To recap. We spent Christmas on Bruny Island with Judy, Maddy and Steve and are now on our way to Lilydale.
After we left Bruny we dropped Judy off at Hobart Airport and drove to Lilydale where we would be house sitting 2 dogs, some chooks and a beautiful property for 2 weeks over the new year.
The two dogs are called Tinker and Bella and they were wonderful to look after.
They’re job was to act as a deterrent and to patrol the property and keep the wildlife from eating the produce. I can say they did a marvellous job, not one lettuce leaf was lost on their watch. Bella did take a shine to Jenni.
The couple who owned the property were called Wilma and Gary and their entire place, inside and out, was immaculate. If you look up “immaculate” in the dictionary it will say, “Like Wilma and Gary’s place.” Even the chooks looked groomed.
One of the chooks laid a green egg every day. I’ve never seen a green egg. Tasted just like a normal egg.
The views from the back of the house were very pretty, Mount Arthur on the right and the Blueberry Farm on the left just over the lake.
Looking after the extensive gardens were part of the house sit duties. They produced a lot of fruit and vegetables.
There was lots of garlic from the first harvest hanging out to dry in the sun.
Cherry Trees with fruit that were just ripening in the two weeks we were there. Perfect and delicious.
There were also carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes, broccoli, silverbeet and of course potatoes. With all of this and eggs from the chooks we ate like royalty and if they had grown bottles of beer and wine we wouldn’t have needed to go to the shops for anything.
“Badonk!” “Badonk!” All day and all night long we heard Badonk Badonk echoing over the hills. Curiosity got the better of me and I went to try and find what was making the noise. Traced it to the reeds in the lake and guessed it must be a frog. Jenni Googled and discovered it was called the Eastern Banjo Frog also colloquially known as the ‘Pobblebonk’ as the noise they make is like a banjo string. We never got to see it but this is what they look like from a pic off the interweb.
Jenni and I spent New Years Eve in Lilydale, sitting under the stars enjoying a drink. It was a perfect end to a spectacular year.
The little lake on the property had a small island in it and a precarious looking board connecting it to the garden. Of course I had to go try it.
Tinker came to see what I was up to. Of course she was a lot more confident crossing the bridge than I was.
For the two weeks we were in Lilydale we went out a few times to explore. We went to the beach at Bridport a couple of times.
Readers of the blog will recognise Bridport from previous blogs. We camped there for a few days earlier in the year. We liked the place so much we returned. The weather was fantastic.
The waters were clear as crystal and the sky was blue. It could have been in some paradise island. In fact Jenni and I agreed it was indeed in some paradise island.
After much research we decided one day we would go to Mount William National Park and do the short, 2 hours return walk to Cobler Rocks, AKA Cobblers Rocks, AKA Coblers Rocks. Mount William National is on the far north-east corner of Tasmania. We’d been to the far north-west corner so it was only fair we’d give it’s opposite number a go too.
The gateway to the park is a small town called Gladstone. It is the closest to a Wild West town I’ve seen so far on our travels. We stopped at the petrol station/take away cafe/ post office/ general store/ probably airport terminal for some sustenance before we drove the 25kms dirt road to the 3 car wide car park that was the start of Cobler Rocks Walk. The guys in the place were really friendly and made us some great toasties on wholemeal bread for us to take on our trip.
This advertising sign outside the place really caught my eye. Notice the trademark Australian, direct advertising approach. If you had a septic tank that needs emptying there’d be no doubt who you gonna call…SHIT PUMPING!!!
Mount William National Park is one of the least visited National Parks in Tasmania, mainly because it’s a long way to go to get there. That’s precisely why we were here.
By now we are experienced at negotiating Tasmanian dirt roads. We parked up and set off to see what Cobler Rocks were all about.
Most of the track was/is an old Fire Track so it was easy going. It crossed a creek early in the journey.
Even though the track was obviously an old vehicle track there were no signs of use for what seemed like quite a few years.
Eventually the coast came into view.
There’s something catches the soul when you hike for an hour and find a pristine beach in the wilderness. Well, this part is called Wilderness Beaches. There were no signs of humans anywhere.
It was windy, it always is in the extremities of Tasmania. We sheltered behind a huge boulder and ate our toasties. The only other sign of life around was this fella who wasn’t really interested in us or our lunch.
We sat in the shelter of the rocks for ages just soaking in the experience. There were some rocks out in the distance we assumed were Cobler Rocks.
It’s not often on our travels have we felt we are the only people on the planet but this was one of those times. Eventually we set off back to the car. One the way we saw hundreds of Xanthorrhoea also known as Balga Grass Plants.
Xanthorrhoea are very slow growing and long living; they are among the oldest living plants and some have been found up to 600 years old. The spiky bits are usually just plain green but this one was sporting a bit of colour. Red, Gold and Green as Boy George would say.
This part of the country is home to the Forester Kangaroo. On the drive back down the road we spotted one of these shy creatures hiding in the ferns. I managed to snap this out of the car window just before it dipped its head and bound off disappearing into the bush.
Off the dirt road there was a sign for the Lookout Point with a Camera logo obviously signifying, there’s a decent picture to be taken up here. What they didn’t tell us was the road to the lookout point was a serious incline and full of pot holes and no place to run around. We just made it to the top and it was spectacular. You can’t really see it in this picture but there were dozens of wind farms on the horizon, just like the west coast.
We took a different route back to Lilydale from Gladstone just to see this weird lake.
Little Blue Lake
Between Derby and Gladstone, is a natural phenomenon called the Little Blue Lake. Created as a result of the mining in the surrounding areas of the Far North East of Tasmania. Originally a mine hole, the lake is a vivid aqua blue from the minerals in its base.
A friend who lives in Tassie told me that Derby is the Mountain Biking Capital of the World. We drove through Derby and it must be, there couldn’t be anywhere more ‘Mountain Bikey’. It was late afternoon on a weekday and there were hundreds of people on mountain bikes. There were cars with bikes on the roof rack or hanging on a rack out the back in every parking spot. The streets were packed with kids and adults on bikes. Every other shop was a bike shop. It was an alternative universe. Although we drove through it without stopping I have to go back and check it out.
On the trip back we were diverted, there was a fatal road accident near where we were staying. It was very sad, a local lady had collided with a tourists vehicle. The local lady died at the scene. The road was closed for 5 hours while forensics combed the scene for evidence. Thankfully the kindly constable let us get home before the road was opened again. The dogs were of course delighted to see us as usual.
Our time in Lilydale was coming to an end. Our next adventure was another house sit in Allen’s Rivulet, south of Hobart but we were doing a fly by visit to our friends Danny and Nan who own a chook farm in Mole Creek first. So with a final picture of the garlic in the sunset we waved farewell to Tinker and Bella and drove off into the sun set.
Tinker was devastated to see us go.
Meander Happy Chook Farm
Since our last visit, which was described in this blog, Danny and Nan have grown their family. Danny gave us the grand tour to show us what’s new.
The sheep have lambed but unfortunately left a few orphaned lambs which they have hand reared. They are currently living with the chooks until they are able to look after themselves and go back into the paddock with the rest of the flock. Or go to become someones Sunday roast.
Danny had a massive crop of garlic hanging out to dry as well, seems it was the season for it?
Last time we were here the green house was full to bursting with beans and tomatoes. Although some of the produce is different it looks like it’ll be fit to burst again this year.
This is their new chook bus. As they are a free range farm they move the chook pens around the farm to let the cooks get somewhere different to be. You may remember from the last blog the Danny had converted some old caravans. One of the caravans got destroyed in a severe storm and after searching for a while they found an old bus with a busted engine. A short while later and a lot of hard work it’s now the new, high class chook bus. Looks brilliant.
Now Danny and Nan’s chooks are extra special and very smart. Danny had to fence off the drivers cabin of the bus in case any of the chooks tried to make a run for it like in Chicken Run.
Although why would they want to leave such a paradise?
Now, remember these little cuties from the previous time we were here?
Well this is what they look like now! They were born when Jenni and I were looking after the place for a couple of days last March.
When we went up to see how our wee calves had turn out we saw what looked like a dead sheep in the paddock.
But she was fine. Danny explained that when they get big sometimes the stupid ones lie down in a dip and their fat belly rolls on either side of them and they can’t roll over to get up. You see the smart ones lie down on the side of a slope or a hummock, he said, so they get a bit of assistance to roll back on their feet. Danny rolled the poor thing back on its feet and and it staggered off. It had been on its back for a while and was a bit unsteady but was soon lolloping around again like nothing had happened.
As we made our way back to the farm house I noticed that Danny and Nan’s farm is very picturesque, especially from this view point.
The pink caravan is still there. Couldn’t help myself take this shot when I saw how this chook was posing.
Danny showed us his new hobby. He has a forge and is making tools and other things or the farm. It is a fascinating hobby and will no doubt be very useful in repairing stuff and making items for the farm.
We had a lovely time with Danny and Nan. They are wonderful, friendly and generous people. We hope to call in for another visit before we leave Tassie. Next stop Allen’s Rivulet for some more House Sitting.
This time we were looking after another lovely dog called Misty, some chooks and a couple of dozen sheep. When we visited the family earlier in the year we noticed they had a Pizza Oven, we promised ourselves we would make some wood fired pizza while we were on the house sit. Didn’t happen for reasons which will become obvious.
We went for a walk around the small farm to familiarise ourselves with the place. It just beautiful.
