Monday, 19 August 2013

Tough Decisions

I was out walking the property we are looking after for friends on Saturday morning, and to my surprise one of the ewes had lambed.  I say surprise because the instructions we received when we arrived said they weren’t due for a month, plus there was not one, or two, but three lambs, all belonging to one mother.  All three looked like they were trying to feed from mum, and we brought them into the paddock close to the house so that we could keep an eye on them.  The next morning, however, it became apparent that one of the lambs was not strong enough to feed on his own, and that if left on his own would probably die.  He could barely walk a few feet without laying down, and didn’t have the strength to get to the mother and feed while competing with two siblings for her two udders.

Two of the triplets
We had a tough decision to make.  Learn to bottle feed him, with all the work required in doing it every 4 hours, or leave him to die.  If it was our animal, we would probably have left it to die, as the genetics of the natural survivors are stronger, and the cost of sheep-milk replacer doesn’t really justify it ($60 for the powder, $70 to actually buy a lamb).  Plus the owners of the farm said they were not going to be upset if he died.
Tough decision time for this guy
We decided to bottle feed him.  This isn’t our farm and that is not our animal.  Our job isn’t to make the decision whether to let it die, it is to do our utmost to ensure every single animal is alive when they get back, regardless of how much work is required.  It is our responsibility, nothing less.

Getting the lamb used to drinking from the bottle
And the little bastard has responded marvellously.  Some borrowed goat colostrum from Matthew next door (sheep can digest it), fed every 4 hours over Sunday and Monday, and the little guy was running about the house this morning, sprawling all over like Thumper on ice (apparently wooden floors aren’t that grippy for cloven feet).

We gave him a feed in the morning, and then put him in the paddock with mum so he can hang with his siblings.  We didn’t expect the ewe to take him back, and she was knocking him around whenever he tried to follow his instincts and feed from her.  But she must have caved at some point, because we came back in the afternoon and wouldn’t you know it, there he is, drinking from his mum, like nothing at all had happened.  He was a different lamb to the one we brought in on Sunday, running around and playing with the other two.  After a bit more watching it seemed like the ewe wouldn’t always let him feed, so we decided to keep up the bottle feeding.

One of the lambs may still die (they will always grow slower than a single lamb), but it won’t be because we didn’t try to keep them alive.

The other tough decision surrounds the house/land hunt.  So many options, and so many possibilities.  We don’t know what business we would want to setup, which means that we are trying to buy a place that gives us the greatest number of possible businesses.  So do we take a place with an established orchard with some sheds that requires tree removal to create pasture and a house-site, or a blank-slate of pasture with a few sheds that is an hour from Hobart?

Each of these would lend themselves to a great business: the orchard property could support pigs, farmstays and farm gate sales; the blank slate could run pastured beef and poultry and farmstays.  But which would be better?  As I said, tough decisions…..

Cor and the agent walking around the orchard property

Just part of the orchard

The Buff Orpington rooster where we are farm sitting
And finally, a Muscovy drake, a great duck for eating

Friday, 9 August 2013

Seeing faces we may never see again....

Well this is not something we plan to do, but it does come with being “on the road again” (according to Willie Nelson anyway).  And that is where we are, heading for the good life.  It feels as if we have been waiting in limbo for so long, it is hard to remind ourselves that we have spent a lot of the time learning valuable skills and making contacts that will serve us in good stead when we buy our own project farm.

Carly and her dog!
And so we are driving south.  On our way down we popped in to see Carly and her dad’s avocado farm in Bundaberg and catch up, hard to believe it had been 5 years since she was in London with us.

Love that NZ scenery, check out those mountains.
We spent a week over in New Zealand helping Cor’s parent’s clean out their apartment in Christchurch, and got to see Casey and Natasha, plus spend a couple of days with our niece and nephew.

Caleb and Emily show promising climber skills

Caleb having a ball

Since then we have had a great few days in Brisbane spending time with friends and family (my baby sister!).  We picked up the trailer we ordered made and unpacked our storage locker.  12 years that stuff had been in there!  Two loads of rubbish went to the dump, including lots of mouldy clothes and shoes that we will never wear again.  A nice reminder of just how horribly I used to dress (my casual wear style could euphemistically be called “reformed skater boy”).  We have named the trailer “Taylor”, so that together with Chuck the Truck we can call them Chuck Taylor.
It had to be big enough to fit two cows..... and all our junk.

Chuck Taylor explanation for those who don't get it..... actually it doesn't make that much sense, but it rhymes.
We had a fun time catching up with our friends with kids as well as those who aren’t so encumbered, and it was amazing that everyone could make the effort to see us in the limited time window that we had.  It was great to see you all.  Sarah and Vince even promised us details of someone who lives just up the road from where we are looking to buy.  He dives for crayfish and abalone, so has immediately moved to the top of my “must get to know” list.  We received many assurances of visits, some will happen, some may not, but we know that we certainly won’t be getting too lonely down there on the “south island”.
With Kate and Kevin!
We popped into Sydney for a couple of days with Cor’s uncle Robert on his farm in Vineyard, tapping into his extensive poultry breeding experience and picking up more of Cor’s extensive library.  I don’t know how the hell we are going to fit all of her books into just one house, but it is going to need a full size library (she has requested one with those ladders on wheels).  And speaking of getting clucky this weekend we are with my sister for my niece’s first birthday, no doubt turning me into a wannabe parent, for a few days at least!
Clucky, me?
On 15 August we arrive back in Tasmania.  We will be farmsitting for a couple of friends for a few weeks, and after that we have decided that while we are looking for a property to buy we are going to rent a house.  Any place we likely buy will likely not have a house, and renting a place will give us time to get a cottage built, and also allow us to have our shipping container delivered to access all those things that we shipped from London.  It will give us an address, allowing us to transfer our drivers licences, vehicle registrations, and most importantly, medical info so that I can have my sinus things sorted in Hobart.

So that is where we are.  A week from Tasmania, accelerating towards the good life with the mainland in the rearview mirror.
Supposed to be driving into the future (but in reality just driving a moving truck in NZ)

Some photos from our catch ups.....