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Posts Tagged ‘sheep’

in all the commotion, and yes there was a fair bit going on, I forgot to tell of new arrivals:

sheep and lambs
New sheep, this ewe (Geraldine) only has one side of her udder working, so no good for breeding from, but we don’t intend to so that’s ok, she comes with her twins – the girl lamb (Gilly) got the good side but the boy (Godfrey) was bottle fed – he’s eating grass now, and will soon catch up in size with his sister. They are all poll Dorset, but clearly not all that pure, as Gilly has black around her eyes, the tips of her ears, hooves and scattered through her wool – as we like naturally coloured wool, we will be interested in seeing how her fleece turns out.
fiesty and chicks
In addition to the ewe and lambs we also have had chicks.. lots and lots of them – too many really… and the latest lot (fourth hatch of the year) were hatched under our new broody – given to me by the lovely Sandra from Bellecross hens – and this hen is mean when broody.. but a good trait in a mother I think, as she is very protective her her charges

It’s all go in other areas too, in the veg garden and house renovations, and getting out and about too. The flower garden has to manage itself – I’m all about the cottage garden
home sweet home

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shearing day

before
It’s been a funny spring, with a warm April and a cold start to May, making picking the moment to shear hard to choose. But this last week we have had some quite hot days and showers, and so today was the day. Who knew there was a 7am on a Sunday morning?
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The shearer did his usual swift and professional job and the sheep were happy to be let back into the field one by one, minus that heavy coat, and sniffed at each other trying to recognise who was who. Apart from Betty obviously, who can’t be like the rest of the flock:
betty looks for her coat
Instead she seemed intent on finding her coat before leaving.

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new sheep

new sheep
We have way too much grass.  We meant to buy some more sheep at auction, but with the roof and kitchen renovations and general life stuff getting in the way, we sort of missed our moment,  and when we finally got our act together and went to the market, we saw some nice looking  ewes with lambs, only they were still heavy with wool, and ours had been sheared.  It would have been a pain to organise shearing again, and add to the expense.

Whilst I was looking at the lambs a nice lady came over to us and chatted to us.  Turns out they were her sheep.  And furthermore she keeps her sheep on our neighbour’s field.  We exchanged numbers, has a good sheep related chat and now her sheep have been sheared and we have bought a ewe and her lambs.

The ewe is a little unsure, but regards humans coming into the field as a potentially good thing. Hopefully we can win her over.  She has light grey wool, and it will be interesting to see how that grows out.

So we now need to think of some names – F for this year – we are still only beginners, our neighbour is on her second time through the alphabet.

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UntitledThe shearer has been, and our girls are all tidy and much, much cooler.

Every year I wonder if we should do the shearing ourselves, and toy with the concept of buying the equipment, because the moment we think it is time they were sheared, is, of course, the same moment for everyone else.  Having a small flock means we are not big customers.

And every year, when he comes, I realise what a skill it is, and how much better to have someone who knows what they are doing.  The wool is in good shape – very little double cuts, and cut close to the skin.  Mostly better for the sheep as the whole process is over in a flash, with no cuts, or damage.  He takes care.

It’s always funny afterwards as the sheep don’t recognise each other at first… there is some nudging and remembering – I guess they don’t smell right!

So now we have four cooler sheep, and  I can worry less about them.

 

sheep minus wool

And we have more fleeces to wash, card and spin. Betty’s fleece gets greyer with every year, is a variety of shades in one and is big! – The grey colour is lovely and I have my eye on that for myself..

wool

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new sheep

new sheep

Last week we acquired a cull ewe and her two lambs at foot.  As we have opted not to lamb for a while, we have to have new stock, and remove older stock, and this seemed an easy way.
feed time

The new ewe is lovely – already approachable (especially if there is a bucket involved),  and she has nice soft wool.  The lambs are adorable, inquisitive naughties, yet chunky and strong too.  They are all polled Dorsets.

three faces in the bucket

They settled in… apart from… the Shetland ewes are not having any of it.  The other ewes couldn’t really have cared less, a bit of ceremonial headbutting – all over within a minute.. and forgotten, but the Shetland ewes are  – well – mean.  With a lot of sniffing and assessing, they are ignoring the ram lamb (perhaps a masculine wiff?), don’t try their chances with the much bigger ewe, but seem intent on killing the ewe lamb.

It’s not just a little bit of pecking order, but real attacking including leaping in the air to land onto her.  We have tried a mix, then just tried the older calmer Shetland. but it’s a no go. We expected some argie bargie – but this goes beyond a little settling out.

Typically of course, we had planned to keep the Shetland ewes and let the others go… now it is looking like the other way around – it is a shame but we have to be able to introduce new stock.

They are separated until shearing, and then we shall reassess.
eric

Meanwhile the new crowd – named by our son: Ella and her lambs Eric and Evie – are getting used to us and becoming friendly.

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We’ve been planting trees again. Not the best of conditions as the ground is so wet, and snow and freezing temperatures forecast, but they were ordered back along, and now they are here – in they go.

We planted am almond, a mirabelle, a Dittisham plum and a bramley to replace the one that Betty (the sheep of  little brain) ate.

Sheep and fruit trees are not a good combination, but with  little individual fences round each one, it works, and the land can be used for both – and it seems some breeds are more tree eaters than others – we had no problem when we only had the Devon Closewools, but now we have the others, we are having tree nibbling issues.

It seems the minute we got the Shetland ewes – natural browsers and bark eaters, Betty decided she must be one of them and took to eating trees too.  I suspect it is to do with her overbite.

Yes I realise it sounds as though it is the Shetlands munching bark and Betty getting the blame – but we have seen her: she even got stuck between two fences several times, and she climbs the fence – throws her front legs over the top, squashes the fence down and eats everything she can reach – then sometimes climbs in too.

And several of the fruit trees got nibbled – which is far from good for them. Disease can get in, and the tree suffers – if bark is taken off in a complete ring, the tree will die.  The problem is she is so big – hip high before she starts climbing… and in the general umming and arring over which sheep to keep – this does not bode well for Betty.

At the moment we are trialling wool – Betty’s and the Shetlands, as that will be part of the decision. And anyway, we have freezer crisis – we need to empty freezers not fill them, so in the meantime we are fencing taller, wider and hoping Betty is held back long enough.

 

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We have started this year’s hedging.  A little early as there are still leaves on the trees, but the hedging  window is so small down here in sunny Devon, and the buds appear on the trees as early as January.  But the leaves are dying back (how to spot Ash die back when there is every tree die back going on?)

So we coppiced some willow, and put them through our leave removal system. Also known as: the sheep.

We are two sheep down this week, well we still have them, but  as mutton in the freezer…, and this leaves us with our old girl Sharona, Betty of little brain, and the three Shetland ewes.  It could get difficult next year as we now have the five sheep we really want to keep – views on this might change as there will be less grass and  they get hungry through the winter – this always brings out the worst behaviour.  If the Shetlands, with their browsing tendencies break out and eat the woodland, or Betty of the little brain continues to climb over the fences to eat the hedges and getting stuck, well opinions might differ. Sharona is a known entity, she is stiff and aged and grumpy. Mostly grumpy.

So, we dragged the trees over in a pile for the sheep to scoff, and cut lots of bramble and piled it high on the bonfire heap and opened the gate and let the sheep, now salivating on the other side of the gate – well Sharona and Betty of the little brain know the sound of sawing means tree food – the Shetlands thought the other two knew something.  In rushed the sheep.  Sharona and Betty OTLB scoffed leaves, and the Shetlands climbed the bonfire heap and ate brambles.  I swear they are goats in disguise.

But saying that, a sheep that browses more than grazes could be a good thing – I watched one munching nettles today, so maybe the hungry winter will prove them to be keepers after all.

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