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.

 

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

Just the way that it should be?

Or should that be, is my life just SLIGHTLY ODD?

A near neighbour has raised a hatch of chicks and now,  at the end of summer they bought the males round for me to turn into dinner. They arrived in a plastic feed sack in the boot of a car so they quickly needed to be dealt with. The quickest thing to do was to put them in an empty rabbit hutch with some food and water, then decide when I have enough time to kill and pluck them, a job which always takes me ages.

 A couple of days later they were still waiting and eating and one morning, I asked one of the resident “outlaws” to let them out. Having a senior moment, or should I say, rather a lot of them, is rather common for me and what I meant to say was to give them food and water. So out they came, now what? Well “what”, came at bedtime when they were nowhere to be seen. Damn, I bet they have got out or been caught by a fox. The next morning they were wandering around, eating veg from the garden and generably being where they shouldn’t. Bedtime again, none present or correct, but the next day there they were as bold as brass, this time one was baiting one of the breeding cockralls who was defending his pen of hens.

 This went on for a few days until one evening I thought to ask if anyone knew where they went to bed. The answer was a delight to my ears, they roost in the hawthorn tree. I have always loved the idea of hens which roost in trees. It seems so natural and easy, but I always clip wings to keep tabs on all poultry, then I decide where they will sleep, what time they get let out and all the other controlling things we do to “look after” our pets. Now the boys have introduced a small flock of home bred pullets to their version of night life. Lively it is too, they often crow at intervals from about 11.38pm until around 4am when there is a distinctive wing clap and soon after the crowing moves around. With no housing there is no build up of lice or mites, they seem safe from foxes, whilst roosting anyway and they must get a primeval satisfaction from being on branches which are constantly on the move. The downsides are that they can get over the wall into next doors garden, they are vulnerable when they are at ground level from before dawn and I do need to eat them before they spend the winter getting tough and eating their way through precious feed.

 The hawthorn tree is a great love of mine, I can see it in the mirror from my bed. I watch the blackbird eating the berries whilst I sit in bed in the morning and the outside world is monochrome. I love the shape of it and I love the way it looks like a picture which changes according to the light, the weather and the activity of the time. A stratigically placed mirror can open up a whole new world.

I took one of the animals to my vet in a local market town. I take anything which will fit in my car rather than pay the call out fees and in the past have had animals at all stages of life from birth to death, carried in the back of my car or van, but the things which don’t fit are cows, ponies and donkeys. So after my consultation I returned to the waiting room for some injections to be dispensed. The Vets surgery is an old shop and the reception and waiting room is the shop itself, the window opaqued to provide some privacy but one can see out quite clearly and waiting outside with a middle aged lady was a  small horse. As the Vet finished writing the directions on my syringes the receptionist told him that George had come for his booster for Tetnus and Equine flu. I asked the receptionist if this is an unusual occurance and fortunately it is rather commonplace. Why does this soothe my equalibrium so?

Now there is no reason why this should be an odd phenomenon but how often do you see a horse waiting in the high street for his appointment at the vet?

Published in: on Wednesday November 11th, 2009 at 10:38 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  

Interesting thymes

 

I won two Oxford Allen Scythes on Ebay, and went to the coast to collect them on Tuesday. The Shepherd and I borrowed a van and planned a day out to include collecting my prize.

 We set off at 8.30am and picked up the van whilst dropping the oldest Child at work, then on down the High Road heading south. The weather was foul and we were driving among a haze of spray thrown up from the wheels of lorries and the going was grim. We eventually got off the main drag and onto some smaller roads, passing a large town then back out to sea roads and purple moorland which swept down to small coves and beaches the upper beaches and sand dunes forested with salt grasses and plants. It was very wild and steep. Eventually The shepherd asked what the directions meant, proceed forward to Ferry.

Wow! How exciting, and so unexpected. We went down a steep hill and passed a hand propelled bicycle on which the rider sat in a very precarious looking position and we both agreed that we would not like to be riding this on such a road. Far too vulnerable. Then soon after we passed the apparition, we came to a line of stationary vehicles and had to stop and wait for what appeared to be a railway barrier. Eventually we all began to move forward onto the Ferry. we were near the front and had a great view so out came the camera to record our adventure. All too soon we alighted to the other side and had to return to the road. More beaches, shingle this time with what appeared to be a causeway but on the right was in fact a freshwater lake, the road and a beach separating the two waterways. Very bleak but a charming village at the end, with pretty cottages and a small park where The Shepherd spied a pair of swans with their signets, so out came the camera again. They were very tame as were the geese all waiting for free tidbits. We paused for a comfort break then on to collect the Scythes. I thought the van I had borrowed was far too big but the Scythes only just fit, with room to spare at the back but not enough to fit them tandem style.

 We then went to visit my Mother for lunch. She was very pleased to see us, we don’t get out much and so contact is usually by telephone, lots of times a week, but she likes to send me packing with as many treats as I can carry when we visit. So we loaded all the spare space with plants and cuttings, hydrangas, two fushias, a potted apple tree and strawberry plants, “thinned” out of her patch.

 Some sedums and bulbs and saved seeds of calendulas, poppies and hollyhocks, then I asked for a couple of sprigs of sage and rosemary for drying. Well, one bin sack later and I have enough to last all year as dried herbs, smudgesticks and some to strike as cuttings, and a marjoram plant thrown in too. From the house I aquired candles, teaspoons, a couple of hessian shopping bags some home made jam, marmalade and elderflower champagne, all from her garden. Then home again, before falling into bed ready to be up early to unload and clean the van in time for work tomorrow.

 My Oxford Allen Scythes will be a useful addition to our workforce for cutting hay and greens, and maybe we will start to use bracken as bedding for the poultry.

Published in: on Thursday August 6th, 2009 at 7:03 pm  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  

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.

 Teenagers!

 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  

The Deed Will Be Done

 

Contemplating food

Contemplating food

 

Well it seems I was being very naive, thinking that DEATHRA would consider cases on their own merit. Anyone would think the policy was for TB eradication in cattle. Alas, even their own vets acknowledge that the proceedure is aimed at monitoring the situation. Nothing more. Therefore any type of control is still a glint in the eye of the future. After many discussions mostly with vets whose spoken english does not extend to being able to recognise a persons full name. With my dealings with three spainish vets has been that the conversations go alongside theirs and they keep using the same phrases in answer to most questions. I would not have a problem if the lives of my cows were not at stake. Meanwhile I have been put in touch with one of the farmers from a Camphill Trust farm nearby, who happens to have encountered similar problems and is making a film about how the disease is being dealt with, or not, in the UK. 

Lazy days

Lazy days

Therefore come Tuesday morning my cows will be taken from their home and will both be dead by lunchtime. Not until six weeks later, will I know if they have the disease.

 The animal health inspectors have been brilliant and very sympathetic, making sure that the girls  final journey will be as stress free as possible.

 Meanwhile we are shearing a few sheep every day, or the days we have not had torrential downpours to soak right into the coats. I am saving a coloured and a white fleece for my mum who is going to spin them. She rang for a recipe for elderflower champagne, this morning and by the time I got off the phone, I had missed The Archers omnibus so will have to cast a spell to wither her hands thus stopping her from ringing anyone ev catch up via the internet.

 We have baby rabbits everywhere and see rabbits every where we go at the moment. It must be a good year. This afternoon I am collecting a root cutter from a local freecycler. The dear boy has learned to weld and picked up a very reasonably priced welding kit from Lidl of all places, as is my duty, I am finding him a few things to do and I want the cutter in working condition before the coming winter, if it is possible. So next week I will be clearing and cultivating a bit of ground to plant some root veg for the animals during the winter.

 It is going to be a very busy week as I have got to go and dismantle a small polytunnel which I have bought. It is 6ft by 12 ft and I need it up soon as I still have some tomato plants to go in and they will come to nothing if I have to plant them out in the open.

Now where did I leave...?

Now where did I leave...?

Published in: on Sunday June 28th, 2009 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Flown the nest

One day last week, or maybe longer ago, I became aware that the bluetits sounded more like adult birds quarrelling and chattering.

It was a momentary recognition and no sooner had I walked from the room than it was hastily tucked away in the dim archives of my mind.

Then last weekend, I realised that I have not seen the parents as they squeeze in and out of the boarding beside my window, to and fro with meals of bugs to satisfy their insatiable infants. No squeals of “ME ME ME”.

 They have all flown and I hope they are still nearby as I need them.

 They consume the insects who are hell bent on eating my vegetables, and who join the throngs whose sole aim in life is to annoy the cow, causing such misery at milking time, with the cows tail swishing to swat them and making her kick at them, spilling milk over the dusty ground and often over me.

Published in: on Saturday June 20th, 2009 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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I have a family of Bluetits living in my bedroom wall.

A while ago I spied the adults  landing on the top of a downpipe which had become detached from it’s mooring and couldn’t work out where they were planning their home. Once it had occured to me that they might all get washed away if we had a real downpour, I re-attached the pipe but they had obviously already found the hole in the wall where the lapboard had lifted, the downpipe was just a landing board.

Now the babies are beginning to get more noisy as their vocal cries for food are  being rewarded and the pitch of the cries have come down to a level which is easy to hear, tho’ easy to miss if engrossed in something else. At first the cries were so high pitched as to be nearly inaudible so I am not sure when they hatched. Anyway the adults are spending their days busily searching all the cobwebbed undersills and crannies around the walls and windows  of the house and places around the garden.

Nesting birds are a very welcome addition to my patch. We have ash and sycamore trees which line the boundary and spread a sticky residue along the outhousing from where blackfly seem to permeate and then move on to my veg patch.

 Last year, unbeknown to us we had a family of wrens in the garden. One morning we saw them just as their children had fledged. They practised flying around using a variety of objects and buildings to provide landing pads. We watched for a while, admiring their skills and feeling honoured that we could witness this sight. Then to our horror, Tactless the cat ran out and caught one of the young, we grabbed the cat but all too late as we examined the bird, it was limp and dead, but worse was to come as another birdchild flew straight at the cat and met its end. For us a whole morning was ruined, but for that family, a whole lifetime wasted.

 This time I will be much more watchful of  the damned cats.

 

Published in: on Monday June 1st, 2009 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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