Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Fed up

Doesn't this ewe look completely fed up with waiting for her lambs to arrive? I can walk right up to the ready to pop girls without them even stirring; they just can't be bothered to move or succumb to flight instincts.
They are arriving thick and fast now, squirting out triplets and doubles and the odd single.
The larger of the triplets in each case are being fostered onto mums with just one of their own, a process that is anything but failsafe, but less risky than buying shares in a bank.
I keep trying to take a decent photo of the gorgeous Torwen lambs to post up here, but they are so frisky they all come out with the shakes. OK, back to the grindstone!

Friday, 27 March 2009

three's a crowd...

Remember when I said I'd had the ewes scanned and breathed a huge sigh of relief that only one was due to have triplets? Well, scanner man nil, ewe three.
This is the first ewe to lamb - last night, just before midnight. She was due to have twins, but had three, just like she did last year. And she was first to drop again, too.
So now it's up to the orchard every couple of hours to see what's happening, who's getting restless, dribbling mucus or looking like she's got a pain in the guts or has a head or foot poking out of her bum.
What larks. Rather them than me. All I have to do is get up at 5am for the next month.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Dittisham Lady 933 - name that pig

Can you get a gal to look up when you want her to? Nope. But here is the new Berkshire breeding sow, moments after she swayed slowly down the trailer ramp.
See those teats? She had her previous litter weaned off a few weeks back and is now dried off, but she should be in pig again; sows have two litters a year.
Various domestic names have been suggested - you can't call your first ever in-pig sow number 933 after all - and Nigella, Daphne and Primrose are all in the running. Nigella would enable future females to be Delia, Elizabeth, Sophie, Clarissa or Jane for example, whilst Daphne might run to companions named Daisy, Delilah, Doris or Dorcas. Primrose's mates could be Rose, Lilac, Primula and Peony. You get the picture.
Any ideas? I had some fabulous suggestions from you when it came to the naming of kittens, and just like Blue Peter, I can ignore any I don't like!

Friday, 20 March 2009

Stop Press...Hard Hattie has emerged

It's not only official, it has the seal of approval from the tortoise. Spring is here!
Today, the Hard Hattie of West Devon came creeping backwards out of her hibernation box. Yesterday I'd put it out in the sun to start warming the gal up, and it worked.
I've fretted mildly, on and off, all winter, just in case Hattie had gone to bed without adequate fat reserves, or that I'd done something wrong, or, or, or... but here she is, wading through long grass, chomping apple, generally giving it large. I'm incredibly pleased to see her.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Chance meetings

So much to do, so much to write, so much travel, so much thinking and planning and anticipating. It's spring, things are podding and everything is demanding, so I have been remiss and not posted for a week. A whole week! The financial year is drawing to a close and lambing hasn't even started yet.
I just wanted to share a thought on bumping into people you know when you are away from home. I was pootling about the Midlands this week and bumped into two people I had no reason to expect to see. One on a station platform, the other in an art gallery. OK, I lived in the region for twenty years but it's a HUGE region with MILLIONS of people, so why should I see anyone I know in a snappy 24 hour visit, apart from those I'd actually arranged to see?
And then on the train home I saw yet another friend and we chatted of this and that as the miles were chomped up and I felt as if the journey had been halved, having had company and conversation.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Woodland nymph

There's been playing about in the woods the last few days. Time was getting short for coppicing so it rushed to the top of the list. It's too wet to take a vehicle down, so a barrow was piled with chainsaw, loppers, appropriate lubricants (chain oil not brandy), thick thornproof gloves, and the dogs were called and off we went.
On the way there were various distractions; snow-cracked prone willows had to be cut down to restore the pathways, and I oohed and aahed at the bubbling of the new tadpoles and the fresh flush of primroses.
This Green Woodcup (or Green Elfcup) caught my eye, as it always does. I am a stickler for picking up rogue bits of plastic and twine, so I always check out patches of unnatural colour. Only this is entirely natural, and a pleasure, not a pain.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Past the dung heap

It's not a good photo. It's the one that gets sifted to the bottom of the heap and then has folks peering through the murk to test their memory of places or faces. But it's taken from the sole vantage point (other than bird's eye, and I don't have a micro-light, plane or hot air balloon) that captures a decent proportion of the farm; not easy in this undulating landscape. So I get to the top of the hill, and right smack bang where I intend to press the image making button, is a new and vast dungheap. All fine and proper, but I can't see through a dung heap.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

It's snow time (again)

Well it's back.
I spent the early morning sliding round the farm feeding things and trying my best not to fall on my arse, whilst rootling around my pocket for knife, tissue or camera.
The quality of insulation provided by llama hair never fails to amaze me; the sheep had a light dusting of snow, but there were great clods of the stuff on Humphrey.
Mopsa lay belly down on the snow, unfazed by it all, in her natural element. The geese were unbothered. But I am hoping that in three weeks time we are out of this return of real winter weather and the lambs can emerge in the sun.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Time for an off-farm topic rant

Lordy, lordy, I'm getting crosser by the second.
You'd think, wouldn't you, what with the Freedom of Information Act, the desire for open government (huh!), and the stated aim of helping small businesses stay in business during this painful financial slough of despond, that access to information about government grants and tendering opportunities would be freely available to all, not on a pay per view basis like some seedy porn channel in a one night stay hotel chain.
Whether you are a third sector organisation with charitable aims of alleviating poverty, or simply a micro company doing everything you can to provide a product or service, unless you can come up with the dosh, you cannot find out what opportunities exist that you may be eminently able to exploit/deliver beautifully to a client's satisfaction. Some portals say that you can register for free (again huh!), but in fact give you a peek into limited possibilities and then pull out the stops to rake in your cash (from a couple of hundred quid up to nearly a thousand) for access to the fuller picture.
At any time I think this would be a serious failure to ensure equal access to public sector contracts and grants, would wonder if it was in fact legal, would hate the fact that some middleman was given a contract to control access to this information on behalf of the public sector by provison of some halting, circuitous, irritating portal, but now? Now you can add immoral, spiteful, stupid and shortsighted to the charges.
Next thing we'll have to pay some company somewhere enough to make them profits just for supplying us with water....
Anyone for a gallon of air? Going cheap.

Monday, 2 March 2009

There's a nest in the Landrover

Something went ker-phut with the starter motor last week so the Landie has been sit-satting there, no use to man nor beast.
Ummm, no, that's not true. Something likes stationary. It likes the convenience of a dashboard shelf. It likes being undisturbed by shake, rattle and roll. Beastie wants to make a nest, and beastie has.
No sign of life, but a very neat doughnut of soft leaves, straw, hay and moss has been formed. Is it a bird? Is it a mouse? One says former, others say t'other.
But now the Landie is fixed, so perhaps I'll never get to see the inhabitants.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

A weekend of animal husbandry

I hope some of you know how to have a relaxing weekend. Saturday and Sunday are when I forget what it's like to sit down for a minute.
After the general round of feeding and watering the first task was lifting two enormous second hand pig arks off a flatbed trailer, onto another one that could be pulled by a tractor, ferrying them to their various pig paddocks and gently, gently using lengths of scaffold pole as rollers to slide them to the ground. Much scratching of heads to perfect this process; number two ark came off in seconds.
Then it was time for inveigling the weaners into the tractor link box, carting them into said paddocks and watching them run with glee and abandon, round and round and round. They found the ark and its thick bed of straw, sorted the drinker and were off again to enjoy their freedom.
Into town to satisfy my Saturday Guardian fix, buy some R clips from the tractor shop and post some hatching eggs.
What next? Mucking out the four duck and goose huts and candling the eggs in the incubator. Then I walked to the far side of the farm to bring home the eight tegs being kept to add to next year's breeding stock. They are incredibly skippity and bounce rather than trot. I had to scamper in ungainly fashion, across mud and rush and sheep poo to keep up with them. They came to a particularly muddy, squishy gateway. They yearned to go through but didn't like to get their dainty toes wet. I clanged the two buckets I had in my hands and yelled and terrified them across the sludge. Then it was full pelt, them and me, towards the gate into the field they were headed for. They haven't done this journey for many months, and then only once and in the opposite direction, but they knew where they were going. They stood back for me to open the gate and then whizzed through, heads down to nibble whatever poor grass they could find.
By now it was time to feed all the neighbours' animals as they were having a short jaunt out. I can't believe the size of their boar - he is huuuggge! Then back to put all the animals here into their pens, night time feeds and last check at everything before collapsing onto a plate of mutton stew cooked overnight in the Aga.
Sunday was the diaried day for worming and vaccinating all the sheep. Now kept in three separate flocks, everything had to be brought one flock at a time into the barn, dealt with and returned before the next bunch could be jabbed and drenched. Taking advantage of the dry weather, I clipped off any dingleberries, and squawked when I handled a soft sample. Back to the house to nailbrush vigorously under my finger nails. Yeuch.
Off to one of the top fields to burn up the brush from the hedgelaying from last month. The dogs and I play about, having a love-in moment whilst the digger pushed the massive heap of twigs onto the flames; it's so hot I have to move back and take off my jacket. After making dinner and feeding and bedding once again, I trek up to the fire and fork in the bits around the tonsure.
I head for the shower and realise to my shame, that having done the usual early morning stint in nightie, tracksuit bottoms and wellies, that I still have my nightie on. It's dark, all I'm going to do now is hoover, have supper and fall into an armchair, so after the shower I just stick a clean nightie on and hope my lapse at failing to get dressed all day is a forgivable sin. It's not as if I lay in bed all day, is it?