Fear not, dear Reader,
the above title is to do with nothing injurous: purely based on a couple of today’s experiences. The first was an amusing report on the news, about a ‘raid’ in Soho by some firemen on a Thai restaurant. A good citizen had smelt something strongly acidic &, suspecting foul play such as a bomb-making factory, called the police & fire brigade who evacuated the area & interrogated the chef; but all the poor chap was doing, was making a batch of ‘Nam Prick’, a spicy paste made from chillies, garlic, onions, fish sauce & smoked fish. No wonder it smelt so potent – & judging by some of the Thai food I’ve eaten, I suppose it could be considered a WMD!
Anyway that was ‘Ouch’ Number One: ‘Ouch’ Number Two (at least it was for our smallest sheep) drew our farming day to a close, as we wormed & vaccinated all the lambs in the first part of their ovine ‘MOT’. Tony did the drenching & I did the jabs; & we ended up with a surprisingly speedy & efficient system, given that we’re relative novices. It’s perplexed me that some of the lambs seem to have done really well – in fact they’re huge, much bigger than their mums – but others are more of a disappointment & haven’t come on nearly so well. When we separate them off from their mums, I think we’ll keep the lambs in for a few more days to feed them up a bit, see if it helps. Anyway they all need to be in for another 24 hours or so, just to let the wormer pass through their systems & not evacuate anything onto the clean pasture; & I want to make sure they’re all OK after being jabbed. But they appear to be in generally good health & we’ll ‘flush’ the ewes on the rich grass from the hay meadows, which have recovered well & should feed the sheep throughout the winter. Tomorrow (time permitting) we’ll jab & worm the ewes & MacDougal the ram, trim their feet & ‘dag’ (clip) any messy back ends (lovely). I was wondering about fully dagging all the ewes anyway (basically, taking excess wool off the tail & rear end, the sheepy equivalent of a ‘bikini wax’ I suppose) but there are differing opinions as to its efficacy, especially during a cold winter; & the girls managed perfectly well last year, without being done. We’ll put MacDougal in with them in a few weeks’ time to ensure their milk has dried off before he begins his wooing.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a full calendar year of keeping sheep for us. Last September, when the flock arrived, they were turned straight out onto the pasture & we let them ‘get on’ with it: so this is technically our first season of preparing a flock for tupping – another big learning curve ‘on the (cloven) hoof’, so to speak. Only next year’s crop of lambs will tell us whether we’ve got it right; although we are debating whether to keep sheep at all, as this year has proved fairly ‘high maintenance’ with little reward – they haven’t been quite such efficient lawnmowers as we’d hoped; & as lambing took place at the same time as kidding, it made for a particularly exhausting & stressful few weeks. Add to that the requirement for shearing; plus regular monitoring & preventive treatment for fly strike, throughout the summer; & we’ve begun to wonder whether we have taken on too much, that we should be concentrating our efforts more specifically on the goats rather than dividing our time between too many different species of animal. I’m tempted to keep one or two of the sheep as pets (after all, ‘Jelly’ is such a wonderful character) but I think we’ll have to say goodbye to the majority of them, ere long. So if anyone wants a nice, healthy flock of ‘in lamb’ multicoloured Shetland x Ryeland ewes with a handsome Greyface Dartmoor ram….please get in touch. Despite my apparently negative comments, they do pretty much manage themselves & at least they do lamb relatively easily; & the tup, who’s a real softie, has sired some superb quality lambs – all with his beautiful clip (the fleece has an exceptionally lustrous, long staple – gorgeous).
Meanwhile we’ve decided to ‘take the plunge’ where our plans for expanding the goat herd are concerned: Merson was turned out with the Hooligans this morning, & was unsurprisingly like a kiddie in a sweet shop. By the end of his first day with his new harem, he’d repeatedly covered Anenometwo, Anthemis & Anchusa – so our first kids should be due around the beginning of March, as we’d planned. We’ve just got to hope the Planners respond sympathetically to our application so we can at least have our new building up by then – we can work on the internal details, later. Meanwhile Addaon, Armeria’s fine little boy, was proving ‘like father, like son’ having jumped into the neighbouring pen with March’s little lady kids. Luckily he hasn’t worked out what girls are for, yet…..! We managed to get him back in with his chums before any damage was done to him by the furious females.
Nanuk had another interesting training session: she had a controlled, ‘close encounter’ with the ponies when we turned them out with the horses; she then met the pigs (not interested in them – nor them, in her); & she met the goats for the first time. Ageratum was absolutely dying to butt her; but luckily for Nanuk didn’t get the opportunity. Eventually Nanuk settled down to sitting quietly next to them & didn’t try anything too silly, which was a relief. However she’s taking even less notice of her new slip lead, than she did of the check chain; so we have decided to go back to using the ‘Halti’ for now as it seems to be the most effective & kindest aid we’ve found for getting her to walk to heel. Although she didn’t like the feel of it at first, Tony walked next to me with a water spray & gave her a quick blast each time she tried to pull it off with her paws – & she soon settled. In fact the spray gun is proving a very valuable training aid as she really hates it – instant good behaviour with every jet of water.
Merson wasn’t the only one full of the joys of – well, autumn: the ponies were delighted to be back out with their (literally) big pals on Parc Cam, & spent the first ten minutes racing each other around the field. It looked so comical, two tiny patchwork Shetlands being pursued by the pair of big, black horses – like some sort of bizarre four-in-hand coaching team. Toto had been going ballistic in the stable yeaterday, so it was high time they went out. We’ll just have to keep a close eye on Sabe if the temperature drops: early frosts increase the sugar content in the grass & could induce another bout of laminitis. In fact Darwin is a bit over-porky too, so we certainly need to monitor the situation closely.
Tony spent the remainder of the day on the exhausting, smelly task of mucking out one of the pens whilst I cooked, strung our garlic & cleaned the windows amongst a multitude of other chores. Poor Tony’s clothes were so pungent by the end of the day, I made him strip off in the hallway & jump straight in the bath whilst I washed his clothes & sorted out a tasty spaghetti bolognaise for supper. It’ll be an early start in the morning as Michelle, Sandi & Afkha are coming to stay – not quite the ‘girlie’ weekend we’d planned as Tony will be here after all as he’s unfit to fly, being unable to clear his sinuses with the wretched cold he cannot seem to shake off. I’m sure he’ll look great in a skirt……!!