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

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the weed man cometh

The busy season is really upon us now with some great group bookings over the next couple of months. Last weekend was our first one in Dorothy the retro caravan. This was something of a challenge because it was the coldest weekend so far with night temperatures around minus 4 degrees C but we cheated and hooked her up to the electrics in James & Georgie's shed so the fan heater kept us defrosted, and thanks to Ness and some fine work with the silicon sealant she was watertight ( Dorothy not Ness ).

We received an official letter this week from Mid Western Regional Council declaring an 'Intention to Inspect for Declared Noxious Weeds'. Vince the Chief Weeds Ofiicer will be sending a Noxious Weeds Inspector round in June to assess the degree of infestation. He enclosed a handy pamphlet with pictures of serrated tussock, St John's Wort, and many more. On a brief inspection of the property we appear to be successfully growing the entire list and all are thriving so we may be contravening Order 20 of the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 slightly.

Ness has been whizzing around on the quad bike with litres of dangerous chemicals spraying anything that looks even mildly noxious. She has added a special red dye to the spray so we will be seen to be making the effort.I hope we get brownie points for our endeavours in the summer when we removed a massive infestation of St John's Wort by ripping out each plant by hand in blistering heat.

Despite the helpful pictures I am sure I would not recognise African Lovegrass or Khaki weed if I fell over them ( and probably have ) so it should be an interesting visit.

Friday, May 6, 2011

anniversary

We have just celebrated our 2 year anniversary at Protea Farm, and were looking back at the photos we took when we arrived. So here are a few 'before and afters'

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after

From Blog before and after
Because the place has evolved over the last 2 years we fail to notice the dramatic alterations until we look at the pictures. It has been a busy 2 years.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

kylie & kevin

We have acquired yet more creatures. Ness spent a couple of days building a bijou duck residence and 2 days ago Kylie & Kevin arrived.

From 2011-04-06

From 2011-04-06

After 24 hours of skulking in their new house they were brave enough to venture out onto the dam.

From 2011-04-06

It is now pitch black and 8.30 at night and she is failing to get them back into the fox-proof house. If Mr Fox gets a good feed tonight then project duck is doomed!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

on the wagon

Thanks Lynn for the reminder that the blog is seriously overdue an update. Usually I have a picture or 2 of recent escapades but the last few weeks have been singularly uneventful.

We have had high drama at the Mudgee Tennis Club with the unexpected resignation of the President and departure of several committee members. I hope this is not directly related to my first term as secretary, The last week has been dominated by running around organising extraordinary general meetings and trying to drum up support for the committee. I do not think that I am a natural politician or lobbyist so do not have high expectations of next week's EGM.

On the veterinary front I have been required to complete more continuing professional development in order to maintain my license to practise so spent the weekend at a course on canine ultrasonographic imaging. Despite the dread of being held captive in a small space with 30 other vets it was extremely enjoyable. All the male Aussie vets without exception wore checked flannel shirts and jeans ( James the Pommy vet stood out a mile in his pencil striped tailored shirt ) and the whole gathering put me in mind of a James Herriot/1950's attitude of 'give it a go' and 'anything can be fixed with penicillin and a few bits of bailer twine'.

Brian the ram is now a testosterone driven monster. It appears that the ladies are coming into oestrus and even Ness cannot enter the paddock without being armed with a big stick. The harem are playing hard to get at the moment.

My New Year resolution was to shed some weight so I have been on the wagon for 3 months. Not easy when surrounded by vineyards, but pleased to report that my target of losing 10 kg by Ness's birthday mid April has now been reached. Tennis court coverage has improved dramatically and a new wardrobe of smaller garments has arrived from Marks & Spencer and Debenhams UK. The plan is to lose another 5 kg by the end of June but it is getting harder. Will power and myself are uneasy bedfellows.

Autumn has hit and the evenings are getting chilly. We have had to break into the firewood pile and supply the guest cottages which is a sign that the busy season is upon us.....just as well as we need the cash or I will have to buy a checked flannel shirt and revisit my previous profession.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

not a post for vegetarians

I have been away in Sydney at a Veterinary behaviour conference ( no, NOT the behaviour of vets, but of their furry charges ) so Vanessa took advantage of my absence and reduced our flock number by 2. The female lamb has been sold to a neighbour for breeding but the boys are for the freezer.

Being cheapskates we decided to perform our own carcase butchering which despite diagrams and a video by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is trickier than it looks. The legs are easy enough but trying to produce chops/cutlets/racks of lamb using a meat cleaver and an old saw from the shed provided interesting end results.
It is very handy having friends with a cold store and an equipped catering kitchen.

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1
The days are getting colder here now after a blistering few weeks and autumn is just around the corner. We have 'Nick the Builder' on site at the moment knocking out windows and putting in new doors before the holiday season picks up again, so it is a busy week.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

old farts in caravans

We have been missing 'Geoffrey' the mighty Winnebago, so today we took delivery of 'Dorothy', a fine example of a 1976 Australian built caravan.

From protea

A magnificent 11 foot long, weighing in at 640 Kg. A quality aluminium product, with specs as advanced as a baked bean can. The electrics are rather dodgy, the fridge does not seem to work on electricity or gas, and the 70's interior is retro in a bad way, but we may grow to love her.

From protea

Meanwhile I have taken the plunge and spent today at the Opticians learning how to use contact lenses. Although I am not at all squeamish about ramming my fingers into my eyeballs, the dilemma is that of needing glasses in order to see the little blighters. Once lens is precariously balanced on the end of the index finger  remove your glasses. At this point you cannot see your finger or your eyeball. Peer blindly into the large magnifying mirror and insert lens up left nostril. Repeat for right nostril.

Second problem is lens removal. Poke thumb and index finger into eyeball and squeeze. Sit back and cry for 5 minutes then try again as it has fused with your cornea and refuses to budge. Make note to self to trim fingernails from thumb and index finger. Make second note to take out a contract killing on sadistic optician who refuses to let you go until you have repeated the procedure 5 times per eye.

Having failed the practical test for lens removal by use of manual dexterity the optician handed me little rubber forceps. "Nobody can use these, not even me" said the exasperated sadist. Years of surgically removing corneal foreign bodies with fine instruments came flooding back and lens was whipped out in a nanosecond. Remainder of consultation was spent training optician how to use the rubbery micro-tweezers.

So now I have my box of disposable lenses and my tweezers. All this torture due to the fact that playing tennis under floodlights wearing multi-focal lenses is impossible. When serving or setting up for an overhead smash you tilt your head and look at the ball through the reading lens part of the specs. Instinctively you duck and fold your arms over your head to avoid being decapitated by a large yellow water melon.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

heat wave & extreme gardening

The last week has been viciously hot with temps close to 40 degrees and a hot dry wind. This may seem like an ideal time to skulk indoors with the air-con running but Ness's program of 'extreme gardening' is unstoppable. Terry the tree man called last week and chopped down a large gum tree that had curled up its toes during the wet spell, so we have been chain-sawing logs for winter fuel. She also borrowed a vicious brute of a mulching/chipping machine so we have felled and chipped several sick and ugly conifers and converted them into garden mulch.

Terry also brought his stump-grinder ( a machine I had never heard of before we became rural Australians ) and annihilated over 20 large tree stumps that have been cluttering up the place for years so now the lawnmower and quad bike can access all areas without complex slalom manoeuvres being required.

From Protea Farm 1

Stumps like these are no more

From Protea Farm 1
We are also making the most of the abundant water supply from Lake Protea and have been digging channels and running irrigation piping to the newly planted trees.

Jules & Vanessa came for their annual Australia Day visit- a tradition which involves cooking, cocktails and canasta and also the annual sheep muster. The sheep and alpacas are now worm-drenched and vaccinated. For feline specialists their large animal handling skills are developing well.

Wild excitement regarding 'Duck Island'. Every night at dusk parent birds have started arriving with ducklings in tow and swimming out to the island for nightly refuge from foxes. A great result.

From Protea Farm 1
James dog is now fragrant after major dentistry, but her fruit addiction is causing problems. Every day she throws up plum stones after a raid on windfalls in the orchard, and as the plums are fermenting very quickly in the heat I suspect that she is permanently four sheets to the wind.....hard to tell with James.

From Protea Farm 1

Above- the biker chicks!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

recycling...with grout

The local recycling centre/rubbish dump down the road has a shop which sells other people's cast-offs and junk, and Ness has become very adept at spending a few dollars and revamping furniture items.

This week has been spent in the grouting/tiling outdoor workshop dabbling with mosaics. I think the bit she enjoyed best was smashing the tiles to pieces with a large hammer, although getting covered with grout came a close second.

From Protea Farm 1


We now have 3 outdoor tables created for under $20.

The one below has been named 'the exploding hamster'

From Protea Farm 1

...and this is a lonesome land-locked seascape

From Protea Farm 1

From Protea Farm 1

The design for the mosaic was by Ness's 11 year old niece