Hill Farming, Communication, Humour, Doggy, animal psychology

Working dog? Superdog

Here he is!

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Not working!

Is he a Welsh Sheepdog?

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Well, sort of.

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He certainly understands sheep.

He knows when they are ill.

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A caring-dog for any of our lambs that are poorly.

He’s much more than that.

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Intrepid mountain-dog and finder-of-the-way-home-dog.

‘Responsible-adult’-dog.  Always alert, sensor-of-danger-dog.

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Night-hound, watcher-of-your-back-dog.

Ratter, humane catter, licker-up-of-mess-dog.

He’s a parson’s nose disposer.

He’s not a ‘blind-dog’ but he’s a seeing-in-the-dark-dog, a hearing-for-the-relatively-deaf-dog and a sniffer-dog for the finding-something-dead-job.

But most important — he is a remembering-dog.  Working with the terminally forgetful.

If the chickens have not been turned out or the cratches not filled with hay he will fix the farmer with his beady eye (see above) and throw glances at the chicken house or the cratch until the farmer says,”Oh yes, we’d better see to the chickens,” or the hay or the 101 other forgettable chores on our little farm.

spring 2012 209 Pedro

Pedro

 

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Birds, Ecology, Wales

Never Malign the Humble Starling

It could cost you an admirer!

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Starling by John Quine (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 

I once had a very high opinion of a man for whom I worked, in a lofty Victorian hospital with what they now call ‘orangery windows’ in the roof of the long ward on the top floor. One day a bird that had strayed into the ward became trapped, flying up against the glass of one of these windows.  His frantic tweeting was disturbing the ward and distracting the medical students that my boss was trying to teach — it didn’t take much to distract a medical student.  Now, I knew he was an enthusiastic bird-watcher and early tweeter (nothing to do with Twitter — it was long before that).  Perhaps I thought I’d impress him.

“I’ll get the pole and let the bird out!’ I said and went to fetch the thing like a giant boat-hook that opened the sky lights.

“Good idea!” said he.

When I came back, they had moved along the ward, nearer to the bird and could see the flapping, squawking creature more clearly as it threw itself repeatedly against the glass in panic.

“Oh!  It’s only a starling!” said the boss ” Leave it!”

Crash!  There it was, shattered on the ground — not the window — not even the bird — but my shattered illusion — my respect, in shards on the floor of a paeiatric ward in North London.

Later, when the previously wise old patriarch, now demoted to a racist tyrant, was having his coffee, I went back and released the bird.

I remember this because it is the time of the year when flocks of these enterprising and social birds ‘graze’ our fields looking for something, I’m not quite sure what.  They alight (several hundreds of them), making a great stain on the hillside, chattering.

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Then they lift in a swirling cloud and swoop low over the pasture scattering the sheep  who are scared, they are convinced that this murmuration of birds is supernatural. Suddenly the cloud swoops into a tall tree, all talking, so that the Douglas Fir twitters with an invisible din.

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Then they are off again swirling, the ball of birds, tumbling up and down the valley, in and out of the morning mist, like a great ball of the lightest, flightiest, celestial dough, rolled back on itself and kneaded by an invisible force.  A splash of dough lands on the overhead electricity wires, then drips, bird by bird, back onto the grass.

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All the time more and more individuals are joining the throng then, suddenly, they are gone.  All that remains is the throb of a thousand wings as they pass overhead, there is nothing like it — perhaps the sheep are right!

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Starlings by Paul McGreevy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 Have a look at these murmurations: http://essexnaturalist.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/starlings/

 

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Climate, Wales

The Year Rolls On

Unremittingly — can you smell that mintyness that rises from the damp litter of fallen leaves?

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We’ve enjoyed a long and beautiful Autumn.  The beech woods have been aflame and the more sober oaks have held on to their russet leaves until just a few days ago.

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But now suddenly, in one night, everything is changed!

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The sky has cleared and the temperature has plummeted.  At night the stars in our black night are stunning and the all-day frost in the hill’s shade makes the morning seem moonlit. You can see the cold and smell the cleanness of the air (and stub your toe on a frozen mole hill).

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As the low winter sun peeps over the hill and stretches over the ground, where it touches it brings back life and colour.

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Brexit

From the other side of silence

I’ve been silent for two months — hard for my friends to believe.  There are some rules I try to keep when blogging — such as not ranting about politics and not rabbiting on about the wonders of grand-children or the achievements of our children.

For 2 months, since the build up to our European Union Referendum in the United Kingdom, I have been preoccupied, riveted by events, all of which would contravene my rules of engagement if I were to write about them!

First, we are in the midst of a mini baby-boom, an echo of the post-war bulge and we have been dashing about inspecting the bumps and the newborn.

Secondly, we have been glued to the telly screen by interesting arguments, political turmoil, resignations, general jiggery-pokery, conspiracy (I’m always prone to favour that explanation over any other), treachery and selfless falling upon swords.  The voting habits of the whole country have divided according to completely new criteria — age, education, region (metropolitan vs. bumpkin) and national identity.  Brother, not against brother, but against father in a worrying resurgence of ageism as petulant democrats blame all the old people for voting Leave!

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COOL ‘N’ THE GANG by ALL CHROME (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 

This has all been most diverting from our personal position of reality (because everyday things here are actually happening and are much the same) with our feet firmly planted in mud and with lambs to feed and eggs to collect, somewhere to grow potatoes and a real product to sell (albeit in very small quantities).

Friends and relatives in the metropolis don’t seem to be enjoying the general upheaval  (the jolly good shake-up) half as much as we are (it’s just all so interesting).

Local people are suddenly politicised and pub-talk is most revealing.  Wales, particularly rural-Wales, voted resoundingly to leave the EU.  Welsh farmers, on paper, would seem to have more to lose from Brexit than almost any other group (their subsidies come from the EU) but I have yet to come across one who voted Remain — that must tell you something about the direct experience of how the whole thing works.  Perhaps, at last, they feel more British then European.  Or maybe, like us, it’s the realism in their industry (the mud) that protects them from the projected horrors of Brexit.

Then, as we wonder if our concerns about security might have been exaggerated, we are bombarded with horrendous news of terrorist attacks in Europe.

And now there is the US to worry about, you see we don’t have our feet on the ground there. All we have is what we are told on the media and we know that alarm and panic stories are what promote journalists.  At least that is what we hope!

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Ecology, Wales

Miracle!

It’s a miracle and like the birth of a baby (or a lamb) it brings tears to your eyes;  one day the twigs on the oak trees look strangely spikey, the buds at their tips are swelling and beginning to crack open, furled leaf points are starting to show.  There is heavy rain over night and, next morning — like a magicians bunch of trick flowers — every bud is open and every leaf-vein filled with sap and suddenly, where a lattice of branches divided up the open sky, our woods are a solid mass of billowing green.

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Say goodbye to the shamrocks, engulfed in woodland shade; they’ll soon be overtaken by the grasses, ferns and brackens, all scrambling towards the remains of the light.

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But first — enjoy the bluebells!

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The spring comes late in the Cambrian Hills but when it does it’s explosive!

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Babies, Farm engineering, Trecking

Off-road baby buggy

My daughter has got a four-wheel-drive, all terrain baby buggy with off-road tyres.  It’s probably got floatation bags and an electric winch.  When you fold it up and put it in the car (hopefully you have retained all your digits) it can transfer all its mud to the other items of the boot — the travelling cot — the bags for life — the steriliser and all the indispensable baby paraphernalia.

The alternative is to attack it with baby wipes or to run it through the sea or a river ford — then it makes everything wet.

So here’s a thought:

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This is the de-lux model but a cardboard box will do

 

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animal psychology, Hill Farming, Sheep

Predator!

Wolf alert — Mid-Wales

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Well– not quite.  But it gave us quite a turn.

I was innocently photographing lambs at play when they yelled ‘Wolf!’ and hurtled towards me in panic.

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Don’t panic!

I didn’t believe them but have a closer look at the photograph

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Can you see it?

It is, in fact, a very well behaved cousin of wolf, the DNA is unmistakable even to a two week old lamb — they and their mothers cleared the paddock near the road in seconds — I didn’t even know they had a major evacuation plan.

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They don’t like big cats either, or little ones — there is something about their shape that is hard wired into their perception of danger.  It’s a shame because Midnight, one of our farm cats, likes to walk around with me.

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He takes an interest in sheep

But they will not tolerate him anywhere near when they are about to have their lambs!

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 Clear off!

 

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