Monday, 15 August 2016

From the Ground Up

For some time this pile of corrugated iron and timber has been sitting in the paddock. The lambs have been using it as a playground, but it has a higher purpose.

Yesterday three blokes (Hubby, Mark Humphries and Matt Cassidy from Matt's Maintenance) used all the timber from the pile and the game is now afoot.

This is where the action is all happening, Alvin has assured himself that all the ute tyres have been "addressed" and is heading back for a nap.

Getting the posts in :

Admiring the posts :

All the framing done, from the other side of the building :

The framing from the inside :

The corrugated iron will go on the roof on Thursday, weather permitting, and then I will start sorting the second hand tin for the walls.

The finished result will be a 12m by 8m cattle shelter, with room for a stall. The westerly half will be walled in, with its back to the prevailing wind, and the easterly half will be a verandah providing shade and keeping the rain out of the walled part.

And I think a small lamb playground made from pallets and a good rough and solid scratching post might be the next projects.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Another Winter Arrival

About a year ago Big Moo had a back injury and an operation for a displaced abomasum (essentially a twisted stomach). She lost the calf she was carrying at the time, and we had been weighing up whether to AI her or give her another year on the back injury. Young Erg, the lowline bull calf, took matters out of our hands and settled Big Moo just days before he went to his new home.

This is Big Moo a week ago, her operation site is about half way down her side, just behind the ribs. It has healed without a scar, excellent work from her vet, Sam.

She gave birth to a little heifer calf without much fuss or fanfare. This is her third calf, so she knows what's what. The little girl is doing well, cheeky and confident as befits the herd queen's baby. She gets the best of everything... I am sharing the milk with her to the tune of 2 litres a day, but it won't take long before she can take it all and I'll have to wait til until she's weaned.

Ngaire (pronounced Ny-ree) is a dexter x lowline. Her big brother, Ziggy, is taller than Big Moo (same cross) so it will be interesting to see if Ngaire ends up tall or wide.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Meet Tino

Another winter baby ! Having good shelter makes year round lambing safer, though lambs born in warm weather probably find the outside world less of a shock...

Shaila is quite a small sheep, Tino would be lucky to weigh a kilo. The upside of a tiny lamb is an easy birth for a first time mum. She is attentive and stands well for him, inheriting her mothering temperament from Molly. The little guy is a livewire, bouncing around on his new legs and exploring everything he can reach. He and his mum will get a couple of days on their own so that he is strong on his feet before getting among the hippos at feeding time. She will also get supplementary feeding to kickstart her milk production in the cold weather.

A few photos from the last week

Drying the washing up under a sunny window creates some temptation for Hoot ...

Big Moo is now less than a fortnight from calving. This is the side she was operated on, as you can see she healed beautifully.

A photobomb from Scully, she's a curious and smart one year old now and it might be time to teach her some tricks.

An afternoon shot from the driveway, over the cattle yards and down the valley revealed by the logging of the plantation. You can click on the photo to see a bigger version.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Big Machines

These are the machines that worked on the logging. The yellow ones build roads and stacking areas.

This one takes down the trees. It has a bit on the arm that clamps around the tree and then the whole operation from sawing through the tree, taking the branches and bark off and then stacking the log is done with the one machine by that head.

This is the head, the tree fits right in between the two wheels.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Baby of the Rains

In the middle of the recent flooding in Tassie a new lamb was born to our flock. The sheep were tucked deep in the hayshed, warm and dry, and she was a complete surprise.

Daughter of Nefertiti (and granddaughter of Cleo), Jemima picked up her grandma's caramel colouring and her Dad's  (Shiney) spotted pattern.

This is a family shot, Mum Nef at the back, big brother Tut in the middle and Jemima at front.

Copying Aunty Snip. One advantage of a family flock with all ages together is that lambs are quite quickly confident hanging out with sheep other than mum. This is at three days old, and she's out grazing with the teenagers.

Some more of the kids waiting for supper, left to right : Tut, Sunny, Shaila and Morgan. Not a great composition, but I liked the light.

Remember George ? His mum only had one teat so he was hand raised by a friend. Here he is on the day he was born.

And here he is at his new home where he will be a flock ram, with his new friend Gordon the Goat.

The most recent lamb born here was Callie, shown here with her mum Bella.

And now, with Bella on the left.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Great Weather for Ducks

Or duck-ish things ...

Last month we took delivery of a trio of geese. With any luck we have two females and a male. I probably won't know until someone starts sitting.

Back in Dubbo we had a pair of geese that couldn't find their feet if you painted them pink. They didn't even know there was a second dam for two weeks until the day they followed some ducks over the whole five metres separating the two dams. They were named Burke and Wills, as they were terrible explorers.

These guys are much more efficient and have checked their area out thoroughly. They therefore get to be named after much more successful explorers. Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth are credited with finding a path over the Blue Mountains west of Sydney to the inland plains.

Left to right : Lawson, Blaxland & Wentworth

There's been widespread flooding up and down the east coast of Australia, including Tasmania. There are blocked roads, washed out bridges and evacuations. With a 100m drop between the houses and the nearest river (the Brid River on the bottom boundary of the ex-plantation) we are unlikely to flood.

Easterly winds blow the rain straight into all the sheds and shelters, as they are designed to provide shelter from the prevailing westerlies. This means that alot more is wet and soggy than in normal rain events, but thankfully the animals have all come through ok. We even had a little ewe lamb born in the middle of it.

Trina took some photos from her back porch of the river.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

From Forest to Pasture

When we purchased this farm 78 acres of the 100 acres total was under bluegum plantation. The lease had another five years to run, so we didn't make too many plans for that area. In a suprise move the plantation owners had to wind up the company and part of that process was to harvest all the trees.

So, in February this year the harvest started and we are now in the process of turning the land back to pasture. It will take a few posts to show what is going on, today is the "before" pictures.

This is the extent of the land we're dealing with. The plantation area is edged in green, and for comparison the area we have to use at the moment is edged in blue. The red arrow points to my house, for a sense of perspective. If you click on the image you can make it bigger.

A couple of google "street view" shots from down the Sledge Track, the middle one shows some of our current pasture on the left. We have a new boundary fence since then ...

These two shots show the plantation from our main gate right before the harvest started. You can see how dry it was this summer.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Nothing Sweeter Than Honey

I'd like to introduce O X & I.

A friend sent me an ad for beehives for sale and it seemed like a good deal, so I bought three. Six boxes high (two brood, two full of honey for winter food for the bees, and two for expansion in spring). We picked them up from over at Shearwater (near Devonport) and they were stopped up nice and tight for transport thankfully !

Arriving after dark we positioned them quietly on brick plinths and were just getting the third one level when we heard an agitated buzzing coming from the first hive ... one of the kittens had pulled on the cloth that was stopping the entrance and had managed to open one end ! Luckily a quick restuffing served to head off disaster and the three hives were unstopped just on dawn so that they didn't come out in the dark and get lost.

They are in the greenhouse, where they will be protected from the wind and kept a bit warmer in winter. I've removed some panels from the back section of the greenhouse so they can come and go freely. The markings on the front (O, X & I) are a nod to the theory that they might need a little extra help at first to pick which hive is theirs as they return.

Over winter I need to get a bee suit, smoker and hive tool for my own use. I also need to set up a couple of extra boxes and frames so that there are spare parts for any breakages.

Hopefully the bees will enjoy the orchard, vege garden, flower garden and 1,000 melaleuca and blackwood trees that have just been planted (well, a few years from now when they flower anyway) and help make sure everything is pollinated well. And a little honey to share with us would be great too !

On the windy days we've had lately they have stayed inside and all is silent. As soon as there is still warm weather they are out and about, exploring and cleaning. It's reassuring to see movement after days of silent hives.

This is Roger Wilson and I checking the on the bees, the hives seem to be healthy and active. They also seem to be relatively calm as the kittens were chasing bees down at floor level and we were opening boxes up top and no-one got cranky and no-one got stung.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Red Dirt Musings

The red soil of Scottsdale is amazingly productive. Drawn from basalt rock, you can grow just about anything in it. On white animals like sheep, chooks and maremma dogs it produces an orange stain jokingly called "scottsdale rust". It does make gardening a real pleasure.

One surprise was that the old cherry tree down by the loafing shed fruited this year. I was waiting for the cherries to ripen and was losing hope when a friend told me they were white cherries and this colour was as red as they were going to get. By this point the birds had been much smarter than me and there was only a couple of kilos left, but it was a nice bonus.

I planted ten varieties of potatoes this year. A commercial potato area, the red soil is ideal. I lost alot of spuds when the soil washed away from the roots of the potato plants, allowing the top layer of spuds to turn green. Next time I will make sure to re-mound. I still managed to harvest about 40kg of  a large variety of spuds.

Sapphire, red rascal, pink fir apple, kennebec, dutch cream, kipfler, royal blue, red royale, pentland dell & burgundy blush.

Added to the range this year should be moonlight, sebago, russian banana, purple congo, russet burbank and up-to-date.

Plenty of fish in the river down at the bottom of the farm, a previous catch was a blackfish, this one is a trout.

Prepping the garden now for winter veges, adding mulch in the form of waste hay and manure from the dairy.  I'll be forming the beds up with wooden edges over the next few seasons as the weeds are just as keen to grow as the veges are.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

No Such Thing as Free Kittens

One afternoon I was working my way through the sheds looking for a hen that had gone to ground on a clutch of eggs. Standing in the middle of the hayshed I was scanning for crevices among the hay which might shelter a hen when I heard squeaking ... It was so unexpected that it took me a few minutes to realise it was ... kittens !!

Tucked at the back of some bales was a litter of four kittens, with their mother dead nearby. We suspect a snake bite or bait. A quick health check at the vet and we were the proud guardians of four 5 week old squeakers who have to be the luckiest kittens alive. If that chook hadn't hidden her clutch I wouldn't have been down to the hayshed for a month or more ...

Remember, you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here they are the afternoon of discovery (Nov 27, 2015). Love those little pointy tails !

 About a month later at nine weeks old (15 Dec, 2015)

Ten weeks old (20 Dec, 2015)

Twelve weeks old (4 Jan, 2016) with some peas, they love raiding whatever produce I bring in from the garden. Small potatoes are a favourite because they roll well !

And six months old now (24 April, 2016) and from left to right Dusky (m), Sarge (m), Possum (f) and Hoot (f).

They are all vaccinated and desexed and very social. They were young enough not to have developed a fear of people and hungry enough to be very glad to see us. Life has turned out pretty well for these little barn cats.