Early morning

Good morning

Life on the farm has been busy recently. But that is hardly news really. Awake at 5Am this morning a cup of tea in hands, I ventured outside. Still dark. White clouds just visible in the dark shroud the whole valley and the top of the mountain. Chilly and nippy the cold mist spread on the fields creating an eery feeling of the world just about to wake up, emerging from a dream. The birds have not yet started and a lonely wallaby bent over the grass chews some unknown delicacies no doubt. Its ears pricked up. Noise, foot steps, am I worried? Yes, just a little. The smell of the dogs does not bide well for it. Shall I run or stay? I will stay for a little longer then will see how the situation develops. The last few bats makes their way back to the trees and one can hear their heavy flapping as they rush back to their habitat.

The sky has the colour of light grey charcoal and the half moon stands out yellowish and full of blemishes while the stars are getting a little fainter with each minute as the light starts to appear slowly over the horizon. The distinct bands of foggy clouds hover and move slowly across or down till they will disappear with the first rays of the sun. Different picture just from a few minutes ago and ever changing, transforming and continuously metamorphosing.

Invigorating… that little bite in the air. A shawl wrapped around my shoulders I venture in the semi dark morning towards the chicken run. The two dogs trailing behind me wondering what I am doing so early. As I opened the coop, the big and gentle ginger rooster called “Ginger”, flies off its perch and comes next to my feet. He does that all the time when I open the door. He seems to talk and asks me all sorts of questions…a chicken babble which I quickly interpret as: “Do you have any food so early”? But I am not ready yet, I have to open the little coop where the newly born chicks are still sleeping under their fat mother. Yes, Lady Grey is a little plump. Little chirps can be heard muffled by a load of feathers and little heads appear from under mum. They seem to say “can we go out now”? So, Lady Grey starts clucking and they all make their way out of the coop in search of little insects so early in the morning.

The first birds are on the move and their songs echo in the valley. Butcher birds, noisy mynas are the first in the morning concert. The dogs have smelled and are eying intensely the wallaby, ready to pounce, stop a second, wriggle their body and off they go, they are giving chase  Not a hope in the world tho! It scoots so fast that the poor dogs are left miles behind. But the pursuit was worth it. A little excitement so early is not to be missed.

Still my cup of tea  around my hands, a little cooler by now, I decided to meander down the drive for a walk to the pond. The cows were not around at the time, so I guessed they would have been at the back where the grass was greener no doubt. They are not going to miss me this afternoon tho!

The water hens have not yet emerged. The lilies are about to burst in flowers and thousands of little fish dance in circles in the clear waters. The dogs are running and frolicking chasing each other, grabbing some sticks and playing tug of war. Sipping the tea, I can feel the dew on the grass as the morning slowly breaks and to the east the first light shines on the opposite slope… slowly. Such a sense of vastness and serenity. Everything is alive, Away from news and politics, away from scandals and gossips, away from greed and the stock market, the economy, new laws, the internet, Facebook, corruption at every turn, wars in the world. Boy! How much can the mind take? Comparing to the calm and freshness…There is really no comparison. It seems that a part of the world has come to a stop. Just does not exist at this moment. All the noise that clutters your mind during the day appears to have ceased…at least for now. Just silence and a pristine state of being. Just breathing the crisp air that bites your nostrils and is drawn deep into your lungs with every breath. Just to be there and a sense of timelessness engulfs you.

As I make my way back slowly toward the house the first rays of the sun beam their little warmth over the land, just a little cosiness this morning. It is not going to be a very hot day as rain is expected later on. Dogs in tow, I sit down on the bench and soak it in this unspoiled moment. Not for long, John next door is also an early riser and he decided to slash the property next door. The noise of the old diesel motor makes its way sluggishly up the road to our neighbours and breaks the silence. But it is there and that is all. Part of the farm, part of the scene, part of rural living.

Zaina, our latest puppy gives Elsie a hard time. She is fast, mischievous and very playful. Not for poor old Elsie whose Labrador nature (she is rather plump) does not make her a sprinter. Given that her back leg is also injured, that does not help. But she stands her grounds and Zaina has to tow the line and obey her elders.

The colours of the trees now are greener and the tall bamboos sway gently in the breeze. I make my way to the vegies garden secateurs in hand that I grabbed on the table and start cutting the dead leaves from the tomatoes. Uproot the dead eggplants that have withered from some unknown disease. Plant a few seedlings of corn and okra and water the newly planted gherkins.

What a fantastic sensation to wake up to such an abundance of the world!

