Thursday, 30 August 2018

Finding Gratitude in the Everyday

It's been trying to rain all morning, and cripes, don't we need it! So I hung the washing out on the line and before I could finish pegging the last pairs of knickers, down it came.
The wet washing can hang there for days if that's what it takes.

 It's one of those kind of days when it's a bit warm for a jumper but a bit too cold to shed it completely. It was all very well until I was caught by a customer to the Farmgate stall while I was out there replenishing stock this morning. She looked at me askance whilst remaining polite, and it wasn't until she had made her purchases and driven away that I realised I may have looked slightly more weird than usual.

Even Trevor gave me a sideways glance! ;-)
The Texel rams, Bert and Ernie, have spent a week here in one of our small paddocks near the house, to eat the grass down. Trevor has the role of companion sheep, a gentleman's gentleman, if you will, so it was lovely to have chats and chin scratches with him each day.

Dear Trevor is unrecognizable from the tiny waif lamb that landed in my kitchen a year ago. Back then I promised myself, and the boss farmer, that  he would live a long and gentle life here but only if he would keep his side of the deal, and try his hardest to survive.
His merino wool is of high quality, so he more than pays his keep, which has made it easier to convince the boss farmer to keep him.

This is what he looked like then, and here is the story of Trevor 

My view from the kitchen door this morning shows the blossoms in full bloom. Soon our view of the horizon where we watch the sun poke it's way over the hills each morning will be covered by the greenery of the fruit trees and these ornamental pears.  The green leaves of the Glory vine will create more natural shade, so the harsh dry and heat of summer will be a little easier to bear.

Today's sourdough loaves were so enthusiastic they burst out of their crusts. That's the thing with natural wild yeast, you can never predict exactly how the finished product will end up.
I made apologies to one of the buyers, and charged her less than the usual rate. An hour later I received a message from her.
"I'll pay extra for split crust any time. Best loaf I've ever had, reminded me of home."  (USA)
Gosh, that made my day.
Aren't people wonderful?

Well, the wind is howling and my washing is probably across at the neighbour's paddock by now.

I hope you're also the recipient of a lovely word or two of encouragement today.  It certainly makes each day special doesn't it? Or if you're spending the day alone, I hope you can find joy in the simple things, and gratitude for the day.

Cheers and thanks for dropping in.
Sally XX


Thursday, 9 August 2018


 Soda had her visit to the vet last month and came home feeling a bit groggy. We refused the Elizabethan Collar or 'the cone of shame' opting instead for doggy dress ups to prevent her access to her spey (desexed) wound.  One of my old tee-shirts redesigned for the purpose with a few stitches here and there, and some elastic. Thankfully it's winter time, and she was comfortable wearing it for a week.
 "Keep her quiet" said the vet!   The words Kelpie and quiet don't belong in the same conversation. She slept inside for the first two nights but then, as she was too disruptive well enough, she resumed her night time sleeps in her comfy kennel wearing her oilskin jacket over the top.
We have no desire to bring any more puppies into the world. I definitely could not part with any pups knowing they would be going to farms where, presumably,  their living conditions would not be as comfortable and cosseted as they are here.

 Kelpies have this habit of crossing their front feet when lying in this position. It's the cutest darn thing!
 Soda, Alan, Meg. My constant companions.
I'm not sure if this green grass was from good fortune or just good management on Brian's part. He took the punt and direct sowed some mixed pasture seed in some of our paddocks after the first bit of rain in April. It turned out to be the right decision, and although we have had little rain since, it's the dew and light showers that's making it grow.

 Here's that Kelpie trait again. Meg is so elegant and petite, we suspect she was a princess in a past life who performed such great acts of generosity and kindness, she reincarnated as our (slightly pampered) princess.

Early this week Soda got busy and re-potted some plants for me.
What could I say? It was already done when I found her sleeping peacefully on the grass after all that hard work. I think she may have realised that this wasn't quite how I wanted it to look as she watched me sweep up the dirt, re-pot the plants and repair the damage. So far, she hasn't attempted to help out in this part of the garden again.
What merriment is going on your garden? It's almost time to get the seed packets out and start planning the spring planting.
Cheers for now,
Mind how you go,
Sally XX

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Chooks and Cows

Our chicken supply in the freezers is running low, so Brian has separated the Cornish Game meat bird hens with their own rooster.
When collecting eggs for incubating, we need to know which eggs are the ones we want to breed. We will incubate a few eggs from the layers too, (Australorps, and crossbreeds of Sussex and Cornish Game) for restocking purposes, but most of the  incubator space will be filled with eggs from the big breasted and meaty Cornish Game.  Referred to as both Cornish or Indian Game which is confusing, they are distinctive looking birds with the thickest legs I've ever seen in any of the breeds.
Brian usually does a couple of incubations during spring to supply enough of our own chicken meat to feed us for the following year.
The mish mash breeds of laying hens in the foreground, with the Cornish Game birds in the yard to the rear. Both yards have a shed which the poultry are locked in every night,  and both have runs that allow access to separate paddocks for foraging during the day.

