There was the lightest dusting of snow over the Ffarm, as the sun tentatively rose this morning; almost as if sprinkled with icing sugar. Broad bands of thick, grey clouds are suffocating the the limitless blue freedom of an early Spring sky; & the chilly air does not bode a pleasant welcome to the fragile buds unfearling after last week’s balmy warmth on the boughs of the trees in the orchard, the trees along the lane, the trees in the deep, dark wood.
And more snow again, whirling softly down as I hurried between the barns; somehow thrusting icy fingers down the back of my neck no matter how hard I hunched into the comfortable collar of my snug fleece jacket.
However despite my pessimism about the weather, it did thankfully improve & although the wind was cold, the continued ‘wintry showers’ we’d been promised didn’t materialise. With blue skies smiling again by 9am, I decided to take a chance & let the ewes & lambs out, after all – if only for a while.
Allspice really wasn’t happy about this. She still hasn’t lambed; but clearly wanted to be outside with her chums but I’m not taking any chances & feel I need to keep a close eye on her. After the rest of the flock had raced to the feed trough outside (bar for Artemisia, Allia & their lambs to either side of her) she wolfed down her breakfast & then carefully stepped back several paces: & charged. And charged again. And again. And again….. She basically alternated between trying to jump the pen door & headbutting it. I decided that as soon as I’d finished mucking out the Lambing Shed & refilling the hayracks (at least this one has an automatic water trough, oh joy) the best thing to do would be to leave her alone; as by doing so, she’d hopefully settle down & go back to eating hay.
After finishing the chores I did a bit of work in the house; then headed outside again to finish cleaning down the milking parlour & to give the kids their next bottle feed. I noted that not only were the heavily pregnant does starting to ‘bag up ‘ in earnest – i.e. their udders were filling with milk in preparation for giving birth; but that Wolfie, who was first to kid last year, was looking decidely thoughtful & kept detaching herself from the rest of the herd to come & ‘chat’ to me, almost as if telling me that she thought something might be up, & that I should perhaps be prepared. But I dismissed it as sheer fanciful imagination; she’s a highly intelligent individual but I was surely reading too much into her actions.
I popped back to the house to bottle-feed the lamb & snatch a speedy cuppa before again checking on Allspice, who’d managed to open the pen door a crack but had got her head firmly stuck in the aperture; & had fallen over, legs scrabbling in the straw, at the same time. Of course, she’d ingeniously managed to wedge herself in such a way that it was almost impossible to open the door; but with application & effort (on my part, not hers) I managed to extricate her & get her back on her now literally sheepish, feet.
I headed to the Kidding Shed to top up hayracks & water buckets for the goats’ lunch; but to my amazement found that during my short absence, Wolfie had indeed gone into labour & had produced two kids – one male, one female (exactly the same as last year); who were already almost dry & up on their feet. I hastily milked some colostrum from her & gave them each a good bottle-feed (it gets them familiar with the sensation of a rubber teat so that when they’re taken away from their mums, they take to the bottle more readily).
Then I checked they were sound in wind & limb, & sprayed their navels with umbilical iodine during which I noticed Assie trying to lick Wolfie’s kids & making a sort-of “ooerr” noise – it seems that Wolfie giving birth had sent her into labour, as well! A few minutes afterwards the first kid – a boy – was born; followed only five minutes later by his brother – so welcomingly nifty work from both ladies….! I repeated the ‘welcome’ process with the second set of new arrivals & then, after giving the Mums a bucket each of warm, molassed water to drink & checking they were comfortable & cleansing the afterbirth as they should, I hastily grabbed a wheelbarrow & tools & went to clean out a nursery pen to receive them. Amazingly, Wolfie’s kids were already wobbling around in an attempt at play – their favourite game of ‘tag’, which I’m sure must be as instinctive as suckling, they enjoy it so much!
