Jam Tomorrow

Well yesterday I collected loads of comfrey to make a salve for a ewes ears. Cobweb has a beautiful face of course, all pink and flesh covered, as are her ears. Unfortunately her head and face area is not covered in any hair and she has been out in the rain and sun, so her ears are cracking, just where they swivel around for her to flick off flies, or listen to sounds from behind her. So they need soothing.

 Today I melted some hard vegetable fat in a pan and added glycerine and whilst it was turning to liquid, I finely chopped some comfrey leaves and added them until half of them were heating in the liquid, the juices turning the mixture a golden greenish colour. When the greens had cooked fully, I strained the liquid off and squeezed the greens through a sieve, getting all the liquid out whilst it was congealing into hard fat amongst the chopped greens. I then added the fresh half of the greens to the liquid. More of the same but this time, after squeezing the last of the liquid, I added dried lavender flowers and reheated and cooked. Then I pushed all the “mush” through a mouli and heated and strained again. Then a reheat of the final liquid before I decanted the salve into two containers, one an earthenware crock in minature, the other to half fill a glass ramekin, adding a large spoonful of honey to this part. I stirred and put the ramekin onto the crock  to warm the honey through. This is to use as a lip balm for us. The crock took longer to set and set firmer than the honeyed batch, it is good for hands. But the honey balm is great for lips, and around eyes, and the face and throat. A little sticky at first, just a very little but then sooo soft. As it has been pouring with rain this evening, Cobweb is sheltering somewhere,  so when she is around in the morning she can try some too.

 Oh, and going through the bag of greens and bruised fruit from the veg shop on which I feed the rabbits, I have salvaged some plums, peaches, a pear and some apricots. None alone in sufficient quantities  to be useful but together they will make a great jam. So they are sweating in the pan as I scribe.

Published in: on Tuesday July 28th, 2009 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Last Lamb?

 Well on Sunday we lost a sheep. Not just any old sheep, I don’t have those sort. We lost Nesta, our first home bred badger faced ewe who has a fleece to die for, but not this year.

This year The Shepherd saw her honeymooning with our coloured ram lamb from last year. Does that make him a Ramling?

He is Bryonys son, the twin to Sage. Last year we found the three of them walking down through the village and Sage was limping quite badly. As we were going through a lot of rain and the dreaded Scald had infected the grazing in this area. It lives between the clews in the hooves and sits there all sweaty and nasty smelling until eventually  it becomes footrot.  So, we bought them all indoors and sprayed everyones feet with a purple coloured spray made for such situations. This will often take out the problem within a couple of days, along with an antibiotic injection, short acting and given daily for 5 days. By day 3,  Sage was unable to stand and therefore could not feed. So several bottles a day were administered and she stayed with Mum and brother for a while but the lameness spread. Now she could not move any of her legs. The Vet did not know what was wrong but he tried several drugs and homeopathic remedies. After a couple of weeks Sage came to live in the kitchen as she needed to be turned every hour or so and Bryony  and son needed to be turned out.

 So the summer went on and Sage grew slowly. She could by now move her back end but not her front end. This perplexed the Vet even more as, if it was a condition of nerves he would have expected the front end to be affected as the nerves travel down the spine. Eventually he told us that if she was not substantially better within a couple of weeks he felt her case was hopeless with little chance of recovery for Sage to live a natural life. So curtains for her. Well I don’t know if he expected me to take note of what he was saying but we had had the conversation about if she was in pain-NO. And the bit about her “Spark”, definately present.

 So to use the Vet for her any more was pushing it a bit. We had done the herbal and homeopathic route with no change. So we decided to see how things went. A month later I was beginning to think we should give up too.

BUT, the Shepherdess. She say NO!

Her arguments to keep Sage were all sound but there was a nervousness about her being kept as she was, in a dogbed in the kitchen. We had tried to adapt a baby bouncer, on the Vets advice, so she could get the chance to move her legs and feet, without sucess. We turned her regularly and she could push her front legs against the side of the bed and get a bit of pressure behind them. Her back end could stand but just shoved her forwards, but if she was put on the floor she could shuffle around. Then she would do “push ups” against the cupboards and steps. By the time she had been in the kitchen for nearly 3 months she could nearly sit up like a dog, but if we put her in a standing position, her legs would just bend and take no weight at all as she slumped to the floor.

 Most of the time she seemed happy enough with lots of attention and the best pickings of any greens and roots available. She had a blanket of dogs to sleep with and would boss them all around. She did need to be put in the bath from time to time which she did not enjoy, but though her life was unnatural, it was not causing her distress. I supose it was as unnatural as we make life for a lot of our pets, yet we love them all the same.

 During August, one rainy afternoon, I was starting the process of dyeing some wool in fact rather a lot of wool. It needed boiling to remove the dirt and the lanolin. So with the Rayburn roaring away and a huge pan of boiling wool on top, the kitchen windows were streaming water from the inside and the room smelled like a wet sheep, it was a very pungent place to be. Sage was shuffling on the floor and the last place I noticed her, she was in her sitting position at the steps into the dining room. The dining room door opened and in walked DSs girlfriend. As I looked over and caught her eye, there was Sage, standing at the bottom of the steps. Knees and hocks bent and very shakily but she really was standing.

 Over the next few days she advanced to walking albeit rather oddly, then after a couple of weeks she was ready to move outside into a goathouse. Finally she was able to go out, acompanied by one of us at first. By November she was refusing to come in at night, so warily we let her out, checking on her at bedtime and first thing in the morning.

 This year she was shorn and now she no longer has a brownish dry, even dead coat, she is difficult to pinpoint from a distance.

 Back to Nestas suitor. He remained as wild as the other lambs until Sage started being out on her own. Then gradually he became more bold, until one day I was sitting in my car at the entrance to  my top field, when a dark brown sheep wandered up and stood next to my open window and I was idly stroking it. When I looked to see who had come to visit, I realised it was Sages’ brother. He has been one of the tamer sheep ever since.

 We all think Sage told him of how she lived with us and we looked after her until she got better.

So Nesta has a long luxurious fleece but had not lambed yet so we could not shear her Her wool has begun to separate and felt but as she had grown bigger and more sedentary, there was nothing we could do.

 On Sunday, she was missing. The rain of late has grown the bracken to enormous heights and most is now above my head if I walk the tracks and the sheep stay nearer the dwellings around the Hamlet as the grass is shorter and the wolves and other beasties can be spotted and an eye kept on them. The one short stretch of pavement bears testimony to where most sheep doze during the short hours of darkness. So that needed cleaning and lots of searches through the bracken to hedges where the sheep lamb, proved fruitless. Most of the sheep lamb, if not where they were born, in the same place every year. By afternoon we were very worried. Over the years we have had attacks on sheep, occasionally by dogs but most regularly by local people. On a few occasions we have had sheep taken off the common and dumped, usually miles away and often on very busy roads. So we checked with the Chairman of the commons, and other people who might hear of sheep being dumped.

 Nothing reported, but I needed to go out for a while, leaving The Shepherd to keep an eye out for Nesta and walk some tracks again. She went along the stretch of hedge often used as shelter but now overgrown, though this had been walked lots of times during the day.

I went to collect some much needed hay, lovely green stuff.Useless for horses which would become ill by gorging on it, but for the goats it is well appreciated and keeps the milk yield up. I can fit 4 bales in the back of my car and we use a bale a day at this time of year.

 On my return I went to put the kettle on and make some tea. The Shepherd came in and we talked for a while. After way too long I asked about Nesta thinking that there would be no sighting as she would have said.

Wrong. It seems Nesta had been found along the stretch, checked often that day, with her newborn baby boy just beginning to stand up next to her. He is black with white stripes on his face and a grey haze on his sides and brown on his legs. He was still very wet and she still had afterbirth dangling down, so he was very new. He is quite big. The pair were safely penned up to bond and recover before going back out in a few days. Just a little gem of information.


 Now the one ewe who has not lambed this year is Florence, and we are still waiting to shear her too.

Published in: on Tuesday July 21st, 2009 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Walk the Walk.

On Sunday, I took a friend to complete a walk started last summer.

 It is one of those Boundary areas to keep out the enemies and runs for 176.3 miles. It is a linear earthworks, made up of a ditch and rampart. It took several years to build and 9th century history suggests it had a few years of importance before being abandoned. Boys stuff then.

Bit like housework really but no-one has yet seen the end to that.

 Anyway last summer, the wettest for a good while, she started the walk just as the rain began and walked nearly 90 miles before having to give up due to injury. It took her over a week to be able to walk around her house without considerable pain. She is walking for a charity Dr Hadwen Trust, who research into medical issues without resorting to animal experiments. A good and worthy cause in my mind. Donations will be much appreciated.

 This time she avoided the heatwave which I felt was a good thing, only for the rain to descend in torrents, 10 minutes before she reached her first digs for the night. And so the week is progressing in a similar way.  She has already done 130+ miles since the start of the walk, and today is entering a difficult part. Basically she will be walking across the top of a mountain and she estimates that it will take 10 hours of walking until she reaches civilization again. Once started, she must be able to finish todays stretch or be left up there to spend the night in the open.

 Yesterday we found a sick lamb, one of  Wispas twin girls. She had eaten something which did not agree with her and was dribbling green froth everywhere and collapsed a couple of times. So after a call to my Vet, I gave an antibiotic injection and lots of fluids. Followed by Nux Vom30, a homeopathic remedy for over indulgance. Later in the day,  The Shepherd found another lamb with a broken leg.  More Veterinary advice and the lamb is now nursing a delightful yellow band of Vetwrap, holding his leg in place. I understood it would take him several days to be able to stand or move around much but this little soldier was up on his feet late evening and gets himself around with relative ease. As can Wispas child who this morning was nowhere to be seen. The well strawed pen just had one lodger with his luminous adornment. The lamb I was really worried about had gone. She was not with her mum and sister, nor with any of my other sheep. I looked further afield but as the bracken is nearly as tall as me, I began to worry we would never find her and had rung everyone who might get reports of a poorly, or dead lamb sighted in the area and had enlisted the help of the Boy to come for a drive around with me in case she had joined the flock and got left during their early morning rambles. The Boy wandered around muttering and happened to spy the lamb tucked behind an old sideboard in one of the outside structures before we even got to the car. Still alive and not at all happy at being reunited with her friend. She has had another dose of antibiotics and is sitting in front of a bucket of clean water. She still has a high temperature and is not out of the woods yet, so I will be spending another day syringing rehydration fluids into her each time I pass.  Of course having cancelled my physiotherapy session I could have made it after all, just.

Published in: on Wednesday July 8th, 2009 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  

TB? Not TB? Not sure if we will ever know the truth

Well Tuesday was awful and left us all feeling numb. The cows were being a bit of a pain to load and the black cow refused to have her leading rein on. Not in the usual way where she sees dinner time as a definate touch free time and any attempts to clip the rein on are shrugged off, but if you wait until she has finished, she has an urgent need to do a bit of “gardening” and munch her way around being just in front of you and just too quick with her head to do it then. She will be driven but if I want to tie her up I don’t want to drive her back to her field.

 No, this time she was all too wary as there were lots of people around and the trailer was a good enough reason to play up.

 After loading them, as I stood back to watch the  trailer being manovered out of the driveway, I was feeling really desperate to stop what was happening but had a camera aimed close up on my face to record every emotion and felt that I really could not break down. I could not even speak as I would cry.

 So as the trailer headed up the road I got into my car and headed down the road. I would meet them at the slaughterhouse.

I wanted to make sure the girls were not frightened and to make their final minutes as calm and reassured as I could. It really was the last thing I could do for them as I had been told I would not be allowed to see them killed and if I had been able to they would be unlikely to recognise me gowned and hatted and from a distance.

 I arrived a fair while before they did and being of enquiring mind, I had begun to suspect they had been carted off elsewhere. Finally they did arrive and the two men who had been so patient and gentle when they loaded the girls, were just as kind at this end. First of all, in lairage where the animals are penned after off loading there was a hereford bull who was not going to be co-operative and spent a long time being driven along a passageway, only to emerge backwards after the lairage men who flew back into the pen several times followed by the bull. Eventually he was chivvied into the stunning area and it was time for my girls to come out of the trailer. They were very nosy and took very little notice of me or the hauliers. They were very inquisitive and all of these new smells and noises needed to be investigated. They were shut in for a short time and the older of the hauliers spent time telling me how sad the TB situation is and how many animals he transports each week. He asked me if I was going to give up on cows and when I told him I was going to try to restock as soon as I could and had a field which was not near where these girls had lived and I would try to keep any new stock in there as the risk further contact with the disease was not likely. He then started asking what I wanted and offering to look out for a new heifer for me as soon as I am ready.  He then went on his way and I wandered in to be with the cows. He came back to see how I was and whilst I was talking the cows were driven away to be stunned. I just caught a glimpse of them walking away, no noise no fuss and I might so easily have missed them go. They were as I hoped,  calm and relaxed, to the end.

 The next morning the phone rang at 7.45 am, it was the haulier to say the farm he had suggested I contact about a heifer had been put on a standstill. They had got reactors to their TB test. He was still going to help me get another cow and would make sure I would be back getting my own milk soon.

 Some people are so lovely and they come into my life when I don’t expect them. In fact everyone I have come face to face with over the TB situation has been sympathetic and as helpful as they can be.

 On Thursday I rang the DEATHRA person I was meant to be getting the initial results from and in her broken English she told me 4 times that the PM  tests weren’t done.  What did thatmean? Were they not checked or were they just in the food chain already?

I did check that they were going to be done which she said they would be and to ring back after 4pm. She also said that there was only paperwork for one cow. I took this to mean she was again using less than fluent English. I rang back at 4.10pm and the phone rang until it was cut off,  about 5 times.

 This morning I left the call until 9.20am to give her time to go through any paperwork  only to be told the results weren’t done but with several apologies she said she would chase up the samples.

 Nearly an hour later she rang back and said she was very sorry but the paperwork had gone missing, I would not know anything for a while. I asked when I would get the results she said she did not know, that she had paperwork for one cow and it said the samples had not been taken.

 I was devastated and told her I really must know. I had been wiped out by TB and I had to know if the cows had got it or not. I was asked how many other cattle I had and when I said again that my only two cows had been wiped out and they were my only cows, I had no cows left. The reply was that I didn’t need to worry about it then as I didn’t have other cattle who could be at risk.

My reply telling her how callous her statement was and explaining why it was important that I knew if my only two cows had contracted TB, resulted in her giving the phone to another person in the office. He was much more understanding It seemed the reactor tag numbers had not been written on the paperwork and there was only paperwork for one cow. I gave him the tag numbers he needed and the individual tag for each cow and which went with which cow. He told me that the soonest the samples could be collected would be Monday as there was not a vet in today, but he would personally make sure the PM was done first thing Monday morning and if I had not heard from him by 11.30am I could ring and speak to him.

So I wouldn’t know until Monday. But I had been told that the valuer had been responsible for the missing numbers so I could deal with that but first I had more urgent matters to deal with. Had I sent two of my cows to death when only one was meant to die?

 After a good cry and a think I eventually rang the one person I felt I could trust in this matter. My Vet. He was not there but I spoke to the receptionist and she made certain and checked with one of the partners. They were both reactors.  Why was I relieved?

 So my next step was to ring the welfare inspector who did the valuation, and the tagging. She apologised immediately and  told me that the results really would be done on Monday. I was not happy about this as the cows would have been dead for nearly a week and I felt the results would be compromised after all this time. She then went away to try to get one of the Vets ? I thought there were no Vets in today. I just got told that? and see what could be done. Half an hour later she rang to say the samples were there and the PM had been done and there were lesions in the upper respiritory tract. We are now a confirmed case.

 Well at least I know.

 I think.

 This was very convenient.

It would have been very embarrassing if they were negative. Well that’s what the least cynical member of the family said without prompting.

Now we have to wait for about 8 weeks for the written confirmation.

Published in: on Friday July 3rd, 2009 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment