Wednesday, 24 July 2013

R.I.P. Happy, our disabled hen.

Summer 2012

Long ago in early 2010 we acquired Happy, our disabled hen, from a lovely farmer who owned a battery hen farm. She cost us just £1, a tiny amount for a girl so full of personality.

Happy was approximately 2 years old when she came to us, supposedly at the close of her battery, commercial life. The farm has long since been renovated and modernised and we Archers were privileged to visit the amazing state of the art barn that the farmer has since invested in, housing 13,000 very happy egg laying girls. His chickens are now free to move within their barn, (a structure from Thunderbirds methinks) and to roam a vast paddock during daylight hours.

For the past 4 years Happy has been a loved member of the Archer Clan. Many of our guests have marvelled at her resilience, hobbling along behind the others or pecking a young bird in order to teach some manners. She was tough and funny. If you were gardening she was your shadow, determined to find the biggest and best worm or grub in whatever hole you had decided to dig!

Happy passed away last night. She was elderly but I'm sure the heat hastened her departure.

Close to the end we sat her in the extension to the coop, (the bungalow,) shaded from the sun, with a dish of cool water for company. With the door wide open she watched and listened to the sounds and seemed peaceful.

As I locked up the animals late last night she looked very tired, her eyes closing and as I latched her door I whispered to her to go to heaven.

I don't think she'll be disabled in heaven. I'm sure that's how it works.

If you want to read about Happy's arrival at The Larches click here and here.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Washing sheep.... and other diversions for children on holiday....

Summer holidays and there is no room for 'I'm bored' at The Larches. The merest hint of a glazed eye or request to watch something on TV before 7pm will instantly result in a task, (generally linked to poo.) Today's task was lamb washing.

We are soon to partake in our very first agricultural show in which the sproglets will show their lambs. I must confess that the training isn't going well, as soon as we put the halter on Coco, the 10yo's lamb, she turns into a marble statue and point blank refuses to move. This, interestingly, is the direct opposite to 'Bino, the 8yo's lamb, who immediately turns into Usain Bolt dragging boy behind her.

Should be embarrassing interesting, as the attendance figures for the show are usually 20,000. I'm pretty sure I know all 20,000.

Lamb washing instructions.

  1. Use water only. We have discovered that the brush to wash the wheels of the car, (and attaches to the hose,) is perfect for the job.
  2. Wear washing up gloves unless you like the feel of squishy poo between your fingers. [NOTE: Don't use gloves that will later be required for dish washing! - Mum x]
  3. Coax lambs into a small space and lock them in
  4. Expect to get dirty as the lambs get cleaner

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Alpaca Handling... for beginners


It seems inconceivable that our alpacas arrived almost two months ago. I know, I know, I should be blogging more but life just gets in the way. Sorry.

I must confess that for the first three weeks of their arrival I was in shock. I felt as if I'd just gained two new step-children, from Peru, without being able to speak their language, (though they actually came from Herefordshire.) However, since my attendance at Toft Alpacas Husbandry Workshop I'm a changed woman.

Bearing in mind that both our girls, Annabel and Bracken, are pregnant we hadn't really attempted to catch them to halter them, plus I was more than a little intimidated: The largest animals we've ever owned are 3 big fat sheeps and they don't tend to look you in the eye.

Toft Alpacas in Warwickshire is the most glorious place if you are even considering owning alpacas, actually it's a great place for a fun day out with the family even if you don't feel the need to bundle a cria (baby) into the boot of your car and drive off. #illegalBTW. Do check the website for open days or call in advance of a visit.

Shirley and Rob Bettinson of Toft Alpaca

Monday, 15 July 2013


We went to Shell Island at the height of the season last year. Never again. This year we escaped as soon as school finished and stayed for almost a week or as near as we dared to the weekend when the site began to fill up with humans with their own 'taste' in music. Personally I like the sounds of nature when I'm camping not blaring music. Some of the nature sounds are better than others. The ones I'm not so keen on are; children bickering over the least wonky camp chair or last cereal variety pack, babies wailing as their parents slap on the sun cream and the father teenage banter as they debate the shoes/no shoes question.

But empty and basked in sun, Shell Island is a paradise.

The rock pools were amazing this year. We found HUGE spider crabs, 12" star fish, fish, hermit crabs, flat fish, jelly fish and watched dolphins leap from a flat, shimmering sea. It was unbelievable.

I'll never leave the UK again. Fortunately I cannot afford to leave the UK again.

Poor Daddy, we're abandoning him again and he's stuck with the animals. He's once again King of the remote.

Livestock and the heat....

Well we've been on a whirl-wind since finishing school a week or so ago.

The weather, for once, has solidly behaved itself and our livestock have variously operated in temperatures of 25° to 30°: The alpacas seem perfectly happy, though Annabel looks about ready to pop and we watch as her belly contorts with her cria's kicks. Bracken, on the other hand still shows no sign of being pregnant despite two scans. The 8yo will be bitterly disappointed if his girl doesn't produce a baby though the vet assures us that alpaca can hide a pregnancy very well.

The chickens are quite happy to dust bathe and drive us potty by having migrant nests. The cats are almost entirely nocturnal now, appearing at dusk from a cool, dark woodshed or barn, ready for a night of housekeeping. Last night one feline friend left us a fat [dead] mole on the doorstep. I hope they catch the blighter who is excavating in my walled garden!

Last year's lambs who were cloud-like, have now been shaved. According to the farmer they are still too fat and so have been banned from our lush site until they lose some weight. They are at Fat Camp for Sheep on starvation rations.  I wonder if they have to wear headbands and run on treadmills; poor Pinky, Moon and Snowy. [Before someone asks for the address of the Fat Camp: I made that up - !]

Apparently, if they are too fat they won't fall pregnant when the tup comes to call in Autumn.

I have been wondering about this and am quite interested in whether the tup just doesn't fancy fatties or if there's a medical reason why they might not fall.... These are the things I muse when I have spare time !!. Maybe if I painted their toenails Tuppy might forgive them their blubber.... I know the 10yo would be up for a spot of painting. Anyhoo, I haven't asked the farmer about this issue because [lowers voice in a Miranda sort of way] it is a sexual question and besides, he already looks at me funny sometimes... That might be because I used to put the sheep in the stables when it rained!

This year's lambs are suffering a bit with the heat and flies. We've sprayed them with with a citronella horse wash and that seems to do the trick for them as well as me, as the act of spraying them means I get sprayed too. Lovely lemony smell and so much cheaper than Chanel No5.

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon