Saturday, 23 November 2013


Dahl made it through the night! Maybe he'll be a pet galah after all! You may also have noticed that I haven't reported any deaths for a while. We have a happy healthy group of little ones who are growing incredibly quickly. The drenching must have worked because despite a few deaths in the aftermath the goats are all looking healthy and happy and more like goats should. After a morning spent raking the yard we went back over to Koondrook to 'move the cows'. I wasn't completely 100% on what this would involve but I was thrilled to find out on arrival that little old Walter was termed as one of the cows. Walter the one tonne bull. My shirt was definitely quite red and the only protection I had was a stick. A STICK against an enormous bull! So off we went, Walter leading the way and me trailing behind with my stick. Thankfully Walter is either colourblind or the red thing is a myth and we made it to the other cows without issue. Then K and I walked alongside and behind the cows (all 8 of them) and ushered them to their new paddock at the very back of the farm. Cows are huge. And the wee a LOT. Cows successfully instated to their new domain, we were dropped back at Murrabit where we played with the little ones and had a lovely afternoon. Timmy the house goat came with us to put the big goats back in for the night. We've stopped letting him inside during the day because the other goats don't like him (what with him being precious and spoiled) but he comes in for the evening and is most excellent for snuggles. He might be a spoiled goat but he's our spoiled goat.
All in all a great day full of the joys of farming!

But after every farming high there comes a farming low.  After the joys of yesterday today was very much a reminder that farming isn't all fun and laughter. I am over it.
The highlight of the day was seeing the resident big reds (they're Roos FYI) jumping the fence (that's a high jump). The morning was spent raking the yard. Again. Then it started to rain and, joy of joys, we were taken to Koondrook where we swept poo out of the unused dairy. For ages. Sometimes it is all about looking busy. We swept and shoveled and swept and shoveled. Chris' nice streak was officially over - no greeting or small talk, just the occasional sly smile as we carried out menial tasks.
Soon enough Ayrlie came back from work and she baked scones. Imagine our delight. All 5 of us sat around the table for freshly baked scones with all the trimmings. They smelled great but she said they probably weren't very nice like most cooks - never big yourself up etc. I took a mouthful and there was something odd about it I couldn't quite place. Perhaps I'd used a soapy knife to cut it? Next mouthful. Maybe a soapy hand put them in the bowl. I had a quick look around the table and saw 4 slightly confused faces. Another mouthful and it clicked. I think there was a tsp/tbsp confusion with the bicarbonate of soda. You know when you eat something and it makes your mouth feel very dry? Yeah, it was like that but soapy and I desperately didn't want to look ungrateful or rude so I kept going. Eventually Chris and his sense of humour piped up as he asked what was in them and at that point I lost it and dissolved into a fit of giggles unable to meet anyone's eye. She tried, but the terrible cake I'd made earlier in the week was better and that really was saying something. I think the rest of the batch went out for the chooks. Aware that we hadn't had shopping for a while Chris gave us some food to take home with us, namely a lump of corned beef (gag) , some post-prime veggies and a few fresh goods that were on their use by date. His generosity never ends!
> And the cherry on top of the icing of the cake that was a bad day? My electric blanket had failed to warm up. Disappointment in the extreme. I nearly went to spoon with K'marie.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Flaming Galah!

It has been a while since we had any shopping so we started getting creative with the basic food we had. You'd be amazed at the calorific sweet treats you can muster up when bored and desperate! Over the next few days we attempted to bake with limited kitchenware in our below average kitchen. We baked a thank-you cake for Sarah (I was embarrassed to take it round) and some actually very tasty porridge cookies (should have offered those up as a gift instead). 

Farm duties carried on as normal - a whole lot of goat herding and caring for a couple of ill kids (that did not make it).  We stepped it up a bit on day 23. I jacked up the landcruiser to check the tyres (born to be a mechanic), faced my fear of flapping and picked up a chicken which, in hindsight, was to prepare me for the highlight of my farm work, nay, my time in Australia to date. The evening was progressing as usual. I was putting the kids to bed and K and Noel had gone to shut the goats in. They came back sooner than expected and I could hear K happily shouting above a god awful squawking. They had found an injured galah. A FLAMING GALAH! I mean can you imagine my joy? He was a feisty and angry galah. Luckily  being on a farm kent plenty of cage material nearby so I managed to rustle up a small cage complete with perches, food and water in a matter of minutes for our newest recruit, Dahl. My hope for his survival are pretty slim since my googling has told me that if you see bone, euthanize...but I don't want to leave him for the cats so he is quiet and fed and hopefully recuperating outside. Imagine if he pulls trough and becomes a real life pet galah! Amazing. 

Just the Two of Us

Day 18

Ding Dong the Scot has gone. Today Alex finally rolled up his swag and left after what feels like a week of complaining. Don't get me wrong, for the most part He was good fun but goodness me that boy has a temper. With both Alexs gone it was just K and me left and we loved it! Our first day as a duo was fun even though it was spent over at the dreaded Koondrook farm. Noel took us over as we needed to do a couple of water runs for Farmer Chris. As we reached the grubby water channel for the  second time it started to rain and Chris rang Noel and said not to worry and not to get wet. 

This nice streak seems to be continuing! Since we already had the hoses in place we pumped it anyway so we were in the good books. More surprisingly is when we got back to the house he'd made us (a very tasty) lunch...and had meal time conversation. We were then instructed to have a tea and stay out of the rain...and wash up pretty much everything he owned in the kitchen (mosy of which was all covered in goat. Vom). We also had to take a 'couple of boxes' to his burning pile, a putrid heap of failed-to-burn-for-long-enough corpses, mouldy bread and rubbish. The boxes contained foetus and new kid corpses that looked like the result of a bad genetics experiment. The smell wasn't great but we didn't have to actually touch them this time so all in all definitely improving. As the day went on and the sky got darker we started to pine for our Little Ones. They'd been left alone in the cold and the rain all day (we'd usually put them in the pen when wet) so we were eager to return to see them. Well, I think we got a taster of maternal pride. When we got back to the farm we were greeted with the bleats from all of our kids bounding over, who couldn't be happier to see us. Even little Timmy was still warm and well. They'd succeeded in huddling in the dry (Rosalie's bed. With Rosalie.)

As a duo, mostly with Noel making us 3, our task was to get a fence in the new paddock ready to electrify, sort of job that makes you feel practical as you set off with tools and wire and stuff. Even though to begin with we were just putting the plastic wire holder in. The two of us are also getting MUCH better at dealing with spiders. We still need to work on being less shrill but our ability to capture/remove and sometimes kill is greatly improving. Who needs a cat?

Goat Aid
Typical evening - Dying goat on lap, tea and Timmy

Timmy Snuggles

Day 20 and Noel left us to go to Broken Hill. Left us with no car and therefore no horn and about 1000 goats determined to escape to the road. The tested our patience one to many times so we headed over with Rose (followed by lashes and igor) to round them up. Using a working dog is FUN. I felt like Farmer Hogget in Babe, especially when I got to say 'that'll do, rose' at the end. With the goats safely penned in K and I returned to the house and spent a lot of time eating. When we eventually wrenched ourselves off the couch to feed our charges we found we had gained one. A large, stocky Billy kid just chilling. We have no idea where he's come from but he was easy to catch and took to a rubber teat with exceptional ease. So we're keeping him and calling him Bruce. I think he secretly knows he'd have been a good meat goat and fancied a life of being pandered to instead!
Say G'day to Bruce

The Drenching

The subject of drenching the goats has been banded about since I arrived over two weeks ago but the day had finally arrived. We were going to de-worm the goats!  We were up early and ready to go as we had been instructed the night before that we would start at 8am, but waited a good hour or so for Chris to actually turn up. It was German Alex's last day and he was hatching a plan to take Heidi away with him but unfortunately Heidi did not make it through her second night and was a stiff little goat come breakfast time. RIP Heidi. 

 Now Chris and Scottish Alex had talked at length but being lowly backpackers we weren't 100% sure what it was exactly we had to do. There was talk of a wing and ushering but we weren't sure which direction anything was happening so Farmer Chris and Noel headed off into the paddocks to round up (I think the farm term is muster) the goats and we stood with purpose near the yard. And waited. Sure enough the sound of bleating and trotting hooves got louder and a large group of goats came into sight which we helped guide into the yards whilst trying our very best not to annoy Farmer Chris with our ineptness.  I'm not sure how much you know about drenching but I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. It was exhausting. My coworkers were less than fresh following the previous day's merriment, Scottish Alex particularly green, so he donned a pack of drenching medicine and the gun (a syringe type thing) and the three of us had to convey the goats to him with mouths open so all he had to do was pull the trigger. Noel was manning the gate to another pen where the newly drenched goats were to go and wait to be ferried to the other side of the farm. Simples. 

As it turns out goats are little shits. The 'pets' were fairly compliant but the majority of the herd kicked and bucked and ran and caused an unnecessary fuss. To start of with I was grabbing the goats by the horns in order to catch them but it would seem that goat necks are not dissimilar to owl necks and rotate a very long way round - much more mobile and robust than a human wrist bone anyway. Not wanting to risk a goat related wrist injury we quickly resorted to grabbing a goat by the skin, pulling it towards you, trapping it between your legs then grabbing the horns and waddling over to Alex and the medicine before kicking them into the 'done' pen. There are about 1200 goats. That is about 2400 horns. I am fairly certain that 99%of those horns bruised some part of me over the course of the drenching. The flightier beasts even jumped resulting in a fairly hard, winding, thump to the chest, one nosebleed and a broken toenail (standard). The yards were concrete and soon looked muddy, only the goats hadn't created mud and it wasn't long before we were running around in actual faeces. I'd managed to ditch the holey workboots and find a pair of wellies but these also had holes which was quite delightful. Despite the smell, the injuries and the broken nails I actually really enjoyed it as it was good to do something that actually felt like proper farming, something that needed doing and served a purpose. It also elicited a strange response from Farmer Chris...he was nice* (*almost normal, spoke to us and, yes, even smiled). He seemed to be pleased with our work and even cooked us lunch!
As the end of day one approached the goats were ferried by trailer to a pen on the other side of the farm and we ran around catching the kids so they could be reunited with their newly drenched mothers. At this point we were covered from head to toe in poo and felt thoroughly beaten up. German Alex left, the other two had to go to the abattoir and I was left to feed the kids, start a fire and put on dinner like a good little farm wife. I have now officially cooked every dinner since arriving. Unfortunately I am no Ray Mears and my fire starting skills were abysmal. I was still cold and covered in poo so gave up and put the heater on until -another shocker for the day - Chris rang to check how I was getting on and gave me fire lighting advice that WORKED. I feel like we might have turned a corner!

The rest of the drenching was done without Farmer Chris who was too tired after the first day (what with his Q fever and all) and quickly stopped being enjoyable. The remaining goats were wilder and trickier and all together more unpleasant to give the medicine too which coupled with a late night and a lot of aching muscles meant the days didn't exactly fly by. The smell of ammonia had become very pungent overnight which was another less than pleasant contributing factor. Fewer goats in the fields meant there was a lot more waiting around and there also seemed to be a lot more kids sitting around. They are a little like trying to herd cats. As we entered our third day of drenching Scottish Alex's happiness levels plummeted and he soon became an absolute pleasure to be around. He was still without Maggie and kept talking about how he needed to leave Murrabit and get back to his proper jackarooing job...a real miserable Michael. At this point we really were rounding up the stragglers and K'marie and I jumped at the chance to hop in the ute with Noel and leave the Scot to grumble alone. We found a black goat with a very new kid at the back, but being a protective mother she kept butting poor Rosalie, so we grabbed the kid and used it's screaming to get her to follow, eventually getting her in the back and sitting on her until we reached the drenching yards. She then didn't have much interest in her baby who settled down looking very tiny amongst the other kids. We drenched and ferried the goats as usual but when we went back to the pen when the sun had said the little kid had still not been collected...and so we have claimed tiny little Timmy as our own. Since he is so very small and clean we couldn't quite bring ourselves to put him in with the rest of our brood, so for now he's a house goat. By this time Alex's grumpiness had really got to me (especially after having cooked AGAIN) and he banished Timmy to the freezing kitchen because he was making noise. I took poor little lonely, rejected Timmy to my bed, had cuddles and watched Groundhog Day. Alone. And it was good.  

(N.B. I didn't sleep with Timmy into bed - he went back into the lounge for the night. I've not reached that stage yet)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Water Water Everywhere

Day 14 Water water Everywhere 

After their mammoth trip to Broken Hill and back (they drove the entire length of the UK in a day) K and Scottish Alex were given the day off. German Alex gave himself the day off as he was going to check out a dairy farm down the road to see about another job. So I was left all on my tod (well, with Noel) and boy what a treat did I have in store. My first water run. 

Instead of paying for water delivery like the majority of locals Farmer Chris likes to get it himself. The have a 1000l tank with antique hoses that they fill and empty and fill and empty etc. First things first we had to put the empty tank on the back of the ute. No Biggie. Then we drive for 25mins or so over to Koondrook, the farm where Chris lives. Then we drive for about 20 bumpy minutes through the farm to an irrigation channel at the very far end of it. I was aware our tap water was less than sanitary but seeing it in situ. Well. I would never even consider applying toothpaste to my tooth brush, dipping in this channel, brushing my teeth and then rinsing my toothbrush in this channel but alas, apparently this is pretty much what I had been doing.  One pipe was placed in the muddy stream and the other into the tank. This is when Noel produced some overalls which I foolishly thought we might have to put on. Instead it was to put over the pipe as it 'leaks a bit'. I think we pumped 1000litres for the tank and 1000litres for me and the grass.  We then bumped back to the farm and reversed the process, pumping the water into Chris' water tank, me and the surrounding ground. This was repeated 3 times but on the final unload I was in for a special treat. It was time for me to meet Walter. Walter the 1 tonne bull (apparently he's now only 900kgs as he's lost a bit of weight. He was still the size of a truck). Walter is currently contained in a small pen. Walter's water trough(s) were running low. And lucky old me had to climb into the very small pen with the very large bull to fill the troughs up. I was assured he was harmless but to be wary as he could crush me without meaning to. Gulp. Obviously as I'm now writing this I'm pleased to report that I am still in one piece and Walter is hydrated.  Wearing a red shirt did nothing to settle my nerves.


