Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daily disasters

Wonderful as it is to live here, it's very hard work. Every day something goes wrong. It's inevitable. I'm not being pessimistic, well no more than usual, but with over 60 animals on a small acreage the extremes of weather in the Hills, the swirlingly variable valley winds and a landscape whose elements range from several million years old to yesterday's gardening efforts, untoward things are bound to happen.

Sometimes the disasters are minor, like Snowy eating too many horse hoof trimmings and throwing up all over the house, in the armchair, on her bed and anywhere else she could think of. Five minutes before I had to leave for work.

Jeremy and Jamie the brother cats both getting stuck on the verandah roof in a hailstorm also fits this bill. Of course, this happens when I am at home alone and have to climb up after them with no-one to hold the ladder or pick up my pieces. Ours is an iron sheet verandah with no easy access points. I had to improvise one from the railing and twist my spine to suit. Once wedged in position, I used my best velvet "Come hither kitty!" voice. Do you think they would come near me? They're cats. Of course not. So cat-scooping with the broom was employed.

Sometimes we get our own little natural disasters like the earth bank collapsing onto the hill track, the spring erupting from under the carport or the 30 foot gum tree splitting and cannoning down the hill to wedge itself sideways in the valley floor. Mercifully no animals were harmed in the making of that one.

Sometimes the disasters are all too great, like the time our old chestnut gelding Errol got colic and then got cast upside down in the shelter shed. He eventually kicked the side wall out and this was what woke us in the driving rain at 11:00pm. We untangled him from the iron sheets and got him to stand until Dr Vet arrived but he kept collapsing so we propped him up in a sitting position with hay bales. Four or five days followed (I forget which now, they all blurred together) of round the clock nursing, Dr Vet return visits, carting water, medication - his and ours - and trying to go to work as well. It all appeared to pay off when he finally got up and wandered out into the paddock, only to reach his comrades, lie down and die there instead.

Other disasters come in multiples. We like to think in threes but to be honest it can be more than that. At our first lambing time one of our Dorset ewes, Gytha, had a prolapse three weeks before delivering twins. Earlier Ophelia, another Dorset, had gone down with twin lamb disease - pregnancy toxaemia. Dr Vet gave some good advice, we acted on it and she proceeded to do a yo-yo impersonation. She would collapse, we'd treat her with the recommended carbohydrate and mineral solutions, then she'd get up and eat again. Only to be found prostrate again the next morning. We'd faithfully repeat the process.

The possibility of her surviving was slim, of having live lambs even slimmer. We thought about giving it up, not putting her through the repeated injections and cutting our losses. Then, whilst discussing this in the paddock with her laid at our feet, I stroked the wool on her side - and got an almighty thump under my hand. It was followed by another, visibly lifting the fleece. She turned and looked at her side too, then up at me. Lambs were definitely alive in there, and knocking on the walls to get out. We kept going. The first true spring weather was occurring, too, with some really warm, sunny days.

This all culminated in a single day where Gytha's prolapse had to be sutured, Ophelia's twins were born 10 days premature and Jeremy the cat got bitten by a poisonous brown snake.

Superstitious minds would think that was the three bad luck items on the agenda. It wasn't. Some things got better, like Jeremy turning out not to have been bitten after all. He just clawed SO's arm to ribbons on being snatched away from the snake. Gytha had healthy twin ram lambs. Ophelia's twins survived their first two nights.

So you would then suspect things were looking up, forgetting the roller coaster ride that is smallholding. Before seven days passed we saw the frosts return, both Ophelia's lambs dead of a lung infection, Gytha put out of her unfixable misery and yet a third Dorset ewe, Madeleine, failing to give birth unassisted to twin ewe lambs - one of which was stillborn. The entire local vet team visited at various times that week. They were nearly given their own coffee mugs.

Being the above said roller coaster though, rural life improved again. We saved both Gytha's lambs and - being bottle fed and tame little chaps - we fostered one to a friend a few towns away and the other is still with us. Following our hereditary alphabet pattern we named him Gimli as he inherited Gytha's frame size: small.

Madeleine's surviving lamb, Melody, also became a bottle-fed baby and the two of them bonded and would skip down the hill from the top of the home paddock whenever they heard the gate rattle. So things were sweet again, birds sang, music played and the sun came out, despite the tyranny of the 24 hour milk feeding regime.

Disasters notwithstanding, it's all worth it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

All creatures.. err... small.

The thunderstorms this evening have created warm humidity a bit foreign to this area. The nocturnal wildlife are loving it and feeling all lively. They all seem drawn to the bright lights and big windows of downtown Casa Celestequest.

Saw this chap reaching for the flash on the french doors this evening:

and this lovely fellow is probably having an insect feast,

whilst showing us his vulnerable side. He - or indeed she - is tattooed on the reverse.

Understandably he's veering away from my poor flash photography skills. This little one didn't mind however, and is clearing up the insects the others miss: