Sunday 24 February 2008

It's been one of those weeks......

It started on Monday when my car wouldn't start. Turns out that some contaminated petrol has got into my tank and as a result a new fuel pump, new petrol tank and possible new fuel injectors are required. Part of the work is covered under warranty, but I'm hoping the rest is covered under insurance. We wait and see, my bank account has gone into shock!!!!.
The Resident Vandal and Kiera dog arrived Monday afternoon. On the drive over here they had diverted to Skipton to pick up a radiator for the Nuffield. Fitting this radiator was one of the jobs that didn't get done this week.
By Tuesday, Tim was starting to come down with the cold the eldest Hobbit had given him so after taking my car to the garage, not much of the day was left
Wednesday, Tim had very little or no voice, a really bad cough and no energy. Though he and RV managed to find and repair the petrol leak on the generator and finished moving the hay into the main barn.
Thursday, Tim had no voice, he sounded like Beeka from the Muppet show. He and RV got the sheep handling system set up, the plan being to give the ewes their finally check over before we start lambing, along with the routine worming and heptovac injections and mineral dose.
Friday - we had gale force winds, so very little work was done outside, but the "bits" for our computer arrived, so RV built it up for us. He then had to dash home, a family crisis.
So that was the week gone.
The weekend has been a quiet one, we didn't give the ewes the once over, we will have to do that next week, though I did manage to dig the last of the old rasp canes out of my veg garden and move the black current bush, but with the strong winds, you can only stay outside in it for so long.
So how are the animals - well the ewes are looking well, now they are in the last month of their pregnancies, we are starting to feed them twice a day, topping them up so they stay fit and well before they give birth, but not too much so that they have problems giving birth to large lambs. Hector and Charlie and their little gang are just the same as ever. Looks like Hector could be growing his lost horn back.
Dougal and Lotty are eating the grass down in their paddock. The winter so far has been kind to Lotty, she's not put anymore weight on, but she's not lost any which is a bonus.
Ghilli & Grommet, our two remaining alpacas, love watching the sheep, grazing in such a way that they know exactly where all the sheep are.
Hopefully next week Tim will be over his cold and somewhere near to his old self again as we are hedge laying again on Saturday.

Sunday 17 February 2008

A busy weekend with the Hobbits

We picked the Hobbits up on Friday night, they were very excited and so on the drive home we were subject to a 1001+ questions. After refuelling with some of Tim's stew they were raring to go again. Thankfully their batteries ran down about 9pm and they were soon asleep.
Saturday morning they were up and about early, helped walk the dogs, feed the sheep and all at 100 miles an hour. After lunch a friend arrived to buy 1/2 a lamb for his freezer, so the Hobbits had to show him all the animals and their tree house. Thankfully the weather was sunny, so it was a pleasure to be out and about. Tea was the usual fish and chips in Whitby, though for the youngest Hobbit, tiredness was starting to kick in. But after an early night he was fine.
Sunday morning, between the dogs and the Hobbits a late start was out of the questions, so after their usual breakfast of cereal and toast, a short walk for the dogs followed by a run in the back field, and after feeding the sheep, they helped Tim move bales of hay, pushing balesdown from the top of the stack for Tim to pick up at the bottom. Between them they moved 50+ bales of hay. Come lunch time their batteries had finally run down and I suspect they will have slept in the car on the way home. After the Hobbits had left both Holly and Deefa crashed out on their respective sofas building up their energy for the arrival of Kiera dog and the Resident Vandal tomorrow.
The weather this week has been frosty to start with but then the sun has got out, it's been a real pleasure to be out and about, it's set to continue like this for the next few days, but then predictably it's supposed to snow!!! We'll wait and see what happens.
No doubt with the Resident Vandal here for the week there will be lots to tell you next week!!!

Sunday 10 February 2008

Mild weather at last and visiting fellow smallholders

This week has been, on the whole, dry, so the land is starting to dry out. The down side to this is that the mud is now clinging to everything especially the sheep's feet and 1 or 2 of them have been limping. A quick check of their feet reveals, great clods of mud stuck to their hooves. It takes no time to clean them up, though it takes the sheep a few steps to realise there is no mud between their toes!!!!! We also moved them into another field as the one they were in, the grass is getting quite short. You don't want to get in the way when 24 pregnant ewes are in full flight running towards a field of fresh grass. They take no prisoners!!!!!!! But there is always a few ewes who run up the wrong side of the fence and then can't understand why they are not in the field with the new grass. A bucket of feed usually gets them going in the right direction.
Yesterday we took advantage of the fine weather and trimed back a couple of trees that are at right angles, to the hedge on the common land, that we are in the process of laying. The braches are laid on the bank side, lined up like bodies. We can't move them as the land is still very wet, but hopefully another week of mild weather and it will dry out nicely.
Letting Holly and Deefa have a run in the back field, we discovered that the snow last weekend has toppled a couple of trees along our boundary taking the fence with it. We will need to repair it before the lambs are born, as this is the field they and their mums will be going into. Yet another job to add to the list!!!
Today we went over to Teesdale to visit fellow smallholders and friends, Richard and Stephanie. We had a wander round their farm, in the sunshine, looking at their sheep, pigs, horses and cows, who were fastened up in the byre. You don't as much wander around their smallholding as climb, it's very hilly. Richard did regal us with the tale of getting his tractor stuck on the hill side, unable to get it started again and it sliding down the field towards the fence and stone wall. Thankfully it went through the fence, but was then stuck with it's front against the wall and it's back against the fence. Richard had to dig out the back wheels so he could reverse it round. It took him a week!!! He was also telling us that with the recent snow, getting the bales of hay to the sheep in the bottom field, was a doddle. Just use the bale of hay like a sledge. It takes no time to get to the bottom!!!!! After a lunch of home made soup we caught up on the gossip how things had gone last year, what we're all getting up to over the next few months. Next time we will probably see each other is at Woolfest in June.
Not much else happening, the Hobbits arrive next weekend, just for the weekend followed by the Resident Vandal and Kiera dog for a week, but more about that next weekend.

Sunday 3 February 2008

High Winds, snow and no electricity

It's been very windy this week, something we are used to, but driving to and from the station have been "entertaining" as my car got buffeted by the high winds on some of the more exposed parts of the A171. Walking the dogs, Tim was convinced at some point he would be holding onto two "dog kites"!!! On Thursday morning it got worse as the high winds were accompanied by hailstones, Holly decided she'd had enough and after 10 minutes of the morning walk she turned round to go home, closely followed by Deefa. Tim had no option but to follow, not that he minded, he too didn't rate being pebble dashed by the hailstones.
So apart from making sure that the sheep and alpacas have sufficient hay, water and feed, the wood box is full, he's been scraping off the flaking paint on the wood panelling on the stairs. Some has come off easily, but some won't shift, so it looks like we will have to do a lot of sanding to get it smooth. Better buy some shares in hand cream companies, as I'll be using lots!!!!!
On Friday it was forecast to snow, but as I went off to Darlington station, at 06.15 to catch a train to London, there was no sign of snow. At 12.00 Tim sent me a text to say, it was snowing, followed an hour later by a photo of our back field covered in snow. Needless to say I caught the next train home. But this was only the start of the "fun". An hour into my journey home, I received a message from Tim to say that we had no electricity, not to worry we have the means to have power, but just as he was leaving home to pick me up from the station, that failed!!! By now the snow was 4" deep and forming drifts. I then received a call to say, that a lorry had skidded across the road and Tim was stuck waiting for the snow plough to free the lorry. 1/2 hour later the lorry was moved and Tim was finally on his way. It was a slow drive back from Saltburn and despite being in a 4x4 when the wind caught the car, we ended up skidding across the road a few times. We finally arrived home to total darkness, still no power.
On Saturday Tim managed to fix it so we had some power, but it wasn't until 19.30 that we had full power. It turned out that 2 electricity poles had come down between our village and the next. But despite no power, it was a mild day, the snow had frozen so it was a pleasure to be out. We filled the wood boxes, lit the wood burning stoves and thanks to the Aga were able to have warm meals and hot cups of tea.
We woke up this morning to find that it had thawed over night and most of the snow had gone, so now the land is wet and sticky again!!!! We've given the ewes access to a different paddock, the one they were grazing in, the entrance is turning into a mud bath. Damage limitation again to protect the grass!!
Whilst Tim cut up some more wood I put some fresh straw down in Ghilli and Grommet's field shelter as well as the one used by the Hector and Charlie and their respective minders. Ghilli and Grommet just watched me do it, the sheep decided to help, it gets a little bit crowded in an 8' x 12' pig arc with 6 sheep, 2 with horns, when you're bent double trying to spread straw!!! The ewe's feed troughs also needed cleaning out as after 2 weeks of wet weather, there is a lot of mud and hay stuck in the bottom of them. A child's old metal spade does the trick and it's a quick job if you are left alone, but today Cassie sheep decided to help by standing in the trough watching what I was doing and right where I wanted to be!!!! The joys of owning sheep!!!
Finally the only damage we sustained in the high winds, is a pine tree has got blown over, thankfully causing no damage.
Life is never quiet owning a smallholding