Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cocoa didn't make it. He was struggling while we had him inside and not taking the bottle, so I tried him out with his mother. He suckled enthusiastically, and managed to get back on his feet. However, he didn't get through the night. He was a real little fighter, but just too weak to cope.
We buried him and planted a silver birch over the top of him. Normally, I wouldn't bother, but this little guy really got to us both.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Good news and bad.

First the bad news: Lulu lost all three of her kids. They were all stillborn. The problem was caused by the first, very large, kid having one leg tucked back along its body which was enough to block the birth canal. So the vet removed all three in the back of my car while it was in the parking lot. Lulu is exhausted, understandably, and I am giving her a couple of hours to recuperate before trying to milk her out.
So we are left with 2 out of 7 kids.
Good news: Lulu has survived, so far. Cocoa's leg seems ok now, according to the vet, and he is noisily wobbling around the goat shelter, harassing his mother. Bose, the other kid, has started to suckle. Bose got his name because he comes in black and white and is bloody loud!
Sue is quite taken with Cocoa, whom I wanted to name Capretto, and she is insisting that he is a keeper. She carried him in her arms all the way back from the vet, snuggled up against her grandmotherly boobs.

On turning 60 and bottle feeding in the middle of the night

Well folks....I turned 60 a few weeks ago and received a surprise visit from Josh and Leah and Xaviah and Che, Rachel and Duncan and Alexandra. They had managed to keep the visit a surprise and just turned up two days before my birthday. I will admit to shedding the odd tear or three.
Duncan could only stay overnight, but we had a great time. Unfortunately, we had
no snow for Xaviah and Che, so the whole thing was
a bit anti-climactic for them.

They did get to Cockle Creek while they were here. It's a thriving metropolis, as you can see, but has the distinction of being as far South as you can drive a car in Australia.

We had some problems shifting the slips
(piglets) that Janice and Reagan had produced. A consortium of other staff from school have bought one, which they are supporting until it's ready to kill and Aidan has his: Goldie. These had to be separated from the others which were for general sale, so they were scragged by one black leg and put over the fence.
They did not appreciate the indignity, promptly broke
back in with their peers, and having been caught like this several times now, and watching all their litter-mates scragged, are now very wary indeed.

The once-little saddlebacks are
turning into real chunkers.

However, none of this is the real excitement. Today, we had baby goats, at last.
Lulu has been showing signs of going into labour for about 36 hours: not straining, just getting ready. But today, during a visit from my boss and a friend, Miriam surprised everyone by producing quads!
The first one was fine, and was a beautiful little buck with a chocolate bum.
Next came a little doe, but we couldn't get it breathing despite massage and mouth-to mouth. It was very upsetting
to have a heartbeat, but no breath.Then Miriam pulled her party trick for the day: two at once, and one of them breach. We made a very hurried call to Bennie, a friend of Sue's and one of
the goat gurus of the area. She turned up just in time for the delivery. The breach kid also failed to start breathing despite a heartbeat and more mouth-to-mouth. The other kid was just fine.
We managed to get doe and kids into shelter, as rain was forecast and we thought all
would be ok, but Miriam has shown no sign of being interested in letting her milk down. So the kids are in a box with us, being bottle fed. Miriam will have to either accept the kids, or we'll have to hand-milk her to get the colostrum for them and to prevent mastitis.
Lulu has advanced in her labour, but still no kids (0230 hrs) so
it looks like a trip to the vet's in the morning. To compound things, the first little buck appears to have hyper
-extended its knee on one leg in a fall, so may not make it.
We'll see what the vet says in the
Better go, the kids are letting me know that they're hungry...again.

Friday, July 16, 2010

No, I'm not dead...just been a little busy.

It's been about 5 months since the last posting, so a lot has happened.

Aidan is living with us full-time and attending the school I teach at. He's going well, and so are Sue and I.
The goats are in their new home which has a reciprocating roof: no centre post. It certainly makes it easy to move about inside, but it's a real pig of a thing to get roofing on. The corro for the roof and the roller-door walls are all courtesy of the local tip-shops.

The goats are enjoying having a lot more browse
in their new paddock and are certainly cleaning up the woody weeds and blackberry.

A condition of our school is that secondary students have Mac laptops. Aidan graciously accepted his. Strange: I never realised that Need For Speed and Grand Theft Auto were part of the curriculum.

We bought two Wessex Saddleback x Berkshires and moved them in. They should fill out to be about twice the size of our mini sows.
When we unloaded the piglets, we put them in their prepared run. But...I didn't realise that they had not been trained to respect an electric fence. Straight through it they went and into the enclosure of janice and Reagan. They promptly chased the saddlebacks, who pushed through the hingelock fencing and ran free, with much squealing on the way. Copping about 7200 volts across the bum would make you squeal too.
We cornered them in the old chook run (fowl run) and Sue kept them busy with snacks of sliced apple while I did a very rapid bit of fencing. After the fence was up, I managed to get a plastic tub over one of the piglets and Sue then sat on the upturned tub while I caught the other. Finally, we got both of them where they needed to be.
Sue is getting much more confident with the animals and has decided to get to know the saddlebacks before they become giants like their

The pigs are in the old goat enclosure. The goats had eaten the bracken and blackberry back fairly well and the pigs enjoy getting at the roots and eating them. This picture is of Janice: up to her eyeballs in the ground, rooting out a ball of blackberry root.

We had our two miniature sows mated a few months ago and Regan was the first to have a litter: 13 of them with 11 surviving. This is one of them on its first day. Regan had an easy labour. She was restless most of the day, and quite swollen about the vulva, but there was no fuss about her. I just found a bunch of piglets feeding happily when I went to feed her in the morning. So the pig herd suddenly increased from 4 to 15.

She had a variety of colours: black, dark brown, honey coloured, striped, solid, spotted.

Aidan and Alex, who was down for a visit, were fairly impressed as you can see.
Aidan is holding "Goldie," his little gilt that he is going to raise with the intention of breeding her next year and selling her offspring to get himself some extra cash.
He's taking some real responsibility on.

If Regan's was an easy labour, Janice had to be different. She was moaning all day, just two days later, and obviously in some distress. By 6 pm, she was lying in the hay in her shelter woofing and groaning and beginning to strain. I sat with her and rubbed her back and side for an hour or so and was getting worried that she might have a bad presentation. I took a break from duty to eat dinner and went back down having decided that if there was no movement I would break out the vaseline and do a bit of an investigation.
9 piglets! All of hers survived, although she was crushing one between her back and the
shelter wall when I got there. She allowed me in to free the baby and get it to a nipple.
Next day, she was highly protective. I was checking her babies, something that Regan hadn't been at all concerned about, when she let out a "whoof," raised her hackles and ran at me. I was in the shelter, so had nowhere to go, so just raised a hand and spoke quietly to her, avoiding eye contact as I sidled out. It was just a warning, but a firm one.
So the pig herd had gone from 4 to 24 in 48 hours.

Just before the Janice and Reagan did their thing, Sue did hers: she broke her arm while I was at school.
There is only one ambulance for our area, and it was on an emergency, so Sue had to sit around for 3/4 of an hour for me to drive home and take her to the hospital to have it put in a cast.
She insisted on a red cast. Those of you who know her will be saying, "of course."
That's about it for the updates.
I'll try not to be so slack in future.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Things are going well here at the old farm.For a while I didn't think I would see it through.The rain and dreary weather were enough to drive me to the brink but fine weather and a new shed and I am on top of the world.The shed is quite liveable and I feel quite spoilt with my hot running water, tub and shower, washing machine, warm stove and new fireplace which should be in place any time soon.
The weather is starting to get that little nip in the air in the afternoons so my job this week will be to tile the hearth and then Paul can get the fire installed. Winter is not too far away.
The firewood pile is going to have to grow a wee bit before then.
It was good to have young Aidan down here. He was a bit of a dab hand with the block splitter and the wood pile grew quite a bit.
With Paul back at work the job completion has slowed down a bit but he is still at it in the afternoons.There is always something that needs doing yesterday if not sooner.
Aidan, Gay[my sister] and I got stuck into the scrubby bush once Paul went to work. I had no idea Aidan could swing an axe so well. Surprised himself as well.Gay and I stuck to the bow saws and dragging the cut down scrub over to the burn off pile. A big job.Still have loads down there to drag across.Still can't do everything in a day but I will get it done.
The plantings are going well. We have spent a fortune on plants and trees but the place is looking so much better with a few flowers around the place.This afternoon Paul planted 5 birch trees and 5 Norway maples around the side of the dam. Only small yet but they will get there.
Very excited today when we harvested one and a half kilos of our pink eye potatoes. They are on the stove right now. Last night we had our first cucumber. Oh how sweet it was.
Loads of tomatoes on the bushes, all different varieties, and should be able to pick the first of them by the end of the week. Nothing tastes quite so good as your own home grown stuff.
We have made 3 different lots of blackberry jam between us. Have to admit mine was way too sweet but at least it set well. Going to try again next week, add less sugar and more lemon and the secret ingredient of a mashed banana.
Apricot jam is a great success. No, not my apricots, bought them from the side of the road, Amish chappy, but the jam is great.
It's all going well. Loads to do each day and I never get through my list but sooner or later it will all come to pass. In the meantime I will still keep chipping away at those blasted thistles and finally win the battle.


