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 …

Thursday, 24 July 2014

... I just need to find somewhere ...



by Simone McPherson
We have been making a custom of late to taking a walk.  Not that we are sedentary during our daily routines of mustering the cattle on horseback or by walking up and down hills doing fence repairs and keeping the lines clear of suckers as they try and push through to reach the sun or any other such thing it’s all as a consequence, of needing to get our heart rates up ...

 ... and attempting to keep all our joints supple and moving in all directions as we trip and stumble over rocks, branch and tree debris, as we all look forward to these jaunts …

 … the mornings are still very dewy …


 … though on these country excursions we make it a point in having a mission, a quest  as “one can-not simply go on a walk to enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of nature” … 

...“ one has to be mapping out more fence lines, cutting down more pines and visualising more alleyways for the cattle” ... 
 
 ... as well as … “finding places to make water-holes” … at times I do feel exhausted before I have even left the front door!

… these expeditions take us to all manner of places undiscovered and lost possibly for even decades …

… an old fence line that I am told by El Ranchero would be over eighty years old

 … and all built by hand with the help of Bullock teams …

 … and then we do find water …

After,  we eventually find our way through the maze, the labyrinth of pines which have colonized areas of land that were over cleared back in the 1930’s with lack of foresight as to what the consequence would be now in the year 2014 … 

 .... and yes, that is Max on three legs as he decided that Kangaroo hunting was part of the outing – El Ranchero reminded him that it was not by putting one of his paws through his collar, then he has to work a little harder to keep up and concentrate on what he is doing as well (they are quite funny to watch as they try and grapple what is going on) …


 … and this is the culmination of the clearing …

… then once we are out and into the clearing ...

 ... we find some wonderful waterways ...

... that must be a sight when the rains come.   


We make a note of where we are so as to return when the creeks are flowing … 

 … there are wonderful clusters of Callistemons that inhabit the creek beds with their vibrant display of red blossoms showing up against the grey tones of the rocky ground …
The shortest day has come and gone and now we can look forward to more daylight hours once again.   

The Pansies and the Violas show their smiley happy little teddy bear faces ..

 ... as they start to pop up in the little gardens … 

… and even some little Johnny Jump-ups have sprung up in around places that you would have thought nothing would be able to germinate in at all …

… I have even been able to create another garden from an additional old feeder bin that El Ranchero found in one of our paddocks and no longer needed …

… once I decided where it was going to go – at the new hitching rail that El Ranchero built for hosing the horses down after work, especially in the Summer months …

 … I start to fill the drum with stones and then some cardboard, which I also lined around the bin, to hold moisture and then I complete the fill with my hummus from the creek; clay from the dams, cow and some horse manure though I don’t use as much horse manure as I found that the cattle manure makes a better mixture a lot more lighter and airier, the horse manure seems to have a habit of being soggy … 

 … then once filled with my jumble mixture of soil … the little garden is planted out … this time I planted some blue salvia for the bees, some lovely petunias that I can hardly wait to flower as they are in tones of red and mauve with a white strip around the edge of each petal and of course our favourite – Basil though I may have jumped the gun a bit with the Basil as I don’t usually plant new seedlings till middle spring, though we have had a very mild Autumn - see how we go …


With the lovely weather of late I have been doing a bit of spring-cleaning not that it is spring by any means, and my cleaning has led to reorganising things around the house.  

The reorganising entailed coming to a decision to unpack my twelve wine cartoons of cookbooks … well in-fact I am rather embarrassed to say I have over two hundred and forty at last count, which I have not seen now for over nine years?   

I am now wondering what books I have actually collected in all those cartoons … right now I just need to find somewhere to house all those lovely books … perhaps a bookcase?