Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beagle in stitches

Snowy went back to Dr Jenny to have her spay operation stitches out the other night. The vet visit involves a 20 minute car ride, not Snowy's favourite thing to do but she's learning to sit still. No mean feat for a beagle. They're either running or asleep. We have a special purpose built car harness for her. A bit like an abseiling harness.

She thinks she's going climbing. Here she is limbering up in preparation.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I go, Hugo

The chap on the far left here is Hugo. He's a Dorset cross that left us when he was about 12 hours old to live with his new family a few towns away. His mother had issues and we had to foster the lambs. The Dorset next to him is actually his twin brother, Gimli.

They were reunited briefly at last year's shearing, when these pictures were taken. To have a shearer come for just one sheep would have cost his new owners a pretty penny so we sheep sat him for an overnight slumber party with his brother and cousins and he was shorn here.

Hugo's foster family reared him on a bottle and adore him. He is a real pet and follows people about like a dog. Actually, he's much better than our dog at following. He cried when we left him with the other sheep and, tellingly, was quiet and happy when we were with him. Hugo the Human Sheep. He's touchingly trusting, we can do anything with him. Here SO is checking his teeth. With one hand. Hugo stands there and lets him.

Hugo also has a tail. His new owners saw no reason to dock him when they had him constantly nearby and could meet all his sheepish hygiene requirements. This hasn't been an issue, but his general health, suddenly, has.

We got a distressed phone call the other night, Hugo was sick and was there anything more his loving carers could do? After a lengthy conversation involving worms, snot, diarrhea and abnormal bodily functions we were all satisfied that the vet's attendance and resultant medications plus warm shed full of hay were the best that could be done that evening. I did talk his foster mother out of sleeping in the shed with him. Although I may have been known to do this on occasion too, it's not officially recorded.

It transpired that Hugo had a slight cold, but also a heavy burden of Barber's Pole worm. Not nice, but happily treatable. Of course, when you are a spoilt only sheep with no other problems in the world your owners can be forgiven for overlooking such a thing. The commoner sheep who had moved in a few months previous may have brought it with them. Hugo should be looking up soon.

Monday, June 28, 2010


The peacocks-that-we-don't-like-very-much lost their tails gradually at the end of autumn. Mostly on our verandah, but one unfortunate chap seemed to lose all his in one night in the orchard. We found most of it the next day. He may have been grabbed by a fox who found itself left with a mouthful of untasty stuff and left it. Effective escape strategy, that.

The lost feathers made an ornamental bouquet in an old stone jar, but not inside the house! Peacock feathers are apparently bad luck when brought inside the house. This is my grandmother's wisdom and she Knew Things. I'm not going to risk it.

Slowly their tails have been growing longer, then developing iridescent "eyes" that move down the length of the tail from the base to the tip as they grow. One strutting gentleman seems to have been seized by the tail at some point as he's missing some off the left side of it.

For a while the peacocks didn't have to do their skirt-flipping move to turn around in tight spaces. This involves holding their tail up over their backs at an awkward angle and pirouetting on one foot at the same time to turn around on a narrow path. Or when startled in the garden. Or when inspecting the shed they are not allowed into.

Their necks are always blue. Peacock blue, strangely enough. Their tails change constantly in the light. Sometimes they're green. Sometimes they're bronze. Sometimes they're almost rose pink.

As their tails get longer and longer the peacocks learn to cope. Like kindly moving them aside for me as I make my way to my own front door. Such nice peacocks, only eating about three quarters of the seedlings and generously leaving us some. They're quite used to us now, despite not being welcome. We tell them this. They ignore us. They like it here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cat-splatted rat

This morning Jamie refused to come down from the top of the 8 foot high bookshelf.

A while back I said I didn't think a rodent would come into the house being stalked as it is at night by cats. I was wrong. Jamie had cornered a rat - on top of the picture rail!

Yes, that's a real rat. In our dining room. Oh, the shame!

Eventually between SO yelling and Jamie's brother Jeremy prowling round below, the rat was scared over to where Jamie could reach it. In a Spiderman-like manoeuvre that was sadly too quick for the camera, Jamie belted the rat at full reach with both front paws, knocking it to the ground.

Jamie got to the floor in hot pursuit in a series of lighting quick hops just as the rat ran into the kitchen. (Future note to self: close doors when rodents are baled up to limit chase space).

An epic battle ensued around the wood oven where Jay did a supurb showjump-over-the-woodbasket routine and stopped the rat from running behind the stove. Three times. We are pretty inept at catching rats, clearly. Jamie tried to catch it by jumping on it and biting it. This simple rat-dispatching procedure was hampered by me trying to hit the rat with the ash shovel and SO with the fire poker, having first protected himself by putting on my kitchen oven gloves.

I felt a bit sorry for the rat who was putting up an admirable fight, but it was only a few minutes before SO managed to pick it up with the oven mitt and take it outside.

Jamie seemed disappointed and went back to the top of the shelf to see if he could find another one. Jeremy sniffed around the stove for the rest of the day, sure Jamie had put it down here somewhere...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Jelly bath

Every evening at 9:30pm Jelly has a bath. Like clockwork. She doesn't move from her armchair to do it, just wakes up and cleans up. There are different things on telly every night, and sometimes no telly at all. We don't always get up for a cup of tea then, and no other regular thing happens. She just knows when it's 9:30.

Here she is, paused in her ablutions, temporarily distracted by the RSPCA on TV.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ups and downs

Celestequest is mostly very hilly country. Some of it is only mildly hilly, but that is where the buildings got put, so most of the pasture is on very steep land. The trusty ute here is parked in first gear, with handbrake on and chocks under wheels just in case. Standard procedure. It's parked halfway down the fence where we are collecting firewood because to go up any further really would be pushing it a bit. We have no wish to look down, helpless, mouths open as the ute makes it's own track straight through fences to the most convenient stopping point, probably a tree. The star picket in the fence at the rear of the ute tray and the tree in the top right are actually vertical. No trick photography.

Like several breeds of sheep, we have several varieties of slope. The long gentle ridges and saddles make the best places to walk, especially up hill. The plunging valleys are good to get out of the wind, and they collect water like - surprisingly - gullies. Some parts are quite cliff-like. The tiny spot in the bottom left hand side of this photo is a trough on the valley floor. We can nearly get our own aerial photos just by standing on a hill.

Collecting wood therefore has extra challenges. Like gravity, everything without restraint tumbling downhill and balance issues.

This little fellow in the hole in the log is a skink. A tiny lizard, sleeping in the cold weather. They run on solar power and there hasn't been much sun lately. He was rudely awoken by the chainsaw taking off his house extensions either side of his bedroom. I put him under cover of a gorse bush but in the sun so he could leave the noisy neighbourhood if he wished.

Skinks have no trouble with the slopes, having four-foot drive, nor do alpacas with their flat, leathery feet. They just amble up and down as if it were nothing. Which, compared to the rocky mountain faces of the Andes, it probably is. We find climbing up and down on all fours easier too in some places.The sheep sometimes have tumbles. I've seen a sheep roll completely over and then keep tumbling until it bounced off a fence. It got up, shook it's vision clear and promptly started cropping the new grass it had found by accident. It's nonchalance made me wonder how often they roll down hills. They're clearly used to it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


"Gayhunter Snowflake" is possibly the worst ever name given to a dog. So we just call her Snowy,

or, when she's pulled one over on us, Snowjob,

or, when she shakes hair everywhere, Snowdrift,

and when she charges about the place, nose down beagle sniffer style, she's Snowplough.

When she's cold and curled up tightly she's a Snowball.

Erupting through the door she's a Snowstorm. Whatever blows your ears back.
Apparently every snowflake is unique. Our Snowflake certainly is.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pink thieves

In the sunlight between showers yesterday we noticed a flock of galahs feeding in a dry thistle patch. They normally dine at our expense on the oats dropped from the animal fodder or the seeds we sow deliberately to grow pasture. They prefer us to broadcast their dinner.

This was high in the valley on the flat area where we hope to grow pasture for hay sometime in the misty future. We have had a few galahs here before but not in the tens of thousands like they are seen in the cereal growing areas. The seeds they are eating appear to be thistle seeds from the year before, which is helpful.

Hopefully news of this free feed doesn't spread to their cousins and cousins' cousins, or by the time we broadcast seed for pasture there it will be all eaten as well.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

OHS (Occupational Health Sheep)

The collecting of firewood is an ongoing task. Every year we say we'll collect a lot in spring (October-ish) and let it season over the summer, then have a pile of wood to use the following winter. This plan never quite seems to happen and very year sees us collecting wood through the winter. We choose old fallen wood but not wildlife-habitat trees, as it's already seasoned for immediate use.

We took advantage of a sunny day without much wind today. So did the sheep. They appeared on the firewood worksite en masse,

and wanted to check out everything. They inspected the way the logs were being cut,

and the condition of the logsplitter. It needs sharpening.

They informed me that the old sack I use for carting logs is coming apart where the rope handles attach.

We asked them if they would help cart wood down the hill, but they declined.

They had some winter sun to inspect elsewhere in the paddock.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Vehicle load inspection

The lambs learn at a young age that the big red wheelbarrow often has tasty things aboard. They then check out every red wheelbarrow, or indeed any wheelbarrow, that comes along. This is the small red wheelbarrow.

SO was just shifting a muck pile, but was checked out nonetheless. Ever seen a lamb look disappointed?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Good for another 100,000 km

The horses got a good farriering today, their feet have been in muddy conditions for some time - just like the rest of them - and need constant care. It seems like only yesterday Farrier Mike was out here trimming their feet and fending off the dogs as this happens roughly every 6 weeks. Kalara had pointedly removed one of her front shoes on a fence so he came a bit earlier this time. They were also wormed because then I don't have to remember two 6-weekly repeat dates. Fully serviced. Ready to go.

I had to hose their lower legs off so he could work, also checking for greasy heel, rain scald and other nasties with nasty names. None were found and they were stored in the waiting room that is the yard. Princess killed time by doing a bit of gardening.

The conversation this time turned to how many lounge suites Farrier Mike had ended up with (five) and how many microwave ovens I had ended up with (also five) after combining our respective households with others. Most of the excesses had been given away or sold, but we still had enough horse gear of all vintages between us to open a tack shop.

The whole time Farrier Mike talked through a mouth full of nails, but was still understandable albeit a bit mumbly. He said the Occupational Health & Safety folk would have a fit. Farriery is a bit like firefighting in that to make something safe you have to face a bit of danger and there's simply no avoiding it - that part is the job. OH&S folk don't much like either.

One keen young OH&S fellow followed Farrier Mike on his rounds one day, making notes. For just one day. That was enough. He didn't come back. Farrier Mike sees to in excess of 200 horses and donkeys on his rounds, give or take, and he's been doing this for at least 15 years that I know of, probably quite a bit longer. He reckons having nails stuck to a magnetic wrist band or some other part of him would be much more dangerous. He would know. At least when he moves his head to avoid an annoyed horse he takes the nails away with it!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bedtime in the morning

Early mornings mean leaving a warm bed for the cold winter dawn to feed the animals and check all is well after the stormy nights.

Jeremy hates to see a warm bed wasted, so he sneaks in when we get up. Here he is breaking at least three CEZ's (Cat Exclusion Zones) being a) in the bedroom, b) on the bed and c) under the covers.

He claims he is not technically c) under the covers, because he is not actually c) covered. Still guilty of the other charges though. Snowy is sitting there quietly hoping I won't notice her in a Dog Exclusion Zone as well. She has the space behind Jeremy earmarked for a nap of her own.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Soccer log

A while back a large chunk of this eucalyptus tree, which is really two eucalypts growing together, fell down. Just like that. They do that. It scattered leaves everywhere, drove bark into the soil and scared Princess witless but apart from that no lasting damage was done. So we cut it up.

SO left the bit you see sticking up to the right for a reason. It's a sheep scratching post. The sheep used to lean on it for hours rocking back and forth with blissful looks on their faces itching the parts they can't reach and he didn't see why he should deprive them of this pleasure. Anyway, we stacked the cut logs up against the tree to season. They can stay there for a year collecting spiders and snakes, shedding their bark and drying out for the fire. Except this one:

Every morning we find it by itself out in the paddock. Every day we put it back. Thinking it had just fallen from the pile I wedged it round the back. The next day it was down by the fence again.

It's possible the sheep are just rubbing against it and it rolls down the hill, but it's always the same log. A much more entertaining idea is that - this being the Bachelor Pad - they've caught the excitement of World Cup fever and are using it to play soccer. Elrond rolls it round with his nose, perhaps they just selected the roundest one for a bit of sport.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hang dog

Snowy has a terrible hangover today although she doesn't remember the party at the vet's yesterday at all. She remembers not being able to have breakfast, then a bit of a scary ride in the car during which she didn't throw up. Happy with that, she then met Dr Jenny the lovely vet again. She heard her voice in the consulting room before she saw her and started whining and pulling at the leash to get to her. Favourite vet! Then she stood on a cold, stainless steel table and was looked over and talked about. After that she doesn't remember anything...

After being a breeding beagle all her life last year she was retired. The elderly couple who owned her didn't want her to go through another emergency caesarian section at 4:00am. They probably didn't want to go through it either. They preferred to find her good owners provided they had her spayed. We hope we've been good owners. Snowy might not agree.

Having had the other operation last year made the spay this year a bit more difficult. There were old scars, adhesions and what we shall call middle aged spread. Not puppy fat, Snowy is 6 years old, but chubbiness was noticed and commented on by the vet. Meaningfully. Directed at us. Must be all the good lamb. Her and I both, actually. We'll need to get out for even more walks together.

Meanwhile, Snowy's got to recover. She's being unnervingly quiet and biddable just now. She showed signs of normality at the vet when, after a whole day of being good, her beagleness welled to the surface again and she chewed off her drip line. Now she doesn't feel like chewing anything.

She had a small meal - of lamb again - and a good drink. A short walk outside and that was it. For half an hour, before beagleness resumed. Restless and uncomfortable she insisted breaking all the rules sent home on the post operation information sheet. Snowy can't read so she insisted on trying to get up onto the lounge, a Dog Free Zone, the armchair, another DFZ or go into the bedroom, definitely a DFZ after the incident with the socks.

Eventually we had to go to sleep due to our eyes already doing so. The Orphan Lamb Luxury Apartment was deployed. This is a couple of gates that just happen to fit next to the fire, for corralling lambs who like exploring. It serves a wayward dog just as well.

She kept everyone awake for a while playing harmonica and singing the prision blues. Around 1:00am I moved to the sofa to make sure she didn't chew her stitches or try to break out when her anaethesia wore off completely. Her upheaval of the household complete, she settled down and slept.