The Rescue of Bleating Idiots

Posted by Nick  | 20 Sep 2016  | 4 comments

You see this butthole in the earth?

It swallows lambs.

The paddock nearest our cottage has multiple landfill pits from the previous owner, stuffed full of rubbish. Their concrete lids long overgrown, we made their discovery only after we had a logger in to process some of our tall cypress. The heavy machinery had cracked and skewed the subsurface pit lids, revealing what will perhaps be treasure troves to future archaeologists.

To our knowledge, these pits were full. That is, until I happened upon a completely empty one, three meters deep and containing not one, not two, but THREE LAMBS.

As Murphy’s Law would have it, it was when I arrived back after an exhausting two-hour hike through the steep local forest that I made this discovery. I was walking back through the paddock I had moved the sheep into that morning, and the thought hit me that I should make sure those pesky rubbish pit holes weren’t a hazard to the newborns. I was just about to block up a suspicious crack in the earth, when I heard the nervous bleat of a lamb echo up from below. FUCK.

I looked down through the crack, and sure enough I spotted the glow of white wool in the darkness a fair way down.

As drizzle arrived on cue, I began hacking away at the ground with a shovel, fatigued from my hike, not knowing how much I’d have to dig, but committed to saving these idiots. Fortunately, I soon uncovered the concrete lid which had been buried over time, concealing this hollow in the ground.

It was only at this point that I could see all the way down, realising the pit was entirely empty and at least three metres deep. I was a little worried about falling in. If I did, I wouldn’t have been able to get out, and with Char being away, no one would hear my screams… Mostly, though, I was concerned about the heavy concrete lid sitting precariously at an angle – I didn’t want to dislodge it and cause it to crash down on the little lambs below. I immediately attached a chain through the square hole which I hooked up to the tractor.

And with the strength of a hundred men, the tractor effortlessly excavated the concrete lid.

Which revealed…

Detrimentally-curious morons.

At this point I breathed a sigh of relief. The lambs were unscathed. I fetched a ladder and slid it carefully into the deep pit, avoiding knocking anyone out.

It’s difficult to see from the photos how deep this hole is, but for reference that’s a fully-extended four metre ladder.

Rescued! As I brought them up one by one, they each gave out a cry and a concerned mumma came running. They were all thirsty so immediately had a voracious suckle.

Far out, those are some lucky lambs. I had no idea that giant pit was there. All the other pits were full, and only this one had a tiny crack in the ground. Had I not had the random thought to check, those three would be goners overnight without their mothers’ milk.

Not sure how to fill the hole, so for the time being I’ve covered it with some pallets and scrap wood to make sure no fools fall in again. (I’m loath to fill it with our own garbage, but it’s either here or the landfill in town. I suppose the option with less transport is the more reasonable one…?)

Stay away from holes in the ground, you little suckers! Oh, the misadventures of livestock farming. Can we please just grow pomegranates?

Our First Spring Lambs

Posted by Nick  | 02 Sep 2016  | 2 comments

There’s nothing softer in the entire universe than a lamb’s ear, with the exception of my masculinity when I stroke one.

On cue with the arrival of spring have come our first ever lambs. And my oh my, are they squidgeable.

You know that feeling you get when you see something so overwhelmingly adorable that you want to squish it? It’s called “cute aggression”, and these little darlings are no exception.

Those twins, a boy and a girl, are from our favourite ewe who has always been super friendly. Hopefully her offspring are just as tame. With the excessive ear-stroking they’ve been getting, they damn well should be.

They weren’t the first two to be born from our fifteen ladies. The first birthing was unfortunately tragic.

The first ewe to give birth did so during a cold stormy night. We think these two might have died of exposure, or poor mothering, or a combination.

One of them was still covered in amniotic sack, which indicated it hadn’t been cleaned. The mother’s first priority should be to clean the faces of her lambs to clear any fluid from their mouths and nostrils so they can breath, and then clean the rest of their bodies so they don’t get cold.

It was a sad sight to come upon, especially since these were our first two lambs. Poor mumma. We’ll have to keep an eye on her because her udder will swell with no lambs drinking from it, and she may develop mastitis.

We were hesitant to move the sheep to a more sheltered paddock because they were so heavily pregnant, but we figured it was for the best in case the weather didn’t clear.

When our favourite ewe’s lambs were born a couple days later, Char was away on business, so in my solitude I was especially anxious to make certain they were healthy, drinking, and warm. I must have checked on them ten times that first day. At one point I was concerned the ewe’s teats weren’t lactating properly, so I ended up squeezing them to see. Yes, I milked a sheep.

But all was well – even though I hadn’t seen the lambs directly suckling, they were bounding about full of energy, so they must have. It was gloriously sunny and those frigid westerly gales had ceased at last. The final day of winter bore clear skies and fresh healthy lambs.

Our favourite ewe is a smart one, we reckon. Textbook mothering. I found her not long after she must have given birth, rigorously cleaning her little babies.

Didn’t look like it tasted very nice…

Alpacino and Pacman were hovering nearby, curious and almost protective. Llamas have been known to exhibit protective behaviour around infants, so perhaps their alpaca cousins share that trait.

Gordon, like a lot of absent fathers, was off gallivanting with other ladies. The alpacas, however, obviously in the friend-zone but faultlessly supportive, stayed close.

Pacman, you could say, even looked… proud. Congratulations, you’re a… father? (Shh, don’t tell him.)

We look forward to seeing a couple dozen more bundles of fluff pop out over the next few weeks. Hopefully most survive and there are no instances of triplets needing special attention. We’ll post an update when all our pregnant ewes have mothered. In the mean time, here’s a video for you to explode with cute aggression:

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.