Animal Farm

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Ole “Mr. Grumpy”

I have to correct myself from yesterday the bull Ole Mr Grumpy is not 2 ton, he in fact weighs about 1 ton. To me when you see him standing up and close wouldn’t matter how much he weighed if you annoy him and he hit you, I think it would be the end of a good day and a visit to the hospital. He is quite a gentle bull and will take to being told to move on, even the cats will move when he walks up to them to sniff them.

Whilst watching TV last night we were surprised to see a bat flying around our lounge room. I know a bat, we suspect it was brought in the night before by one of the ‘shed cats’ and it managed to get away from the cat to take place in the curtains. I jumped up turned the fans off, closed our bedroom door, bathroom door, turned the lights off and opened the double sliding doors hoping it would fly out.

We think it did as I have searched in dark places, our drapes and shelves and I can’t seem to find it, this morning. I hope it either flew out via the open doors or the propped open ‘new cat flap’. I say new cat flap as the farmer decided to put a new one in the wall and move the old one to the other side of the house.

The cats are none too happy with this change, they will sit outside the cat flap and look at it. As soon as it’s propped open with a plank of wood they will jump through it and if it is closed and we catch a cat we push them out through the flap so they can get use to it and start using it.

The shed cats are clever they have managed to track down their old flap and enter and leave via this. I think the farmer finds this annoying as he was so happy when he found the correct flap on boxing day that when we got home he commenced the insertion of the wall flap.

Life is not dull on the farm and whether it be day or night we have lots of movements of animals. As for ‘Ole Mr. Grumpy he’s going back to a mob of ladies soon to start this years work.

 

 

 

 

Stepping in manure

I live in Australia, an island of unique properties and places with vast distances of space. Driving from one end of the country to the other is an adventure undertaken with bravery (I have never done it nor do I ever plan to). I remember the first time I visited Darwin and I sat on Mindil beach and thought about the fact I was on the complete opposite side of Australia to my home town beach at Seacliff Beach, South Australia and I knew then how small I was in the scheme of land mass.

I loved living near the beach, I walked the Pete daily for years, not the weekend warrior kind, the devoted owner winter and summer kind daily. There was hardly a time I missed unless I was away. Being the Golden Retriever he would swim summer or winter he wasn’t fussed and I had to start bathing him weekly as he would get that smell of wet damp dog hair that sometimes is mistaken for a boy’s room smell. But we did it and loved it.

Then I met the farmer and moved to the country to live on the land and as much as I have loved it I have developed a love / hate relationship with it. Pete also loved it here, he had freedom, other animals to be with and dams to swim in. My relationship with the beach is one of love, it is a place I find peaceful and calming and I miss it. It’s like having to answer the “favourite child question” the minute it’s asked it’s an automatic “I love you all the same ” response and I know it’s not. I feel more at home near water than I do on the land and at times like long hot summers it’s hard on everything here, the land, the soil and the animals.

Being on the land means 24/7 with your partner / husband and this is another special skill one must adapt to. Many woman know that what gets said in the cattle yards, sheep yards or pig yards stays there, they is not for the faint nor soft-hearted. But sometimes one must dumb oneself down to get the right answer before it becomes the issue.  Let the cattle out of the cattle yards is not such a simple request as I found out today. I take the ute out to the cattle yards and there is 5 lots of them locked up in different pens, be careful as the gate may be electrified, only to be discovered it was live upon touching it that it as I got a shock. I noticed the cattle have turned on the tap and the water is lapping over the gate and electricity which is making it ‘live’. I took my shirt off so I could unlatch the gate without further shocks to myself, I have no clue how much shock the cattle would have felt staring at me in my bra and jeans but the tap needed to be turned off and this gate open so the cattle could go into this paddock out of the cattle yards. Once done I could let the cattle out, then realising they were in separate pens I knew I had to look for the farmer to ask the dumb question, do I let them all out or only some of them? A dumb question or smart one depending upon what they have been put in their for. I track him down 15 kms away and ask, sometimes it’s better than the alternative, letting them out and getting sworn at for not just ‘letting the cattle out of the yards’ confusing isn’t it? They were to all be let out, back I go and walk through them to do this, one panics and jumps over the 4 foot gate to get away from me, ‘good riddance I say. I walk back to shut one of the sets of gates and as I’m doing so I happen to tread in a pile of manure in my sandals, nothing like the slippery feel of fresh manure as it flows onto your foot.

