I was pretty lucky today to get out of the house and take a trip along the Otago coastline to the Catlins. There is an iconic lighthouse on a spot called Nugget Point. Below were fur seals and possibly a penguin or two. The scenery was incredible and I just kept saying, “Wow” over and over. The sea was a beautiful blue and the sun came out just in time to snap some pictures.
We went on to Cannibal Bay (named for the human remains found there by a surveyor once). We spotted a sleepy sea lion all by himself, some birds and even a lady bug on the beach.
Then some cool windswept trees with cows wondering who we were!
It was a cold day, rain looked imminent across the sky and the wind was blowing from the south (which down here means the Antarctic). The sun peeked out for a while and we were on our way to go help a cow give birth. I was warned beforehand things could go wrong. Terribly wrong, for mother and calf. I knew that before being told, but decided I might regret not going and I also wanted to photograph whatever happened.
We found every cow except the one we wanted to. I think they were just about to give up when Rosa located her. With some strategic ATV and truck driving, they managed to get her into a pen. I could see two feet sticking out of her, not knowing if the calf was dead or alive. They wrangled her into a holding chute so she couldn’t move and wrapped a rope around the calf’s feet. Rosa tied the rope off about 4 feet from where Bill stood behind the cow. He stepped on the rope to try and pull the calf out, but it still wouldn’t come. More tightening of the rope and more pulling got the calf out half way, tongue sticking out looking as if it was choking. I noticed the calf was still breathing, but he didn’t look strong or hopeful.
Bill rushed to the ATV…they would have to tie the rope to the back and pull it out all of the way. He ran off, stating there wasn’t much time…it might die. He backed into the pen, Rosa tied the rope to the hitch and he slowly pulled up. The calf came sliding out as the mother let out painful cries. The calf lay there on the cold concrete not moving, but at least its eyes were open. It was still breathing, but not fast (and what do I know, maybe they don’t breathe fast). They dragged him out onto the grass and we all got out of the way as the mother was let out of the holding chute. She stumbled, literally weak in the knees, around the pen. She almost seemed paralyzed a bit and I thought she would fall on the calf. Eventually she righted herself and started taking an interest in the cold, wet baby lying there helplessly.
Rosa turned to me and said, “You realize they both would have died had we not intervened.” I shook my head in acknowledgement. Just another day at the office for these amazing folks. Apparently I stayed more quiet than usual, not really knowing what to say. It was a wonderful experience and I’m glad that I was there to witness it. We would leave them there and check on them again in the morning to see how they both fared.
The next day, it was cold and rainy. Bill and I went back to check on them and the track was very slippery and muddy. At one point he mentioned that had he known it was that bad, he wouldn’t have taken the truck. It felt like we were driving on ice, and seeing how steep the ravine was with nothing to hold us from going over it, added a little excitement to my morning. “Ahhhh, danejah!” I said in a New Zealand accent, and we both laughed. The great little 4WD Toyota did its job and we got to them in one piece. I noticed the mother still standing and luckily the calf was alive and sitting down.
Bill went over to him and smacked him on the sides of the stomach to get him to stand. He wouldn’t do it. He tried again, and nothing. He pulled him up by the tail and the ear and finally he started to walk around. Looking better than he did yesterday, it was a good sign that they both seemed well. He let them out into the paddock to face the cold day ahead.
It’s lambing and calving time here. The dairy cows have been birthing for the past week or so, with a new calf almost daily, it seems. They are mighty cute…one has a little heart shaped white spot on its forehead. They’re soft and perfect, with the shiniest little hooves I’ve ever seen. They like to sleep in the sun and their dark hair absorbs the heat as they snooze silently, without a care in the world.
The calves can, however, pick up something called the scours from the ground by sleeping on it too much. It can end up killing them if you’re not careful. I really don’t want that to happen while I’m here, but Rosa tells me that she sees the signs of it on a couple so far. I’ve gotten some insight into the mass cow production that takes place in the ‘real world’. She told me that calves are taken away from their mothers a day or two after birth just so people can have milk to drink. The little ones then go to ‘the works’ so they can be processed for veal. Sigh….
The sheep are heavy in lamb, as they say around here. Some have had their babies already and others have simply not made it through to birthing. I mentioned before about sheep being cast (fallen or laid down and can’t get up again) and I came across my first few the other day. When I went to look for a new calf in the paddock, I cut through where some sheep were grazing. I saw the calf, then turned to walk back home. I passed a large rock outcropping and there she was…a pregnant sheep on her side, legs sticking out and missing her eyes. The gulls got to her and it was exactly as I had thought it would be from Rosa’s description. Sad, horrifying and depressing. I went around every rock to make sure no others were awaiting the same fate. I didn’t see any that were cast and alive, but I did see the remains of a couple that had been dead for a while.
Today, we went to muster up some other sheep to give them vaccinations. We had to separate the babies from the mob and somehow also find their mothers to keep them nearby. As we were moving them up the track, we saw a baby with a female, but I was told it probably wasn’t its mother. The sheep had fallen over and was too heavy and weak to make the walk, so she was put on the back of the ATV and I got to hold the lamb in the truck. Lambs are hard to catch and when we can’t, a dog goes after them instead, tackling it to the ground and being a little too rough for my taste. That’s what happened with this one. The dog chased it, grabbed it by its neck and pinned it down. The lamb screamed out and I felt the need to be ‘mom’ for a while and comfort it. Bill went over to retrieve it and I asked if I could hold onto it. It was the most darling thing. Soft little chin, fluffy coat and eyes that were barely open. I noticed a little blood in its mouth, surely from the rough up it got minutes before. My hand cupped around the tiny rib cage and her heart was beating so fast, I couldn’t even keep count.
Once we got the sheep to the paddock and a few females in with their babies, I was told to let the little one go to see if it could find mom. The poor little thing walked up and down the fence line, yelling out just waiting to be found. No mom came. Rosa thought that maybe it didn’t have a mom or else they were separated when we were drafting them out. The decision was made to put the lamb back around where we found it and wish for the best. Hopefully it did have a mom and it will live a long, healthy life.
As we brought the other mob back home and crested a hill, we saw about 50 goats in the turnip patch. Rosa was not happy. Goats are a pest here and I often hear of Bill and the boys going out goat hunting. The goats sort of herded themselves in with the sheep and ended up in the yard, behind closed fences. We had to vaccinate all of those sheep and trying to keep the goats out of the way was a challenge. Rosa managed to put a bunch into the sheep shed but some stayed in the mob. One in particular got spooked and ran fast toward a gate at the end of the paddock. It looked as if it thought it could ram right through it, but instead it broke its neck and couldn’t move after hitting the ground. “He just buggered himself,” Rosa said. I walked up to it, already knowing its fate. It was still alive, looking at me from an unnatural angle. I saw Rosa walking to the truck and I knew what was coming. For some reason, I expected to see her walking back with a gun, but as I passed her, it was a knife she had. I didn’t want to be around but was still within ear shot as I heard the goat cry out with its last breath and then it went silent.
The future of the other goats in the shed isn’t likely positive either. There are too many goats, hogs, rabbits and hares around here for the farmers’ taste. They take food from their stock and are seen as pests. They’ve told me that the hogs will eat baby lambs during the night. One year, they took so many that they had to do a massive hunt to try and curb their population. They had to just shoot them on sight and leave them there. It’s not as bad now, but it’s a loss they have to factor in unfortunately. I can’t imagine how horrified a little lamb would be, but again, it’s life on the farm. One would like to think that nothing bad ever happens, but nature isn’t that kind.
In keeping with tradition, I’d like to rehash prices of stuff in the store here. I may never again complain about prices in Central America. I took some pictures of the local flyer for the grocery stores here since a picture is way more interesting. Some things that weren’t in there though (and for really good reason) I’ll just have to write about. Keep in mind a kilo = 2.2 pounds and that the NZ dollar hovers around .85 to $1 USD. I’ll quote in NZD below. It’s still hard to swallow, regardless:
1 kilo of tomatoes $24.00
1 red or green bell pepper $3.99 (ad below is a sale price)
1 cucumber $3.99
1 kilo of chili peppers $49.99
Cheapest bottle of wine $8.99
4 bagels $5.00
My newest favorite food in the world: Creamed Clover Honey.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention about the price of internet. Being out here, I have a USB stick with a sim card in it to connect. Are you sitting down? My surfing has been severely limited as never before. At least I can say it’s not dial up speed like it was in Puerto Viejo. I am paying $30 per GIGABYTE. Hardly doing anything per day is adding up to at least 40-50MB. I blew through my first gig in about 10 days. So I’m only doing what I have to…I have no idea what’s going on in the world which is fine by me. I check email, process orders, pay my credit card bill and sometimes check my investments. I upload photos to the blog on a free connection in Dunedin. I’ve completely taken internet for granted until now. I did find a new plan that will give me 500MB for free each time I top up but the cheapest I can buy is $20 (for 500MB) so we’ll see how that works for me.
I was put in charge of planting the first batch of veggies: lettuce, broccoli, squash, onions, cauliflower, pumpkin and cabbage. The little kids started popping up a few days later after sitting in a sunny window!
I sat outside and the black cat, who can find joy in playing with a clump of dirt, was out there with me. I decided to entertain him so I plucked out what appeared to be a weed and swatted it around for him to catch. Upon closer inspection, the leaves were tiny hearts! I felt kind of bad after that, but figured I should take a picture since they were so darn cute!
I was thumbing through the mail and there was a newsletter of sorts for Middlemarch. I saw this blurb in there which was too funny to not include here. What are the odds that this would happen in a major city in the U.S.? I’m sure the police would not find it amusing.
There’s an old house on the property here which was built by a man for his wife in the late 1800’s. Allegedly he came from England and to farm here. He lived in a cave nearby for over a year while this house was being built. I’ve tried to go in the house but it looks a bit rickety and I can’t actually get the door open all the way. I caught the sunset in the window one night and thought it looked cool.
It was Father’s Day here this past weekend and we all had a nice lunch. Kate made a Pavolva which I had never had before. It is a meringue type cake with a nice crunchy outside and soft lower layer. It looked really huge but it was so light, it practically flew off the table.
Bill got a lot of nice presents and I framed the photo I took of him and his dog one day out in the paddocks.