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Showing posts from October, 2012

Paralysis ticks and the orphan calves – part 2 of a long story

In part one of this long story , I explained how we brought home the first weak braford calf and struggled with whether or not to give him milk, we thought he was just weak, and if we could get him to eat more he would get better.  At the same time we were keeping an eye on another calf that we had noticed was skinny and often separated from the herd.  We were worried that she also didn't have a mother, but she seemed to still be doing ok.  Then one day we couldn't find her anywhere, and the next day she was lying in the grass with the rest of the herd but couldn't get up, so we brought her home to Nanango too (this time in the dog box on the ute, not the back of the 4WD). She was worse than the first calf and couldn't stand at all, so we called the vet the next day (having brought her home on a Sunday, and not wanting to pay weekend call-out fees, and not realising that it was urgent).  The vet rolled her over and found a large tick on her belly.  The vet said he

Caring for an orphan calf – part 1 of a long story

This is a LONG story, so I’ll break it into two parts.  In the first part, we found the first calf and I wasn’t sure whether to give him milk or not, so I’ll explain what I found out in that regard.  In the second part, I’ll explain how the second calf turned out to have paralysis ticks, which explained why the first calf couldn’t stand up and what we learned since then about paralysis ticks. Since we got the 25 (or so) Braford cows with calves for Cheslyn Rise, we’ve been trying to spend time with them to get them tamer, and at least once a week we take them hay and get them to walk up to the yards with us.  About three weeks after they arrived we noticed over a couple of days that one calf seemed to be very slow walking down to the yards.  On the second day we got him into the yards and through the race and shut him in the crush so we could have a look at him.  He had a lot of burrs in his coat and was very skinny.  We thought he probably didn’t have a mother looking afte

Still baking bread - using the BBQ over summer

As you know, I decided I wanted to stop buying bread, and back in April I started baking my own.  I dabbled in sourdough in May and then found a great "soaked" flour recipe that worked and I've  stuck with it ever since .  We haven't brought any bread since April!  I use a bread maker to mix and rise the bread, and over winter I was using the woodstove to bake the bread.  I had got that method perfected, but now its warmed up too much to light the fire inside, so I had to find another way to cook my bread. BBQ bread I tried the breadmaker again and I just wasn't happy with it.  The bread doesn't seem to cook properly and the tin is such a stupid size, you end up with weird tall slices of bread that don't fit in the toaster!  Next we tried the BBQ (a Weber BBQ that we use all summer to cook everything from sausages to roast, pizza and chocolate pudding).  I say "we" because the BBQ is husband-territory.  Not that I don't know how to

Bella's cloths

One of the key parts of our milking routine ( here and here ) is washing Bella's teats.  We do this after she is settled in her milking bales eating hay, and before the milking cups go on.  Washing her teats is both for cleanliness and to help her to "let down" her milk, by relaxing her and signalling that we are going to take some milk.  At a commercial dairy, the cows' teats are washed with a blast of cold water, I'm not sure how that helps them to relax!  For Bella, we use a cloth to gently wipe each teat with warm water, then squeeze out a few squirts of milk and put the milking cups on.  At first we used a couple of old face cloths, but it was difficult to keep them clean and ready to go when we were milking twice a day, so I decided to make some more. The very well used cloths on the right and some new ones about to be sewn up on the left. Occasionally there is a stall at the Nanango markets that sells old towels and sheets from hotels.  We were lucky

Wedding anniversary

Tomorrow is our second wedding anniversary.  I had to think for a minute then, it feels like more than two years since we stood on the beach, surrounded by close friends and family, and promised to look after each other no matter what happened.  So much has happened in those two years, good and bad, I could swear it was 10 years ago! Last year I did a series of posts about our wedding, and I'm glad I did, because the memory is fading.  I consider that we had a simple wedding, it was certainly cheap and not very flash.  We enjoyed the day and spending time with family and friends.  I wrote these posts to help people realise that they don't have to follow the normal commercial wedding, and its easy to do something different and simple if you want to. A simple wedding in several parts - location, guest list and invitations, accommodation A simple wedding part 2 - the dress and flowers A simple wedding part 3 - the ceremony A simple wedding part 4 - the reception

