Friday, 28 August 2015

Antipodean spring chaos

Years ago, a farmer friend of mine was lamenting hobby farmers. He said the area was being overtaken by these amateurs with their tiny plots of land, exotic animals (like alpacas and ostriches) and total ignorance as to what they were doing. I thought his rant was funny at the time. It's not so funny now, especially as I've just realized I'm one of those ignorant hobby farmers! (Well, my husband is and I'm guilty by proximity. Or possibly guilty because I turn all of our animals into pets!)
One of last year's babies. We called her Buttercup.
Right now we're dealing with the problems of spring over here in New Zealand. The sheep are lambing. Which, in our case, means the sheep drop a lamb, forget they birthed it and wander off leaving the poor wee thing to bleat frantically. At this point, I generally freak out, stalk up our hill and rescue the abandoned lambs. I then spend weeks getting up every two hours during the night to bottle feed the lamb. As a reward for my sleep deprivation, I get to dress the lambs in pink jumpers and cuddle them continually. As punishment for my soft heart, I get another pet sheep. Or several pet sheep, depending on the year. Pet sheep are different from normal sheep in that they are named, fed treats, allowed in the garden and are never, ever turned into sausages. At this rate our place is going to be overrun by pet sheep. See what I mean about ignorant hobby farmers???

My first ever rescued lamb - Fuzzbucket. This was taken years before I realised she'd grow into a noisy, whining sheep who kicks the door demanding bread and wants to live in the guest room.
That's Fuzzbucket on the left. She brought some of her mates with her to demand sandwiches.
This year we accidentally started breeding chickens. I say accidentally because we didn't realize one of our chickens was a rooster until he'd already done the deed with most of our hens. Because he was cute, and a pet, it took a while to find someone to take him off our hands. Someone we trusted not to turn him into Sunday dinner. Don't get me wrong, chicken is one of my favorite foods, just not when it's called Sparky. Anyway, I was in the garden yesterday when I spotted three little grey chicks following a hen. That's how we discovered we were breeding the things. We'd been wondering where the eggs had gone, turns out there are two hidden nests being kept warm by two grumpy hens. The potential for a whole lot more babies is considerable. This would be exciting, if it wasn't for the fact I now have to monitor the cats to make sure they don't treat the chicken coop as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The white one was the culprit.
On top of all this, the goat is molting. I thought she was sick, she's shedding a tonne of fluff, so I loaded her into the car and took her to the vet. Turns out most people with goats call the vet out to them, rather than putting a lead on the goat before walking her into the vet. After a pricey visit we learned she's losing her winter coat. She seems genuinely irritated by the hair loss, so I've taken to brushing her coat in an attempt to calm her. There's probably a right way to do this. It's probably not the way I'm doing it. I use one of my hairbrushes and I spray her coat with a detangler product before I start. The detangler works great on my kids, so I figured it would work on the goat. She does look less messy now. She also smells like strawberry hair product and has a slight sparkle to her fur.
The goat on her very own chair. The goat lives in my old greenhouse. She gets a snack box every evening.
I'm told that none of this is normal...
As you can see, hobby farmers like me really don't know what they're doing. I should probably do some research into how to take care of things properly. I'll get right on that - after I counsel our alpacas, who I'm sure are traumatized by our overly friendly highland cow. And I really need to email someone about an ad I saw for ostriches looking for a good home...

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