Happiness is…….

20140717-101623.jpg Winter vegie harvests

20140717-102153.jpg Garden creatures – Stumpy tail lizard

20140717-102654.jpg Motherly love

20140717-102806.jpg Fresh rhubarb, ready for jam

20140717-103445.jpg Rainbows and Shadows

20140717-103842.jpg Renewable energy, Balancing Rock Farm style!

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Family long weekend

Last weekend we managed to get Cam off the farm, and Archie away from footy for a long weekend at Wye River. Wye River is down south on the Victorian coastline, not far from Lorne. Originally we were going to camp, but as we had been having so much cold, windy weather we ended up getting a cabin in a caravan park, which turned out to be a good decision.

We were actually quite lucky with the weather. When we woke up each morning it was pouring rain. So we’d have a bit of a sleep in (a treat in itself!) then head off to a cafe for a leisurely breakfast. By 10am the sun was out and we’d head off for a walk somewhere. Then, about 4pm each day the clouds rolled in, and it started raining again.

Here’s some of my favorite pics from the weekend……

20140713-173448.jpg Cam at the bottom of Sheok Falls – a 40 minute walk in from the car park.

20140713-174730.jpg My three little mountain climbers.

Some beach pics……. A couple of brave swimmers amongst them.

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Here’s a little fairy village that was on the lawn, outside our cabin.

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On the last day, we headed home via the Otways National Park. Here’s a photo of the fam doing the Treetop Walk, which is a fabulous walkway, that is up in the rainforest canopy. Bit nerve wracking for some of us, but others in the family loved it.

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And has you know, I love fungi pics, so here’s a couple from the rainforest.

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Easier to feed now!

I mentioned in the last post that we are up to five orphan lambs now, which makes it very tricky for one person to feed them. A few years ago we invested in a milk feeder that will feed 5 at a time, and we’ve used it nearly every year since. One year we actually saved 7 lambs, which was manageable because I could feed 5 with the feeder and then a bottle in each hand!

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A nosey chook in the background!!

And here’s the view from above……

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Five bottle lambs now!!

So we have five orphaned lambs now! The original one, Mischeifa, is going great. He’s grown lots, and is really fit and healthy. The second two lambs we got were named Bobby, and Boris. They were both found off by themselves on different days, and quite weak. Not sure why – we have had a few sets of triplets this year, and sometimes the weakest one can get left behind. Anyway, they both took to the bottle very quickly.

The last two I came across on the morning of the Chook Pen Disaster! It had been a terribly wet, cold and windy night, and when I found them they were very, very weak and barely alive. In both cases their mums were standing over them, urging them to get up, but I knew they wouldn’t last another hour if I didn’t take them home and warm them up.

20140707-152041.jpg Here they are in front of the fire, with Jaz keeping an eye on them while I make up their milk. You can see how weak they look! The big one I don’t think had been up since being born as he still had the orange birth fluid on one side where he was lying and the ewe couldn’t get to it to lick it off. Maybe it was a difficult birth as he is quite big. The smaller one looked to be a couple of days old.

When they are so weak like this, they can’t drink from a bottle, so I had to “tube” them. We have a special small, thin tube, that is attached to a little cup.

20140709-102530.jpg To use it, you first measure the distance from the last rib (roughly where the stomach is) to the end of the lambs mouth, so that you know how far the tube needs to be inserted. For the big lamb, it needed to go in right up to the cup, but there was a couple of cm left with the little lamb. I always grease the tube first with a bit of vegetable oil, to help it to slide down easier.

When the lamb is lying on their side their side like this you open their mouth using a finger in the side of their mouth and place the tube over their tongue, towards the back of their throat. Then you need to gently keep passing the tube through to the stomach. I usually check for signs of swallowing, which is a reflex action that even very weak lambs will do as the tube passes down their throat, and this is a good way to tell that you havn’t accidentally gone down the windpipe. Also, the lungs are closer up the body than the stomach, so you probably wouldn’t be able to get the tube down all the way, if you had entered the windpipe. Often you can also hear a weezing sound of their breathing if you are in the wrong pipe.

Once you have the tube inserted correctly you lift the cup and pour in the milk. I was actually able to catch one of the ewes of these lambs, which I always try to do if I can, so I can milk some colostrum from them. The more colostrum the lambs get the better their chance for survival. So both these lambs got colostrum for their first couple of feeds. I usually only give about 30ml for each of the first few feeds, so their stomach has time to adjust -little and often!

Depending on how weak the lamb is they may struggle and try and maneuver it out with their tongue or by shaking their head. This is a good sign – it means they have some fight in them still, but even ones that don’t, can still be saved! It usually only takes a few tube feeds and then you get a surprise when you suddenly hear a loud bleat. Before you know it they are starting to stand up, and then you can start trying to train them onto the bottle!

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Here they all are, out in the paddock. Today we are going to set up a multifeeder for them, as it is hard work feeding five lambs with bottles. It takes at least two of us, ideally three! Jasmine gives them plenty of love!

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Lambing continues…..

We had another lovely day yesterday (today is exceptionally cold, rainy and windy!! Great winter weather), so I couldn’t resist grabbing my camera as I headed out to check the lambing ewes.

Lamb photo

I love this shot of this little lamb, high on the hill. It looks like he’s all alone, but his mum was just out of shot, keeping a careful eye on him as she was grazing.

 

Twin lambs photo

A brand new set of twins. As you can see they actually come out covered in an orange film, which the ewe then licks off them, usually within the first few hours.

Lambing photo

They are pretty content overall at the moment, particularly here: warm sunshine, plenty of fresh green feed, and new babies to love!

Look away now if you don’t like gory/ unfortunate photos. This little lamb has had its tail bitten off by a fox. He obviously has a very brave ewe as a mum as she was able to frighten the fox away before he could completely drag the lamb away. We occasionally see lambs that this has happened to, not often. Usually I suspect the fox manages to drag the lamb away completely.

Twin lamb photo

The lamb on the left has the end of its tail missing, due to a fox trying to drag it away.

I managed to catch this little fellow, just to make sure that it was okay, and not injured anywhere else. Besides his tail, he was fine. He could still run around, and suckle, so I know he’ll survive. One of the lucky ones!

Its hard to gauge how many lambs we lose to foxes. We occasionally see lamb carcasses in the paddock that have been chewed on, but I suspect that they have died due to a natural cause, and the damage we see is actually the hawks, eagles or crows pecking at the lamb after it has died – getting an opportunity feed. I think when a fox takes a lamb it actually drags it back to its den, to share with the rest of its family. Overall we’re pretty happy with how it’s all going.

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Chook shed DISASTER!!!!

I couldn’t write about this yesterday, it was too stressful! I mentioned on Tuesday’s post that the weather was blustery. It turned out that it was the windiest day we had had in a very long time! So much so, that our wonderful new DIY chook pen blew over. I couldn’t believe it. I was coming back from going around our lambing ewes (with two new orphan lambs, but that can be tomorrow’s story) and as I pulled back up to the house, I was greeted with this sight…..
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20140626-143301.jpgActually I took this photo after I had walked around the yard collecting all the stuff that was supposed to be in the vegie garden half of the shed – it was spread all over the place, as was various feed and water dishes. And you can see the little chicken cage had got caught up and lifted up in the air!

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It had blown right over and was resting on its gutter and the nesting boxes. The chooks didn’t seem too phased and we’re still just pecking around as normal. In fact the roosters thought it was great because they had access to the girls again! Segregation was over!!

I texted a couple of pics to Cam, but he couldn’t get home until about 6pm, so it was dark by the time we attempted to right it again. Again the chooks were unphased, and were perfectly happy to roost on a capsized house!

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I was thinking we would have to pull it back over from out in the paddock. I had visions of it coming crashing down and falling to pieces, but clever Cam knew how to do it safely.

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As you can see, he drove the tractor right up to it, and chained it to the forks. Then it was just a matter of slowly driving backwards, and lowering the forks at the same time. Some of the chooks had decided by this time that they would wake up and get involved (complaining loudly they were, too) so while Cam was lowering their house my job was to make sure they didn’t get squished!

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20140626-145216.jpgit was still blowing a gale as we were doing this, so we left the tractor in position to stop it from happening again. This is how it still looks now! Even though the weather has calmed down I’ve been too nervous to move the tractor away, until Cam has time to drive some solid posts into the ground to anchor it down.

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I’d stacked the pumpkins on the top of the nesting boxes. All were squashed except two butternuts, and this Queensland blue ended up wedged up in the gutter!

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We still have a bit of work to do, to put the panels back in position for their yard, and straighten up the gutter so we keep collecting rain from the roof. But at least it’s operational again. I restocked the nesting boxes with straw this morning, and carted their feed and water drums back into position. The amazing thing was we still got 7 eggs from them on the day it blew over!

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Crutching the Rams

It is a blustery, wintery day here today. Cold, wet and windy! Our winter equinox was on the weekend, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that we are getting winter weather – but it makes going outside very unappealing!

We crutched our rams on the weekend, which was a job we had been putting off for a while now, so it was great to get it done.

Crutching is the process of shearing the wool off the back end of the sheep only, predominantly around the tail and in front of the hind legs. We do this for a couple of reasons – firstly, with the ewes, removing the wool around the udder makes it much easier for the new lambs to find the teat when they are first born. Secondly, and possibly more importantly when the wool around the tail gets long, it can get very dirty from faeces, which attracts the flies once the weather starts warming up. If you have ever seen a fly-blown sheep you will know how awful it is, and why we try to avoid it all cost.

The bulk of the ewes were done back at the start of April, which is the plan every year, ie just prior to lambing. We employ someone to do this for us, as it takes a couple of days to get through the entire mob. Usually we would get the rams done at the same time, but this year they were way up in a hill paddock, and we ran out of time to get them home.

Anyway we brought them home on Saturday, and crutched them on Sunday. Here’s the first one up on the board. Cam is holding it on its rump, and he’s about to bend down and shear around the tail. You can see how dirty it is  – considering he was completely shorn in November.

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We only have 12 rams, but it still takes a couple of hours as they are such big animals. So they are heavy and very hard to maneuver. It’s also a long reach all the way down to their rump! Poor Cam was exhausted after each one.

