Archive for May, 2009

Bitten!

Poor Snipe was the victim of a random attack yesterday when a dog pounced on her and came very close to completely puncturing her ear, if not ripping it altogether!

We were at the RWAS Smallholder & Garden Festival in Builth Wells and took the dogs with us as we knew we’d be out for 14/15 hours – far too long to lave the dogs alone in the kitchen!

They were far too excited when we arrived but once they calmed down and got used to the crowds, smells and other dogs, they behaved extremely well, apart from Midge’s determination to be top dog and “protect” us all from other dogs (whilst adopting their owners!). As the day progressed, even she relaxed and was just starting to accept that (a) we weren’t at threat from other dogs and, more importantly, (b) she wasn’t top dog anyway, when the worst happened. A sheepdog-cross launched an attack on her, clamping his jaws around her ear and dragging her about 6 feet before letting go!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, after a cursory “is your dog ok?”, the owners vanished into the crowds!

I always carry an antiseptic spray on me so was able to clean her up without too much trouble, especially as Snipe was in shock and for once didn’t protest as I mopped up the blood and sprayed her ear.

I cleaned it again when we got home and was relieved to discover that my initial fears that her ear was completely punctured were unfounded, and the skin has merely been grazed and torn, but only skin deep. Mind you, Snipe is the world’s greatest wimp and rolled onto her back, legs trembling, big brown eyes wide open, shaking as I gently cleaned the dried blood off with cold water and then applied more antiseptic! From the way she was acting, you’d think I was giving her stitches! She did the same this morning, and I’m pleased to report that it’s starting to heal already and (fingers crossed) there’s no sign of infection.

One thing I am extremely grateful for is that B had Midge when the attack happened and that I didn’t have them both, as I had done earlier in the day. I was obviously focused on Snipe, not Midge, but B said that our little terrier tried to throw herself at Snipe’s attacker, and probably would have tried to rip his throat out, but for the fact that not only did B have a strong grip on the lead, she also grabbed hold of her harness and more or less pinned her to the ground until it was all over.

So, the obvious consequence was that Snipe was terrified of other dogs, and Midge was convinced that they all other strange dogs were going to launch a repeat attack on her friend and so got in pre-emptive attacks. Lots of them. Luckily, they were restricted to barking furiously but it took a lot of work to inject some courage into the one whilst calming down the other. Walking them around worked best, and by the time we left, Snipe’s confidence was slowly returning and I successfully usurped Midge’s assumed role as The Boss. It will take a lot more work to get back to where we were, but I think we’ll get there.

In the mean time, Snipe’s trying to milk things for all they’re worth and doesn’t seem to understand why she didn’t get steak and sausages for breakfast!!

Looking back

It’s been a while since I posted any photos from our year living at my mother’s smallholding in West Wales, so I thought I’d break my blogging silence (no reason, just busy) with some of my favourites pics. There are quite a few, sorry about that!

The view from mum's front gate - 8 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 8 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 15 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 15 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 17 April 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 17 April 2008

The ponies, pigs and chickens all get their breakfast - 29 April 2008

The ponies, pigs and chickens all get their breakfast - 29 April 2008

Snipe decided to help us replace the guttering - 29 April 2008

Snipe decided to help us replace the guttering - 29 April 2008

Queenie - 4 May 2008

Queenie - 4 May 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 5 May 2008

The view from mum's front gate - 5 May 2008

Tia and Bob decide to use the entrance to the chickens' yard and house as the perfect snoozing place - 8 May 2008

Tia and Bob decide to use the entrance to the chickens' yard and house as the perfect snoozing place - 8 May 2008

Shutterfly the Section A yearling meets Stella the Kune Kune - 10 May 2008

Shutterfly the Section A yearling meets Stella the Kune Kune - 10 May 2008

Stella makes the perfect wallow - 10 May 2008

Stella makes the perfect wallow - 10 May 2008

Some of mum's Section A mares and foals - 13 May 2008

Some of mum's Section A mares and foals - 13 May 2008

Ted, mum's Section A stallion - 13 May 2008

Ted, mum's Section A stallion - 13 May 2008

Freedom for the chicks!

I opened the door of the broody ark yesterday afternoon and let Mama Silkie and her chicks venture out into the Pekin / Silkie chicken run.

Chicks - 10 May 2009

All that grass and they make straight for the bare earth!

The chicks were slightly overwhelmed and kept hiding in the long grass and Mama didn’t help matters by constantly abandoning her charges as she made up for nine weeks’ confinement, but they certainly enjoyed themselves and were furious when I shut them up again a few hours later. I didn’t mean to shut them up, but they all went back in and I thought it was an excellent opportunity to remind them where they live!

Chicks - 10 May 2009

I really hope the two Pekins on the left are female. Time will tell. Bet they're male!

Other than some initial curiosity, the other chickens were absolutely fine with their new companions, which was a relief. Mind you, the broody ark is in the run and they like to spend their days sunning themselves next to it, so the chicks aren’t exactly strangers to them.

And I’m glad I’ve been handling them every day as they are quite friendly and whilst they’re not exactly thrilled when they’re picked up, they don’t object (too much). The November lot are the complete opposite. Wild comes to mind… Oops, my bad!

At last, new wheels!

Well, it’s only taken several weeks (!!) but I’ve finally got a new set of wheels… and they even come with an engine and seats and other car-like things!

Amelia the Citroen Picasso - 9 May 2009

Amelia the Citroen Picasso - 9 May 2009

Amelia (named thanks to her number plate) is a Citroen Picasso, not my initial choice but the car’s had rave reviews and I’m anticipating some good miles to the gallon. She’s very spacious and the dogs fit comfortably in the boot with plenty of room to spare. I’m going to invest in a full height dog guard, then I can put the back seats down and use the floor space to cart the pigs’ veggies, bales of straw etc.

There’s no tow bar yet, but that’s being fitted next week. I’ve noticed a couple of things that the garage were meant to have sorted, so I’ll be going back tomorrow to get them fixed, but the miles I’ve done so far have gone really well. She’s very comfortable to drive, very smooth and quiet. She invites you to sit back and enjoy the ride, which I certainly intend to!

Hurrah for having new wheels!

Now I’ve just got to talk my insurance company into paying me the true value of my Suzuki, not the paltry 50% they are currently offering me!

Update on the lasagne garden

Last autumn, Jennie and I set about establishing a lasagne garden. I’ve been slowly adding to it all winter and spring so it’s very much in various stages of development and is what could honestly be described as a “work in progress”!

However, having read Compostwoman’s excellent post about making compost, I realised that the lasagne garden is quite clearly too dry as there are a fair number of ants hanging around it.

So yesterday afternoon I whipped off the tarpaulins that have been covering the patch so that the overnight rain could get it nice and soggy.

Lasagne garden - 7 May 2009

Lasagne garden - 7 May 2009

As you can see from the photo, the bit we did first has come along and nicely and is, in my very inexpert opinion, ready for planting. I’m going to use the lasagne garden for things like courgettes, melons (well, it’s worth a try!) cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, etc.

There’s one patch that we’re not using this year so in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to turn this into a lasagne garden in preparation for next spring. If I start now, it should be more than ready by next year!

600 eggs!

Wow, as of New Year’s Day, my hens have laid 600 eggs!

That’s not bad and I’d like to thank them for each and every one, especially the ones that made my omelette the other night. It was the first time I’d managed to make one without it turning into scrambled eggs, which made it doubly tasty. (Thanks, Delia!)

Peggy Sue, the Pekin x Silkie who hatched in November, is yet to even think about laying, but her “sister”, Molly the pure Pekin bantam, has been laying for a couple of weeks now – they are very weeny eggs, but perfectly formed nonetheless. It’s good to know that I’ve got a pure Pekin daughter of John and Dolly, in addition to Peggy Sue, and it looks as though one of the other pure Pekin chicks from the April lot is also female. Fingers crossed!

The very best of friends!

Snipe and Mac, best friends for ever!

Snipe and Mac - 5 May 2009

You can't go to sleep like that, you're grubby! Urgh, dogs! Filthy creatures!

Snipe and Mac - 5 May 2009

Shush! Less clean, more sleep. Night night all.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, Snipe’s box bed fell apart so we’re trying out her proper bed again. It only works if I lift the sleeping bag out of her bed in the kitchen, otherwise she sleeps the night there. It’s not really a problem, apart from the fact that she comes and wakes me at 5am. And again at 5.15am. And again at 5.30…

Oh, Bailey!

Things are not looking good for Bailey. He’s been with Tia since the beginning of February but although he has dutifully covered her every time she’s come on heat, something obviously isn’t working as she’s come back into heat right on schedule, every three weeks.

This is not good news for Bailey.

I know he’s getting on and accepted that this would probably be his last year, but it looks as though last year was his last year and this year is just expensive for me.

Bailey - 18 April 2009

Bailey - 18 April 2009

You see, the problem is that I’m currently feeding three sows and a boar with no return. And the longer the sows go without having a litter, the harder it will be to get them in pig again.

So I’ve had to make a very difficult decision, one that I should have made a couple of months ago but couldn’t bring myself to.

Bailey, my lovely, friendly, gentle giant of a boar, has to go. And there are limited options for an infertile boar, even one as docile and sweet as him.

I’ve been offered a fairly decent amount if I sell him to someone who will cull him and, sadly, this is probably the most likely course of action.

I then need to decide what to do next.

I could get a replacement boar but I’ve made a few other decisions as well.

I’m going to sell Brini and Scrumpy, and just keep Tia and her daughters, Perky and Fergie. Fergles is, obviously, just a pet, but Perky has her mother’s temperament plus much much more. Combined with her impressively long back and overall size, I think she’ll make an excellent breeding sow and would suit me much better than Scrumpy. I never thought I’d say that as Scrumpy is wonderful but I guess that’s the way it goes.

There’s someone who is interested in the pair but I’ll advertise them if they don’t want them. Of course, there’s always a chance that I won’t be able to sell Brini as I’ve never had a litter from her, in which case she’ll accompany Bailey on his Final Journey. Kind of romantic: they adore one another so it would suit. You never know, I might find someone who’ll take the pair and Bailey…!

Scrumpy and Brini - 8 March 2009

Scrumpy and Brini - 8 March 2009

If I want a litter of piglets weaned before winter sets in, I need to get Tia in pig when she next comes into season in a couple of weeks, so finding a boar to lease or a “stud” that will take her ASAP is my first challenge.

Next year, I’ll lease a boar for a couple of months in February and March, putting him with Tia first and then Perky. If Tia has an autumn litter, it’ll be hard work for her and she’ll need lots of TLC but from then on, it will be one litter a year for them both.

Having made this decision, I feel horribly guilty whenever I look at Bailey, Brini and Scrumpy, but what else can I do? There were a number of other options I considered, but this plan ticks every box so it must be the right choice.

Unless I win the Lottery! Piggies, cross your trotters!

Brambles, basking and bikes!

I spent yesterday clearing some brambles in the enclosure that’s playing host to Fergie, Perky, Scrumpy and Brini. The two adults are in heat so were in a mood with me (no, I don’t know why either) and kept vanishing off to sulk and/or squabble, but Fergie and Perky followed me faithfully, pouncing on each bramble stalk as it miraculously fell from the heavens.

Fergie - 3 May 2009

Fergie

Perky - 3 May 2009

Perky

Pinky and Curly spent the day in the nettles (Curly’s been making a tunnel. I don’t know where it leads.) but as tea time drew ever closer, they took up position so they wouldn’t miss out.

Pinky and Curly - 3 May 2009

Pinky and Curly

B, meanwhile, spent the afternoon repairing an old bike she’s been given and once I’d sawn off the too-long seat shaft thing (you know, the one the saddle’s attached to), she was able to take it for a test ride and I was able to test out my photography skills when it comes to action shots.

Becci tries out her bike - 3 May 2009

Becci tries out her bike

The bike worked great and just needs a few more bits doing to it.

I’m a rubbish photographer.

Hasta Luego, John and Dolly

I’m down two more chickens, but panic not, this time it’s a good thing!

I’ve finally found a new home for John Wayne and Dolly Parton, the pair of Pekin Bantams. I’ve been looking for someone to take them for ages as I only want to keep one bantam cockerel and in a choice between John and Captain Flint, the lavender Pekin who thinks he’s a parrot, sadly there’s no choice. John is very handsome but while he’s not aggressive, he’s not exactly friendly either. And while I’d love to keep Dolly, as she’s a great layer when she’s not broody, her and John are inseparable. If one goes, so must the other.

Dolly Parton and John Wayne - 4 January 2009

Dolly Parton and John Wayne - 4 January 2009

Dolly’s been broody for about five or six weeks now, which has been incredibly frustrating as (a) the broody ark’s occupied with Mama Silikie and her chicks and (b) I don’t want any more Pekin / Silkie chicks but don’t have a regular cockerel for the layers! So when I saw an ad for a broody hen, I got in touch and offered Dolly, but with the proviso that John goes with her.

Luckily the couple who took them understood immediately when I described how affectionate the pair are to one another and how John tends to Dolly’s every need and readily agreed to take them both.

Thanks, John and Dolly. You’ve both been great and I’m glad I’ve got at least one daughter from you both (“Molly”, who has started laying!).