Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gawky teenager

Well as they say, from little things, big things grow :-)

Here's Nova in 2005 when she was 6 months old and having just lost a lot of condition on weaning two weeks before.

I must say that I relented and let her back to her Mama, Duchess, for another two months as she was not doing very well at all without her mama's milk. (I don't see how people can wean the foals at three months ... seems cruel to me but then I'm not in the horse racing industry thank goodness).

A closer look at Nova

Hard to know exactly when Nova's foal will be born, but as the foal has shifted now lower in her pelvis and her udder is starting to fill, we figure it will be 'fairly soon' in lunar terms (ie this month). So we've put her in a special separate paddock so she and her foal don't have to cope with the lunatics (see previous post).

You can see here the delicate peach of the perlino colouring and her gracious arab-influenced shape. She's so different than the gawky teenager she once was!

Batteries recharged

Thank goodness! They're not dead after all :-)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beached whales

I think their batteries ran out.

Work on the farm update

We've been tackling the vine infestation and have now cleared enough space to do some replanting along the border of our place and our neighbour Quentin's place. The previous owner of this place had chopped down the the Battistuzzi orchard (desecration!!), so we decided to reinstate some fruit trees. As John makes lovely lovely marmalade, we've planted a fair bit of citrus. These are the trees we planted (in a row): Nagami cumquat, Tahitian lime, Calamondin, Blood orange, Meyer lemon, and Pummelo (Shaddock).

Not yet in the ground are the Bowen mango, Avocado and Brown turkey fig... we still need to knock more of the dratted Madeira vine back (much as I hate using it, I've resorted to using Roundup). In the photo you can see where the canopy of weeds is dying having been severed from their roots using the snatch strap method (see earlier post).

The finished row looks lovely.

Lunar eclipse

We lit a bonfire and stayed home to watch the full moon rising and the lunar eclipse on Saturday evening ...

Here's looking West over the sheds as John lays the bonfire ...

Tess took this lovely photo of the eclipse itself...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Help with the crossword

Sometimes when you're doing the crossword it helps to put your thinking cat on.

You can see how it would help.

... You can see why I love John very, very much ... :-)

When it gets cold at night ...

... an old dog likes to get snug.

Chicco (aka Chook) on her bed at night.

Looking at her like this you wouldn't think she's a huge burly scary Rhodesian Ridgeback witha very resonant woof!

... awwwwwwwww .....

G'nite Chookie ... sleep well, see you in the morning ...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Very happy horses

Saturn celebrating the winter paddock with a very undignified but no doubt very satisfying roll ...

Winter solstice

Yesterday was winter solstice, and at dusk we let the horses through to their lush, longed-for winter grazing. John had slashed the paddocks just before the equinox (see this post), and then we had fenced these off to allow the grass and seed heads to grow. John filmed me letting most of the horses through to the larger paddock. The smaller paddock on the side is reserved for Nova who will have her foal soon.

We celebrated winter solstice in the evening with a merry bonfire, and the good company of our lovely friends Willa & Andrew and kids; John & Marre; and our neighbours Grace & Harry and their daughter Ella. I made a cheese and pate platter, mulled wine, pumpkin soup and garlic bread; and Willa made devilled eggs and sushi. We sat round the fire and quietly revelled in the moonlit night and the warmth of the fire and the company and conversation of good people.

I loved the gentleness of the day in its entirety, which to me was an exciting and deeply satisfying celebration in its own right.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Sometimes life goes a bit wonky. But then it straightens out again and things are ok... for a while, anyway. But whatever happens, life prevails, and things continue to grow...

(This tree grows down by the creek on what used to be Grange land but now is owned by a neighbour, who lives elsewhere).

Photos of the Grange

Here are various photos & aspects of our lovely old house, The Grange. We don't know exactly how old it is but it pre-dates the 1890s for sure. There are various features that indicate potentially early C19th architectural building styles, such as single skin walls with cross bracing and studs exposed, the separate (straight! not bullnosed, which is a later style) verandah roof. Probably early Victorian in style, and of the Queenslander type.

About Queenslanders ... this is from Wikipedia: "Queenslander buildings are primarily of timber construction and can be low or high-set, one to two storeys. They are typically "tripartite" in sectional composition; underfloor (stumps), primary rooms (can be two levels), and roof. All have one or more veranda spaces, a sheltered edge of the building that is typically only part-enclosed and used as another living zone. This consideration for climate is the defining characteristic of the Queenslander type."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Long weekend

I only had a short long weekend really, as I was away in Sydney on field research (interviews for the hospitals project). But luckily there was enough weekend left to really enjoy a rare and precious visit from John's darling and much-loved mother, Tuffy, who is 85, and her loquacious learned engineer husband Tony.

