Thursday, 29 June 2017


 Introducing Poppy.

It's time to start thinking about training up another house cow to replace Lavender when the time comes. We're very happy with Lavender's breed - Jersey (dairy breed) crossed with Murray Grey (beef breed) - so I ordered a calf from the same breeder just as soon as we knew she (Lavender) was well again. 
As you know, she had been Love sick and we held off on our plans until we knew she was well enough to supply milk for the next four months, for the calf.
When the dairy owner phoned us with the news that a heifer had been born, we arranged to collect her when she was five days old. I'm not sure, but I think she was with her mother for two or three days, before being taken away and tied up in a small enclosure where she wasn't able to walk around much. So I'm hoping she had her mother's colostrum for those first days.
There were two heifers to choose from and when we checked their little teats, the other heifer had six little teats. That would be a problem, so I'm really glad we checked that important detail.
I discreetly slipped the tiny  homeopathic Arnica pillule (against shock) into her mouth as she was suckling my fingers, and before we lifted her into the calf carrying cage on the back of the ute.
(Some conventional farmers think I'm a little bit strange with my ideas of bio-dynamics, homeopathics and organics. Each person has their own ideas and I would never push our way of life and our beliefs onto anyone else unless they asked me about it, or wanted advice.)
It was early afternoon when we got her home and settled her into the small calf shelter in our calf yard. She had been fed in the morning, but she looked very thin and dehydrated so I mixed up a litre of my home made electrolyte drink to hydrate and settle her.
1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon honey or sugar, dissolved in 1 litre of warm water.
In some of my previous posts I have detailed how important it is not to over feed new calves, so the electrolyte drink is a perfect way to settle a new 'brought in' calf without overloading its developing belly.
In the evening she had 3/4 litre of fresh milk watered down to make it up to 2 litres.
That's my general DAY 1 treatment for brought in calves unless they have other issues like visible diarrhea. In which case I would put 2 teaspoons of garlic water into the electrolyte mix, and dilute the next feed of  half milk and half water to make 2 litres.
For the first couple of nights I like to confine a new calf to the small shed, with some dry straw to lay on. One of the reasons, apart from keeping her warm and dry,  is so that I can easily find and inspect her new fresh droppings. For this first few weeks I'll be constantly on the lookout for changes to her poo; colour, smell and texture. I'll be obsessed with poo!!

The following morning, after checking her poo, she drank her first proper feed of 2 litres of fresh milk from the calf feeder.  Then I opened the gate and let her follow me out and into the calf yard.

She discovered she had legs.... and they could move..... fast!   They could kick up in the air too. It was such fun to run from her adopted Mum (me) to the end of the yard and back again.

"This running caper is so much fun and I feel so clever. Look out Mum, here I come!"

In the next few days I'll start training her with a halter to lead, tie up, and put her head into the (small training) milking bales. If I do this now while she is small, she will respond easily, with no stress, and will be a valuable and well mannered house cow in the future.
No doubt you will see many posts about Poppy's progress in the coming months.

*The methods I use are what I have researched and learned, though trial and error in some cases, during my years of cow ownership and calf raising. I am in no way advocating that this is the only correct way, but it's what has worked for me. A lot of my actions are ruled by my gut feeling; that and constant searching for alternative and natural ways of animal health and maintenance.
By sharing what I have learned, I may be of help to other owners and animals to minimise ill health and suffering.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Sunny Winter Days and Poppies

Just 5mls of rain has fallen this June and as the average for this district is 80mls we're feeling the dryness. Clear skies and no rain, we've had some serious frosts down here in our valley too. 

My little Curry tree, a retirement gift from a work colleague, has felt the brunt of the frosty mornings. I wonder if it will rally back to life again in Spring.

New shoots on the lemon tree, shriveled..!

These sunny winter days are perfect for getting stuck into some serious garden maintenance, so I started giving this section a little trim.
I didn't take a 'before' photo of this garden, but this is how it looked three years ago during summer, with the Glory vine in full leaf.  All of the shrubs and plants were planted more than ten years ago and were getting leggy, high and wide, making it difficult to back the car out of the drive without running over plants. It had become ugly and messy.

 Then Brian came along with his motorised hedge trimmers and within five minutes it looked like this.!!

With a few wheelbarrow loads of compost from one of my compost heaps, and some waste hay from under the cow's hay rack, the beds were ready for planting up with some new plants that I'd  propagated months ago, and some cuttings from other parts of the garden.
The little red brick border that Brian made years ago, is visible once again.

 The two wood fires are burning around the clock. The kitchen stove for cooking and the slow combustion in the living room keep the old house warm and toasty. It's a drafty old place though, lots of windows and external doors with little gaps.  Wonderfully cool in summer, but a little bit cool in winter. 
Brian has had two weeks of annual leave, so the wood heap is looking healthily stacked  with chopped and split wood.

