Archive for the ‘Cows’ Category

One of Our Cows in 4K Video

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Ever seen a cow in 4K video? Me neither. My Samsung Galaxy Note 4 shoots 4K video so I pointed it at one of our beefers to see what would happen.

Water Doom: The Spring Gave Out

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Update: 3 May 2010

Recent rain has recharged the spring. There’s good flow into the tank and it’s 3/4 full now. Faucets, shower, etc. are working again.

The streams are still not flowing as usual, so we’re continuing to take it very carefully with water.

—End Update—

The Far North of New Zealand is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years. Kaitaia, the town near us, has been running under emergency conditions for weeks. Anyone caught using a hose outside faces a NZ$20,000 fine. The local farming community is in deep trouble. The hay and silage that has been put up for winter is already being used for feed. Some beef and dairy farmers are getting ready to slaughter their herds. Soon, it will be too cold to grow much grass, even if rain comes. But there’s no meaningful rain coming anyway…

Our new kitchen faucet

We have been OK here, but after months of what might as well have been no rain, the spring finally gave out, and we used up the water that had accumulated in the tank. Technically, the spring hasn’t stopped. I’d say that about five litres trickle down to our house per day. And the cows probably drank more water than we used.

For the last two weeks, we have been living over at Becky’s parents’ house. At first, we thought that it would be easier over there with Owen, but it turned out to be pretty hard going because their place isn’t two-year-old proof. We’re back home now, but living in a quasi camping mode. Our total, usable household water supply includes two 20 litre water containers and a 200 litre rainwater barrel that’s about half full. [Update: Our friend Andrew let us borrow another 20 litre container and offered to let us fill up over at his farm.]

I’ve been giving the chooks water from the rain barrel. I’ll probably start giving the dam water to the chickens, but I read somewhere that it’s better not to give very turbid water to chickens. I don’t know if that’s true, but our dam water is very cloudy.

Rainwater barrel

I have been putting off piping water from the dam down to the troughs and garden. Well, nothing puts a bomb under your tail to complete a water infrastructure project like having cows with about a day’s worth of water remaining in their troughs. Luckily, this is a personal, local and regional collapse situation, and not a BIG biggy collapse. I was able to drive to town, in our petrol powered pickup truck/ute, and buy the NZ$550 worth of pipe and fittings that I needed to complete this project. The pipe was even on sale! HAHA. A few hours of work later and the cows had a gravity fed water supply. (Another time, I’ll write about the gravity feed system that I built. It’s working great.) At first, the cows stood by the trough and looked at me, in protest, “We want our spring water back.” But they got used to the dam water pretty fast. Bex and I are happy that we didn’t have to send our cows to the works, or give them away. I doubt that anyone would buy our cows now, since most people are facing the same situation with water.

I’m seriously thinking about buying a Big Berkey water filter, as that thing could keep us going if the drought persists. I could put our dam water through that and it would be fine. If the dam runs out (a really grim possibility) there is still plenty of water in the river below our property. It’s flowing well and the water is probably ok to drink. I just don’t like the word probably when it comes to the safety of water. We could have that water tested, but I wonder if the quality could vary over time… There are no intensive farming operations around that river. It’s just bush and several lifestylers with a few dozen cows over about five kilometres. Anyway, the Big Berkey could come in very handy if the shit really hits the fan here. The reality is that it will probably never be this dry here again in my lifetime, but there’s that word probably again…

Leg Injury Due to Stupidity

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Two days ago, our newest heifer got tangled up with a broken fence. I keep a rope tied loosely on the creature’s neck so that she can be separated from Coco for milking. The calf managed to get this rope tangled around some #8 wire fencing and a metal standard.

We were on our way out to the coast, so I wasn’t wearing my work pants (with the knife in the back pocket) or boots. I saw that she was stuck and just strolled up there thinking that I’d be able untie the knot to free her quickly.

Well, the knot was a serious mess. I looked at this situation and thought, “Just don’t get between that rope and the standard. Be careful.”

What do you think happened…

As I was undoing the knot, she took off like a shot and the rope snapped tight against my legs, I flew into the air and landed in some position that had both of my legs lashed to the standard, along with a ball of fencing. It was a tangle of legs, #8 wire, rope and blood (my blood). I was yelling uncontrollably because of the pain. This was upsetting the animal even more. She went around me a couple more times, pulling the tangle of fence, legs and rope tighter.

In case you’re wondering, this was a very serious, “OH SHIT!” moment. I couldn’t move, and the crazed animal would eventually wind herself up to the point where she’d be on top of me. She has tried to kick me with both front (yes, front) and hind sets of hooves. No, she REALLY doesn’t like being tethered.

My next thought was:

If she kicks you in the head, you could buy the farm right here, partially tangled in the fence, partially lying in the mud, blood and shit.

Trying to focus through the excruciating pain, I decided to cut her loose. I reached for the knife in my back pocket… That wasn’t in my back pocket because I wasn’t wearing my work pants!

I don’t really know why, but she got tired of pulling on the rope. Maybe she realized that she was actually getting closer to me, by going around and around, which she obviously didn’t like. I managed to get some slack on the rope, which allowed me to crawl away.

I’ve done some stupid things on this property, but this one takes the cake. What makes it even worse is that I saw the potential for trouble and reminded myself to be extra careful. Anyway, the good news is that this incident didn’t involve a trip to the emergency room or worse. The bad news is that, in addition to minor cuts, scrapes and bruises on both hands and my right leg, this is what the back of my left leg looks like right now:

This hurts a lot

To say that I’m walking funny is a bit of understatement. I don’t know if any serious damage has been done to my knee. The whole area is turning black and blue, and I’m having a hard time straightening it out. There’s some swelling, but it’s much less than I thought would be present. I don’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad sign.

I went to the chemist and he suggested a product called NurofenPlus, which is Ibuprofen and codeine. This has cut the throbbing pain way down. He said that if the pain continues to get worse, or if swelling increases, I’d need to go to the hospital.

Anyway, the moral of the story is: Please be careful.

I could have just kept this one quiet. I mean, who really wants to admit doing something stupid? The reason I wrote this post is because you don’t want to be the guy (or girl) who’s tangled up in a fence, screaming at the top of your lungs where nobody can hear you, with life and limb subject the whims of a very strong and stroppy animal. Maybe before doing something silly, you’ll think, “I don’t want to wind up like that jackass on Farmlet.” Maybe you’ll take greater care around your own property as a result of this. I know that I will.

The Year of the Rat in Review

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

About one year ago, I wrote a list of goals for the Year of the Rat. Now that the year is over, it’s time to review the list. How did we get on?

1. Do “baby yoga” with Owen and have lots of fun. I’m proud to say that we really over-achieved on this goal. As well as having fun yoga time together at home, Owen and I arranged to get together for weekly yoga sessions with a couple of other mums and babies. This has been a lovely way to spend time together and make friends. Owen continues to enjoy some of his “baby yoga” moves, even as he’s becoming more interested in mimicking the “grown-up moves” that I do. He still loves to sit peacefully on my lap or in front of me while I chant Sanskrit prayers.

2. Build a chook house and chook run. I guess we score about 50% on this one. The construction of the chook runs is largely finished. Big thanks are due to my father for his work on this project. After thinking long and hard about plans for a chook house, and assessing our resources and building skills (Let’s face it: Building is not what we are best at.), Kevin has ordered a kitset henhouse. We can’t wait for it to arrive! There’s still quite a lot to do before the chooks can move in, but we are well on the way. We are looking forward to doing some big chook-system documentary posts for Farmlet once the show is up.

3. Install a solar water heater. Not done yet, I’m afraid, but steps have been taken. We have earmarked the funds for this project, and Kevin has been in touch with the vendors about the size of the system and how to install it.

4. We plan that calves and goat kids will be born on the Farmlet this coming spring. We had mixed fortunes on this one, with the bull not staying long enough for Rosie to get in calf. Still, Miss Scarlett Beef-Shanks (Coco’s calf this season) is thriving. We were especially delighted to see Coco deliver a healthy calf after the trouble she had the previous year.

Scarlett Beef-Shanks, about twelve hours old

5. Carrying on from #4: Extend the small goat house and build a milking stand for the goats. A big zero for this! This one just looked like too much to tackle last year. We decided to put off doing this work and breeding the goats for another year.

6. Undertake some cool cheese projects using fresh cow and goat milk.
I think we’ve made a strong start on the cheese. Owen and I attended a fantastic cheese making course back in October. I have already made kefir parmesan, aged kefir cheese, pressed curd, and ricotta. Still to come: cheddar, feta, camembert, and maybe gouda.

Heirloom tomatoes and homemade, raw milk cheese

7. Make delicious meals using meat raised on the Farmlet. Yes!! And I’ve enjoyed sharing recipes for beef liver pate and steak and kidney pie on the Farmlet website.

