Sunday, August 12, 2012

Country girl at heart

After one week as a farm girl I have learnt a number of things. Neighbours are paramount to survival.  Good neighbours make all the difference to how you fit into a community.  They help to celebrate what is good in life, and support you when things are hard.  Country people should be valued.  They take you in, welcome you and accept you for who you are.  They are also there to help when the pump breaks, when the dogs need feeding and you are out of town. Sheep might be silly, but rams can be downright mean. Don't turn your back on a bull....there is no point tempting fate. Quad bikes are great fun....but have the potential to be dangerous. Cleaning out the chicken shed is hard work....even with Harriet providing moral support. Water to the house runs out when you are loading up the car to head off to the airport. There is nothing better than a pot of home made soup on a cold winters day for lunch. Two pairs of socks are better than one. Dogs too love to snuggle by the fire. Chooks eat just about anything....they are e ultimate recycling machine. I am a country girl at heart....but I suspect I knew this already.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The girls

Today I took the time to clean out the chicken house. There are 13 girls of various colours and 1 very handsome rooster. I think they enjoyed having some company and I know that I enjoyed their hanging around and supervising the work in progress. Apparently chook poo is very good fertilizer - so every shovelful was removed and flung down the hill to fertilize the grass in the substantial pen these girls call home. With clean boxes I am expecting great things in the egg laying department. Even though it has been a cold day, I worked up a sweat - must be the manual labour. Rain has set in now, with sleet coming in, so there may just be more snow coming. Fingers crossed.

Lamb update

We started off carving the lamb, to use later for dinner. Got a bit carried away, so we ate early. The lamb is sooooo good. Now I am busily working out what we can do with the left overs....after I go back for seconds of course. Roast lamb sandwiches for lunch and lamb and feta pizza for dinner perhaps? Sounds good to me.


I have decided that unless you are a Black Faced Suffolk sheep, or one of the dogs with their winter coats grown in, the trick to survival in this temperature is to layer. So, with a top temperature of 7 in the day time, and the wind at any time making it drop by another couple of degrees, then this is the only way to go. As a result I look something like the Michelin man. But I am warm. Today's tally is two pairs of socks - one wool. Slippers or gum boots - depending on whether I am inside or out. Thermal leggings and jeans, thermal top and skivvy. Then, when we head outside I add a beanie - choice of three. Gloves - the best purchase ever from the Anaconda sale. Then last of all a coat. Try hiking up and down the hills in this get wonder I enjoy the quad bike so much. The house is snug. While the wind is howling outside we have had two fires going all day. With 5 in total this seems barely enough, but they are incredibly good. One runs night and day. This is in the mud room, where Holly, Benny and Tia reside in warm luxury. This room is adjacent to the kitchen, so between the fire and the oven when it is going, all is toasty warm. The other fire we have had going is in the lounge and dining area. Another combustion stove it too is pretty efficient - combined with the afternoon sunshine streaming in the window it makes for the perfect spot to settle to read, and even do a little mosaic. The deadline is looming for the September show so needs must. The challenge though is keeping wood up to the fires. There is a wood shed a dozen or so steps from the back door....and numerouse times a day I venture out with a basket to transfer logs and kindling to the house. The hard part is done with the timber already, cut, collected and stacked so helping to bring it in seems the least I can do. I made pea and ham soup for lunch today. With fresh bread it made for the perfect lunchtime fare. Best thing is there is more for tomorrow. Dinner this evening is roast lamb from the farm. I am in awe of farmers. How do they achieve everything they need to accomplish, look after animals, cook, clean, and all the other jobs that never end. I know I am doing it easy, but the insight makes me appreciate those on the land.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tasmanian birds

The other thing keeping me occupied here in Tasmania is the opportunity to sight birds that are not usually seen in Queensland. So far amongst a bunch of those I can't yet identify I have seen a flame robin at the Blowhole, a blue winged parrot near the dog line at Eaglehawke Neck and a New Holland Honeyeater at Port Arthur. Should have brought my field guide to Australian birds with me, but given I came via Moranbah didn't have much excess space for books. Doh. So, there is a swamp hen, wrens and shag type birds yet to be identified. Should keep me out of mischief.

