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Scotland Here We Come

auchenstroan cottage

Well, it has been a while since we have posted anything here.  There are numerous reasons, all too boring to get into.  Nevertheless, we have been very busy indeed.

Over the summer our lambs grew and developed unique personalities.  Most moved on to new homes.  Woodpecker Larry, our first, headed off to breed with a small flock in Somerset.  Warlock, the cutie pie was snapped up by a lovely couple in Wales and he too should be close to being a dad now.  We kept Wart and Wallace and hope to breed or swap them for breeding.  Plus our girls, some went to a home nearby, some went just a bit further and some now have a lovely life in Devon.

But we kept Witchy and she has grown into a precocious young lady.  It’s so great to see, especially given her precarious start in life (Witchy’s story).

However, our time at West End Barn draws to a close.  We have purchased 27 acres of Scottish countryside in Dumfriesshire.  As well as 5 massive fields, we have woodland, a small loch, rivers, walks – it’s just perfect.

And we can’t wait to introduce all of our animals to their new home.

We drive up this week, driving overnight to avoid the traffic.  I have done my qualifications for moving sheep that distance and sorted out all of the paperwork.  We’ll be going in convoy as we have to keep our rams and ewes separate (for obvious reasons).  It’ll be a long drive (we’ve already done it once as a dry run), but it will be worth it.  We have outgrown our patch here and the sheep will really enjoy the bigger fields.  Plus it’s all a bit hilly so they should get a bit fitter.

And while we couldn’t lamb them this year (as we didn’t know when the move would happen), we do have a surprise in store, so watch this space.

And finally, I am looking forward to getting back to my homeland and may even try a bit of that kilted yoga lark 🙂

Our new site will be at

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Busy getting ready for lambing

new apple trees

Both myself and Mrs D have worked non stop this weekend.  A lot of our motivation is to get everything ready for our lambs which should start appearing around Friday.  The sheep are already in the lambing shed, so that’s all done.  This weekend was all about getting the outside areas ready for when we turn them out.

new hedgeFollowing a recent robbery, we decided to put a hedge at the bottom of our field.  As well as making it hard to get in (it’s all thorny bushes) this would have the added benefit of blocking the view of our field from the road.  However, sheep are very partial to thorny bushes, so with the sheep indoors, now was the perfect time to plant the hedge and fence it off.  It was only about 35m, but still a lot of plants (83 in total).

On top of that, there were 25 apple trees waiting to be planted.  Being bare root, they had to go in soon.  These trees were going in the orchard and as this is also used for grazing, had to be fitted with tree guards,  Rather than buy hugely expensive ones, I fashioned some out of some galvanised wire mesh.  Those jobs kept me occupied!

dog proof fenceMrs D had already cleaned up the field and was now working on securing the fence.  Sadly, our neighbour has three rather aggressive border terriers.  They truly are bad cases of “small dog syndrome”.  The last thing we want is for them to take an interest in the lambs and try to get into the field.  Which, truth be told, is quite possible, dogs being dogs.  So Mrs D has been on her knees making sure any rabbit scrapings or gaps under the fence are well and truly blocked.

And in between, we found a small dunnock lying on the ground.  So that was duly nursed back to health.

Still, nearly there, preparation for lambs is looking good.

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Haribo settling in well

Haribo has been with us just over a week now.  I am happy to report that he has settled in well.  He gets on well with our large dog, George.  Our terrier, Maxi, pretty much ignores him as she does most dogs.  She did that with George when he first arrived, but now she follows him round so we hope she’ll warm to Haribo in her own time.

Haribo, as one would expect from a collie, has lots of energy and a desire to please and work with people.  He particularly likes playing ball and will run and fetch a ball till he drops!  No surprises there, most collies like to play ball.  So, he gets to play a little ball on each walk.  Sometimes George joins in, but he seems to be going through a bit of a lazy patch.  It may be because he’s on a diet (having put on a bit of weight).

In our orchard, the grass is quite long so Haribo gets to chase the ball but more often than not, then has to find it.  It’s great stimulation for dogs to use their noses to find things.

Haribo is also undergoing some basic training, improving his sit stays, recall and downs.  Sometimes he’s so keen he just can’t stay in one place and seems to glide around the floor like a dalek.  However, a quick learner, he is beginning to realise that the motionless dog gets the reward.

And he loves his food.  Well, they all do.  This picture shows them sitting waiting to be allowed to eat their dinner (which is on the floor in front of them, just out of shot).  You can see from the intensity of their expressions that they can’t wait!

three-dogs-await-dinnerAnd after dinner, they all retire to their beds for a well earned rest.

And tomorrow, I’m back at work at Pawplay after the Christmas break, so lots of doggie fun and play awaits.

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Mulching is very satisfying


Well, it’s 2016 so Happy New Year to you all.  I hope it’s going to be a good one.

One of things I’ve noticed about smallholder life is that I spend a lot of time moving piles from one place to another.  Logs, rocks, MOT, compost – there’s always a pile of something to be moved.  Presently, there’s a pile of coppiced willow branches and a dead apple tree to be cut into logs.  On top of that, there are also two trees that have blown down in the recent storms to be cut up and stored.

However, yesterday, our local farmer delivered a trailer full of horse manure.  I am quite pleased with this arrangement.  I’ve tried other means of collecting it but it’s hard work.  This way, a pile just landed in the garden.

Of course, then I had to move it!  So I got moving and barrowed it up to the veggie patch.  Our soil is pretty much clay, so it needs a lot of organic matter.  I spread it quite thickly.  It never ceases to amaze me how small an area a full barrow covers.

Nevertheless, I have moved it all and most of the veggie patch is now mulched.  I have another trailer load coming soon so that we can also mulch the fruit cage and some of the flower beds plus the bits where veggies are still growing (couldn’t really cover those areas).

And I just love standing back, when it’s all done, and looking at the veggie patch.  It’s the only time it looks relatively under control!  Hard work, but intensely satisfying.


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New Boy on the Block


Today, we added a new member to our animal family, Haribo the collie.  As some of you may know, I work part time at Pawplay, a local day care and boarding centre for dogs.  One of the regulars is a collie called Haribo.  Over the few months, the owner has been looking to rehome him.  Collies are tricky dogs because they require to be worked otherwise they can easily become bored and destructive, so finding a new home was proving tricky.

In the week before Christmas, something made me think that maybe we should take him.  It’s hard to be specific, but I think dogs know when they are on the “rehoming list” so to speak.  Maybe I saw it in his body language.

Anyway, me and Mrs D trooped to Pawplay (Haribo was a Christmas guest) on Christmas Eve so that Mrs D could meet him.  She loved him straight away so we asked Richard if he could sort it.  Arrangements were duly made and we picked him up this morning.

Introducing a new dog is something to be done carefully.  As fans of Cesar Milan, we pretty much followed his approach.  The result was a very calm introduction to his new surroundings and our dogs.  Of course, they already knew him from Pawplay and indeed, George was delirious with happiness to welcome him.

haribot-collie-runningIntroductions made, we headed out for a walk.  It really helps the new dog to settle if they are tired out.  We headed to our field and let all three off to play.  Haribo loved it and charged around.  He and George played a little but Haribo was off running this way and that.  George still has a sore leg from an accident a few weeks ago so is a little reticient to run too much.  The only downside was Haribo found a nice patch of duck poo and proceeded to rub it all over himself.

haribo-collie-runningWe checked on his recall and, well, it needs a bit of fine tuning.  But once, he gets the idea he’s to come back, comes back quickly and happily.  It’s something he needs to master before we can trust him off lead.  There are pheasants, rabbits and even deer around – mucho tempting for any dog!

But, he had a good time and then we walked around the village to test his heel walking.  A tendency to pull, but being a collie, he soon worked out what was wanted.

Later in the day, we introduced him to our livestock.  First the chickens.  He showed only a passing interest – perfect.  It took us weeks to train our terrier they were not to be hunted!

sheep looking at dogThen the sheep.  Now, we had harboured thoughts about training him to be a sheep dog.  A test for a sheep dog is to let them see sheep and see if their herding instinct kicks in.  It’s pretty obvious when it does!  Well, our sheep were more interested in Haribo than the other way round! They trotted over to inspect him.  Haribo glanced at them and then discovered the tasty dog snack of sheep poo!  So, as a sheep dog he may need a little encouragement.  Not that we mind, it will be easier for us if we can take him in the sheep field and he doesn’t go racing off rounding them up!

And then, back to the house for a well deserved rest and a chew.  But that was not all, the smell of Duck poo was just too strong.  Soon Haribo found himself having a bath.  Haribo was a little uncertain, but the combination of warm water and a massage from Mrs D turned it into a positive experience.  He was even less impressed, at first, with the hairdryer, but some gentle rewards based training with our terrier as a role model and he was soon stretched out enjoying a full blow dry.  And it’s not long till dinner time :).


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2015 drawing to a close


It has been a few weeks since our last update.  That’s not because nothing has happened, on the contrary we have been busy as ever.  But much has been maintenance and stuff that is hard to write about, and probably harder to read about!

Given it’s approaching Christmas, we should probably have a suitably festive picture, but the fact is we can’t find the Christmas tree.  It was in the stable, but it has vanished into thin air.  The stable was cleared and now is a straw and hay store.  All the pipes and cables left hanging by the previous occupant have been tidied up and boxed in so it can be used for lambing if needs be.  But the Christmas tree disappeared in the process.

Talking of lambing, Ginge the ram has gone home.  We were sad to see him go as he was quite a character.  Quite laid back, not what I expected in a ram at all.  I think he was a bit miffed to be going home because he butted me for the first time just before we loaded him into the trailer.  Luckily, from only a step or two away.

