Thursday, 2 June 2016

... to finally be ...



by Simone McPherson
For the past number of weeks I have been very fortunate to have had the help of a wonderful ‘Helper’ around the house with me, whom I was introduced to through a programme where Volunteers assist Hosts with projects that they themselves are in need of assistance with in exchange for accommodation and meals as well as sharing in the 'day and the life' of a Host family and in our case that is how we met ‘V’ all the way from Germany on a holiday break from her own working environment back in Germany.

This arrangement has worked out very well for us all including El Ranchero, Maxi boy, Lily pup and even the horses, especially those who love and enjoy human company like Pedro.

It gives us a time to reconnect with the environment around us, like a large Dam that was built back in the 1970’s to provide irrigation amongst other things to Cotton and Corn growers further South West from where we live and …

… ofcourse the Dam has its own camping ground that is usually overflowing in the summer months with families and individuals that enjoy fishing as the Dam has a stock of such fresh water fish as Yellow Belly, Cod and Catfish to name a few as well as water sports and there are Grey Kangaroos everywhere enjoying the lovely short grass to the delight of ‘V’.

In addition to rediscovering places to visit within driving distance from where we live we also explored our own backyard …

… after a day of moving cattle we took the long way home to show ‘V’ a community of 'Black Boys' …

… We have been gifted with a number of small extraordinary communities of “Black Boys” though now days the name has now changed to ‘Grass Tress’ to be politically correct?   However these magnificently ancient species of plant are not at all related to a tree but the Lily family, the ‘Grass trees’ are very much a part of the Australian landscape and are uniquely Australian being an important plant to the Aborigines where they used the long slender leaves in the making of baskets as well as consuming the soft new leaf fronds for moisture.


These plants also fascinated the early European settlers, the artists and the Botanist alike as they were unlike any other known plant seen at the time. 

Their botanical name is Xanthorrhoea and they are prized here in Australia for their landscape attributes and unfortunately there are scoundrel’s out there that will remove this wonderful very old and very slow growing plant for financial gain destroying certain species from their natural habitat in the sandy woodlands that they love and thrive in.  


And ofcourse there has been large scale clearing here in Australia for Settlement as well as Stock production and as a consequence large masses of the ‘Grass Trees’ have been lost.  Consequently, as you can imagine we are very mindful, careful and almost guarded and secretive of our own little communities of ‘Grass Trees’ that we have hidden on our Property.

So together with ‘V’ we have been busy making soil to put into another 44 drum that El Ranchero cut in half for us and creating soil we have.

Before placing the beautifully made soil into the containers we have not to only level them out, we also create a base to stop snakes from making an abode underneath the containers … much to ‘V’s astonishment.

Then we collect a number of rocks to place inside the drum …


… upon which we then place torn up pieces of cardboard which has been wetted down to help in keeping the soil mixture moist in times of not much rain …

… then that beautiful soil mixture that took three days to make and another two days to collectWe collected humus dirt from the creek, raked up cow manure from the stock yards, leaf and bark matter which was collected from underneath the small groves of Gum trees along with some dry clay - beads - collected from a number of dams.  All these materials are then slowly combined in all different ratio's that I have experimented with over the years, with a mixture of water containing seaweed and fish emulsion, ‘V’ can hardly believe that this is what I undergo just to get some soil to plant all my lovely plants into.

…and after a topping off with more leaf matter we then plant ...


 ... and here we have the finished product another beautiful Bougainvillea …


… these two are called ‘Red Dragon’ and they should look fabulous once they get going, they sure have had a good 'start'.

And then we go through the same procedure all over again, this time however …

… we have had two Terracotta pots soaking down at the dam for two days …


… we go down to collect them and they are all well soaked now ready for their planting of...

… some wonderful Geranium cuttings that have survived here for the past four years and I know they will be glad to finally be in their very own pots at last, as  I now wonder where the two weeks have gone as we say Goodbye to 'V' 

We will all be sad to see her go, all being very grateful of her wonderful and cheerful help, though we wish her an enjoyable journey as she continues her travels exploring Australia






Wednesday, 1 June 2016

... the full Moon rising ...



by Simone McPherson
 
Of late the days here have been just magnificent a little on the cool side in the mornings however once the sun begins to shine the days are just pristine.

While checking the cattle in our Creek paddock for we had a number of stragglers that had missed the muster …

… we came upon a small mob of young Billy Goats …

… along with an old piece of timber that caught my eye.

El Ranchero went on to tell me that back in the 1930’s this log would have been used as a sheep feeder with the holes having all been cut out with an axe.

The lovely little grass finches in particular the Double-barred Finches – Taeniopygia bichenovii – have been prolific in searching out all the grass seeds that are about at this time of year.  And unfortunately every now and then we get one or two that crash into our windows, and I have taken this opportunity to show you just how beautiful these little birds are and sadly this little one I shall bury in my little garden.

The Basil has been abundant with its leaf production this year even though I only planted out four plants that …

… I have taken the opportunity to make yet another small batch of Pesto with Pine nuts this time and a little chilli, and this will be my first batch for the year can’t wait to try it …

We have also been busy with the cattle bringing in the mobs and moving them onto fresh pastures …

 … and with that we have also increased their feeding regime with more deliveries coming out to the Property.

And fortunately for us we have had a lovely visitor from Germany who has come out to help me in the garden for a week or so and her first introduction to our life out here was to hand unload 6 tonne of feed, “now that will separate the boys from the men … “ was what El Ranchero told ‘V', I do think that 'V' showed El Ranchero a thing or two being able to keep up with the boys ...

So after that day ‘V’ was rearing to go which was a delight for me, so we cleaned out the cattle race by collecting and bagging …

… the manure for the garden – and we also made soil with parts of manure which I will go into detail in my next post.

‘V’ helped me with the grooming of the horses in this case this is Porky girl who has had a complete make over – a lovely wash, including all her hooves with Iodine and then a towel dry, finishing with coconut oil which we put through her mane and tail and brushed it all in – Porky girl was in heaven, in fact she went to sleep.

Even Rocky was in on the act giving ‘V’ a little tour of the yards on his back, which 'V' was delighted in.



... and showing ‘V’ how well behaved he is with the hovels and why and what they are used for which is to get your horse used to waiting and standing without wandering off all saddled and bridled up.

‘V’ also helped out with the weighing and the drafting of the weaners in the yards.

We also went down to another part of the property were we have a large piece of the creek running through the place showing ‘V’ the difference in the terrain and Maxi boy also demonstrated how well behaved he is too. 

There is still a natural beauty in the ecological life down there, with some of the big old River Gums that are still abound which is wonderful to see.  El Ranchero also gave ‘V’ a number of lessons in the safe use of my old 410 shot gun which ...

... she was delighted to learn about and of the reasons as to why it is that we carry a firearm whilst traveling through this country, which I have mentioned in my last post …

Then as we started to climb back up to the homestead we were overjoyed to see the full moon rising in the East, what a lovely way to end the day.

Friday, 13 May 2016

... and before too long ...



by Simone McPherson
The other afternoon whilst we were out on our afternoon walk, well really it was more of a stroll with my two companions Maxi and Lily pup.

We came upon Rocky and El Ranchero.  Rocky was being given some ‘shoulder in’ exercises.  You may be wondering what this is, this ‘shoulder in’ exercise that El Ranchero is teaching Rocky.   

Well a number of years ago I did too, as I had no idea of what he was referring to.  From memory El Ranchero’s explanation went something like this.

Image from Google image search
“… the shoulder in is best described by the man who created the exercise.  His name was Francois Robichon de la Guérinière who was born in France around 1688 and died in 1751 and there is a copy of his book in our Library L'École de Cavalerie, "The School of Horsemanship", which was published around 1730’s …” “Oh! Ok can you show me which book …” was my reply.

Image from the book "School of Horsemanship" by Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere -Magnificent etching by Parrocel
I was to find out that there was very little known of Monsieur De la Robichon Guérinière until he opened a riding academy in Paris opposite the Palais du Luxembourg.  Here he taught both equitation and everything else relating to horses.  By 1730 his reputation was such that the Master of the Horse entrusted him with the Academie des Tuileries, where he remained as director until his death in 1751 … “

Image from the book "School of Horsemanship" by Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere -Magnificent etching by Parrocel
… and here is a little extract that I found from Wikipedia  on this wonderful man who obviously had an understanding into the behaviour of the horse  “…  De La Guérinière is credited for the invention of the shoulder-in, which he called the "alpha and omega of all exercises"; he was the first to describe it. His treatise L'École de Cavalerie, "The School of Horsemanship", which was published in parts between 1729 and 1731, and as a complete work in 1733, is an important book on the training of the horse, detailing equitation, veterinary treatment, and general horsemanship. This book has become an important text for the Spanish Riding School of Vienna … “

Image from "The Complete Training of Horse and Rider" by Alois Podhajsky
El Ranchero told me that the whole idea of the ‘shoulder-in’ exercise is to create suppleness in the fore quarters and encourage weight carrying in the hind quarters – the back legs – instead of the front.  And the picture of Alois Podhajsky is an image of a ‘Perfect Shoulder-in stride’ from the Author himself, in his book “The Complete Training of Horse and Rider – In the Principles of Classical Horsemanship” which we too have in our little library here at the homestead.  

