Saturday, 28 May 2016

Lessons Learned

I thought since I am trapped inside I would write my next blog. Have been procrastinating over whether to tell the story of the Horses (tissue alert) or something a bit more light hearted. Think since its dark and gloomy I should chat about the funnier things that has been going on. The weather report looks like I may have time to write about the horses tomorrow!!! 
So here goes! Probably best to not be eating when reading this
Well I have been ‘Coo Girling’ it now for the past five months. I have never worked nor been up close to cattle (other than a horrific incident when camping at Robin Hood Bay) Actually now I mention it that should have been enough to make me realise what I was in for.  You see I have discovered a few things about farming; I call them ‘The lessons learned’
Figured I would bullet point them (could be useful for anyone else embarking on farming) especially if you are like me and was raised in the city.

  • Its hard work. I mean REALLY hard work. I have never worked so hard.
  • It costs money. If you have a budget, double it! Starting up is not cheap, especially if you want to ethically farm. Meaning, providing paddocks with shading and safe fencing methods. Our budget was dwindling fast, so decided to GST register. Turning our little farming venture into a business. Exciting stuff but incredibly daunting. This has to make money. Thankfully I studied business and marketing is something I am confident with. Stay tuned for future post on this and our new upcoming products and website.
  • Be prepared to get dirty. You know when you have been farming for a while when gumboots and bush clothing become your fashion accessories. We have clean gumboots and dirty gumboots. I go grocery shopping in gumboots, am over giving a shit on how I look, as I know as soon as I get home I have more shit to pick up. Perfume is the perfect investment to convince yourself you are still civilised. Make up is a waste of time (the coos don’t appreciate it)
  • A manicure is scraping under your fingernails and praying it is dirt.
  • It’s probably time to have a shower when the cows start grooming you.
  • Farming is all about poop, picking up poop, inspecting poop, finding things to do with poop, harrowing poop…POOP! It’s everywhere and I have become quite obsessed with it. I can’t pass a cow pat without kicking it and/or inspecting it. Poop gives you the information you need to determine the animal’s health. Did you know you can collect poop take it to the Vet to get it tested for parasites?! And they can give you an egg count?! Fascinating stuff! I bowled into Murchison Vets with two bags of poop, Gems (number 3 child’s horse) and Williams. I was pretty stressed as William was not doing well, and I had no idea what was wrong. Taylor was having a similar issue with Gem (she was not putting on weight) and asked me if I could take Gems poop to the Vet to get checked, so I figured if they count horse poo surely they do the same with coo poo. Thank God for plastic Shopping bags!! Filled them up and slapped it on the Vets counter. I knew at that point that poop fascination is quite normal in the farming world, as we were all in the Vets office (receptionist in all) inspecting Williams’ poo, and googling poo. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell William about how interested everyone was in his poop. So Gems poo count came back alarmingly high, hers was 1900/gm egg count, normal range is 150-200/gm (Gem is in next post, a sad heartfelt story) William was suspected to have Liver Fluke, We have been told our area at certain times of the year is susceptible for Liver Fluke,  IMPORTANT TO DISCUSS HEALTH PLAN WITH YOUR VET. They are an encyclopedia of information and more than willing to help educate you. THERE IS NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP. Sad but true but Child number 3 and I couldn’t wait to get outside to inspect the horses poop after we wormed them yesterday. Excuse the pun but it’s a shity job so one needs to find some form of entertainment.  Williams came back negative for Liver Fluke but positive for Tapeworm. Apparently most farmers are not too concerned about tapeworm, it is thought to not cause much problem in cattle, however for William it was creating an issue. So he along with the other babies where drenched. Stress on cattle can make infestations worse, so we figured the stress of his big trip from wellington to us was enough to create a problem.
  • Don’t cook pasta the night after discovering tape worms in your coos poop. I will never eat fettuccine again! (vomit)
  • Don’t over groom an adolescent bull calf. He may get the ‘wrong idea’ if you know what I mean, resulting in a 150kilo calf mounting you and smart enough to pin you down by standing on your thumb! Still feeling violated. Naughty boy! And as you probably can imagine Mal saw it all, and instead of coming to my rescue he roared with laughter and proceeded in spending the rest of the day giving me grief about it. Grrr
  • Remember that coos have dam good memories. If you do something once… for example…feed them cow nuts in the black rubber bowl…they will recognise the bowl as something wonderful. I decided to herd the girls into hill paddocks, thought it was a great idea to use cow nuts and popped them into the rubber bowl, I figured since I am walking up there I may as well take some hay. So in one hand, cow nuts and under the other arm were a few slabs of hay. I walk out of the barn calling the girls. Now at this point I should have considered the thought of keeping tabs on what was going on behind me, as there was a thundering sound coming from behind…and the thought did cross my mind that perhaps it was Loretta but shrugged it off as she’s pretty lazy. And once Ruby ran past me jumping and carrying on (you would have still thought I would turn around) but I was on a mission to get up the hill loaded with hay and nuts. I stopped briefly to catch my breath and that’s when I decided to turn around and check where the noise was coming from, well I went white with horror, I was faced by a charging coo, her eyes were glazed over in full focus on the cow nuts, and she was not going to stop for anyone. Including me! Next thing I took off… cow nuts flying in one direction and hay in the other. Bloody Bitch! I patted myself down (checking this wasn’t an ‘outer body’ experience) nope still alive…phew!
  • The best way to a coos heart is….COW NUTS.
  • Sprint when carrying cow nuts.
  • Yards are a structure to safely contain cattle when treating them. Way better than chasing them around the paddock.
  • Paddocks are not yards.

Last but certainly not least
  • If your husband is embracing the wild and decides that shaving is no longer required and growing a mullet is a great idea. Take it seriously!
    (Tips on containing the beast would be very much appreciated.)

I have learned a lot about farming already, and at the same time a lot about myself, our marriage and our family. Strength is in working together and supporting each other. Yes life must look great from the outside, and yes we are living the dream. But nothing comes easy and at times we get so exhausted that everything seems so shit.
But if everything came easy what would we have to appreciate?  I feel blessed to live here. I have learned a whole new level of respect for the essentials (and not so essential) in life, like water, power, food and sunlight (and really good deodorant) we are heavily reliant on these.  I have removed our microwave, we will never be able to use a hair dryer, a food processor is now replaced with, bloody good elbow grease and vacuuming gets done when the generator is on (making us aware of when things start costing money) I find it very fascinating what appliances cost the most to run, and it’s the ones you would never think of. We no longer have a toaster, toast is now cooked on the hotplate of the fire and nothing is better than a nice pot of pumpkin soup cooked and simmering on the fire. We have a new found respect for the simple things in life.
Happiness now comes from the environment we live in, from spending time with the Coos,  watching number 3 child ride her horse, lying in bed looking at the stars and listening to the moreporks at night or simply sitting on the deck and watch nature at its best.

You see Mal loves me when I am covered in hay, poo and stink like an old sock. He can see how happy I am which in turn makes him happy…and likewise (except for the mullet).

Update on Booboo
Look at her now!!! And she has little horn buds…so cute!!!

Booboo (left) and Bobby (right)
William Wallis our breeding bull calf and very naughty boy!
But gosh I love him!!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Home is where the coo is

So here I am sitting in a cabin aboard the ferry bound for Wellington. Bear with me as I have only had four hours sleep; had to get up at 3.30am to get to Picton for boarding. So far (other than a slight mishap mistaking hair fudge for moisturiser) (this is nothing in comparison to the hair removal cream incident!) our travels have been faultless, however the day is young and I am travelling with Mal!
So why are we on the ferry?....well I have been crazy busy making artworks (off the grid studio in future post) for an exhibition in Hamilton (which opens on Thursday evening) so we are heading over to attend, we also figured while we were up North why not visit Mal's old stomping ground (Tauranga) and also picking up a horse float from Napier. We decided to get one built as we had searched everywhere for a decent safe second hand float and what was available in our price range needed work, so we figured for an extra two thousand it makes more economic sense to buy new and not worry about things breaking or the safety of our animals. We researched the company and communicated with a wonderful man named Derry's at APEX Horse floats. We are getting just a basic model with removable middle thingy (can’t remember the name) as not only will this tow horses (horses future post), but I plan to take our calves to the shows. Have no idea on showing cattle and the thought did cross my mind that perhaps I will need to seriously groom the coos (god help me) (all I see when I think of that is dags, then I am thinking do I shave their bums? or spend hours cutting the dags off? are there special clippers? or do I use Mal's (he will never notice) is there a special shampoo I use? oh dear...washing them surely not?!

The animals are such a joy to us and we have left them in good hands (along with a four page essay of instructions) kinda looking forward to seeing what the animals have install for their baby sitters. I am sure one nut and toe rag will put on a good performance. This is what we encountered trying to feed the nut jumped on the back and helped...sort of
Mal and one-nut

So what’s been happening at Plum Tree Farm I hear you ask?!!
Well where  do I start!!

Oh yes!! Our three fuzzy wuzzy gorgeous Highland calves arrived from Wellington. They are the most adorable, affectionate babies. I am absolutely besotted with them. So introducing William Wallis, Taylor-rose and Maggie of Plum Tree Farm.

from back
Taylor-rose, Maggie and William's head

The big baby, William

You know when you do something and things happen that just makes you stop and think? Well the breeders named these calves, they had no idea what our children's names were, so you can imagine when they emailed introducing Taylor-rose I was gobsmacked! As that's number 3 child's name. I believe things happen for a reason and have taken it as a sign that we have done the right thing, and these babies were meant to be with us. (they have baby horns!!! so cute!!!). These babies have been halter trained and are highly social, they love to be with us and we are certainly enjoying being with them too!
William will be our breeding bull; he will be ready for business in around 12 months. I really hope he ‘man’s up’ soon as those girls are running rings around him. They love cow nuts will pretty much do anything for them, however (you would think I have learnt by now) DON'T over feed them!! I say no more....

Oh. And if you want to see a 500/600kilo Highland cow (with very big horns) run, cow nuts (or even carrying the bowl I normally feed them the nuts in) I got one hell of a fright when I got this amazing idea (no it wasn’t that, that surprised me) I thought it was genius to herd the cattle into the hill paddocks (as I have struggled to get them up there) by using cow nuts. So I filled the bowl, and stack a couple of slabs of hay under my arm and began walking toward the paddocks. (I probably should have kept an eye on what was going on behind me) as I heard this thundering sound, and the thought did cross my mind that perhaps Loretta is running toward me, but shrugged it off as she’s pretty lazy. The noise got louder and then Ruby over took me running and jumping (so cute) I thought perhaps I should turn around….Tourette’s returned, followed by the bowl of nuts and hay flying up in the air…as Loretta was right behind me in full charge (not attack charge) (I want the cow nuts charge) It gave me one hell of a fright, but didn’t scare me (if that makes sense), I recon I could get her to do pretty much anything for cow nuts! Bloody funny. I have to be pretty smart when it comes to feeding the cattle. As Loretta has a bit of a food addiction problem.

Anyhoo back to our trip to Tauranga. I guess you figured we made it...It got a bit close to us returning to Nelson as we both feel asleep on the ferry and had to be woken up...twice...I ended up racing down stairs, hair all over the place, eye makeup smeared everywhere and Mal standing next to me grinning from ear to ear. He thinks it's funny to not mention these things. Like the time we went to the supermarket and Mal went to grab a trolley, I thought he was behind me with the trolley (as I was in a rush) and began throwing things in (Mal was there but standing further back pissing himself laughing) then this old quietly spoken frail voice said “excuse me" I paused and went white then the silence was broken with this roar of laughter, grrrr
I didn’t speak to him for a couple of days.

We booked into the most stunning motel right on the water front. The room feels like it is sitting on the water. We went to sleep last night with the blinds open and awoke to this...

Tauranga on the Waterfront, simply stunning.
But I miss the coos

Back to the farm we have some other new members of misfits, Lulu one of the puppies we fostered for the SPCA, she is trouble with a capital T, full of mischief and loves Mal's jandels, well only one from each pair. To funny!! Snoop has also taken it upon himself to teach Lulu some of his traits much to my disgust! How to eat poo, roll in poo and bring poo into the house. And to top it off they now have a variety of poo to choose from; Goat poo, horse poo, coo poo and chicken poo. Dirty little shits (literally).

So getting back to Lulu, I went to animates (Mal has banned me from going there now) to get Lulu a new toy and walked out with an Alexandrine Parrot, I have named him Charlie. He was 10 weeks old when I got him and will eventually talk (fingers x his first words aren’t what I heard the kids trying to teach him)…sigh!
Charlie and Lulu have began a very convenient friendship, well in Lulu’s eyes.
See cute!


Now don’t start feeling sorry for Mal with my expenditures, trust me he benefits from this…good ol ‘trigger’ is the proud owner of yet another gun. Yes Quasimodo manages to straighten his back long enough to take aim. (Don’t tell him I said that).

So it’s an hour until the exhibition @ Soul Gallery opens with eight of my artworks. I am really looking forward to this. However we have a very early start tomorrow as we have to leave Hamilton around 4am to get to Napier to collect the Horse float then from there we have to get to Wellington for a 4pm sailing. We get to Picton around 7.30pm and then drive the 2hour journey home.
So far our travels have been pretty faultless other than a small mishap with the GPS on my phone (note to self) make sure phone isn’t upside down when giving directions. We saw a lot of Hamilton.
Here's a picy of the opening. Thank you Lisa and Frank @Soul Gallery xxxx

You know…I have enjoyed this trip, loved the scenery but I can’t help but feel a bit funny about the amount of farms I have seen that has not even a smidgen of shading for the animals. Now I used to not really pay much attention to this, as I always thought they didn’t need or want it. But now I have my own farm it has become evident they actually love the protection and comfort shading and shelter from a tree provides. Surely we care more than this?! Do we?

Well sitting on the ferry returning home from a whirl wind travelling adventure. The horse float collection went smoothly; actually we did such good time we got to Wellington to board an earlier sailing. Here’s a picy of our new truck (thanks to Tony @ Houston Motor's) (this truck came with two roosters and a bantam hen that sleeps in a tree) with signage and our new float destined for signage, such a big blank canvas!!

Now this is impressive, we managed to clock up 1800k’s. No wonder we are so exhausted and looking forward to getting home. You know Home is where the heart is.
It’s True xx

Only been home for an hour.