We have been getting heaps of blackberries from the too-many bramble patches on our land. This was our first meal of them. Since then, we have had blackberry cheesecake (to die for) lots of jam (of varying consistencies) blackberries on icecream, and so on.
I also caught my first swarm of bees and managed to get them safely hived. Since then, unfortunately, they seem to have run into trouble, so I have just ordered a replacement queen.
Our grandson, Aidan, was down for a month or so and did a brilliant job of helping me with fencing and building a goatshed with a reciprocal roof. The picture here shows the poles for the incomplete shed.

There are not many dunnies in the world with a leadlight window and attendant angels.
For that matter, there are not many dunnies with such a flash colour scheme.
Yes, the dunny is finished.

The spuds, eggs, broadbeans and herbs for our first homegrown meal...

....the bread was less of a success.
I found out too late that the thermometer on the oven is totally dysfunctional. Even the pigs rejected this loaf of bread.

Christmas produced a visit from a very gorgeous, and very young Santa, a new dunny (unfinished at that stage) and hot water and a stove.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A very late update

Lots of things have happened since the last post:
I have returned to teaching as a result of the realities of the set-up costs of this project bite. Basically, we're stony broke. Fortunately, Southern Christian College in Kingston (about 30 minutes away) were in the market for an experienced English Lit teacher, and are interested in someone with IB experience in both DP and MYP, even though they are not an IB School (yet?) Enter, stage left, Profesor Pablito. So "bye-bye" dole: "hello" salary.
The shed is finished and provides good overflow accommodation from the caravan.
Sue bought a small car, a Hyundai Getz. It was cheap enough to sneak it onto the credit card. We decided that for her to be stuck here without transport while I was at school was not only unfair, but dangerous for her.
Sue's sister, Gay, has been down here for the past 6 or 8 weeks.
Rachel, our daught
er, and her husband Duncan and daughter Alex visited for a couple of weeks over Christmas, and during their stay we managed to plumb running water to the shed, install a stove and hot water, and build a dunny (i.e. a toilet.) We had been traveling down to the local park to use the public toilets whenever we wanted to go, but there were occasional problems with synchronisation of needs, so a local dunny was important.
Our grandson Aidan has been down here with us for the past 3 or 4 weeks, and his Mum, Leah, visited for a few days.
All told, it's bene a very busy time.
The goats have eaten out their previous 1/4 acre enclosure, so a new one has been fenced and they have been moved. They also have a 3/4 built shelter. Aidan was an enormous help with both the fencing and shed building.
We have eaten our first few potatoes, broad beans and peas, the eggs are still coming (although the new chickens haven't started to lay yet - malingerers,) we have just had our first feasts of wild blackberries and Sue has made a brilliant blackberry cheesecake. So there is some virtue in those tangles of brambles that are all over the place.

Alex gets to know a local.
We have plenty of these fellas - bluetongue lizards - all over the place. We also have quite a few of their more worrying cousins - tiger snakes.

The running water runs for the first time in the shed.