I wasn't going to mention the shortage of rain or the unseasonable warm spring days that we've had lately, but it's difficult not to.

We are mighty grateful that we have a bit of green pasture due to small rains in April and enough heavy dew to keep things alive.  Our 'made on farm' bio-dynamic sprays and natural fertilisers have played a positive part in keeping our soils in the correct condition to hold moisture to promote growth, but oh how dry the ground has become over the past week. If we don't get a few mls of rain in the next couple of days all this green grass will dry up and die.  This would be the first time we didn't have green grass through until November. The driest year we have ever seen since long before we lived here.
If we could cut a few bales of hay in September/October from our small crop we'd be thankful, but it's not looking very likely.   Hay is going to be very difficult to source this year, and we hope our small stockpile from last year will get us through.

 Our cows have access to hay every day. Some days they don't eat much of it because there's plenty of green feed in the paddocks, but they need dry hay for bulk every day to keep their rumen (and four stomachs) healthy and operating properly.

 So as not to waste hay, we use the tractor to bring a large bale from the storage shed on the other side of the property. Once the bale is opened it stays dry in this small shed that is close to the hay rack yards where the cows come to eat every day. Their main water trough is near the hay rack too, and our cows are used to coming to the same place each day so we can keep a regular check on them.
It's manageable for me to carry hay with the pitchfork from the little shed, a few steps to throw the hay over the fence to the hay rack.
The milking dairy is also attached to this main yard, for ease of walking the cows in to be milked.

When we're heading for a dry year and we know that feed will be scarce, wise farm managers and stock owners will always sell or butcher livestock (de-stock) and manage our breeding programs by choosing not to mate up our ewes. We know we won't have enough feed to keep our animals in top condition and we don't wait for our sheep and cows to become so thin and poorly that they are good for nothing... not to mention the discomfort to the animals.
We sold off some of our cows last year while prices were still high, to decrease the burden on our land. But then when our rainfall was below average this year during the months of April and May, we made the big decision to further down size our cattle numbers.
It was a sad day when we took Mulga Bill to market last month, but when a breeder out-bid the butchers we felt a small sense of relief to know he would be living happily for another few years.
Hard decisions have to be made and smart farmers will always under-stock rather than to keep more stock than their land can hold.
After we have shorn the sheep in  October, we will also need to sort out some of the older ewes and cut our numbers back, so some will be butchered for our use (mutton, sausages and mince) and some will go to market.  If we are required to buy hay, it won't be viable to feed anything except our best breeding animals. The rest will have to go.
Our young steer that we bought, hoping to make a profit after growing him on and re-selling him, will be valued at much less now that we're going into drought, so we will have him butchered early for our own consumption; paddock feed and hay will be too scarce to grow him for a longer period.  Our house cows, Lavender and Poppy will be the only ones staying with us at this rate.
We constantly keep an eye on our cows and measure their condition score. I am pedantic about their welfare and will not tolerate animals becoming thin.
When I see skinny cows on other properties my chest tightens!! It distresses me.  It's our duty as farmers, or backyard cow owners,  to keep them in good condition, especially if we expect them to raise a calf and produce milk for our consumption as well.
There are many reasons why a cow may be skinny, but usually the problem can be treated with the correct diet, access to minerals, good hay and proper management.

  Here is a link to Liz at Eight Acres' excellent post about cattle condition scoring. Her very informative eBook "Our Experience with House Cows"  is excellent value and available to buy here

We have to accept that livestock market prices will be a bit lower during times of drought; this is the cycle of farming life. We will occasionally have our bad years but we also have our really good ones. We are a resilient lot and we will get through.

My thoughts are with the drought stricken farmers in South Australia and in the north of our country, as we saw first hand the dryness as we passed through in May and June this year.
It has been interesting to watch on ABC TV  "The 7:30 Report" this week, stories of how some of the large landowners are managing and surviving this drought. Their grit and resilience is both admirable and extremely moving, and they are managing their stock in the best way they can with the resources they have. They have been through it all before and they will get through this one too.

The only thing that will help us is rain.

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