Friday, April 5, 2013

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

We arrived home early evening after catching up with friends, to find that all was not well in our little patch of heaven. Something was wrong and it took us a while to work out exactly what was going on. What gave away that all was not right you ask? It was the angst ridden bellowing coming from one of the cows....high on the hill the sound was heart rending as it rolled down the hill and into my ears. With five babies safely delivered, but two cows still due to deliver my initial thought was a cow in labour. Imagine the images running through my head as I tried to second guess what might be needed to rectify that situation. Luckily for us it wasn't nearly that drastic, but things still needed addressing. So as dusk fell we headed off in the vehicle to find which cow was in trouble and why. I didn't realise this until seeing them do it earlier in the week, but just like some wild animals, like meerkats, deer etc, cows often leave all of the calves in the care of one cow and wander off to feed for the day. The nursery are safe in the care of their nanny and the cows are free to forage as far afield as they like knowing their babies are safe. I have observed this behaviour all week, with the newest mother relegated to nanny duties each day. This evening however the cows hit a snag. By taking a short cut up the hill to the high paddock, where they tend to gather for the night as the weather gets cooler, the cows came up to where the calves were. Only to find that a long stretch of fence separated them. So, imagine if you will, hungry calves, fractious cows, a steep hill and a fence. Not a good scenario. By the time we arrived on the scene, not one, but two of the cows were showing signs of major distress. Translate this as major mooing (angst ridden to the max), the cow version of hyperventilating, and due to the steep terrain the risk of falling off the rocky ledge which was what was stopping the cows walking along the fence line to meet up with calves further along the ridge. With everyone so upset, calves agitated, cows trying to push through the fence as they tried to get their footing on a rocky outcrop we needed to come up with a solution, so on to Plan B. Back we went to the farm house, got the keys to the shed, grabbed another nifty farm gadget (there are so many tools and gadgets designed for specific jobs on the farm I am continually amazed) and headed back to the top of the hill. By this time it was dark, so by torchlight we cut the wires on the fence and I watched in amazement as the whole panel of fence folded back and collapsed on itself. Apparently it is designed to do this. The reality though is that it opened up an access point in the fence about 20 metres long. Well beyond what was required. Never mind. Interesting thing about cow mentality - seems that rather than the cows taking a step up and joining the calves in the top paddock which is where they have been overnighting all week, the cows waited for the calves to slide down to them before hurrying them down to the bottom paddock. Seems they couldn't get away from that evil hill quick enough. As for the nursery nanny. She took her calf off to safety as soon as we arrived on the scene! Our task for the morning before flying back to Brisbane? Fence repairs! 5.4.2013

Farming is not for the feint hearted.

Today I learnt more about what real farming is all about. While all week I have been helping around the farm, assisting with whatever job needs doing, from checking livestock to fencing, it has all been fun. Today I saw the results of two years of fleece collection and the marketing process. It has finally hit home. To be a farmer you have to have a job. I mean something other than farming to pay the bills. Farming is something you do for love, not money. Unless you have land of such a size that you can realistically farm quantity and retain quality at the same time....ethical farming needs space to flourish. We started our day early with the task for the day being to bale the fleeces from New Years Eve, then take them to the wool buyer. Two hours later, after collecting and baling the fleeces, then helping to recapture an escaped ram we were on the road with 5 bales of fleece in the trailer. This is two years of product from our flock. The wool buyer pays between 10c per kilo for daggy wool to $7-9 per kilo for top quality Merino fleece. Black Faced Suffolk's are considered eating sheep with their fleeces a by product. With wool quality less than Merino or Merino crosses, around the $4 mark is what is paid for a kilo of fleece from the Black Faced Suffolk's. Slightly more for lamb fleece as would be expected. Bales range in weight from around 90kg to 180 kg depending on the quality control of sorting and dag removal etc. The local rural newspaper only reinforces my thoughts, with the Tasmanian Country advising that DAFF has increased its shed registration fees from $500 last year to $8500 this year. From what I can work out the Government has increased the fee for those producers wanting to export their product, in this instance cherries, so that they comply as a registered exporter. That is a huge increase in fees. Perhaps DAFF should rename themselves DAFFY! We arrived home mid afternoon with a trailer load of mulch to add to the garden. I had started weeding during our Christmas visit, only to return and find that weeds were again taking over. So, mulch is the best option to try and control the regrowth in our absence. Luckily for us Harold called in to say hi, so while he shovelled mulch from the trailer to the wheelbarrows, Frank delivered them to me and I raked them across the garden beds. So much quicker with three on the job - so thanks Harold! The cold beer at the end of it went down a treat too. I am still admiring how good the garden is looking after our efforts. 6.4.2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Animal spotting at Cradle Mountain

You know it's cold when the temperature drops so much that fresh wombat poo results in the wombat's bottom emitting steam. He didn't seem phased in the slightest. As for me, seeing a wombat in the wild was so amazing I didn't care what it was doing! Judging by the deposits of wombat poo everywhere Cradle Mountain is wombat heaven. I now know how to distinguish between wombat poo, wallaby and pademelon poo. Quite an achievement for a city girl. This wombat was in fact our second wombat sighting. The first being the day before as we walked from our accommodation, via a path to the restaurant for dinner. The wombat was just out of reach, munching happily on some grass. You could hear his teeth tearing chunks of it off. Very loud given there is no ambient noise in the wilderness. The wombat continued doing his thing, quite happy for us to watch him at such close quarters. What I would have given to have my camera with me! With no Optus signal I wasn't even carrying my iPhone. Bummer! For the record, Telstra 's signal was great! We had our own little pademelon family living beside us. Every time we set foot outside our door, we saw various members of the family. Mum had a joey she was still feeding, even though it was too big to climb into her pouch. The best it could do was sit beside her with its head snuggled into her pouch. Quite beautiful so see nature working so close to hand. These little guys do not seem to mind us humans at all. The closest animal encounter we had however was the brush tail possum who came to visit. On arrival our room had a wooden bowl containing four red apples within it. On departure the bowl was empty and the only evidence of the apples was one core and two pips - somehow missed in the feeding frenzy. What happened was this....after dinner, with light rain falling, we decided to test out the hot tub on our veranda. So, with a beautiful view of the stars, no neighbours and the quiet of the bush, we sat for a while, appreciating the night. Some time later, we headed inside, locked up, showered and settled down for the night. At approximately 2.00 am we both woke to hear weird sounds coming from across the room. We got up, put the lights on and there sat the biggest possum I have ever seen. They breed them big in Tassie, much bigger than Brisbane brushies! She was happily sitting on the coffee table, munching on an apple, with apple debri littering the table beside her. So, other than the challenge of encouraging her to go outside, all I could wonder was what had she been doing for the four hours we had been sleeping, and how had we not noticed her sitting there as we came through from the hot tub? Yikes. We got the door open, and with gentle encouragement from a pillow, and with apple chunks thrown outside the door for incentive she finally moved on and went back outside. She was promptly joined by a juvenile possum who judging by the food stealing techniques on display must have belonged to her. Who else but a mother would let someone take food from their mouth. So, fruit bowl 0, possum 4! 3.4.2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cradle Mountain

We had to run an errand which saw us heading to Devonport. Perfect way to cap off the 2.30 hour road trip was to detour to Cradle Mountain before heading back to the farm. Much as I love the farm, mini adventures and overnighters is what Tasmania is all about, so at the first hint of an excursion I was in. Cradle Mountain is truly beautiful. A large section of unspoilt wilderness. Perfect for exploring and walking. For those adventurous souls there is the Overland Track - a walk of 80 or so kilometres that takes anything from 5 - 7 days. Each year over 8000 people walk this track. For those more sensible souls there are a range of day walks ranging from 30 minutes or so to a couple of hours. Given weather conditions the choice is yours. The set up to support visitation is quite impressive and given the number of people visiting the area, the behind the scenes coordination goes a long way to making things viable and minimising the human impact on this Heritage listed wilderness area. Even in April, with drizzle and wind, the weather was cold and far from pleasant. That said everyone just got in and enjoyed the scenery regardless. We still took photographs and some of these I think will still capture the raw beauty of Cradle Mountain. Appearing through the fog, rising behind Dove Lake I can only imagine how impressive this mountain is in clear weather. For me though, the Boat Shed and the rainbow we saw more than made up for any disappointment at seeing Cradle Mountain itself disappear into the mist. I have never seen a rainbow arc a full semi circle like this one did. It was an awe inspiring sight. One that you could never fully imagine without having seen it for yourself. 2.4.2013

Easter on the farm.

Easter in Tasmania is glorious. The days have been sun filled, with a gorgeous breeze. This has allowed lots of time for exploring and working around the farm. It seems that there is always something to do and I am happy to get in and help with whatever task is out in need of doing. Yesterday's tally included some fence repairs, washing the Jeep - lots of fun with a gurney and bubbles, some gardening and as for each day we are here, checking on the livestock. The flock of sheep has been reduced somewhat as it is hard to properly care for animals when you are not on site. That said, the Black faced Suffolk's remain as does Lily. As one of the hand raised lambs, Lily holds a special spot on the farm acting as our mascot. She comes when called, ever hopeful for a hand out, but the rest of the flock follow her, and I can now identify Sweetpea and Jessie. No mean feat when they look so similar. They too will come over to say hi, but move away again if there is no treat on offer. The cattle are looking well, and Boris the bull has done his job well with four calves so far this season. Molly and Mindy have a little black calf each, Carmel has one also and the panda faced cow has a little calf the spitting image of herself. All in all, farm life is pretty special. I always feel a million miles away from any worries or concerns here. Nature works her magic to refocus how you look at life, which is pretty amazing.