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.