Farewell Lady Mary

Posted by Nick  | 29 May 2016  | 1 comment

We’re sad to report that our Silver-Laced Wyandotte has shed her mortal coil. Poor Lady Mary had, by some absurd feat, entangled her leg between a couple of roosting branches. She must have hung upside down until she lost consciousness and eventually expired. What kind of peculiar circumstance led to the silly thing trapping herself like that? Just an unfortunate slip, I guess. We’ll be making sure none of the branches cross over each other in the coop from now on. Don’t want a repeat.

Lady Mary, you were a proud bird, pretty and regal, somewhere in the middle of the pecking order. You were an excellent layer, and your eggs were large and delicious.

You had a good life, however short, with unlimited access to food and a truly free-range lifestyle in which you could scratch up leaf litter, eat grubs to your heart’s content, and warm your feathers out in the sun.

You were friendly enough to eat from our hands and wise enough to keep off our deck (unlike a couple of Hamburgs which shan’t be named). We’re sorry that the configuration of the roosting branches we put up in your coop led to your demise. Your eggs and your ornamental presence in the yard will be missed.

Farewell, Lady Mary. May your body feed the grass upon which you once fed, and may that grass feed your farm-fellows for a long time to come.


Bunny Busting

Posted by Nick  | 24 May 2016  | 6 comments

Probably over six months ago now, last spring, we finally got our firearms licences. We bought a 1985 Brno .22 rifle with scope from Char’s grandparents at a very decent price considering its excellent craftsmanship. It had been in storage for a while, so was a little rusty.

I took some fine steel wool and WD40 to the surface oxidation, de-gunked the action, the bore, and the bolt mechanism with a proper cleaning kit and oiled up the whole lot. I also ordered a spring from Canada to replace the rusted one inside the bolt mechanism.

After a good clean the parts equalled a whole that was as good as new. A few shots downrange at some cardboard targets proved the rifle to be super accurate at seventy-five metres, with the age and feel of a tried and true firearm.

Out here in the country a firearm is just another farm tool. A very important tool. A dangerous tool, no less, which is why we were intent on both getting our licences. We were impressed with the firearms instructor and the amount of cautionary knowledge he had to offer. The test wasn’t overly difficult, but more in-depth than getting, say, your driver’s licence. We pretty much aced our tests after a bit of study of the Firearms Code, with Char beating me by one question. We’ve both had experience with .22 rifles before (Char grew up with them), so we were good to go on that front.

We were required to have a gun safe installed in order to pass our licences. Fortunately there was an old one already here, so I bolted on some big old rusty gate hinges so it would pass the inspection. Like everything in our cottage at the moment, it’s completely makeshift and temporary. Whatever does the job, for now!

Last winter the enormous crepuscular hares that lurk our farm caused hundreds of dollars worth of damage to our native saplings. We tried spraying repellent on the trees, but it didn’t seem to work well enough. Perhaps it might work for rabbits, but hares are another story. They’re much bigger, swifter, and their appetites for juicy twigs of baby trees are voracious. As sweet as the hares appear bounding about in the countryside, not keeping on top of their numbers would result in a loss of even more life once you factor in the shelter and forage our future trees would provide both bird and bee.

So over the course of spring we nabbed seventeen of the monstrous pests. As unpleasant as it can be taking a life, when we rationalise that it’s for “the greater good” and set our reservations aside, one might understand how hunting could be an enjoyable past-time (it takes a lot of introspection for an ex-die-hard-vegetarian to say that). Regardless of one’s ethical stance,  hunting provides access to that ancient and primitive instinct which seems to lay dormant among many of us modern urbanised folk. Stalking prey is one of the only activities where you can be doing very little and yet hours go by without boredom. The senses are primed and suddenly activated, and because you need to be aware of your presence in the environment, you become at one with the grass beneath you, the wind around you, the dwindling light, and all the other animals that alert each other to your location. You’re outside your own head and refreshingly present. And there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of a quick clean kill, of which all of ours, bar one, have been. Zero suffering and problem solved.

We haven’t yet plucked up the courage to gut and butcher one of our kills. It would make excellent cat food. I bought home my first kill to show Char, but we didn’t know what to do with the carcass, so I buried it near our plum trees.

I soon learnt, however, that there are winged mouths eager to quickly clean up a kill. Hungry falcons are always watching. It’s astounding, actually, to return to a kill spot the very next day and find the entire carcass – skeleton, skull, skin, and all – completely missing. All that remains is the stomach. So at least the invasive animal isn’t going to waste and is feeding an endemic species. Alternatively, we could bury the hares beneath newly planted trees, providing nutrients to the very thing they might have devoured themselves.

I’ve gone out with the rifle slung over my shoulder a few times since the spring culling, and seen the odd hare here and there, but I think we’ve made a serious enough dent in their numbers for this coming winter. Our baby cabbage trees (the hares’ favourite food) are safe… for now.

The Townies Come to Visit

Posted by Nick  | 09 Apr 2016  | 2 comments

Last weekend we had a bunch of pals down from the Big Smoke. It was organised both as a belated Easter shindig (read: excuse for chocolate scoffing) and a last chance before everything turns wet and cold for a few months.

With seven of us in total, it’s the most we’ve had for a couple of nights in our tiny wee cottage. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel all that cramped. I suppose that’s to be expected from a group that prefers to sit calmly and enjoy a good board game over being rowdy hooligans. Though at one point there was some spontaneous raving…

Being Easter and all, I organised another treasure hunt around the farm, with the treasure being a basket of fatness. The weather wasn’t so great, so we donned our raincoats. Ah, Dingus, your florescent rain-wear from Japan always brightens up my photos and my day.

As you can see, Mica is pretty much our resident farm dog now. Follows us everywhere, especially if there’s an interesting group of people. Can’t be left out!

I won’t go into detail about the treasure hunt this time, but it was at least as big as the one I did for Dingus’ birthday and maybe even a little more difficult. As Lauren has said before, it’s a great way to show newcomers around the farm.

Here’s one of the clues hanging precariously over the river:

And at our little waterfall:

There were about twenty clues all up, increasing in difficulty as the group progressed. This one, for instance, was written in Spanish, German, and French. “Dans l’ouest, une souche morte.”

To the west, a dead stump.

I grew to feel a bit sorry for them. They were a couple of hours in and only about half way done. The images of Easter eggs and chicken buns for lunch were mere mirages at this point. The gang was doing well though; the puzzles were becoming pretty hard, such as: “B.adrenr- bnoiu nd.” Can you figure it out? (And yes, it’s in English.)

One of the last puzzles presented them with equations they had to solve and convert into letters, except instead of numbers the equations read something like: “Minus a Peasgood Nonsuch from a Monty’s Surprise.” These, of course, are fruit trees, which were numbered in the orchard.

There are some serious brains in this group, so it was no trouble.

The final challenge to end the hunt included an authentic farm experience: Shooting pears with a .22 rifle! I sprayed the pears with some orange sheep marker so they’d stand out.

I’d put out standards at fifty and seventy-five metres on the range. Seventy-five was a bit of a challenge. But with a camera tripod and a few rounds, we got ’em pears. It was satisfying watching them explode.

Upon completion of the rifle challenge, I presented the group with a key to the workshop which they previously couldn’t open. Inside awaited their reward – a basket of diabetes!

The next day we all enjoyed hand-feeding our growing barnyard family. It’s a great pleasure for us to give these experiences to our guests.

Pacman and Alpacino are becoming friendlier by the day, especially now that they’re addicted to sheep nuts. Char has begun clicker training with them as well.

Why you comin’ at me, Pacman? This is a camera, not food. The bucket’s behind you.

The friendly sheep demanded their fair share, of course.

Everyone loves those nuts. They go a bit crazy…

Whilst Pacman is still a little shy, handsome Alpacino is fine eating from your hand:

Groups of humans aren’t so spooky when they offer delicious treats.

I had a bit of a moment here as I was taking photos. A bit of perspective. I remembered times in my past, caged in suburbia, feeling down about the manufactured reality around me and unsure of where I wanted to be in life. I wanted nothing more than to be “free”, whatever that meant. Standing there, watching the love of my life laughing and cooing with our close friends amidst a huddle of fleece, I realised not only how fortunate I was to be a part of this moment, but that I was beginning to taste that “freedom” for which I had longed.

The sun had come out, there were smiles and giggles abound, and our surrounds were nothing short of picturesque. To live vicariously through the experience of others is one of the most valuable experiences of life itself.