Monday 26 May 2008

A busy week and a fine Bank Holiday

Tim has been busy digging the bases for the greenhouses, now that the planting wall hiding the drains is finished, he's been able to put the spoil from the greenhouse bases in there. He's worked out we need 4 cubic metres of soil, so fat he's move 2!!!!!!
The Resident Vandal and partner have been visiting this weekend. On Saturday we went to a farm sale and picked up one or two items, thankfully we'd taken the trailer with us. Our friend Ed was more than pleased that we'd the trailer as he'd bought a ride on mower and so we delivered it for him on our way home.
Ed does chain saw sculptures and he's created a herd of deer from wood which from a distance they are so life like. He'd also carved several rabbits and a very impressive owl.
What none of us realised, was that the sun was very warm, but with a cool breeze, we have all got very red faces. Tim, as usual, was wearing a hat and he's got a tide mark on his forehead. By the time we got back from the sale it was time to feed the sheep and have tea, a visit to our local pub, as usual.
Sunday and again another fine day. Mrs R.V and I did some arboreal vandalism, cutting back the branches of the tress that are in the way when I cut the grass in the woodland, any branch that was below my head height was removed. Tim and RV worked on Mrs R.V's car as well as lots of little jobs that are not urgent, but need to be done, like repairing one of the pallets that the wood stands on.
In the afternoon my work colleague Ian, called with some of his London friends and their 4 year old daughter who, up until yesterday, had not seen a sheep, let alone hand fed them!!! As our sheep are very accommodating, as soon as I rattled the food bucket they came running to be fed sheep nuts through the gate. She very quickly got the hang of feeding the sheep, to the point of instructing her Dad on the right way to feed the sheep, hands on hip style!!!!!
Today, contrary to the weathermen, was another fine day, so I manged to get the grass cut in the woodland, speeded up by the removal of the low level tree branches, and start to get the fibre ready for Woolfest. Tim and RV rotovated some more of the veg area, so it's slowly being cleared. We also picked up Lucy and Winky who have spent the winter at Sharon's smallholding, eating the long grass down, which they have done and are looking very well.
I emailed the sheep shearer this weekend to see if he can shear the sheep before I go to Woolfest at the end of June. He's starting to put his schedule together over the next few days so I will let you know when he's due to call.

Sunday 25 May 2008

Blue Tongue protection zone moves closer

As from Monday Devon moves into the Blue Tongue protection zone, and notification from the National Sheep Association, says that a week later it is proposed to extend the protection zone to cover East and South Yorkshire as well as the District of Selby. So it can't be much longer before we are in the protection zone and be able to vaccinate our sheep.
It never fails to amaze me how some farmers are still not taking this virus seriously mainly because they have to pay for the vaccination!!!!!!! No wonder farmers have a reputation wanting everything for free. But this time I think the government has got it right, not paying compensation and a rolling protection zone. Needless to say our Blue Tongue vaccine has been order for weeks.
Full report on the week's happening tomorrow as it's the Bank Holiday

Sunday 18 May 2008

Ear tagging and injections for lambs

As the youngest of our lambs is 3 weeks old and the oldest is 6 weeks, we got them all in the barn, with their mums of course, to give them their first injection of Heptovac and at the same time we decided to ear tag them all. We normally don't eat tag until we wean the lambs, but by that time trying to identify, which lamb belongs to which ewe is a challenge, doing them this young this time has been much easier. So the rams have yellow ear tags, the ewes have purple tags, should make it easier to wean them in the coming months.
Whilst we had all the sheep in the barn, a fellow smallholder Jayne called, she's was looking for a new ram for her flock, after looking at a few of our young lads, she chose Cassie's son (which she's called Earl). Earl will be staying with us until he's ready to be weaned at the end of July.
One rather messy job that we had to do today, was "dag"out Missy. Since she's been on the new grass, it's gone straight through her, so the fleece around her back end and down her back legs is rather "pooey" to say the least. The trouble is, if we don't do something about it, she could get "fly strike" from the blue bottles laying their eggs in the sodden fleece. You don't want to know what damage the maggots can do to a sheep!! I also gave Missy a squirt of homeopathic spray for scour, so hopefully Missy will dry up over the coming days.
Whilst we were ear tagging Brazil's ram lamb, the abscess on his leg decided to burst, another messy and smelly job. Now the abscess has been cleaned and sprayed with antibiotic. He and Brazil are now out with the rest of the sheep, enjoying the grass.
Tim is busy getting the base ready for my greenhouse, because today my new shed was delivered, and as my existing shed has all the bit and pieces for the green house, it's easier to put the greenhouse up, rather than find a place to move all the greenhouse bits and pieces to. More work for Tim, but in the long run the logical thing to do.
It looks like the Wiltshire Horn ewe lambs that we put to Charlie last December have not held their pregnancy, along with Davina and Demelza. It was an experiment to put a ram to very young ewes, one we will not be repeating, we will wait until they are 12 months old. We've also decided that we don't want to lamb more than 24 ewes next year, so there will be a small number of ewes that lambed this year that will be going to the Rare Breeds Sale in October.
The forecast for the coming week is good again, so it's going to be ideal to get on with some weed spraying in the empty paddocks, the grass, docks, nettles and thistles are growing so fast at the moment...........

Sunday 11 May 2008

Sun bathing Alpacas and the vet calls

The weather this week has been glorious and looks like it is going to be the same for next week. With the weather been so warm one of the more unusual sights is that of our two alpacas laid on their backs, to all intents and purposes, sunbathing. All they needed to complete the scene were sun glasses, a deck chair and a glass of Pimms each!!!!!
Brazil's ram lamb started limping again, so we decided to call the vet. The diagnosis is an abscess just below the knee joint, where the infection is not coming out, so he's on a course of different antibiotics, which will make the abscess "mature", and sure enough it is, because tonight when I had a look at his leg, there is a definite swelling just below the knee joint, so hopefully by the time the course of antibiotics has been administered, it will finally clear up.
The fine weather this week has enable Tim to put in the pipework and drains so that the rain water from the barns and garage now goes straight into the drains rather that wander all over the yard. But in order to hide the pipes etc, he's had to build a wall in front of the retaining wall for the yard, the space in between to be filled with soil to become a herb area.
As the ewes and lambs have eaten the grass down on the common land we decided to move them into the back field (where I can see them as I sit and write the blog), but before they could be moved, we had to repair the holes and gaps in the fence line. Trouble is in order to repair the fence we have to scramble down a steep slope to the edge of the stream, where the bank then drops very steeply. Knocking in new fence posts is a challenge, as well as attaching the old fencing to the new posts, at one point, Tim was stood in front of a post, holding the wire, I had to hammer the staple in, trouble is, I height I was hitting the staple was the height of Tim's groin!!!! The reason why the fence needs repairing is that the bank is slowly being eroded away every time the stream floods. Anyway the fence is secure for the time being.
We've also moved Charlie, Hector and their respective minders (Cecil, Archie, Angus and Alex) into a new paddock, the one Ghilli and Grommet will be going into in a couple of weeks time, but before that we want the sheep to eat the grass and docks down.
Now that some of the paddocks are empty, the weather is right to enable us to carry out some grass management in the shape of spreading fertiliser and grass track (a mineral supplement) and selective weed spraying of thistles, dock and nettles. I think we need a 48 hour day...........

Sunday 4 May 2008

A respite from lambing, but a couple of poorly lambs

With Beatrix giving birth last Saturday we now have a lull until next week when the last 4 ewes give birth on the 10th, 13th, 17th & 19th respectively. Brazil's son has been in the barn again , for the last week with joint ill, but he's now recovered and yesterday he and his mum were back out in the fields, also Cicely has finally accepted her other lamb and so this new family is now out in the fields and she is doing a good job of keeping them both close. Eden has been unwell, not sure what's been wrong with her, but a quick injection of antibiotics and a top up with milk on Friday and she's back to being the little pocket rocket that she normally is. We think she'd got a bit of a cold with all the wet weather we've had over the past week and because of that didn't feel like suckling, so was very quickly going down hill. One of Missy's daughters has a limp and it turns out that she's cracked her hoof, so she's on a course of antibiotics until her hoof recovers.
This year is the first year we have docked tails and it's really weired to find a tail that has fallen off in the field, but not castrated the rams, which means that they are trying to "mount" any lamb that stands still. Watching a Shetland ram trying to "mount" one of the Wiltshire Horn Cross lambs is very funny, as the ewe lamb is twice the size of the ram lamb!!!!
So far the Bank Holiday has not lived up to what was predicted, rain. So far we've had a fine weekend, which has meant that we've been able to get on with some "outside jobs". Tim is working on the planting area near the front of the house, that will cover the drains to carry the rain water from the barns, and I've cut the grass in the woodland, for the second week, and got some more of the veg garden dug over. The onions, beetroot and parsnips I sowed some weeks ago are starting to show through and thanks to our cat Lady, the rabbits are not eating them.
The ash tree seeds that I planted last year are finally sprouting so they need potting on, so hopefully tomorrow I will get that done and sow some sweetcorn and french beans. Beats doing the accounts and the VAT, which have to be done by the end of the month, but I have done the single farm payment!!!!!!!!