Every year our geese sit on a large number of eggs for months on end. By the time they are finished their bright orange legs are pale from lack of sunlight. In all these years, not once have they managed to hatch a gosling. We do have a gander so it’s not as if the eggs aren’t not fertile.
This spring the goose that was rejected by our flock, set herself up in the nesting box in the duck shed. This was extremely irritating as everytime a duck laid an egg, she would scoop it underneath her. We much prefer to eat duck eggs to chicken eggs and we have quite a few customers at the farm gate who also enjoy our duck eggs. For weeks we haven’t been able to get hold of any as she hisses if you try to approach.
It must be well past the 28 days incubation period by now, and since nothing has hatched and she has finally given up. Unfortunately, the muscovy has now taken over and has a huge pile of duck eggs under her. Who knows how much longer she will carry on.
In the meantime, we had a blackbird that built a lovely nest in the shed. It was decorated with green moss and bits of fleece. Sadly, she did so on top of an electrical socket so we had to move it, otherwise it may have caught alight. We wasn’t sure if she would return to it in its new location, but she did and pretty soon it contained several small blue eggs. Less than a fortnight later, we discovered 5 newly hatched chicks. Within days, their eyes were open, as were their beaks, waiting for worms. They grew huge very quickly and the nest couldn’t cope. One fell out and when we tried to return it, all the others leapt out in fright!
We decided to leave them alone to sort themselves out and most days when we went in to milk the goats, one of the youngsters was hopping around with the mother close by.
Perhaps the geese could learn a thing or two from the blackbirds!
Lambing is always a stressful time here at the croft and this year was no exception. It’s filled with sleepless nights watching restless sheep and anxious days peering at fragile looking lambs wondering if they’re feeding properly. This year was made a wee bit easier by the installation of our CCTV cameras. Instead of spending hours in a chilly shed, we could monitor all the activity from the warmth of the house, only needing to venture out when a lambing was actually in progress.
It all went much more smoothly than usual and of course we could see which lambs were feeding and which ones needed a bit of help. One particular boy (we named him Polka-dot, after we marked him with a blue spot so that we could recognise him instantly in the crowd), spent his time standing hunched in the corner. We eventually came to the conclusion that he wasn’t getting enough milk so with the aid of an obliging goat, we supplemented his mother’s milk. He is now fat and healthy.
Most of the births were straightforward, the ewes producing mainly twins but there were a couple of singles. No triplets this time which is good for the mothers as it’s easier to cope with two. However, we did have one first-timer that gave us cause for concern. After watching her all night on camera, she finally got started in the early hours, but the lamb was going nowhere. It was stuck fast. Thanks to the assistance of our obliging neighbour, an experienced sheep farmer, now retired, and some baling twine, we managed to heave the enourmous lamb out.
Despite the fact that it took quite a while and its tongue was blue, it survived and is now thriving. What a relief and we were so grateful for the help, you learn something new every year.
Only one left to lamb now and she is certainly taking her time. All the rest are ready to be vaccinated and move on out to pastures new.
In other news, Fin seems to be responding to the medications and is feeling a lot more comfortable now.
It’s been a busy month. With lambing imminent there were many preparations to make. All the pens needed to be mucked out, the hay moved and new lights installed. The weather was a worry, we bought all the ewes in for a week to get them out of the wind and rain.
Every year we muddle through and sadly lose a few lambs so this time we decided we wanted to take the guess work out of it. We tracked down a lovely man who came along one evening and scanned all our possibly pregnant girls. It was very exciting and we discovered who was in lamb, how many they were having and their estimated due dates.
It was all very useful but we went one step further and installed CCTV cameras in the lambing shed. We are now all hi-tech and can monitor the ewes from the comfort the house! We are thrilled that we will be able sit in the warm kitchen instead of trudging down to the shed through the mud or snow, in the middle of the night.
There is also an added advantage. Some of the ewes seem to hide their birthing signs when we are watching them close up, so by using the cameras we should be able to see what is really going on without disturbing them!
At the moment all that we can see are a few chickens and cheeky mice but we are looking forward to the next month or so when all the ewes will be tucked up in the straw beds with us observing from afar.
At the end of June, one of our goats had kids (our first at the croft, due to some unfortunate timing last year). Everything obviously went without a hitch, as they were waiting for us in the pen one morning, newly born. They are doing extremely well.
We managed to harvest a small amount of goats milk for ourselves, and made some cheese. Delicious!
Our annual battle with the peats is finally over, all bagged and stored in the peat shed for another year. They should keep us going until the next time.
And, the grass is cut ready for baling. With the weather being even more unpredictable than usual, this is no mean feat!
January got the year off to a fairly damp and cold start, and work to keep Pippa (Dexter Cow) comfortable and warm didn’t get any easier! Pippa doesn’t like going into a shed, but she seems quite happy in her field shelter, so several bags of straw later she looked pretty snug.
Due to calf at any time (difficult to predict exactly when) it was extremely important to ensure the survival of the calf with plenty of bedding, and extra hay and cattle cobs were in order – not too many cobs though as we didn’t want the calf to grow too big and make the birth difficult.
Meanwhile, the first half of 25 fence posts were punched in along the far boundary. New fencing is required here to prevent our sheep getting out and either falling in the drainage ditch (see September 2007) or wandering about in our neighbours’ lush grass fields.
Finally, on the last day of January, and in the worst weather we’ve seen so far this year, Pippa’s Calf (Rosie) was born!
The ram goes in with the ewes but the wet weather continues
The Ram (pictured) was moved as planned, but regrettably one of the ewes had to be taken out and separated from the others due to lameness.
She seems to be recovering well, but it will be a while we think before she is returned to the paddock. We want to be sure that whatever is causing the lameness is cured before reintroduction into the flock.
Meanwhile, the sow has been removed from the piglets (easier than the other way round), and they now have access to a new area of fresh ground.
The rain has continued to pour this month, making it very soggy underfoot – for us and the animals.
Geraldine’s recovery is now complete, and she is as good as new.
We have also just added to our breeding ewes with a purchase of two more from a neighbour of ours (pictured – the ewes, not the neighbour!).
One is pure Suffolk as far as we know, and the other we’re not sure about. Both are a little older than ours, but should give us a few good years of service.
After a couple of weeks with the others, the ram will join the ewes in November. In the meantime, the girls all have access to the main field at night, just to give their current paddock a bit of respite.
After some relatively good weather in December and early January, we are just starting to see the real winter hit. Mild but sunny days have finally given way to cold winds, rain, and now some short bursts of hail and snow.
Plenty more to come, no doubt.
We have moved our two pigs into fresh pens, separate ones as Pigalilli (left) is expecting piglets shortly and will need some space to nest. Plenty of bedding in her ark, and some strategically placed bales of hay to keep the draughts out. Cosy!
The ram has settled in and we are confident that the ewes have been ‘served’. Lambs expected in April.