Wednesday 22 May 2013

Show Jumping at The Larches

Thanks to our naughtiest lamb, Cocoa, [owner: the 10yo] Bracken, one of our alpacas, leapt the fence to her paddock and ended up in our neighbour's field. Grrrr. Chops for tea anyone? It is typical that the Hubby is away this week in Italy. Poor him!

The 10yo, 8yo and I were calling the lambs for bed time in the stables this evening, (- yes we are soft,) and they were being typical youngsters; refusing to comply and hiding behind the field shelter. After tons of coaxing I semi gave up and stood still, half way up the paddock, dreaming of wine. The 10yo, who had insisted the lambs come in because of the bitter wind, collapsed in the grass. Cocoa, Bambina and Oreo, sensing our defeat, leapt about a bit kicking their lambsy legs to this side and that and then stood defiant, 'king-of-the-castle-style,' on gigantic conifer stumps.

The alpacas were intrigued by all the madness and finally ventured towards the lambs. Cocoa delighted as Anabelle, the palomino alpaca, sniffed her and in joy she gave a great lambsy leap into the air, frightening the beejeesus out of the chocolate camelid, Bracken.

Bracken took off and leapt over a decent sized fence, off our property and onto our neighbour's land.

To cut a long story very short, it took almost two hours to return her to our paddock. We took our time partly because of her pregnancy and partly because it's bloody tricky to catch an alpaca, even trickier to move them once they refuse and sit down. 'Nuff said.

Our neighbours need medals for services beyond the call of duty. I must say that since moving to the middle of nowhere I have never been more reliant on the kindness of neighbours (oh and the spooky 'alpaca-whisperer' talent of the 10yo.)

After a big glass of wine I feel much calmer and, bearing in mind that it is almost 9pm, I would very much like to go to bed now with more wine and the TV remote to watch Chelsea Flaar Show, unfortunately I still need to lock up the chooks. Sob.

Onward and upward.

P.S. Dear God, please turn off the wind machine and could you move the Gulf Stream back northwards please?

Love Lou.

Monday 20 May 2013

The Llamas at The Larches.... (actually they're Alpacas but that didn't rhyme!)

We had an interesting weekend; a party in Henley-on-Thames for The Entrepreneur, a good friend. A flying visit to my sister and family in Guildford.

'Thank you,' I called to her from the car window as we headed off back to deepest Shropshire, to lambs and sheep, chicks and cats, 'Thank you for almost having us....' She laughed, she knows we're mad.

We were home by midnight and the sproglets, Hubby and I fell exhausted into our beds.

As usual, the next morning I awoke at 6am for a bit of thinking time. I'd be a good milkman as I love to get up early. I especially like the time in the morning where it's just me and the coffee, oh and the cats, er yes, and the lambs, oh and not forgetting the chicks...... Oh for God's sake!... my mornings have been invaded.

Anyhoo, this Sunday morning was glorious, the sun beating down, the coffee hot. After opening up and feeding the broods I wandered about the gardens perusing the plants that hadn't yet been eaten by lambs.

Late morning when the sproglets and hubby had finally emerged from their beds, I was free to mow the walled garden and tidy as loudly as I liked.

After an impromptu BBQ lunch and a decadent glass of wine, I wandered off to assess whether the 10yo's rare breed chicken compound needed to move to fresh ground. It did and I was just in the throes of catching the massivo rooster when the 8yo started screaming somewhere in the distance...

'Mum, Mum!'

I thought something really bad had happened, a death at least.

'Mum, there's a trailer with llamas in it.'

I assumed someone was lost, way off the beaten track, asking for directions.

'Dad's bought llamas,' the 8yo insisted.

I knew this was impossible but in order to soften the disappointment that the 8yo was sure to feel when they drove off, I thought I'd best come and see what all the fuss was about.

Rounding the side of the house there was indeed a livestock trailer on the drive, worryingly the ramp was down and Hubby was grinning from ear to ear. The 10yo stood, gobsmacked, staring into the cavity while the 8yo was in rapture.

'They're ours, they're Alpacas. Daddy's bought Alpacas. I love you Dad,' he repeated over and over.

They were. He had.

Gob. Smacked.

Did I mention they're both pregnant?

Lordy love a duck! Scary but so exciting. I'm amazed I had no idea they were coming.... what a fab Hubby.

Next instalment when the shock and awe has worn off a bit. A big welcome to Anabelle and Bracken.


Sunday 19 May 2013

Chick Flick......

We have 6 chicks to date, more on the way. The Bantams are blissfully unaware that they are foster parents!

I was a little worried by our style of birthing centre this time; Housed in a converted cupboard inside a 3m x 3m secure compound, 3 Bantams sit close together incubating 15 eggs. Far from being a problem, their close proximity has meant that the three 'would-be' mothers have shared the chick care: They take turn sitting on the eggs, scratting with the hatched babies outside the coop and at night the chicks snuggle under which ever mother is closest. A great family model.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Emerging from hibernation: The Lesser Spotted Archers at The Larches

I've been busy here... at night, instead of blogging, I sleep. Sorry.

Mind you, during the day [my days seem to comprise more hours than the standard 24] I squeeze in a marketing job, minimal housework, dinners etc, bottle washing, lamb feeding, the chickens and, now that my garden is just beginning to recover from 18 months of rubbish weather, a spot of seed sowing and land management. I'm considering a day off tomorrow at Malvern Spring Show, though that said, it's pouring from the sky today and if this weather continues I might just join the lambs in the stables who are huddled around a heat lamp!

Lambs are lively little things and love nothing more than play time with the sproglets! [If you can't see this video in email format click the title of the post to be transported to my blog.]

I've three Bantam hens sitting on approximately 15 eggs. None of the eggs belong to the Bantams, instead they are sitting on a mixed brood of Welsummers, Salmon Faverelles and Heinz57's! I'm praying that the hatchlings will be mainly hens rather than roosters but you never can tell. With luck they'll hatch next week when the weather may again improve, it's dreadful at the moment.

Here at The Larches we favour animals being free to wander. Our chooks are free range as soon as they're big enough to withstand the advances of the two cats. Recently we released the, now grown, Salmon Faverelles; the 10yo's rare breed chickens. This did not go well; our original rooster, Road Runner, who is half the size of Lucky the new boy but twice as aggressive, decided to pick a fight to the death with the new interloper. But for The Hubby's interference, one or both roosters would have needed hospitalization.

After spraying combs and necks with purple antiseptic spray we returned the rare breed chickens to their 3m x 3m enclosure. Sad.

Wondering what to do next, Hubby and I pondered our options until a neighbour appeared asking if we had a spare rooster to take care of his 40+ hens! Was he sent by St Francis of Assisi I wondered? A summit of Archers was required to see if the sproglets would agree terms with the neighbour, money was never an option, the children were more concerned that rooster would be sad at being forced into exile. In the end we all agreed that the neighbour could 'borrow' rooster and that afternoon we placed him in a dark box and walked down the bridlepath, passing one neighbour's land, across the small village road and down the hill to our next neighbour's property.

We locked rooster in a shed located a the bottom of field on the neighbour's land and 40 hens clucked at him through the door. He was clearly furious but he needed to be locked in for a couple of days, with food and water of course, in order to imprint his new home to his memory.

Two days later he'd escaped. He was soon spotted by our closest neighbour as he jumped into his hen compound. Before Road Runner had time to completely murder our neighbour's prize rooster, he was caught (again) and taken back to his new home.

Two further days and he had escaped again, this time he avoided our neighbour and came back home to us, his real home. Who knew roosters had homing pigeon instincts?!

I get the hint. He can stay. The sproglets and our hens are delighted. The rare breed chooks will need a bigger compound! Sheesh!

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon