Sunday 26 February 2017

First escapee of 2017!

We had an escapee today, the first of 2017.
I didn't know of this until I saw the rottweiller girls trotting briskly down the side path. The sight of the wagging tails on the rear ends of the girls and the sound of a ewe calling out for her missing youngster made me think that I ought to go see. Just as well I did.
This is where I was....

.... out on the front drive, and starting work on getting the hedge cut.
(This photo was taken last November)
It does not look very overgrown from here, but it is, especially where the cars turn to go out into the lane.
This is the other side of the hedge ( on the left of the photo),
and this is where the poly tunnel is going to go. It is going to take up the whole space, and the hedge needs to go because it is untidy, has brambles growing through it, and takes up space.
So back to what I was doing..... My target was to get 300 snips of the hedge cut with the secateurs, and  100 swipes of the scythe done on the ground vegetation.
It was on the 53rd swipe of the scythe, that I looked up and saw the rotty girls trotting at a good pace down the side path.
I used to be able to run, then I trotted for a few years, but now I sort of do a fast amble. It does not look very elegant, but it does get me over the ground.
.... the black and white lamb on the left, this was the culprit. He is six weeks old now and is almost the height of his mum. He is also leaving behind his cute behaviour, and is spending most of his time grazing or sleeping, which means that his mum is not giving him as much milk. I don't blame her. I have seen these twins of hers lift her off her feet as they barge their heads into her udder to encourage her milk to flow.
This, then, was the lamb who was being shepherded up the side path towards me, with both dogs up his rear end. They couldn't get closer.
And Lester? He was out at the Sunday morning Gun Club.
No problems though, just call the dogs off, and get the lamb to go into the sheep pen which was just behind me.
But no, that was not to be so easy, because as soon as the dogs heard my voice they went into a 'must catch' mode, which had Blue dancing frantically around Maz to encourage her to 'catch the lamb', which was easy for her to do because the lamb kept barging himself into the fence wire, thinking that it would evaporate away which of course it didn't. All Maz had to do was catch him on his rebounds from the wire, which she eventually did. I meanwhile, kept calling the dogs off. Blue, bless her, came away quickly, but Maz did hesitate for a few seconds, just long enough to almost get the back leg of the lamb in her mouth but not quite.
It was at this point that Lester arrived home, just as I was chasing the lamb back into the paddock.
And the mum of the lamb? Oh she had lost interest and wandered over to the other side of the field with the other lamb.
So we have had our first escapee. We are well fenced but they will always find a way out. Once the other lambs grow bigger they, too, will start escaping under the wire. We have had nine lambs born this year, nearly all males. 
We expect plenty more breakouts.
Males tend to want to be naughtier than the females.
Meanwhile, I have at least made a start on the hedge.
At 300 snips per day it is going to take me quite a long time.
Not to worry, a little bit each day will contribute towards it getting done.
Off to bed now,
so bye for now,

Saturday 18 February 2017

One done...then more....

It has been warm spring weather these last few days, so Lester has been on the move with the Courtyard Project.
The first raised bed made, and it is to go here.....
And then he made some more...

And then we spent ages moving them about to see what were the best positions to put them in.

Eventually the job was done.
It took a lot of fiddling around to make it look like they were randomly placed.

They tuck in nicely to that part of the Courtyard, and there is still room for the tractor and van to have their turning circles, and be driven out of the back gates.
Two or three of the raised beds are going to have hats on them so they will become mini greenhouses because we have not got the poly yet and we need somewhere to start the seeds.
I thought that the beds would dominate the Courtyard, but it feels like the Courtyard itself has stretched itself to accommodate them.
So we have made a start on the Market Garden Project. It feels a long way to go before we are ready to sell to the public, but it is comforting to know that we shall have a good amount of vegetable produce for ourselves, which is something we have been lacking over the last year or so.
One thing, though, is that planting for ourselves and planting for the public require different mind sets,
Planting for ourselves means throwing a variety of seeds into various pots, probably hoping to empty the seed packets so therefore planting too many, and then having to find room out in the veg plots when the seedlings are ready to go out there. There would not be hardly any planning, just hope that everything would grow.
For planting for public sales, this has to be different. There has to be order. There has to be a plan.
Lester is a random man when it comes to seeds and planting outs.
I tend to be more organised.
He is excellent at harvesting the produce.
I tend to forget about produce waiting to be harvested.
He is the one who tends the soil, and tills it with the tractor.
I am at the other end, and jam, can, freeze, and dehydrate all that comes in.
In other words, we are a team, which we have to be if our Market Garden Project is going to work.
Lester has designated me as The Planner.
We are going to measure out the approximate space of each of the three veg plots,
then make a list of the vegetables to be grown in each one.
Then to apportion out parts of each plot on graph paper to represent what space we shall have for each vegetable.
So for Purple Sprouting Broccoli we would designate a space, work out how many plants we would put in that space, and from there we would know how many seeds to plant in the pots.
Sort of working backwards, that is what we shall be doing.
Instead of thinking 'oh we shall do a few pots of broccoli' and then find we have too many, we shall have worked out how many seedlings we need and then plant the necessary number of pots.
It sounds like a faff, but we would only need to do this for the first year, after that we shall be experienced enough to know how many seedlings to plant.
Lester is excellent at planting seeds and looking after them, so that he will do.
How are we going to sell the produce? Not sure. Got plans though, ...maybe markets, veg boxes, or a shop here, but the decision  will have to wait until the time comes. Sometimes you have to take one step at a time, concentrate on doing your best while you on that particular step, and have faith that the next step will appear.
It always does, that is what I have found in life.
It is another sunny day here, so I need to get out and do things.
Hope you have a good day.
Bye for now,

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Reverse rejection miracle!

This is ongoing from the previous blog about the lamb whose mum forgot about him.
Lester on bottle feeding duty. Gave the lamb a 6pm feed. Lamb's tummy expanded to almost bursting, which was good. 10pm feed. Tummy now all gone down. Should have been hungry, but only took a couple of sips of milk then lost interest.
Despite being a warm day, the night air was chilly. Lester expressed concerns about the lamb making it through the night. We both went to bed with thoughts about that little lamb on our minds.
Morning came. The lamb had made it through the night. Lester offered the lamb the bottle. He took a couple of sips.
Then he raced over to his mum, dived under her belly, and launched himself on her udder, obviously preferring her milk to the bottled milk. She did not refuse him.
What to do....sometimes situations need to be left to mother nature, so that is what Lester did. Off out into the field for the day went the lamb with the rest of the flock. He was going to have to fend for himself. Lester was not going to go chasing him with the bottle, that is the decision we made. 
Evening came, and everyone was stood at the gate, including the mum ewe with each of her twins snugly tucked into her side, giving them instructions to stay close for the mad dash across the lane and into the paddock.
So all was well. The lamb was bonded again with his mum, and Lester could stand down with the six times a day bottle feeding.

And Milly giving Lester a hard time this evening....

She is going to be a big cow because she has been on Elise's milk since birth. Normally she would have been put on once a day feeds at about a month old, and by now would have completely weaned. But Bonny, our other cow, has been giving us an exceptional amount of milk this season, and since we have no pigs or chickens at the moment to give any excess milk to, we decided to let Milly stay with Elise. We are not sure if we are going to sell Milly or not at the moment. We are waiting to see how the year goes.
Meanwhile, Bonny has been magnificent in providing us with lots of milk, most of which has gone into making cheese, which is an excellent way of storing the milk.
I would show you a photo of the cheese I have made, but the cheese fridge is in a jumble and I was too ashamed to take a photo which I could show you!

But I have started canning the spare milk.....
I did a few jars last season, and they kept very well. The milk will be used for cooking, so will be heated again before we eat it. All the canned goods I heat before use, just to make sure that the food is safe.
And while on the subject of my canned goods larder....
I love that I can get an entire meal off these shelves..... meat, potatoes, green beans, and fruit.
I have just tidied these shelves up. Like the cheese fridge they were in a muddle too!
But..... canned potatoes? Absolutely yes. Open the jar, have a sniff to see that they smell alright. Slice them, then into a frying pan to heat through. Sprinkle with herbs, salt, pepper or any other spices you fancy, or grate some cheese on top which will melt. Takes fifteen minutes, or twenty five if you want crispy potatoes.
But.....canned green beans? Absolutely yes. Definitely do not taste like tinned green beans from the supermarket, and definitely do not taste like fresh green beans either. But they are alright providing they are not boiled, just gently heated. We shall definitely be doing them again this year.
The canned tomatoes are keeping well, as are all the canned fruit, and jams.
All in all, it is at this time of year, when the hard work of the previous harvest is but a shadow in the memory, that we appreciate the effort I made at filling our various larders. Gone are the ungracious moments when Lester brought yet another box of fruit or vegetables into the kitchen for me to process even though I still had not processed what he had brought in the day before, and I showed irritation rather than joy. Well, on a warm sunny day, one does not want to be stuck indoors sorting out the harvest! One wants to be outside lying on the sunbed.
Message to self: you have promised to buy yourself a sunbed every year you have been here, but for some reason don't. Therefore, do it.
I would have used the sunbed this afternoon. Even though it is only mid February the sun was so warm that I could have cheerfully laid myself out on it and had a roasting. I would not actually sunbathe on it in the summer though. I do not want to get my skin all wrinkled and brown. I did think I would like to sit under the shade of the fig tree and watch the sunbeams through its leaves, but the fig tree has been heavily pruned so that is not a possibility, so I shall have to find another tree to lie under. We have plenty of those. But first I need to buy that sunbed!
Bye for now,

Monday 13 February 2017

Rejection is not nice......

So what do you do if one two day old lamb, one of twins,
toddles alongside a ewe just about to give birth.
That it is the middle of the night,
that the ewe takes herself off into a gated area of the sheep paddock,
an area which should be kept shut because a hay bale fell over the fence into it when Lester was trying to lift if off a pile of hay bales which a farmer had kindly delivered to us a while ago.  But he had a 'big boy's' tractor so could stack the bales two high, a task which was beyond our smaller tractor. Not to worry, Lester managed to roll the other ones down, but this one took a hike over the fence in the opposite direction to the others.
Not able to shift it from its position in the sheep pen, the gate was shut so the sheep would not reduce the hay bale to pieces, which is something they would have joyfully done within a few days.
We had big winds.
The gate was blown open, which we didn't notice, but the ewe did.
The little lamb must have mistook the ewe for his mum, so in his sleepy night time state must have followed her into the gated paddock.
The ewe had her lamb, and tucked him up beside the hay bale.
The other lamb must had tucked up beside it.
And so the next day arrived, with Lester noticing the ewe with the two little ones
But straight way saw that there was difference in size between the two,
picked up the bigger lamb and hurried it back to its proper mum.
But alack and alas, the night time sleep had been upon the mum sheep, and she had forgotten about having two lambs at foot, so she refused to give any mothering services to the little one, and she roughly head butted him away.
It is not nice to see little ones rejected in such a manner. Makes one want to shout out at the ewe, demanding that she do her duty. Of course she does not understand, because she speaks a different language to us.
So what to do.
Go and do something else in the hopes that a miracle happens and that she changes her mind, that's what we did. She didn't. A few hours later and he was curled up forlornly all by himself in the barn.

Lester to the rescue!
So the little lamb will now have to make his mind up whether he wants to carry on in life or give up life altogether.  His choice. All we can do is keep feeding him and hope that he gets through the night. We have not separated him from the flock though. We find that it is better to let orphaned lambs stay with their family of sheep rather than separating them away. They need to have the company of others, this is what we have learnt from experience.
Meanwhile, I have been tidying up the dehydrates cupboard in the front kitchen. Was most surprised to only have to throw out one bag of mouldy beans, everything else was staying perfectly preserved. Most times I use the dehydrated produce for soups, flavourings, and tea infusions.
But they do look pretty in glass jars on the shelves!
I made curtains for the doors of this old cupboard I bought last year.

This is our dry goods cupboard. We have just gone shopping so it is full.
This will last us at least for a couple of weeks.
The dehydrates in the front kitchen, the canned jars of meat and vegetables in the back kitchen, and the three freezers full of meat and veg in the middle barn, all of these are feeding us, which is why the dry goods cupboard does not have a lot in!
It is good feeling to know that we have enough here to feed ourselves, despite not having any fresh veg growing out in the garden.
Off to see how the little lamb is doing,
so saying bye for now.