Monday, 31 March 2014

Night shift......

My shift began at 11.30pm tonight, having gone to bed at 6.30 pm. The Hubby had been on shift for the early part of the evening but needs to sleep now, as he's got a real job! Yesterday's shift of almost 17 hours had taken it out of me purely because it had begun at 2am. Wimp! I can only imagine how sheep farmers with 500+ sheep feel at lambing time.

It's now almost 1am on Monday morning and I've already birthed 3 chicks! Ok, ok.... I s'pose technically I just noticed them through the glass top of the incubator but hey, I've been caring for them for the last 21 days. There are 16 eggs in the bator, all Salmon Faverolle, so just another 13 to go. Hope we make 100% but it's unlikely.

In the barn the sheep are settled. It really doesn't look as if we'll be lambing tonight. Saturday evening's arrival, a healthy, beautiful, grey, boy, is growing steadily with regular feeds from mum Moon. He's even started doing those funny little lamb jumps. I can't wait till we turn him and mum out and he gets to frolic in the field. That's a day or so away yet and reminds me that I really must check the weather for the next few days.

Tonight the evening is as calm and warm as it was last night. A blessing.

Note to self: In the next hour when I toddle up to the barn to see the maternity ward, I must set up the brooder and turn on the heat lamp. The chicks will need to be turned out of the incubator quite quickly as there's really not enough room for 16 in there. In the brooder, a converted glass cabinet, set on its side, where the glass panes act as a viewing gallery for we custodians, these new arrivals can lash about and grow strong.

By the way, my apologies for the typos, incorrect use of words etc in any of my recent blog posts, particularly the Mother 's Day Thank Ewe blog post..... I can only offer the excuse of mega-tiredness..... Bear with! At least it is the Easter holidays already, so no need for school run....

I realised I ate very badly yesterday AND I missed out on the fab pub meal with my children and the MIL because I wanted to stay with the sheep, but a tin of Foxes biscuits and an authentic Korean pot noodle came a close 2nd!!!!! Right now (at 1.10am) I realise I'm starving and so have set a pot of last season's, home-made, frozen ratatouille to simmer on the stove. It's full of tomatoes, courgettes, onions, garlic, chilli and other goodness and should do the trick nicely. I might even have crusty bread and salted butter... steady!

Sleep tight and I'll update you tomorrow.

Lou x

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Still waiting.....

I have been awake many hours now and still no new lambs to report..... time to repot the Earthwalker Sunflowers methinks...

Mothers' Day Thank Ewe.... 1st lamb


I've been negligent at my blogging. It's not from lack of material; tons of that here at The Larches, it's just time. I wish I was Samantha from Bewitched, or at the very least, could borrow her nose.

The chicks we grew are growing well and have moved from incubator, to brooder, to warmed coop, to outside al-fresco living in the outdoor pens. I expect we'll take them to market in another 10 weeks. They are an impressive bunch; 2 pure bred Salmon Faverolles and 3 mixed breed Salmon Faverolle and Black Rock. These are seriously cute looking.

In view of the fact that we were lambing this year I offered my services i.e. forced myself on, our gorgeous hill farmer friends again. I was their YTS girl several years ago and, looking back, realise I was a nervous, chatty, rose-coloured spectacles type of a girl who had not a clue what was going on in their sheds, all I could see were the lovely likkle lambs. If you're interested here's the post - sorry about the rude bits, oh and the weird formatting.... Can't fix it!! So annoying.

This year, again on their farm, I was still as much use as a chocolate tea pot but I absorbed, sponge-like the seriousness of lambing. I realised that it was a life or death situation where the shepherd is the key to success. I asked much more pertinent questions and felt, funnily, far less competent to deal with my up and coming lambing than I had felt (thanks to utter ignorance and insane enthusiasm) two years ago. In fact, on leaving their farm, with my three ewes approximately a month away from lambing, I felt like shouting out,

'I've changed my mind - no lambing please!'

Watching Lambing Live has reminded me of things I forgot to ask and of countless pieces of equipment that I have omitted to buy like lubricant gel and replacement milk. Here's hoping I won't need either before Countrywide opens tomorrow.

As I write to you now, it is 3am on Mothering Sunday and I have just started my shift after going to bed at 10am last night. I am sat in our American barn on a park bench covered in a picnic blanket, wearing most of my wardrobe, waterproof trousers, warm hat (but not a bobble hat like Ms Humble) and two coats. To be honest it's not cold, I suspect the temperature is probably a balmy 7* and there is, thankfully, no wind. It is a stunning night and the clouds have just cleared to reveal a starry sky, perfectly visible in our dark rural setting.