It was a working acreage with mature trees and had outbuildings with function and character. We loved this place. We saw a pademelon feeding in the grass just metres from the house.
With the mountains framing the backdrop it reinforced just how pretty Tasmania is.
There were only 10 chooks to look after so no worries there. There was a chook pen but the chooks were able to get out and roamed free around the garden. They sorted themselves out every night and got themselves back into the chook pen and into the shed to roost.
Except..Jenni found a rogue chicken in another part of the garden, a fenced off area where the family grew potatoes. She’d hidden six eggs and sat on them for 21 days, without anyone noticing, until they hatched. They couldn’t have been more than 2 days old when Jenni found them.
Tassie was in a heatwave during the time we were there and there was no water for the Chook and her chicks in the spot she had chosen to lie. As it was fenced off there was no way out for the chicks to get water, or so I thought. She was very nervous when we found her and very, very protective of the chicks. I managed to get into the area without upsetting her too much and bring her and the chicks some water and grain. “At least they won’t starve.” I thought as I patted myself on the back for being so helpful.
The next morning I was greeted with the sight of new mum and family wandering around the garden, scratching and feeding like normal chickens do.
It was then I remembered that animals have been surviving for millennia without me bringing them, what equated to, snacks in the afternoon. Somehow I still thought they needed my help. I took it upon myself to round them up and get them into the safety of the chook pen with the other chooks. I discovered they most vehemently did not want to go.
With a long stick I tried to save the lives of this chicken family by moving them to the chook pen “for their own good” when they did not want, or need to go, as it turned out. Eventually, I got them all into the pen and closed the gate and threw them some food. I patted myself on the back for a job well done. This is them, in the pen eating that food. Happy moment.
10 minutes later I hear Misty going bat shit crazy outside. I come out to see mummy chook with six kids in tow, head held high, marching back across the garden to the potato patch. Misty is trying to round them up and doing as bad a job as I was. The funniest moment was when one of the little black chicks ran straight at Misty who backed away rapidly. Don’t fuck with this family, that’s all I can say. When we left Allen’s Rivulet they were all safe and sound, despite my help.
One morning the hungry Pademelon got into the garden. I heard Misty go mental outside so ran out to see what was going on. The poor Pademelon was bounding up and down the garden trying to get away from Misty who just wanted to round it up and was not interested in eating it. It was terrified and banging into gates and fences trying to get away. Using my best Crocodile Dundee animal wrangling skills I somehow managed to get Misty on one side of a gate and the Pademelon on the other. (The activities in that sentence took 20 minutes). Then I opened the other gate and the Pademelon ran away. Didn’t even say thanks.
Oh! One other funny thing happened. For a day we lost the chicks and mum. After we lost a roosting chicken on a previous house sit I’ve been focused not to lose another. So I searched the place, Misty helped me. I knew she was keen to round them up so would react if we saw them. As we rounded the house still searching, Misty ran to the fence and started making sounds like Skippy does when someone is trapped down a well. At this point in the fence surrounding the place was an obvious animal track going under the fence. “They’re out on the road!!!!” was my immediate thought and “Well done Misty” was the next. The roadkill in Tassie is off the charts. Every 10 metres on almost every road is a squashed dead animal. Its heartbreaking. The chicks stood no chance.
I ran round the house and out the gate and down onto the road, like Will Smith in that scene in Bad Boys, to save them. On the road side of the fence were big bushes, I could hear Misty on the other side of the fence doing the Skippy “Have you found them yet?” act while weaving up and down the fence. I climbed up the bank and stuck my head into the bushes to see if I could see the chicks. Just then the hungry Pademelon, for it was he that Misty had detected and not the chooks, jumped out at me to try and get away. I nearly soiled myself. Pademelon wasn’t too pleased either. He jumped onto the road, right past my head, and ran away.
Misty started making, “You let him get away again you fucking dickhead” sounds from the other side of the fence. The meaning was loud and clear as that sort of sound transcends species.
Tassie is on Fire
We woke up one morning to this scene.
Due to the serious dry spell and heatwave Tasmania is on fire. At this point there were 28 bush fires on the island including two massive ones that were uncontrolled. One of those uncontrolled fires was in Huon Valley 60 Kilometres away. A photography analogy, it was like looking at the world through a tobacco filter.
We had stayed in Huon Valley camping site a few weeks previously. It was now evacuated. There was a complete fire ban in the country. I wondered for a few minutes if that included Pizza Ovens as we still wanted some wood fires pizzas. Concluded I’d better err on the side of caution and not fire it up. Maybe next time.
We’ll leave the blog here for now. We were safe, the animals all survived, Misty and the Pademelon are still playing games and the lovely farm is still up and running. Our next chapter is about something extra special. Till then.