Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Bug’s Life, Part I: Lord of the Flies


We’re all obsessed with insects.

gb bugs

Farmboy’s collection of insects are entombed in plastic, which is a very good thing, because if I saw one of these crawling around the house I would probably exit with speed and never come back (and yes, I know it isn’t an insect, but I’m using artistic license).


I wish some other bugs were entombed in plastic.

fly eye

In total contrast to the past few years of drought, it’s been pretty wet this spring. The alternating rain and sunshine has done wonders for the pasture, the crops are looking okay, but the warmth and moisture are also perfect growing conditions for insects.

The ants are swarming around the gate posts again, the bees are all over the garden, the earwigs are making concerted efforts to take over the house and demolish my vegetable seedlings. There’s even a plague of bugs on the heads of local school kids, and we’ve enjoyed some lovely family bonding sessions with a bottle of conditioner and a fine toothed comb, trying to ensure we aren’t afflicted.

bees poppy 1rose bees

But the worst of all, undoubtedly, are the flies. Bushflies are bad enough- they chase after any moisture they can find, launching themselves aggressively into eyes and noses and cups of tea. We’re constantly performing the Aussie salute, and I’ve already swallowed my fair share while out digging in the garden.

These are the evil ones though:


And more on them tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bringing in a mob

Innovation! Experimentation! I'm trying all sorts of new things lately- carrying a whacking great big camera on a farmbike (but not a whacking great big lens, sorry), adding groovy and annoyingly intrusive arrows and text, making a slideshow, and straight Blogging This rather than doing the Youtube thing (edited to add: unsuccessfully).

It's shearing time (onto the second week now), and here we're bringing in a smallish mob (~400, I think) from a nearby paddock. Three dogs was probably overkill, but I like to have at least one extra as a back-up, and I just felt sorry for Muddy because he's always so desperately keen, bless.

Queani does the mustering cast, because she's wide and will usually look around. Bill should have waited his turn but jumped the gun, so he had to stop and wait. He's sent next for support. Muddy was supposed to stay on the motorbike at all times but the pathetic whining got to me and I let him go and help at the end.

The sheep came all the way in to the yards with their resident Willie Wagtail, which I thought was quite cool. The extra-observant among you may be able to spot it in one of the photos (hint: look for the enormous orange arrow).

Monday, November 21, 2011

I can jump fences

Ah, Mudhoney… He might be getting older and gimpier by the day, one hip is dysplastic, the other is prone to dislocation, and his dicky knee keeps seizing up. He was unceremoniously dumped from 3 sheep trialling when I started running Queani, and he only gets to yard trial because Bill doesn’t. He still can’t comprehend that he’s cute, but not cute enough that every visitor wants his dirty paw prints on their pants and his tongue down their throat. About the first phrase both my kids have learned to speak is “Get OUT OF IT Muddy!”. He’s quite a handy farm dog, though, and by God, he can jump stuff.

mud jumps

mud jumps 2

This comes in handy for Muddy, because quite regularly during the year, people try to do sheepwork in the yards up the hill, and forget to invite him. An ordinary dog might realise they’re in a fenced yard and restrict themselves to wistful sighs and doing a bolt the moment the gate is opened. That’s not the kelpie way...

What to do if people try to leave you behind in the house yard

We usually ascribe Muddy’s sproinging ability to just being a kelpie, because they are notorious for being disrespectful of fences, from baby puppyhood onwards. But occasionally we do speculate on Muddy’s parentage (not always in the heat of the moment), and since his natural talent for barking seems as effortless as his ability to spring over stuff, the idea has been raised that he might be related to Angus.

Spanky Angy in action

Both Angus and Muddy just go over fences with as little thought as effort, which is how Muddy’s hip came to dislocate in the first place. Threatened castration from a barbed wire fence or snapped hocks from a weldmesh yard? Pffft. They sail over things other dogs are sensible and obedient enough to avoid. But we won’t believe either dog has died until we’ve tied their stiffened corpse up at the sheepyards while other dogs work, and not heard a woof. Apparently for some dogs, barking is a more vital function than breathing. Anyway, hopefully that won’t be for a long, long time in either case. Although if they keep hurling themselves over the wrong fences, maybe it will be sooner than we think.

Here, Queani and Muddy demonstrate the two techniques for negotiating farm fences: the sensible, safe, sustainable, low impact way, and the kelpie way…over under fence

“Sayonara, suckers! We have sheep to move!”over the fence