Posts Tagged With: rural living

Milk Fever in our Ewes

Milk fever, or hypocalcaemia is a metabolic disorder (calcium deficiency) that sheep, cattle and goats are susceptible to, usually in late pregnancy, when the draw on their calcium reserves is very strong.  It is usually seen in autumn and spring, when there is a flush of rapidly growing green feed in the paddocks, which is high in water content and low in nutrients.

Often sheep in the paddock can have a very mild case and not be showing any symptoms.  It is not until you try to move them that you aggravate the symptoms, and notice it.  This was what happened to us last week.  It has been SOOOOO dry up until the last couple of weeks, and we have been feeding out a lot of grain.  Then with the rain we have had a fabulous greening up of our paddocks.

Sheep and tree photo

One of the mobs of sheep, under one of our gorgeous big old red gums, on their way back to their paddock.

We always crutch(shear their rumps to minimise the risk of a spring fly attack, and around their udders to make it easier for their lambs to find the teats) our sheep about 4-6 weeks out from lambing, and this was last week.  At the same time they get their annual vaccination against diseases such as blackleg, pulpy kidney and other such clostridial diseases, which can wipe out a flock very quickly.

So whilst mustering and yarding the sheep I noticed the odd one showing signs  – weak appearance, stilted movement, and even the one or two going down.  Once they go down, they won’t get up until treated.

Luckily I did have treatment on hand, a subcutaneous injection of a 4in1 solution of calcium, magnesium (often these two are related in deficiencies around lambing time) phosphorous and glucose.    The ones that I treated early got up almost immediately, it is amazing how quickly it works.  However one went down in the yards over night, while waiting to be crutched, and she took two or three doses.  I ended up leaving her in the yards for a couple of days, so I could monitor her, make sure she was eating and drinking properly before taking her back out to the paddock.

Lime and salt lick drum photo

Our lick containers are very “low-tech”, just 20L drums, cut in half.

I have since put out lick tubs for each mob, and am supplementing their diet with bales of hay.  The lick tubs contain a 75:25 mix of salt and stock lime.  The salt is to make it taste nice (???) and the lime is to combat the calcium deficiency.   The hay is just to offer an alternative to the rich lush green feed which is low in calcium.  I also took them back to their paddocks in stages after crutching, so that they weren’t walking the whole way in one go.  Their first stop was at our large dam paddock where they had only good quality hay to eat for 24 hours, to build up their energy reserves, before heading the rest of the way.

I strongly believe that the ewes need to be crutched at this time – for their own benefit, to minimise the risk of them from getting fly-strike in the spring and also to give the new born lambs every chance of finding the teats easily.  However it is always a balancing act, and needs to be managed very carefully to combat the Milk Fever we faced this year, and also other metabolic disorders such as grass tetany (magnesium deficiency) and twin lambing disease (general energy deficiency).  We have been very lucky in the last few years, with little to no issues arising.  This year the seasonal conditions were against us.


Categories: The Farm, The Menagerie | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Adventures in Sweet Chilli Sauce



We have a couple of chilli bushes in the herb garden – a Jalapeño, and one of these below, I call it “mystery” variety.  Its very pretty, as the chillies are quite short, and the whole bush is more of a ground cover than a bush.  Danny has been keen to make some of our own Sweet Chilli Sauce, my boys LOVE spicy food –  so he picked a bunch of the reddest chillies and off we went!

Chilli plant photo


The recipe we used is one I made a few years ago and the quantities of ingredients depends on the “hotness” of the chillies.  I can’t remember where I got it from originally, but I did a quick web search, before we started and the general recipe is quite similar on lots of different recipe sites.bowl of chillies photo


First we topped all the chillies.  If they were a bit bigger I would have scrapped quite a few of the seeds out also, but that would have been a laborious task with our babies.  The chillies and three garlic cloves (because that was all we had, probably would have preferred to add more if we had them) into the food processor with about half a cup of vinegar.Chilli photo

Chilli photo

Once they were chopped finely I scrapped them into the pot and added 4 cups of vinegar and 3 cups of sugar.  Basically all I did next was brought it to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolved, then tasted it.    Ohhhh Boyyyyy! Very hot!  So we added another cup of vinegar and half a cup of sugar.  Dissolved and tasted!   Still veeeerrrrrrry hot.  Another cup of vinegar and half a cup of sugar.

Danny tasted it, he thought it was fine, but for me still a bit too uncomfortable to cover my spaghetti with it.  I remember reading somewhere that lemon or lime juice can act as a means of decreasing the heat in chillies, so I added the juice of one lemon, another cup of vinegar and another 3/4 cup of sugar.  Once it was all dissolved and mixed well, another taste and I was happy.  It still has a good punch, but at least it doesn’t leave you gasping!Chilli sauce photo


Once I was happy with the taste I left it simmering for about an hour.  This allows it to reduce and thicken.  Then we poured it into hot sterilised jars and sealed them.Sweet Chilli sauce photoYou would think with all that vinegar we would have had a bucket of sauce, but because it reduces so much, we were left with just under  2  litres.  Still with its level of spiciness we won’t need to use too much.  Also I probably should have only let it simmer for maybe 45 minutes as it is very thick – possibly a bit jam like!

I’d love to know other peoples recipes for Sweet Chilli Sauce…. let me know in the comments if you have a good link.


Categories: Cooking and Preserving, Home Grown, Lifestyle | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

5 Ways to know if you are cut out for rural living……

It sounds idealic – eating fresh food you’ve produced yourself, looking over green paddocks, setting your own time table, maybe even slowing down your lifestyle a bit….. And it certainly can be like this, but there are times when things fall in a heap, and you wonder if all the hard work is worth it. If your living in the city and contemplating a “tree-change” here’s a few points to keep in mind!

1. Can you Cope with Mother Nature’s Unpredictability?

This is by far our biggest challenge every year. We do all our planning at the start of the year, working out what crops to grow, estimating how many calves and lambs we will get, what vegies should be planted and when. Then we reassess, and reassess – repeatedly through out the year. Rainfall is our biggest limiting factor. The first three years we were here were drought years – the dams dried up, and we purchased an absurd amount of stock feed. At the end of the third year, Cam decided to pay an excavator to come and clean out our dams, and deepen them. I remember having the discussion that I thought this was crazy, to deepen the dams, “It never rains!” Well of course in year 4 we had so much summer rainfall that our dams were all over flowing, to the point where the paddocks were flooded and our road was cut off to the north and south! Our crops were completely wiped out! Luckily the house is up on a hill!

Dry paddock photo

This is how our front paddock looks today!

2. Do you mind critters?

I’m not just talking about the little caterpillars that eat your baby broccoli plants – the critters here come in all shapes and sizes! The first wet year we were here absolutely over run with mice! Pick up a log, or piece of tin, and likely 30-50 would run out. Any bags of seed were eaten through in no time, and our sheds smelled horrific. My dad purchased 15 mousetraps, and was emptying them twice a day. We are very lucky that our house is mouse proof, but our previous house wasn’t, and we even had to transfer all our pantry goods into solid plastic containers!

Then there’s the spiders! We have a log fire place, which I love, but bringing wood inside means bringing spiders inside. Thankfully no one in the family is too worried about them, and quite enjoy seeing a big huntsmen on the wall (thinking about the flies and mossies he’s hopefully catching). Its when we have guests and they suddenly look up to find one at eye level, less than a metre away – my sister in law, in particular, doesn’t cope will with that – we’ve heard her screams from the other end of the farm!

Stumpy tail lizard photoWe also have lizards – not just little drop tail skinks, but gorgeous big stumpy tailed lizards. They can give you quite a fright if you are reaching into the strawberry patch, and you see this large scaly body move. More than once, I’ve jumped half a metre in the air, thinking it was a snake! We are lucky that we have only seen one snake within the house yard, and it was tiny – but certainly other families around here have seen plenty.

3. Are you afraid of hard work?

Look, to be honest you can make country life has hard or as easy as you like. We try and be as self sufficient as we can, in that we like to grow as much of our our own fruit and veggies as we can, our own meat and milk. This all takes time and quite often a fair bit of physical labour. There’s bags to be hauled, hay to be carted, work in the shearing shed a couple of times a year, where you are on your feet ALL DAY! The vegie garden takes a lot of digging, weeding, watering. Not to mention the extra washing from all the mud (or dust in our case!). Obviously we can’t supply all our vegie’s and fruit year-round, but we try to grow enough so that we can preserve as much as possible to see us through the winter, when the garden is not very productive. Preserving takes time and energy!

Most country homes also have a log fire. When I was pregnant with Jaz, it was over summer and we were sweltering, and decided to bite the bullet and put in a split system. We can use this as a heater, but a) it is EXPENSIVE to run, and b) it is no where near as efficient as the fire. I can have the split system heating running all day, and still feel cold. Then around 4pm, when I am sick of it (or when the boys are home from school to collect some wood for me…) we light the fire, and with half and hour the house is warm. Hence we hardly use the electric heating.

4. Can you cope with slow internet and unreliable mobile service?

Ugh! I hate slow internet. Where we live we have no access to Cable or ADSL – we rely on Wireless broadband. It is more expensive and less reliable. It is dependant on things like line of sight to your nearest tower, distance, and localised interference. Most of the time, ours is okay, we live on a hill so our line of sight is good. However it slows down at night, and also seems to on bad weather days.

Again living on a hill means our mobile service is very good, however we don’t have to drive far in any direction for it to drop out completely. I guess I’m use to it, and I know where the black spots are, but I know it is frustrating for our city visitors.

5. Are you (and your family) prepared to be flexible?

Because of all the reasons listed above, flexibility is paramount when you live in the country. Take yesterday for example. I was due to take my eldest son, and his friend from school to footy training in town. They had rushed in from the bus to grab something to eat and get changed into their footy clothes, giving us about 2 minutes spare before it was time to go. I head out into the living room after changing out of my farm clothes, into something respectable enough for public, and this sight awaits me!




I know what you’re thinking – she needs to be flexible and make time to clean her windows – but I was actually thinking “holy heck! There’s a bull on the lawn”

Suddenly I had to race out, get him back to his paddock and work out how he got out so he doesn’t do it again. Luckily he had just got out through the small gate we use to get up to the sheds, so after hunting him back through, tying some twine around it to stop him bumping it open again, we headed off to training, and were only about 10 minutes late.

Flexibility comes into play on a daily basis.  You plan your day, and then realise the sheep are out of water, and suddenly you need to stop everything, to go and pump some water.  You think you have 10 young cows to sell, but when the truck arrives, two escape, and only 8 make it onto the truck – less income.  You plant three rows of sweet corn, and then two days after they germinate, a chook finds its way into the vegie garden, and chews every second plant down to the ground, and suddenly you’re replanting.  Just some examples from the last few months!

So how did you go, are you cut out for rural living?


Categories: Lifestyle, The Farm | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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