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22 Feb 2010 - 1:40 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Maggie is back. Back from her hot date, and hungry as ever. Hips swaying, belly wobbling. With any luck she’s in calf and due around September. She’s giving a good 5 litres of milk most days, so the house is full of her cream and butter and yoghurt. Lots of the milk goes to the pigs – a high protein, but high fat food, that supplements their diet. Speaking of diets, I think the several tonnes of seconds cherries might have made them fat, so the pigs are on part rations.

No diet for Tinkerbell. She’s looking round and proud, a belly full of piglets due in the next month or two. I try to give her extra food, though Peter Pan and Wendy tend to tussle with her for it. Soon I’ll separate her out.

It’s been dry here. Never thought I’d be keen on rain, after a winter of sludge and mud and grey skies. The house garden is looking dry. The hills have burnt off to gold. And the water tank is getting down to about half full. My gum boots sit idle, most of the time, mudded only when it chucked down 45mm of rain in a weekend. The paddocks have long since forgotten the rain.

It may be summer, but it’s still time to plant the winter garden. There’s red broccoli and some cabbage just in the ground. I have beetroot shooting in pots near the back door. Even though the beans are giving a smashing crop (particularly the scarlet runners), the blueberries are running out, the tomatoes are modest in their production and the sage is becoming a bush, it’s time to think again of winter kale. Of brussels sprouts after last year’s healthy plants were savaged by the possum. I have plenty of carrots in; this time I’m thinking ahead and I’m planting every fortnight to stagger the crop. I’m digging potatoes – the incredible up-to-date is splendid with just a drizzle of oil. My own pink eyes, Tassie’s own, stunning waxy variety, are dug minutes before dinner.

There are five new chooks in the henhouse. A Plymouth Rock, with its magnificent black and white stripes. A young Plymouth Rock rooster who is too young to get picked on by the Barnevelder cock (male animals tend to fight if kept together). And there are three Rhode Island Reds, gloriously coloured chickens that are on the point of lay. Problem is, the Plymouth has 'pendulous crop’, where the bit that grinds the grain so the bird can digest it – its crop – swells to enormous size and hangs like a pendulum. I tip her upside down and massage the crop. Out comes a foul (fowl?) smelling liquid. Her crop recedes, only to fill and droop again an hour or so later. She seems unconcerned and unaffected. I don’t like the look of it though, and keep an eye on her.

A neighbour has taken some of our fertile eggs. There are now three Barnevelder and three Plymouth Rock chicks at Dwayne’s. I managed to get three fertile eggs from the Plymouth when it first arrived, eggs fertilised by the pure bred rooster it used to run with, to put under a couple of broody hens with some from my chooks. With any luck I’ll have a second breeding flock and a second shed to house them in given a couple of months.

There’s always death on farms like this. Sick chooks. Animals going off to slaughter. Home-kills nearby. I’ve been offered some ducks. Good eating, ducks are, particularly the slow grown free-range stuff available in the valley. It involves plucking and sometimes it involves the use of a razor sharp cleaver. The cooking involves anything from an oven to a slow braise and some wonderful homemade pasta. But first the process involves hot water, feather’s everywhere, and evisceration, something I really don’t look forward to.