So who is the smartest?

 4am and it is dark and cold, though we haven’t had a frost for a few days now. I spend this time wandering around partly as we are in the midst of lambing and the ewes need to be checked often, and partly to outwit a bunch of errant sheep and keep them “in common” when what they want to do is go awol into the next village where they have found some tender morsels to break their fast on.

 Mostly I manage through cunning and determination, having broken my slumber and crawled out of my warm and cosy bed. Sometimes they win, BUT this morning they have begun new tactics and will play the long game.

 Serves me right really. Last Sunday I thought I would begin a campaign and took a dog with me to park up and head them back as they came trip trap up the lane. TOO LATE,  driving up past the green, not a sheep to be had but as I drove on there were tell tale signs of  the group having passed and there they were, waiting just lounging around behind the bus shelter in the next village.

I got the dog from the car and before he saw them, they were gone, back up the road and into the lane on their way home. On the way back, having fed the sheep, I realised that one was missing and on checking, found a ewe and newborn lamb. So I left the dog in the car and took the pair home and as we were filled to bursting with ewes and lambs in bonding pens. The only place to put them was just inside the garden gate on the path to the back door and between the lean-to and the coal bunker. When they were settled I returned to the car and drove it back home, whereupon I had to get the dog past the ewe. Not an easy task. I picked the dog up and began to carry him but Ewenice felt this intrusion just too much and as she began her protest, the dog leapt from my arms, he was slipping down anyway, and Ewenice caught him several hefty thumps against the hurdle before I could drag him over the top and hurry him into the kitchen.

 The next morning I tried a different dog and headed off on the same route. There on the green was the bunch of sheep, all present and correct. Well I fed them but I am not so easily fooled, I will be back up later. Now for the tricky bit, I drove home but there by the gate in the same place as yesterday was Ewenice. Dog was okay whilst I fed the sheep so I could leave him in the car. I opened the windows a couple of inches as this one is inclined to dribble and dribble =misty windows and I might have to move fast. I made then drank a pot of tea and checked my e-mail.

 A while later, I headed out again to check that the sheep had not decided to head off.  As I got in the car Dog was very pleased to see me but at first glance I could not understand why he had chewed his collar up nor taken it off, but as more black nylon webbing became evident, I realised that this was not a dog collar but the seatbelt. Then I realised the window rubber was shredded around the car then as the day wore on and I collected The Shepherd, I found the other seatbelt was gone too. Worse was that it was the partners car, the cambelt on my van went a few nights ago when The Goatherd took a tour of the area doing a 2am lambing check.

 Back to this morning, I got in the car and started it. On turning the headlights on, I could see that 3 sheep were in the wrong place and as each tends to lamb in the place they were born or a place they have experienced as a place of safety, I had to go and investigate. Nelly had aborted yesterday a perfectly formed lamb but in minature and she was there along with a couple of others and Nesta, remember Nesta? who has been fit to burst for days now and a friend of theirs. I put out some feed for them and hurried up to find the others. On finding an empty green, I drove on up the road to the next village and wandered the tracks but no signs of sheep, so I doubled back to another direction they head off on as an early morning ramble a bit later in the year, again before there is a fresh bite up on this hill. Not there either, so I tried any other haunts I thought were feasible. Eventually I found two who had turned up and I checked them.  An hour later I spotted a few extras and headed to the green from another direction where the whole flock had gathered. I fed them all but I still do not know where they were or how they evaded me on their way back. I suspect it will be a while before I find out their grand plan and I am quite sure I will be all the worse when I do know.

Published in: on Friday March 19th, 2010 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  

New Baby arrives

Her name is Chloe and she is just perfect.

She is Friesian of New Zealand strain, and I hope she will be the family housecow, in a few years. Her family took her in when she was found wandering in a field, very tiny and not due for another two months. Her mum had aborted her because her twin had died. As twins were not expected, no-one realised until her mum began to be very ill, the dead calf was delivered but too late for her mum who succumbed to infection. The farm hand took Chloe home and gave her every chance which Chloe grabbed with both hands. Now at two months, at the time she was due to make her entry into the world, Chloe has outgrown her garden and was in need of someone to carry on the care so lovingly lavished upon her. Now we are her family and feel honoured to have the opportunity to continue the task.

 Now when I bought the Dexters I was quite desperate to have cattle again, they are very sweet and appealing, but I really was looking for a dairy calf to bring up and have an exceptionally well handled beast who I can do anything with, just like the last cows.

 Now I have the best of both worlds, a dairy calf , who will live out, needing a modest amount of hard feed give enough milk for a calf and all we can use, and more, and a hardy robust breed which will rear fantastic beef  from grass and forage, with enough milk for me to steal for the kitchen, or to rear a second calf.

 Good things come to those who wait and life right now is mostly good.


Published in: on Friday December 18th, 2009 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Of predators and the unexpected.

 A few weeks ago,  the Boy was out doing, what boys of their early twenties do of a Saturday evening and had taken his car to a local watering hole so the view to the Northwest was uninterrupted for a short distance. Whilst he was gone, the sheep went rushing up the road from the wood and on hearing the sound of hurrying hooves, one of the girls looked out into the dusk in case there was an errant dog on the loose. She certainly did not expect to see a wild boar, giving chase. She called to me and we went to see if the boar was still around. Alas no, so the next morning we went to wander in the woods to see if there were any traces of it’s meanderings. Still nothing. Only by chance had she seen it. Normally a car would be parked blocking the view.

 Now, I have long since been aware of sightings of these creatures and many have got very close to them, even families of them. I have witnessed the turfs on roadside verges , turned over, but as yet I have not witnessed a boar at large. However the fact that they are obviously here in the hamlet means, come lambing, a greater level of vigilance will be required.

 Lots of areas have a “beast” at large, mostly being members of the big cat family. Hereabouts we have two or more.

Many years ago I was driving to get some homebrew supplies and there, in the bracken at the side of the road was a big black cat, heading into the undergrowth. A few yards on, were a group of sheep grazing as if there was nothing untoward at all. I was so shocked that I had to stop the car to decide if I was seeing things.

 I realised that the animal I had seen was exactly what I had thought. It was around the height of the sheep and the tail was long and carried down, following the line of the rear legs with the last few inches carried parallel to the ground.

 There have been many sightings of both this cat and a brown “tabby” coloured one over the years and a handful of photographs taken, one being a close up image taken as someone walked along a forest track, camera poised to shoot another image. Unbeknown to both, the two beings were so close that they shocked each other the person regaining enough composure to snap the camera shutter closed as the feline snarled. 

 Obviously there are birds of prey, mainly buzzards and owls, though other hawks and falcons nest here too. Herons and Egrets, haunt the streams and ponds.  

 Then there was the White Stag. It was spotted from time to time and occasionally photographed before it “came to hart”, when it was at its’ prime with a full set of antlers. It haunted the woods to the north of the land, quite close to here and was seen quite regularly even becoming caught in a tennis net at one time. Before it matured there were sightings of a white doe to the south.

 Then a year after it was at its most magnificent it was killed on the road. I drove out one morning and saw the top of its head and antlers emerging from one of the deep drainage ditches. There was no mistaking which deer it was or that it was dead.  Gradually word got around and the whole story was recorded.

He was hit and killed about 3 miles away from here at a juntion. The body then disappeared for a while during which time I saw it, before turning up near the center of the woods several miles away, minus the head which had been hacked off for a trophy to grace someones wall no doubt.

 A great numbness was felt by lots of folk as the animal had been a sign of light energy coming back to this area of  heavy dark energy. Other sightings were told of white deer around the land but within a year all reports seemed to have ceased.

 I cannot say if these animals are indeed still around but I hope there will again be a white stag born to give hope for the area in the not too distant future.

Published in: on Monday October 26th, 2009 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

The mini moos

 Life is very exciting at the moment.

I managed to track down a friend from long ago, who used to breed dexters and had a few jerseys there who belonged to a friend of his.

 I was hoping he would know a jersey breeder who might sell me a calf.  He did know someone who had some in calf heifers but before I got around to ringing the man my friend phoned to say they had all been sold, however he had a nice heifer that might suit me and he could put her to a bull and keep her to check that she did not “return” at her next season. We agreed a price and he would sort me a steer to keep her company until after she calves next May. It then became a waiting game, counting down the days until she was ready to come to live here. A few days before my imposed 60 day closure was due to come to an end, I had a letter from Deathra to say that the cow number UK****** *******had grown positive samples for TB. This confirmed that she was a reactor.

 Here we go again, just the one cow?  I rang to speak to the person named on the letter to ask about the results of the other cow, only to be told that the results were not due to be read until later that day FOR THE FIRST COW and the  samples from the other cow would not be read until a few days later. He could not answer how I had received the results by post before the results were read. Predictibly the second set of samples were positive too. Now why was that not a surprise?

 Anyway moving on, Holly arrived with her friend the steer and a short time spent catching up on the many years of life since we last met whilst we watched the two being overwhelmed by the amount of grass for them to tackle. So much in fact that they did not attempt the tour of the boundries which is usual for cattle when they find themselves somewhere new to them. We admired the views and the cows and I have to say that the previous night I began to panic a bit as I realised that I had in fact bought my new cow unseen and what if she was really ugly or nasty in some way. Did I really want a heifer so old and of a different breed when I had actually decided that what I needed was a Jersy calf.

I need not have worried though, they are both really pretty, a bit timid but a winter of regular visits and feeding will sort that out. She has to have a different name as we have a dog named Holly so she is Tulip and he is Sid, which suits him, I think anyway. By next winter he will be in my freezer and we will be playing in the dairy again. Heifer calf please Tulip. Did I say that he has horns that are useful for a variety of things?

 So now the TB nosode is whisked into the water regularly to hopefully give an immunity to my new cattle and protect them and us from the horrors of the last few months. My grazing is slowly coming back under control and life includes the trips to and from the field on the edge of the village,  sitting watching the cattle and looking  down into the valley and beyond the river into another land.

Published in: on Tuesday October 6th, 2009 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  

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  

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