We were all up early and out for a walk on Peter’s land – 2,400 acres of sensitively managed forest. Peter has a keen interest in wildlife and leaves areas very much to their natural state to encourage animals and insects to thrive – and they do! He owns a small heard of Boer goats which have now mixed in with the indigenous goats. He thinks there are about 250 of them about which we were to learn more later!
Even breakfast at the Hacienda del Peter is exciting as he has a bird bath just outside his dining area window where parrots, wrens and all sorts came to bathe as we watched. Breakfast over we set off from the back of the house. We passed a few chickens, a number of protected trees ((animal nibbling is a constant threat to would be garden plants here!) herbs and large sheds with tractors and one housing his meat processing area where he can butcher and store the meat from his land. Deer and occasionally rabbit are always available. Foraging takes on a whole new meaning!
There was also an area of ‘bit’s and pieces’ of what appeared to be rusting metal, wire, nuts and bolts, bits of wood, wheels, tyres – in fact all sorts of old cast off equipment that ‘might be useful’. The area was fondly referred to as ‘Bunnings’ the name of the Australian hardware store. Once again we saw that living so far out, you have to be able to fix everything yourself with whatever is to hand…….
As the house disappeared behind us, we went over a hill following a track that led down into woodland proper. To one side was a fallen tree pile, coloured silver grey by the unrelenting sun. We were to see them all over Peter’s land. Dead trees that had fallen victim to their shallow roots and had literally just fallen or blown over. Apparently, on other proprties, these would be cleared and burned, but Peter sees these areas as the ideal habitat for a host of creatures and so they stay – a slowly ageing natural housing estate for wildlife! The trees behind these border areas showed evidence of fire damage, although this part of Peter’s land had not seen fire for over twenty years.
As we moved on the mimosa type yellow flower of the wattle trees became more evident. These are the national flower of New South Wales and are definitely the predominant tree of the area. We have seen them all along the way but they have become more evident as Spring has moved on and they have come into flower. They are joyful with the sun lighting up the strong yellow flowers.
We wandered on, passing water holes – both natural and man made. Once again the wattle trees reflected in the water were lovely. Bird stops were frequent. Peter would pause – binoculars at the ready – trying to get us amateurs to see what he had seen. Often tiny birds were way up in the tree tops. Much easier to hear than see, Kookaburras were very much in evidence chuckling around us. We were introduced to ‘snotty gobble’ the edible (I don’t think so with a name like that!) fruit of The mistletoe plants that live on like cal trees
We walked passed the electric fences designed to keep the goats, kangaroos and deer in order – but all made to the advantage of the animals that lived in the forest. No barbed wire, all with sufficient space for burrowing. All evidence of a landowner who knew his audience and wanted to encourage them to thrive. We heard any number of frogs ( including the pobblebonk – a name we had only seen on a wine label and had no idea of its meaning previously!) had a glimpse of deer through the mottled sunlight of the trees and looked at tracks in the mud and droppings and saw evidence of both wild boar and echidna rooting in the undergrowth.
The main predators on the land are wild boar and foxes. Humane traps had been set for them as they represent a danger to the goats, particularly the young kids. Peter showed us the skull of a boar – the fang like teeth sowed clearly the damage they could inflict.
We saw trees that had had their bark cut to enable settlers on the land to kill the trees but had done it unsufficiently for the tree to die and had just left the tree ‘scarred for life’, large ant hills and more of the fascinating insect trapping plants all were commented on.
Then we came upon the goats there are two bands of them and they do not mix apparently. The more friendly ones were quite inquisitive -nod came up to see what was going on…….
By then it was lunch time and we had a lovely meal of leftover venison and bits from our travelling larder. Everyone agreed when Peter suggested an afternoon cat nap and we all disappeared to various points in the house to have a relax. I adjourned to the front of the house to sit and watch the birds – they were delightful. Some little wrens came right up to my feet as they pecked around for insects in the grass. The view was just stunning.
The afternoon also gave me time to ponder on how I would have felt about a fire that came so close to my house such as Peter had experienced in 2003. Looking at the trees in the area where the fire was and visualising flames towering over them – I would have been totally traumatised. Apparently Peter showed the fire fighters his previously thought out proposed plan of attack- they accepted it, took the action he had outlined and the house was saved. It is a different world. Only years of experience would make you so sanguine about such a terrifying situation……..
We were then treated to feeding time for the goats. It is early days for the grass to grow, so Peter supplements their diet for a bit at this time of year until they can get more from the ground. As he emerged from the shed with his large bucket, there was not a goat in sight. He called. Nothing. He called again and gradually there was a build up of sound as the goats gradually came out of the woodland and clattered towards the enclosure where he was scattering the feed tentatively at first, but then with more conviction into the yard. The sight of us as strangers was something of a deterrent to their progress, but the food overcame the bashfulness of the most bold and the others followed. They were quite well behaved and apart from a few horn clashings, it was all reasonably civikised. In almost no time at all the food was gone and you could not help but feel sorry for the one or two latecomers who missed out. There was no more. It is certainly the survival of the fittest…… The other group do not attend this additional nutrient session the little kids were lovely..the excitement over we withdrew to the house again and the goats departed and were swallowed up by the forest again.
As the afternoon drew to a close, we all gathered for drinks on the lawn. Bright red parrots splashed around in the bird bath. We chatted and reminisced. It was great. As the day cooled we all returned inside to make supper. The fire roared in the wood burner and it was very cosy. The days are so warm but morning and evenings are quite cold.
A ‘last supper’ was shared and more travels discussed. It would be wonderful to see Peter in England……..
In the end it was time for bed as another wonderful excerpt of our trip drew to a close. The time with Peter was very special.