The Dog


Not that she’s smarter than other dogs. Smart enough though. It’s just that she’s now stone deaf, poor old thing. So when it’s time for a walk, I come up behind her, tap her on the shoulder; she turns around and looks at me intently and I mouth silently the magic word W-A-L-K. In a heartbeat she jumps up and rockets out the door.

When I say, old, she’s probably very old, but we’re not quite sure how old exactly. She’s a rescued dog. When we found her she was starving and much neglected. We took her on temporarily while we waited for her owner to get better. In those few weeks she so quickly worked her way into our family, and into our hearts, that we couldn’t bear to part with her. With luck, the owner decided she was better off with us, and she’s now been central to our lives for about ten years. Now we dread the day when she finally dies. Unthinkable.

One thing we know for sure is we couldn’t now own another breed. I get incensed when I read Staffordshire Bull Terriers lumped in with “dangerous breeds” in the press. While she doesn’t tolerate nonsense from other dogs, Fire couldn’t be a more gentle creature with people, and in particular small children. Even now in her old age, she loves to play with kids. And with oldies like me.

Ironically her deafness has turned out to be something of a blessing. For years any kind of a bang would send her into a tail-spin and under the table. Guns, fireworks, thunder; all a source of terror. This is tricky if you’re a farm dog, which she now is. Now, however, she sails happily through the vineyard and the orchard at duck shooting time, or while bird scaring is at its zenith, not a care in the world.

She’s only ever had one job, and a job she took very seriously indeed: rabbit control. To my knowledge I think she only caught one ever – and that was very small indeed. And probably a bit thick. Still every time she got a chase on, she couldn’t have enjoyed herself more.

We hope we’ve still got a few more years of rabbiting to go. Fingers, and paws, crossed. And here’s another word she can lip-read: R-A-B-B-I-T!


The Dog


After the loss of our dearly departed Fire in 2010 (she lies in state in the small cherry orchard with a stone carved by the Prop) a replacement was found in Australia. Same breed -- Staffordshire Bull Terrier, but a chap this time. And an abandoned dog too, from the Staffy Rescue place near Windsor.

Actually , he was not so much found as thrust himself upon us, and after a brief acquaintance, nailed the job as Vineyard Dog.

He’s a funny kind of Staffy: he looks tough, but is pretty much scared of everything. Including other dogs. All that we know about him was that he was 24 hours from termination on death row, before he was rescued. Before that he’d been picked up, unmarked and unidentified in the roughest part of west Sydney. Best guess would be that he was maybe supposed to be a gang dog or similar, but proved to be such a softy that he was deemed unfit for the job of scary guard/attack dog. People often make that mistake with Staffies, but they are generally gentle and humble dogs for all their menacing looks.

Nevertheless, should you be considering pilfering a bottle or two of one of the
world’s great Pinots, pause first. If he did suddenly turn into a guard dog, fulfilling some kind of preordained role as vineyard guard dog, and sank his gnashers into your bum, you might have trouble walking for a year or two. Good luck.

pigs babies

The Pigs

Peggy and Polly

These two sisters are kuni-kuni, a South Pacific pot-belly pig. Extremely cute as piglets, they have grown into pigs that are…well… not very cute. Unless you’re a pot-belly pig bloke, if you follow. In which case you might think they’re the bee’s knees. If we could use a diminutive metaphor for two massive creatures.

Let it be understood: We are not fattist at T.P. On the contrary, more than one of us at H.Q. carry a few more kilos than is entirely necessary. But Peggy (blonde) and Polly (brunette but not noticeably smarter) may just have gone too far. They are, we’re not ashamed to admit, vast.

Still, they’re decorative. They also consume fruit windfalls, acorns, kitchen scraps, grubs – pretty much anything. But useful – not…umm…really.

We thought we might be blessed, last spring, with a couple of dozen piglets [See T.P. Blog 4 September 2007]  Alas it was not to be. The girls have mastered the dark art of the phantom pregnancy. Their boy-friend, Boris, is a reportedly a little deflated.

We have planted fifty or so truffle-infected oak trees at Redbank. There was hope at one point that the pigs could be used to find, and dig up, the truffles. Unfortunately Peggy and Polly are now so huge it would take three or four men to drag them away from the truffle. Another dream abandoned…

Our kuni-kuni will certainly not end up as pork. We just hope we can find… goals for them. Do pigs have dreams? Undoubtedly; but what exactly are they? If we were pigs, a comfy free-range existence at Redbank might be a dream realized. If so, they’ve got it all.


25 April 2011 -- When it comes to taste in grapes, man and pig can be in complete agreement at time. Read more in our blog posting called What To Do with Cabernet Sauvignon

baa4 sm

The Sheep

Baa Baa

In 2005, after a time of wonder, a lamb was born at Redbank, and was immediately orphaned. Like Bambi, except there was no naughty hunter involved here. With all the best care in the world, we sometimes lose a ewe at lambing time. Any orphans become pets and are hand reared on the bottle, and are always lavished with love and care by small children. Especially by little girls, who for some reason like to dress them up for parties, etc.

When they are old enough they rejoin the mob in the paddocks. This they complain about volubly for a couple of weeks – and wouldn’t you, if you’d been persuaded by small girls that you were a similar small person all your short life? Something of a shock to find you are actually a grazing wooly creature.

Nevertheless, they become socialized after a few weeks, and turn into sheep, forgetting their human friends, from whom they flee in irrational panic in the way sheep do.

Except Baa Baa. (Rather dully named, but a two year old was given naming rights.) Baa Baa reasonably quickly fitted in with his sheepy friends, but has NEVER forgotten his human friends. If called, he belts straight over for a chat and a scratch. Good company, and we all love him.


29 March 2011 -- Baa Baa Murdered.


A Charming Milk Cow

Lady Shakira Caine

Again, named for one of the world’s great beauties, the utterly charming Lady Caine.
She is a milking cow, but is not producing any milk as yet. Apparently a bull needs to get involved in the process, but this blog has no curiosity beyond that ... let us draw a veil. Children and maiden aunts read these pages after all.

cows 2013

The Calves

Richard Roxburgh and Lena Headey

Yes, the Lady Caine has finally, reluctantly, produced a Calf – Richard (Roxburgh). A bonny young beefy bloke if ever there was one.

In addition, we have another female calf (calfette?) called Lena (Headey). We have been trying, to no avail, to have Lady Caine mother Lena, but she won’t have it. Instead we halter the truculent Lady C twice a day, while the motherless Lena has a good drink. Still, both calves flourishing.