Our first camp out

Tonight is the first time we’re sleeping at our farm. Our first camp out! I’ve dreamt of this since we signed the contract to buy the farm. Winter has passed. Spring is here and the wet weather has stopped so on a whim we decided this was the night.

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Horsey weekends

We had an excellent horsey weekend. After a long lazy morning we packed up and headed to the farm around lunch time. While the girls saddled up Cheeky and Beau and took themselves off on a trail ride, Damien attacked the tops of the old cherries with a chainsaw standing in the tray of the quad bike which I drove up the row. Fear not – the chainsaw was only in use when the quad was stationary. It’s taken a long time, but finally we’ve made it to the point where we can work on the orchard while the girls hang out with their horses. Everyone was happy!

Later Saturday arvo we dropped around to Aunty Di’s. She was out walking and this provided the opportunity to meet other Windermere horsey kids: Lauren and Emily. The girls got to meet their horses and introduce their new friends to Beau and Cheeky.

Sunday afternoon – another ride. This time Sarah could come too. And we built a fire and cooked a barbecue before the girls rode out in the spring evening. These are our salad days.

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The rush of spring

The seemingly endless weeks of dormancy have ended. our trees are waking up. Sept 1 arrived and the trees obeyed as if they had just been waiting for the light to turn green. Almost overnight the buds became swollen, bursting forth into blossom.

Suddenly the pruning rush is on and even with a chainsaw we can’t get through the rows quickly enough. We’ve ‘rejuvenated’ (chainsawed back to the stump) 4 rows of the older trees and still have another 5 rows to do to achieve our goal of rejuvenating a third of that part of the orchard each year over three years.
This week though we shifted to the Sambas, taking out dominant limbs and pruning laterals because the young trees there are growing with such vigour. The longer evenings are lovely, giving me the chance to do uni work in the mornings, followed by a session in the orchard in the afternoons (before collapsing on the couch in the evening).

So now we know – from Sept 1 it’s game on. Busy times ahead!

The girls make their mark

On Sunday the girls spent a few hours making their own mark at the farm. They dragged logs around, piling then up, shifting them this way and that, rolling a log over to make it a little higher. To an onlooker it was clear they were very busy, but what were they doing?

They were creating a jumping course for their horses. After over an hour of lifting and shifting, and trying them out as human horses, they rode their horses around the course.

It’s funny – I had been a little disappointed that their initial attempts to build a little shelter in the trees had been abandoned. But I realise that their love of horseriding means they experience a sense of place quite differently to how I did as a kid. I remember when I was about their age, Brooke Wilson and I would create fantastical tree houses in the Moreton Bay Figs near the tennis court where Mum played every Saturday afternoon. I still see trees for their tree house potential.

I’m so happy to see the girls making their own mark on the place. I’m learning to just let it be – to let people experience things in their own way rather than trying to push my way of seeing things onto them. It’s something I’ll try to keep reminding myself of.

Right now I’m with Jules, Millie and Molly at Cataract Gorge. I’m loving the giant conifer trees I’m perched beside as I write. The girls are in the playground and turning cartwheels on the grass. Everyone’s happy. We’re all enjoying this place by experiencing it in the ways we each prefer.

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Wettest August on record

With 11 days left in the month this is already the wettest August on record. We passed 200mm for the month last night. The weather pattern is different to any other August I’ve experienced down here (although that’s only 4 so far). It’s like crazy spring weather with its wild winds, torrential downpours, electrical storms…. Only the temperatures are definitely wintery.

So we’ve not been able to do much in the orchard between down pours. Mainly we’re just keeping drains clear so flood waters can recede as quickly as possible. The farm work is starting to back up – more pruning and weeding to do, a shed to erect up near the horses. They look pretty happy up there on the high ground looking over the Tamar.

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The depths of winter

Here we are entering the middle of August – wild windy days, lots of rain. The place is a bog but bit by bit we’re making progress. We have renovated four rows of the orchard now, basically cutting the rampant old branches back to near the stump in order to replace them with new fruiting wood. The rows have been weeded out to. They look renewed. Basically we are sacrificing their 2014 crop so that these trees will be productive in future years. Next we’ll refresh the southern-most rows of the orchard. They’re not in the same state of neglect as the four rows we’ve just finished on, so Damien plans to be more selective, renewing perhaps a third of the trees – the ones most in need of it. His plan is that aver the following two years the other thirds will likewise be renewed (that is, pruned with a chainsaw).
The horses now have a massive paddock up on top of the hill and we’ve sorted a permanent water solution for them. That’s fantastic. The hill thing is more challenging than I initially thought. We can get up there in the ute under normal circumstances, but recent weeks of heavy rains have turned the ground into a bog so now the ute won’t get us up there.
So – we bought a quad bike! It’s actually a six wheeler with a tray on the back, ex-army so we got us a camouflage finish which the mud is working hard at concealing. It’s a heap of fun, but we’ve discovered the hard way it’s just as easy to flip as a quad. Damo could tell us more about that…. Maybe when his ribs heal.