On the Sunday evening my parents came for dinner too and we had a merry bbq dinner with much conversation and laughter.

Despite the daytime rain John and I got quite a lot of gardening done, managing to pull down most of the horribly invasive madeira vine / potato vine and rubber vine which was smothering an entire row of native rainforest trees on the village-side border of our farm. We used the tried and tested method of weaving the snatch strap through the massively heavy entanglements and pulling them out with the 4WD Forester. This will disperse tubers which fall on the ground but there was no other alternative: at least we can reach the ones on the ground as they start shooting up again ... Tuffy and Yarrow were very helpful heaving logs and branches out (from a tree which had collapsed under the weight of the vine) and onto the bonfire stack. Despite her diminutive physique, Tuffy is amazingly strong!

John spent part of the weekend making a lot of marmalade, but unfortunately, while cutting peel, due to a slip of the knife and the ensuing distraction involving bandages and bandaids, it partially burned and now tastes a bit smoky. Only a bit, though.

Tess wasn't very well (sniffly cold and an allergic skin reaction) but she did take some nice photos of Remy playing on the frangipani tree. See the bit of elkhorn fern there peeping at the side.

Gosh, on reading this it doesn't sound as if we had a very jolly weekend but we did, very much so!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Speaking of Sunny...

... Ain't he just the sweetest thing?


This morning ...

Whilst walking Chook the dog (accompanied as usual by my two affectionate familiars, Sunny the cat and Nova the perlino mare) ... I found a feather.

I wonder what sort it is ... given the long fringe / fray I thought perhaps an owl. Claudia suggested perhaps an ibis, but then reconsidered on account of its quite striking markings.

Yesterday morning

This is what dawn looks like when viewed through the branches of a very old winter frangipani...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The stockyard saga continued...

A while ago I posted about the barbed wire festooning the grass in the stockyard. It had proven very difficult to remove. In the end John and I opted to wade in there with chains, and weave the chains through the clumps of barbed wire. Then we attached the chains to the Hilux (in 4WD mode), and backed the Hilux out, dragging the wire out in clumps wreathed with grass. Once out, we roll them up into semi-manageable rolls. Quite satisfying if we managed a large 'catch' (the biggest single draw catch is proudly shown by one of our cats, Sunny, who of course helped haul it in ;-) ).

The rolls are then gingerly hoicked onto the back of the work ute ready for taking to the tip. In all, it's taken us two full days (spread over a couple of weekends) to clear the yard. It's been prickly work: after yesterday's efforts, our hands were covered in scratches and small perforations from all the barbs. Ouch!

But now as you can see the horses can freely graze in the yards. In the photo are some of our herd: from L to R: Saturn, Emu, Gandhi and the Horse Formerly Known as Rascal (we're trying to change his name but not doing too well as you would have noticed).

I have used a similar technique to remove lantana, blackberries and other weed entanglements. Once I worked with a local Landcare group to remove dense entanglements of lantana under a huge old fig. We had a mate with us who had a merry little terrier. We threw scraps of meat into the tangled undergrowth. We tied fishing line to my friend's terrier and he'd go in and find the meat and then come out. Then we'd tie a long snatch strap to the fishing line and pull it through. We then tied the snatch strap to the car I had at the time (an old Pajero) and pull the entire clump of lantana out! Worked a treat. Dog loved it.

The floodwaters are receding

We took some time out on Thursday afternoon to go play with (what we thought were) the receding floodwaters. This is a normally small creek / rivulet running under Boatharbour Road, where Tess, Yarrow and Briony's school bus normally goes. Good fun for playing in.

But then the water actually rose again Thursday night as I was bringing Yarrow to and from music lessons, and I was very worried that we would be cut off from home as the Wilsons River broke its banks. The water came as high as the door sill on the car on Eltham Rd. Luckily the Forester made it though the water, though not without some palpitations on my side! If it had been an inch higher I would not have dared cross. (I've been swept off a road by floodwaters before, and it's very scary!). By midnight the same stretch would have been under more than a metre of water...

By the Friday the little creek crossing shown on the photo was absolutely impassable and the school bus had to turn back.

Wilsons River peaked at about 8 metres above its normal height. Today's screen capture from the Bureau of Meterology river heights data website shows the amazingly rapid rise in river height.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Yarrow's Junior TIP performance

You know, sometimes your child does something, and it's such a brave achievement, the result of so many hours of practice ... and then, your heart just wants to burst with pride!

Today, Yarrow attended TIP (= Talent Identification Program, funded by the North Coast Regional Arts Council - see more at this link). She spent the day in workshops and the evening culminated in an individual performance by selected performers. Last time she attended she didn't make it to the finals, but this time she did!

Yarrow sings "They Weren't There", written by Missy Higgins. She told the music coordinator beforehand, that she was feeling quite a lot of nerves, and the coordinator whispered softly to her "Just blow them away...". And then, after Yarrow left the stage, the music coordinator pulled her over and whispered again "See? You blew them away ...".

Well, yeah ... she did. She blew me away, too ...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oops, it was a big storm after all...

The coastal village not far from here (Lennox Head) was hit by a mini tornado this morning - quite impressive!

If you click on the photo it takes you to the Sydney Morning Herald site with a good series of five photos showing the progression of the tornado.

It's raining ...

... and the river is rising just a teeeeeeny bit, and the school bus has been cancelled, and I think I might just keep the girls home from school ...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fun with Clarke and Dawe

I don't watch television ... Years ago, I found that my life was so busy (my own choice, but still), that something had to 'give', and so I simply decided to stop watching TV, figuring I'd access current affairs from my beloved ABC Radio National. The up side of this is that I have no idea who the current 'celebs' are (as portrayed in various women's mags such as No Idea, Women's Monthly, and the like), which frees my brain up for more interesting things. The down side is that I probably miss some excellent television shows, and sometimes don't know of people I wish I'd known about earlier.

Such is the case with Clarke and Dawe. John introduced me this weekend to these excellent ABC television political commentators / lampoonists. Bless him for this!! This intelligent pair humorously elucidate the sorry state of Australian and world politics. I especially loved these three clips:

Europe's financial crisis explained (Oh, good, I understand better now ...)

Abbott opposes this week (Our opposition party opposes for the sake of opposition, really... never mind an ethical or philosophical stance ... with very little regard for what really constitutes truth).

I hope you enjoy the clips!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Here's a clip of Saturn

Here is a clip showing my lovely mare Saturn (officially, the registered Australian Stock Horse named Perkins Classic). My dear friend Petra and I brought her back from the Laidley Sales where we successfully bid against the horse butcher for her. Petra particularly did a wonderful job of re-training this maltreated and nervy mare who would at first not let people touch her. She was sold to a woman who cared for her well but had too little time for her, and in the end I bought her back and have kept her ever since.

I have to admit I have a sometimes uneasy relationship with Saturn. She is by far the best riding horse I've ever owned, with a soft mouth and a biddable and willing, obedient character, though occasionally she tends to rush. I love her to bits but sometimes I'm nervous of her, which may be as much a result of my nature as her behaviour. She has been known to lash out and on the ground she sometimes can be quite rude and pushy (more groundwork, Mieke, more groundwork!). Once on her back, though, she's got the wonderful heart and I have had some glorious rides on her.

This 2007 clip shows her going to meet her stallion at Billinudgel (love at first sight?). The filly Promise was the result of this union (awwww.... )

A birthday ride

View Whian Whian ride in a larger map

As a special treat, John and I took the Monday off and we went for a trail ride at Whian Whian State forest (click on the - or + on the interactive map above to zoom in or out). So, early Monday morning, we hitched the float to the Hilux, chose our best trail horses (gelding Gandhi and mare Saturn), and gave them a special lucerne feed. As our horses are not shod but go barefoot most of the time, we put their trail riding boots on. These boots are a great alternative to metal shoes and in my opinion far better for our horses' overall metal and physical health. My mare admittedly does not have good ground manners, but she lifts her feet to have these boots put on!

I must confess I get a bit tense about putting horses on the float. It can go wrong and having half a ton of horse go mad in the float is not good for them, or the float. Similarly, having the same half ton of horse rush backwards out of the float and over the top of any human is not good for *them*, either. But these two stepped on as good as gold (especially Gandhi, he's such a well-mannered gent).

We set off, and after about half an hour arrived at Fox Rd quarry where we parked the Hilux and float, offloaded the calm (!! hurrah! Calmer than I was, defninitely!) horses and saddled up.

The track was damp but not wet underfoot, unshod booted hooves clopping soft on the earth. The weather was cool and dry, and looking up I could see the dappled gum trees against a pure blue sky. Not long after leaving Fox Rd we entered the state forest conservation area (a home-made painted sign explaining "no throughfare for cars to Whian Whian, horse riders and walkers welcomed!"). We followed Baldwin's road, a rough track surrounded by bush. Next to the track we saw a sleepy carpet python soaking up the warmth of a spot of sunshine; and not much further on a brown snake slithered quietly into the bushes (Gandhi told John in his equine way "It's dangerous, I'm not going near that one..."). Around a bend we encountered a pair of tethered goats, which Gandhi observed with aplomb but nearly made Saturn's eyes pop out of her head, as she came to a stock standstill, and uttered disbelieving snorts as she stood there and shook from head to hoof. Goodness knows what went on in her head. I gather she's never seen a goat before. She went past them on tiptoes, quivering and snorting, with tail bunched in horror, as the goats observed her with their strange eyes.

