Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #27

Posted: October 9, 2019 in Uncategorized

Fruit trees are blossoming, the grass is growing thicker and it’s time for breeding season. I picked up a tiny egg on the ground yesterday. It was light brown and speckled. A lot like a chicken egg but a third of the size. Seeing such an occurrence as serendipitous, I put the egg into my incubator, figuring that a tiny bird is not going to bother sitting on an infertile egg therefore this egg is probably fertile. We will see. Frequent feedings might beckon if it hatches whatever it is.

In the fertility stakes here on the farm, the chickens are way ahead of the ducks and turkeys. One hen has hatched 12 chickens, one has hatched 2 and a further one is sitting on 11 eggs. The ducks are trying to hide their eggs from me which I confiscate- we don’t want anymore ducks! A female turkey has taken to sitting in a patch under my side wilderness on no eggs at all. Another has laid 7 eggs under a geranium next to my bedroom window – a completely exposed to foxes position. The male turkeys- commonly called ‘gobblers’ because of the sound they make when displaying- really don’t get it. I have seen a particularly dimwitted male display constantly to other roosters. Not much of a chance there, Pal. Others practice mating with no female underneath. It will be a miracle if the young turkey’s eggs are fertile. I’ve only witnessed one successful mating among them so far. However, I never saw their parents mating but they must have, otherwise they would not have produced the 7 babies we successfully raised at the start of the year.

We have had some rain! It has made such a difference to the landscape around here and to our spirits. Robertson has again become the green heart of the highlands. Unfortunately there has been a problem with the pipes leading to our main house tank and we didn’t get much run-off- if at all- into our tank from this rain. The garage tank has been filling successfully, so I have transferred water from it to the main tank. I was out there in my pyjamas one morning  opening up a value on the pipe leading to the main tank and of course water geysered up and soaked my pjs! There was some sort of blockage but its difficult to tell unless its raining hard and I haven’t been here to check again. Anyway, more rain is due this weekend, everyone’s happy!

Au revoir, mes amies.


Winter is almost over. It’s been cold and finally in the last day, it’s started to rain. Where I live the average annual rainfall is about 1800 mm. Instead up until yesterday we’d only had 286 mm all year. That’s only about 15% of our usual rainfall and its now the end of the 8th month into the year. So 2019 has been really dry. In fact, 99% of the state of New South Wales is currently in drought. Some outback towns has started to run out of water and are trucking it in at great cost. We all need to be more water wise. 2 minute showers, using grey water on your plants- it’s totally ok, I’ve been doing it for year- learning to flush the toilet with a bucket of grey water too helps. I often do my washing down at my Mum’s who is on town water. It costs $260 a load of 12,000 litres of water here. It’s quite expensive when you have to keep buying it. For about 20 years here, we never bought any water. We have bought a lot in the last few years- at least 4 or 5 times a year. Currently, our garage back up tank is empty.

I just cleaned out the front gutter on the house. Hope we get some more rain tomorrow, but at least the grass will green up a bit when it starts to grow come September first. It always starts to grow then. Guaranteed. But at the moment , the climate is no longer guaranteed. I think we need to get used to not having much water as other people will have to get used to being hotter in Summer. All I know is we all need to plant more trees. If you get anything from this blog, go and plant a tree. The world needs you to. Go on! YOU can do it!

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ #25

Posted: April 24, 2019 in Ducks
Tags: ,

Update on ducks: 5 hatched in the incubator and are doing well in the brooder. My other sitting duck hatched 10 ducklings currently in a cage in the paddock. I moved her at night to avoid being attacked. Female ducks with ducklings can be super aggressive. For a small bird they are mighty fearless when protecting their young. So far, they are all doing well and are happy enough. I am happy they can’t escape. When they are a bit older, I’ll put all 15 together with the mother in a larger pen. Happy days!

Notes from ‘Rivendale’ # 24

Posted: April 8, 2019 in Ducks

Consider this scenario: Female duck has made a nest in a tyre in the duck yard. The holes in the duck house wire are large enough to allow baby ducklings through. I observed a hawk, probably a hawk or a falcon near the chickens/ poultry this morning. So what do you do? Obviously they can’t be let hatch and then escape to certain death. So I spent about two hours putting a finer netting around the area and a fence and a roof of wire. So what does the duck do? She keeps escaping!!!

Finally after dark, I attempt one last time to put her back in. She will not go! So, I have to rescue the duck eggs and put them in the incubator. So annoying! 2 are infertile and most of the rest aren’t looking too good on candling. At least two out of 6 are alive. They are in the incubator now. I do have another duck sitting on eggs in the duck house. I could kind of hedge her in and just give her any of the ducklings hatched from the incubator. Well, that is the plan.

Going on holidays soon for 4 days. Hope they don’t hatch too soon. More work for my son and worry for me!

Au revoir, mes amies.

It’s Spring and everywhere is green again after five long months of drought. I visited some local gardens on display last weekend and they gave me lots of ideas to improve my garden. One thing to do is plant trees/bushes with contrasting foliage to give depth to all that green! Purple and maroon as well as red look stunning against a green backdrop. I like the way people raised garden beds with rock walls and separated gravel from lawn using pavers in curves. A simple but effective garden plan was  using raised beds made from treated pine and filling in pathways with gravel. This made a more formal garden but one that would be quick to create. They grew both veggies and ornamentals in this garden.

I saw lots of different ideas for chicken houses. Most had a covered area and then an open wired in run also with a roof. The chickens looked fat and well fed and were bedded on sawdust or straw. One group of all female hens were so fat they almost waddled. People also used tiny wire on the lower sections of runs to keep out mice and rats- a great idea. I was amazed to see how many plants grew under huge fir trees that dropped pine needles. This also made a good mulch for informal pathways.

I have growing in the garden at the moment: silver beet, kale, lettuce, beans, strawberries and have sown carrots, potatoes, zucchini and orange eggplants- that’s right, quite unusual and apple shaped. Hope they come up. Its a bit too cold for tomatoes and some of the seeds I’ve sown are slow to come up due to the cool weather. Recently, we have still had the wood fire on at night.

The animals are thriving with almost 30 new chickens on the property in various stages of growth from day-olds to about 10 weeks old. We have two hens looking after them, the rest have been raised in an incubator. One hint is to put some older chicks in with the day-olds in the brooder to teach them to eat and drink and to give them company and warmth. They all seem to get on very well and end up pals for life! The young female turkey now has a new male suitor and he struts around displaying his big white but slightly mud-stained feathers. We also have 6 new ducks- 3 pekins and 3 new muscovy females. The pekins are very pretty and they just love being let out to nose around for worms- its as if they have never been on grass before! They are very attractive ducks with cute faces and look like the Jemima Puddleduck of Beatrix Potter fame.

I let the ducks and chickens out for some fun today after work and several of the male muscovies were looking disgracefully dirty, I was hoping they’d go for a dip in the duck pond, maybe tomorrow. While I haven’t go much fencing done in the last few weeks, at least I have been saved from doing endless watering!

Adios, amigos.

Notes from’Rivendale’ #22

Posted: June 8, 2018 in Chickens

It’s Winter and the burning log fire is going. The heat from it is the most comforting thing when its bleak and wet outside. Outside in the paddock, I bedded down the best 10 hens with a frizzle rooster and the one remaining turkey after I returned from the US two weeks or so ago. I called it putting them in ‘lock down’. My reasons were thus: They are in the strongest house which is big and has lots of light and nesting boxes. It should be fox-proof. And I can see if having them in close quarters helps them start laying.

Well to report something good at last, they have started laying. Well two of them have. And interestingly enough, they seem to eat less food because they are less active. I give them all the best scraps form the kitchen and greens as well. Today I got them shell grit. They love scratch mix and for some reason, its cheaper than pure wheat grain. I also feed them a laying mash, often hot with scraps mixed through. They really love this.

The other hens and roosters who are free range have produced no eggs. The ducks are loving their new pond which the wet weather has considerately filled up. So the muscovies are looking blindingly white instead of murky mud splattered brownish. The weeds I have so far put in the pond, the ducks have equally enthusiastically eaten so getting a real pond ecosystem up and running is a work in progress at the moment. All the pens have feeders made from plastic down pipes which allows me to go off for a few days and know they will be fed well. The material on the floor of the ‘lock down’ pen is straw though I plan to buy a shredder and put all my scrap paper through it to make litter for them. I noticed a few years ago that worms love this mixture of shredded paper and chicken poo and some of them were massive in size when I was digging up the litter to put on vegetable beds. It’s a good way to recycle paper too. Time to get in some Winter greens in the vegie garden. Have a great long weekend, fellow travellers in life.

I do spend way too much time in front of Pinterest. The work by artists and craftspeople around the world is utterly fascinating. So what’s trending? On the fabric front, fabric fish in colourful patterns used for, I don’t know, pencil cases perhaps and fabric mushrooms. Then there’s the up cycling of old ‘jumpers’ ( ‘sweaters’ in the US) into really cool coats or mittens or even beanies and head scarfs. Amigurumi crocheted animals are really cute as are the tiny dolls. I have had a go at them and its harder than it looks even with the Youtube videos to follow. A word of advice- don’t use cotton yarn as it stretches, use wool to crochet your animals.

diy patchwork upcycled jacket    

In jewellery, check out ‘polymer cane jewellery’. Canes are lengths of polymer clay rolled with different colours which can produce quite detailed and representational effects when cut across. The better jewellery uses subtle colour ranges such as olive greens and coffee with white and black and contrast hues like orange or turquoise, also the canes are less complex. Feathers and flowers are too kitsch and child-like. There are many polymer clay recreation attempts at faux gemstones like turquoise or opal but I don’t find these as interesting or  artistic as the cane jewellery. These  often have matching pendants and earrings in modern shapes. Fascinating is the unusually structured bangles  made with subtle cane colours that resemble sea creatures or coral.

Polymer artists to watch are Meisha Barbie and Melanie West.

Meisha Barbee Inner wave bangles by Melanie West

Meisha Barbie                                                    Melanie West

Artists are making full size vases in wonderful colours using polymer clay but these would be expensive to make and buy. Another trend in polymer clay is to make amazing doll heads and bodies. Some are surreal and transport the viewer to another dimension of doll crafting. The best at this new craft appear to be the Russians like Michael Zajkov. Here is some of his work:

Artist Masterfully Sculpts Hauntingly Lifelike, Fully Articulating Dolls From Polymer Clay

Michael Zajkov   The Russian artist's collection of handmade dolls is captivating viewers around the world with them appearing so realistic that if you blink, you may wonder if they  #Art #bjd #collectiondoll

Hard to believe this is a doll, yes!

Well, I hope this article has given you some inspiration to check out the trends and massive talent in crafts at the moment, adios  amigos.