Thanks to all of you who've been following our blog so far. We have decided to move all of our updates to Facebook, so come and find us at www.facebook.com/tatumhillsfarm
This is the true story of a sweet stubborn llama and his equally stubborn, yet loving owner, who really wanted to take him for a walk...
Spot is the first llama we bred from our own, but when he was born in January 2013 I realised I didn't have a halter small enough to fit him.
"It's OK", I thought "I'll just make sure he is used to being handled, then I will halter train him later!"
A few months ago, when we started running farm visits for families here at Tatum Hills, we realised it'd be useful to have Spot walk on a lead. His brother Valentine is doing most of the PR for us and we do have other llamas that walk on the lead, but Spot and Valentine are best friends and we thought they'd actually enjoy working together...
After a few repetitions I put the crown piece around his head and held it there without doing it up, for a couple of seconds, click, reward and remove the halter.
To my surprise he seemed quite OK with that too and within minutes I was able to buckle his halter up... Then I let go and waited for a reaction...
Note that due to Spot's fear of confined spaces we were working in the open paddock and I was expecting him to run off bucking and kicking. Instead he just stood there, making the occasional funny face, but still willing to come to me to touch a target for food.
I took his halter off and put it back in several times, all the while clicking and rewarding him for calm behaviour. He took it all in his stride.
Done! In only about 5 short sessions over 10 days, my Spot went from halter-phobic to walking on the lead quite well, all thanks to a clicker, lots of food and a very inexperienced handler.
The best part of it all is that I feel I was actually communicating with him.
I think the fact that Spot was comfortable being close to me and being touched really helped, I'm now trying this method for some of my more skittish llamas but I think it'll take me longer... Still, looking forward to building a stronger bond with them and making our lives easier in the process!
I have been searching for a chicken feeder that would provide my chooks with constant access, while keeping the feed dry, reducing spillage and not being to attractive to wild birds... And I found it!!
Here's the video http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pJvqH7a78SA
All my chookies seemed to take to it easily and the feed is staying nice and dry, also thanks to some silicone where the pipes meet the bucket.
Special thanks to my clever dad for his patient assistance!
Easter's arrived early at Tatum Hills, with Snowy Bunny joining the family.
Surrendered by her family to the RSPCA, poor Snowy ended up spending 6 months there!
Though she was much loved and very well looked after at the shelter, she deserved a proper home so she came with us on a very wet day.
We would like her to eventually have the run of the whole orchard pen, but while she gets used to the new place, to us and the chookies, she only has a restricted area.
As she is our first ever rabbit we didn't know what to expect but she seems a pretty chilled out bunny who takes it all in her stride. She seems always happy to come over for a sniff and as she settles in she seems to also enjoy a pat.
We were told she doesn't like other bunnies but doesn't mind Guinea pigs..we may soon get her some company...
This morning, her first with us, Snowy was quite relaxed and looking at expanding her range by hopping out the window... If she doesn't today, she'll be moved into a large corner of the big pen tomorrow! If she does get out of her cubby, that's OK too as it is in the middle of the big pen so still a safe place for an inquisitive bunny!
UPDATE: 2 days on and Snowy moves to her new enclosure, still needing some shade cloth up above, but she seems pretty happy anyway, hop on Snowy!
Summer is over... I must say I am a bit relieved as with it goes the risk of fires, almost.
But in spite of the BIG DRY we had some really good times here at Tatum Hills, like several picnics with our curious llamas.
Our llama girls were given a break from breeding last year, so no new crias arrived this year, but plenty of cute chicks!
Including a batch that our cheeky Amy has decided to raise in the main pen with the adult flock.
Our flock is now nearly complete with a bunch of black, blue and splash Australorps for our black boy Roger. We hope to breed in the Spring and sell their fertile eggs.
I also dream of a second flock laying rainbow eggs so I let my girls hatch some blue Araucana eggs. Unfortunately most were boys but I am thrilled to have found them all good SAFE homes!
Hopefully their sisters will lay some coloured eggs to add to the cream and deep brown ones I am already getting....
Our kittens are now almost all grown up and two of them will go to their new home when their owners return from overseas in June... Until then we are FULL of cats!
Meanwhile, I have been researching goats as I'd love a couple of dairy goats one day... I made mozzarella (http://www.cheesemaking.com/howtomakemozzarellacheese.html) as a practice round with supermarket cow's milk and it worked beautifully...
Shame it was a rather different result when I used goat's milk ...Goat's milk 1, me NIL... But the battle has just begun!
The perky looking one at the front is Barbara. She came to us about a year ago and has been unwell all her life. Never really sick, but never really well either.