We continued along looking for a side track called Condong Falls Road, but we couldn't find it (must have passed it in during one of our wild and exhilarating canters) and ended up on a slightly wider track called Telephone Road (from there we planned to follow Boulder's Road but couldn't find that either ... ). Telephone Rd is a lovely track, quite steeply undulating but with some good spots for gallops. This brought us to Minyon Drive which is open for 4WD car traffic. We stopped briefly at Minyon Grass picnic area where the National Park guys were doing some sterling work repairing verges. We offered the horses a drink at the creek but they declined (oh well, as they say ...). This was the furthest point of the ride and by then we'd travelled about 6km of steep going.

To wind our way back to Fox Rd we had to reach the higher ground and find Quondong FireTrail. The option we chose was to find Yakki Break, a very indistinct track which went straight up the mountainside. The track rapidly became steeper and the horses surged and grappled for footing, their sides heaving. As the path became steeper I wound my left hand in Saturn's long mane, and wrapped my right arm around her neck, slick with sweat, my thighs gripping her sides as I leaned as far forward as I could to help her balance. They're so strong and marvellous, our horses, and they will go anywhere for us, bless their courageous hearts. At the top we let them stand for a while, letting them blow, while their hammering hearts calmed down.

We found Quondong Fire trail pretty easily and followed it slowly down the mountainside. At Quondong Falls it became very steep and rocky, and the horses picked their way with much care. Just before the causeway where the creek flowed rapidly over the track and down the waterfall, the path was very steep and Saturn lost her footing, slithering onto her haunches. I opted to step off, as I didn't fancy falling under the horse if she went fully down (and possibly over the waterfall, which would not have been a good ending to the ride). John stayed aboard the more sensible Gandhi (as he said later, Gandhi has four good legs and John only has one so that seemed the best option! Makes sense!!). Much clatter and stumbling and with my arm nearly wrenched out of its socket we reached the other side, where I climbed tremblingly aboard a thoroughly excited Saturn (we get a bit tense, she and I sometimes. Never mind, we've both got courageous hearts and we're game). John said 'well done' and I could see he was proud of us so that was good :-D

The rest of the track was gorgeous, with tree ferns and rainforest surrounding us. The track wound steeply down, the horses well back on their haunches and their ears pricked forwards. This brought us to the lovely Quirk's Fire Trail, again densely rainforested, and then back on to the earthern Baldwin Road.

Of course this meant going past the goats again, which Saturn thought was Totally, Like, Creepy ... I praised her muchly for her courage.

This brought us quietly back to the Fox Rd quarry where the horses were happy to see the float. They were still very wet and sweaty so we walked them in the gentle sun until they were much drier. Then we loaded them onto the float and took them home for a big meal, a wash and a grooming. Then we set them free in their paddock where they blissfully sank to the ground for a lovely roll and a catch-up with their friends.

Thanks Guys: Gandhi, Saturn and John, for a lovely ride.

Birthday weekend

And what a lovely weekend it was!!!

It being my birthday, we *were* going to go camping at one of our favourite remote spots, Alice Flats on the Clarence River. But inclement weather suggested that would not be a good idea. So at the last moment we changed our plans (flexibility :-) ) and instead on the Friday visited our local historic inn, the Eltham Friendly Inn. On the Saturday we had a party, barbecue and bonfire at the Grange with friends and family, and had a wonderful time.

On Sunday - after sleeping in and having tea and crumpets in bed (aren't I *spoilt*?) we fetched our latest impulse purchase from a local garage sale (OK: we agreed to buy it "if it goes". Yes, it goes! .. a bit smokey, but nontheless sweeet... But stopping, now, that's another thing entirely! Anyone know a good VW brake specialist?). John and Yarrow brought it home with me following in the Forester (in case it needed a tow, but no, it does indeed go). The stopping technique involved a fair bit of handbraking and careful consideration of road slope. Some of the electrics don't work (windscreen wipers and indicators ... maybe though we just haven't found the correct button). The photos show the VW coming sturdily down the drive, and a small gaggle of girls (Tess, Bonnie and Yarrow) ooh-ing and aah-ing over it once parked in the side shed. Cute...