A Pair of Pet Cows

Posted by Nick  | 25 Aug 2016  | 2 comments

A couple of months ago we had the good fortune of being offered a pair of gloriously fat cows. A relative of the breeders who sold us our alpacas had become deeply fond of her pet moos. She was eager to find the young pair a new home – a home at which they could live out their lives without the threat of being turned into glue.

These were some lucky cows. The heavy-hoofed heifers had been treated like royalty. Their nourished physiques and gleaming coats were testaments to their privilege. Sadly for their owners, however, their appetites had outgrown their pasture. It was time for them to move farther afield.

They weren’t our pets, however, so we had to consider what they could bring to the “table” since we would be agreeing to never send them to slaughter. After some consideration, we decided that getting them pregnant would be worth it to us. We may not be able to eat them, but we can eat their babies! Muhaha. Also, if we wanted to test the waters of hand-milking, these ladies would be ideal since they’ve been hand-reared and are familiar with human contact.

When the ladies arrived, we did notice how exceptionally friendly and calm they were. You could see how much love and attention their owners had given them. It’s always heartwarming to see animals who have been treated with the respect and care that they deserve, especially the “beasts of burden” kind that are typically mired in an industry which profits from their exploitation.

It’s easy to love these curious creatures.

“Big One” and “Little One” (who is not much littler than Big One), as they had been called, promptly took to gutsing our green pastures. They’re meant to be on a diet, but we only have a total sixteen sheep to graze our forty-two acres…

After a bit of a munch, they were keen to greet us with a tentative sniff…

Which was rewarded with a scratch…

And the gesture was reciprocated with special attention to Char’s cow-licks…

We had the owners over for lunch a few days after the cows arrived, so they could settle them in to their new home. The lady in particular had formed quite a bond with her big pets, and was saddened to have to let them go. She’s welcome to come visit her babies any time. Big One and Little One tell us to let her know that they are thoroughly enjoying their wide open pastures, are looking a bit more athletic (despite the odd treat of hay and sheep nuts), and are fast making friends with the resident sheep and alpacas.

Moo!

Diesel Tank Demolition

Posted by Nick  | 16 Jul 2016  | 0 comments

Back in November of last year we dismantled this manky old diesel tank platform. Situated next to the driveway, it was a bit of an eyesore from the cottage, and didn’t serve us any purpose. It was probably installed back in the day for the convenience of having plenty of fuel on tap for a hard-working tractor. We don’t use our tractor often enough to warrant the tank being there, and by the looks of the thing and its rusted hose, neither did the previous owner for some time.

We had set fire to our large burn pile earlier that same day and needed to stick around to keep a close watch, in case some wayward embers found their way to our hay barn or the surrounding grass caught. In addition to having a couple of helping hands with us on the day, it was a perfect opportunity to demolish this particular eyesore, which had been on our list to deconstruct for a while. Kind of ironically, this was a job for the tractor.

Firstly we needed to roll the tank off the platform, but the handrail was in the way. I was itching to use my new crowbar, so I eagerly took to it with testosterone-fuelled mania.

Who doesn’t love smashing things to pieces? Very therapeutic.

We took the hose off, then I banged out the tank supports on the side we wanted it to roll down. Conveniently, the ground was slightly inclined on that side (so the tank wouldn’t roll away) and the stairs would act as a ramp to break the tank’s fall.

Firing up the tractor, I gave the then free tank a wee nudge with the bucket.

Textbook, baby. Here’s the video:

Next up was changing out the bucket for the forks so I could attack the platform. First I tried lifting the main supports…

But they wouldn’t budge. So I drove around and stabbed the forks into the stairs.

And heave!

Yeehaw! I went back around for another shot at the supports, which weren’t connected by the stairs anymore.

Annnd…

Success! I love how there’s a little amused chuckle from cameraman Dingus at the end of all three videos.

Dingus and I spent a good while dismantling the wood and storing it to be used again for some future project. James and Char discovered yet another pile of buried trash where the platform had been, so yanked out inordinate amounts of twine for the next half hour.

We’re slowly coming to the realisation that old farmers tend to use garbage as fill. Fine, I guess, if you never intend on digging it up again.

Meanwhile, Dingus is as Dingus does:

All right, all right, his photoshoot might have been my idea…

While we were in a destructive mood, we decided to pry up an old mill platform that we kept tripping over in the grass.

And the hefty concrete slab where an old saw would have perhaps stood.

I would later come back and smash up this bad boy with a sledge hammer and dismantle the rotten wood so we could burn it without leaving nails in our paddock.

Lastly, Dingus and James rolled the heavy tank onto the tractor forks, which I transported next to the barn for storage.

We like to keep any farm-related doodads that are salvageable – we never know how they might serve us in the future. I can imagine this particular piece of salvage would make a good rainwater tank in the garden, or it might even hold fuel again someday (biofuel?).

In any case, another eyesore bites the dust! Thanks for the help, Dingus and James!

Lamb to the Slaughter

Posted by Nick  | 05 Jul 2016  | 8 comments

WARNING: Graphic images follow, so take caution if you are squeamish!

One of our sheep, who we (not-so-) lovingly named Poo-Bottom, was destined to be the first to slaughter. Along with her unhealthy bowels, she had chronic limps all the damn time despite us trimming her toenails and spraying for hoof-rot, and her general posture just seemed… unusual. We obviously didn’t want to breed from her, so she was unfortunately first on our list. We’d recently put Gordon Ramsay in, so we had to do the deed before Poo-Bottom got pregnant.

Now, I used to be a vegetarian. For over a decade. So committing this act was preceded by a lot of umming and ahhing. Because the opportunity was there and I now eat meat, I wanted to be the one to pull the trigger, as a conscious acknowledgement of the consequences of my lifestyle choice. The anticipation was unsettling, because even though I’d killed small animals like hares, rats, and mice before, for some reason the idea of putting something down of equal size to myself seemed a completely new experience. It’s strange; even though rats and mice are arguably more intelligent than sheep, and therefore can be thought of as “more” sentient (using vegetarian language now), killing a sheep seems somehow a greater act, solely because of its mass, which is absurd. Anyway, the point here is that I was uneasy about doing the deed, but definitely wanted the responsibility. I was also worried about the placement of the bullet, and it not being a clean kill. So I did the research and took it upon myself. I didn’t want to be a passenger to this experience.

We rounded up the sheep in the yards and penned Poo-Bottom into a corner. The other sheep were still nearby, so she wasn’t distressed by being singled out. Char’s mum was up to help us, since she’s helped her parents gut and butcher animals before. We had the knife and a mallet at the ready in case I missed with the rifle. I secured myself on a fence railing, leaning over, and took the shot. Thump. Down she went, instant death. Char’s mum jumped in with the knife and slit the throat while the blood was still moving. That’s a part of the process I’m not sure I have the stomach for just yet. The sound was… memorable. It’s a good thing the rifle dropped her instantly; quick, painless, and without suffering of any kind.

I went to fetch the tractor which we’d prepared with a chain and leg hook to hold up the carcass while we dressed it. When I returned with the tractor Char’s mum was cutting the legs off.

The nearby sheep didn’t seem bothered at all. They were more glad than anything that we weren’t in the pen jostling them about anymore.

There’s different ways of prepping the carcass for hanging, but in every case the leg tendons must be intact, so the hooks have something to hold on to. Char’s mum knew this, but accidentally cut where the tendons joined. At first we managed to puncture the hooks through some of the meat…

But it ended up slipping off, so we improvised by tying baling twine around the knee bones, which held up fine. Char’s mum started skinning, but then she asked if I would like to try.

I didn’t expect I would be doing that part of it, but I was fascinated, so ended up doing the whole thing. Char, her mum, and her sister intermittently helped pull the skin away, and then went to tend the rest of the sheep in the yards.

Getting the head off required a hack saw. Pretty gross, I know. Usually if you find the right place between the vertebra, all it takes is a knife. Not that skilled yet.

After the head was cut off, then came the evermore gruesome part of gutting. I made an incision in the lower abdomen and then held the skin away from the organs as I drew the blade down to the sternum, being very careful not to pierce the stomach or intestines. If digestive fluids get out, they can ruin the meat, and they’re pretty stinky, too.

It was all going well up until it came time to cut away the anus. This proved difficult because of how we’d hung the carcass with the twine. Had we done it properly and used the hooks, the legs would have been held apart, which would have allowed me cut around the anus easily. Instead it was a bit of a hack-job from both ends. It was growing dark, so Char and her mum went back to the house to find some how-to videos online. I kept at it meanwhile, and eventually I freed it all up, pinching the urine tract/sack as I yanked the whole mess. Success!

It was very educating dismantling the innards of an animal. You sort of know how everything is meant to work, but it’s not until you experience cutting it all away that you learn how things are actually joined up. I got to witness the lungs deflate and collapse, for example, when I pierced the diaphragm cavity. Interesting stuff. The heart, liver, and kidneys were kept as pet food, although at later inspection it turned out the liver had signs of facial eczema, a fungal disease. That confirmed to us that she wasn’t the healthiest of sheep. All the meat was fine, however.

There’s an old offal pit on our farm near the stock yards, so everything unusable went in there. Eventually we’d like to find a use for it, like turning it into fertiliser.

All in all this completely new and strange experience was educational and went down with only a few minor hiccups. Not bad for our first attempt, I think. One fresh carcass, ready for butchering:

Poo-Bottom, we hope you had a good life here on our farm, however short. We fed you, and now you return the favour. Thank you.