Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Sheep Update

We found the lost sheep...... we had them all the time, Richard has been sent back to school for more practice in adding up, we counted the number of ewes on each load and made a list the he added them all up, WRONGLY.
After he and the children spent a couple of hours scouring the countryside for the missing sheep and worried all night, he checked his sums in the morning, and lo the lost sheep were found, and there was much rejoicing in the kingdom.
We will never let him forget this, its a good job he doesnt pay the bills round here.

Pictured above is little twin lamb, she is doing really well, feeding on her own and growing already, R says that the ewe would be much better off outside but it has turned very cold,( I am back in my wooly vest,) and it seems cruel to put such a tiddler out, but as soon as the sun shines.......
No more lambs yet.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Like Bo Peep we've lost some sheep!

We brought our flock of expectant ewes home today for lambing time, they are due to start on April 19th, which is 5 months from when we put the tups in with them, they have all been scanned so we know how many lambs to expect. When they were all rounded up this morning we discovered that one ewe had jumped the gun and had prem twins, they were cold and muddy and one was much smaller than the other, so we gathered them up and their mum and I rode home in the back of the landrover to stop her jumping over the seats, or on her babies. Sadly the weaker of the two didnt live for more than a couple of hours, just too small to be viable, but the bigger of the two is doing well after we tubed it with some lamb colostrum. It was too weak to stand and suckle from its mum. They are tucked up in a pen in the barn and we hope all will be well. Oh yes its a girl! We trailered the ewes home, about 24 at a time over 2 decks, this load made me laugh as despite not being crowded the ewe at the front has her fat wooly behind pressed up against the "window". We counted each group out of the trailer into the field, and on adding up all the groups we discovered that we had 8 missing!!!!!!!! They were last counted on the 14th feb when we scanned them all, its almost impossible to count 150 sheep when they are all milling about. The land where they have been living has lots of small woods and Richard and the children have gone to look for them, its possible that they have been stolen in which case hopefully we can claim off the insurance, but I am quite worried about my sheeps.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Sad Cows

This is a whole herd of cows who are desperate to go outside, they have been inside for over 4, nearly 5 months now, with only a short walk across the concrete yard to be milked twice a day. For most of the winter they do not linger outside on the yards, but dash back inside for food and somewhere more sheltered to stand around or lie down in. At this time of year, when the weather is warming up, and the sun is shining they just want to go outside and eat some grass. When they do it is spring madness, all these sedate mature ladies cavort about and kick up their heels, udders swinging wildly.
It makes me laugh, every year on the first day outside its just the same.

Sadly for the cows today was not the day, normally Richard nips over and shuts the shed gate while they are inside finishing off yesterdays food, after being milked in the morning. But we are mad busy organising seed being drilled by contractors so Richard had driven the tractor and trailer over to the field with a load of spring bean seed and I went in the landie to bring him home. By the time we got back the cows had found the open gate and were all standing facing outwards........
We had a quick discussion as to whether we could let them out but there are no fields ready, by which I mean there is lots of fencing down to let tractors in and out during the winter, and since we needed the yard clear for the milk tanker Richard filled the feeder wagon, put the food out and we squeezed the cows back into the shed, a bit like getting toothpaste back into the tube.
Truthfully there is not much grass yet, our organic pastures are always a bit slower to get going since they need the soil to warm up before the grass grows, everyone is very used to the effects of scattering tonnes of nitrogen on the fields wheras nature on its own is not as impressive.
Its been a busy day of ferrying seed and Richard to and from bits of farm machinery, life was much simpler when we were just farming one farm.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Busy day

I meant to post this picture of F holding the lamb yesterday but forgot. It was taken on monday when she announced she had told everyone in her class about the new lamb and needed a picture of her holding it!
Lambs are quite easy to catch within the first 12 hours after they are born, but after that they have really found their running legs and dont want to be caught at all. We managed to grab this one but only because he got his legs tangled up and fell over. F was very keen to hold him until we tried to hand him over, we ended up with Richard holding her and the lamb together.

Its a gorgeous sunny day again today, which is good as we are off to vaccinate all the pregnant ewes, it has to be done 4 weeks before they lamb to protect the lamb as well. I had forgotten that I had also volunteered to take and collect some of the primary school children from a science morning at another school, this is the inbetween bit, I have just taken flapjack out of the oven and have a huge pan of half made marmalade waiting for me to have a couple of hours at home to boil it up. R has popped in to ask me to drop in at the vet and collect some extra needles for the vaccinating gun........ Some days the idea of a proper job is very attractive, apart from that I would have to do all the extras as well.

I might slap a bit of sunscreen on as a couple of hours in direct sun and I will be a crispy critter, its so easy to get burnt at this time of year, all that winter pale skin.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Farm Cats

The cats are on the payroll here, they are vermin control and the business pays their feed and vet bills. They get dry cat food 2 or 3 times a day, if they are hanging around looking hungry and the plates are empty I feed them, I reckon that mouses must be scarce.
They were all feral cats originally, 2 are brothers and the tabby and ginger are half sisters, courtesy of the local tom and the cats on the neighbouring farm. We trapped them all at the appropriate ages and had them fixed at the vet, there is no unsanctioned breeding round here. We dont let them in the house, mainly because they dont want to come in, but also because they arent housetrained and they usually have dirty feet due to roaming round the cow sheds. They are a superb anti vermin patrol, especially Percy, the longhaired cat, he looks soft and fluffy but under all that fur is Atilla the hun.
We have had several lovely sunny days recently, not much is growing but its lovely and warm in the sun, so all the cats crash out in a nice sheltered spot in the garden.

We had our first lamb born on sunday morning, the ewe chose the only rainy day for a week , so it was a cold wet welcome for little boy lamb, despite that mother and son are doing well.
There are no more births expected for another 4 weeks, this one is early because the ewe was very poorly last year and had to stay at home to be treated regularly, she was sharing a field with the tups and nature took its course a bit sooner than planned.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Mea Culpa

I've been too lazy to blog! Yes I admit it, I have had lots of good intentions, read other peoples blogs, made a note of things that have happened and then done nothing. Well not "nothing" nothing, but blogging nothing, I have felt bad about it, but not bad enough to do something about it. Sorry I will try to do better, I get so much from reading other peoples blogs and it seems rude not to give a bit back.
We had half term a couple of weeks ago and I went down to visit the family in Berkshire, we stayed with my Ma and visited and went out with my sister and her children.
We went to see the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, and I definitely recommend it as somewhere to visit. Its not really for tiny children, out youngest was 7 and she loved it but I would think that under 5's would not get much from it.
Its a huge collection of stuff from around the world gathered together by Lt. General Pitt Rivers, it was bequeathed to the university in 1884 on the condition that they built a museum to house it and appointed someone to teach anthropology. The original collection has been added to over the years and includes lots of weapons, decorative items, religious artefacts, models, clothing, and more.
My childrens favourites were the shrunken heads and the mummy, I was very taken with this totem pole which stretched up 2 more floors and the beautiful woven gratings in the floor. Oh yes also the toilet facilities which are clean modern spacious and unisex cubicles, which are great when out in a female parent only group of mixed children. Its always a worry sending little boys off into the male toilets.
The only bad thing was no cafe or designated place to eat a picnic, there is a big grassed area outside but that's no good it it's cold and rainy, we ended up in the foyer to the natural history museum which also functioned as a buggy park.

