

For the last few weeks I’ve been keeping an eye on one particular cow that has taken a fancy to sticking her head through the fence on the roadside to eat the longer grass. Well they do say, “The grass is always greener”.  I’ve been crossing my fingers she didn’t push right through and get on to the road. I did do a fence check and was surprised at how much fence has been bent and broken here and there. I’ve been doing a head count every day to make sure they are all still there in the paddock. With John being away and due back soon thank goodness, it’s only me on deck and I’m definitely no fencer. So it had to happen didn’t it, yes that’s right she got out. Luckily I just happened to look out of the window at the right time. There she was munching her way through the grass. I mean it’s not like there’s no grass in the paddock.

Oh yes a nice zigzag pattern there.
So I sprinted out the door and over to her all the while thinking please don’t let any cars come along and how am I going to get her back in by myself. I opened the gate and was just about to go around behind her when one of the locals came along and thankfully he helped me get her back in.  As it was she jumped straight through the fence in the exact spot where she had got out. Just as she got back in the School bus came along, wow that was close.  I then raced back to the shed to gather up anything I could get my hands on to try and temporarily fix the problem. What I grabbed was a bundle of rope and strapping. Right that’ll do fine I thought. Back I go to do some nice zigzag patterns along and through the wire on the fence. Every time a car came along I hung my head in complete embarrassment and wondered what they thought when they saw me doing this totally dodgy looking fencing job. So far it has served its purpose and has kept her in the paddock. A more permanent solution is on it’s way very soon.  Michelle.

Definately how not to fix a fence.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Oh Yeah. We love paddock life.

Prada jumping for joy.

You get a rush of happiness and warm fuzzy feelings to see your farm animals running free range in the paddocks enjoying life.  None of the horror of sow stalls, intensive farming or battery hens here. It always makes me sad to think of these practices still being carried out. 

Some of our Girls.

Our cattle have settled in very nicely they don’t have to move very far to get a feed there’s plenty of grass in the paddock. So far they’ve only been wandering around half the paddock they haven’t been right up to the top yet. It’s good to be able to look out of the kitchen windows and see them getting on with their daily business of eating resting eating resting etc.  These girls are some of the quietest cattle I’ve seen. I like to go and talk to them mostly every day. I sit down and wait for them to come up to me and they do one by one, they can’t resist coming over to look at me. Anyone arriving on the scene would probably wonder at this mad woman sitting down in a paddock having a one-way conversation with cows. We said all along we wanted something other than Black Angus cattle because all around us are either Angus or black and white Friesian/Holstein dairy cattle. A bit of variety is nice I think besides we do like the Hereford breed. I tell people jokingly we bought them because they are the colours of Queensland’s Footy team, go the mighty Maroons. 

The pigs following John to see what he's up to.

The pigs are happily bulldozing up the paddock during the day and still sleeping all in a row on their comfy straw bed at night. We got hold of some new pig feed recently, which they eat, with gusto. It’s a mix of grains, Cadbury chocolate and different coloured soft lollies that look suspiciously like lolly snakes cut up in bits. Oh my God it smells so good no wonder the pigs love it. When I’m feeding them I always feel like sticking my head in the container and chomping it all up. It’s quite a dry feed so we mix it with water. The first time we fed it to them we put it straight in their feed container dry and it flew everywhere when they breathed on it and the pigs were coughing and choking on it in their haste to get it eaten. It was a case of eat, run to get a drink, eat and run to get a drink. That’s when we realised it was way too dry a mix to give it to them like that. So now mixed with water it just slops into their feed container I have to be quick to get it in there because their heads get in the way and they end up wearing it.  They love nothing better than strolling around the paddock digging where they please and having a bit of a game with each other. Ahh yes that’s what I like to see more contented and satisfied animals. 

Our geese on the dam.