She had a happy time while she lived with our Buff Orpington rooster Oscar, but unfortunately a few months ago we had to sell Oscar. It was a sad decision but we just couldn't find him enough big girls and he started hurting the girls he had, with his clumsy mating practices. We found him a happy home full of big ladies, but which home would take his little lady friend? "Here, please take this pullet too, she doesn't lay and is sick all the time, but no, don't put her down, just invest time and money curing her when she needs it!"... Didn't sound right. Plus moving house may gave proven too much for Barbara.
So off went Oscar and Barbara had a turn downhill... Whoever said chickens are stupid should reconsider!
I am a big believer in animal euthanasia when they've had it, but Barbara never seemed quite sick enough for that. Until recently, when she deteriorated further.
I thought she was nearly ready to go but decided to give her one more chance. So in she came to live in our lounge room for several days for treats, high energy food and a course of antibiotics.
When she improved enough I put her back outside, but she still hang out on her own looking sad. Gradually though she gained some weight and made new friends and she has even started sleeping on a perch again, rather than on the bottom of the coop.
As you can see she seems much happier now and may have even laid her first egg a couple of days ago. Well done Barbara!!
We are half way through the Christmas holidays and it's just great being able to spend so much time with our animals... Or is it?!
Well it is but the new addition, Jeffery pony has been more of a challenge than expected... Lent to us by his owner while she is away, so he could get plenty of handling from adults and children, young Jeffery seems a little bored at Tatum Hills.
We are more than happy to handle anything that will let us but little Jeffery is quite a cheeky young fellow and worked out in no time at all that we know nothing about horses... So the first week has been a bit... Nippy... He is a bit like a puppy who likes to chew on things, be it a bucket, a carrot, your boots or your hands! Having to adjust to a new home and being bored didn't help, but I think we are working it out...
To his credit, he is a good worker and behaves very well when handled or ridden by kids... I suspect he is a bit like a Jack Russel, looks cute and cuddly but he is actually a working animal that needs to be kept engaged and work.
Luckily our resident little rider is only too happy to oblige and some reading on nippy horses seem to be helping.
I was hoping he could make friends with the llamas and hang out with them for company but the way he chased Valentine on Christmas Day doesn't leave me much hope for the near future. Poor Valentine was as shocked as me when the little steed went from grazing peacefully to full gallop in 2 seconds flat... Better than a Ferrari!
I think little Jeffery will grow on me and I'd love for us to become friends, but so far I have been reminded why we chose llamas... Walking Valentine is like figure skating, while walking Jeffery is like playing rugby!
Stay tuned to see how we go over the next few weeks!
We shorn most of our llamas last night, a bit late but it only got reliably warm a couple of weeks ago.
We just shear for comfort, mostly to remove matted bits and to make them a bit cooler, though most of them don't seem to mind the heat.
We still leave a good cover of fleece on them for insulation and sun protection.
Well done Damian for doing it all by hand, the old fashion way, and well done llamas for putting up with us very gracefully.
It's been particularly eventful on the farm lately. Our new cat Misty gave birth to give gorgeous kittens 2 weeks ago and we've had a few chicks hatch (Australorp and Araucana).
The last couple of days have been particularly busy.
7 am check the Araucana chicks under Sally and Amy (yes they've decided to share) one more born, one hatching, third egg chirping... Yay!
8 am check the kittens, bit sneezy, call vet, pack mama cat and 5 kittens up plus 3 yr old child. Drive to vet for 8.45 appointment, see a kangaroo being run over on the way ooouch! Call wildlife rescue. Get to vet, kittens are OK, get some meds, drive back.
9.30 am meet wildlife rescuer on way home, search together for kangaroo (better hurry... Got 6 cats and a screaming child in the car!). Find roo... Dead. OH NO! Drive cats home then take child horse riding... Yes she's mad about the only animal we HAVEN'T got!.
Short lunch and rest. Llama training afternoon, very proud, we are finally getting somewhere... Consideration... It's not that hard when you do it often. Learning to tell the difference between a stressed llama = time to stop and let them be; and a llama that's just a bit annoyed = do some massage to relax them and get them interested in what you want them to do. Planning better holding pens to fast track training of fuss pots :)
Since our beloved Louis suddenly died, the local bush rat population has been doing a bit too well, so we had been looking for more cats in need of a home.
Enter tiny tabby Misty and gorgeous black and white Sparks. Their owner needed to urgently rehome them and we were only too happy to make these two friendly, well adjusted cats part of our family.
So far they've been perfect house guests, living in our study overlooking the cat run, which they'll soon be sharing with our older cat, Rusty, until they are ready to be let out.
But there's a twist to this story... Misty is pregnant, so we'll soon have even more cats! Once the kittens are weaned and desexed we'll rehome them, but for now we are looking forward to a great kitten adventure!
Born and raised in Italy, travelled a lot and lived in Singapore and Spain