Archive for April, 2009


April 22, 2009

I guess some things have stood the test of time.  My internet savvy kids often load up podcasts for their iPods.  It seems such a modern day thing to do but essentially the podcasts are like radio shows that are available from the web, and they can cover all sorts of topics.  Sam regularly subscribes to a sci-fi writing one for instance.  Recently, however they have been really listening to radio shows, just via the internet and their ipods instead of by the old fashioned radio waves.  They particularly like comedy shows from the BBC and the latest favourite is “Just a Minute” where 4 people, usually comedians, have to talk for 60 seconds on a given subject without hesitation, repetition or deviation.  How many oldies out there remember that show?  Apparently it has been running for about 40 years!  The kids love it.  Their next favourite is “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue” which has been around a goodly while too, and they love to play me various sections of that show as well.  I guess when a show can be entertaining over a few generations it is doing pretty well.

Since I am writing I guess I should do a quick catch up.  It is hard to tell the original turkeys from the young ones now. In fact if we did not have leg rings on the older hens we would be battling to tell them apart.  We have been putting leg rings on the males when they display so that we can tell them apart when it comes to dinner time.  We have only eaten one young turkey so far as it would be good if they could grow a bit more.  Perhaps another month.  The one we did eat was very tasty, though a bit smaller than I had hoped.  Dressed weight was 2kg.  Of course they are not the same breed of turkey that you get in the supermarket.  Those are Big Breasted Whites which grow to a phenomenal size.  The poor things cannot breed naturally so they do AI with them, which was something I had no intention of getting involved with, I’d rather have smaller birds!


 They love free ranging and hunting insects, particularly grasshoppers.  Occasionally they stray across the road into the cow paddock and hunt over there and we have to go and herd them back.  Mind you I think they do a lot more good eating the bugs there which counters the ill effects of them snaffling a bit of clover while they are there.


Kim has been slowly improving after the car accident.  He has recently been working on cars again.  We bought a kombi with 2 motors for a song recently and Kim had to pull out the motor, fix it and reinstall it.  He actually quite enjoyed the job as he hasn’t worked on a VW motor for a while.  But it took him a bit longer with his aches and pains than it would have without.


Still the job is done as of last Saturday and we are making good use of the car already.  In the photo below we had just 10 bales of straw, 6 x 40kg bags of barley and a big bag of chaff, as well as 4 people.  Kim thinks we could fit 21 bales of hay in it if we tried.  🙂  The kombi also has the advantage of having 6 seats so we can all travel somewhere together in just one vehicle if we want to.  We hope that it will ultimately replace the ute once the trailer that we found buried in the bush on our block is renovated and put back into service.


Kim has also had to spend some time working on the passat when the speedo cable broke and it decided that it did not want to go into reverse anymore.  I am always thankful for Kim’s mechanical abilities when he just gets out there and fixes stuff like that.  Our passat for spares has paid for itself yet again with gearbox linkage parts and also a replacement speedo and speedo cable.


On the subject of cars our dear Audi is in trouble again.  It has a gearbox problem, not as serious as the trouble it had before but enough to put it off the road for a while.  Kim is pretty sure that he can fix it himself this time, but it is a matter of finding the time and taking it apart to see.  It may have to wait until the cold weather is over.  The second motor that came with the kombi is the right sort to go into our old VW wagon so that will probably be our next vehicle project.

In the garden we got out and dug up the remainder of our potatoes the other week.  We want to be able to give this section back to the pigs soon so thought it best to take out what we wanted first.  I am also busy bottling tomatoes, though most of them are from a friend’s garden rather than our own.  We did better with the vegetables this year though and are still picking fresh tomatoes from our vege plots.  We even got some capsicum grown this year as we did not have as much trouble with frost.


I had to laugh the other morning when I could see steam coming off the washing in the morning sunshine.  I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to put the washing out on the line.  I guess all too soon it will be hanging up in our tiny lounge room again.


Sam has been unwell a lot again lately with his food allergies.  We discovered that the bread improver we were using had wheat in it, which I’m sure it didn’t have in the past, but he has cut that out to see if it helps.  Caleb has also had various stomach wogs since returning from Perth but is getting better now.  The boys keep busy when they are well enough with cows, pigs and doing more fencing amongst other things.  They also love to play Futsal (indoor soccer) with their team “The Beckham Bananas”.  Lydia keeps pretty well, busy with schoolwork and chooks and dreaming of a pony.  Josiah also seems to stay pretty healthy.  He has just discovered Asterix books and keeps disappearing for an hour at a time reading them.  In fact that is what he is doing as I write.


Incidentally our homemade ham is due out of the pickle this Saturday.  Then we get to dry it and try it out.  If you don’t hear from me again you’ll know why.  🙂

Visitors and various events

April 7, 2009

We had a lovely lot of visitors last week.  On Sunday Simon and Helen and their family came around after church.  The children had been keen to meet our new cow.  We gave them the “petting zoo” tour; they got to feed the cow a carrot, pat pigs, stroke rabbits, hold turkeys and pet chooks.  All good stuff.  Then we managed to scrounge up enough tea to feed all 13 of us.

On Monday we had Keith and Judith visit.  We know them from Albany Baptist.  They brought along Margaret for another visit.  Margaret and her husband Les are now living in Devonport. not too far away.  They also brought a whole bunch of hot cross buns that we feasted upon for afternoon tea.  It turned out that Keith was another one of those who used to have pigs.  So many folk have recalled fond memories of pig keeping whenever they meet or hear about our lot.  It was lovely to catch up with them and to hear a little about how things are going back in Albany.

On Tuesday morning we had a visit from Noela who we met at the monthly community tea.  That meant we did our third tour for the week to show Noela around.  As an old hand at milking she was tempted to show us how it was done, but a stern head shake and leg stomp from Isabelle made her postpone it for the time being.  After being dragged around the block we had a nice lunch together.

Tuesday evening John arrived.  John is from America and plays an internet game that Kim and the boys play called SW mud.  Since he was coming to Australia for a holiday he thought he would like to meet some more “mudders” while he was here so he made the trip across the strait, hired a car and came to stay.  He had the honour of being our first visitor to stay in the caravan.  The caravan isn’t all sealed up yet but he didn’t let that stop him.

On Wednesday Kim took Caleb to the airport.  Caleb was making a very quick trip to Perth to attend his good mate Adrian’s wedding.  John took himself for a drive up to Burnie and back.

On Thursday Kim and John headed off to the caves in John’s hire car.  They never made it as they were involved in a head on collision on the way.  Going around a blind twisty bend John began to list to the right and sadly there was a 4WD coming the other way.  I guess since they drive on the right over in the US his automatic reaction was to pull right instead of left which did not help.  The end result was that the hire car was a write off but by God’s grace everyone was able to walk away from the accident.  The 4WD contained a family with 2 young children on holiday from Victoria and Kim was relieved to see that the kids were both in good child seats and were okay.  Kim himself ended up going to hospital for x-rays and has a cracked rib and lots of bruising.  I drove up to collect him from LaTrobe hospital late in the day.  John was okay, though a bit bruised and shocked.

Friday I had to collect carrots up north so dropped John at Sheffield to explore while I did that.  Then I took him to visit the caves later.

Saturday I made a slow trip to Launceston airport via various tourist attractions and waved goodbye to John there, and then finally got back home rather late in the evening.

Sunday Kim braved the car again for the trip to church.  He is slowly recovering but feels pretty beat up.  He has some great bruises but keeps slowly plodding along doing what he can.

Another trip to Launceston was needed when Caleb arrived back on Monday morning after surviving the midnight horror flight from Perth.  At last things are returning to normal.  🙂  I am such a homebody, I like normality!  Two trips to Launceston and two to Devonport in one week is too much for me!

Milking Mayhem

April 5, 2009

You may think us fools, but today we are celebrating over the HUGE achievement of getting about 100ml of REAL fresh cows milk.


Let me tell you of our bumbling adventures along the way to such an astounding achievement.

The first step towards milking our cow was to make a milking stanchion with a head-bale in the front.  As usual we used our main research tool of the internet to see what other people were using then we came up with a plan, scrounged materials around the block and built our very own stanchion.


Isabelle didn’t actually think that much of our creation, but food is a huge motivator and with patience and perseverance we managed to get her into it.  As always you learn things along the way and the major design flaw of this is the lack of sideways cross bracing.  If we were to make another one then we would have some angle pieces out to the side I think.

Izzy was originally a house cow but has been simply a paddock cow for the last few years and is definitely not a cuddly girl.  She will come close for a carrot but shakes her head at you when you pat her.  I’m rather glad she doesn’t have her horns anymore.  Anyway, enough waffle!  Here we finally had the cow in the head bale and so we could get her used to being touched again.  Ha, ha, we were almost there.  Visions of fresh cream on scones danced before our eyes but my oh my it is surprising how a simple cow can make you feel such an amateur!  Izzy had no intention of giving up her lay back lifestyle that easily.  When we attempted to stroke her along the side, working our way down to the udder, we discovered first hand that a cow can kick.  And boy can they kick – forwards, backwards and sideways.  Very energetically too.

Hmm, we thought.  We would really like to keep our teeth if possible.  What to do?  Someone had a bright idea (me of course).  How about we get the cow used to being touched from a distance.  I dug out a nice soft wooly headed mop and we then endeavoured to get our cow used to being touched on her side, belly and udder from a safe distance.  It is a shame that I didn’t get a picture of that for posterity – or perhaps it is just as well that I didn’t.  Strangely enough after some initial vigourous kicking the old girl settled down and began to ignore the idiots massaging her side with a mop.  Elated by our seeming success we thought we might change sides and try some more.  Bad decision.  Isabelle decided that enough was enough and she really let fly, we thought she had kicked before but she showed us that she had actually been quite restrained.  In fact she was so annoyed that she got one of her back legs right over the top of the side bar of the stanchion.  While we undid the head bale to release her she jerked the side bar off the frame and left us contemplating that perhaps it had not been such a bright idea after all.  The mop has now been banished.  It would not be too strong to say that Isabelle hates it.  I left it lying outside the paddock for a day or so and she would leer at it over the fence.  🙂

So, back to the beginning, we fixed the stanchion, adding some palings up the side to ensure that legs could not get over the top again.  Then we had to win Isabelle’s confidence again.  Carrots helped with that.


The trick was to not let her eat unless she was in the stanchion with her head through the head-bale.


Cows aren’t stupid either.  For quite a while she would have her head through the bale and be happily eating until she saw Sam put his hand up near the rope that pulls the head-bale closed.  Then she would back out again.  Sam decided to take a slower and gentler approach this time so for about a week he let her eat with her head through the bale without closing it on her.  She began to think that perhaps we were not so bad after all.


More research on the internet about kicking cows got us considering a kickstop.  It is a piece of metal which hooks over the hip and under the flank and many people swear that they are the best thing out to avoid being kicked in the head by a grumpy cow.  They are adjustable and quite cheap so we decided to mail order one.


While we waited for the kickstop to arrive we continued to get Izzy eating her tucker in the stanchion.  Sam started to lock up the head-bale while she was in there and she got quite used to that too.


She even let us stoke her head and back a bit.


Carrots and grain must be worth it.


The day finally arrived when our kickstop came in the mail.  Sadly it had absolutely no instructions about exactly how to put it on or how tight it should be or anything useful like that.  We resorted to the blog that had been recommending the kickstop’s use only to find it had disappeared.  Murphy’s Law!  Still, surely intelligent people can figure it out we thought, so we decided to just give it a go.  The poor long suffering cow was happily munching on her tucker while we fiddled around hooking the kickstop over her hip and clipping it up under her flank.  When we thought we had it about right we stood back to see if it looked tight enough.  Izzy looked around and gave a hearty kick which sent the kickstop arching through the air to land about 3 metres away on the grass.  Hmm, perhaps we did not have it tight enough.  The lure of our own homegrown milk drove us on – or perhaps it was the thought that this cow was eating heaps and contributing nothing, which was not the plan!  More faffing around followed, and once again we stood back to observe the result.  There was only one real way to see if we had it right.  Sam reached down towards the udder just as Izzy took a step forward.  Then she found that some fool had put a strange metal contraption on her side and with a buck and a kick she sent it clanging away again.  Sigh!

We stood back and looked at each other.  We really didn’t feel like trying again.  Flying metal bars seemed almost as dangerous as flying cow’s hooves!  Then it occurred to us that Isabelle had been standing quietly while we messed around hoisting this bar around her back legs so perhaps it was worth a try at just stroking her and reaching for the udder with our hands again.  And guess what – she was just fine.  🙂  We decided that that was enough excitement for one day and retired on a positive note.

The next day we put her in the stanchion and locked her head in the bale.  Sam stroked her down the side and once again was able to handle her udder without losing teeth.


He was even able to squeeze her teats and practice his milking technique.


Then, the following day, Sam was actually able to get milk.  There really was some in there!  You have no idea how thrilled we were.


Izzy has not completely changed her temperament.  She still kicks a bit, but on the whole she is better than she was.  Sam has been milking into an ice cream container and pouring that into his bucket.  It is quite a challenge to get the whole milking action happening well, but Sam seems to be getting better at it each day.


The next stage is to separate the cow and calf in the evenings.  Then instead of the small amounts of milk that we have been getting we hope to be able to get much more each morning.


Perhaps that vision of fresh home grown cream on scones may yet come true.  🙂

(For a more successful milking experience – see