Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Flying the coop ...

While pegging the bottom edge of the wire had thwarted Jo's escape attempts yesterday, it was Judge Judy who did not want to abide by the rules today. 

She is more of a flighty bird and went over the top of the coop - obviously keen to be a law breaker rather than a law enforcer!  Her escapes added some additional excitement to what had already an eventful morning. 

Although Vaughan's right hand was grossly swollen he managed to detain our escapee a few times, largely unaided.  Nick found a solution.  One of our small firewood camping tarps was made into an awning across the coop end of the chook run, so Judge Judy couldn't fly up onto the roof and escape from there. 

It wasn't long after the awning modification that we had our first egg of the morning, Judge Judy's!  We received two others throughout the day, though much later than yesterday.  Vaughan is charting productivity and this afternoon we weighed all six eggs also, just for fun!

What's the buzz?

While at the CERES Harvest Festival on Saturday, we chatted for a while with Lyndon about the bees he had on display. 

He suggested spring as a good time for acquiring a hive.  Not only would the bees be busy then (and more manageable) but we could study beekeeping beforehand.

There were flyers at the stand for classes and Erin collected one, thinking it might be an option for us (given Vaughan's interest in insects and our interest in honey)!  A local beekeeping club runs regular meetings and classes, so I had been looking at those also.  (The same club recently held a Bee Keeping and Honey Festival but we forgot to go)!

All tentative bee-keeping plans have now been put on hold.  Vaughan was stung by a bee yesterday at school.  By home-time his hand had swollen significantly.  Further swelling occurred overnight (in spite of the recommended anti-histamine doses) and we attended a doctor this morning.  She has prescribed anti-biotics and a cortisone fluid.  We are to monitor the hand/arm for colour change or increased swelling - all indicators that a hospital trip is necessary.  Hopefully the medications will have the desired effect and the swelling will have reduced by this evening, though we will return to the doctor tomorrow in any case.

So much for our vague plans of becoming apiarists!  In the circumstances it is probably best we mind our own beeswax - and leave the bees to mind theirs!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Egg-citing Stuff!

Who would have thought four chooks could bring such joy?!

I went into Vaughan's room very early this morning, to tuck his covers around him. We had a bit of a snuggle and he gave me a sleepy kiss, then muttered "we have chooks!" before dozing off again.

When he did get up much later, his first mission was to let the girls out and then he managed a few minutes of cricket-collecting before heading off to school.

Although Vaughan checked for eggs before leaving, there was no action at that stage.  By 10:30am though our girls had laid three eggs - and there was much excited cackling (from us, not them)!  I'm not sure which chook was having an RDO but really today's offerings were a bonus because I wasn't expecting any eggs from our chookies so soon after their arrival.

We left the eggs for Vaughan to collect when he came home from school.  He was so very chuffed to see them!  Given school holidays will soon be upon us, it won't be long before he has the extra excitement of collecting eggs that are newly-laid and still warm.

Nick and I worked in the garden for some of the day.  At one point we wandered down to the mailbox.  We collected two crickets and some slaters on the way back .  Nick seemed to think that if we offered four crickets, they would be shared equally among the girls due to some sort of chook democracy!  Er, no.  It was definitely every chook for herself, though a pecking order is becoming evident.

Scratching the surface ...

Although Hamby Home(in)stead is based on 5 acres, they are certainly not fox-proof and neither do we have a Maremma guard dog to watch over our new acquisitions.

The girls will need to adjust to living on a smaller scale. We already had a townhouse-style chook pen (used as cat accommodation while we were living in the apartment) but wanted to provide a courtyard as roaming area.

Some late-afternoon improvisation was therefore necessary.  We found all that we needed at Bunnings - a 10m roll of chicken wire, four star pickets, a gadget for driving the pickets and some wire clips (with specialised pliers).  Once home again, all helped to create a small fenced area for the girls to scratch about in.  Both it and the chook-house can be moved fairly easily, though further modifications are already being discussed.  

