Farm Life

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“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.”
~ Joel Salatin, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

 

If you look closely at the top photo you’ll see a new baby calf taking her very first steps, under the watchful eye of mum.

Here she is a few steps later, looking for her first drink of milk.

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It was a very busy day at the farm yesterday. A new calf at breakfast time. Lots of psychic work and writing in the heat of the day.

New garden beds ready for our autumn crops in the afternoon.

We’ve added three extra herb and vegetable beds, and put in a passionfruit trellis too.

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And then last night as I was making dinner, a big green tree-frog came to visit, landing on our kitchen window with a loud thump.

All in all, a lovely and very productive day.

Sending lots of love your way, Nicole xx

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Meet Our Latest Edition – Calvin the Calf!

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“The apple does not fall far from the tree.” ~ Proverb

 

Here’s our cheeky heifer Daisy Mae with her young bull calf – her first ever baby! We’ve named him Calvin, after Joelle’s suggestion.

When Daisy Mae was a young ‘un she’d crawl under the fence, romp through my vegetable garden, and play with my dogs, Harry and Bert, as though she too were a mad pup. She developed quite a taste for my herbs and flowers, and I was forever chasing her out of the house yard.

Now her son is just the same. He’s only four days old, and already we’ve chased him out of the yard more than twenty times. Right now he’s still so little that he can easily wiggle under the fence wires. He never seems to mind that he’s in trouble. To him it’s one big game.

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He has been devouring my parsley and garlic chives, and is particularly partial to petunias. Naughty Calvin!

But he’s so cute we can’t stay mad at him long. 🙂

Our dogs just love it when Calvin comes to visit. Let’s just hope he doesn’t eat all of my herbs before he is too big to squeeze under the fence.

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Koala Concerto

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“I want to go to Australia and take the same goofy picture of me holding a koala that everyone else takes.” ~ Jessi Klein

Our little farm here in Byron Bay is a koala sanctuary of sorts. We have plenty of them living here, and we see them daily.

Cute, huh?

As I stumble around, bleary-eyed this morning, I’ll let you in on a secret. Koalas look fluffy and cuddly and sweet. But…

They are also the loudest animals on our farm. And breeding season is the worst. Especially when the grove of eucalypts opposite our bedroom window is the favoured place for koala wooing.

A male koala makes a sound like angry electric bellows. Bark, gurgle, rattle, bark, gurgle, rattle. All night. At high decibels.

 

 

If there are other males around they fight. Noisily. With lots of extra grunty calling to prove dominance.

Then the girls show up!

Female koalas scream. Especially while mating. Ear-piercing screams that make you think some poor woman is being murdered outside your bedroom window.

They don’t mind fighting either. Especially when they are not interested in the male.

This was the sound that filled our bedroom last night.

 

 

All night.

Yay…

So forgive me if I’m a little tired this morning. Still, it’s reassuring to know that koala population levels are flourishing here at our little piece of paradise.

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An Afternoon Concert for My Cows

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“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!”
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

 

The first time I heard Albinoni’s Oboe Concert #2 in D Minor I was seven, a little girl sitting in the music room of her primary school, eyes closed as instructed by the teacher who placed a record on a turntable. Suddenly magic was in the room.

Somehow I knew that music. I knew the sound of the oboe. I thrilled with recognition. The way the strings sang and danced their sweet rhythms up and down my skin. The reedy tone of the oboe with its jaunty clarion call. I wanted to dance, to slide and twirl along sprung wooden floors, toes pointed and skirts swaying. The pictures it brought to my imagination!

But I’m sure I’d never heard that music before. Not in this lifetime anyway.

After our class I determinedly stayed behind to ask the teacher what the strange and beautiful music was, and she obligingly wrote it down for me on a scrap of paper. Years later, as a young adult, it was one of the first music CDs I ever bought for myself.

Yesterday afternoon I played that same Albinoni concert again. I cranked up the stereo, and let the music seep deep inside me.

Shortly after the music began, the cows all looked up. Transfixed they came closer. Closer.

After which they settled themselves down and for the next hour we all sat together, quietly listening to a selection of Albinoni’s music.

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When it was over they all stood up again and wandered away.

What a magical sharing we had.

I never knew that my cows were fans of Albinoni too. 🙂

And I wonder – thinking back to my first encounter with the music of Albinoni which left me with tears streaming down my cheeks in a class full of seven-year-olds who were all otherwise fidgety, bored and bothered, – has that ever happened to you? That you’ve heard music, or eaten a particular dish or gone to a certain unfamiliar place and thrilled with recognition at a soul level when by rights this thing should be strange and unknown? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Here’s a little snippet of the music we enjoyed yesterday:

A happy dancing tune…

A reflective and deeply emotive piece…

 

Keeping Bert Quiet…

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“The way you help heal the world is you start with your own family.”
~ Mother Teresa

 

Nurse Bert is healing well from his cruciate ligament surgery. Next week he’ll have an x-ray to see if the bone has healed. If it looks good, the vet says Bert will finally be allowed to run free. He’ll be able to climb stairs, to race through the paddocks with his brother Harry, and to jump on and off all of the furniture to his heart’s content.

But now, of course, our dear boy must remain confined to a small room. No mad racing around. No walks, unless he is on the lead and strictly supervised for short outings only. NO overdoing it.

I know this one well, having lived with lyme disease and various other maladies for so long. You get a whiff of energy and you instantly want to do all the things. That’s a recipe for pushing too far, overdoing it, or even causing damage.

So as much as Bert hates being confined we are playing the caution card, and keeping him quiet. We’ve even taken to bringing him with us for trips in the car just so that he gets a change of scenery. He loves that!

I can tell Bert’s feeling better because he is itching to escape. He has the spark back in his eyes, and he’s eager to regain his freedom. I feel a little mean to keep him quiet, but it’s the only thing to do until we are sure that the bones are strong and that everything is where it should be after such major surgery.

So for now it’s short walks into the yard and back, and lots and lots of cuddles.

We’re all looking forward to him being back to his nimble self.

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Home at My Farm

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“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”Albert Einstein

 

I’m home, at our beautiful farm. The dogs and I have just gone for a ramble to check on the cows, and to see if we could spy the platypus down in the river.

There are branches down everywhere after the tail end of Tropical Cyclone Marcia, and the house is musty and damp after so much rain. But today the sky is full of sunshine, my windows are flung wide, and everything is slowly drying out again.

It’s hard to explain how full my heart feels when I’m here. How the green hills cradle me, and the cry of the black cockatoos comforts me, and the endless birdsong soothes me and strips away my worries.

I’ll make a pot of tea now, and sit down at the kitchen table to do some writing before breakfast. This morning we’re going down to the shed to hunt up some petrified wood from the tonnes of rocks and crystals I have in storage there. And then writing again after lunch.

Not much more perfect than a writing day, crystal time, and then late this afternoon a walk on the beach and fish and chips for dinner!

Hooray for being home. 🙂

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The Return of Bandit

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“Now they return home, their bones bruised and their spirit slightly broken, but they’re still alive, and they will be well sometime soon.”
~ Hannah Nikka Bryan, Soldier’s Descent

 

It’s been blowing a gale all night. The wind chimes have been ringing furiously, and the rustling of the leaves sounds like an orchestra.

Add to this mix the occasional crack of a breaking tree limb, or the thump of something large crashing to the ground. It has been an especially noisy night.

As I sat in meditation in the early hours, I head a new sound. It reminded me of a joke we used to tell at primary school. Q: What goes ninety-nine thump? A: A centipede with a  wooden leg.

Out on the roof I heard step step thump, step step thump. It sounded like a possum with a wooden leg. In fact I was sure it was a possum. This possum was tottering all round our roof in the storm like a drunken sailor on a sinking ship.

When my meditation was done I took a torch and went out to investigate. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Bandit!

Bandit is a big male brush-tailed possum. He used to live in our roof a couple of years ago, and then one day he wasn’t here anymore. We thought that he had either been eaten by Cedric, the twelve foot long carpet python who also lives in our roof (up the other end, over my desk in the front room – Bandit always favoured a spot at the opposite corner of the house, in the kitchen, right above a nice warm downlight!), or he had been killed in a possum fight or taken by a wild dog on one of his nocturnal ramblings.

No! This old soldier lives, and he’s come home to rest his weary bones.

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I chopped up a ripe pear for him and passed it up using the long barbeque tongs. I watched him walk towards me. His right back leg is stiff and clunky. He uses great effort to move it, just like a wooden leg. But if he was wounded, his wounds are long healed. When he’d finished his pear he waddled over to the impossibly small hole under the eave and squeezed himself through. Time for bed!

As I sit here at the kitchen table, typing this in front of the fire, I can hear Bandit in the roof, snuggling down above the pantry. When he scratches himself it sounds like a miniature dog banging away in the ceiling.

I wonder where he’s been and what adventures this old possum has had?

Anyway, I’m glad he’s home!

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Saying hello to Mae West

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“I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway… let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves.” 
~ C. JoyBell C.

 

On my walk this morning I got a rare photo of Violet with her new calf Mae West. Rare – because these two are hardly ever still! (We were going to call this calf Moo West, but have you ever tried yelling ‘Moo’ at a herd of cattle?)

Violet is a great Mum. She is protective of Mae but she doesn’t curb Mae’s natural curiosity or her need to act like a big girl in the herd.

For Mae’s part, she is the most grown-up new calf we’ve ever known. This is a young lady who knows what she wants.

She’s a naughty girl, just like her Mum. Right now her favourite thing is to slip under the fence wires and into my garden where she eats as fast as she can, knowing that Harry and Bert will soon chase her out again. It’s become a big game for all three of them. Yesterday while the dogs were napping in the midday heat she came right up onto the veranda and had a drink of water out of the dog bowl. Cheeky lass!

We totally adore her. 🙂

Violet’s New Baby

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Violet’s new baby calf takes its first steps

“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.” ~ Mae West

One of our cows, Violet, gave birth yesterday morning. But instead of a snowy white calf, she produced a deep burgundy baby with blotches of white all over its head.

Hmmm….

That baby didn’t come from our bull.

Earlier this year, during bad weather, Violet went missing. We drove down to the river looking for her, and when we called we could hear her distinctive moo. We kept yelling and suddenly she appeared on the other side of the very swollen river. Thinking we had some kind of tasty food treat she ran down the hill towards us.

To our horror she launched herself off the edge and into the water, a drop of about six feet. It looked like a very inelegant cow belly flop. The flooded river carried her rapidly downstream and past the bend, where we could no longer see her, but about half an hour later she turned up back in our bottom paddock again, mooing loudly for some hay or molasses.

Naughty Violet!

Three years ago her very first baby, Blackie, was by that same neighbour’s bull. Here’s a picture of them, being watched by another young Murray Grey calf. Can you see the resemblance between Blackie and this new baby?

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Violet’s very first calf, in 2010, was also an unusual colour – black with a white head. Her baby should have looked like the little white one who is looking on.

Violet had only just given birth when I took these latest pictures. The little calf had just stood up for the first time, and been licked clean by mum. Violet is now busy eating the afterbirth.

The calf is a girl. In the final picture she is licking her lips after her very first drink of milk. Cute, huh?

So, we need a name for this new girl too. She’s got a very independent, feisty kind of nature. Incredibly brave and outgoing. Mum kept trying to stash her baby in long grass to keep her safe yesterday, but this little calf ran after the herd all day on her wobbly new legs.

I’m looking forward to spending some time with her today.

If you have any suggestions for a name, let me know!

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Baby, licking her lips after her very first drink of milk!

Uncanny Harry!

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Young Harry, a fine pup!

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.” 
~ Rumi

 

Harry, our young pup, continues to astound and delight us. For those of you who’ve been following his journey, you’ll know that Harry joined our family late last year, after the death of Charlie, our much loved old cattledog.

Right from the first moment, Harry seemed to know who I was.  When I brought him home as a six week old pup (Harry came from the same breeder and the same bloodlines of Charlie dog) he knew his way around the house – where the water bowl was, the bed, the place outside where Charlie used to favour for his toiletries.

There have been many more similarities over the past six months.  But two stand out for me.

An old friend came round recently.  Marlene had known our old dog Charlie very well, and they’d had a special connection.  She would sometimes look after him when we were away, and take him running with her. When Charlie died she rang us in tears.

Our beautiful Charlie Dog

Our beautiful Charlie Dog

Marlene lives interstate right now, and we haven’t seen her for months, but she came to visit last week.

Harry is a naturally friendly pup, but when Marlene came into the house he was beside himself. He wriggled himself into a frenzy.  He jumped up on the couch beside her and wouldn’t leave her alone, licking her and nuzzling her and making ecstatic little squeaks of joy. He had to sit with his paws touching her once he’d finally settled down, all radiant smiles and happiness. We’ve never seen him behave like that for anyone else.  It brought tears to our eyes.

And then last night I was in the kitchen, chopping up pink lady apples to make an apple crumble for dessert. As I finished chopping I felt a paw on my leg.

Pink Lady apples - Charlie's favourite

Pink Lady apples – Charlie’s favourite

“Here you go, Charlie,” I said, handing down the apple core.

It was a ritual we had.  Bert, our other dog, has always loved fruit but Charlie never did.  Except pink lady apple cores. Each time I would cut one up he would sit right at my feet, waiting.  When he couldn’t hear the sound of chopping anymore, he would put his paw on my leg, and I would pass down the core which he would munch on as happily as if it was the finest of bones.

Last night was the first night I’ve used pink ladies last winter. But here was Harry, right beside me, like Charlie always had been, and the moment my knife stopped meeting the cutting board, there was the paw.

It wasn’t Charlie of course, it was young Harry.  And he took the apple core, just like Charlie used to, and went into his ‘cave’ under the table to chomp it up.

There’s a wisdom and an ‘old dog’ energy with Harry.  Everyone comments on it. He’s a real watcher and observer.  Harry’s measured and thoughtful in his actions, as much as he can still run around the yard in play like any demented puppy would.

If ever there was an argument for per reincarnation, Harry is it.

But whatever is happening, or why, we’re just glad he’s part of our family!

And if you’re interested in the topic of reincarnation, you might find this post interesting – it’s not about pets, it’s about people, and it’s quite compelling.

The baby who needed to speak

(this gorgeous image by Michelle Meiklejohn)

(this gorgeous image by Michelle Meiklejohn)