Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seeing out 2011 fire fighting.

Well I had lots of news from over the Christmas period but everything has been over shadowed by a fire on George Island.  Before I tell you our depressing news  I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and a happy healthy 2012.  2011 has been a good year in general.  Tiphanie passed her Masters Degree, Shaun and Tanya moved out to Speedwell Island.  Wool prices are high, lamb prices keep improving. Shaun got 4th place in the intermediate shearing competition and his team got first in the team shear and Christopher got third in the farm shear on the 29th December.  It was a brilliant competition, the two top shearers and two top rousies will now go to New Zealand in February to represent the Falklands at the Golden shears competition.
Now for our depressing end to 2011.  Yesterday we got a call from the Falkland Islands Government Air Service enquiring if there was anyone on George Island as one of the pilots had seen smoke coming from the island.  We were still in Stanley as we had planned to come out today but we were going to Speedwell instead of George.  FIGAS are a truly brilliant service and on finding out that we were not on the island they came and flew over the island to see what was on fire.  Happily it was not the house or any of the buildings.  It is a grass/diddle dee fire in the Ram Paddock.  The fire is approximately 5,000 square metres.  We have no idea how it started we don't think anyone has been on the island but we cant be sure, sometimes we have yachties on the island that don't have permission to land.  We think this is probably from a lightening strike, lightening hit Speedwell telephone system just before Christmas (the second time in a month) it is quite likely that it has been a lightening strike here.  So yesterday afternoon everything went into overdrive.  FIGAS yet again pulled out all the stops and Christopher and Shaun along with some fire fighting equipment were able to get onto the island.  They got back to George at about 5pm and immediately started fire fighting.  Although they had a pump loaned to them from the fire department they did not have long enough hoses so were only able to do some work digging ditches to try and fight the fire and using buckets of water but it is a bit like pissing in the wind.  Today Tanya and I flew out.  We got here around 10am and went straight out to the fire.  We also received more hose on the plane and we were actually able to start going around the edge of the fire.  There is no possibility of putting the whole fire out so the plan is to try and stop the spread.  We spent two hours working on the top line of fire digging out hot spots on the edge and blowing the edges out with the force of water.  Christopher flew back out on the plane that Tanya and I flew in on and went to North Arm.  We have been very lucky that the Fire brigade were also able to supply us with another pump, more hoses and also two volunteer firemen.  The firemen drove out to North Arm with the extra equipment and then Christopher and the firemen drove down to Flores Harbour and came down to George on Theo. We all went out to the fire again at about 4pm and stayed out until 8pm.  We have made some progress in stopping it and some of it has went out by itself.  We are really fortunate tonight because there is no wind. I guess there is always a bright side, the fire is very slow moving, it is in the ram paddock which only gets used for very short periods and currently has no stock in it.  It has dripped with rain for about 15 minutes.  Hopefully we can contain it.  It is quite sad that some of the Jackass penguins have perished in the fire.  They currently have chicks and I guess they couldn't get away from it.  We will see what tomorrow brings but I know what we will all be doing New Years Day.
Anyway we are going to stay up and have a couple of drinks and see the New Year in.  There is nothing we can do out at the fire tonight so Happy New Year everyone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hi to our visitors of the Bremen

Still Christmas shopping.  I have left it far to late and there is very little in the shops in the way of fancy sweets etc.  Luckily I did order a fair bit of my Christmas shopping on line from the UK and it has all arrived.
Today Tiphanie leaves Indonesia on her way home.  I am so looking forward to her getting home.  I will be relieved when she is at least back in England.
I think today is the day that the tourists that visited George Island on Bremen arrive back home.  I hope and am sure that you had a fabulous time visiting South Georgia and Antarctica.  If our weather has been anything to go by I expect  you  would have had fantastic weather for your trip.
Bex is back home with us at our house in Stanley.  She is much better and can now walk around okay although sometimes she carries her leg.  She is still restricted to a 20 foot length of rope at the moment but the vet has said that when we go back out to the island after Christmas she will be good to start resuming her normal activities.  She was so pleased to see me and started rolling around in the grass and wagging her tail.  Christopher went to see her and she growled and barked at him.  I think she is confused about who accidentally ran her over.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