Now onto our feathered friends on the farm. The geese do their usual thing during the day they graze around the paddock interspersed with visits to the dam for a swim and a quick preen. They are all looking beautifully plump and in top condition and why wouldn’t they be with a whole paddock to graze in and some wheat at evening feed time. Our new females have finally learnt that wheat is good to eat they use to just look at the others eating it. Now they get in there and eat it quickly like the rest, if they don’t they will miss out.  The geese are funny to watch; their heads go a hundred miles an hour hoovering up the wheat. All you can hear is the rat-a-tat-tat of 15 beaks on the feed trays.  The chooks are enjoying their paddock life as well. Wandering around eating plenty of worms bugs and grass and next it’s off to have a dirt bath in the nicely ploughed up area.  Then there are three hens who like hanging with the pigs. I think they have cottoned on to the fact that the pigs root up the ground and that’s where they’ll find the nice juicy worms etc. or maybe they just want some porker company who knows. We still only have two hens laying I’m hoping the others will start soon although I think Winter is a bit of a down time for egg laying. Just the two laying seems to be enough eggs for us to handle at the moment anyway.    Michelle.

The chooks love to follow me around.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Few Good Heifers

Our little farm has grown some more as it was time to finally get some cattle. After waiting almost twelve months for the prices to come down, we gave up and decided to just buy some. We went to the Quoiba store cattle sale with very well defined objectives – anything except Black Angus. Almost all the cattle in the valley are either Friesian dairy cows or Black Angus and I just wanted something different. That way they will be easy to recognise if they get out. 
Quioba sale yards

We bought some cattle, sixteen Hereford heifers. Seven are twenty months old and ready to join and the rest are twelve to fourteen months old with a little growing still to do. They are all a little light in condition but we have plenty of feed to put them right. We got them at the Quoiba sale on Friday and unloaded them into the cattle yards just after dark that evening. Saturday morning we drenched them for worms and other parasites and back into a holding paddock, today they go out to their home paddock. In a month or two when they have gained some weight we will buy a Hereford Bull to put with them. In a couple of years we should have a nice little herd on the farm. The gestation of a cow is 285 days so nothing is going to happen in a hurry. 
Some of our Cattle waiting for the frost to lift.

Just hangin around.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where have all the windmills gone.

I am now after a windmill and high tank to replace the electric pump on the Leven River that supplies the house and troughs with water. Wind is the greatest natural source of energy and it is freely available day and night. No level of government has yet worked out how to charge for the wind, though I have no doubt they would if they could only work out how.
A farm should always have a windmill but here in Tasmania they are about as common as hens teeth.

At Varna we had three windmills, pumping water in an endless cycle. All windmills, regardless of brand shared some common endearing features. The wooden platform just below the head rots after about ten years exposure to the sun and rain and is never replaced. To stand on an old platform is to court a speedy and somewhat painful descent however the narrow iron supports can always be relied on to safely bear your weight. The top five feet of the tower is always greasy and treacherously slippery from the slow oil leaks accumulated over decades of use.

Jimmys Bore
Jimmys Bore had a 21 foot Southern Cross standing on a 50 foot three legged tower. This pumped up water from 400 feet underground for stock. Every six months Michelle and I had to pull the twenty lengths of 4 inch casing to remove the hard white sodic deposits that would slowly choke the pump.    

Salty Bore
Salty Bore had a 20foot D pattern Comet on a 45 foot four legged tower. The water in this bore was so salty it was of marginal value. Stock would drink it but only if they had no other option.

House mill.
The house had a 12 foot mill on a 25 foot tower that pumped water from the dam up to the high tank that supplied the house. It almost looked like any other 12 foot C pattern Comet but the name “Sidney Williams and Company” proudly cast in iron revealed its age. It had stood on the dam bank since some time prior to 1912 and is likely to be there yet, still reliably pumping water as it has done for all the past century. Sidney Williams produced windmills from1879 in Rockhampton under the Sidney Williams & Company brand, only introduced the famous Comet name in 1912. These are simple, reliable, direct action mills running in Spotted Gum bearings. If the oil pot is topped up every couple of years and the wicks replaced every ten or twenty years, the wooden bearings last indefinitely. The C and D pattern Comets are still in production, a design almost unchanged in over a hundred years. Workplace health and safety requirements have led to a metal platform replacing the wooden one, ladder platforms, and other changes to the tower to try to make them idiot proof.

A completely pointless exercise.

One of the immutable laws of physics tell us that if you make something idiot proof the only certain outcome is a  bigger idiot. The safest person up a windmill is a frightened one. Completely bloody useless but perfectly safe. With both legs and both arms wrapped through the tower, you would need a crowbar to prise them loose.

Windmills are an inseparable part of the heritage of the bush. They are a tangible link between the past and the future where windmills will continue to pump water through this century and the next.