Speaking of tag, stand by for a wee ‘commercial break’: I was tagged with a meme today by Fiona, who writes a beautifully evocative Blog, called ‘Cottage Smallholder’ (go to www.cottagesmallholder.com for a really enjoyable & informative read). So in answer to her questions, here goes:
What I was doing ten years ago:
Career-wise I was an Officer in the Royal Air Force (RAF): my post was Officer Commanding Forward Supply Flight at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. I was responisble for around 40+ staff running a two-shift system in six discrete locations, supplying varied vital spares to aircraft engineers with a stock value of over £170million. I also did other professional military stuff…but I’d have to bore you witless if I told you! Oh yes, & I was forced to live in sunny Southern Italy for most of the year – hard work but someone had to do it.
Personal stuff was less than pleasant however; my ‘marriage’ to the RAF proved to last longer than what I’d imagined would be a life-long marriage to my first husband…who like me, after our divorce has remarried & who I hope is as truly happy post ‘training marriage’, as I am – lessons learned, & all that; anyway, life’s too short to have axes to grind (unless for chopping firewood if like us, you’ve no other form of heating…!).
On my ‘To Do’ list today; or Diary of What I Actually Did (not much really):
(N.B I don’t want to put off any prospective smallholders BUT you have to like some Hard Work & this is a typical day….!)
05:00-up & dress; all-too-brief meditation session (obligatory for a Buddhist). 05:30-feed cats, feed cade lamb; feed self welcome cup of Earl Grey tea. 05:45-feed & water goats; morning milking. 06:30-warm milk & prep bottles, feed & check the 17 goat kids, wash & sterilise bottles. 07:30-clean parlour, milking machine & ancilliary equipment. 08:00-feed & turn out ewes & lambs in main pen; refresh water, hay & bedding of ewes in Lambing Pens; check their offspring. 08:15-hens: feed, refresh water & bedding then collect eggs. 08:25-ducks: feed, refresh water, bedding & splash pool then collect eggs. 08:35-geese: feed, refresh water, bedding then check on Mrs Goose, who’s broody & sitting on a clutch of about 7 eggs (well do YOU fancy confirming the exact number….?!). 08:45-take Nanuk for a brisk walk; check post box (round trip+ walk=3 miles approx); check ponies/horses/wethers+ram en route, then feed dog & clean out & disinfect Kennel Complex. 10:00-snatch some breakfast for self, followed by housework (feed cade lamb, sweep floors, washing up etc). 11:00-top up water buckets all round; sweep & clean parlour, corridors, feed shed, haystore & stableyard etc. 11:30-check ewes in Lambing Shed & sort out stuck sheep Allspice (idiot); feed cats & grab much-needed cuppa! 12:00-check goats before feeding kids – deal with Wolfie & her (surprise!) newborn twins. 12:20-assist Assie giving birth to twin kids; sort out+segregate Mum & babies. 12:55-repeat steps @ 06:30-07:30 (feeding goat kids); after which top up goats’ hayracks & water buckets. 14:05-grab another cuppa & a quick bite of bread-&-cheese for lunch whilst listening to ‘The Archers’ (which I missed yesterday). 14:25-check on new families; check ewes & lambs; check sheep in Caravan Corner & haul ANOTHER stuck lamb from the hedge; hack back more brambles. 15:30-muck out Nursery Stable; wash & wet-disinfect Nursery floor; feed cade lamb; dry-disinfect Nursery floor; bed down Nursery & prep with hurdles, buckets & hayracks. 18:00-muck out Lambing Shed; feed & water residents; bring in & feed ewes & lambs; miss tonight’s episode of ‘The Archers’ (yah boo hiss). 19:15-move new Mums+kids into Nursery Stable. 19:40-feed & water goats; evening milking. 20:20-repeat steps @ 06:30-07:30 (feeding goat kids). 21:30-clean parlour & deep-clean milking machine (pause to rinse off toxic cleaning fluid mistakenly+liberally+stupidly splashed over face & hands; top up caprine water buckets; sweep corridors, feed shed, haystore & stableyard etc. 22:15-pop into house whilst apologising to Nanuk (via her supper) for lack of afternoon training session; feed cats & cade lamb then dip into Magic Cauldron for a brief bite of supper. 23:00-check all sheep; check new families; repeat steps @ 06:30-07:30 (feeding goat kids); after which top up goats’ water buckets. 00:15-stumble back into house; feed cade lamb; write Blog & answer emails. 01:50-aaaahhhh; BED.
Snacks I enjoy:
Welsh Rarebit, of course (made with a decent, vintage Cheddar) chomped alongside a good russet apple for added, mouthwatering ‘crunch’; or a thumping wedge of Harbourne Blue goats’ cheese served with fine, brittle-thin crisp water biscuits & a goodly dollop of Maes-y-Derw homemade chutney; or fresh sunshine-green peas, sucked straight from the garden pod; or ripe, juice-bursting golden Sunbaby tomatoes plucked & eaten whilst still warm, from our generous hothouse vines; or plump, tasty, sensuous, Autumn Bliss raspberries guzzled from sun-soaked fruit canes.
And of course hedgerow delicacy snacks include the first wild blackberries & bilberries; then there’s the spring-time, lemon-zesty taste of sorrel plus the delicately peppery wood sorrel; & especially, the tantalising tang of tiny, ripe wild strawberries hanging like scarlet sirens in every hedgerow, supplemented with the brief, honey-sweet fix of a suck on the trumpet of a heavy-scented honeysuckle flower. Fill yer boots; these are far few of our delightful, delicious local snacks….generously provided by Nature Herself. (Please Note – I haven’t indulged in any gratuitous product placement…..!!)
Things I would do if I were a Billionaire:
Hmm, in no particular order, as I’d have the ‘dosh’ to do all of these things & more…..
(1) Not take out the humungous loan we need to start our Business but simply pay off the mortgage; invest in the crumbly/developing bits of the Ffarm; buy a bit more land; & Do What We Need to Get On With It!
(2) Buy more goats; & build Tony the Indoor School he dreams of, for holding his cherished carriage driving competitions (& sponsor brilliant Four-In-Hand Horse ‘Whip’, Karen Bassett, as much as she needs to maintain her wonderfully inspirational Team!).
(3) Sort out the inevitable damp patches in our seventeenth-century cottage; sort out the suffocating, fume-belching crack in Rayburn chimney; add a state-of-the-art (bale or cob build) extension.
(4) Build a wonderful home for my Mum & Dad with all sorts of whizzy gadgetry & lighting to make Mum’s recent blindness as easy to cope with, as possible; & give them both, their dream garden.
(5) Get a (darn good) Gardener (Tony’s attitude is that hayfields are for mowing – not lawns!).
(6) Pay for my parents to have decent healthcare; & for a fitting, monumental memorial to my sister – as she deserves.
(7) Pay off the Buddha-Dhamma Fellowship mortgage on the Forest Hermitage & build a fitting Retreat Centre for monks & meditators, tucked away here on our peaceful Ffarm.
(8) Give mindfully to worthy charities.
Buy an island in the Caribbean; buy penthouse suites in New York, London & wherever else is currently fashionable; buy a villa in Tuscany; buy a French chateau; buy a Scottish castle; buy an enormous yacht; buy a private jet; buy a bath the size of a swimming pool; buy designer clothes; buy friends; buy fame & yet more fortune…..
Nah. Actually, 1-8, plus glorious anonymity – would prove pearls beyond price. Those who insist they need more, are empty vessels indeed (as proved to me by a recent TV programme which we browsed: studying a ‘celebrity couple’, the wife whinged incessantly about her expensive fake tan & her expensive fake t*ts; whilst her orange-tinged, grease-slicked husband was clearly frustrated with the unremitting noveau-riche whine. Perhaps that’s the way the media chose to portray them; but had I been that couple, I’d have refused to allow the programme to be broadcast as it was so vacuous & shallow in terms of genuinely human content).
Three of my bad habits:
Err….only three?! Being late; being impatient; putting off until tomorrow what really needs to be done today. But there’s more; & there’s worse, I’m sure.
Five places I have lived:
Kenilworth, Warwickshire; Rissington, the Cotswolds; Church Fenton, York; Northolt, London; Gioia Del Colle, Italy.
Five jobs I have had:
Supermarket cashier; sales assistant (wedding dresses); secretary (British Horse Society); RAF Officer; goatherd/farmer.
Five people who write interesting Blogs I’d like to tag:
Paula at Locks Park Farm – http://locksparkfarm.wordpress.com/
Colour It Green in Devon – http://colouritgreen.wordpress.com/
Mountainear in Wales- http://mountainear.blogspot.com/
Poppy in Gloucestershire – http://alifelesssimple.wordpress.com/
Musings from a Stonehead (Scotland) – http://stonehead.wordpress.com/
Susie in Australia – http://carrickfarm.wordpress.com/
Mopsa – http://mopsa.blogspot.com/
Uphilldowndale (I want a camera that takes photos like these…!) – http://uphilldowndale.wordpress.com/
Lucy at the Smallest Smallholding – http://www.smallestsmallholding.com/
OK, so I can’t count!…..plus for good measure, I’d also like to add these two lovely Welsh Blogs as well; but as the ladies concerned are always getting tagged, I thought I’d give ’em a break! Ah yes & please don’t forget to check out the other authors on my Blogroll, who don’t appear here as some of you have hopefully already checked them out – they’re also very well worth visiting, so please do drop by for a treat.
Welsh Hills Again – http://welshhillsagain.blogspot.com/
Life in the Preseli Hills – http://preselimags.blogspot.com/
Anyway, back to today –
…so the afternoon was spent mucking out, then disinfecting the pen, sanitising it then laying it with fresh, clean, deep straw; after which it had to be subdivided with hurdles & furnished with buckets & hayracks. In between of course I carried on with the usual day’s chores; so by the time it came to moving Wolfie & Assie, it was already fairly late. It’s always a challenge, moving Mums & their newborns as the ladies can be unpredictable at times. It’s bad enough when there are two of you; but doing it alone without getting trampled or at least bruised, is almost an art; especially when you’re also challenged with trying to contain the other highly curious & excited goats in the main pen.
Thankfully when I picked up Wolfie’s kids – one under each arm – she meekly followed & I managed to shut the gate & then get her round the corner & into the stable, without mishap. Assie however was a different kettle of fish; being consummately awkward, it took a good twenty minutes to get her to oblige. Again however, thankfully I managed without mishap; which meant I could resume the rest of the evening chores.
With bottle-feeding, extra meals to prepare & buckets to top up I didn’t get round to deep-cleaning the milking machine until past nine o’clock. Perhaps I was tired, or distracted, I don’t know; but I managed to slip whilst trying to extract the corrosive cleaning fluid from the large, heavy chemical drum in which it is contained; thankfully it missed my eyes, but some did spalsh onto my face & it streamed all over my hands – a revolting sensation, rather like wearing gloves made of clinging, slippery slime. Thankfully I managed to decontaminate myself remarkably quickly, although not before losing a layer of skin from my hands. And now the machine was splashed with fluid, I’d foolishly given myself extra work having to ensure it was all thoroughly cleaned off.
It’s been a long old day, & I’m not convinced it’s over yet as Ageratum came over for a couple of ‘chats’ before I switched out the shed lights…..& on checking Wolfie & her kids at bedtime, perhaps it was just a hayseed in her eye; but I’d swear she turned to me with a smile & a wink as if to say, “GOTCHA! I told you so….”