Saturday, 23 November 2013

Mooo-ve

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

The Day The Rage Came

The day started as usual. Reluctance to leave the electric blanket, the sound of K lighting the fire for the day, the bleating of goats and the sounds of an angry Scotsman swearing at his dogs from the far end of the farm. Alex is a very nice chap but my goodness me does he lose his temper and sadly his mood rather dictates the days mood. K and I decided we were going to have an upbeat and happy day so we left German Alex (who ate the biggest breakfast I've ever seen...boys really don't get communal living) with angry Alex building a 'wing' (some sort of fence we'll be using for the drenching. No one tells me anything so I can't be more specific). We fed the kids (all 9 of them), went to check the front fence and then to find Noel who was trying to round up the goats.  Now given that we spend the majority of our time trying to keep the goats in today sounded pretty easy: get the goats out to the other field.  Rose the dog is still over at Farmer Chris' house so Noel was attempting to herd them with the ute. K and I saw the opportunity to hop in the trailer and took it pronto. We had a big herd of goats but would they go through the open gate? No.  We abandoned them an got on with another couple of farm tasks that needed doing (finding barrels to cut in half for water for the goats - one had had molasses in it and was complete with a dead, sticky rat) and went to get the last of the wood from Geoffrey's to bring over. Then we tried to do the goats again. K and I were running and hutting and hoying and yodeling at them and Noel was honking and bashing and revving but they would not go through the blinking gate! We went back to get the boys who were cutting wood to see if Alex and his stockdog, Maggie could help do the job rose would do in 10 minutes. Well. This is where the day turned a tad sour. Maggie did not do what she was told. At all. Maggie even succeeded in splitting up the group by doing all the things a stock dog shouldn't and then ran away as I assume she knew what was coming her way. German Alex wasn't much help. He hasn't grasped the concept of herding an his 'voice was hurting' from the shouting (his arms were hurting from the wood yesterday too...!!). Anyhoo we abandoned the plan to get all the goats out and went to find Alex and Maggie. We spotted them, Maggie was thrown into the trailer with a colossal slam an the angry Scott marched into the distance with a face like thunder. We said nothing and suppressed a giggle (and gave the dog a bit of love).

K, Noel and I  went to go and get a couple of dead goats we'd found earlier in the day (Noel drove me Into Murrabit for some new boots earlier in the day but we u turned when they were $95. In our way back we saw a nanny birth twins so K and I walked to check on them and found two dead ones...they smelled god awful).  One of them clearly died whilst giving birth, the other looked like she'd died from inflation. I found out the hard way that a goats horns can fall off when dead. I squealed. Loudly. Instead of putting these two on the trailer Noel tied string to their heads and we dragged them to the burning pile. Nice. The burning pile still smelled awful - charred, rancid goat still on the wind. We did our best to keep our distance from the angry Scot and the unenthusiastic German Alexs.

The day went on with K and I choosing to spend the afternoon with Noel avoiding Alex who set about loudly cutting firewood. Earlier in the day Alex had spoken to Chris and told us to write him a shopping list which we did - it was 7 items long as we didn't want to appear demanding. Items such as tomato pasta sauce (we had a jar), frozen peas (no one likes a can), honey (for poorly kids), sugar (for Chris' tea), veg (e.g broccoli), bananas and meat for the boys (because heaven forbid we give them a meat free dinner). Well Chris turned up early evening to speak to Alex about the dog (Alex had told him to take her or he'd shoot her - mature) and this is when my rage started to bubble up. I had started getting dinner ready (yes, I have been cooking every blooming night since I got here) and was cutting up potatoes. Chris asked who the list writer was. We had a jar of tomato sauce. We had canned peas. We had chicken wings etc etc.  He then asked what I was doing with the potatoes. Why was the skin on? Did all poms leave skin on? All very disapproving. He left and came back 2 mins later. I was peeling the bloody potatoes. What are you doing to the potatoes? Are you peeling the potatoes? AAAAARGH. I nearly threw a potato at his head. The boys are a bit squalid and we spend most of the time cleaning up after them. We were planning on cleaning after dinner (water shortage means washing up isn't a free and easy activity) but obviously Chris came round first and had the audacity to say it was the worst it's ever been. He was there on my first night! It was horrendous...and the potatoes had the skin on. Well, Chris, you can't polish a turd. I bit my tongue, put food in the oven and rang mum for a rant. I then instructed her to ring me 10minutes later so I could leave the table. Worked a charm.

