Saturday, November 20, 2010

Glasses, cows and chooks

When we were leaving South Africa for this remote island of ours, my wife finally put her foot down and I ended up going to an optometrist - Moffat optical in Pietermaritzburg. Now I'm not good with fragile things (dunno why, you'd have thought coping with my brain would have trained me. So we decided to spend quite a bit extra and get Titanium frames, because as I explained to them, it's a expensive flight to get new glasses, aside from the hassle of not having them, and the cost of them in Australia. They must be the rolls royce of eye-ware 'cause I can't have them go wrong.

So if anyone happens to pop in to Moffat Optical in Hayfields... tell them I am waiting for them to fly over fix the darn things. They keep (3rd time now) losing a screw (different sides) and dropping the lens. No damage done, except I have to find and replace the screw. And about all I really need glasses for is that darn screw (I still have - just, long enough arms to read with. Actually my glasses have VERY light duty, and live on the shelf above the computer and never travel further than 1 foot from my desk. Barbs glasses are always on her neck on their cord and go everywhere. She needs superstrong frames, I don't. And actually cheapest low magnification supermarket reading glasses are easier to read with than these too.

Anyway - cows and chooks... someone planning on leaving the island is trying to re-home his 2 cows and his chickens. We planned eventually on both, but have been kind of holding off because the initial capital input is quite steep - and by the sounds of it you can spend more on the creatures' dinners than they save on yours. We definitely want MILKING cows - and these I don't think have been, although they are quite people familiar. The chooks... well I've a feeling there is a big learning curve waiting for us... Matters under consideration.


  1. Huh... do you have a hardware store nearby? Ask for Locktite (I think that's the right name) or something similar. There's a special variety for computer use, but it's the same stuff. It's dope that you put on the screw, then screw it in. And usually, it never comes out again. I have to admit, I've always been suspicious that nail polish or something like that would work just as well, too.

  2. I used to just use a piece of wire, insert it and twist it around. :-)

    And on that note, Dave and Barbs, I must tell you a story:

    There I was, a 16 year old girl, traveling the farthest I'd ever been from home, sans parents, on a youth gathering to Washington DC. The gathering was great, we made a lot of friends all over the place, especially with our fellow travelers from Ontario on the bus.

    So on the way home, we stop overnight in Kitchener, Ontario, and decide to have some fun. We all dress up and go to a fancy restaurant to blow the last of our spending money. It was fun, it was classy, but alas, I also had glasses that were falling apart.

    Finally, I could not take it anymore. There, in the hushed atmosphere of this elegant restaurant I slammed my glasses down on the table, and said quite loudly...

    "I need a screw!"

  3. The superglue idea works well. There's a screw that kept coming out of mine. I only started wearing glasses this last year because my eyes are finally admitting to getting older and I think I must get over-zealous while cleaning the lenses or something (I cannot abide if there's even a smudge, it drives me crazy trying to look around it lol). The same screw kept working itself out and I would drop the lense. After buying several new screws because I just plain lost them, hubby 'fixed' it with a dab of superglue and I haven't lost any since.

    My father-in-law keeps chickens, which seems to be pretty easy (I've taken care of them when they were on vacation). Just have to make sure they're in the coop by dark so the wild things don't get them (coyotes where he is).

  4. I am planning, I think, on getting a few chickens next spring. For eggs only, not meat. It seems to me that the labor and trauma involved in catching, killing, plucking, and cleaning a chicken is not worth it for the couple of meals you get. Of course, as experienced fishers and foragers, your mileage may vary! On the other hand, a dozen eggs or more a week for several months of the year from three or four birds seems like a very good idea indeed. And real eggs from pastured chickens, with yolks practically orange from the fresh grass, are scrumptious.

    There is an organic method of varroa mite control in beekeeping that involves putting into the hive a frame or two of larger-celled comb, in which the queen wil lay drone eggs, drones being larger than workers. The varroa mites preferentially infest these, because there is more room for their development. Then the beekeeeper takes the frame, before the drones emerge from their sealed cells as adults, and sticks it in the freezer. Does in the bees, of course, but the hive, at least as far as we understand, has thousands of excess drones. And it pulls down the mite numbers. I was wondering what one might do with the frame of dead drones and mites, and then I thought, "chicken treats!"

    However, so far I am pleased to report that I have escaped infestation with varroa. And Australia is the one continent on earth that they haven't made it to, I guess thanks to your vigilant customs and quarantine folks.

    Those are dairy cows, right? That is, of a breed developed to produce lots of milk and cream? Not hundreds of pounds of meat that you can't access without killing the cow?

  5. Raising chickens is mostly idiot proof my parents managed without any trouble despite not having a 10th of your level of outdoorsyness. If you start with chick instead of adult birds you'll need a heat source (an incandescent lightbulb works great for this), and you can easily check if the temperature is right by if they're huddled directly under it, or on as far away as they can get and puffed up to cool faster.

    Once they're adults all you need to do is keep the feeder and waterdishes full; and if you're free ranging them make sure your gardens are all fenced off. This applies to flower gardens as well as vegatables since they'll make craters in the exposed ground giving themselves dust baths. If it rains while they're outside expect them to congregate and crap all over your porch instead of heading for the coop.

    As far as costs with the chickens my parents are breaking even at $1.25 a dozen for eggs even with the extended winter strike when production goes to near zero. One of my coworkers who's more aggressive in freeranging is still keeping in the black at $1/dozen. It's not as cheap for us as store bought eggs; but the quality is much better and with higher transport costs you might be able to come out ahead even ignoring the quality factor.

    Those cost estimates were done ignoring labor; but daily care of the birds is probably only 15 minutes or so; which isn't much compared to your regular fishing/etc expeditions.

  6. Cows! It doesn't really matter if they're beef or dairy breeds, they all produce milk (er, the females). A commercial dairy wants the serious over production of one of the dairy breeds. I doubt you'll need anywhere near the milk a single cow could produce. However, you can leave the calves with them, and still get enough milk for just about anything. For efficiencies sake, you could lock up the calves for a few hours daily, then milk the cows when they're pretty full. Release the calves and let them take care of the rest of the day's milking chores.

    My Grandfather had retired from comercial dairying by the time I knew him well, but he always had a couple of (pedigreed dairy) cows, and some times bought extra calves to use up the extra milk.

  7. Our main problem with the cows, is that, I think, they have never been milked. We have been WARNED that unhandled cows will not take to being milked as an adult. So we need to establish how much handling they have had, how old they are etc. A specially imported Jersey cow from Tas might be a more expensive, but better option in the long run.

    We are looking for milk, jogurt and cheese from the cow, but she will still need a calf to drink the excess I reckon.

    My jogurt actually worked! It is not perfect, of course, as we were going squidding, so it had to either come out an hour early or late, so it was not quite set. I am glad I took it out, as we went floundering as well as squidding, so were away for over 4 hours, so it would have been well over done! Still it is edible enough for me to want to try again, it just needs more forward planning, and no weather changes!

  8. I love the restaurant story, I thought I was the only one who did things like that!

    Apart from Dave who loves to tell new aquaintances that I am his wife the ex stripper. Then when they get their jaws under control, he adds "of trout, of course!"

  9. Danneely - having kept fish alive (well some of them) as a fish farmer, is one of the main reasons I prefer to forage from the wild. I'm gifted at making livestock die (well fish anyway - OK I had about 68 tonnes of them). We're going to start with Adult birds, just 4.

  10. Mike - I've considered it. But that's the end of the frames for new lenses, and this is my first pair and eyes get weaker. So I have a little wire twist.

  11. AbigalM - I want a cow for milk. Turning a solitary (or one of pair) of animals into meat is a bit much for me, as I know from experience. I'd like to do sheep (for wool and dinner) but need to have the space for at least 20. BTW - might be joining the bee-keeping club soon. more in next post.

  12. matapam -I'm really ignorant :-) But even I know to avoid the 'cows' with only one tap.

  13. Well, locktite will let you unscrew the screw. It just adds enough extra friction so it doesn't jiggle loose on its own. Admittedly, superglue or other substitutes may not be as forgiving. Wire works too (I've had glasses almost as long as I can remember, I think I've tried almost everything.)

  14. Barb,

    Yes, you want, at a minimum, are cows that have been handled regularly, so they'll stand still(munching down a bit of grain)while being cleaned up and milked. A kid's show heifer, that's been brushed and washed and led about would be ideal.

    Starting with a mostly wild cow is definitely to be avoided.

  15. 4 hens seems like a reasonable number if you're not planning to sell/barter any of the eggs. 2 or 3 eggs a day is plenty, and it looks like your climate is warm enough you shouldn't have much, if any, of a winter slowdown.

  16. Most people here have chooks, so they are not much of a barter option, but the dogs will always eat any surplus!