Ramblings from Nature

Today it has been extremely warm and sunny, so I took a stroll around the vineyard.  It was evident that spring had arrived in full force.   People say it’s cold here and it certainly was in the winter, but the spring is amazing, I can sit out in the sun with a warm gentle breeze brushing against my face and it just feels comfortable.  Sure it is not as hot as Sydney, but who wants to spend their time sitting in air conditioned rooms hiding from the searing heat when you could be out enjoying warm sun and fresh air?

I strolled around , up and down the rows of vines admiring how quickly the vines changed from looking boring brown  and dormant to a vibrant green and so full of life, as if the leaves burst out from almost nowhere in just a few short days.  After a while I found a spot among the rows where I could sit hidden among the leafy vines and survey the peaceful surrounds, breathe in the fresh air and admire the miracle of Mother Nature.

In the city my mind was constantly buzzing with everything that needed to be done, every place I needed to be, the constant traffic noise, and the struggle to drive even a short distance without having to allow an hour to get somewhere.     Now I stare across the valley at the green grass covered hills, separated by a road where occasionally a car drives by producing a slight hum before the sounds of nature once again take over.   I wonder how long it will take before the urban sprawl spreads this far.

In the short time we have been here I have seen Hobart spread taking in what was once a small town called Cambridge.    Every time I pass through the town I see a new home which has just been completed and already a new family has moved in even though the new subdivision hasn’t yet been completed

Currently there is still a 10km stretch of road between Cambridge and Richmond where we reside,  that still has a number of vineyards,  farms, cheese and artisan chocolate outlets,  however there are council murmurings that it may be prime land to subdivide.  There is no doubt that that these rolling hills will soon be covered with new homes.

I take a deep breath of clean fresh air close my eyes and contemplate the noises around me, birds singing, and the distinctive sound of the heavy wings of the lapwing plover that flies overhead on its way to its nest nearby.    It has had a new born chick hatch recently; I have watched this little bird family grow from early spring when the male bird started swooping me in an attempt to dissuade me from visiting his nesting area.  Now that his young one is more mobile he seems to more accepting of my regular presence.

A fat yellow bumblebee flies past my face making me contemplate how different the wildlife is in this part of Australia compared to Sydney.    I have never seen a bumble bee on the mainland I thought they only existed in New Zealand yet here they are in this magnificent piece of Australia.  Such a beautiful rounded bee, although a bit too fond of the smell of my sunscreen for my liking as he keeps trying to land on my face.

In the distance I hear the children’s voices being carried on the breeze; they love this place so much even S has taken to playing outdoors in a way I could never have imagined just a few short months ago.   She is often up a tree or swinging on a rope.   When I first arrived here I was concerned that the school curriculum was lagging behind NSW, but after being here for a while and watching the way children play when they are bored I realized that they actually are more developed than their Sydney counterparts.  As long as students know the how to read write and do maths they can do amazing things when they are allowed to just go and create and find their own solutions to problems.

They have no homework here and given that there is actually no scientific evidence to prove homework makes a difference I am glad, S has so much extra time to hang out in the garden working out for herself how to create a rope swing strong enough to carry her through her acrobatics.  She has also created a rain gauge and an anemometer – this for the girl that claims she is not interested in science

I wonder where this great obsession of forcing kids into prescriptive learning for hours and hours a day including weekends and public holidays actually came from.   While at the same time the Department of Education and the Government are concerned about how Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of innovation.   My question is when they have got time to create and innovate if they are continually bombarded with homework and extra tutoring to keep them constantly busy?

I digress from discussion about how amazing it is to be out in nature, all I want to say is spend time looking at the natural world around you.  Find a nice spot outside; mindfully listen to the birds and the sounds around you, clear your head of the chatter and you never know what great ideas will come to you.

And so it is.

The Vineyard – Vine Management

I thought I should take some time to post about what we are actually doing in Tasmania in case you were wondering if we were just sampling the delicious local food and coffee Richmond has on offer, and enjoying freshly laid eggs, all of which we definitely doing –  but there is more!

Let me set the scene by describing the vineyard.  There are a number of different varieties of grapes on the property but there are 42 X 300m rows of Pinot grapes that are used for the serious (commercial) wine making, so these are the vines we are spending the most time on at the moment.