We have finally tidied up our entrance too.  That’s what the picture is above.  There was a bit of a gap in the hedge and it was just overgrown with grass and brambles.  I dug all that out and planted another hedge.  And then we marked the drive with stones, partly to protect some manhole covers and partly to make it look nice.  Then we covered it with MOT.  At last, no more muddy experiences getting out to open or shut the gate.  I painted the milk churn as a birthday present for Mrs D.  If you look closely, you can see the little sheep on it.  I had to do it twice because the first time, the paint just peeled off.  Now I know Hammerite metal paint sometimes needs a primer!

Aside from that, plenty of mulching is going on in the veggie patch.  I’m hoping a local farmer will dump a trailer full of horse manure round soon.  It doesn’t go far – I emptied four large compost bins and that hasn’t even covered half of it.


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Our first apple harvest

apple harvest

We bought our field a year or so ago.  It used to be an apple orchard and many of the apple trees have survived.  At the damper end of the field, all but 3 had perished.  We have planted our woodland at the damp end, put in a drainage ditch and started to look after the remaining apple trees.  This mainly involves a bit of pruning, removing of mistletoe and keep the sheep from eating the bark.

Today, we had our first harvest.  As already mentioned, we contracted this out.  I had a wee walk up there earlier this afternoon and found this large trailer full of our apples.  It’s great, and probably will lead to our first income from our wee farm.  No idea how much yet, no idea how many tons of apples there are either.  And there are more to come as the trees still have plenty of apples on them.  So the second harvest is planned for the end of the month.

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Apple harvest begins


While the summer doesn’t appear to have been that great, it has been quite dry. Nevertheless, we seem to have a good crop of apples in the orchard.  It was a bit of a puzzle what to do with them.  It’s hard enough picking up the apples from one tree let alone over 100.  Mechanised apple pickers cost thousands of pounds.  And there’s the transportation and so on.  And we need to harvest them as the sheep will be using the field in December and that many apples would not be good for them.

Luckily, we live in the heart of cider country and so Orchard Park Farm  are taking our apples to make cider.  This is great, they are harvesting, transporting and processing the apples and paying us for them too.  All in all a great win for all of us.  We are expecting the first harvest to take place in the next day or so and then a second harvest at the end of the month.

The interesting thing is that they wait for the apples to fall naturally (it is common practise to use mechanised tree shakers round here).  Apparently, it makes for a better flavour.

We may have to buy a couple of bottles and test that theory.

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Another day out on horseback


As I wrote recently, my wife treated me to a horse trek.  It was my first time on a horse and I enjoyed it immensely.  Well, Nicole’s uncle was visiting from Switzerland last weekend and so she thought that it would be great for all three of us to go riding.  Kurt had never been on a horse before.

horse-riding-in-country-laneSo, on Saturday moring, we were up bright and early (no different from any other day) and on our way to Quantock Trekking.  It helped that we had been before as it’s quite a tricky route through the country lanes.

This time, we were early and joined the general throng of people getting ready for riding out.  The stables were busy!  My horse, Gerty (she drew the short straw again) was looking a bit tetchy.  Thankfully, she became happier with a few juicy carrots.

Soon, we were all three on horses and off we went.  Kurt was a natural and after we reached the hills, our instructor and guide suggested a trot.  No training, but off we went.  I kind of got the hang of it, I think.  There were a few trots on this ride and they were good fun.mist-in-quantock-hills-on-horseback

At the top of the hills, the mist was drifting across the grass making it very atmospheric.  Quite mystical, in fact. We enjoyed it but the horses were somewhat concerned by a nearby dog (a husky).  The dog showed no interest in the horses but one of our riders had to get off and walk her horse for a bit.

Then we were on our back down, through the car park and down the lane back to the stables.  All in all, a great day out.


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Blackberries and dogs


As the seasons march on and autumn descends up on us, more quickly this year it would seem, the berries begin to ripen.  And now, in the fields and lanes around us the blackberries are ready.

Now, we have quite a lot of mature brambles on our patch.  Most of the year, this is not good news, but now they are laden with tasty fruit.  All of a sudden, brambles are good.

So, with dogs in tow, I set off for our orchard and woodland.  Covering over 3 acres, it’s full of adventure for dogs.  Moles, pheasants and all sorts of wildlife leave exciting smells and trails to follow.  Paradise for dogs.  And they love it.


you stop to pick blackberries!

Then this happens:


Off lead, no restraints, wide open space, but no, so much better to sit with a face like a slapped kipper.  I have never fully understood this, nevertheless, I carried on picking and left her to it.  Our other dog, George, also lay down but seemed more content to wait for me to finish.

Net result, a tray of lovely blackberries to help flavour our apple crumbles throughout the winter months.  Yum!