Our chooks enjoyed a few hours of supervised exploration within their courtyard before they were locked in the upstairs section of their townhouse overnight.  Vaughan let them out as his first mission of the day and fed them a few crickets before heading off to school.  One of the girls escaped twice this morning but the bottom edge of the wire is now pegged into place and she hasn't managed any further Houdini stunts!

Kissing Chooks!

Although the Seven Hills Farm site stated they wanted to find "loving" homes for some of their older chickens, I'm sure kissing was not a requirement!  Vaughan has been kissing our new arrivals though and cuddling them also - you just can't get more loving than that! 

Obviously, our chooks have been welcomed with much excitement and are bound to be thoroughly indulged.  Vaughan even caught them crickets as a special treat - and the girls were very appreciative of his efforts!

We had thought that two or three chooks might be a good number for our coop however we were given four, effectively one each for all of us.  At this stage we have named three of our new arrivals - Princess Fiona, Judge Judy and Jo.  By sheer chance, Nick's chook is the fattest.  I have suggested BFC (big, fat chook) as a possible moniker, but he has not yet decided on her name - although Chicken Lickin' was mentioned!

Chook Heaven!

Our weekend definitely had a grow-your-own theme - after Saturday's Harvest Festival, we attended an open day at Seven Hills Organic Farm on Sunday!  The event had been cancelled the previous weekend due to bad weather but we had lovely sunshine for our visit.  It was a brilliant day and one that will be long-remembered! 

We enjoyed all aspects of the tour but without a doubt, the highlight for all of us was seeing the 350+ free-range chooks roaming as they wished, safely confined within the bounds of a 5-acre, fox-proof fence - with additional protection from Joey, the Maremma dog.  What a sight! 

Josh's Rainbow Eggs are sold locally, with 20 dozen collected daily from the happy hens.  As part of our tour, we were able to collect eggs ourselves, from one of the huge "chook tractors" within the fenced enclosure.  Both Erin and Vaughan were equally thrilled by finding warm eggs - in fact, Erin was a little miffed that Vaughan had collected more than his fair share of our carton!  Hopefully their excitement at egg-collecting will continue indefinitely because we were gifted four of Josh's older hens at the end of the day, to enjoy retirement at Hamby Home(in)stead!

Whenever Vaughan sees a group of something en masse, he terms it "... heaven" - and the description was very apt for these chooks.  Not only were there hundreds but they really had a wonderful life, safe from foxes, eagles and crows - free to express their "chicken-ness"!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

CERESly Fun!

Yesterday we visited CERES Harvest Festival - such a neat event!  Although our original plan was to spend an hour or so there in the morning and then return later in the day, Saturday city traffic caused some rescheduling. 

By the time our other missions were accomplished and we arrived at CERES Community Environment Park, the free workshops had ended.  Some of the stalls were starting to pack up but even so, there was still plenty to see - and we thoroughly enjoyed looking!

While Erin and I selected some golden carrots (which are yellow, not orange!), Vaughan was very happily feeding honeydew melon to the resident chooks.  A little further along the path, we chatted to a bee-keeper about the life-cycle of bees.  He suggested if we want to keep bees ourselves, it would be best to wait till spring to start the endeavour - as by then the bees would be busy and therefore less interested in us (ie more manageable). 

Vaughan was quite keen to spot the queen bee, which he did without assistance.  Seemingly that particular queen was fairly cranky as were her daughters - though other queens are more sweet-natured.  Interesting stuff!  We purchased a small jar of lovely clear honey, extracted at 11am the previous day.  (Vaughan was keen to know how "fresh" it was)!

We are yet to sample the honey but the golden carrots were part of last night's menu - and now on the list of vegetables that we want to grow ourselves!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Don't rubbish my trolley!

I like trolleys! When we moved to Melbourne my trusty picnic trolley was left in storage.  On one of our early zoo visits I spotted a bigger and better version, sort of like a mini shopping trolley. 

I found mine at a shop near the Queen Victoria markets.  It's very nifty and we've used it a few times since purchasing, though Nick needed to make a couple of modifications.  It was a bit big to take on the trams though, so I also purchased a modern shopper a few weeks later. 

When we lived in the apartment the shopper was good for carting books back and forth to and from the library - and we used it for Vaughan's swimming lessons on occasion also.

One of our first purchases after picking up the keys was another trolley - a tipper version for garden missions.  Nick did point out that it was my third trolley purchase in as many months - and my fourth trolley overall!  Aside from it's intended use of carting garden waste,  it was actually quite useful for moving furniture.  I expect it will be just as good for carting firewood or shifting rocks from the paddocks. 

We found another use for it today.  Our rubbish bins live at the front gate, about 300 metres down the driveway from our house.  I generally put rubbish/recycling in the car to be dropped off as we drive out on other missions - but today Nick and I loaded it into the trolley instead and then went for a brisk(ish) walk down to the front gate.  We could fit a few boxes in the cart quite easily, so I think trolleying trash might become a regular event! 

Monday, 11 March 2013

Sheepish Talk!

Rumour has it that when the March rains come, the paddocks will turn green.  We are not yet convinced.  In fact, there has been talk the house pic (at left) that featured on the real estate site was in fact photoshopped to make the grass green.

All that aside, when the grass grows it will need to be shortened - either with a (ride-on) mower or by some newly acquired livestock.  For the past few weeks, we have been discussing what particular breeds might be suitable.

Nick has been doing some research.  There was much giggling this evening as seemingly we can purchase a "Dorper starter pack".  These are the sheep that don't require shearing, as their wool falls off naturally.  In fact, some wear specially designed "fleece retention nets"!  Too funny!

Another listing is for Suffolk sheep - ie. the Shaun the Sheep variety.  They are particularly bred for their tasty meat (among other admirable traits).  Erin was horrified.  "You can't eat cute sheep!" 

Obviously stocking the paddocks might take a while - financial considerations aside.  Our research continues.  We need non-cute sheep. 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Scotching thistles ...

There are so many Scotch Thistles in the paddocks here - hardly surprising given each plant can produce as many as 20,000 seeds! 

The seeds are amazing, not just in terms of numbers but the fact that each one will remain viable in the ground for 20 years - and can germinate at any time of the year! 

That's thistle fluff blowing across the road in the pic at right.  It looks quite pretty and Vaughan has been keen to catch as many "wishes" as he can.  Obviously there is no shortage of thistle down waiting to be caught!  Seemingly though the thistle doesn't only spread from seed, it can grow from severed roots also.  Actually after reading about all it's improvisations for survival, I'm surprised we don't see more of it than we do!

Vaughan and I watched a cow eating a dried thistle head on the way to/from school last week.  The sight has prompted much discussion since.  How spiky is the thistle?  How tough is the cow's mouth?  Is the inside of a cow's mouth tougher than outside?  And so on ...

Millions of millipedes!

As much as we enjoy most forms of wildlife, I am not greatly keen on our resident millipedes!

We really noticed them last week. The rain had caused many to surface and we stepped carefully on the ground, lest we squish any.

It seems we needn't have been so cautious as there is hardly any shortage of the critters!

From some quick research this morning I have learned they are an (accidently!) introduced species from Portugal, hence their name Portuguese Millipedes. They first arrived in Adelaide in 1953 but have since spread throughout southern parts of Australia.

While not harmful to humans, they can release a secretion when disturbed that will stain furnishings etc - and can be an irritant to eyes.

