Kidding Season – Part 2


At the end of Kidding Season – Part 1, we were three days out from Victoria’s due date and had two sets of twins on the ground. I was sleep-deprived after Juno’s difficult kidding, but not willing to take my eyes of my precious Victoria.

Victoria kidded three days after Juno, and kept me up literally all night. She was clearly in labour from about 5pm and just refused to push. And it was freezing that night, getting down well below zero. After watching her until about 2am I decided to go inside to warm up, as I was genuinely afraid that if I fell asleep in the barn I would freeze to death. At 4.30am I decided that if the kids weren’t well on their way I was going in after them. I tied Victoria to the wall, scrubbed my hand, and went fishing for kids.

The first one was not far away, and I managed to get hold of his legs and point his head in the right direction. Now, Victoria is a big girl, but I had a terrifying moment when I thought that kid was just not coming out. Finally he came unstuck and there he was, heavy-boned and meconium stained, but squeaking feebly, and steaming in his puddle of goo.

But the doe clearly was not empty, and I had to go fishing for the second kid. He was right down the bottom, it was like reaching into a gooey backpack trying to find your keys. I found a pair of legs and started to pull him out. Even with the path well-greased he took some pulling. On getting him out on the ground I realised why – he was enormous. By this stage the light was not any help in figuring out what colour the kids were, and both were stained with green meconium from their arduous night of labour. Both kids were bucks, as you probably figured from my use of the pronoun ‘he’ to describe them both. I was not surprised. If your best doe is going to keep you up on a freezing night with a difficult and scary kidding, of course she is going to give you twin bucks. And then refuse to feed them.

Poor Victoria was quite shell-shocked, and being a first kidder I decided she could raise one kid and I would buddy the other up with Juno’s buck and find them a home together. The pair of them have gone to live with our wonderful house-sitter Mel and her menagerie of chooks, Greyhounds and alpaca.

After a couple of weeks and much wrestling, grunting and general angst, Victoria got the hang of feeding her huge, spotty buck kid from both teats, and he soon outgrew the doe kids born in the days before him. The last thing I needed was another buck, and I was determined to wether him and just hope to get a sister next time around.

But then his father, my dear sooky buck Jazzy Jupiter, died. Jupi left four lovely daughters and one big, beautiful son from my best doe. Victoria’s buck kid finally got a name, and Vulcan will get to replace Jupi in the buck paddock.

Vulcan with Lizzie

Vulcan with Lizzie

After a couple of months respite, in amongst the stress of having my house for sale, Ambika kidded on a weekday afternoon with little fuss and no assistance. She cleaned up her twin bucks, fed them well, and she will raise them to the age of three months at which stage they will be weaned and go together to their new home. Ravi and Sachin are the first kids by Elcarim Zeus, and they were the quickest, most forward kids I have ever bred. Ravi was up and feeding before Ambi even got around to lying down to give birth to the second kid. They were following mum down the paddock before they were 48 hours old. This did lead to Ambi losing one or both of them a couple of times, but they turned up again after a bit of a search.

Ravi and Sachin, six days old, adventuring with the rest of the herd.

Ravi and Sachin, six days old, adventuring with the rest of the herd.

This only left Rianna still to kid.

Rianna was meant to be retiring. As of last year she had produced ten kids, including two does and a buck who I have kept. With the birth of Juno’s kids in July this year, Rianna became a great grandmother. She was diagnosed with staph in her udder last year, so it just seemed easiest to retire her from active duty and let her live out her days as herd boss and farmyard velociraptor.

But Rianna had other ideas. When buck kid Toggalong FitzWilliam arrived from Townsville I had him with Thumper in the electrified quarantine yard. And on the fourth day I came home to find Rianna, very in season, had decided to join Fitz in quarantine.

Of course she didn’t come back in season after that, and after many very convincing false alarms she also kidded on a weekday afternoon. Last Tuesday, actually.

She asked to be put in the kidding pen when I got home from work. She didn’t look terribly threatening, so I went and spent about 45 minutes on the ride-on mower. When I went to check her again she maahed reproachfully at me and turned around to reveal the head of a very bewildered-looking kid.

I flipped the offending leg forward and helped the kid the rest of the way out. Rianna expertly began to clean her up (a doe, thank you!), and then pushed out two more kids in quick succession.

There is something to be said for an experienced doe with good mothering instincts. Rianna had those three kids clean and dry very quickly. It was a warm afternoon, so the heat lamp was not required. Being triplets, they were a little slower than some of the other kids had been after birth, but they all had a feed within a couple of hours and were up and about on their feet by morning. Rianna even seemed quite happy to feed all three of them, unlike previous sets of triplets where she has only wanted two and rejected the third kid.

Rianna is not a big doe, and her production is compromised by her infected udder. She can raise two no worries, but not three. I wanted to take both buck kids and bottle raise them together, but Tybalt, the bigger of the two, flatly refused to take milk from anything other than his mother. Little Puck, the smallest kid of the season born at just over 2kg, was quite happy to take a bottle. So he got a small area to himself next door to his siblings, three bottles a day and the adoration of our entire family.

Rianna's kids, with little Puck enjoying some cuddle time on top of his bigger brother and sister.

Rianna’s kids, with little Puck enjoying some cuddle time on top of his bigger brother and sister.

Rianna is being treated for the infection in her udder, and hopefully will be able to go to some shows this year. At 6yo she is eligible for Veteran classes at most shows, and even on her fifth lactation, having raised eight kids and now raising two more, she has impressive udder attachment and texture.

So that is my kidding season over. Eleven kids from five does and by four different bucks, for four doe kids and seven buck kids. There were some scary times, and a few rounds of antibiotics, but so far everyone has survived and is doing well. I would have to call that a successful kidding season.


Sugar-Free September


Today we come to the end of the fascinating social experiment that was Sugar-Free September.

As you know, I generally live a very low-sugar life. I use maple syrup and honey as sweeteners. Sugar makes me feel ick if I eat any meaningful amount of it. And super-sweet foods no longer appeal to me.

But I decided that Sugar-Free September should be a household-wide experiment. Matt was fairly enthusiastic. The children, predictably, were less so.

We started out well, with honey and apple muffins in their lunch boxes. Finding breakfast cereals they liked without sugar was a particular challenge, and there was NOTHING in ALDI that fit the bill. We ended up going to Woollies for Vita Brits for Rohan, while sourdough toast and vegemite was Callum’s breakfast of choice. Most breakfast cereals, even ‘healthy’ ones with wholegrains, are loaded with added sugar.

My own breakfast is usually a kefir smoothie, with fruit and grains. But sugarless breakfasts can be fun too. On weekends we had sourdough pancakes with banana and goats cheese, or bacon and eggs. So many ways to have a yum breakfast without the sugar.

School lunches were fairly easy to conquer, but the wheels fell off on Footy Day, when the PFA gave out donuts. This was the first real taste of deprivation for the boys. Callum bravely declined to order a donut, only to have his teacher set a task involving counting and comparing different colour M&Ms. He ended up giving his share of lollies to a friend. Rohan ordered a donut, probably hoping I wouldn’t bring the subject up, and after much soul searching and actual tears he gave his donut to a friend. Nobody died. We had apple crumble and cream that night for dessert.

What the boys did have trouble with, was telling people why they were declining certain foods. Having to say no to lollies or cake on the school bus was a particular issue for them. Callum reported that some of his friends were ‘being dicks’, waving sweet treats under his nose, but some of them were really good about it. The more supportive kids were the ones he handed his sugary contraband to.

Right in the middle of the month, Rohan attended a sleepover party. We talked ahead of time about what he would do, and I told him to just be mindful and see what options he had. There were no sugarless drinks supplied. Dinner was a barbecue, which he filled up on, but he didn’t want to turn down birthday cake or miss out on a toasted marshmallow. Otherwise he mostly ‘ate heaps of chips’ and left the lollies alone.

When asked about it, the boys reported ‘resisting temptation’ as the most difficult thing about going sugar free. They found it easy enough to avoid sugar at home, but much more of a challenge when at school or out and about.

They were surprised at how many everyday foods had added sugar. But going forward, they both think they will eat less sugary things.

Matt found it fairly easy, for the most part, and was able to stay away from the vending machines at work. I don’t know what the scales have to say, but he definitely looks like he has lost some weight.

For me, it was quite a challenge feeding everyone. It is pretty easy to go sugar-free on your own, but keeping a family satisfied without refined sugar takes some thought and preparation. Breakfast and lunchbox options needed to be re-examined. A hedgehog slice or choc-chip cookies, even home made ones, are full of sugar. The sourdough bread is unsweetened, but breadmaker recipes use sugar as an important ingredient which can’t just be left out.

Sugar-free recipes tend to also be dairy, egg and gluten free. I have no quarrel with wheat flour, and milk and eggs are a big part of our diet. Finding recipes that swapped out refined sugar without getting too far away from the basic recipe was not at all easy. Some I managed to adapt by myself. Some of the natural/organic/raw/paleo type recipes were complete disasters. The honey and apple muffins turned out great. The excellent sugarless chocolate recipe I was given, while high in fat, made a great chocolate substitute and was a very satisfying snack that could knock the munchies on the head with a couple of bites.

Turning a household away from refined sugar permanently would be a huge challenge in this world of fast food, basics that are unnecessarily sweetened and lollies as rewards. I think despite the tears and frustrations we all learned a lesson and got a bit of a look at just how big a place sugar has made for itself in our society. Getting my kids to believe that natural fats are good for you, but sugar is bad for your health has not been easy when the media and food marketing continue to use ‘99% fat free’ to suggest that certain foods are healthy, even if they are mostly made of sugar.

Tomorrow we will go out for ice-cream, I might even have some, and that will be another lesson in the experiment. Will the kids go sugar mad now that Sugar-Free September is over? Or will we all carry that niggling thought that maybe we should put down that chocolate bar, have an apple instead of a muffin and enjoy the natural sweetness and flavour of unsweetened foods?

My Hands


If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all ok
And not to worry because worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I will not be made useless
I won’t be idled with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken

Poverty stole your golden shoes
But it didn’t steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But i knew it wasn’t ever after

We will fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

My hands are small, I know,
But they’re not yours they are my own
But they’re not yours they are my own
And I am never broken

In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters

From Hands, by Jewel


While making the sourdough tonight I became preoccupied with my hands, and the song above came into my head. After the previous post, this message not to worry because worry is wasteful seems like a timely one.

I have always considered that my hands do not really match the rest of me. For starters, they are tiny. Small, square, farmer’s hands, showing the signs of so much use and abuse over the years. I rely on them so much, use them for so many things.

In the days when I worked on horse studs I had lines of dirt in the sides of my fingers that never went away, no matter how much I scrubbed. In a world of office jobs and IT professions, most people probably don’t give their hands the sort of treatment that mine get. Back in the days of manual labour most hands would have had a few jobs to do.

Kidding time is one of the hardest on my hands. You would think that having goat milk all over them a lot of the time would make them soft, but this is countered by the amount of time I spend wielding a rake or shovel. Hand milking itself takes a toll as well, and I mix one-handed milking with the use of a hand pump to allow me to milk a little quicker, since I can’t milk two-handed for very long.

The weekly sourdough bake is also hard on my hands. Tonight it seemed especially painful. Each batch is kneaded, flipped and folded for ten minutes initially, and then four times every ten minutes for another half hour. Tonight felt like very hard work, and my hands ached constantly.

I recently bought a machine that can grate and slice things. I am a particular fan of simplicity, and I generally scoff at electric gadgets that do the same thing something basic and more versatile could do (cupcake maker? It’s called an oven, and it can also cook pizza. Rice cooker? It’s called a saucepan and get over yourself. You get the idea…). But the thing is that when I use a grater I often manage to make myself bleed. Zucchini season leads to several Band-Aids and me eventually admitting that I am simply too unco to make zucchini slice without blood in it. So a machine that grates veggies or mozzarella without me being maimed is a totally worthwhile investment. Score one for my poor hands.

My hands cook, clean and milk. They type and write. They pull stuck kids and pull weeds from the garden beds. They trim hooves and administer medications.They feed my family. They do so many of the things that make me who I am make my life what it is. Sometimes I will attempt to open a jar and my hands will say ‘seriously? Can’t you get someone else to do that?’.

I have a great hemp cream that goes some of the way to softening the abused skin when my hands start to feel like sandpaper. I joke that I don’t wear rings because I don’t want to draw attention to my rough, weathered hands. I have always said that my hands look ten years older than the rest of me.

Hands are tools of expression that show our true nature and intent. The voice can lie, but hands speak the truth. The intention, the action, all there in pure form. We gesture and show emotion with them. They can be cruel or kind, but they say what they mean. What we mean. They are not as easily tamed or edited as our words, and speak the language of the body rather than of the mind. They can tell a story almost as eloquently in simple, terms. They are capable of so many things, and essential to our lifestyles, but we rarely even think about them.


Selling the Drama


Congratulations to anyone who spotted the 90s alternative music reference in the title. If you did, you should go and listen the Throwing Copper, it is still a good album.

Anyway, lately my life has been full of drama. Depending upon your source, drama is either a situation representing some form of conflict or an overly emotional response to an event that should have an easy solution. I’ll let you make up your own mind.

A week ago I was feeling pretty low, so I decided to deactivate my Facebook page. I was sick of every status or comment I put up sounding like a complaint. I felt like I was fishing for sympathy, and nobody owes me sympathy. Everyone is dealing with their own crap. So I got out of there and took my complaining with me.

But let me tell you a little bit about the past couple of weeks. They have not been easy. Actually, the last month or so has been kind of a trial.

First there were the events surrounding the decision to sell the property and find somewhere else. In amongst all this was Matt’s surgery and subsequent long and painful recovery. At the same time I had three does kid, leading to many sleepless nights in the freezing barn and some rather tense moments pulling stuck kids. Then there was the huge task of getting the place cleaned up for sale, the hole in the roof fixed, the driveway made drivable and a whole lot of stuff going to the tip.

In the end, the driveway took 25 tonnes of gravel, which was dumped in 5 tonne lots and had to be moved by shovel and wheelbarrow. It was an enormous task, which mostly fell to Matt. His efforts were superhuman.

So finally the house was on the market. This led to the inevitable inspection appointments, the need to keep the place tidy and keep the dogs out of the way, the rounds of looking at properties for sale. Yes, selling up is stressful.

Then the house we really wanted sold, as did our second choice. If this place sells after today’s open house we will have nowhere to go. We are relying on the perfect property to pop up in the next month or so, with little more than the hope that the universe will provide it for us.

So that was all the house crap, that’s no big deal, people sell and buy every day. On top of that I have had a house full of sick people, starting with Rohan. He ended up having a week off school carrying a bucket around, although he didn’t actually vomit at any point. He has been dubbed ‘patient zero’, after managing to infect his brother, his auntie and his unofficial step-father. Callum was so sick that he didn’t feel like kicking the footy, but he managed to get to the Geelong-Hawthorn match as well as a birthday party last weekend with the help of dissolvable Children’s Panadol. Sarah and Matt have been sick for the best part of a week, and all I can do is hope that my ‘flu shot will keep me safe.

So things were already on the difficult side when, on Rohan’s birthday just before we were heading out for dinner, I found a gravely injured pony in my front paddock. This led to an emergency after-hours vet visit, two ponies being put down, and not surprisingly us being late to dinner.

The next morning I found my favourite Muscovy duck very badly injured but not having had the sense to die of her injuries. This was probably the most unsettling of a series of unpleasant events. Her injuries were horrific, beyond what I am willing to put into words, and on finding her still alive my only thought was to find a way to end her suffering. Matt to the rescue once again, dragged out of bed after a 12-hour night shift to dispatch my poor duck. The smell and sight stayed with for far too long.

My resilience ebbed badly after this, and I took myself off all social media. I was intensely disappointed at my inability to soldier on, and I had many cruel and unnecessary things to say to myself about the matter. Rock bottom hovered way too close for comfort, and things began to stack up. Two dead ponies, a dead billy goat and a dead duck made the planned butchering of our two sheep seem much more sinister. Sick goat kids and sick human kids felt like an epidemic. The stress of having the house for sale and looking for a new one kept me from sleeping.

Yet somehow this week things turned around. Nothing has really changed other than my way of looking at things and the understanding that I don’t have to let it all get to me. So on Friday when in the midst of trying to get the house and yard ready for Saturday’s open for inspection as well as getting one child off to the football and the other to his father’s house, I found myself dealing with a labouring goat and the realisation that my mobile phone had been cut off, somehow I coped. I called the phone provider and made a quick payment, after complaining that I got no warning of my service being blocked and explaining that I had in fact paid my partner’s bill instead of my own. I left Rohan watching the labouring goat, who kindly had healthy and very robust twins without any assistance. I got everyone to where they needed to go (once again with some help from Matt), and spent the evening making cheese and getting the house clean.

Do I create this drama? I don’t really see how I can. It certainly makes me appreciate the quiet times when I can sit down with nachos and a cider and watch old episodes of Greys Anatomy, or just hang out in the farmyard with my goats for half an hour. And I need to remember to set aside this time for myself, to recharge and relax, so that when it feels like one blow after another I can stand up and absorb it, knowing that eventually, based on sheer weight of numbers, something will go my way.