Ground-log Day

Day 9

I have very little to report from today because today was mostly spent with wood. Lots of wood. I drove the ute from different ends of the farm to move wood. We moved wood from Geoffrey's, into the ute, then drove it back to the house, then unloaded it, then drove back to Geoffrey's, then loaded the ute, then drove back to the house, then unloaded it, then drove back to Geoffrey's...you get the idea. After the second ute load was on I drove back across the fields for the first unloading where we had the unpleasant surprise of Farmer Chris in the yard. The first thing he said? 'Use the brakes. I see yous bumping in the potholes'. Hello, Chris, I'm well thank you, how are you?' He then watched my reverse it to the wood pile with great scrutiny hoping for another error. I drive like a granny and about 4 times slower than Ayrlie so this had sent my blood pressure rocketing. Luckily it was a Flying visit to pick up Scottish Alex to go to the abattoir and left us with the task of moving all the wood. K sums it up well by saying that it can be a fun, sunny day but Chris brings a cloud that dampens everyone's spirits.

On went the trailer and back we went to moving the wood. Over to Geoffrey's, into the ute, back to the house, out of the ute etc etc.  

As the day was ending I had the pleasure of taking the best wood over to the Koondrook farm (residence of Farmer Chris) to unload it there. Oh goody! I hadn't been yet and the stories I've heard haven't exactly been great, but I unloaded the wood (snore) under the watchful gaze of Chris and an enormous bull then kept my fingers crossed we weren't going to hang around.

The only non wood related activities today was some new German. But even that was a bit wood related with 'vielen grossen stochen' being my new words for the day.    

Instead of counting sheep to go to sleep tonight I'll be counting logs



Monday, 5 August 2013

Ground-log Day

Day 9

I have very little to report from today because today was mostly spent with wood. Lots of wood. I drove the ute from different ends of the farm to move wood. We moved wood from Geoffrey's, into the ute, then drove it back to the house, then unloaded it, then drove back to Geoffrey's, then loaded the ute, then drove back to the house, then unloaded it, then drove back to Geoffrey's...you get the idea. After the second ute load was on I drove back across the fields for the first unloading where we had the unpleasant surprise of Farmer Chris in the yard. The first thing he said? 'Use the breaks. I see yous bumping in the potholes'. Hello, Chris, I'm well thank you, how are you?' He then watched my reverse it to the wood pile with great scrutiny hoping for another error. I drive like a granny and about 4 times slower than Ayrlie so this had sent my blood pressure rocketing. Luckily it was a Flying visit to pick up Scottish Alex to go to the abattoir and left us with the task of moving all the wood. K sums it up well by saying that it can be a fun, sunny day but Chris brings a cloud that dampens everyone's spirits.

On went the trailer and back we went to moving the wood. Over to Geoffrey's, into the ute, back to the house, out of the ute etc etc.  

As the day was ending I had the pleasure of taking the best wood over to the Koondrook farm (residence of Farmer Chris) to unload it there. Oh goody! I hadn't been yet and the stories I've heard haven't exactly been great, but I unloaded the wood (snore) under the watchful gaze of Chris and an enormous bull then kept my fingers crossed we weren't going to hang around.

The only non wood related activities today was some new German. But even that was a bit wood related with 'vielen grossen stochen' being my new words for the day.    

Instead of counting sheep to go to sleep tonight I'll be counting logs



And then there were 9

Today was a sad day. When we checked on the little ones this morning i could only see 9. i then checked the barrel and saw one small, bedraggled goat. Very still. I checked over the others and couldn't see JY so assumed this poor, wee sodden kid was him. He was alive, just, so we took him inside for the bath treatment. Little jy had 3 hot baths but after a few feeble mews he left us too. What a way to go - frozen in wee. We had decided last night that we'd light another fire today so at least little jy didn't have to sit around being eaten. We gathered wood and took it to the burning pile which was smelling particularly rancid today, more so than usual which is saying something. I was a little bit sad and not in the best of moods this morning. My constantly cold and increasingly chapped hands topped off with my favourite goat dying because he was weed on did not start my day off well. My patience was especially short with the hounds who were sat eating rank bits of rank goats at various stages of decay and charring then trying to lick my face which is so not cool.

On we got with our daily farm chores and then we started on goat proofing the concrete pen outside the old dairy. This involved moving gates and using tie wire (my plier skills still need some fine tuning). There is a ramp up the side of the pen that leads the goats into a lorry and a gate at the bottom to control them. Alex decided to move a rubber mat that had slid down the ramp which uncovered several australian sized woodlice, a few centipedes, many beetles and a redback spider (spotted by eagle eye 6th sensed K). I retreated up the ramp a little while Alex squashed it then spotted the same sort of hand sized monster we had spotted on the post the day before. At this point K and I were both on this ramp. 'Oh my god' said I as I scrambled passed. 'what are we oh my godding at' said K on repeat as the two of us screeched our way past each other and launched ourselves off the top of this thing...it is about 5 ft high and I jumped (yes, I jumped) from the end of it. It's the most athletic I've been for a while. It was a chilly and windy day so I kept the little ones in the pen most of the day to keep warm. We also did a bit of roofing (my involvement was limited to Measuring and sending up a few sheets of corrugated tin) and I changed my first tyre so I could use the ute to move things around the yard to make it look a bit tidier. I also had my first trip to Murrabit village centre which consists of one shop-post office-pub with the supermarket value range items at vastly inflated prices.

In the evening a new backpacker arrived - German Alex. As it turns out Scottish Alex has a German mother and worked in Germany for a year so is pretty fluent and so far I think German Alex is enjoying my fluency too.  I've told him all about my familien haus, what I do in meine freizeit and what my leiblingsfacher are. Es ist sehr gut. He has arrived with VERY white trainers and looks even more city than I did on my arrival so we'll see how he gets on. My next few posts might be auf deutsch. Ja.

Spider on the post

Day 7. One week down!
Today was my first day working with Noel and it was nice to have direction! Noel likes a leisurely morning and once we'd done our usual morning chores (we still have 10!) we headed to the back paddock to goat proof it.  Apparently we are going to drench all the goats to try and prevent more worm related deaths. I'm not quite sure how this is supposed to work as I think the drenching  is happening near the house but the new goat proof area we worked on is quite far back...I am sure it will all become apparent. Maybe. So aside from more fencing (I observed more than I worked) I discovered that I enjoy using an axe. I am also pretty good at using an axe. Those spiny bushes were toast. A fair bit of work was needed to straighten and right the posts using chains and landcruisers.

Now I'm not great with spiders but K'marie has the worst phobia I think I've encountered. She can spot the legs a mile away so when her voice went hoarse and she leapt back 10ft I knew something had been spotted and could just about make out 'spider on the post, spider on the post'. About 10 seconds later I spotted the hand size arachnid walking slowly around the post. Noel brushed it casually to the floor and stood on it. 10seconds later 'it's moving! It's moving' and sure enough it had escaped the boot and was crawling towards us. Then it had the boot treatment. We spotted a few more that day and so were slightly twitchy for the rest of it. Once one of us starts the other one is off too and Alex has realised all he needs to do is give us a look somewhere like shoulder or hair and its enough to set us off. We have tried to explain that it's not funny but he doesn't agree.

Monday, 29 July 2013

En Guarde

You'd be forgiven for thinking I had tried to cuddle an angry feral cat if you saw my hands but you'd be mistaken. Instead my bleeding, scratched and blood blistered hands are a result of today's fencing. 

It was another morning with 10 little ones! I think our new bed time method is working - nice big feed at the front of the house and completely wrapping the pen in blanket to trap the heat. They all seem pretty hardy now and even Celine and JY are joining in with the others more. Even Bernard made it through the night! Being tiny and unable to walk he gets to stay inside for now.

So today we had to finish the fence around the house. We only had to re dig one hole but it needed to be 4ft deep - that's pretty deep. 4 ft is longer than an arm so K'Marie ended up with her head in the hole trying to empty it out (I didn't have to volunteer and that suited me just fine). Once the post was in we started tying off the wires. I'm not a natural with wire work and find the claw lacks the strength to use pliers efficiently. It was also helpful and not at all annoying that going round on a loop in my head was 'and his terrible whiskers are tougher than wire'. So the wires were strained, monkey wrenches were used, we straightened up a couple of posts by pulling them with the ute and a few hours later the fence was complete! Goat free yard (apart from a couple of the usual house goats as apparently they will always find away). 

At lunchtime we made little Bernard a jumper out of a sock to keep the little fellow cosy. It was a sunny afternoon and the kids were huddled snoozing in the sun so we took Bernard out in a polystyrene box to join them for a bit of vitamin D. We went to check the fences and when we came back the spot was shady and the kids had moved. Poor little Bernard had fallen out of the box and was splayed in the shade looking hopeless and ridiculous. I took him back inside to gentle bleats of protest and put him back by the fire (Bernard humdings). Unfortunately Bernard never warmed up properly and was a floppy little goat when we checked on him later that afternoon. We gave him the bath/hairdryer treatment, but Bernard beamed up to the great goat paddock in the sky. I felt a bit bad for taking him outside until K pointed out that a goat who couldn't cope with an hour outside was a poor goat. 

Noel came back in the evening so we made sure we had a nice meal cooked for him (as nice as we can rustle up from what we have). Noel is a very nice old man with many stories....I'm not quite sure how he's Chris' father.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

10/10!

Guess what! When we checked the pen this morning all 10 babies were present and correct! What a happy start to the day! I was definitely expecting at least one given the previous days track record and the fact I could see my breath as I wandered around the 'house' this morning. It was a very misty morning but Alex had us out at 8 and after kids were fed there was a fence to build.
The farm has about 1500 goats but around 200 of these are 'pets'. The pets are goats that have been hand reared and are kept to produce babies but they themselves won't ever go to slaughter. They are quite funny but for the most part a nuisance. There are a handful in particular who sleep at the house, most annoyingly Dean and his bezzie Ronnie who sleep on the deck by the warm chimney and shit everywhere. Alex won't stand for this so we are redoing the fence around the 'house' so it is a dog only yard. My morning was spent digging deep holes for straining posts, cutting my very first bit of metal (I felt very flash dance with all the sparks), using a monkey wrench (not just a song!) and all sorts of useful wire-related things. Everything is old and rusty and 'useless' according to Alex who had no patience with the previous workmanship on the fence but seemed to have endless patience with two girls who don't know a grinder from a gripple (we do now!).

He left to go to the other farm after lunch leaving K'Marie putting in another post and me with the task of taking Clifford the pig dog puppy (horse sized already) and Kip the blue healer. It was not a task I was looking forward to after chicken gate, mouldy head gate and general stories of the pigs/foxes/rabbits they've all mauled. I attached them both to the same piece of rope ne tentatively set off...they were exceptional. I have never walked two more well behaved dogs. Don't get me wrong I wouldn't let them off the rope ad I did worry about rope burn if one bolted but bar one rancid kid leg incident with Clifford I couldn't complain! We did have to turn around and go back the way we came though as 60odd goats were out and about and one poor soul was lying on the ground with one hoof (trotter? What do goats have?!) stuck very firmly in the fence. I couldn't free her alone so went to get K'Marie to help. 

When I got back the water man was back! He had come earlier with a water delivery - something of great joy as usually we have to fetch the water ourselves (again, a trip I haven't made yet as Noel has been away). I believe most of the people round here get their water delivered, farmer Chris is just tight...our delivery was a favour as the guy is building him a Dam and apparently the water is in return for dirt. So Chris isn't paying anything for it. Water man was enchanted by our little collection of kids and horrified to hear that we often ran out of water and were here for free so he brought us another tankful. Nice, hey!

We managed to free the clumsy goat and herded the others (basically a pro now) and were back in time for feeding just as Alex returned. I am a bit worried about jy as he hasn't embraced life in the nursery and does not care for the rubber teat. He is often at the back looking little and sad and lonely but he loves a snuggle with me. We nearly took him in for the night but he kept walking into the fire so he's in the pen with the others. Fingers crossed they all make it again. We are feeding them more and blocking any bit of air getting into the cage overnight, it's worked once!

We did have one little chap in with us tonight - I found him being attacked by pesky crows. He is only about 4 days old but when I came to check on him a few hours after I'd brought him in to warm up he was basically sat in the fire. The smell of burned goat is another treat. He is called Bernard. But I am not convinced he'll be with us tomorrow so I won't dwell!

Spirits dip ever so slightly in the morning as I'm a bit fed up of always being cold. I do not have workmans hands and they are already red and peely as they are constantly being washed in freezing water or eaten by goats or manipulating wire or just out in the chilly air. If anyone fancied sending gloves...!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Soon her mama with a gleaming goat herd

Another day, another dead goat. Despite checking on the little dears 3 kids died overnight. Luckily JY and Celine (my two faves) made it. Charlie left early doors leaving me, K'Marie and Alex. It was a chilly but beautifully sunny day perfect for being outside. Along with the usual goat chores we tidied the yard including fixing trailers, using tools (I now know how to use a ratchet (which isn't a spanner or a wench, FYI)) and moved some heavy things. I do not yet have workman hands and my digits are getting redder and more chapped by the day. It was also a perfect day for a nice long walk with the dogs to go and fix a fence. Now Alex has 3 pooches. Maggie the stock dog, kip a blue heeler (TERRIFYING child killing type hound) and Clifford the puppy Pig Dog. He is enormous. And bred to kill pigs. To say I am slightly afraid of these dogs would be true but Clifford the pig dog is actually a nice one. The blue one? Would not trust! Today's lasting memory will be the pig dog running towards me with something in its mouth. This turned out to be a maggot infested rotting kid head. That smell will stay with me for a while.

Having had a bit of a clean up we decided to feed the kids in the setting sun and made sure they were full to bursting and warm before putting them to bed. Fingers crossed we don't lose any tonight but there is only so much we can do with no hay and no heat lamp. 

I am already immune to the stench of goat that repulsed me on arrival. This cannot be a good sign. Tomorrow we're getting up early to build fences. Happy Wednesday, folks! 

'Maggie! Not me, the goats you dumb @&*$'

So that little goat I saved yesterday? Yup. Dead as a door nail this morning. Alongside him another weedy white one was bent double and fitting so she was given the same treatment as my pal yesterday whilst I fed all the others. On my way to the burning pile I came across a lost little one screeching in a way I haven't come across yet. I have called her Celine.

Today was Charlie's last day and passed much the same as the other two but with Alex in residence Chris and Ayrlie didn't come round. 
Alex is the most outback aussie I've met since being here. he has an off roading ute, is a jackaroo on a sheep and cattle station that is 300km from its nearest village, arrived with a swag and 3 dogs, wears an aussie hat and has various useful knives and stuff in various leather sheaths...and a very broad Scottish accent.  One of the dogs came from here and he's trying to train her as a 'stock dog' (that's sheep dog for not just sheep to those of us not in the know) and hearing an angry scot swearing loudly at his disobedient pooch was pretty funny.   When we got back to the house around 4 - surprise! - the power was out. Apparently there has been a dispute with the electric company for a while and a  'miscommunication' meant we had been cut off!  Alex, being a man of the outback, had a trangia so I channeled my inner Duke of Edinburgh awardee and heated up the kids milk so they wouldn't go to bed hungry - losing a goat a day is not something I want to continue and it has become something of a personal mission to keep them alive!

Darkness fell so we sat around the fire and a couple of candles when Shannon arrived. Now Shannon was mildly terrifying. He had turned up to go spotlighting and shoot foxes with fake Aussie Alex but the lack of power meant he couldn't charge the spotlight battery and Shannon joined us. He is a big, gruff Aussie who, prior to working in the sewers, worked in an abattoir. We were entertained with stories of both as he swigged beer and talked about his children like they were puppies. I am sure he is perfectly nice and he was quite funny but he's the type of guy who you can imagine saying 'call that a knife??' and in my current surroundings I am a little less brave than perhaps I usually am. 

The power man came about 8pm to fix the electricity and we once again had light and a tap that worked. And my electric blanket. Oh hooray 

Today's nugget of joy: apparently Murrabit and surrounds is where they rehome crims and paedos because it is far away from civilisation....

As You Wish

Day 2

Discovery of electric blanket meant I didn't freeze so the night was almost event free if you forget that my room is next to the kid pen...the little buggers scream randomly throughout the night and since I am in the middle of nowhere (had I mentioned that?) I am slightly on edge. Screaming in the dark will wake me. As will Dean, a large billy who head buts my wall. 

One of our poorly kids made it, the other was a kiddy corpse by morning so Ahmed joined the others for morning feeding. This morning we had one dead and one hypothermic weedy little one very near death. He was presented to me limp and cold so I could save him. Righty ho then. I stuck my finger in his mouth to check his temperature which was very low indeed, so sat him in front of the fire (still cold), got a hair dryer on him (still cold), bundled him in a towel (which smelled god awful) and eventually plonked him in a bucket of hot water (started to warm up). In between short fits he was completely limp and his eyes were cloudy...I was very sure I was bathing a dead goat but occasionally he let out a week scream. I put some honey on the roof of his mouth then set about drying him with my hair dryer. There really isn't anything quite like the smell of hairdryed goat. I didn't have high hopes but my challenge had been to keep him alive so I wasn't going to give up until the others had returned from morning rounds. And guess what... HE LIVED! I saved the little blighter, got some milk in him and a couple of hours later he was skipping round with the others. I'm sure the more I do this the less exciting it will become but I definitely saved his life so that's a small victory for now! 

Charlie and I left to check the fences leaving K'Marie trying to make the house a bit more sanitary. Ayrlie's attempts to save goats the day before meant there was an awful lot of goat excrement on the rug which combined with the fusty towel and newly dried goat was less than ideal.

We herded goats back into the paddock (no asbo billy this time) then spotted a dead goat stuck in a fence up ahead. When I got close I realised dead goat wasn't dead, she was very stuck and had been attacked by a cat. (The cats out here are HUGE and feral). Her back hooves were very tangled and it took a fair bit of effort to free her and her face was very bloody from the cattack. Once freed we lifted her over the fence to the right side (not a small goat) but since we are on foot carrying her back was not really an option. Ayrlie came by later and goat was still alive with a couple of kids nuzzled up to her so we popped them all in the ute and took them home. One of the kids was noisily reunited with its mother en route (very funny) and the other one has joined our menagerie. I have called her JY. Will wait to here how fence goat gets on. She was a very sad sight.

When Ayrlie and I returned Alex, a Scottish chap who used to work here and I'd heard a lot about, had arrived. Ayrlie: 'God,  am I pleased to see you. This is Tiffany'. Nice. Alex stepped out of his ute, can of xxxx in hand and within minutes his 3 dogs were tearing around the yard, one with a chook (that's a chicken to me and you) in it's mouth. Watching a mass of feathers, dogs, goats and a man with an Aussie hat and beer in hand all running round was hilarious to say the least, it just needed the Benny Hill theme! We are now a chicken down.

 We didn't see delightful Farmer Chris today because he is at home with Q fever.  An infectious disease caught from goats. I only know this because I overheard a concerned Ayrlie asking Alex if he'd had his jab....not to worry about us then!

It was nice to have a new face in the house but my overwhelming memory of today will be the image of Charlie's right armpit that hasn't been shaved for her 3 month stay. Not fine.