Lamb-a-lot

Sleepless nights are catching up with us

It’s that time of year again when we walk around like zombies for a month or so – lambing!  We began in early Feb and expect to keep going until mid March.

Each night, we take turns in checking the ewes every two hours.  These days it’s much easier than it used to be. Thanks to the CCTV cameras in the lambing shed we no longer have to trek down there in our PJ’s in the middle of the night, but it still takes its toll.

Every year we try to improve our procedures and this year we attended a talk by our local vets practice where we learnt how we can make some improvements.  There were also free stovies on offer after the lecture, and since we don’t get out much this was a strong inducement!

This year we only have a small flock of ewes as we sent all the troublesome ones to the mart in November.  We were hoping to have wiped out the cases of entropian (turned in eyelids) but have had two born already with this genetic condition.  They have to be injected with penicillin in the lid to puff it out and stop in rubbing on the eyeball.  A very unpleasant job.

We have had one set of triplets, first time in years, but sadly the mother is poorly so we have been nursing her and bottle feeding her lambs to take some of the pressure off.

Our biggest problem is knowing the exact date each ewe will lamb.  With the help of the scan man, we can make a good guess but sometimes this can be weeks out.  Next year it is our intention to fit the tup with a raddle ( a harness with a marking device) so that when he’s done the deed, it will leave a mark on the back of the ewe).  That way we will have a more accurate prospective lambing date.

Until that time, it’s constant watching and broken sleep!

Target Training with Daisy

We try Target Training with Daisy

In this session, we introduce Daisy to the Treat and Train (briefly) and concentrate on some basic Target Training. The Treat and Train isn’t really necessary for this, but we had it on hand. A clicker and treats would be every bit as effective.

In target training, you are teaching your dog to touch a target of your choosing – in this case a target stick – which you can then use to direct or lure them during future training situations.  Once your dog touches the target reliably, you can position that target wherever you want your dog to go.

The interesting thing about this session is how Daisy swings between good ‘touches’, and behaving as though she’s never seen the target stick before, only seconds apart.  This isn’t uncommon, and the key as always is consistency.  We are rewarded at the end when, after a pause, she realises what she needs to do and touches beautifully.  You can almost see the mental cogs turning…

See how she got on…

Archie meets the Treat and Train

We try Archie with the Treat and Train Remote Dog Trainer for the first time.

We recently introduced Archie to the Treat and Train, a treat dispensing device that can work at a distance by remote control.  Although it works up to 30 metres away, we stayed at close quarters during this session in order to aclimatise Archie with the machine.

It works on the same principle as clicker training, where the first step is to click and treat your dog ‘unprompted’ to cement the connection between the clicking sound and the treat/reward.  This link between the click and the treat is paramount to the success of clicker training, and so it is with the Treat and Train.  The only difference is that the Treat and Train beeps rather than clicks, but that’s a minor point provided you follow the same preliminary steps.

Archie does like to play games like this, so after a while we moved on to some basic targeting with a target stick. It isn’t advisable to move on too quickly in a session, and in most circumstances we would have left it with the Treat and Train only (ending on an high point), but he was happy enough to have a go.

See how we got on…

Daisy and the HyperDog Ball Launcher

Daisy enjoys a workout with the HyperDog Ball Launcher!

It’s no secret that Daisy likes toys she can chase, so we gave her a try with a HyperDog Bal Launcher from Hyper Pet.

Unlike more conventional tennis ball launchers that you swing in an overarm fashion, the HyperPet launchers work more like a catapult. You place the ball in a ‘sling’, pull back on the strong elastic, and let go (of the ball end)…

We used a Single Ball Launcher, but a larger, 4 Ball arrangent is also available.  It has the same sling and elastic, but there is space underneath to carry 4 HyperDog tennis balls, and it also has a support that sits over your arm for stability.

Daisy had a fantastic time, as you can see below!

Finnegan

We say goodbye to the Big G

At the beginning of January, we were devastated when we lost our beloved Fin.  The Big Ginger, as he was affectionately known, has left a huge hole in our lives.  He had many conditions and a lot of our time was taken up with caring for him.  However, despite all his various illnesses, he was a happy boy and still enjoyed a walk, albeit slowly, around the park, feasting on sheep poo when he got a chance.  He also adored the snow and would gulp huge mouthfuls of it, at every opportunity.

He must have been at least 15 years old.  We adopted him in 2003 when we were told he was around 2.  We got him from Vigil German Shepherd Rescue in Surrey, after being sent his picture (above left) to post on our website.  We couldn’t resist him, and after a brief introduction, took him home.

Fin wasn’t always the easiest dog, he never got along with our other rescue Blitz but he was such a character.  Sometimes, when there was a full moon, he would throw his head back and howl like a wolf.

He is so sorely missed, but we are thankful to have had so many years with him, and he will always be in our hearts.

Sleep tight Big G.

Archie vs the Fabric Treat Ball

Archie helps himself to a Fun With Fido Fabric Treat Dispensing Ball

We received a fresh delivery of Fun With Fido Fabric Treat Balls just last week, and as we were checking them into stock, Archie decided to do some ‘stock taking’ of his own and helped himself to one!

He does favour toys he can carry, and the plush fabric of the Fun With Fido treat toys obviously made them irresistable.

Since he was so enthusiastic, we showed him how to use it. See how we got on below…

Red sky in the morning

Sunrise over the croft

The weather has been very odd for this time of year.  November began very warm, we were walking around outside in short sleeved t-shirts.  Then there was a cold spell, with a spot of snow, but now it’s warm once again.  So warm in fact that we have roses in bloom!

It’s been a busy month.  The sheep were shipped off to the mart, including the bullying tup and it’s a relief to be able to walk in the fields again without fear of being butted!  We got a decent amount for them, despite dire warnings of low prices.

Two of the goats have visited a billy and appear to be in kid, due next April.

The chickens too, can walk about without worrying about attack, as the cat was humanely captured in a fiendishly clever trap and taken in by a local animal sanctuary for rehoming.

Our Chistmas preparations are nearing completion.  With the installation of the new Rayburn, it was necessary to redecorate the whole kitchen which has been a nightmare of a job.  The last time any work was done in there, was the 1970’s!  It’s just about ready, in time for our family to arrive for the festive season.  At least the house will be warm this year and we won’t have to wear woolly hats and scarves indoors.

The tree has been cut, which was rather nervewracking as it was 40ft tall and we only wanted the last 8ft!

We plan a quiet day with plenty of good food and board games, topped off with the Downton Christmas special!

Here’s hoping that you all have a wonderful stress free Noel and best wishes for the New Year.

Killer cat?

Yet another cat appears at the croft

Over the years we have had around 5 cats move in.  We don’t dislike cats, in fact we would welcome one into the home, but for the dogs.  Living in a rural environment, we are plagued with mice, so a nice mouser would be just the thing.

We have no idea where the cats have come from.  It could be that they have been dumped here (we once had a goose dumped in the yard too).  Or perhaps they drift here on their own, although we are quite a way from civilisation.

Some cats have disappeared after a while, whilst others we have captured and taken to a rescue.

The latest one turned up in October and has been living in the hay shed.  It doesn’t seem particularly friendly but it hasn’t hissed at us either.

Whilst milking the goats the other evening, we heard a huge kerfuffle coming from the chicken shed.  It was pitch black outside but their door was still open.  On investigation, we couldn’t see anything likely to be upsetting them.

A day or two later we went out to tuck them in for the night, and discovered the cat feasting on a dead chicken.  The chicken’s body was still warm, so either the cat appeared just as it died, or more likely, it killed the bird. Since then, our chicken numbers have been slowly decreasing.

Sadly, the cat will have to go.  We will entice it into a cage with some food and then take it to a local cat rescue, where they can find a more appropriate home for it.  Maybe somewhere it can get a chicken dinner served in a dish!

 

Stock control

Selecting beasts for the market

It’s getting to that time of year when we will be sending the lambs off to the mart.  Not all of them will go – some of them are just too small and will bring down the prices of the larger beasts – but most will.

We will also sending some of the older ewes, particularly if they have made a poor show in lambing.  For instance, one ewe produced just a single large lamb this year, which had to be euthanised by the vet as he wouldn’t have survived more than a day or two.

We also have a couple of ewes who have produced lambs with Entropian (inward turning eyelids). Although this is a minor condition that can be treated by injecting the eyelids, it isn’t pleasant for us or the lambs, and we would prefer not to proliferate it.  This year we have decided to be a little more disciplined and remove these ewes from our flock.

However, our ruthlessness only goes so far.  We have two older ewes that are way past their prime, but they will remain with us for the rest of their lives.  One is Geraldine (front right in the picture).  She was one of our first ever sheep and is such a character, although she has been in the wars more times than we care to mention.  The other is Agnes, who may also be over the hill, but remains very special to us for one reason or another.

This year, we have been using a new tup, and he has proved to be very challenging.  Hand reared by his previous owners he has no fear of humans. Quite the opposite in fact, and we have had to watch our backs constantly when in fhe paddock with him.  Given the chance he is more than happy to charge in and butt us, and we have resorted to carrying a bag of straw with us to help absorb the impact!

We won’t keep him on for another year and it’s one beast we will be glad to be rid of.

Who gives a fig?

When you can eat the figs, prune the fig trees

This year has just flown by and we are sad to admit that we haven’t done any work at all in the polytunnel, there have been so many other things demanding our time and attention.

However, even our lack of effort has not prevented it from producing.

In the spring we had bunches of wild garlic, perfect for pesto, salads and making a cheese omelette just a little bit more exciting.

Then there was the rocket, which grew in abundance and was just as delicious in all of the above situations.

Potatoes popped up here and there.  Sage, rosemary, lemon balm and even lavendar were plentiful.

Even the grapes have produced a harvest, although smaller than usual.

But, the star of the show must be the fig tree.  Every year this has been tended lovingly, watered and cared for.  We have had the odd fig or two but most of them have never bothered to ripen, falling off in the winter months.

This year, after being completely left  to its own devices, it has produced dozens of plump looking figs which are just now beginning to ripen and we are picking them before they burst open.

According to an ancient saying “when you can eat the figs, prune the fig trees”, so maybe that’s a hint for us to get on with it!