Muddy beasts and bile

muddy neck

The horses really enjoyed the storm last week. Caked in mud from hip to hoof, they were happy to spend most of the day under cover, the rain strumming on the corrugated iron roof. Horses and humans are not so different. I stood with them in the stables, watching the welcome weather roll in.

hens in the rain

The chickens stayed out in their coop in the rain, wet and bedraggled, rather than keeping under cover in their den. I decided I may as well let them out to roam. They ran down the hill to scratch in the horses’ hay pile – their new favourite spot.

Chickens scratching in the hay

Once the “big chickens” had evacuated the coop, the Araucana bantams beat their wings and hooned around, happy to have the space to themselves. The little Araucanas do get picked on a bit by the Australorps, but they are becoming more confident in the flock and I hope to let them out to day range with the others soon.

Muddy flank

It looks like a gross skin disease but it’s actually just water and mud!

We got 24mL of rain in 24 hours. I’d forgotten how quickly heavy rain can wash away our gutless sandy topsoil, revealing the gravel and rock underneath. Luckily we’ve established a lot more groundcover since this time last year. Run-off from the driveway and the bare dirt run collected downhill in the pasture, slowed down by ryegrass stubble and strongholds of kikuyu. Not much we can do about losing dirt from the run, unfortunately. The run is our sacrifice area for the horses while the pasture grows. We’re getting there, slowly.

Muddy socks

White socks no more!

Our dam has only been about a foot deep all summer, and it was a relief to see it fill to the brim, if only briefly. The landlord routinely drains it to top up his own enormous reservoir and keep his vast lawns green – just a few hundred metres further down the valley from our struggling pasture. He’s a businessman, not a farmer. I find it frustrating facing someone who has all that we so badly want, and more, yet he doesn’t take an interest in caring for and improving the land he has. Especially given he has the money, the staff and the equipment to do what we do in a fraction of the time and with far less effort.

Just one of many reasons I can’t wait until we have our own property. What I could do with a few more acres, and free rein!

mini-Mrs Moth & stormy day 278

It is hard living in such a beautiful place, yet in less than ideal circumstances. I find myself constantly stamping down my Scottish temper.

Johnny's muddy face

I try to remember that the things that are holding us back here are forcing us to become more resourceful and self-reliant, which will serve us in the long run. Until then, the rain does a good job keeping my temper in check. I can’t stay angry on a proper kilt-wearing day.

Pink stormclouds at dawn

pink storm clouds

mini-Mrs Moth & stormy day 013

For a brief few minutes yesterday at dawn, heavy grey storm clouds were turned into pink fairy floss by a gift of the light. The horses were not impressed by the rouged sky, preferring to remain buried head-first in the hay pile. I called out Jonathon’s name from where I stood on the verandah – I love to yell out to him because of the response I always get. His ears stood to attention, and his huge head wheeled up, right to the very top of his neck. He took a minute to stand and look straight at me, blinking, his bright white blaze painting his face with a bewildered expression. Then he released a deep, loud sigh and went back to eating his hay.

When I call out to Calais – Chappy for short – sometimes he’ll raise his head slightly and acknowledge me. It’s an improvement from the early days when he’d completely ignore me! It doesn’t exactly make you feel all warm and sentimental, at six o’clock in the morning.

So Johnny’s the one who gives me the enthusiastic “good morning” look. He may be a bit clumsy, and he doesn’t like to be patted, but there’s not much I wouldn’t do for the horse attached to that face.

Johnny's big head

The pink sky didn’t last long, but it turned into something equally special not long after, when sunlight hit the opposite hilltop, outlining the valley with gold.

golden hilltop

Anticipation of rain made the morning even better.

Enjoying the little things

glove

This morning I had a little walk around the garden before starting on all my jobs. Sometimes I get so caught up in all the things I want to do and build and grow, that I forget to notice the lovely little things where I am so lucky to live.

clothes horse tomato trellis

Our old wooden clothes horse has been in my family as long as I have! My mum’s “family heirlooms” are always practical and so when it finally broke beyond repair, Ben suggested it could have another job; outside, trellising the tomatoes. It’s funny because he always hated it as a clothes horse and I had assumed he would jump at the chance to ditch it for good. It may not be the world’s best tomato trellis, but it’s better than nothing, and we are lazy gardeners so it suits us fine! I think it looks quite at home amongst all the greenery.

corn town

Here we are in corn town with our gigantic basil and lemongrass monsters. During summer it is so nice to have these big green buttresses close to the house. It makes it seem slightly less like a huge earth oven. When the corn is big it will be even better!

baby corn sproutings

Baby corn sproutings from homegrown seed!

At our last house, there was a fountain and pond in the small courtyard and so we cleaned it all out, Ben fixed the pump and we got fish! Quite a lot of little fish. I would spend hours sitting pond-side beneath the dense canopy, procrastinating from study, watching them. They would come to the surface and watch me too. Actually, they probably just wanted to be fed treats. They came with us when we moved out here and though sadly not all of them survived (we moved on the hottest, longest December weekend possible), we soon had three fish tanks inside full of fishlings. We had one big tank in our bedroom which I could watch for hours.

But keeping fish indoors is a lot more work than keeping them outside in a pond, and after a year or two, I got pretty sick of the pump noise, the delightful waft of fishy water, and the constant cleaning (which I usually left for Ben to do, how nasty). So we converted a half wine barrel into a little pond by stapling a plastic liner to the top inside edge, which we covered by U-nailing down lengths of split black retic pipe over the top edge, and moved the fishlings outside. Its not fancy, but it works and it didn’t cost us anything! Three fishes have survived the transition outdoors – one paradise fish is an original from our rental in East Fremantle! What a trooper.

fish pond and herb bed

I think they are much happier to have their fish privacy, little dark places to hide under rocks and plants, rather than living behind glass to be gawked at by silly humans. I mean, I still gawk at them, but they have the option to flee if they want! Their little home is wedged in the corner of the herb bed, so there are lots of unsuspecting insect victims that come to visit the fish. Hehe. And we like to find grubs and worms for them, as a treat. Spoilt fish!

blue wren visitor

The blue wrens have been coming to visit a lot lately. A brightly coloured boy was pecking around near the back door this morning, but he was too quick for me to picture him. This little bird in the pic only has a blue tail (the colouring of either a girl or adolescent male), and was quite friendly, with lots of happy-sounding twitter as she bounced around our capsicum plants. They like to do a group pass along the back verandah and chomp down all the spiders and bugs that accumulate due to the aforementioned laziness. We leave the webs as we’re always keen to recruit spiders to fight the bloody flies for us! If only we could find something willing to take on the wasps and save us the chore…

where's the fence

There’s a hint of fence to be seen here, but not much. A self-seeded rogue pumpkin has completely swamped the straggly bougainvillea. We have another bogan (not that kind!) which we’re training to screen our bathroom window, doing much better than this poor little guy. It’s no worries though, he was a freebie. I plonked him there, hoping his thorns might deter the kangaroos from knocking down the fence rails. All it has done is alter their course! Cheeky buggers.

pumpkin lawn

Still more pumpkin tentacles are helping to shield the growing lawn from the harsh sun. Our house was built facing the wrong direction, and really the hillside opposite would be far more comfortable in summer. As it is, we get burning sunlight which is truly unbearable from about midday onwards, relentless until about six or seven when it disappears over the hill. It would be the perfect spot if you wanted to build a gigantic oven…

I’m not a fan of summer so its easy for me to forget what’s so good about this place at this time of year. But you can’t have everything! Before it gets too hot, its worth enjoying those small things that make you smile. Even if the jobs have to wait.