Thursday, 30 June 2016

Annie's Garden

We called in to visit my sister Annie and her husband Darren on our way home from the Casterton Kelpie Muster a couple of weeks ago.
They live between Winchelsea and Dean's Marsh in Victoria, not far from Colac.
The first thing I  always do when I arrive at their beautiful little eight acre property, after graciously accepting a cup of tea from Annie, is to wander her wonderful garden.
As a gardener, I know how much work is involved, so I'm always in awe of what she has there in her peaceful haven of greenery, trees and flowers.

 This is what they started with in 2001 when they purchased the property.  Nellie the horse is enjoying a roll on the lawn.
Now, as you will see, every bit of that vacant space has been filled with a garden that invites us in. Around every bend of the paths, is another restful spot to sit and ponder.

 The pond in the fowl yard is surrounded with water irises. It usually dries out for a short time towards the end of their summer, and they scramble to transfer all of the frogs into the other dam on the property.
I wish our poultry area looked this picturesque!

There's no doubt that Annie has a green thumb. These Bonsai were started from scratch years ago and are growing beautifully.

One of the features that I love, are the Red Gum Eucalyptus trees that Annie is manipulating into shapes and arches. This tree has smaller branches being trained to grow around the main trunk. Eventually, the branches fuse together and a twirling pattern is visible along the tree trunk.

Deciduous trees are also being manipulated. Annie shows us her plans for this smaller branch as it will eventually curl around the main trunk.

 My gardeners hands ;) ... showing the trunk as the branches merge together while growing.
Some trees are chopped at eye level, a bird bath or feeder nailed onto the top stump, and the side branches trained to droop downwards. Annie calls this a "stand".

"The reason I started to cut off the red gums as stands and also arch them, is because I had lots of seedlings an inch tall which I rescued from a car track on the Murray river bank, and planted them willy nilly all in the wrong spots in the dark when we arrived home from camping (not expecting them to grow.). Then they ALL grew in what seemed like an instant. They would completely take over if I didn't stunt them in some way." explains Annie.

Another archway for the front garden from two Red Gums.

A Twisted Willow tree with ongoing manipulations.

A reflections garden. A cup of tea, a book, a sunny day, a bird (or twenty) calling from above...
An old claw foot bath containing goldfish and water irises sits beneath a collection of mirrors hung on the back of the potting shed.

Bird baths perched on every available flat surface assist in attracting a wide variety of birds.

A broken candle holder becomes a perfect pot stand when turned upside down.

 Bits of discarded iron-mongery found on a neighbor's rubbish pile becomes an eye catching pond.

A garden seat disappears beneath the Ivy.

A serene spot to view the sheep and cows that graze on their property.

 Even the wood storage shed looks delightful.

This old tractor seat, surrounded by rose scented geraniums, begs to be sat on.

The photos below were taken by Annie last Spring.

I always come away from Annie's garden with renewed inspiration to implement some of these things in my own garden. With our lower rainfall in South Australia, I know I can't  grow a garden like this,  but I'm going to hunt down some old logs for placing around the beds to add interest and I'm also going to keep an eye out for usable "junk". 
I hope you enjoyed a wander around Annie's garden, as I always do.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Casterton Kelpie Muster

We didn't know about the Casterton Kelpie Muster until we became the owners of a Kelpie working dog, but once we heard about it we knew we definitely had to check it out this year.
Held annually,  during the Queen's Birthday long weekend in June, the 2016 event marked the 20th anniversary of this popular weekend festival in Casterton, Western Victoria.
We started planning our week long getaway many months ago, as is the way when living on a farm with multiple live creature's needs to be catered for daily. 
You can read here about planning to get away together in my last blog post.

Casterton, Vic, is situated 63kms across the Victorian border from the pretty little town of Penola or 70kms from Mt Gambier in the south east of South Australia.

Meg is at home on her bed in the caravan.
We took our trusty old caravan and had made our booking three months prior, to stay four nights at Coleraine  caravan park which is 28km east of Casterton on the Hamilton Highway. This proved to be a really wise decision as every man (woman) and their dog were at Casterton.  All accommodation was booked out and caravans took over the Casterton caravan park, as well as  numerous allocated paddocks surrounding the town.
I love my peaceful sleep, so we were happy to drive the twenty minutes from Coleraine to Casterton each day. (Keep this to yourself though, we hope to enjoy the same quiet caravan park next year.)