When I eventually returned to Murrabit the sun had very much set and my fellow co workers had enjoyed an entire bottle of whiskey and a few sundry cans of XXXX. I'll admit that I was jealous they'd been having a fun day as I bumped around pumping water. Chris came round with a few groceries and was less than impressed by the drinking, but as I sat on the floor sober and playing jenga with German Alex something magical happened...Chris smiled. Yes. Smiled. At me! And he was clearly desperate to join in the jenga game. Maybe my mission to make him talkative (read: normal social skills) could be back on.

Ma there's a goat in the kitchen

We got in from our night out to find a bottle of bubbles and a cake from Chris and Ayrlie (hadn't been in to receive - awkward) and dinner remains out on the table. Standard.  Alex was off to Broken Hill that day but had been told to take a buddy at the last minute. Since I had got an afternoon to myself the day before we decided K could go this time, so German Alex and I were left on the farm together.  It was a fairly uneventful day,  Ayrlie arrived and we were instructed to make a fire to burn the rubbish in the yard and I was made to take Billy the Asbo dog on a goat round up mission. I truly hate taking Billy the Asbo dog for a 'walk'. It doesn't go well for either party. Despite taking gardening glove precautions  I more often than not end up with a blood injury and Billy just tries to hang/choke himself the entire duration and there is nothing soothing about the strangled pant of a dog in your charge. It was also drizzling which added to the ambiance somewhat. German Alex found his first kid whilst building the fire pile - a very pretty grey goat who  needed a German name. He vetoed pretty much all my suggestions; Frau Schmitt, Sandrine, Helga but eventually settled on Heidi.

It was getting dark when I was heading back to the house. Like usualI went into the Kitchen to start warming milk leaving Alex outside. But I could hear a noise. The noise of someone in the (dark) house. I turned the light in the sitting room on and went in - nothing. The porch door was slightly ajar so I locked it, wet back to the kitchen where, blow me down, Dean, the resident giant goat, was merrily ferreting around the kitchen.  A goat in the kitchen. What else would you expect in a Friday evening? The funny thing is I didn't even shock me.  Country life is getting to me.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Birthday Fun on the Farm

Day 11 and 12

After the rage the next few days were ok considering. The following day we received a call from Chris telling Alex to drive over to the Koondrook farm leaving one girl behind. I was that one girl and had a delightful afternoon walking round the farm, feeding kids and, of course, putting dinner on. When the others returned K'marie was fuming. They'd had to spend the entire afternoon raking grass and looking busy whilst Chris told Alex that he'd be going to Broken Hill to get goats. I definitely got off lightly! 
Thursday 1 August was K'marie's 21 Birthday. Luckily it was a lovely sunny day with all 9 kids needing feeding, plenty of dead goats that needed burning, a fence that needed fixing, a grain storage thing that needed climbing (needed potentially not completely true) and a toy that needed shooting (I hit it with a shotgun. Awesome). The boys distracted her while I made a cake (hopefully the only packet cake I will ever bake) and then Rikki arrived to tell us to go over the road at 7pm! Rikki is a very sweet 14year old girl who likes to pop over and visit us and was horrified that a 21st should be in a goat farm so her parents and the family across the road (a dairy farmer and British vet wife) had decided to throw a party for her as a surprise (I was in on it...not that I could help much). It was such a lovely evening and so sweet of them to have the two of us over. I still had to cook for the Alexes before leaving though which I was less than thrilled about - they had chicken wings, frozen veg and left over pasta from the kilogram German Alex had cooked the day before. In hindsight I should have told them to do it themselves but sometimes it's just easier to throw some chicken bones in the oven and leave, you know? Back to the party, we were greeted with crudités, nibbles and pimms (pimms!!) and they'd put on an epic BBQ. The only minor incident was K noticing a spider crawling up my arm and was uncharacteristically calm when alerting someone else to remove it so the spider was disposed of without any screaming (I mean I wasn't calm but I wasn't stamping around screaming as per). They are fascinated about our living arrangements, how Chris can get away with the way he treats his backpackers and apparently no one gets along with Chris. This stems back to an incident with a pig and who stole who's pig...I couldn't really follow it and I think I've heard Ayrlies side of the story too so it's all a bit confusing. Funny though (take my word for it). Both families have school age children who entertained us performing on singstar all evening whilst we ate pavlova and lamination birthday cake. 
I think the worst moment of the evening came shortly after K was saying how much better farming was then fruit picking.
' I mean fruit picking is so boring, I see friends with orange sacks as its just Orange. Orange. Orange. I'd much rather be doing this'.

Rikki's parents are orange pickers.

Solo goat herding!
Ahmed, Celine and Grimm