The P-R museum is reached through the OU natural history museum which is a much more accessible scale than the London natural history museum, it's full of skeletons, modern animals as well as dinosaurs, stuffed animals from all over the world, and things that we ran out of time to look at. We will definitely be going back again.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Well Done Boys

We had our sheep scanned on monday, a good day weatherwise since it rained on sunday and tuesday and indeed on monday afternoon, but the morning was sunny.
The tups had done good work as of the 150 ewes, only 4 are not in lamb and they will be off to market as soon as can be arranged. Of the rest we have 3 sets of triplets, 70 twins and 73 singles. One of the singles is due in 3 to 4 weeks time, the rest in April. The early bird is because she was in with the tups last summer due to a wound that needed lots of attention from us, having her here at home meant we could get hold of her on a regular basis to treat her. Anyway she will have to come home again soon and live with the calves so we can keep an eye on her, as its still too cold for her to lamb outside.

This is my oldest(14) who has just had his "twin blocks" changed for a fixed brace. He is somewhat daunted by the long list of dos and don'ts and the cleaning instructions and at 2.30 this morning he was a very sad boy as the discomfort of his teeth starting to move had woken him up and was stopping him getting back to sleep. His Daddy fixed him up with some paracetamol and sleep was resumed.
I sent him off to school with another paracetamol for lunchtime, and a note excusing him from PE for today. The Dentist said that it will settle down in a couple of days and become the new normal.
Our local National Trust House is doing some tree felling, mostly round the carparks but also this one from on top of the mound alongside their moat.
I am very sad to see it go as all my children used to play under it and run/jump/slide up and down the mound. I'm not sure why they are removing it,possibly a combination of health and safety and fears that the roots are causing damage to anything beneath it.
Anyway we will be having all the wood, bar some for the Hall itself which we will be storing for them.
I forsee lots of time with the woodsplitter in my future.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

All Change at the Library

Its going to be all change at our local Library, they are closing on the 15th Feb for three weeks for"refurbishment"
According to the Librarians this includes going "self service". Im not sure what this will entail but it doesnt sound like good employment news for the librarians.
The closure will cover school half term, which is inconvenient as I usually take the tribe down there for some book choosing and a bit of them begging for me to borrow DVD's, Wii games or Dsi games for them to play with. Its actually a good way of trying out games without committing to buying them. From previous experience something that sounds good ends up causing so much strife that I confiscate it. There is a small charge to borrow media items, usually less than £2 for a week.
The good thing about the closure at the library is that we can take books and media items out and keep them for the whole three weeks whilst only being charged for one week.
We have stocked up, for the children we have Lego Starwars for the Wii and Mariokart for the Dsi, also the new video of The A Team, we have a selection of the original ones so I hope they like this, I'm sure the special effects will be better.
For the grown ups I have the first series of True Blood, I have read all the books and love them and I watched most of the TV series but will enjoy filling in the gaps. Also the US series Justified starring Timothy Olyphant. I started watching this when it showed on TV but it was on late at night and I kept forgetting it.
I could get these out any time but 7 days is not long enough to watch 13 episodes so I dont bother, I have these till the 12th march.
Best thing is that all this cost about £7.
Good value and I will wait and see how the "refurbishment" turns out.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Some Days You Win, Others Not So Much.

Our Dairy Herd is regularly tested for TB, this involves the vet injecting each animal with a tiny amount of both Avian and Bovine TB, then checking 72 hours later to see if there has been any reaction and if so to what. Its OK if you get a lump at each site, or if you just get an avian lump, but bad news if you just get a lump at the bovine site. The animal is then a "reactor" and taken away to be destroyed, the whole herd is put under restrictions, which means you cant sell any animals, and you start a retesting programme that lasts for 2 years.
Yesterday we finished our testing programme, with the 12 month interval test, We passed, or at least the cows did and we can now go back on the regular testing schedule which for our area is 24 monthly.
I couldnt tell anyone we were being tested just in case it jinxed it.

These are the bottles of the stuff they inject the cows with, 50 x 1ml dose, mind you the fuss some of the cows make you would think we were cutting their heads off. The Vet clips some hair off at the 2 sites on the neck and jabs them, we have to put every cow on the place through the crush, from the oldest to the youngest, new calved to those on maternity leave, even though its a bit of a squeeze for some of them.
For our milking herd of 65 cows plus followers it takes 3 to 4 hours, checking them doesnt take as long though its more stressful for us.
I dont understand why they cant develop a vaccine against TB in cattle, surely it would be more cost effective than testing and destroying thousands of cows each year, the scientists keep talking about a vaccine for Badgers, which we would have to trap and are not exactly easy to handle, apart from the whole issue of them being protected. We already vaccinate the cows for several diseases so one more wouldnt be a problem.

After the good news about the TB testing yesterday, this morning I got a phone call from our Milk Buyer, telling us we are going to be fined for over production!!!!!!
Apparently we produced 50% more than we had predicted in January, and we are only allowed an error margin of 20%, so we are fined 5ppl on the extra 30%.
I think its more that we under estimated than over produced, but now we are in the crazy position of slowing the cows down by cutting their cake ration, only slightly as otherwise we could have fertility problems. We cant adjust our prediction for February so must try to minimise the damage, we have redone the prediction for march.

The 3 sheep are getting used to being in the garden, I'm a bit fed up with sweeping sheep pooh off the path, and they will have to go before the daffodils come up.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Looks Like Starbug

We have been having problems with the tank washer, which automatically cleans the bulk milk tank when it has been emptied. Its one of those machines that always seems to go wrong, water, pcb, iodine and steam add an electrical supply and you have breakdowns and malfunctions.
Anyway the latest manifestation was the pumps failing, of which there are two and this is one of them. After a very frustrating couple of weeks, during which Richard has been cleaning the tank by hand, we have two new pumps and new fuses, fortunately the little electronic brain seems to have survived to think another day.
Richard tells me that these pumps always remind him of Starbug from Red Dwarf, the little space ship they use to fly around outside the mining ship. Now he has told me it's all I can see when I look at this.
More sheep, well really its less sheep, these are the last 3 boy lambs from last year, we decided to sell the rest as store lambs, for someone else to fatten up, it would take us ages to get them ready for slaughter and we can do without all the extra cost involved in giving them extra feed. Next year we will sow some stubble turnips as winter feed, although several neighbours who have done that for this winter have lost most of them with the very low temperatures, they can't cope with minus 13 c.
These last 3 sheep have sore feet and so will go into the small paddock, when they are better we might sell them or just keep them for the freezer.
They are in the garden at the moment, with a notice on the gate reminding people to keep the gate closed.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Life Skills

I'm wondering when is a good age to teach my children how to change the sheets and duvet covers on their beds.
I started doing mine when I went away to boarding school at 11, we were issued with a clean sheet and pillow case every week or so and told to put "top to the bottom and bottom to the laundry". We also made our beds every morning and those who had never done it before learnt pretty quickly.

My children are 14, 12 and 9, and whilst the 9 year old would probably struggle to change duvet covers and the sheet, she should be able to manage the pillowcase, and the other two with a bit of tuition should be OK.
I realise that it may be hard for them and make their arms ache a bit but I dont think it's unreasonable. Generally I dont ask them to do much in the way of housework, a bit of bedroom tidying and setting the table for meals, also putting stuff in the dishwasher.
Part of me feels that it is my job and since I dont work off the farm I do have the time to do it, but on the other hand these are life skills, like tying laces and telling the time,and since I do intend for them to leave home eventually they should learn them.

I think the time is now, I will proceed with a plan to offload all the things I hate most, hoovering, changing beds, sewing on nametapes and buttons. The children might leave sooner than planned.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Who Needs TV

Our oven died just before christmas, inconvenient but no great loss, I still had the Rayburn to cook with and the old oven was one that we bought for £40 about 8 years ago.
Anyway we ordered a new oven, after consulting Which, the consumer report people, and it arrived last week. It is so shiney and new I am almost afraid to use it, but I forced myself.
This is sunday where I turned some leftover pizza dough into something pizza-ey for lunch, it had bits of blue cheese as well as cheddar on top and the children were facsinated by the different ways the cheeses behaved when heated, the fact that this oven has a light that works just made the whole thing better.
They stayed there for ages and I had to kick them out of the way to get the food out of the oven. As entertainment its not quite as good as reruns of Top Gear but its way better than CBBC.

Sorry about the carpy photo, I cant remember how to do macro on my camera.
This is a cows tooth, its about an inch square in size and we found it balanced on the edge of a water trough in the cowshed.
We find about 2 or 3 a year, mostly outside, which is amazing considering how relativly small they are. The children suggested that the cow had carefully placed the tooth hoping for a visit from the tooth fairy, if so she was disappointed as after a wash and brush up the tooth has gone into school for show and tell.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Good Deed for the Day

I went to give blood this evening, I've been donating blood since I was 19 and am up to 45 units now, which considering time out for 3 pregnancies is not bad.
I do it because its the right thing to do, it doesnt hurt or cost me anything other than time, and I used to come away with a nice glow of righteousness at having done a good thing for society as a whole. I have O rh negative blood which is the universal doner, means that in a crisis they can put it into anyone and it wont cause a problem, so I have always thought it even more important to give blood.
My spouse works in a fairly high risk industry as regards accidents, and I wont let him give blood as at 6'4" and only 11stone he has nothing to spare.

As time passes I find the whole rigmarole of giving blood more and more irritating, I hate the questions that they ask each time, I feel I am being asked to justify being there, now they tell you to drink a large glass of water before you donate, and if you say you have already had a drink at home they seem to think you are lying to them.
Occasionally I have cancelled an appointment because I was ill or was pregnant, OMG you'd think I was trying to get out of paying income tax, Its none of their business why I cant make it, they behave as if they are doing me a favour.
I come back all cross and angry with them and feeling that I wont go again, so far it has worn off by the time 4 months is up.
One of these days it wont wear off and I wont go back.
I reasise that I have a problem with people telling me what to do and hopefully I am the only one who feels like this, otherwise our brilliant system of freely donated blood will fall apart.

I should have called this "rant for the day"

Monday, 10 January 2011

Its Been So Long

Wow its been ages since I posted as I have been reminded by my loyal reader, thankyou Fluff!
I find that its one of those things where the less I post the more it takes to get me to get on with it.
We have done christmas, with all the trimmings, tree, pudding, snowy landscape, frozen water supply to livestock, tractors that wont start, broken oven.
Despite these things we all had a great time, my brother in Brisbane said it rained all day for them and though he loves life down under he misses cold chrismas .

We had a particularly perfect tree this year, Richards sole christmas task is to choose and buy the tree, I do the rest, cooking shopping wrapping etc, most of the presents come as a big surprise to him.
This tree had stood in a bucket of water/ice in the barn until chrismas eve and on bringing it into the house we found it was full of snow, not much chance of that melting outside so we stood it on an old sheet till it was frost free. Its great now the children are old enough to help with the tree and to have an opinion about what looks good as opposed to how much can we get on it!

We cooked the pork in the solid fuel rayburn, instead of stuffing I rubbed the inside with crushed fennel, salt and garlic and it was delicious, I couldnt get the crackling to crackle but it didnt matter. This is my flaming christmas pudding, I have a bottle of grappa made by one of my brothers in laws, it is completely undrinkable but boy does it flame!!
The tupperware in the background is full of home made brandy butter, if you let it defrost too much it separates, and thats my excuse for not putting it in a bowl.

It seems ages since christmas now, the children are all back at school and the snow is long gone, mind you it is also a long time till spring. We noticed that one of our boy lambs must have escaped with his manhood unaltered as he has been happily tupping away at the girl lambs. They are now separated but we will have to scan the girls in case any are now expecting.

Hopefully I will keep on posting now I have started.
Happy 2011 everyone.