Saturday, December 26, 2009

...and Ness ends up in the gutter

As the rain continues to fall Ness decided to get onto the roof and clear the gutters to ensure maximum water collection. She was ably assisted by Coco the amazing spaniel who decided that catching mud and wet leaves from the sky was the best game ever invented.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

the best Christmas present ever.........

A slightly belated Merry Christmas to everyone. Hope those in the UK are enjoying all the snow.

We had the best present we could possibly have hoped for....60mm of steady rain. The grass is sprouting, trees are clean and happy, and the vegetables are growing visibly. It is raining again now, so we have had twice the rainfall of last December in 48 hours.

From Protea Farm 1

We had great company, good food and wine, and spent the day happily watching the rain.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

almost Christmas

The last 2 weeks have flown by. Still very dry so most of our time taken up with garden revival. We are now drawing water from one of our bores, which smells like sulphur and is possibly not the best stuff to hose onto the plants, but they will just have to put up with it as the alternative is death by dehydration.

We are harvesting cucumbers, courgettes and spring onions at the moment, and the tomatoes are hanging on by their little green skins.

We have 1 house booked out over Christmas, but have held the other one back so that friends visiting from Sydney have somewhere to stay. Also we will be minding the pig farm for some of the time, as the Caspars are jetting off to the UK for the festive season.

Tennis has been suspended until February, but hopefully I can persuade one of the visitors to venture onto our court at some stage over the holiday. Most frustrating owning a tennis court and never getting the opportunity to use it.

No more news and no exciting tales to tell, but all is well at the crispy homestead.

From Protea Farm 1

Above scary massive bee swarm in a shrub outside the house last week- fortunately they moved on the next day.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

Completed the trellis beds for the tomatoes and peas this week.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

Cucumbers and butternut squash.

From Protea Farm 1

Above water melons, rock melons and pumpkins grow in a mulch of Alan and Marley wool and poo.

From Protea Farm 1

...and the trellising goes up for our little secret drinking grotto. The planting consists of 2 bay trees and a Californian lilac, so should be a delightful shady area by next year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

going green

First solar hot water unit was installed today, the next one will be fitted next week. Lovely free hot water- we may be frying, the garden may be crispy, but at least the sun will be working for us in electricity bill reductions.

From Protea Farm 1

tennis chic

The picture above shows the victors and runners up in the tennis competition- note the coordinated sporty pink team on the left, and the somewhat more freestyle garb sported by my team on the right. Also note a rather marked height disparity!

From protea

Friday, November 27, 2009

......we get some rain

After spending a week driving into town every day with a 1000 litre water container on the trailer to collect town water in a frantic attempt to keep a crispy garden alive we managed 7mm of rain on Thursday- a piddling amount, but the shrubs and trees have gained a little respite.

With a full complement of guests we also had to get 'Graham the tanker' to deliver us 26,000 litres of drinking water, so now we can flush the toilets and shower daily which is a treat.

Our next project is the installation of solar water heating in the 2 cottages which are still using fossil fuel mains electricity, so the panels and tanks are on order. The water situation is ongoing, but the bore pumps are being overhauled with a view to installing a holding tank for the bore water ( slightly salty, but should be OK for stock) and the grand plan will be a mix of grey and bore water for garden relief.

Obviously all this green Save the Planet stuff means that we will no longer be able to afford to eat, but we will have freshly grown vegetables and cheap local wine so all is not lost.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

game, set and match

There was an emergency meeting at Mudgee tennis club last week, and the ladies of Division 1 decided that the overwhelming heat meant that the tennis finals should be postponed. The Division 2 ladies are made of sterner stuff ( allegedly ) and elected to play regardless. This turned out to be great sport for the hardened Aussies watching an unfit, unacclimatised, overweight Pom struggle to the point of double vision and nausea! So, we managed a commendable second place due to my weedy northern hemisphere constitution- and the opposition were better players which helped.

The club is an interesting hotbed of politics and undercurrents of discontent. The Div 1 ladies appear to have total control of the place, and entry into the inner circle is based on ability, social standing, and whether your bum looks good in a pink skirt. I think on a points system those 3 parameters will ensure that I remain with the gang of outcasts in Div 2 in perpetuity.

heat stroke, bush fires and record temperatures

It has been an action packed week in deepest NSW. We are currently experiencing the hottest November for decades, with temps in excess of 40 C for over a week with strong and horrendously hot winds blowing in from the west. The weekend was particularly alarming as we became surrounded by bush fires, a couple way too close for comfort. Last night Mudgee set up a temporary accommodation centre for people in a neighbouring town who were advised to evacuate by the rural fire service who were unable to contain the closest fire.

We have no water here , so our bush fire survival plan is now to elect not to protect the property and to pack up the dog, release the chooks and stock, and leave.

The garden has been fried despite our efforts to drive into town daily to fill a large water container and use it on the critical plants- too many casualties, not enough water. Today the needs of the guests take priority and we have ordered a delivery of 3000 gallons of water to top up the tanks.

