Thursday, 18 May 2017

That's not all wool...

Can sheep get too fat?  I understand the hungry argument for fat lambs but when they are pets stacking on the kilos, and visitors pass sheepish comments like 'they're certainly in good condition' we may just have a problem on our hands.  Our girls are expected to be heading for the maternity ward some time around Spring, and the plan is...or was, to shear them before they get too, ahem, big.  We may be too late.  They're barrels already.  When it comes to rounding them up it's quite possible we will need to replace the sheepdog with a forklift.  They've been very successful in extracting grain on a regular basis from husband and head farmer, and our generous neighbour recently flung them a hay bale which is now not much more than a few straws.  Rambo our visiting Ram (left) is two weeks away from the end of his vacation on our farm and I suspect it's going to take some doing to get him to go home.  He'll not want to get into that Ute because he knows that life on this farm is pretty damn fine.  He's been hand fed apples and has enjoyed the warmth of a purpose built sheep shack with water views and soft furnishings (old wool).  And Lambie (fourth from the left) belongs next door and is now too big to be hoisted back over the fence.  It is quite a sound when they come thundering up to you thinking you have food to offer.  A bit like a herd of wildebeest thumping through the paddock.  Can't be good for the foundations though.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Room for the chickens up top

Ok, this is not my bed.  But it was a bed I stayed in at a Bed and Breakfast recently run by a couple with exceptional taste in furnishings.  But I'm not just talking about a few quilted cushions and matching tassels, this mattress was the supreme being of all mattresses.  And now I'm ruined for life, alas no other mattress will ever be as good.  We couldn't have a bed like this in our house.  Firstly we have sloping ceilings in our upstairs rooms which would mean that the canopy would be more like a shelf just above your head.  And the curtains would be problematic for us too, as Max would be swinging from them on most mornings.  This bed was at a considerable height and we were warned that a step ladder is often required to hoist one's self on top of this pocket spring, latex covered surface of loveliness.  And way too high for a sneaky cocker spaniel to leap onto whenever I'm not looking.  It's a dead giveaway when Bennie's been sleeping on the bed as he likes to put his backside up against the pillows and kicks out the ones he doesn't like.  Clean sheets and doggies smells.  Yes, that would be a great accommodation offering.  Our house in its present form would fail as a bed and breakfast.  The rooster population rise early and sometimes can be heard as early as 2am (get a watch guys...) and Max starts the strangled cat wailing in the passage about 5am.  Bennie wakes up like something out of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, all singing and dancing going full pelt down the stairs and crashing at the bottom.  And then there's drive through Minnie screaming at you through the kitchen window when you do surface.  So that's why occasionally, just occasionally we like a night away.  Thank you Devonport Grand B&B.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Supersize Me Minnie puts in her order

Our outdoor cat Minnie appears at the kitchen window around meal times.  A bit like a fast food drive through window she places her order and waits patiently.  At the same time indoor cat Max is screaming for his favourite (whatever the hell that is this week) and Bennie the cocker spaniel knows that there is left over roast lamb in the fridge, and won't stop whimpering until it comes out.  Come dinner time it's pretty full on in this kitchen.  The drive through gets busy when the 30 odd beaks at the bottom of the window wait to place their order.  The chook food container sits on the bench everyday with the leftover scraps bundled in just before service.  Patsy likes her lettuce scraps, Ella prefers left over porridge, Dusty loves the bacon rind and everyone likes the date slice.  The Guinea Fowl prefer the seed and the little black hen we call Little Friend (because she's always at your side) likes to eat out of your hand and doesn't mind a pat while she's eating.  The sheep have sufficient green sprigs of oats to keep them going but Shirley is partial to her piece of apple and will come running at the sight of a core in my hand.  And then, by 6pm it's all over.  Unless we expect to eat.  Next please...

Thursday, 27 April 2017

It's a long way to the top if you want a sausage roll

We soon discovered that just because you have a book titled 100 Walks in Tasmania, doesn't mean you are equipped for bush walking.  But we decided to give it a crack anyway.  My idea of a walk of several kilometres would usually involve a large shopping district and a civilised lunch at the end.  Knowing that we were going to be a few hours at the mercy of nature with no Sherpa to carry the silverware, I buttered the date slices and packed the thermos.  Heaven forbid we find ourselves at any destination without access to life saving cups of english breakfast and cake.  So on this day of Anzac remembrance we put on our shiny Kathmandu outfits and headed off towards Mt Wellington.  We hadn't been driving long when we realised we had forgotten the milk and the tea bags.  We had hot water.  So having pulled into a nearby service station we now had milk, all two litres of it (they had nothing smaller) and a box of tea bags to add to the pack.  So off we went.  From Fern Tree at the base of Mt Wellington we walked the Pipeline track towards the Silver Falls.  Through eucalyptus forests with a steady climb for unconditioned legs like mine, I did at one point consider why we opted for this over a perfectly acceptable stair master at the gym, complete with off button, but soldiered on regardless. By now Tenzing Bowers, carrying the catering was far ahead of me.  After about an hour and a half our resting place was the Springs.  Only no springs that I could see.  We crossed a busy tourist road where the Springs Hotel once stood and now housed an information centre, covered gas barbecue areas and a coffee shop.  Yes, a coffee shop complete with not only coffee but tea and milk.  Nonetheless we sat down at the picnic table, made our tea and ate our date slice.  Although we couldn't resist a look at our summit cafe offerings complete with homemade cakes, pies and sausage rolls.  They looked too good to pass up.  We walked off with two steaming hot pork and fennel sausage rolls, with excellent buttery pastry.  We ate them out of the bag.  We were in the wilderness, after all.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Candle light dinners in the back paddock

