animal psychology, Hill Farming, Lambing

A Bad Start!

This ewe gives no hint that she is labouring until the last few minutes.  This morning she pushed out a large ram lamb just as I was feeding the others — I could see the lamb moving but by the time I got there things were not looking good — I pulled a great wadge of membranes from his throat but he did not react.  I swung him and pressed rhythmically on his chest.  I blew in his nose.  I even gave him mouth-to-nose ventilation (I really shouldn’t do that) but he was dead.

What a waste!  What a blow!  Fifteen seconds earlier, half a minute perhaps and it would all have been different.

I started to take the dead lamb away and the ewe wailed — I put it down again and thought, I wished she could have a live lamb…  Then I remembered!

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Here she is a few hours later with her new lamb. (Can you spot the deliberate mistake!) He’s wearing a sheepskin overcoat!

Thanks to two neighbours this little orphan lamb now has a healthy young mum with lots of milk and the ewe, well, she is none the wiser.  Her lamb that would not move, nor baa, nor feed, that lay in the pen unresponsive to her pawing was taken away for a moment by the big man who comes in the red truck and the next minute her lamb was right as rain — so right, he has two tails!

A little deception and the application of an old country skill and the dead lamb was skinned and the skin with all its associated love is transferred to the orphan (acquired from the other neighbour) and everyone is happy.

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Pink rinse from being rubbed with placenta and mud from earlier pawing.

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Bereavement, Things my mother did for me

Weeds

Dirt is just stuff in the wrong place. Weeds are just plants in the wrong place. Context is everything.

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My Mum loved me and wanted to please me (I think). She loved gardening and bright cheerful flowers. She filled every available receptacle with colourful annuals – pansies, busy-lizzies, lobelia, alyssum, salvias, verbena, primulas, snap-dragons and begonias (I hate begonias!).

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I love wild places. When we lived together at the end of her life she had a garden and I had a paddock and a wild area. But big lolloping red tulips would pop up mysteriously amongst the wild crocuses in my natural area and brightly coloured primulas appear mysteriously in the hedgerow of the paddock. She was incorrigible! Feral cultivated hyacinths were insinuated into the bluebell wood, people would give them to her and she never could stand their smell in the house (reminded her of incontinence).

After she died we moved to a really wild place where God does nearly all the gardening and where even rhododendrons are banned. But by the kitchen door there is an old sink where I have planted primulas.

Yesterday, when I was feeding the ewes, the sun came out and I noticed the first yellow star of ranunculus on the bank and two dandelions by the shed and they lifted my spirits (we’ve had a difficult few months) and in the sink by the door, peeping out from last year’s leaf litter, like a prayer, are Mum’s primulas, bright and new.

 

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Farm engineering, Hill Farming, Welsh History

Another one bites the dust!

There is an ancient lorry trap where we live.  It used to trap carts but it has never stopped. It is the reason why the old drovers took the high road — some say it is a portal to the underworld.

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It’s dusk now and the ingenuity of the Welsh farmer is bought to play — he always has a few railway sleepers about his person.  The tractor-pull has failed. The two-tractor-pull has failed — the chain has failed, fired like a mediaeval weapon into a field, but on this occasion no one is killed.  Eventually with a little modern help from the biggest jack in the world the sleepers are inserted and the spell is broken.

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What happens here repeatedly is that a right angle bend, on a 1:10 rising to 1:5 hill, arrests the vehicle.  It backs down, thinking it will take the alternate route, the driver turns the wheel clockwise. “Left hand down!” I scream as I hurtle across the field (Alan has told me to do this) but it is all too late.  There is a thud as the heavily loaded grain lorry slumps against the bank.  Sadly,  think our sheep (who have seen it all before) nothing is spilled, carts were much better!

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animal psychology

Change in Management

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If you are conscientious about studying this blog, which I doubt, you might remember that we have two farm cats which, as the taxman knows, control our vermin.  One works, he’s called Midnight, sleek and black, he catches the mice, voles, rats and the odd mole, while the other, Guinness, the fat cat, manages; he is the manager; an agent if you like, he takes a cut of the quarry, and a percentage of the pay — 60%, I think. He’s never gone out much but he coordinates from his office by the fire while Midnight is out in all weathers …  That is until recently.

A little while ago I came down in the morning and stepped over Guinness, sprawled in front of the fire, basking in the heat.  But, hang on a minute, the fire was out.

“Is that cat dead?” said Alan and I’m afraid he was — it was all rather unnerving and sudden, though he had climbed a 15 ft pollarded tree  the previous week-end which was so out of character that Alan had wondered if he might have a bucket-list.

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Perhaps he did.

The amazing thing is the change in Midnight, the worker.  He didn’t go out for three weeks.

“He must be grieving!”

“No he’s not — he’s inherited the territory, the house, the staff, you and me.”  Always a cat of very few words, within weeks he is waking us up, caterwauling at the bedroom door, demanding food, chatting, complaining about the weather, knocking my handbag off the kitchen table if I put it where he now likes to sit —  I don’t know what will happen when the spring comes and all the vermin start to reappear.  Perhaps he’ll advertise for an assistant.

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Ecology, Urban environment

London surprises

The human habitat expands in three dimensions.

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But just the other side of these buses is a tributary of the Thames — the River Wandle, that gives its name to Wandsworth — and look what we have here!

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A cormorant wrestling with a large, live eel which it eventually swallows whole.

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There it goes!

A short walk (for a country person, her daughter and her new grandson) and we are up-river in Barnes, in the wetland reserve that nestles in a meander of the Thames.

“Wake up, Little Grandperson!  Look at these!”

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Otters in their almost natural habitat doing what they do best — exploring!

 

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Climate, Ecology

Barn Owl 2016

 

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Barn Owl 2016

We have ideal Barn Owl habitat (except of course when we accidentally set fire to it!)

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But our climate is not ideal because Barn Owls, who like to hunt at night and are quite picky eaters, cannot fly in torrential rain;  this is a real problem in Wales!  This is the reason we occasionally glimpse one by day; it is not a good sign, it means it is very hungry.

The population is under threat in our area, despite the profusion of nesting sites and voles in our little valley and the hard work of all the volunteers.  However, inspection of our Barn Owl box revealed one Barn Owl feather in 2016 so, as the Owl Man said, we are on their radar so we live in hope.

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Meanwhile we will only meet at Falconry Displays.

 

 

 

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Climate, Natural Beauty

Levels!

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In Winter one becomes more aware of levels, height above sea level, contours and isobars, temperature differentials and of things variable, that change ones view of the world.

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Yesterday from the frosty world of the valley bottom we walked up through layers.

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Through the chill mists that form in the valley like a rising sea level.

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We climbed to where the sun skims the top of the hill to fill the opposite side of the valley with colour,

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and makes silhouettes of the sheep on the horizon.  Then we looked back over the hill tops, bathed in winter sunlight.

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