The main vineyard – At this time of the year the vines are dormant,

At this time of the year the vines are dormant, which means it is time to prune them, and unfortunately they all need to be hand pruned.  That is 12,600m of vines to prune before budburst in spring, not only that – these vines are on a fairly steep incline.   This means for each and every vine, find a leader cane count 10 buds and trim the remainder of the leader cane and tie it down.

Prior to pruning the vine has empty canes. The leaves and grapes have now gone for the season.

Then remove all the remaining canes, the canes then need to be collected and disposed of to reduce the likelihood of disease throughout the vineyard and so we don’t flip the ride on lawn mower as we go through the vinetyard.

Pruned vine. Once pruned the vines are left with just one cane, the remaining canes are removed.

Currently Paul is doing most of the pruning while I come behind him and clean up the canes.   The canes from the end of the rows go straight in the trailer and taken away to another part of the property where eventually they will be incinerated.

Me cutting the vines enough so the sit on the trailer flat.

However the rows are very close together, too close to take the trailer down, so I cut the canes up small and pile them into the drum.   As you may imagine dragging a metal barrel full of vines up to 150m on uneven ground uphill then dragging it back again when it is empty is not easy.   So now I take pockets full of matches and paper and set the canes alight once the drum is full.

Setting the canes alight. Who doesn’t love a good fire?

The kids "helping."

I use the terms helping very loosely

The kids help whenever we make them by taking some of the canes at the end of the rows and putting them straight on the trailer.

We are trying to do an hour or two each day during the week and 5-6 hours each day in the weekend.  We are over halfway through the main block which means as long as the weather remains kind to us we should finish by spring.   As for the other blocks we are just going to have to do the best we can!


That’s it – We are in Charge! Vineyard and Chicken Farmers

At some ungodly hour this morning Paul drove the vineyard owners to the airport to catch their flight to Germany and now it is up to us to keep the vines alive as well as look after their brood of hens.   How hard can it be….?

Who knew chickens thrive on routine?   Every day it is the same, each morning feed them half a scoop of grain, keep them locked in the coop until about midday, then let them out to scratch around for grubs and other chicken delicacies.  At about dusk (around 4.30pm -5pm), they will come to the back door to demand we bring them our food scraps, we bring out the scraps and they happily follow us back to the safety of their coop for  a delicious dinner, ready  to be locked in for the night.  If it is cold and wet, they usually start congregating from about 3pm ready for an early mark, who can blame them I hate being out and about on a cold wet night as well.

S putting the chickens away

On our first night in the farm house we were late with the scraps, as we had to pick up our cat Thomas from the airport after he had caught an afternoon flight down to Hobart from Sydney.  The chickens had given up on getting our scraps that night and gone back to the coop on their own.   I went over to the coop to count them, it was pitch black inside I only had my mobile phone torch.  The chickens made it especially difficult for me by crowding into one small corner at the end of the coop.  After counting them several times and coming up one short I went hunting for the missing chicken.  I finally found her  huddled at the end other end of the coop on her own in a dark corner.  I thought nothing of it because chicken behaviour is all new to me.  I locked up and went inside.

The next day we let them out at midday as usual, but one stayed behind, the one the kids had named Curly.  She was near the grain tray with her head down and tail up.   The owners had told us before they left there was one hen walking around awkwardly and she may die soon she as she was old.   We picked her up her abdomen was tight; we did some research and thought that she may be egg bound.  We found a wonderful site called Backyard Chickens we followed their instructions and gave her a warm bath.

Curly struggled when we first put her in the bath but then she relaxed and seemed to enjoy it a bit (and who doesn’t feel relaxed in a warm bath?).   She seemed rather perky after her bath and, wandered off for a little snack.  We left her to see if she would lay, she didn’t.    That night she followed the usual routine.

Bathing curly

The next morning when we let the chickens out Curly was head down tail up again.  We gave her another soak and she seemed ok, however when we checked on her later the poor thing had collapsed, this time her tail wasn’t in the air, it looked like her legs had buckled awkwardly underneath her.  We gave her another bath and fed her crushed calcium and magnesium tablets which are supposed to encourage contractions, we also considered trying to lubricate the egg so it could slip out easily.   However the backyard chicken site stated if she is egg bound we should be able to see the top of the egg, which we couldn’t so perhaps we were wrong in our egg bound diagnosis.

Feeding Curly calcium and magnesium

We brought Curly inside and kept her in a cage where she would be safe and warm for the night to see if she would recover, she didn’t.  Curly died peacefully in her sleep that night and was cremated the following morning.  RIP Curly.