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Tuesday 13 September 2011

All my spare moments have been devoted to the deluxe 6-star energy rated double-kennel I’m still constructing - or I’ve been flaked out in front of the TV crocheting madly. Hence there have been no blog updates recently. Also my old Mum has been rather poorly in hospital in the UK with shingles and something horrid called cellulitis. So that’s rather distracted me too. Luckily she’s home again now so the various medications must be having some effect, but it’s a lot to cope with at 75 & has been a big worry for all of us. The time difference made it difficult to keep up with news & I felt guilty at not being there to help.

The kennel is finally nearing completion. Bronte keeps asking when it will be finished & I remind him that constantly updating the specification is bound to adversely affect the schedule. I gave up on a hinged roof (as requested by Bronte) because the construction technique didn’t lend itself to hinging (hingeing?) without a whole lot of extra work. The trouble is I now have to squeeze myself in through the entrances with an inspection lamp in order to insulate the ceiling & fit the bedding.

The goat babies have all arrived now. One of my does – a big, healthy Boer - doesn’t appear to have got pregnant at all, which is quite a concern. I’ll perhaps try her with a different buck next time around. We have rather less kids than last year but that was always on the cards. After a gap of around a week, two does decided to kid on the same day, at the same time – and in the same hut! I found three babies & neither they nor I could work out who belonged to which Mum. However, they seem all to be thriving & are treating both does as Mum.

Tragically I saw that another doe (one of my new ones) had kidded & went in search of the babies only to discover two tiny creatures lying outside in the cold – one already dead & one I also thought was dead until I saw it take a shuddering breath. I dithered for a time, wondering if it had any chance of survival or if I shouldn’t put it out of its misery straightaway. Eventually I ran back with it down to the house & held it immersed in warm water in the laundry for half an hour, keeping its nose above water. Remarkably it seemed to perk up. I dried it, wrapped it in a fleece with a hot water bottle, put it in front of the fire with the cat & dribbled into its mouth small amounts of warm milk enriched with egg yolk, cod liver oil & molasses. It swallowed & got stronger all the time.

Later that night, its body temperature was good & it was bleating & drinking happily. So I set up the heat lamp in the garage, caught Mum in the dark & brought her down to the garage & reunited them. She had heaps of milk & I really didn’t want to have to bottle-feed a babe if I could avoid it. Mum & baby were overjoyed at being together again & I left them with the kid nuzzling Mum & looking as if it was about to feed. However, in the morning all was not well. The kid was lying at an odd angle, wheezing & clearly unwell. I can only think that as so often happens when trying to feed weak animals, some drops of the milk I gave it had got into its lungs. Animals seem to have no tolerance to this & can die instantly or get pneumonia, sicken & die. I made the decision to put it down & was quite upset – particularly after all my efforts to keep it alive. Its twin that I found dead hadn’t been cleaned up by Mum so I wonder if it was still-born. I don’t know why these two were so weak. They were very small & it’s possible they were born with a low body temperature.

I had significant shenanigans with pigs last week. I had offered Connor for stud in return for two piglets (fruits of his labours) when the time comes for the sows to farrow. However, this meant getting him into the trailer. This took careful trailer positioning (as per Vicky a couple of weeks previously) between bog areas & then Connor was most wary & unwilling to get in, even for his favourite foods (perhaps he remembered Vicky getting in & being taken away ..). When he finally got in, the other two small pigs were in there too & I had to shut them all in. With Connor one end & Stumpy & Ginger at the other end, I stuck star pickets through the middle to create a barrier between them, then climbed in to shoo the smaller ones out through the door. What a palaver that was – Stumpy bolted out straight back into his pen, but Ginger had to be bodily removed & then shot under the wire & straight up to the house.

When I eventually herded her back in, I got in the Suzuki to haul the trailer up to the tractor shed, only to find the battery was flat! That meant bringing the ute down & jump-starting it, but as the Suzuki won’t idle I was desperate not to stall it. Finally the trailer was parked in the tractor shed & unhitched, but then the Suzuki stopped & wouldn’t start again. I realised I’d have to charge the battery over lunch. As there is no electric in the tractor shed & I daren’t set up extension leads because it was pouring with rain, I physically heaved the Suzuki part-way to the garage but just couldn’t get it up a rise. Finally I used the ute to nudge it from behind, jumping out now & again to adjust the steering of the Suzuki & stopping before it tore off down the hill. At that point I pushed it over the point of no return & leapt in to steer it down to the garage, before nudging it under cover with the ute again. It was after this that I found the weak goat twins referred to above. That night, I felt as though I’d been beaten with sticks! At least Bronte had the bright idea of sending Connor off in our trailer rather than trying to transfer him into another one. When the man came to collect I was fast asleep on the sofa!

The three roosters due for the chop are still alive and kicking, but I’m keen to do the deed as the ones we are currently eating are delicious. I had a mad fit (which lengthened into nearly three hours) and decided to make a chicken pie from scratch with the roast leftovers. I’d forgotten what a pain it is making puff pastry with all that rolling and fat-spreading and refrigerating. In between times I made a batch of cakes as we are awash with eggs & this seemed a good way to get rid of some (Luke and I had boiled eggs, fried eggs, eggs & bacon and poached & scrambled eggs on toast for successive breakfasts the week before). Both the pie & the cakes were a success but we all stuffed ourselves so much we could barely move afterwards. Today I’ve put 14 eggs in the incubator together with the 3 goose eggs already in there so we’ve reduced our egg-glut for the time being. I’ve also just terminated Scruffy who used to peck me every time I went in to feed the layers & whose eggs were never fertile.

Luke’s been off school but attending vacation care three days a week. He loves it & it stops us both going nuts. Bronte’s taking a couple of days off this week so we’ll hopefully do some family stuff. The weekend before last was Father’s Day – an important day in Luke’s calendar. We’d bought Dad some plants & took him to Alpenrail – an attraction we knew absolutely nothing about, situated just north of Hobart. Bronte groaned, expecting a whimsically tacky railway & village model & a quick exit. However, it turned out to be quite amazing – an entire Swiss landscape built into a large room with viewing platforms and a quite extraordinary breadth of detail. It was all highly convincing & we were treated to quite a show with thunder & lightning over the mountains, mist rising from the lake, cable cars and a funicular railway all working merrily and various trains equipped with passengers, lights & freight. It was great entertainment, especially for Luke who has a real eye for detail.

As if I don’t have enough creatures to look after, Luke & Bronte proudly presented me with a wet & muddy young bunny a few days ago. They returned from a walk during which Rosie had dug it out of the sedge. It was cute but I was worried it might still require milk. However, I installed it in the chicken brooder in the garage with water bottle, hay, fresh grass & pellets, with a heat lamp above to help it dry out & warm up. It seemed to be doing well the following day & we identified that it was a female which was a relief – when it grew up it could go outside with Bertie or Boris. However, this was not to be. The following day it had totally disappeared. It is a complete mystery how it got out of the brooder or where it could have gone. It must have been a Houdini rabbit. Luke was upset, so I’ve rashly promised him that we’ll buy two female baby bunnies when we can track down some nice (& cheap) ones.