At last all the lamb marking is finished on all three islands.  The very bad weather that hit George Island during lambing gave us a poor result.  It was not the worst we have had there but it was pretty bad.  Following on from last year when George Island had its best lambing ever it was a bit of a bitter pill.  This pulled our lambing percentage down from 92% on the put out to 86% across the whole group.
All the hogs are now shorn.  The George Island Dohnes clipped fantastically with a great wool weight which only emphasised the lack of wool on the Speedwell Samms.  It has always been our intention not to swap one income for another but to achieve the best from both.  After several years we don't think we are going to obtain this using Samms on Speedwell.  They have achieved one of the objectives that we set out to achieve, the hogs and shearlings are much bigger framed.  This has been of set by a fleece weight that seems to be getting increasingly lighter.  The whole issue of changing breeds has become increasingly more difficult.  When we changed breed the agricultural department also imported Samm and Dohne genetics.  They spent large amounts of money to help facilitate people changing to dual purpose animals only to sell off all the Dohnes last year to a private buyer and this year have given the Samms away to the farm that was running them on behalf of the department of agriculture.  In my opinion they wasted a great deal of money and achieved nothing.  We now find ourselves in a position of not being able to obtain genetics within the islands.  Christopher has spent hours on the Internet contacting Dohne producers in Australia because they are doing really quite well on George Island but it is impossible to find anything with a decent fat cover.  This is because animals are being breed for the meat market and consumers no longer want lamb with any amount of fat.   This is the major problem we are facing on George Island.  When conditions are harsh the animals have virtually no fat cover to sustain them.  This also means the lambs are born with very little fat cover making them even more susceptible to hypothermia when they are born in harsh conditions.  So decisions have had to be made.  On Speedwell we are going to change back to Polwarth.  The polwarth carries a good fleece weight with a good micron and has a decent fat cover.  The frame isn't as big as the SAMM but because we have plenty of ewe lambs to choose from for replacement we feel that with careful selection we will still be able to achieve a decent animal for the abattoir.  On George we are not really ready to give up on the Dohne but unless we can find genetics that can provide the fat cover  we need it looks like we may be pushed to change George back to Polwarth too.  The decisions are difficult, for example have we given the new breeds long enough to really show their potential or are we having a knee jerk reaction.  At the end of the day I am really not happy with the way the wool side is going on Speedwell so I am happy with that decision. I think with George we will at least continue with the Dohne for another season and keep on looking for suitable genetics.
The boys have worked their arses of this week.  They have been up at 5am and not back in the house until 7pm.  They have slaughtered, butchered, bagged and delivered to the plane 120 lambs.  between us we have marked 600 plus lambs and shore 300 plus sheep in the last 10 days.  Shaun decided to shear all the lambs that were being slaughtered if he could keep and sell the lamb wool himself.  In all he has 80 plus kilos.
Today saw the end of the work for the next 10 days.  The last 20 lambs were delivered to the plane along with me.  I t would appear that I was vanquished from the boat today.  It was intended that we would all come across on the boat and come into Stanley.  At about 10am a breeze started coming up from the north and before I knew what was happening FIGAS had been contacted and I was flying to town with the lamb.  So here we all are now in Stanley.  The grass in the yard is up around our knees, I still have lots of Xmas shopping to do but best of all Tiphanie starts on her way back home tomorrow.  Happy days.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Water in my ears!!!

When Shaun suggested that now he was going to be working for us we should shear all 5,000 sheep ourselves it didn't occur to me that at times I was going to be the only shed hand.  The last three days has seen us shearing every day.  Only small amounts between 60 - 100 a day.  I have wangled every way possible for it to be just me and Shaun in the shed, to the point that I even suggested that he (Christopher) should take some time out and go and have a picnic.  When it is just me and Shaun I ask him to shear as fast as he can so that there will be less left to do when they are both on shearing together.  It has worked quite well and most days I have only had to spend at the most an hour with them both shearing.  Yesterday it was so hot and there was so much work to do I swear the sweat was running down my face and filling up my ears.  Christopher and Shaun just laugh at my struggle to keep up and to give them credit they are very tolerant.  Today I was thinking its a wonder I haven't had my fringe trimmed in my struggle to move the crutch with its copious amounts of gooey shit.  When you go in to remove the crutch the sheep is slightly laid back and if you are a bit slow like me the shearer moves the sheep up into the up right position while you are still doing it. At times the shears seem very close to me.  Today in the shed was also interrupted by a retching session on my behalf.  I was standing at the wicker basket pulling the stained wool of the shit when the overpowering aroma of ammonia went right up my nose.  It was so strong I couldn't stop myself retching.  I could hear Christopher saying to Shaun whats wrong with mum has she swallowed a piece of wool and Shaun saying I don't think so I think its the smell of the shit.  Of course all of this very hard work for me can be avoided by crutching the sheep.  We would normally crutch and wig all our young sheep but this year because we were so late getting Theo back into the water we run out of time to do it.  It wont happen again, not while I'm the rousie anyway.
Besides shearing we have now slaughtered and sent to Stanley 89 lamb for our customers.  We have also continued to lamb mark all ewe lambs that come in when we are selecting Xmas lamb, those wether lambs that are not big enough have also been marked.  This afternoon Shaun and Christopher are away to gather all the rest of the ewes, lambs and hogs in.  Today we will continue to lamb mark and draft of the rest of the hogs for shearing tomorrow.  We will also select the last 24 lambs for slaughter.
When that is finished the lawn needs mowing the rest of the weeding in the garden still needs to be finished.  The house is a bit of a tip and needs tidying.  The last plane to take lamb out comes on Tuesday then we can go to Stanley for Christmas.  Bring it on.
With the weather being beautiful I have really enjoyed weeding in the garden.  I was really pleased to find the swedes that had obviously blown out of one plot were now growing in the top of the potato patch in the other plot.  I weeded ever so carefully so as not to pull any out so that they could be transplanted when they grew a bit more.  I was immensely pleased with myself for saving them all and reckoned I had probably found the whole pack full.  I kept saying to Christopher have you been and looked at all the swedes but he had been too busy.  Yesterday I was at the clothes line when he came back from the plane.  I said come and look at the swedes with me.  We peered over the fence and I thought they don't really look like swedes any more.  In the couple of days since I had last been in the garden my carefully looked after swedes had turned into stinging nettles.  Now I have to start at the top of the plot again and pull out my dozens of carefully looked after stinging nettles.
Finally for today the Bremen cancelled her next trip to Barren island on the 21st December.  This is a shame but we never count on the money from tourist boats because cancellations are quite common.  Sometimes it is frustrating because they can be cancelled very late.  One time we have  flown Christopher's mother out to help us on the day and the vessel cancelled the day before.  There is no cancellation fee so on that occasion we lost money  but when they do come in it is a good days pay for us.  Hopefully she will not cancel the next one.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Phil Vickery cooking mutton & spuds in the Falklands

