two years




















I couldn’t let our two year mark at harvest moon hill pass by without recognition here. And I’ve been meaning to pop in, for oh you know, six months or so! I know the posts are few and far between these days but here we are again… a new year… a new season… and change in the wild windy air…

As I type this I am watching our sheep mow the grass in our back yard with the three musketeers darting about around them. Despite the foxes and wedge tail eagles these three guinea fowl have thrived all by themselves with no human intervention of care or feed – if you don’t count all the nectarines and plums they ate from our trees! These moments of bliss are hard to describe, yet even harder is to articulate just how much I feel they impact on my wellbeing. Vast open spaces and prolonged periods of silence bring such deep calm and peace, I can only imagine how much more keyed up I would be not living here! I absolutely love it and feel so incredibly lucky we found this place.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all peace love and mung beans baby, there’s plenty of hard work and head scratching. Just like the three musketeers receive the odd bunting from Ziggy or a stalking from an eagle, there are unwanted nudges, death, sickness and loss on the farm too. We sadly and mysteriously lost our first little lamb born last year, Eileen. Burying her was heartbreaking yet also, in many ways, an inevitable part of farming, I understand that. We also had a sick sheep and had to intervene with medication, but first there was the matter of catching her for the vet. A missed footing and consequent stumble produced two broken ribs for Charlie and a greater appreciation for just how big these girls are. A week later and I am proud to say we managed to round up the whole flock (all six of them – real sheep farmers don’t laugh!) by ourselves and secure them in next doors cattle race where I injected them with their vitamin B12 & selenium shot. Another feather in our farming cap that definitely left us more traumatised than the sheep!

We’ve had more loss than bounty in the veggie garden but have slowly worked toward rectifying that, and now have a rather ugly but cost efficient immediate windbreak to protect the beds from the relentless elements of being high up on an exposed hill. We have to watch out for snakes and the seasonal battle of uninvited critter visitors in the roof. There are days of relentless mooing when our neighbours move their cattle or separate them into different paddocks and the flies in summer are horrendous – thick and sticky! But I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Well, maybe the flies. And roof critters. And ok maybe the snakes too. I love quintessential country things like driving down our road and stopping to chat to the neighbour passing by in his car, windows down and waving off flies and saying ‘why yes, I’d love some of your excess apples and tomatoes thank you’ . The crystal clear nights when the milky way illuminates the sky and the stars glisten and the moon lights up the fields… The family of magpies who visit most mornings with their wake up songs… The odd wave to someone you know in town and no longer feeling like the stranger… but mostly I guess it’s the peace and watching the hills turn golden, then pink, then disappear into the night sky with only the sounds of the sheep munching nearby, the cows mooing, the birds all settling into bed for the night… it’s profoundly healing and as magic as it sounds.

We’ve enjoyed many apricots, plums and nectarines this summer from the trees the previous owners planted. Jam making days are a favourite and we have apricot jam, peach & apricot jam, nectarine jam, and blood plum jam bursting out of the pantry. The nectarines were so prolific we froze kilos of them (great for smoothies and homemade ice creams) and discovered that the sheep, particularly Lenny and Ziggy love nectarines! Our 18 month old orchard is growing well and we’ve managed to keep all 50 odd trees alive through two summers on very lean water rations, both to encourage deep roots and also because we didn’t want to run out of water. We didn’t, and although we are very low on water now, I’m hoping some decent rain is not far away. I know, even sounding like a farmer!

In other non farmy news my daughter and son in law moved into a beautiful new home in the Dandenong Ranges, and their cute dogs Sai & Kenzo recently provided the modelling for the new Stockman Leathercraft dog lead and collar set. My son made a trip back home at Christmas after travelling through Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. He’s just been through Cambodia on a motorbike and is now riding through Vietnam, soon to start making his way towards India. We’ve been working on Stockman Leathercraft over the summer. We ventured into local markets which were lots of fun and I have just finished setting up a new website. Craft has always been a form of sanity for both of us and we’ve enjoyed focusing heavily on this aspect of our lives over the last few months. I’m even adding plaiting to my list of crafty dabbles after becoming the new apprentice to help keep up with orders. I received a spinning wheel last year and learnt to spin… kind of…. I think it takes many years before you can say you can spin properly, but I can turn fibre into yarn now, even if it is a little wonky and uneven.

Break in transmission. I heard something bashing outside and looked up to see two rogue cows! They broke down the fence and ran through our paddock, then broke through another section of fence to get out! Luckily our sheep were in the backyard enclosure so I just had to race out there and close the gate to the paddock – or I’d have a crazy rogue cow or two at the back door and by the looks of the way they just pushed down the fences I’m thinking that could get ugly!

Ok back again… it’s a couple of days later but I’m determined to publish. There’s been a few times I’ve sat down and starting writing to you but then if I don’t finish in one go, time passes, I feel it becomes outdated, then I start thinking about my writing, what I’m writing, why I’m writing, and I can’t find a good enough reason to share it. I start second guessing all the words and the stories and think you probably don’t need my ramblings in your life. But you know what, who am I to say what you need or want in your life? Besides I love the process of writing my thoughts down, and I do love to look back and see when we planted the orchard, when I made that sheep beanie, when the lambs were born… etc… I use this blog as a reference for dates as they seem to mush together the older I get! So here goes on another long waffle session from me, and if you made it this far then you are a legend!

May you add some surprising feathers to your cap and be as full of sunshine as our jam cupboard x

PS – Did you wish upon a super blue blood moon too?

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a flock of sheep





















We finally felt ready to take on our own flock of sheep. Three girls was the plan, but when our neighbours offered a Ram for sale we couldn’t say no. They were sending the rest of their young boys off to the butchers and there was a girl who would go too, and not wanting to have an even number of sheep, we purchased the girl. We went from 3 to 5 sheep within the first week. As the weeks went by we made some jokes about the girls being fat, there was of course an abundance of long green grass in our paddock, which had been unattended to for some months, but one Sunday whilst taking Lenny the ram some broccoli flowers, we heard a little ‘baaaa’ coming from the grass. Low and behold a cute little newly born black lamb was right in front of us, we could hardly believe our own eyes! We suspiciously eyed the other ‘fat’ girls and begun to research the ‘signs’ to look for. Within a day or so we were pretty convinced Lucy would soon give birth. Sure enough, the following Saturday she had the biggest baby lamb – poor girl! She’s always been smaller than the other sheep, being hand reared and not receiving her mother’s milk seem to have stunted her growth somewhat, but that didn’t stop her having the biggest baby boy – almost twice the size of the other little lamb born the previous week, to a mother much larger than Lucy.

So within a month or so of becoming sheep owners, we became sheep breeders, about a year before we had planned. We’ve been flat out getting a little fox proof enclosure ready so we can lock up the mums and bubs at night keeping them safe from harm. Easier said than done! Have you ever tried to get sheep to do what you want but they don’t? It’s not that easy – I have a new appreciation for sheep dogs! We are learning a lot about keeping sheep and recently had lessons from the vet on how to trim their hooves and give injections either into the muscle or just under the skin, along with a rather indignant lesson for Lenny on how to get a ram on his back. No easy feat for an estimated 80kg of sheep!

Now I know I’ve told you about Lucy before, who was already named, and we were thrilled to be able buy her as she’s such a friendly girl. We decided to name the other girls after songs too so we have Lola (the other new mum), Layla, and Luka, and the ram is Lenny. Now Lenny was named after a hidden track at the end of a Lemonheads cd, the track has never been released as a single nor is it a complete song, but the little snippet of a gem is a fave of ours and now immortalised in our ram. We are only going to name the sheep we are keeping, the ones that will end up in the freezer eventually will not be named so I don’t get too attached to them. And I’m not entirely sure that theory is going to work, we may very well end up with a paddock full of pet sheep! But our grand plan here is to raise our own meat and to ensure the animals live a beautiful natural stress free life where they are cared for in the best possible way and are never exposed to toxic fields full of sprays. So we are going to try with all our might to do this, it won’t be easy I know, there may tears I know, but we can try.

We already decided we didn’t want to take away Lucy’s first baby. Lucy has had a lot of human contact and she is proving to be a very caring attentive mother. As she lost her mother at birth we thought it would be kinder to allow her to keep her baby. Turns out she had a boy so we are keen to allow him to grow into his full ram potential and take over the reign from Lenny as we allow him to age, he’s no young buck. He’s obviously still going well, two new lambs and all, but his years of productivity are probably limited so we now have a succession plan. Lucy’s boy has strong genetics, he’s a huge baby, and will hopefully inherit Lucy’s gentle temperament along with an automatic trust of people as he watches his mum walk up to us for pats and treats – unlike the other sheep who all run a mile in the other direction, except for Lenny the ram who has turned out to be a smoochy gentle giant that likes chin scratches. Lola’s baby is a girl so we will keep her too and add her to the breeding stock. It’s early days and we’re still to learn how much feed our paddock will yield over the dry summer months, we do not wish to subsidise their food too much as we’d like them to eat from our biodynamic paddock rather than buy feed in, so the total number of sheep we keep has to be in balance with what we can provide naturally. I think we’re probably close to the limit now but I’m pretty happy we are keeping our first two additions to the flock.

So, for now we now have a flock of 7 Suffolk sheep and I have two new names to pick out! In case you haven’t realised I love naming things, including all our neighbours sheep! One of which I’m going to reuse as it’s one I love and this is important for a ram who will be with us for many years. Lucy’s baby is Ziggy. We’re sticking with the music theme obviously! Lola’s girl will be Eileen. And yes we may or may not sing their names.

Our lives have been totally taken over by sheep in the last month or so, learning about sheep, caring for sheep, watching the sheep and building a sheep shed but in other non sheepish news the farm is going well… the fruit trees are all starting to burst with blossom and leaves after their big winter sleep, there’s baby apricots and almonds developing already and we have our first few fingerlimes ripening up. The veggie garden is sprouting new life despite the fact I planted a heap of new seeds prior to a week of the most solid heavy rain dumping all winter! I was sure I’d lost them all but it appears there are a few survivors in the mix. We fell way behind in our plan to plant to heap of seeds late winter ready for a spring planting, life has a way of getting busy and August was nuts this year! Craft is slowly coming back into our lives in a daily manner as we try to do a little making each night. Charlie always seems to have an order on the go and I’ve just made a couple more scarves, I love having a cupboard of homemade goodies at the ready for presents and gifts.

Farm life sure is luscious this time of year in Gippsland, the hills are a deep rich green and the grass long. The cattle surrounding us are healthy and shiny and the vet commented on the excellent condition of our sheep. There’s plenty of food for them and I’m pretty sure you can see a little contented smile in their relaxed faces sometimes.

Wishing you contented smiles and relaxed days.