Sunday 27 January 2008

Well at least it hasn't snowed this week....

But it seems to have done everything else!!!! On Monday we took the decision to move the ewes off the common land and restrict them to the small paddock at the side of the barn, as the land is so wet we wanted to protect our grazing. Thankfully the rest of the week has been dry and very windy, so that has helped dry the land out, but the common land is still very wet, so the ewes will not be going back in there for some time yet.
We went to see the Panto in York on Friday night, Berwick Kaler in Sinbad. It was my office social, we had a great time. It's a long time since I have laughed so much. We've been going for many years and we know all the jokes, but it is such good fun we wouldn't miss it. The highlights this year were the Sand Dance and a send up of the Spice Girls - The Old Spice Girls!!!!!!
Saturday was just the normal feed and water bucket top ups. It was so windy that we could hardly stand, so it was a waste of time trying to do anything. I baked a couple of Christmas cakes, in readiness for the arrival of the resident vandal, Tim put a new chain on his chainsaw, he hit a nail using last week, it didn't do it a lot of good. We also let the ewes into another small paddock as it was relatively dry.
Today started windy, but mild, and with all the high winds, the electric fence wire had sagged, so we spent some of the morning reeling it in and collecting the poles.
Our land is edge by a beck called Bob's Beck, which we walked through to clear the branches and debris that had accumulated due to the rain over the previous week. If we don't keep the beck running, the bottom of the back field starts to flood and can over time wash away the fencing. Because we were protected by the banks it was quite a pleasant job, there was one tree that had fallen across the beck and had to be cut back, we also cut back anything that was leaning over that might collect debris against it.
After lunch the wind had dropped sufficiently we decided to have a fire and burn the hedge prunings from the hedge laying last weekend. The fire took a little starting, but once it was going all of the prunings burnt quite quickly. A great job on a cool Sunday afternoon, the fire keeps you warm
One of the jobs I try to do over the weekend is to condition score the ewes, this involves me feeling their backs along the spine and depending on how prominent the spine is tells me what sort of condition they are in. Some of the older girls are feeling a little thin but the rest of the girls feel fine. It's a fine line between keeping the ewes fit and in a good condition to lamb and them being too fat. Too thin and any ewe having twins/multiple birth, could secome to "twin lamb disease" where the ewe can die, or they are too fat and the lambs so big, the ewes have difficulty giving birth that we have to assist, which again can lead to complications. These next few weeks up to lambing are always a worry. We will soon have to increase the concentrates we give the ewes and be feeding them twice a day. Thankfully the "old ladies" are quire happy to be hand fed sheep nuts, which enables us to give them some extra feed.
Nothing much happening over the next week hopefully the rain will stay away, so that the land continues to dry out. Though after next weekend we are doing or going somewhere every weekend until we start lambing.

Sunday 20 January 2008

New lambs spotted and Hedgelaying

Out and about over the weekend and we saw lambs in a field near to Whitby. They looked in good health and it's a nice sight to see. Come the 1st April we'll have the first of our lambs.

The hedge laying gangs were here on Saturday and watching the weather over the week, we all thought we would be swimming, but someone must really love us all, as Saturday was a dry, sunny and calm. We could not believe it and we managed to lay 12 meters of hedge. It was a great day. The land is still very wet on the common land and collecting all the hedge trimmings did leave some very muddy track marks. At times it was easier to chuck the hedge trimmings into the adjoining field and as this field was dryer than the common land, after lunch all trimmings went that way. I've got to arrange more hedge laying days in February, March and April and hopefully we will get it finished.

One of the hedge laying gang had a phone conference with his work on the state of the weather and the severe weather warnings that had been issued by the met office. As he said, sat on a tree stump in the hedge in the sunshine, the phone conference did seem a little surreal!!!

The only down side, was we could not get a fire going to burn the trimmings, the wood is so wet, which made it great to lay, but not to burn. As usual the evening meal was in our local pub The Black Bull where you never leave hungry. Though we did get some friendly banter from the kitchen staff, as none of us had our usual order of Surf and Turf (scampi and steak).

Deefa is absolutely "cream crackered" as you can see from the photo. He spent all day "supervising" the relevant gangs, the one laying the hedge and the one collecting the trimmings, to make matters worse, the scrap man called and he had to be "accompanied" off the premises. Holly of course watched all of this from the bedroom windows. MI5 has nothing on these two.
Today the weather was back to normal, wet and low cloud. We finished off delivering Business Pages around the villages, this will definitely be the last year we do this, though we say this every year!!!
The sheep are demanding flippers on their hoofs, it's so wet, but apart from that they are looking very well. What is worrying is Brazil is looking rather large and she's not due to lamb until the middle of April!!! We know that she can have triplets, so is she going to do the same this year!!!! In some ways I wonder if it's worth getting the ewes scanned to see what they are having, it helps with the feeding, but I know we would worry too much as to whether they were getting enough feed and we don't enough land to separate the ewes into lambing size groups.
This coming week I need to arrange the inspection of Hector, our Shetland Ram, so he's accredited, the pick up of some more Stalosan (disinfectant to sprinkle in the barns and shelters) and the delivery of more straw, we have none. Hopefully it will stop raining, but the forecast is not good!!! More next week from Meadowcroft Swamp!!!!!

Sunday 13 January 2008

A week of feeling under the weather

Tim scummed to the sickness bug late Sunday night/early Monday morning when that is doing the rounds. Come Monday morning he was in no fit state to walk the dogs or feed the sheep and Alpacas. So I worked from home, after walking the dogs and feeding the stock. Tim spent most of the day asleep on the sofa, along with the dogs. He really was ill!!!! He was off his food nearly a week, which is not like him. It's normally like feeding a bottomless pit. Gradually over the week he's got better.
For me it's been a rather scary drive to the station on a couple of mornings thanks to back ice on the road. On Wednesday the road was shut due to an accident (3 cars), for 2 hours, thankfully no one was seriously hurt. But on Thursday I started with the sore throat and cold that's doing the rounds at work.
But running a smallholding means you can't ignore the animals, they still have to be fed and checked twice a day. Anyway with all the rain we've had just recently, we discovered that one of the drains was silted up. It would have been great to ignore it, but as a result of the blockage, one of the paddocks was wetter than normal, Ghilli and Grommet were sinking up to their hocks in the mud, which is no good for their feet. So we spent Saturday afternoon clearing it out. Tim feeling washed out and me coughing. By the time we had finished, all we could do was collapse on the sofa in front of the fire. But the drain is running and this morning the field is noticeably drier. It must have done us both some good as we both are feeling a lot better and Tim is back to his old eating habits, always hungry!!!!!
Despite it being wet, the weather has been mild and as the ewes are still eating the long grass on the common land, they are eating very little hay, which is good in one way, but not so good in another. There could be a lot of hay to move in late March as it's stacked where we normally put the lambing pens!
Double ear tagging comes into effect this year and the "tome" from Defra arrived this week. Don't know if it's this cold, but I'm struggling to understand it. I've got a couple of trips to London this month so I will take it with me to re-read on the train, along with the new Animal Transport Rules!!!! Don't ask
Hopefully over the coming week we'll both pick up. We have to as the hedge laying gangs are here for the day on Saturday.

Sunday 6 January 2008

Happy New Year from Meadowcroft Swamp!!!!!!

Since the New Year, we've had snow and rain, so now our land is very muddy. There is nothing you can do, and the best thing is to try and stay off it as much as possible. Thankfully with the ewes being fed in the barn, we no longer have to take bales of hay up to their feeders. All Tim has to do at the moment is just push the bales off the stack and they fall nicely into the ring feeder, cut the baler twine and that's their hay done. Teaching the Hobbit's how to do this when they were here last Friday involved shouting "Bombs away". I wonder if Tim does that when he's on his own!!!!!
We saw the New Year in as we were invited to a party at Ugthorpe House. We had a great time and it was 2am when we finally went to bed. So when it was raining on New Years Day, we were grateful as we were both very tired. Though I did go and visit my friend and fellow craft worker Phillipa (she will be with me and Sharon at Woolfest) to catch up on the gossip and to up date her on May, the Shetland ewe we bought from her earlier this year. She was gad to hear that May was due to lamb the middle of April
It was back to work for me on Wednesday, followed by a day working from home in the Thursday, partly due to the snow, but mainly due to the signalling cables being stolen and cut on the line between Saltburn and Bishop Auckland, so there were no trains running and I didn't fancy standing at Saltburn station, in the snow for several hours waiting to get to work. Thanks to technology I can now log on to my files at work via the Internet.
On Saturday Deefa had his annual visit to the vets for his booster, Kennel cough injections, weighing and worming tablets. All I will say about this visit is that Deefa is far from a brave dog in the vets. He hid behind me the whole time. The verdict from the vet is that he's in fine form and very fit.
As Hector and Charlie have now been away from the ewes for a week and all they have done is stand next to each other by the gate between their paddocks, we decided to open the gate and see how they behaved. They swapped paddocks and this morning Hector was sat in the entrance to the shelter, in the sun, not allowing Charlie in at all. So we put them both in with the weathers, Angus, Alex, Archie and Cecil. Hector and Charlie starting chasing them as if they were ewes!!!! Hector we noticed had a bad limp, his front feet needed trimming and were very soft. Thankfully this week I had ordered some homeopathic treatment for the prevention of foot rot. Not that this a problem on our land, we do get a few hobbling sheep but it's mainly due to mud and small stones lodged between the sheep's toes. But the year I was didn't put the medication into their water, we had a lot more problems with the sheep's feet. Now we don't take the risk.
I know that some people are sceptical of homeopathic treatments, but sheep don't know the difference and it works for us. We also put Cider Apple Vinegar in all the animals water butts to build up a resistance to intestinal worms.
So today, whilst Tim put away the hurdles that had been used with Hector and Charlie, the weather was ideal for mole gassing, sunny, dry and windy. So after putting fresh straw down in the ewes barn, added medication to all the water butts, I spent a very pleasant day gassing moles. I do have the appropriate training and licence to use the gassing chemical for some reason I no longer get asked to make the coffee at work!!!!
More next week and it's good to see the days getting longer. It was 4.30pm before it was dark today