Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Unexpected New Life On The Farm

Since we had our cow "Freezer 1" butchered last year we had not purchased another cow to replace her as we already had "Freezer 2" waiting in the wings and it is unlikely that we would need to have a further cow to fill our freezer before we moved to New Zealand.

So instead of buying another cow we borrowed one from our neighbour.  For a while we had a big dopey steer we called bozo and when the neighbour wanted him back to send to the sale yards he gave us an old dairy cow he had purchased as part of a group of cows.

Freezer 2 is the one at the front, Bozo at the back.
We called her Lady and she now calm and friendly around us (might be something to do with the hand feeding and treats).  We think that Lady must be really old and I am pretty sure she has no teeth left as sometimes you can hear her gums squeaking when she chews.  She arrived at the neighbours with a group of cows and calves that really should have been weaned already.  So when she came to our place I was kind of relieved for her.  I figured that she really just needed to be left to rest and retire in peace with out lots of other cows or calves trying to drink from her.
She has always been thin and no matter what we feed her she does not seem to put on weight.  We thought she was finally starting to look a bit better a few weeks ago which we put down to extra hay we have been feeding and the mineral block they have had access to for the last few months.
So you can imagine my surprise when I was out near the paddock today and I saw a tiny calf standing next to her.  I was speechless. Poor old lady had been carrying yet another calf. 
Now you might think that we just missed the signs or are a bit clueless but trust me I know what pregnant cows look like as I grew up in a dairy farming area.  I am not sure how she has managed to survive another pregnancy and the calf is very small so I am not sure how things will go from here.  She does not seem to have a lot of milk but the calf is doing all the right things to get it when she can.

We have moved them into a paddock where there is plenty of of grass so hopefully that will help with her milk production but I think we will have to keep an eye on them.

Oh boy, it has been a big week on the farm.  I am just hoping for a few calm and easy weeks as we lead into Christmas.

Have you had any big surprises like this before?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The New Girls

So yesterday I mentioned that we had gotten ourselves some extra hens so here they are.

"Did I say you could take my photo?"

"I can't hold this pose much longer"

"See I am much taller than you are"
 They are starting to settle in but there is still some division between the older hens and these new ones.  None of them have names yet and we are open to suggestions.  Your thoughts?

And our injured hen seems to be doing great.  She seems quite happy in her designer outfit and is showing no signs that anything is even wrong.

We gave her her second dose of antibiotics today and checked her wound to see how it was going since we had taken the dressing off.  It seems to be healing nicely and there is no sign of infection.  I have to go to Brisbane for a few days for work so I am glad that I will not have to be stressed about her.  I am not sure if feathers will ever grow back on the wound scar but it will be a while before we know.  Until then at least she has some sun protection from her new outfit.

Have you ever used chicken saddles?

Monday, 25 November 2013

Chicken Doctoring - Lesson Learnt

This post is not for the squeamish or the faint hearted but if you are a chicken owner you might be able to learn from our mistake and not have to go through this your self.

On my return from New Zealand I discovered that we had another batch of eggs that our bantam was sitting on turn out to be infertile so we decided to buy some more hens.  These hens were to join our second flock which consisted of 3 girls and a rooster. 
I had noticed that our rooster had been working the girls a bit hard and 2 of the 3 had lost a lot of their feathers on their backs.  We decided that the best thing to do was to remove the rooster and give the girls a chance to grow their feathers back and have a break from the rooster.

We were going to move him that night as they are in a big enclosure and we knew it would be impossible to catch him during the day.  But that night there was a huge thunderstorm and we delayed moving him.
This was our mistake.
The next afternoon when feeding them I noticed that one of the girls had blood on her back and I knew that that one extra day had been a bad idea.
That night we caught and moved the rooster and caught the injured hen.  Ohhh Lord.  It was far worse than I had expected. (See picture below)
The rooster had obviously been trying to mount her and slipped off.  There was one big scratch on one side of her back but on the other side there was a huge tear right through her skin and there was a big, I'm talking 5cm across, gaping hole where the muscle was showing through.

Oh you poor little chicken.  The guilt I felt was overwhelming and I knew that we might have to dispatch her if I could not help her.
So I retrieved our first aid kit and got out a sterile pad, antiseptic cream, antiseptic wash and a elastic bandage.
While my husband held her with her head covered I washed out the wound then very gently tried to pull the skin back over the wound.  But it would not stay and I did not have any steri strips to hold it closed.  Then Hubby tells me he is feeling faint and queasy (oh boy) so I had to send him out side for some fresh air while I carried on.  In the end I had to cover the sterile dressing in antiseptic cream and use it to cover the wound as best I could.  I then used an elastic bandage to hold the dressing in place wrapping it over her back, behind her wings and under her breast.
The whole time she stood still and was completely calm.  We then returned her to her roost in the pen to wait and see what happened.

