The Owl and The Pussy Cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea In a beautiful 'red and white'(!) boat, They took some honey, and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, And sang to a small guitar, 'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love, What a beautiful Pussy you are, You are, You are!What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Edward Lear

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Been at the farm too long now!

I haven't written for a few days. I think that by day seven it was all becoming routine and I wasn't excited about it anymore. As I mentioned, I also got busy with a bit of gardening, visiting West Town Farm, visiting my auntie, singing friday night, and cooking a meal for a few friends on Saturday night. I'll try and do a bit more farming stuff here, but I think I'll have to mostly use pen and paper from now on as typing is just too tedious!
Things are quieting down a bit on the farm now. Only about 6 suffolks to turn out today and son and farm lad loading mules out of pens and ferrying them away, then on with my usual pen bedding/watering/haying. Farmer was at market again today, so the three of us were kind of running the show together. It's quite entertaining to watch the dynamice, because technically son has the most authourity, but he's not really involved with the sheep a lot, so he's trying to organise us to get various jobs done but needs to also check with lad and I what needs doing. They also need the quad bike for various jobs so today I get to tell them where I want bales of hay and straw and they do it for me, so no bale wrestling for me today, well, not as much as usual anyway. When I've finished pens the lad and I go out to the 'singles field' (the one that's full of ewes with one lamb) to drive down the mules with their lambs and leave the suffolks. We do a much better job of it than last time we had to do it. Mind you there are a lot less sheep to move, so that may have made it easier.
Then we go off to round up newborn lambs. The weather has been so fantastic this year that the mules have all been left to lamb outside and have only been brought in if there is a problem or if it's a triplet. This morning son and lad went to check the mules and found five lambs scattered about and four ewes milling about not sure which one was theirs. It's quite common for a ewe about to lamb in the next hour or so to suddenly become very interested in newborn lambs, and some ewes will try and claim any lambs in the vicinity. If the mother of the fresh lamb is involved in having the next one she might not notice baby number one being stolen. Ewes lambing in close proximity to each other will also just generally get lambs mixed up. This morning they had spread the ewes and lambs a bit furthur apart in the field and hoped they got the right lambs with the right ewes. They seemed to have all settled down, nicely spaced out around the field with two lambs each,so our job was to load them in the trailer a ewe and two lambs at a time and ferry them across to anothet field. Some ewes, particularly older ones will run up the ramp into the trailer after their lambs. Younger ewes are much more suspicious and, if they can't be coaxed and cajouled up into the trailer have to be grabbed and manhandled into the trailer. I tend to avoid this if at all possible as at 48 I find wrestling with a large mule jolly hard work! Farm lad is 16, young and keen and happy to wrestle a mule almost as big as he is (he's a stocky lad but not very tall) into the trailer. I stand by, pop the lambs in and shut the trailer ramp. We load and ferry about 5 or 6 ewes and leave the triplet untill last as she will go back to the farm with us and into the shed. When we go back to collect the second to last double she has decided that she'd quite like a third lamb and is milling about by the triplet, enticing one away. Fourtunately the triplets are so fresh that they are all still wet, and the double has dry lambs, so it's easy for us to separate them. Had they both had wet or dry lambs we might have had trouble sorting out the muddle.
I didn't have a camera today, but here is a picture taken yesterday of some of the lambs born two weeks ago. I had a look for 23 but couldn't see her. That's no. 5 on the left so these are pretty much the same age.
They'll be lamb chops in no time, yum yum!

