Really getting cooler

We’ve just had the Anzac Day long weekend.  In these parts, this is the traditional time for bringing out the heaters and putting on an extra doona.

And so it turned out.  The weekend started with a bitterly cold storm on Friday night — and the snowfields south of Canberra have a thick cover. Where’s that Global Warming when you want it?

I had the flu last week, and was still a bit fragile.  I gave it to Allison, who flew off to New Zealand with her work.  They put her in a 5-star hotel in Auckland, where she was attacked by bedbugs and came back covered with bites from head to foot (yes, even the soles of her feet…).

So we were a sorry crew this weekend.  Just in time for our friend Sarah to arrive –she’s staying with us while she settles into a new job in Canberra.  And our friend Ian from NZ (this time without bugs) dropped by for a couple of days too.

The consolation was that our fields are well covered with MUSHROOMS.  Allison and wwoofer Alice made a rich mushroom soup for Saturday lunch, and Allison taught wwoofer Marco to make damper.

Last night (Sunday) we were getting ready to cook dinner when the power went out.  The whole district was out.  So we all headed into Goulburn to the excellent Astor hotel for some particularly delicious meals (new chef?).  Our friends Brett and Sascha were also there, also without power, and we had a very pleasant evening.

When we got home, we played the Carcassone board game with Sarah and Ian, by candlelight.  We were fast asleep when the power finally came back, I’ve no idea what time.

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Getting cooler

It has started to cool, and we often have wood fires at night.  Since the rain, the property has turned to a jewel green.

Allison dug up our potatoes before Easter.  A fine crop.  We might experiment with potatoes in stacked tyres next year.

Recently our wwoofers (mostly Sean and Alice) laid pavers down in our greenhouse.  Mostly we’ll use it for soil blocker propagation, with a winter garden along one side to keep us in salad greens and herbs over the cold winter months.

We have continued to play with the soil blocker.  We are getting high rates of sprouting and extremely vigorous seedlings — must be the worm castings.  Our broadbeans are going particularly well.

Our cabbages were doing fine too, but we let Cornelius the peacock out of his cage.  He’s a friendly chap, but presently he can get to the cabbages and wreak destruction.  We have a net over one bed, which keeps him out, but we need to come up with a better solution.  He likes to sun himself on the guest house verandah, and a pile of peacock poo would do justice to a small dog.

We have also let the older guineafowl out, and they are cheerful little birds who like to taunt the chickens in the chook dome.  Alas, one was scratching around in the woodshed, and Cara the dog took it into her head to “retrieve” it (she’s a labrador).  When rescued, the bird looked really sick, but I locked it up overnight and it’s back to full health.  Cara is in disgrace.

Our wwoofer guys have been doing some repairs on our old hayshed.  The main uprights are split treetrunks, and there is evidence of adze work, so it’s at least 50 years old and maybe a lot older.  It has been without a section of roof for some years.  So the wwoofers (Marco, Edgar and Sean) erected some framework and put up some old iron.  Hopefully it’s good for another 20 years now.

I bought a shed kit to build a stable block: two stalls, and a large tack room.  This will help for our equestrian activities, and will let us collect some more water to support our pig tractor.  I’m getting quotes for a concrete slab, then we’ll erect the shed.

Rowany Festival

This blog has been a little quiet lately, as we were preparing for, then attending, the Rowany Festival.

This is the SCA‘s biggest Australian event, held in a beautiful valley near Gosford.

We took two tents, our “cockatrice” tent (with the cockatrice heraldry as painted by some wwoofers) to sleep in, and our 2-pole pavillion with ivy on the roof (by a different set of wwoofers) as our feasting tent.  Including some relatives, friends and ring-ins, we had 12 people in our campsite.  We had fabulous fun and hope to camp with them all again next year.

The highlight was our campsite feast on the Saturday night.  Everybody cooked something and brought it to share.  Allison did some wonderful roast lamb and vegetables in a camp oven.  We all sang songs, serious and silly, and had many laughs.

The whole event was great.  Very friendly, and a wonderful opportunity catch up with our mates around the country.  I got to try some part-singing, which was great fun if a bit terrifying to start with.  Allison went to several of the collegia and has some new projects to work on over the year.

Both of us went to a cooking demonstration in Abbotsford, the purist period encampment.  They do everything using medieval implements and techniques, and they make it look easy.  As Allison’s roast dinner was pretty well period, we’re going to take a few more steps in that direction next year.

Currently I’m Chancellor of the Exchequer in the SCA, the treasurer for the kingdom.  This means I’m on the kingdom’s Council of the Purse, which amongst other things decides on where kingdom events will be held.  No groups bid for the next Twelfth Night event (January 2010) so we put in an emergency bid.  This was accepted, so we’ll be running a national medieval event in Goulburn.  More on that one later.

The weather was generally hot and steamy, unpleasant for a couple of hours in the middle of the day but otherwise great.  On the final day, it started pouring, just in time to make our pack-up quite unpleasant.  We had some difficulty in driving out, so I hate to think what it would be like in a really wet year.

Will post some photos when we can wangle some — we took the camera but didn’t take many shots.

Many thanks to our wwoofers for keeping the farm going while we were away: Anette, Sean and Alice, plus a return visit from Sarah and Lasse with parents in tow.  We get two more wwoofers shortly and lose Anette.

The Destructo Duck Gang

We’re having some trouble with the Destructo Duck Gang.

Regular readers might remember that initially I didn’t like muscovy ducks, which are big chunky ducks (actually small South American geese) unlike the elegant mallards.

Allison bought three home when she bid on them accidentally at the poultry auction. One of them, Foxfood, liked flying around the farm, so we ate her. The others were then surprisingly amiable and well behaved, so I relented and agreed to get them a drake.

So we bought Nicky the Duck, who is a delightful character with an unfortunate desire to live inside the house with us. With lots of growling on my part, and the odd boot to his backside, Nicky now stays in his yard and is well behaved, as is his surviving girlfriend.

At the last poultry auction, the muscovies were going cheaply and we ended up with 6 more supposed girls, from an organic farm that closed down. So these were real organic ducks, though we’re not currently using organic food so I guess they’re not any more.

It turns out that the organic farm couldn’t tell the difference between girls and boys (which no doubt impacted on their breeding regime…). So ‘Dawn’, a very pretty if solid girl, is now Markus the Drake. I think there’s another drake or two in there as well, though some are still young.

The problem is that the new muscovies, the Destructo Duck Gang, are constantly up to mischief. Allison feeds them a couple of lettuces and they demolish it in seconds. (Did you know that piranhas can skeletonise a cow in 4 minutes? Similar feeding frenzy.)

The Gang also showed interest in being inside ducks, and have been told to forget it. But they sneak out past the back door into the vegie garden, and wreak havoc there. My favourite Perpetual Spinach is anything but.

I’m thinking duck dinner soon.

In other news, Cornelius the peacock is now allowed to cruise the property. He’s very elegant, and quite friendly, though once again we’re getting droppings on the back step. Unfortunately his mate died — she had been sick since we got her. We have two other peacocks still acclimatising — Cornelius and Cornelius. So we need to find some girls.

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As promised, here’s some recent photos.

This is Anna from Germany, experimenting with the soil blocker.

This is a possum visitor, with Sandrine from France. This guy was very tame.

Sarah and Lasse from Denmark, and Markus from Germany, in front of our cockatrice tent. The tent was mostly painted by Sam/Sabrina/Ophelie all from France and gone for some weeks now – great job.

Sandrine at our last “scratch” feast. It was great fun.