Fantastic images from Google images of Col. Podhajsky and General Patton to the right
Alois Podhajsky was a Colonel and became the Director of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna 1939.  The home of the famous white Lipizzaner Stallions and his life is a story of Legends, Champions and Heroes.  During World War II, he managed to save the Bloodline, with the help of General Patton, who assigned the rescue of the horses to Col. Charles H. Reed …

Image Googled from history.dragoons.org
… and Col. Reed was instrumental in the saving of the horses – the Bloodline - from the breeding farm at Hostau, Czechoslovakia on the 28th of April 1945.  The horses, the Mares and the Stallions were kept under American protection for the duration of the War.

Excerpt from obituary supplied by Jane Reed, via history.dragoons.org

Colonel Reed, a career soldier, was born in Richmond, VA and was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia before going to West Point, where he graduated in 1922.
In civilian life he served as president of Williams & Reed of Richmond, a wholesale dry goods distributor. He was president of the Virginia State Fair for 20 years and a director of the Bank of Virginia.


Colonel Charles H. Reed died following a stroke. He was 79 years old.


As you can see I love how the ‘Spirit’ can move us as Human Beings to achieve things that are just phenomenal acts of bravery, kindness and compassion in times of darkness and hardships.  And to have that relationship with an animal is just astonishing to say the least.

I have been enjoying the taste of Balsamic Modena vinegar on many things too of late, including my toast in the mornings, as I can no longer consume saturated fats or animal fats.  The only oil I can consume these days is Virgin olive oil and Sunflower oil, so you can guess what I have been having on my toast … just as well I love Olive oil and savoury foods.

I have also become reacquainted with ‘Ricard Pastis’ which I enjoy over ice with a splash of soda just before dinner.  Now if you are not acquainted with ‘Ricard Pastis’ you may know its sister ‘Pernod’.  Both are Anise flavoured spirits served as an aperitif.  Pernod is distilled in Paris whereas Ricard Pastis is distilled in Marseilles from memory.

And I have been dabbling with the flavours of ‘Ricard Pastis’, pistachio’s, slivered almonds, the zest of a lemon, lime and an orange and into my Biscotti mixture and you will be astonished to find out that the result is ‘Heavenly’ with my coffee in the morning and here I was thinking that I had found the perfect Biscotti, well “News Flash” … now I have, well until the next brain wave at least.

This week also brought the gift of some beautiful bread’s Sourdoughs, Sourdoughs with olive oil and olives and a delicious little Turkish style bread with some friends that came down for the day, we gobbled up the little Turkish breads with a baked Sweet potato and ham soup with some lovely Kale from the garden

The girls came down to collect a little firewood and even El Ranchero got in on the act …

once we collected enough wood it was then a short drive to …

 … one of our dams near the Crutching shed …

… to troll for Yabbies, now every Australian usually has a childhood memory of trolling for Yabbies on a Farm dam somewhere in the bush in the summer months or even as a very thrilling event while visiting relatives on a Farm during Christmas.

Yabbies - Cherax destructor - are a small fresh water crustacean that can also be found in streams and creeks.  In some places they can cause quite a bit of damage where dams are concerned as they will burrow deep into the dam walls, hence the word “destructor” in their name.

These little crustaceans have adapted to the many different habitats throughout the Australian landscape.  These fresh water crayfish are in the middle of the food chain. They are basically vegetarian but also scavenge decaying plant and animal matter. In turn, they are preyed upon by many native fishes and water birds. 


The common Yabby forms an important part of the diet of white ibis, several cormorants, and warm-fresh water fishes such as the Murray cod and the golden perch or yellowbelly and these fish make good eating too when caught.

… and our friends where in search of these little critters as bait for they were off on  a fishing trip to the Coast.

So once we were armed with the necessary tools, a bucket and a contraption to scoop out the Yabbies that one of the girls had made …

… we were off to work and El Ranchero was the first one to start trolling for the Yabbies with much jeering on from us girls …

… then one of the girls showed El Ranchero how it had to be done …

… some of the Yabbies must have been monsters as all we found were ruminants of what they once were.

Even Max got into the mode of trolling for Yabbies too.

And before too long the day was starting to disappear and it was time for our visitors to get on the road before all the Kangaroos where out for their hour drive back to their home, it was a lovely way to end the day for us all …