It is cooler today, and showers have been forecast, but outside there is a haze over the hills and an overwhelming smell of smoke.

Exciting times.

Monday, November 16, 2009

tennis update

We found an eligible player last week ( good old Bev ) so we have advanced to the grand final on Thursday. Temperatures are now 40 C ( 104 F ) so the match should boil down ( pardon the pun ) to the last person still alive on court wins.

There is apparently a club rule banning play once temps exceed 40 C so the match has been scheduled to start at 8.30 am. Anyone who knows me well will realise that I am a non-functioning being at that time in the morning, so unless I am supplied with large doses of caffeine at each end change I suspect the result is a foregone conclusion.

Ness has been getting up at 5.30 am to dig fence posts before it gets too hot for any outdoor activity, and then has an afternoon siesta. Just looking at yet another mountain of topsoil that was delivered today makes me feel exhausted, but as I type this she is digging, potting and pottering outside. Mad dogs and kiwis!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

pretty flowers

Another busy week has passed us by, but not a lot to report. Temperatures now in the mid 30's and all creatures and plants alike are wilting. 'The boys' are appreciating their radical hair cuts, no sign of a lamb from Lilian, and little Wooley is sprouting cute baby horns.

Ness is just about managing to keep the garden alive with a water butt to collect grey water from washing machine, and we are looking into installing a complete grey water system to harvest all water from sinks/baths etc.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

The alpaca wool is being put to good use. We are saving Marley's because it is quite good quality and could be utilised in some handicraft sort of a fashion, but poor old Alan has hideous elderly animal skin and dermatitis, so his wool is full of scabs, skin flakes and assorted bits of crusty camelid.

It does however make a fine mulch, so the cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes are growing happily in their snuggly duvet.

From Protea Farm 1

The large resident flock of choughs are also enthusiastically sorting through it for nesting material, so alpaca nests are the 'new look' in avian interior design this season.

Monday, November 2, 2009

alpaca shearing

The boys have been feeling the heat so yesterday Ness took them over Ormiston because Mick had offered to shear them while he was shearing the merinos. I suspect that it is an offer he will not make again under any circumstances-there were major clipper issues, alpaca wool being very different from sheep wool. Clipper blades were sourced, sharpened, altered, re-sharpened, replaced, and there was much cursing.

Then the matter of alpaca restraint came in to play-Alan is an old hand, but Marley was singularly unimpressed with being tipped on his side and restrained while the clipper chewed through his coat. In the end Donny ( an expert in all things alpaca ) was called in to assist, and with a combination of hand shears and clippers they have rendered the comedy animals even more ridiculous.

From Drop Box

From Drop Box

From Drop Box

From Drop Box

From Protea Farm 1

Thank heavens for self-shedding sheep.

From Protea Farm 1

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

anyone for tennis?

Well it was high drama at Mudgee tennis club today- the division 2 ladies' league came to an end, and despite being 2 team members down for most of the competition my depleted team topped the league and have a place in next week's play-offs. However a team member is unable to play, and the adjudicators ( all the posh ladies in division 1 ) have had a conclave in order to establish the rules regarding the use of a reserve in a semi-final.

The conclusion is that the only people eligible under the complex rules, sub-section Z, paragraph 93 ( 'absenteeism - player or players, for a total of 17 consecutive Thursdays') are the Archbishop of Canterbury, Elvis, left-handed ladies called Doris, or Gladys Trellis from Perth WA.

Will keep you posted.

dry spell gardening

Ness has been transforming the rather neglected and extremely dry garden outside the top cottage and has gone for the dry river bed look with drought tolerant planting.

From Protea Farm 1

This involved shovelling several tons of gravel, so her fencing muscles have had an extra work out. I believe that the expression over here for advanced muscle development is being 'ripped', so I can confirm that she is well and truly ripped.

From Protea Farm 1
The ubiquitous wine barrel completes the look, and we are hoping for minimal maintenance once we have planted more grasses and spiky stuff. All we need is a blue bird bath for all the little honey-eaters that hang around the grevilleas.

Friday, October 23, 2009

feeling hot hot hot

Temperatures in the 30's this week, and plants and animals alike are feeling it. We need to get our bore pump fixed up in order to keep up with water demand, as the dam is low and the drinking water tanks lower.

The cacti are thriving.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

Little Woolley is now outdoors with Peggy and the other wailers, and skipping and looking very cute.

From Protea Farm 1
Despite the heat Ness decided yesterday that the unsightly wall/pile of rubble that used to support an old shade house needed to be dismantled and moved rock by rock up the hill to provide a hard base for the garden she is redesigning for the 3rd cottage.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

The rocks have gone, another snake habitat has been eradicated.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

a new wailer

If we needed any concrete reminders about why we no longer do veterinary work then the weekend events did the job nicely. In a cold barn at 3 am, sleep-deprived and covered in poo, blood and dried placenta trying to persuade a very confused and stupid ewe that the small woolly thing that had appeared from her nether regions really did need to suck on her udder.