Casterton takes pride in being the birthplace of the Kelpie Australian working dog

The Kelpie Muster is held over two days.
On the first day (Saturday) we joined in the opening street parade with hundreds of other Kelpie owners and our dogs. All of us positive that our Kelpie was the most wonderful, ;) but really, there is no ugly Kelpie.
Events were held over the day at various sites, all within easy walking distance of the Casterton main street.
The Bushman's Challenge is a showcse of the many talents of  rider, stock horse and working dog.  I could have watched this all day, but other events were happening at the same time, so we tried to spread ourselves across everything, but I'm sure I missed some things.

The high jump grows in height incrementally until only one dog is left in the running.

The winner was Bailey jumping an incredible 2.915 metres and breaking the record.

The Hill Climb.  
One dog at a time is released from this small area at the bottom and runs to its handler who is calling the dog from the top of this hill.
The hill is steep, impossible to walk up or down, so the handlers at the top are driven up to the lookout via the road in the official ute. It's hard to spot the dog running in this picture.
The dog with the best time wins, and any dog that runs through the two white squares at the beginning of the climb are awarded an extra five seconds, but very few did.
Some dogs lost sight and sound of their handler as they were less than half way up the hill, and returned to their handler at the bottom, so we figured there must have been a blind spot there somewhere.
(The two white blobs in the foreground are small pieces of sheep's wool stuck on the fence.)
We took a drive up to the lookout to get a view from where the handler calls the dog at the top. From here we could see there was definitely a blind spot.
Our strategy for entering Meg next year will take this into account. ;)

I'm sorry, but I just had to put this photo in.
Well, by way of explanation, there was a display of Australian animals in a small marquee, to show the City folks maybe. I felt sorry for the poor possum, who should have been asleep in a dark hollow, but was displayed in an open cage with no shelter. The snakes and lizards should have been in hibernation, and I guess this bloke thought he was keeping his snake warm. But enough about that.

Sunday was auction day, and all of the dogs on offer were put through their paces, by their handlers, to show what they were capable of.
This is my idea of blissful entertainment. I happily sat on the hay bales for hours watching these amazing dogs.

The culmination of the weekend was the auction, and was well attended. The young woman sitting next to me made a bid on a few dogs and finally secured an eighteen month old male for $4000. I sat stone still with my hands on my lap!!
The top dog sold for $10,000, with the average prices being around $6-$7k.

 Our Meg has been learning to work with sheep since she was six months old, and now at twenty months she is a capable little worker, but we wanted to learn more about how to get the best from her.
As it was Brian's birthday earlier this month, I purchased a day of training for him and Meg at the Ewe, Me & the Dog  clinic on the holiday Monday following the Kelpie Muster.
I was allowed to attend with him, and it was an educational and fun day spent on a beautiful sheep property a few kilometres from Casterton. Eight other Kelpie owners from as far away as Queensland and of course, us from South Australia, gained much knowledge from working dog guru Joe Spicer
It was music to my ears when Joe told us that we should be spending as much time with our working dogs as possible and that it's OK to let them inside and be a part of the family if we want to.
It has always been my belief that a working dog can be a companion friend as well. The more time we spend with them, the more they will want to do things that please us like bringing those sheep back to "the Boss".
We do need to be clear and consistent in our training, but that doesn't mean we have to rule with an iron fist.
On Tuesday we packed up the caravan and drove across to the Colac area to spend a night with my sister Annie on the acreage she runs with her husband Darren.
I have heaps of photos of her magnificent garden to show you... in the next blog post.
On the way home we spent a night at Kaniva caravan park. It was so cold, we needed power to run our little fan heater, otherwise we would have freedom camped somewhere out in the bush and had a fire. Brrrr....

