Monday, February 10, 2014

Farm Survival 101: Know Your Animals

I found this oldie yesterday and thought it deserved a re-run!

When I first moved to the farm (WAAAYYYYY back when) there was an incident involving a four legged beast.

I came home from school (where I worked) to find that I was the only person around that afternoon. When I wandered into the back yard, I noticed this 'four legged beast' (which I will here in refer to as a 'cow' for conversational purposes) sitting over the back fence. Something was definitely amiss. It didn't look right. It was kind of sitting there looking quite ill, if that is possible.

Being the 'city chick' that I am, I was at a loss at what to do. I mean, if this had been a dog or a cat in the city, I would have called the Vet. Did the same principal work for cows too?

So I moved closer to this sick animal and tried to feed it some grass. This was most unsuccessful. So I tried some water instead. The poor thing was not interested in the water either. I must have sat and watched the cow for close to half an hour before I realised I would have to actually do something else. But what? In desperation I called one of my hubby's aunts, who lives nearby, and also on a farm. The conversation went something like this.

"Hi Sue. I've come home and found a cow over the back fence and it looks really sick. I've tried to feed it but it won't have any. Should I call a vet?"

"Whatever you do, Jessie,  DO NOT call a Vet. Your Father in Law will KILL you if you call a vet."

"So what do I do? Surely I can't leave it here suffering?"

(Laughing) "Yes. Unfortunately that's exactly what you must do.Sadly, one of the things about living in the bush, is watching animals who are sick at one time or another. It will all be ok. Just wait for someone to come home and they'll sort it out."

Surely that couldn't be right? I needed a second opinion, and called a local friend for some advice. The phone call went pretty much the same as the conversation I had had previously. SO... the general consensus was to wait.

So that's what I did. I sat there and watched it from over the fence. I'm not 100% sure, but I think I recall sending it love and motivational words about getting better, and staying strong.

When someone did come home, it was my father in law (FIL). I hurried over to tell him all about "the sick cow over the back fence." He walked over to inspect this "sick cow", and then after a few minutes of careful consideration, FIL looked at me gravely and said "Yes... there are a few things wrong. Firstly, and most seriously, this is not a cow. It's a steer." * (Which meant nothing to me, but FIL found it quite amusing, and even had a chuckle at my expense.) "And secondly, I think this steer has been poisoned."

The next morning hubby got up early, and reappeared at home mid-morning. I asked how "my steer" was, and was told very matter-of-fact that my friend hadn't made it through the night, and had been dragged away. And of course, I cried like a baby.

I suppose the first thing about surviving on a farm, is that you learn quickly that animals DO die, and that often the money you spend trying to save them, far out weighs the money they are worth. Farmers are practical beings, and this is hard for city folk like me to get their heads around. The second thing I learned about living on a farm is that you should know your animals.

A steer is NOT a cow. Just so you know...

* A steer is a castrated male beast.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Careers that might have assisted me in my transition to Farmer's Wife...

Whilst we all know that being a wife doesn’t require any previous education and training as such, there are a few careers that might have made my baptism of fire into the role, a little more calm in the beginning. (Or even now, truth be told).

As I am a teacher, The Farmer has often reminded me that I am the ‘drought relief’. It’s an inside joke around farming parts that you will always be the source of income, regardless of the weather, when you are a teacher, and as such, you are a catch of sorts. Of course, it’s all just fun and games. Any job off farm is almost certainly appreciated, however many wome have found that they are more useful (and perhaps better contibuters) by not working off-farm. Whatever floats your boat.

In all seriousness, teachers and nurses (and medical specialists) are prime candidates for snagging a farmer. New girls in farming towns are always the recipients of lots of male attention. And every year brings with it a new swag of female teachers and nurses.

Over the years I’ve often thought that being a teacher would be handy if you had to ever home school your kids. Thankfully I don’t. I HAVE attempted it during floods, when we’ve been stuck at home for a number of weeks. But I take my hat off to women who manage to educate their children at home. You are a breed of women who I could only ever aspire to be like. I found it to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Whilst being a teacher enables me to better understand curriculum, nothing prepares you for the test of endurance you undergo on a daily basis as a mother AND a home educator.

