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M on March 23rd, 2012

Freckles and Ryley are growing up so fast, not quite full grown yet, but they have almost lost their puppy look.  They have definitely hit that teenage boy stage but show flashes of the brilliant dogs they are growing into.  Freckles is the softer of the two, whereas Ryley is hard headed and independant but extremely loyal to me  – just what I need for working our heavy dorper sheep and agressive ram.  Both are incredibly intelligent and super quick learners.  Once the weather cools down I will draft off a couple of young whethers and start teaching them both to work sheep…something tells me that with their breeding these boys are going to be the ones teaching me!

You can see in the background just how brown and dry the paddocks are.  Really have had enough fo this heat and dust – can’t wait for season break!

Ryley giving me a mouthful of cheek

Ryley in front, freckles at the back and a bit of Trinity in the front corner.

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M on February 28th, 2012

Ducks are another addition that we have wanted to make to the farm for ages, but I have been unable to find any reasonably local until now.  I was extremely fortuante to get these five young adults, a pekin drake, three pekin hens and one khaki campbell duck. They are just finishing their moult and will hopefully start laying around May-June and keep us in eggs over winter.  Of course little ducklings are just so cute so I do plan to try and hatch a few:)  Before getting them I had also planned to breed them for meat…but we shall have to see about that.  These ducks are far more intelligent than the chooks and have way more personality – I think eggs and entertainment value means they shall earn their place on the farm:)  Another great thing about pekins is that they don’t fly and they do flock, so I can use them to help train the puppies to work sheep (strange but true!).  Chickens on the other hand don’t flock, so herding them is like herding a bunch of cats and just as noisy.

Pekin and Khaki Campbell ducks - and a drake with the curly tail

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M on February 20th, 2012

The lovely Josie has gone home today, but by the time she left she was rapidly drowning us in her yummy milk.  Because I am greedy and don’t want to share it with the dogs or chickens, I’m planning on making some clabber and using it as a cheese starter (not sure which one I’m still looking, but Lannies method on the family cow board sounds easy enough).  So I had a go at making cream cheese today (its draining as I type), but I suspect I’ve done something wrong as the whey seems fairly thick and is a yellowish white. The only cheese I have made before was a lemon soft cheese and the whey was quite clear and greenish.

I did adjust the recipe to suit the volume I had (3litres of whole milk, 2 cups of cream, half a 100ml or so of sour cream for culture (store bought with live culture), powdered Junket Rennet and a bit of salt.  I’m not sure if this is just normal coloured whey from a jersey cow (she gives at least 1/3 cream, sometimes more) or if I have just made a weird science experiment that my chickens will enjoy in the morning.  Note to self: follow recipe exactly next time!

Unfortunately we won’t be getting the jersey could I looked at last week.  We did go to pick her up (with her mother and half brother that my friend was going to buy), but despite our best efforts (and my friends lifetime experience with cattle), we could not get the older cow into the horse – as soon as she stepped onto the ramp she threw herself down on her side and refused to move. Nothing short of a front end loader would have got her up and in the float. Her calf was an absolute little monster and of course the people selling them did not have any facilities suitable for cattle, so we were trying to work with small sections of ringlock fencing which cows just have no respect for (and no possibility of getting a proper cow truck into the paddock or ramp to get them in the truck either).

In hindsight the only thing we could have done different was tried to load the cow I was interested in first before she got to witness her mothers theatrical performance…but in the same token, we learnt a few things that the owners let slip in frustration that strongly suggest we are better off without any of them. It also appears that the beautiful behaviour we saw last week was related more to lack of food (ie starvation) as they have been fed up all week on good groceries after our comments on their poor condition last week, and so today there were very, very flighty and non-compliant.

So I am disappointed but have learnt, once again that if something seems to good to be true (the price was an absolute bargain for a calm, friendly pure bred jersey with handmilking experience), then it probably is.

The other lesson was don’t buy a milk cow from a person who would have trouble training a toy poodle.

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M on February 18th, 2012

Thanks to all the glorious cream that Josie is giving us on her milk, I thought it would be a great idea to have a go at making butter.  As I don’t have any cheese cultures at the moment, making cultured butter to get cultured buttermilk seemed like a good way to go.  The process for making butter and cultured butter is the same, except for the intitial culturing bit.  I was advised to keep a journal to record the failed experiments along with the successes…but of course I forgot to do that and now I am writing this from memory – not to self, when I get a jersey I *must* keep a journal of all recipes!

Cultured Cream: To culture the cream, all I did was skim it from the raw milk, then left it on the kitchen bench for 24-48 hours in a glass jar covered with a paper towel held on with an elastic band.  Its is summer so it cultured fairly quickly.  As it was at room temperature I just started beating it, but for the normal butter from cream that was in the fridge I let the cream stand on the bench for a little while to warm up a bit.

Step 1: Put the cream into a large stainless steel mixing bowl.  Start ‘whipping’ the cream with hand held beaters.

Step 2: Keep beating past the ‘whipped cream’ stage until the cream starts to ‘break’ into little yellow pieces of butter.

Butter starting to seperate

Step 3: The buttermilk will very clearly seperate from the butter.

Seperated buttermilk ready to strain from the butter

Step 4: Strain the buttermilk out of the bowl, keep beating astrainign until all of the buttermilk is removed.

Step 5: Add half a cup of cold water to the bowl and keep beating – this will wash the remaining buttermilk from the butter. (I discarded this, but it could be kept for the chickens).

After straining the buttermilk

Step 6: Push the butter into a rough ball shape with wooden spoon, strain and place in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up (but not harden).

Step 7: Remove butter from freezer and ‘pat’ it using wooden pats or flat wooden spoons.  Keep ‘patting’ until all of the liquid is removed.

Step 8: Sprinkle with a small amount of salt to taste (no iodine or anti-caking agents).

Step 9: At this stage a tiny amount of olive oil can be added to keep the butter spreadable, or it can be rolled into balls, placed on wax paper and frozen.  Once frozen the balls can be put into a larger container back in the freezer and won’t stick together.

Personaly  I prefer the taste of cultured butter, but the rest of the family can’t tell the difference.  Homemade butter on homemade bread with homemade jam – absolutely devine!

The finished butter. Homemade right from feeding and hand milking the cow to making the finished product

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M on February 17th, 2012

I’ve been looking through my photos for some that show how the paddocks are doing – definitely been eaten down in the past month so it will be time to start feeding hay in the near future.

And one of a litter of rescued orphaned feral farm cats that a friend is helping to raise.  Everybody should be very proud of me for saying a very definite ‘NO’ to keeping one of them!

These photos show the thick smoke that has blanketed us for several days – the Nannup bushfire is over 100km away from us, I can’t imagine what it would be like any closer.

Smoke from the Nannup Bushfire

Smoke from the Nannup Bushfire

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M on February 14th, 2012

I am babysitting my friends jersey house cow for a week while she is interstate.  She is a lovely old girl (Josie the cow, not my friend;) with a dropped rumen, a broken tail, a blind quarter, an uneve udder, a dicky hip that makes her shuffle when she walks and a mumified fetus inside that means she will never have another calf, but has stayed in milk producing roughly 7 litres per day for several years and according to the vet will likely continue to do so.  From the sound of all that, you would never buy a cow with all these issues, but Josie is worth her weight in gold as a patient and gentle house cow.  I milked her myself for the first time using the milking machine and was extremely relieved that hse is so patient becasue those cups are like dealing with an octopus which meant putting my head and body right in the firing line if she decided to kick me.

The thought didn’t even cross her mind, she just happily stood eating her dinner while I fumbled around with the octopus machine.  Ok, so its only got four arms but it might have well been eight it was that tricky to get on.  Machine milking is definitely quicker, but it proved to me that I really love and miss handmilking.   It would be a good investment for days when I am sick or not here to milk so that someone else can do it, so I will look at getting one eventually.

Obviously I need to get a new cow first and have found one close by that seems very sweet and just what I am looking for so plan on bringing her home next week.  The owner is hand milking her every day between now and then to get her into the routine before we transport her, so fingers crossed she settles in well and her production dosn’t stop (we’ll possibly try fostering her young half brother onto her to keep her supply up as her own calf is 9 months old and not for sale.

A couple of very bad photos from my phone.

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M on January 30th, 2012

Even though I knew that is what they were bred to do, the meat chicks grew at an amazing rate that was only eclipsed by the amount of food they consumed and the amount of very stinky poop they created!  I definitely would not get more than 12 in the future, given the size of our brooder box, I think ideally a second box the same size to split the dozen chicks between after week four or five would be a better option. Actually the truly ideal situation would definitely be having the Indian Game bantams raise their own chicks for me and save me all that work!

We processed the first lot of meat chicks and the Australorpe just before Christmas.  The whole process was alot easier than we expected, and plucking was a breeze.  Even Miss A helped with giving one chook the chop – B1 and B2 while both being keen to taste our home grown chickens scampered away and hid inside after watching the first one be done -but an important part of understanding the life cycle of the food we eat (and it maybe also gave them a better understanding of why I get upset when they waste meat at meal times!).  The Australorpe, despite being twice the height, was actually the hardest to gut and clean as the body cavity was no where near as big as the meat chicks.  We ended up cooking him in the weber for Christmas lunch, but he was really tough (even with the left over meat cooked in the slow cooker it was still chewy.  The meat chicks that we have eaten were beautiful roasted, definitely tastier, more meat and far more tender than the Australorpe.  The food conversion for the meat chicks still made it more economical to raise them ourselves compard to buying free range chicken at the supermarket – and the taste was far superior.

For one reason or another, the remaining meat chickens were not processed until four or five weeks later, we lost two suddenly due to the extreme heat (even though they were in shade and had plenty of water, their sheer size made it difficult for them to cope with the heat).  We raced to process them rather than risk loosing any more, but I didn’t check for pin feathers – what a nightmare!  It took half the day for me to pluck five chickens and they still have some pins that need pulling before I cooked them!  Lesson learned and I will *always* check for pin feathers before chopping heads in future!  Despite that, the taste was excellent and we are keen to try home grown Indian Game and Rhode Island Red at some stage in the future.

The dogs certainly enjoyed the scraps, including the feet!

Freckles and a chicken foot

Ryley and his chicken leg

M on January 27th, 2012

Today we managed to get a few spots of rain, just enough to wet the horses, but not enough to wet the ground unfortunately.  The clouds around us looked so promising, but the rain just slid right on past us.  These photos show how brown and dry everything is at this time of year, but at least we still have plenty of pasture which should last through most of summer.  While it would be nice to have some rain to wash everything and cool it down, a heavy rainfall would strip the nutrients out of the remaining pasture, so while a downpour would be nice, the negatives would outweight the benefits at this time of year.

Raj Pony

Raj

Raj Tazzy and Tom with Sandy at the back

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M on January 15th, 2012

For the time being at least.  I have perservered for over four months training Charlotte the dexter to be a house cow, but its finally time to give it in and concede that she is just not cut out to be a house cow.  I have learnt so much from her (such as cows can kick at such angles that horses could never even dream of, cows have pinpoint accuracy when it comes to flinging snot and all other body fluids directly at your face and you can train a cow to stand still and tolerate having her teats pulled…but you *cannot* make a cow give you milk if she dosn’t want you to have it.   I found out that it is even possible for a cow to hold up one quarter while her calf is on the other side. I think I tried everything in the book (literally in the book Keeping a Family Cow) as well as numerous other methods recommended by members on the family cow board, but it would take Charlotte (aka devil-cow) three days to work out how to stop my latest trick from working.

I’ve also found out that calling someone a ‘cow’ really is the nastiest insult available!

Despite all that, I would have continued milking her if I was getting enough milk for our daily needs – but it was taking at least an hour, way too much water for clean-up and costing way too much in food to persevere for less than a litre a day.  It was a great experience, but Charlotte is back to being our beedf breeder (the reason we originally purchased her) and we are back to drinking plastic milk from the shop (and Lactose free UHT milk fro B2) until such time as I can find an affordable jersey house cow with a decent temperament.  In the mentime, devil-cow has been put out the back with T-Bone and Matilda to grow us some beef.  With any luck by July T-Bone will be old enough to cover both cows and then be ready for freezer camp towards the end of the year.  I am hoping that when Matilda finally freshens, that her nicer temperament and fondness for anything food related will make her a suitable candidate for back up cow when the jersey is dried off for a few months before freshening.  That is the plan anyway.

My advice fro anyone looking for a house cow – despite the ‘dual purpose’ breed hype, don’t consider a Dexter unless it comes from milk producing lines and has previously been hand milked with a suitable production history for your needs, as this is a breed that is notorious for drying themselves up after weaning their calves and/or with holding their milk from you (but if you get a good milker, they are definitely worth their weight in gold!).

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M on December 26th, 2011

We havn’t had many night time storms for me to practice my lightening photography, so it was great to finally get the chance to try a few different things and see what works.  I don’t have a wide angle landscape lens so there was a fair bit of luck in having the 50mm lens a) pointing in the right direction for a storm covering about 100 degrees of the landscape and b) trying to predict when the lightening would strike and pressing the remote shutter cable *before* the lightening struck.

I think this one shot was pretty spectacular though.  I havn’t edited the colour, the light really was that weird purple.  Unfortunately this electrical storm did not bring any rain with it and there were quite a few paddock fires that resulted from lightening strikes in the district – definitely not something anyone wants in mid summer!

Summer Lightening in Boyup Brook

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Serenade with satirical whistle

Older men with diabetes mellitus, but also severely overweight men, may develop secondary hypogonadism. "The core symptom of low testosterone levels is usually decreased libido," Dr. Cornelia Jaursch-Hancke from the German Clinic for Diagnostics, Sydney, at the conference in Melbourne. Various additional symptoms such as osteoporosis, anemia, erectile dysfunction, decreasing muscle strength and mass, but also diminishing vitality and depression can be added. In secondary hypogonadism the function of the hypothalamus or pituitary is impaired so that the Leydig cells of the testicle no longer form testosterone or no testosterone due to lack of stimulation. Typically, the gonadotropins LH and FSH in the serum are still normal to low. This also applies to patients with type 2 diabetes, of which about 25 to 50 percent are affected, the endocrinologist reported. An increasing problem is also MOSH, the "male obesity associated secondary hypogonadism". As a cause, she described the visceral fetal cells, which are highly active endocrinically and produce mediators, which promote, inter alia, insulin resistance, inflammatory processes and dyslipidemia and stimulate estradiol production. In sum, the hypothalamic-pituitary axis is inhibited. Continue reading...

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