That's Rambo, our visiting ram (left).  Off to chat to the girls.  He was dropped off last Monday.  Just for a short stay while we host a Suffolk sheep version of the Bachelor.  He belongs to Chumpy who gave us the five minute overview on how to breed sheep as we stood beside the ute asking a lot of 'definitely not farm folk' questions.  Our girls have been living the good life for well over a year now and unfortunately, are probably more suited to an episode of the Biggest Loser rather than any lamb creating dating game.  We've tried saying they are just big boned or that it's probably just all wool, but we're kidding ourselves as our barrels on skinny legs stomp around the paddocks blocking out the sun.  Hopefully Rambo won't have any major reservations and will appreciate them for their sparkling eyes and vibrant personalities. He didn't take long to introduce himself and was soon part of the group munching away on the small sprigs of oats that are coming up again in the paddock (yes more rain please).  He will very soon appreciate the fact that those who are born to, or even unceremoniously dumped on this property, even for a short time do very well indeed.  Minnie being the perfect example of an unwanted dumpee was smart enough to steer her dumper towards the house on the hill with the robust farm animals.  I could just imagine her peering out of a box on the back seat of someone's car saying 'not that one, not that one, yes this one'.  From day one she called us home and we've served her well since then.  Now, Minnie by name only, she's maxed out in all the wrong places.  Now her only exercise seems to be moving from one comfy bed to another.  I counted up recently, she has about four.  All with hand me down fleecy high viz vests and flanno shirts, she does alright on the sleeping arrangements.  But lately it's the laying boxes in the old shed. So to outsmart her I moved them to the chook pen.  Didn't work.  No wonder we have no eggs!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

How do you like your mouse tails, poached or fried?

It's officially mousing season according to our Head of Farming and Chief Mouser, Minnie. We know this by the array of headless corpses displayed by the back door mat every morning.  Perhaps she thinks she is required to produce evidence in the form of mouse tails to receive food and lodging.  Vigilant as she is, it does appear that one may have escaped her.  Have you ever smelt that dead mouse somewhere smell?  I have, and I've never forgotten it.  And somewhere around the kitchen wall or in the ceiling there is a hint of rotting rodent that will either go away eventually or temporarily sent us away eventually.  The colder weather has brought them out as Autumn gears up with some much needed rain.  It's also moulting season for the chickens as our back garden starts to look like someone has lost a fight with a doona.  The raw chicken neck is not their greatest look and the egg laying has come to a sudden halt.  With currently about 40 odd chickens of many breeds, including some I think we've invented, I still only have one egg in the fridge.  I'm putting the lack of eggs down to the season but I may be wrong about that.  It could also be that we've moved the chook pen around to face the other way to give the ground a bit of a rest.  This means that their indoor outdoor room is now not facing east, and hence they can't watch the sun come up.  It could also be that we've introduced Guinea Fowls into the flock who don't assimilate at all and aren't the slightest bit interested in dinner time protocols about girls eat before boys. To them Fowls eat before everybody.  It could also be that the Head of Farming and Chief Mouser has now taken to sleeping in their laying boxes in the old shed.  The other day I headed out to hear Doris clucking hysterically in the doorway of the shed protesting that her warm, dry laying box was now occupied.  We'll need to move it.  While the tail count is admirable, we can't exactly have them poached on toast. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The fruit formally known as Quince

We discovered a quince tree on our property last year.  It took us a while.  I had walked past the fallen quince on the ground on a number of occasions and never questioned it being there.  In fact, for a while I thought it was Bennie's tennis ball.  Eventually it was picked up and marvelled at.  And later we discovered there were two.  Not quite enough to rush headlong into a quince jelly making exercise, and not even enough to produce the smallest sliver of paste, so I elected to bake them.  There aren't too many recipes for baking quinces in such minimal quantities and the end result was similar to having them placed them for a long period of time in an aluminium smelter.  Let's just say there is now a permanent scar on that baking tray.  What a mess.  So this year, again this neglected tree has somehow produced another two quinces despite of us.  I won't be baking them this year as I have a decent recipe for a chicken casserole with quinces and green olives (a Matthew Evans one I think) that I know won't injure any baking dishes.  This morning I noted that Lewis our 2IC rooster was on quince minding duty and expect he would probably alert me should said quince fall from tree.  It's amazing to think that fruit trees can still produce despite our neglect.  Maybe it just likes Lewis's company.