I have just heard on the radio that Phil Vickery the chef may be coming to the Falklands in May next year.  I'm wondering what he might do with mutton and spuds.  I love mutton and spuds with proper pan gravy.  There was a time before the war when mutton was our staple diet but there is now a much bigger variety of foods eaten by Falkland Islanders.  I'm thinking it is probably a bit late in the season.  It will almost be mid winter so all our fresh produce that is coming on now will be past its best.
On George Island life is still busy.  On Tuesday Tanya flew to Stanley to do her hairdressing.  Shaun and Christopher gathered in a cut of ewes, lambs and hogs.  In the afternoon we picked off the 30 biggest wether lambs, marked all the ewe lambs and any wether lambs that came in that were not big enough to slaughter for Xmas.  Over the last couple of weeks I have sent letters/e-mails out to our regular customers that purchase lamb of us for Christmas to see what their requirements were this year and advise them of a price increase.  We have provided 100 to 120 lambs to Stanley every year since we purchased George Island.  Christmas lamb is our traditional Christmas day lunch in the Falklands.  It is suckling lamb approx. 12 weeks old and is served with new potatoes and a variety of fresh veg i.e. cabbage, cauli, brussel sprouts, carrots, proper pan gravy and mint sauce. Our customer base is pretty loyal and the same people order each year.  I already have orders for 120 lamb this year and have now had to turn at least  a dozen more down from potential new customers.  We are now at a cross roads, the abattoir prices have now risen to a point that if we were to run these particular animals through to the end of February they would bring in approx £30.00.  We are currently selling them for £24.00 halved or £27.00 butchered but we pick up the freight bill on the Islander aircraft which is 30p/kilo.  This means we are paying approx £3.00 freight per carcase plus we have them delivered in Stanley.  10 years ago this was a good deal for us and although we have increased the price over the years to cover the increase in air freight we haven't increased the price of the product.  Selling early suits us because it lightens the island out but at the end of the day we are a business and we are getting to a point were it is foolish to be selling at these prices.  Of course the alternative is to put the prices up by £6 or £7 per head.  This would bring it in line with the abattoir as we also have to pay freight to get the lamb to the abattoir by Concordia Bay.  Such a large increase would obviously be very unpopular with our customers. We are going to have to put some serious thought into the situation before next Xmas.
Yesterday Christopher and Shaun slaughtered 30 lamb and in the afternoon we shore  approx 50 hogs.  It was hot and I wished I was 20 years younger  The hog fleeces were very big, very dusty and very shitty. It is not so bad if the shit is dry but this was squelchy.  It was a real struggle to keep up even though they assured me they were shearing slowly.  Wool carrying has become more difficult to do by yourself because the shearers expect you to take the shit of the fleece while it is still on the sheep being shorn.  This makes it better for the shearer and better for when the fleece is on the table but you only have a finite period of time when the sheep is in the position when you can get it.  This means you will be cleaning a fleece on the table, taking any stain off that you have missed on the floor and also taking the neck off if it is contaminated with grass etc.  In the middle of doing this one of the shearers is at that finite point when you have to run from the table leaving what you are doing to get the shit of their fleece.  In the past the whole fleece was cleaned on the table so you didn't have to abandon what you were doing to rush away.  Needless to say I didn't get them all cleaned and retrained the boys to shout wet shit if it really needed to be removed on the floor. At the same time you have to keep the floor swept to stop any wool going out the portholes, pick out any skin that might be on the wool if the sheep has been accidentally cut. Oh and if Ive still got time he would quite like me to put the cleaned and rolled fleeces into the hand press. Oh and not just throw them in, place them in so they are in level layers of 4 so that the press will press them evenly.
Today we are waiting for the plane to take the lamb away.  Shaun and Christopher have been out since 6 o'clock splitting and butchering the lamb.  The day is calm again and absolutely scorching but the plane is delayed because a lot of the islands are fogged in.  We were earlier but it has all burnt off now.  We are desperate to get the lamb in because it is bagged now and it is definitely plus 20 degrees out there.
In between shearing and lambmarking I have been weeding the garden.  It is a bit dissapointing because a lot of the small seed obviously blew out.  I have one half all weeded and I am just about to slap on some sun cream to hopefully stop my nose from peeling any more and head out to the garden and start the other half.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In an airport in Dubai!!!

As you know Tiphanie is away to Indonesia for a fortnight.  She flew out Friday morning on the RAF flight.  We then saw updates on face book on how she was getting on.  Saturday there was an update saying Tiphanie May is in Dubai airport.  After that there was nothing.  I waited all day Sunday.  By 10pm I was checking face book every 5 minutes. Nothing, nothing, nothing.  I have to say I was starting to get worried because there comes a point when you think she must have arrived somewhere by now.  10:30 I went to bed resigned to the fact that I wasn't going to hear anything on Sunday.  I hadn't been in bed 5 minutes when Christopher came in and said Tiphanie has updated her status and has arrived safe and sound in Indonesia. She is now on an island that I have never heard of called the Gilis.  You know the saying you reap what you sew.  With Tiphanie the saying couldn't be truer.  I always said to Tiphanie and Shaun, work hard at school, get good results be confident and the world is your oyster.  Well she worked hard, she got good results, she is very confident and now she is checking out the world. The trip wasn't straight forward for her as she had to take an internal flight in Indonesia which she hadn't been able to book on line and I guess that was what was worrying me the most.
Back in the Falklands.  First thing Monday Christopher went back down to the Sand grass and took a cut of approx 100 ewes and lambs out and put them into Phillips Point.  You will recall that the sheep have been moving because of the pond becoming dry.  If we had left them in the Sand grass the camp would have become very pressured with the extra amount which would have been detrimental to all the ewes and lambs in the camp.
I spent the morning washing up all the bedding and cleaning the house ready to leave for George Island in the afternoon.  The morning was quite quiet.  It was about 3 o'clock before we were ready to leave and it was starting to get breezy.  It was a case of really needing to go because we needed to be down on George Island to start slaughtering our Xmas lamb.  Outside the harbour Eagle Passage was running with white toppers.  I could see it was on the edge of my comfort factor but you could tell there was no swell.  If there is a swell the sea looks lumpy from the land and it didn't.  Christopher said do you want to go or wait until later when the wind goes down again.  I decided to go just in case the wind didn't go down.  The first half hour was fine as I had thought but then the wind seemed to get up a bit more and changed direction and it was coming on the side of the boat.  I was sitting behind the wheel and the waves were getting bigger to the point where Christopher started saying this is going to be a big one.  It was at the point where any rougher was going to be too rough and we still had a long way to go.  At this point Tanya cheerfully pipped up and said "we might roll over".  Luckily as much as I get nervous I have great faith in the boat and Christopher and I wasn't worried it might roll over.  I knew however that Christopher would be  thinking he could do without comments like that.  He quietly said "that's not a very good thing to say when someone is nervous".  Shortly after we changed course and went up between George and Speedwell so that we could run with the wind.  It was much more comfortable although it added time to the trip.  A short while later we turned again and run back up the back of George and around the point.  As soon as we rounded  Strike off the sea was much more civilised.  Needless to say it was the roughest trip I had done in a couple of years.

Lambmarking 2011 Speedwell Island

Busy, busy, too tired to blog.
Christopher and Shaun left to pick the lamb markers up from Flores harbour at 5am on Saturday.  It was a nice morning and they arrived back at 7:15 am.  This years lamb markers were Steven Poole, Chris Poole, Juliet Poole, Macaulay Middleton, Tom Elsby and Marcus Pole-Evans.  Also myself, Christopher, Shaun and Tanya.  The lamb markers were hungry as although they knew they may be spending the night at North Arm they were not really prepared for it.  I had sausages, burgers and salad etc in boxes that they were bringing out for me so they could have used that if they had wanted to.  After a quick breakfast of beans, sausages, spaghetti and toast it was time to leave for the first gather.  I guess it was about 8 am before we left the house.  All the boys except Macaulay went on motorbikes. Tanya took the rover with Juliet and I took the Toyota with myself and Macaulay and portable pens.  Tanya had dogs, lamb marking gear and the picnic.  The first camp to be lamb marked was the Sandgrass, in this camp, we marked 631 lambs giving us a pen tally of 94%.  We actually had 105% on the put out but it is irrelevant because the large pond between Twin Ponds and the Sandgrass has been broken out by what can only have been horrendously heavy seas.  This pond has never washed out since we have had the farm and it acts as a boundary between camps.  With no water in it, it has allowed sheep to come through from Twin Ponds to the Sandgrass meaning there were more ewes in the Sand grass then originally put out.  That is the reason why we have to use the pen tally as the put out is totally inaccurate.  We were finished this camp by about 2:30pm.  The day was made a bit easier with the aid of shot glasses filled with rum and port the traditional lamb marking tipple, (for those that had the stomach for it) followed bythe odd beer.  By 3:00 pm the boys were away on their second gather of the day in Phillips Point.  The girls and Macaulay waited at the pen as both camps back onto each other so we were lamb marking in the same pen again.  The boys had another super quick gather and 526 lambs later with 101% on the pen and 88% on the put out we were finished for the day.  We got back to the house at 8:30pm.  It had been a lovely day.  Everyone was extremely dirty and extremely tired.  Shaun and Christopher then knocked up a quick barbecue and a few more beers were drunk.  By 11:30 everyone was in bed.  6:00am arrived too quickly and by 6:50 everyone was again away from the house on the final lamb marking on Speedwell for 2011.  Twin Ponds was gathered in record time and despite having 600 ewes put out in it the count of ewes showed there were only 528 left.   This was because some of these ewes had moved into the Sandgrass. 502 lambs were marked giving us 84% on the put out and 96% on the pen. Again the 84% on the put out is irrelevant because so many of the ewes had moved camp.  The job was done and dusted and we were all back at the house by 12:30pm.
The true lamb marking percentages for Speedwell for 2011 was 1,800 ewes put to the ram, 1659 lambs marked giving us 92% on the put out.
On the pen 1723 ewes came through the pens with 1659 lambs giving a pen tally of 96%.
96 ewes are unaccounted for most of these are missing from Phillips Point.  This could be partly attributed to possibly a bad gather, some ewes and lambs have been missed.   Part of the loss will be natural death rate. The other possibility is that some of the ewes have went out on reefs and got cut of f by the tide and there by lost.  There are definitely long tail lambs still running around, we had at least 12 - 15 lambs escape from the pens by jumping fences.  These will be rounded up when the ewes come in for shearing and will then be added to the percentage.
All in all we are happy with the percentage.  Although two of the camps were hit by bad weather during the lambing period the fact that they have good shelter has meant the percentage has not been affected too badly.
Steven Poole 9:00pm  Saturday evening trying to finish of the rum and port (failed).

The boys putting the Sandgrass ewes and lambs into the pens at the end of the first gather.

Beer break (left to right) Shaun May, Tom Elsby, Marcus Pole-Evans, Chris Poole, Juliet Poole, Tanya Ford, in behind, Macaulay Middleton, Chris May, Steven Poole.
The weekend was rounded up by Christopher and Shaun dropping the lamb markers back at Flores harbour.  While they had to drive all the way back into Stanley, on Speedwell everyone took an afternoon nap.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lamb marking

9:20 pm and all ready for the lamb markers.  A windy night currently blowing 30 knots plus from north, north east.  The lamb markers are at North Arm and we have rented a house for them to stay in over night because the swell is too big in Eagle Passage to bring them across.  It is one of those occasions when Christopher could go if he really needed to but it is rougher then he would like to.  It is a shame that we can not get them across tonight as it will mean a later start in the morning which will end up in a very long day tomorrow.
This morning Christopher and Shaun shore 20 stragglers. They were hogs that had been missed in the original  gather for shearing.  I carried, cleaned and rolled the wool myself.  It created a bit of sweat, just as well there were only 20.
Tiphanie is away today on her adventure to Bali in Indonesia.  I think I am going to spend the next two weeks worrying about her especially if she doesn't stay in touch regularly.  She arrives home on Christmas day.  I will be relieved when she is safely back.  She also found out today that she had been allocated government housing and that she will be able to move into it at the end of December.  After asking her for weeks what she would like for Christmas, shopping for her has suddenly become very easy.  The accommodation is totally unfurnished.
Mum ready to go for a spin.
Mum flew back into Stanley today.  She has been with us for a month.  I am going to miss her.  She has been a great help and has so much energy for her age.  She even decided she would come for a short ride on the 4 wheeler with me.  Not bad for 79.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More sun, repairs, ponies, gathering and drafting

