I promised I’d be back, and look at that, I am!!! Many apologies for my lax attitude to the blogosphere over the last couple of months. I have many excuses, none of which you will be at all interested in, though work features quite heavily.

I was wondering the best way to start the new year of Ra Puke blogging. I could do a summary of last year, but I’m not sure I remember it all, or that I want to remember parts of it, and anyway, I’m sure I did that in 2013.

One thing that I did see this week was that London Zoo was having their annual stocktake. This came as a great shock to me…I thought they would just know how many beasties they have residing with them, but apparently not. Each year, they have to count and record how many Sumatran Tigers they have (now you really don’t want to get those numbers wrong….”I’m sure we used to have 4, where’d he go…….?!”), how many of each type of penguin they have, how many monkeys they have…you get the picture. They all have to be counted 3 times, and I’m sure the only staff I saw interviewed had “trainee zookeeper” on their shirt…do you think they give the hardest ones to the rookies? You better believe it!

London Zoo aside, it made me think about who we have at Ra Puke now, that there’s been lots of changes since I last wrote, even though that was only in September. We’ve had births, deaths, marriages (well, kind of) and relocations, so here’s a go at catching you up.

As you’ll remember, cows are my favourites, so we start with them. Milkshake, Mona, Poppy, Smokey, Bandit and Peanut are all still with us, despite my best efforts to sell at least one or two of them. All except for Milkshake have had babies too, so they are ALL in milk! Yes, we’re milking 5 cows at the moment (Peanut is too mad to milk and when I tried she nearly broke my arm). Not so bad now that the weather is a bit hotter and the grass isn’t as good which makes the yield come down, but mid November we were getting nearly 50 litres of milk a day!

Thankfully, the calves you already know and the new arrivals have helped out a bit by drinking upwards of 20 litres a day (yes, the household still had to deal with nearly 30 litres a day at one point). We now have Bambi, Brandy, Breeze, BB, Burger, and the home births of Bingo (Smokey’s son), Bindi (Peanut’s daughter), Banjo (Mona’s son) and Boris (Bandit’s son). Breeze, that pathetic little beast in a box by the fire seems to be thriving, so yay for us.

In the bovine section, we also still have Arabella and Rose, who are now over one year old and have been introduced to our old friend Randy Manny the Brahman who has returned to provide his services to Ra Puke.

In the goat department, things are looking a little sparse. Our greatest tragedy was the sudden death of the delightful Cappucino…at one month old she was just dead in the paddock one day. We were heartbroken. We kept milking Mocha and Honey but it’s all been a bit much with the 5 cows to milk and the new job, so we’ve now sold Mocha and with her our old friend Buttercup. It was only when Buttercup was picked up by her new owners that we discovered she was VERY pregnant, so she may well have produced another bubby by now. Honey remains with us, as does one of the angoras (the other has a new home and a new name, Bella), Milo, Cyril, Maisie, Dandelion and her surprise arrival, a gorgeous boy called Nightshade.

The sheep section is probably the most changed. We have had our three older boys leave the building for various freezers…even Grunter who was supposed to be a pet forever but who forfeited that right when he decided to know Briar over on a regular basis. We have the two lambs we raised in 2013, George and Lulu. The coloured sheep remain and have expanded in number – 5 ewes we already had plus two singles (Hot Chocolate, born to Chocolate and Hercules born to Cocoa) and a set of twins (Eilish and Eyelash, born to Eyebrows). Then all those gorgeous lambies we raised by hand during the year…Twinkle, Big Boy, Pink Nose, Kitty, Magic, Blackjack and Josh. And they’re the loveliest little flock to deal with – you open the gate and they follow you to the next paddock!

Hens and ducks remain, and this year has been a terrible year for hatching chickens, but a particularly good year for our muscovies – we have 11 surviving young at the moment and both of our mothers are sitting on clutches of eggs at the moment. I’m not committed enough to this whole stocktake idea to actually count all the poultry – sorry!