After 3 days Peggy has finally developed maternal instincts but is not producing very much milk at all, so little 'Woolly' is getting bottle feeds every 3 hours. We should have guessed that things would not be straightforward.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

Woolly is an awkward little creature and despite being starving hungry still kicks and struggles and hates being bottle fed.

Lilian meanwhile has seen the whole process and looks like she is in total denial re pregnancy and showing no signs of lamb production.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

more gardening

Windy, cold and drizzly here. Not enough rain to significantly fill the water tanks, but enough to help the plants along. We have been shovelling piles of top soil and mulch and generally working on soil improvement and water retention.

I have never been a fan of cacti, but the ones Ness bought a few months ago are flowering and look very impressive so maybe I will be converted.

From Protea Farm 1

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


We have now been in the country for 2 years. Not sure where that went, or how we ended up being landladies in rural New South Wales.

We are also celebrating a weekend of rain- only 13mm but tanks and gardens looking better for it.

It is the first week of school holidays so flat out here with families arriving and departing and our house cleaning speeds have moved up a gear.

The garden is a mass of pink pig-face, and veggies are thriving. We even have baby olives on our olive trees. I am sure Ness will knock up an olive press out of bits of old tin and string before it is time to harvest.

From Protea Farm 1

The sulphur crested cockatoos have returned and are strutting around trying to impress the ladies.

From Protea Farm 1

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

still no rain

Still no rain to speak of, water tank levels increasingly critical. It has however got very cold again, with frosts and bitterly chilly strong winds so we are burning logs again.

Unfortunately Clarrie, one of the wailers, had a still born lamb this week. She seems very happy to have her figure back, and is stuffing her face with hay- grass levels in the new paddock also low due to lack of water so stock being supplemented with hay and pellets. An expensive exercise unless we actually manage to get a live lamb or two-Peggy and Lilian are fat, happy, and unwilling to partake in anything vaguely gynecological.

Chooks laying well, so inventive recipes with eggs a regular occurrence.

It is a public holiday weekend coming up, and the start of the school holidays, so we are fully booked and will be busy for the next 2 weeks.

Not much more to report for now- first shed has been erected and fastened to the concrete base. Absco 'easy to build' sheds............are not!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the day the world went orange

There were wild winds over night, and at 7 am in the morning it was unusually dark- on venturing outdoors the cause of the darkness became apparent. The skies were orange.

A massive dust storm from the west had blown in covering everything in orange dust. The sheep were orange, the blossom on the trees was covered in a layer of grit, there was filth everywhere.
Sydney also went orange. NSW has never seen such an extreme phenomena before.

We ventured outside to open the large shed and put the stock indoors, the poor things could barely see through gritty eyes.

Picture below of an early morning cyclist struggling over Sydney Harbour Bridge.

From Protea Farm 1

Spent the day indoors as the winds blew and the dust swirled.We thought we had left the red dust behind when we moved here. Little did we know that the wind would dump it all over us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

waiting for rain

Despite the forecast of rain and storms we are still very very dry here. We even tried an outdoor job today which usually causes an instant downpour- laying a concrete slab for the new woodshed- but the rain stayed away.

James dog put her signature paw print on it for posterity.

From Protea Farm 1

The wailers are looking pregnant now so there should be the patter of tiny hooves soon.

From Protea Farm 1

The rockery is no longer home to the evil reptile, and our tulips are blooming.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

Friday, September 18, 2009

frog invasion

We had a little rain this week, and prior to the downfall small frogs appeared on the verandah, causing Ness to become apoplectic particularly when one sat outside the window looking in.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

She is however not as concerned about the black snake that has taken up residence in the rockery. I spotted him yesterday and got irrationally cross about his existence so bombarded the shrub he was hiding in with rocks. This resulted in a dead shrub and snake disappeared. This morning he was back basking next to the mangled shrub and we watched him slither into a small hole in the depths of the rockery.

This nest is right next to the back door of the adjacent cottage, so we need to do something about it. Not sure whether we could just concrete the opening and hope he does not have a back door, or whether more violent action is required. Not that we would harm a snake, being a protected species and all.

All gardening has been suspended.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

garden makeovers

The weather is hotting up, and guests are starting to use the rather dilapidated wood burning outdoor barbecue so we decided that we would try and revamp the broken old tiles and make it look a bit prettier ( option 2 being demolish and rebuild).

From Protea Farm 1

We opted for a new shiny wipe clean aluminium top rather than retiling, so armed with tin snips and industrial strength cement the face lift began.

From Protea Farm 1

Still not a thing of beauty, but we will test drive it this week and see how it performs.

The rockery is a blaze of colour, mainly due to a splendid plant which goes by the rather strange name of 'pigface'

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1
The raised beds are almost complete, so we should be able to pack the angle-grinder away this week- a large number of bush fires are started by sparks from them apparently.

From Protea Farm 1