Friday, February 25, 2005

Life Goes On

The bad news is my digital camera, a Canon G3, has major problems and Canon want to charge more to fix it than a reasonable new camera would cost. This is very disappointing as it is less than two years old. I am now pondering a new purchase. Although I am disillusioned a little with Canon, they still seem to be at the cutting edge of digital photography technology. Meanwhile it's back to my trusty Pentax A3 and film. I have used this again at two weddings in the last few weeks and the results have been reasonably good. There are of course disadvantages to using film and, once bitten by the digital bug, these seem to be amplified. Another result will be the reduced number of pics on this site for the time being. Scanning and pasting is a tedious business.
The grapes are doing well although the weather has been variable. We have a few inches of rain this month which is good for the new vines but not so good for the fruit trying to ripen on the older ones. Taste testing of the Cabernet Sauvignon has shown we have a long way to go until we can pick. The grapes are still quite acidic. I won't be sugar testing until mid March. At this rate, I think we will be harvesting in late March or early April.
I am also weaning the calves. Separation was easy but there has been continual mooing from both sides of the fence. This will go on for a few days until they realise that they are not getting back together. I will be keeping the younger cattle and selling the older ones, probably in May. Weaning will allow the cows to "dry up" and put on some weight for the sale yard.
The Milton show is on during the first week of March. I have entered a couple of bottles of my wine as well as a few photographs.
Meanwhile I am considering my winter break. A month in Europe (Italy and Germany) followed by 2 months in the USA is planned. I have already organised an around the world ticket. My itinerary was 128 miles over the fare limit. They wanted another $500 but got around that by organising to leave from Adelaide. This meant finding a cheap fare to that city. Luckily Qantas were having a seat sale on the net so was able to take advantage of that. The fare was a little less than the bus (a 24 hour trip!)and half that of the train. Most of the accomodation has also been arranged. All that is left is the car hire.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Tayah had been with us a long time, about 17 of her 23 years. She really belonged to my daughter who learnt to ride on her when she was a youngster. I was merely a babysitter/feeder who paid the vet, farrier and feed bills.
She was a great pony club horse that was really good at barrel racing, jumping and even dressage. You could tell she really enjoyed herself at those events. She rarely baulked at going into the horse float or misbehaved and caused problems with other horses and their riders
We even thought she could be good on the agricultural show circuit when, at her first outing, she won a 2nd place in the Maiden Galloway Hack competiton at the Milton show. She also won a ribbon for a clear round in the C Class Jump.
It was with full expectation of victories that we entered her next year. What a disaster! In the Hacking event she went sideways, backwards, around in circles; everyway but forward. In the jumping she refused at the first hurdle and continued to do so until disqualified.
So that was the end of a budding show career.
She was retired to the farm and spent her time doing trail rides into our backcountry. She was not safe from incident here either. Once she was frightened into the armourguard railing alongside the highway and badly cut her leg. She also suffered at one stage from stifle lock. In the paddock one day while running around madly she tripped and fell head over heels and couldn’t walk for three days. But she came back well from all these setbacks.
So it was with confidence that I expected her to recover from the slight lameness I had noticed on my return from Queensland. But it got progressively worse. The vet said she was 99% sure the problem was neurological rather than physical but just to make sure she was put on a course of anti inflammatories. Unfortunately there was no improvement.
So on Tuesday we made the difficult and sad decision to put her down before she deteriorated any further to a stage where she could really hurt herself.

Tayah was part of the family and a constant source of enjoyment for all who came to stay here. Her loud greeting of visitors at the front gate as well as louder demands for food at breakfast and dinnertime were well known. Her dislike of men in general and her stubbornness at being caught by or accepting any treatment from them could be as amusing as it was frustrating. Her breaks for “freedom” through the front gate when in season so she could parade up and down the road in front of the local stallions and geldings, in typical Arab fashion, confirmed she was a bit of a tart. She was, however, easily induced back into her yard with the rattle of the feed bucket and the promise of her favourite food, Economix horse pellets.
She now has a prime position in her favourite paddock looking down the hill where she can still check out all her horse friends in the neighbourhood as well as those pesky cows who have periodically encroached upon her patch.
Life here will be a lot quieter without her.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Trip Home

The final few humid days in Brisbane were enjoyable. We had a great dinner at "Urbane" in the city on the Friday night and welcomed home our friends from Canada on the Sunday morning. After catching up with all their news, we headed south down the inland New England Highway. It is certainly an easier drive than the coastal route. The temperature was a steamy 33C as we lunched at Warwick but, an hour later, we hit a huge storm with torrential rain, thunder and lightning. By the time we reached Stanthorpe, near the Queensland New South Wales border, the temperature had dropped to 17C. Break out the sweatshirts!!!!!
We stopped for the evening in the small country town of Glen Innes. The motel was OK but their "famous" steakhouse restuarant served stodge. What a pity! From all the advertising we expected a lot better. A locally produced Semillon was pretty ordinary too.
Next morning we headed off to the thriving rural centre of Armadale. Here we had a great breakfast and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of this obviously wealthy university town.
Next was Tamworth but we didn't stop. We heard on the radio they were nursing hangovers from the two week Australian Country Music Festival, the biggest in the world, that had finished the night before.
Lunch in Scone was accompanied by another thunderstorm. Undaunted by the weather, we headed through the Hunter Valley coal mines and electricity generating plants to the wine district of the lower valley.
Here we stayed a the Hunter Valley Resort, a huge complex with great accommodation and facilities. For dinner that night we ate at the Cellar Restuarant in the Hunter Valley Gardens - previously known as the Pokolbin Village. We returned for breakfast at one of the cafes.
Then we did some serious wine buying at Tyrells, Brokenwood and Draytons before heading to a friend's home in Woy Woy for the night.
Next morning I dropped off my travel partner at Sydney airport for her long 22 hour trip back to the USA and headed home.
All was ok at the farm apart from the horse being a little lame. Why? Who knows. Her left back leg is definitely bothering her and there is slight swelling. If things don't improve over the next week will have to get the vet.
The new vineyard was looking good. The Tempranillo has had a new lease of life and growth over the three weeks was amazing. Likewise for the Semillon apart from the top row which is suffering from either lack of moisture or soil compaction difficulties. The tops of the Pinot Noir had all been eaten off by the wallabies. This was not unexpected but disappointing all the same. The Cabernet Sauvignon is in the veraison stage with the grapes slowly changing color. The early netting seems to have deterred the birds although there are some satin birds keeping watch at a distance. There is no sign of disease in any block despite some heavy rain. The new spray program (preventative + curative) seems to be working.
The new Milton vineyard, however, has been "attacked" by downy mildew so there has been some frantic spraying going on in that area. The planting out continues apace.
That weekend found me at a wedding in Gerringong followed by a reception at Addisons in Shellharbor. A great time was had by all. The venue is really nice, the staff very accommodating and the food for the 130 guests was excellent. They have a restaurant underneath which may be worth checking out.
My ex secretary came down for a few days with her husband. We had a lot of laughs, drank a few bottles of wine, played very competitive Scrabble and pigged out on German food for 3 days.
The day after they left, my daughter brought a friend from England down for a few days. Sadly the weather was not typical (storms, wind and overcast) but we did the tourist guide thing and I think she was pretty impressed with our beaches and scenery. We also found her some kangaroos to photograph up close.
My digital camera is still in hospital. Am waiting to find out whether the problem is terminal or not.