8. Experiment with grinding and cooking cornmeal, including some from our own corn. Oh, dear! I dropped the ball on this one. I still haven’t even figured out how to fit to corn augur into our grain mill. . .

9. Save seeds from more of our vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We’ve made some good progress on our seed saving. Some of the varieties we are saving include: borlotti beans, black spanish radish, black beauty zucchini, onion, cilantro, selugia bean, soldier poppy, cosmos, calendula, naked oats, pygmy torch amaranth, dill, and land cress. With the fruiting season now upon us, I’m also about to save seed from several varieties of tomato, tomatillo, runner bean, zinnia, and russian giant sunflowers.

10. Continue to battle kikuyu and work on “taming” the house paddock. We hope to work on weed barriers this year, with the aim of reducing the ongoing effort. We have done quite a lot of work on this front, due to the design of the chook runs we are making. We can’t wait to test our new barrier system when we finally get some chooks.

11. Attempt to make some more crusty fermented beverages. I’ve had a go at making a number of different fermented drinks: ginger beer, honey mead, and rosehip-hibiscus soda were all delicious. The last two were made using water kefir grains and honey from our neighbour’s bees. We were hoping to make wine from our grapes last year, as well, but the grape crop was pretty poor and it didn’t happen.

12. Raise some seedlings of “bushman’s toilet paper” to plant out in the garden. Can’t believe this one is still on the “to do” list after all this time. I’ve found a source of seed, so should buy it and get on with the project.

13. Last but not least: I want to write at least one update per week for the Farmlet website! This still seems like an excellent goal to strive for, even though it has seemed so unattainable over the past month or so. I’ll keep trying!

Well, that was the Year of the Rat in review. Overall, I think it was a good year for us here on the Farmlet. Lots of good stuff happened, but it looks like we still have plenty of work left to do in the Year of the Ox, doesn’t it! My next post will be our new list of goals for the Year of the Ox.

Farmlet Style Gin and Tonic and Sausages on Christmas Eve

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

On Christmas Eve, we had some showers earlier in the day and then a mild, almost fine, afternoon. After the weather cleared, while Becky attended to some business in the kitchen, I carried Owen on my back in the babypack and we toured around the farmlet, checking on the animals and generally enjoying our realm. Owen loves to visit the cows and “Moo” at them. It’s true. He sees the cows and lets out a gleeful, “MOOOOO!” as he points at them.

Now, it’s very easy to break a sweat in steamy Northland during the Summer months, and I’d done just that walking up, down and around the farmlet with Owen (~12KG) on my back. Luckily, the last time we were in town, I decided to stop by the liquor warehouse to see if any “Christmas Cheer” was on special; you know, something which might be useful for mixing up adult refreshing beverages. Would you believe me if told you that there was a big yellow “Special” tag on the large green Tanqueray bottle?

Spirits, especially nice ones, are too expensive for me to make much of a habit of, but the thought of a refreshing gin and tonic on a warm Summer afternoon quickly had me heading to the checkout counter with that iconic green bottle of quadruple distilled tipple.

Sadly, I don’t see us being able to produce anything like this on the Farmlet

I’ve rarely encountered a gin and tonic in a bar or restaurant that measured up to my weird standards for this particular drink. They’re usually made with way to much ice and not enough citrus. Additionally, regular highball glasses are too small for the job. Your taste will almost certainly vary, but I like a really good belt of gin and a strong citrus flavour, coupled with the bitter quinine finish of the tonic water. The pint glass is the way to go on this one.

Farmlet Gin and Tonic:

* Fill a pint glass half way with ice

* Slice about 1/3 of a lemon into thin rounds and squeeze over the ice (throw the skins in if you like)

* Slice half a lime into wedges and squeeze over the ice, run a lime wedge around the top of the glass (throw the skins in if you like)

* Pour gin, covering ice and citrus skins

* Top up with premium tonic water

* Stir well

Farmlet lemons and limes bathing in icy gin and tonic water

Wow, that’s a nice drink. It was so nice, in fact, that I had to try another that evening.

It’s hard to describe, but, somehow, these delicious cocktails seem to heighten the anticipation for the meal ahead. Becky was preparing some of our recently homekilled sausages—these with her herb fill—green beans from the garden, and spuddy mash.

Herb sausage dinner

Ahh, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable Christmas Eve.