Posted on Leave a comment

Sheep get haircuts and health checks

It’s a long time since our flock were sheared, 7 months to be precise!  Plenty of time for a sheep of a woolly persuasion to get a touch of the ‘woolly eyes’!!

This basically means it’s time for a wee face trim.

There’s more to this than just aesthetics, if the wool growth is such that the sheep can no longer see properly this is quite stressful for the animal.  Sheep rely on good eyesight to keep watch for predators, especially to the sides and back whilst they’re grazing.  If wool growth stops this they can become jumpy and nervous.

I really enjoy trimming sheep’s faces, it’s a satisfying job and over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to keep them calm and relaxed while I do it.  I have to keep them still while I do the haircuts which is easier said than done and has taken many years of practise.  The method which works for me is to pen each sheep up individually and then tie the animal to a hurdle using a halter and lead rope.  Our flock is used to the halter and lead rope, I give them ‘halter training’ lessons from a young age and it’s really paid off when it comes to handling them.

So, with the sheep haltered and in position, I gently support their chin with one hand, (this stops them from moving forwards), and with the other hand I carefully snip away the wool from around their eyes.  Then, while I have them penned up I also check their bottoms and hooves.  It takes me about 20 minutes per sheep, I never rush this job because it’s a good time to bond with the sheep and it gives me the opportunity to spot anything which needs attention.

Yzzy

Today while I was working on Yzzy I noticed she was passing dung through both passages, front and back so to speak.  This wasn’t too much of a surprise as when Yzzy was a lamb she was born with a condition fairly common in newborn lambs, no anus.  The vet had had to come out and make an incision and within minutes she was fine.  The incision was basically a new back passage and would mean Yzzy could grow up and lead a normal life, she just wouldn’t be allowed to have lambs.

But today it seemed she had created a new passage, one which shouldn’t be there. I mulled it over and pondered what to do.  She didn’t seem to be in pain, we would have noticed if she was because sheep tend to go off on their own and hang their heads and look obviously depressed.  She had displayed none of these behaviours.  As with most things concerning animal health, its always a good idea to think things over carefully before intervening.  When to intervene and whether to intervene are questions which continually run through our heads when faced with situations like this.  My instinct told me not to intervene but to keep an eye on her.  I spoke to Adrian over lunch and we thought we’d ring the vet just to double check.  The vet agreed with us, to leave well alone, it was likely that more complications could occur through intervention so unless she was in pain, then the advice was to do nothing.  So we’ll keep Yzzy on our radar and hope she stays happy and healthy.  As they say, there is never a dull moment when keeping sheep although I would probably replace ‘dull moment’ with ‘ a moment without a worry’!

Posted on Leave a comment

The burden of leadership

Selene leader

Hi, Selene here.  As you might already know, Peaches, our leader for some years, passed away last month.  Having felt that I have been deputy for a while, I thought it only natural that the mantle of flock leader should fall upon my shoulders.  Well, it can’t be that difficult, I thought to myself.  Peaches made it look easy.

However, I find myself facing a couple of challenges.  The first is that I am never quite sure what to do each morning.  It’s the middle of winter and the weather can be pretty harsh around here.  We have shelters we can use and our favourite is down the hill near the humans’ house.  There are feeders full of hay there too and the ground has a stony covering, so it’s a good place to hang out.

Up near the top of the fields
Up near the top of the fields

The problem is, after we’ve had breakfast, I’m sometimes not quite sure what to do next.  Should we hang about round the hay and shelter?  Or should we head up into the fields?  The fields are good because they are quite dry.  No matter how much it rains, there are areas that are dry and don’t get muddy.  There’s also quite a lot of grass even though it’s January.  Not like last year!   Or was it the year before?  Hmmm (or should I say meh).  Anyway, we do like to head up to the top of the fields where we can chill out and chew the cud.

Sometimes, while I am pondering what to do, Ursi can get a bit impatient.  Before I know it, we are butting heads and the problem of where to hang out is quickly forgotten.  I am not sure whether Ursi, who’s quite a big girl, wants to take over or whether she’s bored.  Either way, I have to win the headbutting contest.  The problem is, Ursi just won’t give up.  Sometimes, Yzzy tries to get between us, but Ursi will have none of it.  A step back, lower the head and then biff.

I think the humans have spotted this because lately, they have been leading us up into the fields mid morning.

Anyway, this leadership lark is a bit trickier than I thought.  Maybe it will get easier in the spring when we can sleep out more.  I hope so.

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Hoggy update

hoggy the hedgehog

In November last year, I happened upon a tiny hedgehog out foraging.  At just over 300g, she was too small to survive the winter so we brought her in so that she could overwinter indoors (see Spending the Winter Indoors).  Had we not done so, she would have perished.

Over the first few days, Hoggy put on weight at a phenomenal rate.  Now, two months later, she is approaching 800g and so we have to be careful not to let her get fat.  Indeed, we have been considering releasing her early.  This can be done if the overnight temperatures stay above 5o for a week.  In preparation, we have turned her heaters off so can get used to it being a little cooler.   I say cooler, but it still averages around 14o in her indoor home, a good 10o warmer than outside.

January has been pretty mild, as it happens, but just not quite warm enough.  On top of that, the rain has been relentless so we are now looking at a February release.  A deluxe hedgehog house has been purchased so she’ll have good shelter (if she chooses to use it).  I’m also repairing the hedgehog feeding station (cat and dog proof) so we can leave her food to help her get established outdoors again.

In the meantime, despite the strong temptation to sit with her on our laps, we handle her as little as possible.  We change her bedding regularly and that is the only time we pick her up.  It takes much willpower as she is undeniably cute and, for a hedgehog, incredibly tolerant of being handled.

 

#hedgehogrescue #rurallife #galloway #hedgehog #hedgehogs

Posted on Leave a comment

New Trees Planted

auchenstroan trees planted

As the new year gets underway, one of the first tasks to be done was to plant the trees I had bought in the autumn.  Each year, we buy bare root trees which are planted during the winter months.  While we already have quite a large area of woodland, you can never have too many trees.  As well as creating excellent wildlife habitats, they provide interest and also, hopefully, some winter wood.  We have planted a lot of hazel which is a tree that benefits from coppicing.  The plan is to used the coppiced wood to keep us warm in the winter (rather than the oil central heating).

new woodland at auchenstroanThe planting itself took a bit longer than normal as there are a lot of stones round here.  More often than not, the spade would hit a stone a few centimetres down.  This meant a lot of probing around to find a gap so as to make a hole deep enough for the roots.

It was also quite wet.  We have had a lot of rain and some areas just soak up the water coming off the hills.  Fortunately, we had bought hardy trees used to damp, Scottish weather, so hopefully they will thrive.  The really wet areas we’ll let willow self seed.  Also, I had a new pair of wellies which was just as well as the old ones had sprung a leak.

Last year, we planted about 50 trees.  This year I got a bit carried away and bought 140 trees.  More work, but it’s worth it.

oak tree at auchenstroanWe have added the trees to three areas, down near the bottom of our patch (top photo) and then bordering a large area that we have earmarked as a wildlife area.

At the same time, I rescued two oak trees from our fields.  Oak is poisonous to sheep so it’s not a good idea to have them in the pasture.  They probably won’t eat the leaves, but the acorns could prove tempting.

The cows, however, helped themselves and both trees show the signs of major cow damage.  Now, away from nibbling teeth, they should thrive.

Now, it’s just about watching them grow.

 

 

#treesplanting #woodland #scotland #rurallife #wildlifefriend

Posted on Leave a comment

Happy New Year!

A very Happy New Year to all our readers!

Yaar fleece
work in progress!

I just wanted to update all you lovely people who follow us and let you know that I’ve not abandoned the shop, I realise there are just two rugs in there but fear not, there will soon be more stock appearing.  I am working on Yaar’s fleece as we speak, it is his first fleece and the locks are soft like a powder puff, fluffy like candy floss and, well, in a word, just gorgeous!  Yaar is a real character, he’s known for getting into pickles (see here) and chewing cud very loudly in your ear, usually at inopportune moments.

Yaar
Yaar, what a handsome chap!

I also wanted to let you all know that I take commissions.  If you would like a rug, throw or seat pads of a particular size or colour (obviously depending on the colour and number of fleeces I have available), then I am happy to do this.  Just send us an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as I have peeled off my wellies.