My sandal is outside washed under the hose, my foot has been scrubbed of any evidence of said manure and the cattle all ran out of the yards without a look back to see if I was still there. It started this morning with a suggestion of a cooler rainy day and has ended hot and windy. Mandy the retired kelpi – lives on my office floor now and decided today was the day she tore up Pete’s old quilt to make it comfortable for her body and I let her. He has been gone 7 months I still look for him and now I see the same look of love and devotion staring back through Mandy’s eye’s and it lifts my mood.

I see the towels waving to me from the washing line, flapping in the sun and spinning round and round in the wind and I know they are not going to take themselves off the line. The chooks are off and pecking at my sandal near the tap, that’s the last time, I don’t put my boots on to go about the farm.

Mandy

Mandy

Today is brought to you by the 3am and 4 am slaughter hour

The farmer is an animal lover and as such has cats, dogs, cattle, sheep and anything else that comes along. One day he sent me a photo of two baby foxes he saw living in our cattle yards and I banned him from bringing them home. We have a property that has kangaroos and he won’t go out and kill them because they eat minimal crops, he will occasionally shoot predatory birds that peck at baby animals that are being born so other than that most animals are welcomed into our home. I am currently hand rearing 2 calves Rosie & Delila and a Lamb – Josie who now live in my vegetable garden

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We also have the 3 lovely shed cats (called this because he found them in the shed and they now don’t live there) rescued from a freezing winter in 2009, Gatsby (a ginger cat)was rescued 2 years ago this month. All of them are desexed as I didn’t want excess of litters all over the farm and in the cold months of winter (and the hot days of summer) they live inside.

Many a night we have had parades of mice: alive and dead, rabbits: alive and dead birds alive and dead, bats 99% alive, gecko’s mainly alive that we have put outside and frill neck Lizards alive that leave alive as the cats have not worked out how to get through their tough exterior and frill when they protest. Our motto is that if we catch any of these things alive we lock the cats inside and let the animals go free outside.

Many a night I have woken to the sound of crunching and am so none fussed about it now I roll over and go back to sleep. If we hear noises we will get out of bed to try to chase the cats outside with the animal intact. Other times there is a “look at me, look at me” flinging and rolling with the animal (dead) in the spa bath. Where the cat shows us the prey and then eventually the creature is left intact and we are left to clean up the mess.

We have watched as these cats over-estimate their abilities and their prey – the farmer has seen Frankie stalking a kangaroo (as if she was ever going to catch it) we have seen Gatsby jumping in the air to catch swooping birds as if they were going to fly into his mouth, Matilda has on a few occasions stalked the chooks when we use to let them out, the chooks are confined to their pen as the working dogs try to round them up and chase them till they die.

I don’t mind it during the day but in the middle of the night I could do with out it, you know when you have to get up early, you set your alarm and you wake almost hourly hoping you don’t miss it? That was last nigh t and I was back into sleeping when I could hear a growling, at first I asked the farmer to roll over as I thought he was snoring  loudly so he did but the noise got louder and I realized it was coming from his wardrobe.

Bloody Cats fighting in the wardrobe, so I spring out of bed, turn on the lounge room light so as not to blind myself or the farmer but to shine light on the area, open the door and see nothing, I move clothes around to see if I can catch them hiding but I see nothing, so I shut the doors, stoke the fire and as I go to turn off the light I see 3 cats casually walking around the lounge room, squinting at the light with the innocent look of no it wasn’t me, I glare at them as I go to back to bed, it’s 3am. I’m back sleeping when the slow and loud growling starts up again, this time I’m cross I jump out of bed, step on the remote control, stub my toe on a laundry basket I have left in the way, go out to the fire, pick up the poker and come back to the wardrobe and one by one open the doors and thrash it about (hoping I can collect one of these cats as I do it). I look to see Gatsby’s tail disappear out of the wardrobe and run around the corner to get away and Rita slowly slink out heading towards the door. I shut the wardrobe put the poker on the floor and go back to bed, I note it’s now 4am.

Gatsby the only male

Gatsby the only male

Both of these cats go outside and as I drift back to sleep I become aware Gatsby is back in, he has jumped on my foot, shaken himself off as he is as wet as anything and flops down on my bed at my feet. When I do get up at 5am I note Matilda is standing by the wardrobe door, sniffing and I begin to think perhaps the other two were fighting over a late night slaughter. I didn’t have time to check before I left the house and I bet whatever it is will still be there when I get home this evening.

We have a spot I call slaughter corner, where some mornings we can wake up to find no evidence of the animal except a blood stained wall. We occasionally have a kidney or the bottom half of a mouse, if it’s a rabbit sometimes I get the entire gastrointestinal tract with pooh intact. Feathers of a bird are common and is the foot or tail of a rabbit. These can also be found out by the cat flap if they can’t carry it in or in the spa bath if we don’t hear them. Anything and everything is foul and I wish they would stop, once I asked the farmer “what’s with the green feathers in the corner?” without missing a beat he said “I didn’t like that grass parrot anyway!”

I occasionally say to birds, “You all need to live 1km away from the house as these cats will get you if you are closer. I feel exhausted before I even left the farm, getting home tonight will be a bit of a struggle, it is about 220km’s away.

3 cats on the car

3 cats on the car Rita on roof, Matilda in front of steering wheel & Frankie other side

Shutting up Old Broads

The farmer didn’t like my post yesterday, he thinks I have no understanding of what we do here on the farm, when it comes to drought management and animal husbandry. Having been with him for 13 years (I know a long time) I have marveled at how he manages the farm, the cattle, the sheep and the crops. I have long stated I won’t have time to learn what he has forgotten when it comes to farming, business planning and management of animals.

Why did he take offense? because he’s thinks the work he does I don’t see and when I comment it’s a criticism of his abilities and it’s not. It is far from it, he doesn’t see that I worry about the animals that I can’t help with, other than the odd assistance or (slavery as I call it) I can help with lamb marking, putting rings on tails & testicles, whilst vaccinating them, I am no good at crutching or shearing. We rely on our great mate Ronnie to come and help pick up, put up and as a team we can do over 300 in a day. It’s hard yakka, bending, lifting, drafting (I can do this as well) we manage to work together and enjoy each others company (thanks Ronnie).

I can help with ear tagging the cattle, mustering and weighing, I can’t do the ringing of testicles as the size of these animals scare me and he gets to them young enough they are only about 200 kilo so it’s not so hard. When we ear tag them we have to put them in the race, head bale them (hold their heads with metal doors) whilst I grab their right ear and pierce it and put the legislated ear tag in it. Boy they can make a large noise as they bellow in protest, it’s the same as having ones ear pierced.

I have watched over the summer months as he has gone outside to check waters in troughs and dams, if they are out of water he has to locate the problem and fix it. We spent the best part of one Christmas day – missing lunch with my family to dig up water pipes clear them and wait for the troughs to fill over the farm in 40 degree heat (104 fahrenheit). Cattle and sheep can die without water in one day in this sort of heat.

I have watched him go out and feed hay to animals when our feed has declined, I see him jumping on and off a hay trailer whilst the ute is moving slowly so as to spread out the hay to keep animals fed. He does this every day maintaining the quality of our animals and their food source. I have watched him and gone with him checking things over our 5000 acres, I have taken him drinks and lunch whilst he is sowing, reaping, raking and fencing. We have spent weekends planting up to 3000 trees per year to give animals shelter belts and to re-vegetate tops of hills that blow with sand.

I have adapted to farming and I do have a deep love of what it is I don’t see and I don’t have the passion nor the drive for all of it like he does. I rarely criticise anything he does as I am aware he drives heavy machinery, he can build a shearing shed from plans drawn up with Ronnie on a scrap piece of paper,  he can swear like a farmer (as only they can) at anything and everything, he can care deeply for small animals which is why I am hand rearing 2 calves & a lamb currently.

How to shut me up – sorry Chris it won’t happen.

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Retiring Old dogs

I come back to my blog after a long absence, I did not stop writing because I didn’t have anything to say, I left because I didn’t know how to express the last couple of months in writing. The last of the summer months were hard on the farm and upon me, losing my beautiful old Pete has been upsetting, his presence has provided 16 yrs + of comfort and assurance without him it was difficult. My mother in law did a painting of him and laminated an old shot which is now on the fridge and every time I open it I give it a pat.

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Moving into the drought and into winter certainly has us all feeling a little bit of relief and I openly (much to the farmers dislike) declare I won’t go through another drought. In fact I told a couple of friends in the supermarket on Saturday, I will move back to my house in the city. He didn’t comment till over 4 hours later and stated I shouldn’t be telling people as they will think I’m going to leave him … news is I will be for the summer. It’s a tough battle mentally watching the farmer and the farm going through drought, nothing looks fresh or green, we are lucky we have had more rain than some people we know.

With Pete gone, it has allowed us to take a breather from things, re-evaluate business and draw up another plan moving forward. I have always talked about moving to retire off the farm. It is something that we both need to agree on, I can see country communities are not great places for the elderly, especially if their families have moved away, the time to stop traveling or driving leaves many isolated and that is not how I want to be nor is here the place I wish to retire in.

I find it amazing when we talk about a plan with others, I get this comment “what will the farmer do if you retire or sell?” it offends me, when I gave up a career I loved, moved away from my daughter, friends etc  these same people never said to me “what will you do living on a farm, 50+kms away from anything, not knowing anybody” not one so as we come to moving our plan forward  I understand how difficult it may be for him, but he too can adjust like I had too.

With Pete gone we have also had time to re-evaluate our working dogs and have noticed Mandy our eldest one needs to retire, she limps on her front foot and looks sore in her back legs, many years ago she jumped in the sheep yards and dislocated her hips – we nursed her back to health and now that she is moving into being 14 or 15 it is time for her to become a house dog. I am sure it’s arthritis setting in and when she looks pained we give her medication to assist. She is transitioning to be an inside dog quite well, she comes in at night jumps on the couch and slept there quite happily for a while till she found her way into our bedroom and on the floor at night scratching for a blanket. This noise woke me up as I was worried she would be too cold and uncomfortable on the carpet, then in Bordertown I found this dog bed and purchased it. As of today Mandy is now the retired dog and today the farmer said she would have to stop traveling with him, it’s stressful  to have her sliding around the front of the Ute if he has to chase cattle, so she is now the inside dog.

Mandy in her bed

Mandy in her bed

Do we identify ourselves when it is time to retire, will we be able to look and see that retirement needs to be an option whilst we are fit, well and young enough to enjoy it? or will we be like Mandy – have that moment where you jump out of the Ute, get put inside and told that’s it, she doesn’t know she’s retired as she still wants to be with him, travel in the Ute and play the vital roll of a working dog.

Welcome to the office floor Mandy, I know I’ll enjoy your company and you can enjoy your retirement.

The Cat, The bat and the farmer

Marrying a farmer has many adventures, living and working together can lead for some interesting times and conversations. Fitting into the farming life for me has been interesting, I can help with most things and do lots but there are things I can’t do.  There are things I have taught myself to do which I never thought I would ever be in the position to have to do it.

There is the removal of spiders from houses and cars, once left to a parent or ignored, when you become a parent you have to do these things and I know “they are more scared of you than you are of them” haven’t we all heard that. It doesn’t help if you have a fear of them, regardless of how big or how small they are, they are awful looking and in my eyes frightening.

We have a house that is very active at night, with 4 cats that come in and out of the cat flap at their will, any time day or night (and they do) The Farmer has been good over the years and worn ear protection with all machinery he has used, but he seems not to have night hearing. I on the other hand can hear most things including cats running across the bedroom floor which is carpeted.

There are times when our house is busier than a shopping centre or main street of our country town with the comings and goings. Over the years we have had a range of animals alive and dead brought into the bedroom. I remember waking up one night to an unusual hissing sound (thankfully not like a snake) and not like the cats hissing at each other. I sleep with a torch by my bed so I flicked that on and shone it towards the sound and there are the four cats all standing around in a circle looking at something. I got up and saw it was a frill neck lizard, some how one of them caught it brought it inside and then it got away, so it was standing there frill up hissing at these four cats, it had no where to go, so I bent down picked it up (carefully) so it wouldn’t bite me and opened our door let all the cats out stepped back closing the door and walked the lizard still hissing, around to the kitchen door and let it go out the back, where no cat saw it. I think for the next hour they came in and out looking for it.

Recently Gatsby the ginger walked into the cat flap with a mouse in it’s mouth, casually strolled up to us, dropped it on the floor and continued on to get to the food bowl. Thinking the mouse was dead I bent down to pick it up and it moved so I had to quickly get it outside before it bite me. Amazing so casually dropped from mouth and walked off.

The farmer is good at getting most things but of late it has been me, a bunny from Rita four nights ago, which got all of the others away from the fire and into the outdoors when I threw it out side so she could continue eating it there. I check the mice they bring in though as they have been catching the little Australian marsupial and if it’s alive we let them go, they are similar in size to the mouse but have rounded ears, I chased one into my gum boot the other day and checked it was one before I let it go.

We have had bats as well, they normally are alive and as they can fly when let go they move quickly towards light, so chasing bats out side has become an interesting art form or lesson in moving quickly. Matilda or Frankie seem to find these and of course they make a noise which brings the rest in so with the release of this bat the farmer jumps up pushes the curtains back to the sliding door and opens it as wide as he can, tells me to get out (which I do) it’s 2am in the morning and chased it until it flew out. We would have made Youtube had it been caught on camera. Cats jumping, women outside in nightie holding a torch freezing and naked farmer chasing a bat out of the bedroom.

Rita, Matilda & Frankie are all sisters, Gatsby is the ring in came 5 years after them

From Top Rita, Matilda & Frankie

From Top Rita, Matilda & Frankie

Gatsby

Gatsby

The things left for others to do or follow up

Living in the country one keeps a lot of things especially long life food stuffs, freezer foods which include but not limited to vegetables, oven fries, cream, yoghurt, buttermilk and finger foods such as springs rolls, etc. It is so much easier than trying to get to the shops in a hurry. I am deft at defrosting cream etc without making it a running yellow stream of yuck.

If I run out of things it’s a 100km + round trip to get to the shops – that is of course if they happen to be open when you run out. There is no such thing as afternoon shopping in the country on a weekend nor late night (they close at 7pm). As these businesses are family owned and run and rely on local people to work in them. Most shop owners need a break from long working hours and also paying staff to stand in an empty shop does not make financial sense, but if the owner does it then they miss out on family time.

I put it out there on face book the other day – how I was looking forward to having a pie (after speaking to my sister who lives in Melbourne) it was a cold day and yes a warm pie comfort food for lunch and as the farmer had been out feeding cattle I thought he would like to come into the smell of warm food cooking. I keep things like this in the freezer for such an occasion.

I go to the kitchen put the oven on, go to the freezer pull out the packet and find it empty of pies. There was nothing in it threw the package in the bin and commented on face book how annoying that is and how I didn’t want to do the drive to purchase more, I would spend more on fuel getting there and getting back than I would to buy the bloody things, so spring rolls it was. I did mention in the post that I didn’t live with teenagers so there was no one to blame but the farmer.

But the comments from this on my face book page have been hilarious. What gets you about living with others? It’s that one thoughtless thing isn’t it that gets you going, much like going into a public toilet and finding no toilet paper in the holder AFTER you have been  (Always keep tissues in your bag or pocket). I have seen people stealing the toilet paper and I have called them out on it so they put it back.

I have had girlfriends comment on leaving the empty plate in the fridge – as if you wouldn’t notice there was nothing on it or perhaps waiting for it to be filled again? How about the stripped carcase of the cooked chicken I responded with? As if it is going to regrow somehow or even better use the bones of the wings left on the plate to fly itself to the dishwasher. We even had Tim weigh in (old friend from school only male to comment) the drink container with the last mouthful left in it. Yep like you wouldn’t notice it was left and you would get it out and pour the remnants into your cup not suspecting it is probably mixed with human saliva from when they took a mouthful out of the container. Lets face it if they leave a mouthful they never poured it into a cup to put some back.

There were comments on empty toilet rolls or that last sheet left so that you have to change it before, during or after you use it. How about the empty ice tray when you go to put ice in your drink and there is nothing there? Even my aunty has commented on a couple of sheets of paper left sitting onto of the roll. What is that ? All these things happen in the fridge, in front of people, friends and family. Are the guilty party so busy that they don’t see that others are watching? or that the smallest of effort to throw things out, think about the next person means so much more that thinking how clever you are to have left the plate empty in the fridge. One does not expect it to be washed, dried and put back into the cupboard but out of the fridge into the sink is like a miracle.

What is it in your house? it has been funny, not funny reading the answers and for those that wish to know. I have thrown out the empty packet, changed the toilet roll when I cleaned the bathroom this morning, put the empty plate in the dishwasher and turned it on, put the chicken carcase into the chook bin and have filled the ice trays for the gin I’m having this afternoon as I clean out the bookshelf and side board to rid the house of more unwanted stuff.