Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Shearing.... never again..

For several years now I have been convinced that I have the talent to make a marvelous sheep shearer. This belief is without basis and indeed without one jot of practical experience. Last year, our first year of shearing, my back decided to ruin my chances of learning, (too much extreme gardening with Lou's Poo Alpaca Poo!) and so I was forced to outsource the stripping of my girls to our kind neighbour.

This year I was fighting fit. I enlisted the help of our long-suffering neighbour again and he, in turn, brought his apprentice; his son. The paraphernalia they brought with them was amazing.

As I tried to construct a pathetic holding pen out of knackered hurdles in a tiny paddock outside the American barn, they suggested simply herding the sheep into one of the huge empty birthing stables. Hmmm, didn't think of that. Then they stood about a bit and looked at the metal joists high above our heads, before rooting about in their paraphernalia kit and hoisting a walloping chain up and over the bar. Next they attached a motor that weighed A LOT, followed by a pipe attached to the motor, and finally the shear.

Then they looked at me.

The hubby, deliberately dressed in his office clothes! the boy, the girl and her pal from school, all stood about looking at me. Oh poo.

I vaguely remember being asked if I was ready to go but clearly I looked so ashen that our neighbour suggested he do the first one, then I could go from then on. Right. Easy.

The first sheep, Cocoa, chosen for her monumental fleece, was naked in no time. There was no blood or histrionics. My turn.

I simply couldn't even remember where to start... was it the bum or the neck? Not. A. Clue.

Apparently it was the tummy followed by the nether regions and one lower side. Then the neck (which is terrifying) up the tummy and over the back as far the spine, plus a bit...... [are you lost yet?..... I was]

So, my victim was Pink. I raised her on the bottle in 2012 and helped her lamb her twins in 2014. Here I was clearly going to kill her.....

In truth, I didn't actually kill her, though I do confess to having nicked her several times. Having almost completed the job (though not well) I had to defer to farmer's son as I suddenly came over all Victorian and faint #pathetic and had to sit down. I was 75% there but couldn't yet claim to have sheared a whole sheep. I strongly suspected that I'd found an activity that I wasn't equipped for.The 11yo sprayed Pink's cuts with purple antiseptic while looking at me with regret. Pink was ushered from the barn, bleating and looking like mobile graffiti.

In my defence I was born in St John's Wood. The issue is trying to juggle a wriggly sheep, a life threatening weapon and a non compliant 48 year old body. So annoying.

The next sheep was thrust into my willing arms. I was determined to complete my quest. This time, bearing in mind that it was 24 degrees outside, I discarded my thick sweater. Now, added to the wriggly sheep, a life threatening weapon and a non compliant 48 year old body was the realization that my bosoms might fall out of my vest. Unfortunately half way through this shear my sheep companion decided to have a hissy fit and, in my desperate attempt to gently restrain it and my lady parts, I accidentally sheared the farmer.

I have now retired from shearing. Thank you for sharing this mortificado experience with me.

[Please note, my apologies for the orientation of the video - clearly video uploads are a mystery to me too.... If you can't see the video, click on the title of the blog post and you should see me butchering shearing a sheep but only if you tilt your head to the side and you're not on an Apple product.... and there isn't a full moon. #offtobedifIdidn'thavethealpacashearerarrivinginanhoursob!]

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Lou's Poo to the rescue.....

And here is the result - the power of Poo. A little goes a long way.

Repatriated hydrangea cuttings, from our last Cornish holiday at the fantastic Trevella Holiday Park, are doing well. A beautiful array of colours.

This Geranium (name anyone????) is so gorgeous, with dark maroon foliage and crazy purple flowers.

I love the jungle approach. The only way to contend with mass grass invasion.

Looking neat in the walled garden after a haircut last night. The broad beans have been very delicious this year.

Helianthus, pepper and rhubarb all on track and performing well

Raspberries are taking over the world (yum) and the lupin and shasta combo might stay in pots this year in order to make monumental plants for next year. I'll need to put them in a cooler spot but far from the slugs and snails.

The strawberry pots, filled with Poo and very little soil, are giving us fruit for breakfast every day now

Splendid delphinium

Globe artichoke: I only grow them as ornamentals... too much fiddle as a veg!

Bit of weeding to do Mrs Archer!!! (... in my spare time then..!.)

More borrowed cuttings... I did ask, honest.

This antirrhinum loves living in the wall. 

We found a way to contend with Mr Mole: eye-catching planted squares in the lawn. 

The cornflowers have been insane. So tall. I cut a few for the house and they last so well.

This bed is looking far better since I banned the children from jumping out the downstairs windows!

I do love a lupin

The bees love all the flowers but particularly the knautia

The grass is as high as an elephant's alpaca's eye

Sleepy sheep. Being shaved next week. 

Our planted Christmas trees seem very happy. They have solar, blue twinkly lights in the night... 

The arum lily is just beginning to show off

Land of wellies

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Lou's Poo...

For those who read the blog regularly, you'll know I'm obsessed with gardening. Sadly I am also obsessed with poo! Not only does the word rhyme with my name but the merest mention of the word makes me smile. #sillysenseofhumour. It may be because most of my day is filled with stepping over poo, picking it up or finding a use for it: Breeding sheep, chickens and alpaca, means there's always a plentiful supply.

Anyhoo, for the past 16 months I have been putting my chicken poo, and occasionally the sheep poo, on my compost heap for use in a year or so when it is well rotted. There is no need for delayed gratification with the alpaca poo; I have been using that directly on my shrubs, flowers and veg because it's not a 'hot' manure and doesn't scorch the plants.

Good Lordy! The results are amazing in my garden this year. The growth on the roses is stunning, even though they are planted in a poor bed, with precious little soil thanks to a new soak-away! The sweet pea are bedded into a trench filled with alpaca poo and they are already almost 5ft tall with tons of flowers appearing. In the veg garden I'm already deluged by courgettes; ratatouille here we come! With all this nutrition I'm hoping for good results in the local horticultural shows this year!

Coming soon TheArchersAtTheLarches.com

My hand picked, air dried, alpaca poo is a wonderful slow release nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium soil enhancer, It is sweet smelling... in my humble opinion it smells like mowed grass and muesli, probably down to my clean paddocks and the great camelid food I feed the herd. All you need is a small handful in any indoor or outdoor potted plants or you can, like me, administer direct to soil or into a planting trench.

If you fancy a boost for the garden you can purchase the 550g dried version of Lou's Poo, Alpaca Manure, at The Plant Centre in Ludlow, Shropshire, UK. Open every day 9.30 - 5.30 Tel: 01584 856873. It comes, as per the pic, in a resealable, compostable, lined brown bag and retails at £9.99. A Gardener's Advantage!

Alternatively, you might like to buy it online from my new website, [launching in early August] TheArchersAtTheLarches.com.

Happy Gardening!


The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon