Thursday, January 1, 2015

A gremlin crosses my path.


If you have a dream, step of the edge and grasp it tight with both hands because your future unknown and sometimes a gremlin wanders across your path and leaves a nasty hurdle or two. In my case it is a nasty insidious little hurdle but one I have accepted and come to terms with.

I have taken the first tentative steps on a very personal journey, a lifelong journey with an unwanted companion from whom I can neither escape nor ignore – Multiple Sclerosis. 
I am a man of a certain age and I suspect that I am typical of my generation with two guiding healthcare principles.
1)                 Doctors are best kept for emergencies and,
2)                 Left alone most things get better of their accord.
I tolerated and managed the symptoms as best I could for four years until they eventually morphed into the quintessential elephant in the room that cannot be ignored. I am fortunate to have an excellent GP who spent close to an hour with me and immediately organised an MRI to confirm her diagnosis. This was instantly followed by input overload, too much information to absorb followed by appointments with specialists and therapists to keep. A variety of seemingly completely unrelated conditions now all have a common thread.
I will admit the diagnosis caught me completely by surprise, I knew little about MS other than I associated this disease with old people and wheelchairs and I certainly don’t fit that pattern.
As I blindly step forward into the shadowy labyrinth of our health system I am thankful that I have the support of two outstanding women.  The first is Michelle, my wonderful wife who takes great care of me, cheerfully tolerates my periods of melancholy and becomes my default memory whenever mine dissipates behind a grey cloud and refuses to surface. My short-term memory is patchy, sometimes memories disappear for a short while only to resurface at a later time and other memories just vanish as if they have never existed.  I am told this is quite common with MS. 

The second is my dedicated GP who put the pieces of the puzzle together to form the diagnosis, coordinates the specialists and therapists, makes the appointments, follows up on the results and always seems to have plenty of time to deal with my concerns. 

There is no cure for MS and little in the way of effective treatment.  The aim is to reduce the severity of the attacks and minimise the damage caused. The prognosis is unknown but most people with MS continue to live an active life. I feel lucky, our little farm is my sanctuary in a changing world, but only time will tell.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Birth and death. The circle of life spins around again.


It's so sad when a cow loses a calf. She just stands there with it as if she's willing it to get up. She licks it and nuzzles it and sits there with it the whole day. One of our cows had a calf this morning and it was dead. A perfectly formed baby with not a mark on it just laying there on the ground. Meanwhile we are beating ourselves up about it wondering what happened. We hate losing animals, that sad feeling never gets any better. I look out the window now and see Creamy still sitting with her dead calf and feel so sad for her.

Blondie and her new little one.


I discovered Creamy had a calf this morning after I had walked down the paddock to check on Blondie, who had her calf yesterday. Blondie's calf is strong, following mum around and drinking well. It didn't look good as I approached Creamy and saw the calf laying still on the ground. I stood with Creamy for awhile and talked to her saying it was alright, don't worry, these things happen sometimes, next time will be better. Yes I know I'm too soft. We weren't expecting any calves until next month so these are a surprise. We will be keeping a good eye on the rest of them now.

Petunia's new piglets.


We also had one of our Wessex Saddlebacks pigs, Petunia, farrow yesterday. She had sixteen with thirteen surviving. This morning Perky, another of our Saddlebacks farrowed. She had six little ones. It always amazes me that when you have the worst weather that's when one of your stock gives birth. Yesterday was a day of rain, showers, cold and snow on the ridges. I am now waiting on my Black Faced Suffolk girls to lamb. Let's hope all goes well with them. Hopefully they will lamb underneath the new shelter we have just put up for them. I noticed the girls have started to use the shelter where as before they didn't want to go near it even though our ram Leo was using it. Leo (Leonardo) is a good boy he loves a pat and a cuddle and a play. I have to watch out when I turn my back because sometimes he looks like he's going to bunt me and I don't fancy falling flat on my face. I know he just wants to play but he is stronger than me.

Gwendoline and Clover.

Leo (Leonardo).

The sheep shelter.
Update on our hand raised piglets. A few days ago we moved our five little ones down into the pig shed area. They were starting to really trash the garden etc. they are now three and a half months old. They are strong and healthy and look like they were on their mum all the time. None of that poddy look at all. Pinky's runt of the litter Milly has been living with them too. We really thought we weren't going to be successful in hand raising piglets but we did it. When the time is right to sell them I will be selling them as breeders. After hand raising them for all this time and becoming close to them I don't want to see them go off to the other place. 
Michelle

Our 5 hand raised piglets and Milly.

The pig feed. Cadburys chocolate and grains.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Loss on a farm can be heartbreaking.


As I look at our previous blog post I see it's been four months since I last wrote something. That four months has just flown by and I wonder where it has gone. So much has happened. Sometimes it just goes by in a blur. 

Roisin with a previous litter.


It is with a sad heart that I write this new post. On April the 25th we lost a very dear member of our animal family. One of our Tamworth Sows Roisin is no longer with us. She was the last of our Tammies to give birth this round and she had a massive prolapse while farrowing. It's a terrible sight to see and one I wouldn't wish on anybody. We have never had this happen before. We were devastated and through our tears we had to come to grips with the situation rapidly. We quickly weighed up whether to keep the surviving piglets. It didn't take us long (a matter of minutes) to say yes we'll try and hand raise them. There were seven piglets alive and we made sure they had time to have some colostrum. We then gathered them up and made a warm bed under a heat lamp in the laundry. The next and very important job was to stop Roisin's suffering, if indeed she was, as I don't really know if she was in pain as there was no signs of it. She was probably in shock. There was no way we could have saved her, believe me if we could've we would have. I said my goodbyes and left, then poor John had the task of putting her down. I know you are suppose to be tough when you are a farmer but as we are getting older we are getting more softer. 


When they were just born.

Sometimes where there is death there is also life, so they say, and consequently it was for us, here in the form of seven little wriggling squirming ginger piglets. We pulled out all stops to try and help save these little guys who had lost their mum. We googled articles on how to hand raise piglets. We found that one of the best milks to feed them was goats milk.  Luckily we live right next door to a goat dairy. So with the help of Mathom Farm we collected goats milk about every third day. We then mixed it with egg yolks, our own untreated honey and a bit of charcoal. We fed them every two hours and watched for signs of diarrhoea and upset tummies etc. They say the first two to three weeks isn't so bad but once you get over that stage it can turn nasty and you can lose them. At about the three week stage we did lose two little ones. They just didn't do so well and died. The five who were left just thrived and now at the seven week stage they are growing in leaps and bounds. They have been moved out into the wood shed next to the house with their heat lamp and straw bed. We have weaned them on to a calf replacer milk powder and I am still adding the egg yolk, honey and a little charcoal. They are still getting their warm milk feed every two hours and we have introduced some grain mix to them as well. The smallest one is still bottle fed and the others now feed out of bowls. They are very demanding and take a bit of time out of the day. 

Getting into mischief inside.


I've hand fed plenty of lambs, calves and even a wallaby over the years but piglets are very different little critters to hand-rear. Even though you are connecting with them while hand feeding, they still don't like being picked up and fidget, wriggle and squeal every time. They follow me around and jump on my lap when I kneel down but don't get over friendly like a calf or a lamb does. They certainly have a mind of their own. They do make you laugh with their antics and if I accidentally leave the door open and they come inside they quickly get into lots of mischief. One of the cutest moments is when they sneak onto our old dog Smudge's bed and lay together in a pig pile with little smiles on their faces. So far so good with these little guys they look like they are going to survive. They are strong, healthy, lively and robust. Only time will tell but I think they will be okay. 

The smallest one is still getting bottle fed.

The others are on bowls now.


RIP Roisin you were a great mum and a gentle soul.
Michelle.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

It's Fencing Time.


Well we are finally getting around to fencing our top paddock. Having just one large paddock isn't the way to manage your pasture here in Tassie. We were used to very large paddocks in far western Queensland which doesn't work well here. We are cutting it up into five paddocks starting with a Bull paddock for Monty. John and I were out fencing in the blazing hot sun last weekend (yes I did say blazing hot). Hey it does get hot here in Tasmania although it took a little longer to get that way this year.  We had a late start to Summer which didn't help my vegetable seed planting one bit. I've only got a small selection of veggies growing this season, much less than I originally planned.


Fencing time has started.

This years calves are growing in leaps and bounds and Mums are doing well too even with this dry feed we have. Can't wait for Autumn to roll around again and the regular rains to fall. These fenced up paddocks are going to come in real handy when we are ready to wean them. Two of our Wessex Saddlebacks (Perky and Petunia) have had another litter of piglets each. They caught us on the hop late one evening with both of them having their piglets in the paddock. We left them there overnight as it wasn't cold weather. Both are very good mothers so we weren't very concerned. Came back in the morning to check and they had been sleeping facing each other belly to belly with piglets in the middle keeping warm. We needed to move everyone up to the maternity section of our shed so the little ones could sleep under the heat lamps in a sectioned off corner known as 'the creep'. This way they stay warm and also safe from the possibility of maybe getting rolled on. They are able to get under the sectioned off corner but mum can't. We moved the piglets first, in a wheel barrow and a crate and then enticed mums up with some food. There were 25 piglets in total. After a couple of days we opened the pens up to the outside and everyone can come and go as they please.

A barrow full of piglets.


We moved the piglets in this crate and the wheel barrow.

The 'creep' where babies stay warm and safe.
The Dung Beetles have been busy. Marvelous little creatures.

Hello from Genevieve.
There's been a bit of news on the sheep front. Our Black Faced Suffolk girls, Gwendoline and Clover now have a ram to boss about. His name is Leonardo and he's a good looking Black Faced Suffolk boy. The girls recently went down the road to another farm to get shorn. They look much better now with their new hairdos. Less weight for them to carry around too. We got told they were a tad obese so that was a bit embarrassing. We've put them in the Jenny Craig paddock for awhile. We sold a lot of Geese just before Christmas so we are now back to a manageable number again. Hopefully this year will be better for breeding as last year the flood washed a few nests away. Luckily there weren't any goslings hatched in any of them at the time as they had just started to nest. Well that's about all the news at the moment. Life is still revolving nicely on Leven River Farm.  Michelle.
It's always nice to get a good licking.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sad to see them go.


Today is a not so nice day for us as later this afternoon we are loading our last years calves to go off to the sale yards. I know, we are a bit soft now days, at least we are putting them in the Friday sale. Friday meaning restocking/people after breeders and not the butchers. We think our calves are too good for the butchers we'd like to see them go to good homes. I hope the heifers go to someone who wants breeders, they are great looking yearlings. Hopefully the steers will go to someone who wants to grow them out for ages. People probably say you have to be tough and not be so soft well, pish posh this is the way we are. We love our animals and it's a bit hard sometimes to block out the nasty thoughts i.e. slaughtering animals etc. I'll give them good luck, happy good vibes as they hop on the truck. That will do the trick.

Last years calves.

We now have nine new calves on the ground and they are looking great. The oldest of them born in September and the youngest born in November. Genevieve our Guernsey cow had a bull calf this time to Monty our Hereford bull.  The little fella is a very rich dark red colour with nice white markings. The pigs have all finished farrowing at the moment thank goodness. We still have lots of piglets in varying stages of ages running around the place. They are so cute and I never tire of their antics. We are about to start fencing up the paddocks into smaller areas so we can rotate the stock better. Something we have learnt while living here, smaller paddocks are better. So used to large paddocks in Queensland. We fertilized for the first time this Spring as well. The benefits are showing through now with lush grasses adorning the paddocks. We bought a windmill recently, you can't have a farm without a windmill, it's just not right. 
Genevieve and new calf for 2013.


We had a couple of floods go through while the geese were nesting this Spring so not as many goslings as we usually get unfortunately. We have sold a lot of geese this past week as we had to get the numbers down. They were getting out of control and getting onto the neighbours place and eating their grass, naughty geese. My two ewes Gwendoline and Clover are still two no lambs to be seen. One had a still born and the other one, well I don't think she is in lamb. They both need to be shorn very soon too. They reside in a paddock near the house as they were banished from the house yard for nibbling my fruit trees around the trunks and nearly ringbarking them. I've never had sheep do that before. Apart from that there's not much else to report.
Michelle.


2013 goslings.


My ewes and some of the Saddleback piglets.
 
One of the new 2013 calves.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

More for the Menagerie.


We have recently acquired two more animals for our farm flock. I've always wanted Black Face Suffolk sheep, so having seen two for sale on a friends Facebook page I just had to have them. Sheep are one of my favourite animals and years ago we had loads on our property in far western Queensland. These were the Merino breed of sheep well suited to the hot dry arid conditions of the far west. I used to love laying in the wool bins after shearing and taking in the smell of wool and lanolin. 

Clover and Gwendoline




My new Black Face Suffolk sheep are both Ewes, they are in lamb and due sometime in November. I have named them Clover and Gwendoline. We've been meaning to get sheep for awhile now so I'm a bit excited that we finally have some. I know it's only two but we will grow the numbers. For the moment the girls are in the house yard mowing down the lawn for me. They do look very James Herriot-ish running around with the green valley as a backdrop. Our new Wessex Saddleback piglets have introduced themselves to the girls and I wondered what each of them were thinking at the time. The piglets scampered through the gap in the garden gate and proceeded to race over to the sheep en masse. It was a funny sight so I had to go inside and grab my camera. 

The new piglets say Hello.


Pinky, Perky and Petunia, our Wessex Saddleback Sows had piglets in August. At the moment we have 35 little piglets running around the place. They have good colour and markings, Horatio did a good job. They are at that exploring stage now which means they are going under fences everywhere. It can be a bit of a problem if they get it into their heads to go for a wander over to the main road. I tend to keep an eye on them during the day for this reason. Thank goodness our road isn't all that busy. Night time is fine they are asleep in their beds under the heat lamp as it's still a bit cold here at night. 

My Black Face Suffolk Ewes.


So, now I am waiting for the lambs to arrive, the countdown has begun. How I love little lambs, so cute and photogenic. They may have twins, Tasmania seems to produce lots of twins in sheep. Maybe it's the high nutrients in the pasture. My girls will keep me in enough wool for spinning, which I like doing when I have a moment or two. Black Face Suffolks are an old breed from Britain and in the 1600's Norfolks were crossed with Southdowns and originally known as Southdown Norfolks or Blackfaces. Then in 1774 an agricultural writer decided they should be called Suffolks. In 1810 they were accepted as purebreds and the name Suffolk was used for the first time. Yet another old U.K. breed to add to our farm, we do love our old breeds.

I just stopped by to say Hello.

Michelle.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Don't worry we are still here.



Our youngest calves. 

Yep we are still here on the farm and daily life has been hectic as usual. So what's been happening since we last wrote a piece for the blog ? Well a fair bit really. It's Winter again and with it comes the rain, mud and cold. Once again the pigs are sloshing around in the mud as they go in and out of their sleeping areas. We have a plan to fix that problem. The Tamworths have had more piglets and they are now weaned. The Saddleback girls are in pig again, this time Horatio is the Dad and I can't wait to see the piglets. They are due around early August, so not long to wait. The calves are weaned and growing quickly they will be ready to sell in the Spring. Genevieve our Guernsey house cow had a beautiful grey calf in January and I called her Misty. We will probably keep her as she isn't related to our bull Monty. The geese number has grown to just over 60 and they are looking beautiful. They bred very well last season and made their nests in the paddock. We really need to sell some, the number is getting out of hand. 

Genevieve and Misty.


We went through a very dry Summer, in Tasmanian terms it was a drought. Someone said it was the driest Summer since the 1990's. The river got very low but we weren't in danger of it drying up thank goodness. We were getting a bit worried about whether we would have enough feed left in the paddocks but we came through it ok. There were lots of fires around Tasmania at this time. We were very lucky here in the valley as we didn't get a single fire even though the grass was so brown and dry. The green paddocks we have now are a very welcome sight again.  

It was such a dry Summer.


We recently bought a new garden tractor to dig up our large vegetable patch. It does a fantastic job in no time at all. It digs much better than you could ever do by hand. This will come in very handy with Spring approaching. We have our Rayburn woodstove in place in the kitchen and it's been great to cook on and in. Beautiful pork roasts and other assorted meals have been coming out of the oven regularly. Why do meals always taste better when cooked in a woodstove ? 

Our new garden tractor.


I've started a new tour business called Uncover Tasmania. I've been enjoying showing guests around beautiful Tasmania in our 4WD van. It's something I really love doing.  I think it's the best job ever. Well that's it, a short update as to what's been happening on Leven River Farm. We always seem to be busy and there's a long list of jobs to do in the coming months. Can't wait for Summer when we will have the longer days to do these jobs. Yes we are still here and still loving our life on the farm.

Michelle

  
Cheeky Tamworth piglets.

We've had some cold frosty mornings.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2012 is coming to a close.


Ahhh life on the farm.



We've been so busy on and off the farm since the last entry on our blog. Can't believe it's been two months since we last wrote anything, apologies  for our slackness on the writing front. We've had a break from calving for a while with the last one having been born on the 8th of October. Our eight calves are doing very well and are growing in leaps and bounds. We only lost two out of a total of ten, they were very big calves and both had to be pulled. We don't like seeing any of our animals die and this was not a nice experience. There are five more cows left to calve, these are the younger ones out of the herd so we left them awhile before they romanced with our bull Monty. Our poddy calf Belle, the breech baby, is still getting fed twice a day. She is doing marvellously well and when she sees me coming down the paddock with the bottle she bellows and races up to get her milk. She's been running with the herd for awhile now and enjoys being a cow which is good because sometimes poddy calves don't realise they are from the cow family. Our milking cow Genevieve looks like she might be in calf also. Can't wait for that birth, she should have a very pretty calf with her colour and markings and Monty's in there as well. Genevieve's original calf Angus has been weaned a fair few months ago now and about time too as he was quite big. He's been keeping Monty company over in the other paddock. 


Our calving is over for the moment.
                                                       
                                           

So on to our pigs. Well we've been busy ripping out the old sleeping accommodation pens which are made of wood and replacing them with steel. The pigs have been wrecking it wall by wall by rubbing and scratching themselves on the walls. Pigs are so strong and heavy they just trash things that aren't solid. As soon as we finish getting that done it will make life a bit easier by making it much more pleasant to feed them. At the moment it's bedlam in there at feeding time. We had some surprise farrowings  recently from our ten month old red and white and dark red sows. We came in one morning to feed the masses and there was Cherie, one of the red and white sows with nine piglets. We were not expecting that as we were used to the Saddlebacks and Tamworths not being in pig until they were around eighteen months old. They sort of caught us on the hop. So we immediately took a closer look at the other three sows of the same age and yep they were also in pig and they gave birth within days of each other. The maternity ward was full to the brim with new little piglets. They are coming up a month old now and there's a heinz variety of colours in this lot, they are oh so pretty. I counted up the number of pigs running around the paddocks here the other day and it totalled at eighty three. No wonder it takes me a while to feed them in the mornings and afternoons.  

Our latest bundles of joy.
                                                         


All of the geese have finished hatching their goslings now. Last year we fussed around with them by giving them nesting boxes etc but this year we just let them do what comes naturally in the nesting situation and they found perfect spots in the paddock to build nests. They have all successfully hatched their eggs and now we have lots and lots of geese in the paddock. I was a bit worried at first with the little ones being that far away from the house area but the whole gaggle protects everyone's goslings so there's no problem. November has been a dry month here on the farm with only 56 mm in total. We are hoping for a good lot of rain before Christmas just to freshen everything up and wet down the paddocks again. At least it's still green here in the valley but if we don't get good rain soon it will start to brown and dry off a bit. I've just started to water the garden again so that just shows you how dry it is. I haven't watered the garden since last summer. That's the beauty of Tassie you usually get enough rain through the year so you don't have to drag that hose around. It's fruit season coming up too and I can't wait. Our trees have their fruit on and all the berries have their little plump fruits happening. One of my favourite times of the year is when I'm walking through the garden grabbing handfuls of fruit as I go. Christmas is nearly upon us also. We have our girls Fiona and Jess flying down in two and a half weeks for their Christmas break at home. They are lucky enough to get a couple of weeks off work each. We are really looking forward to that and hopefully the weather will be nice for their visit. We want to do a bit of exploring around the place while they are down. If we don't get to write any more bits and pieces before Christmas we'd both like to wish one and all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013.

Michelle.

Some of our 2012 goslings.
                                                               

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Calves are go.


Our first calving has started with six lively robust Hereford calves gambolling around the paddock and another eight cows still to calve. 
 So far calving has been a high stress affair with around half the heifers requiring assistance. The first calf arrived unassisted a week early, a cute little heifer born on a bright clear Sunday.
Sunday Rose, the first calf born on Leven River Farm

The second cow presented the very next day with a breech calf and at least I knew what to do – ring someone who can help. We are luckily blessed with very good neighbours who were immediately on hand with years of good experience and calving equipment. I learnt the two most important requirements to save the cow and calf are a long right arm and a quiet and willing cow. Our yards are very basic, we have no crush or head bail, so it is imperative the cow stands quietly.  With a breach presentation the hind legs are facing forward and they must be manipulated to come out first. Sounds simple but requires you to push the calf forward against the cow’s contractions so that you have enough room to get the hind legs around. 
Mother resting following a breech presentation. 

A breech presentation.

An hour after we started I had the hind legs out and we attached a calf puller to complete the delivery. Amazingly the heifer calf was still alive. We left the cow and calf in the yards together for a day but after the hard delivery the mother showed no interest in her new calf so we bought her home and put her on a bottle.  Almost two weeks later that little heifer calf, Belle, is fit and healthy.
The next cow, Blondie, to calve had a prolapse, which resulted in the Ulverstone vet coming out at ten o’clock at night to put her back together.  A beautifully quiet cow, she waited motionless until the vet had finished, then immediately got to her feet to feed her calf. In another week I have to bring her back in to remove her stiches.
Blondie recovered from her prolapse with her calf.

Another two calved without assistance but the luck couldn’t last as another cow failed to deliver her calf. This one was just two big and with the assistance of the vet we pulled a huge dead calf.
Only eight more cows to go.
We are not the only ones in the valley to experience a high proportion of calving difficulties. The good summer has resulted in large calves and this combined with maiden heifers has resulted in widespread calving problems.
Next year will be better

Killing them with kindness


All three of our Wessex saddleback sows produced their second litters with very poor outcomes, a total of ten robust healthy piglets out of thirty-three born. Very different from their first litters when we had thirty-three happy healthy piglets.
So what went wrong this time?
It turns out I killed them with kindness.
The sows were just too fat and the piglets just too big. It’s very disappointing to sit with the sow giving birth and stillbirth follows stillbirth. It’s probably no coincident that those that did survive the birth were all the smallest piglets.

 After talking to pig farmers with thirty odd years experience breeding pigs, I now have a better understanding of what is required. I learnt that new born piglets around two kg or more birth weight are way too big, turns out we should be aiming for around 900 – 1000 grams for these old breeds.
The extra size is obvious, at four or five days old these piglets are large enough to feed while mum is standing.

 While suckling large litters the first time round, the sows lost a lot of condition very quickly even though we were feeding them ten kg a day of a high protein lactating sow pig feed. By the time the piglets were weaned at around ten weeks, the sows were looking a little tired and a little bony - in pig terms around a fat score 2.5   This time I was going to be better prepared and doubled their daily feed ration during their pregnancy. I thought I was doing the right thing, the sows all looked fat, contented and happy but they were hiding a steadily developing catastrophe. A lot of that that extra feed went to create ever-larger piglets.
Ten fat happy little pigs

At least we were able to prevent such problems with our Tamworths. I immediately reduced their feed   and while they are still overweight two of our Tamworths have produced sixteen healthy little Tamworth piglets and the  third sow due in a couple of days. 

Meave, registered name Glen Eyrie Elaine X273, with her eight piglets.




Only hours old, they enjoy the heat lamp.


I must be a little soft for I hate seeing old pigs in the sale yards, they always seem to get so distressed, a lifetime of service to be reduced to low value pork. The young animals are different – insular and confident in their surroundings. For our breeding sows Leven River Farm is their home for the rest of their natural life and as a pig can live ten to fourteen years this takes a serious commitment. I find I am not alone in this attitude, I know of at least one farm that ceased to operate a commercial piggery many years ago and the breeding herd has slowly shrunk to a single elderly sow contentedly wandering the paddocks around the piggery where she grew up.

It has become fashionable to label pork bred free range where the piglets are born outdoors and move into an intensive growing shed as soon as they can be weaned at around three weeks of age, but we have chosen the opposite direction, our piglets are born indoors and grow up free range. The sows come into the heated farrowing pens just before farrowing and return to the paddock three or four days later with their piglets in tow. I think this is best for their welfare as we can minimise the risk of the sow lying on her new born piglets and also keep them warm while young and vulnerable.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Still Life


Today was one of those days that are best in the past for today we buried twelve newborn piglets.  The day started well, a bright sunny winters day with the tantalising promise of new life. Petunia came out for her morning feed and it was obvious her time was close, her pendulous udder was swollen and tight with milk steadily dripping from her teats, tiny white splashes sprinkling on the ground. 

This was her second litter; she had raised twelve piglets last time so I was hopeful of fourteen or more this time around.  Somewhere in the birthing process something went wrong, the first four piglets were stillborn, perfectly formed, an ideal size, just no sign of life. The fifth offered hope, a little red saddleback boar only just alive, but hope was cut short as another six stillbirths quickly followed by another briefly clinging to life.  Then for reasons unknown, the final piglet, ironically the runt of the litter, was born in noisy robust health. 
Tonight Petunia has settled down with just one piglet out of thirteen, not a good start but better than nothing.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rayburn Royal and Supreme.


As a small sideline I have approached a number of suppliers in the UK to provide a number of reconditioned Rayburn Royals and a Rayburn Supreme. A reconditioned Rayburn is a very different proposition from a second-hand item. The old stove is completely dismantled and all damaged parts are discarded. The cast iron parts are sand blasted and re-enamelled in a Vitreous Enamel, new steel panels are fitted and the internal structures such as the ovens are sand blasted or replaced. New parts such as boilers, handles, hobs and temperature gauges are then assembled to create a stove of the highest quality. It is difficult to appreciate the standard of finish achieved without seeing the finished item.

All new chrome, new hotplate.
Stainless steel ash box, new ovens and trays and fire bricks.

All finished in vitreous enamel


 As I get older I find I am a little more risk adverse but I have had sufficient feedback to convince me that it is viable to import a bulk order of reconditioned Rayburn stoves for resale. Many people are attracted to the standard of finish and price but find the prospect of arranging their own importation and waiting four or five months a little daunting. A single bulk order will also significantly reduce the shipping and handling costs.

I have a vague plan, set up a small business from the farm, add a website, see how it goes. I don’t expect to ever sell enough to have a anything other than a part time business but it all helps to contribute to the farm.
Watch this space for developments.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Winter once again on Leven River Farm


                                                                                
Early morning fog.
The valley completely fogged in. Foggy days are common in Winter.
                                                                           


