The joys and tears of farming.

I grew up until I went to primary school during WW11 on a farm. And I spent some time there during my primary school years but I could never claim to have been trained in the administrative aspects of farming. I loved dipping sheep and having the occasional pet lamb. I kept the sheep up to the shearers and helped take them to different paddocks. I’d hold them while their tails were docked and the ram lambs were made into wethers but I never learnt about rotating paddocks and my grandfather had many paddocks spread around the district. It was a good way to grow up but I couldn’t say that I was an educated sheep farmer.

Some years ago I bought a bit of land as an investment (I didn’t have much superannuation), with the plan of later subdividing it. This was a reasonable aim as it was gazetted by the local government to be able to be sub-divided as soon as town water was brought to the area. But as the water came the local government decided to stop one small block away from my property and changed the gazetting so that it was no longer able to be subdivided.

When I retired from my chosen profession and returned from missionary type work in Ethiopia we moved to our small 100 acre block and decided to start a small flock of Dorper sheep, to use the land and give us a bit to do. Why Dorpers – because they shed their wool and don’t need to be shorn. They breed about every 8 months and produce many twins and triplets and have high quality meat.

And as you can see in this picture we are getting a good crop of lambs. White, black, spots of brown but they are mainly white. One set of twins have black tips to their noses and black short socks, etc. New life is wonderful! Seeing them playing chasey (or however you spell it!) and frolicking joyously is grand!

BUT….. But there are dingoes (or maybe it was a pack of wild dogs) which killed two ewes and a lamb a couple of weeks ago. So we have been keeping them locked up at night. The neighbour, who had lost many more sheep, put out, with council authority, baits and we have no more losses to canines. But last night a dingo was howling nearby. So we must still be careful. And in one day we lost 4 lambs – two still born and two killed by eagles. Well one of the still born ones was very small and still alive when I let them out in the morning. I initially though it was dead but saw a small flicker of breath, gave it some mouth to nose resuscitation, and brought it home to warm it and try to feed it – but it died a few hours later. The second eagle attack was on a much bigger lamb but there were talon marks near its shoulder which I think had gone into its lung and another deep injury over its hind quarter. Again we brought it home and tried to care for it, but it died shortly afterwards.

The first little one mentioned above. At least she died warm, and cared for. Wasn’t she lovely?

Even the death of a little lamb claws at my emotions. I hate and I cannot understand the abortion industry.

Some may call me a hypocrite as I still am a carnivore. But I insist that animals be killed ‘humanely’. And I shudder with the word humane as I think of abortions and the cruelty of wars and domestic violence and the like.

Dominic Cartier

Surprise problems.

I’ve written before about our sheep. During WWII I, while dad was away at the war, I lived with my mother and brother with our grandparents on a sheep farm. So we often had bottle fed pet lambs which had been orphaned or were neglected by their mothers. So, I’m comfortable with sheep. The soil where we now live is not excellent and the weather is pretty warm, with long, sometimes up to nine months, without rain. 

But we are trying to get a hobby farm with dorper sheep off the ground. The advantages of dorper sheep are that you don’t need to shear them, they lamb twice a year, and they produce good meat.

In some ways we are trying to convert a small property which we bought on the edge of the city hoping to subdivide it, as it was gazetted in the city planning office. But the rules were changed and that is no longer possible.

We planned to have small paddocks to rotate the animals and hopefully allow re-growth if/when it rains. But we now have an extra reason to keep them in small areas. We have to put them into a secure high walled area every night.

Our temporary dingo proof shelter

In the last few days between us and our two neighbours we have lost 27 sheep and 2 goats to dingoes. Bad for all of us but, fortunately for us, we only lost two sheep and our first lamb of the season. Sunday after church we took a trip to Bunnings and bought sheets of 2.4 X 1.2 metre ply wood and now, as a temporary measure, there is a high fence around the yards. Using sheep nuts as bribery our sheep are now putting themselves under lockdown every evening. We’ve had to extend the small lock up for our 8 lambs from last breeding season. It is near our home so is not as extensive or in fact not as dingo proof, but they haven’t come that close.

It is no problems getting the lambs in by rattling a container with sheep nuts in it!

Our other problem animal is the wallaby. There are literally hundreds in the area and they are protected. They dig up the roots of the grass. Annoyingly they prefer green grass, which is around the house where we water. This frustrates the gardening member of our family, my wife.

Some of last night’s holes in our lawn.

I can’t get an exact figure but in my reading I conclude that three wallabies eat about as much as one sheep, so they numerically but not practically increase the size of our flock.

Dominic Cartier

Family life on the farm.

We live on a small farm. My doctor claims that I should move to a suitable place in a city or town and spend my time socializing. Neither my wife nor i like the idea much. Remaining here does depend on having help and we are very thankful that two of our sons still live with us. One, sadly divorced, is our main stay as a carer and runs the farm; one adopted, young, unmarried is a mechanic’s apprentice.

They live downstairs, having enough to be independent but we still have a close relationship as a foursome. My wife and I live upstairs with a sliding elevator for me. My wife still loves gardening (more than house work!) and does the shopping and visits other folk.

I thought that I would show you some of things which make life here interesting!

Our youngest son repairing the diesel injection fuel pump on the old larger tractor. He did a good job!

Our older son is also extremely capable. The bucket on our smaller tractor with years of use was tearing in several places. So with several pieces of steel welded in it is ‘new’ again – at a fraction of the cost of a new one. The plates with holes in them welded onto the bottom are to allow us to attach two forks and use it as a forklift! That works well and is very useful!

We had nine lambs from twelve ewes and as you can see here they are getting almost ready for the butcher. I must confess I am a carnivore but hate killing most things. My hate doesn’t extend to mosquitoes, cockroaches or mice but to kill a lamb is beyond me. Sadly one of our lambs developed paralysis of its back legs, so we now only have eight. We will add the females to the flock (which with recently added numbers from some collected in Aramac is now 27 ewes; the wethers will be butchered and go into the fridge. We should get enough meat for some months at less than half the price if we had to buy it in a supermarket or butcher.

I had a phone call from America last night. This book is already published as an e-book. They want to bring it out as a printed edition. That will mean a lot more work converting it from an e-book production to a word document. They will then edit it and spread the news. Much of the work this end will fall on our son who besides everything else is extremely good with IT. I guess the cover gives away my pseudonym but if you want to buy the e-book look up

http://www.smashwords.com have scalpel will travel or Barry Hicks AM FRACS on your service engine and it will tell you how to get it! Another medical diagnostic book and some other blogs are also mentioned under my name.

So life goes on, not with for me the pace of yesteryear, but still fascinating. I thank God for the measure of health He has given us.

Dominic Cartier

My 101st Heated Stew attempt.

Our small church has two congregations. At 9AM we have a service for mainly older white people, you might label us a ‘dying’ church. But we do have an outreach into India, South Africa and Ethiopia where people from an overseas church which was disrupted have scattered to other places. The outreach is by the internet. Then we have a much younger Indian congregation which meets at about 10.30 for a service and then an all age Sunday School. Once a month we have commenced a combined service with communion. Today was the first such combined service.

You might wonder what a dog staring at a Television set has to do with church services. I’ve written about my dogs before. Sadly they are both dead, euthanized, because they got into my sheep and started killing them. Here is Liesel staring very intently up at a very colourful, very active packed scene. What is she thinking? How is she reacting? I talk to animals, I may be even more stupid as I sometimes talk to myself. They recognize expressions, they respond to moods but I don’t know what they are thinking. I guess when I talk to myself I can tell myself what I’m thinking!

So what has that got to do with church this morning? The Indian adults, although from a different background have been in Australia for long enough to understand our ways of thinking. But I wondered what the kids thought. Their church services are in their own tongue, Malayalam, and this morning was the first time some children have been in an adult English speaking service. The kids’ English is good, but there are real differences in styles of worship.

In the morning tea afterwards I called one of the little kids to talk to me. He was a bit shy and his older brother came to guard him. He’s in grade 1. So I asked him if he could add up. ‘Yes’, he said. I asked him to add up 1+1, then 2+2, then 6+3 and he got them all correct. I saw him counting on his fingers. I knew that kids in grade one don’t deal in thousands so I asked him to add up 6 thousand and 3 thousand. He looked at me with his head on an angle to the side, thought for a moment and said nine thousand. So I asked him if he knew subtraction. The bigger brother said that his little brother hadn’t learnt that yet. So I told him, the older brother, to let his brother try to answer. So I asked 2-1, then 4-2, then 9-6 and he got them all correct. I then asked what if he took 4,000 from 10,000. And sharp as a tack he told me 6,000. For you and me very easy, but I thought for a grade one boy, that was excellent.

I wonder what people think and how much they understand when a church service is going on. The Indian children sat perfectly well behaved – not a noise out of place. But how much did they or any of us hear of the prayers, the songs, the preaching, the communion? I guess it will be told in the way we live our lives this week.

Please note the small skateboard under the table, in the dog picture above. It hasn’t been used for many years. The small boy seen below playing below with two of my grandchildren was run over by a train and lost both legs and an arm. We were allowed to bring him to Australia for medical help but not permitted to adopt him. He used the skateboard and the little ‘do-dad’ in front of him in the picture below to get around. He is now a University student in the USA. We still correspond but I’d love to see him face to face before I die!

He used to love sitting in front of the TV, conducting Andre Rieu as he watched a DVD.

The day I first met him he was about to be discharged to be a beggar on the streets of Ethiopia. I brought him home that evening and it was the beginning of a long friendship. He knew no English, but we had Amharic as a common language. I asked him if he had to get up to pee at night. He said ‘no’. I asked because I knew it would either mean a wet bed or me getting up to carry him to the loo. Then I asked him if he ever woke up screaming at night after the accident. I was surprised and delighted when he replied ‘There is a God in Heaven and I have left it in His hands.’ He was somewhere between 8-10. It was drizzling rain and, on a dirty road, I kept having to use the windscreen wiper and following behind other vehicles when the rain stopped I had to use the water spray jets to clean the window. I tested him when he asked where the water came from. He had never been in a car. I told him that there were two little boys under the hood and I would give them a little electric shock and they would pee for me. I kept a straight face. He looked worried for a moment and then burst out laughing. ‘Now, tell me the truth!’ I knew we would get on well, and we still do.

People can think! It’s what they do with what they’ve learned that counts!

Dominic Cartier.

A Day Out.

My orthopaedic surgeon allows me to take, once every few months, a high dose three day course of prednisolone to allow me to have a pretty pain free couple of days. I use his permission for special events. I used it this week.

In retirement my wife and I live with two of our sons on a small 100 acre (40Hac) property. About 40% of it is taken up with 2 hills steep and covered with my enemy the Chonkee Apple. That leaves us about 60 useful acres. One of my sons is adopted and younger than many of our grandchildren. He is an apprentice mechanic. The other much older has a part time job as pastor of a small church, and makes caring for us and the farm the rest of his job.

So what do we do on the 60 acres? We are developing, I guess you would call it a hobby farm, with Dorper sheep. Initially we bought 12 ewes and a ram. We got 11 lambs, sadly one of which was stillborn and the dogs got at two of them. The dogs have since gone to dogs’ heaven even though we loved them very much. A farmer cannot tolerate that behaviour, and I refused to see them chained up all the time.

So we have 8 lambs nearly ready for market (males) or putting back into the breeding flock (females).

Here the lambs are separated in a small paddock to finish fattening them.

As we separated them from the small flock we counted 8 of them. I think if you try you can count 8 heads. The brown in their ears makes counting a bit difficult. But there were 8. Yesterday there were 9!

Now if you count correctly there are 9!

All our ewes have ear tags. None of these have. The 2 uncastrated ram lambs are easily identified and there are still only 2. So How? I don’t have an answer except maybe our neighbour who has a few now has one less. Something about grass on the other side of the fence being greener! At any rate they are looking in good nic.

But what has that got to do with my use of prednisolone? Nothing! We decided to buy some more ewes. Hopefully by getting a good percentage of ewe lambs we hope to run a breeding stock of about 50. The only place we have been able to get them is a round trip of about 1,200Km. This area around us is a cattle area, so there aren’t many sheep, and not many have dorper sheep. (These don’t need shearing, they shed their wool.) So I, usually limited to small trips and often in a wheelchair these days, wanted to go with my son. Hence the three day course.

This son, whom I think is extraordinarily capable, has built two crates to fit a ute and a trailer plus a ramp

So setting out at about 10 in the morning, we arrived back and by midnight had unloaded the extra 15 ewes and were in bed by midnight. I thoroughly enjoyed the outing.

Sunset on the way home over the long Western Queensland plains. It has been a good season.
The new sheep waiting in the yard the next morning. They are a pretty colourful group.

Now we’ll have to wait and see how many lambs we get. They’re all supposed to be pregnant.

Dominic Cartier.