Tag Archives: cats

Mouse in the house

As it’s a good season here in South Australia with rain, crops and hay so much so that the mice are breeding rapidly. Farming and mice go hand in hand and I dislike it very much. Most farm houses have cats for this reason, they catch the mice, they eat them and keep the numbers down.

Not so much in this farming enterprise, we have 4 cats, they were born feral, by that I mean feral. They were wild and as kittens my husband found them in his header and shed and got the dogs to help catch them. They lived in a cage in the shed on old woollen jumpers / sweater, then they were moved by the hay forks on the tractor to the back porch, then inside as it was a very cold winter. The farmer use to sit there and put his welding gloves on and pick them out of the cage one by one to pat them. They now after 7 years living with us, like the comforts of home, sleeping on beds and chairs.

The fourth cat Gatsby was caught, mid winter cold, starving and on the road, he now also resides inside and his favourite sleeping spot is on the top bunk. He climbs up there and sleeps. But what these four cats do is enter the house through the two cat flaps that my husband has had installed. They bring with them mice, hares, rabbits, the odd bat and reptiles of the lizard kind. They are so well fed they sometimes bring these mice in via their mouths, cough like they have a fur ball and spit the mice out, 8 out of 10 are eaten  and the other two are left to run free…. in my house.

It’s not abating, I had to travel to our major city the other day 300kms where I picked up our reusable shopping bags, left them in the car overnight. I drove to appointments and then at the end of the day without thinking about it, I grabbed them out of the car, put them in the trolley and went about my shopping. I came to the cash register, handed over my bags to the gentleman, started unloading my trolley to hear the cashier saying “ooo, ooo, umm” and as I looked up towards him I could see he was backing away from my bags. I did the eye roll and asked “is there a dead mouse in there?” he turned and looked at me “oh no love, it NOT dead.” he said I walked up to the bag, took it from him and walked it outside the shops. I emptied it into the carpark, watched the mouse run off and went back inside to complete the transaction.

The cashier looked at me and I said “it’s a country mouse and not likely to survive in the city, it’s travelled over 300 km’s to get here. He said “OMG, the last time I saw a mouse my partner saw it and screamed like a girl!’ I laughed and said “I think you nearly did too, didn’t you?” “oh yes, did you notice that?” it was funny as everyone within earshot stepped back as I went to take the bag outside to empty out the mouse. I have no idea how to be rid of them, I wish it wasn’t standard practice in farming hat you need to adapt to them, any ideas how to keep the cats from bringing them in? If you do feel free to let me know.

frank-look-alike-caryying-a-mouse

Defrosting Meat

It’s a topic that many people ask about and I must admit I can do it well or not. I know people that defrost using the old method, i.e. get the meat out of the freezer and put it in the fridge overnight or a couple of days (depending upon size). I’m the modern housewife,  I have so many more things to do with my time, I dislike housework so I grab out of the fridge and freezer  daily to cook and I (most times) incorporate leftovers from the night before in the next main meal.

I am talking about red meat here, chicken is another set of rules altogether. I’ll do a post on that tomorrow (if we have power). Living in a rural area with poor electrical infrastructure and in stormy weather we can lose power so fingers crossed we don’t.

Thawing Meat

Thaw meat and other foods in the bottom of the fridge whenever possible (as hot air rises so every time the door is opened the warmth coming in goes to the top shelves). The safest method is to place the frozen meat in the refrigerator for a day or two ahead of time. Larger items such as roasts may take longer, about one day for every 5 pounds of meat. Thawing meat slowly in the refrigerator minimizes damage from ice crystals, which helps maintain the food’s quality.

If you need to thaw food immediately, this is best done in the microwave. If you use a microwave to thaw meat, cook it immediately afterward as some parts of the meat may have already started to cook. All microwaves have a defrost button or setting, some like you to weigh it and others like you to tell it what meat type it is. All these have different settings so stick with the manufacturers settings and rules to minimize cooking whilst defrosting (my trick) if on too high or to long or under defrosting, done on the outside but still frozen in the centre.

Thaw under cool running water (with the food wrapped or packaged). Place meat in a leak-proof plastic bag and immerse it in cold water, changing the water at least every 30 minutes to keep it cold.

It is advised that you do not leave frozen food to thaw on a bench at room temperature. This will allow the outside of the food to warm above 5ºC which will allow food poisoning bacteria to grow.

Make sure food is defrosted all the way through before cooking to ensure it reaches hot enough temperatures through to the centre.