Well we are in the middle of winter again here on the farm it’s our second Tasmanian winter. It’s the time of short daylight hours as it doesn’t get light until after seven in the morning and it’s getting dark by around four in the afternoon. Once again the paddocks stay wet for most of the winter and not much dries out during the day. The pig areas are very boggy with mud and they are mostly up to their knees in it especially around the more heavy traffic areas like the feed troughs and the entry to their sleeping quarters. This is the time of the year when the pigs are head down bum up as they go into a digging frenzy and plough the paddocks. Don’t know exactly why they pick this time of the year to do it, maybe it’s because the ground is softer now. We have sold most of the piglets with six reds and six black and white ones left plus little Horatio our stud Saddleback Boar. He’s got to be one of my favourites as he is such a cutie and a sook. He always comes running to me with the cutest high pitched squeaking sound if something is not quite right. We sent our first pig off to get the chop the other day; it was one of the red piglet Boars. They are twenty-three weeks old now and are very solid and long. We took him to a small meat works where we knew there would be less stress for him, as our animals’ welfare is always uppermost in our minds.  I picked the meat up last Friday and we’ve sampled some chops and a rolled roast and I must say both were very tasty. Nothing like your own meat, which has had a good and happy free-range life.

In harmony, the Tammies and Saddlebacks in the paddock.
     


We have had a few hard frosts so far this winter and at last we have had a wood heater put in the lounge room. No more cold nights huddling under blankets while watching TV. It’s been well used so far and now we just have to start adding to the wood pile so we have enough on hand to see us through winter and beyond. The geese are very noisy at this time of the year I think they must be sorting out who to pair off with. They are also on the water a lot of the time too and haven’t been close to the house much either preferring to stay down in the paddock. The chooks are still off the lay as with everyone else’s too by the sound of it. They’ve finished their feather moulting etc a good while ago and I’d just wish they would hurry up and start laying again. I don’t like buying eggs from the supermarket when I have perfectly good well-fed chooks at home.  Oh well I guess they’ll start when they are good and ready.

You know it's cold outside when everything looks this white.

Even the cob webs freeze here in winter.


The cows are heavy in calf at the moment and are looking very nice. They have their nice red winter coats on again. We are hoping for no calving troubles, which can sometimes be a problem down here in Tassie because of the high nutrition in the grass. So we are watching their diet very closely. Genevieve our Guernsey cow and her calf Angus are doing very well also. We had to dehorn Genevieve not long after we got her as one of her horns was growing down the side of her face and obstructing her eyesight and it must’ve been very annoying for her. So while we were taking off that horn we took the other one off too. Now this, along with her only just arriving and not really knowing us made her go off and sulk and not be very sociable for a while. But I’m happy to say that she now knows and likes us so much that she comes up to the gate to get a hand out of heifer pellets in the afternoons. 

I'm very lucky I get to travel around and take lots of photos of our beautiful State.


As I look out of the window while writing this and see yet another shower of rain going across the valley I’m already thinking of spring, which is only another seven weeks away. At least then the paddocks will start to dry out a bit and there will be more day light hours to do jobs around the place and the grass will grow a bit more quicker and lusher. Not really looking forward to the lawn growth though as it is a round of continuous mowing in the warmer months. There will also be new life born on the farm once again. The bare trees will have their cover of nice green leaves and the garden will once again be in full bloom. I enjoy all seasons down here in Tassie as they are very distinct changes so much better than the same thing day after day you get in north Queensland. I love autumn for the glorious colour of the deciduous trees. I love winter for the snow on the peaks, which is still a novelty for me. I love spring for the lush new green growth, flowering bulbs and a hint of warmth on the way. I love summer for the warmer days (though not extremely hot, it’s just right) longer daylight hours and daylight saving. Yes I’m a Queensland convert to daylight saving I can see it’s advantages down here where we have long hours of daylight during summer. 

I took this recently while visiting one of our famous Tassie Icons Cradle Mountain.


Life is never dull here as I’m kept very busy on and off the farm as I’m also a Feature Writer (North West) for Think Tasmania so I’m very lucky to be able to travel around our beautiful State and visit areas, businesses and tourist attractions etc and write about them. If you want to know about everything Tasmanian check out the web page and Face Book page. You’ll find all my articles on this very informative web page.
And so the ebb and flow and the rhythm of life moves pleasantly along at its own pace here on Leven River Farm even in winter.  

An icy puddle behind our chook pen.






Below are a couple of links to some of my articles, too many to list them all. Enjoy.
Michelle.