Lost & Found

Posted by Nick  | 30 Dec 2016  | 1 comment

I don’t think I’ve loved any of my pets as much as our kitty, Mica. She’s a total fur baby. When Mica hadn’t shown up after a few days, we were beside ourselves.

Most people have had a beloved pet go missing or die. It sucks. It is especially worrying in the country where people are known to shoot cats on sight, if they think ill of them. Our neighbour, in fact, had her cat return with a bullet hole through its leg and the slug still lodged in its rib-cage. Luckily a quick bit of surgery saw it right again. But yes, quite concerning…

Mica had disappeared after we had been away for a couple of nights for Char’s birthday. We’ve gone away before and she’s always been there when we get back, hopping down from the couch after days’-long slumber and then stretching out her forelegs and yawning before casually waltzing over to greet us. But this time was different. This time coincided with a rowdy motor-cross trail bike ride in the area, and we had reluctantly agreed to allow parking overflow on our land. We suspect that the cacophony of hundreds of revving motorbike engines had scared her off.

For three nights we hoped for the best. Maybe she was out socialising with the neighbours’ cats. Maybe she just went on a holiday of her own to get away from the noise. But there were darker thoughts, too. Maybe she had indeed been shot, bleeding out slowly and finding a dark place under a barn to die. Or perhaps she’d gotten lost after being scared away, or been hit by one of the vehicles out on the trail ride. Or what if she had affectionately rubbed up against someone parking on our property, and they had snatched her? Snatched our baby! Yes… the mind is its worst enemy at times like this.

I searched the entirety of our farm, up and down the adjacent roads, called the neighbours. Every day.

It wasn’t until after the third night that it really hit me that she wasn’t coming back. I hadn’t cried up until that point. Suddenly, I realised I’d never see her again. I began to sob as I ate my breakfast. Then I cried harder. And then I was bawling my eyes out, muesli dribbling down my chin, high pitched squeaks interrupted by broken whines.

And then I heard it.

A distant mew.

“Muoreouw?”

I rushed over to the ranch slider and peered out. “Mica?!” I screamed.

“Mu-meoreouw?”

From around the carport appeared a sight I didn’t at first believe. My beloved Mica Jackson, trotting towards the house as if nothing were out of the ordinary.

In a truly cinematic moment, I raced down the steps and leaped over the fence, then collapsed to my knees in a desperate heap, scooping up my wayward kitty-cat and crushing her with the force of a thousand suns. It felt like slow motion in my mind. I cried and cried and cried. The relief was palpable. Mica was a little disturbed by my over-emotional state, but after I calmed down a bit she was eager to tell me how much she missed me through her usual affectionate mews, leg weaving, and face smooshing.

It was such an emotional experience having her show up precisely when I was breaking down. Literally during the first tears I shed for her. What a movie moment.

I immediately called Char, who was still in Auckland and grieving from afar. It was extra hard for her being away from home at a time like that. She was overjoyed to hear the news through my muffled sobs.

We still don’t know where the little shit disappeared to, but we suspect it was just a case of her high-tailing it out of there when a whole bunch of growling beasts came onto her land. Understandable.

Whilst she was missing, I realised that I didn’t have a nice portrait of her. There are a plethora of Mica shots we’ve taken, but none for that express purpose. So the day after she had returned, I promptly sat her on a chair and nabbed this of her and had it printed on canvas:

We won’t let those nasty things back, Mica, but don’t do that to us again! We love you like a damn child!

Crazy cat people.

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: