life as a young woman with an assistance dog - dairy farming, dog training, mental health, and more


18 September 2017

For Now

Okay to start off, the best good news: we passed the trial period for this job and the boss is going to make up a more permanent contract! It's been a stressful, hectic, exhausting few months since we started - getting home late from shopping in town on a "day off" and still having to feed and medicate the sick calves, freezing nights out in the paddock trying to save a sick cow in ankle deep water while the dew turned to frost around us, getting to work at 7am to find all thirty calves in the shed have come down sick overnight, long days, too many late nights. But I guess through all the mistakes and struggles, we actually did a good job because we didn't get fired.


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And now, the weather. At the end of July we were commenting on how little rain we'd had this winter. But August brought all the usual wintery weather we hadn't had for the first two months of the season. Rain, sleet, hail, destructive winds, frosts, etc. We only had ten days the whole month without any rain, and this month so far only three days without rain.

June: 12mm, 16 days of rain.
July: 48mm, 22 days of rain.
August: 71mm, 21 days of rain.
And so far for September: 55mm, 15 days of rain.

Most of the paddocks are now covered in ankle deep water, with some areas more than knee deep. Parts of those paddocks are inaccessible by motorbike and by foot. That's when a good dog comes in handy, they don't mind going for a swim even though it's often less than 10*C. Unfortunately Sparkie doesn't quite have the drive to take on a stubborn cow anymore and Skuggi's not trained enough to take over yet.

After weaning the oldest group of calves and moving them down the road to better grass, we were able to shift the second group to higher ground. The boss has been saying for weeks now how bad he felt about the state of the paddock they were in, since it's low lying and slowly turning into a swamp. But with only three paddocks on the property suitable for young calves and all of them in use, we had to wait until weaning day before we could shift them to a better place.

Looking at the forecast though things may be drying out soon, with temperatures this week expected to sit between 18-20*C with minimal rain for the most part.

And here is a video of our life on this new farm.



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Logan and his friends are now 15 and 17 months old, so they're getting their training gear setup for ground driving this week, ahead of being able to ride them next year. More videos and photos to come as their training progresses!







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Skuggi is also getting his adult working gear soon, his training is going so well and I think he's finally maturing. He's so confident now. With Sparkie showing signs of arthritis this winter and reluctant to work some days, Skuggi's been doing most of the outings. Once he turns two in December, he'll get to use a better harness, for guide work.


28 August 2017

The Little Ones

Calving season ended a few weeks ago, with the last two heifers deciding to give birth on the same bitterly cold night. The brown heifer's calf was a big strong bull, who somehow slipped through the fence overnight and we found him in the next paddock, lost and hungry but still feisty. Unfortunately the other heifer had to have some vet assistance with hers the following morning, and her beautiful heifer calf was stillborn. I'm thankful that the poor mother did not show any sign of concern for her baby though. She was quite content to walk back to the paddock with the brown heifer and leave her dead calf. It breaks my heart when they are upset about it.





The last of the babies went out to the paddock last week, the same day that we had a surprise birth in the milking herd. A very sweet, gentle Jersey heifer calf. Her mother didn't care for her at all and left her behind in the paddock. We put the little one in the shed and fed her the important colostrum we took from her mother. She now has a friend in the pen with her, an older "brownie heifer" who's come back for treatment of mild scours. 

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We had last weekend off, and Skuggi got to come with me to the mall for some training. He did so well! Yesterday we finally braved Woolworths as well which he also did amazing with. I'm so excited about working with him and seeing what adventures we have in the future.



4 August 2017

For All Of The Innocent Things

There's a lot to catch up on. Since we moved here, it's been absolutely hectic. It's been 80% hard work, 15% sad moments, and 5% things turning out right. 

The night we moved out here, we found a possum had fallen through a vent in the ceiling and was now living in the kitchen. He'd made quite a mess in the house but wasn't all that keen on coming outside again. I'm not sure how long he'd been in there. But we got him to come out the door eventually.

We had to get someone else to transport our calves in a stock truck, because our vehicles just aren't strong enough to tow a trailer big enough for them (aside from the bus, but it has no towbar). The calves all did surprisingly good and have settled into their new home nicely.

I was given the job of calf rearer, and I'm rearing 104 calves. We weren't told until we accepted the job that they had an outbreak of "Cryptosporidiosis," a parasitical infection that causes diarrhea in calves, resistant to the usual treatment. All that can be done is get a good amount of colostrum into them as soon as possible, and try to keep them hydrated while it runs its course. We lost one little brown heifer in the second week. She was never quite right, from the day she came into the shed, and although for a little while it looked like she'd pull through, she went downhill again so fast.

We lost some cows too. Late nights trying everything to keep them alive, but sometimes they just lie down and give up. They were old and they were tired.

We came out late one night to check the pregnant cows and found one that had a baby already on the ground and another being born. Twin calves are incredibly rare, so it was amazing to see. Both babies were big and strong, and they got named "Barf" and "Belch" after the two-headed dragon in How To Train Your Dragon.

We've only got 19 calves left in the shed now. Everyone else is strong enough to go into the paddocks. There's only three cows left to calve, and none of their babies we'll be rearing. It's hard saying goodbye to those little ones, most whose only fault is they were born too late in the season. 

I've got my special babies, the little ones I find myself getting attached to more than the others. Nim, a Friesian calf with an underbite, and Bexa, a tiny Jersey who acts dramatically offended at being "booped" on the nose. They've learned to accept love from humans, learned how to play with me, losing that fear they all had when we first arrived.

This is dairy farming. This is calving season. You lose calves, you lose cows. You can fight with everything you have and still not win. But in some moments of rare calm, watching the little calves bouncing around their pens, the ones who I thought we'd lose, it doesn't seem so hard.




22 June 2017

Some Hope

I made it. After nearly another month of applying for jobs only to be rudely turned down ("I won't employ someone with more than two dogs, you should have put that on your resume and then I never would have even considered interviewing you" and people swearing when they were told how many children are in the family), we finally got a new job just 45 minutes away. By the end of next week we will hopefully be out of this place.


It was hard saying goodbye to my favourite cows last weekend, when I did my last milking here. Although I'm relieved to be getting away the people, the cows were good to me. I will miss them.





We'll be dropped right in the middle of calving season, as usual.  I am anticipating a struggle. I am expecting difficulty, and frustration, and probably depression. But I'm hoping that things will smooth out after the first month or so. 


The paddock we've been allocated for our pet calves is much better than their current one. Mainly because it actually has trees for shade and shelter from bad weather. Transporting them there will be a bit of an adventure. Aside from Spartan's 30 minute ride here when he was three months old, none have them have ever been trailered. The three younger ones actually rode in the boot of our car because they were so tiny. So hopefully they behave themselves for the journey. 


We had surprisingly good weather this week. The rain held off and the sun came out. It was almost warm. But the forecast is for more rain and a temperature drop, of course, because it is winter. 

31 May 2017

The Days Grow Colder

It’s like it always is. Just when I think “oh well, things could be worse,” they get worse. That job that was five hours away, turned into an eight hour drive because of road works and us repeatedly getting lost, and then when we finally arrived back home exhausted at 11pm the next night, it was without any good news. Despite the farmer’s assurances, it just wouldn’t be financially viable. We’d go broke in a very short amount of time if we took on that job. We had to say no.

 

But it’s too late. When my dad went to ask the boss how much notice he’d need before we quit, the boss took it as an actual notice and next thing I know we only had two weeks work left and then what? Without another job to go to, I have no idea what’s going to happen from here. Or how long we will be allowed to stay in the house here.

 

Winter’s set in. Frosts and hail and a bitterly icy wind. Bone-deep cold. The sun doesn’t shine often. The bad weather is a fitting backdrop to these hard times.

 

I’m not in a good headspace right now. I don’t want to go into much more detail or I worry I’ll say too much and regret it. I am angry, but more than that I am tired. It’s a dark time. I’m looking ahead but I don’t see a light at the end of this tunnel.

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17 May 2017

Back To Reality

The job situation continues to degrade. We’ve been here for over a year now and all of it has been a struggle. Overworked, underpaid, very poor communication. Strangers coming onto the property at all hours without prior warning and going about their business without bothering to let us know what’s going on. Sometimes I think the boss forgets we live here.

 

And now, again, he’s saying he won’t be able to afford to pay us for much longer. His son came back to work on the farm, and he hired another girl recently (who then requested more work, so he cut down “the kids” work days without talking to us first). Calving season is in full swing but I’m not involved. I get to milk the cows only one afternoon a week now, and that’s it. Whereas my dad spends pretty much all day every day on the farm doing everything.

 

The whole situation is completely unfair.

 

So tomorrow we’re driving five hours north for a job interview and I’m hoping like anything it works out but honestly I’m not expecting it to, because everything this year has been a massive struggle, and bad news on top of bad news. But still, we carry on.

 

Some photos of my happiness the past few weeks.

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10 May 2017

Convention Report: All Hell Breaks Loose 8

**We went to a Supernatural convention in Melbourne on the weekend. Sparkie was brilliant, we went to a Louden Swain concert, Jared Padalecki said Sparkie was a sweetheart, we got to hear Jensen Ackles singing and Jared playing the guitar, and everything was just fun and wonderful. Read on for more details.**


What a weekend!! It was a whirlwind of anxiety, exhilaration, exhaustion, and ridiculous amounts of coffee.


Maybe someone can tell me why everyone was lining up at the doors for over an hour before the concert?? We all had allocated seats so there shouldn't have been any rush to get in the moment the doors opened, but there was. I chose to sit down, where I could still see the door but rest my legs. I'm glad I did because everything was running late and some people ended up sitting down on the floor in the line.

Jason Manns was amazing. The first song he sung was "Soul" which was beautiful. I think he sang one other song too but I can't remember what it was.


And then Louden Swain came out and did a couple of songs, and they are awesome, and oh wow Emily Swallow can freaking sing as well! And also Matt Cohen, who seemed nervous (or maybe just drunk lol). It was late, so I was just thinking to myself that there was no way Jensen was going to come out, and fair enough because it had been a really long day for him plus jetlag and everything, but then BOOM! Jensen freaking Ackles walked onto that stage. The whole room just lost it. When the cheering lulled, a girl in front of us dressed in a fantastic Abaddon cosplay yelled out "I love you!" and Jensen said back "I love you too," and set off another round of screaming. First he sang Simple Man, which took me back to that opening scene from the beginning of season 6 with Dean trying to live a normal life with Lisa and without Sam. Jensen sang it beautifully.


After the song, some people shouted "encore!" and Jensen faked being annoyed and snapped "alright" before smirking and saying "Encore? Well how about this?" In the lead up to this day I was watching a video of him singing Whipping Post at VegasCon earlier in the year and thinking how incredible it would be to see him sing it in real life, and I screamed when I recognized the music. It was every bit as amazing as I imagined. The energy he put into that performance, even though surely he must have been absolutely exhausted, was just incredible. AND he even did that silly little jump at the end.


There was more from Louden Swain after that and every one of their songs was amazing. This was my first ever concert and it blew me away. I wish they would come out here more often!!

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On Sunday morning we grabbed a coffee on our way into the building and then had issues finding the correct queue because there was so freaking many and they all curved around corners out of sight so we couldn't even find the ends. We ended up in the token line for a bit instead of the wristband line. Thanks to everyone who helped us find the right place!
Jensen's photo op was so quick. I remember I was shaking waiting in the line and I kept saying "I'm so scared" but the moment he put his arm around me all the anxiety just disappeared, which is exactly what I felt last time I met him. I only had time to say hi and thank you because it was really quick (but yay I made eye contact this time even just briefly so take that, autism) and then I was walking across to Jared's photo op. He was watching my sister leave (she went in ahead of me) so I just kind of stood there awkwardly. He'd been manoeuvring people over to his right side but because Sparkie walks on my left, I wanted to be on his left so she wouldn't get in the way of our hug. So when he turned to me and said hi I just went "what side do you want me on?" because I'm ridiculously anxious at this point and I didn't want to get in trouble for requesting a certain pose. But he's like "whatever side you want" so I moved over to his left side and then he patted Sparkie and then he pulled me close and he was so warm and maybe a little sweaty. And after the photo was taken he patted Sparkie a bit more and said "she's such a sweetheart" and as I was leaving I turned to make eye contact with him as well (YESSSSS) and said thank you and I was just floating.

