The day dawned, bright with frost:
& was filled with sunshine albeit chilly throughout. With Tony in bed, suffering from yesterday’s meningitis jab & exhausted as the week’s travel caught up with him I carried out some quiet, concentrated training with Nanuk: working on ‘sit’, ‘stay’ & ‘come’ commands which delighted her as it meant lots of treats!
I then milked the goats after which Tony emerged, a little better but still jaded despite the invigorating fresh air. We gave the girls their regular pedicure before tackling the tricky job of sawing off the horns of Merson, our stud male: although he was disbudded as a kid, the procdure often meets with vaying degrees of success & in Merson’s case, it unfortunately wasn’t successful. Once disbudded the horns do not grow back normally; & in Merson’s case they curl over to one side & can press into his head if left to grow unchecked. We monitor them continually; & if he seems to be in any discomfort we nip them back a bit anyway. Today, because of the awkward way they’d curled round we decided to use the dehorning wire, which gives more flexibility than hoof nippers. We secured Merson in the head yolk of our most robust milkstand (well, Merson has been wondering what goes on in the parlour, hanging over his gate & demanding to be let in with the ladies when they disappear at milking time…!) & I gently supported his chin while Tony did his stuff with the wire. It was all over very quickly; Merson behaved remarkably well although of course despite the noise & smell, it is a completely painless procedure. We probably could have taken even more off than we did; however we prefer the ‘little & often’ approach because if you get it wrong there is invariably blood everywhere – although I think it’s more distressing for us, than the goat!
Then it was time to give Merson his pedicure; but whilst he’d been a good boy over his horns (by far the worse procedure from his point of view, I’d have thought) he was a complete drama queen regarding the trimming, kneeling & bawling every time Tony even only picked up each foot. However – mission eventually successful; & Merson skipped merrily out into the field to enjoy a pleasant afternoon frolicking in the winter sunshine with his harem.
Tony busied himself with restocking the barn with hay & then started measuring & making the Long Barn window (thank goodness he’s a whizz at DIY!), which worried me as he had to crawl across a very weak patch of flooring in the cart loft – thankfully he didn’t fall through, though!
Meanwhile I decided to give the duck pen a deep clean, at the same time letting the ducks out into the garden – the first opportunity they’ve had to vacate their roomy run (I normally shut them in the duck house whilst scrubbing the run); though I felt it was high time they went out & about. I’d expected them to stay in the vicinity of their accommodation at the rear of the veg patch: however being Indian Runners they hurried like a row of hock bottles on legs, up onto the lawn before settling themselves into the densest part of the shrubbery.
Having finished the pen I started clearing out the hothouse, finding the last, lone tomato hanging folornly from its’ decaying plant; with regret I enjoyed the final burst of ripe juicy sweetness until next season’s home-grown crop. This year’s tomatoes were very tasty, especially the ‘Sungold’ & ‘Sunbaby’ varieties – I’ll certainly be growing those, again! Meanwhile the messy job of clearing out dead foliage occupied most of the afternoon until the much-welcomed sunshine stretched the shadows across the fields & brought a renewed vigour to the chilly air.
After a few fruitless, solo attempts to return the ducks to the twilight safety of their run in exasperation I mustered Tony’s help to round up the ducks & send them to bed; although unfortunately the daft birds decided they were having none of it & wedged themselves firmly in the most prickly part of the hedge. Between the two of us we finally managed to catch them & return the loudly-quacking, leg-waggling Runners back to the security of their run; although not before getting severely scratched & bloodied by the brambles lurking in the bottom of the hedgerow. I don’t think we’ll be trying that little adventure again, before the summer…!
After all these exertions we were particularly looking forward to cooking a fine supper of one of our freshly-cured gammons; although the meat proved to be extremely disappointing as it was so salty it was completely inedible. To recover the situation I set it to soak overnight; judging by the cure, I’ll have to make sure all of them are thoroughly desalinated prior to cooking. However, at least we can be confident they have been fully cured I suppose. So I cobbled together an alternative meal for Tony – but the disappointment over the hashed ham, left a more bitter taste than any salt ever could. Let’s just hope the soaking proves successful – otherwise we have an entire wasted pig; not a pleasing prospect as the butchery alone cost us almost £100!