Thursday, 30 April 2009

The fear of the pig

How can someone who keeps pigs not be thinking about swine flu?
Like everyone, I'm confused. Do we have a pandemic of pigs, every known breed keeling over from some deadly virus? No. Is eating pork somehow dangerous this week when it wasn't last? No. Are people in Mexico dying from a ghastly influenza because their health care system isn't looking after them properly? Yes. Is there a risk to vulnerable people? It would seem so, yes. Is there a need to take this all very seriously indeed? With people dying, yes, of course. Is religion entering the fray? Yes; Israel wants to change the name to Mexican flu because Jews are not allowed to eat pork (although I'm Jewish and I raise pigs, but there you are, there's always one). And another country whose predominant population also abhors the swine is killing all its pigs even though there are no cases of swine flu yet reported there and there is no suggestion that it is present in the pigs raised by minority groups for their use, either (do you get the feeling that Salem has moved to Egypt?).
Why do we so easily rush to blame something other than human error; inadequate health systems and inadequate care of livestock (if that's behind this and at the moment it seems unlikely that any pig has been involved) are down to people failing each other and their animals.
I'm very concerned for the poor pig whose name has been taken in vain and is now global public enemy no.1, and of course for pig farmers. And no, it hasn't taken anyone's mind off the financial crisis, just in case any politicians are deluding themselves.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

A pair of goldfinches

Ok, there's only one in the photo, but the noise of the catflap being replaced sent the second goldfinch off into the nearest tree.
The catflap had been hammered beyond repair by full tilt kittens running away from the boogie man, otherwise known as the gorgeous trespassing tabby that must belong to someone, but I've no idea who, and it certainly makes itself at home, chasing my three tabbies on their own turf.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Taking a stroll

Just taking a stroll in the rain, through the farm, with the dogs, one can become the absolute centre of attention.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Ducks + water = happiness (and lots of sex)

The new duck pens have been in use for some weeks now, but I haven't been able to let them into the pond as it had to be fox-proof fenced.
About, ooh, 20 seconds after the last widget was clenched (you get the picture, lots of tools, ironmongery and stuff were used) the Aylesbury ducks were let out for a session of swimming and bonking, both of which were achieved in, ooh, 60 seconds.
The Black Indian Runners, who share the pen next door, will be allowed out tomorrow (can't have inter-duck sex or I'll get zebra ducks and unhappy customers). As it was, they came rushing to the fence and squawked to be let into the pond too.
I apologised and tried to explain that they'd get their chance soon enough.
Impatient things, ducks.
And if you peer behind the galvanised field gate you might just see a sleeping black pig.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

What's next?

One ewe left to lamb, but it's a hurly burly of activity all the same. As I traipse from barn to field, to duck huts to pigs, round and round, back and forth, I stop mid tracks and look up. Where was it I was heading? What's the next job on the list? Have I forgotten to feed/check/water something?
I try to head for the top of the farm and work down so as not to miss anything, but some mini problem or distraction usually puts that idea out to grass. A sheep who's drunk her water bucket dry, a sleeping lamb that I need to check is just snoring and not ailing, a clot of blood on the grass from a ewe I know is healing from her birthing or is it something more sinister, a pig with the trots...on it goes.
Throughout the day I'm checking the egg filled incubators (last night the power in the barn where the incubators sit, tripped and I have to make sure that doesn't happen again) and that the heat lamp over the ducklings is working properly; casting an eye over newborn lambs and mums to be; peering at the back end of the sow to make sure she has taken from her serving by the boar and isn't coming back into heat; watering the seedlings in the polytunnel as there is a danger of frying in there; answering calls and queries about ducklings and posting off hatching eggs...and still on it goes.
And in between that I'm trying to sort out new work arrangements, transferring phones, broadband, banks, and talking to all those companies you really hate dealing with (if I get put on hold one more time, emailed stuff in non-English that's both unintelligible and irrelevant to my question, or told six different stories from six different reps from the same company I'm likely to decide on (very) early retirement instead (I wish!).
The dogs are looking particularly mournful as their walks have been curtailed and ad hoc but I have promised them and me a trip to the beach as soon as the last ewe has performed.
I'm not complaining, honest, just in a bit of a springtime whirlwind, and would relish a couple of days in complete slut mode with nothing to do but snore, breathe fresh air and read a new good book. Any reading suggestions for when I come out of the maelstrom?

Thursday, 9 April 2009

My favourite flowers are blooming

In a hidden corner among the rubble in the garden, a small clutch of snakeshead fritillaries hang their heads shyly. But when you're as beautiful as this, what is there to be shy about?
Every night the pixies come out and paint them. I know this must be so because they always forget one or two, and leave them creamy white, a blank canvas to be filled another night.
I always believed there were fairies at the bottom of the garden. When you're this tired (two weeks into lambing), whimsy welcomes you in its warm embrace.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Welcome to the world

Two thirds of the way there now, and here's a shot of a few of the dams with lambs out on fresh grass.
Suddenly the flock has multiplied and keeping count of 30+ scampering lambs isn't easy. I have no idea how farmers with flocks that number into the hundreds manage this, or whether they just scour the field boundaries on their quadbikes to make sure nothing is hanging on the wire or caught in brambles.
I'm back to encouraging the final third to get on with it through bribery...if you have your lambs you get an extra feed of nuts and then it's onto fresh grass you go!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Lambing well underway


What do you think of my wee Scottish Fold? Seriously floppy ears, but otherwise quite perfect (in fact it is MORE than perfect - every flaw is a beauty spot). And no.5 has a great pair of lambs, and the Torwen has such a great big ram lamb he is staying entire and will remain balls akimbo for sale as a potential breeding ram. A heap of them are back out in the fields, and about half remain plump and purposeful, waiting to create a few leaping lambs of their own.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Some light relief

Another excruciating experience at the dentist. This time it wasn't the mannerless, humourless receptionist - they were fine.
My hygienist sees me every three or four months. I have fabulous teeth; unfortunately I also have lousy gums and years of dedicated NHS treatment has resulted in good times and bad; deep pockets, shallow pockets, deep pockets, yellow lorry, red lorry etc. I can't stand the sound or feel of the sonic super stud tooth cleaner and insist on the hand job every time. But today my gentle hygienist's car has broken down and one of the dentists has taken her place.
She was scientific, she was specific, she wore scary magnifying wotnots like a diamond dealer, only for both eyes. We discussed my symptoms, she explained that stress made it all worse. Thanks. She said she'd use the supersonic doodad. I said no. She said yes. She flailed about in my mouth and after a few minutes I waved my arms at her - not in defeat but in a "if you don't stop that right now I'll pull your head off" kind of way.
Frustration increased her sadistic pleasures. She mangled about in my gob with the vigour and lack of finesse of a method actor. She squirted aloe vera amd some substance made by bees into my gums and sucked out so much saliva I felt my feet dry out.
I should go to a private periodontic hospital in Bristol, she said, to close the pockets in my gums. "Over your dead body" I thought.
I wobbled into Waitrose, shoved a few necessities into a basket and stumbled to the checkout where I promptly dropped some cinnamon shower gel all over the floor. The staff couldn't have been kinder. I'll ask the checkout girl to do my teeth next time.