Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas everyone

And Radha wants you all to know she'd really like to open the presents now so come on everyone, GET OUT OF BED!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Little joey plays air guitar

When last at Currumbin I took a photo of this little Big Red fella who popped out of the pouch to do some groovin' on air guitar... :-D

Watch out Rock 'n Roll world, he's coming your way!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Solar at The Grange

Take that, coal-fired power stations! The Grange will now generate approximately 6.5 kWh electricity /day from good old Sol.

I am pretty sure this good old house is taking this 21st-century-technology in its 130-year-old stride.

We will probably add more solar panels as time goes by and prices come down. For now it is expected that these 8 panels will generate 1/3 of our power. The builders are at present also installing 8 panels on the nursery roof, which should generate enough power to completely cover the existing electricity bill for our tenants Tasman and Barry who run it as a business, The Clunes Nursery.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Learning to ride

Here's Teun on his second ever horse riding lesson. To the manor born :-) ...  Or should I say "To The Grange He Came?"

House guest

We are very lucky to have a lovely house guest in the form of Teun from Venray in the Netherlands. Not only is he very likeable and exceedingly helpful around the place, he loves animals and is also a Trekkie!! And he's a dab hand with the camera ...

Yarrow, Teun and Tess November 2012. The cowboy and his Clunes sisters :-)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Update on the children of Capt Rainbow II and the Missus II

They grew up and flew away :-) :-) :-)

Dad Rosella and Mum Rosella are debating whether to have a new brood. Dad says YES!! YES!!, Mum so far seems to be saying "NO WAY BOYO". Or tweets to that effect.

Wallaby joey update 3

Sad news. Despite a very good start, the wallaby joey died due to sudden renal failure last Thursday, after three months in superb care. Jan, his carer of 24 hours a day, seven days (and nights) a week, is devastated. Our fantastic vet Willa did all she could but despite Jan's entreaties not to let him die he just slipped away. Willa thinks maybe his period of intense hypothermia at the start could have done some kidney damage, but then again, it could have been a birth defect of some sort.

I really feel for Jan and her husband Peter who gave excellent and devoted care to him for three months and were so looking forward to releasing him into the wilds behind their farm.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Remember Captain Rainbow and his Missus, the Eastern Rosellas?

These are the children of Capt Rainbow II and the Missus II (Long story. Ask Sunny the cat ...  :-(  )

This is the nesting box I built two years ago. There are six of them at least, so a big brood for eastern rosellas ... aren't they beautiful? (hmm ...  well, their mother loves them, anyway).

But here at the Grange we're enchanted.

Click for a larger image

Happiness is ... cuddling your puppy

Well, officially not a puppy anymore, as Radha is now one year old.

Here's Briony giving her a cuddle.

The filly goes for a walk

Here's an early morning photo of our youngest horse, Romany Ruby Smudge Muffin (yeah, yeah, she was named by the entire committee of teenage Grange girls), going for a wander down towards the valley. What a view to wake up to ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happy birthday Marc!

Well, it's still 9 October in Europe ...  so here is a happy birthday card for Marc, my much loved and much-missed brother!

This is a sketch / doodle Marc and I made together in the kitchen at Crieve Lodge (RMB 602B, Goulburn NSW), while my mother was on the phone, back in 1981 or so, and which I have treasured and kept all these years. I'm wondering how to explain the context of this drawing, but I've decided I can't ... Suffice to say, we were pretty much rolling on the floor, helpless with laughter. I know, I know, you kinda had to be there ...

The drawing is called "Schoft"

Happy happy birthday, Marc. Thank you for all the merriment, humour, and laughter that we have shared. I love you! xxx Mieke

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A word about Radha

For some reason that I can't fathom, I haven't posted about our lovely new dog, Radha. She was a gift from friends, Matthew and Ayananda: they loved her dearly but could not take her with them to Norway. So now she lives with us (note well: unlike Chicco, she's not a 'rescue' dog: she had a good healthy upbringing and was much loved).

She's about a year old and is a cross between ... bull mastiff? foxhound? greyhound? Who knows. But she's a gentle, beautiful and very playful dog.

"I can beat Briony at Cathedrale. I'm sure I can"

Mmm, snuggling in front of the fire. Mmmmmm!

