Thursday, 29 March 2012

I saw something wicked in the strawberry patch....

7yo and Snowy

It is verging on bonkers here.

Thirty months ago we four, Hubby, the two sprogs and me, arrived to The Larches, catless, sheepless, chickenless, penniless.... (oh hang on, the last one has happened since we've been here.)

Yesterday I had a few pals and their children over for coffee. The Easter holidays have commenced and the sun was belting. According to Postie, as she sat sorting my mail, (bills and junk mostly) it was registering 26° in the van, in March!

‘We’ll pay for this,’ she predicted. An ominous statement. Bearing in mind that several parts of the country are already on hose pipe ban, I think the monthly instalments have already begun....

In the walled garden the mothers’ meeting was called to order over a slice of my coffee and several hunks of home-made Madeira cake... Yes you did read that right, I never really know how much ground coffee to put in the cafetiere. Still, it keeps you on your toes.

Although there were six, variously sized children in the vicinity, they seemed to prefer the privacy of the den, (a straw filled animal shelter in the field near the stables,) rather than the designed order of my raised beds. Now and again they popped back to display a wound, pilfer a cake or down a glass of juice.  Mothers took this opportunity to apply coconut smelling sun cream, heedless of yelps. 

‘There’s a chicken in the house,’ the smallest girl child pointed out as she waited in line to be basted.
She was right. The young white bantam is fearless, determined to seek out food where she isn’t welcome. Chickens are banned from the walled garden and, of course, the house. We temporarily evicted her but out of the corner of my eye I noticed Archie Archer, a black hen with attitude, had flown up and over the wall at the far end of the garden. While we fussed over the small bantam, she was checking out all the edible bits in the delphinium and lupin nursery bed.
Meanwhile the two lambs bombed up and down the pathways between the raised beds, checking out everything with their soft nibbly mouths. I was bemused to note that the children paid little heed to them while the lambs felt sure they were included in some huge chasing game. The two cats watched the madness from the top of the Shropshire stone wall, bathing in the sun.

Naughty Nibblers

Having just finished Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, I found it all highly amusing.

The building work is progressing well. The old porch is being replaced by another within the same footprint, though with marginally less woodworm and damp. Finally we will have a front door and a door bell! No longer will guests wander round and round the property, unsure of how to penetrate the gothic fortress, powerless to alert us to their presence, (as most mobile phones don’t work within 2 miles of the place.)
Old Porch

New Entrance

Coat and Welly Land...Yipeee!

The mums were fairly pleased with the vista, (of the builders I fear.) The smallest girl child was less keen and came to tell tales on the three men working on the house.
‘Those builders have taken their shirts off.’ She said looking stern.
We were restrained. We didn’t rush to look.
‘Come back and tell us if they take their trousers off,’ I advised. She nodded and toddled off.

Friday, 23 March 2012

I'm a mummy again.....

Following on from my foray into lambing, I could not resist when offered two cade lambs.

They were both from triplets families and the farmer had decided not to raise them the conventional way, allowing their mothers to raise two other siblings each on the same number of  bosoms. [Technical term.]

I had already organised my holding number etc and had been cleared to have sheep and goats since last spring, plus I’d read every article going on the web.... I was primed for the call and when it came I said yes!

Both are girls and the sproglets made me promise that they are going to be pets, glorified lawnmowers, (they couldn’t be persuaded to raise meat sheep just yet.)

The smallest lamb, Moon, belongs to the 9yo and the hunky chunky one is the responsibility of the 7yo.... so I’m raising that one!

The tiny one was thought to be a twin, not a triplet and her mother was fed accordingly, hence the disparity in size. She more than makes up for it in personality and can look very like Gismo from the 1984 movie Gremlins.

They are just over one week old and, like all babies, we have had our trials and tribulations. First the big lamb wouldn’t feed. She refused the bottle for almost two days and so I took myself off to the farm shop and bought a syringe which hubby doctored, adding 2” of plastic tube. We fed her several tubes of milk this way and after that she seemed to get a taste for it and soon took to the bottle and the replacement lamb milk.... that costs a fortune.

Raising two lambs like this will cost approximately £60, as well as time and effort so you can understand why the vast majority of farmers are less than enthused with this method. I feed at 6.30am, 11.30am 5.30pm and 11pm and this seems to suffice. When she’s able the 9yo feeds with me and happily gets up for the 6.30 feed, the 7yo has resisted the offer.

At the moment they are in a stable and will probably live there for the next 10 – 15 days till we can wean them onto lamb creep and another molasses feed my friends has told me about. After that they’ll be out in a tiny compound and then onto a larger field.

The next stage is getting them used to their harnesses – essential if we are the ‘show’ at the huge agricultural show in early August. Bearing in mind the growth rate of a lamb I’m rather concerned to see whether my sprogs will walk the ring or be dragged around it... Time will tell!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

And the winner is.....

The gorgeous, the wonderful, the funny, the..... wait a minute, I haven't told you what I'm wearing....

Well, as it's an awards ceremony I thought I'd wear something spesh. So, (I've still got the wellingtons on, obviously! and the jeans - c'mon, I'm working here,) for you, dear reader, I'm wearing my wedding tiara, all golden (wire,) cut glass and pearl Princessy, 'you doooo like me,' ... The chickens are seriously impressed.

....Drum roll please,

And the winner of the jam is............ Man of the 50's.... Yeahhhhhh!

If you've never read him, please do so NOW... go on, now! Scam! Check out some of his older posts, they are sooooo on the nail.

[Mr Man, send your address please c/o and I will mail your yummy prize]


Friday, 2 March 2012

S.A.S. (Special Assignment Sheep) and a Jam Giveaway

The three fields immediately visible from the house were looking a bit shaggy. One of our neighbours has a lot of sheep. It was only a matter of time before I figured out that this was a marriage made in heaven and so they arrived.

It's very relaxing to look out over the fields to see dozens of contented girls munching or standing or lying about the grass, great woolly eating machines. These sheep had one red dot on their backs, indicating they had just one lamb growing in their rapidly expanding tummies.

It is my belief that some animals have more personality than others, most of the creatures that live at The Larches have been overly blessed with personality! To prove this rule, one of the sheep, that had been bottle reared last year, was determined to choose her own grazing. No matter the height of the fence or electrical tape, she jumped it. I did suggest to the farmer that she might try out for the Olympics, but with so many sheep to lamb, I think he's rather too busy to undertake the training required as coach. She wasn't a bother really, she just preferred the grass on the other side of the fence - I'm sure we've all felt like that at some time. At bed time she hopped back over to the rest of the girls and settled down for the night.

All was peaceful.

Then, over a weekend, the tegs arrived.

The tegs [new word for me] are the yearling sheep that will be put to the tup, the ram, at the end of this year. They are the sheep equivalent of hoodies. No fence, gate or bolt of electricity can keep them from exploring their environment. It was like fat camp for me.

As I continued with my chores around the house between bouts of writing; I'm Head of Relocations for Chez Archer don't you know and my duties include returning an endless amount of c.r.a.p. back to the sproglets' bedrooms as well as piles of laundry from the utility room to bedrooms, usually via an unlimited stay in a blue Ikea bag etc, etc... I spied the escapees from the long Gothic window on the stairs.

This was my 95th journey upstairs that day, a teetering stack of neatly folded fresh clothes in my arms, I glanced out across our rural view, usually a pleasurable moment. It took me a couple of seconds to realise that these new commando-girls weren't munching the grass in Home Field but rather had surrounded my fenced-off allotment in the bottom left of the field. They were salivating over my cabbages, kale, leeks and celeriac. My eyes narrowed as I observed one determined girl rise up on her back legs and headbutt the corner post. Three more crack shots and the post began to teeter.

'Noooo,' screamed I, chucking the laundry to the floor.

I was too late, by the time I'd got down there they had pruned the cabbages. Everything else was fine. For the rest of the day I was on guard, they ran off whenever I chased them, returning to the far paddocks, but as soon as I turned my back to go to the house they formed an orderly queue and trotted back towards the restaurant allotment. In the end I bribed enlisted the children to continue to repel the siege of the cotton balls, till my neighbour came to secure them with more electical torture wire.

Sheep. Who'd have thought they could be so naughty?

I was thinking of getting two orphan lambs this year but, bearing in mind the fact that our fences are clearly less than sheep-proof and that every farmer and his dog round here has warned me not to do it AND the fact that I can't get the sproglets out of bed in the mornings, (so how the heck will they get up to clean and feed lambs?) - I was just coming down on the side of saying 'No, I'm not doing lambs this year.' It was really rather unfortunate therefore that a friend should turn up to the house last night with a cardboard box in the boot of her car..... Inside was a day old lamb, a triplet. She had been given him by another farmer and was going to try to latch him onto one of her sheep, a sheep that had lost a lamb. It had died not long after being born.

The sproglets had just returned from school and begged to hold him.

He was gorgeous and all my delay tactics flew out of the window. So, if there are any cades going, we'll probably have two. I'll let you know.

Next Tuesday I'm off to be a slave for a day, lambing on a friend's farm. I can't wait and yes, I'm fully aware that there will be poo, blood and my toes may get stamped.. or worse. Still can't wait.

It's definitely Spring here, the pond is full of frog and toad spawn and in the greenhouse sown seeds are sprouting without the need for the propogator, calundula, sunflowers and cosmos to name but a few. I've re-potted the tomatoes already, planting their leggy stems deep into larger pots. I may do that several more times yet.

I feel my novel, The Perrys at The Berries, is progressing well and I'm well on my way to finishing. In fact, if you would be so kind I'd be grateful for your opinion of the first three chapters, I'm a little nervous to upload any more of my book at this time but you can read this excerpt in Authonomy. I'd be so grateful for any opinion from you, the readers of The Archers at The Larches, as it's a fictionalised account of a family, like us, trying out the rural life for the first time. Try it, see what you think.

Lastly, I'm offering the chance to win 2 pots of home made Larches jam. This draw is open to all followers.

To be eligible for the draw on Sunday 11th March. The first name pulled from a hat by hubby will get 1 pot of yummy, scrummy Blackberry and Plum Jam and 1 pot of delicious Damson Jam.
  • register yourself as a Follower before Saturday 10th March with Google Friend Connect (add your little picture or logo to my Global Friends gallery,)
  • AND add a comment to this post
  • Existing followers need only add a comment to this blog post to be eligible for the giveaway
Good luck!

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon