Thursday, 26 March 2015

Raising the Baaaaa......

I got the call and immediately mobilized. My friends, proper farmers, had located some cade ewe lambs for me to raise by bottle.

It's not that I specifically want to give myself the added expense in time and finance to raise baby lambs, it's just that by raising lambs by hand, you really bond with them. You get to know quirky personality traits and they get to know you, which seriously helps when they grow up and you need to move or manipulate them. My current ewes were all raised this way and they are the most biddable, loving, want-to-be-petted-like-dogs, creatures ever. It doesn't make commercial sense but it makes sense to me, (and saves me time in the long run.)

My 'big' girls were all raised by bottle and are so easy to manage. I don't have a sheep dog to round my ewes up, so, standing by a gate, I merely call them and they come running from three fields away. I'm the Barbara Woodhouse of sheep!

Dog crate in the boot of my car, my friend and I drove to a commercial farm where barns and sheds, and even a huge wedding marquee, housed extensive sheep maternity wards. Hundreds of sheep, hundreds and hundreds of lambs. In specially created hot boxes, (intensive care) we saw some tiny tiddlers, most seemed to be perking up and the commercial farmer assured us that most would survive to be raised by bottle. My lamb-dealer shook her head and we were off to shop for perkier lambs.

In hay filled pens, cades, (3rd and 4th sibling lambs or orphan lambs,) huddled together in the straw. Some of the long-term inmates, brave individuals, pottered over to sniff us through the bars of the hurdles. Suddenly a lamb was handed to me, then another.... then another. We were urged to follow the farmer who went pen to pen, handing us suitable babies, most taken from their mums who already had two healthy lambs to feed. All looked fit and well, all had clearly had an initial feed of colostrum, the essential protection for any baby.

We made mini trips to the car to pop warm, bleating lambs into the dog crate. I felt sad to have pulled them from their mums but also assured that they were due to be pulled anyway and besides, I'm a lovely mummy too and they were coming to a lovely home.

And so I've decided, in terms of shopping; lamb shopping is the best. You can keep your shoe shopping, the Manolo Blahniks etc and clothes shopping, you can even keep your make-up and jewellry style shopping, lamb shopping is the best.

Fourteen days on, approximately 672 feeds later, (1344 to go) and all 8 babies are drinking happily from the bottle, most have sussed that there is also milk in the free-feed bucket that is bolted to the wall.

Clockwise: Sproglet1, Smudge, Spots and Noche

It's not easy feeding 8 hungry lambs, fortunately I have had a multitude of volunteers and some who didn't volunteer (sorry Spanish guests!) It may not be easy but it is lots of snuggly fun.

As these baby girls will join our other breeding ewes in two years time, we have named them. (Also not very commercial) There is Una, Smudge, Blanca, Squeek, Nibble, Lady, Noche and Spots.  They join our original ewes: Snowy, Moon, Pink, Oreo, Bourbon, Cocoa and Bino.

Our proper lambing from our own ewes begins tomorrow for the next two weeks.... goodbye bed, hello night-shift!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Posh Pasta Purloined....

Benny the panther

I'm reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It is fan-bloody-tastic. (Now my second favourite book after The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx.) The honesty of Wild smacks you right on the nose and while I have few tales to match such a cathartic adventure, I have decided to bear my soul today and hang the consequences: (Probably no guests to the house ever again....)

This morning, after seeing to all the outdoor creatures, trudging through the snow with feed and water, my hat pulled down against the icy wind, I was very happy to be back in my kitchen. The log burner took the edge off the sharp day and a steaming cup of coffee soon had me toasty inside.

Unusually I listened to silence, no Radio 4, no podcast in my ears. That's why I heard the cracking sound.

At first I thought the broken window [daughter's football antics last summer!] in the dairy (the walk-in larder), 'mended' by Hubby, had become 'unmended;' the plastic sheeting crackling in the gale, but no. This noise was intermittent: teeth cracking on something hard?

I rushed to find a cat.

Back at the dairy door with a sleepy Benny, I waited to see if the noise was still a feature. Two seconds later and Benny was out of my arms, pushing the dairy door ajar. He was at once transformed into a panther. I slipped into the room behind him and closed the door.

We worked as a team, he searched an area, looking at me to move a shelf, box or tin. I noticed that a brand new packet of posh pasta, purchased in France and saved for a special occasion, was now open, a hole gnawed in its shiny wrapper. This was war. I slowly pulled out each drawer of the tall, wooden apple store and Benny and I were rewarded with the sight of a long, slender tail disappearing behind a small shelf.

