Archive for January, 2014

Last weeks weather and Lupo

January 13, 2014

Summer in Tasmania can be variable!  Last Monday we woke to a cool morning with fresh snow on the mountains.  Over the day we had rain, nasty gusty winds and finished with the evening being sunny and still.  Quite a variety for one day!  The gusty winds were pretty bad, we had 5 trees or tree portions come down and one last furious gust totally shredded one of our plastic carports and also did some damage to the wood framed carport attached to the shack.  (This now has us making plans for some changes, since we have to pull part of the roof off to do repairs anyway.  We actually lost power for 24 hours as there were lots of trees down on the lines.)  Then yesterday we were all sweltering during church with temperatures around 30°C, and Wednesday is forecast for 37°C which is sure to challenge us.  🙂  You never know what to expect.

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I told my dad a story about our dog, Lupo, a little while ago and he was still chuckling about it the other day when I spoke to him so I thought it might be worth sharing the tale.  Lupo is usually my shadow around the place, she likes to follow me wherever I go, which is mostly nice but occasionally annoying.  One of the highlights of her day has always been the feeding of stock in the morning which is expanded these days because we milk the cow at the same time.  She has always loved to bark a lot during the feeding, to warn us how dangerous the pigs were or to let us know that we should come out of the paddock and back to safety with her.  It was rather frustrating with all the noise, but she really did love to be there with me so I put up with it.
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Every morning Josiah and I milk Twinkles into a stainless steel bucket, then when we are finished I pour all the milk into a plastic bucket with a good fitting lid and pop it on the outside of the fence waiting for me to take it all up to the house for straining and refrigerating.  One of the doggy perks of coming milking was that Lupo gets to lick out the metal bucket once I have poured the milk out.  Just recently we weaned Blaze, Twinkles calf, and started milking twice a day.  Blaze was not at all amused that he could no longer get to his mum, and he was quite agitated for a week or two, pacing up and down the fences and calling out to Twinkles constantly.  Normally I had been turning the whole electric fence off when I went milking, but with Blaze’s behaviour I was concerned that he would try to bust through the poly wire gates that we have, so I made a point of leaving the electric fences on.  Instead I just turned off the one gate that was essential to let me into the paddock myself to do the milking.
Milking
Well, one sunny morning all was going as per normal.  I had just finished milking and popped the buckets over the fence.  Lupo was indulging herself, head deep in the bucket, while I took Twinkle’s halter off and prepared to get some hay.  Suddenly there was a desperate yelp and Lupo hurled herself backwards, landed in a heap, frantically scrabbled up and took off howling, racing flat out towards the house.  Somewhat taken aback, Josiah and I ran after her to see if she was okay, but she wasn’t stopping for anything and I couldn’t possibly keep up!  Josiah raced after her on his bike to check she was okay while I went back to the paddock and realised what had happened.  In her enthusiasm at licking out the bucket, Lupo had slowly moved it, closer and closer, until it hit the bottom wires of the -very- live electric fence.  Poor dog!  Our electric fence gives a good solid hit, and I can only imagine what it must have felt like – zapping her wet tongue and face, ears and all as her head was right in the bucket.  Poor old Loop.  I’m not surprised she took off, but what does surprise me is that she has refused to accompany me for the milking ever since.  I keep expecting the memory of the experience to fade, and her to return to her old enthusiastic routine, but it’s been about 6 weeks and it hasn’t happened yet!
In other news we finally got around to making our own ham again.  We tried a simple recipe and smoked it as well, and actually really liked it.  It came out looking a bit more like corned beef than ham.  I’m not sure if that was because the pig was older or because the meat had been frozen or what, but it tasted good anyway so it didn’t matter to us.  I am looking forward to making more ham when we do our next pig.
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We are also making some changes with vehicles, trying to rationalise what we have.  Just before Christmas we purchased a 2000 Peugeot 206 GTI, deciding we wanted a small economical modern car with more safety features for the kids to drive.  The Peugeot is lovely to drive but it has the misfortune of being black.  🙂  We subsequently sold the Toyota and more than covered the purchase cost of the Peugeot, which worked out rather well for us.  Then last week we sold our old kombi to a young fellow who is going to restore it, which is something we were never managing to find the time for.  It was a bit of a wrench to sell the kombi, as the prices of them are going up and up all the time as they become older and rarer, so we may not be able to have one ever again.  However we wanted to be sensible and we just do not have the time or the facilities to restore old cars and keep them under cover so that they will last.  Our hope now is to find a VW T3 Caravelle to replace the kombi.  Once that is done we will be considering whether or not we want to sell the old VW Wagon too.  There are no plans to sell the beetle though!  Kim is most adamant about that!!!
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We haven’t had a lot of visitors this summer, but did have one couple visit when Lindon and Debbie came and bravely stayed overnight with us.  We worked out that we hadn’t seen Lindon for about 15 years!  It was really great to catch up with them both but they had to leave all too soon – though not before they showed Lydia how to improve her trimming of her horses hooves, which was greatly appreciated.  Thanks guys – come back again sometime!

Hen of the Year – its a long story!

January 1, 2014

My Hen of the Year Award goes to the nondescript black hen in the photo.  She has no name but she’s a bit of a hero to me.  “Platinum”, the Silver Laced Wyandotte on the left comes in as runner up.  It’s a bit of a sad story, but with a heartwarming ending.

