Tag Archives: alpacas

I hate December!

I was going to say “I hate Christmas!” but that’s not completely true. It’s not so much that I hate Christmas, it’s that I hate the lead up to Christmas, especially this year. December in Australia is the first month of summer, and summer means bushfires and snakes [we’ve seen two already].

In normal years I would have spent most of spring mowing a little bit every day. We’re on 1.6 hectares, and that equates to a lot of grass. The alpacas do their best, but in spring they can’t eat the new grass fast enough, and once the grass sets seed they won’t touch it.

So that’s in a normal year – a little bit of mowing spread out over a couple of months. This year has been different though. Australia is experiencing its third La Nina event in a row which has meant rain, rain and more rain. All that rain has triggered unprecedented floods all along the eastern seaboard with lives lost, crops lost and whole towns inundated.

We don’t have to worry about floods here in Warrandyte as we’re on a ridge, but all that rain means the grass grows an inch over night. And it’s too wet to mow during the day, especially with a small, cordless lawnmower.

In desperation, I paid for a guy to come in and whipper snipper1 the worst of it, but that’s left sheaths of grass drying on the ground. Exhibit A:

What’s worse, the new grass is already growing through. It has to be mowed. 😦

And now we get to the other reason I hate December so much: things break down. This year, my faithful Ozito cordless lawnmover has struggled even with the lower grass, hardly surprising given that I bought it in 2016 and have used it in ways it was never designed to be used. So I had to go out and buy a new cordless mower.

I tried the new model Ozito, but it died after just one mowing session. Note to Ozito: I am so disappointed.

Thank gods Bunnings let me swap the new Ozito for a Ryobi cordless. The Ryobi is a great little mower but it’s battery takes ages to re-charge and the catcher is a stupid design so the outlet from the blade constantly clogs up. But at least it does cut like a champion. Exhibit B, a pic taken looking back up at the house:

But December hasn’t finished with me yet.

We had a couple of days of ‘hot’ weather recently so we filled up the firefighting pumps with petrol and tested them. One started without a hitch. The other tried to start but just wouldn’t catch. Grrrrr….

I do have a fabulous mechanic who fixed the last problem with the pumps, but he’s flat out until….you guessed it, Christmas.

I’m not too worried as I don’t think we’ll have any major fires until maybe mid-January, and one of the pumps does work, but still…I did not need this, not the worry and certainly not the hit to my budget. If the Reserve Bank is reading this post <<hysterical laughter>> I didn’t intend to contribute to inflation this year!

Anyway, it looks as if it might rain again soon so I’d better get out there. Who needs a gym when you’ve got grass? -grump-


Whipper snipper1 : I think it’s called a ‘brush cutter’ elsewhere in the world.

Cities without streets?

This is the jigsaw puzzle I completed this morning – just to see what the image was actually about:

Isn’t it amazing? A straight, boring street completely re-purposed to provide a beautiful green space for both residents and casual visitors to enjoy.

I know nothing about that street, other than the title of the jigsaw puzzle: ‘Lombard street’. If anyone knows where it is, please share in comments!

Anyway, the Lombard Street puzzle got me thinking about another place that I did know about: Havana. It’s become the urban agriculture capital of the world, with citizens and government working together to create food gardens on every available urban space. There are chickens and rabbits being ‘grown’ on roof tops, vegie plots on balconies, larger communal gardens in the middle of parks, and street markets selling the locally grown produce back to this city of two million.

The birth of Havana’s urban agriculture was painful to say the least, and driven by need. You can read the history in this great article:


The point though, is that it began as a grass roots movement with ordinary, hungry people taking food production into their own hands because they had to. The food they grew was organic because Cuba couldn’t afford herbicides and pesticides. The food Havana grows is still organic or semi-organic because the Cuban government recognized the value of what was happening and formalised it. Commercial pesticides are not allowed within the city limits. And the weird thing is that those organic, urban gardens really do supplement the diets of Havana’s residents.

Getting back to the jigsaw puzzle that triggered this post, I started wondering how much real estate our cities devote to roads. What if those roads could be re-purposed for parks and open spaces and communal gardens? What if we had alpacas wandering down Swanston Street, mowing the grass? [I chose alpacas coz they poop in the same spots all the time, making clean up a lot easier].