More farm pictures

Life got in the way of me writing up days eight nine and ten!, but I did manage to take some pictures yesterday.
 Here's a little hay rack theme
This ones a freezer basket, and the pen partition it's nailed on to is an old door (cute lamb in the corner there too) These aren't great hay racks as the ewes often pull the hay out over the top, eat some and trample on the rest.
 This one is weldmesh and is in my favourite pens which are built of really chunky oak and rusty corrugated tin
 This is a proper 'brought from a shop' one, and so is the hurdle it's hanging on. I think there are about 6 of these racks on the farm (for 500 ewes!)
 .. and finally another piece of weldmesh nailed to another old door.
Actually these are very effective, quick and easy to fill and waste little if any hay. Oh yes, and of course the obligatory bits of baler string.
 This may look like a normal ewe (below) but, apart from the fact that one of the lambs is a bit small she won't let one of the lambs feed. This happens now and then, there are probably 4 or 5 on the the farm at the moment who are being difficult like this. In this case she has been left in the pen and someone has to hold her still while the lamb sucks. After a while she and the lamb get used to the routine and she will stand still while someone is nearby, hence I was able to back off and take this picture. After a few days, when the lamb is stronger and able to put up more of a fight and the ewe has got used to the idea of letting it suck she may accept it. If she's particularly difficult she will be put in the 'adaptor'. I'm not sure why it's called that, because really it's an 'adopter.
 here are two ewes in the adaptor. The one on the right has a harness on because she had a prolapse after her dead lamb was pulled out. she seems to be doing ok.
 and here's a close up. The main reason ewes are put in these is because they don't have a lamb for some reason and they are having lambs fostered onto them.

There is no way most ewes will allow a lamb that is not her own to suckle from her. The ewes are restrained and unable to move about or see the lambs. They have food and water and can lie down and stand up. Once the lambs have sucked for a few days they take on the smell of the ewe and she will accept it as hers. Amazingly this works in nearly all cases.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Day seven

Lambing is definitely speeding up now. I had about 15 to turn out this morning. Farm lad is collecting up freshly born lambs with their mothers from the fields and filling the pens as fast as I empty them. I have a new problem with my turn outs today. A couple of ewes are the spooky run about kind and won't follow the lambs, so i resort to driving them along with one lamb. But today the lambs don't want to follow they just want to stand there shouting and not moving. So I pick up lamb 1 and put down lamb 2 to see if he'll run, but he won't, so I wave my arms, clap and shout in an attempt to scare the lambs and make them run after their mothers, it doesn't work. The lambs just stand there bleating and looking pitiful. I try gently moving them along with my toe (!). I can't even remember how I finally got the dratted creatures out into the field, but it was some subtle blend of cajoling and coaxing and a bit of brute force and lots of baaing. I used to be a bit self conscious about making baaing noises, now I do it all the time and it is very effective. I have worked out that ewes have 3 primary ways of locating and identifying their young. First comes sound. If they cant see their lamb nearby they will run towards anything making a bleating noise. It can be another lamb, another sheep or a human being making a noise something like a sheep, they are completely indiscriminate about noises. They will often, but not always run towards a noise even if they can't see anything lamb like. Some ewes will stand and shout and expect the lambs to come to her. The second sense is sight. They will run more enthusiastically towards a bleating noise if there is something lamb shaped in the same direction. Once they are close enough then smell comes into play. they will sniff a lamb and if it doesn't smell right they will reject it. They have no compassion at all for a hungry lamb that doesn't smell right. if it's not their own lamb they will simply abandon it, even going so far as to butt it away.

It's now Thursday morning and I've run out of time again, so here quickly are some pictures from Wednesday.
This is the main hay and straw barn. It's fun getting bales down from the top, a bit like soft rock climbing.
 This is my least favourite shed. It's the old shippon where cows used to be kept. it's dark and doubles up as a dog kennel, so it smells horrible!
 here's the quad bike and trailer with two mules and their lambs just about ti be turned out
 and finally, here's a very freshly born lamb. It literally slithered out, back feet first as I approached with the bike. I then bundled them all in the trailer and took them into the shed.
Off to work again now....

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Our new baby

So, a bit of non sheep news

 a baby person/dog/cat?

No, ............................

A baby boat!

 And here is her lovely bottom!

We got her for free, so we are thinking of naming her 'Charity' (the boat's called Hope, get it ha ha?!)

Sixth day

Tuesday started fairly normally. Farmers wife walked across the yard towards me holding a lamb and gave me instructions to turn out all the Suffolks into the 'lower side the lane'. I knew where she meant, but I don't always. All the fields have names, and with several people working on a farm and sheep being separated into different groups it's easy to see why fields develop names. It can get tiresome saying the second field along the track on the left, and is much easier to say big field/two acres/three corners or whatever the field name is. Because I only work on the farm for a few weeks a year I don't always remember the names of the fields, so sometimes they do have to tediously explain which field they mean.
I turned out about 10 ewes. Only two followed well, the rest had do be driven along the track with a lamb tottering along behind, but none were as difficult as Mondays ewe thank goodness. One of the reasons these ewes are more difficult is that they are relatively young ewes. I think this is only their second or third lambing, so being in small pens and in such close proximity to people is still quite stressful for them. In a few more years they will relax into it and be a bit easier. Mind you they are a LOT easier now than in the first year they lamb. The first year is utter chaos with many of them doing standing jumps out of pens with sides up to 3 or 4 feet high. There is no chance of them following lambs so they all have to either be loaded into trailers or driven as a group (more about that later!) of ewes and lambs together.
Below is one of the young ewes. I have been calling them Suffolks, but actually they are Mule/Suffolk crosses.  This one has a few white patches on her face which she got from the mule. A pure Suffolk would have a jet black face and a more prominent roman nose.
The farmer bred these himself a few years ago, and if you look closely you can see she has a notch out of the bottom edge of her right ear (left side as you look at her). I can remember the farmer notching the ears of all the nice strong ewe lambs that were twins. I can also remember helping him put ear tags in them when they were old enough to be separated from their mothers and brought into the flock as replacements. I like this feeling of continuity I get when I notice things like this. The yellow tag on the right (her left ear) is one of the new electronic ear tags.

I then got on with doing the pens which is easier when some are empty, but was called away half way through to help the farm lad (who only left school last year) separate the singles out. As I said before the singles are left out in the field. But when there are enough of them, usually a trailer load, they are separated out. This is possible because ewes with small lambs will stay by their lambs, and ewes without lambs will run away to the other side of the field. Obviously it's not quite that simple, and some with big lambs will run with the crowd, and some without lambs will insist on breaking away. So, with much running about and shouting and waving arms at sheep and shouting at the dog we finally separated them.
When herded sheep will normally just stick together in one neat bunch and run at high speed away from people, dogs etc. It doesn't work quite like that with ewes with small lambs. Someone once commented that it's like herding cats. A lot of ewes are intent on simply staying with their lambs rather than running. The lambs are mainly intent on staying next to anything that looks like a sheep and can't differentiate between one ewe and another, or a human. Also, if the badly behaved dog insists on trying to round them up then  ewes will simply stand to face the dog, guarding their lamb and stamping their feet.
After some time we got a dozen ewes and lambs across the field and down the track. The farm lad was rather fed up with sheep by the end!
And I've had enough of typing now. I looked out for the dead lambs/prolapsed ewe but I'm afraid she was lying next to the other dead one in the yard, so obviously didn't last long.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

My fifth day, getting busyer

I treat myself to a late start on Sundays. I don't start work until 9 (I normally start at 8.30) there is no one around so I get on with the usual pens stuff first thing. The farmer and wife come back from moving kale fencing and I have lots of Suffolks to turn out. After Fridays successful turn out today is more difficult. The first few are easy-ish, then I make the mistake of walking out of the lambing shed with two lambs and a ewe in hot pursuit just as the farmer is feeding the not-yet-lambed ewes. Feeding time is bedlam with ewes bleating madly and fighting for a place at the trough, and usually abandoning lambs if they are more than a day old, which then leaves lambs bleating madly once the ewes have their heads in the troughs. My ewe, who has only been out of the lambing pens a few days, runs of towards the feeding ewes and completely forgets about her lambs. I put one lamb down and herd her back to it with some difficulty. I then try and herd her and the lamb up the drive, away from the still bleating/feeding ewes. She doesn't want to go that way and hurtles past me and off again in the wrong direction. I put the other lamb down and go after her. She dives down into a sheep race the other side of the pens. The farmer is now on the case with me, we get her back with her lambs who are by now just tottering about bleating at anything that moves and might be a mother. She goes a short way down the track and then dives back past both of us at top speed and down the race again. Things are not going well. We herd her back along the track and eventually the farmer grabs her and we bodily drag her along the track, put the lambs with her and shut a gate. She is almost half way to the field gate which is only about 200 yards from the shed and I am exhausted and it's only 10 o'clock. I think I've learnt another lesson about turning out ewes. Don't do it at feeding time! I have one more to turn out. She's very well behaved, and once I've walked past the difficult one (shutting the gate first) the difficult one finally heads towards the field with the moral support of another sheep.
Back to doing pens. Earlier this morning I'd noticed a ewe with a bloody bottom looking unhappy. I'm told she's been smelling really bad and they think she has dead lambs inside her. The farmers wife is now groping around inside her and fixing ropes to the lambs head and front feet. When a ewe is about to lamb and is having problems it's possible to put an arm right inside and have a feel about for heads, feet etc. If a lamb is alive it will twitch and move. It's obvious that this one is dead from the appalling smell. The farmers wife then spends the next half an hour or more hauling with all her might in these ropes, with a foot on the ewes rump to get the dead lamb out. It's not going well, farmers wife is looking tires and stressed and there is a bit of swearing going on. Eventually she does get the lamb out, I have to move on to another shed so I didn't find out if there were two lambs in there.

This of course is the not-so-nice side of farming. At the moment I've only noticed one dead ewe lying in the farmyard, by the end of this batch of lambing there will probably be a few more, to be bundled into the bucket on the tractor and taken to the crematorium. Farmers are no longer allowed to bury dead animals, they have to pay to have them disposed of, so dead animals are a double loss. Dead lambs are bagged up and charged by the bagful.
Meanwhile, back bedding, haying and watering pens there are a couple of lambs skipping and hopping around their pen, which cheers me up. When I get to my favourite pens the sun comes out and life feels good again. I am then summoned to help herd up two lots of ewes and lambs who are being loaded up into a trailer and takes to other farms several miles away to grow some more. Sometimes I've finished pens by coffee time on a Sunday, but it's busy today, so we all go in for coffee and discuss what needs doing next. I have pens to finish still and the 'still to lamb' pens need bedding. While I'm doing this I notice that the ewe who's had the dead lamb(s) pulled out has now prolapsed, things are definitely not looking good for her.
Just as I think I might be time to go I get to move some electric fencing in a nearby kale fields with the son, so off we go across a couple of fields in the landrover, disconnect the batteries, move the fence, straighten it all up, and I pull up a couple of turnips for our supper!. Just a couple of bags of pellets in the creep feeders for the lambs and back to the farmyard. The farmer passes me on the quad and jokes about me stealing turnips (well I'm pretty sure he's joking, he's not big on jokes normally) tells me the round ones are tastier than the oblong ones and cheerily says 'see you tomorrow'.
When I've had a rest I set to chopping veg. Local potatoes, turnips from the farm (the purple oblong one is all woody inside!) and parsnips from a friend. All snuggled in amongst the nicely browned venison with water, herbs, salt and pepper, and now I can potter and play with whatever takes my fancy.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

