Tuesday, 16 February 2016

What memories are made of

A lot of people have asked why ‘Plum Tree’ as a name for our farm. Some have asked are there plum trees? Nope! Not one! Well we ended up planting two recently just so we can say yes there are plum trees. But they are not looking all that great; actually anyone who knew anything about plum trees would be in hysterics if they saw these two. So I guess we better explain the meaning behind the name ‘Plum Tree Farm’, as it has nothing to do with ‘Plum trees’.
Recently our family was devastated over the diagnoses of a terminal form of cancer with Mals dad. Chemo would buy him time, but as we soon discovered the time would not be quality. He opted to stop the chemo and enjoy the moments he had. Mal spent as much time on the phone or visiting as he could. It was during these visits that the conversations were about moments spent growing up on the Chatham Islands (it was a dream Mals dad had to return to the land he loved so much, but sadly time was ticking fast). Mal and I had been looking for land for a few years; we almost gave up as we didn’t want to grow old with a massive mortgage hanging over our heads. I just so happened to stumble across this place (plum tree farm) but instead of visiting it, I went to bank to see how possible it would be before getting our hopes up. The bank gave us the go ahead, so we viewed (twice) and purchased it, we then excitedly told our parents, both (mine and Mals) were a bit concerned that we were jumping in to fast, that it is so far away from things etc.…the usual concerns parents get. But as time passed and we took possession it became clear that we were happier, relaxed, that perhaps this was not such a bad idea after all. I guess it reflected through the changes in Mal and I.
Mal would spend many days sitting with his dad talking about the farm, which Mr G (Mals dad) enjoyed, I think it is because he saw himself when he was on his farm in his younger years.
When I would visit and told Mr G about our adventures I noticed it sparked some wonderful stories from the Chatam Islands, I loved seeing Mal and his dad talk of their times together and interestingly some of the stories reminded me of someone. It was during these discussions that it occurred to me that I was sitting here watching something pretty special.
You see 10 years ago I married a wonderful man, a man who loved me for me, who took on three children and fathered them like his own. A man with so much knowledge (some useful, some not so useful) a man who had an opinion on everything whether you wanted to hear it or not.  He can do anything, build houses, do electrical work, fix bikes, cars trucks, the list goes on. I married a man with a heart as big as hearts can get, a man who sees the good in everyone and everything, and sitting in this room watching father and son absorbed in conversation I saw two peas in a pod, and I have an inkling the older version was slightly accident prone also. It was a good time to chat further with Mr G to see what I am in for with the younger Mr G, just so I am prepared!!
Sadly mals dads health deteriorated very quickly, both Mal and I wanted Mr & Mrs G to visit the farm, I probably pushed more than Mal I guess because while mal was worried about Mr G’s health I was focussing on creating memories. Special memories. Well approx 4 weeks ago an opportunity arose where majority (not all) of the family was up at the farm except for Mals parents as his dad was too sick to drive the 2hours it would take to get him here. Two days prior we cheekily suggested a helicopter and along with the rest of the family thought why not enquire to see if it could be possible. Thinking nothing more of it (until the whanau arrived up at the farm) that we heard back from the pilot giving the all clear for travel in 40mins!!! We all chipped in to make this happen, within the hour we gathered to watch the helicopter land on our top paddock, Mr & Mrs G grinning from ear to ear.
You see prior to this we had a family meeting in Blenheim, and Mr G mentioned that the likely hood of visiting the farm was slim so he had carved a stone, blessed it and the family each took
turns in blessing the stone (it sits on our bedroom window sill) it was such an emotional experience.  But as much as the stone would be very special to us, deep down in my heart I felt it even more important to get Mr G to the farm. We felt it would help give some sense of closure for Mals dad (as far as land being back in the family, even though it’s not Chatham Island Land, but it is something). Both Mal and I felt very strongly about having land for our family and future generations.  I also knew how close Mal is to his dad, I knew loosing Mr G would affect Mal considerably, so it was important for me to do what I can to help Mals grieving when dad does pass away.
So once the helicopter landed we all gathered around the house while Mrs G began to bless it, it was one of the best experiences!! The pilot was so wonderful; he waited for as long as we wanted.

Making Memories
The Grennell’s at ‘Plum Tree Farm’

Plum tree was the name Mr G came up with when we asked him to name the farm.  There is a small bay on the Chatham Islands near where the Grennell’s grew up, a place where Mr G had the fondest of memories and was a meeting place for families to gather and share stories.

 Plum Tree Farm is named in memory of Mals dad. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Happy coo

Before I begin, Mal insisted I mention he was only on crutches for 2 days.

So the day arrived!! Dr Danny’s visit to fix poor Loretta’s foot. It had been an eventful few days with Mal being in Blenheim and me holding the fort at the farm, in Nelson and travelling to Blenheim. First BIG lesson, don’t leave fridge door open all night when your house is fully run off solar power. I didn’t stress too much at first as I figured I would just simply start the generator (as Mal gave me brief instructions how to get it going) …easy! That’s if you connected the key to the generator correctly. No one told me which way to turn it! But I certainly found out when sparks started flying out of the alternator. To cut a long death defying story short…I blew up the alternator. Not even the sparkie could replicate how I did it (sad… but I was a tad proud of that). (Bob the amazing sparkie and our solar power will be discussed in future post.)

You know when you have been married a long time when the hubby just simply shakes his head. He loves me!!

So after a night or two without power and an overactive imagination resulting in a very sleep deprived coo herder!! I got the girls up the top paddock with quad bike and a bag of apples (rather proud of that effort) however Little did I realise at the time (plus I was desperate) that a bag of apples was probably not such a great idea, and the after effect was rather unflattering (to put it nicely) to top it off, I forgot to remove the salt lick block from bottom paddock and number 33 got quite into it. The lady at farmlands did warn me that some cows go crazy on the salt blocks, it can give them diahorea, and not to panic it will settle down. What I wasn’t expecting was the most vile projectile poo explosion I have ever seen and after having three children I thought I had seen it all, but this was pretty intense! So 24 hours prior to Dr Danny’s visit Loretta’s tummy was rather upset and number 33 just spent the day splattering shit everywhere…bloody marvellous!
So I was a bit concerned Loretta’s upset tummy would still hang around next morning; I was up most of the night worrying, as I didn’t want to confess how I got the girls up to top paddock (I was still attempting to look like I knew what I was doing).
So Dr Danny arrived early and we got right into herding them into the yards. So I ran to top paddock and attempted to move the girls while Dr Danny hid behind a lump of dirt, but they knew something was up. What I didn’t realise about cattle (apparently this applies to all coos) they know when strangers are around, they can smell and hear unfamiliar scents and sounds, so they were already one step ahead of me and they were NOT going to budge! So I went to plan B the Truck, I got Dr Danny to drive and I sit on the back waving sticks (anything I could get my hands on) and managed to get them out of paddock. Now to get them in the stable (god help me) Dr Danny just happened to ask if they are familiar with the stable, I said no, they have only been in top paddock for 24 hours…he said that I should have got them familiar with the area by feeding them in the stable a couple of days prior (well this will be good!!) by this stage we had been chasing the girls around for an hour, we were getting pretty puffed!! So we went to plan C (Dr Danny’s suggestion) get them down to lower paddock (where they are familiar) and he will sedate her there. Now what happens next I have only seen in movies, so this was quite exciting (for me, not so for poor Dr Danny) anyway I get in truck Dr Danny jumps on the back with his big stick with a sedative needle on end. My job?! To herd the girls down to lower paddock, which I did quite easily, then Dr Danny yells out to throw the Truck in reverse as fast as I can…crikey!!! So I rammed her into reverse (now my feet don’t quite reach the clutch and accelerator so I do bunny hop a bit) (which I probably should have warned Dr Danny about). Imagine riding a bronco bull with a syringe and trying to stick it in a 500kilo agro cow. It would have looked pretty funny and I was quite impressed Dr Danny got the needle in…he did remark it wasn’t where he wanted it, but it will do. 

So we went for a walk as it takes time for sedative to work, so we had a good chat and he was so helpful with advice for future vet visits and training the coos to yards etc. He was so lovely during this horrifically embarrassing coo chase. So after a good 10mins Loretta was still up, still somewhat alert so we had to go again, this time he insisted on walking up to her and got her a second time. We then walked up to his truck to get his gear.

It was another 10mins by the time we headed down to check on Loretta (expecting her to be lying down fast asleep) (she had other plans) this girl was not going to go down without a fight! Sedative number 3, this time Dr Danny headed around to her rear end, I went white with horror, as firstly I thought not a great place to be after Loretta's upset tummy and secondly I assumed that needle was going up there!! geeez I couldnt watch! Thankfully (as I began to get squeamish) he lifted her tail and injected under her tail…phew!

Another 10mins later and good old Loretta still up (pretty drunk and wobbly) so Dr Danny says we will have to drop her. WHAT?! He pulls out this rope wraps it around her massive horns and tied them to fence, then gets a second rope folds in half and asks me to grab one half while he has other and instructs me to wrap under her front leg (This is where I got a bad case of tourettes) I could not believe what I was doing, oh and it gets better! He then says bring the rope over her back (we swapped ends) and he said wrap my end around her back leg (he was doing same on his side) then he yells PULL, I pulled as hard as I could and finally Loretta went down…and as quickly as she went down Dr Danny yells out for me to (get this) jump on her horns and hold her head down…(tourettes returned) he said if she moves to push as hard as I can, I almost lost bladder control! (Yes I said that out loud). Once Dr Danny knew Loretta was out, he asked me to move around to where he was working and hold her foot…(I can’t believe I held her beautiful foot in my hands, it was so big it filled both my hands put together) Then he got me to clip her feet, this was quite a visceral experience, he said it is like trimming our finger nails, but we were trimming away a lot as what he noticed  Loretta had a nasty infection in one of her front toes, the split was caused by the infection breaking through her foot, no wonder she was limping poor girl.
A very pregnant Loretta finally sedated

Dr Danny performing his magic

Loretta was still putting up a fight but between me jumping on her horns and Dr Danny pushing her down, he got her foot pretty well treated (well as best as he could considering the circumstances) he will treat all her feet after she has had her baby. As with Highland Coos they are designed for tough terrain and there feet are reliant on hard ground to keep them shortened, poor Loretta’s feet haven’t seen hard ground for a while and have over grown. So we will fix her. And we have the perfect property to keep her feet happy.

You know….most people would simply shrug off a limping cow as it is simply a cow. I am expecting a hefty Vet bill, but for us at Plum Tree Farm. We won’t sit back and choose money over our animal’s welfare. We got them; they are reliant on us to do the right thing by them. When I saw Loretta walking without pain, jumping, running and playing (yes a 500 kilo pregnant cow jumped and played, so damn cute!!) I can’t put a price on how that made us feel.

 It feels good!