Thursday, 25 September 2014

... gone in a cloud of dust ...

by Simone McPherson
As the last of the brilliant yellows of the beautiful ...

... and dainty “Red leafed” wattles flower ...

... the land has become waterless and parched to say the least we have had six inches so far for the year.

We have been busy in these times cutting back the Cypress pines that have overrun many of the paddocks after years and years of neglect through over-clearing back in the 1930’s and then in the 1970’s followed by no upkeep of the paddocks over the many years.

Max and Lily-pup are always keen to help … “… just give the word” they said.

This year I thought I would try something a little different on the garden beds to keep in the moisture and to stop the gardens from drying out too much over the hot summer months – Eucalyptus leaf mulch?

I was told to put “leaf mulch” from the Eucalyptus trees onto my garden by daughter number one. She informed me that the leaf mulch from the Eucalyptus trees would be the ideal thing for my little gardens out here as there was so much of it scattered over the landscape  –“sure” I said … “but what about all the eucalyptus oils from the leaves? will they not kill my little gardens off?” “…. no they won’t” she told me “… as the Eucalyptus trees have a very unique trait.  Before they drop their leaves, they actually extract all the moisture including the oils from their leaves before releasing them in normal times and in times of stress”.  “… how wonderful” I thought.

So … with my little helper we set out on the way home from one of our jobs to fill a couple of bags with the “Eucalyptus leaf mulch”. 
  
Now this “leaf mulch” has the additional benefit of cow manure as the little spot that we stopped at  on the way home is a “cattle camp” meaning it is a place that the cattle like to rest, stoping  under the shade of the trees during the heat of the day and it is warm and safe during the evening though most times they are out and about foraging during the night-time.  

There were fragments of bark and pieces of twigs in the mulch. I thought they could all complement the leaf mixture for my little gardens besides I could always pick out the bits of bark and the pieces of twig that happened to be in the way see how we go?

We have also been out mustering up the Weannies in fact 160 of them.  We could not get the last 62 in as they all went bush and two days later a job that should have been two hours ended up being two very frustrating days for the dogs the horses and us! 
  
They do become a little naughty as they run in all directions with their tails in the air it’s all for their own amusement and fun.


Once at the yards Max does what he loves to do ...


.... and that is work cattle, he brought them all in.  The Weannies had all been sold a week or so before with the Stock Agent coming out to draft of the weaners that his buyer was requiring.

And right on the dot the trucks arrive to load the weaners.


Driving through the gates .... 

 ... the drivers position themselves and ...

... back up to the ramp from where the Weannies will be loaded up along the ‘race’.


Once one truck is complete the other then moves into position ready for its load.   

Due to the condition of our 12kms of dirt road into our property and the 90 or so kms of bitumen out here from our main town B-double trucks are not permitted to travel along these roads hence the two double deckers.

Max of course is an old hand at all of this and just relaxes on the back of the old Toyota Ute keeping an eye on things.


After a cup of Black tea and devouring all of my Orange cake that I baked that morning, filling in forms and telling a few stories the men are ready and refreshed for their four hour drive to their destination.


We say goodbye and off they go.  


The magnificent diesel engines begin to drone and purr as the drivers shift through the gears.   

Then they are gone in a cloud of dust and ...

... the hum of their engines gradually disappears as they make their way down our dusty, powdery dirt road, now I have some washing to do ...........

 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

... I cannot but marvel ...



by Simone McPherson
This season the frosts came early and all the way up to the Hacienda here on the hill.   


We have not seen frosts like this in the ten years or so of living here, they typically settle in the lower gullies and paddocks in a blanket of white sparkling crystals that twinkle in the early morning sunlight.

Well I have to declare that I did “jump the gun” by planting basil before the middle of spring which is the usual time that I have planted the little seedlings in the past, for it was three days later and we had Frosts, not any old Frost mind you but two weeks of very heavy Frosts.  

And what happened to my basil you ask? … Gone! The pansies, petunias, the lemons and even the geraniums all managed very well.  The Salvias took a little bit of a hit but they have come back with some old plastic bottles that have had their bottoms cut out and placed over the little seedlings creating a little hot house. 

 The strangest thing though, about the Frosts coming up this far to the house and turning everything white along its path is that of all things my little lettuce’s survived?  They were Butter lettuces which I plant each year as they are El Ranchero’s favourites … so that in its self was a lovely surprise.

 The days have been filled with horse work, 

weaning the calves from their mothers and then ...