We stopped by the Hillywood table on the way back to the auditorium and both the girls are so lovely. I think it was Hannah who was saying how cute Sparkie's white paws were and just going all heart eyes at her lol


And then much more waiting for panels to start but the staff were great at keeping us updated. We had a lunch break and then it was time for the Hillywood panel.
Let me just say they were so much more fun than I expected. I regret not having a photo done with them actually. There was a lot of geeky quoting and references to other shows and stuff, and talking about what other parodies they might do, fans mentioned Once Upon A Time and American Horror Story. The girls said OUAT probably has too many characters though and they'd need so many extras, and that they have never tried horror before. Someone asked if they'd consider going back and redoing older parodies now that they have improved with their own songs and stuff and they said they wouldn't want to because it's hard to do them and they'd rather try new things. They kept getting distracted telling other stories that led off the previous answer instead of going to the next question. They talked about how they started out doing home videos as little kids and they were asked to start a YouTube channel back when it first started. Someone asked how they got the SPN cast involved with Shake It Off and they told a story about ending up in a taxi? with Osric at "a weird convention" somewhere I can't remember, and getting talking about their channel and Osric saying he would check it out. They said they had considered doing live parodies in theatre but it takes six hours to get the makeup done for some characters so it's not really feasible. They wouldn't say no to being extras in Supernatural. Hilly said she'd probably be a waitress in the background of a scene.


Emily and Amy were next. They used some of the audience to recreate a scene where Amara was stopping the Impala with her powers, and the Impala was chained back and Jared was flooring it while Emily stood right in front of it thinking she was going to die. They talked about how it feels to have other actors cast as older/younger versions of them and their characters. Emily said how she deliberately played Amara as very still, and curious about everything, because she grew up so fast she would not have lost that curiosity of childhood. Emily would be Amy's sidekick if they were in a superhero show together. At the end of the panel they called on some fans for a talent show with an unknown prize. And oh wow there were some actually talented fans up on that stage. The prize turned out to be a bun/roll, that Jared had taken a bite out of, which the winners were not made aware of until they had already eaten it.


Matt came out onto the stage very dramatic and did a roll. "I have to do a better entrance than Rich." Both of them spent most of the panel running around the room and spent very little time on the stage. Matt wanted to do an impersonation of Jensen, and asked which camera was showing in the green room so Jensen would see it. After an impressive pout and glare at the camera he pretended to dig himself a hole in the floor and lie in it like a dead body. Rich kept yelling at him to go up the back of the auditorium. Someone asked "How does it feel to play a character that's as hated as John Winchester?" so Matt asked the audience who hated John Winchester. Some people did. Then he asked who liked John and there was quite response for that, and he asked who loved John and lots did, so he turned back to the questioner and said "Your question is moot." One fan asked a really long complicated question about John and Mary (I think) and at the end Matt just replied "I like purple. Bananas have potassium. Uh, happy turtle day?" Rich answered most of his questions with the same response each time. What would sort of movie would you make if you had an unlimited budget? "Porn." How would you like your character to come back in Supernatural? "In a porn video." I think some fan did say something pretty inappropriate to him at one point about that sort of thing and he played it cool of course but I heard later that Hub was "dealing with it." Matt and Rich wanted to go up to the balcony to take questions so one of the Hub staff escorted them out of the room to go through the other door into the upper level, and they talked the whole time they were out of sight - "I don't hear them screaming so maybe they can't hear us anymore."


Rob's panel was maybe one question and then he got his band Louden Swain to come out and they played some more songs which was cool. He mentioned his stroke and said "I can talk about that because I recovered," which got a good cheer from the audience.
Jared and Jensen started out doing dramatic gestures at each other like kind of presenting each other to the crowd and getting us to cheer. Jensen said "Aussie Aussie Aussie" and then held out the microphone for the crowd to shout back "Oi Oi Oi." When they sat down Jared exaggeratedly crossed his legs and Jensen faked being fed up with him and said "Stop crossing your legs like that." "Oh sorry," and Jared switched legs and then went back again and put one across Jensen's legs. Jensen was kind of leaning over and he had his hand with the microphone up by his eyes like he didn't want to see what Jared was doing, and then he just shifted the microphone to his mouth and started to say something but as he did Jared started to shift his leg away and he accidentally kicked the bottom of the microphone and it went up quite hard into Jensen's lip. "I punched him in the face recently," Jared said, and he kept putting his hand on Jensen's shoulder and arm while he was talking. They stood up and demonstrated how they were doing a scene where Jared was going to help Jensen up with a hand under his arm but Jensen had moved his arm so Jared hit him in the face instead. They sat down and Jensen said "I'm bleeding," touching his lip, and Jared leaned in close and said "sorry, brother." Then they re-enacted a YouTube video about a soccer player faking injury, which involved Jared knocking over his chair and rolling across the stage, and pulling off a shoe and throwing it. "I lost my shoe" and Jensen saying Jared's shoes were stupid and Jared kept pulling up the leg of his jeans to show off his sock with a hole in it, which was "one of Sam's." Jensen asked "is there something wrong with your calf?" and Jared pretended to call a doctor and said "I have a weird calf, and a hole in my sock." Jared spilled coffee on his chair and asked if Jensen wanted to swap chairs. "No." All this happened before they even took questions lol At one point they were trying to take a question from the balcony. Jared: "I can't hear you!" Jensen: "Speaka de englesh!" Someone asked if they believed in a higher power/supernatural beings and Jensen said when weird things happen in his house he says he plays a ghost hunter on TV. Jared: "I tell them, I'm not a Losechester" and he actually dropped his microphone on the stage. Near the end of the panel suddenly Rob came out with a guitar and the band, and he leaned in close to say something to Jensen. Next thing I know Jensen is telling the audience to get out their cameras and start recording, and the poor Hub staff are running around trying to get more microphones (pretty sure Jared actually damaged the one he dropped too lol). And then we had Jared playing guitar while Jensen and Rob sang Free Falling. Amazing, amazing end to a brilliant panel. Jensen got us all to give Jared a standing ovation at the end of the song, and he looked so freaking proud of Jared.


Nobody told us where to collect our photos for the autographs like they had in 2015 so we had no idea what was going on, so my mum went out and asked someone, and they said "second room upstairs." So we went up, and there were so many queues all over the place, and we had to ask someone else because what we thought was the second room was a signing room. It was the last room at the back that had the photos so I don't understand why we were told it was the second room. Anyway we went in and had a brief moment of panic because the photos were on tables labelled "Jared" "Jensen" etc and we only found one photo each of ours and no amount of searching turned up the missing photos, but then I turned my Jared photo over and there was my Jensen one tucked in the back. We went back downstairs with our photos and were waiting in our seats for some time while they called each row up for autos. Eventually the last of the rows were all called and we headed upstairs and the line was so freaking long. We moved about halfway to the autos room and then I heard that J2 had asked for a break. We ended up standing in line for an hour. Maybe next time Hub staff could let us stay in the auditorium a little longer?? My back and my knees were killing me. I saw Matt Cohen walk by a few times and one of the people in front of me said hi to him and waved but he didn't respond, and she said "fine then don't look at me," and he looks back and he says "I saw you."


Anyway when we finally got the room, it was really small and there were two lines kind of intersecting with each other. I was directed into Jensen's line first and he looked so tired. Poor guy. He said hi and I said hi and thank you again and then I went over to Jared's table. He said "hi sweetie, I love your shirt" (I was wearing an AKF shirt of course) and I seriously couldn't even speak. As he was signing my photo he said "I'm sorry I'm so tall, I look like a giant," and he smiled at me and I said "no, that's okay," and then I said thank you and I smiled at him and then I like floated out of the room and I just couldn't believe Jared Padalecki called me sweetie and he called my assistance dog a sweetheart and just ugh he is so lovely.


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Convention high is a real thing, guys. I think back to what happened over the weekend and feel it all over again. And I wish I could live in that moment forever.

 

Also watch my video of our adventures in Melbourne for AHBL8! aka "When Dairy Farmers Go To The City." - https://youtu.be/ZZ83_XsOkh8