January/February 2016

The weather has been mainly warm to hot with a few cool days. We don't get to the beach over summer as we need to stay close to home but we have enjoyed sitting out on our verandah under the grapevine watching all of the wildlife activity. Lots of kangaroos come in every night to graze on what little grass there is. Honeyeaters flit round the flowering plants and Willie Wagtails protect their nests from Kookaburras, Ravens and Magpies with great courage and gusto.

We are hand feeding our 6 remaining cows for the first time since 2010 which shows how serious this current drought is. We had to put our beloved Mabel down before Christmas as her injured hip just wasn't getting any better. She was a lucky cow in many respects. She was born on our property and died on our property. What a character she was. We miss her a lot. I'm not so sure her mother Amy (18) and half sister Daffodil (12) miss her though.

We're going to Kazuki's restaurant for Lisa's birthday in February so stay tuned for a review. We only hear good reports.

For the doggy fans.

Harry and Tully both turned 13 before Christmas. Over the last 12 months they have both had their hearing deteriorate - some selectively we're sure. Now we arrive home and barge through the kitchen door before they even know we're back. They still love their morning 4km walk down Sawpit Gully Road and back. We used to have a yellow ball in the fork of a tree half way down for the mid-walk ball game but on vet's advice we have replaced the ball with a rope throwing thingy which means they don't twist and turn and inflame their increasingly arthritic backs and hips. Tully wakes us up at 6 each morning demanding her breakfast followed by the pestering until we put our "walk clothes" on and pick up the leads. She is our personal trainer and we appreciate her forcefulness. So despite their age they are still very active and they don't look their age. The vet says Harry's bloods are those of a much younger dog. Lucky Harry!

Did you know there are lots of things to do for free around Daylesford

Daylesford has been a town visited by tourists for over 100 years. Whilst it had a quiet period after the train ceased to operate, in the early days visitors came by horse and buggy, then by train and eventually by car. The original attraction was the mineral water. There are still people who drive from Melbourne, car filled with empty bottles, ready to fill them with the healthy but not so nice smelling waters.

The reserves at Hepburn and Daylesford are great places to stroll around and try a little of the waters. Take a plastic cup with you. As you drive around the area there will be signs to other mineral springs. Why not call in and have a taste. They are usually in pretty settings.

Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens has some of the oldest trees in Victoria and one of the best views of the township and beyond. You can see Mt Franklin from some vantage points. Baron von Mueller (Melbourne Botanical Gardens fame) provided some of the conifers for the gardens. Dogs are allowed on a leash.

Lake Daylesford and Jubilee Lake are both lovely places to visit and walk around or have a picnic. Most people know of Lake Daylesford but many do not take the short drive down to Jubilee Lake. You can rent paddle boats and canoes and enjoy the bush setting.

A fifteen minute drive from Daylesford (about 17km) and not far beyond Lavandula lavendar farm there is a settlement called Yandoit. Apparently it is an Aboriginal word meaning travel (it is amazing what you learn when writing a blog!). We love it because if you drive around the area you will discover some beautiful old stone ruins of houses and sheds, mostly built by the Swiss Italian settlers around the time of the gold rush. There are a couple of interesting websites about the area if you are interested in history and lovely stone buildings. One is called Yandoit/Victorian Places and the other is a locals page.

The Blow Hole after a big rain is magnificent to visit. It is near Hepburn and on the Jim Crow Creek. It is also part of the Goldfields Track (Great Dividing Trail) which runs from Ballarat to Bendigo. The Hide @ Mt Franklin is also on this track. It is a good walk from the Blow Hole to The Hide. Ask us about it if you are interested. The Parks Victoria website has more information about walks in the area too.

Privilege of the black swan arrival

Click on the heading above to see the photo.

What a thrill for us to have 2 young black swans arrive on our back dam yesterday only to be disappointed to see them fly off in the direction of Lake Daylesford but then elation at seeing them back today. First ever black swans on the dam. They are called Emma and Robin after the guests who were at The Hide when they arrived yesterday. Perhaps Emma and Robin found Lake Daylesford too crowded and they wanted the privacy of The Hide's island.

Our trip to Hobart

We took two days out at the end of July to stay in Hobart to visit MONA, Museum of Old and New Art!  We stayed in a fantastic Airbnb find, Pretoria, in Battery Point two doors up from the best bakery and cafe, Jackman & McRoss. Within walking distance to Salamanca and town we dined on great fish and chips and at SMOLT.  A lovely ferry ride down to MONA we were awestruck by the architecture and challenged by the new art.  Hiring a car for the last day we scaled the heights of Mt Wellington, fresh with snow, and then drove down to Peppermint Bay for lunch, back to Hobart for a walk around the Botanic Gardens and then headed out to the airport. Well worth the effort and with such good flights available makes for a very affordable break.

Autumn has arrived

We breathe a sigh of relief as another summer and fire season drifts into the background. There is a crispness to the air and the colours of Autumn are beginning to surround us again. 

The fire is going and I now have to drag the little red trailer behind the "ride on" to collect wood as we have moved the wood shed up to where the horses used to be. I'm hoping this will just be a twice weekly chore but it will depend on how cold it gets.

Harry our wood man has already delivered 8m of red gum so the shed is chockers - for now.

I love the smell of the gum trees when their leaves are moist and the hint of smoke from our chimney as we return home from our morning walk with Harry and Tully. 

The dogs both turned 12 towards the end of last year. Harry is driving me batty today because he keeps either banging on the double doors to come in or to go out. It is quite violent and you can't ignore him as he will just persist. Senility.

The four new chookies are well settled in and laying 3 (sometimes 4) eggs a day. Little One, the last remaining rescue chook, is doing really well and has put on weight in recent months which is fantastic. I particularly want her to have a long (3-4 years is good for a chook)happy life given the start she had. She bosses the newbies around and has a real air of independence.

One of the newbies thought the couch on our verandah was her nest when she first began laying. Sue filmed her one day going through the ritual of laying an egg. It took about 30 minutes of turning around and sitting and turning around to end with her tucking her head between her legs to drag the egg forward so she could sit on it comfortably. It was such a treat to watch.

The veggie boxes have been a great success with tomatoes being abundant as well as silverbeet, beetroot and lettuce. We planted cauliflower too early and have had slugs and the capsicum are just starting to turn red. I planted the pumpkin in a corner with not enough sun so nothing produced and the zucchinis have been few but given everyone else had a glut I'm not complaining. I have an exercise book I am going to write in to keep a track of what worked and what didn't for future. Next weekend we'll start to pull things out and feed the soil.

I'm starting to record the birds around the area via the Australian Birds App. So far I have listed the Black-chinned Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey Fantail, Masked Lapwing (they are good fox spotters), Scarlet Robin, Superb Fairy-wren, White-throated Treecreeper and the White-winged Chough. All of these are either around the house or down Sawpit Gully Road on our walking route.

Sue and I have been training for our Queen Charlotte Pass walk in NZ. We have walked some lovely sections of the Goldfields Track and last week we walked to the Glenlyon Store and back. We had an excellent lunch of Veggie burger and fries (shared) before walking the 8.5 km home. It was tiring but good training.

A ritual lucky to experience

Today we were sitting on our verandah enjoying the gorgeous sun when we noticed strange sounds coming from across the creek. At first we thought it was a kookaburra trying to laugh but then we saw a mob of kangaroos on the hill hopping around chaotically, into and around and away from a large gorse patch. As we sat and listened the grunting noises became louder and then there we very loud growling sounds. It was quite alarming and we thought that perhaps a dog was mauling a kangaroo. We ran down to the creek and as we got closer we discovered that there were kangaroos inside the patch of gorse making the noise and big males were hopping in and out. Females and joeys were hopping away up the hill then turning around and coming back as if to check out what was happening. This whole thing continued for at least 10 minutes. I captured some of it on my iPhone video.

There's snow on them there hills!

If you had been listening to local ABC radio over the last few weeks you have heard people ringing in excited about the snow that was falling. Ballarat had a stack the other day and apparently Daylesford had a nice covering. Unusually we had snow at The Hide a few weeks back. In the 15 years we have been here we have only had snow once before and even then it didn't settle. This time it did settle for a short time. It's funny how we get excited about snow. The simple things hey?

A busy time….

We took possession of Central Springs Cottage on the 1st of May and since then it has been go, go, go! 

We have taken every opportunity in the last few months to make improvements to the Cottage. We have restored all the boundary fencing and built a beautiful new woven wire fence to make the property completely secure for our pet friendly guests.  What has been lovely are the comments from "the locals" about how fresh it is looking with the new fence, the garden clipped back (waiting for planting just before Spring), balustrade painted and the gravel area for easier car access and egress!

Of course with better weather just around the corner we will put a fresh coat of paint on the external trim and repaint the bull nose verandah that has also gone under major renovation.

Inside we have responded to guest requests for electric blankets. We have placed new carpet mats, our own personalised linen, new full size refrigerator and blinds to match in the kitchen and bathroom. We have installed new lights over the kitchen work area, sensor lights outside and the BBQ awaits its first use!. Sue's artwork is also on show and available for sale. 

The Cottage is clearly a loved destination and we hope our personal touches, care and service will have our guests return again and again. We hope we see you soon.

Daylesford pumping over the Easter/Anzac Day break

With the break being stretched out, Daylesford population swelled with many people staying for extended periods in the great accommodation in the area. And there was so much for everyone to do with the Daylesford & Macedon Ranges Harvest Festival offering so many events. It is a great atmosphere in the region when it is buzzing. The "locals" really appreciate how much our visitors love spending time in the area.