Meanwhile, I would like to wish everyone health and happiness for the year ahead, and lots of baas from our wee woolly friends x

Posted on Leave a comment

Gap in stone dyke filled

stone dyke gap half filled

We have a lot of stone dykes here and over the years, some have fallen into disrepair while others have been, shall we say, modified.

gate gap in stone dykeOne such modification was a gate fitted in between two fields.  While this gate might have made sense when all the fields were part of this farm, over the years bits have been sold off and the gate now sits between ours and a neighbour’s field.  In fact, it had become kind of a gate to nowhere.

The problem is that the gate was rotten and the gentlest of nudges would have pushed it down.  Not a problem until you have rams in one field an ewes next door (see “hello boys“).  We could have replaced the gate, but there was not much point.  There is already a proper farm gate about 50m away, so there is access between the fields.

So, the decision was made to ditch the gate and rebuild the wall.  The only problem was all the stones that had formed this part of the wall had long gone.

We had recently been give a pile of stones from a house in town where they are renovating house and garden.  However, there were not enough even for this small gap.  Also, they were all pretty small, not ideal for dry stone dykes.  Off I went in search of some more, larger stones.  I found a few and ferried them over with the quad bike.  The wall itself was up a bank, probably around 1.5m (5ft) high.  I had to get all the stones I needed up this bank.

collecting stones for repairing stone dyke
Getting the stones up the bank

It was easy for the small stones, I just lobbed them up.  The larger ones were a bit trickier.  One in particular proved nigh on impossible to get up.  After three attempts had resulted in me losing my grip and having to jump out of the way, I named the stome Sisyphus and sat down to ponder.  I could have gone and got the tractor and lifed it with the front loader, but in the end, I rolled it up the track, got it up onto the bank where it was lower and rolled it back again.  Of course, having done that, I realised I could have just put it on the quad bike and drive in it round to the other side. Doh!

Having got all the stones ready, I retired for a cup of tea and a rest much to the gratitiude of the dogs who were, by now, pretty bored watching me moving stones.

stone dyke gap filled
stone dyke gap filled

Next morning, under the not so watchful eye of the dogs, I rebuilt the wall.  You can see Sysiphus bottom left (under the very white stone).  They never look quite so big once they are in place.

The small stones turned out to be a pain, so I had to scrounge a few more stones.  Luckily, there are a few just lying around.

We are pretty pleased with that little job.

Still plenty of stone dykes to repair though.

Posted on Leave a comment

RIP Peaches

The last few days have been cold and yesterday, we took advantage of the frozen ground to lay an area of hardcore around the sheep’s hay feeders.  The frozen ground meant that the tractor did not do too much damage to the ground.

Before starting, we moved the sheep out into the fields to keep them out of the way.  On finishing, we allowed the sheep back and it was then we noticed that there was something not quite right with Peaches.  It was not entirely unexpected, Peaches’ condition had not been good for some time.  She had, in the summer, been checked over by the vet but there was nothing obvious wrong.  Peaches was the oldest of our sheep and was approaching her 9th birthday so we thought this lack of condition might be age related.  We had been giving Peaches small supplements to ensure she was getting enough to eat, but her condition never really improved.

Peaches leads the sheep down the path
Peaches leading the sheep down the path to the hay

Yesterday, Peaches was separating herself from the flock.  This is often a sign of a sheep that is unwell.  We offered Peaches some chopped turnips and while she ate a little, she didn’t seem to be her usual self.  We called the vet out to have a look.  The vet found a little blood in Peaches’ poo and said that her stomach seemed a little bloated.  However, there was no obvious sign of anything serious.  Peaches was showing no sign of anemia meaning fluke and worms were discounted.  The vet did hint that there might be something wrong internally such as a tumour, but that it was hard to tell.

The vet administered a few injections to help Peaches with any pain or infection and also to help get her digestion moving.  Having been very tolerant of all the handling and needle pricks, once out of the treatment pen, Peaches was off like a shot up the hill.  We continued to keep an eye out and she did seem to be eating hay from the feeders later in the day.  However, she was still kind of keeping her distance from the flock.

Sadly, this morning, we found Peaches had passed away in the night.  She had passed away in her sleep and lay, looking very peaceful, in one of the field shelters.  Peaches was the flock’s matriarch and was a gentle leader.  We shall all miss her.

Posted on Leave a comment

Frosty mornings

sunrise at auchenstroan

A cold snap in November seems to have been a regular thing ever since I was a kid.  Each year, the frost would come and it would look like a white christmas was in the offing, only for it to warm up again.

frosty morning at Auchenstroan
frosty morning at Auchenstroan

The last couple of weeks have been pretty chilly.  The good thing is that after a spell of heavy rain, it has given the ground a chance to dry out a bit.  Nevertheless, winter is here and it we’ll be dealing with mud for a while now.

The best part of the frosty weather is the sunrises we get here.  Looking out to the east, we see the sun rising over the hills casting it’s red and orange glows across the sky.  It’s a very peaceful time of the day.

It’s a pleasant walk up to find the sheep and see what they are up to.  Mostly, it’s lying around after a good night’s sleep out in the cold air.  The sheep do like a bit of cold, dry weather.

For us, after the walk around to check all the animals fine and that the hen doors have not frozen shut, it’s back inside to our Aga warmed kitchen for a breakfast of good Scottish porage.

sunrise at Auchenstroan
sunrise at Auchenstroan

Posted on Leave a comment

It’s time for Hay

sheep at hay feeders

Around late October, early November the grass pretty much stops growing and loses most of its nutritional value.  For sheep, that means its time for hay.  This year, the late autumn was pretty mild so the sheep chose to stay out for grass a bit later, well into November in fact.

Peaches leads the sheep down the path
Peaches leads the sheep down the path

Nevertheless, we got the hay feeders cleaned up and the hay ready.  We’ve moved the feeders nearer the house this year.  It means it’s all much closer to the hay store making things easier for us.

It also means the sheep have access to the lambing shed as a winter shelter.  In fact, they now have two field shelters so they are spoilt for choice.

To get to the new hay station, the sheep would have had to cross a marshy area so in the summer I had built them a path (see sheep happy with new path).  One morning, I went up to check on the sheep and they followed me back down (pictured right) and found the hay all laid out for them.

Some of them tucked right in while others still wandered off eating late autumn grass.  Over the following days, the visits to the hay feeders have increased and so we see them down at the feeders about twice a day now.

The other great benefit is that we can see them from the kitchen window.  We do like being able to see our sheep from the house.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Latest rugs in our shop

felted sheepskin rug

With the onset of winter and frosty days I’ve been busy wrapping up my gardening business for another year.  This means I get a lovely rest, oh, sorry, that was a Freudian slip, I meant so say, this means I will have more time to start the Big Winter Feed Ritual for our woolly friends, in other words, keeping the sheep feeders full of hay.

The grass is low nutrient and provides little nourishment for the sheep during the winter.  The hay meanwhile was cut at its peak in July, and contains plenty of flowers, it smells of summer and the wafts remind me of Swiss mountain villages from when I was a small girl.  The sheep love it and can get quite overexcited each morning when they see the bales coming their way.  They actually make filling the feeders quite challenging as they pile in like a bunch of frenzied five year olds on Christmas morning.

rolling the rug

Winter also means I get to dive headlong into rug production.  Making rugs is very time consuming, during the summer one rug can take two weeks or more to put together as I’m running about doing other things.  In the winter my days are spent between the hay shed and my girl shed.  My girl shed is fabulous, I love it!  It’s actually the summer house and just a stone’s throw from the house and the kettle.  It has power which means it’s toasty and warm and more to the point, makes the felting process actually possible.

In the last week I’ve made two rugs; “the Molly rug” and “the Ursi rug”.  The Molly rug (see here) was made using fleece from our friends’ flock.  They have a friendly family of Mules, Herdwicks and Texels.  The Molly rug was made using the long fluffy locks from one of their Mules, (the offspring of a hill breed mother and lowland breed father).   I love the way the Molly rug has come out, it is creamy-white with long, powder puff locks and just invites you to cuddle into it.

sheep peek at Molly rug

The second rug I made using fleece from our own flock, from Ursi actually, (see here).  Ursi is a big gorgeous girl, naturally friendly, always up for a back rub and a chat.  Ursi has a pale grey fleece with beige and cream running through it.  I made a big rug from it as Ursi is a big girl with lots of fleece.  I’m very happy with the way the rug has turned out, it’s soft and bouncy and the colours are just beautiful, just like Ursi herself.

The Ursi rug

#colouredryelandsheep, #handmade, #feltedfleecerug, #vegetarianrug, #sheepfriendlyrug, #crueltyfree, #britishwool, #ethical, #sustainable, #smallholding #ruralliving #thegoodlife #scotland