Freezing food is a convenient method of preservation, yet it can cause the quality of the food to deteriorate. However, losing taste and texture is not the biggest danger of thawing and refreezing meat. If performed in an unsafe manner, bacteria may develop in the meat, which could cause severe illness. To ensure that your meat is free from trichinella and other parasites, always cook meat thoroughly. (Australia has had NO reported Cases of Trichinella due to our clean premium grass fed meat.) But always cook meat as soon as practical after bringing home from a butcher or defrosting.

Warning

Freezing microbes suspends their life cycle, but it does not kill them. When you thaw meat, the microbes can become active and multiply at the same rate as in fresh meat. Under the right conditions, they can multiply enough to cause illness. Freeze leftovers within three to four days, and don’t refreeze any food left out of refrigerator for more than two hours, or one hour if the temperature is above 28 degrees Celsius or 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

If meat develops or has an odour, discard it.

Do not feed off meat to dogs or cats is can make them as sick as it does humans. next blog will be on this practice, something we do not do at the farm.

defrosting-meat

picture by rodalesorganiclife.com

 

Today is brought to you by 3am and 4am slaughter hour

The farmer is an animal lover and as such has cats, dogs, cattle, sheep and anything else that comes along. One day he sent me a photo of two baby foxes he saw living in our cattle yards and I banned him from bringing them home. We have a property that has kangaroos and he won’t go out and kill them because they eat minimal crops, he will occasionally shoot predatory birds that peck at baby animals that are being born so other than that most animals are welcomed into our home. I am currently hand rearing 2 calves Rosie & Delila and a Lamb – Josie who now live in my vegetable garden

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We also have the 3 lovely shed cats (called this because he found them in the shed and they now don’t live there) rescued from a freezing winter in 2009, Gatsby (a ginger cat)was rescued 2 years ago this month. All of them are desexed as I didn’t want excess of litters all over the farm and in the cold months of winter (and the hot days of summer) they live inside.

Many a night we have had parades of mice: alive and dead, rabbits: alive and dead birds alive and dead, bats 99% alive, gecko’s mainly alive that we have put outside and frill neck Lizards alive that leave alive as the cats have not worked out how to get through their tough exterior and frill when they protest. Our motto is that if we catch any of these things alive we lock the cats inside and let the animals go free outside.

Many a night I have woken to the sound of crunching and am so none fussed about it now I roll over and go back to sleep. If we hear noises we will get out of bed to try to chase the cats outside with the animal intact. Other times there is a “look at me, look at me” flinging and rolling with the animal (dead) in the spa bath. Where the cat shows us the prey and then eventually the creature is left intact and we are left to clean up the mess.

We have watched as these cats over-estimate their abilities and their prey – the farmer has seen Frankie stalking a kangaroo (as if she was ever going to catch it) we have seen Gatsby jumping in the air to catch swooping birds as if they were going to fly into his mouth, Matilda has on a few occasions stalked the chooks when we use to let them out, the chooks are confined to their pen as the working dogs try to round them up and chase them till they die.

I don’t mind it during the day but in the middle of the night I could do with out it, you know when you have to get up early, you set your alarm and you wake almost hourly hoping you don’t miss it? That was last nigh t and I was back into sleeping when I could hear a growling, at first I asked the farmer to roll over as I thought he was snoring  loudly so he did but the noise got louder and I realized it was coming from his wardrobe.

Bloody Cats fighting in the wardrobe, so I spring out of bed, turn on the lounge room light so as not to blind myself or the farmer but to shine light on the area, open the door and see nothing, I move clothes around to see if I can catch them hiding but I see nothing, so I shut the doors, stoke the fire and as I go to turn off the light I see 3 cats casually walking around the lounge room, squinting at the light with the innocent look of no it wasn’t me, I glare at them as I go to back to bed, it’s 3am. I’m back sleeping when the slow and loud growling starts up again, this time I’m cross I jump out of bed, step on the remote control, stub my toe on a laundry basket I have left in the way, go out to the fire, pick up the poker and come back to the wardrobe and one by one open the doors and thrash it about (hoping I can collect one of these cats as I do it). I look to see Gatsby’s tail disappear out of the wardrobe and run around the corner to get away and Rita slowly slink out heading towards the door. I shut the wardrobe put the poker on the floor and go back to bed, I note it’s now 4am.

Gatsby the only male

Gatsby the only male

Both of these cats go outside and as I drift back to sleep I become aware Gatsby is back in, he has jumped on my foot, shaken himself off as he is as wet as anything and flops down on my bed at my feet. When I do get up at 5am I note Matilda is standing by the wardrobe door, sniffing and I begin to think perhaps the other two were fighting over a late night slaughter. I didn’t have time to check before I left the house and I bet whatever it is will still be there when I get home this evening.

We have a spot I call slaughter corner, where some mornings we can wake up to find no evidence of the animal except a blood stained wall. We occasionally have a kidney or the bottom half of a mouse, if it’s a rabbit sometimes I get the entire gastrointestinal tract with pooh intact. Feathers of a bird are common and is the foot or tail of a rabbit. These can also be found out by the cat flap if they can’t carry it in or in the spa bath if we don’t hear them. Anything and everything is foul and I wish they would stop, once I asked the farmer “what’s with the green feathers in the corner?” without missing a beat he said “I didn’t like that grass parrot anyway!”

I occasionally say to birds, “You all need to live 1km away from the house as these cats will get you if you are closer. I feel exhausted before I even left the farm, getting home tonight will be a bit of a struggle, it is about 220km’s away.

3 cats on the car

3 cats on the car Rita on roof, Matilda in front of steering wheel & Frankie other side

Farming Life

There is always something on when you marry a farmer, and not only the weather dominates days, for croppers and for graziers alike. Everyone waits for the break of the season, where everything feels like it’s new again, farmers happily jump on tractors to plough paddocks and bulls can be put with the cows to start the mating season off.

What do they all do in the meantime? you ask, We have had a couple of bulls roaming our house block, we have our house on a 20 acre or 8 hectare block and it is fenced off so that we don’t have roamer but every now and then it is good farming practice to bring the sheep in to chew down overgrowth and or let cattle in to do the same. The only problem here is the beautiful working dogs, have to go to their compounds so that they don’t spend their time rounding things up and chasing them into corners as they are trained to do. We also have hay we are feeding out in the house yard so letting animals in they chew bottom rows and sometimes cause a collapse which can kill others. it also reduces the amount of food available during the summer.

Daily as I do book work, house work and run the business from my office, I can hear the comforting sound of the tractor running as he puts hay on to a trailer and then takes it to the cattle to feed them. But the last couple of days we have had a couple of the large bulls wander In and slowly much on the grass. It has been interesting to watch the cats stare at these enormous animals as they roam the front and back yard. The cats will happily watch from the security of the screen doors but should they be outside and the 500+kilo animals walk past them then we can watch as they running to the comfort of being under the house or in through the cat door.

Our bulls are very gentle and are quite happy to wander around and the dogs are not so keen to take on such large animals. I sit in my office and the floor is bare – my beautiful Pete (Golden Retriever) is gone and I have washed and folded his blanket and placed it on the chair as I am not ready to put it away so Gatsby the ginger cat has taken it over and casually stretches himself in it and on it and sleeps there until the farmer comes in to move him and sits in the chair. Gatsby has also taken to spread himself in my chair at the kitchen table and now uses his paws to push me off it when he wants to stretch out (he is the king of this castle) see picture below.

Gatsby

Gatsby

Life is interesting and as we wait for the break in the season it means we work until it rains and then once it rains we work at different things. In the meantime we watch and care for the animals we have and plan for the future, but if you call in here at the moment drive slowly as we don’t want them hurt, this is the welcoming party. See you can tell we promote grass-fed here.

Our 'pet bulls" in the house yard

Our ‘pet bulls” in the house yard

The Chooks are Finally Laying

Its taken a while this time, we rescue chooks from caged farms and bring them to our farm to get a better life and to lay eggs for us, normally they arrive here we put them in the coop and they within a matter of 5 days start laying. It is funny to watch a new chook come to their new home as they find walking on the sand and dirt and grass a funny sensation on their feet, they walk and pick one foot up at a time until they get use to it.

Once the are happy they start laying beautiful farm fresh eggs, this time it has been a bit different, we look after my in-laws chooks whist they travel for a few months of the year and when they come to get them it upsets the balance in the hen-house. There is such a thing as a pecking order and I have come across them (many years ago) they had pecked a fellow hen to death and continued to eat her – it was quite horrific, I found the wing span left, apparently they do this to injured or sick hens, hence the pecking order.

We love our farm freshly laid eggs they are very different to the caged ones and even look different in colour. Their yolk is almost orange / golden where as caged hens, who are fed grain it is yellow, once you have eaten a real farm fresh non grain fed egg you will be able to see the difference.

We let our chooks roam free on the property as they love to wander and scratch and they get themselves back home to their coup come night-time. We have to do a head count before we shut and lock the coup door so that foxes and feral cats don’t get in to help themselves to an organic free range chicken. lately we have had to leave them in their great big coup as our working dogs love to try to round them up, we don’t encourage this as sometimes the excitement of the flapping of wings, bites will occur and deaths may be the end result.

If you can afford it buy fresh non caged eggs, they are great to eat and cook with. Chooks are also good pets for children, if they are held at the yellow fluffy chick stage they will always allow children to pick them up and cuddle them. They will eat house hold left overs and keep the bugs down in you yard as well as produce eggs. Our cats sometimes will follow us up to the coup and Frankie has been known to sleep in their to catch the mice and the chooks don’t seem to be bothered by her.

One of my friends has started a fabulous chooks in a van business here in SA, so if you see this label about the place, jump in and buy them. totally Natural & free range, tastes very much like our own, I purchase them when our chooks forget to give us our breakfast rations. Hoods Earth Produce

 

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Welcome to the ‘Caloundra’ Menagerie

Following from yesterday everyday on the farm is different, brings many new experiences and things to do, some of them good and some of them bad. Late yesterday afternoon I was sitting doing book work (there is always book work) when I hear the Beeeeeeeeeeeep beeeeeeeeeeeeeep of the Ute. It roars around the back of the house and I realize he is looking to get my attention, which he got, so by the time he is out of the Ute I am out of the back door. I have not got to pull my work boots on (we leave work shoes out of the house to lessen the dirt being walked in) when he yells “I have a calf for you to feed”. I stop what I am doing and head back into the kitchen, pull over the chair and get into the top cupboard to reach for bottles, get to the plastics drawer (always a shambles) and shuffle through to find the teats and the screw tops that hold the teats down. I then get the powdered formula read the instructions and run the water till it’s warm (they drink warm milk like they would from their mum – they don’t like cold milk and mix up enough for about 4 feeds. I have no idea how old it is but am guessing it may be 1 to 4 days old.

All of the dogs get interested when they see the bottle, they know it contains milk, I sometimes in the freezing of winter give them warm milk on their dog nuts in order to boost their weight and give them energy for the work they do during the day.  So they know what the bottle contains, Pete the Golden retriever follows me to the specially made secure arena Chris built years ago to protect them from dogs and other wild life, confine them, so we know where they are and it’s easier to feed them and to give them security, they have a wind break and it can hold up to 4 or 5 without an issue.

He is a tiny one, I know it’s a baby bull as the pizzle is evident, this is the small tuff of hair that hangs in the middle of the abdomen where the penis comes out when it’s older. Cows don’t have this for obvious reasons. He arrives mooing loudly, with a blue-collar on him which indicates the farmer had identified him earlier as being solo in the paddocks, so he would have placed him with cows that looked like they had calved and hoped that he re mothered up, so bringing him here is a last resort. They can do well-being hand reared or they sometimes die. Cattle are herd animals and as such form bonds of friendship and love, so having them solo always makes it a struggle to survive especially in this weather. he also has a cord attached to the collar where the farmer would have been able to lead him (much like a dog on a leash) to the Ute and then into the pen.

I feel his stomach it is full, so that is good he probably has had some colostrum from his mum and started building up his immune system, this is similar in colour (yellowish) and consistency (think) much like a human mum. It’s also important for the calf to have had it, though they can do as well if they do not get it. I take the lead off him and leave the collar on, he makes very loud noises at me and I walk slowly to him and place my finger in his mouth, this is to see if he has a suckling mechanism happening. If they are hungry they latch on and suck if they are tiny and not quite initiated to their mothers teats they try to push your finger away with their tongue. He had a small suckling reflex so I rub my finger on his upper palate and he starts to do the motion, I get about 50 mils into him.

He follows me as I walk out and then goes to sit down, having a mooing calf in the yards brings a tribe of onlookers – mainly the cats and Pete the Retriever, they do not see these beautiful animals up close often so when they do they are curious. They circle the cage and climb trees to look at what is going on. He is a very gentle calf, sometimes they bunt you and chase you for food but he did not. I then sent out a request for a name to nieces and nephews, I like to name them as I get to spend much time with them feeding them.

We have lots of great options for his name but on face book the one that got the most ticks was from my niece Naomi, he shall be now known as “Jack”

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