The lost post #2

(Written on 2 Oct, but not posted till now sorry.)

It’s really spring now, and we have some wwoofers again.

The garden was a complete mess after winter.  That’s still pretty much the case, but it’s making good progress.

Yesterday was a lovely day and we brought the horses back into work after a break of many months.

Gawaine (the clydesdale) was his usual delightful self.  We think he’s finished growing now, as all the bits are back into proportion, and he’s working really smoothly.  He’s great to ride, but a few inches taller than last year — a big boy, but not too big for riding.

Paulie (standardbred ex-trots-racer) was more co-operative than I expected.  Jan thinks he gets his emotional cues from the rider — which all horses will do, but Paulie seems to respond particularly well to a calm and confident rider.

Doc (thoroughbred brat) was a bit all over the place, and we didn’t ride him.  Jan was keen to give him some time to get his head together.  Usually he’s very good to ride despite being an overly-friendly nuisance the rest of the time.

That’s all the riding horses we have at the moment.  Rocky is now retired — he’s getting a bit old, and he had leg problems the last two years.


The lost post #1

(Written on 18 Sep; sorry not posted till now.)

We’ve just had our first wwoofers for the season, three young German guys.

They were good workers, and we got a lot done in two and a half days — but they’ve found some paid work in Victoria and left this morning.  We’d be happy to have them back in the future.

We’re definitely getting less enquiries than in past years, and the wwoof website is pretty quiet.  Things are obviously tough in Europe, but I’m surprised that hasn’t increased the number of wwoofers in Australia.  Instead of being unemployed at home, a year of adventure in Australia could be a plus.  Unless the families just can’t afford to send the kids overseas any more.

For the last couple of years, the Australian Government has had a rule than anybody wwoofing for three months could get an extra year on their tourist visa.  For us, that meant that suddenly everybody wanted to stay for three months and one day, just in case they wanted to extend their visit.  The ideal visit length at Cockatrice Farm seems to be about 2 months, so in the last few weeks the wwoofers started to get bored.  So that arrangement wasn’t great for us.

The new rules are that wwoofers can still get extended visas, but they have to work 7 hours a day for 5 days and then have 2 days off, still for 3 months.  Which doesn’t suit our farm very well, so we’re not doing that.

It’s not yet the peak wwoofing season, so we may yet get a rush of enquiries.  But it would be handy to have some helpers again soon.

Spring has sprung

It’s now spring, the way we calculate it in Australia.

The animals decided it was spring a couple of weeks ago, with lots of frolicking and nesting and all that stuff.

Little Jasmine the miniature horse has been especially frolicsome.  She’s meant to live in the orchard, with very restricted food intake, but Allison lets her out in the house yard for a bit of respite.  One day, we were putting her back in her yard, and she raced off and ran around the houses twice.  Never seen her move so fast.  I think she was having fun.

I mentioned that we had lots of sunny days this winter, which was true, but there were a few shockers too, some in the last couple of weeks.  It’s much worse when the winds come up — we stay inside by the fire.

The weather in spring was perfect for serrated tussock weeds, especially in the big open paddock where we ploughed a couple of years ago.  I’ve gone out a few times to clear them, but you really don’t feel like it in the colder weather.

We’ve had no wwoofers over winter.  Hopefully we’ll get some soon, and get back to the tussocks and farm maintenance.

A puzzle

Winter hasn’t been so bad. Lots of biting frosts, giving way to sunny calm days where it’s rather pleasant to be outside, and no great worry of sunburn.
This weekend we helped our friend Jane to move into a small property in our area. The catch was that she has a long thin driveway edged with sharp rocks that look like shark’s teeth.
The removal van couldn’t get down the driveway, and the ground was too soft to come in any other way. So they had to carry all her gear down the driveway to the house — in fact to the garages at the other end of the house, because the outgoing owners had put back settlement as they were late moving out and cleaning up.
I and my son Owen gave the removalists a hand, lugging boxes and furniture for a couple of hours. That’s my workout for the week! Rather sore and sorry at the end.
Later, I had the back out the driveway because the previous owners were coming the other way, and I managed to blow a tyre on the aforementioned teeth. Bugger!

Apart from that, my energies have been going into managing the Goulburn Club, and pursuing my other hobby of family history.
The latter is driving me crazy right now. I feel like I’m some miles into a wild goose chase.
My family were originally Hewets, which family included the Lord Mayor of London, Sir William Hewet. His father was supposedly Edmund or Edward, but there’s no sign of him in the records in Yorkshire where he’s meant to have lived.
I’ve wondered for a while whether the Hewets were related to the de Haut family of Kent, who have pretty good records back to the Norman Conquest in 1066.
I have seen an eighteenth-century book which said the Hewets originally came from Kent, and the Lord Mayor married an heiress from Kent.
The two families have very similar patterns of boys’ names. And names were sticky at this time; you always named your sons after your father, yourself, your brothers, and your father-in-law if you ended up with his estates.
The Haut/Haute/Hawte family were close relatives of Elizabeth Woodville, queen of Edward IV, and her family got the lion’s share of royal largesse during Edward’s reign.
This was during the Wars of the Roses. When the Lancastrians got the upper hand again, the Woodvilles and Hauts and Greys were persecuted and their estates seized at the first excuse. Spelling was wildly variable at this time, so maybe some branches of the family chose to de-emphasise their links to the Hauts of Kent. The Hauts came somewhat back into favour when Henry Tudor seized power.

Sir William Hawte was a minor renaissance composer, and his son Thomas was knighted at the wedding of Prince Arthur (the younger brother of Henry VIII, who died soon after his wedding). Sir Thomas Haute himself died the next year (1502), leaving young children. His wife’s father was appointed as the ward of the children, and they seem to have lived to her family’s seat of South Mimms in Hertfordshire.
The heralds’ records say that these Haute estates went to Sir Thomas’ son, another Sir William, and that his son Edmund died young so his estates were divided between his daughters. There is no record of other children; the heralds didn’t always record younger sons as they would have no lands and were expected to drop out of the gentry.
I have wills of a Thomas Hewet of South Mimms, and a Robert who is clearly his brother who ended up in Bedfordshire. These look like additional children of Sir Thomas who died in 1502. Another brother called Edmund would fit in very neatly there — I just can’t find such a link. I have lots of things that imply the connection, and nothing that actually excludes it, but at this stage it’s still a hypothesis.
Much more fun than cryptic crosswords, and no guarantee of a solution…

The winter solstice

We’re now at the shortest day of the year.  I’m bored with getting up in the dark.  To me, the solstice is always a harbinger of better times to come.

For Allison, it tells her that the worst two months of winter are just starting.  And it’s been an unusually cold winter already.

On Tuesday, the frost was so thick on the car that I couldn’t scrape it off with a credit card.  I had to rub off the top layer first, then dig in with the corner of the card, and mostly wait until the car heated up.

I haven’t posted much lately — the farm’s pretty quiet, and we don’t have any wwoofers.

Allison has been made redundant — the company she was with lost the rights to the IT product she was training people for.  So they mutually agreed to finish things up there.  She’s having a break, and just now looking for a new job.  Anyone need a talented online trainer?

My current contract winds up soon too, so I’m looking out for a new one.  The Australian government has just made massive cuts, so it might be trickier than usual.

The international situation also seems to be near the winter solstice.  Spain and Italy can’t be bailed out, so I’m expecting a crisis in the next few weeks.  Then will come the worst part of winter, and eventually the spring.  Best wishes to all our good friends in Europe; I’m sure you’re already having a tough time.

I am the walrus

I mentioned here that I’m now on the Board of the Goulburn Club, an ancient community-based licensed club.  My first meeting was in early February.

I’ve been there for four months now.  Before that, there had been about 18 months with a committee that just didn’t work.

In the end, the new committee comprised four of the old committee and four new additions, and the group dynamics are much better.

There was a backlog of regular work, let alone trying to turn the fortunes of the club around.  So we have been meeting every fortnight since February, and will have to keep doing that for a little while.

My contribution has been taking over the minutes — our meetings now have a detailed agenda, they start on time, and the minutes come out within 24 hours of the meeting.  Often within 2 hours of the meeting.

The club’s finances were in a mess, and we’re just now getting reasonably reliable financial statements out for the period since last July.  That’s been a lot of work, by others, but I can say that I’ve actively supported good financial practices on the committee and now we’re really getting somewhere.

With better financial information, a lot of things are being fixed up.  I can’t go into them here, but some of the errors and omissions have been significant.  The benefits will be seen next financial year, rather than the current one.

The big question has been whether the Club is financially viable at all.  We still don’t have a firm answer, but it’s looking much more positive now.

Recent evenings at the Club have been great — open fires, some great live music, and back to a real feeling of camaraderie.

Recently, I was a barman for a 21st birthday party — where all the guests came in fabulous 1920s gear!  The Goulburn Club is such a great place for that — maybe we should pinch the idea for a members’ function.  It was great to see that the Goulburn kids are so creative, articulate and mutually supportive.

There was a different young Goulburn crowd there a couple of weeks earlier, to see a really impressive local entertainer.  Again, really great young folk, and I hark back to my earlier comments that Goulburn might just be in a golden age right now.  And I’m really pleased to be making a difference at our club, as an important contributor to that.

On Friday just gone, the Club had a Beatles night – all the local entertainers came along and did one or two Beatles numbers, in their own interpretation.  Great music, good people

Allison ran the kitchen for the event – gee, it does sound a bit like the SCA, doesn’t it…  Fancy pies with a musical note cut out of the top, with mash, peas, carrots and gravy.  Bit too simple for an SCA event!  They also did fancy “Egg Man” (egg slice) entrees, which were yummy and very close to some medieval recipes, and cheesecake desserts.

My part was carting food up the staircase, then I was on the bar which was very busy.  I had to give up at 11pm as I found that I wasn’t calculating change correctly.  Bit of a worry really, but I guess I’d left the farm at 7am to drive to work and had been flat out since then.

I did come back the next morning to help with the packup.  And thanks to my son Owen too; he was a great help in the kitchen, and with the packing up.

Lots less wheels

We’ve been a 4-car family for a while now.  A work car (Calais), a 4WD farm car (X-trail), the old ute as well as the old work car (Camry).

The old ute has been on death row for a while, but it’s got us out of many scrapes.  It’s been useful around the farm, and we might have kept it just for that, but now it has blown the starter motor.

I’m no mechanic, and it’s not worth enough to justify having professionals fix it.  So it will go to the wrecker.

The X-trail has been a comfortable and very useful car, but it’s done a head gasket and has been in for repairs for the last week.  Apparently they are prone to this.  Grrr.

We bought the Calais because the Camry was on its last legs.  The Calais runs on gas or petrol, so it’s good for the regular run into Canberra.

The Camry has mostly been driven by wwoofers, mostly for short trips into Goulburn though Pat did drive it to the medieval festival north of Sydney.   The motor was sounding increasingly dreadful, and again it wasn’t worth the cost of repairs.  It was due to go to the wreckers in 4 weeks when its registration expired.

With the X-trail out of commission, we’ve been back to the Camry as our second vehicle and for towing.  It’s still a very comfortable car, and really good for fuel economy.  We’ve been driving it with our fingers crossed, hoping the engine would get us back each time.  But now its starter motor has given out too, and again there’s no point in fixing it.

I think we do need one backup car that we’re happy for wwoofers to drive, and able to tow a trailer.  When the bank balance recovers from these recent repairs, I might look out for something suitable.