Saturday, 26 April 2014

... treasured times ...



by Simone McPherson
April is always a lovely time of year in this part of the country.   

The mornings are crisp and invigorating with the skies a perfectly clear Cerulean blue.

With the three inches or so of rain that we received over three weeks ago it has completely transformed the countryside to ochres and tones of green resembling the lovely patterns found in a patchwork Quilt ….

… and to think that only four weeks ago or so the country looked like this …

The grass cover after a little rain can be deceptive as I watch the lovely soft tall Native grasses as they bow their velvety heads gently in the sway of the breeze.

Whenever I look at the ground as I am walking this landscape I am reminded that this country is a very harsh and hard country. The mixture of Native grasses and introduced along with the other herbs that naturally cover the ground is still only around 20% to 30% and even less in some areas, yes it is tough country.

… it is a reminder that the plant life in this landscape have really evolved to put down their roots as fast as they can and to get those seed heads up as quickly as they can for in an instant the whole countryside can be altered and put into drought mode once more where the plant life lay dormant waiting for the rains, anticipating that little window of chance to establish, yet again … bringing abundance and life to the countryside …

With this wonderful spurt of life through the rain and warmth that still exists in the ground at this time of year the Horses too, have been taking full advantage of all the richness and variety of grasses available on offer to the point of where they seem to think that each blade of grass will be their last and as a result they too are bursting at the seams … well in this case at the girth!

… Porky-girl really has to watch her figure unfortunately … which means she has to spend a little time in the overnight paddock … she is not too impressed, so she tells me …

… we have been flat out with ‘calf marking’ … still … and it is just wonderful to see that the cattle coming through now have picked up so much with the changes in their pastures and ...

... also with a good drenching too for we have had a very bad outbreak of ‘Buffalo Fly” – Haematobia exgua - a parasitic fly that lives on the cattle sucking their blood, with all this warm moist weather it has provided ideal conditions for the Parasite to commence it’s cycle.  The end result is that the cattle end up in very poor condition which in-turn impacts on their productivity.  The Parasite especially seems to attack the male cattle – perhaps it’s their hormones - more than the female cattle and it is not uncommon to see a Bull just walking around in a cloud of black flies just awful …

The other day we got word that there were a few cows and calves that had somehow gone through an electric wire and were taking full advantage of the neighbours Creek country … 

... luckily the neighbour does not use that particular part of his country as it is very rugged and step.

So we packed up the Toyota with the necessary tools needed for repairs and I took plenty of old chaffing bags for this particular part of the creek is where I get all my lovely dirt full of leaf and bark litter for my little gardens … and off we went.

On first sight the creek had definitely changed with water now running down the creek course …

Maxi and Lily-pup never let an opportunity pass and we had to make a pit-stop for a quick swim …

We drove as far as we could before we had to set out on foot … an hour later the dogs had found the cattle and had set them on their way, back towards our boundary at a quick trot … we on the other climbed over huge rock faces and ledges, skipped over rocks across the creek so not to get wet and plodded through layers and layers of pebbles and gravel rock that had been eroded over the decades by the water running down the creek bed.

… as the cattle approached our boundary we had prepared the electric fence line by disassembling and deactivating the electricity so that the cattle would pass through without any complications which they did … and off they all went with their tails in the air …

… it was a long afternoon, when we got back home Maxi decided that he would just stay on the back of the ute he was pooped! 

I have also been cleaning out and readjusting my little gardens after those awful months of heat and no rain where I had to let the gardens go.  Now I have packed polystyrene that I collected from our local supermarket, down the sides of the drums that get the direct morning and afternoon sun over summer … fingers crossed that it will keep the gardens a little cooler over those hot months.


I’ve been collecting humus dirt from the creek beds and lovely cattle manure from around the throughs making up my soil mixture for all the tubs giving them a new lease of life along with some clay from the dams and sand from the creek beds … it’s almost like making a cake …

I have also started edging around the concrete veranda as I need a little “order” when I go outside and besides we have more than enough rocks …

El Ranchero even contributed by finding some more drums that he no longer needs to use for the cattle so I was quick to incorporate those into the ‘Landscaping’ …


... and some hollow logs that the wood cutter had left hehind ...

I’ve planted the gardens out with my usual this year … parsley, mignonette lettuce, pansies and violas along with some Rosemary that I found …


… the larger drums will be planted out with a cumquat tree in each to assist in the shading of the drums over summer though still giving me enough space to plant some salad greens and spinaches over summer … why cumquats? Well … you will have to ask El Ranchero that, as that was his input …

I’ve also been busy making my version of Greek Shortbread biscuits …

Over Easter we were invited for a barbeque lunch by one of our new neighbours and their families so I thought I would give these lovely little morsels a try and successful they were! … 

My memories of Easter apart from all those little chocolate Easter eggs, was my mother baking traditional shortbread biscuits ...

 ... no wonder we became so excited with all that sugar and chocolate I don’t think much has changed from the time when I was a little girl rummaging through the garden in search of an Easter egg or two that the Easter Bunny had left behind … they were treasured times with family and friends …






Saturday, 5 April 2014

... the country is just a picture ...



by Simone McPherson
As the month of March slipped by our days were taken up with the marking of the calves and ...

 ... the drenching of their mothers as well as reducing the herd by another 100 head due to the minimal rainfall we received over spring and summer which in-turn affected the amount of feed that we had available on the ground.


El Ranchero also spent a lot of man hours in constructing a hitching yard for the Stock horses ... 

... in a large shed at the Homestead that is no longer used to house dry supplement for the cattle. 


He has separated one of the bays and dug out … yes! 

… yet more holes to assemble the hitching rails ….

… we used some Cypress pines that were cut down a number of years back to clear the creek banks from their invasion to promote the native trees of the area the Box Gums and the Apple gums along with the Tumble-down Gums which naturally inhabit the creek regions …

… he has also incorporated other rails that were part of the original fence line that where built back in the early 1940’s and the 1950’s and now those fences have long since gone … the timber is still magnificent and after thirty or more years it shows no signs of deterioration.

The horses have all been moved into our now “new” House Paddock …

 ... and some have been introduced a little closer to even the back veranda ... 

… and there is one in particular … ‘Pedro’ who has given his thumbs up to the whole project …

 ... you see Pedrocitto, as he is affectionately called loves the company of Humans, so moving closer to where we are is just perfect for him as now he has become the ‘on sight supervisor’ making sure that we are all doing things how we ought to be … 

… and he is very used to having his mid-day siesta’s so his nose was a little out of joint when he could not go into his new stall for a number of days while we waited for the concrete to set, he is such a funny boy.

Porky-girl on the other hand was not too impressed with the new overnight holding paddock, you see it’s that little bit of ribbon – the electricity that she did not approve of … 
… although, these days she has to watch her figure as she does not know when to stop as all the grasses are so delicious!

We also had five weeks of baby-sitting … young Bailey … initially he thought all this freedom was great until he was taught some manners and given some guidelines of how things ‘are’ as a ‘working dog’ … not so much by us but by Maxi boy and Lily-pup. 

Well after a few discrepancies, Bailey said he was very happy to be a part of the “pack” and was contented to follow the ‘rules’.  There is no fun in being by yourself you know.

The old – ‘new’ Toyota Ute had to go in for some fine tuning much to the delight of Maxi and Lily-pup, I was not delighted at all.


We also had some visitors over the month which was terrific to catch up on all that gossip and of events that have come to pass. 

I was given a huge shopping bag full of freshly grown Tahitian Limes – one of my absolute favourites …


 … so I was very busy juicing all the limes and freezing their juice for Thai curries, salad dressings and to drop a couple of cubes into an icy mineral water … what else would you need.


... living out here you learn not to fritter away anything and you make use of every little part of whatever it is that you have received and so the beautiful Tahitian Lime skins full of zest were cut away …


…. Put into the food processor to be finely chopped up …

… and then set to dry on a tray in the sun for a number of days before … turning the dried peel into a salt … mixing the dried peel with crushed sea salt, a pinch of dried chilli and a touch of ground black pepper … it’s a lovely season for Lamb, Chicken on the BBQ, fish if I’m lucky – though these days the only fish I see is from a can – Red Salmon, and the seasoning is lovely on a green salad just sprinkled over the top.


… I also saved some leaves that came with branches of the limes still attached.  I use the leaves in cooking – for steamed rice or a rice pudding and any curry dishes the flavour is only very subtle while still being very refreshing, besides I adore lemons and limes I could quite happily eat a lemon sandwich on lovely fresh rye bread with continental butter!


I was also given a Kefir Lime … another favourite of mine for cooking … a lovely little tree which I quickly added to one of my little gardens that I had already cleaned out and re-potted with manure from the cattle and Lucerne hay that I had collected from the Horses after that terrible dry spell that we had.


The Kefir Lime … though Tropical should do fine at this side of the house in a pot as it is always warm and we don’t get frosts up here.  I first came across the Kefir lime whilst visiting my mother many years ago when she lived in Indonesia.  The leaf is the only part of the tree that Indonesians cooked with at that time and it would flavour their rice dishes and it was in many of their vegetable, chicken and beef dished.  Though my most memorable dish was something very simple … scrambled eggs cooked in coconut oil with a finely chopped Kefir lime leaf and a smidgen of a finely chopped fresh chilli … just delicious for breakfast or at any time of the day really.


…. And then just as March started ... with a small shower of rain ...


 ... we then got on the last few days of March a terrific down pour over three days, of rain … 

...in-fact it was three inches of very gentle rain that soaked well into the country and now ...


 ... the country is just a picture as it swiftly responded to all that water ….

The country, the cattle, the horses and even us – we have all now been washed clean of all the dust, of all the aridness and we have all now been hydrated once again and transported back into living beings … it is a wondrous thing, this existence, this life that we have been given …