Thursday, June 27, 2013

In Memoriam

Elli, the cat: April 1994 - 13.6.2013

Pretty much straight after we bought our home in Wellington we decided we needed a cat as well. At the local vet we saw a small handwritten ad for Shirley's Shelter and had a look. There was only one kitten in a place swarming with cats: a miniature Harley. In between sneezes she would purr so loud and so hard we couldn't ignore her. Add to that a story about a potential owner handling her only with gloves and asking if the bent tail could be fixed surgically and we had to rescue her from that fate. The above picture was taken in our lounge, her already showing a preference for hot places.  And the photo below shows her using her favourite appliance in the house: a 1950's Kosy-Aire heater. 

A fortnight ago we had to make the difficult decision to take her to the vet and have her put to sleep. For the past 19 years she had been our baby, comforter and characterful companion and we couldn't bear seeing her decline. Even though she was at times playing and behaving like a kitten, her dementia was getting worse. This meant she'd forget she was eating while literally standing over the food or forgetting what the feeling in the full bladder meant! She was losing weight rapidly despite us feeding her at every turn. And she was getting cold! Miserably cold. Winter hadn't really started and already she was scorching her fur crawling under the fireplace to get hot! We even had contemplated buying an electric blanket to ensure her being warm at night. 
But the day before she was just not herself. Looking at us in a truly tired way, just lying in our arms and again purring as loud as she could. We made an appointment with the vets, in the afternoon so the kids could say their goodbyes as well and spent the day remembering her and giving her lots more cuddles.

First, all her friends from the Wellington time. Some were pedigree cats and chased each other around the house destroying our collectibles. Others run-of-the-mill moggies, shy as anything, but happy enough to come inside and have a cuddle with her on Ross' favourite sweater!


We thought about the time we had gone to the Wairarapa and upon our return found out that she had an accident and hadn't been seen for hours. The agony of looking for her in the neighbourhood, calling and not getting a reply! And then, in the middle of the night, a faint rustling outside our window, I call and she jumps in! A quick check revealed she had de-gloved her chin but else was fine. The next weeks were spent with visits to the vet to get the strings holding her chin up re-attached as she kept chewing them through!

And then her first visit to the Wairarapa: she got out of the car, looked around, inhaled deeply and gave us an understanding look: "This is where you've been going to all the time!" And then, she caught her first rabbit. After that, Wellington was for pussies. 

We were worried she'd love it soo much, she'd run away, but she truly was our child and always was back home at night, ready to go to bed and cuddle up to us. She always snuggled up behind my head.

While the Rapa was the accepted weekend place now, we changed location within Wellington a few times. Each time she adjusted to new ways of going outside, dealing with and charming the neighbours. Over the years she faced and dealt with quite a few changes, the biggest one I'd imagine the arrival of our two-legged babies. And she loved them as well! It regularly stunned me to observe how she'd cuddle up to one them if they were sick or unhappy. 
When we decided to add a few more critters to our menagerie, we wondered how she'd cope. Fine! 
After we had moved to the Rapa permanently we got a black lab, Tuppence, and a while later we adopted a stray cat, Purdie, that had been abandoned and the SPCA wouldn't take her. And did it faze her? Not a bit: the dog was shown her place in the pecking order, at the bottom, and the other cat was ignored!

Even though I cannot guess how Tuppence and Purdie are feeling, the rest of the family will truly miss her. 
We're taking comfort knowing she will not be cold or hungry anymore and she got as much love as she could soak up.
RIP Elli.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Winter is almost here

and I'm still busy as the proverbial beaver!
First up, the hides have come up well. The last one, Moritz, was done slightly different ( lubed while wet and used about 5x more lube) has come up so well, we're keeping him for a decorative rug!

A few weeks back we had the last two boys done and this time I also stayed while they were shot. I tell myself, in case of an emergency I know how and where to place the shot, but I also feel I owe it to them, paying my respect by not shirking the last duty.
Anyway, our freezers are now overflowing ( reprieve for the ducks) and it is very decadent to be able to choose a lovely cut for our Sunday lunch. Decadence levels have thoroughly increased also by the addition of our dinner/pool table. We still need a second bench to accommodate a large party, but we're getting there. Neighbours are dropping hints at expecting a delectable curry and copious amounts of naughty deserts! Soon!

And finally, the bunnies have procreated!!! Three girls have had 11 babies between them and they all seem to be thriving. I had started feeding them mainly grass again and that seems to have triggered all the right responses! Our home kill guy told me, he always thought that bunnies don't breed as well in a drought, which we certainly have had, even though I don't think it'll make much difference with the bunny population down south.
And three of the little ones are coloured: black, ginger and lavender! And they are SO CUTE! I do love them at this stage, 2-8 weeks. Once they are three months and older they tend to loose their baby cuteness. Just as well!

The goat girls are back on the property and happily browsing on all the weeds and little bushes that have sprung up during their absence! In fact they are feeding so well, that they are incredibly frisky! Haven't organized anything about that yet, I'm still feeling a little bit overwhelmed with all the recent homekill, butchering and processing. And even the 'little' goats yield a fair amount of meat. We might be decidedly carnivores, but even for us, that's a lot of meat!

Part of the processing has been the making of liver pate, beef liver from a neighbour's cattle beast. Very nice and for the amount of lard in it, actually not too heavy.

On Saturday I finally managed to put up a crock pot of Sauerkraut, which is fermenting nicely in the hot water cupboard for the next 2-3 weeks. I love my home made one, it is soo much milder and more flavoursome than the store bought one.

Sorry about the short and pic-less entry,
more hopefully next time.
So she says, knowing full well there's two more hides in need of tanning, school trips to be gone on and a last weekend away in town before my friend heads overseas for a long holiday!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fact Memo

Tanning data: the hides of the two younger kids weighed 3 and 2.5 kg respectively. Membranes were easily broken, came up relatively smooth out of the tanning process after 5 days in it. Stapled to some flat wood/pallets, dried for a day and today applied the commercial lubricant. Moritz's hide, at 16 months, is quiet a bit different. Not whether it's due to the later treatment or his age: during the fleshing and scraping process yesterday+today I noticed that in some parts I could see the hairs in the hide and the hide itself was nicking a lot easier than the younger ones. Also the hide itself weighs 3kg, but is of course bigger. Which would explain the thinner hide. But as to why? No idea. I would have assumed that with increase of age the hide thickens too, but so far the younger ones have been easier to skin and the follow-up treatment has been easier too. Let's wait and see how they fare once made up into cushions.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

It truly has been a while!

Three months, give or take a bit, to be precise.
Been busy as the proverbial beaver, I'm sure I've said that before, but now I mean it!
Trying to write things down in chronological order would be futile, so I'll go by topic.

Bunnies: they needed to be moved: away from the house and into their permanent outdoor accommodation. Even though, or because, they hadn't bred properly this year I had only one male, Silver and five girls, Brownie, Wanda, Whitepaw, Lavender and Ginger. Brownie, due to her thyroid condition can't be bred anymore, but as she's the first one, the pet one and I do have a special bond with her, she's a keeper. Wanda had two breedings, each with their own problems, but she's a cheeky girl so I'm tempted to keep her as well and give her another chance. Lavender had had one try so far and nothing happened, but I put that down to Silver not having done the job properly! The other two are at the moment with Silver and I will see if anything happens. At the moment I'm just letting them be, but if nothing happens I will have controlled matings and make a decision in a month's time then. So, to make suitable habitats for them I've subdivided the present run and house making it a decent space for 5 bunnies in total. In addition I created another run, which still needs a bit of weather-proofing and bricks laid, but Wanda has already moved in, eaten down all the grass and started digging a burrow! I need to make one more run, the boys ward, but as long as it's only one boy I can improvise. And he doesn't mind the girls company one bit!

And while I'm waiting for them to breed like bunnies, I'm learning/experimenting to tan their hides. I've used a 'commercial' kit and some 'traditional' methods and Ross will let me know which ones are better to work with. Here's a couple of pics of me at work!

 Poultry: since the last entry daddy duck has indeed quietened down, due to excess of other ducks. I had taken the daughter back to her siblings and waited another couple of weeks and then moved them all together into the big run. The first day or so a bit of nudging and pecking occurred, but nothing excessive towards one single duck. In February I slaughtered one and it was very nice. Only a minute bit too small, only just enough for the four of us. And again, I nearly wrecked my epilady trying to completely pluck it, but I seem to have stumbled upon a quick and easy method: shortly sear the meat and then pull out the feathers easy as pulling them out of warm butter! Anyway, as the others were even smaller, I decided to wait with culling the rest, 6-8, til they had fattened up a bit more and finished moulting. Which will be pretty much now. So, when I feel like committing some mayhem again, I will go down there and select a few.
The chickens went through quite a moult as well, every day it looked as if something had gotten into the hen house and plucked them! And then they stopped laying! I had about 20 potentially laying hens and got about an egg a day. After a stern talking to and the dispatch of two hens, who after 10 days in isolation had not laid a single egg, the egg production has picked up again. I've been ringing the ones that are laying, this year's colour being fashionable purple! At the moment we're getting 6-7 eggs a day, which is an improvement, but I still want to cull at least 6-8 before winter is here properly: there's too many for them to all get decent shelter in the hen house. My Light Sussex birds, a boy and girl  hatched from eggs bought online, are doing fine too: the girl has been laying now for a fortnight and they are good looking solid brown eggs. In spring I will put these two together and try to raise some chicks for eating: they are considerably bigger than my barn yard mix and reach a good weight a lot faster. I had to butcher two boys of that hatching and they were just beautiful. The meat quantity was like store-bought, juicy as well and definitely more flavour!

And last, but not least: the goats.
Over this summer Moritz, born December 2011, was behaving more and more like a greedy guts bully and becoming a bit of a danger for his younger brothers, cousins, aunty and even mum. By now he was bigger than them and had a decent set of horns. As the time drew closer for the little boys, I decided that he had to go as well. With only one paddock available I can't afford to have a bully with horns around. With a heavy  heart the home kill guy was called and a date set.
And then two of the little ones started to look down, one even got a bad case of the trots! I drenched them, gave them scourban and lots of honeyed cups of tea. But to no avail. I spent a few agonizing days trying to figure out what to do: have him euthanized or to persevere and get some vet meds into him. Which I did in the end: drenched him again, gave a shot of Antibiotics and a multi vitamin shot and then put him and his brother in the home paddock, to be able to keep a closer eye on him. After about 3 days he started to come right and I was thoroughly relieved. But then they both did a jail break, got back to mum, sucking whatever milk she had left and boom, next day he had the trots again! Blatantly obvious by now, that all he needed to be was weaned off the milk! I thought nature knew best and they would get weaned when they needed to, but obviously not. Anyway, I spent a day in the pouring rain patching any holes in the fence, which is keeping them in and now he's fine. And he's even started to put on a bit of weight.

And in between all of this we had three goats killed and butchered. The guy came at lunch time and by the afternoon I had three carcasses hanging under cover and three hides needing to be salted and packed away for tanning.
I had done the first salting on the day and because the weather was too warm for my liking, I had to butcher the carcasses quickly. I did this similarly to the pig and now our chest freezer is full to the top with lovely roasts, ribs and filets! In hindsight I'm glad we didn't do all of them, we wouldn't have space for them. And the tanning of three current hides is taking more of my energy as I've got to spare!
Yesterday we had our first meal: a meat fondue with the goat filet. And it was DELICIOUS. I'll post the sauce recipes and a pic on the food blog, but suffice it to say everyone was happily munching away.

And then there was/is the vege garden of course. I had planted lots of tomatoes and could barely keep up pruning them. Despite this time consuming effort we've only had a moderate crop this year. Four plants though have done well, so I will get some seeds and see if next year will be better. Maybe a new set of compost is called for?! We've also had beans, which never made it to the table, as Kara kept picking and eating them of the bush! This year we were given a range of mint plants and I made a decent tasting tea out of them. Excellent, as Peppermint tea is quite a favourite with Ross and the kids. I also tried making Kawakawa tea, I had serious toothache at the time and it's supposed to be very helpful in treating inflammations of the teeth. Our neighbours have a veritable forest of it and I picked and cremated the first batch. The second time I was a bit more careful with the temperature and time! The smell and taste by itself is pretty revolting, but after adding a bit of ginger and honey it was quite nice. But not be taken as a casual drink, definitely only for medicinal purposes: I was going on a bit of a trip, it has similar qualities as Kava.

For some reason this autumn I have been on a bit of scrounging mission and as a result tried out a range of preserving methods. Part of that was harvesting some lemons, zesting and juicing them and bottling the juice.

I think I'm almost up to date, things to come now are the results of my tanning adventure, which hopefully end up as nice cushions for our dining table benches! Next up will be making some liver pate, making edible acorn flour, learning to make a good goat curry and learning to play billiards/snooker/pool again.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


What a roller coaster ride I had on Friday and Saturday! Not literally fortunately!
I had cleaned the duck bath and got everything ready to move the biggest girl duckling in with her parents. Well, that didn't work out at all: dad harassed and abused her so much that she'd done a runner. If I had known what he would have been like I would have interfered a lot earlier, but I had assumed it might take a while for the adult ones to get used to other ducks in their run. Anyway, once I had noticed her escape I tried to find her, after making sure there was no corpse hidden somewhere in the grass! I didn't and had to go to bed feeling absolutely AWFUL! I always try my hardest to make sure all my animals have a happy content and safe life, and here was this duckling now, shell shocked and alone somewhere in the bush in the dark. Hurting someone or something out of ignorance is not an excuse as far as I'm concerned and I made a promise to not let anything similar happen again.
The next morning I checked if she might have come back to her old duck or chicken run, but nothing. No quacks, other than mum and dad calling for their food. So I went about my business as usual, milking the goats and feeding the rest. As I've got four bunny girls on grass diet at the moment, I was looking for an area that needed trimming and while cutting forgot that the post holes STILL haven't been filled up to the top. My foot sank in, scraping along the wooden post and me straining to keep my balance. IT HURT! Evaluated the damage, a 15 cm long and 2cm wide scrape that wasn't bleeding to badly and so I finished the animals first before hobbling back home.
The rest of the day was spent trying to take a bit easier and thinking about some more animal husbandry issues.
Ross and Kara definitely don't like the goats milk. And as I spoke with our neighbour, the dairy farmer, while getting some fresh milk for them, the fact that they are now mainly on a plain grass paddock and don't browse on bushes and other trees anymore, might have had a negative effect on the milk. I'll be sitting down with a calendar and thinking if I can change kidding time and when I can have them browsing on our property again before deciding whether to keep them or not.
As I went outside to talk with my hubby about something later in the afternoon, I heard a classic girl quack and I was about to comment that she was a happy tart again, when I stopped: it didn't quite sound like mum duck. Note to self, I obviously spend too much time talking to my animals that I can reckognize their individual 'voices'. My heart rate went up, instantly hope springing up in my mind and I started calling and talking to the quacking individual as I walked towards the sound. And there she was!
Believe it or not, the feeling of relief was similar to finding my hiding kids in the library again.
She looked a bit worse for wear, but was walking alright and had no major injuries. I tried to herd her back to the run, but as she was struggling in the high grass I picked her up, not that she was that keen on that either, and then carried her back to the run and her younger siblings. I put her in, refilled the bath with fresh water and left her to it. It was so sweet to see her get instantly surrounded by all the younger ones. When I checked on her an hour later she was quietly preening herself and scoffing down some food.
Last night I went to bed feeling infinitely relieved and happy.
As the ducks will have to get into that run as they get bigger, I might have to build a smaller one just for the drake: I've got enough ducklings for this year and don't need any more fertile ones, so if he can't 'behave' and be a gentleman, he will just have to stay in solitary til he's gotten used to having more ducks around. And if he doesn't, I'm sorry to say he will have to go. He's had a good life, so I don't feel particularly sad about that, and I won't put any other young duck through this ordeal again. In my mind there's a huge difference between a quick death and long torture. But first I will give him a chance to change and build a smaller enclosure within the run, so he can see the others. Let's see how he goes with that.
That's all for today, enough as far as I'm concerned,


Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy New 2013

Hope everyone's had a good start to the New Year!

We've had a mixed bag in the last weeks of the year and were happy to start the new year with a clean slate. Once Kara had her birthday I managed to get in the mood for some serious maintenance work in the raised beds and pots. The weather is cooperating at the moment and so I'm experiencing the painful pleasure of sore backs and legs after a good day's work outside. 
Tomatoes are staked and ready to ripen, herbs have been transplanted into bigger pots and the little garden has had the grass removed, revealing a dainty fruit garden. The raspberries planted last autumn are fruiting, ripening and getting eaten. Even though the quantity is nowhere near our requirements, you've got to start little.

The bunny venture has been busy as well: the latest boy batch has been dispatched, the girls are next. And Wanda and Lavender have been mated with Silver. Not sure if this mating will be a success: he is decidedly smaller than the girls, but he gave it his best shot! And down in the dell one of the girls is getting a nest ready! Unexpected, as she hadn't been mated, but the wild ones theoretically have access, via the chicken mesh. Can't quite imagine how, but supposedly the wild ones can be quite acrobatic. Waiting now whether it's just a phantom pregnancy or not. Maybe it's her ploy for not getting the chop?!

The goats are doing ok too, they might need a drench, they're not as plumb looking as I'd like, but maybe I'm just remembering this time of the year differently from last year? The boys are SO loud at the moment, it's quite embarrassing: every time it rains a little they scream as if they're getting tortured! And Moritz is turning into a big bully: he's now taller than his mum and an absolute greedy guts. As he's now challenging the girls, he will have to go too in the winter. It's not safe having an assertive billy goat around; especially once the girls are pregnant again.

And my ducklings are multiplying and growing fast. I've got seven that will be ready to move into the big pen in a couple of weeks: I've got to make sure their wings are big and strong enough to get them out of their little shub bath or they might drown! Yes, ducklings can drown! The first next batch has started pipping this morning and next week the next lot is due. And as I've got another two hens broody I'm debating whether to go through the trouble of de-brooding them or sitting them on another batch of duck eggs. The problem is: we can only eat so much duck breast. On the other hand, I've got a lot of friends who would be keen on some fresh homegrown duck. I will have to sit down and see what the costs are, as I can only charge so much for a duck.

And my home cured ham was a success, well sort of, but more of that in the food blog!

Wishing you all a healthy,successful and happy new year,