Busy couple of days.  Yesterday was spent gathering and drafting.  One of those annoying days when we were doing a job that shouldn't have really needed doing.  We had to gather in the shearling ewes again because the cattle flattened the fence.  Christopher realised there was a problem with the fence when he went down to the sand grass and saw some shearlings out there.  He sent Shaun to check the fence and do a rough count of how many sheep were still in and there was only 2.  The shearlings are now all back in the right camp.
Today was spent checking and mending the lamb marking pens to make sure they are all lamb proof.  Also found my ponies.  They have been missing since the thunder and lightening.  We found them down in the Sand Grass.  We managed to bribe them into coming part way home with a few handfuls of oats.  After we had finished work for the day Christopher went out on his motorbike and chased them home.  They are funny little animals because they love treats but when they go away they don't bother coming back.
We now have our lambmarkers from Stanley finalised.  Christopher will be picking up 7 possibly 8 people from Flores Harbour tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nearly Ready

Finished the last of the cooking for lamb marking this weekend.  Still not sure how many people are coming but I'm sure there will be enough food.
Tanya flew back today.  They have have had an update on Bex from the vet and he is very happy with her.
This morning mum and I made egg and bacon tarts and this afternoon I spent a couple of hours in the garden weeding.  The garden at Speedwell is ahead of the George one and most of the potatoes are up.  The strawberries that Christopher moved are good and healthy and now have flowers on them.
Christopher and Shaun carried on working on motorbikes and they now have 9 motorbikes running ready for lamb marking.  That includes my 4 wheeler and  Tanya's 4 wheeler.  They also went and put the pen up out at the airstrip ready for lamb marking on Saturday.

Monday, December 5, 2011


A positive outcome for Bex. Bex finally got her x-rays this afternoon.  They showed that her pelvis is broken in two places.  Her age is in her favour and she does not need an operation.  She is to stay at the vet department until Monday.  When she leaves the vet department she will go and stay with Christopher's father and mother for at least 2 weeks.  During the 2 weeks she is to be kept in a very small area so that she can't walk around.  After the two weeks she is allowed to have short walks in the yard and gradually build her exercise up.  She should make a full recovery.  The only problem she  may end up with is one of incontinence but as she isn't a house dog this shouldn't really be a problem.  What a relief.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A tearful day

Most days are good days but today hasn't been one of them.
The day started of with  a bit of a lay in.  I didn't get up until 8:30 am.  I got ready to leave George Island last night so I didn't have much to do at all today.  In fact mum, Tanya and I were all cleaned up ready to go before Christopher was quite ready.
It has been another beautiful, sunny, windless day.  I was the last person at the house.  I was sitting on the step waiting for Christopher when he asked me to run him up to the airstrip in the Mitsubishi to collect his motorbike to take on the boat.  The dogs came for a run.  On the way back I had to stop and shut a gate to keep the sheep off the house green.  I shut the gate and was trundling along in 2nd low range.  I slipped the vehicle into 3rd and heard this horrible cry, it wasn't a bark, then I heard it again, I knew what it was.  Even before I looked in my side mirror I knew I had run one of the dogs over.  In the mirror I could see a dog obviously in pain pulling itself around on the ground.  It turned out to be Shaun's 11 month old bitch Bex.  She was obviously hurt and scared, she couldn't get up and  I was just hoping that I hadn't broke her back.  Christopher saw me out of the vehicle and came over but it was impossible to tell what was wrong.  All indications were something was broken in her hind quarters.  Christopher lifted her into the vehicle.  She didn't appear to have any injuries to the stomach, lungs etc.  We decided to take her to Speedwell and then see if we could get a plane to call in if there was one in the area.  Tanya rang through to FIGAS and there was a plane just leaving Sealion Island which is only 15 minutes away from us.  We decided to wait at George Island for the plane.  Tanya had to fly in with Bex because dogs can't travel in the aircraft without being in a dog crate.  Exceptions are made when obviously the animal is hurt and is not likely to be jumping around but they still have to have someone with them to control them if they do become unexpectedly mobile.  Shaun said by the time the plane landed  which would be close to an hour after I ran her over she was actually able to walk but she was limping.  She is now in Stanley and has seen the vet but by then she was in a lot of pain and is now flat out again.  The vet thinks she has a broken pelvis but because the vet department does not  own  an x-ray machine she can not be x-rayed until tomorrow.  Tomorrow she will go down to the hospital to be x-rayed.  She is now at home in Stanley and has had some pain relief.  Tomorrow we will get a prognosis and hopefully she will be able to have an operation to mend any damage.
In over 20 years farming this is the first time I have run over one of our dogs.  I never even seen her.  Christopher had been trimming the young dogs up because they had started rushing in and biting at the tyres.  It is like a game of dare and a lot of the young dogs seem to go through this stage.  They didn't  appear to be doing it today but obviously Bex decided she would.  I think she must have rushed into the back wheel just as  I changed gear and she got caught with the acceleration in speed.  I was only trundling along probably doing no more then 10 to 15 miles per hour.
Even though all our dogs are working dogs they are all also pets.  Bex is one of Elle's pups so we have had her and her sister Heart since the day they were born.  They spent the first 3 weeks of their lives living in the back porch with Elle.  So as you can see today hasn't been a good day for me.  Lets hope tomorrow brings some good news.  I know it wasn't my fault. I was only driving slow but it doesn't stop you feeling guilty.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

