Friday, 31 January 2014

... we are racing the sun ...



by Simone McPherson
For the past number of days we have been down at the northern most boundary of our property finishing off the building of a boundary fence line.


We have been up relatively early, driving over dirt roads …


… up hills …


… past some cattle that have already taken to shade  before the onslaught of the heat of the day …


… then 20mins or so, later we are at the gate leading into the northern boundary, not long now …


… then we start descending into the gully below, 

 through very heavily timbered country …

… to pick up again where we finished off the day before.

My job has been somewhat straightforward I’ve been putting on millions of these plastic insulators onto ...

... the steel posts three per post and over 200 posts … 


… then at each bend and corner we thread on the porcelain insulators to each line to alleviate less stress on the wire ...

... as it goes around each bend and allowing for the expansion and contraction for the wire during the different temperatures of the day and the seasons …


.. the climb up the steep hills alone gives me a good ‘heart starter’ to begin the day with … after a few steps I’m usually puffed before I have even started I am told by El Ranchero that it is a great work out! “Yeah right who are you trying to convince” I say under my breath, though he is right and ...


... once I get going I forget about the steepness of the terrain and concentrate on the job at hand …

However today we were on our final leg and finished the main fence line which was a great achievement ...

... considering the terrain that we have walked over for the past four days.


Now we have to do the creek crossing …


Now; this creek crossing is rather another ‘kettle of fish’ – meaning it is another matter completely to what we have been doing along the hills and gullies to get here …


… you see this creek as it flows is approximately a metre across at this time of year and perhaps ankle deep to the deepest areas being nearly up to your knees if you are lucky …


… though, when you look across the creeks rocky floor you can see that the creek floor stretches in width to over 30metres across! … that is when it is dry, without any water flowing.  

Then as the rains come and the gullies and ravines start to flow the creek starts to swell, to well over 40-50 meters across and over 5 metres deep in places and with that amount of water flowing down the creek it has the potential to take anything and everything with in its path which it does.

As you walk across and through the creek bed there are remains of old fences from a time long gone.   

You can begin to see why these types of fences are no longer used and do not work under these conditions.  

The old fence lines literally become a health hazard not only for stock and native/feral animals nevertheless for humans as well as the wire is a number 8 which means it is very strong then it also becomes brittle with age and weathering and having a horse tangle up in this sort of mess is very dangerous. And as for stock that become entangled in this wire and unable to free themselves that would be an agonising death I have seen a number of deer sculls tangled in wire where the deer have struggled and just made things worse by intertwining themselves up even more.


So we begin to pick up severed pieces of electric ribbon that were washed away over a year ago.  You see we had minimal access to this particular part of the property and this specific paddock is still very wild and inaccessible by vehicle, most of it has to be walked and climbed … that has now changed with the dozer going through here.


The beauty about living out in this environment is that you learn to be resourceful and what is the best thing to do with all the bits of ribbon that we have collected? – why tie them all back together of course! The ribbon will still conduct electricity as it has strands of stainless steel woven into its thread … so El Ranchero tells me.

Firstly to unravel the pieces …


… refix the steel posts with other old ones we have found along the dry creek floor … then replace the plastic insulators …

… do some readjustments to some Creek Oaks and their wire stays …


 … then before you know it we are  in business again …


While El Ranchero is finishing up with some repairs, I investigate the creek floor and find river rocks that have been worn smooth by the wear of the water as it has flowed over them through the countless years …


… I find some drift wood …


… and of course the creek floor is the natural habitat of the beautiful Red Bottlebrush - Callistemons




the many Knifes-edge Wattles – Acacia cultriformis and the Creek Oaks  - Casuarina cunninghamiana which are inhabited by the contented shrills and chirpings of the many Variegated Fairy-wrens – Malurus lamberti, the Superb Fairy-wrens – Malurus cyaneus, the tiny Mistletoebirds – Dicaeum hirundinaceum, the Rainbow Bee-eaters – Merops ornatus and the many honeyeaters that colonise this tranquil environment. 

Then before I know it El Ranchero has already connected our creek crossing to our new boundary fence line and we are all ready to go … now there are a couple of gates to hang and to dig out another trench to connect this boundary fence line onto the other fence line for power … but that is another day, now we are racing the sun as it sets in the west, I am looking forward to my tall icy cold Campari and soda and El Ranchero …. his icy cold beer, then we will think about tomorrow when tomorrow comes …






Monday, 20 January 2014

we all enjoy the end of the day



by Simone McPherson

For the past couple of days or so we have put fencing to the side to take care of a more immediate problem …

… that this hot, dry, searing weather has brought upon us and that is – we are running out of feed for our cattle, no rain you see at this time of year and we are going into the fourth month now.   

We are out every second day checking the water levels in the dams for with the heat the evaporation rate is now higher than ever …
El Ranchero learned from an old farmer from this region way back - that during times of no rainfall which end result is no feed for the cattle; there is a plant that can come to the rescue and of which we have bountiful of …

… the Velvet Tree Pear - opuntia tomentosa – not to be confused with Prickly Pear – opuntia stricta– thank goodness as there is nothing worse than to watch your cattle run out of feed, we watch as the afternoons build up with thunderclouds then not a single drop falls and the big heavy black clouds move away …. 
The Velvet Tree Pears grow to about 5mtrs or so with dull branches and a velvety surface – hence the name I am assuming …

I remember reading that the plant originally came from Central Mexico into Australia, they cannot give an exact time of its introduction though I would believe it came in as a garden plant … as it produces a brilliant orange flower followed by a very deep red fruit that are edible, though  it is full of tiny little black seeds that you can break your teeth on … speaking from experience I decided to make a jam a number of years ago, unfortunately I neglected to strain the seeds a slight disaster, I donated the batch to the local honey birds who seemed to enjoy the jam they did not worry too much about the seeds at all …

PURSALANE FOUND @ ONE OF THE CATTLE TROUGHS LAST WINTER
I am a great one for ‘Food Foraging’ I have done it since a child, my mother was a wonder to go on picnics with as she would always add something that she had foraged from around our picnic site – wild nettle, lambs ear, dandelion, watercress from the creeks, pursalane, wild guavas and fennel growing along the road and so many other edible plants wild and introduced, I loved those days.  I know it is rather an expression now to be a “Forager”, even a discipline like Barista these days but it is something I think many people, families have done for eons …

However getting back to the gorgeous bright red fruit of the Velvet Tree Pear well; all the birds, the Fallow deer, the feral pigs, the feral goats and the cattle relish the fruits as they fall to the ground I have also seen them with necks outstretched as far as they can reach to pluck a plump bright red fruit fresh of the Velvet Tree Pear itself.

The paddles too I have attempted to eat not with much success I might add, I do believe it may have been the way I prepared the paddles and to the fact that I was not accustomed to the taste and texture in my mouth?

Unlike the Prickly Pear the Velvet Tree Pear has hardly any problematic thorns … and I do believe it is for this reason that the cattle can manage it well and devour it? That they do.

The Velvet Tree Pears can be a little hazardous to cut with the Chainsaw ...

... as they are full of moisture which makes them very heavy as well as being unstable when they fall and 'splat' everywhere.

Though once a branch hits the ground the most amazing thing starts to unfold ...  
I would not have believed it had I not seen it … the cattle come trotting from miles around, they just manifest out of the bush, from the gullies and through the dry creek beds …

… there is not a sound of alert or to indicate that something is happening …

… the cattle seem to have a telepathic connection and they just all start to appear …

And do they relish that Velvet Tree Pear? they devour every single paddle that has fallen to the ground along with the unripe fruit, it’s such a wonderful sight to behold …

We have also been getting things organised for that splendid boundary fence that was dozed back in October 2013 …

… remember how it used to look, it was no wonder that we lost cattle to the neighbour?

And then after that ingenious dozer driver had been it was transformed …

… and now it is going to be transformed again with the help of a fencing contractor … initially it was going to be a five wire Barb however there were some technical, practical and safety issues in pulling the line out … so

... we are now going to be building a four wire electric fence which should take about three days so El Ranchero tells me with the three of us? … phew! I am already exhausted ...

On another note; with this hot dry weather we have been finishing our days down at the Middle paddock which has a Dam only a short drive from the house for …

A little RR for both of us - water is an amazing healer, 

Maxi and ...

... Lily pup …

I’m not sure whether it is more therapeutic for us as we watch them swim around or ...

... for Max and Lily pup as they leisurely swim around in that cool water after the heat of the day?  

Whichever way it may be we all enjoy the end of the day with a little reprieve from the heat though the evenings are still warm but not searing …