A bit more building and farewell to the Dexters

The weather has certainly become warmer as the world turns.  Just the other day we were complaining of the heat and when I checked the thermometer it read 20.7 degrees.  🙂  I guess we have aclimatised to Tasmanian weather now and I rather think that if I ever return to Perth it better not be in Summer!

Since I last wrote we have had another batch of piglets, 9 this time, and they are all weaned and ready to sell as of now.  They are cute little critters.

We have also turned our last big pig (other than the breeders) into pork.  Her name was Skinny Minnie but she was neither skinny nor minnie in the end.  I got more adventurous this time when we did the butchering and kept the small intestines as well, which I have made into sausage casings.  There is a post on this blog describing how I did it with lots of pictures that may not be to everyone’s taste.  🙂  It is always interesting to learn how to do these sorts of things though, and the internet is a marvellous source of information.  Lydia is currently working on tanning a piece of pig skin.  She fleshed it and soaked it in lime to remove the hair.  The next part in the process is the soaking in tannin.  Apparently we have the best bark on our wattle trees for tanning, and so she is using that.  All of the byproducts from the process can be thrown on the gardens and will be good for them.  Chemical tanning is another matter!  It is sad that the world so often seems to end up using methods to do things that are detrimental to the environment, when other more sustainable ways are available.

When Kim is well enough he has been using his new (well, new to us) Triton workbench to start work on some kitchen drawers.  It has been a learning experience for him but he is doing a good job.  So far I have a new bench, a new rubbish system and 3 drawers, all of which is making our little shack more efficient already.  One of the drawers has been allocated to be an egg drawer, so that we can easily keep on top of what eggs we have and which are the freshest ones.  The pigs are getting lots of eggs for their dinner lately, which is a great source of protein for them.

Our poultry has been given our attention recently.  We now have a portable energiser attached to the electric netting fence for the tent dwelling chooks who we like to call the Bush Rangers.  That means that we can move them anywhere on the block.  One job that has taken up lots of our time lately has been the extension of the wooden chook houses.  We now have 6 sections 3m long and 2m wide.  Our original idea was to make all the walls as moveable panels, but after more consideration we decided to just make the roof and end walls moveable, and to keep the front and back walls fixed.  This will make rotating the chooks through the cages easier, and will mean that when there are no chooks in the sections and I have vegetables planted in them instead, that the veggies can’t get raided by any free ranging chooks or turkeys or any of the local possums, pademelons, bettongs and even sparrows if we cover the open top with netting.  At last I may be able to grow veggies again!  All it takes is to completely fence the garden in and the rest of the world out.  🙂  I have 2 of the sections set apart for veggies at the moment and my peas are coming up now.

Having more chook housing has also meant we could rearrange our chooks so that we have our pure breeds isolated and can collect our own fertilized eggs now too, for brooding or selling.  And speaking of brooding, we loaned a clucky hen to our neighbours last month and she is now the proud mother of 6 Cochin chicks.  Cochins are a large friendly chook with feathered legs that the young lass next door is planning to breed. Our own hens are not doing so well at brooding this year, we have had a couple of them desert their eggs before they hatched and one who made the eggs filthy which is not good for them.  It is pretty frustrating, especially since we bought some special fertile eggs of particular breeds that Lydia wanted.  One clutch of Silver Laced Wyandotte eggs is due to hatch today but we are not hopeful that there will be many chicks as the poor eggs got well and truly messed around.  The next clutch is due on Thursday, they are French Marans.  Fingers crossed that the hen will last the distance.

We decided last month that we needed to be rational about our cattle.  We just do not have the pasture to support much here yet and so we made up our minds, reluctantly, to sell our Dexter cow and the calf.  Of course no sooner did we decide to do that than the cow got sick and went off her hay.  I hurriedly built a little crush using three trees, one post and my old head bale so that I would have somewhere to restrain her if we needed a vet to see her.

