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Our Lifestyle – July 2020

July 22, 2020

Life has moved on so much in the last few years that I decided that I really should update the original, as well as the first update, of the ‘Our Lifestyle’ post to more accurately reflect how things are now.  So, here we go….

To get to our property you come down the gravel road of Sykes Road for just over 1km.  There are cleared grassy paddocks on your right and bush on your left for most of the way.  Soon you come to a green fibreboard house on the right.  This is the home of our good neighbours the Philpot’s.  You pass their house and associated paddock and the adjoining land is ours.  You find our driveway just after the power lines that cross the road and run up our block.  The new entryway is nice and wide and the upgraded driveway is good to use.

We have a notice warning that we have dogs running free on the property…and we are not joking!  🙂

The area on the right is our fenced 4 acres, and the cows reside there, in 3 separate paddocks, restrained with electric fencing.  The ponies spend some time here too,

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while the chooks with their runs are in the top paddock section that is closest to the house, as are the vegetable gardens that need to be fully fenced to keep out the wallabies, possums, sparrows…..

Keep going up the driveway and you will pass the cleared area on the left where we sometimes think of putting a small cottage

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and then the turnoff to where our private power pole used to be on the right.

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We originally had a little workshop with a cement floor down by the power pole which we extended a lot, though without the cement floor.  Kim installed shelves for our tools and fencing gear and a table to use as a work bench.  It is full to overflowing.  Also down the path to this shed we store our collection of wood, poly pipe, tin and various oddments that may be useful one day.  It is a bit of a rubbish dump at times but it is surprising how often you go and drag things out to use for some project or other.

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Continuing up the driveway you come to a large cleared area on the right surrounded by portable electric fencing, which is where the ponies spend a lot of their time (since the fresh growing grass in the paddocks in Spring and Autumn will cause laminitis in their hooves).

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Opposite this cleared area there is a turnoff to our other neighbour Dave’s house and then the turnoff to “the manor” – both on the left,

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After the upper pony paddock you will find the container shed and workshop that Kim is in the process of doing up.

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Opposite the shed is where we park the tractor

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and where a lot of our firewood is processed,

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and behind the container shed is Lydia’s bus.

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If you follow the driveway to the end you will pass the caravan and annexe and Josiah’s bus

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and at last you will arrive at the house.

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Now by calling the building a house I am being rather generous.  In Tasmanian parlance it would be called a shack.  On the outside it is lined with rough vertical hardwood which has greyed and blackened over the years.  The more recently enclosed carport is lined with bondor panels.  It is by no means a pretty building, although we have come to regard it warmly as our home.

To enter the building you go through the sliding glass doors into what was once the carport and which currently serves as a storage room and laundry.  This room encompasses the washing machine and laundry sink (new additions), an old wardrobe that is doing time as a linen cupboard, a cupboard for cleaning materials etc, a spare freezer, vacuum cleaner, brooms, washing baskets, numerous shoes and boots, tubs of dog biscuits and a box for firewood.  The lining of the room is still a work in progress.

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There is a door off of the storage room into our toilet with it’s composting loo.

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Composting toilets may be a bit of a new idea to many of you but they work quite easily.  It is simply a large bucket inside a wooden box with a toilet seat on the top.  One uses the toilet as normal but then instead of flushing you just throw some sawdust over the works before closing the lid.  Surprisingly there is no smell and the bucket is emptied onto our multi section composting heap out the back each day where it is covered with straw.  It takes roughly 6 months to fill each section of the compost heap, at which time we start up a new section and leave the old section to sit and compost down for 2-3 years.  At the end of just one year all bacteria should have been killed by the heat of the composting process and all that should be left is rich worm laden soil.  We chose a composting toilet since we live in a karst area and did not want septic seepage into the water supply.  Also there is very little water usage required, unlike a flushing toilet.

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Another door off of the storage room takes you into the upgraded bathroom with it’s shower and spa bath.  The kitchen, laundry, toilet and bathroom water go into a leech drain which we installed that is lovely and large.

The new bathroom

The entry to the living areas of our home is through the storage room.  Firstly you step down into what we call the vestibule.  Straight ahead is the lounge and to the left takes you to the kitchen.  Above you is the loft bed.  The vestibule houses a desk with a computer, multiple shelves, a couple of dog beds and the ladder/stairs to the loft.

The loft fits a queen sized mattress and was where Kim and I slept when we first arrived.  We added an extension up there to fit a single mattress which was Josiah’s bed for a while, but is now just used as storage.  (Lydia used to lay down a mattress on the lounge room floor when we first moved here.)  The loft is now available with two single mattresses for visitors (or a blow up double bed mattress) and is also useful for the chronically unwell family members to use during the day if they need to lie down while the rest of us get on with life down below.  It is the place to be if you are cold and the fire is on as the heat rises and makes it nice and snug up there.  You can also peer out at the possums in the moonlight when they come to call.

The lounge room is warmed by a free standing wood heater, which is a very popular feature in winter.  We are contemplating replacing it with a new model sometime soon.  There are lounge chairs along the back wall and a built in desk with computer paraphernalia and some shelves on the other side.

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It is rather small and cosy but we like it, although we wouldn’t complain at all if it was larger!!  Unfortunately in winter there is absolutely no way of getting clothes dry outside, so we have run two lines across the lounge room and end up often having clothes and towels hung on these lines in order to get them dry.  This makes our sweet cosy room even more cluttered, but it is better than running a clothes dryer with our limited electricity.

I suppose I should explain our electrical system.  We are completely off grid these days and have two separate 24V battery storage systems charged by solar panels, one at the main shack and one at the caravan and annexe.  There is also a 12V system up at the manor.  We have a generator for when the power gets low, and that powers the chargers to bring the batteries back up to full power as well.  We have plans to have a micro hydro system for use in winter one day, but it has proven difficult to get the pipes laid and connected, and will not be ready for a while yet.

Kim has set the solar power system up nicely inside with the controllers, fuse box and inverter in corners of the kitchen and the caravan’s annexe.  It would be illegal for us to wire up the buildings ourselves so we have simply run power through the buildings using extension cords and power boards.  We have mounted the cables along the walls to make it as neat as possible, but it is all still all out there in open view.  It all works just fine, and we no longer really notice it.

We mainly use the electricity for lights, computers, fridge/freezers and washing machine etc, but we also have a reverse cycle air conditioner in the lounge room which we can use for cooling on hot, sunny days when electricity is free and plentiful.  Heating comes from the wood heaters, or some diesel heaters in the buses.  We have hot water coming from a solar HWS which is boosted by the combustion stove in the kitchen and a gas booster is in the system to use as well if we wish.

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The kitchen is small but essential.  We have some nice tall cupboards with a sink alongside one wall and some cupboards under the window.  The combustion stove sits in the corner and heats our water when it is fired up, and there is a gas oven as well for when the combustion stove is not in use.  There is not a lot of bench space but the table can be used for food preparation.  We have a walk in pantry that is invaluable and a lovely large fridge/freezer.

And that is it for the main house, just 3 rooms!  We carpeted the vestibule and lounge but just have bare floorboards in the kitchen.  Originally of course there was no lining, no insulation, no lights or power, no cupboards and no running water in the building at all so we have come a long way!

Sleeping happens in separate buildings.  The older boys sleep in their own shack that they fondly refer to as “The Manor”.  This shack is about 400m away from the main house, which means that, rain or shine, they have to trudge off with a torch each night up the hill through the bush to their beds.  You cannot see the manor from the house, in fact you can’t see it from the path until you are just about on the doorstep.

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Electricity for the manor comes from its own 12V system.  The boys can have lights, electric blankets and some computer and DVD use up there, and have a good sound system too.  The batteries are charged through a solar controller from a couple of solar panels in front of the manor, and they have a back up generator now as well which charges the batteries when they are getting low.

The manor has just two rooms which we have opened into one, the first larger room contains a kitchenette, bookshelves, chairs and a wood heater, while the smaller room has the beds.  We finally lined and insulated the ceiling and walls and put down a level floor with nice flooring so it is pretty nice now, although I still have some edging that I would like to put in.  Despite the building being a bit small and distant, Caleb and Sam are very fond of it and enjoy their isolated and rustic rooms.

Kim and myself sleep in the caravan and annexe (leaving the loft bed available for visitors!)  The caravan itself has a small kitchen which we don’t use as such, a bedroom with a spare bed (that was Lydia’s room for quite a while) and a tiny bathroom beyond it which has a shower and composting toilet.  The annexe has two rooms.  Kim and I use the smaller room as our bedroom and have filled it to overflowing with our water bed.  The larger room has a wood fire, desk and computers, a couple of lounge chairs and a TV screen, and is nice to hang out in.

The caravan is lovely to spread out into but it is getting on in age and tends to leak after the rain sets in.  We were constantly trying to seal leaks and eventually covered the whole thing with greenhouse plastic to keep it going for the time being.  It would be nice to build a shed over it one day to keep it reliably dry, but that is not happening in the foreseeable future.

Josiah now has an old bus as his living quarters.  We renovated the shell of an ancient electric bus to have a bedroom in the rear and a large open area with computer desk etc.  It has some slight leakage problems too, but we are managing that with a tarp over the centre over winter.  We also installed a diesel heater to help Jo get through the chilly winter days. He greatly enjoys having his own space.

Since it worked so well for Josiah, we also bought Lydia a bus of her own.  Her bus was already kitted out with polished wood cabinets, a kitchenette, a tiny toilet and shower, a small bedroom area, and a back room that was once a horse float!  We rearranged the bedroom so that Lyd could have a single waterbed in there and installed a diesel heater to keep her warm, but no doubt there is more adapting that would be nice to do one day.  For now though she enjoys having her own area, and she has enclosed an outside area for her cat to range about in.  It also houses an outside pond for her big old goldfish and has a bit of a garden in there as well.

We never seem to have enough under cover storage areas.  All of the excess things that we wish to keep are stored in plastic tubs in one of the 20′ containers of the container shed.  We hope to build some shelves in there one day to make things more accessible, and really need to have a big clean out to make more space. The other 20′ container stores our firewood.

The 40′ container along the rear of the container shed will be Kim’s new workshop.  It will be lined and have shelves and benches and there will be a sliding door directly into the carport for easy access to work on the vehicles.  Kim works so much on the cars that he now has his own private wrecking yard hidden away in the bush.

We have recently added a few small runs and houses for the corgis.  Things are in the planning stages for more purpose built kennels and dog runs for the future, assuming we continue to breed the dogs.

Our water comes from a small creek way up the back of the block and gravity feeds down to the house.  Since we improved the water pickup area we have had no problems with the water supply which is great, as we used to have to regularly pump before.

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All in all we actually find our lifestyle quite comfortable, in fact we feel quite spoilt with all we have.  The lack of space in the lounge room and the limited storage space would be our biggest complaints, along with leaks in buildings of various descriptions.  But we count our blessings and greatly appreciate the improvements we have made over the years.

There are many projects to keep us busy.  A few times a year we need to fire up the brush cutter to slash grass and bracken etc away from the fenceline, or to cut down saplings that are coming up all over the place.  Also keeping on top of thistle seems to be a never ending task.  We are constantly cutting felled trees into firewood rounds which need splitting and stacking to dry as well.

It would be lovely to build some sort of barn to store hay and stock feed in one day – preferably away from the house so that the rodents don’t feel welcome to visit.  It would be rather nice to have a covered shed to milk the cow in as well.  Upgraded chook house/garden buildings would be welcome and then too a stock ramp and some yards to go with it would be useful.  What a list!  Always lots of ideas.

Our days, while varied, tend to fall into a regular pattern.  Lydia is off to work early, so we usually don’t see her in the mornings.  Either Kim or myself are usually the next up and if it is cold we light the lounge room fire ready for everyone else to enjoy when they arrive.  Kim often returns to the caravan after breakfast as it tends to be warmer there and he reads all his internet news services and plans his day.  I will normally feed and toilet the dogs in two shifts (as two dogs don’t get along), and then go and feed the chooks and let out any who are allowed to free range.  After breakfast the cow needs to be caught and milked, after having her own portion of grain.  Certain times of the year we can choose not to milk her if we wish, and just let the calf have the milk, which gives a nice bit of flexibility.

Cathy milking twinkles

Hay gets dished out to the cattle and the ponies as well, and then the milk needs to be strained and refrigerated back at the house.  I like to do housework in the mornings if I can, and then I have the afternoon to work on one of the chores or projects.  All too often these days the older boys are too sick to do much which is a shame, and 2-3 days each week I need to go out all day to do my volunteering, so we don’t achieve things as quickly as I would like.  Of course there is shopping to be done once a week, although these days we are often having it delivered, and there are many other appointments that take us away from home, but my favourite days are when we have a couple of people well enough to really make a dent in the lists of things to do.  Then of course there is dog training to do, tea to cook, baking to do, showers to be had, washing to hung out or put away, emails to be written, research to be done, books to be read and perhaps even computer games to be played or a video to watch.  Around 8-9pm each evening we go out and lock the calf away from the house cow if we are milking, so that there will be milk for the rest of us on the following day.

Our phone here is through the computer’s NBN connection, but that seems to work quite well.  Unfortunately our mobile does not work at home, although Kim has managed to get it to work through the internet so that does help.  Lydia’s phone is with Telstra and that does work here, but their plans are very expensive so we only have the one with them.

We are 10 km away from the small town of Mole Creek with a population of around 350.  There is a small IGA supermarket in Mole Creek, a pub, online access centre, Post Office, a couple of cafes and an engineering business.  There is also a lime mine just out of town.  It takes about 10-15 minutes for us to get into town.  We usually do any extra shopping in Devonport (groceries are usually home delivered) which is 40 minutes from home travelling through Sheffield.  Sometimes we go to Deloraine instead which is 30 minutes away in the other direction.  If we need more of a city we are 70 minutes drive from Launceston.

We no longer feel as limited in the luxuries of life, and we really are quite comfortable here.  When I read books about how people lived in olden times it surprises me that we feel like we need as much as we do.  God has really blessed us with a great family and with our lovely property and, despite the limitations of bad health in many of us, we are all working well together to try to make a sustainable lifestyle.

Our Milking Cow Experience

March 17, 2018

Reading back over some of my posts I have come to realise that there are things we do that get mentioned at various times and in particular circumstances that often do not reflect the “norm”.  As time has gone by milking has become a pleasant routine and I thought it might be worth while to just go over our milking cow experiences and lay out what our normal routine has become.  I think I would have appreciated reading something like that when I was new to milking!

Our first cow was a “milky” type of Dexter called Isabelle.  We picked her up quite cheaply with her calf and were pleased to hear she had been hand milked in the past.  We were confident that we could win her trust and get her back into milking.  The long and the short of it was that she won and we failed!  Cows are stubborn creatures.  You can read about some of our experiences in earlier blog posts, but basically she never liked us and kicked like the blazes despite us trying a milking stanchion and a ‘kick-stop’ bar.

 

In the end we went on a house cow forum for advice and the general opinion was that we should give up on her and get a nicer cow.  🙂  It was good advice and we took it, and Izzy returned to her preferred life of being left alone with her calves in a paddock.

Thinking over our experience with Izzy, and later with Twinkles, I would advise anyone wanting a house cow, especially if you are inexperienced like us, to start with a hand reared calf and preferably rear it yourself – even though I realise it takes a number of years before you start milking that way.  Cows grow big and can hurt you without even meaning to, and it gives you a lot more confidence in being with your cow if you have handled it from a baby.  You can also make sure it is used to being rubbed all over and is familiar with clanging buckets, clunking crates and the sound of streams of fluid hitting the sides of containers.  If you do get a mature cow, at least be sure that it has been well handled and that it happily accepts people’s attention.

Anyway, to return to our experiences, we got Twinkles as a day old sooky calf in November 2010.  We got her from a farmer who was giving us 3 bull calves to raise up for meat, and getting a heifer in the group was a great surprise, but a welcome one. I always think of her as my gift from God, a gift I wasn’t expecting.  She was always a sweet natured girl, and more accepting of us than her two brothers.  She is a Friesian crossed with a Hereford.  That suited us well as we didn’t want a cow that gave enormous amounts of milk as we hoped to avoid constant worries about udder damage and milk fever.

We made sure to halter train her from a young age and to rub her all over on a regular basis.  That doesn’t mean we did it every day, in fact I’m sure there were weeks at a time (especially in winter) where she didn’t get much more attention than being fed daily.  Food, however, was a marvellous training tool with Twinkles.  She would always eagerly come for a bucket, and we could then put her halter on and give her a leading and handling lesson.

 

We sent her away to visit a Dexter bull as we wanted the calf to be small for her first calving.  She calved at 2 years and 3 months of age.  She prefers to calve somewhere sheltered and partly hidden so our paddock with the tea trees is perfect for her.

She was happy for us to see and touch her calf and, following the advice of Marja Fitzgerald in her book “The Healthy House Cow” we milked her twice a day from the start.  She was a bit twitchy on her first few milkings, I think it felt a bit uncomfortable and strange, but she soon settled down.  For the first few weeks of having her calf she is always obsessed with it, licks it vigorously and often hides it in the bushes while she goes off to graze.

 

Immediately after she calves we start milking twice a day.  The milk is colostrum at first, so it often ends up going to the chooks, but it is supposed to help to establish a good milk supply to reduce the pressure in the udder.  The first couple of days the calf does not take much, and if we did not milk Twinkles her udder would be quite engorged and uncomfortable.  We leave the calf with her full time for the first two or three weeks.  Gradually, over about two weeks, the calf comes into his own and starts taking pretty much all of the available milk, so once that happens I drop back to milking only in the morning and just get what I can.

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Once I hit the two to three weeks stage I start to separate Twinkles and her calf overnight.  I usually begin by pulling her out of the paddock fairly late, perhaps 8 or 9pm.  I always feel nervous the first night I do it as our fences are all electric, and I often slip down to check the calf is okay and not tangled in the electric fence.  I am pleased to say that has never happened but I would love to have a small yard or even one fence line with mesh or wood fences just for this particular job.  Anyway, by this time the pony will have met the calf and she does the job of being the “aunty” who babysits overnight while mum is away.  It does help that the calf has company nearby I am sure.  At various times we have had steers, bottle fed calves, a horse and now the pony to take on this role.  I have locked the calves into electro mesh pens in the past, but these days I just leave them in the main paddock with the pony, and take Twinkles out into the adjoining paddock overnight.  Twinkles will always come for food, and the calf is usually not concerned at her going a small distance away by this time.  They can still see each other through the fence and talk to each other and so far it has always gone quite smoothly.

The next morning at about 8:30am we start to milk again.  I offer the calf some food, ground grain or pollard (mixed with molasses if I am feeling generous).  (Auntie Pony has to be tied up or she will eat it!) It usually takes the calves a couple of weeks before they get interested in the food, but as time goes by they start to eat more and more grain and hay.  I put the halter on Twinkles and tie her up somewhere and then she gets her mixture of ground grain and minerals too.  I wait until she has finished eating before I start to milk, as otherwise she fidgets.  Originally Sam used to milk and we have even milked two people together sometimes, but now I do it all and he is just my backup.

I sit on a milk crate, usually on Twink’s right side although she doesn’t care which side I use, and briefly clean her teats with warm water and milk a couple of squirts from each teat onto the ground.  Then I get serious and start milking in the traditional way into a steel bucket.  I milk the rear two quarters first, and when they slow down I shift to the front two quarters.  I usually sing while I milk.  I started singing when I was first milking as it helped me to keep a good rhythm and take my mind off the fact that my arms were aching.  🙂  My arms don’t ache so much once I have built up the muscles, but they do if I have had a break for a couple of months.  However I quite like singing while I milk, and Twinkles likes routine so I think she likes it too.  She really does like routine!  The more I can keep to a familiar routine, the happier and easier my job is.

When I have finished milking I pour my milk into a plastic container with a lid ready to take up to the house.  Then I put a small amount of pollard or something as a treat into a container in the paddock with the calf, remove Twinkles halter, open the gate and let her back into the paddock.  She will always hurry through to the feed bowl, and the calf will hurry to her, and I can safely lock them back in again.  We do not have a lot of grass so I usually feed them all hay too.

Once the milking is over I bring the milk up to the house.  I strain it through some butter muslin into some milk jugs and put it straight into the fridge.  We do not pasteurise our milk as it rarely lasts more than a day or two before being consumed.

One advantage of milking once a day and sharing the milk with the calf with the cow is that you can just leave the calf with his mum overnight if you want to go away or not to milk for some reason. It is a nice option to have.

Twinkle’s milk supply goes up and down a bit.  Sometimes I think it depends on how recently the calf has drunk before I separated them.  I often decide how much milk I want, usually 3-4 litres, and just take that, and leave the rest for the calf.  If my portion of the milk supply starts getting low I will take it all for a while, knowing that the calf will be building Twinkle’s supply up by drinking a lot over the day.  If I still find I am not getting enough, I will start to separate the cow out earlier in the day and that usually does the trick.  By the time the calf is weaned I am usually separating them at about 5pm, and still not milking until around 8:30am.

Eventually the time comes when the calf no longer needs milk, and I would like a bit more.  I then decide that weaning time has arrived.  It seems to work out that I usually wean my calves at around 9-10 months of age, at which time they definitely don’t need the milk at all!  I have separated them a fair distance apart in the past for a few weeks, which often caused lots of moo-ing and pacing of fences.  However most recently I just left Twinkles in the overnight paddock after the milking and gave both her and the (not so much of a) calf a bit of extra food and they settled down pretty quickly.  After all they were used to being in adjacent paddocks overnight, so I guess it felt pretty familiar.  I left them apart for 10 days before returning Twinks to the normal paddock.  The calf went to try to drink, but she kicked him off and wouldn’t let him.  After a few days he didn’t try anymore.

Once the calf is weaned I no longer have the luxury of skipping milking for a day, as the cow needs milking no matter what, at least if I want to keep getting milk.  Milking also takes a little longer as I have to completely empty the udder each milking, rather than letting the calf do that for me.  I milk her right out, switching back and forth between tests, until I am getting hardly anything.  Usually I start milking twice a day for a few days, until I am confident Twinks is not going to get an engorged udder.

I have no milking shed yet, maybe one day, so I get to milk in sunshine, rain, wind and even snow!

Over the years I think that Twinkle’s milk supply has slowly increased, although her supply also reduces as time passes and as she nears her next calving.  This year she is 7 years old and I am getting about 5 litres each morning after weaning her calf at 10 months of age.  She is still not in calf at the moment, so we expect to be be milking for at least another 7 months.  I expect her supply will have reduced by the end, perhaps to 3 litres or possibly even less.  The advantage of that is that when I decide to dry her off in preparation for her next calving, she is less likely to get engorged in the process.  If her milk supply dropped to less than 2 litres a day, I would probably decide it wasn’t worth the effort of continuing and would dry her off.  Drying off, when her supply is low, is as simple as stopping milking and reducing her grain feed.  At the moment her feed consists of crushed barley, pollard, salt, seaweed meal, dolomite and meadow hay.

Getting Twinkles in calf is the next issue.  It usually takes until the calf is about 9 months of age before I can work out when she is on heat, and can try to sort out her rhythm in order to get her to a bull when she is receptive.  Our good neighbour usually has a few bulls in his paddocks and he is happy for me to take Twinks down to visit one of them when the time comes.  I often find it a challenge to know exactly when I should take her.  Bulling seems to be the one sure sign, and if I see that I will drop everything and take her for a walk down the road.  If I see less certain signs I usually mark them on the calendar and wait another 3 weeks and keep a close eye on her then.  Other signs for Twinkles are: being restless when milked, funny taste or smell to the milk (it took me years before I realised that this was caused by her being on heat, I used to think it was something she ate), mooing at the fence, her milk supply dropping for a day or two, her calf smelling her rear end and lifting his head and curling his top lip (this seems a pretty unreliable sign).  Just recently my dairy farmer neighbour told me that the time between heats reduces by one day every cycle.  I hadn’t heard that before but it may explain why I have missed catching her cycle a couple of times this year.

The walk down the road is usually a challenge as Twinks wants to run, not walk.  Then I often have to juggle gates and cattle in order to introduce her to the bull of my choice, so I usually try to take a helper along.  I am not a hugely confident cattle person, except with my own cow – and Twinkles is at her most pushy when she is on heat, but we usually manage.  Once the deed is done Twinks will always be happy to be caught for food, or even just to come home to her calf.

Twinkles first calf was a lovely little black boy called Blaze.  Just as an aside, we always put a ring on the bull calves at about 1-2 weeks of age.  They are not very comfortable with it at first, and I feel a bit mean, but it is much easier than trying to castrate them later.

Her second calf was a fawn coloured heifer who died in utero.  I should have known something was wrong when she went over time before calving.  However, when she did start to calve she was obviously having problems and it was taking way too long.  We called the vet out and she managed to pull the very dead calf out with a calf puller without too much trouble.  The vet assured us there was no problems with Twinks and that she should not have problems in the future, it was just one of those sad things that happen.  That meant we had to milk twice a day, full on from the start as there was no calf to share the milking with.  We got 10 litres each milking for the first week (the pigs were happy), then it settled down to being about 10 litres per day and dropped off more as time passed.

The third calf was a hereford coloured boy called Straight Line Stu (or Stew for short).

The fourth and current calf is a browny grey boy called Smokey.

The calves start off happy to be stroked for the first day or two, but then they quickly get nervous of us, despite having such a quiet mum.  It can be a challenge to catch them and halter train them, but it is worth doing.  I usually put a halter onto them when the cow has been returned to the paddock after milking.  At that time the calves just want to ignore me and drink from their mum, and I can generally manage to finagle getting the halter on.  Then we tie them to a tree or a fence post and start the whole training thing.  We went to a dexter training day where they showed us calves being halter trained and it was an invaluable experience, giving us an idea of what is normal (calves pulling, throwing themselves down, gradually becoming more accepting over a number of lessons, moving on to getting them to move a few steps at a time, etc.) so that were more confident to manage ourselves.

Once again this training is something we do sporadically, certainly not every day and not even every week.  Thankfully once they have learned halter training they do seem to mostly remember it, even after a long break.  I find that the calves start to regain their confidence at around 9-10 months, perhaps it coincides with weaning and starting to see me as being the main food provider?

Twinkles has not had much in the way of health problems that I can think of.  I have wormed her when she was young and also a couple of years ago when she was losing hair in a few places, but I don’t do it on a regular basis.  Izzy Had a bit of a belly ache a couple of times which I worked out was being caused by having too much lucerne in her feed.  she would look around and kick at her side with her back leg.  We gave her some warm water with molasses in it and some vegetable oil mixed in.  The oil was supposed to help to limit the gas production in her gut, and she did seem to get relief so I guess it worked.  Then of course we just watched her feed more closely and kept the lucerne content right down.

Twinkles is most relaxed with me milking her, although she can be talked into allowing others around as well but she prefers women to men.  Sam can remind her of who he is by coming armed with an apple.  Her main vice is eating the wrong things.  She likes to munch on tarpaulins, hose fittings and the hoses themselves, electric fence handles, anything plastic really.  🙂 I don’t think it is good for her so I discourage it strongly!  Otherwise she is a lovely, quiet and patient girl.  She accepts me as her mum I am sure, and is happy for me to see her calves, give her hugs or whatever other weird thing I do.  I think having her is my favourite aspect of our new lifestyle.

Well, this post has grown overly long!  No doubt there is more to say, but I think this will do for now.  I can always edit it later.  🙂

The Changing View

January 24, 2016

I like to watch the changing view across the road, looking south from our property.  I have decided to start this post and add photos to it as the seasons and events change the scene.

This is what we see on a nice day.  This was 4th November 2013.  The cows come and go.  🙂

Mersey Valley and Great Western Tiers with Snow

Covered with snow, 4th August 2015.

Snow covered paddocks and hills

 

In the morning during the bushfires 24th January 2016. We sometimes couldn’t see the closer hills let alone the mountains due to the smoke.

SmokeyView

Lovely Spring day.  September 14th 2016.  You can see the old dead tree has been cut down and removed for firewood. Also the river has moved on the flats after the floods – you can just see the white of the river rocks in the dip in the middle of the tree line.

SONY DSC

Just thought I would add a close up of the dip through to the river flats, so you can see that the river can be seen there now.  We could not see it before the floods.

Paddock, River and Mountains beyond

September 5th 2017  A not so extreme snow day.

SnowView2