Seriously, we could go from this:

Image copyright Anthony Frey Photos – click photo to visit site

to this:

Original image by Anthony Frey Photos. Alpacas by acflory

Now I know that roads are like the veins and arteries of a city, but do they have to be so wasteful? Surely we have the technology to put them underground? Maybe not all of them, but the freeways could definitely go…

I’m sure that anyone with real engineering experience will shoot this idea down in flames, but still…it appeals to me. At some point we really will have to rethink the design of our cities. Maybe then we’ll find a way to stop wasting all that space on roads. 🙂



Apples, alpacas and some results

First and foremost, to all those who re-blogged and retweeted my ebook free promotion over the last two days…THANK YOU! There were 40 downloads and I’m grateful for each and every one. 🙂

And now to soothe my frazzled nerves and yours, I thought I’d show you what else I’ve been up to:

Exhibit 1 – one of the alpacas that mows my grass, strips my rose bushes and turns my fruit trees into umbrellas

You may also notice that there’s not much grass on the ground. This time last year, the two alpacas would have been chewing through knee high growth. It’s been dry, very dry.

Exhibit 2 – the apple tree inside the new fence

I got  a bit artistic with this shot. 🙂 The metal framing the picture is actually the reo ‘gate’. More on that in the next shot.

This whole project started because I was determined to save the apple tree from the alpacas. Most of my fruit trees are tall enough to survive having all their lower branched pruned into an umbrella shape by the ‘girls’. The apple, however, is kind of a dwarf, and I made the mistake of planting it too close to the fence. As a result, even when the alpacas are locked out, they just reach over the barbed wire and nibble away [that’s why there’s new growth in the middle of the apple tree but not on the ends of the branches].

The first step, therefore, was to put wire mesh above the fence. To do that, I had to hammer some star pickets into the ground and then screw another star picket half way up to increase the combined height [star pickets have holes along one flange so if you marry up the holes you can screw them together]. Then the wire was attached to the ‘posts’.

You can see how the star pickets are attached in Exhibit 3.

Exhibit 3 – the fence

The grid of metal wired to the star pickets is the ‘gate’ leading into the fenced off area. The grid is called ‘reo’ by tradies, but it’s official name is ‘reinforced wire mesh‘. Reo is used to reinforce concrete as it’s being poured. The heavy duty variety is also rigid enough to make an excellent gate. And that’s what I did. Haven’t quite finished so the gate is just wired shut for now.

Exhibit 4 – the enclosure

This last pic just shows the wire enclosure around the apple tree. If you look closely you can see the doubled up star pickets and wire mesh.

Apple tree 1, alpacas 0. -fist pump-

My hands are covered in bandaids and my back hurts, but seeing the apple tree burst into green makes it all worthwhile.

cheers from Warrandyte!



Warrandyte is dry

In the wetter years since 2009, I had to get the grass cut before Christmas because the alpacas couldn’t keep up. This year we’ve had to start supplementary feeding early because the alpacas have mowed the grass down already.

warrandyte dec 2014 1

In this first photo, I’m standing in my paddock, taking a photo of my neighbours’ paddocks. The three of us share the four alpacas.

warrandyte dec 2014 5

This next photo shows a small, fenced off area [roughly 2 metres by 3] that used to be one of the alpacas’ favourite poop spots. Once they start using a spot they become very attached to it, and refuse to stop pooping there.

Unfortunately, this particular spot is really close to both the pool and the house, and the odd, gentle breeze can bring tears to your eyes. I’ve been trying to get rid of this spot for years, without much success. My latest plan has been to dig up the poop [and put it on the compost], dig up the soil underneath [to get rid of their scent], replace it with mushroom compost and plant something they love to eat [Lucerne].  Fingers crossed it works this time.

One area where I have had some success is with my ornamental ponds. One is less than a metre long, and the other is about 2.5 metres long, so both are quite small but the local frogs love them!

This next photo is of the larger pond and shows clusters of strange, white bubbles in amongst the water lilies and duck weed. Those, my friends, are frog eggs!

warrandyte dec 2014 3

What’s that you say? You can’t see them? Hold on…

warrandyte dec 2014 4

Tah duh!

I don’t really know why the frogs like my pond so much, but I’m thrilled that they do. It contains water cress and a host of other water plants so maybe I got the mix right without knowing it.

I hope my Aussie friends have had a great weekend, and I hope my international friends are still enjoying theirs. 🙂



p.s. Apologies if this post looks a bit strange. WordPress have made changes, again, and my blog won’t work at all in Opera. It works in IE, except for the preview function, so I won’t know what it looks like until I publish. I’m resisting the urge the rant. 😦

Shepherd : 4 , alpacas : 0

For the last four afternoons in a row, I have let the alpacas into the front yard to graze. This was not something I did for pleasure, but because there is literally nothing green left in the back.

The alpacas in our small herd have been getting supplementary feeds but that stuff is dry, and they crave fresh, green stuff. With the back so bare, it seemed cruel not to let them graze on the half acre of green out the front. Remember that figure – half an acre.

So, about two hours ago I let the mongrels out the front and began my job as a shepherd. For comfort I had my Kindle, a cup of coffee, a deliriously happy dog and two wary cats. Oh and I also had a light, plastic rake.

Now, for a short description of my front yard. Unlike the back, the front has a gentle slope, and only drops by about a metre and a half over the 35 metres from the front gate to the carport. By Warrandyte standards this is almost flat, unless you’re walking up hill pulling the wheelie bins. Then it feels like Mt. Everest.

The house itself sits in a sort of flat ledge cut into the slope. To soften the site cut, I had a trench dug along the top and filled it with good soil. Into this trench I planted all the beautiful roses I had been carrying around from one rental property to another for the previous ten years.

Three of these roses are very special because three of my most beloved pets are buried beneath them.

Unfortunately, alpacas seem to have an obsession about roses, and my four Mongrels are no exception. I cannot take my eyes off them for more than a few minutes at a time because if I do, they casually browse closer and closer until they can reach the roses.

The Alpha Female is particularly cunning, and marshals the other three to distract me. While I’m chasing one of the other alpacas away from the rose bed, she saunters down and starts tucking in.

Knowing all this, I was prepared, and the Mongrels only managed to snatch the odd rose leaf. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the Alpha Female would learn my patterns of behaviour over just three days. Today, after letting them graze for an hour as usual, I began to round them up. Only this time they were not co-operating.

I think half of Warrandyte must have heard me screaming at the alpacas as I chased them round and round that 1/2 acre. I shudder to think what I must have looked like : grey haired old lady charging up and down, red in the face, yelling at the top of her voice,  and ineffectually waving a plastic rake around like a spear…

I got them into the back, finally, but it took an hour! Now I’m hot, sweaty and exhausted. And not at all happy. The only funny moment in this whole schmozzle was seeing Mogi darting around trying to herd the alpacas. Despite being a pint-sized chihuahua cross, she thinks she’s a sheep dog, and was in her element.

Needless to say the review I had planned for today’s post did not eventuate so you’ll have to make do with this one.

Now I’m off for a coffee, a sulk, and a long hot shower. But at least I saved the roses!



An alpaca update and… a favour

I’ll start with two pictures of our alpacas minus their winter coats. And yes, I am trying to butter you up. 😦

mother and son

They’re strange looking beasts without all that wool aren’t they? Like a cross between a giraffe and a deer.

This first photo is of one of the females with her cria, Andy.

Andy isn’t the sharpest tool in the box, but he is kind of sweet in a very dopey sort of way.

alpaca portraitI don’t think Mamma was terribly impressed with her radical do but she did come up to the fence to say hello. Ah well, at least she’ll be cooler for what’s left of summer.

January is a bit late to be shearing alpacas, but unfortunately the one alpaca shearer in our area is in such demand that we couldn’t get him to do it any sooner.

The weather is meant to be hot again tomorrow so we got them done just in time.

And now for that favour I mentioned. -squirms in embarrassment- Um… if there are any Goodreads members out there, could you possibly vote for Vokhtah on these lists?

2013 Release books to read, and

Best Sci-fi of 2013

My undying gratitude to Lord David Prosser for doing what I didn’t have the guts to do.

-huge hugs-


Fire season, alpacas – and the things that burn

A few weeks ago I did a series of burns to prepare my block for fire season. I kept these bonfires very small for fear they’d get out of control, even with everything so damp. As a result, I had to struggle to keep my fires going, yet even so I learned some interesting things about what does, and does not, burn in my part of Australia.

As expected, the dry leaves and twiggy branches of gum trees burn very nicely, thank you very much. However I also discovered that even relatively fresh gum leaves will burn. As these leaves contain highly volatile oils, I should not have been surprised by this either.

Still on the subject of leaves and volatile oils, I threw some lemon tree prunings onto the fire and took a big step backwards, expecting the branches to explode into flames. The leaves did burn quite nicely but the branches seemed to burn no better than any other green wood.

Next I tried the dry stalks and flower heads of agapanthus. [Picture courtesy of wiki]

Once these flowerheads and stalks dry off, they burn like paper. The green leaves however took a long time to dry out and eventually burn. For me, the lesson here was that clumps of well maintained agapanthus may help extinguish embers. At a certain temperature, however, anything can and will burn.

While cutting out the dry agapanthus stalks, I also trimmed back some branches of a very hardy, invasive and hard to eradicate shrub whose name I don’t know. I remember finding pictures of it  once, as part of a listing of ‘weeds’ in the Warrandyte area.

I took the two pictures below in the hope that someone would recognize it and name it. [Thanks for the camera tip Metan!]

The reason I want to name and shame this plant is that it snap, crackles and pops on the fire… even when it’s fresh and very green. This thing seems to burn even better than gum leaves, and in a bushfire I can imagine it merrily shooting off burning embers in all directions.

I know Nillumbik Shire Council considers it to be a noxious weed because it is not indigenous to the area, but they have done nothing to force residents to eradicate it. Nor have they, themselves, eradicated it from roadsides and other public places. This stuff should be attacked without mercy because it burns so well, not because of any airy, fairy conservationist principles.

Now that I know how dangerous this unnamed plant truly is, I’ll be blitzing it with a vengeance. If you know what it’s called please let me know asap!

The most welcome thing I learned from my burning off was that I can discourage the alpacas from pooping close to the house by :

a) relocating their poop piles and

b) burning off on the spot where the piles used to be.  I suspect the smell of the ash and charcoal masks the smells that tell the alpacas  ‘Here be  the toilet’.

For those who haven’t been following my adventures with alpacas, these big, woolly lawn-mowers like to leave their poop in neat piles. Unfortunately a couple of their preferred toilet spots are rather close to the house. That is a problem because, although the smell isn’t really all that bad, the green volcanos that grow up around them are both unsightly and difficult to mow by hand. Trust me, you do not want to accidentally mow into a pile of wet poop. 😦

I’ve tried sprinkling lemon oil over these unwanted piles but it didn’t work as a deterrent. The burns will work, so long as you repeat the process until the alpacas ‘forget’ and move on to somewhere else. They can be rather stubborn so even this is not a magic bullet.

As always, I would love to see my fellow residents taking a more proactive part in keeping Warrandyte safe[r] from bushfires.



My alpaca proof kitchen garden

The sun is shining and I’m not feeling very cerebral so I’m going to show you some pictures of vegies. I know this will be an instant turn-off to some of you but I’m really excited about my odd kitchen garden even if you aren’t. 😀

First off, let me show you my backyard. And yes, it is huge. I live on 1.6 acres and that amazing view is one reason I love living in this fire-prone fringe suburb. Unfortunately, because this area is fire-prone, one of my top priorities is keeping all that grass nice and short [so that there won’t be much to burn should a fire come through]. To do that I’ve opted for some big, four-legged lawn mowers called alpacas.

Now I know I’ve talked about the alpacas before but I may not have mentioned that alpacas adore lush, green, tasty things… like vegies and roses. In fact they like my precious plants far more than they like all that nice grass so I’ve had to fence off the areas where I’ve planted garden beds. I can get into these fenced off areas but I have to open a small section of fencing to do so and that can be a pain if I have to nip out at night to pick a handful of parsley for dinner.

Being an inventive little person I finally realised that my deck would be the perfect place on which to grow some herbs in pots. That was last year.

As you can see from these photos I’ve been much more ambitious this year. 🙂

Lettuce, glorious lettuce! There’s all sorts of gourmet lettuce in there as well as some ordinary iceberg lettuces right in the middle. They are all still just babies but the beauty of growing lettuce in a big bowl like this is that you can just snip off a few leaves from each individual plant and still have enough for a fresh salad! And of course the plants just keep on growing.

The next photo shows some more iceberg lettuce in a small pot next to spring onions and radishes in the green pot. Radishes are so quick and easy to grow you could probably get a crop by growing them on a windowsill! They are ready to harvest once you can see those lovely red globes start to break the surface. I love small, tender radishes so once these little plants are eaten I’ll plant some fresh seeds.

And finally some of that parsley I was talking about. From left to right we have celery, parsley [and a few extra radishes], green peas and leek.

Once the frosts go away and spring finally decides to stay for more than just a day, I’ll be planting cherry tomatoes, basil and some hot chillies on the deck as well.

I doubt that I’ll harvest enough produce to save me from having to buy any vegies at all but with the artichokes, parsnip, garlic, dill and rosemary I have planted in one of the fenced off areas I’ll have something fresh for most of the year. -dance-

Happy blogging to you all,




Alpacas and other friends

I’ve mentioned the alpacas in passing before, usually in connection with their role as lawnmowers, so as they seemed to steal the show I decided to dedicate a post to the weird four-legs who share this place with us. And I have photos!

Duh...you rang?

This bright fellow is Andy. He was born here and is still a cria [baby alpaca]. He is the most curious, and playful one of the herd but we’re  not quite sure whether that is a sign of intelligence or not as he really isn’t terribly smart in other ways. So far he’s wandered into the fish pond at least three times and still seems to have identity issues.


Can't you see I'm eating?

Allow me to introduce Andy’s mum. Like all three of the adult alpacas [2 females and 1 male] she is not a snuggly. They tolerate us humans, especially when we come bearing gifts of lucerne but none of them can understand why roses are off limits. Their penchant for snacking on roses, thorns and all, has forced me to fence off the special areas where I’ve actually managed to grow something other than grass.

In the two years we’ve had them the alpacas and I have forged an uneasy partnership. They eat the grass, poop and act as guard beasts and I bring out the lucerne or yell at them. What can I say? It works.

Damn paparazzi....

You’re going to have to look closely at this photo to see the echidna [porcupine] disappearing behind my neighbour’s chook shed [chicken coop?]. Despite being about the size of a small dog and not built for sprinting [s]he managed to avoid my camera with real style. You can see by the quills all over his back why this guy has managed to avoid being lunch for the local foxes and/or dogs. Cute but definitely not a snuggly!


And now for some photos of my very snuggly babies! And before everyone groans and clicks away they all have four legs and really are cute!

Mogi - our new baby

This tiny bundle of ears and fur is Mogi [short for Mogwai], the newest addition to our family. I’m including this photo because it shows just how very small she was at 3 months. It also shows the strange 3 colour fur she had back then. Black at the tips, pale in the middle and tan near the body. Perhaps it was mother nature advertising her chihuahua/maltese/shi tzu pedigree? She was an adorable but odd looking puppy that’s for sure.

3/4 profile?

This is Mogi at one. She is still tiny and won’t get any bigger but she thinks she’s a real dog and guards the cats [and us] with the dedication of a doberman pinzer. She even tries to herd the alpacas but they just ignore her, except for Andy who wants to play soccer with her. He hasn’t scored any goals yet – she’s much too quick!

And now to segue into the feline members of the household, I give you Pippi and Mogi, getting some well earned rest on my recliner.