Quad bike queen

Today I learnt how to ride a quad bike. After going for a ride on a quad in Julia Creek it was only a matter of time before I wanted to give it a go myself. Today I had that chance - and boy did I love it. We toured the property with me riding pillion. Basic horse riding skills came to the fore as did motor bike pillion skills. No head butting, grip with legs to hang on, lean in for up hill and back for down hill. All good and lots of smiles. Sam came and went as he pleased, then I took over the controls as work needed to be done with Frank driving the tractor. We retrieved a bale of hay and delivered it to the cattle setting up a feeding station by the dam. Very picturesque and beautiful. Needless to say, I stayed safely on the quad bike while Boris the bull and his girls had a feed. No more slogging it uphill in gumboots for me - quad bikes are definitely the way to go....and yes, I had the safety talk, so realize they are now accountable for more farm accidents than just about anything else. Still smiling though, especially when Sam pillions with me.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sam the Border Collie

One thing I am learning as I pick up elements of living a rural lifestyle is that there are work dogs and pet dogs. Working dogs hold a special place on farms. Never coddled, they do however hold an important place in the structure of the farm, and are indispensable for the input they make. Sam is no different to the working dogs of Keswick. He has his own quarters and he works to earn his keep - but he too was excited to see someone at home, running circles and making sure we both knew just what it meant that he was out and working. A bit too excited to settle easily it was still evident that he is well trained and a smart dog. That said, he was happy to frolic in the melting snow, rolling in it and licking it until his tongue lolled out. Tomorrow we will take him out as we tend to the cattle and sheep. Bales of hay need to be distributed, animals fed,fences checked. So for this evening,it looks like an evening settled in front of the fire - having brought in wood and kindling and ensuring that all fires are stoked and warming the house - even the fire in the wet room. Built to contain coats and dogs. A quiet end to what has been a special day.

Farm girl

This morning we headed from Hobart - after a weekend of luxury, posh restaurants and the Salamanca Markets, out to the farm. Located in Tunnack at 500 metres above sea level, after the weather we had experienced overnightin Hobart it seemed viable that temperatures would drop and that there might be snow. With light falls on Mount Wellington it bodes well for further out of town. How incredible that my first sight of the farm was of a snow dressed wonderland. The drive in was exquisite with signs that there had been a solid fall in the early hours of the morning. The roadside ran by drifts of snow with the hills white as far as the eye could see. Roofs and cars alike, covered in a mantle of white. Overwhelmed by the natural beauty, and the remoteness of the location, I was never going to not love the experience of discovering what was on offer. Black faced Suffolk sheep on the hills of the home paddocks, Angus cattle not far afield and a welcoming committee of Tia, Benny and Holly. First though, to unpacking the car. Groceries purchased in Sorrell, unpacked into the pantry and freezer. Dog food decanted into their freezer, with a fresh chicken treat for each. Feed the chickens, collect the eggs (5) and then a cup of tea. Bags unpacked, washing done and a long walk to explore the snow laden fields. With a gentle afternoon of sunshine, the snow began to melt away, but not before the opportunity to do a happy dance and make a snow ball - or two. The first time I saw snow was in Europe, so for this city girl, to see snow in Australia was a wonderful experience. I am not sure who enjoyed it more, me or Sam the Border Collie. Either way we both came back from our walk smiling....and it wasn't just my Dysart beanie making me laugh.

The dog line

Eaglehawke Neck is another remarkable site. Located on the way in to Port Arthur it made its name historically as the point where the dog line was situated. A natural part of the island of Tasmania! Eaglehawke Neck represents a point where the land mass narrows down to a small wedge of land nestled between Pirates Bay and Eaglehawke Bay. A peninsula exit point from the site of Port Arthur, the line of defense against potential escape for convicts was the dog line. Yes, as it sounds, 18 large dogs were chained at regular points across the land mass to alert of any potential passing by non authorized personnel. At times dogs were also secured to floating pontoons to continue the line across the water. A sculpture now marks the peninsula - of a large, mastiff type dog. Not for the feint hearted. As a dog lover, I cringe at the impact on both man and dog.

A conflicted beauty.

The beauty of Tasmania overwhelms me. Flying in we traversed the East Coast of Tasmania, low enough to see the mountains and coastline. It was an awe inspiring sight...matched only be the drive out to Port Arthur the next morning. We passed the Barilla Oyster beds that we flew over, then headed out through Eagle Hawke Neck. A slight detour via the blow hole and Doo Town where each house sports a name with a "Doo" focus. Doo Nix, Nil2Doo, Humpty Doo, MuchADoo, Doo F--- All. Each raised a smile and prompted some additions, Poppy Doo being my pick. Port Arthur is a complex site. With a base knowledge of the history of the site I was taken aback by just how beautiful the location is. It was quite difficult for me to reconcile the natural beauty of the location with what was the history and reason for being of the original function. This was only add too as we walked the site, visiting the Seperate Prison and learning mor elf the history and how it impacted on more than 250 000 people. Add to that the understanding of the events surrounding the massacre in 1996 and this is always going to be a destination underpinned by sadness. The natural beauty of the surroundings does much to balance the scales and the empathy with which the memorial has been developed makes it quite an inspiring place to visit. With our visit being a Sunday, you couldn't help but think of a previous Sunday and how for some families theirs would never be the same ever again. A few minutes in quiet contemplation seemed to be in order. There will never ever be anything for me that surpasses the crimes man inflicts upon fellow man.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Moranbah versus Dysart

This is a hard call to make. Having been to neither location previously, and knowing that training was based in Dysart I made the assumption that Dysart was a larger town. Perhaps not. We flew in to Moranbah Monday afternoon, found Coles and Target Country enroute to the Library. After a warm welcome from Miss S we headed out of town towards Dysart. Staying at the County Roads Inn, I am thankful to be anywhere but a donger. The town is full of them. They are literally everywhere, whole cavalcades of them lining the sides of the roads and forming small estates. Reminds me of a song my Grandfather used to sing - Little Houses. They were on a hill side and all made of ticky tack. Sort of sums it up. Traveling regionally, you are aware that the experience is make or break dependent upon the company you keep. As far as travel companions go I could ask for none better than Jennie. When we were in Cloncurry J had phone issues. To clarify, there was no Vodaphone signal, then no phone in her motel room. In Dysart she has no Vodaphone signal, this time she has a phone in her room. Problem is it rings so often - at all hours of the day and night that she has pulled it out of the wall. Reception want to know nothing about a rogue phone so the mystery of the non existent caller remains. The drive from Moranbah to Dysart was interesting. While the landscape is perhaps more stark and harsh than some I have seen in my travels, the opportunity to drive through the Peak Downs Mine was a worthwhile experience. The road literally traverses the middle ofthe mine. Quite disconcerting to see "Tonka Trucks" heading straight towards you. Their size is so immense you breath a sigh of relief to release the are on an adjacent road, rather than the same one you are traversing. I am happy to report that I have maintained the tradition of supporting the local community through purchasing some memorabilia. This time, not a t-shirt but a beanie. With the intention of heading off to Tassie on my return to Brisbane it seemed to me to be a well thought out purchase. Either way, I blame J. I wouldn't have been in. The shop if she had remembered to pack her belt. For the record, yes she bought a trendy, multicolored replacement. Venue of choice for our evening meal has been the Dysart Bowls Club. Good food, reasonable price and help yourself to vegetables and salad. Pretty perfect, and amazingly good for such a remote location. All smiles here! My red boots have been raising eyebrows. From wearing them to traverse the building site for the new Dysart Library, to the drunk who declared that he loved my red's safe to say, no one in town has seen anything quite like them.