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.