Here's a word from herself - "A morning in the life of Radha" (PS: Sunny and Inkling are cats)

6.15 am: From my nest next to the humans’ bed I wake up, sit up, stretch, and shake head to flap ears awake. Put head on the bed and look imploringly to tell my humans that I’d like to go out and do a pee. Keep looking at the humans and sighing occasionally until they get the picture. Good humans.

6.30 am: Wander outside together with Sunny the cat. Have the usual polite non-verbal discussion as to who gets to walk down the stairs first. He always says he will, even though I know I could jump straight over him while he does it …. but I won’t, ‘cos Sunny has pointy bits at the end of his paws and might like to use them if he gets a surprise.

6.35 am: Come inside much lighter in body and spirit and find my friend Inkling. Inkling weaves around my paws and gives me some head-bonks and makes soft growly noises which means he’s happy. I suck on Inkling’s ear. It’s just our thing.

6.45 am: Sit under the breakfast table and decide to generously give various humans my toys. John can have Mousie, Mieke can have Ball and Yarrow can have StinkyRope . Hm. Yarrow doesn’t want StinkyRope. She says it’s “Eeuwgh go away Radha I don’t want your StinkyRope”. How can she not? She has no taste. Then again, she is a teenager.  Console myself by sucking on Inkling’s ear for a bit.

7.00 am: Time for John to go to work, which means walk time for us Dogs. Wake Chicco up and launch myself out the door and down the stairs in a single leap. Lie in wait for Chicco so I can pounce on her as she reaches the bottom step. Romp happily and chew on Chicco’s hind legs while she tries to walk in a straight line. Not a hope Chicco!

7.50 am: While breakfast is being made for us Animals, I entertain myself by chasing my tail. Eight times in one direction and thirteen times in the other. Finish up feeling slightly wobbly and stagger around a bit. Tess laughs: obviously a happy teenager, she must have seen something funny. Wonder what it was.

How to befuddle your dog

You take some planks and some bits and pieces ...

Then you mix and stir (while adding a cup of tea, of course)

Then you move it somewhere else ....

... and befuddle your dog.

Visitor in the woodshed

You could be excused for thinking of Ada Doom here (from Cold Comfort Farm: "I saw something nasty in the woodshed!"). But it's only Charlie our local python. I must say, he seems to have grown a lot these past hibernating months.

He was a bit camera shy: so you can't see his pretty face ;-)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Riding a young horse

Here's Rascal being ridden by Carla on day 4 of his life as a riding horse. Some shenanigans today: he was trying to evade work by skittering around and not letting Carla get on but she has more patience than he has and in the end he just had to give in to her polite and insistent requests to stand still and let her mount ... (hey fella, we're humans, and we'll live longer than you will ...). But he was also much more balanced and happy to go forward. He also did a bit of lateral work and some turns on the forehand.

Not bad for a brumby cross :-)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wallaby joey update 2

All is well with our joey! Jan is being such a wonderful carer. He's gained weight, is growing fur, and drinks well. Jan has been offering him grass to eat but he's not showing interest in that yet (but he will suck fingers, nibble on bracelets, chew on buttons, and the like). Jan informed us that had he been able to stay with his mum in natural conditions, he would still have spent another 210 days in the pouch (7 months!). So he does spend most of his time in the humidicrib, and he is taken out for feeding and toileting.

Tess holding the joey, now renamed "Benjamin Wallaby"

In Yarrow's arms. As you can see he has some unusually striking markings for a swamp wallaby.

Horse training: Rascal under saddle

Now that he's four and a half years old, our very own Rascal Darius, our friendly intelligent clown, has started proper training! And he's coming along so well. John and I have done a fair bit of ground work using natural horsemanship techniques. Our friend, a professional horse trainer, comes over and has been doing great work with him. Soon he will go to her place and receive the 'fine polish' of training such as doing lateral work, working on flexion and so on.

After his first time under saddle with her (I was at a uni research seminar) she texted me "You have an amazing little horse on your hands!". And we think so too.

Some background: Rascal was born on Melbourne Cup day 2007. His dam is buckskin brumby Duchess (now living with Hans and Niki); his sire is Noah Nielsen's bay tobiano arab Xerxes. Rascal looks much like his Dad. Rascal's very similar uncle can be viewed here.

Rascal at 4 days old running with his Mama, Duchess the brumby.

Rascal now 4 years old, his first time ride under the trainer. No bucking, no fear, but collaboration and confidence :-)
I do like the natural training techniques: they make such sense and you get a better horse in the long run. Oh, and Rascal's not for sale...  he's staying as my very own future riding horse :-)

Here's another lovely photo of his first real ride. He's looking pretty relaxed and happy!

Ears forward :-)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Joey update

Just rang Jan ... He's doing very well. He weighs 666 grams which puts him at about 80 days old: very young to survive without a Mum. (See here for a table of weight / feed ratios).
He has not developed diarrhea which is one of the big dangers for young rescued macropods. According to Jan he's doing better than most joeys she's had in her care, which is wonderful considering how very cold he was to start with. He's much more active and very curious about his surroundings. We'll go visit him later this week and take some more photos.

Rescue of a swamp wallaby joey

Driving down towards the narrow bridge over Pearce's Creek late Thursday afternoon with Tess, we spotted a small shambling silhouette staggering across the road. Shocked, we realised it was a very young joey. Swerving to give it plenty of room, the Forester has never been brought so sharply from 80kph to a halt downhill on grass. Tess pelted back up the hill, and gathered it gently in her school jumper.
Poor thing, it's frozen, I said as I felt its ears, only lightly covered in fur. Tuck it under your shirt, against your skin. Where's its Mum? Tess swaddled it under her shirt and held it close.

A short search revealed the body of its mother, a swamp wallaby, both back legs shattered, her body stone cold. Must have been there all day, slowly getting colder, and now come out of the pouch in search of warmth.
What can we do? Asked Tess, knowing full well it needs special care that we can't provide.
I might know someone. Long time ago, but they might still have the resources. Not far from here. Come back to the car, and keep it warm.
We took the joey to the farm where ten years ago, I remembered, people did macropod rescue. And they were still there.
Wading our way through their various dogs (ranging from Chihuahua cross to the hugest great Dane I've ever seen) we met Jan and Peter. Jan placed the joey in a soft bag and ambled over to the garage where, to my intense surprise, they had two fully kitted out hospital grade humidicribs. Let's just get this one started up, Jan said softly, twiddling various techno dials. Just keep him warm against you, darling, there's a dear, she said to Tess, while I make up a bottle for him and wait for the crib to warm up. He's very cold, he's in danger. In the cupboard she pulled out a tin of Di-Vetelact milk powder especially for young macropods (Nope, I thought, I have lots of stuff in my cupboards, but I don't have that). Soon after, while Tess cradled the joey, Jan fed him tiny amounts of milk. He didn't eat much. I know, it's strange, Jan said to him. Not your Mum, not your home, not your milk. But it's the best we can offer you. Tonight will be the most difficult: if you make it through the night you might be right.

By then it was well dark outside. We left him with Jan who was going to stay up during the night to ensure he regained his body temperature and learned to feed.

The next day I received a text: "Our little boy has picked up well, he started sucking at 10 last night. Jan"

:-) he made it through the night :-) he made it through the night :-) he made it through the night :-)

Friday, June 22, 2012

A short but lovely family visit

On our three days off John and I headed North to Queensland to visit various McAdam-esque relatives.  I love the drive: it's beautiful country and we while away the time nicely with music and reading. On our first stop we had a delectable roast meal and spent an engaging evening with John's stepbrother Peter Morfee and his wife Roselle; and the next morning were treated to a guided tour of Peter's marvellous garden.

Peter Morfee's garden: check out the awesome veggie garden there on the left

Loaded with various wonderful treats from Peter and Roselles garden and kitchen in the form of chutneys and pickles and other yummies, the next day we visited John's much-loved Mum Tuffy and her husband Tony Morfee (Peter's father), who has sadly been unwell. It was lovely to hug dear Tuffy again... and we do hope Tony gets better soon! 

Then we headed over to John's brother Peter McAdam and Peter's wife Bronwyn. I love visiting their farm... good company and a lovely location. One of the highlights for me was that Bronwyn offered to take me out in the sulky with the Australian Champion carriage horse, her very own Monga Park Whiskey. Bronwyn (champion trainer and driver in her own right of course) let me take the reins and showed me the basics of driving: what a treat!!

When I played Bronwyn, Peter and John the clip, Whiskey the pony showed great surprise and looked around for the trotting horse he could hear! Smart boy ...

Monday, May 28, 2012

How to stop a python eating your bantams

A large-ish python lives near our chook pens ('henhouse', for the non-Australian readers). For many years he did not eat any poultry, verified by the Battistuzzi family who kept hens here for many years and watched the python grow up. But now, he's even larger, and I have been breeding Barbu d'uccle bantams which are a much smaller breed of poultry.

It's just too tempting for him. Bigger mouth and tum + smaller birds = easy dinner pickings for the python. (Mieke pulls a sad face ... ). I don't begrudge the occasional egg, but I've lost four bantam hens and two roosters in a short space of time. But what to do? I know if we move the python, he will come back. If we move him so far away that he can't, then (a) he will spend his whole life miserably trying to return to his territory; and (b) another snake will move in (maybe a venomous one, so no thanks). And really, he has as much right to live on this land as we do. After all, he's lived here all his life, many years more than we have.

So I decided to cross breed my bantams with bigger birds in the hope that I can stay one step ahead of him, while retaining the genetic diversity of a rare breeds flock. From Cromwell Farm, a local farm specialising in rare breeds I purchased two lovely Plymouth Rock hens and two very affectionate Orpington pullets.

This Orpington pullet is very curious and affectionate

Orpington pullet number two, still a baby really (says cheep-cheep still).

A young Plymouth Rock hen

This lady is a fair bit older (maybe two years?) and shows the full plumage of the Plymouth Rock.
Yarrow bought me this pullet as a present from the markets. No idea of the breed, but nice delicate colouring. The young Barbu bantam rooster likes her as well!

So here's hoping that the flock stays well and happy ready for the laying season!

Ballina to Byron marathon: some more photos

These lovely photos were taken by our team member Catherine during our walk.

Just after sunrise, just north of Ballina ... despite the cool look, it was lovely weather.

Coming over the headland from Flat Rock towards Angels and Boulders Beach. Lennox headland ahead.

This striking view of Lennox headland ... just stunning. It's a delight to walk in such surroundings. Lovely photo, Catherine!

Willa and myself striding along Seven Mile Beach (erm, it isn't seven miles long actually, it's a bit shorter).

Looking back on Broken Head... this is just past the 25 km mark. It was *very* tempting to go for a swim!

Coming up to Byron Lighthouse, about 32 km into our walk. These last 5 km were quite tough ... very steep and rocky in places and quite a lot of uphill work. After the lighthouse there was only one small headland to go (Watego's Beach headland). Once up there we had a bit of a breather at the lighthouse, in any case, and we were fortunate to see a whale breaching as well. I found that seeing the whale drove all thoughts of tiredness out of my head! We also saw rays and turtles, as the water was crystal clear.

It was a wonderful experience and I'm surely signing up for the marathon next year!

Monday, May 21, 2012

We did it! The Ballina to Byron Marathon Walk

I survived the marathon walk! In our team of five ("SCUrriers"), we hiked the whole marathon distance from Ballina to Byron Bay, crossing five(ish) headlands along the way. It was challenging, but great (I was hindered by laryngitis and bronchitis; Willa ended up with a trapped nerve).

Catherine, Kathryn, Betty and Willa at the start
Our beneficiary: our local Rescue Helicopter swinging over the Bay.
A closer image of our rescue helicopter who accompanied our start.
Boulder beach coming up to Lennox
A closer view of the lovely Lennox headland

 At the 20km mark we stopped for a break and some lunch. On my sandwich packet (delectable roast beef, salad and beetroot sandwich), made by Tess Hayley Mol), was written "xoxoxo I LOVE YOU! xoxo ♥ POWER ON!! xoxo YOU CAN DO IT!" ... and inside that on the interior wrapping, written in ink "I ♥ U" and "STERKTE" .... Others looked on and one of our team said "my sandwich is nowhere near as special and wonderful as yours..." (I must say, I agreed ....).

Footprints in the sand: this was about halfway
Until the 25km mark we were well up on time, but after that we slowed a little: Willa's trapped nerve was really slowing her up...  The last headland, at the 32 km mark, was "a killer" as one of our team put it...