Time to see if Peter is awake. But not before peeping at the rose bushes and seeing that there are a few dead branches that I happily snip away. A few weeds also. But I stop there. It is already 7AM. As I enter the house, I can see upstairs that the curtains have been drawn and yes, Peter is awake checking his emails.

Cup of tea” I shout from downstairs? “Yes”, he replies. So the water is slowly on the boil and in the meantime I set out to feed the dogs and the cat. Quickly run to the chicken run and throw a few handful of sunflowers for them and coming back just in time for the water to be ready.

Oh! and I forget, I also read a few emails from J who went mushrooms gathering in the woods in England and is preparing a feast for dinner. Time for gym and a nice cup of coffee. The day’s chores and routines are about to get into full swing.

Till next time.

Hot and dry spring

It is hot and windy. The spring winds are dry and the earth is parched. Some rain is definitely needed at this stage. Some plants are already suffering as we can’t attend to the watering of all of them. We are on tank water hence restricted to a certain extend.
What I have noticed in times of stress is all the bamboos that we planted are shedding their leaves. The lawns are full of dried leaves. In our area it could be a fire hazard and can be quite scary.

it is a funny thing to say that all is dry, it is in a way, but our valley is green very green. There are, I was told by old timers around here, countless springs running underground. it is not too far from the truth, because our dam is always full even in times of dryness as it is at the moment. Sure, it does go down a little but never dries out. hence, yesterday Peter used the pump to fill the big tank for the vegie garden. This tank is only for our vegetables and a few plants outside.

The bottle brushes are in blooms and the parrots and there first thing in the morning to sample the first appearance of nectar on the flowers. They squawked all day long and fight with the native Minahs to steal this honey on the trees. Huge amount of turtle doves and crested pigeons have their home around here also, but I suspect very strongly it is because of the chicken run and all the grains that they can scavenged when they enter the coop. They don’t even fly away anymore. Just walk nonchalantly a little way and come back as soon as we go.

The bougainvillaeas (Boogies) are all in blooms and look just stunning and resplendent with their new leaves and flowers. They are a delight and add a superb colour to the garden.

Boogies in Bloom
Boogies in Bloom

Salmon colour boogie

Boogies in bloom
Boogies in bloom

One big mother hen (Lady Grey) a grey Wyandote has hatched a few eggs and we have 4 little cuties running, cheeping, and eating as fast as they could. As if they could not wait growing up. They have found a way to get out of the double wire fence and they mix quite happily with the rest of the flock. As soon as they see me coming they run right back inside. We are just worried that the local python will make a nice dinner out of them one day, so we are vigilant.

Stretching for a drink
Stretching for a drink
Lady Grey and her chicks
Lady Grey and her chicks
Half of the flock running around in the garden.
Half of the flock running around in the garden.

With the planting of massive amount of trees when we first arrived in this valley, we have noticed also an increase migration of native birds. Grey and white pigeons are nesting in the bamboos, rails are frequenting more openly the area of the dam which is lush with native vegetation, the swamp hens have really decided to nest also on the huge clumps of sedge around the dam, the ducks arrive in the early morning for a dip and a flutter in the dam. The other day a huge goanna scampered around the cows. This big lizard is common around here but had not been seen it for quite a while. Cows were not fussed.

Yesterday saw the arrival of the local dingo. The swamp hens , the birds, the ducks made a raucous commotion and started hounding him away. Even our dog got into the chase and the dingo ran across the fields and onto the neighbour’s paddocks at great speed. Poor dingo not a hope around here. He was safe in the other field as John always feeds him.The animals have become very territorial around here.

I know that our little pet Butchie is on a few eggs at the moment. She knows when the dog is being fed and arrives just on time for her evening meal. The only one at the moment. But she is here everyday at 5 o’clock on the dot.

So, yes, spring is here and with it a renewal of flora and fauna. Superb sunsets and the early mornings mist are a feast to the eyes. The days are longer and longer, the air is sweet of nectar and perfume. The crickets have started they nightly din which can be quite deafening at times. The frogs are also croaking more prolifically no doubts looking for mates. As long as they are not cane toads, the scourge of this area.

In all that the body and mind just witness the manifestation of renewal, the beauty of nature, the infinite gift that we are given to see all of this with all our heart and soul. No fights, no lies, no quibbling, no politicians, no crisis, no wars, just a spectacle of natural beauty unfolding in front of us with all it has to offer for us to blend in and enjoy. A true feeling of joy, serenity, calm and peace. If only our mind would keep quiet for a little while……

Till next time.

Off we go

In anticipation for our long trip again, we are preparing like crazy. We found a good house sitter for the time we will be away,  to look after all our animals. This is the hardest part. So many things to think about and to put in place. It is so exciting and at the same time a flory of preparations.

The cows and their calves have found a new home with our next door neighbour who will take them with his herd. That is so nice of him to do so.  He will also put our cows in calf so that when we get back they will be ready to deliver the next set of babies.

Our dog has familiarised herself with her new keeper last week as she came to have lunch with us and get acquainted with everyone. The chickens are going to miss out on all the goodies that they are being served everyday. Bits of meat and left overs. Our house sitter is vegetarian, so not being bits left for them. But I am sure they will be well. I stocked up on grains for them and bought packs of dog food for our scavenging insatiable labrador. She will also be missing out on treats from time to time.

The vegie garden will have also to be looked after. But being winter here, not a great deal needs to be done. I have already planted some peas and lettuces, beans, broccoli. But Magalie will enjoy all these treats as well as all the citrus that are producing abundantly this year.

The car papers have been put in place and all insurances paid. All would have been out of registration by then. Money has been transfered to Europe and suitcases are almost done.

Then, there are all the instructions of what to do in the house. A big list is being compiled with further do’s and don’t.

Gosh! I hope I have not forgotten anything. Presents for the family are packed. Everyone had a special request. Sulma wanted some house items and tea tree oil and not to forget Vita Weats, his special crackers. In Bangkok, tho everything can be obtained some are obviously not there. Always a pleasure to do so. Jaime, will get some local coffee and maybe home made marmalade. Oh! and all the grog duty free for the others. Gee! what else?

Then, a very good friend will be taking us to the airport and some other friends will be picking us up. The airport is so far away and there is no public transport to Brisbane. It is so lucky  that we live in such fabulous community.

Our trip will take us to Bangkok, London, France and back the same way we came from. It is also very convenient that our boys are well placed. One in Thailand and the other in London, while the rest of our friends and relatives will be in South of France.

The excitement is palpable. Everyday we wonder what is that we have forgotten to pack, to write down or to mention. But even if we did, it will be too late. In the anticipation of going we have forgotten twice to roll the rubbish bins onto the road and we had to take it to the tip…a real chore. This morning early, around 5am, I hear the recycling truck roaring down the road…warm in bed I did not feel like getting up. But just a little later  around 7AM, another one passed and Peter jumped out of bed, got dressed in a hurry and ran down the drive at full speed dragging the bin. OOPS! too late, we missed it says he as he got back up puffing. I know I said. You did not run fast enough, outraged…what? I did, but too late. The neighbour told him that second truck was the rubbish truck, the recycling went by at 5AM. Haha! that was the one I did not feel like getting up for and tried to chase it down the drive….gosh 100m in the freezing cold, no way. So I chuckled. Not for me. As I had to take the car for a check up, I took a plastic bag and filled it with some recycling stuff and dumped it in the village….not on the road you may have thought…but in the bins for recycling. So at least some of it got disposed of.

That is what happens when your brain does not work in the usual way. Distraction from the routines and too much feverishness about the trip make you forget the most mundane chores. Anyway, not a big deal after all.

I just hope that everything is in place and even then if they are not, we’ll have to take as it is. Just hope that the dog won’t get too fat, the fish won’t be forgotten and the chickens will go on laying even without all the goodies that Peter provides them every day. The cows will be happy on Ron’s paddock with his herd.

Fish pond

Maybe if I feel so inclined I might write a little when we are away.

Till next time.

Preparations

The weather is getting slightly colder but not quite. And it is time again to think about our big trip.

Part of the excitement is all the preparation  beforehand . I am not quite sure whether I call that excitement or a lot of thinking before going…anticipation. Well it is going to be the usual taking care of the house taking care of the chickens and the cows, ensuring that the hay has been ordered and delivered. Taking care of the dogs sorry the dog. I had almost forgotten that Sam had gone last year.Taking care of the veggie garden. Planting the a few seedlings that will (maybe) be ready when we get back. Ensuring that the house sitter knows the routines and where everything is. Sometimes I wish that I did not have such a menagerie. But that is only a wish, because when I am not going anywhere I love to have them around and looking after them all. Plenty of weeks left to prepare the little goodies to take with us and think up of what we are going to carry. Not much but, it is when we come back that we are going to be loaded…as usual. Lucky Thai Airways is quite generous with our luggage!

Also the small butcher bird that made himself at home… He comes everyday for his little feed. Should I tell the house sitter to feed it or do I let him fend for himself for two months? He did manage well before. I have just noticed also that he got rid of his babies. They use to come all four of them for a feed. No more. What happened? Well, I gathered that he gave them the whole the boot. Nowadays he is the only one. All of them  have gone away , they deserted the nest. Now, he gets all the best bits.

I had noticed over the last few weeks as he brought them for a feed. They would arrive and wait on the veranda each of them singing their head of for a feed. I did feed the lot of them. HE would not give them the bits of meat that I had presented to him. So, I diligently gave the meat to the babies which of course they looked at puzzled then, chirped, sung for dad or mum to give it to them…to no avail. They would not budge. They would wait patiently on the balustrade and not  moving till they had begrudgingly flew down to pick up their meat. One of them had even the temerity to take it from my hand. Great, I thought you are daring and you are going to be part of the clan. At one time they even flew into the living room, my husband was horrified and would choo them away. That little circus went on for a few weeks till, I am sure the parents “told them” enough, you are on your own guys, now it is time to go and fetch your food somewhere else. Presently , he is alone and enjoying the privileges of being king of the roost. Talking about roost, we have just discovered that the surviving chicken that the python did not manage to eat ended up a rooster. This morning for the first time we heard a croaky sound coming from the coop. Peter said:  “Listen, carefully” I stop what I was doing and gave my attention to the sounds around me and low and behold, indeed, it was the young rooster exercising his first song. I was stunned because all along I was almost sure that it was just another hen.

But back to the preparations. We still have heaps to do. We have not booked any flights within Europe. We have not booked our trains tickets for travels within France. So, in the next few days this is going to be out priority. All the families in France and England have been told of our arrival. I did change some money already, that is done. I’ll have to buy heaps of food for the chickens and the only dog. What else is there? Gosh! Have I forgotten anything? I am sure I have, things will start to come to the surface as time comes near. In the meantime, I will be busy at the Gallery doing some voluntary work till the last minute.

I am so looking forward to this break, as I said earlier it is exhilarating knowing that there not long to go. It has been a very demanding last few months. The little cabin that we built had taken so much time. Peter has just managed to install the last few bits this afternoon and I am happy that he will not be doing any more work on it. That project had taken so much of his time, energy and I dare say sleepless nights of fathoming what the next move will be or churning over and over what would be the best approach to the sink, the composting toilet, the kitchen shelf and above all the immense chore of all the water works. DONE! finished and well executed Peter. You earned a great holiday from it all. Now, he sleeps better not having any more ideas or designs..till when… that is what I am scared of with him.  Time will tell!

In the end I talked about lots of other things and got  a little carried away. Till next time!

When it happens it happens!!!

We all say when one thing goes wrong it start to become an avalanche. Well, over the last few weeks the avalanche started to get bigger.

One day we noticed that the bathroom tiled floor erupted in black patches along the grouting.  I used all sorts of products to try to get rid of it but to no avail. after a long examination by my partner, he suggested that  we asked a professional tiler. A young man, who comes and help us around the property on Saturday who is also a tiler during the week had a look and gave us his opinion. The results were that the drain was not properly seal when the tiles were put in place. He crawled under the house to find out that the boards had been slowly getting wetter. My husband decided to crawl himself and took another look and was armed with his camera as well. Well, it was true indeed the floor boards were wet, very wet. What to do? The young lad suggested that we appeal to the tiler who did the job a couple of years back and see if he could do something about it.

So, on the phone my husband  went and spoke at length with him. Of course what did we expect the results would be? Not his fault at all, but it had to do with the plumbing. The young lad, said to us that tilers must by laws give a 10 year guarantee on the jobs that they performed. He had to have a license number and we must have a receipt of his works. We do. Haha! really!  How are you going to convince someone to come and honour their work? But the discussions went on and the tiler promised to come back in 2 weeks to have a look. We are still waiting and in the meantime we have no shower. The other side of this story is that we are in the process of finishing a small sleep out and we bought an outdoor shower that hooks up to a gas cylinder. So, here we go, we hook it up among the bamboos and the bougainvillaea, (very thorny spot) and we go and take our shower among nature. Of course, being summer this is no problems and can be quite enjoyable to shower out. This saga for the time being is far from being resolved as we wait for the original tiler to come and inspect the works and see if he would honour his works. Shall we have faith in human nature or would it be again a case of washing their hands of their responsibilities? That is so often the case. We shall see.

