Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Rains are 'ere Marge

It's a cliche as old as the hills (see what I did there), but the one of the farmer looking up at the sky waiting for rain, dusty hat in hand has been used and over used by advertising and bad Australian soaps for years.

That doesn't mean it has lost its meaning. Here in SE QLD the memories of last years floods are very much in the forefront of the collective mind. But it wasn't that long ago that Brisbane was suffering from drought. All that meant was a few poor gardens and some water restrictions that most third world countries would be glad to suffer.

Now I am a smallholder, realistically one that doesn't rely on anything I grow or produce, but still one that is incredibly aware of rainfall and weather. Lantanaland is marginal land at best, clay and rocky soil and while I am improving it I rely on decent rainfall to make sure my feed bill doesn't run too high.

So when I woke up this morning about 4am to the sound of steady soaking rain breaking the driest November since 1919 it was the most peaceful, beautiful and relaxing sound I think I've ever heard. It means the grass will grow quicker than the cows can eat and I can seed the third paddock.

It's a good sound.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pulling Tit Every Second Day Was Not Making Her Happy

Well that should get the google analytics ticking over.

I have a problem. The problem is that I have never kept dairy cows before now and while I know that I know nothing, I thought I knew more than that. I have two cows in calf, well, I think I do. Candy looks bloody pregnant to me, but then Dexters look like little barrels on legs anyway, so it's a bit hard to tell. I thought Candy's udder had dropped and filled a bit and assumed that the calf was near. That was 6 weeks ago.

Now it doesn't really matter if Candy is a bit later in the year, let nature take it course and all that. The problem comes with how I've treated and reacted to my leading cow, Laf. When I thought that the calf was imminent, I started to dry Laf off, milking every second day. I thought this was the right thing to do, so that when I started milking Candy she could ease into the offseason and have a rest. About the same time she started to kick when I was milking. Laf used to give an occasional kick, but this was every minute or so. There is nothing like screaming obscenities at a cow in the dark at 5am who has just kicked over 6L of hand extracted milk. I just thought she was over being milked.

Pick the noobie dairy farmer.

If I'd thought about it, I'd have linked it to the change in routine. I know that cows are great creatures of habit and hate having things changed up. I guess I had just convinced myself that it was a particular reason and put my brain in park.

As time has passed and Candy has stayed fat but given forth no baby cow I thought I'd better go back to milking Laf every day. No calf is bad, but buying milk from a shop is catastrophic. When Laf went back to a daily milk it was like she had had a bit of time with the CIA and had her attitude adjusted. No kicks. Running down to get her food. Nuzzling me like a big dog.

Cows. Like. Routine.

So now in the early Lantanaland mornings all is again peaceful. The ground is no longer stained white with spilt milk and I am enjoying milking again. I learnt just how little I know about dairy cows, well actually I'm sure I still don't know how much I don't know, but at least I'm enjoying doing it again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ten Years of Bliss

Today I have been married to a beautiful fantastic woman for ten years. We had a bit of party on the weekend to celebrate but some of our close friends couldn't come so I thought i'd throw up my little speech for those who have shared in our lives up till now. Here it is....

This time ten years ago I would have been kicking back nervously in my very last share house with Davey and The Bro cracking jokes in an attempt to chill me out a bit. Despite being together for a few years and many share houses I was quite nervous about getting married. I don't know why, now, because none of the traditional things about marriage, commitment, change, kids particularly worried me. There was no need, it's taken Ness ten years to get round to having kids. But our relationship hasn't changed that much at its core.

Because at the core of our marriage and the time before it is the friendship and love that we have for each other. When we first started going out it was a few months before we spent a night apart. Now I'm pretty sure that had something to do with Vanessa being quite hot, but it was also because we genuinely liked each others company, and always have enjoyed hanging out with each other. We are quite happy out here in our little farm with each other, as long I offer at least one back rub a day and the spa is working.

We've still managed to pack a fair bit in the last ten years, a PHd, new jobs, buying a farm, a pregnancy, just, and plenty of up and downs. I think no marriage that will last can be all one tone, it needs the occasional bump to wake you up and make you look at each other. I find that those bumps are always on the roads that come when I take a different exit to the one Vanessa is expecting me to take. Ten plus years of scientific training has made her mind rebel against what it sees as the best methodology and my hypothesis that it is interesting to occasionally go a different way home has been found to be invalid.

A key part to our marriage has always been friends, and I include family in there because I count them as my friends, because friends are always there for you. When I was running the music venues and working stupid hours with high stress and low pay we used to have a cooking club with one of our best mates Davey. We had this low level bickering going that we would never have done in public but Davey is like a big brother. Instead of making an excuse and canning it he turned up week after week with his jokes and gently steered us into calm conversation. It was like the lightest of couple therapy. Luckily for him the food was pretty good.

I see a lot of our friends here tonight, many who we've lived with or played footy with and definitely shared a beer and a feed with. Food and drink has been another constant theme of our marriage, I love cooking for Vanessa, I never tire of it. Likewise she tolerates my experimentation and when all else fails I get her a carrot. (after slaving away at a very slow cooked lamb dish during her pregnancy, ness threw a minor tanty about not getting any fresh veg for dinner. I almost cried and very patiently offered her some carrot sticks. In five minutes she was cheerfully munching away and I went back and polished off my stew.) Our friends and family have always been generous with their help, time and affection and we would like to thank them for it.

I love Vanessa even more than those first days, it's a deeper love. It's a love that gives a little chuckle when she forgets how I have a cup of tea after ten years, a love that treasures every cuddle and caress and appreciates just how much she understands me and for that I am truly thankful. Not everyone gets to meet and marry someone like that and I look forward for all the things to come.