Is this a cry for help?
Well, I suppose it is; if you love all things amphibian, that is. Whilst it was a lovely day here, there were things about it which proved distinctly less so: such as the plummeting temperatures recently endured overnight.
Alas, not that it seems to have done anything to the little cloud of midges hovering above the pond – who in these days of Bluetongue are considered to be potentially not so much pesky but rather, more dangerous; theatening as they do the health of farmers’ livestock everywhere. Indeed a case of Bluetongue was found in a sheep at Llandysul only this week – albeit the sheep had been imported to the UK & was already carrying the disease. Testing before the animals leave their country of origin is evidently insufficiently rigorous.
And now, watching the tangled dance of the busy midges, I can’t help but wonder whether one of their relatives might have bitten the Llandysul sheep; & whether these midges are now infected & might fancy a snack on one of our flock……
It was a busy day for us; with a great deal to catch up on after our trip away. We took advantage of the postively balmy weather to catch up on as many outside jobs as possible, constructing a hurdle ‘race’ alongside the stables because the sheep, who are pastured in the field containing the stable block as it is closest to the lambing shed in case of an emergency – are proving less than helpful; as they invariably try to barge through the gate when we go to feed the goats (the feed is stored in the stable adjacent to the goats’ accommodation). This will now mean we can enjoy more peaceful & unhindered caprine meal times.
And the goats themselves were delighted to have a few hours outside, frisking around the paddock behind the house in absolute glee before settling down to bask in the sunshine whilst chewing the cud.
Another important task was creating a large & airy indoor run, for the chickens; whilst their Arks are kept indoors as a matter of course in accordance with defra’s guidelines regarding Avian Influenza, under normal circumstances the Ark doors would be open & the hens permitted to free-range around the lower yards & adjacent fields.
However, recent losses to foxes have forced us to keep the birds literally cooped up in the Arks; & I have felt increasingly unhappy about their relative lack of space & ability to fully express natural behaviour such as dustbathing – there simply isn’t room on the Ark’s lower floor.
So we decided to ‘shore up’ the gate to the poultry barn, using a series of mesh sheets across the top & bottom of the gate, with a wooden boom along the bottom to permit our access without the hens escaping by managing to squeeze underneath it. We didn’t quite get it finished, today; but by tomorrow they should be far happier hens with this interim arrangement until we can either let them free-range again in the Spring; or will need to erect an outdoor run for them elsewhere on the Ffarm, if the foxes prove too persistent. But at least they’ll have loads of room to scratch around for corn & insects; & plenty of dustbathing spots from now on.
With the setting of the sun the unseasonable warmth we’d enjoyed rapidly dissipated & the temperature began to plummet. Whilst standing at the open kitchen window doing the washing up (the fumes from the Rayburn are still chokingly horrendous, unfortunately) I realised that the frogs in the pond – so noisily vocal before we left for Italy, were now ominously silent. I’d observed a few fat, gelatinous blobs of spawn bobbing at the water’s edge as I came down from working in the orchard, earlier in the day; & realised that as the nighttime temperature was set to plummet to at least -8°C, the spawn would probably die & with no further sign of the frogs, we would perhaps lose an entire generation in one go.
So persuading a reluctant Tony, who had just started to unwind on the squashy old sofa after a hard day’s work, to don his wellies & follow me out into the freezing darkness; we found an old bucket & with Tony holding the torch I edged precariously along the steep, icy bank to the water’s edge. Dipping the bucket therein after a bit of effort I managed to fish out a few goodly gloops of spawn, which were floating in the weedy water & suprisingly firmly attached to the pond’s slippery edge.
We carried the bucket back into the house, thankfully without mishap; only hoping we haven’t been too late & that the earlier frosts have not already done irreparable damage. But at least we’ve done our best to Save Our Spawn.