We made it back from 'down under' in good form. Made lots of new friends and renewed old acquaintances. All of our flights, train, bus travel, bookings, and accommodations went without a hitch. Interestingly the majority of Australian beef is grass-finished and only a bit is grain-fed. Obviously just the opposite of this country. Cattle in the outback and in the non-coastal areas are typically Brahma and Brahma cross which are notorious for producing tough meat, but the English type cattle (Angus, Hereford, etc) simply no longer have the genetic information to tolerate the ticks and heat. I really admire the Australian way of conserving water. Even in town, homeowners take responsibility for collecting as much rain water as possible for home use. Out in the country, all homes had at least one, and most times two, 5000-6000 gallon water storage tanks. Toilets didn?t use 5 gallons to flush! In times of no rainfall, water is delivered in the country by truck to fill their tanks. They are also passionate about recycling. It's nice to be back home, although we will sorely miss our friends in Australia. Will we ever see them again? Although in many ways Australians are different, in many more ways we are the same. While America was founded on the great convictions of bold Christian men and women -- well, people with ?great convictions? of a different sort founded Australia. Sadly, in recent years, America has been drifting away from her founding convictions. Since there are 16 hours difference between here and Sydney, we were wide awake a couple of nights before our body clocks readjusted. We arrived about 1:30 am Wednesday morning, but Thursday and Friday were spent gathering, vaccinating, weighing, and weaning last year's spring-born calves. Took the weekend off from that and finished up on Monday. Started the first round of vaccinations for the fall-born calves but was delayed by rainy and muddy weather, then finished up a few days later. The children and I have put in about 3/4 of our garden so far. We have covered these areas with glass or milk jugs in case the little sprouts decided to come up during a cold snap and already have some snap peas, radishes, lettuce, and broccoli coming up. I like the Rutgers heirloom variety of tomatoes, which we get from Hope Bright, but am in no hurry. No use putting out transplants only to end up doing it again if they get froze off. Plastic milk jugs are harder to come by for us now, since our organic dairy friends have gone to bottling in glass. Tried to fly out to Burlington, Colorado last Thursday to see about buying some cows that sounded as if they would fit the bill, but ran into some IFR weather and had to turn back. My pilot was informed by Flight Watch that it was fog and would burn off by 10am, but it wasn't, so we could either land and wait it out or come home. Neither of us wanted to be grounded in western Kansas, plus by then, the sale would likely be over so we came back. Later I found out what the cows sold for and it was way over my budget, so it was just as well. We had the opportunity to break in our new 'barbie' when a young couple from Columbia came to visit. Being friends of Michael Jackson of Kirksville, they started at his place, then came to visit the Buchmayer?s organic dairy near Purdin, the Bright?s nursery and orchard near Bucklin, and then finished up at our place. They are interested in sustainable agriculture and claim that they learned a lot of new stuff about where their food comes from. They are moving to Berkley, California in July. We finished up pregnancy checking the cows in the rain and with the exception of one pasture, we had a good conception rate. Quite possibly it was the bull?s fault, however, the cows are old, so they?ll get shipped anyway once their calves are weaned in July. Jessica?s sheep were shorn Saturday morning, so she is now inundated with wool. Thirty-seven fleeces in all! Buyer, buyers, where are you? Jim Schaefer came over from Callao to do the shearing. We are very excited about him going to Toowoomba, Queensland in Australia for an international sheep-shearing contest. Jim recently won a national competition in Denver, so he and another bloke are headed over in late May to practice shearing Merinos for two weeks before the contest June 8-12. Having just returned from Toowoomba ourselves we know just the park in which he will be competing. Who would imagine that right here in north Missouri, we would have one of the top shearers in the world?! The express mail truck brought in the baby chicks Tuesday. One hundred Black Australorp pullets, twenty five Buff Orpington pullets, five Buff Orpington cockerels, 8 Narragansett turkeys, and 8 Chinese geese. By night one chick looked dead, but brought her in, gave her some water, and warmed her up with a warm towel and 3 hours later she is fine. No losses so far, but as anyone who has raised chicks knows that can change in a big hurry!