The Billy Button Menagerie
I’ve always been an animal lover and a sucker for rescuing injured our abandoned wildlife (and farm animals…). My dogs Cannubi (4 yo black Labrador) and Jesse (13+ yo rescued Kelpie X) have been by my side since the start and always come to work with me at the winery. Jesse enjoys the quiet life and spends most of his day on his bed near the fire, lying out in the sun, or up in the lab if the heater is on. Cannubi leads a more adventurous life and if he’s not following me around the winery he’s usually out exploring or visiting the workers in the vineyard.
During vintage while I was out sampling the vineyard in Beechworth, I saw a Magpie flapping on the ground (well actually Cannubi found him first…) and couldn’t work out why he wasn’t flying away. When I got closer I saw why – the poor thing only had one wing! So I picked him up with a towel and took him back to the winery. By the time I got there his eyes were closing and he was starting to go stiff – I thought he was a goner for sure, but I got a syringe from the lab and gently gave him some water and left him in a dark box. When I checked on him an hour later he was awake and moving around his box. I decided to call him Rocky because he was a fighter! At this stage we were virtually living at the winery and he needed more room to run around in than his little box and the only enclosed safe area we had was the laboratory. So Rocky moved into the lab! He spent a few weeks there while vintage was still in full swing, living on a diet of kangaroo mince and whatever bugs I could find running around the winery (huntsmans were his favourite!). When vintage slowed a little and we were no longer sleeping at the winery, we took him home and he now lives in a trailer crate and has the run of the backyard.
Not long after Rocky went home, a farmer agisted his sheep ready to lamb in the paddock next to the winery. Not long afterwards the winery ‘jack of all trades’, Col, brought in a tiny day old lamb, whose mother had just died after getting stuck in the dam. As I said, I’m a sucker so immediately volunteered to take on the lamb (despite still working 12 – 14 hrs a day 7 days a week at the winery). We made a special effort to leave the winery early that night to call into the local rural supplies to pick up colostrum, milk powder, bottles and teats. In the morning she was still with us so she was given a name – Rosie. Back to the winery and that morning a second lamb turned up, about the same age, having been abandoned by her mother. And so Evie joined the menagerie. Because they had to be fed every 1 – 2 hours, the lambs had to come to work with us. They’d ride in the back of the Pajero with Cannubi to and from the winery (Jesse was in complete denial that they existed and had to ride in the back seat) and in the early days spent their time in the warm laboratory. But as they got stronger they spent more time down in the winery, following me about, sleeping on the dog’s bed in front of the fire, frolicking around the winery. Now about 10 weeks old, Rosie and Evie are living in my backyard along with the 2 dogs and the Rocky-the-one-winged-magpie! Lucky we have very tolerant neighbours!