Tuesday, April 9, 2013

That Leaf Looks Like A...Oh.

It occurred to me recently that we've been receiving many of the downsides of living outside of town without fully taking advantage of the benefits yet.

Our petrol bill is astronomical, our expenses for maintaining equipment are not much better. If I told you what I'd spent so far on getting our various mowers, whipper snippers and quad bike serviced and maintained, you would weep for me.

Or laugh, depending on whether you were a nice person or not.

We've had snakes inside our house and whopping big huntsmans and snakes outside our house and maggots.


The reason we decided to move out here was to live a different life from what we were living in town. Our vision included veggie gardens and chooks and a few larger animals and quiet afternoons on the verandah.

We don't have veggie gardens or chooks or larger animals yet. Partly that's because we haven't had time and partly it's because it's been so hot and partly it's because every time I venture over into that section of our property to do any groundwork, I seem to run into a snake which puts me off no end, as you could probably imagine.

In fact, not two days ago, I finally psyched myself up after the last brown snake run-in to go back into the paddocks and spray that damn parthenium weed. One step in and I saw a leaf that looked suspiciously like a snake...? Oh, wait. It was a snake. Dead, just a skin, but very definitely the head of a snake.

Ha! You thought I was a leaf! But I was a snake! Fooled you.

It's just seems an accepted part of life around here, finding the occasional death adder or brown snake in your henhouse.

I just can't sign on for that. We had another red belly black at the back of the house yesterday (erm, shouldn't they be buggering off to hibernate somewhere now?) and I feel, honestly, that there is enough snakes in our life right now without inviting more in with poorly-constructed animal houses. And if we rush into it, that's what we'll have.

So, I have to wait for Dan to build our animal shelters, because he builds things well and he's already bought a tonne of snake-proof wire to enclose everything with, but - obviously - he has a few other jobs on his list right now.

Soon we will have our tenant's horses and we do have our neighbour's cattle, and for the time being, that's enough animals for us.

But there's a little paddock with my name on it, when I get the weeds under control (which won't happen until Winter because SNAKES), I want to put a few animals in there to keep the lawn down and to be pets.

At first I though goats but everyone who has ever so much as met a goat instantly tried to talk me out of it. Then I thought sheep, but we have a bit of an issue around here with wild dogs and I am not sure I could deal with the trauma of finding my pet sheep massacred. Now I'm thinking maybe alpacas. They eat grass, they are big enough to take care of themselves and - apparently - they scare snakes off.

Acreage and farm dwellers - give me your insights. Did you ever meet a goat you didn't hate? Are alpacas all they're cracked up to be? Should I be a sheep and go with sheep?


  1. Wow at first I was so envious of your move. Now I am glad the only animal issues I have to deal with is my neighbours cat sneaking into our house and stealing food.


  2. I like alpacas - I will be honest and say I have seen them taken down by dogs though. Oh and they spit. Know nothing about goats. Sheep would be simple and relatively easy.

    I don't have chickens any more as I got so sick of the snake issue. Sad but true.

    Personally I have always wanted a mini horse but have been howled down by my husband... We have friends with a camel which is very cool but a bit big!

  3. There are a number of Alpaca farms around the SE. Why not visit one and find out all you need to know from those already farming them. I'd go with Alpacas but that's just because I think they're cute and I hate sheep...and snakes.
    BTW I made the mistake of telling my husband about your 'sniks', so being a typical grandpa, that has now become his favourite new word LOL

  4. Sounds like waiting a while is a good idea.. You've got so much going on! Between all the renovations and all the snakes!.....
    I cannot believe how many freaking snakes you've already seen.
    No rush anyway, this is a long term move, you've got years to figure it out! Maybe one of each? :-)
    I like goats btw.
    And pigs!! Our neighbour has a pig. Sooooo cute.

  5. God it is snake central down your way! My dad has a cattle property and at one point he obviously had enough of them as one ended up in the deep freeze cut up into steaks to throw on the bbq! My hubby would love to have pet alpacas, they are gorgeous. And lastly, patience grasshopper! You guys have so much on the go, it takes time to do things well but I know the frustration of everything taking longer than you imagined possible! mel x

  6. so remeber I told you about all the snakes we have had here..well can you believe we have only had 7 this season..compared to 27 last yr..so As you keep mowing and living there I think they will decrease....when we first came here we had no animals I have never been a pet owner(well when i was 16 i got a bird and it died,then when i was 22 i got fish that died and the dog i got that ran away )so when we got here I was really scared to get chickens,I mean chickens... we have had them for 41/2yrs now and I willl never live my life without chickens in it ever again...then we got a cow and she was a good cow we had her for 3 yrs and I was petrified of her and her calf (funny cause i miss her now she's is gone)after her we got sheep..and SHEEP are so easy, I mean easy peasy , i heard all these stories about rams and Oh my goodness this and becareful of that...sheep are so low care.. we visit with our sheep daily..feeding them making sure they have their water...they are fun animals to watch and if you feed them daily it won't take long and they will like clock work come to the fence waiting for you or call out to you(you know reminding you to bring a treat)..yeah def get sheep ya got to

  7. If you have a fancy for sheep try Dorpers or Damarras. Both are self shearing, in other words they drop their fleece every year so you don't need to pay someone to shear them to keep them comfortable in the hotter months. Dorpers are white with black heads, lower legs and occasionally tails and Damarras come in white, black, brown and orange and occasionally a colour and white patchy coat, that I've seen. Around here you can buy either breed, unregistered and sometimes not quite a purebred specimen for about $150 a ewe. The more purebred they are the better their self shearing habit will be. Both breeds are good for meat animals if you want to grow your own lamb chops.

  8. That's a lot to deal with. I'm not sure what I'd choose. I agree, I'd hate to find my sheep murdered, or half dead - how awful. I've not had experience with alpacas but the goats I've known have been utter ratbags. They'd keep life interesting, but then it seems to be interesting enough already!

  9. Alpacas can be nice, but they're also more skittish than most domesticated animals. They also tend to be individual too, so you don't want to be buying someone else's bad tempered nightmare. From the research I have done, and my friend in the US has a llama too (same family as alpaca) you really do require proper training and handling from the get-go. They're not at all like sheep, which can be domesticated quite easily.

    We did have a friend who had sheep and they loved them. Raised as babies, with the aid of their young son and she never had to worry about him entering their yard when they were fully grown. They did have problems with the dogs next door though, so it's an idea if you get sheep, they may require some form of protection. A good mix would probably be an alpaca (or two) plus 2-3 sheep. Give an alpaca a herd to guard and they become more formidable. They aren't impervious to attack if the dogs are in a pack though and know how to tire an animal out.

    Be warned with alpacas however, they require regular hoof maintenance (just like a horse or donkey) which is why you want one which has already been trained to accept this routine. I'm not sure if sheep require the same hoof maintenance. But if you're going to mix animals you'll need to find out what they can all eat, so there's enough of it in the pasture to meet both requirements.

    We would have larger animals here, only the sloping landscape isn't really suitable for them. We did have neighbours with goats next door, and while they seemed rather hardy, it also didn't take much for them to get bloat. I suspect the neighbours weren't feeding them adequate roughage or adequate minerals, as they kept escaping their yard to ours, to eat all our new tree saplings. Not the weed acacias, gums or ironbarks, just all our lovely natives we planted for the native wildlife to eat when mature.

    Contrary to the belief that goats can survive off anything, the neighbours goats did really poorly on native grass, lantana, sapling trees and the occasional bale of hay. They eventually died in the 2011 floods, our neighbours said because the storm scared them. I suspect however, that it was paralysis ticks though, as we had some chickens we let free range in the same area (different side of the fence) die suddenly after the flood too. Of the 5 chickens, 4 died suddenly within hours of each other. None of them were sick, but the day after we let them out to free range they all suddenly became weak, dropped and went stiff. Sounded very much how like their goats died.

    I've already plucked 2 ticks from my husband's back, whenever he's ventured into that same area to brush-cut after the rains. So just be aware, ticks may be an issue with any form of livestock you bring onto your property too. I know our friend with sheep would manually pluck them off her 3 sheep whenever the rains arrived. With more animals though, you may require another solution.

  10. Further to my comment, we have chickens and that's plenty of work for us! We overstocked for a small period there, which wasn't good for their health, or ours. We reduced our numbers and stopped breeding them.

    The only way I would get larger livestock, is if I had a definite need for them. As we learned with chickens too, you really need an "exit" strategy for if overstocking occurs or some of the individuals turn out to be unmanageable. We made a decision after receiving someone else's bad tempered rooster, that we would never sell off an animal that had poor behavioural traits. Unfortunately, not everyone is like that and will quite happily sell you a nightmare, to take it off their hands.

    So also keep that in mind - what is your exit strategy going to be? If you can't kill an animal yourselves, or sell it to someone else, are their skilled people in the area who could slaughter them for you. It's not a pretty thought but often what starts out as keeping pets in the country, can become a very slow and painful death to a herd/flock if one or two individuals are allowed to run amok.

    When we started with chickens, naturally we raised chicks and it was all cute and fluffy. They were considered our "pets" (we took that mentality from suburia with us) but then when you watch some of those pets turn into a death sentence for other chickens, all because their genes were messed up (cross bred chickens can be highly unpredictable) and we had to be responsible for dealing with that aspect too.

    Suddenly what was considered a pet, forced us to make some rather unpleasant decisions. It doesn't mean you cannot enjoy your animals and I don't want to scare you away from the thought - but just keep an exit strategy in mind, just in case you need it.

  11. I have met a few lovely goats at the Rescue I volunteer at, none of them have ever given me any problems. And I have heard good things about pigs - they will eat weeds like they're going out of style, apparently!

    And you do have a ton of stuff going on right now - everything will come in time. This is something I am constantly reminding myself too: yes, I want to do this, this, and this, but it doesn't all have to be done right now.

    Take a deep breath! You'll be there for a while, so pace yourself :)


  12. Alpacas. I agree with Jenny above - do check out any alpaca farms close to you. It's a great way to find out practical stuff like whether they'll do well on your type of land etc.

    Northern Rivers Dreaming

  13. Gosh when you mentioned snakes I didn't realise there would be so many. I hope that over time they will diminish - what do your neighbours suggest?

  14. We have given the paddock over to the kangaroos - easy on the eye and no maintenance! If we were younger the story would be different.
    Six years ago we retired to a plot in the country with big plans and a big dose of enthusiasm however we've removed much from our long list of projects for life on a rural plot, having faced the reality of lack of money, lack of rainfall, abundance of foxes and rabbits, and some major unexpected expenses soon after moving here shelved many of our plans, and I briefly wondered about our decision to leave a coastal city where life was all so easy (but the pace way too frantic). Despite the negatives, we do love it here and hope this will be our home for the rest of our days. Every morning when I look out and see the kangaroos I remember why we wanted our own "Escape to the Country".
    Here in N.E. Victoria the snakes are still out and about, on the weekend the cat dragged home a young red-belly black still very much alive, but rather battered. It was approx 60cm long (I didn't measure it). I grabbed the shovel but it had slithered under a large shrub where I hope it died. The cat is still as large as life and looking for more, and so do I every time I step outside!

  15. I have nominated you for a Liebster award, if you are interested the details are here.

  16. Love reading this... by the way my uncle had an alpaca farm and they are a lot of work. shearing them is required (and this was in Tassie), and its very hard work, you have to strap them to a tilt table as they are so heavy and its quite a skill. He wanted to sell the fleeces but you have to get professionals to do it then as you have to have a good close cut to make it worth anything. Plus they spit green regurgitated grass at you all the time, not too friendly generally. I got covered!

  17. PS. A dairy cow would be worth the investment. My mum grew up with one and it saves a lot of money :)

  18. what about pygmy goats? If you get females they don't smell - apparently pygmy temperaments are supposed to be quite good?

  19. whatever the animal good, strong fencing is key - and perhaps with pigs and goats a hot wire (electric) might be required. If its not a huge paddock netting and barbed might keep unwanted animals out too. Good luck. Goats can be a pain but if only one or two might be easier to control

  20. I would suggest starting with chickens. But you do need to consider who will care for any animal when you want to go away. If you get chicken I would suggest getting an electric fence unit like you use for cows, pigs or sheep. We have had neighbours loose chickens to foxes but we have never lost a single one. We have not had any issues with snakes and chickens and we have seen plenty of snakes here. But we mainly have red bellies and they are not chicken hunters. If you have red bellies around they will eat the baby brown snakes which is a good thing. Red bellies are very timid and you should not have any issue with them. My advice is to start small and work up from there.

  21. I've never ever ever met a goat I liked. They eat everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) and the cranks - my goodness, I swear they've all got man flu! I honestly don't think they are ever worth the effort. The only thing I've noticed about Alpacas is they all tend to poo in the one spot. V. considerate.