MiApple® Farm

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This Farmlife page is about wildlife, critters, snakes and the benefits of eating fruit.

Walking Fruit Salad

We had just finished a dish of fresh rabbit stewed with onions and potato, broad beans and silverbeet all fresh from our vegie garden (the rabbit included).

For the second course we decided to have fresh picked fruit salad on foot. Starting with a few strawberries we then visited the vegy patch for logan berries, rasberries and red currants.

Then on to the orchard for some very sweet mulberries and we topped it of with a handful of cherries.

This is farmlife heaven.

Kangaroos on the farm

They can be dangerous.

Our kangaroos are Eastern Greys - the big males can be 7foot (2 metres tall) standing up. They are not the gentle animal the tourist books would have you believe. They have been know to attack horses to take over a grassy area in tough times. They attack by holding their foe with their front legs then lift up one of their powerful back legs while balanced on their tail and rip away with the sharp claws on the back leg.

It is common to see young male kangaroos standing up to one another, boxing with their front legs while ripping at one another with the back legs.

I have had a big male stand up to me in the paddock - he was not prepared to back away from me until I picked up a club of wood for protection.

My father had a big kangaroo dog (a cross between an alsation and a great dane) which took on a kangaroo when dad had his sheep property. Dad watched the kangaroo rip the dog open from his chest to groin - dad picked up the dog and took it back to the shearing shed in the back of his farm ute. With a needle and string normally used for wool bales he stitched the dogs stomach back together and hoped for the best. The dog lay in the shed for a few days and a week later he was up and around as if nothing had happened.

Kangaroos drown dogs.
I have watched a big male pretend fear with my own dog Rollo and then swim out to the middle of the dam and beckon him to an altercation in the dam. I called Rollo away knowing that Kangaroos will hold a dog under water until it drowns.

Farmers in my district say that it is quite common to find dogs drowned in the dams even though the dogs are good swimmers.

Kangaroo fencing.
When building the freeway between  Melbourne and Bendigo the roadway contractors discovered that if they fence the highway with six foot high fencing so that the bottom half of the fence is strained tight it will prevent the kangaroos pushing through and the top half of the fence is loosely strained so that it gives way under the kangaroo when it tries to bounce off and over the top and the roo will fall back down without getting over. (Six foot is 1.8 metres)

I have followed this principle with my own orchard fencing and there is no evidence of any kangaroos getting over my fences in the past year. If they start getting over the six foot fence, kangaroos need a run up to clear a six foot fence and by building a lower fence ten feet(3 metres) outside the main fence, they can't get up enough speed to clear a six foot fence. The lower half of a fence needs to be strong - I have seen young kangaroos repeatedly smash themselves against an older fence until the wire gives away and they get through or under the fence.

Critters on the farm

Animals and bird life
Most common are the big grey kangaroos but we also see black wallabies on occasion.

Foxes are a common sight and sometimes we see a pair of wild dogs which appear to be a cross between the wild dingos and farm dogs.

Our rabbits don't live in warrens - they tend to hide under rocks and in hollow logs and they will travel a long way to feed on lush grass.

We don't have any possums but our neighbours have them around their house.

The creek reveals fish fingerlings, long necked tortoises and yabbies (fresh water crayfish).

Birdlife is abundant. There are always wild ducks on the dam, magpies in the orchard and little blue wrens in the garden. Every morning you wake to the screech of the white cockatoos, the call of the magpies and the laughter of the Kookaburras.

Our dog Rollo always has his nose in a bush or under a rock seeking out lizards and rabbits - so far nothing has bitten him.

At night the big grey owls come out and the bats fly around eating insects.

Creepy crawlies.
MIApple Farm is rather rocky with lots of slate and sandstone. I never turn over a stone without gloves on and if the rock is big enough to hide a snake, I use a shovel or pick to turn the rock over until I know what is under it.

Under every rock you find either a centipede, a scorpion or a redback spider - all of them poisonous.

Around the shed, red back spiders are common - they hide under sheets of iron, in the groove of the fridge door - I even had one on the bottom of a plastic fuel tank the other day.

My dog Rollo was barking excitedly down the orchard and I went to investigate - hoping it wasn't a snake. He had bailed up a two foot long blue tongue lizard.

Living with snakes around the house

The Australia brown snake is one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. They can be agressive and will bite you for sure if you mistakenly step on one. They can slither across the ground faster than a man can run and when they are aware of you they will lie watching you with their head up about knee high.

I have encountered a brown snake in the garden or shed on more than 20 times in the past 8 years. They are attracted by mice in the shed or the young rabbits that shelter down the drain pipes and in dry times they are often around the water troughs, the dam or the creek. They shelter under rocks, bags, sheets of iron, bales of hay or straw and under the fire wood pile.

When it is dry and the ground cracks open they shelter underground. Our dog Rollo is always sniffing around these areas and I don't know how he has avoided being bitten.

My experience and rules for living with snakes.Snakes are out and about once the weather warms up. When you walk about they usually sense the vibration of you walking and will keep out of your way unless it is mating season and you are near their mate.

Install draught excluders at the bottom of all doors and cover any floor level drain or water service overflow outlets with quarter inch stainless mesh - if a mouse can enter your house so can a snake that is after the mouse.

Install quarter inch mesh over the downpipe of all house water tanks - snakes have been known to climb up the inside of the downpipe after water then they drown and putrify the drinking water.

When you go out of the house close the door - while you are outside the snake may go inside looking for water or mice.

Never turn over a large rock with your hands - use a pick or mattock to roll it towards yourself until you know what is underneath. Zofia turned over a big flat rock in the garden and guess what she found curled up underneath.

If you pick up a bale of hay or straw always roll it towards yourself first - the theory is that the snake will go out the other side when you move the bale.

When digging a trench with a backhoe, keep well back. When we dug the trenches for our septic/sewerage system we dug up three angry brown snakes as part of the excercise.

Always look where you are going to walk particularly when stepping out of a shed, a house door or a car. Snakes don't feel the vibration of you walking when the car wheels roll or when you walk on the floor of a house or shed.

My most recent encounter was when I nearly stepped on a 2 metre (7 foot) brown as I left by the shed door. He saw me first and shot like a rocket down to the carport thirty metres away in about two second flat. He then sat there with his head up watching me agressively while I held Rollo by the collar to keep the dog out of harms way.

When I cut long grass with the heavy-cut mower/slasher I always wear heavy leather knee high leggings above my boots. Three times I have mowed over the top of a big brown and then encountered a very angry brown under my feet after the mower has passed over him.

When working with orchard or vineyard bird netting alway be vigilant for a snake trapped in the netting. The snake can pass through the net head first until his body is too thick to go any further and he can't back out because the snake skin scales won't let him go backwards.

Never intentionally run over a snake with your car - they are just as likely to move up into the engine bay or around the back axle and attack you later when you get out of the car.

The Green lobby among our polititions have made it illegal to kill a snake in Australia - next time I find an angry snake caught in a net I plan to deliver it to the front door of one of these city dwellers an let him try to work out what to do with it.

The local farmers tell me that you never try to kill a brown snake with anything less than a shot gun - they are too fast. If you try to hit him with a stick and don't strike with a mortal blow the first time he will get you. If you chop him in half with a shovel the front half of the snake will still attack you.

If you have a choice never get closer to a brown than 30 feet (9 metres) and position yourself on the uphill side. An attacking brown moves fastest straight ahead or directly behind by turning back over himself. He is slower to reach you when you are to his side.

A brown on the move will travel quickly, he may not know you are there and if you stand still, he is quite likely to pass nearby and not notice you.

And what if you get bitten.
A human has about an hour to get to a hospital for anti-venine treatment. I phone my local hospital each season to ensure they have serum in stock.

I phoned my local vet (half an hour away) to ask what if the dog gets bitten - he said give the dog a cuddle and say goodbye - the dog will die within 20 minutes.

One of my neighbours had his boot bitten so that the snake venom was inside the boot but there was no bite mark on his foot. The venom was absorbed through the skin and was enough to make him very sick in hospital.

If bitten don't clean up the venom from around the wound - the hospital needs to take a swab of the venom to positively identify the snake. Bind the bitten limb with an elastic bandage and keep movement to a minimum while heading for hospital - movement helps spread the venom in the body.

Apples are full of healthy nutrition

The old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" is quite true. Researchers are consistently finding new benefits from the eating of apples.

Do a search with your Google or other search engine into health and nutrition of apples and you will be surprised at the outcome.

Apples on average contain 7mg/100g of Vitamin C but some cultivars like Calville Blanc d'Hiver, Golden Noble and Sturmer Pippin contain up to four times the average.

Apples for Cholesterol

An old doctor friend of mine who once worked at the famous Mayo Clinic in the USA often tells the story of the unhealthy fisherman who lived on a diet of meat pies and beer. The fisherman came to his surgery because of the white lumps (cholesterol) that had developed under his skin.

After the second blood test (they did not believe the first test) the fisherman's cholesterol was found to be a life threatening reading of 90. The Doc put his patient on a diet of nothing but apples, apple juice and cooked apples for a fortnight which brought the patient's cholesterol down to an acceptable level - and no doubt saved his life.

I have had my own experience with apples and cholesterol when my medical GP prescribed horrible lipoid reduction tablets to reduce my unhealthy cholesterol reading of 8.5. The drugs gave me constant muscle cramps and I mentioned it to my old doctor friend. He suggested that I eat a green skinned apple every day like a Granny Smith or a Golden Delicious instead of taking the drugs. The outcome has been that my average cholesterol reading is a healthy 4.5.