noun / AUSTRALIAN/NZ informal
CONTENT WARNING: This blog contains “fowl” language and several other very dubious chicken puns.
Jenni and I were in a stunning beach house in Falmouth with Maddy (Jenni’s daughter) and Steve (Maddy’s partner). The first couple of days Jenni and I had to work so Steve and Maddy went out for a drive to explore the region. On one of the days we took a break from work for an hour to stretch our legs and take in the scenery.
We walked to the end of the street, which turned into a grassy patch, at the end of which was this cracking view. The beach is called Steels Beach and it’s part of Scamander Conservation Area. We wandered farther down onto the rocks that was the shoreline and it became more and more rugged.
It looked like it was going to be hard going but we decided to round the headland and get back to the beach house along the rocks.
The views were stunning, sea birds flew all around us riding the strong winds that were buffeting the headland after the storm last night.
At a point in the journey over the rocks of the headland I stepped on this incongruous thing cemented into one of the bigger boulders.
It’s an old Trig Point from the original settlers survey of Tasmania. The original survey was in the early 1800’s, not sure if this dates that far back. They are no longer required now due to satellite surveys and GPS but they were vital in the production of detailed maps of Australia. I didn’t know what it was at first and in researching it for this blog I also discovered that due to tectonic shifts, the entire continent of Australia has moved 1.5 metres north over the past 22 years, putting it out of sync with GPS. The last time the longitude and latitude coordinates of Australia were updated by the national body – the Geocentric Datum of Australia (GDA) – was in 1994 so it’s currently quite a way out. To fix this problem, the GDA updated the country’s coordinates in 2017, based on predictions of where the country will be in 2020 – almost 2 metres further north than where the GDA says we are now. So we are still out but in 2 years time it will be accurate, for a while anyway.
The next day Steve and Maddy were driving back to Hobart and Jenni and I were going to a chicken farm near Mole Creek and we wouldn’t be seeing them for a while, so we had a bit of celebration on the back deck overlooking the sea. A fitting end to a great stay.
Meander Happy Chook Farm
A few years ago a work colleague and friend of Jenni’s called Danny gave up his day job and bought a chook farm in Tasmania and he and his wife Nan now sell free range eggs. The reason it’s called Happy Chook Farm is because they are, happy that is. The Australian definition of Free Range means up to 10,000 chickens per hectare. Danny and Nan keep 150 chickens per hectare, properly free range, properly cared for and properly happy. For those who read my blogs will know Jenni and I were here same time last year. It was then we “hatched” the “eggciting” idea that we would have a “crack” at looking after the farm while Danny and Nan went “eggsploring” Tasmania for a while. Jenni and I were “eggstatic” that the time had come around.
At the end of the driveway we were greeted by the 5 dogs that roam the property. Dakota (Dakkie), Oscar, Julius, Harry and Cassie.
They are happy dogs, well trained and help around the farm herding sheep and even the chooks. Jenni and I were to spend the next 2 days learning the ropes so that Danny and Nan could get away for a short break. We started first thing the next morning, the temperature had dropped to below freezing.
But the chickens still need looking after whatever the weather so it was up before dawn and out we went to let them out of their coops to roam and graze and lay lots of happy eggs.
The pink caravan is for all the girl hens and the others are for all the boy hens.
After the eggs are collected each day they go to the shed to be inspected, cleaned, graded, weighed and boxed. All of this is done by hand and it’s labour intensive.
I wonder if the people who buy these eggs know each one is washed by hand and inspected by Nan to make sure it is of the highest quality, only the highest quality eggs are sold and nothing sub-standard gets by Nan’s expert eye.
During the day I went out with Danny to inspect the flock. Predators are rife in Tasmania and birds and quolls and other predators have managed to get a few of their chickens so one of the main tasks is to make sure they are all safe at night. However, some brave and desperate hens hide away in the forest and lay some eggs in the underbrush. They risk their lives sitting on them each night surrounded by creatures that would love a late chicken dinner until they hatch. If they survive all of that then they bring them back to the coops. We were lucky to find a mother and two day old chicks turn up out of the blue.
Now THAT’s free range.
As well as dogs and chickens Danny and Nan also keep some sheep including a pet sheep that was rejected by her mother as a lamb and hand reared. His name is Sammie.
He lived with the dogs for a while so he thinks he’s a dog. Then he lived with the chickens and he now eats chicken food. He follows Nan everywhere. He also has a kookaburra friend that visits him every now and again.
Some of the sheep needed a ManiPedi so we rounded them up. Well, Harry the Kelpie did.
We get them into the holding pen then into a gadget that grabs them and turns them upside down. They seem to like it, they are very relaxed.
With hooves all trimmed the sheep are released back into their paddock
The dogs need looking after too and Jenni takes them for a walk.
They are pretty good dogs and well trained by Nan.
Have I mentioned Jenni is a fantastic cook? Well she is. Every day this week I’ve seen her disappear out the door with a basket under her arm to go “shopping”. She is going to the exorbitantly rich vegetable garden on the farm. It is a mouthwateringly abundant place with so much amazing produce, root vegetables, squashes, cucumbers, garlic, several varieties of tomato, corn, herbs of almost every type, native pepper berries and on and on.
They even grow magic beans.
As a direct result of this cornucopia combined with Jenni’s cooking talents we have had some outstanding meals while we have been here.
If that wasn’t enough, while Jenni made the mushroom carbonara, Danny made bread and showed me how to make fresh pasta and a terrible mess in the kitchen as well.
The recipe was simple, 300 grams of 00 Flour, 3 whole eggs and two egg yolks. Mix and knead adding flour until it no longer sticks to your hands when kneading. Let it rest in the fridge for half an hour then roll it out.
It was delicious, and everything except the flour came from 20 metres away.
Cows and Calves
It’s calving season and we have had two beautiful little calves born since we arrived on Tuesday to cows called Number 40 and Number 27.
In the true spirit of candour these two cute specimens are not Number 40 and Number 27’s offspring but two of the other’s that just happened to pose rather well for one split second.
This is a picture of all 7 new calves in one picture.
We did have a bit of a worrying time though. Number 40 had a calf, I saw it a few hours after it was born and even took a picture of it.
There were 5 calves when we arrived, Number 40’s made 6 and the next day Number 27 popped, that made 7 calves. This is not a maths lesson but when we counted the calves the next day there were only 6. Number 40’s was missing. The morning Number 27’s calf was born and the morning they were due to leave for their well earned break, Nan and Danny spent an hour driving the quad bike around the field looking for it and couldn’t find it. After they left I walked around for over an hour and couldn’t find it either. It was a mystery and a worry. Number 40 didn’t look very upset so we weren’t too concerned. What could it be? Alien abduction? Theft? Bears? Cows will protect their calves and hide them to keep them safe. The fact Number 40 didn’t look too worried was a comfort. For 48 hours we were a calf missing then Jenni and I went on another hunt and there it was with it’s Mother. It’s still a mystery where she hid it.
I was brought up on a farm but there are skills you learn that if you don’t keep using you will lose, like driving a tractor.
Danny wanted to show me how to give the cows a new bale of hay as it they would run out before he and Nan got back. It involved some tractor driving skills. Driving the tractor came back to me quite quickly. The task was to go and get a bale and bring it back to the field with the cows in it and drop it off to fill up the feeder when they had finished.
I managed to reverse the tractor and attach the bale carrying device onto the back and then go and put a bale onto it, at this point I was quite pleased with myself. However when I got back to the field to drop the bale off the bale was gone. Missing. Vanished. Like number 40’s calf. It had fallen off on the way back to the drive back so I had to go back and retrieve it. This is me on the way back.
There are a few skills and tricks I learn’t on the farm, one was “Always check your load”. Clearly forgot that one. Gave Danny a laugh anyway.
We’re on the farm until Wednesday then we take the ferry back to the mainland and Ballarat but that’s for next week’s blog.
Fact: There are no bears in Tasmania and there are no boy hens