Friday, March 2, 2012

drought, what drought?

It has rained. A lot.

75% of NSW is on flood alert, dams are opening their sluices to let out excess water. Some areas have managed to receive their expected annual rainfall in less than a week. There are benefits of living on a hill, although flood safety was not a consideration when we bought this crispy dusty barren property 3 years ago.

We chose February as a warm dry month to start work on our major outdoor project resurfacing the tennis court. The sand and gravel court was very labour intensive, requiring regular watering/dragging and rolling, so we have invested in a large green artificial grass carpet. 4 weeks later it is still sitting on a trailer courtside.

From Protea Farm 1

Preparation work was back-breaking. Someone decided that painting the lines on the court was too much like hard work and laid permanent lines made of concrete. We had not realised how deep the concrete had been laid and just how hard it would be to remove with a crow bar and hammer.

From Protea Farm 1


Two days later and all concrete removed and taken to the tip. Phase 2 was carting 2 tonnes of crushed granite to fill in the trenches, phase 3 rolling and compacting the gravel.
From Protea Farm 1

The preparatory work is now complete, and if it ever stops raining the surface needs to be screeded and levelled before the carpet fitters arrive.

From Protea Farm 1

It may be a while before conditions allow completion. Once carpet is laid it will be covered in 12 tonnes of washed beach sand to bed it in and stop it blowing away. Knowing our luck with the weather a hurricane will pick it up and blow it away before the sand has been deposited.

We lost a member of the family recently. Poor Alan the alpaca finally succumbed to a series of age-related problems and had to be dispatched to alpaca heaven. Poor Marley is not enjoying being alone with the sheep and is trying to bond over the fence with the neighbour's horse.

From Protea Farm 1

Other news- Ness very excited this week when she sold 3 of her home bred pekin ducks. The guinea fowl are now very adventurous and wandering happily around the grounds making a terrible racket ( had not realised just how vocal they are). Putting a mirror in their pen may have been a mistake because they have taken to standing on the veranda of one of the rental houses and peering through the windows and screeching. Throwing themselves against the windows is a sport they seem to enjoy. I suspect the guys living there at the moment not too thrilled because they are mine workers on night shift. Sleeping during the day may be tricky when there are lunatic birds screaming and playing bounce off the bedroom window games all day.

I have started some veterinary work and did my first stint last Sunday- officiating at the Mudgee Greyhound Racing Track. Only meet once a month but a nice little earner . Had 1 punt on a dog called Betty ( as was my mother ) and she sprinted first across the finish line and earned me $40.

Friday, February 10, 2012

quiet please

It has been a busy time since Christmas. Although the height of summer is usually our quiet time we have had more bookings than usual. Generally it is too hot to holiday inland but summer has been really rather cool with more rain than usual and temperatures seldom exceeding mid 20's, so the garden is looking greener than expected and water levels in dam and tanks good.

As I type this areas of NSW are suffering serious flooding, we appear to have brought UK weather over with us although I am not at all envious of the snow hitting Europe at the moment.

I have been away from home for the last few weeks because a good friend has been unwell so have spent a lot of time driving to (and sitting around in) Westmead Hospital. The oncology unit is very impressive-clean, efficient and with excellent staff. Back home now, patient slowly recovering, so catching up on backlog of work, including this blog.

I did manage to get a 3 day break in Melbourne c/o my great friends who bought me tickets for 2 days at the Australian Open Tennis for my birthday. Weather was fantastic, and I saw the ladies' semi-finals and the Murray/Djokovic epic which finished at 1am. I was seated behind some very large demonstrative Serbian gangster types, so was rather timidly Scottish in support of Andy.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

Julia Gillard seemed to enjoy the match, although I think Rod Laver ( in his Arena ) was asleep.

From Protea Farm 1

The atmosphere was incredible, very different from Wimbledon, so not sure which I prefer- the traditional but overcrowded and cramped conditions dripping with history or the modern purpose-built stadium in the middle of the city with easy access and much more space. Pros and cons for both I suppose, and I did not have to rely on Virgin Air to get me to Wimbledon ( although getting from north to south London probably took as long as flying Sydney-Melbourne!).

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1
From Protea Farm 1

Back at the ranch and this week heralded the liberation of the guinea fowl. They are almost fully grown and need to get out and see the world. Last week I brought them a mirror ( retrieved from a skip in Sydney ) because Ness read on some loony guinea fowl website that they like to admire themselves. They have been strutting up and down for days fixated by their reflections, so opening the door to the pen was an anti-climax because they stayed glued to the mirror for the next 2 days.

