Wednesday, 31 March 2010

An Exodus of Animals

We had nine goats. I loved all the frisky baby animals. But it wasn't to last.

Bint and her noisy mother Charity were sold to friends who were told of her strident qualities. They're both happy and Bint has been renamed Africa. A definate step in a less perjorative direction. We've visited them both since.

Next went Puggles, who, unlike most male domestic animals is not going to be eaten and has kept his wobbly bits, and was recently seen trying to use them on the female members of his new herd. Lucky boy. I also heard he gets off on electric fences and stands on it making obvious little frissons of delight as it pulses through him.

Then we had Chalk and Cheese, my favourite little fellows. I'm not sure I even recounted their birth story, which involved their John Travolta like entry into the world (one leg completely folded back, the other out front). Cheese had a folded ear, and was runty in comparison to his brother Chalk. But he has an adorable nature and loves nothing more than a cuddle. I didn't think I'd be able to get them a home which didn't involve a large roasting pan and a carving knife. We advertised. I'd already told Trev, they can be wethered, but not tethered. Sure enough, phone call number one wanted to tether them. Trev sighs and tells them, 'Linda won't sell to you if you're tethering, sorry'. We think the end of the story, next day we get a call to say, 'no worries, we're going to keep them as pets in a mobile cattle yard'.

Daisy, was a terrible mother. She just left them all the time, she never had a clue where they were, they huddled under the goat palace on their own at night. I'm so glad they had each other for company. She fed them, but tossed them around when she'd had enough and socialised with the other animals instead. Trev called her the kind of mum who went out late at night, left her babies at home on their own, and wailed loud and long when the house burnt down and her children died. Well, he was right. They came and took Chalk and Cheese, and she wailed for days, searching high and low and calling out. I fed her tidbits and molasses water as I had for poor Bella too. It's a horrible part of rearing goats that you just can't keep all the kids.

By this time we're down to 4 animals. Bella, Daisy (who we are milking) and Brie and Hazel, the six month plus twins who are our future milkers. Brie died. She was healthy at breakfast, and then dead. Lying beside a fence, no marks on her. No sign of illness. She was a healthy, happy animal. Poor Hazel, (who had a voice like a ten pack a day smoker) spent days calling out for her. Caleb and Trev buried her in the orchard, where Trev, overcome with emotion quickly planned to grow asparagus over her body (practical sort is our Trev).

Two weeks later Hazel was found dead. Almost the same spot, exactly the same symptoms, happy, healthy, hearty appetite... hours later, dead. We've never had a goat die. This was horrendous and really upsetting for everyone. This time I wasn't at work and helped in the grave digging, burial duty. We buried her, and then thought about looking for a snake bite. Which is the only conclusion we can come to. Bella and Daisy continue to be happy, healthy and hearty a month later.

I miss my rowdy herd.

An Influx of Ducks

We introduced Nobbler to Nibbler several months ago. He was seen trying to mount her head a few times before he got his orifices sorted out and Nibbler laid 12 eggs and sat diligently on them for the prescribed time period, only getting off to harrass our ankles and to take a quick drink. We went away for the day having heard the peeps of little ducklings in the shell that morning. We returned expecting ducklings and indeed there was one. Dead, the rest of the eggs scattered over a metre area, the nest torn apart and one disorientated duck. The eggs were cold and silent. Caleb and I took them up and hurried them inside where we warmed them under the fire, in a box with a hot water bottle. Most died inside the shell, but three eventually struggled out of their shells, fixed their apple pip eyes on us and imprinted on the wrong beasts.

We raised the wee darlings for weeks in the warming drawer and Caleb made a great mini mobile duck house for them to stay in during the day. A paint tray made a great sloped swimming pool. I wanted to call them Gold, Nugget and Bouillon (as in the soup not the gold bars). But they have firmly remained generic 'duckies'. We've tried to reunite them with Nibbler and Nobbler, who harrassed them horribly. They're in a large cage close by and hope we can get them gradually used to each other before trying to reunite them again.

As it is Nibbler has complicated things and is currently sitting on another 10 eggs.


A $27,000 quote for windows had us scratching chins. It just isn't going to happen like that. We have set ourselves a pretty hard task of building the entire house for under $80,000 and we're doing very nicely - till then. We also wanted to use native timber - but no, everything was Western Red Cedar, from the US, which, while durable is also very flammable.

If in doubt work, work it out. Our DIY motto. We've invested in $2000 worth of additional hardware. According to Trev any time he takes on a new job and saves us money is a good opportunity to tool up. We now have a Festool Domino (makes big fat dowel joints incredibly easily) and a jointer, or buzzer. We're also looking at saving $20,000 on the windows. Guess this is the point when I bat my lids at Trev again, pretend to swoon, use possessive nouns and mention the word hero. Kinda got to really, obligatory. Got to say his windows do look pretty darn good. We're still waiting on the glass order to turn up. So no pics of the installed thing. But not far away.

We've had lots of discussions and internet searches going trying to come up with the best window hardware to match his lovely windows. They've easily been the most difficult decisions to make over the whole build. What kind of walls do you want? No worries, what colour roof? What kind of roof? Ten seconds decisions. How do you want to open the windows and keep them open or closed? Weeks and still deliberating.

The windowless view from Trev's and my, one day will be bed.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

sh*t Kicker and Mud Slinger

That's me. Official title.

Trev keeps saying he's retired from mudding (having gone onto more important and skilled work) but keeps being dragged back into the fold for the high bits. But I've not been alone (all the time). We've had a wonderful group of people helping out. I'll try remember everyone - we've had Luka, Kika, Monika, (three German backpackers) - Hugh & Kari, Tanya and Jamahl, Glyn, Joe, Ehren, Leela, Ginni and Leanne. Between us we've managed to give the outer and inner walls their second skin.

I've done one room in its thick coat/bulk coat/infill coat/brown coat (it goes by many names) but it's all just thick fat layers of mud. If the scratch coat was mud massage, this is mud pack. It's about four centimetres plus thick. It took me five days to do one average size room (two walls). About 2.5 metres a day. I learnt a lot - including;

1. I needed more than just PVA and sand over wooden posts - the array of hairline cracks spreading out from it look almost like tree branches.

2. I learnt to really feather it well between one days mud and the next - big fat mother of all cracks that meant we chipped it back away and remudded the area resulted when I didn't.

3. That going inorganic with orange plastic mesh around windows and corners really reduced the cracking, and was worth the compromise.

4. That the best wall (no cracking) was achieved by making a mix and not getting back to it till a couple of days later and the straw was starting to get a bit stinky.

5. And that minor hairline cracking still happens despite putting orange mesh across one whole wall area.

It's a long, not unrewarding job. I now know what a birds eye sore on the tips of your fingers feels like. It was hell for typing, maybe part of my inexcusable excuse for taking 2 months off blogging. (I wore through plastic gloves and ended up wearing my fingertips off too). I have yet to fall victim to the desire to make butterflies and frogs on the walls, (too hippy dippy for me), but I suspect there will be a small mud lizard somewhere inconspicious at some stage.

The soles of my feet are permanently yellow, all my old work jeans are no longer blue. But sometimes I get a little that way when I look at how much further there is to go.

*photos to come