"The millipedes have reached such numbers in the past that they have actually caused disruptions to train services in parts of rural Victoria. Thousands of the millipedes were crushed on the tracks resulting in the trains being unable to gain traction."  (Museum Victoria)

Nick has confirmed that many of the locos have both a sander (to drop sand onto the tracks for traction) and millipede blower at each end of the engine. As too much sand on the tracks can cause issues, the millipede blowers are also used to blow away sand after the loco has passed.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Questing away from Kew ...

The dawn of new adventures ...
From 6 December to 6 March our "home" was apartment 36 at Quest Kew.  As well as four-star serviced accommodation, we enjoyed daily spoiling at the nearby QPO Restaurant - all courtesy of Nick's relocation benefits package. 

Obviously it was a very indulgent interlude and one that will be long remembered in our Hamby family history!

We checked out very early on Wednesday morning, before undertaking our last commute to our new home - and rejoining the real world!  It's a very nice corner of the world where we are, quite peaceful after our stint of inner-city living.  We dined al fresco on our first night, looking across the paddocks to admire the changing colours of the sky as the sun set, while listening to the sounds of the evening.

Erin awoke on our first morning to the sound of a willy wagtail chattering atop her caravan.  At around the same time Vaughan and I lay in bed watching a small mouse in the garden outside my bedroom window.  Little wrens often hop along the path near the windows and I've seen one or two rabbits quite close to the house also. 

It's not four-star camping but it is definitely a Hamby Home(in)stead!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Life behind baas?!

Our weekday morning routine (since collecting the keys) is to leave our apartment at around 7am and commute to our house. 

The drive usually takes around an hour, depending on traffic (and/or departure time).

We spend an hour or so at the house, which gives Vaughan plenty of time for rabbit-chasing,  grasshopper catching and other paddock pursuits before we leave for the 6-7km school-run. There is a windy stretch of road along the way and we often spot these rogue/road sheep.  The number varies but there is generally at least two that obviously prefer roadside living to staying behind baas (hah)!

A key week!

Given the lack of updates since (en)rolling along ... I expect there will be little surprise in hearing that we've had a huge week! So much has happened in that short space of time, we are almost too tired to appreciate all our good work - well, almost ...

After settling Vaughan at school for his first day (ie, he waved us off cheerfully, calling "see you in a few hours"), we collected the keys and inspected our new abode.  Our landlord had been doing some painting and we spoke to her about how the house works (tank water, gas bottles, firewood, heated slab and so on).

She seems quite laid-back and made suggestions as to livestock as well as giving permission for some outdoor improvements.

The house needed some improvement also.  To use one of the property manager's euphemisms, it "needs attention"!  We hired cleaners on Tuesday and they did some very good work in the bathroom/toilet and kitchen - but there is a lot more to be done.  I am on a program of cleaning a few windows and screens each visit but the walls need help also and though I always like to hang up my frames etc as one of my first missions, I can't do that till the grime is removed.

One bedroom and the hallway are bare concrete, so we purchased second-hand carpet tiles and some large pieces of rather funky axminster carpet.  Vaughan and Nick have since laid the carpet tiles and I have cleaned the existing two rooms of carpet plus the carpet pieces and tiles that have been laid.  We will hire the Britex machine again after Nick carpet(tile)s the hallway.  I may obtain the upholstery wand also and refresh a fabric lounge.  Regardless of anything else though, I will definitely be purchasing some ear-muffs before my next bout of carpet cleaning!

Erin's caravan is in place and our storage container was delivered also, the day before the truck arrived with our 70 cubic metres of furniture and belongings.  I hasten to emphasise that as large as the truck was, our stuff was a little under three-quarters of the full load!

Chaos reigns at this point. Nick and I sorted a lounge area yesterday.  Our bedrooms have furniture.  Beds are yet to be made. There are boxes everywhere and the hunt is on for everyday items though the vacuum cleaner and crockery were unearthed yesterday!  (We labelled boxes but there were trolleyed from the truck in stacks so location decisions were based on the top couple only.  It will be some time before they are in the right place  - hopefully at the right time)!