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Hog Hide and Seek

Hello again, it’s me Ymogen.  It seems like ages since I updated my blog, so here’s another wee story.  We sheepies have noticed that every morning, one of the humans comes to check on us and that includes counting us.  I suppose they are just making sure Yaar hasn’t rolled onto his back somewhere.  Now, we have had a bit of a problem with midgies recently.  They are really annoying.  Poor old Yaar and Yumbo got bitten all around their eyes.  Luckily, the humans spotted it and are looking after them.

Anyway, what’s that got to do with hide and seek I hear you ask?  Well, one of the ways I deal with the midgies is to settle in the long grass.  I can cover my head with the grass and that helps keep them off.

Ymogen hiding in the grass
Me hiding in the grass

I noticed that when I do this, the humans have trouble finding me.  Up and down they go, counting away.  Fingers out, fingers wagging, lips moving, it can be quite comical really.  So now, if we’re out sleeping on the hill, I play hide and seek by hiding in the long grass.  Can you spot me?

Thankfully, the midgies seem to have eased off a bit lately.  They are still around, but nowhere near as annoying as they were.

Also, annoyingly, I have just found out that the humans can give really nice pats.  I have found out that I love having my chest scratched.  This means I can’t hide for long as I have to jump out and bound over to get my scratches.  Why is this annoying?  Well, it makes it harder for me to play hide and seek.  Not to worry though, I am sure I’ll think of another new game soon.

That’s all for now, byyeeeeeeeeeee 🙂

 

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Summer at Auchenstroan

Well, summer has finally arrived at Auchenstroan.  I think it’s going to last for at least two days, so we are trying to make the most of it.  We are supposed to be taking a break this week, but there’s always stuff to be done.  A couple of sheep have suffered from midgie bites around the eyes so we have been wiping the affected areas clean with saline which seems to be helping.  Another sheep has a cut (from shearing) which has got a bit infected, so we have been treating her (it looks like it’s getting better).

meadowWhile we have been having problems getting veggies to grow (problems with veggies), the flowers are doing really well. The flower bed at the front of the house (pictured above) is constantly buzzing with bees, both honey bees and also various bumble bees.

Nicole is especially pleased as many of the flowers she grew from seeds.  Pictured right is a meadow area which is just coming into bloom and looks really great.

wild flowers
wild flowers

Pictured left is a flower bed created by Nicole around a stone dyke (one I repaired a while back).  The roses are still to bloom, but the geraniums are enjoying the warm sunshine.

Our wild areas are also blooming.  We have set aside quite a few areas as natural meadows.  Pictured left is what used to be the pig pen.  Now it’s a wild flower haven with young rowan and hazel trees planted so as to create a small woodland.  In the meantime, the wild flowers are flourishing.

young woodland in summer
young woodland in summer

Our broad leaf woodland is also coming along nicely.  The trees are getting to quite a good size now.  It’s a great area for trees as it’s quite damp – a lot of the water from the hillside ends up here.  We are looking forward to the trees getting ever taller and creating that real woodland feel.

In the meantime, we are scrabbling around to finish our tasks so that we can get the garden chairs out and put our feet up before summer ends.

 

 

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Sheep raise concerns over smell

We have a field shelter complex in one of our small fields.  Our sheep really like the shelter and they head there when it’s raining (for shelter) or sunny (for shade).  They also head there when they’re a bit stressed, for example when it’s midgie weather.  Last year, we added slabs all the way round to ensure they had some hard standing.

muddy puddle in shelter
muddy puddle in shelter

That worked really well, but annoyingly, the ground in the shelters got quite muddy and in places there were small puddles.  Mixed with a bit of sheep poo, it can get a little smelly.  Over the winter, we used a lot of sawdust and straw to keep things fresh.  While that gave us a mini mountain of mulch, it’s still not that brilliant for the sheep.  With 27 of them, it was really a bit more than the shelters could cope with.

So, we decided to add some drainage.  We have also set up a path from our fields to the lambing paddock.  They were not well connected, but a little bit of fencing means we can now give the sheep unrestricted access to the lambing shed.  This winter, we’ll be able to spread the load between the two shed complexes.

Laying drainage pipe
Laying drainage pipe

Anyway, I did a bit of planning and bought some drainage pipe.  The plan is to run a pipe through each shelter and also around three edges where it can get pretty damp and muddy.  Combined with the guttering installed last year, this should take a lot of water around the shed away.

Then it was time to roll the sleeves up and get digging.  I had also bought a special sock, a covering for the drainage pipe that kept the silt out.  This meant I didn’t have to bed it in gravel and also I didn’t have to put it in that deep.  Nevertheless, the digging took a while.

drainage pipe laid
drainage pipe laid

Once the trench was dug, it didn’t take long to get the pipe in place.  We’re hoping it will make a big difference.

In the meantime, the sheep have access to the lambing shed which has a floor made of hard core, so they are perfectly happy – when they remember it’s there!

We’ll be keeping that field shut for the summer to allow the ground to recover from the pounding of 27 sheeps’ hooves

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Quite a week

Hi, I’m Pinkie.  I noticed my pal Ymogen has been writing a couple of stories so I thought I’d have a go.  I’m a year older than Ymogen and so now, quite a bit bigger too.  My mum is Ursi. Really, my name should begin with ‘X’, but when I was born I wore a pink woolly jumper to keep me warm and so Pinkie it is.  Anyway, I thought I’d tell you about my week.

pinkie
me a day old

Monday was quite peaceful.  Just the usual, you know, a bit of browsing, a bit of lying around chewing the cud.  Occasionally we moved to another field.  Just a nice, normal day here in Auchenstroan.

Tuesday, well, where to begin.  It all started as normal with a visit from one of the humans.  One of them comes over every morning and count us and checks we’re OK.  It’s quite comforting really.  But, a bit later, they were back and the female human made that noise she makes that makes us follow her.  I’m not quite sure how she does it, but before we know it, we’re up on our feet and trotting along after her.  Sometimes the male human tries to call us too.  That’s hilarious, we just stand and look at him, maybe chew a bit of cud.

Anyway, we followed the female human down a new path into a new paddock.  Yes, a NEW PADDOCK.  It was amazing, it’s the first time I have seen it.  There was long grass, wild flowers and trees with leaves in reach.  Yum yum.  There was also a lovely big shed.  “I was born here” yelled Yogi.  “Me too” added Ynca.  “And me”!  “And me”. “All right all right” I thought and headed off to explore.  To be honest, we all got a bit excited.  Later, we were penned up a little, we had the shed and a small outdoor area, so we took the opportunity for a wee rest.

shearing underway looking on
what’s that all about?

Things were happening outside.  Strange humans and big machines.  We kept a watchful eye.  Then, all of a sudden, we were ushered towards the machines.  Hmm, I thought to myself, I’m keeping well away.  I’m in the wee group in the photo to the left keeping my distance.  You might be able to spot me.

Nevertheless, the humans got their way and I soon found myself in a narrow wee corridor.  What’s this all about I wondered.  And then, I was whisked onto a platform and my coat sheared off.  My coat!!  I had spent all winter growing it.  It was lovely.  A bit hot mind you, so part of me was secretly pleased.  When the sun comes out, it can be a bit toasty in a thick woolly coat, let me tell you.  It turned out we’d all had our coats taken.  We looked a right skinny bunch, more like goats than sheep.

Then it was back back to our usual fields.  But, brrrr it was a bit chilly.  We headed to our usual shelter, but it was CLOSED OFF!  Oh no!!!!  I mean, I know it was a bit damp and smelly, but it’s our shelter.  The centre of our universe.  We were right put out.  So, we had a meeting and decided to shelter from the north wind behind a stone wall.  That wasn’t too bad actually.

Sheep resting in lambing shedLater in the day, the humans led us back to that new paddock.  Yippee, we had the big shelter.  It was great.  Lovely and dry and warm.  Just as well, really, as it rained in the night and none of us had any coats.

The next day, the humans left the gate open for us so we came and went as we pleased.  We sheep like that, we like our freedom to roam.

Nevertheless, when the rain came again later in the week, we’d forgotten all about the new shed.  What are we like.  On Saturday, we ended up all over the place, scattered amongst small field shelters in various fields.  Eventually the humans came and got us back together and led us back to the big shed.  Bliss.  Mind you, we lost Yumbo somewhere.  The humans went looking for him and I just caught a glimpse of him running down the hill full pelt to the man human.  He looked just like a little lamb again.  He was soon back with us.

Adrian and Pinkie
me and my man human

Only down side, my foot hurt today.  On the plus side, I got lots of scratches from my man human (I have him well trained).  That’s him on the left.

Then I got a whole bucket of nuts to myself – what a treat.  Yum yum.  I should have known there was a catch when they put hurdles around me.  I felt a sharp prick in my leg – the humans had given me a jag.  Hmmph!  Then they inspected my foot.  I wasn’t entirely sure about that, but if the pain goes, then I’ll be a happy wee sheep.

Anyway, that’s this week’s story.  Hopefully I’ll be back with more Pinkie parables soon.

 

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Swollen Hen

We’ve had our fair share of animal medical problems this year and while most are now sorted, one of our hens, Bim, has rather a persistent problem.  It’s a large swelling in the lower abdomen and looks pretty red and uncomfortable.  It’s a condition called Egg Yolk Peritonitis, a common condition in hens of all ages.  You can see the angry red patch down near her legs in the photo.

Bim swellingBim has already had a visit to the vet resulting in a course of anti inflamatory injections and a course of antibiotics.  That helped a little, but in the following weeks, the swelling slowly returned.  Sadly, treatment for Egg Yolk Peritonitis is seldom successful and often results in the hen dying.

But Bim was showing no other signs of ill-health.  Her comb is red and healthy.  She is eating, she keeps up with the other hens, in fact she is still number one hen.  That said, she had started to be slow in leaving the hen house in the morning.

The question was what to do.  There is no real treatment for this condition.  Even an operation is out of the question as hens do not normally react well to anaesthetic.

Anyway, we had the vet coming over to check on one the sheep.  Peaches, the oldest, is looking a little thin and we needed to check her teeth to make sure she was still able to eat.  We tried, but putting our fingers near Peach’s teeth proved somewhat tricky.  The vet had a special gadget and Peaches is fine, thankfully.

Anyway, we asked her to give Bim a checkover.  She also agreed that Bim, swelling apart, seemed very healthy.  So, she’s on another course of antibiotics supported by a diet and bath regime designed by Nicole.  Yes, you read correctly – a bath regime.  Apparently a warm salt bath can help to clear the affected passage.  Bim is not entirely sure about the bath, but the blow dry afterwards goes down a treat.  Bim happily stands on the floor and lifts her wing to get maximum effect from the hairdryer.

Her diet comprises garlic and other natural antibiotic / anti-inflammatory plants.

It’s early days, but she is now proving hard to catch which is a good sign.

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Shearing Day

shearing underway looking on

Sheep have to be sheared once a year, it’s vital for their wellbeing.  Here, in SW Scotland, we shear mainly in June.  While Nicole and I have both done the shearing course, we contract out our shearing to professional shearers.  It’s a really hard job and the top shearers shear a sheep in just a few minutes.  So, all in all, it’s better for the sheep as it’s over quickly.

sheep in - awaiting shearing
sheep in – awaiting shearing

After last year, when we had assumed we’d just call in the sheep as they were needed (wrong!), we had built the sheep handling area.  We were looking forward to using it for the first time.

The shearers had let us know they were coming about lunchtime, so after breakfast we brought the sheep in.  I say we, Nicole just called them and in they trotted.

yakozuki awaiting shearing
yakozuki

We let them have a look around the paddock.  For the hogs, this was where they had been born last tear – I wonder if they remembered.  Anyway, the lambing paddock was full of tasty morsels – meadow flowers, tree sprouts, a hedge and low hanging leaves.  They had a lovely time.

We also had to catch Yakozuki as he was limping.  He needed an antibiotic jag.  But, they were all a bit excitable.  So, after an hour or so, we brought them into the handling area and let them settle down a bit.  We caught Yakozuki and gave him his injection.  Then we settled down to wait.

shearing waiting room
shearing waiting room

The shearers duly arrived and we had our first problem.  Their trailer only just squeezed through the gate.  Note to self, bigger gate needed.  However, with skillful trailer manouevring (that puts me to shame), the shearing rig was soon in place.  It turns out one of the shearers is from one of our neighbouring farms.  It’s good when that happens.

orderly queue
orderly queue

We gathered the sheep into a smaller waiting pen and started to guide them up the ramp.  Ha ha – they took one look at the ramp and doubled back.  In fact, it was quite a tricky job getting them up the ramp – needed two people.  One to move the sheep towards the ramp and one to catch them as they turned back and keep them moving forward.

Even then, some of the hogs were small enough to turn round and drive them all back down again.  Still, the two shearers were zipping through them so these were but minor hiccups.  We kept the orderly flow of sheep up (we had 27 in total being sheared).  Of course, there’s always one.  Peaches – the matriarch and eldest of our ewes decided that shearing was not for her this year and every time we turned our back, she quickly backed herself down the ramp into the waiting area.  Three times!  I had to stand behind her for a while.  I compensated this loss of freedom with lots of back scratches – Peaches loves her back scratches.

shearing - sparkle watching bluemli
Sparkle watching Bluemli

It’s great watching top shearers in action.  What with all the keeping the flow of sheep up, I didn’t get to see much, but Sparkle was enraptured.  You can see her in the picture on the right, head resting on the gate, watching Bluemli being shorn of her locks.

Throughout all this, Nicole was labelling each fleece with the name of the sheep.  Each of these fleeces will be turned into a felted rug.  And so, we’ll know whose fleece each rug is made from.  Each rug will be supplied with a little history of the sheep it comes from.

sheared
all sheared

Soon, all the sheep were shorn.  Nicole had also gathered them back into the holding area so that they would be out of the way of the trailer when it was towed out.

It’s funny how small and dainty they look without their thick woolly coats.

back out to pasture
back out to pasture

Once the shearers had gone and we’d had a quick cuppa, we took them back out into the main pasture.  There was a nice breeze there and that meant no flies and no midgies.  The sheep settled down and looked quite happy.  We think the shearing helps them regain full fields of vision.  The thick woolly coats can grow round their eyes causing problems.  We do trim them from time to time, but a full haircut means unhindered vision.  Bluemli even came in for pats, something she hasn’t done for a while.

And of course, Ymogem came over to pose for a photo.

Ymogen sheared for the first time
Ymogen sheared for the first time

It was a tiring day for all of us, sheep and humans.  So, we decamped to the pub for a well earned drink and a dinner we didn’t have to cook.

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Problems with Veggies

veggie patch

Last year, extended our veggie patch to give us plenty of room to grow our favourite vegetables.  This year, we had the greenhouse ready and also, over the winter I had laid power to it and installed a heater.  This was more a frost guard than anything, but it kept the greenhouse a bit warmer than the outside.

Outside, the veggie patch was fully mulched and ready.  It looks really god covered in mulch, no weeds (for now).

greenhouse planted
greenhouse planted

We were all set and in March we started planting.  Everything that had indoor/March on the label was planted and put in the greenhouse.  This worked, sort of.  The tomatoes decided it was still too cold and never showed.  It was the same for the basil.  In fact, only really the carrots and brussel sprouts got going.

Outdoors, we planted onion sets.  Then the heavy rains came and flooded that area covering all the onion sets in water.  Disaster, though in the end, about half grew.

Not to worry, we did a second planting and bit by bit, built up some small vegetable plants.  The spring was relatively mild and so we started to plant out some of the hardier crops.

veggie patch netted
veggie patch netted

Now, we fed the birds all winter so how did they repay us?  By digging up the mulch to look for worms and in so doing, scattering said vegetables everywhere!  Most annoying.  Luckily, I had a length of blue pipe tucked away behind a shed and we bought some netting.  We put back all the uprooted plants and installed said netting.  This helped, a bit.  It included butterfly proof netting for the brassicas and turnips (last year we had to pick off multitudes of caterpillars on a daily basis).

By now, I’d planted a third set of onions as all the ones grown from seed had simply vanished.  Thankfully, the look good and strong.

But still, our veggies were still under attack.  We laid out some organic slug pellets.  No change.  In fact we have lost almost all the brassicas, three quarters of the turnips, half the spinach, all the direct seeded carrots and most of the beetroot.  Emergency second and third seedlings are planted and awaiting their turn.  The plan is to pot them up and make sure they are strong before planting them out.

Next year, we’ll do what we should have done this year.  We’ll put hens in the veggie patch and give them access to unplanted beds.  That should take care of the slug population we suspect of causing the damage.  At least, we hope so.

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Stone Dykes

I think I have mentioned before that we have quite a lot of stone dykes here and in areas, they are bit run down.  With all the other jobs (firewood, sheep handling area, veggies etc), there hasn’t been much time to do any repairs.  However, over the winter I was actually paid to fix someone’s wall.  It was a neighbour of one of Nicole’s clients and a few metres of wall in their garden had collapsed in a storm.  We had a similar collapse here, as it happens.

Stone Dyke Repair Dec 2018Anyway, while it’s not really part of my plans to become a professional stone dyker, I said OK and took on the job.  It was a bit tricky as the front of the wall was an ornamental flower bed, so I couldn’t stomp about in my size 10 boots.  But the wall was built on a slope and most of the stones were on the other side so I worked mainly from there.

It wasn’t too bad a job as most of the stones were small, so you can work quite quickly.  It was all done in a couple of mornings and I was quite pleased with the result.  The client was too – always a good thing.

hen run stone dyke collapsed
collapsed stone dyke

Having done that, there was the collapsed wall bordering our hen run to look at.  Again, this was built on a slope and it looked like the wall had been gradually tipping over over the years.  Also, all the stones were piled all over the wall and took a few hours to move out of the way.  It was a right mess.

stone dyke hen run repaired
stone dyke repaired

These stones were a bit bigger, so it took a couple of days to rebuild this section.  It just takes a bit longer to get the bigger stones all to fit together within the lines of the wall.  And believe me, you only want to lift them once, so you spend a lot of time figuring out what will go where.  Nevertheless, I got there in the end and am quite pleased with the result.  I did have a few stones left over which was a bit of a worry.  That said, the same thing happened on the course and the instructors just shrugged that off saying that it happens.

My current project is a slightly bigger challenge.  There is a gap in the wall at the top of our largest field.  It’s the border between our patch and forestry land.  In the past, there has been a livestock handling area the other side and we suspect a previous owner of our patch knocked through the wall so they could “annex” this.  Not sure why, it’s full of bracken (poisonous to livestock), hard to get to and far from any power source.  That said, it looks like it hasn’t been used for years, decades even, as it’s all a bit run down.

stone dyke repair day 2 start
stone dyke restoration – laying the base

Anyway, there is a small stock fence across this gap and it is about to fall down.  So we decided it would be better to restore the wall.  It will look better and be safer for the sheep.  It should also slow the spread of bracken into our field.

The main problem is that the original stones have largely vanished.  There were a few in our field and so I retrieved those.  We also have a pile accumulated from the gate opening we put into another wall a while back.  I have been bringing those up in a trailer.  Unfortunately, the terrain is too dodgy for the tractor – the front loader would have been very helpful for moving and lifting the larger ones.  So I have to use the quad bike and muscle power.  All the shifting is done by hand, lifting them into the trailer one end and then out again the other end.

stone dyke repair
stone dyke restore – 2nd layer of stones

The remaining stones I am sourcing from the surrounding area.  There are quite a few lying around on the ground.  The main problem is that they are, on average, a good 50m away.  So it’s a lot of carrying which takes up a lot of time and effort.  They are also all quite big (it’s hard to tell from the picture).  The larger ones get rolled.  Luckily, I am rolling them downhill.

stone dyke repair
progress!

The other problem is the midges – it’s perfect terrain for them.  As a rule, they don’t bother me too much (got used to them as a kid), but when you are working in one area, they get into your ears and eyes and are really annoying.  So it was midge nets on.  Luckily, the wind generally picks up during the day and they hate the wind.

stone dyke repair
finished

All in all it took 5 days.  Most of the time was spent locating and carrying stones.  My back is complaining a bit now.  Day 4 had its dramas.  I had my first wasp sting since I was a kid.  I was picking up a stone and something flew straight at my face and stung me.  I’d only just taken my midgie net off!  It came back for further attempts but I kept knocking it away – the repeat attacks suggest wasp (didn’t actually see it).  Having dealt with that, I then contrived to slip while carrying a large rock.  As I flew sideways like a falling tree, the rock landed on my knee, painful but thankfully no real damage done.  At that point I took a break and put some ice on it and had a cup of tea.

Anyway, on the fifth day the weather was a bit kinder. Dry, windy enough to blow the midgies away and sunny.  The gap is filled and the sheep are much safer.  And I’m off to run a bath.

view from our field
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It’s Me, Ymogen

Hi everyone.  It’s been a few weeks since I posted my story, you know, about how I broke my jaw and how my pet humans nursed me back to health, that story?  If you haven’t read it, click here!!!

Well, I  just thought I’d write a few words to say I’m fine.  More then fine really, life is good.  I’m a happy wee soul, truth be told.  Lots of grass, lots of friends and lots of visits from the humans.  Hope you like the piccie of me (above), my selfie of me and my human.  Don’t I look good :).

Meeeeeee!

And I’m much bigger, too.  Been growing lots and lots.  You can see also how much I’ve grown in my piccie here to the right.

The humans are always keeping an eye on us and it’s good to know.  I mean, Yaar, silly thing, this morning he only went and rolled himself into wee depression in the ground and got stuck on his back.  We sheep are useless when that sort of thing happens, no idea what to do.  Anyway, one of the humans, the man human rebuilding the wall at the top of one of our fields, well he happened by and rolled Yaar back onto his feet.

Poor wee Yaar, but he’s fine now.  Of course, half the flock raced over for pats and scratches, surrounding the man human.  He did his best but he’s only got two arms and it’s hard to scratch about 10 sheep all biffing him for attention.  I stayed well out of that one.  I know it’s best to go over and see him when he has his black jacket on – he’s usually got nuts in that pocket and I love my sheep nuts, yummy yum.  Still not entirely sure about the head scratches though.

Anyway, back to me.  I’m fit and healthy and enjoying life.  We’ve had lots of sunny days (sometimes a bit hot phew) and we’ve had a bit of rain but I don’t mind that, keeps the midges at bay.  Those midges can be a right pain, let me tell you.

See you all again soon.