The next day I checked on her and you would not have known there was anything wrong.  She was still the boss and eating, drinking and running around.  We were due to pick up our new hens that day and I called the breeder and told her we would take an extra one because of what had happened to our hen.  She asked about out inured hen and how she was doing.  When I said she was eating and drinking and running around the breeder thought she should be fine, but just in case she said when we picked up the other hens she would give me an animal antibiotic injection to give her.
We picked up the new hens the following day (I will introduce you to them another day) and the antibiotic injection with 2 doses, plus some chicken fashion.
So that night we changed the dressing again and I gave her the first injection into her breast.  It is a 3 day antibiotic and she will get another dose then.  

So 3 days on from the injury she is still behaving like nothing is wrong and tonight we decided to  take of the dressing as it kept slipping.  Instead she is now wearing this lovely chicken saddle that we picked up from the breeder.
The straps go under the wings and clip on with domes.
Hopefully this will stay in place a bit better but I am worried about the wound drying out too quickly.  I know wound care used to call for letting them dry out but these days I think the theory is to keep them moist. The main issue is that I have to go away in a couple of days and will not be here to keep a close eye on her so I am trying to come up with a plan Hubby can deal with (without feeling faint).  I do not really want to separate her as she is top chicken, and so far there has been not pecking at her from the other hens but it is always a concern.  I guess I just have to hope for the best.

Well if you managed to get past the yucky photo I thank you and hopefully this post will men that if any of you see your hens in the same situation you will remove that rooster regardless of the weather.  I know I will.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A New Zealand Working Holiday

At the beginning of November I headed off to NZ on my own (hubby stayed home to renovate and look ater the animals) for a working holiday on our property over there.
The plan was to fence off a 4 metre wide strip down our western boundary and plant it out with natives to get established as a windbreak.  The boundary is nearly 200 metres long and the West is where we will experience most of our strong and cold winds from, so we wanted to get some plants in and give them some time to get established before we actually move there and build a house.

Of the 10 days I was there I had set aside 5 days for solid work and the rest for catching up with family.

Day 1: 
Pose for a selfie among the long grass before starting work.  The weather was great, in fact for the job I had to undertake it was really quite hot.

The grass was thick and lush and well past my knees.  It was quite an effort to move through it and so a call was needed to the local hay making contractor to come and cut and bale it.

But the job for day 1, was to dig a cutting through the big pile of dirt near the gate way, to create a gap for the fence to go through.
Ideally we need a bobcat to come and move the entire pile but we will get that done late on.  For now it was up to me and my (wo)man power to dig through the 6 foot high pile of dirt.

The hardest part was getting through the long grass but with the pick and shovel slowly but surely I made progress and the trench got deeper and wider.  After about 5 hours of hard work the trench was pretty much finished so I called it quits.

Day 2 and I drove Dads ute up to the farm (Mum and Dad live 25 minutes away) with all the posts, wire and fencing gear on the back.  You can see in the photo below exactly how long the grass was, I almost thought the ute was going to disappear.
When we purchased the property we discovered that there was a pile of fence posts hidden in the long grass.  I turned out that there were nearly 40 in the pile and although they were only quite lightweight posts once they were alternated with some heavier ones, that I purchased, the fence would be plenty strong enough.

The first job on day 2 was to mow a clear strip down the fence line.

Once the strip was cleared it was on to pacing out the distance between posts and laying them out ready to be rammed into the ground.

The first post of many was rammed in and things progressed from there.  We worked for a few hours and then the weather closed in so we headed for home.

Day 3 saw us get most of the posts in and string the top and bottom strands of wire.  In NZ the standard fencing is an 8 strand straight wire fence with posts at 5 metre intervals.  For cattle you can leave it as is once completed but if you want to run sheep you need to add battons (small  fence posts in between the large ones).  For now we are not adding battons but we can add them later if needed.

Dad is an engineer by trade and as such everything is done with precision measurements, and a in this case a spirit level.  Needless to say the fence is perfectly straight and every post is the same height.  Dad's motto (which over the years has rubbed off on me somewhat) is do it once and do it properly, and this was certainly one of those times.

Day 4 and Mum was on hand to help out with the planting.  For the past 6 months she has been digging up and potting up self seeded natives from her garden.  Then my bother grew some for me as well so in the end there were nearly 150 plants to be planted out.

Some of the trees we planted were Cabbage Trees, Coprosmas, Five Fingers, Kowhai, Lancewood, Karo, Lemonwood, and a few others.  They are all New Zealand natives and we have mixed them up so they look more natural.  They will do well planted out together and form a good dense hedge.  Later on we will also be planting out a tall (2 - 2.5metre high) growing variety of New Zealand Flax in a solid hedge along the back of all the other plants.  We will not be planting them until the the other plants are established as Flax is quite a water hungry plant and they also establish really quickly.

The plants were all laid out and we got started with the planting.  It took the rest of day 4 and day 5 to get the 150 plants in the ground.  We don't have water at the property so we brought a big barrel of it up each day to water in the plants and Mum and Dad have been back to give them a bit more since I returned to Australia.
To help keep the weeds down and the moisture in the soil we recycled some old woolen carpet that Mum and Dad had.

Good work Mum

It was lovely to spend so much time with my parents and I am really grateful for all the help they gave me in getting this task done.  I even let them take a tea break now and again.

Time for elevenses "Come on workers break is over"
While I was there I also arranged for the grass to be cut and baled.  We got 36 large round bales that we will be selling off.  We will not make a huge amount of money for it, probably a few hundred dollars after paying the contractor to do the work.  But it is better than nothing and now that the grass has been cut we can look at running a water pipe the length of the property so that down the track we can tap into it at regular intervals.

While were putting up the fence I noticed a tree growing on our boundry and it looks a bit like a hazelnut tree but I am not really sure.



It had some buds on it and they look like the flowers on a hazelnuts but have a look and tell me what you think.
Have we lucked in with a hazelnut t

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Renovating Continues - And Then The Heavens Opened

At the end of last month we tackled the last two outside jobs (other than garden related items) on "The List".
And it seems that we timed these jobs perfectly as since completing them we have had plenty of rain in the way of afternoon thunderstorms typical for the subtropics at this time of year.

The first job we got done was oiling the deck and replacing the front steps which were a bit rotten.  After giving it  good clean with our pressure cleaner, letting it dry and covering neighboring paintwork with newspaper, it was time to get started.

Hubby did the cutting in and then it was just a matter of working as quickly as possible, a few boards at a time down the entire length.

Our deck wraps around the front of our house in a "L" shape with access at one end only so we had to be careful not to paint ourselves into a corner.

Some new front steps were added and these were also given a lick of oil.  Once I get the garden at the front sorted the welcome to our home will be much improved.

Then it was on to giving the south side of the house a spruce up.  This area of the house gets very little sun and because of our large water tanks the area remains a cool damp micro-climate all year round.  This is great for keeping cool mid summer but also leads to a build up of mould and a few of our weather boards had small patched of rot.
Job number one was to use the pressure clearer to get rid of the mould and dirt.

Job number two was to fix up any small areas of rot by chiseling them out and filling with a timber putty then sanding smooth ready for painting.

Then it was on to the painting with Hubby up the ladder and me on the ground.  It actually did not take that long to do and being on the cool side of the house made the job almost pleasant, well apart from the cutting in on each weather board.

So the south side of the house is now looking at it's best and it will just be a matter of a quick wash before we eventually sell.

Our last outdoor painting job was our side door which is the main door we use in and out of the house.  I was painted cream like the rest of the house and we had puttied up some hols so need a coat of paint.  Since we had a small amount of the blue paint left we decided it would look better blue.

I think it looks much better now.

So hopefully that brings us to the end of the major outside renovations jobs.  I know they have not been anything too noteworthy but to us they were small things we had been prepared to live with but we felt could give a potential buyer cause for hesitation.

We got all of these jobs done in the nick of time as since we finished we have had hot days with heavy rain and damp weather fairly consistently, which is normal here in the subtropics but it would not have made getting some of these jobs done possible.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Happy 40th

Hubby's older brother recently celebrated a milestone birthday and we were glad to be able to share it with him.

The birthday boy

It was an intimate affair with family and close friends sharing a BBQ and cake, a few drinks and good conversation.

The party coincided with the Brisbane Riverfire festival so we were all treated to a fireworks display (which of course we advised the birthday boy we had all chipped in for as a gift)

The birthday boy and his wife are also expecting their first child (the first grandchild as well) in March so there will be plenty more to celebrate in the near future.

What have you been celebrating lately?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Hello Free Time My Old Friend

Why is it that you seem to have more time when you are in your normal work routine rather than when you are on holiday?
I am heading back to work tomorrow after 3 weeks off and they passed in a blur.  My Mum was here for a week, then I spent 10 days in NZ, had a few productive days at home and unfortunately have also had a few days with a tummy bug (which forced me to just chill out).
While I was away Hubby renovated our bedroom in between some big days of paid work.
So there is lots to report and hopefully now I have got some time to do it.