Here in the barn, makeshift lighting is pointing into a large birthing stable where Snowy, Pink and Moon are resident on fresh, golden barley straw. Hubby took the first shift tonight and has kept lovely warm fire going in the brazier outside the barn door.

Last evening was momentous: The girl and I gently assisted Moon, (the girl's 1st ever Cade lamb - the lamb she reared by bottle,) to birth her first lamb.

At dinner time, approximately 6pm, the 11yo excused herself from dishwasher emptying on the pretext of checking the barn for signs of maternity. A few moments later Hubby called out to say he'd seen the girl run back towards the house. It was happening.

After eating in shifts, we watched, fascinated, as over the course of an hour various fluids were deposited. The boy was transfixed one minute, revolted the next as Moon paced and strained and licked her lips. Eventually something, possibly a foot, was visible. I braved a long plastic glove to check. To my eye it seemed that the presentation was normal (thank Gawd) and we waited again, not interfering. Within moments with family Archer watching, a huge lamb appeared. It was fully encased in its sack so I got the girl to clear the mouth and nose ( which she loved.) I decided not to pull the lamb around to mum as the umbilical cord looked large and I'd been warned that you could cause a bleed. In the end Moon stood and turned to lick her baby and the cord was severed naturally. Phew! We left the mum and baby to bond. Amazing.

More than 20 minutes later and after Moon had licked and licked her baby clean, the lamb managed to get to its feet, searching for the teat. Moon couldn't quite understand this and every time the baby got close she moved off. Eventually The girl and I entered the pen we made for this new family group from sturdy hurdles and, while I gently held mum, the 11yo latched on the baby to Moon's udder.

I'm so proud of my girl; she finds this kind of adventure so natural and she seems to have a very special, instinctive way with the animals and they really respond to her. Thanks to her, baby is now regularly suckling loudly.

It's now almost 6am and there doesn't seem to be a sign of another lamb from Moon, just one huge boy. He's really leggy, with black socks and has really long ears, if I was asked what breed he was I'd say Blue Faced Leicester, though I'm sure the father is a Texel!

There's lots of indication that the next two ewes are on their way to labour but as yet there has been no evidence of a fluid sack from either. At least we have almost reached morning, in fact it will be light in a few minutes and so, if I have any real birthing issues today I will hope to be able to call our farming friends locally for assistance, though I must remember it us Mother's Day. Actually I've already had my present from the family: a brand new green wheelbarrow. I've already test-driven it when poo-picking the alpaca, it's a hottie, top sped of at least 5mph... (Top Gear presenters are quaking in their boots lest I take their jobs thank to that motoring review...)

Anyhow, here's hoping all our girls are safe and their babies delivered without complications. Lambing Live is a wonderful programme but, as one farmer told me yesterday as I purchased some straw.

'It doesn't go as smooth as that in real life.'

Apparently he has birthed many dead and rotting lambs this year and he puts this down to the bad weather. Very worrying, especially if this is your livelihood.

Still, on this lovely morning, coffee pot on in the barn, a wood fire for company and one healthy lamb delivered, I'm feeling rather content. Fingers crossed that it continues to go smoothly.

Holey-Moley.....Sharp stuff...

I'm almost a farmer!

I feel like I need another Blue Peter Badge [smug smile.... Yes, I've already got one.] This new one would be for overcoming my fear of injecting my animals with necessary medicines.... Not entirely sure there is such a badge, but there jolly well should be.

Though he is up to his armpits in sheep, lambs and trees, our local friend and farmer came by with his brilliant sons to give me a lesson the other day (again!) in injecting creatures.  The three soon-to-be ewes needed injections to protect them against pasteurella and clostridial yuckiness and an injection prior to lambing helps protect the lambs too. The alpaca also needed injections, as sanctioned by the vet, these to also protect against clostridial (bacteria in soil) infection.

Eventually we caught two of the sheep; Pink and Moon and Moon was chosen as the demo girl. Next it was my turn to inject Pink. I was useless. These injections are subcutaneous and so I needed to pull the skin taught in order to get under the skin. The first attempt and I managed to inject into thin air, my needle resting too far above the skin. My second attempt was equally flawed as I went through the skin and out the other side and the injection fluid was lost again. Moon wasn't bothered by my pants technique but at last (third time) I finally I got it.

Feeling confident (not) but conscious that our farming friend was so, so busy, I bravely smiled and assured him that I was fully competent: I could go it alone..... Well, alone with the Hubby that is.

The result:
  • 1 errant sheep caught and injected. Yay!
  • 7 alpaca injected (plus hooves clipped, fleece samples taken and A,D and E vitamin paste administered) yay!
  • 1 husband injected -oops! and
  • self administration x 3, .....sigh.
Just the sproglets to do then........ ! 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Car Washer Fluid: Filling of [Helpful Guide!]

The gritter lorries have been gritting for most of the winter, fortunately we have seen little snow, though there was a contained blizzard on the highest point on our way to school last week.

The resulting haze on one's windscreen is, I presume, a mix of grit and salt, mud and rain. Yesterday my washer fluid ran out as Hubby and I made our way to the Year 4 play. [A magnificent effort we later agreed, the play not the fluid.]

Hubby was driving and though he pressed and pressed the appropriate button, no obliging cleaning agent appeared and we were forced to drive as if in fog.

Later, at home, thanks in part to the play, dinner, sheep, chicks a'hatching and other duller tasks like laying fires, filling/emptying dishwasher, I forgot to top up the washer fluid and so was again visually impaired on the way to school this morning.

Having dropped off the boy, I automatically started out on my journey home. A mile or so up the road I kicked myself for not getting some top-up water at school. Instead I glanced about the car for a means of temporarily cleaning the screen. I wish I hadn't looked really, as I cannot believe how much crud there is in my car courtesy of the sproglets: I pick them up each evening and generally I have a drink, sandwich or small treat, sometimes an apple. I specifically mention the following when handing over such bounty:

'When we get home, take your rubbish out to the bin.' Clearly they hear;

'When you've finished munching, dump the remains anywhere you like!'

There will be words tonight!

Anyhoo, my eyes first lit upon a packet of wet-wipes; pretty good idea, a contender. Next I spied a bottle of Robinson's Barley Water that I had brought to the girl's netball match several weeks ago. Sheesh! I happen to know that this was more water than barley, as I'd made it up from the dregs of the squash and tap water.

Excellent, though I, Perfect.

I stopped in the next village, opposite a bus stop filled with secondary school children and, keeping the engine running, I leaned back to swoop up the bottle from the back seat. In order to facilitate a clean screen, I put the wiper blades on full speed.

I couldn't really be bothered to extract myself fully from the car, as it was slightly spitting this morning, instead I half leaned out into the triangular space made by my open door and the windscreen and poured the diluted squash onto the glass.

Within seconds I was covered in a sticky, stagnant, sweet smelling lemon juice; the manic wiper blades having lashed the Barley water from screen to face and hair. I was so shocked, I hadn't stopped pouring.

To be fair, as I hurriedly drove away, mopping at my face with my best Pashmina, the school children hadn't actually started laughing until I was back in the car.


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Pancakes for tea....

Free range eggs are the best!
The colour of our free range egg yolks is a Crayola yellow, the yellow a child would choose for the sun.

Tonight on the Pancake Day menu:

Ludlow Sausage and sweet mustard.... in a pancake 
Prawns and bacon in a cream sauce.. ditto..
Trad sugar and lemon... in a crepe (posh word for same recipe above!)
Ice cream on top of the sugar and lemon #naughty!
Even more fun, the sproglets are insisting on cooking their own. #Day-off... No doubt the kitchen will be a disaster zone by 8pm. Onward and upward.

A Spring day at The Larches....

Mahoosive spawn this year
'Hello Grass, it's been a long muddy winter..'

Nigella seedlings

Broad Beans... delicious young

Perpetual Spinach

Lupin for colour this year

Figs are growing well

Chooks a'chookin'

Delightful Caramel

Shadow and her shadow


Fudge and Darcy

Annabel (the Boss)

Hot-bed of yucky love stuff - hence the spawn!

My most sincere apologies if you can't see the pictures above ...(you're missing out!) Something to do with Apple / Explorer interface??? In order to rectify this, click here and you will be magically transported to my blog. Thanks for stopping by. Why not leave a comment, I'd love to chat with you. xx

Monday, 3 March 2014

Another talented cousin... Carly Smithson.


If you can't see the video above (darn you iPads....) try this link

Wow. Isn't she clever.

Ans again... sigh ... If you can't see the video above (darn you Apple peeps and technology....) try this link

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon