Friday, November 30, 2012

Shearing the Rams

The sheep at Wattle Creek have been shorn, and today was time to shear the rams at home. We had managed to keep the rams dry in the shed during the storm yesterday and last night. (We had over an inch of rain, which is most annoying at this time of the year.)

First up the young merino rams were shorn. These are from our breeding nucleus, and their fleeces were weighed so that we can add the data to their body weight and wool micron measurement to calculate an index which we use for selecting the breeding rams.

Next the older merino rams were shorn. I really love the look of the horns on merino rams!

Then the Poll Dorset rams had to be shorn. The nature of these rams with their temperament and size makes them difficult and dangerous to shear, so they are given some drugs to calm them down beforehand. Roger injected them about an hour before they were shorn so that they were not too difficult for the shearers to handle.


Hugh loves to help in the shed, and he spent some time helping to sweep up wool off the floor.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Counting the chickens before they've hatched

Just over three weeks ago we set a clucky hen on a dozen fresh eggs. She had been sitting in the nesting box in the chook pen so we knew she was ready to set. We got some eggs from a friend so they are a mix of varieties. Yesterday was the day I had written in my diary as the day that the chickens should hatch. It had seemed a long time coming because Hugh had been asking virtually every day whether the chickens were going to hatch that day.
We have been keeping the hen in the old rabbit hutch, as it was the most secure place we could find where she would be safe from predators. After one particularly hot day last week I was worried that the hen had abandoned her eggs. She had left the nest and looked quite distressed, and she had spread the eggs out, which resulted in one rolling away. But she may have just been trying to stop the eggs from overheating because she went back to them and continued sitting on them for another week.
Because yesterday was the day written in the calendar as hatching date we looked in on her lots of times during the day, and excitedly went out this morning to check again. We have had very wet and stormy weather and today was particularly cold. I was glad no chickens hatched last night in such a storm. But when there was still no sign of chickens this evening I started to despair. Maybe the eggs had gone off. Maybe they weren't fertilised...
But when I took an egg from under the hen and held it near my ear I could hear tiny pecking sounds and the faint cheeping of a tiny chicken. Now we wait expectantly for the morning, when we will be waiting to count our chickens!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Planting Trees

Recently we planted some trees and salt-tolerant bushes in an area of the farm which has become salt-affected and unproductive. Roger obtained a grant through the local landcare officer to help with the cost of fencing the area and re-vegetating it.
The wetter flats were mounded before planting trees with the pottiputki manually. Higher up we direct planted the seedlings using a Kimseeds machine.
Here are some photos...

Odette firming down a tree seedling


Odette and Hugh

Roger in the tractor, Matthew on the planter

Matthew working the planter

Hugh replanting a tree seedling that missed the hole

Matthew and Teagan planting trees on the mounded flats

Matthew stamping on the pottiputki

seedling in the ground

Another Hiatus

Apologies to anyone who thought we had been on holidays all year!!
Although I have had a holiday from the blog, things have been carrying on as normal at Warragal Park.
I was unwell for some time, suffering from depression and extremely tired and unmotivated. After a stay in hospital in June and some sessions with a counsellor, I visited a new psychiatrist who prescribed some new medication which has helped to get me back on track.
I had spent the previous twelve months trying to get help for my sleepiness, lethargy and lack of energy. I had been unable to concentrate at work and I spent most of my time at home in bed. I would fall asleep in meetings and didn't complete a course I was enrolled in because I couldn't focus or find motivation. My work suffered and I had to make excuses and apologies to clients who didn't receive products they had ordered. At home Roger looked after meals and getting the kids to school (as well as running the farm), I tried to manage the laundry, but the house was in utter chaos. The kids suffered because I never spent quality time with them. If I started to read a book I would fall asleep, I was too tired to play games, and I was excessively intolerant. When driving I frequently had to pull over and have a nap lest I should fall asleep behind the wheel.
Visits to the doctor last year saw plenty of blood tests, a sleep study and a trial with a CPAP machine, then counselling to try to overcome the tiredness and depression. But to no avail, and I just got further and further down and down with depression until it all came apart and I was completely unable to function. I got Roger to take me to the doctor, to get me admitted to hospital.  
It turns out that the medication I had been taking was sedating me. The new psychiatrist was horrified, and amazed that I could function at all with that amount of sedation. Anyone else out there taking high doses of Luvox, beware!
View from a hospital bed

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Holiday, or Not

The time came for our family holiday. Two weeks in my parents' holiday home at Bremer Bay on the south coast.
But shearing was just finishing and harvest was under way. So there was no way that The Farmer could just pack up and go away on holidays. The kids on the other hand were champing at the bit and NO WAY were they going to miss their holiday. The fact is that we have never had two weeks summer holiday even though every year it is marked on the calendar. There is always farm work to do, and especially so when shearing is scheduled for January.
This year we decided that I would go with the kids for the first week and then Roger would join us once harvest was finished and he had drenched sheep to put into the stubble paddocks, and tidied up loose ends after shearing. My parents were going to come to stay at the farm and look after things while he went on holiday during the second week.
You would have noticed that I said "were going to" in that last paragraph, and you would have heard the saying that starts "the best laid plans..." so I don't have to tell you that my parents didn't get down to the farm. In fact my father spent several days in hospital suffering form food poisoning. I was glad it happened while they were in Perth and not while they were at the farm, and so far away from a hospital (although of course I'm sorry it had to happen at all.)
With Roger stuck at the farm I turned to and contacted a young French backpacker who was available to help me with the kids. Estelle caught the bus to Jerramungup and we drove 100kms to pick her up, and then she spent a wonderful week with myself and the kids at Bremer Bay.

We came back from our holiday yesterday, and boy do I wish I was back on the south coast again. It was close to 40C here today, and that sort of temperature just makes me melt. With more hot weather on the way it makes me wonder why we came home...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Feeding Sheep

Many people think that farmers are always wanting rain, so when two inches (50mm) of rain fell in December we should have been ecstatic. In fact rain in December is disastrous on a farm like ours. We had so much pasture in the paddocks which had dried off, leaving dry feed which could have sustained livestock for many weeks. Rain on dry feed leaches out nutrients leaving little more than fibre, and now, even though the sheep have dry grass to eat to fill their bellies, they cannot maintain body condition on such rations. So The Farmer (Roger) has started to feed out lupins to the sheep to give them protein.  

Yum, yum! Lupins...
Looking for food
All in a row
Following behind the feed trailer
lupins, good food for sheep!
Notice that the sheep have been shorn? And they have yellow on their backs. That is a chemical to kill the lice. Unfortunately lice have become a big problem in recent years, and we have had to treat the sheep after each shearing. If they are not treated they get in a very bad way, constantly scratching and itching, and they become quite unwell. I saw some sheep badly infested with lice last year on another property, and it was not at all pretty.

severely lice-infested sheep - poor animals...
Eureka Gold! The yellow spray kills lice on sheep.

Kids Helping

While Roger attended the fire on a nearby farm, the girls volunteered to get the sheep into the shed ready for shearing in the morning.
I took Hugh for a long awaited frog hunting excursion to a little soak in a paddock near the house.
We didn't even see a frog, but Hugh had fun "hunting" - until the cows came along to drink and scared us off. Then we went to help the girls and all ended up very dusty and dirty.

Hugh Jumping a small creek

Hugh with bucket, and my shadow...

The cows came down to drink

The girls' friend Imogen helping in the yards

Imogen again :)
Imogen, Hugh, Bonnie, Sophie and Odette
Heading home again

The Fear of Summer

What we all fear most in summer is the smell of smoke. We regularly scan the horizon for any signs of fire on hot windy days. Yesterday it was not too hot, nor very windy, but the plume of smoke on the horizon still sent shivers up my spine.
Smoke on the horizon
Roger went with his fire ute (ute with water tank and pump with spray hose), about 15kms via the roads but less than that as the crow flies. The fire was probably started by a harvester or machine, although that is just a guess on my part. It burnt some barley and other crop, and also a bit of remnant vegetation and bush. There were many fire units arriving on the scene from local farmers, who are all volunteer fire fighters, as well as aeroplanes dumping water  and the fire was soon under control; but the farmers involved will have fencing to renew, and they will need to monitor any trees that could reignite if a hot wind springs up.