Well - do I look stupid? Every day, twice a day, Little-Out-of-Africa comes in and I check her udder, pat her tummy, give her a little brush and a feed, and chat cooing chats to the supposedly imminent baby. Everyone else comes in as well but Africa gets THE-TREATMENT. On Sunday, the morning routine was as usual with everyone looking fine and dandy, and Africa not giving out any secrets but, just after morning tea, I wandered out into the big paddock to take Luke's cover off and, in the distance, there was this tiny brown bundle encircled by inquisitive faces! No - it wasn't Africa's baby. It was Little Sweet Pea's! (Who, according to the vet, was due to calve in October!!) Without a fuss or a bother she had popped out a strong, healthy, full-term jersey bull and was very proud of herself. My confidence in the local-knowledgeable-man-vet has been shattered and I have thrown his calving schedule out the window.
As the first born calf in any herd can have a bit of a hard time with everyone wanting to sniff and nudge it etc. I brought Last Thyme and Luke in and put straw out at the other end of the paddock to keep the rest of the cows occupied while Sweet Pea had a chance to bond and do her motherly things. By early afternoon the calf was wobbling around well enough for me to be able to gently ease him across the paddock and into the milking shed paddock where Sweet Pea could relax with a hard feed and a slice of tasty hay.
By Sunday night I had tracked down two newborn beefy heifer calves and on Monday I picked them up and brought them home. I tucked them into one of the milking shed bays, put Sweet Pea's calf in to join them, and Bossy Boots was brought in to keep Sweet Pea company.
On Monday night there was no problem introducing the new babies to Sweet Pea. I have a rather deep feed bin into which a small jersey cow's head disappears. With the lead rein tied just long enough for her to reach the bottom of the bin, Sweet Pea's eyes were effectively blinkered and I moved the two new calves in with her baby. They were hungry and knew exactly what to do and by the time Sweet Pea came up for air the deed was done and she had three babies hanging off her! Another pot of Sweetfeed kept her happy as I made sure the calves shuffled around and sucked on each quarter...and that was feed number one successfully achieved. Yesterday the babies were mooing in anticipation and, by tomorrow, I won't need to tie her up. It makes life so easy when you have a greedy cow. So far the beefy heifers have coped with the change and there are no signs of scours. Keeping them warm and snuggly with plenty of straw helps, as well as making sure they have only a modest drink each feed for the first couple of days.
One of the Black Angus calves scoured this week. I knew as soon as I walked into the forest on Thursday morning that I had scours to deal with. There is a distinctive smell and, if you have ever fought desperately to save a badly scoured calf, it's a smell you don't forget. Sure enough, there was a tell tale puddle of light coffee-coloured pooh and a correspondently mucky bottom on one of the calves. I gave her a dose of Scourban and she was kept away from the calfateria for breakfast. For dinner she was allowed half a feed of milk along with another dose of Scourban and by the next day the poohs were changing back to dark green. Although there was no obvious reason for her to scour I wasn't going to take any chances and in case it had been caused by bad hygiene the calfateria was sterilized with a halimide solution after its usual wash with hot soapy water. Milk is great for growing babies and bacteria! I also sprinkled fresh sawdust everywhere and I emptied the water bin out and gave it a good scrub. Scours can be caused by a number of reasons but the most important thing is to swing into action quickly before any damage is done to the youngster's stomach.
Mr Pig has come home. He was meant to go to Turakina but the Turakina people had an unfortunate mishap with their sow and Mr Pig lost his date. He's quite happy at home having his daily 'Roman Strigil' with the leaf rake but Mrs Pig would prefer it if I could find someone else who would like to borrow him for a month. I have promised her I'll put the word out.
The weather here has been pure Spring, the last of the tamarillos have ripened and the pepinos have sprouted. The remaining three passion fruit fell off the vine last week but I am not going to prune that back in case there is another frost. I'll wait another month just to be sure. I planted radish - Albert dug them out. I planted lettuce - Albert lay on them. I separated and replanted the strawberries - Albert rearranged my efforts. Who needs chooks!! Each year I put his catnip into a hanging basket to keep it safely out of his way and I'm thinking it might be a good idea to do the same for the rest of the early plantings. In the meantime I have replanted everything and have spiked each replanting with boxes of kindling. I've told him - one more excavation and I'll use him to light the fire.
There has been a constant, drying wind with the beautiful Spring days, which has made a remarkable difference to the mud, and I have been able to battle away at the new garden in the orchard. I know the house at Middelmost was built in 1910 and I'm pretty sure that the orchard, being a tiny orchard and being close to the house, would not have been cropped for many years - if
ever. It's rather like an archaeological dig as I am finding an amazing assortment of stuff including a golf club and a ball! The handle had rotted completely away leaving the club part only but the ball looked quite serviceable after a wash. Every time the fork hits something hard I think, "Buried treasure from the war?" But, no - just another piece of household rubbish. No wonder there are such fat worms out there.
With lots of tamarillos waiting to be eaten, my annual wild pork and tamarillo dinner has become a priority - except I have no wild pork. I was given the recipe many years ago and it is a rich, full flavoured, slowly cooked casserole filled with fruit and coconut and it has to be served with a crisp fresh salad, copious amounts of homemade bread to mop up the gravy and, naturally, a superb red wine. I tried the recipe once with domestic pork and it wasn't the same. The fruit overpowered the meat somewhat. So, it's a dish to be celebrated when your timing is right and the wild pork and tamarillos arrive at the same time. But, as mentioned, I have no wild pork. Instead, I remembered a certain person in the staff room at the local school (who has a deer farm) mentioning how they hate venison and how they are sick of mutton. This certain person now has a lovely big piece of topside roast and I have a lovely big piece of venison. Fancy that!