Friday, 17 June 2016

June holidays - and changes in routine

I've had two holidays in the past three weeks. Aren't I lucky?
Eight days spent in Victoria with my daughter and her family, which I wrote about in my last blog. And then another eight days, again in Victoria, with Brian and our Kelpie dog Meg in the caravan.
There was once a time in my life when I would throw a few things into a bag and take off on a whim, but things are very different now that I'm a farmer!
The planning required to take some time away from home takes considerable effort these days.
When I traveled alone for the first of my breaks this month, I had Brian at home to take over my tasks, but he also needed to go to work and do all of his farming jobs as well. I knew he was going to be very busy so I adapted some routines before I left so it would fit easier into the time he had available.
My routine that works best for me is to milk the cows in the morning now that they are down to once a day milking. This doesn't suit Brian's tight morning schedule, so I changed them to evening milking two days before I left him in charge.
To change a cow's routine can be done quite easily, and is best if it is done over a couple of days.
So if I want to change from morning milking to evening milking, I will count back two days before I want them settled into the new routine.
For example, if I want them settled into evening milking by the day I'm leaving home, (Monday) I will milk them as usual on Saturday morning and then again in the evening of the same day. There will be little milk, but it shows them the start of the new routine.
On Sunday morning I leave them in the paddock. They come to the gate because they are used to their old routine, but I give them a bit of hay and leave them alone.  On Sunday evening I bring them in for milking.
So by Monday, when Brian takes over, the cows will be accustomed to coming in for milking in the evenings.
Of course this will work only if the cows are being milked once a day, which, depending on the cow, will be at least four months after calving  in some cases, earlier if they have their calf running with them.
When I returned from my solo holiday I changed the cows over to morning milking again over a period of two days.
Non cow people will be well glazed over by now. You can skip the cow stuff. ;)
We have two calves that I'm bottle feeding, as you know, so the feeding of them adds to the mix as well. So, they get fed at milking time with the milk that is warm and fresh from the milking bucket, poured into their Calfeteria milk feeders. Their other feed at the other end of the day, is milk that we have saved from the last milking. Warmed up a little on the stove and fed to the calves in their feeders. So, I'm still going to the dairy and yards twice a day, but am only milking once each day.

 But what happens when Brian and I both take some time away from home?  We are so very lucky to have our friend Meg step in to milk the cows.
Over the past month Meg spent a few mornings here with me, learning the ropes, after delivering her three children at school. A very quick learner, with a natural aptitude with cows, she was confident to take over in a very short time. Most importantly, I was totally at ease with leaving her in charge.
Meg loves making cheese, so she was happy to do our milking in exchange for the milk. She fed the calves their milk in their feeders each morning, but as both calves are nine and ten weeks old now, and there is plenty of grass in the paddocks we decided to skip their evening feeds.  Had the calves been any younger, Meg would have gladly returned each evening to warm the milk and feed them a second feed.

We went to the Casterton Kelpie Muster, in Victoria, over the June long weekend, with a visit to my sister in Winchelsea added onto the end. More about the Kelpie Muster in my next blog.
Brian's two sons came to our assistance as well, dividing the other animal feeding chores between themselves, and generally keeping an eye on things.
The farm-gate shop was closed for the duration of our holiday, with eager customers lining up this morning to replenish their honey and produce when I restocked and opened up again.
Lots of rain has fallen in our absence, leaving the paddocks looking green and healthy, and with lots of weeds to be dealt with in the gardens. 
It's lovely to be home again, with no plans to go anywhere for the next few months.

Are you confused? Our Kelpie dog is named Meg and our friend who milked the cows is also named Meg. ;)

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Being Granny

I spent a week in Victoria with my daughter and her family.  So much catching up to do.

Those special morning moments. Just out of bed, warm and cuddly.

Although it rained most of the time we got plenty of walks in.

Being Granny is the best thing I've ever done.

Clover's Granny quilt.


I had the most wonderful week with my family, thanks to Brian for keeping everything going along smoothly here at home on the farm.
Lots of rain fell here at home while I was away and the paddocks are looking pretty good.
The gardens are a bit unruly, but nothing a few hours of weeding won't fix. Brian's vegetable garden is, of course, looking resplendent with an abundance of food for us including my favorite, broccoli.
Now, back to the rhythm of every day life. How lucky I am.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...