A quiet fourth day and some arty stuff

A few statistics today. I'm usually hopeless and not very interested in numbers, but today I had another ride in the the landrover with the farmer, and as he loves talking about his farm and I love listening, I thought I'd make an effort to remember some numbers. There are about 500 ewes due to lamb in this three week period. So far there are about 55 doubles numbered and turned out, 15 doubles still in pens and about 20 singles. The singles lamb outside and are left outside as long as everything is ok. We are nearly a week into the lambing now. So, with 400 still to lamb it's going to get very busy at some point!
As a result of it being quiet I got to go off on a jolly again today. I spent the first hour and a half doing pens and turning out ewes and lambs. I turned out 10 today (see, I've been keeping count for you!), and every one followed quite well. The up side of this was that I got it done fast, the down side was that I had to carry 10 pairs of lambs, and some were big and heavy, and several wriggled a lot, so my shoulders were definitely beginning to ache by the end. The teenage daughter was about today, doing stuff with her horses and hand feeding the few jacob sheep that are technically hers. I always think of them as an attempt by the farmer to get her interested in the sheep, but I may be wrong!
A photo I took a while ago of a jacob shouting,
 probably for more food!

I hadn't quite finished pens when the farmer whisked me off in the landrover to collect up some electric fencing in some fields about 4 miles away. He doesn't own any land (as far as I know) but rents land all over the place. We were collecting up electric fencing from the perimeter of three fields. The fencing is plastic stakes and two wires. The farmer has a clever gadget that fits onto the wheel of a small trailer towed behind the quad bike. As he drives forward it reels in the wires onto two reels. My job is to trot on ahead, detach the wires, pull out the posts and leave them in piles which he picks up and puts in the trailer. It works pretty well most of the time. The only hiccups are when the wire gets twisted or a knot gets stuck, and today, because the wire had been left there for a while and not switched on something, possibly a deer had pulled it and broken it, so I had to find the two ends and join them. Here is the farmer on the quad stopping to take a phone call. If you look at the picture in large format you can just see the wire wrapper to the left of the trailer. And you can just about see the corner of the field.  I'm standing about halfway along one side of a roughly square field. Thankfully the two other fields were smaller and only partially fenced.

On the way back in the landrover he also told me about a lambing saga last night. He'd been to check the mules in the early evening and had left the quad bike trailer in the field as he thought it likely that he'd need it later that night. At about 10pm (in the dark remember) he went out to check the singles and one had a head out, and he knew she'd started trying to lamb at least an hour ago, so she needed help. He and his wife couldn't catch her, so they got the dog, herded the whole lot into a corner of the field and caught her. They got a healthy live lamb out, but the ewe just wasn't interested. They spent some time trying to persuade the ewe that she really should take some notice of her lamb but she was having none of it. He was by now getting cross with her (it's late, he's tired, he wanted a bath, and the trailer is several fields away), so in the end they lifted the ewe up onto the quad bike and tied her on the front rack (remember this is still all in the dark with only the bike headlights and a torch). They finally got her back to the farm and in a pen, tho it was gone 11 by then, and by morning she was happily feeding her lamb. A happy ending, but a tired farmer.
Back at the yard I had a few more pens to finish and a few bales to distibute with the bike.
This is my favourite little row of 6 pens. They have lots of character, and because they are at the top of a little south facing paddock they are always the warmest pens when there's a bit of sun about.
Well, it's Saturday evening and I've only just finished this, so the 'todays' are now 'yesterday', but I don't think that will spoil the story. I don't work on the farm on Saturdays.
Last night we went out singing, this morning I was gardening, and this afternoon we went to a local 'Food, Drink and Arts' festival which was lovely, and I saw some fabulous quilts, some of which you can see here

She spent ages showing us round and it is so wonderful to find such talented people living just down the road.

I am now really inspired me to get my quilt finished. Here it is when I started it, over a year ago.
These bits are now all stitched together and I just(?!) need to edge, back and quilt it.

This evening I finally got to use the drum carder that my mum leant me a few weeks ago. I've produced a few batts of wool so I can do some more spinning (before or after I finish the quilt?). Photos sometime, maybe. Off to the farm again tomorrow...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

third day

Uh oh, spent too much time gardening, as the weather is so nice, and then sorting morris dancing stuff out this afternoon, so not so much time to write about lambing.
Forgot my camera today. Straightforward morning doing pens with no one around first thing, then, just as I'd used up all the bales of straw and hay in the sheds and I was wondering if I'd have to go and get a wheelbarrow the farm lad rolls up on the quad and asks if I need to use it. So off up to the top shed to pile it up with straw and hay ( I can fit two bales on the back and one on the front) and zoom about unloading a bale or two here and there. Farmer and wife come back and I'm instructed to turn out all the marked ewes and lambs. They are all black faced suffolks today so all have to go in the same field. Most of them won't follow well, apart from one who nearly knocks me over as I try to open and shut gates. So I end up doing the driving reluctant ewe and lamb while holding spare lamb trick. It works well, tho it's a bit slow. It takes me until coffee time to do all my jobs.
After coffee we have great fun running about 120 ewes with their lambs about 4 miles along country lanes, down a bridleway, across a main road and then down more lanes, through a couple of fields and a wood! It's a big team effort, with Farmer, wife, son, farm lad, me, two dogs and a quad bike. The lambs are probably December or January born, so are fairly big, but we and the ewes and lambs are all pretty worn out by the end! The son, who doesn't like sheep, but likes tractors, kept muttering that we should have loaded them into the trailers. I'm really glad we didn't as I got to go down lanes and across fields I'd never been to before. I also feel very important when I'm herding sheep, tho unfortunately we didn't see much traffic for me to feel important to.
Only 6 twins born while I was there this morning, there are a lot of sheep out there, and it's going to get busy at some point.
Here's me back from work. Do I get any prizes for the least glamorous blog picture? And I'm sorry about the cat's bottom, I was going to edit it out, but I'm too tired! I've just had a bath and I can definitely feel my feet throbbing.

Not sure if I will I keep this up for 3 weeks, but it'll be fun trying..

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Day two on the farm

A slower start today. There are lots of ewes and lambs with numbers on this morning so it's a mixture of pen bedding/haying/watering and turning out. Turning out, in it's easiest form, consists of picking up the two lambs by their front feet, one in each hand, so their back feet are dangling on the ground, walking out of the shed across the yard and into the appropriate paddock. The ewe follows closely behind, often muttering 'oh my babies, oh my babies'. A particularly devoted mother will skip about and run round me in circles, barging into me and sometimes almost knocking me over. As I said before these are BIG sheep.
Aside from being almost knocked over the other problem is that the ewes won't always follow. I had about 8 to turn out today, and there were a few difficult ewes this morning who just stood there in the pen saying 'my babies, my babies, where are they? They were here a minute ago'. So I had to take the lambs back into the pen and lower them to the floor so that they looked more like lambs so the ewe would then recognise them. I then had to walk slowly out of the pen again, bleating like a lamb, and the ewe would then, slowly, a few steps at a time follow me. One followed as long as I walked slowly and bleated a lot, one dashed back to the pen saying 'my babies, my babies, where are they,they were here a minute ago'. So  then I had to resort to a different technique. This time I put one of the lambs down and tried and drive the ewe and lamb together in front of me. It doesn't always work brilliantly because very young lambs (these may only be 2 or 3 days old remember) have little fear and aren't much inclined to run, particularly not in a straight line. Fortunately today the ewe was a keen runner and it was just a case of keeping close enough to catch the lamb once they were near the field gate (one handed, remember as I still had the other lamb in one hand), and steer it into the field, reunite all three and off they go. I did manage to sneak a few pictures today. Here is 23 in her pen
 and here she is setting off into her new paddock with lambs in hot pursuit. There's a big ahhh factor in this job, in between wanting to murder very difficult sheep!

'Doing pens' is easier when they are empty, but carrying lots of lambs about makes my shoulders ache, so I interspersed the two jobs. When I'd finished that lot I bedded the main lambing pens with straw, then went into the farmhouse for coffee.
Our next job was to go 'fencing kale'. During the winter the farmer grows kale to fatten the autumn lambs and any lambs leftover from the summer. They are strip grazed behind electric fencing so that they eat every scrap off each patch and don't waste any which they would if left to roam about over the whole field. So one of the winter jobs is to move the electric fence every 2 or 3 days. This is not a popular job. The kale is quite tall and often wet, so waterproof leggings are necessary. The sheep are usually hungry so you have to move fast to keep ahead of them. The wire gets tangled, catches on the kale tops and comes detached from the posts. Apart from that I quite like the job as it's satisfying when it's done, it usually involves a relaxing ride and chat in the landrover, and it's a nice change of scenery from being in the main farmyard all day.
This is the view over Exeter from a gateway near the kale field. Not a bad view from work eh?
Back in the yard I took the quad bike up to the to shed and extracted some bales of hay from the main stack. This was challenging as I first had to pull down a load of straw bales from on top. I then piled the bales on the quad bike(!) and distributed them round to the various sheds, and that was me finished for the day.

spell check didn't like leapt either Belinda, but you knew what I meant so I'll give up!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

first day on the farm this year

A particularly dramatic start today as I was greeted by the farmers wife (I'll call her Tina) who said that the farmer was at market for the day and we needed to go and sort out a couple of ewes in one of the fields. She rode the quad bike and I perched on the side. It makes me laugh that quad bikes have signs on them about the dangers of carrying passengers and stuff. Often there are three of us, a dog and perhaps a few bags of feed on the bike. Anyway, today there were only two of us, with a trailer on the back with a dog in. We zoom off down the track to a field about 1/4 of a mile away, and I wished I'd brought a woolly hat with me because even though the sun is shining the wind chill was pretty impressive. We drove slowly across a field full of mules (that's a kind of commercial hybrid sheep) looking for one having trouble lambing and one with a prolapse. Eventually she spotted one lying down straining and as she slowly drew the bike alongside I leapt* off and sunk my hands into the wool on the ewes shoulders and leaned on her so she was almost rolled onto her side, this meant that I both had a firm grip and was effectively pinning her down so she couldn't leap to her feet and run off. Mules are big rangy sheep, and if she had leapt up and been a feisty one she may well have knocked me over into the mud and got away from me. It turned out she was the one with the prolapse. Tina proceeded to stuff the large pink mass back inside the ewe. This one was about the size of two grapefruits, so took a bit of getting back in. No messing about with disinfectants, lubricants and all that textbook stuff, just shove it back in. Then the ewe gets to wear a harness that (most of the time) stops it coming out again. The harness is designed to allow the lambs to come out when their time is due, but sometimes they get caught up and strangled. So, drama one was sorted and the ewe tottered off and was able to have a pee. By now we had spotted another ewe over by the hedge looking a likely suspect for the lambing trouble. We repeated the sneaking up on the bike and me jumping off procedure, tho it wasn't really necessary as she'd been trying to lamb for several hours and was utterly exhausted. The lamb had a head and one foot out. Tina found the other leg, so it was a normal presentation, just a big lamb, pulled it out, laid it by the ewes nose put her arm inside and pulled the other one out. Both lambs were alive and fine. Normally a ewe will immediately start licking her lamb when it's put by her head, this ewe was too tired to care. We put the lambs in the trailer and manhandled/dragged the ewe into the trailer, she was certainly too tired to stand. On our way back across the field we spotted another ewe who had one lamb out and was pushing the next one. For the third time that morning I jumped off the bike and grabbed a ewe. As I did so I spotted another lamb already out, so it was triplets. Tina quickly pulled the last lamb out and stacked them together. We turned the ewe round so her nose was on them, and when she'd started licking them we let her go. If you let the ewes go and they are facing away from their lambs they will often just run away, they are not the brightest of animals. We couldn't fit another ewe with triplets in the trailer, partly because we had a dog in there, but also because it's very important not to mix up the lambs because they all look the same to us, but ewes have a strong sense of smell and will always reject a lamb that doesn't smell like hers. If you get the lambs mixed up it can be a terrible job sorting them out as the ewes will often take some time to decide that it's not her lamb! The dog ended up just coming along for the ride as we didn't need her help. If I had failed to catch any of the ewes we may have had to round up the whole lot in one corner and then dive in and grab the one we wanted. Not unlike playing rugby I guess, not that I've ever played rugby.
So, dramas over we went back to the farmyard and put the tired ewe and her lambs into a pen. Luckily she was just about up to standing by then so we pushed and shoved her in and didn't have to carry her bodily. In the pen she has a deep bed of clean straw, a bucket of water and a rack of hay. All the ewes with two or more lambs are put into individual pens.She will be left in there for a few days until she has bonded with the lambs and the lambs are both looking strong and healthy, then the lambs will be 'ringed' on their tails and testicles to make them all fall off. All three will then have the same number sprayed on them so they can be matched up if there are problems, and they will go back out into smaller paddocks where they can be closely monitored. Tina went back to the field to pick up the ewe with triplets, who will probably follow when her lambs are carried into the trailer and then into a pen

suffolks in. Suffolks are a pure breed that have short legs and black faces. They all seemed much more interested in the fact that I might have come to feed them than in lambing, so that was all my duties done for the first day, with an exciting start.
During the morning it's mayhem in the yard. Grandad (the farmers dad) is in and out in his jeep, the new farm lad is zooming about with bags of feed on the quad bike, someone has come to service the farm quad bike so it's out of use for the rest of the morning and I have to use the sons quad, which is much posher and less abused than the farm one. The son is also in and out of the yard with tractors moving feed hither and thither for cattle. Peaceful it is not. From mid morning onwards the sheep in the pens start shouting at you whenever you go in as they think it might be feeding time. It's much too noisy to be able to hold a conversation on the phone for example!

This took me ages to type and edit. So, although I am full of good intentions it may be unrealistic for me to post every day. Perhaps I can just do a 'what I did today' list on some days? Ho hum, off to bed now.'

* the spell check didn't like this word, anyone got any suggestions?!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

A farm walk

Last weekend I went on the first artists walk of the year round West Town Farm. The sun was shining so it was a very lovely day. In the afternoon I also managed to get rid of some fleece to a friend, so a particularly good day!

Glorious sunshine at the end of February

 And a really sweet little camp in the woods where they do woodland skills workshops with kids (and grownups too I think?)

I've decided not to take part in the Open Studios this year, but I've volunteered to do the guide/map/brochure, so I feel involved but don't have quite so much commitment.
If you are interested in being involved in Open Studios at West Town Farm near Ide, or just fancy a walk round a lovely organic farm on the outskirts of Exeter with other arty people, the next dates are here

And, talking of farms.... tomorrow I start lambing, so I'm going to try and do a diary of what I do each day. There may not be many pictures as I'm usually too busy to take pictures, so it will be an interesting exercise for me in concentrating on writing.

Book workshop

So, gosh another post, so soon, what is the world coming to?!

Yesterday I taught another book workshop to a group of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.

Here they are, working hard

 A marbled paper cover
 A cloth cover
 A collaged cover in progress
And here are a few of the books finished (or almost finished).
They all made lovely books, and seemed to enjoy their day, which is really satisfying for me.
 The following day they had a gathering to spin & chat
 and I took along some books (most of my books in fact!), and talked to them about how I got into book making, showed them all the different styles of books I've made over the years, and also the books I've filled over the years. I'm planning one day to do some posts about some of my 'filled' books
... don't hold your breath. I post when I feel like it and I'm a grasshopper by nature, so posts may be days or months apart, as you may have noticed if you visit regularly?!....