Pippi and her pillow..ahem I mean her dog

Pippi is the matriarch of the cats and the mother of Buffa, Golly, Harry and Pixie [sadly no longer with us]. We got her as a scrawny, scruffy abandonned 5 week old kitten desperate for a home. She was so desperate for affection that she charmed our two old dogs into accepting her into their pack. That was one reason we allowed her to have a litter. The reason we kept the whole litter was that… bah never mind.

Pippi is still needy but as you can see she now has a dog to call her own again. 🙂

And now in alphabetical order are da boyz.

Buffa making a point

Meet Buffa. He is the smartest and most generous of all the cats. We call him the Momma Poppa with good reason. When he and Harry went off together to lose their crown jewels I asked that the vet put them in the same cage after the operation. Harry was traumatized and hid under a blanket. Buffa cuddled up to him and groomed him despite having just had the chop himself. And when Golly was knocked over by a car and suffered brain damage, Buffa was the first one to accept him, despite poor Golly’s ‘strange’ behaviour. Once Golly had learned to feed himself and walk in a straight line again it was Buffa who decided that he must be taught how to hunt, so that was when he began bringing live mice into the house and dropping them at Golly’s feet. It took quite a while and more scampering mice than I care to think about but now that brain damaged cat who is about 80% blind can catch mice himself.

The one bad moment we have had with Buffa was when we first introduced him to Mogi. Now you have to understand that Buffa is big enough and strong enough to catch [and eat] baby rabbits [only the wild kind!]. When he saw Mogi with her bats ears flattened against her head she must have looked just like a rabbit because he went into pounce mode. But just as we were about to dive to the rescue he sniffed her and relaxed. Since that inauspicious beginning they have become best buddies. Except when it comes to Mogi’s big fluffy pillow [seen to the right of the photo]. Buffa wants that pillow. He wants it bad and grabs it whenever he can, ignoring all of Mogi’s requests to ‘get the hell out of my bed!’. When I snapped this shot Mogi was in possession of the pillow and so Buffa shoe-horned himself into her old and very small basket to show how inappropriate their bedding arrangements were!

Come hither...

This is Harry. In some ways he has always been my favourite because he is so loving. Unfortunately when Golly came back after the accident Harry was just freaked out and he has stayed freaked out ever since.  The arrival of Mogi did not help. Harry loved our old dogs but they were slow and gentle. Mogi is as quick as a ferret and her idea of play is to chase the cats around the yard and chew on their whiskers. So now Harry only comes in at dinner time and is hard to catch with the camera which is why this photo is a shot from his teenage years.

Golly - doing what a cat's gotta do

And last but by no means least is Golly. A black cat half hidden by a black jacket on a black chair… I know, I know, I’m a lousy photographer but Golly seems to disappear into the background no matter where he is!

Golly is my miracle boy. He was hit by a car just outside our property at 10 o’clock one night. He was left there in the middle of the road. Then a true Good Samaritan came along with her daughter and they took him to the local vet. When the vet found the microchip he rang me. We got there in five minutes flat.

Despite having fractured hips and a nasty blow to the head Golly still knew me and that was all I needed to know. After losing so many of my furkids to that damn road I was not going to lose this one. So Golly had xrays and was put on a drip. He was given a special drug to help the swelling in his brain to go down. For a week he teetered on the brink and then he started to get better.

When I came to pick Golly up, Jen our lovely vet nurse joked that Golly was a child with special needs. Well he was that and more. For a month after he came home I had to push food into his mouth and give him water through a syringe. He could walk but only in circles. Yet through it all he snuggled whenever I picked him up, purring the whole time like a jet engine.

Now 18 months later Golly can jump up on things, run and even catch mice. He is a healthy, beautiful, incredibly loving boy with a fierce will to live. All of my furkids are special but Golly is unique. He may be brain-damaged and almost completely blind but you’d never know it just by looking at him. More importantly he is a happy chappie who proves the old adage that while there is life there is hope.  That’s a lesson I won’t forget.

Cheers All!


Bushfire season 2011/12 is over

I hope I haven’t jinxed myself but I honestly can’t see how a fire could hit Warrandyte now – the air is crisp and cool, the grass is a vibrant green and you can almost smell autumn in the air…oh wait, that could be alpaca poop.

For those who don’t know, alpacas almost always poop in nice, discrete piles, as if they invented the idea of latrines. This highly civilized way of defecating means that you can walk around outside without having to wear gumboots all the time. Unfortunately it also means that the smell is rather concentrated. There is a pile of poop about 10 metres from my office window so when we have a  north wind blowing I have to seal the office off. Nonetheless I’m  not complaining. How could I when the alpacas have manicured the grass so nicely?

I have about 1/2 an acre out the back and at the moment it is as well cared for as a putting green! Except for the piles of poop of course; they look like small green volcanoes with a black caldera in the middle. The black part is the poop while the green part is the well fertilized grass around the poop. Not surprisingly the alpacas won’t eat the grass that’s too close to their piles. Can’t say I blame them but the green volcanoes do look a little odd.

Alpaca volcanoes aside though I am pleased to say that the alpaca experiment has been a qualified success. They have done a very good job of keeping the grass down directly around the house and their clawed toes are much kinder to the soil than other introduced grazers such as cattle or sheep. The one downside in using them as part of my fire prevention strategy is that they will only eat the native grasses when there is nothing else to munch on. This was partly my fault as I sowed some special alpaca feed* in the flat spots around the house during the last winter of the big drought. These grasses stay green even when the rest of the grass has gone your typical summer brown but with all the rain we’ve had the last couple of years the alpacas have been spoiled for choice and have ignored the brown stuff with disdain. Even so they have kept the area around the house well mowed and that is all I can ask for now. Come winter I am going to try and extend their pasture further downhill. If it doesn’t take because of the steepness of the slope I’ll have to think about putting in a bit more terracing [gah…more work].

So having alpacas is not a magic bullet but they are better than mowing by hand or, as seems to happen a lot in Warrandyte, not mowing at all. I know that everyone is busy and I know that many of the people in Warrandyte are new to the area but removing fuel load is part and parcel of living here. It is NOT an optional extra.

I know it’s not feasible but I’d love to see herds of alpacas wandering along Brogil  creek and keeping us all safe. They might be a bit of a traffic hazard but at least they’d do a better job of reducing the fuel load than Nillumbik Shire.

Yes, I know I’m a grumpy old ratepayer but you’d think that at $656 per quarter our local council could do something a little more practical than  telling us to clear out our gutters. Every time I receive one of their expensive newletters full of hot air and self congratulations I wonder how a shire that let, nay caused so many people to die on Black Saturday can escape all accountability.


I truly do wish that being elected to local council was like being chosen for jury duty – an unpleasant civic responsibility that no-one in their right mind would want to do. Then at least we might get some local government that was truly unbiased, a-political and not driven by ambition or self-interest. Come to think of it that could work at state and federal levels too…

Back to reality. Alpacas are herd animals and need the companionship of two or more of their kind or they get a bit psychotic – much like people in solitary confinement – so having just one is not a good idea. One way around this problem is to join together with your neighbours in owning and caring for them. I am one of a group of three neighbours and our four alpacas keep a total of about 2.5 acres mowed. To make things easier we invested in side gates that link our three properties. We all get on really well and that helps too.

The bottom line though is that Warrandyte is a fire prone area so if you live here then you must find some way of keeping the fuel load down on your own property. The danger may be past for this season but it will return and when the next fire does come through we will all be on our own so it makes sense to do what we can now.

If you don’t believe me do the math : there are three CFA fire stations dotted around Warrandyte, North Warrandyte and Research. As far as I know each of those fire stations has 2 fire trucks. That makes 6 in all yet even if there were twice that many they would not be enough to protect the 7393 people living in Warrandyte [2006 census figure].  So yes, the reality is that when the next bushfire sweeps through Warrandyte we will be on our own so doing things to help ourselves should be as much a part of the culture as enjoying the ‘serenity’ of living among the gum trees.

And with that homage to The Castle,  I’m going to go out amongst my own gum trees to shovel some alpaca poop. At least it makes good compost.

* Note : ordinary lawn seed is NOT good for alpacas as it can make them bloat which is serious!

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