Friday, October 25, 2013

Thursday, October 24- The A & P Show

I love the fair. The booths, the animals, the smells, everything. Today Parker and I made it into Hastings for the Agriculture and P-something fair. It was flippin' rad. There was dressage, wood chopping, a petting zoo and whisks that could froth milk into microfoam in seconds. Thankfully I had an excuse to say no to the fine merchants in the Expo center otherwise I would have been traveling from now on with 2 kick ass whisks. 

Evidently wood chopping is a competitive sport down here! We spent about an hour watching things getting prepared for events that lasted seconds. We saw the double handed saw, underhand chopping that made your toes curl, and the standard chop. The professionals in the double handed saw screamed through logs in under 10 seconds, and the experienced men in the underhand were in their 70s. You couldn't help but cheer. :-) This is a shot from the underhand round. 
It's truly impressive how slow the horses go in their approach to these obstacles. It's as if their just mozying around, see something that's taller than them, shrug and say, "Hell. Why not?" I would just walk around, but hey. To each their own. 

Mum, thanks for preparing me for this.  My head nearly exploded when I saw them. For how they do this, pick up a dictionary and flip to the word, "magic."
This guy rocked my world for obvious reasons. 

And that was the show! I also got to see dog trials, where I stood on the sidelines chanting "Baa, ram, ewe!" and met an old man and his wife who invite me to come stay with them if I came down south. Gosh I love this country. :-)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Fallen Musketeer

Sweet Porthos died on Saturday. It was horrible. I was out gardening. The musketeers were having a lovely time foraging beside me. One minute everything was great the next...I turned around and there was Porthos, lying on his back, redness by his tail. I leaned down and discovered that it was his internal organs. The best I could figure is that he pooped them out. Craig had accidentally stepped on him a little while we were working on the water line Thursday, but he seemed to be ok. He was still walking around, eating, snuggling and chirping, but evidently the compression had seriously compromised his bowel walls and he had just been living on borrowed time for the last two days.

Needless to say, I fell apart. He was my favorite of the three, the one Craig had first brought home. He liked running up my chest and into my hood, perching on my shoulder and burrowing into my hair. He was always the first to follow me and the first to find me when I was out of eye shot. He was the sweetest of goslings and there was nothing I could do. He was still alive but fading fast, so I just sat above him and bawled as the life slipped out of his eyes. That's when the rain started. Mother nature's way of mourning his passing I suppose. We all have our way of dealing with things. I buried him later, the brave musketeer, on the edge of my garden where he fell and lined his grave with tiny sticks which Athos and Aramis tried to eat. I didn't know any fine poetry to recite so I sang to him an Irish blessing and sent him on his way. I know it's part of farm life, but I can't help but feel saddened by the loss. You will be missed sweet Porthos, my adventurous goose pirate. Fly free.

The Cock Fight

Ok. Forgive me for saying so, but roosters are dicks. At least ours is. His name is the Scarlet Pimpernel, Pimp for short, and unlike Howl, my sister and brother-in-law's rooster, I think he suffers from small spur syndrome. We thought for awhile that maybe he fancied the gentlemen rather than the ladies because he didn't seem particularly interested in our hens so we started calling him Scarlet. He didn't particularly appreciate that nickname but we didn't care. The Hens were also under impressed with him and were pecking on pretty thin ice because they were not producing their daily quota of eggs. Craig and Brendan were talking about killing one in sight of the others as a “get after it ladies” pep talk when the Pimp cornered me.

I was walking out of the garden when I saw him. “Hey you,” he said in his very machoest of rooster voices, puffing out his neck feathers. I stopped and regarded him for a second. “ That's very impressive Pimp,” I observed, nodding approvingly at his display and walking past him at a slight distance. “Hey!” squawked Pimp, offended that I had turned my back on him. “I was talkin' to you!” I sighed and turned just in time to see him flap towards me, talons extended. I raised my steel-toed boot at the last second but he still caught my knee with his spur. “You. Jerk!” I cried in outrage, turning to meet him head on. “What was that for?!” He didn't stop to explain. My knee and boot were still raised and he clearly saw it as a threat so we got into a old fashioned cock fight right then and there which basically consisted of me standing still with my boot raised while Pimp repeatedly jumped and tried to kill it. When he got tuckered out I would rush at him making lots of noise and telling him that yes, he'd better run, at which point he would stop, rally, turn and we'd go a few more rounds.

Now, I am just assuming that the man finally got fed up with the name calling and the threats on his ladies' lives and he decided he had to do something about it. I suppose he can't be blamed. I will tell you one thing, those hens were suddenly very impressed and two days later we found no fewer than 14 eggs next to the shed. Evidently he fancies the ladies after all.

The Bucket List

Some of my favorite stories growing up were of my dad's summers spent on Uncle Elmer's farm. The legend who milked over 100 cows by hand twice a day, had forearms like Popeye and a grip like a kitten, no doubt because he knew he could turn coal into diamonds in 30 seconds flat should the need arise.

I don't know why but these stories coupled with ones from my mother about pouring cream out the necks of old milk bottles engrained in me a burning desire to milk cows and eat fatty fatty cream from an early age.

Well, lucky me, the stars have aligned and my farm dreams have started coming true. Last week while overseeing an evening milking I got to squirt milk into my mouth straight from the cow. That's right. It was like getting shot in the face with a warm, hair-covered super soaker filled with delicious sweet milk. :-D I was tickled pink.

Next: Milkies. Now, for those of you who have never touched cow boobies before they are pretty great. I mean, what's not to like about a giant breast with 4 enormous nipples? Now, I always imagined that the udder would feel something like a giant smooth latex glove filled with warm pudding. I am not going to say that there aren't some titties out there that are like that, but put 4 growing calves on soft latex twice a day for weeks on end and you are going to come out with bloody nipples and some very emotionally and physically strung out mamas. Breast feeding moms out there, I'm sure you can relate. Solution? They toughen up and you get leather nips able to withstand hours of sucking, biting and inclement weather.

So there she was. Saphy. My cow. Lady of the giant nipples. I was ready. I had my silver bucket, my red box to sit on and enthusiasm to make an entire pep squad jealous. Go team. I walked into the paddock, said hello, set myself up, sat down, and reached for the boob. Now, in the split second before I made first contact my mind sent me a little reminder, “Hey you. Ice queen. Remember how nipples respond to extreme cold? Might want to warm up those icicles you call fingers.” I stopped immediately and started rubbing my hands together vigorously. “Whew!” I thought, laughing inwardly. “That was close.” With hands properly prepped, I reached out again and began. Saphy shifted away. Evidently my the fingers were not sufficiently thawed for the sweet lady. And thus started our game of cat and mouse. I would sit down, fumble around like a pubescent teen for a few minutes, she would get annoyed, move, and I would follow. Round and round we went until Craig came in laughing sat down with the old girl and milked her like a pro. In the end we got several liters out of her and then sent in the calves to finish her off.

I left the yard brandishing my silver pail like an Olympic gold. We took it to the house, strained out the crap that had fallen in during the "milking" and then left it to separate in the pantry. The next morning I came in and what did I see kids at home, but CREAM. ON. TOP. There wasn't a ton of it because our cows are not particularly creamy beasties but what there was I piled onto my oatmeal and into my coffee. It was just as awesome as I imagined it would be. Uncle Elmer would be so proud.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday, October 10- Mother Goose

You remember that movie, "Fly away home" from the 90's? Girl finds goose eggs, adds a warming light and some love and badda bing, badda boom, she opens the drawer and becomes their mom.
I loved this movie growing up. I always thought it would be SO COOL to become a Mother Goose, build an ultra-light and fly the kids south for winter. Well, yesterday morning my dream came true. Craig was out checking on the bulls when he ran across an abandon nest with three babies in it. So what did he do? Brought them home obviously.

We hung out all day. We snuggled, we snacked, we even took a bath. Now they follow me everywhere. Until I hold a baby griffin they are officially the coolest tiny things with feathers. Ever.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Wednesday, October 2- The Southern Cross

The New Zealand night sky is breath taking, especially here at Mohaka River Ranch. To the west lies a 45,000 acre farm, 45 minutes to the east lies the small ocean town of Napier to the North is open wilderness and the south sheep and deer farms. This is all to say that when I stepped outside tonight there it was nothing but me and the stars. Even the moon took the night off. Straight above me was the milky way shining so brightly I could have sworn it was city lights reflecting off clouds.

My eyes scanned for any constellation that looked familiar. There was one that looked vaguely like the little dipper but apart from that I was starting from scratch. I felt like early man staring up at the night sky and having the opportunity to name that which he saw. There was the shepherds crook, the square, the pitchfork, the Dalek and so many others, and that's when I saw it. The only constellation I knew before coming. The one I had searched for with a constellation app while in Hawaii by pointing it straight at the ground and magicing myself to the night sky on other side of the planet. The Southern Cross and the pointers. My breath caught in a sharp intake. It was more beautiful than I imagined. It was HUGE. My eyes turned to gum drop buttons and in that moment I dropped 24 years in a split second and squealed like a kid at Christmas.

Sunday, September 30- Hunting, Cinnamon Rolls and Moonlight Adventures

Gosh what a packed day. :-) Today I got to try my hand at rabbit hunting! Actually It was more like a game of hide-and-go-F-yourself. The bunnies were quite content to hang out in their burrows giggling at us as we passed by, guns in hand trying to be quiet. I felt like a Native American but probably sounded like a dwarf. I wasn't exactly keen on shooting one of the furry types but the exercise and sun was fabulous.
Since our quarries were being quiet we set up pumice stones on a log down by the river and had some target practice.
 It was far more satisfying watching them burst into bits. I also got to try my hand at fishing. I've concluded that it's like knitting for boys. It's repetitive, you can zone out while you're doing it, and you get really excited when the project is done and you have something to show for hours of tedious work. See? Knitting.
So our outing was about to be a bit of a bust. We had gone out to find bait for an eel trap and were coming home empty handed. But as luck would have it, on our way up the driveway to the house the boys spotted it. A brown rabbit. Mikey stalked up the driveway, got to one knee and shot it through the eye. Boom. Eel trap baited. It really was a masterful shot.
While Mikey got to work skinning and baiting the line Brendan and I went in to catch the All Blacks rugby match. I got an education on scrums, wings, forwards, and this awesome cheerleader move they use to snag balls that are thrown in from the sidelines. Needless to say, rugby may be my new favorite man sport. It's super bad ass.
During all of this I was working on this batch of cinnamon rolls. Here's the recipe. Try it. But maybe use Martha's recipe for cream cheese frosting instead. I couldn't hold myself back long enough to take a completed picture. As soon as the frosting was applied all bets were off. Here's what they looked like before they got frosted. Prepare yourself for yummy noises.
The game was winding down and Mikey was still MIA. What happened to him? It doesn't take that long to bait a trap does it? Then we saw him. Punk was getting us dinner.

Evidently he threw in the line and two minutes later this guy went Golum on that rabbit. Wham bam thank you ma...bam! Bam bam...wham! *Ahem...Mam. (Evidently the monster didn't go quietly into the night and got bashed a bit.)
The game was abandoned at that point and the boys had fun skinning the buggar and smoking it in the shed. There are entrails in the yard now next to my garden. At least Sam has some company.Yum yum.
The boys did a good job. The eel tasted eely, which is to say, pretty good. :-) It was chewy! I had a small pile of partially masticated meat on my plate at the end of the meal that I tried to hide with other foods. Such a lady...
You would assume that would be enough for one day wouldn't you? But no. :-) Smith adventures take hold at all times of day. And after dinner Mikey, and I jumped onto the 4 wheeler with Craig and went zipping down into the gully in search of...bum bum BUM...Glow worms!!! There is a damp hillside down there with heaps of ferns that is ground central for glow worm habitation. They were so cool. And bright! They bioluminess in a bright shade of green. There weren't a ton all grouped together, more like individual stars shining in deep space. It was amazing. It was like being in a planetarium with starts all the way around you. That's my cup of tea.