Finally yesterday they ventured out and started exploring the protea orchard.

From Protea Farm 1

Since before Christmas we have noticed a largish bird of prey circling overhead, but it did not come close enough to be identified. In January the number increased to a pair, closely followed by 2 newly fledged offspring. The family visits every day and is getting bolder, and we have now identified them as 'at risk' little eagles.

From Protea Farm 1


There was a very loud commotion in the protea orchard this morning, with guinea fowl scattered to the 4 corners. The ( not so ) little eagle was perched in a protea bush working out his breakfast options. The result of this attack is that the guineas are too scared to fly or perch in trees and have taken to skulking in the shrubbery. Not sure how much Mr Fox paid the eagle, but bet he is rubbing his paws. So every night after we have rounded up the ducks and locked them away for the night we have to round up the guineas and put them safely away.

Ness has started a production line producing concrete paving stones and the new pathway to one of the guest cottages is coming along nicely.

From Protea Farm 1

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

bumper harvest

From Protea Farm 1


This year has seen the best ever apricot harvest, with the trees laden. Ness has frantically been making jam and curd, freezing batches of puree and googling 1001 recipes with apricots. Hasty picking has been required as the competition has moved in.

From Protea Farm 1

The cockies and king parrots are happy to take 1 nibble of the fruit and spit the rest out the wasteful beggars.

I was very pleased with my apricot and frangipane tart- suck on that Nigella!

From Protea Farm 1

Picture below shows how quickly the guineas are growing. Sadly as from yesterday we are down to only 5 as Mr.Fox managed to prove that the avian Fort Knox was not impregnable and deftly removed one of their heads. Ness even more keen to get a gun license now despite my anxiety that she may accidentally shoot a guest or two.


From Protea Farm 1


Sunday, November 13, 2011

flowers, food, fowl and fifty

My avid reader ( yes, I have just the one ) has lodged a complaint about the recent lack of blog updates.Almost 3 months, very slack of me. My only excuse is that we have been pretty busy.

I turned 50 last month, and Ness in cahoots with J & G organised a fantastic party with many of my favourite people attending. Only down side was that they could not organise the weather a bit better, so it was 8 degrees with drizzle/heavy rain. Having spent many birthdays in Preston UK indoors due to rain it was typical that NSW proved very similar. No compensation at all that on the same day a text from my sister-in-law in Preston boasted  a very heady 26 degrees and sunshine back in Blighty.

However the Poms and Europeans almost outnumbered the natives so I suppose it was too much to expect Australian sunshine.

Creative use of fire pits, patio heaters and outdoor shelters saved the day.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

We spit-roasted one of our own lambs. Ness did a fantastic job, the rosemary and garlic marinade was phenomenal..
Pic below shows James carving the lamb with the aid of a head torch, with Profs Jules & Vanessa first in the queue for a feed

From Protea Farm 1

The garden has burst into full spring colour. I am glad that we chose a temperate part of Australia to live in, there is nothing better than watching the plants burst into life after winter.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

We are now officially Australians, having purchased and installed a shiny new gas barbecue the size of a Ford Fiesta. Can cook a banquet for 100 people on this thing, although so far we have only managed 4 lamb cutlets which looked rather lost on the griddle.

From Protea Farm 1
Kylie and Kevin's offspring reared by the feisty bantam chicken are now fully grown. Ness the expert duck sexer reckons that they are all female ( a different quack than the males apparently ). Glad I did not have to show my veterinary shortcomings by trying to establish gender by examining feathered nether regions.

From Protea Farm 1

The second batch have also been hatched by a bantam, but Kylie is now diligently sitting on a clutch so may manage a brood of her own.

From Protea Farm 1

No snake sightings here as yet, but James dog was interrupted from her snooze on the verandah by a passing stumpy-tailed lizard which caused a bit of a commotion.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

A birthday present from a neighbour was a '12 guinea note'. This translated into 12 fertilised guinea fowl eggs shipped over from Queensland. They were hatched at the local school- the farming and agriculture department have a large incubator- and 6 baby guineas were hatched from the batch. They currently reside in a brooder pen at home. The theory is that they must be handled so that they become tame and bond to your property so that when they are let out for the first time they do not just fly away in an ungrateful fashion. They are however very hard to catch and not too keen on the whole handling thing.

From Protea Farm 1

We also appear to have acquired a Happy Feet penguin pretending to be a guinea fowl.

From Protea Farm 1

Ness is currently away from home attending a 2 week residential permaculture course ( farming for hippies ). More news of this on her return, undoubtedly with grand schemes involving lots of digging and back-breaking manual labour.

Friday, August 26, 2011

life's little ironies

The Royal Vet College Year of 1986 25 year reunion was held this year in Nottingham- that would have been very handy 5 years ago but surprisingly I did not manage to attend. However I now have the Year Book with updates on what my fellow graduates are doing which makes interesting reading. One vet has undergone open heart surgery after contracting MRSA endocarditis secondary to a venomous snake bite. One may expect this risk if working in the Amazon or Outback Australia, but it seems rather unfortunate that the reptile incident happened in deepest Surrey.

Signs of spring are here now after a cold winter, the first sign being the birth of the next batch of lambs. Last year we had 2 lots of twins but Clarrie, Lilian & Peggy have concluded that twins are way too much effort and producing a single lamb is sufficient to book them another year at the Protea Country Resort so to date we have had 3 single lambs with only Woolly left to drop ( all male of course- we can sell the females for a good price so the tally over last 2 seasons 8 males and 1 ewe lamb ).

The pleasure of sitting down to a meal consisting of only food produced from the property leaves a warm fuzzy glow, with all the food miles, food provenance and flavour boxes ticked. Throw in a couple of bottles of wine from the vineyard next door and local cheeses and the 'Good Life' is complete.

From 2011-08-26
Kevin & Kylie the ducks remain romantically involved, but have left the maternal bantam hens to do the hard yards when it comes to child-rearing. We now have a Japanese bantam who is the proud ( albeit rather confused ) mother of 1 chick and 3 ducklings.

From 2011-08-26
Yesterday Ness let the family unit out to stretch their legs and Mum tried to teach the kids how to scratch in the soil and forage for insects. This resulted in the ducklings shovelling up soil in their little beaks until they glued them together, all very bewildering.

We decided that we may have to teach them the rudimentary art of swimming. Now we know where the expression 'ducks to water' comes from. The bantam chick chose to pass on basic water survival lessons.

As the ducks are a meat bird I feel the choice of a roasting pan as their starter pool was a little unkind.

From 2011-08-26
From 2011-08-26
Still very busy with the accommodation side of things. we have 8 children staying this weekend ( why did we take that booking?) so all creatures safely locked away as the feral mob tear through the place like wrecking machines. Must remember to take more bookings by the over 50's who are content to potter about and talk about vegetables.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

catch up

What a long time since my last post. In the thick of the busy season here at the moment, with the Small Farm Field Day weekend upon us. This is traditionally foul weather but today is quite sunny after a frosty start. We will be going tomorrow to look at obscure farm machinery and exotic poultry. Ness is after a large mechanical log-splitter after she sustained spinal damage chopping firewood with an axe last week. Those city folk are powering through our log supply and we will need to look for another source next week, all recently felled trees too green to burn.

The weed man came and approved Ness's weed control programme. It helped that he was the bloke who bought a lovely ewe lamb from us last season and is after more when the girls lamb again. Brian has calmed down and stopped attacking us when we enter his paddock so we assume that he has done his work and the girls are gestating.

Tennis news- our mismatched team managed to get into the Grand Final last week, but were outplayed on the day. Next comp starts on Thursday and I have a new team including a Kiwi and a Russian player, so all very multi-cultural on the Mudgee courts.

Hoping for duck eggs soon- Kevin is getting very amorous with Kylie. They are hopeless mothers apparently so we will try and get the hapless Snowflake the silky bantam hen to hatch them for us. The last crop of chicken hatchlings have mostly grown into useless roosters which have been separated from the others- Ness is sharpening her axe and I fear slaughter is imminent.

The Protea crop has been fantastic this year after a shaky start, so we are giving flowers away by the bucket load. If next year is as good we will get organised and sell some at the local markets.Knowing our luck we will pay for a pitch and the unpredictable plants will sulk and refuse to bloom next winter. Could always sell Ness's amazing pomegranate jam instead.

We have spent a couple of weekends in the comedy 70's caravan in order to rent our place out to large groups, but made an executive decision that we are no longer going to decamp- too cold and nowadays we just have too much stuff so emptying our unit out for rental has become a massive task. Ideally we would like to build a 3rd unit on the property to increase revenue, but funds are tight so it will need careful planning.

From Protea Farm 1