Lipstick for goats

Lipstick for goats

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

My Jacky Dragon

The lovely thing about living in the country is the huge array of wonderful wildlife we come in contact with.

At Somerset Farm we have quite a number of Jacky Dragons living around the machinery shed and a few around the house. The Jacky Lizard, or Jacky Dragon, is native to the south-eastern coast of Australia and was named in 1790. I read it was so named because they were as common as ‘Jack’, I guess Jack being a derivative of the popular name John and who doesn’t have a John or three in their family tree somewhere!  

These dragons always scoot off quickly if we approach them, except Harold -Cynthia. 

Harold -Cynthia being his own dragon, not a hand raised pet, was unique.

You may be wondering about his name? Well I didn’t know how to determine the sex of a lizard, so a friend suggested he looked like a Harold to her. But what if he is really a she? So, my friend suggested Cynthia. A double-barrelled name, dilemma solved, although I still always refer to Harold-Cynthia as he.

We first met in the summer of 2018. Harold-Cynthia was sitting on the corner of our veranda decking.  He was shedding his skin and was rubbing against the wood decking. I grabbed my camera and started clicking away as he didn’t seem in the least perturbed by my close proximity. 

After being his personal paparazzo, I sat down on the grass beside the decking and started talking to him. I even ventured tentatively to give him a gentle scratch. This didn’t freak him out.

Next thing I know he jumped down onto the grass beside me, then jumped onto my leg where he sat for over 20 minutes while I continued talking to him and taking more photos.  The entire time he was looking at me like he understood every word I said. A friendship was forged.

Harold- Cynthia was so unafraid of us we had to watch where we were walking. I warned every visitor to watch out for him so he would not get stepped on as he hung out next to the veranda entrance in the lavender garden and he was so well camouflaged to his environment.  He never ran away unless a huge shadow of a bird came over him.  I often commented to my husband of my dread that Harold’s lack of fear would be the little lizard’s down fall.

I never thought I would be that person who caught blow flies in the house, pulled a wing off it then offered it to Harold-C.  I knew nothing about Jacky Dragons but quickly noticed the bug had to be alive and moving before he would show interest in it to eat it.  His mouth was the most stunning orange yellow cavern.

Harold-Cynthia caught this skink all by himself, no help from me! He managed to spit out the small wood chip without letting go of the skink then he ate the skink it in a few chews and gulps, I will admit the cannibalism did gross me out a bit.  

Our contact was never forced, if he wanted to hop up on my leg or arm it was always on 
his terms.

I was always amused by his arm waving. He would run a distance then stop and wave his front leg in circles in the air. I am still unsure why he did this, some researchers say it is an aggression movement when other Jacky's are about, others say it is a passive movement and another thought is it has something to do with movement around the lizard.  As Harold-Cynthia was the only lizard on that side of the house it wasn’t the first two suggestions. I really don’t care what this little antic was about, I found it cute and endearing.

Last year when late Autumn arrived, he disappeared.   I was rather worried as I thought it a little early for hibernation and hoped he had not become a snake’s meal.  My relief was enormous when he emerged again with the warmer weather, still packed with personality, just as friendly and grown larger.

       Even a lizard likes a cooling swim in his own personal pool on a stinking hot day

You may have noticed I have been using the past tense for Harold-Cynthia.  A couple of 
weeks ago my worst fear became reality. I found Harold-Cynthia dead with an injury on his underside close to his front leg. He was lying near my cast iron garden setting in long grass. I will never know for sure but I believe my husband or I may have been the cause of Harold-C’s demise by putting the heavy chair leg down on him. 

I never thought a little lizard would impact so deeply on me. Losing him is as bad as when one of my goats die. I sobbed for hours. 

 Wow! I'm a movie star. When do I get my own dressing room?

I walk outside looking for him then realise he won’t be there waving at me and water still leaks from my eyes when I think of him. 

Goodbye Harold-Cynthia, thank you for enriching my life, even if it was for such a short time. I miss you so much.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Too much sun juice

Living off grid has advantages, like no huge electricity bills, but we need more solar panels and a bigger battery bank because sometimes a girl just wants to run her hair dryer without having to put on the generator!  

These four tiny solar panels suffice in summer but in winter I wonder if the lights will stay on until we have finished eating or will we get to the end of a DVD before the inverter starts to sing telling us the power has run out. It takes a few days in winter for the solar battery bank to build up again, so we listen to the generator thumping along in the background; the country serenity gone!

You can imagine my excitement when hubby arrived at the farm with 8 x 60 volt humungous solar panels he had bought cheaply from a house demolition sale.  Oh joy!!  I may not have to go to bed at 7.30 pm through lack of power.  I may be able to run a few of those modern power hungry conveniences, most with elements that everyone on mains electricity take for granted but here they zap away our solar power  - toaster, kettle, electric frypan, vacuum,  HAIR DRYER!!!!  Really all I want is my hair dryer....and maybe my beauty therapist wax pot.  A microwave would be good but I can live without one. 

The gloriously large panels went up on the roof. Husband had taken detailed notes of how the panels were connected on the roof he had removed them from, copying the layout exactly onto our roof.  He connected them up to a controller he had purchased ages ago.   

The following day was clear, the panels thirstily sucking in the sun’s energy.

All of a sudden there was smoke billowing from the side of the house! The controller was on fire.  Just as well we weren’t off working in a paddock; the whole cottage would have burnt down. 

The panels were quickly disconnected and covered over just in case we were so stupidly clever with their assembly they continued to suck in the sun juice.  

Husband raced off into town to find someone to advise us while I stood sentinel over the failed project in case the house went up in a puff of smoke.

It seems the controller was far too small for the amount of super doper juicy energy flowing through it as the panels were set up in series. No, no, no!!! Series is only in a grid situation feeding back into the mains power supply! We were putting 480 volts into a 12 volt controller! No wonder it had a heart attack and began to burn.

A solar expert from town came out to have a look at the set up and tell us what we needed to make the little cottage run completely on solar power, including running an electric refrigerator instead of our gas one, so my little cottage would be just like an ordinary house on mains electricity.

The list was longer than any child’s wish list for Santa but nowhere near as interesting to read.  Cables, fuses, larger inverter, plugs, chargers, breakers, flex, conduit, switch board enclosure, larger inverter, insulated battery box and more deep cycle wet batteries.   

So our cheap solar panels look like costing us somewhere in the vicinity of $10,000 upwards depending upon the size of inverter and amount of batteries needed.  

My dream of milking the sun and running my hairdryer without the generator has been dashed again. The gleaming large solar panels remain decoration on the roof for the moment.  

                                         Hmmm......Yep too much sun juice.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Accidental Stinkies

One is probably my fault. The other is nature’s fault.

They are jewel-less on the outside. On the inside the testosterone still thrives. 

They stink, so I call them my ‘Stinkies’. I can’t give them names as they are not what I intended; they will have to go – at some stage- when I feel strong. They might stink but they are lovely natured.

They are my accidental bucks or half neutered boys known as stags.

You see I left a nut, jewel, stone, testicle, gonad, whatever you would like to name their maleness.  Mister 121’s slipped back inside him so I only ringed one.  Mister 127’s testicle just did not descend so I figured by 16 weeks of age when we still could not feel a testicle inside him  he only was ever going to have one ball –  wrong he wanted to  keep one of his testicles tucked well away for himself! His condition is called crytorchidism, it is a genetic defect and heritable, so even if the animal is fertile he should not be bred from.  

Most men cross their legs wincing when I describe the neutering process.  My husband holds the boy kids on their back in his lap, their back legs hanging down between his legs, so I have a clear way to ringing the testicles in the scrotum with a elastrator ring. The rubber ring slowly cuts off the blood circulation to the testicles. After several weeks the scrotum and balls wither and fall off. There is a bit of moaning – mostly from my husband as he sympathises with the boys. 

The first indication all was not wethered with these two was the thickened neck and strong horns, the beard started to grow, with these changes their interest in the girls grew. Slowly their bodies thickened and then the delightful stink began announcing a buck on the lightest of breezes. 

If one testicle is retained in the body its temperature will constantly be higher than it would be if residing in the scrotum. This reduces fertility or can cause sterility, but he will still show all the traits of a sexually active buck. 

Stinky 127 is more buckish and dominant than his buddy 121. I have caught him peeing all over his front legs and face to impress the girls on the other side of the fence. I suspect of the two there is a small chance he may still be fertile, I’m not so sure about 121 (who is Xanthe’s brother. (See my posts Call the midwife - Hell not her! and  Xanthe the baby goat). 

Neither were meant to be retained as bucks, they simply are not good enough quality to breed from, so they are taking up an entire paddock, wafting their scent and sending the girls in the adjoining paddock into a hormonal frenzy. These female hussy’s stand at the fence calling to the boys and wiggling their tails, giving the boy’s the teasing ‘come on’. So the poor boys jump on each other out of frustration. Occasionally the girls stick their head through the fencing wire trying to rub that wonderful buck aroma over themselves. I'm glad they don't back up to the fence instead! There's that old saying, "where there is a will there is a way!"

                                   "But mum, he smells sooo good! I'm in love."

Today there was a way! Stinky 127 was missing all day, I thought he was doing his usual strutting up and down the boundary fence sending the girls into a frenzy. On dusk he arrived back, bringing with him another two goats. I counted up the boys, no that was too many, then I realised these extra two with him were does. 

Oh he looked smug and satisfied, but just to be sure his job was complete he was mounting them one at a time again. Not to be outdone Stinky 121 joined in the fun.

Those brazen girls had crawled under the boundary fence via a wombat hole. I'm crossing my fingers, toes and eyes hoping he is not fertile and pregnancy is not the result.

Yes the stinkies have to go!! 

Friday, 20 April 2018

Murder and unkindness on the farm

Until recently I believed the black winged sods on our property were crows but they are Australian Ravens, which are of the same Corvid family but larger than a crow, otherwise similar to look at and cause the same havoc on farms.  Either way those black opportunistic vermin of the sky seem to come from nowhere at kidding time and I turn into a screaming banshee.

"Australian Raven " by Dick Daniels
When I hear their cawing at the crack of dawn I race out into the paddock in my Pj’s. They stalk amongst the kids, looking for a young weaker likely victim.    At the top of my 5 acre voice I scream ‘BANG’ at them like I had a gun.  Usually they fly off; sometimes I have to run at them “Bang, bang, Bang!!’   Don’t mess with my babies!  

Then they sit in the trees above where I feed the goats mocking me.  Swearing and yelling at them at the top of my lungs, throwing anything handy at them just does not faze them, they look down at me almost sneering, "Bring it on lady”

My neighbour lent me a slingshot to scare them away; I was never close enough to hit one and I think the stones I chose for maximum contact value were too big; they plopped on the ground well short of their mark.

Why do I hate crows and ravens so much?  The word ‘hate’ is not a strong enough word to convey my loathing of these birds.  

The name of a group of crows is quite apt – a murder.  If they are Ravens, an unkindness of ravens is just as suitable.

I have lost new born kids within a short time of their birth.  I have no idea what sex they even were.  The ravens ripped out their whole vulnerable soft belly leaving an empty cavity.  The kid’s eyes and tongues were also taken.  You will read from covid fans the birds are unjustly blamed for killing young lambs and kids; that they only clean up afterbirth and dead or moribund young, well from my experience the poor little babes were probably just born, vulnerable but alive and healthy when the Corvid attacked.

In past years I witnessed a raven ripping out the tongue of a healthy newborn kid. The raven was in the tree above just waiting its chance.  Then while the doe was occupied giving birth to her second kid, it flew down and viciously pecked the first kid on the face, when she screamed it ripped her extended tongue out.  I was horrified. I had no idea these birds would do such a cruel thing.

I was here by myself and knowing I would have to put her down but not having a gun I had to think of alternative methods to do the deed.  I was a complete sobbing mess.  Do I put her in front of the car and run her over, do I drown her, swing her head against a post? These were the realities I was facing.   I felt sick and totally incapable of doing any of these things. 

I rang my neighbour and was lucky enough to catch one of his sons at home from work.  I didn’t have to ask him to do what was necessary –after listening to my, no doubt, very upset explanation of what happened he offered to drive straight down to get her.

Ravens have also attacked the tail and anus of some of the kids aged less than a week old. I think this was more opportunistic as I believe a young fox on its first hunt had tried to unsuccessfully grab the kids by the tail, partly ripping them off, the ravens came in because of the blood.  I have two kids with no tails but they are alive and well; adults now.

Among all birds covids are the most intelligent, they have the largest brains for body size with highest capacity for memory, learning and problem solving. They use objects for tools and even form their own tools, such as spikes and hooks, to get food out from crevices.  Corvids recognise people carrying guns, they avoid traps, and they follow and harass large predators for food.

This year I tried out two scare crows in the paddock.  Unfortunately they didn’t fool the ravens for long – less than a week.

Magpies are my greatest allies!  I cheer them on, “Go Magie, Go!!’  I have watched them chase away ravens that are over half their size again.  I imagine the ravens feast on the baby magpies and the unhatched eggs.

Over spring the black sods have bred, there are now even more soaring over the paddocks.  Their cawing puts me on edge. They are probably just vocalising to each other but I can’t help worrying they may be harassing the kids or perhaps an older goat is ill and down, are they are surrounding it, strutting around it, waiting to get in for an eye?  Yes, they have taken the eyes out of my adult goat who was ill and still alive.

You can see why I am not fond of these black birds but I do respect their high intelligence.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

8 tips from a novice entering a country show.

After visiting the  county show  in  our beautiful  little  town as  a spectator  for a number of years, I decided I had to be a participant in the show this year; it was a yearning to be part of the community, which should be the overriding reason, but...... I think, no I know, I am a tad competitive.....So much so I practised chucking a gum boot all around the paddock the day before the show.  The goats decided it was safer not to  hang around me!  When hubby saw me practising he had a chuckle then started to offer constructive tips. By the 10th throw I had figured out the best way to hold the boot and the exact angle to let it go for best trajectory distance.  I was sure I had this event in the bag!

Well I guess that is Tip #1 – Practise. The old saying practise makes perfect. If you have your eyes set on the baking section use the family as guinea pigs before hand. Write down every little alteration you may make to a recipe so you can duplicate the home winner.

Throughout  my schooling  years I  was a good  sprinter so I intended to  enter the  adult running races, mind you, I have not run since leaving school, and all that sprinting has ruined my knees. My husband was not so keen for me to enter this one; he is recovering from a hernia operation and said he was not carrying my broken down body back to the car.

Tip #2 –Realise your limitations (hubby’s not mine!!)

A neighbour told me the pavilion program did not change from year to year; with this in mind I perused last year’s guide for the pavilion exhibit sections to decide what I would enter.

Highest on my ‘must enter’ list was ‘A county ramble’ in the floral and decorative section.  All content had to be from the roadside or paddock, nothing to be from a garden, and displayed in a suitable container. I was in bliss, our paddocks yield up the most interesting and beautiful treasures.  My container was to be a beautiful half piece of naturally hollowed tree limb. All year I collected amazing pieces - colourful bird feathers, nest, sculls, broken pieces of discarded small farm implements, lichen covered twigs.  To my huge disappointment when I checked the new guide a month ago ‘A country ramble’ had been replaced by ‘In the backyard’ a design to resemble a backyard with accessories....Are they kidding??  Good luck with getting entries for that one!    

Tip #3 – Check the new guide before getting carried away...

And no, there were no entries for that class! Here follows the next tip.

Tip #4 – If you are aware a category is not highly contested or popular, enter it. Chances are you will get a first or second placing.  Although I notice where my daughter lives the local country show is huuuge! This particular show society have a rule if only one item is entered for a class it may not be judged. Again check your local show society guide for their rules.

I decided on twelve items to enter in the show. Four of photography, a handmade teddy bear, two covered coat hangers, two chutneys, a lemon butter, a steamed pudding and a boiled fruit cake. 
The day before the show the hall was abuzz with people dropping off their entries.  Many entries were already in place, it gave me a chance to have a wee bit of a preview to see how talented the people in our town are.

On the day we parked at the far end of the showground, stopping on our way to the pavillion to watch the sheep and cattle judging. I was being a cool customer, what will be will be, racing to the pavillion to check out how I went would not change the outcome. 

Finally at the pavillion the first display on entry was the baking section. 

When I had dropped my entries off a neighbour was helping to take the cakes in the baking section.  In conversation she gave me a clue as to what I was up against with judging in that section. Oh my!  How could I have the audacity to pit my novice competition cooking skills with that of the Country Women’s Association judge?!  Big mistake!  

The judging criteria by these CWA judges is strict, rigid and pedantic, do not stray from the guidelines or for that matter, from my observations, from the absolute traditional. 

I was told this particular judge was ‘extreme’ in her criteria, wanting to disqualify entries. I suspect my untraditional boiled fruit cake was one.  I am reliably told she went on and on about how much she hated the decoration on my cake, ripping it all off, and how entrants must follow the rules. Nowhere in the guide lines did it state I was not allowed to decorate my boiled cake so possibly this was a foible of the judge.

This one did not impress the judge

My steamed pudding has been a huge favourite with family and friends for years. It is sticky, super rich, chock full of fruit deliciousness but it didn’t pass muster either. What on earth do the judges know if they don’t bother to taste the entries!

In both classes there were only three entries, with only a first and second place awarded. Never mind, hubby and I are gorging ourselves and enjoying immensely my self awarded third placed cooking efforts.

Tip #4 – When it comes to the baking section in this class, do not decorate anything unless it states ‘iced’, you will upset the sensibilities of the judge. Traditional recipes appear to be more favoured. 

My mango chutney was awarded third place in the ‘other chutney’ category. I did enter another variation of the mango chutney that was not placed.  I really didn’t think the chutneys would do well as usually chutney needs three months to mature, lose the acidic taste and for the flavours to meld. Mine were only 8 weeks old.  What I noticed was the chutneys placed were of a ‘honey clear colour’ where as my chutney that did not place was cloudy.

Tip #5 - Apple cider vinegar in chutney rather than normal vinegar boosts the chutneys colour and reduces the time the chutney needs to mature. Yay for my chutney in 3rd place!  The use of ground spices rather than whole spices in a spice bag will make chutney cloudy or muddy as in the case of my second chutney.

The sunshine captured in a jar, aka lemon butter was hotly contested. Mine did not place; it sure wasn’t for lack of anything but an egg yolk or two.  It was obvious to me all the winning jars used extra yolks; they had a creamier, thicker appearance than mine.

Tip #6 - A mixture of whole eggs and yolks offers an ideal combination of lightness and richness for lemon butter and it appears this may be what the judges are looking for. Whole eggs produce a lighter result. Don’t forget to wash the wax off bought lemons, before zesting them and be careful not to grate into the pith as this is bitter. Straining the cooked lemon butter is super important to remove any bits of cooked egg.

I was trying to be cool and calm taking a stroll around the pavilion looking at all the exhibits rather than running straight to mine. That was until hubby grabbed me by the arm and said, “You have to see your teddy bear, now!” 
Before my astonished eyes was a purple grand champion ribbon draped around my bear. I had won the highest award over every other hand made item in the section! Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this.

I love my teddy bear

Hubby raced off into the room displaying the photography leaving me in joyous tears in front of my bear. He came back out to me urging me to leave my bear to see the photography. 

Really?  Was that a first and blue ribbon attached to my triptych (three photos in a series) entry? I looked to see if I was mistaken, surely it was for the one under mine, but no, the first card had my name on it! I had only entered this one half heartedly, thinking it was not good enough.

Husband turned me 90 degrees to the back wall and there was my photo entered in the ‘Braidwood Perspective’ with a highly commended card under it. I walked over to it in a daze, with my mouth open.  

Yet again my husband came over to me and asked ‘if I was feeling clever and was my head growing with my success?’ I just nodded dumbly. He replied to my nod, “then get ready for your head to get bigger” and took me to another wall. There was my nature photo of a wattle bird with a second award!  Don’t even ask me what the first place photo was; I was too stunned to take it in. 

Tip #7 – Don’t under estimate your photos, if you particularly like a photo you have taken then enter it. After studying the photos entered, particularly some with a similar subject to mine, I still can’t figure out exactly what the judges are looking for.

Did I say I was trying to be cool and calm? That disappeared when I excitedly hurried back into the main pavilion room to see how my covered coat hangers had done.  Woo hoo!  A first and second placing! 

I floated around the pavilion on cloud nine, looking again at all the exhibits, still bewildered but excited at my successes.

You may ask how I went in the gumboot and running events.... I totally missed them because I spent too much time drifting around the pavilion!

The Show Society was running an Instagram challenge with a first prize of $150 and second prize of $50 for the best photos taken at the show on the day. It is always hard to know what sort of a photo depicts and encompasses the image of the country show. What the heck, I was feeling buoyant so I entered five photos I shot of the day.  

My hay bale stacking photo won second prize!!!

Tip #8 – Just do it! Be part of the day, the show’s success depends upon participation, the more participation the more enjoyable the day!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Dancing with goats.

I’m really not sure where the saying ‘Silly old goat’ came from, be assured goats are very intelligent.  Silly old humans would be more aptly applied to us when trying to use our wits against the goats when attempting to wrangle them in the old holding and handling yards.

Goats are masters of evasion, helped by eyes that can see 340 degrees around them and with the advantage of 4 legs easily out running our arthritic knees. Yells between hubby and I of “Go left, no right, Run! Run! Round the back, get behind them; cut off Psycho Bitch before she takes off”, are generally the order of business just to get them into the pens from the holding yard.

Our old German Short Haired Pointer was absolutely useless as a herder, she believed it was all a game of divide and scatter to the yard’s farthest corners.

It doesn’t help that goats have a fantastic memory; they remember the last time they went into the yards when I either stuck a thermometer up their bum or squirted a nasty tasting liquid down their throat; it could have been worse and been the other way around!

After about 30 minutes of goat anarchy, we usually manage to get about half the herd into the pens; these are usually the pets and quieter ones. 

Psycho Bitch and Crazy pants have avoided capture and taken the scattiest of the herd with them.

The actual handling yards are designed for cattle. Being over 60 years old they are in an extremely dilapidated condition, the timber is rotten and precariously held together with bits of wire.  The yards have done the job but they are not at all suited for goats. It would be very difficult if not downright impossible for me to do goat husbandry in them on my own.

The pens are the wrong shape and size for naturally pushing the goats into the race. The goats do an avoidance dance around the pen while hubby and I perform our version of a Maori Haka. We puff out our chests, bend our knees, arms are outstretched and madly waving up and down while clutching our weapon of choice - our hats, and stomp in a bent over position behind the goats while making weird guttural noises to send them into the race. Doing this we can normally get a least 4 or 5 goats in there at once, but not enough to stop those ones doing a tango up and down the wide long race.  

The pet goats stand in front of the entrance to the race with their heads cocked to one side looking at us like we really are stark raving mad, but still stand their ground, refusing to enter it. A bit of a forceful push on their rump helps.   

Life would be so much easier if the goats in the race  would happily trot down to the cattle crush, but no.  The next step is to grab a goat by the horns. Horns are wonderful handles but goats hate to be held by the horns and forget getting them to come quietly along with you, oh no, the description ‘stubborn goat’ really comes into play. They lock their four legs and push their heads down and it becomes a game of tug-o-war into the crush.

The crush just acts as a big cage, where hubby holds the goat by the horns while I do whatever is necessary.

Needless to say, working with goats in these yards is hard work with husbandry jobs taking twice as long to do.

Over the years we have tried to modify the yards with sheets of aluminium packaging and they have been patched with sheep paneling until the beginning of last year when my husband pulled half the pens down on the other side of the cattle crush with the intention of transforming them into something more suitable for the goats but other jobs took priority over the yards, at least in a man’s opinion, and were left!!

So last time we danced with goats was the final straw for my patience. This crazy city goat woman totally lost her cool...... The yards are back at the top of the priority list. 

Friday, 3 November 2017

Stalking a Red Belly Black Snake.

What to do when a Red Belly Black snake takes up residence under your wheelbarrow water pump cover? 

You sit and wait patiently for snakey to vacate, 'cos if you don't see it leave you don't know if it is safe to remove the wheelbarrow to use the water pump!

Australia has a good share of highly venomous snakes. Our farm has three of these,  the Eastern Brown snake being the most deadly and aggressive of our Australian snakes,  it is also ranked second most venomous snake on the planet! Coming in at seventh place for nastiness is the Copperhead snake and taking out tenth place is the Red Belly Black snake.

So when you spy a black tail hanging from under the wheelbarrow you sigh a little in relief, "Could be worse." 

When we first started coming across snakes on our property and mentioned our horror of  stumbling upon a Red Belly Black snake the locals were so blase. "Ah,  blacks are okay. Leave them alone and they won't bother you."  

My thoughts at the time - "Are you kidding? It's a venomous snake! It's like, - well, - slithery, fork tongued, scaly and above all scary."

Here I have a confession to make. I think the Red Belly Black snakes are rather beautiful. No, I don't think snakes are beautiful, it is the black and vermilion red of this snake that is gorgeous. I do admire Red Back spiders for the same reason. 

I have learnt the locals are right, the red bellys are not aggressive and would rather slink off in the opposite direction than have a confrontation with you. Just don't threaten them by stepping on one, give it a fright or try to grab it, then the story would be different.

So I watched and waited for two hours for snakey to come out.  I will call the snake  a him, I have no idea or inclination to try and sex a snake. We played peek a boo with him popping his head from under the barrow and tasting the air, to see if it was safe to venture out. By the time the shadows moved across the barrow I imagine it became too cold under there for him and he finally slid out. 

I was deceived by his small head, thinking he was a little snake when in reality he was nearly a metre long.

He slunk into a sun drenched grass spot, flattening his body out to absorb the radiant heat.

He may have vacated his temporary sanctuary but my snake patrol was not over. Beavis and Butthead, my  goats, had decided the reeds at the dam presented the best option for lunch and could not be deterred from this gastronomic delight. The snake was sunbathing, deathly still, a few metres away. I was scared the goats would inadvertently step on him and be bitten.

After warming himself up Mr Snake took off over the paddock. I followed at a discrete distance to make sure he didn't hang around. Boy, did he slither fast once warmed up.

To my delight he was heading for the boundary fence but then seemed to have a distinct purpose in mind, halting at a decaying tree stump and quickly sliding in and out of the fallen wood. Then without hesitation he went straight up the stump, the top part of his body disappearing into the hole at the top. I figured he was looking for a new snooze spot in the rotten center. 

I was about to turn away, believing my stalking was complete, when I heard the weirdest noise. It is so hard to describe. It was like a high pitched squeaking sound like a cork being twisted into a wine bottle. The snake appeared to be trying to squeeze the thicker part of its body downwards into the trunk hole with a twisting motion. I honestly thought the snake was stuck and wondered how it was emitting that distressed sound.

All of a sudden he backed out of the hole with the back leg of a frog between its jaws. That dear little frog was trying to hang on the the stump with all its might but Mr Snakey was not letting go, he had brute strength on his side.

How I wanted to rescue that little frog with its front leg waving imploringly in the air!  Three gulps, frog was gone. There was no way I was going to try to wrestle and deprive Australia's 10th most venomous snake from its meal. 

That snake went straight back up into the tree stump and dragged out a second frog. Lunch was on!

A third investigation of the hole left him without dessert. He slithered all around the fallen wood on the ground, seemed not to find anything further and finally went through the fencing wire into a heap of leaf litter to digest his meal.

At last we could put our water pump on. We will be extremely careful taking the cover off the pump in snake season from now on.

The dam is still alive with the sound of frog music, so I am pleased to say Mr R.B.B. Snake has not decimated the frog population.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Does mumma need a gun? Stock euthanasia.

Where to begin? I am anti gun. I hate guns. To me a gun represents violence. I applaud Australia’s strict gun laws. As a city girl I can’t think of a possible reason outside of sport anyone would need one in the city sprawl.  Hunting is no longer a subsistence requirement among the skyscrapers and urban landscape. I am quite sure the local suburban parks now have wild children not wild game running about them. City hunting and gathering is done at a supermarket. 

I am so anti gun I would not allow my son to have a toy gun when he was little. 

I am so anti gun when my daughter came home from school at the age of five singing “50 bullets in your head, bang, bang, you’re dead” I was horrified and marched up to the school demanding to know why such a disgusting song was part of my child’s learning. I was so angry I was shaking.

I do think I had every right to be outraged about this because only two weeks prior to my daughter coming home singing this song a gunman had shot and killed 16 children and injured 13 other children in a class of five and six year olds at Dunblane School in Scotland.  My protest to the teacher fell on deaf ears. The teacher described it as a “fun action song”.

I explained to my daughter I would prefer she did not sing it and my reason why.  Bless her heart when the class continued to sing ’50 bullets’ she refused to join in.

And then we go and buy a farm and stock it with animals.......

Most farmers own guns as a necessity to dispatching vermin or as a humane way to euthanise stock, which is an enormous responsibility, deserving of being done right with utmost respect for the animal.  So, apparently we suddenly had a genuine reason to apply for a gun licence, and to own a smooth wood and cold steel weapon.....well husband did, I sure wasn’t having a thing to do with it. 

To my dismay my son also applied for his junior gun licence.

It always seems when I am at the farm by myself I have need of a goat to be euthanised and have to call on a neighbour to do the deed.  I feel really bad I have given someone else this sad task, but also thankful I am not the one to have to do it and usually hide so I don’t have to face the action of it. 

It is easy to settle with a natural death and to deal with the body of my herd goat, but I’m still having trouble deciding to take a life away, even if it is to stop suffering.
Farmers think differently to city dwellers. They have a matter of fact attitude to the life and death of stock.  

The last time I had to ask my neighbour to put down a goat because she had septicaemia after retaining two dead kids and was slowly dying, I decided I had to toughen up and be with him as he shot her. How could I expect my soft hearted husband or my neighbour to do this without understanding and experiencing the process myself? 

I was warned what to expect. It was confronting. There was the most vivid thick red blood.  Yes it was quick; I am told death is instant despite nerves making the animal twitch. The action was still violent compared to a vet giving the 'green dream' (an over dose of anesthetic)  where the animal gently fades away, but the green dream is not an economical solution when it comes to stock.  

Today I look at my husband with compassion as I have to send him off to put down “Numberoneson”, a dear old favourite male goat in the herd, who can’t get up and won’t make it through another day without undue misery.  

My husband is a gentle natured man; this is only the second time he has had to euthanise one of my goats. He has become extremely quiet, probably contemplating what he has to do but does not want to do. I ask my husband if he wants me to go with him, he hesitates but says “no”. The coward in me is relieved. I sit in the house shedding a tear for both Numberoneson and my husband as I hear the shot ring out.

Will I get my gun licence specifically for euthanasia for my goats? I won't say never, but for the moment I have searched my soul, I don’t believe I am strong enough emotionally.  I know I would be a sobbing mess and not be able to pull the trigger, or close my eyes at ‘that instant’ causing 
excessive suffering to the animal.  I am glad I witnessed the putting down of my doe by a competent man and feel somewhat comfortable knowing an animal will not suffer providing the shot is done properly. I have the highest respect for anyone who has to do this.