Saturday, September 22, 2012

A calf is born! (sorry Barbra...)

Last November we purchased a young heifer to add to our small herd of cows. What is a heifer? It's a young female cow that has not had a calf yet. And a steer is a male that has been castrated. FYI... (I didn't know that when we first came to live on the farm!) We named her Thursday. We bought her on a Thursday so it just stuck. Over Christmas we borrowed our neighbour Graham's bull to cover our cows. He was happy in our paddocks for about three weeks, then jumped the fence back to his own herd. We were not sure if he had done his job or not. In January, Graham said to us that we needed the bull again. How did he know? Well, when the girls start getting frisky with one another then you know! So Mr Bull came over again for a couple of weeks. It seems that his first visit was a success. We have just seen the result. So if you want to read on about the birth of a calf, do so. If not, come back next time! The photos may be a little graphic for most tastes. However, there is nothing more amazing than the birth of an animal.
The birthing started around mid day on Sunday. Graham came over and said that he was sure we'd be proud parents by the end of the afternoon. He'd just driven down the road past our back paddock and seen a couple of feet poking out the rear end of Thursday. Frans and I geared up (jackets, hats, cameras and mobile phones!) and headed down to where the action was happening. It is a mission to navigate the paddocks at the best of times. The pug holes (from the cattle hooves) are deep and tretcherous. You step on a seemingly dry patch of mud, only to find it is a thin crust and below that is a foot of slushy mud.
We had to get to the heifer. She was right at the end of the farm, on the other side of the dam. Frans edged around the swampy areas toward the mum-to-be. She would not let him get close to her. She would lie down then get up. You could see she was struggling. Her contractions were about five minutes apart. We were not sure how long she had been going. I was standing in the middle of the paddock googling 'how long is a cow in labour' and 'what are the stages of birthing in a cow'! Isn't technology amazing? I learned very quickly that the water sack is the first thing to appear, followed by the front feet if you're lucky.95% of cows deliver the calf with the front feet first. Rear legs would not be good. So as I was learning on the spot I would call out to Frans "can you see the water sack?". He would shout back "what's that?". And so we went on. After an hour or so, Frans decided that Thursday was not progressing as she should and we called Graham. He arrived a few minutes later.  
Yes, these are my feet. I managed to plant myself knees first into the mud. I was glued into the sludge. Frans had to come and pull me out. The mud seeped into my boots and my socks were soon wet. The mud and water on my jeans turned cold and the next few hours were not the most comfortable, but there was too much excitement to worry about a bit of mud!
With Graham helping us, we moved all the cattle from the bottom paddock up to our gate and to his cattle yard. We needed to get Thursday into the yard where Graham could see what was happening close up. It took around half an hour to move all the cattle. We put all of them in the cattle yard as Thursday would be less stressed if the others were around her. 
This is the start of five minutes of high adrenalin. Even Bobby, the farm dog from next door was keen to see what was happening. Graham stripped off his outer clothing and got serious. 
First an examination. With Frans' help, Graham tied a short length of rope to each of the fore feet that were just sticking out. Then he positioned a long metal contraption to the back of the cow. (the bovine version of forceps!) The ropes were anchored to the long bar and Graham started winching the calf out of the mother.  
Positioning the giant foreceps. 
From start to finish this process only took a couple of minutes, but it felt like an eternity! Here the little face is just starting to poke out. 
Thursday was bellowing at this stage. Who wouldn't! 
Almost done! Once the head and shoulders were out Graham gave another tug to get the hips through the opening.  
The worst was over. Now the baby calf was left to 'hang' for a few seconds before it fell onto the ground naturally. The fall is the equivallent of a newborn baby getting a smack on the bottom to start it sucking in air. 
All that hard work left the little calf exhausted. Thursday didn't really know what to do with it. So we stepped away from the yard and left the mother to bond with the calf for an hour or so.
A couple of hours later we went back to check on them. The calf had not moved. By now it should have been up and suckling. One sign of encouragement was that Thursday had started licking the calf. We went away again and got back onto Google! How long before a calf stands up, and how long can a calf go without drinking? 
We were incredibly relieved when the next time we went to check, the baby calf was up on it's shaky legs and drinking. The first three or four days the 'milk' is actually colostrum. It is important for the calves to get this nutritious

substance into them. No different to human babies. The afterbirth is visible and aparently the cow will eat this. The umbillical cord will shrivel and dry.

Graham packing up his gear.
We decided that we would move the new mother and calf back to our home paddock. She would be more familiar there rather than remain in the stock yard. We let her out and she took off down the hill, leaving her new calf behind. Frans decided to carry the calf to the paddock, but soon changed his mind when he tried to lift him. Oh, it's a boy by the way! So Graham and Frans lifted the new little bull onto the back of Graham's red ute. 
Slippery little sucker! A big load of washing coming up! 
The little calf may only have been two or three hours old, but it was strong and needed firm handling. 
Frans had the job of holding onto the calf while Graham drove into the paddock. Four wheel drive definitely required!  
When we came to the farm, one of the first jobs that Frans and Graham did together was to put a gate between our properties and a gate on ours. This means that we can herd cattle between our places without going around the fenceline and driving the animals into the road. We're pleased that we did this. We have used the gates a number of times and this time proved that the system was working well. We could safely move the cows back and forth. 
Baby calf was deposited in the middle of the paddock. Thursday is the black dot to the left of the tree. We were sure she would come up to the calf. We did not want to get too close to her. She was showing signs of being a protective mother earlier on. So we left the calf and took ourselves out of the paddock. 
A while later Thurday still had not come up to her calf. So Frans took some hay to the calf, hoping that Thursday would come for it. Still nothing.  
Only one thing left to do then. Take the calf to the mother! Necessity is the mother of invention. So Frans hefted the very heavy calf into the wheelbarrow and bumped him down the hill to his mother. I was standing on the other side of the fence and called out to Frans "did you ever think you would be pushing a calf in a wheelbarrow in a paddock on a rainy Sunday afternoon?". It was hard work. The ground was soggy and uneven, but he made it. Baby calf was deposited close to the mum and we let them be.  
Nature is quite amazing. Instinct takes over and soon baby was up and feeding again and the mother was mooing constantly, teaching her baby her call. You may be wondering why Thursday needed human intervention in something as natural as a cow giving birth. Well, Thursday is relatively small and this is her first pregnancy. And the bull that covered her was BIG. So we knew she would potentially need help. And she did.  
So here he is... Sunday. Ok, if Nicole can call her kid Sunday Rose, we figured we can call our new calf Sunday. Roast.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What happened to Spring?!

Have I mentioned that we've had a lot of rain over the past few months? Everything is soggy! Very soggy. Our dam is overflowing. We're not complaining. Once summer is here we will be grateful for all the water!
The water is spilling from the dam to the surrounding paddock.

Our friends Mark and Viv came to spend a few days with us this week. They were ready to help tick some jobs off our lists! We managed to get a couple of days good work done, and then the rain came. It rained solidly for four days. No work could be done outside. So instead we indulged and watched the first series of 'The Wire'. The fire was burning and we stopped only to prepare meals.
We did enjoy the late afternoon sunshine on day one!
Nala keeping an eye on the neighbour's sheep.
A few weeks ago the willow tree was bare. Only twiggy stems blowing in the wind. This week the leaves have started sprouting. Soon we'll be spending lazy afternoons under the tree again. Roll on summer!
A backwards view. The house and the netted vegetable garden on the right of the picture. We have 7 fruit trees under the netting too. The trees are full of bright pink blossoms. Nectarines and peaches.
Meet Lulu. She's the latest addition to the Nourished family, Amy and Daniel. We popped down for a coffee during the week. They had the fire going and we sampled a very nice plate of scones with homemade strawberry jam and fresh Otway cream. They have rescued this little Dorper lamb and hope to breed from her. Her mother rejected her. She's three weeks old.  I just love her little purple collar!
She's very friendly and VERY cute! Mmmm.... I wonder if we could have a few sheep....
 Lulu takes her feed in a bottle from Daniel.
Viv got into the swing of farm life. She enjoyed feeding the chooks. They were treated to lovely chopped up greens while Viv was here! Talk about being spoiled...
It doesn't take long to cultivate a dedicated following!
I've posted pics of our daffodils in previous posts. But here are some close ups. I've counted seven or eight different varieties. Doubles, singles, two colours, one colour...
I love this creamy yellow double bloom.

A peachy pink in the centre of this one.

