Friday, April 30, 2010

Recovery phase

Sirius is convalescing after his ordeal this morning, athough a little groggily. Dr Vet Snr said he would start to wake up about half an hour after his operation and right on time his eyes started to open. He thought about moving and twitched his legs experimentally but couldn't actually do anything for another half an hour more.

Several times he tried to lift his head only to gently lay it down again with his eyes half closed in an expression of "Did you get the number of that truck that hit me?

Eventually he tried to stand up. He was like a new cria learning to walk for the first time, poor lad. There are no pictorial records of this as we had to assist him in not crashing into shed walls, falling through the wire or getting his legs tangled up. Several times he did get tangled up and flopped over into the straw

So he decided it was all too hard for now and laid in the Autumn sunlight for a while warming up. Anaesthetic can mess with an animal's temperature regulating facility and keeping them warm can be a challenge, hence his confinement to a shed out of the wind. He was quite happy with that for a while thank-you-very-much so we left him alone for an hour longer.

Meanwhile Orion paced about the yard looking for his friend in a worried-alpaca manner. 

We let them get a visual for reassurance but as Ori was so concerned we didn't want him trying to rouse Siri to his feet too early and kept him just outside.

Eventually Siri wanted to stand badly enough that he didn't move his feet when upright, just in case. Slowly he got stronger and then he got thirsty. I put a tub of water in the shed and he got caught between it and the wire. SO rearranged the bar to suit the patron and all was well.

By evening Siri was walking about, grazing and not swaying. He wolfed into his favourite lucerne hay and was still eating during every evening check, obviously making up for lost time.

Not the man he was...

It was a big day for Sirius, our younger alpaca today. Although he looks like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth he's been growling at the other animals sharing his hay and becoming more and more aggressive. It's understandable that endless raids on his supper would make him cranky, but Siri has a neat little sideways kick with the speed and punch of a martial arts master. The more cheeky lambs had learned to dodge it but they could not always dodge his teeth.

Those snappish tendencies were also aimed at the dogs on occassion, which bodes well for Siri's fox-repelling abilities, however we still have to feed and handle him in the meantime. This meant he had to be desexed: wethered in sheep and alpaca parlance. Whilst this is a simple procedure in young sheep, for various technical reasons that I won't go into, wethering alpacas means surgery, anaesthetic and an attendant vet.

So the date was set, Siri confined in a clean shed, Ori confined to keep him company and they patiently lounged in our makeshift waiting room

At the appointed hour our cheery and chatty vet rocked up and knocked Siri out. I got all worried and motherly seeing little Siri down for the count but Dr Vet Senior reassured me saying he'd done hundreds of these routine ops. He also remarked that this was the first time he had heard an alpaca snore.

Ten minutes later with the able assistance of SO and the deed was done. It would have been five minutes but ever since I'd mentioned my life-long desire to be a vet, Dr Vet Snr has enthusiastically described every procedure he's been called out for whilst I plagued him with questions. We talked over the procedure thoroughly while Siri demonstrated.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New stud on the block

After much discussion over whether to breed lambs this year (I wanted to, SO didn't) we came to a compromise. We'd breed - or try to - a limited number of coloured lambs. Of course, some of them may be white, but they'd carry coloured genes to breed back to next year. To that end we needed a ram. Rather, the ewes needed a ram.

We bought a ram today, a big move since actually buying a ram instead of hiring our shearer's rams means we are admitting to seriously getting involved with sheep-breeding. Sort of. If being serious means mixing up your breeds completely.

We got this lad from the Lower North - flat wheat, sheep and barley country. Very different to our land but he'll adapt. Actually he's not really a lad, being a bit long in all his teeth and a cull from the 1300 acre sheep farm where he'd been working. Coloured rams probably abound in the Adelaide Hills, but we couldn't find any. Commercial wool properties usually cull anyone with a bit of colour due to no coloured fibres allowed in the wool clip. Our shearer, the invaluable John, put us onto a lovely brother and sister team who breed coloured sheep exclusively.

His wrinkly nose is because he is a Merino. This should help to make our subsequent fleeces finer. The Merino breed, not the wrinkly nose. Apart from him we don't have any pure Merinos (but since when, despite our best intentions, did we stick to one breed in any animal?) He is a dark grey now, but is genetically black. He looks like a bison with the extra Merino folds of shoulder skin, and he looks like he's wearing spats so we called him Wilberforce.

He's in the home paddock as it's the flattest area we've got. He's getting to know the select ten ewes who will hopefully have his children.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"We know you're in there..."

Whenever I open the horse shed door it rolls back with a distinctive rumble. A rumble, in fact, that all the animals have come to know. For, being the biggest shed we have, most of their feed is also stored in there, and if we go in there it therefore follows in the animal mind that some feed might come out.

Animal minds thinking this en masse make for a welcoming committee that is hard to resist. Or indeed, just hard to get through on your way to somewhere else. Especially if you're home late and it's nearly dark.

What you can't hear from this photo is the massed voices demanding supper. If you are trying to get through to somewhere else before dispensing supper that is not on either. They will hurry to tell you so thus cutting off both your forward egress and your escape route, giving you the devil-eye all the time.

This is quite endearing the first 1457 times, but on a cold, wet, autumn evening with all their fleece soaked and pressing against you soaking your own, well it gets a bit tiresome. You learn quickly to dispense supper to the masses then get on with your other evening jobs. They'll leave you alone in the dark then.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Only a mother could love...

Jamie! The World's Most Annoying Cat. He's the one on the bottom right.

If he wants to go out he'll let you know in no uncertain terms. If he wants to come in he's even louder. He'll try to sit on your lap during meals and sample your fare so we implemented Cat Exclusion Zones (CEZs) including wherever plates are. So naturally he takes great notice of this and tries to sit on the table instead. When he's evicted from that he'll hop up onto the kitchen bench to see what's cooking.

He can look quite sweet, as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. But it does, quite quickly when a new block left is out of the fridge to soften and he's licking the top of it. He loves baked goods and we have to hide our fresh bread in the highest cupboard when it comes out of the oven to cool or he'll chew the crust off it. He does have endearing traits such as only stealing and eating the muffins I've baked myself. He doesn't eat anything from Woolworths.

He sleeps in the most awkward places. He loves woolen fleece and will even sleep on it whilst still wet in the bucket. He rolls on the computer desk and rearranges everything although we can only understand his filing system in terms of "scrunched up", "partially shredded" or "on the floor".

Cats tend to be either mousers or bird-murderers. Jamie is both if we don't keep his audible collar on. It has a bell so we can also tell where he is in the garden by listening. This has lead to his nickname of "Jay-bell". He is 10 years old now and dribbles when he's hungry. If he's hungry there is no peace. Most of the existing photos of him are when he is asleep as that's the only time he is still enough.

Yet, we love him. He loves us too apparently, and makes a huge effort to tell us. His purr is so loud that we have to turn the TV volume up if he's sitting on our lap. He'll climb on top of anything in to get to your lap including books, laptops, knitting and crafts involving sharp things. He tries to sit on my (fast moving) knees if I'm spinning wool. He meows at the bedroom door in the morning for admittance to the CEZ on the bed. Attempts to sleep with him there are futile. Provided you can sleep through the noise you will either wake up with deadened legs or a face full of fur. He wants to be where we are, no matter what we're doing. Even now he's on my lap doing circles with his needle-feet and getting in the way of the keyboard.

On first seeing Jamie a friend said "hey that cat looks like Hitler!"

The resemblance doesn't end there.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rumble tumble

A leisurely lunch at Celestequest Cafe (the small table and chairs on the front verandah) was interrupted today by what appeared at first sight to be a dog fight beginning in the shadows under the oak tree, tumbling awkwardly up the driveway and ending when it crashed into our front gate.

They weren't dogs, although they made a noise like a rather large pack of them. They were koalas. Yes, the one on the left is screaming. The other one is biting. We approached to referee.

The impact with the gate separated them, snowball style, and they paused from trying to kill each other long enough to pose for photos. Then the aggressor decided to retreat and made off up into the oak tree. Yes, koalas eat eucalyptus leaves, not oak leaves, but in the stress of the moment he'd forgotten that.

The smaller koala lay panting and recovering for a few minutes whilst we made sure she was alright. She made off into another tree, the ecologically correct eucalypt this time, limping slightly. There was no blood or open wounds. We think she'll be alright.

Her left paw/hand/foot - for those of you not acquainted with koala physiology - is not broken. Koalas not only have an opposable thumb but have two! On each paw that is. Double the grip on the inside makes climbing very smooth, tall trees like the aforesaid Eucalyptus obliqua much easier. You can often see the scratch marks made by their incredible claws on the new bark of trees.