Elvis update

Elvis is now running with the rest of the little herd full time. He got milk up until about 10 weeks of age, as well as being supplemented with good hay and weaner pellets. He still gets weaner pellets as much as he likes, he can help himself to them. I’ve rigged up the gate into the calf pen so that only he or the other littlies can get in to the pellets, to keep the gobble-guts Dora and Hotblack out.

Mostly he hangs around with the other calves. He is a bit slow moving compared to the rest of them, kind of ambles along, so he is often a ways behind them all! He has given me a few scares by not being with the rest of the herd at first, I spent hours looking for him one day, only to find him sitting in the shade up by the dam, while the rest of the cows were on the opposite side of the farm! The good thing is, if I call him, he normally answers with a Moo, which makes it easier to find him!

He still loves his scratches, he stretches out his head for me to rub under his chin. He also still chews on my hand. And shirt. And anything else he can wrap his chops around.
Still chews my hand

The grass is really drying off now, and soon we will start feeding hay and lucerne silage to the cows again. They do well on the lucerne over summer, without losing condition. They tend to hang about in the creek areas at the moment, as there is still green pick there, won’t be long until it is all dry again though.

The flies are terrible at the moment, there’s a gap in late spring and early summer, between the spring active dung beetles and the summer active ones. When the dung beetles aren’t on the case, the flies build up.   Apparently the Ag department have another dung beetle they are working on releasing to hopefully fill this gap.

I tried to take a photo the other day with the timer on my phone to show how big he is getting!

Elvis and I

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The night before Christmas cake

I love Christmas cake but I am also never organised enough to make it well in advance. Like the name of this one implies, this can be eaten the next day. A week or two soaking in the sherry would be nice though.

This recipe is adapted from the Australian Women’s weekly “Traditional Christmas” booklet.

Line a 22cm round or 20 cm square cake tin with baking paper and several layers of brown paper.
Preheat oven to 140 C or 120 C fan forced.

In a saucepan, combine:

475 g jar fruit mince
750 g dried mixed fruit
125mL sweet sherry (or whisky or rum)

Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, place in a large bowl. Allow to cool 30 minutes.

Stir into the fruit mix:

250gm melted cooled butter
1 cup (200 g) dark brown sugar

Mix til combined, then stir in

4 eggs beaten lightly

mix again, then stir in

2 cups plain flour
1 cup SR flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice

Mix til combined, then spread evenly in tin.

Optional: decorate top of cake with:
blanched whole almonds
whole pecans
macadamias
walnuts

Bake, uncovered, for 3 1/2 hours, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Brush the cake with another:

60mL of sherry, whisky, or rum.

Then cover the hot cake with foil, wrap in a towel, then allow to cool overnight in the tin.

If you are the organised type, this cake can be made three months ahead. Brush with sherry, whisky or rum at fortnightly intervals to keep moist and build flavour.

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Planning a festival.

When we moved to Donnybrook, four years ago, we knew no-one. We both still worked away, so the only people we met were the fertiliser guy, the tractor repair man, the next door neighbour, and the post office people (thanks primarily to my online shopping efforts).

The first year, I saw an ad in the local rag about how the local “Apple Festival” committee was looking for new members. Hubby gave me the evil eye and warned me to give it a couple of years before I got myself onto every committee in town. So I did. Hey, I was still working, it’s not like I had the time anyway. Plus I thought these things would be run by a tight knit group of control freaks people who have been doing it forever and who would not be open to new inputs.

So, fast forward to now, four years on, and I find myself on the aforementioned committee.  Yep, can’t help myself sometimes. Turns out they are very much open to new members and input as half of the committee burned out and are no longer involved. A public forum was held a few months back to get community input on the fate of the festival, and a shout out for new members saw me putting my hand up.

The Apple Festival has been struggling the last few years, it was called the apple festival but in recent times, there’s been not much “apple” content, despite us being the major apple growing region of the state. Only one orchard has been involved at all. If I am completely honest, I think it has been a fairly ho-hum uninspiring sort of an affair, albeit with a couple of highlights. It is definitely ready for reinvigoration.

The district has evolved well past just being about the apple, there are a lot more agricultural products to show off, as well as local artisans. As such the Festival is re-branding next year, to become the Harvest and Arts Festival of Donnybrook. It will be interesting to see and be a part of evolving this festival over the next few years. If I survive this first one.

At the first meeting this year, I managed to get myself landed into the position of Groundsperson, by foolishly opening my trap and mentioning that with my background as a surveyor, making a good map of the festival is something I could contribute. Wham, bam, before I can understand what just happened, I am now put in charge of planning the layout of the whole shebang, you know, what stuff in what zones, how each area relates to it’s neighbours, the main stage, food areas, stalls, sideshow, yada yada yada. Eeep. Oh, and making the map of course.

Anyone got any tips for laying out a festival?

 

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Elvis

Uncomfortably pregnant

Uncomfortably preggers – Butterfly – a delicate name for a hippopotamus shaped cow!

 

This year, sadly, Butterfly’s calf didn’t make it. We think it was born dead or died shortly afterwards.

Butterfly always hides her calf in the bush for a few days to a week after calving. When we saw she had halved in size, but no calf with her, we were not too worried. By the third day of looking for the calf, of patiently stalking her watching to see if she would go and tend to it, I started to get rather worried. Her udder was big, but her udder is always massive in those first few days. So I got her in to milk her (with much drama and a few bruises) to take the pressure off.

The fourth night, I decided to go out with a torch, in the hope I would see the calf’s eyes with the torch. After traipsing around in drizzly rain through wet undergrowth with ten curious cows and one calf following me, for quite some time, I snapped, and yelled to the cows, “Just show me where this calf is already will you lot of hairy-@r$ed bovine buttbrains!”. They all started mooing, and took off, out of the bush, at a run. I followed, jumped on the quad, and whenI caught up to them a couple of hundred metres away, they were standing in a circle, mooing still, around the dead calf. Bless them for understanding me.

The next problem that I then had is one very milky, and no doubt sad, Butters. I got her back into the yards to milk. Now, when we got Butters, it was for her big, lovely udder, and for three years I’ve tried to milk her, with nothing to show for it but bruises. I’ve managed to milk her down one time after each calf, as she seriously overproduces milk, and the poor little wee things can’t keep up with it. So I tried to milk her, and she tried to kick some new bendy points into my arms. Got the job done eventually with some help from Jon, a bucket of carrots and molasses, I swear she had tears of relief running down her face.

I made a couple of calls and managed to source a dairy calf from a local dairy, thinking that if I can’t milk Butters, maybe a calf can. And that if I can milk her, and she rejects the calf, then I might as well feed the milk to the calf (and keep a bit for us).
A big group of friends were all down camping, so I grabbed two of the young lads, Charlie and Riley, and off we went to the dairy to bring home a Fresian Bull.

There’s a lot of negative press around about the oppressed lives of long suffering dairy calves, but I have to say, this was one very slick, smooth, spotless operation. I was more than impressed, and saddened that a few bad operators and a lot of alarmist news stories/posts may ruin the excellent reputation of those who take exceptional care of their animals. Those calf pens were cleaner than my house, absolutely beautifully maintained, clean, dry and sheltered, then turned out onto beautiful green pasture. The dairy guy walked into a pen with three day old calves, and the one that latched on to his finger the quickest, was the one we took. Charlie and Riley were running around all excited checking out all of the calves, they were all so cute.

bella

Bella becomes Elvis’s new Mum, keeping him company, making him feel loved, never letting the little guy get lonely.

I had told all the kids that they could name him, but that they had to agree on a name between them. They came up with Elberto, Maximoo, Patches… and a few more. Then Charlie and Bella’s Nan arrived and suggested Elvis, so Elvis it is. Funnily enough, this little guy has a booming deep voice that matched the name. Our Dexter calves have high pitched soprano bleats that sound like lambs compared to Elvis’ baritone.
When he got there Elvis was a wee skinny little guy, and although a few days younger than the other Dexter calves, he was already twice their size. He took to Butters without issue, and she even let him suckle. I had to put her in the race to do this, then turn her around the other way, but joy of joys it worked.

baby2

Elvis slept alot in those first few days

skinnyboy

Skinny little guy

Then the little fella got scours. The shits. Really bad. Turns out, that as Butterfly had some pretty bad mastitis, I had resorted to antibiotics from the vet. Forgot to mention withholding milk from calves. So, Elvis went onto some anti-scour mix, got probiotics to help his tummy bacteria recover, and I started hand milking Butterfly. Well what do you know, the cranky, kicky, un-milkable cow stood there for me, meek as a lamb, and let me milk her as if she’d done it her whole life. I nearly fainted with shock. I had to keep throwing the milk as it was still in withholding for the antibiotics, but once it was doubly outside the withholding period over, we started drinking it and feeding it back to the little guy.

milky chops

Milkychops

Clever me thought, yeehaa, she is letting me milk her, I’m getting a milking machine!! So I ordered it off the net. And it came. And I set it up, got it running, and went in all full of beans to milk her with it. She kicked me so hard and fast I nearly landed in to the middle of next week. I didn’t even see the kick coming, she has ninja like reflexes the old girl. OK, so that plan was not going to work so easy. I kept hand milking her, but with the machine running nearby, to get her used to the noise. This went OK, for a few days, then I tried to put her back on the machine. More bruises. More handmilking with machine running. Rinse, repeat. More bruises. In the end, I just gave up and continued to hand milk twice a day. Machine sits in shed. As it probably will until we build a house out thre and I can realistically milk a cow or two. I did milk Dora and Hotblack with it just to see if I could, and once we sorted a problem with a seal, no worries, they did not mind at all.

I quite enjoy the hand milking, just not the regularity of it.

By now I am milking a few litres morning and night, feeding most of it to Elvis, and he had gotten a lot bigger, and fatter, and more enthusiastic about life. And his scours went away. Butterfly had started licking his head, as I kept finding him with damp patches and a cowlick, and I knew she had accepted him. One day I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye, and looked up to see Butters rubbing her head up and down on a tree, and Elvis doing the same on a stump next to it, copying her. They then pranced around, kicking and jumping, dancing in a circle with each other, playing like puppies.

4weeks

Put on a lot of weight in a few weeks

I tried to put Elvis back on Butters, but even though they were now ‘friends’ she kept bludgeoning him off, and with only a few more weeks of milking to go before weaning him, I kept at it. Loving not having to buy milk too!

elvis on the ramp

Elvis discovers he can walk up the ramp

Butterfly however was not liking being held in the yards – despite an abundance of grass and carrots and oats for breakfast and tea, and started getting out. Jumping the fence. Granted, it’s not the the best fence around.

Pegged her back to once a day milking when Elvis was seven weeks old, and now we are down to every third day. Two days ago I let Elvis and Butters out of the yards, and Elvis did the funniest dance, and went straight off running down into the creek, but running in circles. He was so funny, this lumbering, leggy big baby, dancing around like a spring chicken. Tomorrow I have to go and bring them back in for another milking. I was keeping Elvis topped up on weaner pellets, but he prefers the hay and the grass. He still Moooooos for his milk though.

mumma and boy

Mother and adopted son in the yards.

 

The other cows picked on him a bit initially, but they seem settled in now. I look forward to when he towers over them all and gives back a little bit of what he copped from Dora, the meany Alpha cow!
I will miss my cuddles and face rubs with Elvis but he has a new bovine family to take care of him.

elvis noms my hand

Elvis munches on my hand. Also like to munch my shirt. And hair.

 

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Garlic 101 – part 1

There are thousands of known varieties of garlic in the world. In Australia we have relatively only a few. Garlic comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and strengths and variations of flavour. Sadly, here it is widely known as only white, purple, australian, or chinese, mexican, argentinian, etc!

There are some people who hold the belief that white garlic is bleached, and therefore bad.  While this may be true for some imported garlic (I really do not know the truth of this) it is not true for Australian grown garlic. There are many many natural varieties of white garlic, including the magnificent Printanor (pictured below) so please, no garlic discrimination based on colour!

Printanor

The large white variety – Printanor

 

Imported garlic is fumigated with methyl bromide, as is a lot of other imported produce, and some products packaged for domestic consmption, such as rice. Methyl Bromide is an ozone depleting substance, and is also terrible for human health. Its use is banned in the EU, but still used here in Australia for quarantine purposes. After being used as a fumigant, it readily dissipates into the atmosphere – a good thing for anyone eating the food that has been fumigated with it, but not a good thing for the ozone layer. Currently around 300 tonnes of it is used per year for quarantine purposes according to the Australian Department of Environment.

So buy local garlic when you can, grow some yourself if you have the space! Better for you, and for the ozone layer.

Printanor (left) and Rojo de Castro (right)

 

The distinct odour of garlic is a result of various sulphur compounds. The sulphurous compound particular to garlic that gives it antibacterial properties is known as allicin. Allicin is only present in crushed garlic, not in whole garlic. Alliin is the precursor to allicin, and when garlic is crushed, the alliin is converted to allicin by the enzyme alliinase. It is only after this change that garlic gains its antibiotic and other therapeutic properties associated with the allicin. Cooking destroys allicin, so for maximum therapeutic benefit, garlic is best eaten raw, crushed or chopped, and with minimal heat treatment. Cooked garlic however also includes other compounds that have a range of therapeutic effects, including reduction of blood pressure, anticancer properties, and immune system effects. In short, for therapeutic benefits, garlic is better eaten crushed or chopped than whole, better raw than cooked. For culinary purposes – use it however you please!

Garlic belongs in the Allium family. There are seven alliums that are cultivated for food:

Allium ampeloprasum, which includes leeks, and elephant (or giant) garlic
Allium cepa, the common onion, potato onion and shallots
Allium chinense, rakkyo
Allium fistulosum, the Japanese bunching or Welsh onion
Allium sativum, true garlic
Allium schoenoprasum, chives, and
Allium tuberosum, garlic chives.

elephant

‘Elephant Garlic’ – Allium Ampeloprasum – not really a garlic, but a majestic looking plant.

You may have noticed from that list that ‘Elephant garlic’ is not a true garlic. It resembles garlic in form, and it also contains the compound alliin. The plant grows much larger, and it produces large bulbs of four or five large cloves, with a mild garlic flavour, but it is genetically different from garlic. As its common name includes the word garlic, it is easy to see why most people would think that it is a garlic. It does have a bit of a garlic-like taste, but for many fans of garlic, myself included, it is a poor imitation.

Generally it is accepted that there is only one species of true garlic, Allium sativum.  The classification of garlic below the species level gets rather complicated, and I won’t delve too far into that here. Garlics can be classified as either bolting (hardneck) or non-bolting (softneck) varieties. The hardnecks produce a scape,  which is a long, tall round central stalk with a flower-like spathe that forms on the end. The softneck garlics usually do not produce a scape, but may do under certain conditions.
Hardnecks include the porcelain & rocambole groups, and a few others including purple strip, artichoke, marbled purple stripe and asiatics.
Softnecks include the creole, silverskin, and turban groups.

The spathe is a flower like structure, but not actually a flower. It bursts open to reveal a cluster of bulbils, which are like tiny, miniature bulbs, and are not a true seed. Garlic can be grown from bulbils, however it will take two to three years to form a fully differentiated bulb. Growing from bulbils is a good way to refresh planting stock, as many diseases cannot be transferred this way as they can by planting cloves.

The term ‘seed garlic’ is common, and usually refers to garlic cloves for propagation. True garlic seed can be obtained, but the process is laborious. First the bulbils must be painstakingly removed to allow the flowers to develop. Then after pollination, the seed can be collected. There are a lot of dedicated people around the world working on growing garlic from true garlic seed (TGS). The beauty of this is that as it is not clonally propagated, you could end up with a wonderful new, genetically distinct variety of garlic. I hope to have time to work on this one day.

Garlic is usually planted in autumn, and harvested in early summer or late spring. There are some varieties that can be planted later, up to late winter, and some growers, particularly in southern areas such as Tassie, plant as early as February or March. I am to plant around Anzac day, or as soon as we get the season break – the first decent rain. There is a common saying that one should plant garlic on the shortest day of the year, and harvest on the longest. Ignore it. I am not sure where this comes from, but I do not find it helpful for our seasons. I believe it is true of shallots however.

To plant garlic, carefully break open a bulb and separate the individual cloves. Plant them at 10 – 20cms between the plants, in rows 20 – 40 cms apart.   This year we have sown our garlic at 12 cm x 30 cms, and this works for us for ease of weeding and irrigation.

planting out

planting out

Garlic needs to be kept moist, but not wet, throughout the growing season. It doesn’t like boggy wet ground.  It needs sun on its leaves in order to form good sized bulbs, so plant it where it will get plenty, 6 hours a day or more. It doesn’t like weed competition, especially taller weeds that will partly shade the leaves.

It’s not a high nutrient demanding crop, but give it a little complete fertiliser throughout the season, and a bit of potash in spring to encourage bulbing.  I give mine a few handfuls of Eco Growth NPK and composted manure at planting, 5 foliar feeds of Nutritech triple ten, a fortnight apart in the spring growth flush, with one feed of a liquid Calcium/Boron, and a bit of Potash in mid spring. Then I leave them well alone until harvest.

Most garlic is cold tolerant – indeed, in Australian level of cold conditions anyway, and some varieties need a period of cold in order to successfully bulb.  In choosing what garlic to plant, you are best off obtaining planting stock from a grower near you, that way you will be getting a garlic that should do well in your local conditions.

In late spring, the leaves will start to die back, starting from the lower leaves. When this happens, restrict watering or cut it altogether if the soil is moist. When about half of the leaves have died off, then have a little dig down along side a plant to see if you have nice swollen bulbs. If you do – then it’s time to harvest, if not, then leave them a little longer. Keep checking, garlic tends to put on a lot of size in a very short amount of time. I am digging to check out my garlic all throughout the last few months of the season.

Once harvested, bundled them and hang them, bulbs down, in a shaded, airy place to cure for a few weeks. Then slough off the dried outer skin, trim off the roots and the leaves if you desire, and store in a cool dark place. Garlic should not be stored in the refrigerator. We simply store them in cardboard boxes, not too deep with bulbs, in our ‘back room’, at room temperature, even in the heat of summer.

Garlic hanging to dry

Garlic hanging to dry

Early variety

Early variety – Italian Red

impromptu rack

Impromptu garlic drying rack

 

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The cows – Hotblack

Hotblack Desiato was born in July 2012. She was such a sweet, tiny little calf. Dora is her dam (mother) and Dougall her sire (father). In comparison to G-Zeus, she was up and on her feet, out munching grass with the rest of the herd very quickly, about day three! G-Zeus layed around in the shrub where Mum hid him for at least a week. We were so pleased to see that she is polled, taking after her father. The poll gene is dominant, so a calf only needs to inherit one polled gene from either parent to display the polled characteristic. The genetics with cattle, particularly dexters, especially fascinates me, and I will write more about this in depth, later.

IMAG0116

G-Zeus gets a little sis to play with, Hotblack.

I halter trained her from a young age, she is a very friendly and easily handled cow now.

Hotblack, while still quite young, one day started nodding her head up and down vigorously when I was near her. She kept doing this, and I reached out to touch her head. Ah-ha. She wanted a scratch. She loves scratches on her brow, behind her ears, and around the back of her head. Apparently it is a little unusual for a cow to like their head being touched. When you reach out a hand to her head, if she is up to it, she vigorously nods her head, yes please, scratch me!

Hey, you with the camera, put that thing down and give me a scratch!

Hey, you with the camera, put that thing down and give me a scratch!

Taking after hre mother she is quite a small cow. Just after Christmas 2012, I noticed Dougall paying attention to her as if she was in season. I was unaware that a heifer that young could be ready to procreate, I thought they were pretty right until about 8 or 9 months… not so with dexters apparently! I took action, separating her from the bull – and each day twice a day had to let Dora in to join her as HB was still suckling from Dora. After three days had passed, it was safe to let her back out again. Three weeks later with her coming back into estrus I separated her again, but alas, as it turns out, I was too late. She was pregant, at seven months of age. As I talked about in this post, we let her go through with the pregnancy, trusting nature to get it right.

Totally not please with this separation business!

Totally not pleased with this separation business!

HB had a lovely little bull calf, John Boy, the story of his arrival I told in the aforementioned post. At that time we planned to call him Jose, we later decided on John-boy instead. John-boy is also polled, and he’s a cute little fellow.

IMAG1102

HB has been well handled since she was small, and even after her first calf she did not object at all to being milked. She’s a sweetheart, and possibly, if I had a favourite, it would be her.

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The cows – Dora

We bought Millview Dora Belle two years ago to expand out little herd of three. Dora is a lot shorter, and finer structured than the others. She’s really quite tiny, but is a ‘long legged’ dexter, not a short (I will explain later in another post). She is a de-horned black dexter.

Dora Belle

Dora Belle

When Dora came to us she was pregnant, to Dougall, and she had a heifer calf, who we named Hotblack. She is HB for short. With dexters, each year the calves born in that year are named with a designated letter of the alphabet, which increments every year. G-Zeus was born the year before HB, in the “G” year. Hotblack was born in the “H” year. This year was a “J” year, as the letters “I” and “O” are skipped for some reason. The good thing with this is you can tell the age of a cow by it’s name, simply count up the number of letters from their name to the current naming year. As 2014 is the “K” year, and you skip “I”, that will make Dora seven years old this year.

Dora and Jacaranda

Dora and Jacaranda

Dora challenges Butterfly for Alpha cow, despite her small stature, she will take her on. She is quicker on her feet than Butterfly too, and beats her to the yellow feed buckets.  They used to race for them, but now I think Butters has given up. Dora is a good mother too – indeed they all are really. This year she had another heifer calf, whom we named Jacaranda. Like her older sister HB, Jackie is very friendly and inquisitive. If this is a trait they have inherited from her Dora, then it is one we are pleased to have in the herd.

Dora does not object at all to being milked, but has tiny wee little teats, making it difficult. I do have a small milking machine of sorts, but I think I need to get goat sized cups for it for the smaller cows! If I want to bring any of them in to milk, I have to try and get Dora out of the way, as she will race to the head bale in the knowledge that there will be a bucket with a treat in it for her.

 

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