Monday, 23 July 2007

Pedicure for 70, oh dear!!!

One of the hardest jobs we have to do with the sheep is foot trimming, which is done twice a year along with worming.
The photo shows our sheep turner, complete with sheep to model it, which is probably the most useful piece of equipment we have bought over the past years of farming. When we first started we had to physically turn each sheep over, then trim their feet which required leaning over the animal, this was back breaking work and very tiring. I would trim the feet and administer the wormer while the OH restrained the ewe. As the size of our flock increased it became our most dreaded job. At a Sheep show we visited we saw a sheep turner being demonstrated, it seemed to be the answer to one of our most difficult jobs. As these pieces of equipment are quite expensive I decided that I needed to try it first to make sure that it was as easy as it looked. As was always the case 10 or so years ago I would be the only woman asking questions or demanding demos, so it was with some trepidation that I stepped up to the man who was handling the equipment. I could feel all the farmers looking at me as he showed me what to do. I succeded in pushing the sheep into the turner and then pulled the various levers that lock the ewe in position, and then with a bit of effort I managed to swivel the ewe back into the work postion. A small round of applause followed at which I turned a delicate shade of pink.
It was after that demo that we bought our own sheep turner and now cannot imagine having to do 70 or more ewes without it. Admittedly we still have something of a struggle to get some of the bigger ladies in, we really must put them on a diet!!However you can see from the photo that once they are in they are quite calm and it actually makes trimming their feet much quicker for all concerned. At the same time as the pedicure they also receive a routine worming.
However an even worse job that has to be done sometimes is dagging, this involves cutting away "dirty" wool from around their tails. We used to do all the ewes before lambing but as numbers increased it became impossible so only the ones at risk are done now. Dagging is neccessary in Spring to avoid "Fly strike" a very unpleasant problem that can occur before shearing. As I have explained before a particular type of fly lays its eggs in the wool and these turn into maggots which feed on the animal. They can also affect their feet which is one reason why we have to keep them trimmed. Often the first indication of "Fly strike" is when the ewe becomes depressed and stops eating and often moves away from the flock. It can take several weeks of care to get the animal back on form so it is obviously better to avoid the problem if at all possible.
We have noticed over the years that the ewes have become more demanding and are no longer content with a simple pedicure and haircut they now want red nail polish and a blow dry. We think we are too soft with them sometimes, although we have drawn the line at botox and colonic irrigation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lets face it the rams don't care what they look like.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

A Pink Quill, a surprise gift.

I had a lovely surprise last week, a dear friend who had gone back to England for a few days saw this beautiful plant called a Pink Quill [Tillandsia] and thought of me and my efforts at writing, perhaps she hoped it would inspire me. So she bought it back for me. It now has pride of place amongst my virtual sheep. I can see it from my desk[aka the dining table] and it has already inspired this post so it must be working! It is a really amazing plant, the gorgous pink quill has a succession of deep violet small flowers along each side of the quill. The photograph doesn't do the colours justice. Nature never ceases to amaze me with it's truly infinite variety.
Thank you again to my very thoughtful friend.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

In Search of Adam

I have just finished reading the novel by Caroline Smailes. I can honestly say I was blown away by it. I had avoided reading other peoples reviews until I had read it myself as I didn't want to be influenced or have other peoples views of it. I was also a little nervous about what I would do if I didn't think it was good, I think I would have had to keep quiet. But it is good, very good.
It is not an easy read because of the subject, child abuse, but Caroline has an amazing way with words that draw you into the book from the first paragraph and holds you til the last, in spite of some very difficult scenes. You want to fold Jude in your arms and make life better for her, she is as real as your own child and her pain is very hard to bear. This is a very unusual book in its perspective, told from the childs point of view, and with unique use of language which works so well. You never question that it is Jude a small child telling her story. Despite some very harrowing scenes it is never gratuitous and the other characters are very well drawn, you can picture them all, they come alive on the page.
Caroline has achieved a remarquable first novel and I shall look forward with impatience for her next book.

Monday, 2 July 2007

What Daisy did next?

Actually there were lots of FLAWS but the main oversight was the fact that the piglets were not used to coming down into the building and would not follow me under any circumstances, not even for the yummiest of apples!!!!. So the plan failed at the first hurdle. Caroline you were right about it being the piglets but you weren't very specific so no prize for you. And Zinnia would probably have been right aswell if we had got as far as the Oak door!!!!
So that attempt was abandonned, our friends went home pigletless. We never did find out what the two townies intended to do with the huge gloves as they had returned to England before we made another attempt to remove the piglets.
I spent several days coaxing the little dears into the building so that when we tried again they were quite happy to follow me. The rest of the CUNNING PLAN went quite well. The OH had modified the door so that it had a handle he could hang onto and it was wedged against the outer wall of the building so that Daisy was pushing against the wall not just the OH!!!!. The piglets went into the horsebox with a bit of prompting and our friends duly drove off with them all.
Daisy calmed down in a few hours and stopped calling for her little ones. She was happy to eat that evening and two days later we brought our two piglets back and kept them out of earshot as planned.

However it had all been pretty traumatic and we weren't sure if we were prepared to keep animals that could do us considerable harm if they felt like it. At that time we made one of the few big mistakes in our farming life. We decided to get rid of Daisy. If we had thought about it more rationally we would have realised that her behaviour would have improved with time. It had been her first farrowing and she was learning as much as we were. But we didn't give ourselves enough time to reflect and not long after we had taken the piglets away we sold Daisy.
I am sorry to say that she went for slaughter. As I say it was a big mistake. We reared the piglets as planned and had them slaughtered at the farm by our friendly retired butcher.

It was 6 years before we decided to keep pigs again. All our friends were encouraging us because of the truly wonderful taste of home grown pork. So we took the plunge again and made another big mistake but that's another story.

I think it's time to get back to the sheep as I seem to have been neglecting their story. So the next post will be a footy tale!