A foster calf for Bella

When we found Bella’s dead calf we didn’t have much time to figure out what to do next.  We managed to milk Bella by carrying her calf to the milking bales, and then we started calling friends to find out if someone had a spare calf that we could try to foster.  That afternoon we picked up little Romeo, and he spent the night in a separate yard, and Bella stayed close to her dead calf. We have never fostered a calf before, so we weren’t sure how it was going to work.  We were very lucky that we could find a very tame little bull calf, who was only a week old and had been bottled raised since birth, as his mother had died.  He was the ideal foster calf, very tame, so he wasn’t scared of us, and very strong and used to sucking from a bottle, so not scared to find his milk in strange places!  Romeo the changling Various people and forums suggested different ways to get a cow to take a foster calf.  Everything from dosing the calf in the afterbirth, the cow’s urine, bananas,

Time to swap seeds

It seems like lots of people have spare seeds in their gardens at the moment.  I like to try to give away my favourite seeds in the hope that other people will propagate and save them too, so if I ever lose them, I might be able to borrow some back again! There are currently seed offers on the following sites (feel free to link others in the comments): I also have some excess seeds that I'd like to give away.  Like the others, I don't expect anything in return, but if you do have something to swap, that just adds to the fun and helps us all to build up a generous seed bank.  Obviously I can only send within Australia (excluding WA and Tas). I have the following seeds to give away: dill, parsley,  bok choy,  tat soi,  mizuna

The Australian kelpie

When I first came to Australia seven years ago I had never heard of a kelpie, and since then I'm pretty much continuously lived with one or both of the only kelpies I know.  Chime was the first kelpie I met, she belongs to a friend that I lived with them I first came to Australia, and she now lives with us while my friend is overseas.  Cheryl is Pete's dog, she puts up with me, but given the choice she always goes with Pete.  We try to take the dogs with us where-ever we go, they are part of our family and they are allowed inside and sleep next to our bed (this may change when we have a nice house! I am forever sweeping up dog hair!). Kelpies are a uniquely Australian breed.  The details of the origins of this breed are very vague, apparently the original "kelpie" was a black working bitch, named after the celtic kelpie , and bred from a collie and maybe a dingo, her pups started to be known as good workers, and people were asking for kelpie's pups (more on

How plants grow

Background My first two posts were about minerals in the soil and how plants use them, and about microbes (and larger creatures) in the soil and how they help to make minerals available to plants.  This post is about understanding how plants grow so that we can help them by applying minerals and encouraging microbes at times and in ways that will be most effective and efficient for us and for the plants. Stages of plant growth This is a huge topic and far too much for me to get into in one blog post, and I’m no expert anyway.  The main concepts that you need to understand are: ·           Seeds – what triggers them to start growing? What conditions will be the best start for a healthy plant? ·           Roots – how do they transport nutrients to the plant?  What are exudates? ·           Leaves – what is photosynthesis and what does the plant need to maximise production? ·           Flowering and fruiting – what triggers flowering and fruiting?  How can it be op

Cheese making basics

Now that we have lots of milk again, its time to make cheese!  At first Bella gave us about 12 L a day, but now Romeo is taking as much as he wants, we get about 2 L for Benny and a little extra for ourselves.  If we want more, we have to lock up Romeo overnight, more about share milking another day, I want to explain a bit about cheese, so just pretend I'm still getting lots of milk!  I use about 1 L a day to make either yoghurt or cream cheese, and we have a kefir smoothie every morning, but when we have more than 6 L in the fridge ..... its time to make cheese! (It you're losing track of our latest cow and calf situation, see my most recent update ). Before we got Bella we didn’t know anything about making cheese, so we bought a few cheese making books and went to a cheese making course .  We were pretty confident about making the cheese, but maturing and storing the cheese was more of a challenge, with some early attempts ending up covered in fluorescent moulds. 

Vaccine guilt - should we vaccinate our cattle?

If you've had kids, you've probably already gone through plenty of vaccine guilt, is the vaccine doing more harm than good?  Should you vaccinate or shouldn't you? etc. Well we don't have kids, but believe me, the livestock vaccine guilt is just as bad (for me anyway).  For cattle there are two main vaccinations, 5-in-1 and 7-in-1 (more here ).  The first vaccinates against 5 different Clostridium bacteria that cause a range of diseases in cattle.  The second is the same, but also includes vaccinations for 2 Leptosporidium bacteria, which are harmful to both cattle and humans.  The second one is more than twice the price of the first one.  In organic farming you are allowed to vaccinate against diseases which are common in your area.  Everyone we know uses 7-in-one on all their calves, but is it really necessary?  Its impossible to find out, most of the information comes from the vaccination manufacturers, and you can bet how much I trust what they have to say!  L

Moon planting guide

One of the suggestions in Linda Woodrow's book is to use the phases of the moon to organise and optimise planting.  Up until now my planting has been completely random, usually just when I have time or remember to plant things.  I never took much notice of moon planting in the past, but now that a few people have said that it does work, I think its worth a try.  I don't think I'll be able to follow the moon planting calendar absolutely, but its probably worth being aware of it and trying to match my planting to optimal times where possible. I had a look on the internet for more advice and found some good sites that explain how to use moon planting (especially  this one ) and plenty of calendars that I could buy.  I don't want to have to buy a new calendar every year, so I decided to make my own based on moon phase data for Australia and the explanation of when to plant what on that website.  I've come up with a simple spreadsheet to help me work out when to p

Thoughts on broad beans

This is the first year I've ever grown broad beans.  My mum used to grow broad beans and I remember the work of shelling them all, blanching them and spreading them out on baking trays in the freezer.  And then when they were cooked they went all grey and yuck (sorry mum!).  I also remember the furry insides of the pods, I love that feeling :) This time last year we were visiting an old farmer and I noticed that he had a magnificent crop of broad beans, at least 2 m high, in his garden, at a time when I had barely anything growing, so I decided to give them a try.  They are planted in Autumn, grow very slowly through Winter, and then produce beans in early Spring, when other Winter crops are starting to go to seed (the brasicas) and before I can start the tomatoes and warm season crops.  This way they fill a gap in the garden production, but they get planted at the same time as all the Winter veges. broad beans! and calendula :) As I hadn't grown broad beans before, I w

Spring planting and a GIANT potato bag

Last year I planted potatoes in a 200 L drum and I had some promising green growth up top, but not many potatoes when I tipped over the drum, maybe a couple of kilos at the most, but nothing spectacular anyway. We eat heaps of potatoes, maybe 5 kg a month, and I'd like to be able to grow enough to sustain us, but its hard to find the space in the garden.  Really you need lateral space rather than depth, as I discovered the potatoes don't really grow down very far, so the drum idea was a bit pointless (but produced really nice compost).  The drum is now a second compost bin, and I decided to plant the potatoes in a giant potato bag instead.  You know the small potato bags that you can buy?  I didn't think that would produce enough potatoes, so I used a 1 tonne bulky bag that someone had given us. I filled the bulky bag with layers of mulch straw, cow manure, compost and green weeds.  I planted the potatoes in a nice layer of compost at the top.  I am hoping the the whole t

Farm update - October 2012

Wow, what a month!  As predicted, the bounty of spring has arrived!  We are getting 8-10 eggs a day and now with Bella milking again, at least 4L of milk a day, but there's not much getting to the kitchen, with too many calves to look after at the moment. Benny the Braford was a very unhealthy looking calf that we brought home from Cheslyn Rise. We bought home another one (a heifer) a couple of weeks later, and as she looked even worse, we called the vet.  It turned out that they were both suffering from paralysis tick poisoning, which gradually paralyses the animal, from the legs upwards until they can't swallow and then can't breath.  It looks like we got to Benny in time, he is still very weak and seems to be unable to get to his feet without a boost from one of us, but once he's up, he's ok and very keen on lucerne.  After two weeks we finally got him to take some milk, I wonder now if the problem was the milk powder just tasted wrong, and then when he got som