Here’s some of them with their nice clean, newly shorn bottoms!!

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Green Tomato Pickles

After my vegie garden update, I had a number of questions regarding my recipe for Green Tomato Pickles, so I thought I would do a post about it today.

I had actually never tried Green Tomato Pickles before, but we always have a jar in the fridge – that I buy – because Cam loves it on sandwiches with cold left over lamb. It always looked a bit off putting to me! Anyway we had all these green tomatoes in the garden , so I thought why not give it a go. The recipe I found is quite an easy one, that uses a bottle of Wilds Ezy Sauce, which is a product made in Australia, that has a nice mix of vinegar and spices, great for adding to sauces.

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So here’s the first lot of ingredients in the big pot….
5.5kg green tomatoes
2kg onions
1/2 cup salt
You mix all this around in the pot and leave to sit overnight. By morning there is a lot of juice in the bottom of the pot. Bring it all to the boil, then add 1.5kg sugar and the bottle of Ezy Sauce.
Simmer this uncovered for 2 hours. The first hour is fine, but by the second hour you really need to watch it and stir frequently as it sticks and burns if you’re not careful.
After 2 hours, I mixed:
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp cornflour (corn starch)
2 tsp turmeric
With a small amount of water to make a smooth paste, then added it gradually,stirring it in quickly. Cooked it for a further 10 minutes, then filled hot sterilized jars and sealed them.

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As well as what you can see here, there is another very large jar in the fridge that we are using, and I have given one away already. I’m amazed at how good it is. For lunch one day we had it with cold lamb and fresh hot bread, straight out of the bread machine. Another day I spread it on bread then topped it with cheese and cooked it under the griller. Yummo!

The recipe I used called for sliced tomatoes and onions. Next time I will chop them smaller, as it’s quite lumpy, not ideal for sandwiches. And I’ve since found an alternative mixture, if you can’t get Wilds ezy sauce.
350ml vinegar
Black pepper, cloves, chilli – to your taste.

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Vegie Garden Update

We’ve been having some very wintery weather here these last few days. It’s been quite nice actually, because the first two weeks of winter were very mild. Today we have had almost non-stop drizzly rain and cold, cold winds.

With lambing well and truly underway, the vegie garden has not got a lot of attention lately.

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I’ve picked the last of the pumpkins. The butternuts have been ripe and have been turned into some wonderful pumpkin soup already. I hope the Queensland Blues will be ready also.

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I’ve also been picking leeks and some rogue potatoes. The last of the tomatoes that were ripe were bottled and stored away, and I made some green tomato pickles out of a large stash of unripe ones that were still on the vines. I’ve picked the lower leaves from the brussel sprouts to give the developing sprouts room to grow, and laid the leaves out down the rows of onions to try and kill off the grass weeds that are growing between the rows. You can see this in the photo above.

The boys and I had a bit of a working bee on the weekend. Here’s Archie planting the garlic.

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I usually plant two full bulbs of garlic, which yields at least 20 plants. This keeps us going for about 6 months. If I get time I will plant some more in the next couple of weeks, as it stores really well so long as I let it dry out properly.

While Archie was planting garlic, Danny and I were preparing the beds for the potatoes. Danny never feels the cold. Archie and I were in coats and beanies – Danny, shorts and t’shirt!

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And here’s Archie planting the potatoes.

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This year we’ve planted Dutch Creme potatoes. I haven’t planted them before, but the packet said they were a good all rounder, suitable for mashing, roasting and baking.

We’re still picking lots of celery, spinach, silver beet, broccoli and leeks. I made a great soup on the weekend with pumpkin, celery and leek.

I covered the capsicum bushes a couple of months ago, with a big tunnel of plastic, as I’d heard that if they don’t get frosted they can be biennial. Besides running a bit of water under the plastic I have pretty much ignored them. But today I had a peak underneath, and this is what I found…..

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I’d love to know what everyone else has in their garden at this time of the year!

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Lambing Underway

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Our ewes started lambing about three weeks ago. They are actually due to start on the 1st June ( because we put the rams in on New Years Day, and they have a 6 month gestation period). However they always seem to start about a week early.

I try and get around the ewes at least once a day. I look for things like ewes that are having trouble lambing, or lambs that have got separated from their mums or lambs that are weak. Also, because we are quite hilly often the big, heavily pregnant ewes will lie down, and get themselves cast on their backs and we have to tip them back onto their feet and steady them until they get their balance again. If left cast for too long they get week, and aren’t able to right themselves again, and have to be put down. Mostly so far it’s been rather uneventful which is good.

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We have found one weak lamb, that was a twin that wasn’t getting enough milk. By the time we’d found it, it wasn’t able to stand up and was very cold. We brought it back to the house and bundled it up beside the fire. Luckily it was still strong enough to suckle, so it could drink from a bottle with just a little encouragement. Sometimes, when they are too weak, we have to tube the milk into them, which is an easy process and usually quite successful. Anyway this little one is now going great, and been named Mischeifa (don’t ask me why that name) by middle child Danny.

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Of course, Shed Cat always has to be part of the action!

 

 

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