Lipstick for goats

Lipstick for goats

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. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

Aliens are landing!

My usual ritual during the early weeks of kidding time is to walk the paddock before I go to bed to check on the mums and bubs

One particular evening I was annoyed to find the girls were having a night out at the local hay bale; their babies had been left alone all over the paddock. One kid was acting as fox bait; it had climbed through the wire fence and was curled up in the adjoining paddock.  Even the alpacas had decided to have the night off and were at the opposite end of the paddock playing hooky.  I had to re-soundly tell the mums off and yell at the alpacas to get back to work.

After huffing and puffing from carrying armfuls of kids from the far corners of the paddock back to their errant mothers it was time for my bed.  

On the way back to the house I took a moment to take in what an exceptionally beautiful clear night it was and admire the unbelievable splendour of the night sky. The evening sky away from city lights is breathtaking.  The limitless expanse of blackness was ablaze with a canopy of billions of luminous stars. 

I stood in the middle of the black paddock for a few minutes gazing at this wonder and spotted a aeroplane. 

Well I thought it was a plane, but where was its blinking red lights?  It was really bright and it was a strange shape that seemed to be just hovering in the one spot.  Perhaps it is Venus?  No, it was moving, but surely far too slowly for a plane or satellite?  What was it? Did it just take off quickly then stop again? 

It was at about this point my fertile imagination began kicking in.  I started to think about the Mel Gibson movie ‘Signs’.

Yes, a UFO was hovering over my farm about to land and I was all alone!  

It makes lots of sense for a UFO to land in a rural area, there’s plenty of land, easy touchdown.  No intelligent alien would land its craft in the middle of a busy Sydney street, there’s no room for manoeuvring; it would cause a huge traffic jam and then, no doubt, a car driver with road rage over being inconveniently held up would start swinging a base ball bat at it.

My heart started pounding. I was a sprinter in my youth, I am quite sure I broke my own personal best record running back to the house.  

The door was slammed and locked. I raced from room to room making sure the windows were closed and shutting the blinds, terrified I would see something on the other side of the glass looking in at me.  

If the all the lights were off, maybe the aliens would go somewhere else?

I was waiting for the house to light up, being infused with blinding orange light; the windows and doors to start rattling and banging.  I was not up for any close encounters of the third kind.  

Truly, I was mentally looking for somewhere to hide in my teeny tiny cottage know, just in case. Aliens wouldn't think to look in the broom cupboard, would they?  Yes they probably would know I was squished in there.

Should I grab the aluminium foil to start fashioning a helmet so my thoughts could not be read by the visitors? No that would take too much time, a large saucepan might work, also doubling as a weird creature wacker. 

Like a child I dived into bed and threw the covers over my head, hoping a ball of light wouldn't materialise into a starman hanging out on my veranda. As I hid under the bed covers a mantra kept running through my head, "It was only a plane, it was only a plane" until I convinced myself that was all the unusual light was and I could fall asleep. 

All this time I knew I was being irrational, silly and far too imaginative.  Obviously I have watched too many Sci-fi thrillers.    My strange light was probably just a plane.... but who is to say it wasn’t a unidentified flying object.   

A number of months later I was visiting the coast, which as the crow flies is not so far away from the farm.  The local news reported “A bizarre shining orb filmed hovering near the coast late last month was not from any identifiable source.”   I felt quite vindicated for my galloping imagination. 

"There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
but he thinks he'd blow our minds"

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, off to olive picking I go!

I think I sort of invited myself to help with the olive harvest at Narranghi Olive Grove situated just outside of Braidwood.  I met Kerry and Paul, half owners of the grove with Kerry's sister Di and her husband, through a friend who had talked about the fun she has every year helping out at the harvest. The harvest sounded like a great social event, I figure if someone willingly goes back year after year to help friends out for gratis, simply for the joy of being there and the good company, it’s something I would also like to experience and I’m always up for learning something different. And learn about olives I did, as well as being so well fed over the weekend I thought I would go home and have a food baby! 

Kerry is such an organised woman with her well planned map of the grove with every tree numbered, row by row. I am sure she knows each individual tree and whether it is a dud or a darling. 

Anyone who wants to cultivate olives must have a patient personality, that counts me out! A tree takes over seven years to show its first fruiting and then it won’t be until it is 15 to 20 years old before bearing at its best. 

The olive trees require a lot of work, they must be properly pruned to insure the fullest possible exposure to the sun’s rays. 

Pruning aficionado Paul.

Once one job is finished a new job on the trees demands attention, whether it be spraying for lace bugs or sooty mould, or constantly checking the irrigation lines haven't been pulled out by the pesky rabbits.

Picking begins after the olives have been nipped by the first cold of winter, the fruit can be harvested when it is green and unripe, fully ripened to black or any stage in between but no matter at what stage of ripeness all olives need to be processed before they can be eaten, I believe they taste dreadful 'raw'. I wasn't falling for Paul's cheeky joke to a rookie picker that I could eat as many olives as I wanted while picking. 

There are no mechanical harvesters at Narranghi Olive Grove, it is all done lovingly by hand and lots of loving hands are needed when a grove consists of 700 trees!  I am told the mechanical harvesters used by some large commercial growers, grasp the tree by the trunk then shake the bejings out of it to drop the olives, however, the trees are sensitive to being so assaulted,  therefore many boutique growers prefer to hand harvest.

When olives are harvested by hand, sheets of netting are placed on the ground under the trees to catch the fruit.

A sort of milking motion is employed to strip the fruit from the trees. When we weren't talking and laughing I found the hand picking puts one into a meditative, calming zone. The hardest thing about picking is to be aware of where your feet are so you are not prematurely squishing the olives on the net. 

For those higher branches a long handled plastic rake is used to comb the fruit out. Wendy was determined to get to those olives at the top of the tree.

After harvesting of a tree's crop is completed, the nets filled with olives are emptied into crates, which are then taken to be processed.

They are highly perishable commodities, souring easily, so that they must be pressed as soon after picking as possible. Narranghi Grove have their own processing plant.  

End of the picking day as the sun sets over Narranghi Olive Grove, an amazingly beautiful setting. 

What a great weekend I had, with a humourous, congenial bunch of people who made me feel very welcome. I might just invite myself again next year!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A stare into the past - Bushranger shoot out at the Show ground.

As a family historian it was fabulous to be able to have a front row seat and stare back 150 years into Braidwood’s history as the infamous bushrangers Tom and John  Clarke were recaptured all over again amid a hail of bullets and gun smoke during a faithful re-enactment at the showground.

Luke and Tom Clarke admirably played the parts of their ancestors. Everyone I spoke to wanted to tell me how they were related to the Clarkes.  These guys had cousins they didn't know existed, like cockroaches they were coming out of the woodwork, claiming kinship to them and the bushrangers.

Australia’s worst and most troublesome bushrangers consisted of the Clarke boys, their relations the Connells, and other desperate individuals who periodically joined the maundering gang.
On a modern day resume the Clarke’s occupation in the early days would have read professional cattle duffers and illegal purveyors of stolen horses.  As time went on their activities escalated; they plundered publicans, storekeepers, farmers and travellers, they ambushed gold shipments, killed a policeman and they had no hesitation in killing any member of the gang suspected of being untrustworthy.

The Clarke brothers were children of the bush; with their superior horsemanship and knowledge of bushcraft they could dissolve into the surrounding country side without a trace. This was aided by an intricate web of family marriages; many people would harbour them and help with an extensive 'bush telegraph system'. They also ensured their safety from the law with threats of personal and property damage or a share in the spoils. That was until they were suspected of murdering four special policemen who were tracking them. Finally they were betrayed by their cousin for the huge reward money. 

The recreation of Tom Berry's slab hut where the Clarke Brothers were ambushed by police after being tipped off by their cousin Tom Berry

I wanted to buy this hut for our property but then so did everyone else in Braidwood. Unfortunately for those of us wanting to snap up a nifty slab hut full of character the builder, Terry Hart, who is related way back to Tommy Clarke's wife Charlotte nee Hart is re- erecting it on his own property. 

The re-enactment begins.
During the night the police surrounded the hut. Constables Wright and Walsh took the Clarke's horses so they couldn't escape.

At 6am when the Clarkes came out to saddle their horses the police opened fire upon them.

The Clarkes beat a hasty retreat back into the hut where they held off the police, until police reinforcements arrived.

Knowing their situation was hopeless they surrendered.  

The Clarke brothers were taken to Sydney for a trial lasting only one day and found guilty of intent to kill and the wounding of police officers, an offence carrying the death sentence.  

Chief Justice Sir Alfred Stephens on passing sentence listed their record, excluding suspected murders, as Thomas, nine mail robberies and thirty six robberies of individuals of all classes in two years; John, twenty six crimes in one year. He pointed out "the Clarkes were to be hanged, not as retribution, but because their deaths were necessary for the peace, good order, safety and welfare of society. Their fate was to serve as a warning to others".
Tom Clarke as Tommy Clarke                           Luke Clarke as John Clarke

Friday, 10 March 2017

Sew it. Grow it. Show it.- Braidwood Show

The 141st Braidwood Show is done and dusted, although it was more mud than dust. The dress code for the day was gumboots, drizabone oilskins and umbrellas. At 7am the rain was steadily falling at the farm and had been all night, not something I want to complain about considering how badly we need it, I rolled over in bed and considered if I really wanted to head to the annual country show. These shows highlight country life and are a big social event for the town. 
I  had  driven  past  the  showground  the  morning  before  and  it had  been  abuzz with activity, the talented ones dropping their local produce, flowers, art and craft entries off to the pavilion. The stewards had the huge unenviable task of judging the exhibits Friday afternoon. 

I thought about the herculean effort is would be for the show committee to organise the day, the disappointment for them, the exhibitors and  local businesses supporting the day if no one turned up because of inclement weather. So I chucked on the wellies, hoisted the golfing umbrella and went to play in the mud.   

The steady rain didn't let up until lunch time, nevertheless the show had a good turn out. The local paper reported it was the wettest show day in living memory!

As I strolled through the pavilion browsing at the diversity and rich kaleidoscope of local skills and crafts I made a promise to myself I would enter something next year. I am sure it makes the day more enjoyable if you have items entered and how exciting it would be to have a coloured ribbon draped over your entry.  

In my mind I am already working on a cabbage of outrageous proportions for the vegie class next year.  

I will leave the baking to the gods and goddesses of the ovens. The whole idea of snipping a raisin into 2-3 pieces, cherries into 4-6 pieces and almonds crosswise into 3-4 pieces for uniformity of ingredients for a fruit cake, does my head in, and I am 100 percent sure the judges would know if the butter and sugar had not been creamed evenly. 

As for flowers, Dahlias and Roses are the queens of the show, and I kid you not, one exhibitor turned up in a refrigerated van with his flowers, now that is a serious exhibitor! The flower section may prove tricky for me to enter as the wild ducks keep eating the flowers in my struggling garden but I like to be innovative so I am thinking perhaps a thimble arranged with pretty weeds would be considered as 'One container of any other flower not mentioned'.  

It appears a lot of sheep in the Braidwood district are running around naked.

Dodgem cars are the staple amusement ride at any country show and a side show alley would not be the same without being able to stuff a ball in the clown's moving mouth to win a prize.

At these country shows you come across some very strange creatures wandering the grounds. 

Children and youth are highly encouraged to participate in all sections of the show including showing their cattle and sheep.

I arrived at the ram judging at an interesting time, yes the judge is checking out their maleness.

Show society committee I have one word for you - goats. Goats, their cuteness is taking over the world! Where is the goat section?  Disappointment much! I need a grandchild so Chunky Monkey can be, at the least, entered into the children's pet show. 

Chunks would have a horn in for the 'most debonair' or the 'longest ears', but more likely the cheekiest pet with the loudest voice.  

The Dagwood dog is up there with fairy floss as gourmet carnival food to eat while watching the family activities. 

The foot events had a bumbling charm, totally lighthearted, with a blind eye to strict rules even though the first three places won $15, $10 and $5 respectively. For most entrants the enjoyment was simply being part of the day. 

Toss the gumboot and pass the footy into the space were worth entering with a prize of $30 for 1st place. Watch out my goats, I will be practicing throwing a gumboot around the paddock in preparation for next year, I wonder if I can train them to fetch the boot back to me? 

Bale stacking. The highest stack built in one minute by a team of three wins. They build them up then knock them down.

Chain saw racing always draws a large crowd. I was cheering on my neighbour who was beaten by a few spins of the chain in this heat. 

The biggest matter of the day requiring deep discussion, mental calculation and resolution was what Harley and Charlie, the Brahman Steers, weighed. 

The horses always look so handsome with their manes and tails braided. A lot of effort must go into their grooming before an event. 

The Braidwood Show may not be as big as some of the other local shows but it had a genuine, warm family appeal with plenty to occupy every member of the family. 

I am eyeing off a blue ribbon from the 142nd show, I will just have to put plenty of fertiliser on the imaginary cabbage.