Coming up to Byron headland
Looking back southwards, from whence we had come: our starting point is in the far far distance (I think ... it might be out of sight)
The gorgeous Little Wategoes headland: a special Aboriginal sacred women's site

SCUrriers at the Byron lighthouse
I don't have a photo that I can upload of us crossing the finish line (when we did, I had tears in my eyes anyway) but the one above was taken at the Byron lighthouse, about 2km before the finish.

We finished the 37 km walk in 8 hours 41 minutes...  I admire our team!! Thank you Betty, Willa, Catherine and Kathryn, for a walk of a lifetime.

And we are so so lucky to be able to live and walk along one of the most beautiful and pristine coastlines in the world ... 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Camping at Alice Flats

One of my favourite pasttimes: camping with the family. Bush camping, that is: not in a caravan park, away from roads and other people. The weekend after Easter John and I, with Tess and Yarrow (and Chicco our dog) set off with our dear friends Willa and Andrew (+ Myki and Liam), plus old friends of theirs (James and Mitti, and their two young sons) to spend four days camping in the wilderness on the banks of the Clarence River, some 30 km south-east of Tabulam. The locality is known as Alice Flats.  John and I put our gear into the horse float, which doubles as our "tent", and headed off cross country, well off the beaten tracks.

Yarrow and Tess in the foreground, Liam and Myki just visible in the tree behind. These are big old Callistemon trees, by the way. Check out the moss!

There is gently sloping sandy access to the river, which of course, is the focus of most of the activities: swimming, stone skipping, surfing (you tie a rope to the tree, and 'surf' the rapids on an ex-camping-mattress), fishing for yabbies, and generally lounging about.

John practising for the big stone skipping competition :-)

Chicco loves coming along ... and is not only good company, but keeps the campsite free of cattle and the odd brumby who might come wandering through, with her loud warning woof at their approach.

Evenings brought lovely campfire, music, and superb campfire meals ... delectable.
Here's a clip of Yarrow singing a campfire song written and accompanied by Myki on guitar (inspired by The Waifs). Just listen...

Mind you, some of the creative cookery done by the kids was a tad *interesting*. Here Yarrow and Myki have made salted crackers with melted chocolate and marshmallow fillings, toasted on the camfire hotplate... Do we say yum? No? What do we say?

The return journey was exciting indeed, as we had to get the Hilux (plus heavy horse float attached) through some deep sand and rock terrain, and got bogged well down to the axles several times. Some solid spade work by all of us helped, as well as John's excellent 4WD skills. I know, horse floats aren't meant to be 4WD vehicles... never mind. There was a *particularly* exciting bit which involved sliding the Hilux plus float down a large, 45 degree sand dune ("there's no way but down"). We finally got the to 'main road' (a dirt track leading away from the river); and when John said "Well, that's it ... bye, river!", Yarrow piped in with huge overtones of relief  "Oh...Hello, ROAD!!!"...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The impressive story of the "Scotch Bonnet"

While doing a training walk for my marathon the other week, on the beach near Brunswick, I chanced across an inspiring story ...

But first, let's go back in time.

In October 2011, a 10 metre yacht called the Scotch Bonnet and her crew were caught in a severe storm in the middle of the Tasman Sea: 1000 km from New Zealand and 1000 km from Australia. In the huge and heavy seas, the yacht's mast broken and the rigging destroyed, the crew had no option but to set off their EPIRB device (emergency beacon), whereupon they were rescued by a container ship.

They had no option, but to abandon the yacht to her fate. They were devastated.

Nothing was seen of the yacht and the assumption was that she had gone down, till in December 2011, a cruise ship with 2000 passengers, the Sun Princess, came across the yacht still floating in the Tasman. They sent out a rescue team but ascertained the yacht was abandoned. It was unclear what the legal status of the yacht was, whether it posed a safety risk to shipping lanes, and whether it ought to be scuppered. They eventually decided to leave it be, and it wasn't seen again...

Until, months later, it drifted calmly ashore on a long and clear stretch of coast just south of Brunswick Heads... where I just happened to be walking, and happened to have a camera.

This amazing vessel has survived, without crew, and relatively undamaged beyond her first storm (how many others has she weathered?)...

Salvage company has just arrived

So little damage on such a long lonely journey ...

The yacht survived some 22 weeks at sea on her own.  I don't wish to sound too anthropomorphistic, but I find this an inspiring and heartwarming story of survival ...