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We have had a bad year for spotted tailed quolls – or a good year I suppose – depending on whether you see it from the poultry’s point of view or the quoll’s.  Quolls are kind of like a fox that can climb trees, seriously efficient little hunters.  One has been systematically working it’s hungry way through any of our poultry that decided on the more adventurous life of roosting on the outside of the electric fence, rather than in the cages provided on the inside.  I had kind of given up on trying to do resolve it this year since we had a few feral birds that would roost 15m up in wattle trees and there was no way I could stop them.  I reasoned that most of them were destined for our bellies anyway, so ending up in a quoll belly wasn’t such a bad thing.  Then of course some of our hens decided to hide their nests and go broody in the bush.  Where possible we have moved hens with their eggs or chicks back into a safe area, but it is surprisingly hard to find where the birds are nesting in our scrubby bush.  You can walk right past them and not see them.  We even lost a couple of turkey hens who had hidden nests, poor things.

Anyway, one morning we had an Araucana hen come out of hiding with a bunch of tiny chicks in tow.  She was near the house and I thought I might be able to find where she was nesting if I watched her closely.  However it was not to be, she managed to disappear again while I was inside and I couldn’t find where she was hidden.  Hope reigns eternal and I figured I would just try the next day.  Then, in the middle of the night, I heard a loud squark.  I charged outside and was just in time to see her in her death throws with a quoll firmly attached to her neck.  He fled in the torchlight but there was nothing I could do for the hen.  Concerned for the chicks I hunted around for a while and managed to find 3 tiny fluffy little things.  What to do with them?  I really didn’t feel like setting up a brooder box at 1am in the morning so I hit on another plan.  Platinum and the black hen had been sitting on eggs which were just in the process of hatching, perhaps I could get them to adopt these newly hatched little ones as well? So I gathered them up, took them down to the chook houses and carefully shuffled them underneath Platinum.  I chose Platinum over the black girl as she is the more placid of the two hens, the black girl is very flighty – and more inclined to peck.

With a wish and a prayer I headed back to bed, but as I got back near the house I heard some sad and soulful peeping in the dark.  More hunting revealed a couple more fluffy chicks and I deposited them with Platinum as well.  This time I decided to have a drink of milk before going to bed so sat in the house for a little while before heading over to the caravan where we sleep.  Once again there was peeping in the dark, so I spend more time fossicking around in the dark finding chicks and delivering them to my patient hen in her box, and that wasn’t the last time!  Finally, around 3:30am I got back to bed, having found and delivered 10 chicks to a nice warm hen with no more peeping to disrupt my own pathway to bed.  It was cool and it rained before dawn, so I was surprised to find yet another 2 chicks looking rather lost and lonely but quite healthy when I got up the next day.  I gathered them up too and managed to put them into the box with their brothers and sisters without disturbing the hens too much.

Over the next day the two hens continued to sit on their own eggs while happily looking after their suddenly expanded family.  They competed a bit, both of them clucking at the fostered chicks to call them over to themselves.  They hatched another 3 chicks of their own.  The black hen was out and about first, so the dozen impostors who were older and more vigorous went off with her, while the 3 younger chicks, being younger and slower, stayed behind with Platinum.  It was all a great success and I was very pleased with the outcome.  The two hens continue to sleep together in their box and the chicks happily shift from one to the other of their foster mothers.

Imagine my annoyance when almost immediately yet another feral chook appeared with her own bunch of tiny fluffies trailing behind her.  One of the chicks was pretty slow moving and the hen left it behind, so we popped it under a lamp for the day to keep it warm and put it under Platinum once she had settled for the night.  She took it under her wing with barely a second thought.  She must think that this is how the whole process works now.  Lydia and I had searched hard and actually managed to find the new hens nest complete with hatched eggs so when it was good and dark, around 9:30pm at this time of year, we trooped out to catch her and shift them all to the safety of inside the electric fence.  It was rather frustrating to find that she had not returned to her nest but had taken up hiding somewhere completely different.  Grrrr!

The next couple of days were busy with the mad rush of Christmas events etc etc and I just didn’t have the time to do anything more about locating and moving the chook and her chicks.  One afternoon, when I went out to feed everything, I realised that I hadn’t set eyes on them all day.  Feeling rather guilty I started a search and sure enough I found a bunch of feathers that were pretty fresh and rather looked like they marked the demise of the mama hen.  I felt pretty bad.  The chicks must have been alone half the night and all that day and further searching failed to reveal any sign of them.  I dwelt upon it as I went back to feeding the stock.  Many possibilities crossed my mind as to their outcome, from being eaten by the quoll after he killed their mum to being taken by crows or currawongs during the day. Moving along I came to the box where Platinum and the black girl were settling in for the night.  I tossed out a handful of grain and the chicks came racing out from under the hens wings to have a snack before bed.  Chicks were everywhere scrambling over each other and ducking back under the hens with grain, and it dawned on me that there were more than the usual 16.  Sure enough, another 8 had been added to the number so 24 chicks were now comfortably snuggled up with our two foster hens!

I remembered then that I had seen the black hen that morning out and about with her chicks not far from where I found the feathers of the deceased mama hen.  She must have heard the lost chicks peeping first thing and gone out and gathered them all up.  It warmed my heart to think about it!  Such a great hen.  So since then she has been taking her 20 chicks out with her during the day.  It is a bit of a challenge to fit them under her wings at night, but Platinum is happy to share the workload and she keeps some of them warm under her too.  So, these girls have earned my appreciation and respect and a whole email dedicated to them.  🙂

We have now fenced in the large area between our two chook runs, so the mama hens can keep their growing chicks in there.  We are hoping this will mean that we finally have all our poultry under control, and that the new generation will learn to roost within the fencing rather than up whopping big trees.  Also all the adult hens are restrained within fencing too now so no-one can go and nest in the bush!  If they go broody we can choose to let them sit or to break them from the mood instead.  That is the plan anyway, we’ll wait and see what the reality brings.

I’m finishing with a family photo of us with all of our old VWs.  We are considering the possibility of selling a couple of them so I thought I should commemorate the fact that we currently own them, as the situation may not last for long.

Happy New Year

Cathy

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