By emptying the shelf of foods and then slowly tipping it towards me, I created a gap. Benny leapt into the void and after a second or two of invisible scrabbling, appeared holding a fat house mouse, its head engulfed within Benny's dark mouth. Jumping to the floor Benny stood by the dairy door. My task as doorman complete, the panther exited into the kitchen proudly, disappearing with his catch through the cat-flap.

Poor mouse but hey-ho, nobody but me gets to open the posh pasta!

To those invited to stay over/to dinner etc any time soon....

  1. I understand if you cancel 
  2. I can promise that we're not having the remains of that pasta for dinner..... mind you, with lots of salted, boiling water..... snigger... 
So, though not as Wild as Cheryl, I feel like a slovenly housewife and that's all I'm revealing for now... 

Saved by a cat. Yay!

Another catch brought in by Benny (from outside this time) in 2010.... ughhh!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Easter Holiday Ideas. Save 20%.

From famine to feast!

There was a definite temperature lift this morning and a smell of spring. Partly this was due to my daily faceful of hay as I fed the pregnant sheep and alpaca at the crack of dawn, but mainly life just felt a tadge different. The chickens have finally started laying and now from a famine, I'm in feast mode desperately thinking of what to cook next! [Never happy, me]

In the greenhouse my dahlia seedlings are happy and alert and throughout the garden, stuff's emerging. Love it. 

In an effort to be organised I've looked at my yearly diary and planned ahead. Circumnavigating lambing and alpaca birthing carefully so as not to cause an issue, I have booked a holiday with the sproglets. Dad, unfortunately will be promoted to Director of Farming while I'm away, though he has kindly declined the role of Head of Poo! (Drat!)

Crabbing at nearby Padstow

So, early summer we three and mates shall depart for our favourite spot in Cornland..... (Cornwall to you) Trevella Park near Newquay. Last time I stayed with Trevella I confess that it was as the guest of the Park in return for my bloggy opinion of their service, facilities and accommodation. It was a dream assignment - we loved it and the kids (aged 12 and 10) have nagged and nagged to return (at our own expense I hasten to add) ever since. 

Wonderful Eden

I've been thinking about what makes Trevella so special and here are my top banana bullet points. 
  • The site feels safe
  • The site has interest for the smallest child to the biggest child (me) with fishing, pond dipping, games room and tons of space to play outdoors. 
  • The caravans were spotless and roomy and warm, with all mod cons. We were last there when it was rainy and muddy and we still had a ball. 
  • During the rapidly approaching two-week school holiday break 3-17 April 2015, Trevella are offering free Park Ranger Adventures, with guests challenged to discover local insects and wildlife, learn to fish and develop their survival skills. 
  • Also this Easter Holidays on offer are night-time moth and bat walks, insect hunts, rockpooling, shelter building and map reading. [Hopefully the little darlings will be exhaused after all that, leaving parents to sip a wine on the balcony in the evening.... ahhh bliss...) 
To watch a fab video of Trevella click here 

NB. Savings of up to 20% are available on Easter holidays for bookings made and paid in full before 28 February. Prices for a four-night midweek break from 6 April start from £196 for up to four people sharing a static caravan.

Contact Trevella to book your own adventure or call 01637 830 308

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Archie. RIP.

When Archie was a boy!

On 10th November 2010 Archie Archer was born. The only chick hatched from a brood of 6 with an adopted broody mum, Archie was our first ever hatchling, one of many but definitely the best.

I'm not sure when he turned into a she, probably when she laid her first egg! We were so ignorant in those days (not so bright nowadays either come to think of it.) She was a miracle in my eyes. She was always bonkers; I'll miss searching for her on warm summer nights when she'd rather climb into the rhododendron to sleep than the boring coop. I always put her to bed, climbing the old gnarled trunks to carry her down from her perch and off to her usual bed, while she gently chirped her annoyance at my ruining her fun. I kept her safe, well fed and happy, till yesterday.

She was a splendid mum and a wonderful nosey-parker, especially when I was gardening. I'll really miss her, as will all our visitors I'm sure.

She'd not felt well for a week or so but every time I thought she may not recover, she rallied. However, I think the combination of the cold, the sharp wind and her underlying ill health got the better of her and she passed away yesterday.  

So long little friend.

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon