Sunday 28 December 2008

The week of Christmas

On Tuesday I went out carol singing around the farms with the rest of the singers from the local church, it was great fun and for once a mild night, so no frozen fingers and toes.
We had a quiet Christmas day, though I did manage to get out and gas some moles in one of the fields, we then spent the rest of the day watching the whole of the Lord of the Rings DVDs.
Boxing Day we went to our neighbours for open house, for Tim it was quite a long afternoon/early evening, but we both enjoyed ourselves and if we'd had to go home early because it was too much for Tim nothing would have been said. Then on Saturday my sister, brother in law, mum and the hobbits arrived. I cooked a goose for lunch, bought from a fellow smallholder, it was beautiful. I will have to get one booked for next Christmas.
So far Tim is slowly improving, sleeping less but eating more as his body repairs the damage to his hand. The last report from the consultant was positive and depending on how the x-ray looks over the next couple of weeks Tim could be without his splint in 6 weeks, which is half the time he was originally supposed to be in the splint. That aside he still has to be very careful he doesn't re-break the bones in his hand doing his exercises.
The animals have, apart from the ram lambs, been O.K though we decided to put Hector and Isaac together as there had been no aggressive behaviour between them through the hurdles that separated them. This lasted all of 5 mins as Hector decided to butt the hell out of Isaac. I had to hit Hector with a bucket to distract him enough for Isaac to dash through a gap in the hurdles and safety. Isaac is with Cecil and Archie and happy, Hector is now on his own, but can see the others and complaining. Ghillie and Grommet keep trying to be friends with Hector, but he's got a "strop on" and wants to be friends with no one!!!!
Next week is going to be a bit of a challenge for Tim, there's the village faith supper to attend, usual weekly trip to the hospital, an invite to a New Years Eve party, and a visit to a fellow smallholders, so he's going to need time to sleep to building up his strength.
Have a good New Year

The worm egg count....

Yesterday the vet rang with the results of the worm egg count, and it was not good. There were 2 types of worm found; strongloides (600+) and trichostrongyle (3400+) which is really bad, but there is no record of fluke worm, which is good and a small count for cocci, which could be a result of the lambs being having such a heavy worm burden.
So the ram lambs urgently need to be wormed using a product called cydectin, then a further worm count 14 days later to ensure that we don't have a resistant variety of worm to cydectin. So the plan is to worm the lambs and leave them in the barn for a couple of days then move them to the grass in the veg plot as that has had no sheep grazing it for at least a year. Then take some more poo samples to see what the worm count is like.
In 2009 to rid our land of worms we will have to do the folowing. In the spring allow the grass to grow long enough to cut for silage as well as lime the paddocks thus altering the ph of the grass and hopefully killing the worms!!! The other alternative is to leave a paddock/field empty for 12 months which we don't have the space to do. So in 2009 we will be carrying out worm counts on a regular basis to check how we are doing.
How have we got into this situation? It looks like the ram we brought in either all ready had a resistant type of the trichostrongyle worm and has shed it's eggs in the top paddock, or the ram had no resistance to this type of worm and so has increased the worm count on our land. Hopefully with a careful worming programme and land management we should get on top of the problem.

Sunday 21 December 2008

What have we done this week

Our eldest godson has been with us most of the week and he's been a great help. The jobs he's managed to do are - clear out the ditch by the veg plot and another one near the back field. Cleared one of the paddocks of thistles and nettles as well as feed up and put hay in the hay racks and split wood.
On Thursday he had his first encounter with a dead sheep. We were moving the ram lambs when we saw that one of them was dead in the field. I was quite surprised how shaken he was by it. Anyway whilst we were moving the lambs, it became apparent that all was not well with a couple of the lambs, so the vet was called. It looks like we could have a strain of resistant worms in our lambs. We won't know until the results of the fecal worm count come through next week. Once we know which strain of worm we have we will know what to treat them with and what we will have to do to clear the eggs from our fields over the next few months.
We've given our eldest godson the nick name of "trainee resident vandal" because the first day he was here he managed to break the light in the garage with his head!!!!!!!!!!
On Friday we had a visit to York as I needed to call in at my office before Christmas, this is the most Tim has been up and about and by the time we got home he was exhausted.
Friday evening the Resident Vandal and KD arrived for the weekend to help out. So the generator has been given the once over, more wood chopped for me to split, the tractor moved into the barn to protect it from the winter weather, a hay rack mended and a general walk round the boundary checking the fence posts to make sure they are all still O.K after all the snow we've had, and help me look at Missy's front foot as she had a bit of a limp. He had to rugby tackle her so we could get a look at her foot. She was not going to co-operate. It was just a small stone between her toes, but if not removed can lead to more serious problems. He's back in early January for a week to tackle some of the jobs on our ever growing list.
We are now on our own for the next two weeks, apart from family visiting for Christmas, since Tim came out of hospital, which will give us the chance to get into our own routine. It's great to have help, but it's also nice to have the house to ourselves again.
A Happy Christmas to one and all.....

This weeks update on Tim

Tim had his first visit to the dressing clinic and hand therapist at the hospital on Tuesday. Everything is doing really well. The consultant is very happy with the skin graft and the way the scars are healing well. All of the dressings and bandages are now removed, though he has a stockinette bandage on at the moment to protect the scars from the splint he's wearing. When Tim was in the dressing clinic, wearing the sling, which I'd been shown how to fit on Tim's discharge last week, fastened by a safety pin. Evidently you can't use a safety pin anymore as it contravenes Health and Safety!!!!!! So now his sling has to be secured at the elbow with tape......
At the hand therapist I was able to see the X ray of Tim's hand before it was repaired. All I will say is that the surgeon must be good at jig saws, as the bones in the back of his hand were all over the place. Tim now has some more exercise to do, every hour and his splint has been adjusted to get his wrist at the right angle.
All in all everything is going well. I have taken photos of the graft and scars on his arm etc, but they are not for the faint hearted and we now know why the top of Tim's arm is very tender, there is one heck of a bruise starting to come out, as well as one on his fingers and on his palm.
Tim has been told that he could be in a splint for 3 months because the bones that go to his little finger are so delicate and were such a mess the consultant wants to be sure they are properly healed before removing the splint. It's going to be a very long haul........

Sunday 14 December 2008

Help arrives.....

On Wednesday our godson Ben came to stay for a few days to help out with the work that needs doing on our smallholding.
The weather during the week was cold, but dry and at times sunny, so it was a pleasure to be outside. Ben pulled out a load of thistles and nettles from one of the paddocks, it's surprising what an effect this will have on these weeds in the coming summer. He also split a load of wood, not using the condemned chop saw, but using the log splitter, as well as the usual feeding and stocking up the hay racks with hay.
On Saturday we awoke to heavy rain, and boy did it rain, we had a water plume down the back field so after feeding up there was only one place to be and that was in the house, and that's exactly what I did and spent most of the time sorting and carding some fleeces.
Today is fine, if a little foggy and the land is so wet, you really don't want to be walking on it. So I spent the day in the office, doing paperwork and changing the computerised accounts system to work out the new rate of VAT . It took for ever to do, but now it's done I won't have to do it over the Christmas holidays as I normally do.
Next week is the last full week before Christmas and despite Tim being in hospital I've got all my Christmas cards written and posted out and most of the presents sorted out. Thank goodness for on line shopping!!!!!!

Tim is home.........

Tim has been home since Monday evening, it took him a couple of days to get sorted out with the pain killers he's taking. One lot gave him terrible trapped wind and he now understands why babies cry with trapped wind, it's so painful. He's also not had much of an appetite, but that is slowly coming back, and he's been sleeping a lot. But for Tim, that is good, as that is the way he heals himself when he's ill.
We've had a couple of trips out into Whitby, the first on Tuesday for Tim to get a new prescription for his glasses. He walked so slowly that snails were hooting at him so they could pass, and he was totally wiped out for the next 2 days. His new glasses were ready on Friday and though he was still walking slowly, he was not as bad.
Once you loose the use of one arm, you start to realise just how much you use it and here are some task to try with one hand -
  • Fasten shirt/blouse buttons
  • Wash the arm pit of the one hand you can use - in Tim's case - the right arm pit
  • Tie shoe laces
  • Fasten an open ended zip
  • Get wine from a wine box
  • Open child proof medicine bottles

The list is endless, but these few will get you thinking.
People from the village have been great and so have our families, but Tim has been told, that just because he's hurt his hand, it's no excuse not to go carol singing later in the month!!!!

On his release from hospital, speaking to the consultant we've learnt a bit more about what has been done to Tim's hand. One thing the surgeon has done is re route a blood supply from above his elbow, over the top of his thumb to feed the new skin graft. This has meant that the splint he's been fitted with can't have a strap across the thumb to hold it in place. It gave the hand therapist a bit of a challenge. But the exercises she gave Tim are giving him a challenge as well. He has to do them 4 times a day, anymore and it won't help, any less and he will have problems moving his fingers!!!!

Sunday 7 December 2008

What a way to spend your birthday

For poor Tim he's spent his birthday in hospital. He's in good spirits and enjoyed all the cards and presents he's been sent. He's still got his cards at the hospital but I bought all the presents home with me. Less to carry when he comes home tomorrow - hopefully.
After dashing backwards and forwards to the hospital, I've had to stock the hay racks up on a daily basis as we've had quite a bit of snow. I've had to move the ewes back into fields with shelters, thankfully they are all bucket trained, so they moved no problem, especially as the hay racks were also full of fresh hay. They will now stay in these fields until the rams are moved out in a couple of weeks time, when all the ewes will be put back together as one flock and by opening different field gates they will have access to shelter and new grass.
Today Scooby called to help change the raddle colours for Isaac and Hector, a quick job with 2, but a nightmare for me on my own. Scooby has one problem, he's very long sighted so couldn't see the split pin that holds the raddle chalk in place, but I'm so used to doing it, I can release them no problem.
The 3 ram lambs that were in the barn are now out in a small paddock as they are now not due to go to the abattoir until the New Year, and there is no reason for them to be in the barn now until after Christmas.
Well we will see what next week brings!!!!!

Saturday 6 December 2008

Latest on Tim

It's surprising how a patient can change in a few days.

The 6 hour operation on Wednesday on the the skin graft has been successful. I was snowed in on Thursday so I couldn't get to visit him, though a friend who lives 10 mins from the hospital popped in to see him that night and rang me to say that he looked well, if a little tired.

Thursday night, Tim had a bad night there were concerns about his skin graft, so it was redressed and he was given more antibiotics throughout the night. By the time I saw him on Friday afternoon, he was absolutely shattered and he felt as if he was not getting any better.

Today, after a good nights sleep, and with all the drip lines out of him, he was sat up out of bed, looking an awful lot better and he'd also been told that he may be coming home on Monday if a special light weight splint can be made up for him. So that's good news. But when he does come home he's to do absolutely nothing!!!!!

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Latest update on Tim

The good news about Tim's op is that the surgeon was able to rebuild the bones in the back of Tim's hand with the existing bone that was there, without having to take any from his hip, also Tim has not severed the tendons, how, no one knows, but that means that his hand should recover very well.
The downside is that today he had to undergo another long op as the skin graft had not taken, he's also been moved to a high dependency ward for the time being, I think it's to ensure that the graft takes this time. He's out of surgery now and "doing well" according to the hospital.
I saw Tim yesterday afternoon and he was very groggy and we either speak or text at other times. On the whole he's doing O.K, but he will be in hospital for about a week if not longer.
It will take at least 3 months for his hand to be fully recovered and for him to have full strength in it. It's going to be a long slow process......

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Latest on Tim

Well Tim's had had the operation on his hand. He was in surgery 6 hours yesterday afternoon, as he said "the man with the big hammer" came to see him just before the lunch time edition of The Archers, then the next thing he knew it was 11.30.
He rang me at 5.30 this morning and he sounded a lot happier than he did yesterday morning, he was very worried to say the least when I'd seen him yesterday morning. I should know a bit more later today when the doctor has done his morning rounds. The dogs are a little lost, Deefa keeps going into the barn looking for Tim and Holly is subdued.
Thanks for all your comments, calls and email's and I'll pass your regards onto Tim later today.

Sunday 30 November 2008

A good week and a not so good weekend!!!

Well both Isaac and Hector have now covered all their respective ewes and if nothing else happens over the next two weeks, we will be lambing the week before Easter, then a weeks break from lambing. Then another week of lambing. So it should be all over in 3 weeks. This is a record for us as some years, we've been lambing for nearly 6 weeks, thanks to the odd ewe hanging on to her lamb.
The not so good weekend happened this afternoon, we'd got the trailer ready for the early start that Tim has in the morning taking the 3 ram lambs to the abattoir, moved the ewes back into their respective fields after the bad weather. So with an hour or so left this afternoon we decided to split some wood and cut some kindling.
I was busy splitting wood when suddenly Tim shouted for Help!!! And Oh boy did he need help, he'd managed to chop the back of his hand with the chop saw. It was then a frantic drive to Middlesbrough Hospital, and one I do not want to repeat in a hurry. Tim kept drifting in and out of consciousness over the last mile.
The staff in A&E were fantastic, they could see he was in pain and going into shock. He was quickly taken to an examination cubicle and once he'd be given pain killers and his hand re-dressed, taken to X-Ray.
Basically he's got compound fractures of the bones in the back of his hand, ligament and nerve damage. He's going to operated on tomorrow and depending on what time that happens will depend on when he can come home.
The photo's of Tim's injured hand are pretty spectacular and he was the talk of casualty this afternoon!!!! By the time I left him, he had a bit more colour in his face and the pain killers had started to kick in. He's going to be out of action for about 6 weeks and I will let you know his progress over the coming weeks as he will no doubt become a "bear with a sore head" with frustration at being able to do anything............

Tuesday 25 November 2008

What happened to our shelter!!!!!!!!!!!

It was a little bit windy last night and this was the sight that greeted Tim this morning when he went to feed the ewe lambs...................
As you can see the wind has caught the pig arc and put it on it's end. Thankfully no sheep were injured when the arc blew over
Tim has now moved the arc further down the race, nearer the lambing barn, so that it has some protection from the wind.

Sunday 23 November 2008

Yet more snow!!!!

The promised overnight rain did not arrive, instead it snowed, so this morning the snow was 4" deep and with the high winds any gap in the hedges the snow had been blown into drifts a good foot deep. Trying to walk the dogs this morning was a challenge and with the wind blowing so hard into our faces that it was near impossible to get up the hill to the top road into the village.
With the additional snow we have moved the two sets of ewes, with their respective rams into fields that have got shelters and hay racks in them, so they can keep warm and dry in the snow storms and have access to fresh hay. They took no moving into the fields, a bucket with feed rattled soon gets them moving. Just don't stand in the way or you will get mowed over in the rush!!!!
The ewe lambs that are in another field, also now have access to a shelter thanks to a walk through between two fields we put in last year. Now all the animals have ready access to a shelter.
After helping out getting the shelters ready for the sheep, I have spent the rest of the day carding and dyeing fibre for Woolfest. The dogs on the other hand are getting "stir crazy" with being in so much over the weekend but it really hasn't been the weather to be out in unless you have to.
It's raining now, so hopefully the snow will have gone enough so that I can get to work tomorrow!!!

Saturday 22 November 2008

We have snow!!!!

Well as you can see we've have some snow overnight and looking out to sea, the clouds show more snow on the way

The rams lambs are snug in their shelter and are not venturing very far

The ewes on the otherhand are a hardy lot and are out and about

Ghillie is a little concerned as his and Grommet's shelter has a snow drift in the entrance, but where he is stood is perfectly dry.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain, but as I type this blog, it is snowing again!!!!!!

We had a phone call from the youngest hobbit asking if we had snow. He was hoping that by the afternoon it would snow where he lived, but I don't think it has. Needless to say I sent him a load of photos of the snow, so that he can "see if he's got more snow than us!!!" The trouble is if we get much more snow, and there is none where he lives, he and his brother will want to come for the weekend!!!!!!

Sunday 16 November 2008

The rams have been busy

It's only a week since we put the rams in with the ewes and the "score" so far is: Hector 3, Isaac 8, so if Isaac is fertile, we should start lambing on the 6th April 2009.
We've been asked if we will have any lamb ready for Christmas, so we put all the ram lambs through the weigh and the 3 heaviest are now in the barn and given extra feed to "fatten" then up a little. We normally don't do the lambs before Christmas, tending to wait until into the early part of the New Year as the lambs are heavier and before the really bad weather arrives and they no longer put on weight, or start to loose condition.
As today was such a warm and calm day, I've been able to sort out the 6 Herdwick fleeces I got yesterday. Though they had been "dagged out" well, I still took some more of the fleece off before re rolling and packing them into paper sacks. Now they just want washing...........
I finally managed to get the last of my winter onions planted, the ones I planted at the end of September are already starting to show. The kale is growing well and at long last the leeks are starting to thicken up, and if the parsnips are anything like their top growth, then they should be huge!!!!!
On Thursday my application for Woolfest arrived and as an existing stall holder I have a week to get my application back before applications for stalls are opened up. So my form is filled out, cheque written and will be in the post tomorrow morning. I'm expanding the range of fibres that I'm taking to Woolfest, so I've got a lot of work to do over the next few months.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Here come the Boys..........

As we have now put the Tups in with the ewes I thought I would introduce them.

This is Hector, our resident Shetland Ram, getting his head stuck into some breakfast this morning. As you can see he only has one horn and it does sweep back over his head. The point is getting near to his neck so we will have to trim off the bottom inch or so, so that he doesn't hurt himself.
This is Isaac, a young Jacob Ram we are borrowing to cover some of our Corridale X Shetland ewes, and as you can see from the above picture, one of the ewes has a red bum, so despite his youth, he seems to know what to do.

This picture shows Isaac's impressive set of horns. He also has a very soft fleece, so it will be interesting to see what his lambs turn out like.
He's only been with his harem of ewes for less than a day and already he's covered 3 of them. Hector on the other hand, is saving his energy, but I'm sure he will get to work soon.

Saturday 8 November 2008

The Shetland Sheep Inspectors call

On a very wet and windy day 4 Shetland Sheep inspectors arrived to inspect Hector, Cassy, Carmen, Cicely and Carolyn.
The ewes were the first to be inspected and they all passed with flying colours and Cicely got a special mention as an example of what an original Shetland Island sheep looked like with her grey multi coloured fleece. She is by far one of my favourite ewes. Carolyn took the eye of the Shetland Sheep Chairman, as one he would bid for in an auction ring. Carmen and Cassy also got good comments about their fleece and their overall appearance. It's good to know that we have bred some good ewes.
Hector on the other account very nearly failed his inspection. It was his horn, it is swept back, which is not a good feature in a Shetland Ram. If he had been polled (hornless) he would have passed with no questions asked. Everything else was O.K. His fleece is nice and long, which makes it an ideal spinners fleece.
Anyway the main thing is they all made the grade and it's good to pick the brains and knowledge of the inspectors of what does and does not make a good Shetland Sheep

Friday 7 November 2008

What is Common Land?

I've been asked what meant by the term "Common Land"? Well it's one of those things that everyone seems to know about, but trying to get a definitive description is proving a bit of a challenge. I've looked on the Internet etc, but again there are so many definitions that I'm now totally confused. So I thought I would say what Common Land grazing rights means to us.
Our house was built in 1850 and in the deeds it states we have the following rights over Ugthorpe Moor
"The right to graze 25 ewes and followers, the right to cut and take away peat and the right to take top stones over the whole of the land comprised in this registered unit."
In our case Ugthorpe Moor is not owned by the "Commoners", of which there are 22 properties, that have the rights to graze over the moor. Not everyone takes up this right and we only graze the land that is adjacent to our smallholding along with another local farmer, who also has the shooting rights over this part of the moor.
Common Land ownership can be an emotive issue in some areas, but here is seems to work well.
I don't know if I've made things any clearer, but for us it means we can rest our land from the sheep and have a larger flock than our 7.5 acres really can support.

Sunday 2 November 2008

Pheasent and Wild Duck for tea

One of the events that happens at this time of the year, is some of the local farmers, walking over the common land and shooting pheasant and wild duck. On Saturday, they were out with their guns, it was, for once a really nice day. As we were out shopping we didn't hear them, but later in the evening, we were given a pheasant and duck as a "thank you" for letting them walk through our fields and along the fence line.
We're having the duck for tea tonight and the pheasant in a stew later in the week.
I know that they enjoy walking and shooting what ever pheasant and duck "rise" to the guns and I think it's a much better way of shooting rather than stood at a point whilst the birds are driven to the guns and a large number of birds are shot. This way they only shoot for the pot, so to speak, and the pheasants are kept to a level where they don't end up eating my winter veg!!!!

Giving the ewes the once over and paddock logistics

As we will be putting the tups in with the ewes next weekend we decided to separate them out in readiness for the boys arrival. The original plan was to put the ewes that are going to Hector on the common land and the ewes for the Jacob in the back field. But a phone call on Saturday afternoon from the Shetland Sheep ram inspectors to say that they are coming next Saturday (8th Nov) we've had to have a rethink, as we want them to inspect 4 of our ewes as well as our Ram, Hector.
So the ewe lambs are now in the top paddock near the common land, the ewes to be inspected are in a paddock next to the common land, the ewes for Hector are on the common land and the ewes for the Jacob are in the back field.
Whilst all the ewes were was in the barn we took the opportunity to weigh everyone. Not surprisingly, the ewes are lighter than they were this time last year, but we giving them additional feed, so hopefully this will help them through the rest of the winter. One thing we have decided to do, it to weigh the ewes again when we wean the lambs, to that way we can keep a better track on their weight gain/loss.
As well as the weighings everyone got a pedicure, a mineral and wormer drench, so they are fit for the winter. The ewe lambs got dagged out as well and I think they will need doing again in another couple of months!!!!
Now that all the ewes are in their winter paddocks, all the feed troughs, water troughs and hay racks had to be moved and I did this all in the rain this afternoon!!!!! Wellies, gloves, hat and over trousers are now drying by the aga. Is this a sign of things to come for the winter, outdoor clothes drying by the aga!!!!!

Our first snow!!!!!!!

On Tuesday we had our first snow of the year, we only had about an inch, but it stayed around for a couple of days, making everything very wet.
Between the showers of snow and rain, Tim has been able to re-wire the outside lights. He's put a new light on the barn, so that it lights up more of the yard as well as an additional sensor, so that when you walk from the barns into the yard, the lights come on. He's reduced the wattage of the bulbs used so that overall we use no more wattage than before, the light is spread about more and the glare from the spot lights is reduced, you're not blinded by the lights and then can't see anything in the darker areas of the yard. Now there are now no dark areas in the yard. Tim has also set the sensors, so that the cats don't set the lights off every 5 minutes.
As well as snow this week it's also thunder and lightened during the night. The only way I know it was thundering, is that Deefa woke me up, for some reason he and Holly are afraid of the thunder.
If this is the weather we are getting at the end of October, what are we going to get for the rest of the winter!!!!! We can cope with the cold and it freezing, but what we both hate is the wet, the animals end up caked in mud, it saps their energy and makes their feet soft and vulnerable to rot, even their shelters are damp and that can cause breathing problems. So lets hope we have a cold dry winter...

Sunday 26 October 2008

Magazine feature and fibre sales

Last week I got an email from Simply Knitting magazine to say that they had read my blog and that it is to be featured in their next edition. Looking on their web site, it's very nice to see what they have written and if you are reading this because of the feature in this mag, "welcome", and I hope you find my "random jottings" interesting, informative and a little bit amusing.
Chris who has bought fleece from me as well as helped at shearing time, rang to ask if I had any fibre she could take, for me, to her monthly guild meeting. So on Saturday afternoon, we were both "rooting" through my processed fibre for her to take. I didn't want to over load her, but at the same time not send enough. I packed her off with some batts of Corridale fleece and alpaca rovings. She rang earlier this evening to say that she'd sold 10 batts of corridale and a couple bags of alpaca. I'm very pleased with that and I will be sending some more fibre, with Chris, to their December meeting.

Weekend of Hobbits

We picked the Hobbits up on Friday night rather than they coming home with me on the train as I'd had to go to Birmingham and arrived back into York too late to make the train connections home with 2 tired 6 and 8 year old boys.
But on Saturday they were up and about bright and early. After a quick trip to the butchers, for some stewing steak as the Hobbits had requested "Uncle Tim's special stew" for tea, they helped put hay out for the sheep and Alpacas, and whilst I put out the extra feed for the ewes, checked the animal's water buckets to make sure the everyone had plenty of water.
Youngest Hobbit is doing a treasure hunt with Beevers, so he had a list of things to find (fir cone, red leaf, spiky leaf, twig, small pebble and a feather). We found most things very quickly, apart from the feather and a quick phone call to a friend meant that he had everything.
The afternoon was spent making ginger biscuits, for Uncle Tim and dog biscuits, for Holly & Deefa, and being Hobbits, the dog biscuits had to be tasted!!!! (The biscuits are a mix of tuna, salmon, pilchards, eggs, oats, sunflower seeds and flower, so nothing nasty in them).
The stew, at tea time, was eaten with great gusto, partly down to being out doors and lots of things to do and because it was so tasty.
Sunday morning, after the helping feed and check waters again, they did some "magic dyeing". They enjoy squirting the 3 dyes (red, yellow & blue) onto the wet fleece to see what colours are created, and once "cooked" for 30 mins, turning the fleece out into the sink to be rinsed, it's always interesting to see what colours they have made.
My sister and brother in law (Hobbits parents) arrived for lunch and to take the Hobbits home. The house is very quiet and 2 very tired dogs are snoozing on the sofas, it's hard work having KD here as well as the Hobbits.
Not sure what's happening next week as the clocks went back this weekend and it takes a while to get used to the fact that the dark nights are suddenly here.

Why is no job simple!!!!!!

This week the Resident Vandal and KD have been with us. The main jobs on the list of "Things to Do", was the to fit 2 new gates and repair some old fencing.
Well they started fitting the additional gate in the field that currently holds the ram lambs. Between our fields we have "races" or "cow walks" which make moving the sheep so much easier. We've realised that when we are moving sheep to the lambing barn, once the hurdles are up one race is out of action, so by adding this additional gate, we are no longer limited moving sheep. No matter how well you plan fencing layouts, you always miss something. The second gate, is at the side of my new shed, so I'm able to get into my main veg plot without having to walk the long way round, but if we want, during the winter months, we can run sheep in this area, after putting hurdles around the deep beds to stop the sheep eating the veg.
These two jobs went pretty well to plan, then they hit the problems, replacing the fencing, was initially just going to be, replace the wire. Well after Tim had taking out 100+ staples holding the wire to the posts, it became apparent that the wire had been holding the posts in place and not the other way round, so all the posts had to be replaced. They got that done on Wednesday and were walking back to the house, when they noticed one of the ram lambs had it's head through the wire, when it pulled it's head back there was a large hole in the wire. On closer examination of this stretch of wire revealed that it was rotten and with very little effort the sheep could escape and more worryingly Holly could get in amongst the sheep.
So Thursday, Friday and some of Saturday was spent repairing this run of fencing. It took longer because they had to go back to where the wire joined the "stretcher" post, so to repair 12 feet of wire, meant replacing nearly 50ft if wire as well as some posts.
I have to admit the fencing looks good and you realise how bad it was beforehand, but it has meant that the repairing of the fencing on the common land has been put back to another day.
One thing that has been better than planned has been the weather, it has been very windy at times, but the forecasted rain has not arrived. One other thing that got done this week was the "dagging out" and toe clipping of the ram lambs. Dagging out is not a pleasant job, but it has to be done and despite my best efforts, they need doing again!!!!! Oh deep joy!!!!!!

Sunday 19 October 2008

Chutney, ewes and a surprise visit from Oz

As the tomatoes in my greenhouses are not turning red very fast, and as we've already had one mild frost, I decided to make some green tomato chutney and piccalilli. I made 10lbs of chutney last night, it's not set as much as I would like, but it's still o.k. More of a dipping sauce than a thick chutney, and then this morning I made 4lbs of piccalilli, that seems to be setting a lot better, though the last jar looks more like a yellow pouring sauce with seeds in than anything else. We shall see what it's like. These were 2 new recipes I was trying as I've put my tried and trusted chutney and piccalilli recipes in a "safe place" and now can't find them!!!!!!
With us borrowing a Jacob Ram this year we took some time do look and and decide which ewes are to go to which ram. We've 21 ewes to cover this year and we didn't want to over or under use either Hector or the Jacob ram. In the end it's worked out with Hector covering 10 ewes (Amy, Amber, Beatirx, Berniece, Carolyn, Cicely, Layla, Lilly, Lucy and May) and the Jacob ram covering the remaining 11 ewes (Abbi, Allium, Anya, Asriadne, Brazil, CA1, Carmen, Cassy, Missy, winky, Yellow Neck). The two surprises in the list are Lucy, the sister or Lottie, who died earlier this year, and Winky. We didn't put Winky to the ram last year as the year before she had a phantom pregnancy, but she is looking so well this year that we thought we'd give her another go, also with Lucy, she still got most of her teeth and is looking well, so we'll mate her again. With our original ewes getting on in years, in subsequent years I think we will only mate them every other year, so that they have time to recover from each lambing.
This morning, whilst we were feeding the sheep, Tim's cousin, Graeme, from Oz rang to say that he and his wife, Verity, would be in the area and wondered if we would like to meet for coffee? So this afternoon they arrived, and we had a great time chatting to them, catching up on family gossip, Graeme's mum, Sylvia, and Tim's mum, Millie, were sisters, and it's over 30 years since Graeme was last in England. They are spending 3 weeks in the UK visiting family, friends and the "must see" places, followed by 3 weeks in Europe before flying back to Oz. There Christmas newsletter is going to be a very interesting read this year.
Tomorrow the Resident Vandal arrives with KD for the week. Some fencing work and putting in 2 new gates are on the list of jobs to do. Will let you know how they get on!!!!!!!!

A busy week for Tim, a not such good one for me

After a great weekend last weekend I woke up on Monday morning with a aching head and face, so after a trip to the Drs, it turns out I've had a sinus infection. A course of antibiotics seems to have cleared things up nicely and it will be back to work on Monday for me.
Tim on the other hand has been very busy. He spent a day shredding all the small branches that are no use for the wood pile, from the tree(s) we had removed a the weekend. The question was, what does he do with all the shreddings?
Simple.... He's built some steps up a steep bank at the side of the house and filled in the steps with the shreddings. This bank leads to a really dead area of land which when we bought the property was described as an "orchard". It was full of conifers, 2 reasonable apple trees and 3 very sick plum trees. We've since cleared out most of the conifers and all of the plum trees, the apple trees do produce some sort of a crop, which we leave for the birds and other wild life to eat as this area had been so difficult to get down to. Now Tim has created these steps, it will make it easier to get down to and then we will be able to start and tackle the nettles and brambles!!!!!
The shed is now completely finished, with hooks to hang all my tools and staging in place to store my pots etc. So yesterday I got all my gardening "stuff" gathered up and put away. I also had a good look at what I've got and had a bit of a clear out of some of my old tools. The shed now looks very tidy, with all my tools hung up, plant pots in place. All I need now is a nice comfy chair, something to brew a cup of tea on and my radio to listen to Test Match special and I'll be well away............

Holly needed a hair cut....

Just in case you were in any doubt Holly needed a hair cut just look at the next two pics.

Yes it is me knitting on the sofa, it's a scarf I'm knitting from some hand spun Bowmont fleece plied with silk and then rainbow dyed.
This is what Holly looks like now.
From "Miss Fluffy" to "Skinny Min" in one morning.....

Sunday 12 October 2008

Shed building day and sweetcorn from the garden

Today when we got up it was still, fine and dry. Still is a rare occurrence here and though we had other things to do, we decided that we should build my shed, it's been treated with wood preservative, but we'd intended to build it next weekend. A quick check on next weekend's weather, rain and high winds, made it an easy decision to build the shed today.
Well we've spent all day building the shed. Tim has had to do some modifications to the roof struts, there were not enough of them, he's screwed the sides together rather than nail them, and as you will have seen in an earlier blog, a very substantial base to fit the shed on.
By the time it got dark, the shed is up and the roof is on, but Tim still has to put the felt on the roof, glaze the windows and fit the doors.
So hopefully next weekend I will be able to finally gather up my gardening tools and put them in one place, the shed.
Whilst we were building the shed, Holly and Deefa were with us and all I can say is that they are both absolutely exhausted as they spent most of the afternoon playing "tig".
Some of the sweetcorn in my veg plot had blown over, so I cooked the cobs for lunch, unfortunately not all of them were fully ripe, so hopefully in another week a few more will be ready to eat. There is nothing like sweetcorn freshly picked and then cooked. That's the only reason to grow it. Now that some of the sweetcorn has been removed, I've been able to dig over the area in readiness to plant the winter onions.
Nothing is planned for next week but no doubt there will be some job or other that will raise it's head over the coming week and become the number one priority. No doubt all be revealed in next 's blog.

An early morning hair appointment and tree removing

Deefa and Holly had a very early trip to the hair dressers (Anne) yesterday. They were originally booked in a couple of days before my birthday, but Anne was ill and so it was rearranged for yesterday. So 6.50am saw me taking both dogs for their 07.00 appointment. I picked them both up at 10.30 looking very neat and tidy and smelling very nice!!!! According to Mrs Hedge Laying Holland Deefa smealt like a poodle!!! Won't do his sheep cred any good.
As I arrived back the Hedge laying Hollands arrive to help up move a tree that had been blown over earlier in the year into the stream at the back of our house.
The lads ended up in the stream, which is not very deep, cutting up the tree, and us girls, on the bank putting the cut up tree in to the trailer. All I can say is that walking up and down a steep bank plays havoc with your knees and thigh muscles. We ended up with a trailer load of wood for our wood pile and for the Hedge laying Hollands several bags of logs of ash for their fire at home.
Whilst working in the stream Tim discovered that his wellingtons were porous, this is his second pair that now leak water. He bought a couple of cheap pairs of wellies, they are fine in dry conditions, but not when it's wet. Not much good here!!!!!!
As always at the end of the day we had a meal at our local pub, the Black Bull. It was as good and as filling as ever

It's wine making time

We used to make wine several years ago but with me working all over the country, we stopped. A couple of years ago we started again, firstly making sloe vodka and last year following a glut of bullaces (wild plums) we made a very enjoyable plum wine. Which according to one of our neighbours "was not a wine to start drinking standing up!!!!!".
This year my black current bush produced a 1lb of fruit, which is not enough to do anything with, so I put them in the freezer, and with the glut of blackberries around at the moment, I've got a gallon of black current and bramble wine fermenting away in the utility room.
Whilst Phillippa was here, after my birthday, she was lamenting that she and her mum had missed bramble picking season with moving to Scotland, so we spent a couple of hours on the common land, armed with buckets, picking brambles. Between us we picked 6lbs of brambles, enough for Phillippa to take some home to make jam, and for me to make a gallon of bramble wine, which again is fermenting away in the utility room.
Last week we cut back an elderberry bush, so I picked the ripe berries, a full 9lbs in all. The berries took some getting off the stalks, but after a few days fermenting in a bucket, we racked off the juice into a large fermenting vessel, which holds 5 gallons of wine, it's half full and bubbling away. The utility room smells very yeasty and you don't want to hang around in there for too long otherwise you could end up feeling very light headed!!!!!
None of the wine will be ready for at least a year................

Sunday 5 October 2008

A great week but with a disappointing Rare Breed Sale

Since my birthday party I've had a great week, the weather has been fine and I've got a few fleeces washed and carded. Just been out in the sun is a great boost to your well being, as well as walking the dogs every morning, though I'm not sure they would agree as I'm much stricter than Tim is on the way they should behave.
On Friday we took 18 ewes to the Rare Breed Sale at York in readiness for the sale on Saturday. We have decided to sell the Wiltshire Horns as we have found them very difficult to cope with on our land. They soon have "the runs" on fresh or wet grass, which to be honest with the Shetlands, we were not happy with. The way they "poo" is like having cattle on your land and the mess they make of the Shetland's fleeces is an image you do not want to see. It was a very hard drive over as we were driving into a head wind, but at least the girls were settled in. On Saturday we took Charlie the Wiltshire Horn Ram, which meant a very early start, leaving home at 06.30 to make a sale deadline of 09.00!!!
At the sale the Wiltshire's didn't do too badly, but the unregistered Shetland ewe lambs went of 4 or 5 guineas. By the time we had paid the entrance fee, inoculations and fuel to take them there we are our of pocket. This is the last time we will be taking lambs to this sale. We've now taken them to York for the last 3 years and the prices have got worse each year. So we are now seriously looking at getting a meat type tup to put to our girls, so that we can the meat direct, which we are having a lot more success at, especially the sale of mutton. I'll post details as and when we make the decision.
Anyway it's back to work for me tomorrow....................

Woolfest Preperation

As I said in an earlier blog, Phillippa stayed after my birthday until Tuesday and we spent the time doing fibery things. Phillippa had asked if she could use my motorised carder and had come armed with some fleeces, in fact several fleeces which we started working on, on Sunday afternoon. By Monday lunchtime we had carded 2 1/2 Swaledale fleeces, and as you can see from the photo, we ended up with a large pile of carded batts.
In return Phillippa helped me wash quite a few fleeces, which I'm now in the process of carding and dying in readiness for Woolfest. I know that Woolfest is not for another 8 months, but if I don't make a start preparing fleeces now, it will soon be here and I will have nothing ready.
The great thing about spending time with Phillippa is that we have been able to exchange ideas and ensure that neither of us is competing with the other. I'm not saying that competition is a bad thing, but if by doing something just slightly different, you are not treading on the others toes it does make life a little easier. You will have to come to Woolfest to see what we are both doing.....

Judge Deefa presiding...........

I'll leave you to decide if Deefa found the sheep guilty or not!!!!!!!

Friday 3 October 2008

If the sheep could see Deefa now......

I think he would loose all credibility with them!!!!

I'm prepping fleece for Woolfest and Deefa laid on the sofa beside me, so he's covered by a section of Carman's washed fleece. I'm breaking the fleece down into it's separate staples so that I can dye them. Deefa didn't snore much!!!!!

Tuesday 30 September 2008

The party celebrations

The weather was kind to us on the run up to the party and so we were able to get quite a few things sorted in readiness for the big day.
Saturday was fine and warm with a light breeze, just exactly what we had ordered.
Guest started arriving not long after lunch in various vehicles (cars, tractors, motorbikes and caravans) and on foot. I'd done some food, for which the "fatted lamb" had been killed for the occasion, along with a chili, rice, baked spuds, coleslaw and cheese, plus several cakes.

This is the birthday cake my friend Dawn made for me, it's a good representation of this my life!!!!!

These are some of the presents I received, I was over whelmed with the thought and kindness that had gone into my presents, though my eldest godson is very close to being scratched from my will as he bought me the cow hat (bottom left of the picture) complete with horns, so I can hide in the field with the sheep!!!!!!!!! along with hubby who got my a mug for work which has a witch on it!!
The yarn is hand dyed by one of my craft friends, the rug with the sheep on it is a hand made felted rug, again by another craft friend. There is an old book on farming at the end of the war, some unusual veg plants, several bunches of flowers as well as the basket of flowers, wrist warmers, a voucher for plants and of course a cuddly toy and several bottles of alcohol.
The party went on well into the night with several people staying over to the Sunday for a walk and a rather nice carvery lunch at our local pub.
As well as lots of people there were 8 dogs at the party, they all got home made doggy biscuits and their names are Holly and Deefa (our 2), KD (Resident Vandal's pooch), Hamish, Oscar and Tipo (often called Teapot or Dave), The Savages Pooches and finally Bill and Lou, Frayalyn and Mark's dogs, not forgetting the 12 week old kitten also belonging to the Savages. With all the dogs around, it could have been a recipe for a rather large fight, but nothing happened, they all played together really well. So all in all a good weekend. Phillippa stayed until today and we've spent since Sunday afternoon doing crafty things with fleeces, hence the lateness of the blog and not because I was recovering from the party, but more about what we've been doing another night!!!!

Sunday 21 September 2008

Rare Breeds Sale and tree clearing

We spent this morning sorting out the ewes for the Rare Breeds Sale in a couple of weeks time. The ewes that are going to the sale have to be resistant to scab, so they have to be injected with Dectomax, to ensure they are covered as well as being double ear tagged, something we don't believe in, but if we turn up at the sale with single tagged lambs they will not be allowed to be entered for the sale. Ear tags get ripped out quite easily, so you can imagine what damage having both ears tagged, can do to a sheep!!!!
We decided that since we had to have the lambs we are sending to that sale in to inject them, we may a well keep them separate from the rest of our ewes, as it will make it easier to load them into the trailer.
Tim has spent most of this week clearing the branches from the back field that were cut back when he and the Resident Vandal did some fencing earlier in the year. We need the field clearing so that the sheep have somewhere to go later in the year. At the moment we are not short of grass, but it doesn't have a great deal of body to it, so we want to move the sheep around sooner rather then later.
I also managed to get one side of my shed floor painted with wood preservative and I'm hoping to get the other half done this week. I doubt we will get the shed put up by the weekend as I want to get all of it well treated with preservative.
As the weekend weather has been so good, I managed to get another of the sheep fleeces washed ready to be carded, and as it was not windy I was able to dry the fleece outside, a real novelty.
More next week on the birthday celebrations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The celebrations begin!!!!!!!!!!

On the 27th of this month I will be celebrating my 600th birthday (divide by 12 to reveal my true age) and my friends from America, who are over visiting family called yesterday to start my birthday celebrations. The main celebrations are next weekend, so more about that in next weeks blog, followed by a couple of more get together's with friends over the following weekends. the long range forecast is for the rest of the month is quite good, so here's hoping.

Disappointing sale and a test passed

The two sheep we sent to the local auction mart to sell were sold for £20.00 each which is very disappointing and had we known how little they would have raised, we would not have sent them and probably looked for another ram to cover them. We have some friends who have a Shropshire Ram so it would have been interesting to see what they would have produced. We won't be sending any more ewe lambs to the local sales. A lesson learnt!!!
I also passed my Transport exam. Some of the questions were rather obscure, especially the one on "Sheep come from warm climates so they can go for longer without water and the first thing Sheep will graze first rather than go for water!!!!! which statement is true? Evidently the first one is and the second one is false. I got he first part wrong, but the second part right and it was the only question I got wrong. All I can say is who ever set the test obviously does not transport or keep sheep!!!!!!!!!! but now we are all legal to take our sheep to the Rare Breeds Sale in a couple of weeks time

Sunday 14 September 2008

Veg garden, shed and spinning

The weather this weekend had been superb, sunny with no wind, so I spent this morning clearing the the veg plot of weeds and I can at long last see the sweetcorn plants. The leeks are looking a little small, hopefully they will thicken up over the next couple of months. The tomatoes in the green house are slowly turning red and are very tasty........

Tim has finished the base for my shed and as you can see there is still some water in it (bottom left of the picture). You can no doubt see that at the back and to the sides, the soil is higher than the base and if we are not careful will rest on the shed, so Tim is going to put in some sort of retaining wall, for want of a better expression, to hold the soil back.

Yesterday afternoon I ran a spinning class for 2 ladies, (Marion and Chris) who have already learnt how to spin, but needed to refine their technique and knowledge. It was a great afternoon, with lots of "How do I do" and "I didn't know that" questions. As an experienced spinner, when you are teaching someone new to spin you don't want to overload them with information and technique, so it was good to move up to the next level with Chris and Marion. Then this afternoon they both called so Marion could have a "rootle" through my stash of this year fleeces. She left with 2 beautiful fawn corridale fleeces, which are destined to become a jumper or several jumpers.
On Thursday we sent two of our ewes to the auction mart. Tim took them early and then went back to see how the sale was going. He didn't see how our 2 ewes did as they were being sold towards the end and we didn't get a phone call to say that they had not sold, so all we will have to wait for is the monies from the mart to see how well, or badly they did.
Next week we start and get the ewe lambs ready for the Rare Breeds sale at the beginning of October and hopefully I can get the shed floor painted with wood preservative.
Until next week.....

Sunday 7 September 2008

I think we might have enough wood cut for the winter

As you can see we've got a lot of wood cut and split this weekend. With all the rain we had on Friday the land is too wet to be on, so we decided to set too and cut and split some wood!!!! It's 6 rows deep. That should keep us reasonably warm this winter.

On the few dry days we've had this week Tim has managed to get the base for my shed set up, but after the recent rain, the base looks like a mini swimming pool. Thankfully the edge where the shed will sit is above the water, but I'm going to have to ensure that shed floor is well and truly protected with wood preservative, and when the barn has dried out, I may be able to get the shed floor painted.

We're selling 2 of our ewes at our local auction mart on Thursday, it's the first time we've done this so it will be interesting to see what price they will fetch. We've also got 3 cull ewes to go, but at the moment the price of cull ewes is rock bottom so we will wait until the new year, we've got plenty of grass and they will be company for Emma, (our pedigree Shetland lamb we have bred,) when we need to separate her off from the rest of the ewes when we put the ram in. I can't believe we're nearly round to tupping time again. Where has this year gone? Whilst we were in the barn cutting the wood, I noticed that the swallows have left for warmer climes!!!!!!!!

Monday 1 September 2008

A quivering Holly

Just after we had gone to bed last night, Holly suddenly appeared on our bed cuddled tightly up to me, shaking like a jelly, she was very quickly followed by Deefa. What had spooked them I don't know as it was very quiet outside.
We had been forecast for thunder storms, but I couldn't hear any thunder, though there was someone out shooting, so maybe that was what had scared her.
The thing that got me, is that the dogs are definitely Tim's when he's out and about on the smallholding, but when their scared, off colour or just generally out of sorts, it's me they come to!! Needless to say Tim slept through the whole episode!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday 31 August 2008

At last a fine, dry week......

Well that was until this afternoon when it started to rain, but it' not a bad as had been forecast a couple of days ago, where we were due to have heavy thunder storms.
Despite the fine weather it's been a quiet week here. Tim has got some more wood cut and split, we now have enough for a couple of months, to last the winter we need 3 times as much, but it's a start. He's built the base for my shed and made a start on getting the area level where it's to go. The truck passed it's MOT with flying colours and I got some winter veg plants (cabbage, cauliflowers and sprouting broccoli) which I planted out in the new deep bed.
We got the mutton back from the abattoir, we're using a new one this time. The meat arrived neatly butchered, labeled and packaged, ready to go into the freezer. We were very impressed. They also notified us that one of the livers had been condemned. Checking the results with the vet, he confirmed it was a tape worm, but not the type that is a serious problem within our flock, but we now have to ensure that our farm cats and dogs are wormed every 3 months, as the dogs are carriers for this type of tape worm!!!!!!!!! That's something I didn't know, so I've now got to find an inventive way of getting a worm tablet into each of the 3 barn cats, and not end up with shredded hands and arms. The dogs will be very easy I'll just hide the tablets in a tasty tit bit, easily fooled!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday 24 August 2008

Egton Show and The Hobbits

Well at least the weather was kind to us for Egton Show, it was sunny with a slight breeze. When we arrived at the show ground, vehicles were being towed on to the field by tractors as the ground was so wet. Standing talking to our solicitor at his stand, we decided that a new Olympic sport for 2012 should be mud driving, seeing how far you can go in a straight line whilst you push the accelerator hard to the floor!!!!!
As the day progressed the land started to dry out, so it slowly got easier to walk. Wellies being the standard footwear, though we did see one lady in high heels!!!!!!
For us Egton show is about catching up with people, having cups of tea with some of the agricultural merchants we deal with, looking at anything new they may have etc. This year we ended up drinking wine with out solicitor. A very sensible way to spend an hour or so!!!!!
I understand that despite the weather, the show was a success.
The Hobbits arrived the afternoon of Egton Show, full of beans as usual and despite the mixed weather on Thursday and Friday, we managed to spend quite some time on the beech at Saltburn building sandcastles and having water fights. The days typically started with us all watching the early morning Olympics sat in our bed (2 adults, 2 children and 2dogs) it gets a little bit crowded and Deefa has very bony elbows and he knows how to use them to get more bed. After breakfast Tim took the dogs for their walk whilst I packed towels, swimsuits, buckets, spades, spare cloths and more food than you can shake a stick at into the back of my car. Then it was down to the beech, returning home watch a DVD, the latest favourite being Lord of the Rings, then the Olympic highlights, before 2 very tired Hobbits go to bed.
My sister and her husband arrived on Saturday and stayed overnight, enabling us to catch up on family gossip. Sis and I tried to watch the marathon live in the early hours of Sunday morning, but I gave in after half an hour, sis half an hour later.
They all went home today after lunch and both of us feel as if we have gone deaf, Holly keeps checking all the bedrooms the see if they are still here. They will be back in about a months time for my birthday.........

Sunday 17 August 2008

Where has this summer gone????

After yet another wet week, where it is better to stay off the land because it is so boggy, not a lot has got done this week.
Tim has made a start on chopping the wood for the wood burning stoves for the winter, a job we always intended to start at the beginning of the summer and have a slow steady plod at cutting the wood, but as always it will be a mad frenzy of activity over the next couple of months to lay enough wood down to last us all winter.
The weather did finally dry up in Friday and through on into Saturday so we were able to vaccinate the animals with the Blue Tongue Vaccine (BT8V). Our smallholder friend, Jayne came across to help with the vaccinations and as always when we have the sheep in, we check their feet, and this time we also gave them a mineral dose and a worming drench. Jayne was very impressed by our sheep handling system and it's gone on her Christmas list. She has a bad neck so handling sheep can be quite sore, but using the crush she found it very easy to do and the sheep are not at all stressed.
I'd got 70ml of BT8V and it was a close run thing that we had sufficient vaccine. I think we had a couple of doses spare, that's all. But now everyone is protected, so that's all the matters.
With all this we weather we've not been able to give Layla a second dose of antibiotics for her abscess and it was good to see that it had gone down and was healing nicely. As all the animals have been vaccinated we can't give them any other medication by injection for the next two weeks, it reacts with the BT8V, so we will not be able to give Layla anymore anitbiotics. Checking all the animals this morning they all looked O.K, none were showing any reaction to the vaccine.
The other reason Jayne came to help, was that she's bought one of our little ram lambs for breeding so after he'd had all his medication he was put into her trailer to take home. Not too far though, just into the next village less than 3 miles away.
With it raining again today, we decided to have a bit of a lazy day and have spent some time watching the Olympics, especially the rowing and sailing. Just occasionally it's nice to chill and "do nothing" apart from feed the animals, walk the dogs, do animal movements paperwork, the VAT!!! Yes a very lazy day.........
Next week it's Egton Show and the Hobbits arrive to stay for a few days..............

Wednesday 13 August 2008

R.I.P Lotty

Doing the usual morning check of the stock, Tim found Lotty curled up as if she was asleep in the small paddock by the barn. She'd passed away during the night.
She was one of our original herd of sheep and last winter we were advised by the vet that she may not make it, but she did and through most of the summer.
We realised on Sunday that her days may be numbered and had thought we may have to call the vet to "put her to sleep" in the very near future. It will seem strange her not coming to the fence for a quick rub of her nose and a handful of sheep nuts.

Sunday 10 August 2008

A shed vandalised without the help of the resident vandal

After dealing with the sheep this morning, we decided to empty my garden shed so that we could take it apart to create the space for my new shed.
Considering the shed was starting to lean and parting from it's base, it should have been easy to knock down!!!!!!
As the roof had at some time been repaired with tin sheet, it was very heavy, so Tim decided to take the sides out so that we could push the shed backwards to get at the roof.
We started by taking the glass out of the windows then Tim removed one of the sides which made the shed sway rather dangerously in the high winds. Carrying the sides, front and back of the shed into the barn was entertaining, we were very nearly hand gliding down to Sandsend on more than one or two occasions.
After a couple of hours the shed was no more and the reason why it was so unsteady was easy to see once we picked the floor up, the shed had been set on the soil and rats and rabbits had buried under the shed.
My new shed will be set on a frame of tanalised wood and bigger than my old one so I should be able to find all my gardening tools a lot easier.
Next week we will be vaccinating the animals against Blue Tongue, I picked up the vaccine yesterday from the vets. Whilst we have all the sheep in we will also do some routine work on them, feet trimming, worm the lambs and generally have a good look at them all, it's amazing what you can tell about the health of a sheep.
Will post next week about how the vaccinations go.............

A bad week with the sheep

On Friday we had another ram lamb die, he was the smallest of the triplets and by far my favourite. There were no visible signs of anything wrong, he was unsteady on his feet on Wednesday, and considering earlier in the day Tim had seen him having a head butting competition with his brother we thought he was maybe concussed, but he was no better the following day and I gave him a shot of antibiotics, but on Friday he was dead. Looking through the sheep ailments book there are 2 possibilities, grass staggers caused by sheep grazing on very new lush grass and it causing a magnesium deficiency or a mineral B12 deficiency, again caused by new grass but growing during a wet summer, so there is very little or no goodness in the grass. The answer to both problems is to provide a mineral lick for the sheep. So on Saturday morning, licks were picked up from the local agricultural merchant and put in the fields that afternoon.
Today the ewes lolly pop lick has nearly all gone and all the sheep seem to have a spring in their steps, especially the ram lambs, so here's hoping we've cured the problem.
A routine check of the sheep last night saw Lilly limping and Layla with a rather nasty looking swelling on her lower jaw. So this morning we ran the sheep down into the handling area, with the help of Deefa. Layla has either been bitten or has a thorn in her skin which has caused an abscess, so she was given a dose of antibiotics, and I think she will need another injection in a couple of days time. Lilly on the other hand looked like she had mastitis, so I called Pete a local farmer friend to have a look. But it wasn't mastitis, but she was given an injection of antibiotics to be on the safe side as well as her feet trimmed, again we'll watch her over the next week just to be on the safe side.
The other sheep to give us cause for concern is Lotty our old matriarch, she's got a lot thinner. We were told by the vet that she wouldn't see the winter through last year, so for her still to be here is a bonus, but for how much longer we don't know...............

Sunday 3 August 2008

A weekend dealing with the sheep

On Saturday we moved the ewes from their existing paddock into the paddock with the Wiltshire Horn ewes and whilst they were all running past me I noticed that Layla was limping on her nearside rear foot. Now it's two weeks since we weaned her from her lambs and her limping could be an indication of her starting with mastitis. But a quick check revealed nothing more serious than her hoof needed trimming, her udder didn't feel hot or lumpy, so that's a relief.
Today we decided to spray all the lambs with Crovect against fly strike. Deefa was an absolute star moving the ram lambs, once they were in the holding area it was a case of first catch you sheep!!! Thankfully none of the ram lambs had been struck, but with the ewes it was a different story, 2 had got fly strike, so they have been cleaned up and instead of going back onto the common land, they are in the paddock near the barn so we can keep a better eye on these 2 ewes. Spraying them with Crovect should now protect them for a good 12 weeks against fly strike.
The forecast for the weekend was for heavy rain and on Saturday, after I had sprayed our yard with weed killer, there was a thunder storm, so I think I will have to spray the yard again. Today it was supposed to rain this afternoon, so after we had sprayed the lambs, I decided to cut the grass in the woodland, watching the sky for the first signs of rain, but despite some very dark clouds, nothing happened and so I managed to get it finished. It took around 3 hours as the grass had got so long with the wet weather over the last week.
We had our first cabbage from my veg garden tonight, and the tomatoes are coming along really well in the greenhouse. I did manage to get some weeding done in the veg garden, but it's going to have to be a concerted effort to rescue the leeks from the weeds.
During the coming week I must do the VAT!!!!!! and arrange with a fellow smallholder when we are going to inject our sheep with the Blue Tongue Vaccine, we've need 75 doses and have had to order a 100 doses, (the vaccine comes in 50 and 20 doses) whereas my friends need 55 doses, so has ordered 50 doses and is buying the extra doses they need from me. Sound complicated, but it's not, just need to get it done within 8 hours....... Oh for a quiet life occasionally!!!!!!

Friday 1 August 2008

An interesting day out and a death........

On Wednesday we drove to the Three Counties Showground for the National Sheep Association's bi annual show. Despite the long drive in the heat, we had a great day out, looking at all the sheep breed stands as well as looking at all the sheep related equipment. We don't need anymore sheep handling equipment, but I'd been asked to look at the ease of using a sheep turn over create for a friend. He worked on the theory that if I can use it, he can. Well I tried the turnover create and it's very easy to use and work on the sheep, especially for trimming their feet and "dagging out". So I shall recommend to my friend that he buys one.
Today one of our lambs died, he'd not been particularly a good lamb, very slow and hasn't really grown on as the rest of the lambs have. But to make things worse for him, he got fly strike, not too badly, but I think it was more that his system could cope with, having to be sprayed with iodine solution to remove the maggots that were in his fleece and protect the small area of skin that was sore. He was O.K last night, and was eating quite well, but this morning Tim found him dead in the shelter. So the knacker man took his body away this lunch time.
We had a very bad thunder storm in the early hours of this morning, Deefa woke us both up as Holly was a quivering wreck. She hates thunder storms and Deefa was very worried about her. He calmed down, once Holly was safe with us and she'd stopped shaking. This morning she's back to her old self jumping around demanding to be taken out for a walk as if nothing had happened. Hopefully this is the last of the bad weather for a few days as my veg garden has been taken over by weeds.........

Sunday 27 July 2008

All is safely gathered in............

The Resident Vandal arrived on Wednesday to do some more work on his tractor and 2 very excited Hobbits arrived on Friday night. The original plan was that Resident Vandal was to go home early Saturday morning, but a phone call on Tuesday to say that our hay was being cut that day and probably baled Friday or Saturday, meant we could do with as much help as possible to collect and store 250 bales of hay.
The series of phone calls re the hay went something like this.........
Tuesday - Call to say that the hay was being cut and should be ready on Friday
Thursday - Call to say that the hay would baled over the weekend as a sea fret had settled and the hay had not dried as much as it should have.
Friday - Call to say the baler had broken and they didn't know if the hay would be baled this weekend and as it was predicted rain on Saturday, it would be Monday before the hay would be ready.
Just put the phone down when we got a second call to say that a second baler had arrived and they were baling the hay now.
So on Saturday morning we took the trailer to go and pick up the hay. It was a hot morning, I had the hobbits in my car, Tim and the Resident Vandal in the truck. Getting to the hay was not a problem, but getting out was as the hay field was quite steep and despite the drying sun the grass was still slightly wet and with the weight of the hay on the trailer the truck struggled to get up the steep field, not being able to get a run at the slope, thankfully there was another gate, but with a very tight swing. Anyway with a little bit of manoeuvring Tim managed to get out. The hobbits had a great time rolling down the hill whilst we stacked the hay. It took 3 loads to get all the hay we needed, but after the 2nd load, the hobbits were absolutely exhausted partly due to the heat and all the running up and rolling down the field, so only Tim and the Resident Vandal did the final load. Though the hay smells wonderful, it has not been baled particularly well. They vary in size, weight and compactness, making it quite difficult to pack well in the barn. We think we will have to pitch fork the hay into the feeders during the winter. We will see what happens. Today a very tired Resident Vandal and Kiera dog went home and we took the Hobbits to the Huby and Sutton show near York, to hand them back to my sister and brother in law. We had a great time wondering around the show, despite the heat, and the hobbits appear to have had a great time with us, even if they did sleep for over 12 hours last night, 2 tired little boys......
So tonight as I write this blog all is quite here on the farm, the lambs had stopped calling for their mum, Deefa and Holly are crashed on the sofa, as well as Tim. Hay is not good for his asthma!!!
Nothing much is planned for the coming week, it will depend on the weather, it supposed to rain again on Wednesday!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday 26 July 2008

We're now in the Blue Tongue Protection zone

As of Monday we became part of the Blue Tongue Protection zone, so this will enable us to purchase the blue tongue vaccine from our vet. The vet had rung some while back when we went into the surveillance zone to get an idea of how much vaccine we would need. Now we just need to confirm the quantity with the vet. I'm not too worried if we don't vaccinate for a week or so as the ewes are still quite thin that trying to give them a subcutaneous injection will be a bit of a challenge.

Sunday 20 July 2008

Unhappy lambs and shearing

With the shearer calling today, we've been watching the weather to ensure that the sheep are kept dry. Well on Friday the forecast for Saturday was thunder storms, with Sunday being fine and dry. So we decided to bring the ewes into the barn to keep them dry, the lads, if their fleeces were still wet on Sunday, drying them is no great deal.
With bringing the ewes and lambs in we decided to split the lambs from their respective mums. First to be separated out were the ewe lambs and put in to the field on the common land, we then separated the ram lambs off and put them into the small paddock by the back field. Initially the ewes were the ones who were complaining loudly in the barn because their lambs were not with them, then as the evening progressed the lambs started to bleat as they realised they could not get to their mums. The complaining wiii continue for the next few days and by next week all will be peace and quiet.
Today our shearer arrived bright and early and he started on the ewes. Tim was catching the sheep for him and I was wrapping. Thankfully our shearer doesn't shear the sheep at 30 sheep an hour, so wrapping the fleeces for me was not a hurried job. Half way through the ewes, the sky started to cloud over, so Tim created a second pen to bring the lads into and as Dougal fights with Hector, he was sheared and put out almost straight away.
By 1 0'clock all the sheep were sheared, there were only 4 fleeces that were no good to keep. The ewes are in a field near the barn, Hector, Charlie, Archie and Charlie are back in the top field, with Dougal, Alex and Angus grazing in the small paddock by the new hedge.
Later this afternoon some friends from Wakefield visited so we had a good excuse to sit and catch up with the news and have a leisurely tea a nice end to a hectic day.
Next week Kiera Dog and the Resident Vandal arrive as do The Hobbits.

Sunday 13 July 2008

The scything gang becomes the ditching gang!!!

We didn't think we would get any scything done this weekend as the weather during the week had been terrible, so much rain and Tim had been ill. He suffers from hay fever and it laid him low for a couple of days.
But Saturday was fine and the Hedge laying Hollands arrived, laden with tomato plants and home made black current jam, and of course their scythes and hand sickles. After a quick cup of tea and a look round my veg plot we made a start on cutting back the reeds and grass around the ditch we'd cleared over the last couple of weeks to see if we could find where the water was running from. We found a couple of drainage pipes, one running with water the other was dry. We cleared them both so they drained into the ditch.
As this point the scything gang split into the ladies scything and the chaps messing about in the ditch, digging in the mud and generally getting enjoying themselves as they cleared the overgrown ditch to make a much clearer run for the water, they also found very large stone in the middle of the path of the ditch, it looks like it was placed their as a stepping stone to get over the ditch.
After lunch we ladies continued scything and stuck to the original order of the day of clearing the fence line along the second field we can graze sheep in on the common land, to check that it's sound before we let the Shetlands in. They are great escapologist, the smallest hole in a fence is seen as a "opportunity to explore" by all Shetland sheep. The chaps decided to continue playing in the mud and decided to clear the end of the ditch that went under a fence, it had become silted up with old twigs, feed bags and silt. By the end of the afternoon, both teams had completed their tasks, but in the process the midges had feasted on us all. I don't know about the Hedge laying Hollands, but I've been bitten along my forehead and arms!!! As usual the day ended with an excellent meal at our local pub, The Black Bull.
Next weekend sees me at the North Yorkshire Smallholder's fibre event on the Saturday, then on the Sunday, Andrew the Sheep Shearer is here to attempt to shear the sheep again!!!!!!

Sunday 6 July 2008

Weather Watching

We log onto the Met Office's web site daily, so that we have some idea of what the weather is going to be like over the next 5 days and very often depending on what is forecast can decide the priority of work we have to do. So according to the Met office it was going to rain heavily on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and as I said in my last blog we've been re-routing a ditch, which on Monday morning became Priority No.1!!! Between us we got a lot dug, leaving Tim with about 3 or 4 yards to tidy up at the top of the ditch, which he finished on Tuesday. He also finished off the fencing along the ditch line, in readiness for the expected down pour.
Wednesday was fine, so was Thursday and Friday. The rain finally arrived Saturday afternoon, but not with any great force, but as I sit writing this blog, it is absolutely tipping it down. The sad people we are, we have been out to check that the ditch is running O.K and it is. Though it looks like we will have to clear some fallen trees further along the beck so that it can take the extra water.
This weekend, between the rain showers, I've been working in the veg garden. The heritage tomatoes are now planted in grow bags in the greenhouse, (and thanks to my friend I travel with on the train between Redcar and Middlesbrough, we've found a glazier so we can get the extra panes to finish off greenhouse number 2), the sweetcorn and butternut squash plants are planted out, the kale and red cabbage plants are being hardened off in the cold frame. I might try and plant them out into a nursary bed so that they keep growing, and a whole load of weeds got their heads chopped off. We also paced out the deep beds for the veg garden proper and I'm sure if you Google Earth'd our land you'd see blue electric posts marking out the beds. With any luck I will have 12 15ft x 6ft deep beds to plant in over the coming years. They will take some creating, but once done experience tells me they are a doddle to manage.
The two Shetland fleeces that I washed last week have dried beautifully and so has the Masham x Shetland one I did yesterday. Tim has come up with a great idea for where to permanently site my fleece washing trough with very little effort. Tim has also made a small table, on wheels, that my large carder can stand on, so I can at long last process my fleeces. As I said in my last blog I've come back with lots of ideas from Woolfest and having full access to the carder is essential to what I want to do.
According to the Met Office it's going to rain right through until Wednesday, as long as it is fine for next Saturday as the Hedge Laying Hollands are here to help scythe some rather wild areas we have on our land, one of which might reveal a small water catchment area, which might make a wildlife pond!!!!!!!! More next week.

Sunday 29 June 2008

Back to reality......

After the great time at Woolfest it was back to reality today. Tim had noticed that Berniece was limping yesterday and after a quick look revealed that her the right nearside hoof badly needed trimming and knowing that I would be home on Sunday, left it until I was home, so guess what job I had to do this morning!!!!!! Trim her feet, as it's been dry, her hoof was quite tough to trim. I got the hoof trimmed and at the same time trimmed her other 3 hooves. She's still limping, but not as badly, will keep an eye on her for the next couple of days.
Whilst I've been at Woolfest Tim has been realigning the ditch between the back field and the common land. The ditch meanders from one side of our fence to the other, slowly rotting the wire and posts, and having spent a few days repairing this fence the last thing he wants to do is replace it all in a couple of year time. So he's been hand digging the new line of the ditch and has found a baler string mine!!!!!
So today, I've been pulling and cutting the string that crosses the path of the new ditch, which is only 2 spades wide, but it took most of the day. We filled 2 sack fulls of string and old feed bags that had been left to silt up the ditch. But a new path has now been dug and the water is flowing slowly along it. All we need now is a good rain storm to flush the ditch through.
Tomorrow I'm not at work so it's a trip to the accountants to hand over our accounts for 2007/08 and take some photos of the alpaca rovings to post on our web site that are for sale, wash a couple of fleeces in readiness for the North Yorkshire Smallholders fibre day on the 19th July, move the ewes and lambs into another field, along with their feed troughs and hay rack.....
Next week is supposed to be a quiet week but the rest of July is not, on the 12th the Hedge Laying Hollands are here were we will be scything a field on the common land, the 19th is the North Yorkshire Smallholder's fibre day and the 26/27th sees the arrival of the Hobbits....


I took this photo of the stall at 8pm on Thursday night, after Sharon, Phillipa and I had been there for 2 hours and had gone to get something to eat for tea and before finally crashing at the Youth Hostel.

As usual Woolfest was hectic and a great deal of fun. Friday was not particularly a busy day for sales, but Saturday certainly made up for it.

I met existing and new customer and it was great to meet Caroline M and her husband. I did manage to have a quick look round the show, but didn't buy anything. I didn't have the energy to think about any new equipment I may need, but did come away with some great ideas. I finally got home on Saturday night at 21.00 to be met by 2 dogs who were pleased to see me, especially Deefa, who spent the rest of the night glued to my side. During the night he kept coming up to me and sniffing to see if I was really home. He'd missed me so much

The three of us got asked if we were interested in taking our products to a fibre day for a guild near to Newcastle next May, which we are, so that is something to look forward to next year.

I've booked my accommodation at Cockermouth Youth Hostel for next year, so hopefully I will meet you all again......