However in the end Izzy picked up again just with some TLC and lucerne chaff, although too much lucerne can give her a belly ache so we have to be careful.  After talking about them at our homeschool group, we found a family there who wanted to buy some Dexters and the long and the short of it all is that they decided to buy our girls. That is really a blessing as we know they are going to a good home and we can even go and see them if we want to.  The plan we worked out was that they would be collected by the stud that Izzy went to before so that she can visit the bull, Maria the calf can be halter trained and the people buying them can get some cattle handling training before taking them to their own place.

And they were collected just yesterday.  The lady phoned in the morning to say she was on her way and we talked about our facilities (or lack of them – tiny crush, little homemade ramp, no yards).  She mentioned that she was mainly concerned about loading up Maria, so when Lydia and I went down to shift all the animals around (horse here, Dexters there, sooky calf wherever) we decided to try to put a halter on Maria first.  We coaxed her into my little crush and locked her in there.  She was not impressed, but it meant we were able to put the halter on.  Then we tied the rope to the corner post and let her out and she had her first halter training lesson.  She was not impressed!  There was plenty of vigorous pulling, rearing, leaping and the occasional collapse on her side.  I am so glad that we had been to the Dexter field day and seen other calves being halter trained so that I knew what to expect.  In the end she was tied up for an hour before Andrea arrived from the stud, which gave her plenty of time to learn that the rope would not let her go.

I was worried for a while that I had done the wrong thing as poor Maria was not happy with the situation and I wondered if all I had done was to upset her.  But Andrea thought it was great and it meant she was able to lead her to the trailer using the halter, while Lydia did the same with Izzy.  Not that it was an easy exercise, lots of pulling with the occasional leap and bound from Izzy and even more energetic antics from Maria (definitely more halter training lessons required), but it didn’t actually take too long. Then they went up my ramp and onto the trailer with no hassles, just more patient pulling and pushing, and it was all done. Andrea even took the ear tag to put on Maria for me.  Andrea is of the opinion that Izzy’s recent health problems stem from her putting all of her energy into milk for Maria, and losing condition herself in the process.  So getting Maria weaned and letting Isabelle have access to lots of good pasture should be the best thing for her.  I feel much easier in my mind having had her advice, and I was very pleased that my efforts in making the crush and ramp were worth while as they made the job go much smoother.  I will miss my cranky old cow though.

We still have our three sooky calves, although it is hard to call them that now that they are 11 months old.  The two steers we recently moved to a property that our neighbour is leasing and we are agisting them there.  Because the boys still remember their halter training they were really good to move, Lydia and I just led them down the road and onto the neighbours horse float.  However we have kept the heifer at home, as a companion for the horse and so that we can continue to handle her regularly so she stays quiet.  Another advantage to us of keeping this heifer over the Dexters is that we can get her mated much more easily with the bulls down the road, and there should be no need to take her off to any studs.  So we are down to 1 horse, 1 cow and 3 pigs on the property (not counting occasional piglets) so we should be able to organise them between paddocks somewhat better now.  We need to be able to rest some of the areas to give the grass a chance to grow, and we also want to put in potatoes again this year.

In other news I turned 50 last month.  I am constantly reminded that I am getting older because I have to have my glasses on so much now or I just can’t focus to read – or type emails.  Lydia made me the most delicious Black Forest Cake for my birthday.  She did it properly with kirsch and everything, it was such a treat!

The poor boys continue to struggle with their health, as does Kim, and the whole family has been hit with a particularly nasty cold this last week, but we have so much to be thankful for.  Caleb’s school is having a reunion and his friends offered to pay for him to go over for that.  He refused at first, because he is so sick, but in the end they convinced him that they will look after him and so he will be back in Albany briefly next month.  I really think he is going to struggle, but he does have good friends.  Sam is planning to be back in Albany in February next year despite his bad health too.  One of his best mates, Mitchell, is getting married.  We still have no idea where he will be staying or anything yet, but we are committed to getting him there and back.  I would love to go back to visit again sometime too, maybe it can be my turn next. 🙂

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