Self Sufficiency Pt. 3
Once we had stocked the property we quickly learnt how many gaps there were
in our knowledge about farming, Julie had a perfect excuse for this being city
born and bred, but I having spent my first 6 years of life in the bush, and then
having topped that up with another 2 years of farm life in my early teens,
thought I knew a bit about farming!
Now sheep are known not to be the smartest animals in the world, so to find
myself being out-thought by our sheep prompted me to acquire a “border
Collie/Kelpie Cross” sheepdog,
with us but he matured quickly.
I used a Honda Ag-bike for zooming around the paddocks, Boston quickly
learned to love this bike, in his early days it meant that he could try to race
it down to the mailbox at the front gate, he even learnt that if he lost the race
to the gate it was better to turn around and hightail it back home in the hope
of winning the return leg.
By the time he was introduced to sheep, being the quick learner that he was it
didn’t take him long to get to believe that he knew more about sheep than I did,
sad to say I think he was right too, when out in the paddock rounding up a mob
of sheep I would call instructions to him, instinctively he understood these and
sometimes he even took notice.
However there were other times when he would do it his way and to my
surprise he usually got it right, Boston was not the only one with an ego though
so I was delighted to find that he would take implicit orders from the BIKE,
even if he was heading away from it at a fast pace he would sense the change in
the engine sound when I changed direction, and immediately head that way.
As I was also a fast learner, I quickly devised a method of directing Boston to
do as I wanted, the beauty of this was that he never ignored the BIKE, I’m
pretty sure he came to think of it as his mother, so our handling of sheep
became much easier.
We only had our few cattle, with an annual increase each year there was never
the same amount of work involved with them, so we co-existed with cattle but
had lots of work with sheep.
There was drenching for worms, crutching to combat fly-strike, shearing,
dipping for lice, foot trimming and even a bit of dentistry as the sheep aged,
and of course the lambing of ewes, little lambs are one of natures joys it is a
great pity that they grow into sheep, you can guess who’s job it was to help
with any difficult births can’t you? It doesn’t take long to loose the squeamish
feeling that you start out with when there may be 6 or 8 a day for a while.
Remember we were doing all this in our true learning years in drought
conditions, which meant we were feeding hay and grain to our animals every
other day, eventually the rains came and almost overnight the paddocks turned
from dust bowls to green, but it was a couple of months before there was
sufficient growth for us to stop feeding out.
We did learn the value of stockpiling some fodder of our own, it had been very
expensive buying it all in, so we invested in some machinery and set too to
plant a crop of oats, we were quite lucky with that first crop, it was excellent,
we cut half for hay and stripped the rest for grain and never again had to buy
Mind you we never again got a crop any where near as good as that first one
Our first shearing was an experience, the normal procedure is to bring sheep
in the day before and shed as many as you can overnight, this keeps the fleece
dry if there is rain or even a dew, it was now that we discovered that our sheep
didn’t trust that nice new mesh flooring!
Without going into too much detail, we finally got the shed filled up and were
ready for an early start next day, now shearing would have to be one of the
most exhausting, back breaking jobs on earth, having established this with the
cleaning up of a few sheep during the early days, I employed a shearer, a very
The other jobs in a shearing shed are; keeping the catching pens filled with
unshorn sheep, picking up and sorting the wool as it is shorn, baling the wool
and pressing it into wool bales up to 200 kgs per bale, when “Smoko” comes
around the shorn sheep need to be counted and distributed into fresh yards
and more sheep loaded into the shed, Don’t forget that mesh floor!!
With a small flock like ours shearing was over in 2 days and let me assure you
that really felt good.
Meanwhile all the other things that go into making a life on the land what it is
keep happening and of course if we wanted to go on eating, (and spending a
small fortune on our dream) we had to go on taking photos of school kids.
This may all sound a bit daunting but the life style makes up for it easily,
waking up to the birds singing in the lovely trees surrounding the house, or
the equally nice sound of rain on our tin roof, the abundance of fresh air and
fresh vegetables from our garden go a long way towards heaven on earth.
We had one disaster in the veggie garden, we never got to cook a single pea
from the garden, we did however eat buckets of them fresh from the bushes,
and another bounty that seemed to happen at least once each year was the
abundant supply of fresh field mushrooms, another of my favourite foods.
# First posted by Peter @