Thursday, December 30, 2010

Accident on Gibbs Road

We are used to driving on unsealed gravel roads, which are narrow, rough, and often have kangaroos or emus crossing. Sometimes our visitors are not used to the roads, and sometimes I forget to warn them. I forgot to warn our French helpXchange visitors Melanie and Bertrand when they set out for Collie last Wednesday. So while I thought they were shopping in Collie, they were walking the six kilometres home after crashing their campervan on the road. They were so lucky that they were not hurt, but we were all very shaken up. They had bought the van in Sydney and travelled halfway around Australia in it on their Australian dream trip. But the van will be going no further.

They had to climb out the window when the van rolled onto its side.

The kids were pretty sad to see the van like this.

After skidding out of control the van side-swiped these trees before rolling.

I had to call the council so that some workers could bring a loader and move the broken van off the road, as it was creating a hazard. Although there is never much traffic on this part of Gibbs road you never know when someone could come along...
And obviously someone came along after the van was put on its wheels and moved to the side of the road. Because about four hours later when it was put on a car trailer and brought back home there had been quite a bit of stuff stolen. Someone had removed the spare wheel off the front, taken out the stereo, stolen fold-up chairs, a surfboard, diving masks, the microwave oven and more. I couldn't believe it! This is such a quiet and isolated stretch of road it was surprising that anyone had driven past during that time, and for that someone to be of the thieving kind was really bad luck.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

School Christmas Concert

Some clowning around on the stage

Today the Darkan Primary School held the end of year Christmas Concert at the town hall. Bonnie and Odette had both asked me to make them dresses for the occasion, so I have had a few late nights with needle and thread. But I hope you agree that it was worth it as they both looked gorgeous. The concert had a circus theme, and it got all the children involved and it was great fun. Odette was at the front of the stage, looking glamorous (not hard) and holding up signs saying things like "CLAP" WOW" and "LAUGH".

Odette on stage

Bonnie was the strong man's assistant so she had to help carry the dumbbell onto the stage, acting like it was very heavy. When leaving the stage she acted like it was dropped on her foot and hopped off. Very funny!

Bonnie on stage

The kindergarten children skipped around in circles a bit and did some leap frog, although Hugh almost had to climb over the kids crouched down on the floor.

Hugh at the concert


After the entertainment the book prizes were announced, and Bonnie was presented with the academic endeavour award for year 4. We were very proud of her, as the comments were very good. She won a lovely book of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy. Her Nanna told her that she had won the same book for a book prize when she was in grade 4too!!

Bonnie with her book prize

And while we are talking about prizes, I must mention that Sophie received two (yes, 2!) prizes at her school speech night. She won the year 7 award for Society and Environment, and the year 7 award for LOTE (Languages other than English - she has done Japanese and French during the year). During fourth term she also received a high distinction in a year 11 French exam. Because she is very advanced in French after living in France, the school made it possible for her to join with the year 11 French class. It was great to know that she can still perform well in a larger group of children, as she was always the winner at Darkan.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hugh's First Motorbike Race

Odette, Bonnie and Sophie, with Hugh on his motorbike.

Hugh says that when he grows up he wants to be a motorbike racer.
Well he is far from grown up, but he has already ridden in his first motorbike race.
Even though his birthday is not until December he received a Yamaha PW50 motorbike in October. There was no point buying it and putting it away for two months... :)
So with three weeks experience riding the new bike, he set of early on Sunday with Roger, with his bike in the back of the car. Roger was on duty as a first aid officer, but as there was only one injury for the day he had plenty of time to spend with Hugh. The Wasmann family had encouraged Hugh to ride at Collie, and he set up with them, even wearing Regan's spare outfit and protective gear.

Ready to race...

The gates are down...


Hugh is down! But not for long...

A bit of help from a competitor's father.

I didn't arrive at the track until lunch time, so I missed his first race. As the day wore on and the bigger bikes tore up the track it became quite hard for Hugh's little bike to handle the conditions on the sand track. By the third race he really struggled, and needed help to get through a couple of sections of the track. He toppled over a couple of times, and the commentator was really supportive, saying things like "it was the bike's fault" or that "the wind blew him over!" He described Hugh as "a helmet on wheels" because he was so small. But he looked like a real motorbike racer, and he came home with a medal. He was a proud and happy little boy.

Hugh may look like a motorbike racer, but Odette looks more like a fashion model!

A Farm Post

Roger with some carrots from his garden.

Not a fence post! It is just that I have not made a blog post about the farm for a long time. And that might possibly be because I am not on the farm very often these days. In fact I haven't been home much lately. Before I went to Japan there was a lot of preparation and weekly meetings in Bunbury, then ten days in Japan, and now I have had three days hosting Akiko from Japan and driving around the countryside. Last night the kids worked out I hadn't eaten dinner at home in six nights! (Although three of those nights I was with the family, and those three nights all involved sausage sizzles!)
Even though I didn't eat with the family last night because I got home late, I did eat the dinner Roger cooked. He was very proud to prepare for the first time a dinner made completely of his own produce - steak from his cows, with onions, carrots, pumpkin and beans from his garden.

New tomato plants in the garden.

Onto farm stuff...
Another reason I haven't posted about the farm is because there hasn't been a lot of good news. The winter and spring were very dry. We kept waiting for a decent rain to turn the season around, but it never came. Our crops are dismal, pasture is minimal, and we are offloading livestock to ease the pressure. The growing season was late to start, and then when we had rain it came in very cold and we had a record number of frosts, so nothing grew. Things held on with small amounts of rain far enough apart to really stress the plants. Each year we call it the "Spring Flush" when the wet winter turns into a warm spring and there is an abundance of pasture growth, far in excess of what the sheep and cattle can eat, and we can conserve the pasture for dry feed in the summer. This year it never happened.

Spring pasture should not look like this...

The hay crop was the worst I have ever seen.
The first year I came to Warragal Park (1995) I took photos of Roger in his waist-high oat crop. He battled to get his mower through it and rolled hundreds of bales of hay. This year the crop wasn't knee-high, and the area of crop Roger cut for hay would normally produce 200 bales of hay. He optimistically hoped for 150 bales, but the final count was a meagre 85 bales. And that is not enough to feed all our cattle through summer. The remaining oat crop which will be harvested for grain in December or January is likely to yield similarly. So without enough dry pasture and supplementary feed, drastic action was required.

Roger inspecting oats.

Much of the agricultural region in Western Australia has experienced unusually dry conditions this year, and for many it is not the first time their crops have failed. That means no-one has excess feed to take the livestock everyone wants to sell. And that could be disastrous, except that in the East the season has been exceptionally good. The severe drought in the Eastern States has broken, so farmers are looking to re-stock their farms. Which has been a real bonus for us. Probably a million animals have been trucked across the Nullarbor plain to farms in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

Our cross bred lambs from Wattle Creek were weaned early and 1,200 lambs were trucked to South Australia. Thirty cows with their thirty calves followed. Another 186 dry ewes went to an abattoir in South Australia, and some 600 wether hoggets are going onto a ship for live export. Today the stock agent is looking at some cross bred lambs at Warragal Park.

Poll Dorset/Merino cross lambs

Some of our remaining cattle.

Roger has managed the poor season well, and his burdened has been lightened with the sale of the livestock. Most of the sheep and some of the cattle would have been sold eventually, but we would usually expect to carry them through summer and fatten them for higher profits. Without the fodder that is not possible, so the limited resources will now be used to maintain the breeding ewes and cows, so that they are maintained in a good condition, ready for a good season next year.
And as an added bonus, there won't be so many sheep to shear in January, and most of the sheep sales, which usually occur after shearing, have already happened; so we have booked into my parents holiday house at Bremer Bay for ten days in January!!

Always look on the bright side...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dog Bite Trauma

When it happened, it was such a shock. Hugh loves dogs. He is always playing with Bobby, our sheepdog. So Roger thought nothing of asking Hugh to give a leftover bone from the barbecue to Bobby on Saturday. The rest of us were inside, so don't really know what happened. We can only imagine that the dog felt threatened that his food would be taken, and he has bitten Hugh. Being small, it was his face that was bitten. Hugh cried out to me as he stood outside the glass door and I had no idea what was wrong, only that he had blood on his face and was holding the side of his face. He cried out that "Bobby bit me" and I was almost scared to take his hand away form his face not knowing what was there.
I always freak out in medical emergencies. I panic and imagine the worst. I was already calling for someone to phone the hospital and get the car keys before Roger had looked at the wound. Roger is a volunteer ambulance officer so as you would expect he is much calmer than me in a situation where someone is injured. The blood doesn't worry him, and he will investigate instead of imagining the worst. By the time Roger had mopped up the blood and looked closely at Hugh's face I was lying on the floor feeling sick and shocked. But Roger was being a little optimistic when he stated that a couple of steri strips would be all that was required.
Collie is a small country hospital, and so our wait in casualty was brief. I would hate to have been sitting in a large metropolitan hospital for several hours before even being seen by a doctor, which is what happens all too often. The staff were kind, and passed no judgement on the manner of the injury.
I held Hugh's hand while the nurse cleaned the wound, and when the doctor came to investigate. But then I knew I had to take some photos. I snapped away happily while Roger and Hugh waited for the doctor to return, and Hugh was giggling and laughing and not too concerned at all. The Ibuprofen we gave him at home must have dulled the pain. I started photographing the doctor injecting the local anaesthetic, but Hugh moved his head and the wound was bumped and more blood poured out. It took three of us to hold him still while the anaesthetic was injected, and Hugh screamed blue murder. I started to feel a little unsettled. But once the area was numb the doctor could start the sutures, so I got my camera ready again and snapped a few frames. But all the meaty bits visible for the internal stitch were too gruesome and I had to leave the room and sit and watch the waiting room carpet for a while. Before long Hugh had seven stitches holding the wound closed, and a nice white patch over his temple, and a bravery certificate signed by the nurse.
We stopped at the deli for a drink and an icecream befor eheding home, and when Hugh got out of the car at home he got on his bike and acted like everything was normal.

Hugh looks pretty happy, despite the blood...

Being examined...

The anaesthetic injection - first try.


My view of the carpet tiles!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Japan - by Sophie

This is an article Sophie wrote for the local Darkan newspaper The bleat. So many people have told me they enjoyed reading it, so I have posted it here for your reading pleasure. For background you will need to know that Sophie and I have recently spent 10 days in Japan, from 6-16th October.


I never really thought much of Japan before. I thought it was just another crowded Asian country. But attending the Bunbury-Setagaya Student Goodwill Visit 2010 changed all that. As the tour leader said it would be, it was an experience of lifetime. If I said the entire trip was fantastic, I’d be lying, but if I said none of it was either, that would also be lying. There were some times when I had to ask myself why I was there, but other times when I knew I’d been hooked (luckily there were more of the hooked times).

My favourite part was home stay (it was nice to have a break from the grumpy tour leaders). I was lucky enough to stay with the Miyatsu family – Mrs Tami Miyatsu, Mr Kazu Miyatsu, Miriu (12) and Erina (10). Their family home was nestled somewhere in Setagaya (a part of Tokyo) behind a little shop and was not at all Japanese. There were a few customs such as the removal of shoes at the front door and scrubbing yourself squeaky clean in the shower before soaking in the bath, but otherwise, their house was a little, modern, Ikea-ridden (Kazu worked for Ikea) townhouse, with a bright orange kitchen and a fridge that opened from both ways (you could open it from left or right!) Another thing that puzzled me was the shower. There was a special room just for the shower and bath that was sealed and water tight and the water from the hand-held shower just ran straight onto the floor!

I also admired the Japanese toilets and wherever we went I went to the toilet just for the sake of checking it out (though some where better than others). Most Japanese toilets were modern with buttons for bottom washes and bidets and flushes and seat warming. (I didn’t really work out all the buttons written in Japanese, but at home stay I did try the bidet. It unexpectedly started shooting water out and I got scared, jumped off the toilet and soaked my pyjama pants in the process, maybe next time I’ll be more experienced!) Other toilets were not at all nice; as they were just a hole in the ground (I’m glad we don’t have them in Australia!)

My favourite day of the whole trip was on home stay when we visited the hot springs. I didn’t expect the springs to be that hot, just a slight bit warm, but they were amazingly really hot, and some so hot that were like a sauna (yet Japanese people don’t seem to mind, even if it was too hot for me to even put my feet in). Luckily it was a springs in which you could wear bathers, but there was also one in which you couldn’t wear bathers, and it was a bit weird having these people stark naked just walking around. Another fun uniquely Japanese experience was taking photos in a photo booth where afterwards you could decorate them etc. So cute (or “kawaii” my new favourite Japanese word)!

So instead of boring you with more and more days of details of my stay in Japan, I’ll leave it at that and say... sayonara!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Barna Mia Wildlife Sanctuary Visit

Last night I took the girls, and their friend Imogen (who was staying over), to the Barna Mia wildlife sanctuary in the Dryandra forest between Wandering and Narrogin. It was nearly 100km from home. Three other families from Darkan also went.
The Barna Mia wildlife sanctuary is 4Ha (10 Acres) of natural bush which has been securely fenced to keep out predators (especially foxes and feral cats). Air-borne predators are still welcomed. The small marsupials that live there have been reintroduced to the area and are thriving. We saw Woylies (brush-tailed bettongs), Boodies (burrowing bettongs), Rufous Hare-Wallaby and a Bilby. The bilby was the most exciting to see. The Curlews were quite vocal and added to the atmosphere.
We arrived at six o'clock in the evening, which gave us time to register for the tour and watch a visual presentation to educate us a bit about the wildlife before it was dark enough to venture out to look at the animals. Although they are wild animals, they have become used to the feeding routine, and will come quite quickly to the feeding stations once the food has been put out. The guide uses a red light to allow the visitors to see the animals without disturbing them. This of course made it difficult to photograph the animals, which is why I have presented them as black and white images.

The visitors centre is built of straw bale construction, and is quite attractive

The percent for art scheme is evident in the stained glass windows and wall mural

Odette in front of the fabulous Ian Dickerson Mural

Bonnie signing the visitor book

Odette meeting a stuffed marsupial

Ready for the visual presentation

Lots of boodies at a feed station

This boodie has a baby in her pouch - can you see the bulge?

Everyone watching in the red light

The gorgeous bilby!

The bilby really was the highlight of the night for me. Bilbies are always depicted as being very cute, with large ears, a long snout, white tipped tail and interestingly coloured fur. The real bilby was almost a caricature of itself! I am so glad we were lucky enough to see one!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dad's Knee Surgery

My Dad has had knee replacement surgery, so I went to Hollywood (Hospital) to visit him. I drove to Perth yesterday, and stayed the night at my sister Angela's house. I spent the night with her three delightful daughters while she and her husband Ray went out to a dinner. I visited Dad yesterday afternoon and again this morning. He has been in hospital for a week, and should be allowed to go home tomorrow. He seemed pretty weary while I was there, which I guess is understandable after being in bed for seven days.

Mum has been staying at my elder sister Jennifer's place, and going to the hospital every day. The surgery was maybe more stressful for her than it was for Dad.

Here are some photos I took this morning, while Mum tried to make Dad's leg more comfortable for him.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Going to Japan

Sophie and I will be going to Japan in October. Sophie was chosen to be on the Bunbury-Setagaya Student Goodwill Visit 2010, and I volunteered as an adult helper.
Setagaya, in Tokyo, has had a sister city relationship with Bunbury for eighteen years. The trip for students is designed to foster friendships and cultural understanding between the two cities.
For the last six weeks Sophie and I have been busy attending weekly meetings, and also a weekend camp to prepare for the trip. We have got to know the twelve other students and three adults who will be travelling with us. We have learnt a little bit of Japanese, and also what to expect in Japan. It is certainly going to be a full-on ten day visit. The trip even includes a day at Disneyworld in Tokyo. We will be guests of the city of Setagaya, and will be welcomed by the Mayor.
Last night we had the official farewell from the Mayor of Bunbury, David Smith. We met some of the other city councillors, and committee members of the sister city committee. Our group presented the three songs we will be singing when we are in Japan. We will sing for the Mayor and the Assembly, as well as at a school visit and on a couple of other occasions.
Yesterday I had an email informing me of the host family I will be staying with for four days during the visit. The host mother Hiromi said "We have two naughty boys so our home is always lively"! I guess I should fit in quite well there. Two naughty boys must be twice as good as one naughty boy...

Sophie and her school friends inspected the lovely inlaid timber floor in the council chambers.

A family photo

People looked through the scrapbooks that the trip participants had made about themselves.