Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Preg Testing

I have watched many an episode of 'The Farmer Wants A Wife' and rolled my eyes whenever those poor girls were subject to a preg testing adventure. In all my years out here, CP has never encouraged me to have a go at doing this, and I suppose it used to irk me that it's not a legitimate example of how the poor girls would spend their days on the farm anyway. I mean if I have thus far avoided it, it doesn't have to be that common practise!

If you don't know what preg testing is, then just imagine putting your ARM inside the rear of a cow and trying to feel for a calf. Unless you are from a rural or farming background or are a vet, the thought of doing this is completely UNAPPEALING.

But this year I decided I needed to suck it up. If I want to make sweeping comments about something, it's best to do it with a little experience under my belt. And so I put in a polite phone call to our local vet and asked if it would be okay if I 'had a go'. After the laughing stopped, she agreed that it should be fine. And then I started to feel like maybe I didn't really want to do it, and spent the next few days psyching myself up to it again.

Here's how the day went.

Libby (the vet) had told me to wear dark colours or old clothes because apparently cow manure is very difficult to remove from your clothing. Nice. So I dug into the deep, dark recesses of my wardrobe to locate an old pair of jeans and my RB Sellers farm shirt. I decided that today was definitely a 'hair up' kind of day, and then opted against makeup. I didn't think that the cows would care either way how my face looked. I removed my wedding rings. (Even with the protection of gloves, I wasn't planning on losing my diamonds inside the rear of any living animal. So they stayed at home.)

I had arranged for my friend and neighbour, Leesa, to come and be my photographer for the day. I wasn't planning on weilding a camera whilst inserting my arm into some cows nether regions. CP was more concerned about me getting in the way, so he wasn't volunteering to take photos either.

Me, Libby (Vet) and CP

When Libby arrived with all of her gear, she explained that preg testing has evolved now so that a little ultra sound device is becoming the new (less invasive and less physically taxing) method of discovering if a beast is 'in calf' or 'empty'. This new method involves a phallic looking object which is inserted into a beast and then takes an ultrasound picture.

Phallic object/ultrasound device

She also explained that in cows who were more heavily in calf, it was generally still easier to do it the old fashioned way. Here's how it generally works. Cattle are guided through a series of pens leading to a type of 'race' where they wait their turn. Then they are moved, one at a time into the 'crush'. (It sounds worse than it really is.) Essentially, the crush is just a type of 'cage' to hold the beast in place so that they can be more closely assessed or whatever it is you need to do with them at the time. Today it was to see if they were pregnant or not. This is the crush...

Sadly for CP (who was on crush duty today), the crush was a little difficult. This often results in a few 'F' bombs being thrown around. Luckily for CP, what happens in the yards stays in the yards, and we all kiss and make up in time for smoko anyway. Things were progressing at a steady pace in any event.

After watching for a period of time, I suited up...

And following Libby's careful instructions, I lubed up...

And then I did as I was told and gently inserted my hand...

Ahhhh, I mean ARM...

And then as soon as I felt the leg of the unborn calf I had my hand out of there faster than lightning! It was exciting, terrifying and interesting. But once I had done it, I was out of there. I didn't want to slow down the day and do anything wrong, so I left the professionals to it.

And after I'd had my moment of glory as a 'real farmer's wife' (just like in the show...) I was sent back to a job where I couldn't get in the way. A job that CP assured me was both important, and more suited to me...

So there I stood for the remainder of the morning. Opening and closing that gate. Knowing that I was doing a good job. And not getting in the way.

Preg testing is a physically challenging job that really does require considerable knowledge and experience to do successfully. I take my hat off to anyone who has to do this job seriously. I had my bit of fun, but could never contemplate doing this seriously. Furthermore, today made me realise that in order to be a farmer's wife, you don't actually already have to be a farmer yourself (or a vet, or anything really - even though it probably helps). I am definitely more suited to teaching, and all the other things it is that I do, and so I'm not going to be in a huge rush to get out and do it again... (Mind you, I WAS pretty good on that gate).

Thanks again to Libby for your patience, and Leesa for taking photos... and CP for not totally losing your cool with me in the yards. x

Friday, July 27, 2012

Meet "Bessie At Burragan"...

'Bessie at Burragan' is hilarious! Make sure you pop over to her blog and check her out! In her own words, she's a journalist and a farmer's-wife-to-be living and working on a sheep property in far-western NSW. Their place, "Burragan", is 110km from the nearest town, 200km from the nearest grocery store, and 300km from the nearest major centre - Broken Hill. When she's not out in the paddock helping with sheep work, she likes to write, keep up with global issues, and uncover the strange secrets of our beautiful bush landscape.

She has blogged about 21 things she didn't realise about living in the bush, until she lived out bush. It's funny, it's insightful, and it's SO TRUE! If you want to see how life out 'here' can really be... please pop over and see what else she has to say... but here is a copy of what she has written here anyway...

Taken Straight From Bessie's Blog...

21 things I didn’t realise about living out bush, until I lived out bush… 1. The weather is more than just a mundane conversation topic; it’s a living entity, and also the boss.
2. Mobile phone reception is not a right, it’s a privilege.
3. Chocolate: I know I’ve mentioned this before, and I don’t want to harp on, but as I woman I feel it should be brought to the attention of females around the world that chocolate, a life essential, is not readily available in the middle of no-where. One must purchase chocolate in large supplies before heading out bush, or risk certain death.
4. Mail only comes twice a week, and not at all if it’s raining.
5. Grocery items, plants, alcohol, gas bottles, motorbikes and assorted mechanical parts can all be ordered through the mail and delivered to the mailbox. Mailboxes are generally the size of a 44 gallon drum. Our mail box is 15km from the house.
6. Fuel is bought in the thousands of litres instead of tens of litres… and yes, we have our own fuel bowsers!
7. There’s no such thing as the weekend, or business hours.
8. The world consists of only two types of cars: Toyotas and motorcars.
9. Number 1s and Number2s don’t just disappear into the ether for someone else to deal with once you flush. And if something goes wrong, then sometimes you really are, literally, in the shit.
10. Medical receptionists, accountants and government employees will never understand the inconvenience of driving 300+km for an appointment that is rescheduled or cancelled. Pharmacists and optometrists, on the other hand, will post almost anything to you!
11. Border Collies and Kelpies are actually one quarter human… and can understand (but not speak) English.
12. Reading a book on an afternoon off is not considered a valid use of time. (Nor is having an afternoon off.)
13. A 90 kilometre return trip is not too far to drive to get a roadhouse burger and chips (or a proper espresso coffee) for dinner when you really can’t be bothered cooking.
14. You can never have too much toilet paper. Always have backup for your backup, and backup for that backup.
15. Same with wine. And batteries. And matches. And chocolate.
16. Smoko is the main, most important, and most enjoyable, meal of the day.
17. A Leatherman is a magical implement, kind of like a lightsaber, which can be used to complete any task from digging splinters out of your hand, fixing fences, fixing engines, “disposing” of feral animals and cutting your cake at smoko. In order to retain its special powers, the Leatherman must not be washed between tasks.
18. Fencing, shearing, crutching, spraying and marking are all nouns, not verbs.
19. Plumbers are not always necessary to get a job done right. Electricians are. And they live far away, and charge a per kilometre rate to visit you.
20. There is no garbage truck. Everyone has their own rubbish dumps… so you actually have to load your rubbish into the Toyota, drive it to your dump, and dispose appropriately.
21. 4.30am is actually the morning of a new day, not just the end of a big night.

I couldn't have said it better myself! x

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Everybody Needs Good Neighbours.."

My neighbours have been known to tell me that my washing has been on the line for too long, and then take it off and even bring it inside for me. They have also been known to keep my husband away from our house at length. I worry about them seeing how dirty my verandah can be, or hearing me shout, or my kids fight. I don't like them to see how often I cook 'banged up meals'. In the past they have commented on how inappropriate my clothes are for the climate, and they even tell me that I go out a lot.

My neighbours will also happily take my children for whole days at a time. They give up their time to enable me to have a social life. I can't work unless my neighbours take my children for me. They have been known to cook meals and send them over when I am tired or sick or busy. They help me clean my yard and verandah, and they lend me food items when I am short. They are there to help me when I am feeling 'off'. They never complain about all the things I do to complicate their lives.

My neighbours are also my in-laws. They are genuinely nice people who make my life easier. They live about 70m away.
My house on the left - in-laws house on the right.

It hasn't always been so wonderful, and more and more I hear about people living in similar situations who struggle with it. I wanted to be able to talk about this without pointing fingers. I wanted to let people know that they are not alone.

In our case, there were several years of adjustments that needed to happen. I cried a lot! By nature I am something of a control freak, and I think the idea of having 'parents' who knew about every aspect of my life, was a little overwhelming at times. In fact, it took until after the birth of all three children for me to truly appreciate what a blessing it can be having your parents in law live next door!

The 'in-law' relationship is perhaps one of the most difficult relationships you will ever have. In my case, I am nothing like my in-laws at all! I could write a really long blog about all the negatives that come with living next to any parents at all. At times it feels like there are four of us in our marriage. Having said that though, living where we do has been full of more positives across the years. Perhaps having children was the catalyst for helping me understand how much I need those extra people in my life? Without child care freely available out here, I am dependant on my in laws to help with minding the children. I'd like to know how many neighbours would go to the lengths that mine have to give me some help, peace of mind and respite when I needed it.

