It's mid-May in the best autumn we've had for a long time.
What's happenin' at Millpost?
Today we have lost an old and dear friend. The last of the century-old Pinus radiatas that stood near to our house - a bit too near, unfortunately – has prematurely reached its demise due to drought and heat and was removed by Tim Oliver and his “possums”. It took them barely 6 hours. It was a massive and beautiful specimen and has left a huge hole in the sky. We will miss it especially in summer. So will a lot of birds, but they have plenty of other roosting choices on Millpost.
I have been dreading this day, but am pretty sure that, without the pine monopolising water and fertility, the younger trees that struggled in its shadow will “take off” and fill the gap in the canopy.
In the early '80s we took out a couple of other pines. There was a row of stunted oaks nearby and they shot up once the pines were gone, and are probably still growing. Lately we are hearing mopokes (Southern Bookbook Owl) calling in the garden most nights (actually I can hear them right now!) and a couple of nights ago Murray went out with the torch and spotted a pair sitting close together in one of those oaks.
While their mums are consorting with the rams, all our lambs are together in a mob and recently David called me out of the house to help chase the buggers back to their paddock. In spite of their portliness they had managed to squeeze between the gate and the gatepost, and some had even gone under the gate. It was a case of the proverbial grass being greener on the other side. David remarked that he didn't think we'd ever had such fat lambs.
When Catriona moved back into her house in March she found she had a serious rodent infestation so she lost no time in finding some rescue pussycats.Her new Manx kittens, Minx and Twiggy, soon wiped out the interlopers by picking them off as they popped through a hole in the wall. Since then they have dealt with a veritable army of rodents under and around the house. Apart from Rattus norvegicus and R. rattus there have been some native bush rats, and others that are smaller than rats and bigger than mice but don't fit the antechinus ID criteria. Recently the wee girls moved on to hunting rabbits and have had a noisy tussle with a possum. Meanwhile we have been catching a rat nearly every day in a cage-trap for a few weeks, especially near the ducks' house. But they are still keeping us awake at night, thundering around in the roof.
Having chooks for fresh eggs and cows for fresh milk are two of the greatest joys of farming. But it doesn't always go according to plan. On January 31st the thermometer on our back verandah registered 38.5 degrees Celsius. It was a ghastly day, made even worse by finding that a fox had murdered most of our chooks while we were arguing about who was going to go and lock them up. (they were down the paddock in their mobile home.) Given that I had raised them all from chickens and most had names, it was a tragic loss.
As a result, we are buying eggs for the moment.
Last winter we engaged the services of a young Dexter bull for our three remaining milkers and in late April we were at last presented with a new calf, a lovely and lively heifer, as yet un-named. Her mum, Thumbelina, is my favourite cow and usually a pleasure to milk. But this time it has been a struggle to get her to co-operate and every litre is very hard-won. Perhaps the extremely rich pasture has affected her temperament (she's hardly ever seen anything like it before), perhaps the diet of hay and tree fodder during pregnancy caused an imbalance in nutrition, perhaps she suffered some trauma that I wasn't aware of...... All I can do is persevere and hope to regain her trust.
As for the other two cows, we are laying bets on whether they are pregnant. They might just be fat.
Judith Turley 18/5/2020