Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Christmas eve, sun shining again. Georgie's family have arrived, and I am off to Lithgow to collect some friends coming over for Christmas from Sydney. Planning a barbecue tonight, so fingers crossed for a rain free evening.


Thanks for reading, have a great Christmas, will update when the hangover has calmed down- we are planning winery tours from Boxing Day onwards.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Bright sunshine, so outdoors today moving newly purchased piglets out of quarantine and into the weaner paddock- all went without a hitch.

We acquired the piglets, a new Berkshire gilt ( Lilian ), a sow ( Andrea ) with piglets, and a bunch of scrappy looking mongrel weaned piglets. Unfortunately, having just got the 3 bottle fed runts ( Dolores, Dale and Dorothy) back with their mother and siblings we now have an even more runty rubbish one, so back to bottle feeding- worse than parenting infants.

We trundled off to Bathurst with the trailer to collect them from a guy who was giving up pigs to concentrate on horticulture- garlic, soft fruits.

The house was built in 1848, and has been restored to its original beauty, with the heritage colours throughout. Even the wallpaper when pieces were discovered under all the old paintwork was sent to London to be identified, reprinted and exported back for hanging. Evil looking geometric red and gold stuff, but true to the identity of the property.

The hardwood panelling was fantastic, although owner was unable to clarify what wood it was, and all the furniture in keeping with the building. The gardens were hilariously English, even down to the formal rose garden and box hedging.

Now only 140 acres, but was originally over 1000, which qualified the family ( with 13 children ) for 3 convicts to work the land. The 3 convict cottages still stand and are used as guest houses. Details below if you have approx $4 million to spare.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Drought, what drought?

Weather getting silly now. We are very happy for all the farmers, lovely and green and lush here, crops growing well and all the dams and water tanks are full, however last night we were buffeted by the wind and torrential rain and the camp site is awash. Cabin fever set in this morning, and the long term forecast suggests a lot more of the same including Christmas. Four people in a wet van a very unfestive thought.

We went for brunch with Anthea ( a vet ) and her husband and family- they have recently completed a straw bale house which was an education for them and the builders involved. It is a fantastic property, sexy curves around the windows and internal doors, striking earthy colours on walls. Stone internal walls housing the wood-burning stove (from locally quarried stone) and feature walls in several bedrooms work really well. The whole look is Australian colonial meets Cotswold cottage.

There have been problems with the rendering on external walls. A long story, but suffice it to say that mud rendered walls in the Mudgee climate slide off into a pile on the floor when it rains, so still work in progress.

Sewage is dealt with by a wormery, with the grey water providing irrigation for the garden and orchard.

By the time we got back, the dried up creek that cuts through the farm had turned into a raging torrent of a river, and all the dams are full and overflowing. The ducklings have matured and recently become rebellious about being locked away safely at night. Now they are swimming from dam to dam and there is no way we can catch the little blighters. We spotted 2 foxes during our evening stroll, and fear they may get a duck dinner before we do.

Meanwhile I have got myself a locum job in the New Year- not quite sure how that happened (red wine was involved). Will need to get a bicycle to commute into town, fingers crossed I will not need a wet suit and flippers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ormiston blog

Georgie has finally started her own blog, click the link below to see Ormiston Free Range developing.
Please note the hard working fine looking farmhands digging channels for water pipes in a happy smiley fashion.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas beetles

I was always aware that this continent contained more than its fair share of bugs, spiders and venomous reptiles, but living outdoors certainly confirms that statistic in an unpleasant and alarming fashion.

The local newspaper carried a headline story this week about a local woman bitten on the foot by a brown snake while she was planting broccoli. If you ever needed an excuse not to plant brassicas I cannot think of a better one.

She lived close enough to a hospital to survive the ordeal, and was reported to be rather cheery about the whole experience, although she did comment that in future she would always wear sturdier boots while gardening. Very stoical these Aussies- I am sure those of us from the northern hemisphere would have sworn never again to source brassicas from anywhere outside Waitrose, sprayed the garden with a biological weapons strength defoliating agent, concreted it over and invested in thigh length chain mail garters.

Also, it seems somewhat lacking in imagination to name the second most venomous snake on the planet 'brown snake'. They could have tried a little harder-the 'run-like-hell-or-you-will-die brown snake' for example.

Certainly has made me more cautious in the garden, and I have ceased to stroll over to the veggie patch wearing only my thongs ( the footwear formerly known as 'flip flops', before you conjure up unpleasant images of me gardening in inadequate drawers ).

The wet weather seems to have stimulated some swarms/plagues of nightmare bugs, and the screen doors of the camper are an entomologist's paradise. As soon as night falls and the lights go on we are besieged by vile creatures, the current ones being large beetles.

They are big heavy things which ping off the van like bullets, and it hurts like Hell when one interacts at high speed with an unsuspecting cranium. They are however stunningly beautiful, glossy metallic gold on the dorsal surface, shiny purple underneath....the sort of paintwork which would cost you a few thousand extra on your VW. Apparently they are a sub order of the scarab beetle know rather festively as the Christmas beetle. They would make a stunning set of Christmas tree decorations.

work in progress

Getting there- Coco and James dog featured. Piglets to follow soon.
Meanwhile back at camp 11pm this evening the possum was back, happily moving from tree to tree. He is quite fearless. We have christened him 'Rolf'.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

techie problems

Spent a day indoors- rain, rain and more rain again, over 25 mm in less than an hour followed by relentless drizzle. Plan was to learn how to post video clips and slide shows on the blog, and have been round in circles trying to format clips, post on you tube and convert into html for posting. Got nowhere; I take back all I said about IT specialists because I think I need one.

So, it is back to ginger piglet pics until I crack the problem.

Good news is that earnings now up to $0.76, so thanks for that.

G'night possums

Just got back to camp after midnight ( been on baby-sitting duty ). Very hot day and still pleasant outdoors so we were enjoying a coffee outside before retiring to bed when we were disturbed by a scurrying noise- a possum ran right past us and climbed the tree next to the campsite.

Waited in the dark for a few minutes to see if he came down again; watched a shooting star display, then down he climbed and scuttled off.

Cute ears, black tail- Ness reckons he was a juvenile due to size and coat condition, assuming NZ possums the same as the Aussie ones.

This may well explain why James dog has a few nights when she barks frantically, we had assumed it was nocturnal kangaroos, but maybe possums abound.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Get rich quick?

Thanks to the vast readership for their support- earnings from the google sponsorship to date $0.03. This could potentially provide an annual income of $3.65, so pretty exciting. Please note the addition of a handy google search engine, so those who have google as their homepage could use this blog instead ( thanks Soo for your forward thinking on this one). Would like to say that I have become fully conversant with html, but it appears that cut and paste makes light work of all needs. What do they pay these IT specialists for?

OK, I have mentioned google four times now, that may me a corporate whore. Not sure about the ad link for 'bikini babes' wallpaper, but enjoying the horse herbal arthritis cures and the alpaca breeders in NSW.

Stinking hot today, and Georgie has been spurred on by the initial success of the veggie garden and bought tons of new plants. Another bed has been planted up, and eagerly awaiting the borlotti beans ( the butter beans almost ready to harvest- admittedly it is a veg I loathed as a kid, but maybe homegrown in the sunshine my palate may have altered).

Now officially too much rain : the wine growers getting alarmed due to the upsurge of downy mildew on the grapes. Will be interesting to see how the organic growers cope with it. I dealt with it here by buying a vat of noxious chemicals and spraying the offender to oblivion. I reckoned that all the loving care I put into reviving an ailing line of vines was not going to be destroyed by a wretched fungus.

Still drinking our way merrily through our Frog Rock bargain wine cases- $5 a bottle, and drinkable. Should be a good Christmas. The winery regularly discounts bin ends, and the owner told us of their famous returned stock sell out - a large shipment was returned in the wake of 9/11, and locals still discuss the Bin (Laden) End bonanza.

For the first time in ages it is a dry and warm evening so we are sitting outside the Winnebago as I type this ( drinking a fine Frog Rock Semillon), and a couple of kangaroos have just hopped past, only about 20 feet from where we are sitting. Life is tough.

My mission has been to post great pictures of roos, kookaburras, blue wrens, and parrotty things, but they are elusive creatures and I have failed miserably. Cheetah munching on a gazelle were much easier to capture in Africa, but I will persevere.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


It has been a busy week for Vanessa as she has taken on the task of planting sunflowers all the way down the driveway between the olive trees. The drive is over 350 metres long, and each patch is being planted by hand- a lovely rustic scene, the peasant woman in her bush hat lovingly sprinkling seeds over hand-raked tilth. It is doing wonders for her tan and her biceps.

Obviously the tractor would have made the job easier, but it is jealously guarded by James, who is madly fencing and sorting out the pig paddocks before the Mudgee Fine Foods Committee arrive next week for an assessment visit.

The rain continues, so the seeds are already germinating, despite the efforts of the sulphur crested cockatoos and galas to consume the lot. Ness is tempted to get a gun licence and patrol the plots heavily armed. Gala pie for supper- probably goes well with the glut of courgettes emerging from the veggie patch. Georgie is in the kitchen at the moment baking a chocolate and courgette cake ( desperate measures ).

When we were vaccinating ( by the way, since publishing the delightful picture, I am now officially 'The Vaccinator'- come on horse, make my day ) we visited a far flung farm and were invited onto the verandah for a cold drink. The entire place was littered with spent shells, the explanation being that the house overlooked the fruit trees and the family spent every day shooting any hapless feathered creature that attempted to get a feed. Three rifles propped up outside the front door confirmed this.

The mind-set that could make anybody think that in a vast open space they could succeed in controlling the problem of birds eating the fruit by blasting them into oblivion beggars belief! Decided not to point out the futility of it all to a man with an arsenal a survivalist would be proud of.

If we are still here in a few weeks ( which depends on when customs finally decide our gear is not a risk to society and release it ) then we will post impressionist pictures of sunflowers en masse nestling between olive trees, being harvested by people in straw hats drinking absinthe.

By the way, I have subscribed to Google's Adsense scheme, whereby they post ads on this blog 'appropriate to content', purely to see what content they deem relevant. After this post, I suspect firearms will feature heavily. All I require of my vast readership ( which is in danger of hitting double figures soon ) is to click on the ads constantly, thereby generating enough income for me to buy the petrol which drives the generator which allows this blog to continue.

Visit our sponsors today!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas Unpacking

James's locum stint continues to keep him well away from his comfort zone. He got a call this morning to visit an alpaca having birthing difficulties. A quick google of 'dystocia alpacas' confirmed that a baby alpaca is called a 'cria', birthing difficulties are rare, and a quick article on how to GA and perform a caesarean if required was skim read and digested.

Then off we went. I rather like alpacas, although they are technically 'large' animals they are very manageable should you be a vertically challenged vet who is slightly scared of big beasties. They are calm and woolly with comedy coiffures and exquisite eyelashes.

Apart from a bit of spitting and grunting, the mother-to-be was very docile, and with a bit of manipulation in utero the cria's bent neck was unravelled, forelegs located, and we delivered an ungainly and rather badly folded offspring. Small hands a definite advantage for this procedure.

On the way home we discussed the fact that we did not know the term for a birthing alpaca (lambing, calving, cria-ing?) so we popped into the practice on the way home for enlightenment, to be informed the term was 'unpacking'. Call me cynical , but I was sure this was a wind-up.

However, google is my friend, and the terms for birthing an alpaca are : 'unpacking' or 'criation'.

So, what a festive visit, we assisted in an unpacking and witnessed the criation.

Just another Sunday

Just another normal Sunday- chop down a tree for kids to decorate, have a leisurely breakfast, castrate a goat.

Dora's kids have been growing rapidly, and the male is becoming something of a handful, so we decided the time had come to diminish his manhood.

James has the use of the local vet's car whilst he is locuming, so we rummaged in the boot and found the usual junk festering in a large animal practitioner's car; cow shit, rusty old instruments, baler twine, assorted bottles of highly dangerous and/or lethal chemicals ( some with labels ). We selected an assortment of almost appropriate surgical instruments ( one up from string and bulldog clips anyway).

Being Brits we were not keen on the Aussie method of neutering, namely hold the beast down, rip them off and feed them to the dogs, analgesia and anaesthesa not required, and found a cocktail of drugs we deemed suitable. Once goat was heavily sedated and local anaesthesia had been injected into the region in question, there was merely the dilemma of surgical technique. So we flipped him upside down, pretended he was a large dog, and job done.

We may have overdone the 'light' sedation a fraction, but I am sure he felt better for his 5 hour sleep post op.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pig weaning

The first 2 batches of piglets have been removed from their mothers and put in the newly fenced weaner paddock this weekend. Plan was to lead Mums and kids from maternity suite to new abode with the inducement of food, but they refused to budge so we resorted to Plan B- rugby tackling 15 large screaming piglets and slotting them over the fence before being savaged by an irate parent. It worked in a haphazard and noisy way.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

More rain

Severe weather warning yesterday, so we hoisted the awning, packed the barbecue and outdoor furniture and battened down the hatches. There was a lot of rain, but 'no deaths and nobody drownded'. A day for trying out our new dvd player and some in house entertainment.

Our ship has docked in Sydney, so awaiting customs clearance ( a lengthy and expensive business). This means we will soon be reunited with such luxury items as clothes, cutlery and crockery, and a large pile of audiobooks on cd. We have decided that we are getting too comfortable here, J & G and the kids are great and we are getting seduced by the lifestyle and twitching whenever we pass a real estate agent's window- so time for the wagons to roll and move on before we get rooted here.

All advice has been not to head north as Queensland will be too hot in the summer, so we are going to set off southwards towards Orange, Wagga Wagga and Canberra. Ness's relatives based in Wagga so another freeloading opportunity!

The grey nomads, along with students and general transients, travel this route as it is a fruit-picking trail, with casual labour available for those with accommodation, their own sturdy boots and a vat of factor 50 sunscreen. I have visions of a 'Grapes of Wrath' scenario, with caravans of desperate 50-something Winnebago dwellers fighting in line for gainful employment in the heat and dust.

There have been a few problems with the pigs recently. The pink chav's babies were all born with ASBO's and there has been a spate of fighting and thuggery resulting in the 2 ginger piglets developing facial abscesses and ensuing fly strike and maggoty faces. In an attempt to separate the thugs and Mums there was also an incident involving a falling gate and a fatality due to internal injuries.

Gingers and a weedy runty pink piglet now being bottle fed, which is time-consuming, they are demanding little devils. James dog is in love with the piglets, and I will get a pic of her with them when they cease to look like 'elephant pigs' and the dead flesh has sloughed off.

Meanwhile the veggie patch is amazing. I thought that Ness and Georgie were being highly optimistic when they dug trenches in the bone dry dust and started planting a few weeks ago, but the first zucchini were picked and eaten yesterday, and beans, squashes, spuds, lettuces, melons, onions, leeks etc all thriving and looking fantastic.

We need to plant 44 more olive trees at the weekend to complete the driveway. The ones planted in early Oct are already bearing fruit. Have also planted a beautiful pomegranate tree, a lime tree, and some blueberry bushes, and fed and mulched the resident citrus trees. My ambition when we do settle is to grow a pomegranate hedge, the bright red flowers are stunning.

James is doing some locum work for the next 3 weeks for a local guy, mainly large animal stuff so he was somewhat concerned when called to the local stud to stomach tube some foals with diarrhoea. Not an easy task when you have been a small animal vet in London for several years. Fortunately all went well, and the foals worth a million dollars were decent enough not to snuff it.

He also saw 2 snake bites at the weekend- one dog dead on arrival, the other dog comatose and did not make it despite supportive treatment and antivenom. There are extra bags of intravenous fluids around the house now in case Cocoa or James dog get bitten, and I am getting paranoid whenever either of them root around on the ground or look at brown sticks.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Horse play

So, every morning we are issued with a work list by the staff at the DPI office.The theory is that we do a run in a specific area, but with large patches of no mobile phone reception ( sometimes remedied by standing on a gatepost on one leg at the top of a hill, sometimes not ), poor maps, limited information re location of horses, remote properties, and poor compliance from owners regarding being present with horses confined, the practice is challenging.

Footnotes provided on work list not always overly helpful, such as:
'7 year old Clydesdale stallion, unbroken, never been handled, loose in paddock.Owner will not be present, OK for vet to vaccinate'.

So, we trundle across the field towards the beast, trying to look friendly, waving carrots and the bit of old string that the helpful owner has left us to capture it with. This technique to date, has resulted in a high failure rate.

We are further hindered by being unable to take any rope or head collars onto the property, for fear of cross contamination, so unless the horses are wearing a head collar, or one has been provided, we have nothing with which to attempt a capture. James got an owner to show us how to make a head collar out of old string, and became very adept at knitting them on demand. I think that his macrame skills are a true talent, and he should consider making those weird plant pot holders with integral beadwork to sell at craft fairs.

The serious implications of an owner not being present while we manhandle their horse became all too apparent on one visit- the horse was supposed to be confined in a yard, but had obviously escaped and was loose in a field and very badly injured, lame on one foreleg and gashed all over the other one. Contact was finally made with the owner, and we learned a few days later that her vet had to shoot it as the leg was broken. Had that happened, after we had blood tested, swabbed, microchipped and vaccinated, I suspect the owner would have had a very strong case against us for causing the incident. We became even more wary of risking our own or the horse's well-being after that call.

A memorable vist in the brutal heat of the day was to a far flung outpost owned by an elderly lady who was somewhat intoxicated. She owned a herd of unbroken 'miniature horses' , a stallion and 7 mares, all in a smallish yard with corrugated iron shed/lean-to. A stampede ensued, and although the creatures were not huge, they made up for it by sheer numbers in an enclosed space, and utter bloody-mindedness. None had head collars, so armed with our trusty bit of old string we ventured into the fray. To be helpful the old lady tottered over and shut us both in the metal shed with the herd and locked the door.

I have never been locked in an oven with a herd of wild horses before, and would not reccommend it, even as an extreme sport. James wrestled, I jabbed, old lady yelled encouragement from other side of the door, horses bled, we all sweated enough to resolve the local drought conditions, and I think James was lucky to get out alive. Pity the poor sod who has to go back and give them their second vaccines.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Do not scare the horses

Strange how things turn out.I would never have imagined that I would be out in the middle of nowhere vaccinating horses anywhere, ever, let alone in the stinking hot environment of Dubbo NSW.

Australia is fighting an outbreak of equine influenza- a virus the country has been free from until an incident with a stallion from Tokyo and poor vigilance at a quarantine station near Sydney ( same prison james dog was incarcerated in).

Now it is spreading like wildfire, and the government has decided to attempt an eradication program, by ring vaccinating and containment. It is not a serious disease, and in the UK and USA horses are vaccinated , but with a general election next week I suspect it is a political move to woo the rural voters. There are tight movement restrictions, and a mandatory vaccination regime has been introduced in many areas.

Quite honestly is is like pissing in the wind, with wild horses escaping the vaccine, illegal horse movements, and over such a vast area it makes the foot and mouth control in the UK look like a walk in the park.

Costing approx $500 per horse, fully government funded, it could be a very expensive waste of time, but it gives us vets something to do.

Unfortunately full biosecurity measures need to be enforced, to avoid any inadvertent virus spread, so we have to park outside the property and don boiler suits with hoods, face masks, gloves and wellies before entering on foot. No mean feat in 35 degrees- the longest distance encountered from gate/mailbox to the property was 9 km.Needless to say certain rules were modified as we went along. The old couple at the aforementioned property proudly told us the house was so secluded due to its previous use as a marijuana farm!

The equine influenza diet is proving more successful than The Atkins Diet- chasing wild horses around paddocks in the gear in these temperatures very amenable to weight loss, with no gym subscription to pay.

James has been doing the work on and off for a few weeks now, and was being paid by the DPI (Department of Primary Industries) who provided him with 'helpers', ranging from jockeys and farriers ( who are unable to work due to the movement ban and biosecurity issues) to disinterested illiterate teenagers. He has now gone freelance ( better pay ) and is working through a local practice, so needed a helper who was experienced in handling horses and able to tackle all the paperwork.Instead he got me.

Horses are big and scary, my views on that remain unchanged.However, how the Hell do you expect any animal to behave when 2 people dressed like that traipse across a field towards them armed with large needles and with malice aforethought.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Back in Mudgee

Arrived back in Mudgee yesterday after several extremely wet days in Richmond- the small farm expo was not unlike a county show in the UK; wet and miserable.

Richmond, in the Hawkesbury river flood plain, is a strange place. Lots of flash houses and equine properties, polo playing and the like.When we were there a few weeks ago it was so dry it was impossible to believe the place is prone to flooding, but it was easy to imagine on the second visit, the place was swampy with all the damns overflowing and the river level much higher.

The scenery is unusual, with the majority of the extensive river basin flat and green. It takes a while to realise that the place looks wrong, until you work out that there are no grazing animals, no trees, nothing but short grass- the whole area is thousands of acres of turf farms.

The drive back over the Blue Mountains was completely different from 5 days before, as the colours had become autumnal. The tall densely packed eucalyptus trees all had new leaf growth, which was orange and red, like enormous poinsettias. Blue skies, hot weather, spring rain and colours we associate with autumn.

I am off to earn an honest crust tomorrow- vaccinating horses in Dubbo for a week. Well, assisting rather than primary attending vet, but it will be interesting. Someone a couple of weeks ago lost a finger in an unbroken stallion in a cattle crush incident; I will try not to lose any body parts.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Finally got round to updating the blog. Weather has been rather grim ( as I am sure all those back home will be delighted to hear!), cold and wet.

We decamped from the farmyesterday and headed to Richmond to see Mary, Nick & kids. They have found an amazing house and are hoping to be in by Christmas. They have kindly had the foresight to buy a property on several acres with a heritage guest cottage, so we can upgrade our freeloading from campervan in the practice car park to luxuries such as full-sized beds and non-plastic toilets with sewerage facilities.

Nick has been forced to get the veterinary tomes out of storage and have a crash course in goat medicine, after seeing one last week. Over dinner last night Mary and I recounted simultaneously our single goat fact: namely 'cloudburst' , when a goat post mating shows all the signs of pregnancy ( distended abdomen, lactation etc ) but passes full term without producing progeny, only to 'give birth' to several litres of fluid at a later date.
Nick, who has not been qualified as long as us, decided to file this wisdom in the ' old git useless and probably fabricated veterinary facts' folder, and disregard it immediately.
This morning his first patient was a supposedly pregnant goat who was overdue to give birth and appeared to have an abdomen full of fluid.
There must be a moral there somewhere.

We are now at our first campsite- provided by the RV centre who are doing the alterations on the Winnie tomorrow. So glad we are not paying for it- row upon row of caravans and campers, over 240 pitches, pissing down with rain, and toilets and showers which are reminiscent of school field trips as a teenager. Feels like a bank holiday in Clacton-on-Sea.

Still not decided about Fragrant Farm- second visit clarified a few issues and clouded a few more. According to the council, our plans would come under the auspices of a 'trailer park', and would only be granted if there was no objection from the neighbours ( ie the 2 properties you can see without the aid of binoculars ).

Q. Fancy a trailer park next door mate?
A. No thanks

Tim the estate agent did tell us 'off the record' that the guy selling the place was not well liked by the local community. We were not unduly surprised, he really is a miserable old bastard, and a man who could not be less well suited to the hospitality industry. Tim reckoned that if we proposed a supercasino, with naked transvestite cabarets hourly throughout the night, they would embrace it as long as there was a change of ownership. Not sure we share the sentiment, and bottom line is that we could break even by renting the properties, but cannot make a go of it without 10-15 camper pitches.

Plan B would be a farm shop and chilli farm, which is rather woolly and ambitious. Now researching growing chillies in NSW- there appear to be several good reasons why people do not!

Meanwhile we will sit here in Clacton listening to the rain on the roof of the camper and watching Neighbours- Oh Brave New World!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fragrant Farm

The rain has finally stopped, and last 2 days ridiculously hot again. James went off on Monday to vaccinate wild equines, so of course last night Lucy, the first pinkie, decided to farrow. I swear they wait until I am the vet on call before they maliciously break their waters.

By 10 pm there were 5 piglets, and this morning the head count was 11.

Meanwhile we have been spending a lot of time mulling over plans for a possibly disastrous real estate purchase. We viewed the property 2 weeks ago- a 25 acre plot in wine growing country, with a 5 bed house, a 2 bed holiday rental cottage, a shop, and loads of outbuildings ( or, in Aussie estate agent speak- 'benefits from abundant shedding' ).

Comes with 2 donkeys, 2 geriatric ponies, a pet deer ( used to be a petting zoo ) and several aviaries.

The plan is that it would make an ideal camper/caravan park- the site is flat, the views are amazing.We would also rent out the 2 properties. I am still working on the figures to see if it could be viable, meanwhile Tim the casual estate agent is arranging a meeting with the council to see if a camper site is a possibility.

I realise that this was not the plan at all, at least not until we had finished our travels, but the plot is fabulous.

Mudgee has a population of 8,500, is less than 4 hours from Sydney, has 250,000 tourists visit annually, and the camp sites here already are far from great. We are looking at the eco angle, so we now know more about composting toilets and grey water recycling than we do about pig farming.

Really, the main appeal is that all our immediate neighbours would be vineyards, olive plantations and gourmet restaurants.

Watch this space.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More rain

Many Thanks to Fi and Wayne for the amazing website:

Very frightening that such a site exists. I rather liked 'Are we there yet?' , 'Me-and-Her-in' , and VIAGRA (Veterans Ignoring Age Going Round Australia) as possible names. Well worth a read.

However, we may well just go with 'Finesse' unless further inspiration is forthcoming. Dry dock has been delayed for a couple of weeks, so still time.

Been touring around the area today- 40 +vineyards within 10 Km, and still not managed to stop at any. Intend to remedy that tomorrow. A couple of towns recommended in the tourist guides proved to be less than exciting, despite the gold-mining museums. Hicksville NSW, with only the tumbleweed and duelling banjo soundtrack absent.

Ness found a fantastic pottery in the middle of nowhere ( as only she can) and purchased some amazing plates and dishes. Des and Trevor were fab, and gave us a full tour of their very bizarre workshop.

Visit their website, if only to read the 'about us' feature page.

No rain today, but a mere 30 degrees. Another impressive thunderstorm last night we all sat on the verandah, sipping wine and watching it. The kids had to don wet weather gear and run around in the rain.

Had kangaroo for dinner, cooked on the barbie. Will report back when we have sampled the fruits of the vine.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Let there be rain

Well, after suffering severe drought conditions in Mudgee, invite a Pom to stay and what happens? The heavens open. Very dramatic thunderstorms yesterday, with forked lightning all around and horizontal hailstones. 12 mm in less than an hour, and today storms and drizzle.

Went shopping and town was buzzing with excitement about the rain- very strange to be in a country where torrential rain cheers everybody up. Already the red dust has subsided, and the grass is growing as you watch.

Piglets thriving, so now we are waiting for the 3rd Berkshire gilt to conceive. Despite being with the boar constantly, no result so far. We are politely ignoring the fact that she would rather barge through an electric fence to be with the 4 ladies who arrived last week than accept his slobbering advances.

The 4 pinkies are settling in well, but are fat and bone idle. The Berkshires have a neat and tidy latrine, the pinks on the other hand crap wherever they wish . They have been christened 'The Royle Family'- if they were human they would be wearing shell suits, fiddling their Income Support claims, and flogging hot gear on ebay. Hopefully their progeny will be more socially responsible ( and rumour has it, may also be ginger with white spots ).

Generator working overtime tonight as we are confined to the camper until weather clears- large pile of dvd's to get through, 4 litres of sauvignon blanc for $12- life is tough.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rosie's piglets

Piglets were born last night, so we were up at 5 am to welcome them into the world. All 9 are doing well so far, despite Bev the nosey matriarch muscling in on the act.

Vanessa has been busy creating something out of old scraps around the farm, and built a new enclosure for the baby goslings.

The jerret-built gosling emporium

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Spider encounter

Tense day today waiting for Rosie to farrow, but so far all nesting and no womb action.

Have been warned for several days that there was a 'huntsman' spider in the pig feed bin, and had witnessed the webs but not the spinner.
This evening went to feed the pigs with Georgie, and on opening the bin there was 'Shelob' in his lair. Unfortunately the level of feed had dropped to the point where someone had to climb into it in order to fill the buckets. Neither party was willing.

F: F**k, is that a huntsman?
G: Oh my God a huge spider, look out, watch it, quick run
F: Thought you natives could identify it a bitey one or a kill you one?
G: If it is a funnel web, we will die- I am going back to the UK and never ever farming again
F:...picking up a very, very long stick..... shall I prod it?
G: If it is a huntsman or a funnel web, it will grab the end of the stick, pole vault out of the bin, and latch onto your face in milliseconds.
F: ..prodding spider
S: burying its vast bulk in a layer of pig food
G: if it hisses or runs towards the like Hell

Tale ended safely after a large splat. Apologies to all of a squeamish disposition, and all spider lovers, but that was the biggest spider I have ever seen outside a vivarium, and when a native Aussie is petrified the terror spreads fast...and the pigs needed feeding.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kangaroo spotting

Sat 20th
One of the joys of our orchard in the hills campsite is watching the kangaroos at sunrise and sunset hopping across the fields. We decided last night to trek closer to their hopping ground to try and take some photos.
Well camouflaged in our stupid bush hats, we set off into the twilight- not a roo to be seen. Eventually we both got the feeling we were being watched, and slowly turned round to see 6 or more of them stealthily following us.
It takes a steadier hand and a fast shutter speed to catch those devils when they accelerate, but James dog decided she was up to the job at a pace we have never before witnessed she set off in pursuit. The infirm in pursuit of the uncatchable!

Sun 21st

32 degress again, no cloud. Went for a drive to an auction in the middle of nowhere- livestock, rusty old farm machinery, abundant red dust and flies. Even the locals had abandoned the bush hat and corks idea for sturdier facial meshing bee-keeper style. We hid in the camper while James spent several hours failing to buy anything.

This evening the ginger marsupial hunter actually swam the whole width of the damn to get over to the other bank where roos were grazing. Took a while to retrieve her as she has discovered that the fencing has jack russel sized holes. The roos leap the fence, the dog whizzes through it and off they go into a further paddock. She is now sound asleep and snoring.

Still awaiting news re horse vaccination. James off vaccinating tomorrow for a few days, so our job is to prune the overgrown shrubs and trees in the garden. I will of course be wearing my kevlar head to toe gardening suit having checked the fridge for arachnoid and snake anti-venom.

Keep the suggestions coming for the Winnebago- looks like Susan and Betty have been rejected ( unsurprisingly by Susan and Betty ) and Jason Dono-Van in the lead. My brother the anagram king has suggested ' in a new bog' , but it lacks a certain ring. Mind you, he called our previous house 'Serves U No Ham', so you can see his level of inspiration.

Keep the emails coming- the evenings are long after sundown, especially when lovely new generator runs out of fuel.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Name That Winnebago

Finally getting to grips with the old blog malarkey.

Laptop has a new battery, and in the background our fab new portable generator is humming away providing much needed 240 volts.

Can you see who it is yet? Ness and I in extremely stupid hats planting olive trees.

Four fat pink pigs arrived yesterday ( the plan was to collect six, but James underestimated their size, and at over 200Kg per pig his trailer could not accommodate the full quotient, nor could his car tow them ) .

Competition Time: Name that Winnebago !

Below are pictures of the new mobile abode, who was unfortunately named before we bought her. We are not wildly keen on 'Peace at Last', as it sounds like an epitaph. As we are not dead yet we have no desire to drive around in a palatial coffin. We are hoping that campervans are not like ships ie rechristening them condemns the sailors to a watery grave.

So far Mary has suggested 'Susan' us out here please, or Susan may just stick!
An alternative, due to the fact she has 3 double beds and luxury shower facilities, is to kit her out as a mobile brothel complete with 'Ladies, Ladies, Ladies' paintwork......Visit for an appointment.
Her beige interior has also inspired Winnie BeigeO.

So, suggestions on a website please. She goes into dry dock in a couple of weeks for minor modification so we need a name before then.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pig farming for beginners

It has been suggested that we start a blog as we embark on our trek around here it is. Chapter 1, Page 1.

Once upon a time, in a land far far away the author got writer's block. She also discovered that her laptop battery lasted approx 35 mins before expiring. On the 'to do' list is 1. buy a new battery, 2. buy a generator.

Summary of travels to date: a week in Sydney catching up with friends, pointing excitedly at the Opera House, getting sunburned and eating to excess. Stayed with Mary & Nick ( vets from London ) and their 2 kids- they have bought a veterinary practice in the Sydney suburbs. Nick has already treated 2 koalas and several possums ( I got to see my first possum as a patient, cute little demons they are too).

There is a massive outbreak of equine flu in NSW, and I have registered to work as anyone with a vet degree and a pulse welcome, regardless of whether they know their way around a horse or not. Have not volunteered as yet, but may end up by some weird twist of fate doing some large animal work......too scary to contemplate!

Sourced a large Winnebago, which cost as much as a modest 5 bedroom house over here, sprung the dog from quarantine, and made our first trip in said 23 foot Leviathan straight over the Blue Mountains. A white knuckle ride until we realised that yelling 'get out of my way I am bigger than you' helped enormously.

So, here we are in Mudgee. James ( vet from London ) and his wife Georgie ( from Sydney) and the sproglets Felix and Emily bought a 150 acre farm 3 months ago, and are starting up a free range pig farm . You have to love people who decide to start this sort of venture on land which is suffering the worst droughts for several decades, constant risk of bush fires, and the cost of pork is at its lowest. The sort of friends we seem to attract I guess.

To date the Berkshires include McGuire the boar, Bev and her 7 piglets, Gloria the gilt, and Rosie the heavily pregnant sow. Dora the goat and her 2 kids, and several Australorps ( the Aussie version of the Buff Orpington chicken ). Not to mention the goslings, and baby chickens.

J & G went off to market yesterday to buy more pigs....Australia. it appears, is rather large, so this involves an overnight stop leaving the uninitiated in charge. Fortunately Grandma has arrived to take care of the children, so all our charges are non-human. We were up at crack of dawn feeding and watering, taking the goat out to forage, attending to the neonatal poultry and watering the 50 olive trees we planted last week. Vanessa has created a vegetable patch, and is digging away as I write this.

The farm is a piece of Paradise- stunning views of the Blue Mountains, dams for the dogs to swim in, fabulous weather......and flies. Well, flies and cockroaches, and crickets as big as airships, and huntsman spiders larger than plates, and venomous snakes, and Hampton Court sized ant's nests with inhabitants to match. Did I say Paradise? Saint Patrick should have come here first. The campervan is packed with snake bite items.....antihistamines, adrenaline, steroids, i/v canulae, drip bags and giving sets ( all for the dog ) and when we go up country there will be a $1,000 vial of anti-venom in the fridge.

Will update this when I find out how to ad pics and generally brighten it up for the vast readership.