101 visitors

We could not have wished for a more perfect day weather wise for the visit of cruise ship Bremen.  Today Bremen was carrying 101 passengers and unusually all 101 landed on Barren.  The first zodiac came off at approx 7:00 am.  On the purpose built landing stage on Barren lounged a Sea Lion to greet them.  Christopher and Shaun went over to Barren in our rib to meet the Bremen expedition crew and greet the passengers as they landed.  Bremen stayed anchored at Barren until approx 1:00 am, she then moved across to George Island, a meer hop.  Passengers started disembarking at approx 2:45 pm on George Island.  Shaun despite not wanting to shear because he believes he is shy actually  didn't mind doing it at all when he got started.  Christopher's dog trialing also went okay.  Elle and Meg were quite tired because they spent so much time chasing sticks etc for various people but they still managed to do an okay job.
The visitors today were a fantastic group of people. Most were German, Swiss or Austrian.   It never ceases to amaze me that nearly everyone speaks English to some degree.   Everyone I spoke to were either fluent or spoke enough to have a reasonable  conversation with.  It was a pleasure to have them on our islands. 
In the house it was pretty manic for just over an hour.  We managed to keep up with our teas and coffees pretty well and our cakes appeared to go down  well.   The last zodiac back to Bremen from George Island was 6:30pm.  It is now 8:10 pm and the kitchen is hoovered, the lino washed, all the cups are washed and packed away ready for the next visit.  Everything is back as it was and you would never know that today we had 101 visitors.
Tonight we have to pack up ready to move up to Speedwell tomorrow morning.  The next big job is lamb marking Speedwell Island next weekend.
The day still isn't finished for Christopher and he  is now away to Barren to get some pieces of an old tractor to take up to Speedwell for the tractor there.

Bremen through my kitchen window this morning.

Tourists landing on the purpose built landing stage on Barren Island.

Last 2 zodiacs leaving George Island.

Our cakes
All in all a great day.  Bring on the next one.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Stop them Tanya!!!! Dont stop that one Tanya!!!!

A very busy day.  We left for Barren Island at 6:30am to lamb mark.  A scorching day.  The ewes were exhausted by the time they got to the pens.  They are extremely over weight because of the low stocking rate on Barren and were really suffering from the heat. Shaun and I lifted all the lambs onto the bench. Shaun did more then his fair share as some were just too heavy for me.  The proper way to lift a lamb onto a lamb marking bench is to lift it up onto your knees then pull the back legs up in between the front.  You have to hold the back legs up above the knee joints, if you hold down below them they are very hard to hold and the markers on the other side of the bench are more likely to end up with a kick in the chest.  Not so bad for the boys, bad for the girls.  Today I found I had to pick some of them up around the belly, stand back from the bench and swing them up onto the bench and then gather up the back legs.  Not ideal. Today Christopher was cutting  the tails and Tanya was putting the rings on the balls.  They were extremely heavy and I really struggled lifting them onto the bench but because I didn't want to do the balls or cut the tails I didn't really leave myself any choice.  The lambing was good with 99% on the put out and 118% on the pen.  The lambs are in excellent condition and will go to the abattoir late January early February.  Tanya also helped in the pens drafting the sheep.  One minute Christopher was telling her to stay in line across the pen and stop the sheep running back next moment Shaun was shouting, not that one, not that one Tanya as she tried to do what she was told and starting running in front of a 100 kilo plus ram.  Its all a learning curve and she was lucky that he only caught her a glancing blow to her hip.  Even so he still sat her on her bum.
Barren Island is the hardest of our three main islands to work.  Although it does have a jetty the bay is too shallow to take Theo alongside.  This means that all the bikes have to be lifted up onto the jetty.  It would be a lot easier if we could get the dinghy onto the beach but both the dingy and the rib have rigid hulls and we cant get them in close enough to unload onto the beach.
When we got back to George at about 3:30pm Christopher went out and got some sheep in for the dog trialling and shearing displays.  He bought in rams for the dog trialing because he reckons they behave better.  I finished cleaning up my lawn and  re-arranged the benches in the yard.