Just before that, a tick killed one of our vealer and we were not here to rescue it. He died a painful death. A few years ago the same thing

New Calfhappened to his mum and we were fortunately around and she was rescued and is kicking strong today. All our cows are very tamed and we do pat them and feed them by hand. This year we had 4 calves and we lost one. The other 3 are all strong and healthy.

New calf

The python has also been around and devoured 5  of our 3 months old chicks. We do share a lot of our life with the native fauna around here. The goannas also help themselves to eggs without counting the natives rats that can’t resist our corns and strawberries as well as their daily tour of the chicken coop to rummage for left over grains. The native galahs swooped in to see if they could scavenge some extra grains from the run, with them they brought the tiny insects called red mites. Red little blighters that suck blood. They did not invade the chickens so much( which is weird)  but seems to have a preference for my husband. And me from time to time.  They even accompanied him in bed. He was moaning from pain of the constant scratching. Waking up all hours to discover patches of bites. So did I. It was becoming a real nightmare. Theses little suckers preferred the warmest part of the body, in the groins, under the armpits, behind the fold of the legs and other places that I leave you to imagine. We tried DM earth, cleaning and other things nothing worked. In the end the radical solution had to be envisaged. The complete clearing out of the coop. All the hay was shovelled out and we dusted the whole area with a sulfur product.( nothing obnoxious)   It worked,  after a few days the population had diminished considerably but not entirely. I repeated the operation twice a week. We showered every time we went to the coop and changed clothes, changed sheet every night, sprayed the bed and sofas with eucalyptus oil solution which I made, took the duvet out in the sun, washed the floors every day, and even washed the dog. Now, the mites have retreated or died. Also the fact that we had 3 months without any rain did not help. Their population exploded, while the mosquitoes died out for a while. Small respite. Who loves to live in the country

Python full of chckens

One day as I was cooking bread, I just put it in the oven, put the timer on (my phone in my pocket) and went out to feed the fish in the pond and a little weeding. Came back when it struck and saw that the oven had stopped working. No more heat and my bread was half cooked. Despair engulfed me. But, not losing my cool, I tried different settings and realised that it was only the fan forced part that was not functioning, I therefore put it on normal oven. But it took twice as long and our dinner bread was late, very late. Another calamity!

IMG_0231My husband and son, managed to dismantle the the back of it to discover indeed that the fan forced was not working. Another job to attend to. Ordering a spare part through the  internet and another day to fitted in. BRRRR! That day, I went ape. Two weeks later, they had decided to dismantle the oven just as I was ready to put another batch of bread. 10 to 15mns they said…Really I thought, hummmm, I did not believe it. The bread kept on rising and was getting flat. I was really worried, then they could not put it back together. By this stage I was fuming . Take a deep breath, calm down, what other tricks are there not to lose one’s cool? I joined in trying to put it back with them, I lost my cool, frustration started to build up…again stay calm, take a deep breath. Then I realised that they were trying to put the racks the wrong way. That little, or not so little episode made me furious. That was 2 hours later. The bread went in late, very late and a friend of ours who was coming for dinner said the bread was really nice. Really! I was not game to tell him the story. But, still spare part for the oven will be ordered and replaced next week… because in the meantime the washing machine also started to pack up.

Next week, I was assured it will be fixed but not while I was trying to cook another batch of bread. So the saga of the washing machine starts. I discovered that it would not spin. Tried all sorts of knobs and combinations to see what was wrong. Nothing came to mind till I saw that the water was not going anywhere at all. Blockage? yes for sure. Lint trap. I tried to take it out and it would not come. My son and my partner( husband of 40 years by the way)  could not move it also after 24 h of struggling. I rang the service department at Asko. No problems they said, a customer service will ring me in 10 to 15 mns. It has been 6 hours! No service person will come to a country area to see what was the problem and fix it. Us in the country are seriously disadvantaged.

My two men struggled 2 hours this morning and managed to get the lint trap out. Lo and behold! what did they find? Money, yes lots of coins. They had been banked…or should I say banked up in there for the last few years. Happy to have fixed the problem, my son said, Gigi, this is how you laundered all the money hey? $20 in coins, there was also foreign coins…The perfect way to do it my husband said. We all had a laugh and a huge sigh of relief. Now, my son said: ” who is going to get it? ” He put them in a bowl of soapy water and counted the loot. Me, said the big bear, no, me said the little bear, no, said the mama bear, I’ll have it all and shout you all a beer!

trying hard to clean the lint trap.

Deep inside

The loot

In the end one has to laugh at it all. Nothing serious really. We all enjoy good health that is the most important, the rest can be taken care of in due course. Yes, problems happen and they are part of living. As we say around here “compost happens”