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 spiders...is 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 stick...run 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'............help 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 www.mobilebrothels.com.au 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 Australia....so 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.