 Comfort food cooked slow in the wood oven is often on the menu during winter. 
A beef and vegetable baked concoction (stew) for dinner one night, became soup the following day. 
I always cook a bit too much. You never know when an extra mouth to feed might turn up unannounced, otherwise there are leftovers for lunch the next day.
But sometimes there's not enough leftovers for two, or however many I might need to feed, so a bit of bone broth from the freezer, tipped in and heated again makes a nourishing soup.  Cooked rice, noodles or leftover vegetables lurking in the fridge are good added too. Every soup tastes different and it's impossible to make it again exactly the same. 

A distorted view of Mulga Bill who is being very well behaved and comes to the fence for a chat at "haying up" time.

 Lavender is putting on weight and still loving her food now that she has company with whom to share it.

A most wonderful surprise arrived in the post from one of my blog buddies. Poppy seeds so beautifully presented in a decorative envelope and little note to warm my heart. She prefers I don't mention her name, but she knows who she is, so once again, many thanks!
I have scattered them in gardens all over the house yard, hedging my bets in case one garden performs better than the others. Now waiting for the rain and anticipating mystery poppies in spring.
And talking of Poppy, I will have more news for you tomorrow on that subject. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Love Sick

When any of our animals is not well or is unhappy, a cloud hangs over my world, so it's been a worrying couple of months while Lavender hasn't been herself.
At around the same time as we started on feeding out our first hay bale from the most recent harvest, she went off her food. It coincided with a number of movements around the farm, but our first thought was that she didn't like the new hay.
We brought in a bale of expensive lucerne hay, a real treat to all grass eating stock, but she wouldn't eat that either!! Her condition deteriorated  and bones started poking out where we'd never seen before.  Ribs and hip bones are commonly visible on dairy cows, but she's a dairy crossed with a beef breed, so her build has always been round with well covered bones. All symptoms suggested a sore tooth or tongue, maybe an abscess. Many phone conversations with a couple of dairy farmers with many years in the game, confirmed my suspicions.
Through all this she was still producing between ten and twelve litres of milk each day, and nothing I could do would slow down her milk production. I dropped back to milking once a day, hoping that would decrease her milk supply, but if the milk is there it must be milked out. I didn't want to dry her off completely, because I felt confident we would get her through this.
 I called the vet who's initial visit confirmed our diagnosis, but he didn't have the required equipment with him to have a proper look inside her mouth, so he was due to return on Monday this week.

Mulga Bill had finished his working holiday at Mt Crawford, where he had been for the past three months, so we picked him up on Sunday and brought him home.
After walking off the trailer and bellowing his arrival to all in the valley surrounding us, he got down to the job of reacquainting with Lavender and then got stuck into the rack of hay.
What happened next left us both standing with our mouths open in disbelief... Lavender stood next to him and started gulping down the hay as fast as she could chew.
On Monday morning she was behaving like her old self again, and still eating the hay every time I filled the hay rack.
Only one conclusion could be made, she was love sick!
Poor Lavender had been trying to tell me all this time that she was lonely, she was missing her man about the place.
Some cows are quite happy to be on their own and are better for it, especially if they have been low down on the pecking order of the herd, and had been bossed around by the other cows. Lavender had always been the lowest in our herd, and she always kept away from the others lest they corner her and start shoving her around. Cows can be very mean and nasty to each other one minute, and grooming each other the next.
It seems that although Lavender had cows to talk to over the fence on the neighboring property, she was grieving for the company of her own herd.
I called the vet on Monday morning before he set off to call on us, and explained the situation, that she seemed in good health and probably no further treatment was necessary, but we would keep an eye on her over the next few days.
I can see her filling out and at this rate she will be back to her normal weight in a short time.
What a great cloud has lifted from my world. Happy days!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Lamb....and the Red Dress

Back in May we were asked to take this little lamb by friends who had found it on the roadside. They were miles from anywhere when they spotted the little fellow, so they drove to the two nearest farm houses to ask if he belonged to them. Neither farm people wanted him, so what to do? They called me.
He was only a day or two old and was strong and healthy, so he suckled well at our first attempt to bottle feed him some cow's milk.
Ideally, I'd rather raise a number of lambs than one single, so he would learn to be a sheep and not a human; or a hen in this case!
For security sake, against foxes, we lock him in with the hens at night, so he's perfectly happy with them and thinks he is one.
I've put the word out, on Facebook and Instagram, that I will take any orphan lambs in our district, but thus far no luck in finding him a playmate.
Our ewes are due to have their lambs at the beginning of next month, July, so until then he will need to stay with us here in the house yard and hen house.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, child, outdoor and nature
A few days later, the girls arrived to spend a week with us, so you can guess which little animal got the most attention.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, mountain, grass, sky, outdoor and nature
The red dress was an op-shop find for a few dollars, and five year old Isla wore it everywhere. Not exactly appropriate farm wear, but oh well.!