We have pigs at the moment, but not the ones you met when they’d just arrived…yes, sorry, they have moved on the the land of someone’s freezer. The two new ones are wee girls called Inky and Stinky, and they’re about 10 weeks old.

And then there’s the house department…Sauvi remains our dominant doggy, but has been joined by the effervescent pup, Tess. The cat section remains unchanged with Monsta, Poppy and Sparkle still managing to keep down the rat, mouse and rabbit population. Inside the house, Toby the budgie has been joined by his future mate, Isabella.

And finally, the human section ….thankfully that one remains unchanged! Except for the odd Wwoofer adding to the numbers. At the moment we have a lovely Frenchman, called, and I’m not convinced you’re going to believe me when I tell you this….Adrien. No way!!!!

So life remains busy and I expect 2015 will be much the same.

And my current obsession? Icecream! So if you know any good recipes, make sure you let me know…dark chocolate icecream and coffee bean icecream are truly marvellous and Emily’s berry sorbet was pretty darn good too.

So until next time, that’s where we’re at, and I really will try to get back to you just a little more regularly from now on…work is no excuse from now on!!!

Take care and enjoy your new year.

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Have you missed me?

Obviously wordpress haven’t because they’ve changed everything on me in my absence!

But never fear…or perhaps fear more….

I’M BACK!!!!!!

Though having written that thought provoking and strenuous story, that’s it for now!
Promise, promise, promise I’ll be back real soon!!!

 

Introducing Mocha's baby Cappucino!

Introducing Mocha’s baby Cappucino!

Briar is totally in love and spent an hour this afternoon "looking after" baby

Briar is totally in love and spent an hour this afternoon “looking after” baby

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Another coffee for our collection, though sadly we no longer have our lovely Latte. She succumbed probably to septicaemia only a couple of days after having her baby. This lovely little girl born to Mocha is a great joy. I was totally paranoid when I saw things happening and refused to go anywhere until it was all over. As it was, Mocha had great difficulty delivering on her own, and my presence meant I could aid nature a little bit by straightening out the front legs and helping to deliver the head. After that, it was all plain sailing. The baby is big and strong and is up and about with a full tummy. Mocha is naturally attentive and protective and seems very content with her lot.

What a good day.

Today, my dear readers, is Day 100…at least this is the date I said would be Day 100 when I started. I know I haven’t quite achieved my aim of writing one post a day, but I don’t think I’ve done too badly. By one lot of calculations I’ve done 94 posts and another says 85, so I’m going for somewhere in between.

When I began this challenge at the end of May, I really just wanted to use my blog more for the reasons I started it….to keep people in touch with us and to record our journey for our family. I think I’ve achieved those goals, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I have discovered many reasons not to blog….falling asleep, being sick, not having internet connection, just being emotionally too spent, but I’ve also discovered many reasons to blog. I’ve learnt lots about blogging, and I never want it to be a fulltime thing for me, but it’s been interesting to see where people have been reading the blog from, and who now follows it. I have discovered the games bloggers play to get more followers, but that’s not really what I’m after. I have discovered that if you put “naked” in your title you get an awful lot more hits!!!! Even if the post is about “Naked Sheep”….that’s been my biggest “hit” day ever I think! I’ve also discovered that you gets lots of spam that goes like this….

“Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing troubnles with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I can’t join it. Is there aanyone else gettong the same RSS issues? Anybody who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!!”

Sounds innocuous enough, but after you’ve had a dozen of them, you’re pleased you didn’t respond to the first one. There are some that are much more interesting…one in particular mentioned certain things that a woman might like to do if she wanted to be more popular with men that the other ladies. You will be pleased that I did not reprint it here!

So 100 days is done and dusted, but you can’t get rid of me that easily (unless you unfollow me I suppose!). I will keep writing, though I have no intention of trying to write every night. I think I’d miss it if I didn’t do it now…it’s a habit.

Fortuitously, I also have some great news today, and that is (no, not THAT!) that I finally have my occupational therapy registration confirmed and I can finally start work. My potential employer is most pleased after having waited two months to get me started, and so am I. So don’t be surprised if the posts dry up a wee bit over the next couple of weeks…I’ll be in bed before the kids I reckon!

Finally, a dragon training update. What joy, milking two cows each morning and not ending up covered in $*%& and bruises! Poppy has settled and now barely complains at milking time. It may have something to do with the fact that the milking unit broke down on Sunday and we had it fully serviced and various parts replaced. Sunday meant I had to hand milk, and I discovered that I have got very soft and that it was very hard to do! When I milked on Monday post-fixing, the difference was remarkable…much more efficient, much quicker, much easier…and obviously that’s rubbed off on the cows too. Milkshake even came in for an evening milk tonight, so she must be enjoying it! And 21 litres a day sounds a lot but with 5 hungry calves to feed (2litres, twice a day), it doesn’t last long.

Yesterday, I made a brief introduction to the latest member of our bovine family. His name is Burger, and here he is.

This is Burger...can't remember whether you've been introduced to him...will check and report as necessary

Now, at 4, we thought we had enough calves to feed just now. But the collection was obviously not complete.

I now spend a couple of hours of my Sunday morning at The Friendly Farmer’s farm feeding his calves. The FF’s mum does it with me and we have a good old chinwag, set the world to rights and have a good laugh as well. When I say I’m feeding calves, I’m talking somewhere in the vicinity of 150 calves! Feeding on an industrial scale! We start off with the really young ones which need lots of TLC and encouragement to drink from the rubber teats. Some of them need to be tube fed, especially if they’ve just come in from the paddock where they may not even have stood up yet. The next pen are the slightly older ones and so on until you come to the ones who are nearly 2 months old. They don’t need much encouragement, they just go for it. And woe betide anyone who gets in their way. These girls are anything but ladylike around mealtimes!

So last Sunday I made my way to the shed and was chatting away the the FF’s mum, when she asked me an unusual question. “Do you want a calf?” My obvious answer was “yes, of course”, but I did have the good sense to say “ah, well, maybe, why?” I think it is always prudent to at least ask about what you’re being given before blindly loading it into your trailer. It turned out that he was a very friendly little fellow with a lovely personality. Ok, but that doesn’t exactly tell me why he’s being given away to me rather than being sold so someone else for $100. The FF’s mum didn’t think that anyone would buy him. Ok, but why would that be? Apparently he’s a bit unusual. Exactly why? He has a bent neck because he was in an awkward position in the womb. So that’ll sort itself out with time most likely so what’s the rest? Nobody’s quite sure whether he can see…or hear.

WHAT????!!!!!

I’m being given a deaf and blind calf with a crook neck? No wonder they’re giving him away….it was an interesting sell to Adrian that’s for sure! On getting him home, it is clear that he can see, and he can hear. He might have some problems with both, but it certainly doesn’t seem to slow him down. He drinks all his milk super fast and is a big boy at only one week old.

But don’t get too attached to the wee man, because his name is Burger for a reason. This little guy is going to grow up to be a beautiful steer who will, I’m afraid, end up as burgers. And steak, and roasts, and all other beefy treats.

That’s farming for you, I guess.

Lack of posts for the last two days = hands and forearms too bruised to type! Well, perhaps not that bad, but the lovely Poppy is inflicting significant bruising as she protests my insistence to milk her. She has had her baby taken away for good, and spends a good deal of her day mooing loudly in protest. BB, on the other hand, is completely over the separation, and happily follows whoever is in the paddock with her. She has a particular fondness for Bambi and Briar.

The milking experience is getting slightly less painful, and a lot more successful each time I milk. Morning milkings seem to be the best, and this morning she only kicked the cups off once. Afternoons are not her favourite and she even managed to get me in the right shoulder today….that meant she managed to miss my chest and face but land her dainty foot smack into my shoulder! Thankfully, more of a glancing blow than a full-blooded kick. I have high respect for the kick of a cow as I’ve had a few rather nasty ones. Our wwoofer this week was not so convinced that the back legs of a cow were all that strong! WHAT?!?!?!? He even suggested that he could help me with the milking by holding her back legs! As the lovely Simon commented, he’d only do that once. Despite a strong impression that he thought we were exaggerating the potential risk, he did decide not to do the experiment, which was probably a sensible move on his part. I can see his thinking though….the hind legs are quite fine on a Jersey cross and most of the weight of the animal is through the body, so surely if an 80kg male holds on tight, the 600kg cow won’t be able to kick him…..yes, well, maybe I don’t quite understand that thinking. He was doing a masters in physics, so maybe the theory worked!

As for more successful, we have increased the morning yield by half a litre a day, and this morning I got 7.5litres. This afternoon, very nearly 3 litres. A 10 litre haul for the day is pretty handy, and with Milkshake’s 9 litres this morning (she’s only milked once a day), we almost yielded enough to feed the calves!

And here’s an update on the calves, the lovely little creatures. They are all thriving and are friendly and generally lovely.

Breeze is growing and seems really healthy

Breeze is growing and seems really healthy

This is Burger...can't remember whether you've been introduced to him...will check and report as necessary

This is Burger…can’t remember whether you’ve been introduced to him…will check and report as necessary

Bambi is the boss, inquisitive and demanding...hmmm, Emily's calf....coincidence?!

Bambi is the boss, inquisitive and demanding…hmmm, Emily’s calf….coincidence?!

Brandy is my snuggly calf. She loves to be rubbed under her jaw and generally given a good love.

Brandy is my snuggly calf. She loves to be rubbed under her jaw and generally given a good love.

Briar has taken it upon herself to make sure that BB can eat the meal in the shed

Briar has taken it upon herself to make sure that BB can eat the meal in the shed

BB does need a good cuddle from time to time

BB does need a good cuddle from time to time

And obviously BB thinks Briar might provide milk if sucked hard enough

And obviously BB thinks Briar might provide milk if sucked hard enough

 

A happy 2 year old having her hand sucked by a week old calf

A happy 2 year old having her hand sucked by a week old calf

Aren’t they lovely?

Otherwise known as “How to train your housecow”….today was the day to start milking Poppy. Now remember that Poppy is only 2 years old and this is her first calf. Oh, yes, that means she’s never been milked before. And they don’t automatically know about being milked, and they don’t automatically understand the required behavioural standard. This includes:

1. Never kick Andi

2. Never kick the cups off

3. Never complete one’s toileting in the cowshed

4. Never cover Andi in unmentionable substances previously on the floor of the cowshed

5. Never stand on the equipment

6. Never kick over the milk

7. Never add hay, dirt and other inedible substances to the milk

8. Never kick Andi

Now I think that these expectations are fairly simple and realistic. But not for a first timer, it appears. You may guess that she did not adhere to any of these simple requirements….not one!

You see, she sucked me into a false sense of security because she walked so beautifully from the paddock and into the stall. She happily munched on animal nuts and hay, and thought herself quite special.

Then the noise started. She flinched a little, but was OK. Next, some idiot decided to put something ridiculously uncomfortable onto her teats. Well, she was having none of that, let me tell you. As soon as a cup went on, she tried her hardest to kick it off. If I was quick enough to get all four on without her kicking one or two off, she then managed to get her entire hoof straight in the centre of the “cluster” therefore pulling the whole thing off, dumping it into the dust and other interesting substances on the floor. Dust everything off, start again.

After 15 minutes, and the skin of my hands and forearms becoming a significantly different colour (colouring agents including bruising, poo and dirt!), I turned the machine off and turned to the old fashioned method…milking by hand. I have “handled” her udder before, and she wouldn’t mind me doing the whole job by hand. Ah, well, yes, that may have been the case if I hadn’t just spent 15 minutes trying to attach her to a really stupid (in her mind) machine! By this time, she was most put out, and immediately kicked my hand and the bucket. But I persevered, and discovered that I could predict when her next kick was coming and avoid it, which led to less bruising and skinned hands! Eventually, she seemed to calm down a little and the job was completed. I am not sure quite how long it took me, but an hour would be conservative….let’s hope tomorrow is slightly easier….

The lovely Milkshake is definitely in a muddle. She is confused, she is pining, she is most unhappy. And why all the emotional conundrum? It’s all because of babies.

I’m sure every female reading this has experienced that surge of emotion at some time in their life when they either want a baby, have a baby, hold a baby, see a baby. That instinctive motherliness is there inside most of us.

It seems that the same is true in cows. Well, Milkshake, anyway. I think that her instinctive maternal nature is incredibly strong, and I think that all she wants is to have a little baby of her own. Whether she is aware that there is (hopefully) her own precious little bundle growing inside her is not something I will ever know, but it is not making her any happier if she does know about it.

I mentioned last week that Milkshake had mothered on Bambi, and would let her suckle from her udder. Milkshake is still very attached to Bambi, and ignores all the others. She runs down to the shed in the morning, talking to Bambi all the way. Once in the stall, she cranes her neck over into the calf pen so that she can nuzzle and lick Bambi. All very gorgeous, but she seems to have managed her innate baby need when she’s been away from Bambi.

But everything has changed since the birth of BB. Perhaps it’s because the calf was born in the paddock next door to Milkshake. It was amazing on the day, that all the cows came up as close as they could get to the “action”. There wasn’t a lot of noise or fuss, but somehow they all knew there was something significant going on and noone was about to miss the fun. Poor Milkshake also has her nose rubbed in the “you haven’t got a baby” pie every day she has to walk to the milking shed through Poppy and BB’s paddock, and then back through afterwards. It’s really not fair on the poor love.

So it appears that Milkshake believes that BB is actually her calf, plucked from it’s crib in the maternity ward and taken home by the wrong mother. While Poppy seems to be doing a perfectly lovely job of looking after BB, Milkshake thinks she can do it better. Yesterday, she spent the whole day sitting by the fence between her and Poppy, and she was crying. I can’t think of another way to describe the pitiful, plaintive moos that were emanating from her obviously highly distressed being. If she can, she will nuzzle the baby and point it in the direction of her udder, though the hyper-protective Poppy is having none of it. Poor Milkshake kept up her keening right into the night, though seemed to have put the issue to rest by morning. Perhaps she was just exhausted. Whatever it was, her milk production was down 2 1/2 litres this morning which really does suggest that she is not a happy girl. She had a quietish day, but tonight as I sit typing I can hear her plaintive calling starting up again.

The good news (I hope) is that tomorrow, BB will join the other calves in the shed. I have some misgivings about this, because I like the idea of a calf being raised by it’s mother. But there are a couple of reasons that we have decided to split mother and babe up this year. Firstly, it’s due to the friendliness of the calf. This little heifer is destined to be a housecow, which means that friendliness is a great asset. She needs to be comfortable with people, and with a halter, and she needs to be able to lead nicely. This is evident with Poppy who has all these features and it makes her an easily workable milker, in whatever situation she finds herself in. Secondly, it’s about production, which is important in a housecow. If we “share” milk her with the calf, the calf gets however much she wants and we get the leftovers. By removing the calf, we can monitor how much milk goes where, and at the moment that level of control is quite important….some milk for the children’s cereal would be nice!

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It’s not often that you find a wwoofer sitting in a paddock, playing the guitar, singing and drinking mate (pronounced martay)! This is Federico, and he’s from Argentina, and this evening he took his musical talent to the outdoors. The girls thought this was a fabulous treat, as I’m sure the cows did too. Perhaps there was a lullaby in there for the new calf?

As for mate, it’s a very interesting beverage which seems to have a lot of tradition or ritual about it. There is a special cup that it is brewed in, which has a metal straw in. The herb is placed in the top of the cup and hot water is poured over the top. The person who makes the brew tastes it first to make sure that it is suitable for sharing. The next brew us given to another person who sips from the straw until the liquid is finished, and so it goes on. It seems that it is a common drink in Argentina, used in social situations particularly. It is an unusual taste, quite bitter, but not unpleasant, especially if you’re a herbal tea fan. An intercultural treat we decided…not one that Adrian was that taken with however!

Today was certainly a rollercoaster day. It began much as normal, with five lambs and 3 calves requiring sustenance. But that’s where normality ended.

Latte, our sick goat, was sitting in the shed and when I got her up it was clear that she’d started kidding. Usually this would be oh so exciting, but as she’s been sick, we’ve been really worried that she won’t be strong enough to push baby out. I could see a foot but that was it. After half an hour, nothing had changed. Time for the vet. In due course, the vet arrived and got to work. Sadly the baby was dead, but worse, it had been dead for some time and was actually starting to rot inside Latte. It was also in a bad position with one leg forward, one tucked in somewhere and the head was down as well. It would have been impossible for Latte to give birth without assistance and she could easily die of septicaemia. The details of how the procedure was performed are probably not necessary here, but it was most unpleasant. Eventually it was over and our poor Latte was pumped full of things to make her feel better and hopefully to save her life. She hangs in the balance, and we keep our fingers crossed. It was the stomach losing descent on the rollercoaster!

But it wouldn’t be a rollercoaster without the view from the top, and we got that just a few minutes later. I had noticed that Poppy, our new cow, was starting to be restless and she looked like she was going to start calving. While there was a vet here, it seemed silly not to get him to go cross-species and to make the extraordinary charge for his mileage worthwhile! We got Poppy in an enclosed space, and the vet did what he does. He was pretty happy with how things were, but his attitude was “while we’re here, we might as well help her out”. So help her out he did…or he tried. Initially, he felt that one good push from Poppy and some gentle tension from him would do the trick. Then he decided it needed a bit more effort. Then he decided he needed a rope! And eventually, we reached the top of the rollercoaster and out slithered our newest addition, a quite large and most beautiful heifer (girl) calf. She was hung upside down over a fence for a start to make sure she was draining any nasty stuff out of her airways, and then she was left to her mum. It never fails to amaze me that first time calvers just automatically know what to do. Poppy rushed to her baby, started “talking” to her and licked her half to death! Actually, half to death was just about right, because Poppy was so “encouraging” of her baby to get on her feet, that she pushed her into an electric fence!!!!! Thankfully, I was nearby and noticed what had happened in time to scream orders at Adrian to save my baby! We got there in time, with the only consequence being a slightly shocked looking (hah! see what I did there!) baby and a slightly confused mum.

We have watched Poppy and her calf throughout the afternoon. After less than an hour, the calf was standing and drinking from her mother’s udder (which was dripping with colostrum). Poppy talked to her baby all the time. She licked her. She nuzzled her. She charged at some chickens when they came too close! She has not felt threatened by us, which is wonderful, and we’ve been able to approach and give her and the baby some love. And what has the baby been christened? BB. Yes, that’s it. Actually, it stands for Black Betty, because when she came out she was jet black and that idea just popped straight into my head. Of course, the name had to start with a B….Bambi, Brandy, Breeze, BB.

I know, get on with it…where’s the pictures? Here they are…..

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Just as a footnote, I would like to admit that BB’s attire is not custom designed…much more “off the rack” here. I wasn’t going to give her a cover, but this is what the neighbours put on all their calves. The only difference is that their calves are beef calves and quite a bit bigger…..

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