bounders

a goat walk

off we go

past the trees

abel on the fallen tree

fence up the hill

our little forest

through the long grass

towards the mountains

view north

view to northeast

looking east

following the leader

up the tree

bark

with mouths full

bounders

wombat den

sap running

checking out the bonfire

at the gate post

 

Oh our goats are such cheeky boys! They’re in escape mode again :-0 But I do think I understood what’s going on behind those limpid eyes.  You see, their field behind the shed had become boring – they’ve been moving about it in their electric fence over the last 6 weeks or so.  They’ve eaten all their favourite bits.  Played king of the castle on all the rocks.  Explored every nook and cranny.  They’re over it.  Abel tells us this by jumping over the electric fence and standing in the corner of the house garden bleating and munching roses, whilst Basil and Clyde scream their frustration that Abel has gone and they are still in purgatory.

Yesterday, Noah and I spent ages in the hot sun (hot sun!? in may!?) carting the electric fence way down the other end of the property.  We set up a field where the goats had fallen trees to climb, bracken and blackberry to munch, long grass, shade to lounge in, and new rocks to stand on.  Alas, we forgot to take into account that whilst our goats are cheeky boys, they are also terrible sooks.  They couldn’t stand being that far away from us and within an hour of being in their new field, they were back eating the roses and standing on the Jeep’s bonnet (Julian LOVES it when they stand on the Jeep bonnet!)

Much to their disappointment, this led to a long afternoon sulking in their sleeping quarters.  The goat life is a hard one.

This morning – Julian had errands to run and I just didn’t have the heart to say to Noah, “We need to go and undo all of yesterday’s work and redo it somewhere else, on the off chance that will please our neurotic goats.” So the goats were once more left languishing in their sleeping quarters.  Now this is not dreadful – they have plenty of room, water, food, shade, cosy straw beds under shelter, and their play gym.  But you know, they’re goats.  It pissed them off.  Specially every time the chickens strutted past clucking “Don’t mind us – we’re just off to explore the neighbours fields!”

So, once Julian was home, we set off for a goat walk.  It is such a good way to spend a couple of hours – never fails to energise, inspire and relax – and Julian and I enjoy it as well!  We set off in one direction, clambering down through the fields of long grass to our small forest.  There’s always lots to explore down there.  Julian and I talk non stop about which trees need to come out (the fallen and spindly ones) and what we’ll use them for, delight in how many wombat dens there are, shake our heads in dismay over how many rabbit warrens there are, check out the kangaroo beds (the nooks of flattened grass), and just which gully will make the perfect lake that we can build a little jetty one, fill with trout that we can fish from a little row boat and of course, water the livestock.

Then we meander further north to check out the new fencing.  We are agisting part of our land to the lovely neighbours who farm Italian water buffaloes – they are dairy buffalo and we are so looking forward to their milk!  Julian is determined to make blissful mozzarella.  This awesome fencing also means we can safely keep a small flock of sheep and cows on our side – black suffolks and Irish dexters here we come!

All the way, the goats play and climb and munch.  We go slowly so as to let them enjoy every moment – and oh they do.

At last, it’s time to head south, back up the big hill towards our cottage.  The goats bellies are round and fat with weeds, grass and small trees.  They frolic along, long fronds of greenery hanging out of their mouths, in the best of spirits.  As are ours.  Our hearts are full of excitement and love for this beautiful land that we are custodians of.  Our minds are full of plans for what the next 40 years will bring.  Our imaginations are full of so much whimsy and adventure.

Once home, the goats amble good naturedly back into their sleeping quarters where we fill their bowl with goat nuts.  We promise them that tomorrow we will move their electric fence back to the field behind the shed, but further down – where the grass is lush, the bracken is tender, there are plenty of trees to ruminate under, and so many new rocks to play king of the castle on!  They bump their thanks against our legs and let us rub our cheeks into their soft cosy winter coats.

