A calf is born

Pippa finally delivers our first calf

Thankfully, after several weeks of waiting, Pippa finally gave birth to a bull calf on November 14th without any help from anyone.

Despite the chill in the weather, mother and calf continue to do well, albeit we are still keeping a good arm’s length away for the safety of everyone concerned.

We are also confident that our sow is in pig to our boar, and have just collected our ram lamb. He appears to be pleased with his new harem, and we sincerely hope he is as fertile as his predecessor! Only time will tell.

Plenty more work to do though. The polytunnel needs tidying, and the fruit garden is more weed than fruit bush at the moment. Fun times ahead…

Awaiting a new arrival

The weather proves a challenge whilst we await the birth of our first calf

The weather has certainly changed for us up here. No more sun for the last 2 or 3 weeks, but plenty of rain and some quite strong gales. We’ve had a relatively dry year all in all, but the result of that seems to be that the ground surface is quite hard and the torrential rain we are getting now has nowhere to go!

We’re also still waiting for Pippa, our Dexter cow, to give birth to her calf. It would have been nice for that to happen when everything was dry but that’s obviously not how it’s going to be. Still, provided we remain vigilant everything will be fine.

Our ewes are currently paddocked without so much grass at the moment, so they can thin up a little in time for the ram to arrive. Judging by our results last year this probably isn’t necessary, but we don’t want any complications.

A brief update

Busy times here on the croft

What with lambing, baling hay and planting crop, we haven’t had a lot of time to spare to write these updates (hence the time gap!). We have recently tasted the sweetest ever pork from our home reared pigs and the dogs were pleased to be presented with the trotters!

Serious snow

The snow challenges us but the dogs love it

Well, we don’t know about the weather where you are, but we’ve had some pretty serious snow up here in the northeast of Scotland over the last month.

The good news is that the dogs have absolutely LOVED it. They have been running and rolling about in the field going absolutely mad, and without coming in all covered in mud.

The bad news has been the effect it has had on our other animals. Thankfully we’ve muddled through without any really serious problems, but ensuring the wellbeing of our livestock was pretty challenging at times. Even the simple tasks like feeding and watering became a marathon when wading through 3 feet of snow in each direction!

Still, although we’ve continued to have a few short snow showers, things are looking up weather wise and with the dawn of spring we’re working hard in the polytunnel to ensure our crop of vegetables this year. We also have plans to plant an orchard/fruit garden as soon as the ground dries out a little. Hopefully soon…

Racing Amy

Amy, almost back to her old self after her surgery

Our piglets have grown quite a bit since our last update, and they are all weaned and living together without their mothers. Both the piglets AND their mothers recovered from the separation pretty quickly it seems – just one bucket of swill and it was all over. Most of the piglets will be sold but we’ll be keeping a couple for ourselves. We have also been asked to raise one or two by other people who love home reared pork but don’t have space. An ideal solution!

We’re also pleased to report that Amy is doing well after her cruciate ligament surgery and despite a few complications we’re told by the specialist that she should make a pretty full recovery. She certainly seems to have got her enthusiasm back, and it’s a struggle to keep her exercising calmly.

Even more pigs!

More piglets, but this time we are prepared

Well, since our last newsletter we’ve had some more new arrivals – another 12 piglets from our second expectant mother.

We are pleased to say that this birth was a lot more straightforward than our first one, not least because our first experience gave us a clue as to what we could expect. We also had the opportunity to segregate ‘mother’ from the others in advance of the labour this time, so she was much more comfortable and settled. In fact, it all took place overnight without any interference from us!

On a slightly more unpleasant note, one of our GSDs, Amy, is recovering from an operation to repair/reinforce a partially ruptured crutiate ligament 3 weeks ago. As you can imagine, the leg has been very tender and as a sensitive little thing she has found it quite stressful. The good news is that she is recovering well and is much more comfortable, and in line with our natural approach to feeding, we are using homeopathic treatment wherever possible. We’ve also become quite adept at packing parcels with her laying at our feet all day with her buster collar on. Quite tricky!

More pigs

An abrupt introduction to pig breeding

One of our pigs became the mother of 6 tiny piglets last week, and it has interrupted our schedule rather rudely. After an interesting start where we had to collect the new arrivals in a box for an hour or two while piggy settled down a bit, mother and babies are now doing very well. We hope to be back our regular timetable for December.

Well, the clocks have recently gone back, and we don’t know about you but we found the adjustment to darker evenings and marginally lighter mornings quite hard. We still have plenty to do outside – new pig arks and animal shelters to build, fences to complete, roofs to make watertight – but with at least one hour less of useful daylight than we had a few weeks ago.

Also, according to our pigs and birds nothing had changed and it was important to adjust the feeding regime slowly so as not to cause them unnecessary stress. The same can be said for our dogs, and we’re sure yours were the same. Where we used to feed them at 6pm, it had to be 5pm for a while or they would start to speak to us! Slow adjustment saved our eardrums a little.

Perhaps more noticeable is the fact that when we’re out in the early evening now, our dogs ‘disappear’. If it wasn’t for an assortment of blinkers, strobes, and lighted collars (a different one for each dog so we know who’s who!) we wouldn’t know where they were.

Pigging out

Our first pig goes off to slaughter but leaves something for us to remember him by

We hope you are all well, and that the slight turn toward colder weather isn’t too off-putting for you or your dogs. We’ve certainly noticed a few changes up here, not least that the egg supply from our chickens has dipped somewhat. Nevertheless, it is certainly easier to get the birds away in the evenings and we can do so at a reasonable hour!

Since our last newsletter, we’ve been busy as usual. One of our first pigs was sent to slaughter a few weeks ago, and now resides in the freezer. Sad though it was, he lived far longer than most pigs reared for the purpose and he had a happy time with us (and his 3 girlfriends). His memory will live on in the shape of several Tamworth/Gloucester Old Spot piglets we are expecting sometime in November.

Time for baling!

We get to grips with baling thanks to a little help from our neighbours

We’ve been quite busy outside. We were lucky enough to get a week without too much rain and got our hay baled a couple of weeks ago. Wow, was that hard work?

One neighbour baled, another watched, another lent us his tractor and cart. Quite a circus! After about 9 hours, a gallon of diesel, and with arms dragging along the ground, we finally deposited the 428th bale in the barn. Ouch, ouch, and thrice ouch!

Since then another paddock has been fenced, and gates are next on the agenda so that the expected inhabitants (piglets from our Gloucester Old Spot) can move in.