Blog has moved, searching new blog...

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

When it rains it pours

Summer in Zeehan has been dry. Record breaking, locals can't believe this weather, bushfire emergency dry. By the middle of January, we got our first fire when a small blaze was ignited by a rare bolt of lightning. Watching the smoke rise from my kitchen window, I called 000 but was informed four people had already called. Ten minutes later a helicopter began water bombing (a small squadron of helicopters had evidently been pre-positioned in anticipation), making short work of the fledgling blaze. The 2016 bush fire season had begun!

Lightning strikes, giving locals something to talk about

In the weeks that followed, depending on the prevailing wind, the weather alternated between hot and clear, or hot and smokey. The town was full of fire fighters from across the state and country, helicopters constantly buzzed overhead and it took a very long time to bring out my meal at the overflowing local pub. More worryingly, the lone blackberry bush at the bottom of my yard got smashed by the unrelenting heat. This was disturbing as it meant I needed to walk around the corner to obtain a reasonable quantity of delicious berries.

Long, hot days exact their toll on the exposed black berries
Unlike other parts of Tasmania, there are no water restrictions in Zeehan and I was able to ensure a steady supply of water to the thirsty zucchinis and tomatoes. An upcoming interstate trip concerned me though, one or two days without water could jeopardise the entire crop, including my prized mega-zucchini. Thankfully, a couple of days before leaving the forecast changed to rain. In fact, it was going to rain every day! I left Tasmania safe in the knowledge that the garden would be watered and the bush fires extinguished.

Northern beaches are not only too warm, but full of terrors
The trip to Queensland was great fun, although I found both the air and ocean to be too hot. I feel that after a swim, it is not right to start sweating before you can even dry off! On return to the more sensible Tasmanian climate, I discovered that it had indeed rained. In fact, it had rained so much that the tomatoes had begun to burst. The fresh rain also encouraged an ungodly swarm of small insects to hatch and begin hovering over the town. A deep, low buzz can be heard whenever you venture outdoors. The birds do seem happy with their bonanza though.

Tomatoes drink till they burst
 Not quite as happy are the chooks. The warm weather has encouraged them to begin moulting, egg production has ceased and small mites have moved onto their feet. I can't do anything about the egg predicament except scowl and chastise them as I walk past. The mites however, are a problem that can be solved.

Not shown, eggs
I mixed a small quantity of pestene powder (containing sulphur and rotenone) with a little bit of oil. Then it is simply a matter of catching all three chooks, tipping them upside down and brushing the mixture onto their feet. Be sure to hold them firmly as it stings a little bit on any open sores. Luckily, the chooks appreciate my efforts and we remain friends.

A happy chook


  1. Hi Damo,

    Yeah, it has been a long hot summer. It is still 26 outside right now which is so weird because it is almost 10pm and I've run the bushfire sprinklers over the garden for about an hour... Glad to read that Zeehan made it through the summer and that you still have water which is not something that everywhere in Tasmania can claim.

    Proper meals at the pub are an important component of fighting fires (I volunteered with the local brigade for about 3 years).

    Yeah, who needs those sorts of jellyfish in the waters? I once swam through a school of jellyfish in Port Phillip Bay and it scared the $#%^ out of me as I was a fair way off shore. I thought that they were a shark as I kicked one...

    Enjoy your rain! I remember rain, isn't that the wet stuff that sometimes falls from the sky?

    Ha! The chickens cannot regrow feathers and lay eggs at the same time - it is a big call for them. They'll pick up egg production in winter. Hey, for the scaly leg mites, I use vaseline (petroleum jelly) and that works just as well - you smear it on thickly over the feet and the chickens remove the scale over the next day or so. You could use lard too. The mites live in timber, so that is why I use steel reinforcing rod for perches. You could if you wanted to place a layer of plastic damp proof course over any timber that the birds may nest in too (like the nesting boxes). I'm not sure that the chickens are friends with me though! ;-)!



  2. Hi Chris,

    One of the chooks started laying again a couple of days ago, so that is very exciting. Of course, she needs to in order to make up for the unceasing months of broodiness she indulged in. I heard about just using Vaseline, it does seem like a more sensible option (and prevention is even better). One of the old farming books I have (from the 1950s) says that individual treatment of chickens is almost never worthwhile - aim for clean quarters and adequate food to prevent all maladies. Any occasional chook that does develop problems should be removed from the flock immediately and culled. Probably good advice for large, commercial flocks. Perhaps not so much for the pet-like backyard poultry keepers...

  3. Hi Damo,

    Exactly. The question becomes: How do you know which advice is intended for back yard poultry keepers and which is for commercial sized flocks. And I really don't know the answer myself, which is why I undertake so many seemingly random experiments to see what happens. Much of the orchard advice is aimed at commercial growers with access to water in quantity for example and that is not applicable here at all.

    As to the chickens I have one Isa Brown which has an eye that is closed and I'm stuffed if I know what it means. She seems OK and is still eating. Dunno, but I'll watch and see.



  4. PS: Glad to hear that your broody chook has started laying again. Broody chooks.... Grrr!