And we promise each other that we will take this lovely goat walk more often.

under the white cedar

knitting and coffee

cedar

dump chairs

wool

galloping chickens

unknitting

fluffy butts

goaty antics

floss and pincushion

noahs doll

pattern and scissors

embroidery

book

chickens

inspiration

Most mornings round here start with a bang – the ducks burst out of their house with indignant quacks and flap, waddle and dart off across the garden.  The geese lurk about the apple trees, honking impatiently, waiting for me to fill the feeder, then set to sweeping it all up into their greedy beaks before the ducks even get a look in (Note to self:  buy another feeder for the geese!).  I fill their water trough, then tip out the muddy sludge left in the bottom of their wading pool and refill it with fresh sparkling rainwater whilst they gather about, waiting for that glorious moment when they leap in and make it all muddy again in seconds.

Then it’s over to the chickens who are standing patiently against the door of their house, bumping into each other with little mutters and clucks.  They flutter much more gracefully down their stairs and head straight for the hedge of grevilleas and bottle brush where they have scratched out individually shaped scoops for dust bathing and snoozing.  I top up their seed, give them a good dose of apple cider vinegar and garlic in their water, then vainly check the nest for eggs.  Not yet.

The goats – they just yell.  “Come and get us! Come and get us! Come and get us!  Where’s the goat nuts! We said GOAT NUTS! And WHEN ARE WE going over to the weedy kingdom? ”  There’s little point making them wait, so I fill the bucket with nuts, open the gate, and we bump and bustle over to the weedy field – them stopping along the way for some lillypilly, then some box hedge, then a few gum leaves, check out the woodpile, stand up on the trailer’s edge and peer in, check that yes, the grass is indeed greener on the other side, then finally into their electric fence which they are completely compliant with these days, thank you very much.

Then it’s back in to the guinea fowl who bustle about their A-frame waiting for their seed and water and wondering whether today will be the day they get to roam like those lucky ducks. (No, sorry dear guineas.  Not today, I need to finish the new duck – goose pavillion first, then you can have the ducks’ old house and their electric fence – we call this “Ernie and Bert Farming”)  I make sure the crazy Hamburgs are around – yep! – open the gate and let them back into their yard, and check for eggs – nope.

Finally I check in with the guinea pigs – move them onto fresh grass and roll some treats down their ramp – they’re currently loving raw pumpkin halves, sweet corn husks and small slices of watermelon from the local farm gate stalls.

As I fill their water I hear Julian making coffee.  Mmmmm … And then it’s time to sit down together on the porch.  Me with my museli and knitting.  Him with his morning news and ponderings on what we should plant next, would pigs stay in the electric fence, how much he really wants cows, and where do I want the next hole dug for yet another tree I’ve bought home from the lovely nursery in Cobargo.

We have grown and shaped this lovely routine over the last few months and it never fails to fill me with gratitude and delight that we are here.

But now, we have another spot to sit and soak up the magic – under the white cedar.  We have the old cast iron table I bought from the Sacred Heart Op Shop last year in Melbourne – unfortunately one leg had snapped off halfway down – so Julian trimmed off the other 3 and now it’s the perfect garden height.  And last week I found two chairs at the Merimbula dump – a fabulous source of thrifty treasures – they are in perfect nick – I’ve not seen anything like them before – kind of like a canvas deck chair, kind of like a simple squatter’s chair, kind of like a rocking chair.  And wonderfully comfortable.  I’ve bought some garden furniture oil and will give them a sand and polish to help keep them lovely for longer.

The goats play and munch and ruminate behind us.  The chickens cavort and scamper after bugs in front of us.  And after Julian heads back inside to work, Noah comes out, and we get to move on to the second round of coffee and breakfast and more crafting.

Ah yes, the morning might start early and busy … but then it slows down in the nicest way, easing us all into whatever it is the day holds next for us.

round and pretty

blanket stitch

After dedicating ourselves to building shelters, digging garden beds, planting our Autumn seeds, preserving our small fruit harvest – and fitting in some trips to the beach! – I declared today was the day I would finish the round cushion.

I started it a few weeks back – can’t even imagine now why I wasn’t doing something more important – but after spying a Liberty version on Pinterest, I spent an afternoon hunting through the fabric boxes to find scraps of red to make my own.  I’ve wanted to make such a cushion for years – lovely wedges of colour gathered tightly in the middle with a sturdy gusset, something pretty for the middle and a crocheted edging.

You know, I think it was because I had been crocheting squares, and then I had the urge to use the scraps to crochet a mandala, and then the colours of the mandala were so soft and pretty I thought they would look nice with red, and then I saw the cushion on Pinterest.  Yeah.  That must have been how it went ;-)
doily with fabric

trying it out

so much red

I would truly love one in Liberty but everyday here at Wombat Hill I’m reminded that a) we are now soooooooo far away from the shops – especially those that sell Liberty – that there’s a whole lot more of making do that needs to become the norm, and b) there are now sooooooo many more important things to spend our money on then ordering yet more fabric.  Like – chicken feed, and wood for building, and fencing supplies, and guinea keets – oh!  they weren’t perhaps essential but after seeing the older version running around a neighbour’s property we were smitten!

So … to the fabric boxes.  Then, when it came time to stuff.  Well not only are there no shops nearby selling cushion inserts, frankly, I’ve never seen a nice plump round cushion insert for sale anywhere.  But I do have several Alpaca fleeces I have done nothing with for a few years :-)  Deliciously soft and squishy and warm (and dirty) – it made for the loveliest stuffing.

I do declare we will be fighting over who gets to hold the round cushion on our laps come winter, because it is seriously cosier than a hot water bottle.  And infinitely lighter.  Yep – I mightn’t have spun it and knitted it up but I can surely verify that everything they say about Alpaca fleece is true.  Beautifully light and fabulously warm it is.

fleece

stuffing

And dirty.  Did I mention it was dirty?  You should have seen the state of the grey gingham when I’d finished.  I’ve given it a good scrub with some warm soapy water.  I’m just hoping it will dry looking a lot crisper.  But the most curious thing was – there was not a speck of oil.  I’m so used to sheep’s fleece sliding through my fingers and leaving them glowing with lanolin.  I kept checking my hands, sure something similar would begin to build up … but no.  Nothing.  Dry as a bone.  Interesting huh!

Then it was onto the crochet.  First a round of blanket stitch.  Then a round of single crochet.  Then a round of trebles.  Then a round of double with a chain in between each one.  Then finally a shell – with a wee picot in between each one.  I learnt the shell stitch a couple of years ago and it was truly a revelation.  Yes!!  This is the look I have been after for 20 years and it’s so easy!  Who’d have thought.
slow going

But it did take muuuuuuuuuuuch longer then the sewing up of the red slices.  And so … the long finish.  And after today’s hours of effort … so very very worth it.

on left

crocheted centre

I had to wait until late this afternoon to take it out to the fields to photograph.  See, we’re trying to convince our goats that staying inside the movable electric fence is such good fun.  (I can hear everybody who has ever had anything to do with goats roaring with laughter at this point – get a goat to do what WE want!!!) Which means we have to carefully avoid walking about the top fields and getting spotted by the three naughties who – if they see us – instantly begin screaming … and escaping.

noah and goats

Ah yes.  Here’s Clyde on the wrong side of the fence.  Abel and Basil are actually growing up into good goats and cheerfully stay in their little field all day munching weeds.  Clyde – he’s smaller so wriggles out the bottom.  Then stands on the other side of the fence and yells to tell us he’s done it again …

all on the right side

… until we reward Abel and Basil for being inside the fence, so Clyde quickly wriggles back in hoping to get in on some of that action.  He’s always baffled and terribly hurt when we don’t oblige.

two rounds of crochet

noahs christmas quilt and rias quilt

One of the things I love about this cushion are all the memories tucked into each piece of fabric.  That red floral there on the left – one of my favourite ever students used this in the quilt she and I made together when she was in Year 12.  I so loved it – and Ria and her quilt – that I went back to the shop and bought some more to make a skirt that would always remind me of that lovely shared experience.  Then the red and pink in the middle – that’s in Noah’s Christmas Quilt I made when he was little.  The lovely rose on the right – that’s from the house and girl quilt I made many years back – that I still haven’t finished – and then I used the leftovers of it in Noah’s English teacher’s quilt in Year 9.  Such good stuff.

dancing for box

abel

checking out the cushion

So after all this talk of naughty goats and alpaca fleece and quilty memories, where’s this squishy, pretty round cushion going to live?

Well I think it looks just right on our bed.  I’ve painted our walls a soft grey blue.  The grey gingham is actually trimmed off the fabric I am supposed to be sewing up into curtains for our window.  And not only is there a lovely red, white and blue quilt on the bed already, but I found another lovely, even bigger red, white and blue quilt when we were packing up in Melbourne which is folded up in the laundry, waiting for me to quilt it.  So it all fits together quite sweetly I think.

pretty

on the bed

Mmmmmm …. pretty and peaceful.  Just what I love.

 

the trouble with goats

clyde

Look at that dear little face.  What a sweetie!  That’s Little Clyde – the smallest of our 3 new wethers (for those unfamiliar – a wether is a boy goat who’s had his bits removed).

Yep – at the end of our first full time week here at Wombat Hill Farm we went and bought us some goats.  Classic rookie move.

You might ask – whatever possessed you!?  Only bite off as much as you can chew! You’ve got years ahead of you!

Sigh.  I know.  It’s just – well – our 11 Orpingtons have been a great success, in their lovely big electric-fenced off enclosure, lurching about cheerfully each day, hunting bugs amongst the grass, growing ever bigger and fluffier.  And hopefully, in the not too distance future the hens amongst them will lay us lovely eggs, and by the years end we might even get some little chicks!  And meanwhile Julian’s building them their permanent house and portable tractors for helping prepare our veggie beds.  All going nicely according to plan.

But that’s chickens.  There’s a reason chickens are considered easy to keep.  They ARE easy to keep.
the electric fence that could not

Goats on the other hand …

You see, we have 42 acres of land.  A lot of it is old beef grazing pasture that is now covered in weeds.  Lots of bracken, blackberry, thistle – and even fireweed.  Ugh.  So we figured we’d get stuck into fixing it up as soon as possible and do what lots of folks around these parts do – we’d get us some goat weeders.  We read up on looking after goats (oh the worms goats can get!!!) and talked to the lovely breeder about our plans to pop these little fellows into moveable electric fence enclosures.

Oh yes, she was very enthusiastic, assuring us that her 4 month old goats had been raised with electric fencing.  And so Abel (Toggenburg crossed with Nubian), Basil and Little Clyde (brothers and Boers crossed with Nubian) became ours.

Alas – she revealed the day we collected our boys that her fencing hadn’t been turned on for the last month or so.  Oh, we commented, without a clue what the implications of this were.  Yeah – you just need to reacquaint them with it by offering them food through the turned on fence, she assured us.  They’ll zap their noses and remember they don’t want to go anywhere near it.

We were suitably assured.  Popped our lovely goats into our prepared trailer – a thick bed of straw for a comfier ride, wooden panelling on the sides to keep off the wind, and a rope latticed top to stop them trying to jump out – and took off.  Their goaty mums trotted along behind us, bleating out their sadness at seeing their little boys disappear, and the boys – well they cried loud and long.  Turns out goats are famous for their separation anxiety.

with abel

By the time we arrived back at Wombat Hill, the boys were more than ready and willing to jump out of the trailer and trot on down to their new pasture.  They really are sweet – they just bump along beside us whenever we move them, wagging their little goaty tails and smiling up at us.

We reminded them about the bitey electric fence.  They hated it and settled down to tearing at their grass. That night, they snuggled up next to each other on their bed of straw and we didn’t hear a whisper from them all night.

But the next morning …

Just as the first light peeped over the hill, Fu woke us up with hysterical barking.  There was Abel, in the chicken enclosure, standing on the roof of the chicken house – whilst they stood back and looked on in amazement.  Basil and Little Clyde were still on their side of the fence, screaming out “Look where Abel is!  Look where Abel is!”  Boy, can Nubians scream!  They sound like a fully grown man who’s just chopped off his leg with a chainsaw!!

Abel, meanwhile, felt like King of the Castle.  He just stood there proudly – and even peed on the roof – while we looked on in dismay.

Right.  Julian lifted him off and dumped him back on his side of the fence, and gave them all another lesson in how the fence bites. But, before we could even return to the verandah, Abel showed us just how it was done and Little Clyde quickly followed suit.  You don’t have to worry about zapping your nose on that silly old electric fence.  You just put your nice resistant hooves on the top wire and pull it down!  Easy peasy!

Ahem.  I quickly pulled out my goat books and sure enough – once the goats work out how to beat the electric fence, it is useless forever more.  The month they spent with it turned off gave them ample time to conquer it.  Or maybe they’re just really tenacious.  Who knows.

Our moveable weed munching plans were done and dusted.  We’d only owned goats for just over 12 hours and already we needed a Plan B.

whacking tools

eternally curious

fencing the cattle race

Now in the country, nothing much is open on the weekend.  So – this being a Sunday, Julian had to come up with a solution that could be serviced by the local hardware store.  And so was born the weedy pasture chain gang.

He built 30 metre runners that are hammered all the way into the ground so that they lay flush with the grass – goats are infamous for hanging themselves when tethered.  He then equipped these with connections that swivel (I don’t know the hardware terms!) so that the goats can’t get twisted up.  He spaced each runner out so that even on a 2 metre chain in both directions the goats cannot reach each other and so can’t tangle themselves that way.  And we positioned them so they can reach the shade with their own bucket of water but not the trees or fence – more hanging potentials.

on the chain gang

Man were those little goat boys pissed off!  They stood in the shade and screamed their little hearts out most of the day.  But if I went down to check on them – they would cheerfully wag their tails and settle down to eat the weeds.  You should see them – they kneel on their front legs – so have permanently grass stained knees – to eat.  So lazy!

They just love attention and after the security of their previous mamas and cousins filled home, almost certainly felt quite anxious in this big, unknown environment.

Come Monday morning, Noah and I were down at the ag store buying goat wire and hard wood u-nails to turn the old cattle race into a goat safe home.

silly fu

eating the hedge

with noah

brothers

tastes better on the other side

It took all three of us the whole afternoon to attach the goat mesh to the hardwood.  Oh my goodness.  They don’t call it hardwood for nothing! But eventually we were cautiously satisfied our boys were going nowhere and they had a nice little shelter for sleeping and getting out of the rain.  
abel in the wheelbarrow

So I can now say, 2 weeks down, that our goats are safe and happy.  But we sure have learnt to expect that there’s every likelihood when you’re dealing with feisty little animals with insatiable stamina, enthusiasm and curiosity that nothing will go according to plan, so we need to have multiple backups and plenty of ingenuity, time and resources to fix what isn’t working.

And Abel, Basil and Little Clyde?  They are absolutely wonderful!  Abel still plays King of the Castle with anything we leave near them.  They’re very friendly, love a good scratch under the chin, and are always thrilled to see us.  It’s a great way to spend an hour, sitting on an upturned bucket in the cattle race with them – they cosy up next to us, taking turns to smooch and chat.

They spend their nights in the cattle race where I feed them a breakfast of pruned lilypily, rose and camellia branches (good thing we have heaps of it!  And mum’s even brought over bootfuls of hers :-).  Then they trot along beside me to the weedy pasture where they spend the day browsing amongst the bracken and thistles and chewing their cud in the shade.

And soon, their permanent goat proof fence – the saying “A fence that will hold goats will hold water” doesn’t seem too far off! – will be ready, along with a little 3 sided barn, and they will have a rotational pasture system and a bit more independence.

Fingers crossed.