Lifting the 4 wheeler up onto the Barren jetty.

Taking the 2, two wheel motorbikes and pen sections back out to Theo

Tanya bringing her bike down the jetty ready to go back on to the dingy

Always something to be found on the beaches, Shaun has a tin of international boat paint the same brand as we use on Theo.  Tanya has an Australian rugby ball.

This is what happens when you get a bit to chubby.  Luckily Christopher was there to help Elle as she belly flopped between the jetty and the boat.  This was her second trauma of the day.  Tanya decided to help her of the dinghy up onto the Barren jetty.   It was like a cartoon strip.  It started with her holding her up to the jetty.  Slowly the back of the dinghy moved out.  Ellie had all her claws out trying to grab on to the jetty as it got further away and she was nearly past the point of return for Tanya to get her back into the dinghy.  Lucky for Elle she got her back in and saved her a swim to shore.

The easiest part and even this isn't easy.

Shaun with the ambulance moving a ewe into the shade.

Very tired now.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

2 days

Still busy getting ready for the tourist ship.  Mum and I have now baked 1 large rainbow cake, 1 large ginger cake, 1 large fruit cake, 4 dozen jam tarts, 4 dozen neenish tarts, 4 dozen strawberry cheesecake tarts, 4 dozen yo-yo's, 4 dozen mince pies and finally 2 boiled fruit cakes.  The 2 boiled fruit cakes are now in the oven and they are the only things that I can say that I have actually made.  This is because mum has never made them.  I think they are very difficult and I have seen more failures then succssess but they are also the most popular of all the baking.  Usually I can talk Christopher into making them as he is a better cook then me but he is still pretty busy.  We will see in an hours time if they are a success or just another failure.  My part in most of the cooking has been the rolling out of the pastry and biscuit mixes and checking the oven.  Mum is not used to a gas oven and it is a bit of a trial and error event to get the tempurature correct. 
Christopher has been busy, doing what, I'm not sure.  He has cleaned the landing beach where the zodiacs land the passengers.  He also fixed a petrol lawn mower for me that he picked up of the rubbish dump in Stanley.  The lawn is looking good and for the first time I have mowed my clothes line yard.  This was actually built to keep my pet lambs in but the netting was too big and they just walk out through when they are small.
Today Christopher is away to Speedwell to pick up Shaun and Tanya to help with the Bremen.  First he is going across to Flores Harbour to pick up our rib.  The rib is really good for going out to the tourist boat as it is better if the weather is a bit rough.  Christopher will use it to go across to Tea Point on Barren when the Bremen is landing passengers there.  We always have people on the ground to make sure that the tourists keep the recommended distance from the  Gentoo penguins, Southern Sea Lions and Elephant seals.  It is also imperative that they keep the recommended distance away from the Southern Giant Petrols who are now sitting on eggs.  The Southern Giant Petrol is quite a nervous bird and easily scared of the nest and there is always a Skua waiting to pinch the eggs.  Over 30 species of bird have been recorded on a single visit to Tea Point.  It is a great place for bird enthusiasts and because the area is flat as a table top it is easy walking.   The Bremen also have their own guides so it is a controlled visit that causes as little disruption as possible.
Christopher has told Shaun that he will be doing the shearing display on George Island.  He is not keen as he is a bit shy.  Christopher said well I will do it if you like but you will have to do the dog trial display.  Funny, it would be funny.  Shaun is very pleaed with his dog and she is coming along nicely for him but neither him or the  dog are dog trialing standard yet.

The Bremen with the landing jetty at Useless waters Tea Point.  The jetty was constructed with the help of a group of BSCS students.
 On Speedwell Shaun has been busy.  Christopher was really pleased when he rang and said he had changed the springs on the Toyota.  This is a first for him.  Mechanics is probably his weakest area at the moment.  He was even more pleased with him when he rang and said he was fixing his motorbike.  This was a complicated job and christopher had to talk him through parts of it on the telephone.  It doesn't help that we have hardly any of the manuals that go with the machinery.  Living on an island means you have to be able to turn your hand to anything and he has also cut and laid his sitting room carpet that arrived on Concorida bay.