Autumn has arrived with all the expected colours appearing once again. We had Harvest Festival at the church last Sunday and Harvest supper in the village hall on Tuesday evening. Everyone brings something from their garden, or something they have produced, jams, chutneys, etc. I brought a leg of Portland hogget and took home pumpkins in return. We raised over £200 for charity.
Matt came over on Friday morning to help me do the feet of the 21 ewes who will soon be with the rams. Sheep feet need checking and trimming on a regular basis. Hurdles were set up already forming a pen, and I had been calling them in with the shaking bucket ploy for a few days. All of them came running but two managed to evade capture, shooting out at the last second as I tried to close the entry way.
When Matt arrived we managed to chase escapees into a corner and all the sheep were now ready for the foot work. So far so good. And the rest of the morning continued the same way. Matt flipped a sheep for me, I started the feet, he flipped another for himself and on it went. I chatted away as usual, giving him histories of individual ewes. I’m sure he was terribly bored.
There is a real technique for turning a sheep. I’ve tried, but still struggle. Once turned on their back ends and propped up, they relax and stop struggling. I wonder about the ancient shepherd that discovered this holding pattern with his sheep.
Onto the worming on Friday after the Fecal Egg Count test results. Another test on the 21 ewes and shearling ewes indicated a low count, so treatment not necessary for them. It is poor procedure now to routinely drench your sheep, as worms are building up resistance.
We gathered them in, Dan held while I inserted the drenching tool into the back of their mouths and released the medicine. Of course the drenching tool I used didn’t quite fit this bottle so it also slowly dripped out on me. Dan them checked their feet and did a bit of routine trimming.
Shooting season has started and Saturday was the first day of our local village shoot. It was stir-up day and we did stir them up! 60 birds shot, our best day ever. Our little shoot has been going for 3 years now. It is not a typical shoot, rather a bit of a rag-tag affair. Although our gamekeeper, Gordon, is serious and dedicated, and the shoot is improving hugely. I beat with Hector my cocker spaniel. He is amazing, a wonder dog. But I am a poor master, and he doesn’t give a toss what I say. Other dogs are much better behaved, but Hector is well liked so I am forgiven for my poor dog control. After the shoot we had a lovely lunch in the pub, but for the rest of the season, the guns’ spouses, who all beat, too, take turns cooking lunch for everyone after the shoot. These lunches often last for hours!
The rest of the weekend I dedicated myself to apple juice making. We have a small crusher and press. All hand done, not electric! It takes quite a bit of time, from collecting apples (down through the week and stored in the cold room), to wiping them, cutting in half (throwing out rotten bits), crushing the apples, then pressing them down, with juice poring put into a bit bucket. I have very sore arms and shoulder muscles from the work. It is most helpful to grab a passing man who can twist down and get more juice extracted. I am pretty tough but a muscly man can do more, and I am glad for the help. 51 bottles so far. After filling bottles, they are pasteurised in my small bit of equipment bought for that purpose. The bottles are heated to 70 degrees, for 20 minutes. If bottles are not pasteurised the juice will ferment in the bottles and explode. Today I began collection again of apples and hope to make another 30 bottles.
Discovered a calf with the eye infection. We are moving them back up Crabbe Hill on Thursday so vet coming tomorrow to inject the eye. Matt will help, and hopefully the calf will be easier to restrain.
Two days after we got the cows and calves up to Crabbe Hill (a group of 12), I noticed on my daily rounds that a Nini had a runny eye. Then I saw the horrid cloudy eyeball. Another cow with the New Forest Eye Infection. That meant we had to get them back down for treatment. So very early Friday morning, still pretty dark, Richard, Matt and I walked them down and into the field with the holding pen. Once in there I could see another cow with a slightly infected eye. The vet came in the afternoon. After a panic and bit of a struggle getting the two cows into the holding area (much swearing) Richard showed up, the vet arrived and we got on with the treatment. Not easy, even with the animal in the crush. As with the bull, the head must be held as still as possible to inject penicillin directing into the eye. The younger cow, Nini, was pretty calm, she is small and sweet. Camilla is older and wiser and she put up a good battle but my very calm vet got the needle in. Now we wait a few days then back to Crabbe Hill, where my Highlands do their conservation grazing.
Having left the holding area in perfect order after the cattle visit, I woke up the next morning to see the lambs had crossed under a gate and were now in the field with wethers and my ram. Not good. I discover this as I am going to a Macmillan coffee morning in the village hall. Needless to say, I was late. Six ewe lambs needed shifting back, so I called them all into a quickly assembled pen. Three came trotting down, were picked up (I was wearing my nice clothes) and carried across the holding pen to the field from which they had escaped. Three did not. But I realised my ram was totally ignoring them, and it seems they have not yet hit puberty and my ram obviously prefers a real woman to a little girl. Thank goodness. In other breeds a 5 and 1/2 month old might be ready for a ram, but not my little Portlands. so I went off to my coffee morning, smelling of sheep.
In the early afternoon I moved the three last ewe lambs back where they belonged, coaxed them into the little pen, along with a couple of wethers, then picked them up and walked across. Lordy,
I hope the ram has fooled me and been naughty with my little lambs.
Next is worming the lambs. I did a FEC after cleaning the dirty bums last week and the roundworm count is too high.
And as my cows and calves are close to the holding, I had the vet over today to castrate my one bull calf. Mary and I did very well on our own. She pinched their balls, twice each one, so four pinches and done. The calf gets a shot that numbs it all up first. Karen, his mother stayed nearby and gave us lots of noise as he struggled in the crush. Job done.
Sausages are delicious! Spicy hogget, and Hogget Meugues, moroccan spice, I also have a few lamb sausages, and all the loins, legs and shoulders from the younger animal. We’ll keep this all for ourselves this winter, I LOVE the lamb, which is technically hogget as over a year old. Full of flavour, not too fatty.
Jo Stover has daily adventures on her small farm, together with her Highland cattle and Portland sheep, bees, a few hens, dogs, and some two-legged family and friends.