And with it the urgency to attend to the 1001 jobs around the farm that were deferred over winter. While it's great to have the sun out and warmer temperatures - it means one thing, the lawnmower gets a very frequent outing (each outing is about 4 hours so I imagine the neighbours are hoping the wind isn't blowing their way those days).
The ewes and lambs are doing well although the change in the season bought some dirty bottoms so in came Mr Shearer to crutch the ewes, making it a more pleasurable experience for the lambs going in for a feed I'm sure. The first of the "butter ball" lambs will be drafted for sale at the end of November with the balance taking their first truck trip mid December.
The bulk of our steers have wintered over very well and are looking nicely rounded with glossy coats - the advice of our stock agent is move this lot along while the sale prices are high and get in some smaller mouths to feed over the summer months, so it will be an early start on Thursday to get them in the yards and ready for the truck at 7.30am. Fingers crossed that we can replace them with some smaller models for a reasonable price! The good husband always protests about getting rid of them as he's trained them to come to his call for paddock change - ah well!
New addition to the family - NOT PLANNED!
The good husband took some steps to get rid of a feral cat that has been hanging around. It has always made us nervous, particularly when we have young chicks free ranging around the gardens. Well this time he was certain that it had been despatched. Well done! New problem - that evening when he went out to lock up the barn he heard a very faint meow and discovered a very tiny kitten, eyes still firmly closed, in the paddock all alone. One of his endearing traits is that he can't walk past an animal in need so kitten was duly stuffed inside his shirt and placed in a blanket in the hot water cupboard overnight to keep warm (it's a very old hot water cylinder that probably radiates more heat than our heat pump!). Next morning as my coffee was delivered to me in bed came the news of the kitten and a suggestion that maybe a trip to vet to get supplies may be my first job for the day. Oh please!
My immediate thought was to re-home this little treasure as soon as possible as I certainly didn't have time to bottle feed a kitten every three hours and to make matters worse, not two weeks before we had confirmed our purchase of two girl Russian Blue kittens, due to arrive from Christchurch in December. What has happened however, is that this little darling has wormed his way into our affections and will no doubt be staying. He has been named HARRY - seemed appropriate as he is a ginger with a mind of his own. I'm crossing my fingers that Harry and his two new posh girlfriends will be the best of buddies!
...and just to top it all off - I have since seen the feral cat (Harry's mother no doubt) looking none the worse for wear...
Then there are the chickens - Colin the Rooster has been doing his business successfully and one of our Buff Orpington hens went broody, sitting on a clutch of 12 eggs in a sheltered spot at the back of the house. Excitedly I marked off the 21 days on the calendar and on time two chicks peeped out from beneath her - great news. I kept a watch on how many more hatched but after nearly two days she abandoned the nest with only the two chicks in tow. You guessed it, the good husband was in there inspecting the remaining eggs, one of which had pipped but that was it. Out came the incubator and in went the remaining eggs while he "tutu'd" with the pipped egg. He "assisted" the chick out, and as it fluffed up quickly and seemed strong, we bundled it out with the new mum (who by then has been put in the new mum & chick coop) - luckily she accepted chick #3 without question. End of nice story - NO.
Long story short - you should never interfere with eggs right!
Another two days passed with the eggs in the incubator and still no action so my recommendation was to biff them over the bank as they clearly weren't viable and I didn't want exploding eggs inside. Well curious about what had happened to the rest, it seemed a perfectly good reason to tutu with another egg - unbelievably a chick was still alive in one and was "assisted" out - this one did not fluff up well, couldn't stand up and was 98% likely to die. For days it feels like, we coerced it to eat and drink and despite all odds it stayed alive. Our daughter named it SCRUFFY. So Scruffy continued to improve but was lonely in its box with just the heater, food and water. I suggested that maybe I buy a day old chick to be its friend so it would learn to socialise. Expecting a NO answer, but getting a YES - I made a phone call and was in the car before he could change his mind. Only trouble is that I couldn't decide on which one to get so I bought home 8 - you can guess the reaction right...
We came to the conclusion that another hen was obviously laying in the nest while the broody hen was sitting!
So there begins the next problem - where are they going to live as they have outgrown their box inside and Alice, our Gold Laced Wyandotte, is also due to hatch a clutch of 8 eggs tomorrow and will have to share the small "mum & chick" coop. No other option - on to Trademe and buy another little coop to handle this growing bunch. Oh dear.
and that brings us to the garden. The most neglected part of the farm. I was due to have my garden visit last week but my one half day in the garden in 4 months wasn't sufficient to bring it anywhere near visitation condition. I had to put off the garden club until next year when hopefully, as the good husband says, I will have plenty of time to play on my garden projects. At least the plants have flowered despite the lack of attention...
Bee hive maintenance has been high on the agenda for a while now as September/October is swarm season and for what appears to be little or no reason, the bees will swarm and you run the risk of losing the majority of a hive. Still being very new to this bee keeping thing, we have heard and read a lot about it, it just hadn't happened to us - until yesterday!
Standing in the kitchen peeling onions I happen to look up and there were bees everywhere - a YELL to the good husband and out he went. The bees had literally just gone around the corner from their hive and had gathered on a branch, interestingly they moved a further two times within the next hour until they found something more sheltered. It just so happened, Phil (a more experienced beekeeper) had come to do our AFB (American Foul Brood) check and arrived at the time of the swarm. He was fascinated as he had never seen the swarm so early in the process, only the end result when he was called out to capture a swarm. Between Phil and the good husband they came up with a cunning plan - which I must say went very smoothly and the swarm bees are now in a new hive in a different location - we may re-queen this hive to minimise the risk of them swarming again as apparently once a hive has swarmed it is more likely to do it again.
We passed our AFB check and all the hives have had their spring varroa treatment completed before the first honey box went on so we are all good to go to collect honey - the weather just needs to cooperate so the bees can actually get out and forage!
And lastly, the kitchen was in full swing preparing for the Labour Weekend market at Awhitu. Very happy with the response with both repeat and new customers - some local, some visitors to the area.
Our stocks were either out or running very low on a number of our range - so we added a few new product lines - Choko Chutney (who guessed this was going to be the best seller!) and Red Onion & Port Jam (2nd best seller on the day).
We are booked in for the Xmas Market at the Pollok Hall on December 17th so I'm currently sourcing local fresh strawberries for jam and I am also experimenting with a pickled strawberry recipe. As well as this, I'm also working my way through 100 kg of pickling onions (and no my good husband, you are not having all these to yourself!).