 ... putting them out into their own paddock.  The early sign of the Frosts this year unfortunately has ensured that the winter grasses that we did managed to have now ...


.... disappeared leaving us with no feed to see us through the rest of winter and now into our spring.  El Ranchero has had to off load a lot of cattle as we do not have the feed to see them through the season. 

It has even gone to the extent that our dams have not filled either with our summer rains which we did not receive earlier this year.


Though Lily and Max still make use of what water there is, never missing an opportunity for a swim even in these cooler months.

Sure we get a lot of clatter to say that rain is coming then it just ….. 

well … disappears. 


Though that does not impede El Ranchero or myself as we have been busy finishing of those never ending odd jobs around the property … hanging gates 

 ... finishing assemblies.

 Then a few weeks ago we awoke from a phone call from one of our neighbours to say that our boundary fence line along the bitumen road appeared as though it had been cut in a number of places, though he was not sure as it had just caught his eye whilst he was on his way to a job. 

 So after breakfast we all loaded into the old Toyota and off we went down to one of the front paddocks to investigate the matter.   

Sure enough it had been cut, in twenty tree places stretching almost a kilometre.  This boundary fence line is made up of a five wire barb.   

 Why do people do such things?  

We do have a lot of problems with men poaching for deer, kangaroo and wild pigs out here occasionally we manage to confront these irresponsible, thoughtless and selfish men, though they usually do their poaching in the early hours of the morning or in the dead of night, they have no consideration for someone else’s property or even that it is private property. 


So as you can imagine the rest of that day was taken up repairing and placing out new barb wire with the wonderful help from one of our neighbours as the cut fence line was not recyclable at all for they had managed to place all the cuts at short distances in between every three steel posts.  Once repaired the stock in that paddock were contained and for their part totally oblivious to the day’s events.

On a more contented note we also took an expedition to source some old timber for around my planters.


In one of our northern paddocks there is still the feint indication of an old sheep yard.  


El Ranchero tells me that in the days of old the men would come out here camp out under the stars for a month or so to take care of the sheep flocks. 

 These men would only have a wire that is no longer used called old ‘Bull wire’ or ‘Number Eight gauge’ wire, an axe and cross cut saws along with some bullocks to help them move the logs from the woodlands that they had cut them from.

These men knew how to utilise what they had around them building the yards out of wood slats cut by axe; that in itself is now a lost art.   

The yards would have been very comforting to the sheep and the lambs as they offered safety and a strong visual for the sheep ...

 ... which meant that the sheep could move through the yards without being startled by other objects in the landscape, and at the same time letting through air … “timber is comforting to stock … and you have to understand that lambs tend to panic once they get a little older … the wood panelling calms the stock …” so El Ranchero tells me.  I can see how as I wander through the old yards how restful it would feel to the stock.

The yards would have been user friendly too, not only to the sheep but also for the dogs hence the log placed along the top of the railings so that the dogs could jump from one yard to the next without getting caught and coming to grief.  The timber also allowed the stockman/shepherd to likewise jump from one yard to the next.


And because of the history entailed in these old yards ...

... I felt that we should not totally destroy them so we only picked up timber that had fallen to the ground ...

 ...and was no longer supported by the old ‘Bull’ wire.  

Once back at home we assembled the timber around the drums and El Ranchero secured them with some tie wire.  Now hopefully this will keep the drums a little cooler over the summer months and ...

... I must say that they do look rather lovely too I know that all the plants are going to be a lot happier with their new interior.

With spring now knocking on the door all the pansies ...

 ....and ....

... the petunias are showing their beautiful expressions in full colour as well as the vivid blue hues of the Lobelia’s, they are simply exquisite. 

I have now put in my second planting of lettuces too as well as the continental parsley and I was so pleased to see that they all survived the frost initially and I will remember that for next season.  


Last month we got up early to drive for three hours to spent a day in our nearest big city; amid other things we chased down bits and pieces that we cannot attain from our local region.   

 I was promised a visit to the Garden Centre where I must confess, I could have spent all day quite happily much to El Rancheros frustration bless him …

 … this is where I picked up my lemons, two “Villa Franca’s” I may add that once in there El Ranchero was pointing out all manner of plants that we could acquire most unpractical, though ...

.... he did find two little Cumquat trees which I have now planted out in the large steel containers to offers some shade to the plants during our summer months. 


The wattles have started to flower as well ...

... they too, are three weeks late so …

 … we shall see what the rest of the year will bring as the spring days start to come into sight I cannot but marvel at the beauty of the natural world and all its living creatures …