Lambie got rather spoilt, but I think the girls will always remember their holiday with Granny and the lamb.
Everywhere that Isla went, the lamb was sure to go.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Casterton Kelpie Muster 2017

We feel like we're regulars at the Casterton Kelpie Muster now, after being spectators last year, we entered Meg in the Triathlon this year.
To learn more about the event and catch up on our escapades last year read here.
Brian has been training Meg for endurance for the past few months, with many kilometres around the paddocks while checking sheep every day.
She's used to jumping up and over the sheep yards and high cattle loading ramp as part of her working days but Brian built a high jump similar to what she might experience at Casterton, and we let her have a jump once or twice every day. She loved it, and we aimed at maintaining her enjoyment so she would continue her eagerness for jumping.
Funnily enough, although she knows she can jump more than 1.5metres, she never jumps over the fences and gates.
During the past year we sold our trusty old caravan, so this year we booked a little cottage in a small country town thirty minutes away from Casterton through Airbnb.

was perfect for our needs, dog friendly of course, and only 30 minutes drive from Casterton.
We loved it so much we booked it for next year too.

It was much easier and faster to travel from here in one day without towing the van, and we stopped along the way for car boot picnics.
Ha! Some might have thought it funny to see us boiling our billy next to the car on the outskirts of Penola, but it was the best cup of tea and (chicken sandwiches packed the night before), and Meg got to wander and stretch her legs.

All of the comforts of home at cosy Tuppence Cottage.

Taking part in the opening event is always a real buzz. 
The street parade.

And then it was down to business and time for competing.
50 metre Street Dash
Ready for the High Jump!! Busting to go!

 She surprised us both, and herself too, by jumping much higher than we had expected.
 1.8metres, her personal best. 
So she finished in sixth place for the street dash and sixth place for the high jump.
Wow, we were just overjoyed that she was focused enough to concentrate and complete the tasks in front of the huge noisy crowd.
Next up, and the final event of the triathlon......the Hill Climb. 

Brian was at the top, hollering her name over and over. It's so steep. The person who is catching the dog (Brian) is driven in one of the official vehicles around the road and up to the top of the hill.
The dog release person (me) is standing at the bottom of the hill, waiting until the dog hears the call and focuses on running to that call of it's master/boss.  If the dog runs through those two white squares near the lower part of the hill, a five second bonus is taken off the time.
The starter gives the OK, and as soon as Meg could hear Brian calling, she was off..!!  She ran towards the centre of the bonus markers and then veered around the edge of them...!
One dog at a time. There are many blind spots on the way up, so the caller needs to keep on hollering so the dog doesn't turn and go back down.
I knew I could not maintain that level of hollering, screeching  without ruining my throat forever, and as Brian is her official "Boss" she will run through anything to get to him.
She did it...!!! A little slow, but she kept on going until she reached him at the top.

More wonderful memories of another great fun weekend, and the fabulous people we met. 
The results sent to us the following day, not that were there to be competitive, astounded us!
Out of fifty dogs entered, twenty seven dogs finished.
Meg finished in sixteenth place..!!

Refreshed and rested after our four days away from home, we're back into life on the farm again with new vigour.  Brian has another week of annual leave, so lots of jobs are getting done around here and he's getting time to just be. To stand in the chook yard and look at the hens instead of rushing from one job to another, but not one to sit around, he's constantly busy and doing stuff. There's no chance of him getting under my feet, that's for sure. :) XX

Cheers and thanks for popping in, I have so much more to tell you, but that will have to wait.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Soap Making- Learn from the Best

I've just finished cutting up the soap that I made yesterday and as you can see, it's not necessary to go out and buy a lot of fancy and expensive equipment to make your own supply of the best soap you will ever use.
We use it for washing our hands, which get very grubby and stained, and for showering and washing our hair too.
We can make natural soaps from pure ingredients that we have at home or are cheap and easy to buy from the supermarket OR we can make elaborate pieces of artwork soaps. The choices are there for us, but I tend to stick to simple and frugal.
We kill our own meat here on our farm, so I generally base my soaps around beef tallow or lard that I've rendered down from the fat from the carcasses. I love to use a percentage of oils too because I like to experiment and try different mixtures.
Liz from  Eight Acres blog recently sent me her new soap making eBook which I can heartily  recommend to anyone wanting to have a go at making soap.

Everything you need to know about soap is written clearly with lovely big photographs. I always need pictures to motivate me, and gosh, I was motivated after reading this gorgeous book.
I never knew I could use beeswax as one of the ingredients, so this is what prompted me to whip up a batch, using beeswax, beef tallow, lard, whey and coconut oil.
Included in the eBook is the link to   Brambleberry Lye calculator which is the one I use for calculating the amounts of fats and oils to water and caustic, and fragrance.
I also learned more about "Superfatting" which always confused me until I read Liz' clear description of how it works and what it means.  Duh..!! It's simple really, but why doesn't everyone explain it as clearly as Liz does?
I love Liz's previous eBooks on Chickens and Cows, and this one is also superb, at a mere $5 it's certainly good value.
I didn't used to be a fan of eBooks, but realistically, although I love the printed book, I also don't like spending lots of money on books that increase the clutter in our home. I'm starting to move ahead with the times and find it very simple to follow them on my iPhone where lots of my recipes are too.
So if you've been thinking about making your own soap, get Liz's eBook and get started. You will never go back to using store bought soaps again; I can promise you!
I'm off to whip up another batch using beef tallow with olive oil and eucalyptus oil for the fragrance. Simple, frugal.... and the extra bars of soap in my stash will make lovely small gifts for friends who are tired of getting jars of jam.

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