I usually go to the farm for new year, and while we always have a good time, it's usually horribly hot. This year, it was surprisingly cool -- it didn't get over 40 degrees once! It was even cool enough to have a roast dinner, and mum made goose with all the trimmings. Mmmmm. I feel properly spoilt now, between lovely things arriving in the post, and all that good food.
I know I've talked about the farm before, so thought some of you might like to see what it looks like. It's an odd mix of lush and stark -- the top paddocks are all sand and when there's no rain, they look like desert. But nestled down at the bottom of the hills are a number of springs, which seep water all year round. These springs fill the ponds the marron are farmed in.
This is the front driveway just as the sun is going down. The avenue of trees was planted the year my parents moved to the farm -- we spent many hours digging holes and watering to make sure they survived the first year. They also had to survive the black beetles, which eat everything, and the cows, which love to lean on trees and break them.
These are the guest dongas. They don't look like much, but they are suprisingly comfortable. Basically, they are one room giant eskies, with beds in them and air-con. They were designed as portable accommodation for the mines. It's nice to have a cool, private space to escape to, especially as the main house can get very full of people 'dropping in'.
This is the hill, upon which a family of kangaroos lives. The hills in the region tend to be flat-topped mesas, which is one of the reasons there's water in the valleys. This one is magnificent, as most of it has never been cleared, and it's covered in native grass trees and eucalypts. The kangaroos who live up there consider the humans to be annoying interlopers (quite rightly :), and if you're stupid enough to go up the hill, the big male will stand on its hind legs and beat its chest at you in warning to go away. It's pretty scary, as they stand easily as tall as a human.
Here's a kangaroo on the driveway down to the ponds, and another sitting by the ponds.
The ponds are filled with freshwater from the springs, and are full of marron, a freshwater crustacean that tastes a bit like a very sweet crayfish. They can vary in colour from a deep blue-black to a muddy brown, and they can grow as big as a cray. On the farm, they are sold within two years (or it's not economic), so they only get up to about 250 grams at the very most. Here's what they look like:
Right now, because it's the dry season, the ponds are being systematically drained, dried out and cleaned, ready for the juveniles to be born in a couple of months. Here's a full pond, with its paddle mill for aeration, and a drained pond, ready to be cleaned.
The farm has a lot of ponds, but I don't have a recent aerial shot, so you'll just have to make do with this one:
It's gorgeous, isn't it? The pictures don't do it justice. It's a stark beauty, but the colours of it are breathtaking -- all reds and golds, and the immensity of the cloudless sky is so blue it makes your heart break. At night, the Milky Way looks like a chain of light across the sky. Here's a shot my brother took that gives you some idea of how gorgeous it can be.
In winter, the edges around the ponds are all green with grass, but in summer, everything is brown or gold. I've talked before about just how dry Australia is. Most watercourses only flow for a few months of the year. To give you some idea of just how much water the springs pump out, here's a shot of a part of the creek that hasn't been turned into ponds -- there's still water on the ground, even now with summer well under way. That's really unusual for this time of year in Australia!
Not all of the landscape is so stark. Around the house, there are a lot of trees. These pictures are of the front yard, and the driveway leading to the shed. You can see that there's a lot more foliage.
And this is right at the back of the property. You can't tell from this angle, but what you're looking at is a huge natural amphitheatre dropping away before you, and in the distance the landscape is laid out westwards towards the sea. Sadly, that wonderful golden colour is star thistle, a terrible weed that's trying to get a toe-hold. My brother has managed to get rid of it on the rest of the farm, but the steepness of the hillside here makes it difficult to tackle.
So that's the farm. I really love it up there; it's so peaceful. Except, you know, for the dog, rabbits, cows, kangaroos, visitors, and my family. :)