Category Archives: Rural

Not a good start to lambing

Part of being on a small holding is dealing with animals and sometimes dealing with animals is not a pleasant task.  Our ‘flock’ is tiny. We have three ewes, a ram and two ewe lambs who were just a tad too young for breeding this year.

Last year we had a ewe that had a bad prolapsed uterus. Got her through that and she had triplets.  This year it happened again but I did not get to her early enough – it was out too long and she was really a goner.  Had to kill her and do an emergency caesarian to get the lambs out. Managed to keep them alive for a while but they were probably too stressed from what Mum had been going through.  Probably for the best that she was culled because uterine prolapse is passed on and any ewe lambs she had that may have survived would more than likely have similar problems.  And if nothing had been done she would have died in the paddock.

Some people may find this pretty disgusting – I did and I was there but it is part of dealing with livestock.  Supermarkets are so much easier because you can buy your meat without a thought for the poor critter it came from.



Still, waste not, want not.  It is a good thing that we like mutton.  She was skinned and dressed and hung in the cold killing shed (it got quite cold here last night so the meat had set quite nicely by this morning).  She was carrying a lot of lambing fat but still got quite a goodly amount of meat off her.  I minced most of it – except for the shanks (for slow cooking) and the leg roasts that I usually cut up for curries and stews.  Kept a lot for dog tucker as well.  All freezered.

Sheep prices have nose-dived in this region since we had the big floods in June. A lot of farmers lost a lot of grazing land to slips and have had to de-stock.  The meat works have a backlog of 700,000 sheep at the moment and are not buying – so prices are down. Two years ago a pregnant ewe was going for $200.00 or more. Lucky if they fetch $50 now. So we will pick up a few more, plus the ewe lambs we kept from last year so should have a good supply of lamb for 2016/17.


reduc_IMG_3312 reduc_IMG_3310

General Mud

Well the rain came, went and left a huge mess. Big slips have caused a lot of damage to local rural roads. Ours is blocked for anywhere from another few days to ten days, depending on the source of the latest rumour.  We were without power for only a day – the linesmen got whatever broken line caused our outage fixed last night. So good to have electric lights back. Reading by candlelight might be quaintly nineteenth century but it is hard on the eyes. Painting was definitely out.

The Woolshed however was dry and all my models came through unscathed. Ten years ago when we lived in Wellington we got flooded and I lost a stack of models – and all my Battlefront 15mm Sherman/Stuart tank turrets floated off – the models themselves stayed put because they were on magnetised bases in a steel tool box – that was open at the time.  This time everything high and dry.

Some pictures from the last two days.

slip 2
The first of many slips blocking our road access.
The Kiwifruit orchard next door where my son works when he is on University breaks.
Our local rubbish collection point. You can see the high tide mark of the river on the bank opposite.
The road on the other side of the river from us. Looks completely gone in places. The slips sounded like trucks engine breaking as they crashed down.
Silty volcanic mud. It is sticky and glutinous – this is down the road from our place about a kilometer.
The silt is so fine it suffocates everything – the entire surface was criss-crossed with worms tryimg to find a way to safety.
My daughter got choppered out and went back to school. Aeroworks – great guys. They are doing supply runs into the valley and taking people out who need to get out. Daughter has school ball this Friday and it was this or a tramp through the forest to get out. She wasn’t missing it on account of the worst flood event in the district in a hundred years.
Talk about roughing it. Fresh venison. Some for the helpers too.
Reward for being good.

And the rain came down

Guess what – it is raining. Raining a lot. The flood warning has the river that runs through our valley peaking tonight about midnight. We are already cut off – first it was slips and then the river breached it’s banks. We have been moving neighbour’s stock to higher ground and keeping an eye on their place as they are away but now it is dark it is a matter of waiting to see what tomorrow will bring.

Why we couldn’t get out of the valley this morning.  While we were there you could hear trees up the bluff breaking and more slips started coming down so it was a quick u-turn and out of there.



Why we can’t get out now. The same spot this afternoon – under at least two metres of water already.


Some views around the Woolshed.

I half expected to see Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn on some of these rafts. Just a continuous stream of trees going down river.


Surface water in our front paddock.
This is the foot bridge between the house and the Woolshed. About a foot and a half under water when this was taken.

But at least we have power and the internet. The 21st Century has not abandoned us…..yet.

Winter is Coming

We are in the last month of Autumn here in the Southern Hemisphere and we are enjoying some lovely warm weather…but that is just for a bit because around the corner is ………. winter. Here at Castle Woolshed, in preparation for the oncoming cold we have been getting some late firewood sorted.  This is the reason that I have not been painting anything this week. I find after chainsawing and chopping firewood my hands are in no state to hold a brush. Cut into rounds with the trusty Stihl chainsaw and I split it all by hand. I am kind of old fashioned that way. As long as my back holds out of course. Lady SWMBO was delighted at all the firewood. At the rate she burns through it you would think it grew on trees.

Ready to start work. Three trailer loads.
Note my trusty Saw Aardvaark (I thought Saw Horse did not do it justice)
End Result of three hours of axing.
Our Dire Wolf Jasper keeps watch for Wildlings and Rabbits. Go here to see more of Jasper and what he gets up to.
Done for the day. Collecting more wood this afternoon and tomorrow.

My daughter’s contribution to our Anzac Day at home

We have this biscuit (cookie to you Yanks) that has traditionally been made on Anzac Day. Story is that these were sent to the soldiers from home and they ate them at Gallipoli. However, that is not quite the case – those poor souls had to break their teeth on Ships Biscuits.

From the NZ Army Musuem:

The Real ANZAC Biscuit Story

“Biscuits! Army Biscuits! Consider the hardness of them. Remember the cracking of your dental plate, the breaking of this tooth, the splintering of that.” From Army Biscuits by Ormond Burton.

gallipoli 300x194 The ANZAC BiscuitDoes this bring to mind images of our troops at Gallipoli eating the ANZAC biscuits we know and love today? Staff at the National Army Museum did some research and found that contrary to popular belief there were no ANZAC biscuits at Gallipoli. The standard Army biscuit at this time was a rock hard tooth breaker also called the ship’s biscuit.

Although it’s a myth that ANZAC biscuits were sent and eaten by troops in Gallipoli, some evidence suggests a rolled oats biscuit was sent to troops on the Western Front, although this was not widespread.

The majority of rolled oats based biscuits were in fact sold and consumed at fetes, galas, parades and other public events at home, to raise funds for the war effort. This connection to the troops serving overseas led to them being referred to as ‘soldier’s biscuits’. Fundraising was co-ordinated by local Patriotic Funds, raising 6.5 million pounds for the New Zealand war effort.  Read More Here

ANZAC Biscuits.

IMG_2408RECIPE: From the Edmonds Cookbook (A sort of NZ Kitchen Bible found in almost all homes in NZ – usually very tattered and well thumbed)


      1/2 cup Plain Flour
      1/3 cup Sugar
      2/3 cup Coconut (dessicated)
      3/4 cup Rolled Oats
      50g Butter
      1 Tbsp Golden Syrup
      1/2 tsp Baking Soda
      2 Tbsp Boiling Water


*Mix together flour, sugar, coconut, and rolled oats.
*Melt butter and golden syrup.
*Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water and add to butter and golden syrup.
*Stir butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Place level tablespoonful of mixture onto cold greased trays. Bake at 180’C for about 15min or until golden.

Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit, Run Run Run

As you know the Woolshed is located deep in rural New Zealand. From time to time I do a post about rural life. Yesterday the kids got some rabbits and not wanting to waste anything – they have ended up in the pot for dinner (made a nice rabbit, sage and red wine stew) and a couple are going to be made into a Mr McGregor’s Rabbit Pie next week.

Rather appropriately it was a Friday too.






img_1629The dog knows there are some tasty guts for it.






IMG_1625A reward for the dogs for being so patient.

Lambing Time – Wins and Losses

As you may or may not realise, I live on a lifestyle block. In the UK it would be called a small-holding.  This time of the year is lambing season in New Zealand. All over the country millions of lambs are being born.  Last year I was going to get rid of all my sheep and just run another couple of beef cattle.   Imagine my surprise then when all my ewes fell pregnant, especially seeing  as I didn’t have a ram.  The previous couple of years I had borrowed the neighbour’s ram to do the necessaries.  As it turns out I had one wether left that had escaped the freezer from a year or two before.  There were two left, I grabbed at one, it got away but the other one ended up as roast. The lucky survivor was lucky in more ways than one.

Turns out he was what is called a cryptorchid.  When I nutted him as a lamb, I missed a testicle. He had one left, and apparently, one is enough. So, instead of becoming food, One Nut is now the proud leader of a small flock.

So, there are three ewes, The first one had a healthy lamb and the second bore twins.



The other day I went out to check on the third girl and discovered that she had a prolapsed uterus. This happened when the pressure inside basically pushes the uterus out her vagina. The trick is to shove it back in and use one of these bearing retainers to hold everything in place. They can lamb through them which is rather nifty. You put the spoon part into the vagina and tie the thing in place so it holds her insides in.

Not my sheep but an example of a prolapse.
Bearing retainer

However, by the time we got to this stage she had been distressed for some time, was exhausted  and had partially delivered a lamb. The poor girl was on her side with a lamb stuck halfway. Yanked that one out and it was alive. A bit of rubbing and it was breathing. Had to go inside her and deliver the next one.  It too was alive. At this stage the bearing retainer was inserted and we left them too it. In the morning I discovered she had lambed again. Triplets. Once she had finished lambing she rejected one lamb a few hours later and despite spending a night feeding it inside in front of the fire the lamb died. The other two were feeding vigorously so I had high hopes for them. However, in the morning one was dead. So from three am down to one from this ewe. Saying that, the survivor seems to be doing very well.

The joys of rural life.  Wins and losses.


Not all Jam and Chutney

Napoleon said “an army marches on it’s stomach”.  That goes for those at the Woolshed.

The plum trees are laden and I have been busy making preserves for later in the year. So instead of painting those Elite Miniature Napoleonic British Foot Artillery I have been up to my elbows de-stoning plums and making jam, chutney and sauce. Another big batch being made tomorrow morning before I head to Wellington.  Next time I am home it is marmalade from the grapefruit trees.


That gets turned into….

ImageThe chilli plants are looking good this year. Still have some dried ones left from the last harvest and they have not lost any potency in the past year.

ImageI did try to get some painting in. Honest.


An Interesting Week

Today is my last day at home for a week as I am heading back to Wellington for work. The past week has been interesting, to say the least.

The week started with a storm that saw quite high winds pummel much of the country. There were trees coming down all over the place around us, several blocking the only road into the valley. I drove down to the bridge to see what the river was like and on the way back this pine came down. Didn’t have saws so me and another guy just snapped the branches back to clear it.


On the Monday night our power went off about half five in the afternoon as lines were taken out somewhere.  We were OK though. The oven had just gone on to bake a fish so I took the fish over to the Woolshed and baked it in the BBQ instead. With no power it was candles and torches and the whole family was forced into that weird and very un-21st Century activity called “Talking to each other”.  Our power came back on about nine at night, so it wasn’t too bad. There have been power cuts out here that lasted days or even weeks after some storms. I really need to get a generator so I can keep the freezers going. We have insurance on the frozen meat but it would be a terrible waste if it thawed. The freezers only need a few hours a day of power supply to keep the contents frozen.

A slip on the road at McCain’s Cutting, two kilometers south of us.


And then…it started raining. Man did it rain. It bucketed down basically all Monday bight and most of Tuesday.  Half a kilometer north of us the road was cut and two kilometers south it was as well. The river came up quite quickly.  We were in no danger, but to add to our joy the phones went out as well.  These three photos show the creek and bridge that connects the house with the Woolshed. Normally it is a dry ditch but takes the run off for some large paddocks in the farm across the road.



Down at the river, the road was blocked and a bunch of road workers who were clearing slips further up the valley almost got stranded. They ended up parking their utes and flat bed truck at our place and making their way through all perched in the bucket of their digger. The water came up almost over the top of the digger’s wheels.


Alexander and I went down about half seven when the river was supposed to peak and it was even higher. Check this ‘before’ and ‘after’ shot of the same spot.  The river is now about 5m wider at this point.

ImageImageNorth of us the valley widens and it was a lake (dodgy shot taken with cell phone and it was almost dark)

Image and the next day when the water had receded.

ImageWe were left with mud. Lots of mud. Too much for a car to get through so until the roads were graded clear we were stuck at home.

ImagePhones were out for four days, which made this week a quiet one for me seeing as I was On Call.

One benefit of the weekend was that I think I found all the places in the Woolshed’s roof where it leaks water.