Here is some evidence that we did actually get some work done last week. Viv and I cleared this garden bed along the side of the house. It was totally overgrown. I pruned the roses (all 8 of them in this one patch) and cut back the salvias. We've mulched the entire area. I shovelled the bark mulch and wheeled the burrow backwards and forwards to the garden. 9 times! My face was like a beetroot. Viv spread the mulch and kept weeding. I would say with confidence we burned quite a few calories! I want to turn this spot into a more formal garden. I'd like to add more lavender and other bee loving plants. But before I start revamping, I need to get the other beds under control. 
Frans and Mark repaired a fence and put in a gate along the north side of the garden. This is to stop the escapee chickens. Somehow they are still getting out. There must be another spot where they are squeezing through!
It's time to start planting my summer crops. I try to keep a system going whereby I can refer back to what I've planted, when I planted it, and was it a success. So firstly I make my garden labels. Simple ice cream sticks. I write the name of the veg on one side eg. Carrot, and the variety on the other eg. Paris market. I shove the sticks into the ground where I plant the seeds. I use my moon calendar to plant by. I will plant this lot (all root veggies) on the 12th of Sept. I buy my seeds from Green Harvest in Queensland. Well mostly. Sometimes I pick up the odd packet at the hardware store or even the supermarket. I do prefer however to buy organic seeds. I won't by GM seeds. 
I also keep a diary. I write stuff in it like when we pruned which garden bed. Or when the ducklings hatched. I use it to plan out my garden beds and to record where I planted what. I have given all the garden beds numbers so I can keep track.
I also run a spreadsheet with all the seeds I plant listed. I specify which garden bed, when I planted them and how long to expect before they're ready. My memory is not that great, and I find that this way I know what I'm going to rotate the next season in a particular bed. My system is not fool proof, but it does the job for me. I have a box where I store my seed packets. I bundle the seeds into groups. Leafy stuff, root veggies, herbs, flowers etc. When I'm ready to plant I pull out the seed box and start preparing the sticks.
Well, according to the weather reports, we will have no rain for the next two days. So I am going to go outside and work in the garden. I've just spotted a bower bird eating all the petals from a magnolia flower! Looks like I have to find some netting quickly!
Have a great week.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Getting ready for summer

I use a great little application on my phone called Gardenate. There is also a website. It gives you a list of vegetables to plant each month, based on the area you live in. I've been hanging out for August and September! I can at last plant some seeds that will hopefully carry us through December, January and February. Although it was cold and wet on Tuesday, I set up my planting station outside the chook shed and got to work sorting out my seeds.
A little while later I was done. I did get side tracked (easily done!) and went inside. I forgot to put the newly seeded punnets into the greenhouse. They spent the night on the bench where I'd left them. The next day, Frans pointed out that Spike the Rooster, was happily walking all over my seed punnets! I managed to smooth over the tops, but now I have no idea if I have capsicum seeds mixed in with tomatoes! I'll just have to wait and see. Jolly bird can obviously fly!  
 I must just share my groovy wire chook with you. My lovely sister in law Jayne, gave this egg holder to me for my birthday earlier this year. Isn't it fabulous?!

 Tomorrow is Fathers Day in Australia. Sara and Stephen are hosting a picnic in the park near their new home in Melbourne. One of my contributions to the picnic is hummus. It is so easy to make, and the taste is far superior to any little tub you can buy from the supermarket. Here is the recipe. I picked a basket of lemons this morning. The smell of the lemon tree is just delicious! It cries out for a G&T!
 Today is the 1st of September. The unofficial first day of Spring. There is no rain today! Yay! So this morning I've been outside planting a few punnets of flowers. I bought a measly six punnets. They hardly made a dent in one garden bed. I'm going to have to start raising flower seeds if I'm to turn this garden into a floral oasis. I then took my new pair of branch cutters and started trimming a few stray branches on the mulberry tree. Once I start, I just can't stop! I've cut plenty of low hanging branches and twiggy stems from the old tree. It has opened up that spot in the garden. We will now be able to see who is coming down the driveway! There are no leaves on the tree at the moment, and it is easy to see to the far edge of the garden through the emply branches. But once the tree is covered in leaves, the far side of the garden gets hidden from the house.  Another reason for cutting back low hanging branches is that this tree provides the most beautiful shade on a hot day. The daffodils will die down soon and leave the area under the tree bare. I will be able to plonk my lazy chair underneath the tree and easily while away an hour or two with a good book. Well, that's the intention. We'll see if it actually happens.....
Ha! Look at the beautiful blossoms on the nectarine and peach trees! It's as if they exploded overnight!  
 I did manage to finish a knitting project this week. My friend Norma guided me through the challenge of knitting my first pair of socks and helped me navigate the mystery of 'turning a heel'. Well, they fit. That's good. Took me almost a month to knit! 2mm needles are pretty small! I didn't quite match the stripes, but who cares right? I'm not too sure if there will be too many of these babies coming off my needles.
Instead I'm now finishing a little jumper for myself before I start on another jumper for Frans. I picked up the old pattern at an op shop this week. It has the perfect pattern in it. The pattern I'm going to use is actually on the reverse side of this pattern. (I photographed the wrong side.... duh!). I'll post a photo once I get going on it. Frans approved and said the pattern needed no modifactions. Well, almost none....
Have a happy weekend!