There have been tears, laughter and everythig in between across the years.

Any situation is only going to be as good or as bad as you make it. It's taken me having to learn when to speak, and when to stay silent. It's taken me learning more patience. It's taken me realising that they aren't always against me, and that they actually want to help - even though they help in ways I don't often appreciate or understand. It's taken me learning when to ask for help and when to say 'that's enough'. It's taken me years of learning how to communicate, to be able to love what I have here.

I can honestly say that I love my neighbours. Even through the good, the bad and the ugly. And we've been through most of it!

PS. For the record, I also have some other awesome neighbours too - thanks Leesa! - but they didn't crack the in-law category!

How do you go with your neighbours? Or do you live near your own parents or in-laws? And how do you fare?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Men, Women, and Directions

Taking and following directions whilst driving is a real problem in our household.

When we are in the car together, CP and I are a formidable team. I am an ace when it comes to giving directions, reading maps and following instructions (slash, giving instructions). Ie. I am bossy. CP is more comfortable at the driving side of things, and is a better listener when we are in the car. Ie. He knows better than to argue with me.

CP prefers country driving. He considers himself both a driver and passenger, simultaneously. On more than one occasion I have been heard screaming 'DRIVER OR PASSENGER! BUT NOT BOTH!' I, on the other hand, prefer city driving. I don't like to toot my own horn, (okay, so sometimes I do), but I am good at navigating and driving. To prove the point, I have thus far refrained from purchasing a Navman or equivalent. Plus, it would just be downright silly for us to buy one, given that we spend 99% of our road time travelling on a road that would have the Navman saying "Turn right in 30m and head straight for 100km." I figure the old 'Google Maps' app on my iPhone should be more than capable of getting us out of a fix for the other 1% of our driving time. Having said that, CP can't work an iPhone, so the navigating and driving is often all on my shoulders as soon as we leave Toowoomba.

Directions aren't only a weak point for CP. I've spent nine years living on a farm that I am still known to get lost on. I have drawn up new and improved maps over the years, and have a ballpark idea where most things on the farm are, but when CP says 'Can you come and pick me up from the water trough in the such and such paddock?' there is still that moment where I suck my breath in sharply and feel the rapid beat of my heart quicken to a shrill staccato!

Many moons ago, I heard the slightly panicked voice of my mother in law over the two way radio. I was the only person left at home at the time.
"Are you on channel Jessie?" I rushed to the receiver.
"Oh good. Jessie... {your father in law} and I are out in the lane way. We're just west of the sorghum, and we have two flat tyres. Would you be able to come and get us?"
"Ummm...." A long pause... "Yes..."
"Okay." There was still an unconvinced, slightly concerned, tone in my mother in law's voice. "Do you know how to get here?"
Again, the quickened heart beat. "Ahhh... I think so. I've been there with CP before." (In the winter, when the sorghum hadn't grown and the grass was dry. I had a huge job ahead of me, finding my way amongst paddock upon paddock of long, green grass and sorghum, tall and thick surrounding me. I didn't really have a choice. I had been there with CP before. I only knew one way to get there and I'm sure it was 'the long cut'. I hoped my on laws weren't in any great hurry.
"I'll be there soon!"
"Thanks Jessie..."

As I headed out in to the first of many paddocks, I realised how utterly futile this was going to be. I drove past the first shearers quarters, and then the shearing shed. I opened several gates, and wound my way through a myriad of green fields. Kangaroos jumped haphazardly around me. Emus scattered as I meandered around them. I had found the sorghum and knew I was close. After a good 15 minutes of driving, I heard the two way crack into life again.

"Jessie. We can see you! We're west of you, south along the fence line." Was that relief in her voice?
"Okay... So..."
"The gate is just west of you." Yes, but I still had no idea which way west was. I took a wild guess that it was in front of me. Thankfully it paid off, and in seconds I had located their vehicle and was making my way along the fence line.

Once we were all safely back in my own vehicle, the questions started. I justified my slow response by asking for a map of the farm for future emergencies. My in laws were sincerely grateful that I was able to assist them at all. I felt nothing but relief.

CP and I both have our moments when it comes to directions. I suppose it comes down to being in our comfort zones. In any event, the decision to buy an automatic car has proven to be a raging success. Because even worse than a driver who is lost, is a driver who is lost and in control of a heavy vehicle.

Do you have a DRIVING FAIL or a DIRECTION FAIL moment?