Pastures new

The sheep go off to mow some grass

After the long winter, and somewhat poor start to the spring, we found ourselves with a shortage of grass for the livestock to graze.

Our usual strategy of moving them around between 6 small fields worked for a while, but even topping up with hay left us with barely enough to go around. They were eating it faster than it was growing!

Luckily we heard of someone fairly local to us, that had an acre of grass which they found difficult to cut and keep under control. They were making it available to anyone with animals that could graze it. We jumped at the chance, and as soon as we could, our ewes and lambs were piled into the trailer, and ferried a couple of miles to their new temporary home.

While shepherds watch

Shepherds at work

All of the lambs have now been born, and following some time inside the livestock shed (while the weather was still unpredictable), they have now been moved to their outside residence.

Luckily for us, we also have some ‘lamb monitors’ available to perform regular checks for us. As you can see, they enjoy their work!

Elsewhere, the polytunnel is starting to take shape with good signs of growth, and the grass is finally looking like making an effort. It will need to work harder though, otherwise our hay crop this year will be very poor.

The slow start to the season could make things quite tricky!

Digging a hole for yourself

Working in the polytunnel

Now the weather is starting to improve (the last few days of gales and snow excepted), work has started to prepare for the growing season.

The contents of the polytunnel have been hacked into submission to clear some space, and some initial plantings have begun. Even though the temperature outside of the tunnel has been quite low, the protective layer of polythene does wonders for the inside. Jackets off!

Even daisy gets in on the act by helping the digging effort. Not quite sure what we’ll be planting in that deep hole, but it’s the thought that counts…

A surprise lambing

We discover a couple of new-borns running in the snow

With yet more snow this month, in between the really soggy thawing out periods, the going has been pretty difficult outside. Most of the animals have been moved inside, but we were just a little too late for one of our ewes…

We were feeding all of the animals in the late afternoon as always, and when we got to the sheep we noticed a couple of newborn lambs running about in the snow!

Whilst they looked healthy and dry (their mother had obviously been looking after them), the outdoor conditions were far from ideal. We very quickly moved them into a warm, dry pen (pictured). After a couple of hours, mother and lambs were doing well!

In the meantime, a quick look at our calendar revealed that these lambs were born at the very earliest possible date (taking the time with the ram and the typical gestation period into account), which caught us on the hop!

A roll in the snow

We move the livestock indoors but the dogs enjoy the great outdoors

There is a time for snow, and that time appears to be now!

All of the dogs love it, although today’s depth seems to be at around 18-24 inches in the field, and it does seem to slow them down marginally.

And as Sophie (pictured) says, waste not want not! She can roll about in it all day!

More seriously though, it does make croft life very tricky at times, and feeding the animals is particularly challenging. We have brought all of last year’s lambs inside (the first time ever), and amazingly, we also managed to bring the cows in too!

Pippa and Co have always had a severe aversion to our livestock shed, but after a few false starts and by rattling a bucket of nosh, they were all comfortably in the small enclosure just outside of it. They go in and out of the shed at will (the door doesn’t shut properly because of the snow) which seems to suit them, and we think that gradually they will become less nervous about being there.

Dreaming of a white shepherd

A merry Christmas from one and all

Christmas is almost upon us and as you can see, Daisy is certainly looking forward to it. As are we all.

We get a daily reminder when we go to feed the sheep each morning – our (German) Shepherds definitely like watching their flock!

Merry Christmas to you all, from the Croft.

Eggs-cellent

New layers start laying

As our chickens have seen a few summers now, our egg production has dropped off considerably over the last couple of months. To remedy this, we got some new layers through a neighbour of ours around the middle of October – 8 shiny new pullets.

Although it has taken a little while for them to settle in with their ‘elders’, they are now starting to lay quite regularly despite the long evenings.

We won’t reach the dizzy heights of last year, where we ate so many eggs we were starting to resemble them, but hopefully we won’t go short either. We see a glorious menu of omelettes, cakes, etc ahead. Yummy!

Water world

Daisy settles in and joins the pack

October has brought rain, then some more rain, topped by even more rain!

Much of the croft is quite soggy, and whilst this does add some challenges to the daily feeding and husbandry routine, the dogs absolutely love their new water feature – a huge deep puddle/lake that has formed in the lower corner of the main field (pictured).

Daisy is settling in well, readily testing the boundaries of the other dogs (and us), and is also enjoying regular clicker training sessions. She certainly seems to be intelligent, even if her attention span is understandably short at the moment.

Unfortunately, the wet weather brings downs as well as ups, including the potential for a bout of footrot in our sheep. A regular inspection (including foot trimming, and tagging the lambs) revealed one of our new ewes with a minor case, so she has been temporarily moved into pen for treatment.

At the same time, Olive (this year’s Dexter calf) is avoiding the cattle pen with dexter-ity! Something has obviously spooked her in there, so she runs around the entrance instead of going in like the others do. Slowly, she is coming round though, which is just as well because a vets visit is imminent…

Blooming Daisy

A new pup helps mend our broken hearts

Life has been slowly returning to normal at the croft, after a difficult August.

Two of last year’s lambs have been sent to the abattoir and should be back from the butcher shortly, and we recently acquired some broiler chickens for the pot (one of which has already been sampled!). Apples and plums have been picked, and the grapes are very nearly ready to be harvested too.

Whilst our remaining three GSDs have adjusted to the new ‘structure’ in the pack, we have found it much more difficult to deal with. After considerable thought we finally succumbed, and made a new addition to the household in the shape of a small white GSD puppy called Daisy.

She will never replace Molly or Amy, but her antics have been a real tonic. Her puppy behaviour (polite description) never ceases to amuse, amaze, and even shock us, and it has certainly been a while since we felt the pinch of a small pin-like puppy tooth! It is hard to be sad with a puppy in your presence.

The clicker training has begun, and she is responding nicely (within her short attention span), and once her homeopathic vaccinations are complete, we hope to start introducing her so some of the livestock.

A devastating blow

We lose two of our beautiful girls

Thanks to a welcome gap in the weeks of torrential rain, we had the hay cut early in August. Praying for good weather, we were rewarded with sun and breeze for 6 days, and managed to bale successfully. Nice dry stuff, if a bit loose in the bale strings!

The following day, our friendly neighbour delivered three round bales of straw, and we spent the afternoon re-baling to give us easier to handle square bales. The baler could be stored for another year.

Unfortunately our delight was short lived. Only days after putting the hay in the shed, Molly, one of our GSDs fell ill. We never doubted for one minute that she would be fine, but she continued to deteriorate. After 6 days, we couldn’t hold on to her any longer, and she had to be put to sleep.

Almost at the same time, Amy (another GSD) also became ill with an unrelated problem. Exactly 7 days after losing Molly, Amy went to the vet for exploratory surgery, and we were advised not to revive her.

We are devastated and miss them both very much, and the shock of losing two seemingly healthy dogs is still very real, but life on the croft must go on.

The apples are maturing and will be ready soon, and there is still plenty going on in the polytunnel that demands our attention.

RIP Molly and Amy.