Being a nurse might have also been handy. If you could earn frequent flyer points from calling 13HEALTH, I would be able to fly around the world several times for free. I’ve become quite adept at diagnosing my kids over the years. Mothers everywhere develop that same level of medical ability at some point, but geez it would have been handy over the last few years. The times when we had  a 7mm gaping bloody lip, the fevers, broken collar bones, broken elbows, temperatures, flus, respiratory concerns, vomiting bugs… and god forbid if a snake bite had ever happened. Touch wood it hasn’t – and nor has anything else major – but a background in any first aide could be a god send on a farm.

There are other careers that might have proved useful over the years too.
The other day The Farmer came in at lunch and asked me if I would mind picking him up from the ‘4-corner yards’ in about half an hour. I must have screwed up my nose (and not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I hadn’t drawn those yards onto my map of the property). I KNOW where the yards are, but  The Farmer wanted me to go there HIS way (the quick way), and whilst I thought I had a fair idea where it was and what the best road to get there would be, I wasn’t 100% certain. The Farmer (correctly interpreting my screwed up nose as complete hopelessness) followed up with ‘you know the road?! Up where all those Brigalow trees are.’
*Cue the moment where I realised that a career in Botany might have come in handy. Eventually I found my way there (ok, so I may have kind of followed him out there after lunch, but the good news is that it was where I would have gone anyway). We were all winners.

And I have already forgotten what a Brigalow tree looks like again…

When we watch TV shows like My Kitchen Rules, I will occasionally hear The Farmer make a comment along the lines of ‘why don’t you ever cook meals like that?’ I generally respond with, ‘I DO! I just don’t stack it all up like that.’ Or something along those lines. Sometimes I think that a career as a Chef might have been useful on the farm. As it stands, I am pretty satisfied with my culinary ability. But cooking skills are always much appreciated on a farm.

I am ‘needlework challenged’. I don’t own a sewing machine, and the extent of my needle working skills is patching a hole, or adjusting a hem. Don’t worry, I disappoint myself too. Perhaps my perceived wastefulness could be mended (excuse the pun) by improving my skills as a seamstress.

Other careers that would have come in handy include (but are not limited to) being:

·         A vet (Hello?! Anyone remember the infamous incident where I contemplated calling a vet for a steer that was ill near our house in my early days on the farm? Read all about that sad and sorry tale here).  Being a vet would probably be THE handiest career to have chosen had I known I would end up a Farmer’s Wife at some point.

·         Truck Driver, general labourer, or even a tradie of some description (plumber, electrician, builder etc.). The Farmer always tells me I am the brain of our outfit, and he is the heavy lifter. Heavy lifting is certainly useful on accession. Like when you want to bring a piano into your house… (long story). But our water pump that has been playing up, broken oven and washing machine (and lawn mower now that I’m thinking about it) could have been fixed if I’d had the skills. The Farmer is generally too busted to do anything else by the time he gets home.

·         Mechanic. Who am I kidding? Whilst it would certainly be handy, I should learn how to change a tyre before I look at any benefit that being a mechanic would be for me. And learn how to use the Low 4WD gear in The Farmer’s work ute properly… perhaps muscles is really actually all I need, come to think of it…

·         Accountant. Oh my goodness, I loathe and despise bookwork as much as I loathe and despise the drought. I’d rather sit in a dentist chair and have a root canal done, than do books all the time.* Perhaps if I was more confident in that area, I wouldn’t fear it so much.

* I didn’t really mean that about the root canal. What kind of person would prefer that? ;)

·         A degree in Public Relations would also be ideal. As a member of the P and C, and any other number of committees, not to mention just the advocacy for farming that goes with living on the land, ALL require excellent PR skills. Something I could certainly use…

·         Counsellor – especially during the drought. I actually did start my Masters in Guidance and Counselling and having babies put that on ice for a while (read permanently). Some days I think that having skills in this area would be something of a godsend around here. (Or not just HERE, but here as in on a farm or in the country etc.)

Of course, whilst all of these professions would be handy, they are by no means a pre-requisite. Thank goodness. Pretty much all you need is a big heart, passion for the land and a good relationship with your partner to really make it work. That and being open minded, flexible and being able to think outside the square and work with what you already have. The rest will all fall into place eventually.