Pitter patter

Ah, the pitter patter of little feet.

Periodically the horses graze the driveway,  this provides a few days of food for them, and keeps the grass short. We hear them walking around at night, as horses are quite active grazers then. The problemm is, three of them are now shod. Steel shoes on the concrete right below the bedroom slider make quite a racket. Especially when the horses decide to start *walking in circles* below our bedroom at 1 AM.

So, we got to do a little very-early-morning animal wrangling. We pushed them all down the driveway and put up a piece of electrical tape to keep them there. Must remember to do that before going to bed tonight.

Fried Dough

This past Saturday was one of those weird convergences that happens in Wellington in the summer, where it seems like everybody has something on. I hooked up with Emily to take advantage of as much of it as I could — starting with the Vincent’s Art Workshop open day, where Emily had her pick of the works of a local outsider artist known for pieces done with ballpoint pen, and where I learned how long the cords on your poi should be, and chatted about fried dough.

My observation is that every culture that has fairs, has some kind of fried dough sold there. Where I grew up in the South, it was funnel cakes. When we moved to New England, it was just “fried dough” (same deal, without the funnel). In New Zealand, it’s little mini-donuts. There’s this machine that squirts the donut-shaped dough balls into one end of a sort of trough of hot oil. By the time they bob along to the other end of the trough, they’re done. Then the operator scoops them out with a fry basket, drops them into a little paper bag and shakes an unhealthful amount of cinnamon and sugar over them. Maori New Zealanders have their own version, called paraoa parai. The paraoa they were selling at the Vincent’s open house was a bit like heavy, sweetish biscuit (in the American sense). Yummy.

After Vincent’s, Em & I toodled through Civic Square, where they were having the annual “Fricnic” opening the Wellington Fringe Festival. We paused and watched a hip-hop dance performance. I love watching men dance (I like watching women dance, too, but it’s much easier to find women dancing), and these had that extra-super-macho-faux-indifference-slightly-surly attitude that you get with hip-hop, so that it really looked like nothing so much as a choreographed mating display (“Look at us, ladies; we are so very very full of testosterone that we can even make dancing with other men look manly. Grrr!”). I’m sure they would be appalled to know how charmed I was.

Next stop was the Te Papa 10th Anniversary kick-off, which we largely passed by, apart from admiring some sculptures made from number 8 wire, and a beautifully restored 19thC Dutch street organ — it ran on card-books, like the punched paper rolls that player-pianos use, except instead of paper, it’s long strips of card accordion-folded into books, complete with illustrated color covers.

We passed the crowd collected to watch the skateboarding competition in the Waitangi skate park, and continued on to the Overseas Terminal and the Greek Food Festival. Like ferret shock, I tell you. I ended up settling on biftiki (like kofta, or a Greek burger, in grilled pita with lettuce and that delicious yogurt-stuff), and followed up with the Greek version of fried dough — egg-sized blobs of dough fried and then lightly honey-glazed and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Then back across the waterfront to Frank Kitts Park, where the first Wellington Pasifika festival was set up. Now as you may or may not imagine, New Zealand has a massive Polynesian/Pacific Islander population. The Auckland Pasifika Fesitval held in March is, according to the Human Rights Commission, “one of the largest community events in the South Pacific. It is recognised as an important celebration of the art, culture and lifestyle of Pacific Islands communities of Auckland.” It’s just this massive, massive event, and people come from all over the Pacific to participate. There are food stalls and craft stalls and performances representing all (or what certainly seems like all) the island nations of the Pacific. Now, this is the first year they’ve tried to have one in Wellington, and so it was a small thing, but I hope it will survive and get bigger and better.

After toodling around there for a bit, admiring the flower garlands & trying out some Cook Islands drums (which sound a lot like their Tahitian counterparts, that Holly and I have danced to), we hopped in our respective cars and lit out for the Petone Rotary Festival. This was a more like a regular fair (including donuts), with a lot of the same merchants as were at the Manakau Medieval Fair (which I went to a couple weeks ago) and the Martinborough Fair (that I went to the week before that — it’s fair season, doncha know).

After elbowing our way from one end of Jackson Street to the other, Emily peeled off to get a pretty little antique ring she’d just bought cleaned and identified, and I hooked up with Melanie to swing into the Gypsy Fair, which happened to be camped nearby. (I’ve written about the Gypsy Fair — and the beautiful house trucks — previously.) Then (finally) home.

Of course, the day didn’t end there — Stephen was busy entertaining alpaca admirers when first I, then Melanie arrived. After Alan’s home-made scones and Melanie’s home-made pizza, there was a bit more alpaca and goose wrangling (and Kerry’s arrival), and then we were all off to J’ville for a “sweet-off” — i.e., a bunch of the local cooks having a dessert competition, with us punters to mop up the results. Oi. A sweet end to a looooong day.

Aaaand… life goes on

Jodie produced a lovely white boy (of course) today. She’s our first “maiden” to give birth — meaning this is her first cria — and maidens are statistically a good bit more likely to have problems, either with birthing or with mothering, so we were a wee bit apprehensive (especially given our luck of late). I’m happy to say it was a smooth, fast birth. The boy’s a little bit undercooked, but is in good shape and plenty active.

Jodie and cria.  That's Mora to the right. Stephen and Jodie's cria

Here’s some pics of the older cria. If you mouse over them, it’ll tell you who they are.

Enfield, Alphyn, Basalisk, and Holly. Enfield and Mora. Opinicus looking absolutely baffled. Alphyn and Concetta. Manticore

A nice moody sunset shot of Victoria:

Victoria at sunset.

And finally, the newest additions (if you figure that Jodie’s cria isn’t new to the farm, so much as he’s new to the outside of Jodie…):


Yes. We have geese now. Strictly, five geese (the grey ones) and one gander (the white one). They’re Pilgrim geese, five months old, and as silly as you would expect. They were an impulse purchase off TradeMe (although we’d admired the geese we saw hanging out with alpacas on a couple of the farms we visted on our last South Island alpaca holiday, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue), and I was actually surprised and pleased that they turned out to be Pilgrim geese, which are prettier and supposedly sweeter-tempered than ordinary white geese, which is what I’d actually been expecting, based on the auction description.

We’ve had them a week, and they’ve managed to work out that they don’t need to try and smoosh themselves into the corner of the shed to escape us when we come near. Now they amble into the corner in an orderly fashion and watch to see if we’ve brought them food, which we usually have. Having established that the shed is where yummy food like the hen feed and the old carrots and banana peels (and whatever leftovers our local fruiterers have pressed upon Stephen) happen, we’ve been experimenting now with letting them out for a few hours each day to graze (geese eat grass) and maybe play in the stream, and then herding them back into the little shed-and-run we’ve been keeping them in (that first little shelter Stephen built in the Gallop paddock). Geese, it turns out, are rather easier to herd than alpacas, in that they tend to pack up and move in a convenient little goosey knot.

Eventually, we’re hoping to maybe get some goose eggs, and feathers, and possibly goslings. In the meantime, though, they’re fun, and different, and pretty. And they make these charming little gweep, gweep, gweep sounds that are just a hoot.

Farm Life

As readers of this blog know, the last few weeks have been rather harrowing. While we knew going in that “if you have livestock, you are going to have deadstock”, it does not make it any easier when an animal dies.

So, is it worth it? Yes. This new lifestyle can produce some rattling lows, but it also produces some amazing highs. While our previous suburban life was “smoother” (the highs and lows were less severe), on average the farm life is better. We have, though our obersavations and interventions, saved the lives of many animals.

We saved Cindy last year when we pulled out her stuck, dead cria.

I saved Jim in the woods, after he got chased by a dog and ended up badly tangled in supplejack.

We have saved four cria through bottle-feeding colostrum/milk. (Miniya, Gabriella (Angela’s cria), Mora, Enfield)
We saved Basilisk by pulling him out of Jasmine when he had a leg stuck back.

We saved Zahir from a parasite infection when Tam noticed he was feeling ill.

I could not save Floppy, the premature cria that died last year, but what I learned caring for him may one day save another.

Now we know

We now know why Jim died. We also know lightning can strike twice. And we know that llamas are incrediably tough, stoic animals.

The lesions in the lung were from a cronic, non-fatal disorder. Maybe pneumonia as a cria, we will never know for sure. But that didn’t play a role in his death. Jim suffered a bowel torsion, just like Ferrari. When Julia opened Jim up and saw the intestine, her immediate response was “bowel torsion”. I said it could not be so, as Jim had been symptomatic for at least 18-24 hours.
A bowel torsion killed Ferrari in less than 5 hours, and the amount of damage and inflammation in his gut was tiny compared to what we found in Jim. It just goes to show how tough llamas are. Except for the pained expression on his face, and his slow deliberate walk, you would enevr know that he was in agony, dying inside.

We can take some small comfort that, like Ferrari, there is nothing we could have done. Weird to have so many completely random deaths. I hope we are done now.

Complex Relationships

In the wake of Jims untimely death, we have been thinking about what role he played on the farm. Jim was the fourth camelid we purchased. We started with 3 alpaca wethers in December of 2003- Oak, Pointer and Chris. In August of 2004 Chris died suddenly of liver failure. Not that long afterwards the two remaining ‘paca started ot get really twitchy. We think they were not getting enough sleep, as one must always be on watch.

Around that time we met with Marty McGee, an expect on Camelid behavior. She suggested we get a llama, as he would sort out all the bahavior issues among our alpacas. After some searching we found Jim. It took a search, as wee needed an animal with the right attitude. He arrived in October of 2004.
Jim did a wonderful Job. He sorted Oak and Pointer out, and in the years that followed was an effective “Unkie Jim” to the new cria.

Jim was not a pet. Nor was he meerly “stock.” He was staff, an employee. He had a job to do, and he did it (allbeit grudgingly at times!). That is one reason why his death affected us differently than that of any of the alpaca we have lost. It is also why we have started searching for a new llama. Our farm needs a llama as a herd-maager for the boys. I look forward to meeting and working with a new llama in the future. I have put the word out to people I know in the llama association, hopefully a well-recommended employee will soon come our way.

Two great tastes ?

This weekend was the 2008 Wellington Rugby Sevens, which made news around the globe (in the obscure odd-stuff pages, anyway) for banning Borat costumes.

The Sevens, for the uninitiated, is a three-day international sporting event featuring in total 44 games of seven-a-side rugby. Seven guys per team, with halfs lasting seven minutes each. It’s like rugby, only really really fast.

It’s effectively also a three-day city-wide party, and, oddly enough, a gigantic team-cosplay contest amongst the fans. Go figure.

See if you can spot the Marge Simpson team. There were apparently three actually-transforming Transformers, but I’ve only seen photos of the red one. Also spotted a badly framed photo of what looked like a team of very well-done Oompa-Loompas.