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Wildlife in the summer sun

baby swallows close up

Running our wee patch organically, we get some pretty good wildlife.  The swallows are back, albeit a little late, but are back nesting in both our large shed and our smaller open garage.  In the latter, the nest is just above head height.  If you look closely at the picture above, you can see four baby swallows.  There are certainly plenty of flying insects here for their parents to catch.

ragged robin
ragged robin

Up in one of the fields, we have a large area of ragged robin.  According to the UK’s wildlife trusts, this is an increasingly rare site, so we feel quite privileged.

We’ll keep it safe from the cows until it has seeded.

The tadpoles are long hatched and over the last few days, we have had to tread carefully as there are baby frogs are everywhere.  Makes cutting the grass a worrying task!

Sadly, we don’t seem to have the sand martins this year.  There is some evidence of tunneling, but no sign of nests yet.  Also, the house martins have chosen not to build their nest on our house this year.  Oh well!  Maybe next year.

We also caught a quick glimpse of a lizard on one of our stone dykes.  First time I’ve ever seen one in Scotland.

The bats are regular visitors.  I have only seen Pipistrelles flying round the house and garden.  I really ought to blow the dust off the bat detector and head down to the loch to see if there are any other species of bat flying around.

Thankfully, there has been no sign of the badger returning.  We like badgers, but not when they’re in the hen house!

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Enjoying the summer weather

sheep resting

After the rather long cold and wet winter, we have to say we are quite enjoying having a bit of decent summer weather.  The midges can be a pain on a still summer evening, but they are a small price to pay for the fun of  being able to have lunch in the garden.

All the animals seem pretty content.  Having been sheared, the sheep are not at risk of overheating.  Plus, they are in a field with some tress providing shade.  They hate the midges though.  Nothing seems to phase the cows.  Their new “river” field isn’t quite ready yet, the bracken proving somewhat tenacious.

flowers front of house
flowers front of house

That doesn’t mean we have had much time to be sitting about.  Nicole has got the bee in her bonnet about sorting out the garden.  She has been working hard, furiously pulling out weeds and planting flowers.  The main focus has been around the front of the house and the area leading up to it.

Bit by bit, “inappropriate” planting is being replaced by sympathetic flowers and so on.  Being a professional gardener, she knows what she’s doing and it’s all starting to look really good.

sheep poo pile
One of two sheep poo piles

While Nicole has been gardening away, I was dispatched to clear out the second sheep field shelter.  As I mentioned before, a year’s worth of straw and poo has been compacted.  Nicole’s back has been giving her trouble, so I was on my own this time.  It was hard work not helped by the fact that the shelter is about 5 feet high and I’m 6 foot 1!  That pretty much did for me last weekend (but one).

newly laid track
newly laid track

Of course, having got it out, I still had to move it to our designated dung heap.  But that’s what tractors are for.  I still had to load the tractor using a fork, but it was then just a wee drive and the front loader did the rest.  I combined this job with laying a track.  It’s our main route from the house and outbuildings to the paddock and it gets very muddy in winter.  Finally, it has been dry long enough for it to have dried out properly.  So it was shift a pile of hard standing (using the tractor) one way, rake it, continue over and collect a load of manure, take that back, repeat.

new flower bed - mulched
new flower bed – mulched

This was duly delivered to Nicole’s newly cleared flower beds.

That was Saturday.

Sunday was general maintenance, moving a water trough and repairing the roof on hay bay which had collapsed under the snow.  It was baking on Sunday and I got a proper “farmer’s” tan on my arms.

It’s sometimes hard, with all these things to do, to take a moment and look around.  But I did today and our fields are turning into lovely meadows.  It’s what you get when you mix cows and sheep on pasture.  It’s what you get farming the old fashioned way.  Not to mention a bit of sun and rain of which we have had plenty.

meadow flowers
meadow flowers
meadow flowers

Also, there was a nice sound of buzzing, lots of bees going about their work.  And they need all the help they can get these days.

Anyway, though it’s a sunny evening outside, I might just watch a bit of the football now, maybe the Spain game.




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Running to stand still

nicole planting new veg patch

Where to start! We are finding out that owning land creates lots of work. Owning animals just adds more! We keep thinking we are getting there, but then we dream up new projects.

veggie patch complete

One example is the veggie patch already featured on this blog. It’s pretty much finished now. I added the rose arches over the gates as the final touches. No roses yet, they’ll go in in the autumn. Nicole has been busy planting it up. I keep saying I’ll help but I always seem to end up working on some other project. It’s starting to look fab with good crops of turnips, carrots, parsnips and sprouts. We’ll also have kale, courgettes and beetroot. They were sown direct and are not quite showing yet. All this planting was helped by two thunderstorms which gave everything a good soaking. More about water later.

rows of onions and salad
rows of onions and salad

Nicole has also been busy moving self seeded daisies out of the other veggie patch and into the borders next to the new veggie patch. So, soon, it will be surrounded with flowers. All that planting created the room for all our onions which Nicole finished planting today. We even did a bit of a landscaping (after yesterday’s storm) but the midges soon put a stop to that.

So, what have I been up to that has stopped me from helping? Well, the weather went from wet to dry overnight, and stayed dry. This is great, except that the grass growth was slow and our field water dried up, Annoyingly, the big tank we put in last year has sprung a leak somewhere and I think I am going to have to dig a hole to find it, a big hole.
Anyway, we have two rivers that are merrily running through our patch. So I suggested we extend one of the paddocks down to include a bit of river. The cows would certainly appreciate that!

So I have been off doing that, knocking in posts and fencing it all. The fencing is now all done but there are two stone dykes that need some repair where they have fallen down. If our sheep got to those, they’d be up and over in a flash. I think the cows would probably give it a miss though. So I’ll be repairing those later in the week.
It’s also infested with bracken which is poisonous to cows and sheep. So we’ll be down dealing with that too!

Talking of cows escaping, coming back from the garage one day last week (my new car had some faults needing fixing), I realised that one of the cows was the wrong side of the fence. In fact, Bluebell had taken down a bit of fencing and we reckon she’d been out for a day or two. We headed down to round her up wondering how it would go. Highland cows are pretty stubborn at the best of time. However, she was waiting by the gate. When Nicole opened it, she wandered back in of her own accord. Miracle!
In between all that, we had the sheep sheared on Thursday last. You may remember that Nicole and I did a sheep shearing course a couple of years back. Well that and the experience of shearing three sheep made us decide this was best left to the professionals. Finding shearers for small flocks can be a problem, but this year, on a recommendation, we managed to hire a top shearer.

They arrived with a professional rig on a trailer with two shearing stations and two shearers and a third person to roll up the fleeces. Our plans of leading the ewes in one at a time from the paddock evaporated in an instant. In fact, we ended up charging around and catching and rounding them up. We only just kept up with the two shearers but, of course, we then had to collect the sheared sheep and get them back. It was borderline panic for the duration, but they are all sheared, and it was a great job too. The sheep must feel so much better in this heat.

After that, we had to inoculate the lambs. Rather than rounding them up, we caught them one at a time. Nicole gave them the injection while I held them. The girls struggled like mad doing their best to headbutt me (by flipping their heads backwards). The boys, harder to catch, seemed only to shrug with vague indifference when the needle went in. Some of the lambs were very flighty – once they know you’re after them, they can move out of the way pretty quickly. Nicole’s pretty good at sneaking up behind them and catching their legs. One managed to wriggle out and tried to run past me. I’m not quite sure how I did it but a stuck an arm out and caught him and quickly had him in a hug. Which would have been great had I not, in my moment of self satisfaction, then stepped on some sheep poo ( we were on a hillside) and slid landing flat on my back. I held onto the lamb though, who was safe on my chest. We have to do it again in four weeks, perhaps we’ll pen them up. They might be a bit heavy to carry by then.

Nicole is on top of the sheep worming. We don’t blanket worm them. Nicole collects samples and we have the vet do an analysis so we know who to worm and what to treat them with. There are a few dirty sheep bottoms out there, often a sign of worms, and one of Nicole’s less exciting jobs is keeping their rear ends shaved (it’s called dagging) so that we can avoid fly strike.

In-between all that, we have been trying to comb the cows. They haven’t had much attention of late and Bluebell is not entirely sure about being combed. This is not helped by them moulting their winter coats which creates humungous knots. They are hard to get out, but amazingly satisfying when you get one.

And if that’s not enough, some of the chickens got infested with lice. So, we had to catch them and Nicole cut all the eggs off and we treated them to kill the adult lice. Sounds easy, but catching chickens is incredibly hard! You can wait till night time and get them out the chicken house – they tend to be quieter then. Bu these days, in mid June, that would be around midnight and we are fast asleep by then.

And tomorrow it’s Monday and back to the day jobs! We’re still waiting for that elusive day off! I haven’t even had time to take pictures of our sheared sheep or new paddock, but I’ll try and get some tomorrow and add them.