Good news! I narrowly avoided freezing to death! Unfortunately I cannot say the same for Peach (one of the kids) or the puppies (10 puppies were born the day I arrived). All but one of them died overnight so we woke up to a very sad Rose the dog. We wanted to bring them inside but as a working dog we were told to leave her outside.
I was expecting to be up at dawn so 830 start seemed very leisurely indeed. After a cup of tea and the grim death discoveries we set about with task number one - feeding time!
There are worse ways to spend a Sunday morning than bottle feeding baby goats. They are all named but for the most part I can't quite work out how they are being told apart. Perhaps it's something that'll come to me in this goat...whatever it is. Once the little kiddies tummies were full (you literally squeeze them to see how full they are) it was time for task two - Fence Patrol. Goats are cheeky and sneaky clever buggers who are able to hop fences with ease. Farmer Chris is currently growing out the 'other paddock' so it is a decadent feast for his many goats. The goats can see that the grass is greener on the other side an once one makes the leap others will surely follow. We took Billy the asbo dog (as yet untrained working dog) with us on my first walk around the property. I had attempted to find suitable footwear before leaving Sydney but apparently girls don't wear work boots, they only wear wellies that are short and purple. I was informed by farmer Chris that I 'could sort that here'. Well I hadn't exactly seen any sort of shop in the last hour of our journey so I have been given a grotty pair of million-hand boots. They are a little (4sizes) too big and not exactly (or even slightly) waterproof, but they're well walked in an they're not flip flops so they are doing the job. Again, task two wasn't a bad task for a Sunday morning given that it was essentially a country side stroll around some fields.
We herded the escaped goats (I can't quite bring myself to shout HOY HOY HOY HUT HUT HUT like the other two yet because it is ridiculous) who were surprisingly compliant and helped a few who had their heads caught in fences. We spotted a nanny and her kid (that's mummy and baby to those not in the goat know) out of the paddock so herded them in. The kid was supposed to follow. Instead Billy the asbo dog grabbed little kid around the abdomen: cue screaming from the kid, the nanny and me. The other two attempted to restrain Billy and I was instructed to put my hand into the dogs mouth (yes, the dog that had attacked the baby goat) so he dropped it. No skin was broken so I popped the traumatised kid over the fence and off they trotted.
Back to the house for a quick cuppa then back out to check the fences. When we got back Farmer Chris was there with lady friend Ayrlie (I can't work out if it's Ellie, Ally or Airlie as there are quite a few accents here). I smiled and said hello. Chris pointed at a log he had just chainsawed...I guessed I was supposed to fetch it. No words. I introduced myself to Ayrlie who could not have been less interested so I busied myself fetching the firewood whilst avoiding 3 (THREE) redbacks.
The good news was that one puppy was still alive, so rose was taken inside to the fire where Charlie was attempting to revive a kid. There was a moment that will stay with me for a while. Charlie was taking a dead kid outside, ayrlie stopped her...
'its dead' said charlie
At which point Ayrlie took the goat and placed its entire snotty, sh@*ty snout in her mouth and blew. Then held the goat to her ear and pronounced it dead. They are cute but mouth to mouth? No. Just no.
Fresh from the goat snog Ayrlie, Kaye-Marie and I were off to start the burning pile. Oh goody. This involved finding a rancid pair of gloves and hauling the dead goats onto the trailer. They were mostly kids at varying stages of decay but there was a billy too. We then drove over to the burning area, a scorched bit of the field that smells HORRENDOUS. We had a few other dead goats around and I was told to go and fetch one that was quite far under a tree/thorny bush. I had no idea what to do so I asked. 'Pick it up like you would a dead rabbit'.
'I've never picked up a dead rabbit'
'I grew up in the suburbs. I am urban'
Right. I was very much breathing through my mouth and attempting not to squeal like the girl I am. I managed and also helped move the others onto the pile. Next we needed to pile up the wood. It was a fun game of 'stick or bone' as I searched for kindling. Occasionally the 'stick' had a joint. Cue fun fact - 'Bone needs to be 800 degrees to burn. If you ever want to get rid of a body then feed it to pigs'. I mean we hadn't asked. This information was completely volunteered and comforting to hear whilst in the middle of NOWHERE. I stood well back and up wind when I realised unleaded petrol was being used to start the fire. That and the smell of rotting goat and sh*t was catching the back of my throat.
Back at the 'house' Farmer Chris was on top form asking where the heaters were, why were we using heaters when there was a fire? (There were no logs last night). Where is the black heater? In the bedroom with the electric blankets? Passive aggressive much? My ears did prick up at 'electric blanket' though so I went to find one! He left without so much as a hello, goodbye or 'how's your first day going?'. I hear this isn't uncommon and that I have got more out of him in the van than anyone else has so far.
Aside from bottle feeding babies, herding escapees, burning carcasses, chasing eagles away and freeing clumsy/sad goats, other notable things about my new digs:
It is a shack of a house far from civilisation. You know water butts you get in gardens? The ones you collect rainwater in to water the plants? The ones that gutters lead to? Well that's where our drinking water comes from - a water butt over at another house on the farm (inhabitant currently jailed for growing and selling weed in the piggery). The water from our taps? That comes from a tank outside. A tank that we have to fill up from a smaller container that we have to take to the Murray river, fill it, then empty into the tank. I have yet to have the pleasure of that task. At the moment we have running water but it is the temperature of an alpine stream in December. The boiler leaks so 2mins only for a shower, if there is enough water in the first place. I haven't washed yet. The bathroom? Fit for washing goats. The toilet? Outside with spiders.
The people: 2 northern girls, Kaye Marie, 20 and Charlie, 26 (who is counting down her last two days).
Today's Nugget of Joy: They think the woman who went missing in the village next door was fed to pigs on the way to slaughter