Goodbye Pat

Saturday was our goodbye feast for Pat, who along with Nicky was our first wwoofer back in October 2008. We have a scratch medieval feast with wwoofers Brian, Matt, Vanessa and Vital, Allison’s daughter Jessica and partner Phil, and grandson Deacon, as well as our friend Kate from Canberra.

The plan was to have it in the medieval tent in the paddock, but it ended up being the coldest September day for 50 years so we moved it inside where we had a roaring fire.

It was a great feast, including some of Pat’s famous French provincial dishes, conveniently medieval in style. A little less medieval was Vital’s didgeridoo – which I must say made for a great night, as he has a real talent.

Pat stayed with us for four months at the beginning, then he went around Australia. He came back here at the start of June, so nearly another four months this time. We will miss him greatly. He is a firm friend, and we expect to see him many times over the coming years. I imagine being 80 years old, and sipping pastis with him while reminiscing about times past.

This was our first year of wwoofing, and we have had close to 40 wwoofers. Perhaps half of them we will stay in touch with, and hope to meet again in their own countries. Many of these will I expect become lifelong friends. This is the true value of wwoofing, on top of all the undoubted help we get in exchange for our hospitality.

A foal at last

On Saturday the SCA in Canberra had a medieval Guild Feast. Allison and I went along, with wwoofers Pat, Matt and also Brian from Ireland who arrived the night before. It was a pleasant event, with some nice part-singing and a whole lot of our favourite people.

When we got home, I took a torch and headed off to find Domino. I soon found her, with a foal.

I was up early next morning, and here’s the first photo:

Gawaine, the first morning

We did have a few issues – Domino had a retained placenta, which had us quite worried until it was sorted. But she’s fine now.

Here’s a few more photos of our new boy, who is three-quarter-Clydesdale. I’ve called him Gawaine after the famous Scottish knight of the round table.

Spectacular

On Saturday we went to fireworks in Gunning, the next town on the way to Melbourne. Apparently they do this every year as a trade show, demonstrating fancy new fireworks that are then picked up by the spectacular Sydney New Year fireworks and things like that.

About three times as many people showed up as expected, so we had to park on the road outside. The fireworks were indeed excellent, and we were so close to them that you felt the shock waves on your face.

Our party was myself and Allison, my son Owen, and wwoofers Marie and Matt from Germany. We were hoping for steak sandwiches, but they had quickly run out. We snaffled the last five hotdogs, which turned out to be quite evil. So after the fireworks we headed to Goulburn and the excellent Paragon Café, for dessert.

The Paragon has been going since1940, and has always been a classy establishment. Their cakes are my downfall.

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Still no foal from Domino. She is getting a lot of attention from us, and is responding well. Yesterday she ate some lucerne hay from my hand, with reasonable confidence. Normally the best you will get is that she grabs some hay from your hand and runs off.

The baby chickens are doing well. The ducklings are getting adventurous, and wandering off from mum: one somehow got out of the backyard, and was in danger from the hungry guineafowl. Fortunately Cara the Labrador was guarding them (she’s a funny girl, and fascinated by the ducklings) and she told me to go and rescue it.

One other mallard duck is sitting, in an obscure corner of the garden, and we think there’s one more duck missing. No luck with the muscovies, but we do have lots of muscovy eggs in the incubator, due in two weeks.

Resistable bargains

Clearing sales seem to come in two flavours. Sometimes you can get great bargains. At other times the Sydney antique dealers come, and everything doubles in price.

Saturday’s clearing sale near Goulburn didn’t have antique dealers, just lots of farmers apparently cashed up. Among the first lots was a set of farm dog kennels, in good shape but obviously a home made job. I thought they would go for maybe $300. They went for almost $2000. There was an aviary I was going to bid to about $100 for, which went for $425. Many items went for new prices. We left early.

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We have a new wwoofer, Marie from Germany. Silvan has gone for a month, and Marie has taken over looking after the horses. Still no foal from Domino! (She will burst soon.)

I dropped in with Marie at the Southern Highlands Carriage Club. This is a great group, starting about my age and going up from there. They have horse-drawn vehicles and use them for competitions and pleasure riding. One fellow has a gorgeous black Morgan stallion, and my friend Ray has an impressive (thoroughbred?) called Shadow.

Allison and I have visited this group before. They always make us feel welcome, and we are usually offered free horses! This happened again on Sunday, and Marie was very keen for us to get a rideable horse. We called in at a farm which is overstocked (not much grass this year) and were offered a 10yo ex-trotter in sore need of a feed. ‘Ernie’ is happy to pull a sulky cart, but it turned out that he hasn’t been broken in for riding. He was very quiet, and they said he would be easy to break in. Which I believe, but we’re not set up for that.

So we politely said no. There are lots of racing horses which don’t make the grade, and most unfortunately end up as dog food. I would still like to take a rescue horse, if we can find one who can be ridden.

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Last night we called in at the monthly Politarchopolis Pot Luck. This is the Canberra medieval club, and they have an informal monthly dinner. We are drowning in eggs right now, so Allison made some little quiches, as well as some ‘doucettes’ (custard tarts). There were only nine people there in total, it being Fathers’ Day and a week after a larger event. The company was very pleasant, and we danced “Jenny Plucks Pears”, an English country dance.

Irresistable bargains

The Goulburn Post is our local newspaper. We get three paid editions a week, and a free community weekly.

It takes a lot of content to fill these newspapers, so they print anything. A twenty-first birthday or a wedding will get you a double-page colour spread. Once there was a fellow whose sister visited from Queensland, and that was worth half a page of story and a colour photo.

We’re launching our Goulburn medieval club next month, and will be shamelessly exploiting the local paper. We’ll send them lots of short articles with an interesting photo, perfect for filling a gap, on things like archery and weaving and armouring, with a local person in the photo. They won’t be able to resist.

Anyway, in Saturday’s local paper there were a couple of clearing sales. When somebody sells a farm, they sell off all the crap that has accumulated over the years. For the bigger sales, they get an auction firm in to flog it all off.

(My Dad used to love clearing sales. After he died, we had one ourselves, and all his gear got recycled to his fellow bargain-hunters. Kind of like the Circle of Life.)

Saturday’s clearing sale was only five minutes from our farm. With my son Owen, we headed out in a virtual blizzard, and checked their offerings. We got a big pie oven for $20, really useful for the larger medieval feasts, and a heap of scaffolding for $100, which we can turn into a temporary toilet block for medieval events on the farm. Also some tools and a big lump of railway line, useful for armouring. Many thanks to wwoofer Silvan, who came back in the bad weather to retrieve the heavier items: we were soaked to the skin.

On Sunday we headed to Murrumbateman (45 minutes away) for an enormous sale. However, as I overheard one fellow on the mobile phone to his mate, “you’ve never seen so much shit in your life…” Usually there is quite a bit of good stuff in the mix, but this time there were acres of carefully sorted rubbish. We did spend $15 on odds and ends like feed bins and animal cages, but then made a quick exit. The rain was mostly gone, but the howling wind was miserable.

There is another clearing sale next weekend, in Goulburn.

Back on the farm, we now have some silkie bantam chickens, seven tiny little balls of fluff. Nellie the duck has been sighted very occasionally, and we presume she has a clutch somewhere which must be about to hatch. No muscovy ducklings yet either — this duck sat last year with no results, so hopefully something will happen soon or Nicky the Drake will be dinner.

In Australia, Spring starts officially on 1 September. Excepting this weekend, August was mostly Spring weather, hence the furious egg-laying. Nice weather has been promised for this week.