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Vera gets a touch of the itchies

Vera, one of our Yorkshire lassies, has been on our radar for a while.  She’s one of three we brought over from a Yorkshire farm just after moving here and she has thrived, along with the other two Yorkshire lassies, Vi and Ursi.   Anyway, of late she has taken to sitting on her own in one of the shelters provided for them.

VeraVera has always had a bit of a tendency to do this, so no alarm bells were ringing.  Nevertheless, Nicole had checked her over just to be sure, and had found nothing wrong.  The last time a sheep went off on her own it was Scarlett whose ear tag had become infected.  But Scarlett also stopped eating and hung her head, (a sure sign something is wrong) whereas Vera could be seen chewing the cud and looking quite content as she sat in her shelter.

Yesterday was the year’s hottest day.  Even up here in the hills, it was pretty hot.  I was taking to dogs for their daily walk and I usually come back via the sheep just to give them a quick check and to say hello.  Vera was up and about, grazing with the others and I was about to head off back to the house when  I noticed her stamping her feet quite a lot and looking round.  This is the sort of behaviour that can be seen in early fly-strike, so I checked her.  No flies, eggs or maggots.  Then I noticed she had scratched her front leg raw.  Something wasn’t right.

vera - leg wound
Vera’s leg wound (sprayed with blue spray)

I went and fetched Nicole and some iodine and we treated her wound.  Then Nicole checked for other wounds as all of a sudden Vera seemed to be very agitated.  We thought there had to be flies or maggots hiding somewhere.  After a careful inspection Nicole found that Vera’s skin, in the bare places where there is no wool, under her arms and the backs of her legs, seemed a bit inflamed and slightly hot to the touch, there were also some small crusty patches.  Our first thought was it might be “scab” however we haven’t had a case of “scab” before so we weren’t really sure.

So we duly called the vet and he came out and had a look.  After a careful examination he scratched his head and said he wasn’t really sure what it was, other than it wasn’t “scab”!  Basically, he said, it was in the wrong places for “scab”  and none of the other sheep were showing any signs, (“scab” is highly contagious).  Good and bad news – it wasn’t serious (good) but we were not sure what to do to treat it (bad)?

The swellings looked like they were a bit cracked and so could be infected so the vet gave her a mixture of steroids, anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic.   We wonder if she had had a bad case of midgie bites after shearing that hadn’t healed.  But we don’t know.  The vet thought it could be an allergic reaction to something she had eaten.  Maybe we will never know for sure.

We are monitoring her closely.  She looks a little better today (Friday), but she’s still a bit agitated and scratching and stamping her feet.  Fingers crossed it will clear up quickly.

Vera tucking in
Vera happily eating grass

And a quick update (Saturday).  She is out and about munching away happily.  There is still a bit of stamping, but nothing like two days ago.  It certainly looks like the really hot day aggravated things.  She is showing some photosensitivity which confirms the vet’s allergic reaction diagnosis.

To be honest, most of the sheep were finding it a bit hot, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it made the itchy parts worse.

Nicole is bathing the affected areas twice a day with chamomile tea.  We’re hoping that helps too.

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Flower bed cleared and replanted

While the flower beds along the house and the meadow at the entrance are all looking great (summer at auchenstroan), the flower bed the other side of the lawn has always been a bit of an eyesore.  Most of the plants were, according to Nicole, a mish mash, in the wrong place; Crocosmia, Yellow Loosestrife, Solomon’s seal and Hostas.  In amongst these, Ground Elder, Bindweed and Willow Herb had taken over.  With me otherwise occupied trying to rescue some veggies (veggies version 2), it was left up to Nicole to clear the bed.

flower bed clearing underway
flower bed clearing underway

Working as a gardener and fairly busy right now, Nicole fitted this in around her work.  It was a large task and took the best part of a week to clear it.  Patiently waiting by the greenhouse were rows of carefully potted on flowers, Echinacea, Achillea and Salvias to create a wee “prairie” from the recently weeded border.  These were having to be watered daily and so would benefit hugely from finally getting into the ground.

Finally, the bed was cleared and a mountain of weeds made their way to the compost bin.  Nicole was exhausted but very happy indeed.  Now for the good bit, the planting out.

flower bed cleared
flower bed cleared
pile of weeds
pile of weeds

There was no waiting or having a wee rest to recover from all the effort of clearing it.  I was on a deadline to mulch it.  Nicole headed off to work and I was straight into mulching – it took 4 trailer full’s of mulch to put a decent covering down.  Hard, but satisfying work.  There is something very attractive about a recently mulched flower bed.

flower bed woolly protection
flower bed woolly protection

Nicole got home and after a quick cuppa, she was out planting.  Given all the problems we’ve had in the veggie patch with slugs and snails, each flower was carefully surrounded with wool.

The net result looks amazing, but will be even better once all the flowers grow and bloom.  That will most likely be next year.

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Cows drink us dry

As previously mentioned, we borrowed some cows from a neighbouring farm (cows return to Auchenstroan).  With them nicely settled in, I headed off to Edinburgh to meet a flamenco guitar master (for some guidance) and then a beer with friends.  All excellent.

I returned Saturday morning to a water emergency.  With the weather being warm, the cows had drained all our livestock water tanks.  Also, the burns that feed our tanks had dried up.  Nicole had taken some water over but the quad bike cannot tow that much and it’s also very slow to fill a bower from a tap.

So, it was out with the tractor, hook up the 600 litre bowser and set the pump up in the river.  We are on spring water here and during the summer filling a 600 litre bowser would empty our water tank (shared by our close neighbours).  So, it’s best to pump it up from the river.  One of my neighbours helped for which I was very grateful.  I also filled two 20 litre water carriers while I was at it.

cows queing for water
cows queuing for water

Once full, the bowser was towed to the tank and connected so the tank could be filled.  While that was happening (it takes two hours for the bowser to drain through the standard hose connector), I went to fill the trough with the 20 litre carriers.  At first, the cows were not sure what I was up to, but as I started pouring water into their trough, they formed an orderly queue headed by the brown cow pictured.

Once I had poured the two containers in, she dipped her head and drained the lot.  This could be a long day, I thought.  If you’re wondering why the troughs were not filling automatically, they were, but just not quickly enough.  The have a ballcock valve much like that found in a standard toilet.  The water flows in, but like an old tap.

Anyway, I zipped back and forth with the quad fetching water while the bowser offloaded into the tank.  On the second visit, the bull was at the front of the queue.  His head was almost as wide as the water trough.  He watched me with mildly suspicious eyes while I poured the water in.  His head was in straight after the first container, so I just poured the second one in next to his head.  He drained the lot and, sated, he wandered off.  It took about 4 trips before the queue started to thin out and 6 to get the trough back to full.  It also took three bowser fulls to fill up the tank (around 1800 litres).  Once done, I thought that was that.

No!

Sunday morning is my turn to check the animals.  I found the cows had made the executive decision to move field trampling a fence in the process.  Not much could be done, so we opened up more space for them and they seemed quite happy.  And they still had water.

Monday morning, all the water was gone, again.  They had managed to move a trough off its stand and so tilt it and drain the entire system.  I inspected all the troughs followed closely by a number of cows.  All empty.

Tractor out, pump on, refill…

Only this time, there was no water coming down.  In a mild panic I worked my way up disassembling each connection.  No water, but I could find nothing wrong with the system.

I gave up – we asked the farmer to take them back a day early as it was hot and they needed water.

Now, we have had trouble with this tank but I thought it was repaired.  In fact, the tank had appeared to be holding water again, so I had filled in the repair trench (before it collapsed).  I dug it all out again, but everything was fine.  And then the water started to flow into the troughs.  It turned out to be a small hump in the pipeline which the water level had to get above to start flowing.  Panic stations were all for nothing.  Only now, one of the connections was leaking.

Thankfully, I have a box of pipe connectors so I was able to repair it.  The pipe had shifted a bit so I had to put in a piece to lengthen the pipe so it would reach the connector properly.  By the end of the day, I had refilled the tank, repaired all the pipework and the troughs were all full again.  This time, only sheep would be drinking.

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Cows Return to Auchenstroan

This year, the grass has gone mad.  I have never seen it so long and lush.  To say the sheep can’t keep up would be an understatement.  In fact, of late, they have only really grazed two of the five fields they have access to.  Sheep prefer to nibble at short grass, so much of the long grass remains untouched.

cows back at auchenstroan
cows back at auchenstroan

Our neighbouring farm keeps cows and a few days back, they appeared in a field next to our track (the cows that is, not the neighbours).  It was a good sized heard of around 25 with a mix of heifers, calves and a sizeable bull.  Opportunity yes, we thought to ourselves.

So, we asked our neighbouring farmer if he’d like to graze his cows in our fields for a bit.  He was delighted to do so and brought them over yesterday evening.  After an excitable period of exploring, the cows settled down and this morning, they looked really happy.  Well, it’s a big field with lots to eat, who wouldn’t be happy?

They will be with us for a few days by which time we expect they’ll have scoffed most of it.  We are really pleased because grazing cows is really good for the land too.

 

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Veggies Version 2

I wrote a few weeks back about the problems we were having getting our veggies going this year (problems with veggies).  First, the birds dug them up and then, the slugs emerged and scoffed the lot.  We ended up with around about 3 kale, 2 turnips, 4 spinach, 3 beetroots, one half-eaten broccoli and some carrots from our first planting.  All the salads have gone.  None of the direct sown seeds have emerged.  Onions aside, A bit of a disaster really.

wool protected carrots
carrots protected by wool

Luckily, I had kept some seedlings back and potted them up.  We also did an emergency purchase of more seeds and got them going.  The problem is, though, what to do about the slugs.  We don’t really like using slug pellets and besides, they hadn’t been much use where we had used them.  In the past, I have tried various approaches, eggshells, traps etc, but none of these were that good really.  However, Nicole read somewhere that they don’t like wool.  It’s worth a try we thought as we have plenty left over from shearing.

So, over the weekend, I have been planting out the second wave.  These are all plants that have been potted up and allowed to grow reasonably large.  This should give them a fighting chance.  Each plant has been delicately surrounded with a carpet of wool.  Rain is forecast this week, we shall soon see if that works.  Fingers crossed!

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Haribo Wins Top Dog Award

Haribo came to live with us a few years ago.  He came to us unwanted by his previous owner and with a list of issues over two pages long.  Most of those issues disappeared fairly quickly, but one endured.  Haribo was very scared of dogs he didn’t know and this led to a fear aggression response.  His coping strategy was to get the first attack in.

This made walking a bit of a problem, but as we were aware of this, we were able to control him.  Over time and under George’s wing (George is our Anatolian Shepherd), Haribo’s general behaviour improved, but the fear aggression stayed. In the last few months, we have noticed that Haribo just seems to have become more relaxed.  He has a very stable life here and plenty of space.  He and George are best mates and he also likes Maga, the collie who lives nearby.

Last weekend, a neighbouring cottage had visitors coming and they were bringing a dog.  A small terrier.  She’s a very relaxed dog, they told us.  Hmm, the words ‘terriers’ and ‘relaxed’ don’t often appear in the same sentence.  When I worked as a dog behaviour consultant, most of my clients were owners of small terriers.  Anyway, I said I’d manage the introductions.  On Friday afternoon, I picked up the collar and lead, but I couldn’t find Haribo anywhere.  In the end I went to the neighbour’s cottage.  Both George and Haribo really like our neighbours and Haribo often camps in their garden where it’s cool and shady.

Sure enough, there he was, fast asleep in their porch.  It turns out they had already met, Haribo and the terrier that is, and nothing had happened.  Just a small growl from the terrier, apparently (no surprises there).  We are amazed.  The first time Haribo has met a strange dog and not gone to level 10 in an instant.  He has done well.

slimline Haribo

His second achievement is that he has lost somewhere in the region of 7Kg.  Around the turn of the year, we noticed he was looking a bit porky so we cut his food a bit.  It’s our fault really, feeding him too much and not noticing the him slowly getting fatter.  Nicole discovered some lumps so we took him to the vet.  He’d already lost some weight but he was still around 7Kg overweight.  So, we cut his food a bit more.  The fatty lumps turned out to be benign and now have disappeared.  We weighed him again recently and he’s down to 28kg, much closer to his target weight of around 25kg.

He also has much more energy and is definitely enjoying his walks more.

So well done Haribo.  Given one of his previous issues was raiding bins, it’s gratifying that even with his diet, this never happens.  In fact, we can leave the animal room open (where we store animal feed including dog biscuits) and they never help themselves.

Pack leadership really works wonders for dogs.

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Summer Shelter Gets Our Approval

Hi, I’m Selene.  I’m the leader of this little flock of sheep.  I know Peaches might have something to say about that, and maybe Ursi too come to think of it, but I see myself as leader.  Where I go, the rest follow, most of the time.  Anyway, it doesn’t really matter too much, we sheep are very good at resolving any differences we might have.  We just put our heads together and come up with a solution.  Easy peasy!

Anyway, I heard a rumour that we sheep had been shown into a new shelter for the summer and then forgotten about it straight away.  Not true.  What is true that we were a bit flummoxed when our regular shelter was closed off to us.  We like it there.  We can get to any of our fields directly.  Now, if we want to get to the big field and we’re in the lower hay field, we have to go all the way round.

Us resting in our summer shelter

Anyway, I digress.  Our normal shelter was a bit muddy and some early summer rain hadn’t helped.  The humans had put in a connection to what they call the lambing paddock.  There’s a great shelter there – I was one of those fortunate enough to use it during lambing last year.  It was great because I wasn’t even pregnant but I still got sheep nuts, yum.

Where was I? Oh yes, we’d been shown a new path.  Well, it was very nice with lots of fresh grass, but I did remember that last time we were there, we had our coats shorn off.  While, at the end of the day, we are pretty pleased about that, it was a bit stressful at the time.  So, when we found we could go back to our normal fields, I thought it maybe best to avoid the new shed for a bit, just in case.

The only thing was, I hadn’t checked the weather forecast.  Luckily for us, the humans had, and they brought us back into the shed just before the heavens opened.  It was great listening to all that rain falling yet staying completely dry.  Especially as none of us had a coat.

testing the new path

Anyway, after that, we tested the new path a few times, but there was no sighting of the shearer.  A few rather nonplussed hens, yes, but they soon got used to us.  Turns out they’d had the shed to themselves for a while and were used to kind of mooching about in it undisturbed.  On the plus side, I pointed out to them, they also had access to our sheep path and could free range as far and wide as they liked.  And, indeed, it wasn’t long before they were off exploring.

So, on the whole, we like the new shelter.  I wonder if we’ll get to use it in the winter too.  I hope so.

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Wool Glorious Wool

It’s shearing season here and sheep all over are having their wool sheared.  Given that it’s been quite hot for a couple of days, our sheep are quite happy not to be sporting their woolly coats right now.  Shearing is also important for health, hot weather means more flies and blowflies, in particular, can be quite a threat to sheep.

fleeces dried and bagged up
Coloured Ryeland fleeces dried and bagged up

One of the sad facts is that, these days, wool is almost worthless.  Most is bought by British Wool for less than a pound a fleece.  That’s pretty much what it costs to shear a commercial sheep.  For small flock owners like us, the cost is higher.

Nicole recently started making felted rugs (felted fleece rugs at Auchenstroan).  These are starting to prove popular and so Nicole is planning to ramp up production a bit.  This mainly involves drafting me in to help.

shetland fleeces drying in sun
Shetland fleeces drying in the sun

We have a few fleeces left over from last year and 27 of our own Coloured Ryeland fleeces from this year.  However, we thought it might be good to see what kind of rugs could be produced by other breeds.  So, we have got a few fleeces from our Farm-sitter’s farm (pictured at the top) and also some Shetland fleeces from a smallholding further up the road from us.

It will be good to see how the rugs turn out. They will appear in our shop as they are finished.