Monday, 29 October 2012

Since we've moved everyone into Chookmahal we haven't lost another hen to the fox. The system of locking Brewster and his girls into their hoochie (the half tank at the back) gives Shadow and his flock a go at the feeder first. Once Shadow's flock are let out and Brewster's door opened he and his girls get their chance to eat. It's eliminated the morning scramble where Brewster (being the dominant rooster) drives Shadow's flock away from the food.

It' won't be long before Mamma Chickie and the two light sussex chicks can join the flock. They are spending their initial week with the door of their cage open and free range of the house yard. Next week the cage will be moved down next to Chookmahal and they will be free to come and go with the flocks.


The geese are now off the nest and hogging the stableyard. I'll continue walking them down to the dam as often as possible until they decide to stay. At least the quick bath they take down there before coming back to the stable yard has made a difference to disreputable Burke.


We are wondering what to do with Charlie. An ex racehorse formerly known as Alluvial Lass (seven starts, seven losses), Charlie is DH's girl. Unfortunately she has a permanent injury and can't be ridden, and is being agisted because she has no manners with the cattle and sheep.

With virtually no rain since autumn it's not going to be long until the agistment place runs out of grass and we have to find her somewhere else, or a new home.

DH & Charlie

Thursday, 25 October 2012

I strongly believe that we are responsible for minimising the suffering and improving the life of the animals we as a society eat or use.

I don't believe we can't do better than factory farming. Even if you don't have a farm or know someone who does, we can all eat a little less meat or support grass-fed, free range and other humane production systems. We can insist that intensive livestock systems be designed and run with the animal in mind as a living being and not a product. We can keep chickens for eggs in our own backyard, choose to buy free range and buy from farms that raise their livestock ethically. Vote with your wallet, it's what you buy that determines what they sell.

The Make It Possible campaign seeks to change the future for chickens and pigs, check it out and think about your next shopping trip. If you can't find humane alternatives ask for them. If enough people ask they will start stocking them.

Monday, 22 October 2012

It has been a terrible week. Either the fox that we have peacefully co-existed with for three years has had a change of heart or a new one has moved in. We lost six chooks over the course of the week, plus one died of old age. A little irony there. I had been beating myself up over getting casual about locking the lambing pen where Shadow's flock had their residence in a pepper tree. Then we lost more after we locked the gate and it turns out that the fox is either climbing through the mesh or climbing over.

While climbing into a pen full of angry ewes to attempt a lamb is probably still too much for a fox, the chooks asleep in the tree were an easy target. What is left of Shadow's flock are now refugees in Brewster's run. Once Brewster and his crew have gone to bed in their coop I shut the door on that (so he won't emerge at dawn and attack the refugees) and let Shadow and his lot into the pen around the coop. They are used to being in a tree so we've fixed up a few branches for them to perch on.

This pen has a hotwire along the top and the mesh is only two inch holes. There have been no losses since we started this. Since all surviving the first night Shadow and his hens put themselves to bed in the pen without urging. They seem to have figured out it's safer.


No news on the goose front. We are going to start taking one egg at a time, hopefully she won't really notice and get too upset. The eventual aim is to have her give up voluntarily. 

 Burke - looking very unkempt

 Wills on her nest


Little Edo was castrated and weighed on Friday. He was 130kg, up from 80kg when he came here a couple of weeks ago. He and the other cattle are delighted with their new pasture. Bringing them up to the fence for a brush and check over is like dragging boulders. They are about the same shape too.

Flora ... 

This should be bloat if you go by the obvious signs. Since she jogged across the paddock to get a snack I think it is merely the most full rumen I have ever laid eyes on.


The two light sussex chicks are growing like weeds. They are starting to lose fluff and gain feathers and are in the"vulture stage".


All the sheep have been drenched, the early rain and warmth bringing the barber's pole worm on quickly. The only good thing about hot & dry weather is that there is less of a worm burden on the pasture. Now that Cleo has finally lambed there are three more sheep husbandry operations for the lambing season. Vaccinate all the lambs, dock Ben and shear Cleo and Emmaline. Emmaline in particular needs it. She only has six months of fleece on her but looks like an old english sheepdog. I'll save her fleece and see if it can be spun.


The vege garden is racing along with the warmth, while I can keep the water up to it. The spinach needs harvesting every couple of days and I steam and freeze slabs of it for later when it's gone to seed. The peas are also yielding beautifully, none of the pods make it to the kitchen. The peas end up in the gardener and the shells end up in the sheep tub.

Aside from all the leafy greens, butter and green beans and borlotti beans are making a good start and onions and pumpkins are well away. As yet to get the tomato seedlings in, I've been holding out for the goose nursery to plant them in. We are now three weeks over the expected due date and I'll have to plant the tomatoes elsewhere or evict the geese soon.


This is a shingleback lizard. Also known as a bogeye or pinecone lizard. They are slow moving and while they gape and hiss at you, you'd have to be really clumsy to get bitten. Related to the bluetongue lizard, I think they are part of the skink family. Whenever I find one I relocate it further from the house so it won't get stepped on. This isn't the biggest I have moved, it was only about a foot long. They do get just a bit bigger.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Burke and Wills are still sitting. Burke is so bored he now spends his day trying to keep the sheep away from the water trough. We thought about moving Wils off the nest, but when we lifted her (at great risk to life and limb) we discovered she had three more eggs than we knew about ... and we don't know how old they are. They could very well be still good. A quandary has been entered.

The final lamb for the season has arrived. Cleo, a first time mum, went into labour on Saturday morning and after an hour it became clear she was in trouble. All the first timers this year have had single lambs and the risk with a single lamb is that it has plenty of nutrition and room to grow. It would be better to have little, slippery, pointy headed twins.

Ben wasn't. So I straightened his front legs out and eased his non-pointy big head out and he entered the world at a great rate of knots. He was also covered in merconium, so his first experience of the outside world was a warm bath while his mother murmered sweet lamby nothings at him out of the corner of her mouth while stuffing it with sheep mix. Dorpers and dorper crosses subscribe to the "Newcastle Song" * school of nutrition.

Thankfully, he's a solid, energetic young fellow who wasted no time finding the udder and Cleo has proved to be a gentle and protective mum. A pleasing end to the lambing season.

*For the non Aussies. the chorus of the Newcastle Song goes "Don't you ever let a chance go by, oh lord, don't you ever let a chance go by"

Cleo and Ben


The fence on the next door pasture has been patched and re-strained and we're about ready to put the cattle in. They all have collars and tags in case the unexpected happens. The paddock is about 20 acres, more grazing area than in my entire farm !

 Looking south from the wall between our two dams

 Taken from the same point as above, looking north

DH & youngest son organising a watering point for the new pasture


In other happenings, we still have two chickies, who have doubled in size. I am still supplementing one and a half of the triplets, the vege garden is going gangbusters, the crows are taking between two and four eggs a day (grrrr) and I resisted the urge to get some ducklings while I was buying sheep nuts on Saturday morning. They were sooooooooooo cute !!

Monday, 8 October 2012

I think the chances of goslings are virtually nil, but Wills is still sitting and turning the eggs. She's very dedicated, I hope they don't start exploding under her. Burke has given up bathing and looks very disreputable. I might march him down to the dam regardless just to make him wash up.

We have lost two more chicks, down to two now. One slipped out an improperly latched door, but I have no idea how the other one was taken, and so no idea how to prevent it. I am having dark thoughts about the crows.

Ziggy is now six months old, and it's time to think about when to wean him. I wish there was better pasture. The farm next door have said yes they are interested in renting us some pasture so that might make a real difference. We might have to set up a hot wire and a watering point, but it will be cheaper than a round bale a week.

Still no action from Cleo, I think she'll go in the next fortnight. It's time to do fecal sampling, to see what the worm burdens are. If they are not too high I can go without drenching as these dry conditions mean there won't be too many worm larvae on the pasture.


Here are some shots from the vege garden.

 Looking west from the centre of the garden (the goose area is behind the fence with the green shadecloth). On the left, the closer bed has spinach, silverbeet, cabbage and onions. The further one is comfrey and a green striped tomato. At the very end are young nectarine and apricot trees.The shadecloth along the fence rolls out over the frame to cover the plants on the hottest summer days.

 Same stretch of garden, slightly different angle. In the bed under the grapevine are green beans, butter beans, leeks, onions and asparagus.

 Facing northwest behind the grapevine in some weird sort of greenhouse is lucerne and two butternut pumpkins. The pumpkins are barely visible green blobs at the base of two poles. This area has been heavily mulched with waste hay and manure and should get some shade as the grapevine leafs up.

 Looking north down towards the centre of the garden, the point from where the previous photos were taken is just in front of the water tank. In the bed to the left are strawberries (in the cage), borlotti beans, onions and areas about to be dug in which will have zucchini.

Same point as above. In the centre bed are spinach, silverbeet, beetroot, onion, leeks, peas and a heap of different lettuce varieties. This bed gets alot of summer sun, the shadecloth on the ground will be a curtain on the frame that can be drawn over the bed if the day is going to be over about 38C.

The white sacks down the edge of the bed are potato bags, containing King Edward, Kestral and Sebago varieties. In the two double tyres along the fence are golden nugget pumpkins. Over the fence to the right are olive trees.

Still to go in are capsicums and tomatoes. I need to find somewhere that can be bird netted. Possibly the goose area once Burke and Wills give up.

Monday, 1 October 2012

It's been a couple of weeks since the last update, so I'll give a run-down of the happenings.

The geese are still sitting on six eggs. I think Burke is geting bored. This weekend was the expected due date, only a guess really. I'll wait for Wills to give up before I move them on. There's always the possibility that she didn't start really sitting until later than I thought.


The cattle are all fat as butter and swanning around like royalty. Ziggy stirred things up last Friday by crawling under a boundary fence and forgetting to come back. There was much bellowing and galloping up and down fencelines, and in the end we had to cut the fence to get him back inside.

In the process I noticed just how much grass the neighbours have, and I might approach them about renting some pasture for a bit.

Ziggy and Edo had leading practice on Saturday. Both survived the awful indignity. Ziggy even discovered that a good scratch under the chin could be had if one stood still long enough. Jack has also finally given in, but his sweet spot is, oddly enough, the underside of his tail. I pick his tail up and brush the underside of it and he starts weaving his head back and forwards with delight. It takes all sorts. Normally the tail is just a burr haven and they'd rather twitch it right out of your hands.

 Big Moo & Flora at the hay ring


The sheep have been doing fine. I am still supplementing the triplets a litte three times a day, just to make sure all grow well. Min is looking a little underweight and I think I'll sneak her a little extra food to help offset the demands of those three ruffians.

We castrated the ram lambs on Sunday. Not one of DH's favourite activities, but these little guys get going so young the alternative is to wean them at four months.

Cleo is still holding out. She had about half way made up in the udder but doesn't yet have that "over it" look the ewes get when they are about ready. Once her lamb or lambs are born everyone can be vaccinated.


The roosters, Brewster & Shadow, have started sparring, I think the spring weather has brought it on. They are very earnest about the fighting, so we have tipped both their spurs to limit the damage. The apostle birds love to dive bomb the fighting pair and they find it very hard to maintain the rage with little round grey birds swooping and jumping at them.

I brought home five light sussex chicks on Friday. We'd set Mama Chickie up in the chick run with some fake eggs the night before as she was broody and would try and return to her chosen spot unless we locked her in and got her sitting in the right nest.

When I came in with the chicks I set the carrier underneath the nest box so the peeping noises came from underneath her. Then after about ten minutes of her peering around and lifting up to look at the fake eggs I put her in the outside section of the run, stole the eggs and put the chicks in their place. She spent five minutes sitting at the top of the ramp crooning before I let her in and she took the chicks right under her wings immediately. Mission accomplished.

She's doing a sterling job, even saved four of the five from a crow attack when they got caught out in the open. She would have successfully defended all five, but just as the cavalry (DH) reached the beleaguered family one chick darted in the wrong direction and the crow snatched in and flew off at great speed. I'd been tolerating the crows stealing eggs up until now, but that one crossed a line. I think we need to take some action as they are becoming too bold.

Mama Chickie and the four remaining chicks


The cats are all busy finding the best napping spots in the warmest ray of sun. They look so content I am very tempted to join them.

Tenchi scored the jackpot with the catnip I bought to plant for them.


DH replaced the five tape gate in the forest paddock with a real gate. This should save a fair bit of time as the cattle are let out in the morning and in at night, and this meant undoing and doing up five individual electric fence handles.

In other news, we finally had some rain, 31mm. Another inch in about five days time would be really useful. The vege garden is going really well, this will be the subject of my next post.