Louise's Blog

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Summertime and the living is not easy

Posted by nogsland on May 5, 2017 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (367)

I am really not a summer person, not only do I hate the heat, but I hate the snakes, the flies, the total lethargy that sweeps over me whenever I go outside and the brownness that sweeps over the land as we all hold our breath and pray that no bushfires come our way for two to three months.

We have been told that a heatwave is heading our way, it is already predicted to be 46 (nearly 130 for those in the UK) in some parts of New South Wales by Wednesday, for us probably high 30's, but that is quite hot enough. I yearn for long days in the office in my lovely air conditioned room and dread having to go outside for anything. When you do decide to brave it, the sun is so bright it almost blinds you, it is the most incredible bright light as it glints off the pavements, walls and anything else it can lay its rays on. The heat smacks you round the face like a heavy weight, so that you find yourself scurrying like an insect to find evey bit of shade you can as you walk along the street. Welcome to country Australia in the summertime.

At home it should be better, however, the weekender as we know, has flaws even though it is straw bale. The windows are no good and so the insulation is not perfect, good, but not perfect, so after a few days of sustained heat, a warm oppressive air creeps into the rooms. You lay in bed at night, getting up every so often to have a cold shower and then luxuriating for about 10 mins in the droplets of cold water that stay on your skin as you lie on your cotton sheet, until the air sucks it all up again and you are back to where you started. As the night progresses, the sheets get stickier with your body heat, still there is no wind and you sit there wondering if you can be bothered to get up again and do the whole shower thing again.

The down side of getting up is that when you do, that wakes up the dogs, who then decide that they are overheating too and after lapping up some water (I swear dogs are the noisiest lappers of water in the world), they sit their loudly panting for an hour like they are about to expire, or decide they want to come into the bedroom (much hotter than where they are so no logic at all) and scratch at the door for the next hour until I shout at them, which wakes Chris up, if the panting hadn't already woken him. I could go on, but I won't....

The middle of summer, what a joy it is.....

Technology Challenges

Posted by nogsland on May 5, 2017 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (2)

It has been a while. Our IT people tell us it is fixed but I have my doubts.

Swinus Giganticus

Posted by nogsland on September 27, 2016 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (125)

Well, we just had a record breaking weekend on the farm, not Guinness Records type records but certainly a record for us. This weekend was sadly the last for one of our two young boars. Capey, imaginatively named because his white stripe is not quite a stripe, rather a dapper looking cape, lives to fight another day. He has a beautiful temperament and is very tactile, Chris has decided he is going to try and teach him to sit…..Anyway, we have decided to keep him as Diggary’s replacement for when Diggary gets too old to do the job and to get him a young girl pig as a new best friend. Not so, Big Boy, who incidentally did not have that name until last Saturday afternoon....

All started out as a normal Saturday when we are going to kill a pig. I got up and lit the fire until the oil drum which has the water for the bath. The two boars both came up to see what was happening and then got bored and went off for a nap in the sunshine. A few hours later with the water boiling, they woke up and Chris went in and separated them and fed them snacks and was very quickly able to do a good clean shot for a kill. Throat cutting and cutting off the pigs manbits then followed and then we brought in the digger to lift him into the bath. 

It was then that two things happened which were slightly out of the ordinary. Firstly we realised he was a much bigger pig than we had originally thought. This meant he was taller when hanging up and so Chris had to hold the digger arm higher to swing him into the bath or hot water. That was when the digger arm hit the overhead very heavy wood beams that have been put in place to line up to where eventually a roof will be for the slaughter area. The beam dislodged and was then being held up only by the digger arm. I was underneath so in a slightly precarious position trying to grab Big Boys leg to swing him into the bath. So we had a bath full of hot water fast cooling, an enormous pig hanging down and a beam balanced precariously overhead making it impossible to do anything without certain death ensuing for anyone standing underneath....

On the TV we would now cut to a commercial break. Luckily for you this is not TV and suffice to say, after a temporary hiatus getting props and clamps and such like, we finally got Big Boy into the bath. Slightly cool which was a bit of a problem in terms of removing the hair and skin, more so because he was so big he wouldn't really fit into the bath.  We finally got him sorted, got him onto the gantry and after gutting and cleaning him up moved him towards the cold store where he would hand overnight. Chris proudly got out the new winch the butcher had built to make it easier to lift things up into the cold room. We got him half up and then the winch snapped - he was too heavy !  After a few back breaking minutes we improvised and got the two halves hanging up and left him to cool overnight.

When we weighed him the next day he dressed out to around 120kg, which at 9 months is huge. He beats our previous record which was Whitey the pig who was 2 months older and 90kg by a considerable margin. It took hours to butcher him, but should be worthwhile, monster pork chops, wonderful looking bacon and ribs and joints in abundance. He truly was a swinus giganticus ! 

Spring has arrived

Posted by nogsland on September 2, 2016 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (48)

Well, yesterday was the first day of Spring (1 September for those of you in a different hemisphere), today it rained all day and one might be forgiven for thinking that Mother Nature has got it a bit wrong. I was in Brisbane for work yesterday and the weather was glorious, less so when I got on a plane in the evening and came back to wintery Canberra. They are predicting wild weather over the next 24 hours so we are battening down the hatches.

It's all been happening at the farm since my last post. Having declared Anita too fat to get pregnant, she promptly made me look a liar and gave birth a week or so after Georgina, sadly with no greater success. They were either still born or she managed to squash them all by accidentally (!) lying on them all within the first 24 hours. So for the first time in a long time we are finding ourselves without a good pork supply in 12 months time. We have two young boys left from the last litter, one of whom we are thinking we might keep as a second boar for breeding because he is such a sweetie and one (who has coincidentally bitten Chris twice in the last month) and is for the chop in the next month. That won't be enough to last though, so we are trying to come up with a plan.

It has been a busy few weeks from a slaughtering and butchery perspective, two weeks ago we killed and plucked a couple of geese ready for Christmas.  We underestimated the arterial spray somewhat. I was holding one of the said geese under my arm and kneeling down so Chris could chop off its head and when it was done, I stood up and we had the normal post death movement resulting in something akin to an 80's horror movie for the blood splatter effect. Not a good look when all is said and done. On the upside we got two geese wonderfully dressed out at around 5kg which we are very pleased with, as well as some wonderful goose fat which we have rendered ready to use on our roast potatoes, yum.

The following week, Chris killed his first sheep on his own, Blindy was the unlucky victim, you might recall, he was the wether whose horns were growing into his head restricting his sight. It all went very well, it was a lovely calm sunny day and they were all just sittting down munching on some grass. Chris managed to kill with a single shot and it was all over very quickly with no stress at all which was wonderful. Less so the skinning and gutting, which suffice to say, is considerably harder to do on an older sheep than on a lamb which is a few months old.

When Chris met up with our butcher friend who kills our steers for us the other day, he was telling Chris he can now kill and skin a sheep in 10 mins. Add a "0" on that and you would be closer to Chris' "best time", needless to say, Chris didn't feel the need to share that info with him. I am still very proud of him, it is a hard thing to do, but when we butchered the sheep it was a great looking carcass. It was also interesting that when we removed the horns, it turns out he was actually blind in one eye because of the way they had grown. It seems to be a real issue with this breed, you might recall we had to cut off Pete the Ram's horns for a similar reason.

I now have 3 sets of sheep horns and 1 set of steer horns to turn into something. I boiled them all up at the weekend (nice smell.....tip for anyone thinking of doing the same thing, do it outside!). I now have them laid out on the outside wall whilst I find inspiration and/or the time to make them into something useful. Waste not want not.

Arrivals and Departures

Posted by nogsland on July 6, 2016 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (33)

Well it has all been happening here, with snowstorns and rain storms and wind storms coming at us from all directions. The sheep decided that this meant it was a perfect time to start lambing. Worrying in itself given we are now in the grips of winter but also strange as it is 2 months earlier than when they normally give birth. I am not going to even start on a climate change argument. Suffice to say, it would be much better if they were being born when it was warm, as now we have to fret about them being out in sub zero temperatures when they are only a day old. So far Won-Ky has given birth to a single lamb, Gemima has had twins and Lambie is thinking about it.  We are keeping everying crossed. 

We have already traded the boy lamb to some friends who want a Ram which is great. I have also arranged to get a couple of goats (dead ones) from the same people who have been raising goats and are about to do a kill on property. Very exciting, we love goat curry.

Some very sad news yesterday, Georgina (yes, she of the pig bite fame), aborted her litter and went into shock. Chris was sufficiently worried that she might die that he called the vet. When they turned up (5 hours later, just a well it wasn't life or death.....), he said these things happen and it could have been for a number of reasons. He gave Chris an injection to give her to ensure that all of the afterbirth and other nasty bits have come out so she doesn't get some sort of secondary infection. Unfortunately Chris didn't take the opportunity to give it to her whilst she was still feeling very poorly and when he did try, she had got a second lease on life and ran up the hill. I have yet to hear whether he has caught her.

This is worrying for a number of reasons. With Renae not having piglets since her first litter and Anita having been too fat to have any for the last year or so (the vet says this shouldn't stop her but I disagree having seen how she deals with Diggary who she is almost as big as), if Georgina now has a problem we have no breeding sows left. Pigs are not cheap to keep, so we have a dilemma if it turns out we are now carrying 3 sows who can't do what they are here for. Obviously it is too early to tell with Georgina yet and Chris insists he saw Diggary having his way with Anita a week or so ago, so we will wait and see. Needless to say no one is going to be shot for not being able to deliver, I am more worried about having no bacon.

Talking of arrivals, windows arrived safe and well and have nearly all been installed which is very exciting. I have posted some pictures. Only slight issue is that the birds who have been flying through all of the holes for months now have something solid to fly into. A parrot flew right into the door window at the weekend and broke its neck poor thing. We are going to put some masking tape up on the windows until they get used to them being there. Meanwhile we appear to have now adopted the imaginatively named Birdie, who every day comes and eats George's dinner which Chris puts on the table whilst he goes to feed the pigs (see photo on Other Animals album). I swear we are soon going to become an animal charity.

Winter is here

Posted by nogsland on June 6, 2016 at 3:10 AM Comments comments (88)

Well winter has well and truly arrived. This weekend it rained, and it rained. I stopped looking outside when the rain gauge topped 100mm, the dam overflowed and the Geese swam by in an area where you wouldn’t normally expect to see Geese swimming. The only upside was that it was not hideously windy as well, however, with no sun all week, we were looking a bit ropey from a power perspective. We were running out of diesel for the generator and looking at things to turn off when it became academic because the generator broke. Chris spent some hours in the pouring rain trying to fix it to no avail. So in the end we just waited for the inevitable, which happened around 3am this morning, when the power ran out. I showered in candlelight first thing and came to work hoping Chris could work some magic. After several more hours he called to say that he had fixed it and then he drove into town to get some diesel. It will be a tough week with very little sun predicted, so I hope the generator hasn’t decided to start being difficult.


Meanwhile, with the heavens well and truly open we decided to do work inside the house. Because we are now doing the straw bales for the gable and the gable is a triangle, one needs to improvise with the shape of the straw bales. We had a large roll of hessian, so I set about making sand bags on the sewing machine which we could then stuff with straw and use for those awkward angles. When I had done what felt like 10,000 bags and had started to identify with criminals sewing mailbags, I then had another challenge to face. I had to conquer my fear of working at height balancing on very little. I am ok once I’m up there but transferring from a precarious ladder onto a wooden beam which is quite a long way from the ground is not something I excel at. After a few girly tears with Chris trying very hard to be supportive and not tell me to stop being pathetic, I managed to clamber onto the beam and shimmy across onto the temporary plywood flooring so I could hand up the bales to Chris who was balanced even higher still on a rocking yellow scaffold. I really wouldn’t have liked a visit from health and safety at that particular point in time. Anyway, we got most of the gable done which is great. The down side is that the other gable doesn’t have a first floor for us to put the scaffold on, so is very high without a net. We are still debating how we do that one.


The bathroom frame is starting to go up, I have a chair placed where the toilet will be and I am now able to sit on my temporary throne and visualize where things will end up. We have moved the shower and the staircase and I’m still not sure how it all fits, but Chris assures me it does. The windows are set to arrive this weekend which is very exciting so we might be putting them in and have a sealed house in time for winter, very grand designs timing I thought. However, we still won’t be in before Christmas before anyone asks….


Back on Track

Posted by nogsland on April 22, 2016 at 2:35 AM Comments comments (78)

Well Chris now has the bandage and dressing off his leg, is demonstrating a very impressive scab and newly formed scar and is very happy that he can now shower on two legs without cling film. Still not full mobility, but much better and no more trips to the surgeon.

A healthy Chris means work has begun apace on the house once more, well as quickly as one person can do all of the time consuming jobs that need to be done.  Chris is spending a few days a week doing the final outside coats of rendering. One outside wall is now complete so only 3 to go. Meanwhile we are prepping the window and door area's so that they are ready for the windows and doors to be put in once they arrive. They have been being built for the last 3 months so we are hoping that they will be arriving in the next few weeks which will be very exciting.

Meanwhile, the last four beams were installed today internally, I haven't seen them yet, so very excited to go home and have a look. These are four huge beams which add some extra strength to the internal frame on the first floor level. They are beautifully hand jointed and oiled like the rest of the beams so I'm sure they are going to look great. It now means we can start putting the floor joists in and get the first floor in shape so the electricians can come and do the roughing in of the electrics. We can't do the inside rendering until the electrics are done, nor can we do the final bit of straw baling in the roof eaves at either end until the floor is done. I'm really not sure why Chris can't work faster.....

Anyway, it is a long weekend this weekend. as it is ANZAC day on Monday. In our house that means remembering the Canadians as well as the Aussies and New Zealanders.  Next time Chris tries to be a smart arse with you, just ask him why we remember the Canadians and that will shut him up (if it doesn't ask him what he thinks ANZAC stands for, he seems to think the last "AC" stands for "And Canada" not "Army Corps" and no one can persuade him otherwise....).

Limping along and help from Friends

Posted by nogsland on April 17, 2016 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (7)

Well I think Chris will say that he has had better months when he has cause to reflect on the last 4 odd weeks. This week is his last visit of his now weekly visits to the surgeon where they poke his leg, clean it and burn dead bits of skin off it. He meanwhile is going through boxes of cling film (in which he has to wrap his leg every day when he wants to shower) and has to keep remembering that he can't bend his leg still as much as he would like.

This week represented a break through in that for the first time he was able to do some quite physical work in putting up the last part of the verandah roof (see photo's). Lots of going up and down a ladder which meant lots of leg bending. He was pretty stiff at the end of the day but generally pulled up pretty well. He didn't have to have surgery in the end which was great, the big hole in his leg just filled back up, quite fascinating really if you like that kind of thing (which luckily he does).

Our new found respect of angry mother pigs meant when we finally dispatched the two young boys to their new homes (we ended up driving them to Bathurst about 3 hours away), we did so without Chris having to grab them and cause general pandemonium. Instead they had a week of having their dinner in the trailer by going up a ramp, so that when they finally didn't get the option to leave after a good meal we didn't have a murmur from anyone, including Georgina.

We also were lucky enough to dispatch the 7 lambs from last years drop to a single home. Our friends Esther and Karl were keen to increase their livestock numbers so took them all.  It means with One Ball out the way and the 7 youngsters gone the sheep flock is now a more manageable number.

Work on the farm has been pretty much at a standstill other than feeding for the last few weeks because of Chris' injury. Some lovely friends from work realised we were struggling a bit and organised a working bee one weekend, which was wonderful.  In retrospect of course I should have taken some pictures to record the event but I was hard at work cooking them a big lunch to say thank you so didn't actually see them at work much, just the wonderful results. Steph and Casey managed to do some sterling weeding on the new path so we can get some gravel down and Jamie and Mark helped Chris get the rotivator working (which took some hours) so they could turn some soil so we could get some plants in the ground.  Then we had some comedy moments as they struggled to drive the thing (which is akin to what I imagine riding a bucking bull must feel like). Hopefully the lunch and the meat and veggies we gave them as a thank you was suitable payment for some hard work which was much appreciated.

Meanwhile, with butchery done, we have had the joy of full freezers and eating some wonderful beef and hoggett along with our pork.  Simon's skin has been salted and sent off to the tanners to make into another rug (we decided our pockets wouldn't stretch to leather this year) and I have the horns ready to clean and make into kitchen and door cabinet handles at some point in the future.

Last night we had slow cooked beef cheeks and oxtail in red wine. Slow cooked for 4 hours in stock, red wine and onions having been marinated in olive oil with fresh herbs and garlic from the garden for 24 hours. Served up with some wonderful garlic mash and fresh carrots in spices with mung beans and fetta cheese. Accompanied by a lovely Barossa Shiraz, I think life doesn't get much better than that.

The clocks have gone back and the early nights are approaching. Now we are preserving everything we can before the first frost so that we have some nice summer treats bottled and ready to get us through the winter months. 

How hard is a sheep's head?

Posted by nogsland on March 17, 2016 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (30)

Timing was never our strong point, so after an eventful few weeks with the pigs, we were not really ready for the home kill butcher to come and dispatch Simon the Steer.  Chris was originally going to do some sheep himself, but being out of sheep in the freezer and him being temporarily handicapped, we decided to get the butcher to do some for us.

The big debate for some weeks has been who should be for the chop. We have become very fond of Simon over the last year or so, so it was particularly heartbreaking to decide that Ken was a bit young and that it really had to be Simon. The next big question was which sheep should it be, given we now have a flock of 20. Technically, C and D should have been up for the chop, but we have experienced recent issues with some of our other older castrated rams/wethers.  It appears that when you use the elastic band method of castration, if you keep the boys until they are older than around 9 months, they can get a bit randy and a bit, well "rammish". 

Over the last few weeks, we have seen that Pete the Ram has had a number of cuts and bruises on his head where he has had run ins with a particularly aggressive young ram, who seems to have one quite big testical. We also have a ram whose horns are growing in front of his eyes and can hardly see, so we decided C and D should get a reprieve and One Ball and Horn Eyes as the other two were affectionately known, would be for the chop.

The big day came this week, Chris was there, I was unfortunately in Canberra for work, so couldn't be there to support him. I am told Simon went down cleanly whilst chomping on a pile of hay, no stress, didn't see it coming. Mummy Cow and Sophie seemed a bit put out that he wouldn't get up, but as is the way with animals, eventually they just moved on.  Then came the sheep, Horn Eyes managed to get a reprieve because he didn't come down with the others (sixth sense), but One Ball was there for the taking.  The butcher used quite a big gun (which had its own consequences from a dog perspective) and got in the perfect shot through the ear. Unfortunately, it just caused One Ball to sit down and look a bit dazed. He was quickly killed with a second shot and Chris says he thinks that the suffering was minimal if there was any at all. However, they checked the bullet later and it was the perfect shot, it just didn't kill the sheep because it had such a tough skull ! Incredible really. Chris had decided that going forward he will kill all the sheep as he will have more time and will be able to kill through the front of the skull which is more certain of a single shot success.

Horn Eyes gets to live another day for now, but probably not that many more. So now Simon and One Ball are hanging up in the cold room waiting for the butcher to come back on Monday to cut them up and fill our freezers full of wonderful cuts of meat. Hopefully he will remember he has agreed to trade some venison for some of Simon so we will have a wonderful feast of goodies to eat in the coming months. Meanwhile, we have Simons and One Balls horns in a bucket ready for me to do somehting inventive with them ! We also have Simon's hide in salt ready to be sent off either to become either a nice rug or some leather.

As a final episode to a difficult day for Chris, he was forced to drive the truck (with his bad leg) to go in search of Molly. Chris hadn't realised the butcher was going to use the bigger gun for the sheep, so after Simon was killed he had let the dogs out. Molly hates the gun and so when it happened she took off. Chris eventually found her 5km down the road on a neighbours place....Animals, who'd have them.

Never underestimate a Mother

Posted by nogsland on March 17, 2016 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (26)

We forgot one simple rule the other day and now we are both living with the consequences.  We had two people driving separately for a number of hours to pick up boar piglets for breeding.  Chris had built a new run so that it was easier to catch them. And so it was. Unfortunately we had omitted to keep in mind that what keeps a mother and piglets in, also prevents you from having an easy escape route if you need one.

When Matthew arrived after a long drive to pick up the first piglet, Chris hopped in to grab one.  What usually happens in the piglet squeals, mother gets upset, has a bit of a go, but then Chris and aforesaid piglet make their escape over a fence and everyone settles down.  Unfortunately this time, Chris did not have an escape route and before we knew it, Georgina was lunging at him time and time again biting at him and the piglet.  Before we knew it, Chris was on the ground, when he finally let go of the piglet, but not before Georgina had taken a huge chunk out of his leg. We managed to get Chris out of the enclosure and Georgina calmed down having won her battle.

I then proceeded to be useless as a first aid helper, only managing to get the first aid kit but then not really knowing what to do with it. Thankfully, Matthew proved to be much more sensible and worked with Chris to strap him up so we could get him in the truck. Despite a change of shirt, he stunk of stressed male pig, hard smell to describe, but suffice to say, it is not one you want to be up close and personal to for any period of time. Matthew kindly stayed around to wait for the other people who were due to arrive to give them the bad news that no pigs would be passing hands today and we set off for the 40 minute drive to the hospital.  We realised on the way, you wouldn't want to be doing this drive having been bitten by a snake, It's a long drive when you are anxious. Later we had even more reason to be thankful, as it became apparent on inpsection that Georgina had missed biting through an artery by mm. As Chris proudly pointed out, you could look in the huge hole in his leg and see the artery pumping !

Another up side, is that I think we provided something different to the ER staff on a Sunday afternoon who hadn't dealt with a pig bite before and found it quite amusing.  They initially thought I was quite mean not sitting next to Chris and sitting instead at the end of the bed until they got up close and smelt male pig on him then they got a bit more understanding.

The end result of all this is that at some point Chris will need to go into hospital to be stitched up, however, the surgeon who we hare now bosom pals with, won't operate until all risk of infection has passed, which apparently is not yet. So two weeks on, Chris is just starting to walk a bit more but can't do a lot if it involves any bending of his leg. I have had to become a farmer's wife (not something I excel at) and we have all now learnt our lesson, never underestimate a mother when you try to separate her from her young.