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April 2018

      

Lambing, and more lambing…

So, lambing is almost over thank goodness. I don’t know quite why I look forward to it so much, knowing how much blood, sweat and tears are involved but the workload is getting less and before I know it, I will have forgotten what weeks and weeks on 4 hours sleep a night feels like and I’ll be looking forward to lambing all over again. In the meantime, I am going to describe my day today…

6.30am – Get up and make up 8 bottles of milk for the pet lambs. We have 6 actual orphan lambs plus 4 that aren’t quite getting enough milk so need a top up. I feed all of these and then prop up a poorly lamb so she can drink from her mum.  I’m not too sure what happened but she has definitely been attacked by a fox. Her tail has been severed in two and it looks like bite wounds on her side. It doesn’t explain why she can’t walk, that could be down to tics, but we’re not sure. John has seen lambs immobile for 6 weeks and then just suddenly stand up and walk. She’s eating and drinking well so we’re quietly hopeful she recovers.

7.30am After feeding the lambs, washing out the bottles, and having breakfast, I make some jam from some frozen rhubarb I found the day before when I was looking for something in the freezer. This years’ rhubarb is growing like mad so I thought I should try to reduce our frozen fruit stock before the 2018 glut!

8.30am Yesterday I started planting the potatoes with excellent gardener (and artist), Karen Guthrie. However, there was a sudden downpour and the job was left half done so I got the job finished this morning. We’ve planted about 6 different varieties and fingers crossed some of them are blight resistant. Let out the ducks, geese and hens. Fed and made sure all had water and collected the eggs.

10am Finished packaging up a large soap order from The Westmorland Group. I’m very excited that our soaps will soon be at Tebay Services, Rheged and Gloucester Services. We are stocked in 10 different locations now. Northern Yarn in Lancaster, Grasmere Garden Village, Coniston Artisan, Classic Herd Farm Shop in Jersey, Abbot Hall and the Museum of Lakeland Life in Kendal and Old Hall Farm in Bouth. It’s also available online.

11am Clean the barn and campsite for guests arriving in the afternoon.

1pm Back to the farm for lunch and send a few emails. Bookings first start coming in between Christmas and New Year, and then another flurry around Easter time when people start thinking about summer.

2pm Make up 8 bottles and feed the lambs.

2.30pm Feed the last remaining indoor ewes waiting to lamb and creep feed for all the lambs.

2.45pm Meeting with flooring man to discuss flooring for our barn conversion. We’re almost there and it’s very exciting, however, working to a tight budget and schedule means my Pintrest boards are a pipe dream!

3.45pm Painting the freshly plastered walls of the barn conversion. The barn conversion is divided into two halves. One side will be a workshop for making our soap etc. and the other side will be a small one bedroom flat. We got some LEADER funding for the workshop side which has helped a lot but we’re having to save money on the flat side by doing as much of the work ourselves as we can. So that means, any spare time I’ve had these last few days, I’ve been painting walls, ready for the electricians coming in next week.

5pm Take Tagg for a quick walk through Bell Wood and check some of the ewes and lambs that are in the field below.

6pm Make dinner for myself and John. Normally I cook from scratch and last week we had two vet students staying with us to help with lambing, so I made more of an effort with our meals. I fancied a break from cooking and washing up so time to crack open the frozen pizzas! In normal circumstances, John would be making some of the meals but he’s been very ill lately and having to take lots of naps to be able to get through just the essential jobs on the farm. I’m careful not to ask too much of him at the moment.

7pm Make up 8 bottles and feed the lambs. Make sure all the sheep are happy and have food and water for the night. One ewe looks ready to lamb so we put her in a pen. It can easily happen that a mum-to-be gets over excited when it sees a new lamb and tries to claim it as her own. This can have dire consequences so ewes that are just about to lamb or have just lambed are put in a ‘mothering-up’ pen. This also means we can monitor and check ewe and lamb have bonded, the lamb is drinking well and his healthy, before we put them out to grass.

8pm Lock up all the hens, ducks and geese for the night and feed the dogs and cats. The hens put themselves to bed, but every evening we have to cajole the geese and ducks into their night quarters before we can lock their doors against foxes, mink and badgers.

8.30pm Tidy up the kitchen and then a quick shower. I’ve recently made shampoo bars. The fragrance isn’t very strong so I need to change the recipe plus add some castor oil to improve the lather  but I’m so happy not to be buying bottles of shampoo and conditioner any more. Once I’ve perfected the recipe, I will start selling it….

9pm A rare early night after I finish writing this post!

 

 

March 2018

A day in my life….

It’s been a  busy month with lambing. It’s a very particular time of year when socialising or taking time out just isn’t possible. John and I both had flu but we couldn’t stop work and we didn’t want to ask anyone for help as we didn’t want them to catch what we had! We were like the walking dead for two weeks but we got through it and have lots of healthy bouncy lambs that seem to be doing well despite the weather and lack of grass! It’s hard to explain to someone that’s never worked a lambing season, why it’s so busy and intense so I will describe my day in detail. John is busier than me so I don’t want to give him anything extra to do but just so you know, this is just a fraction of what gets done in a day. No day is typical, there are lots of jobs that always need doing but you just never know quite what will happen. So today….

3am – check sheep in the lambing shed. There are 4 freshly born lambs and two mums. I can see that they each have a purple dot on their backs which means both ewes have been scanned for twins, so easy enough, two lambs each. I look at the lambs and see that two have shorter Cheviot-like ears and two have long Leicester-type ears. One mum is very skittish and isn’t taking responsibility for any of the lambs. The other one seems to like one of the Cheviot lambs so I pen her up with these two lambs. It’s tricky in the dark with only a torch and lots of restless sheep trampling around and causing confusion. The skittish mum hides in the crowd so I have to shine a torch on the ewes bums to see which one has blood on its rear. I find her and  cajole her into a pen with her lambs. She doesn’t want them and twice tries to escape. One of her lambs doesn’t seem to think much of her either and tries to escape too. I make sure they’re all secure, have water and silage to eat and go back to bed. I’m wide awake so I don’t fall asleep till around 5am.

6am – alarm goes off. I ask John to check the sheep that lambed in the night and I stay in bed an extra hour. I get up at 7am and make up milk from powder for our four pet lambs. We had two sets of triplets born the day before so I make up some extra milk for them too. John notices that with one set of triplets, they’re all trying to feed from the same side. He checks the ewe and he was right, one side of her udder isn’t producing any milk, so she definitely won’t have enough milk feed all three. We give a bit of milk to all the lambs from both sets of triplet, noting which ones are good at drinking from the bottle so if we need to remove any, it will be these ones. I check all the mothering up pens and make sure they are clean, dry and have silage and water. The ewes can drink about 10 litres of water a day and they won’t drink stale or dirty water so I’m constantly either changing or topping up water buckets. I let out the geese, ducks and hens, feed them all and collect the eggs. We then take Tagg, one of our sheepdogs, out to the field to round up 4 ewes who are due to lamb and bring them into the yard. That was the plan anyway but one decides to sneak under a hole on the fence, which basically fences off the river. John has to wade in, catch the ewe, push her up the banking to me and I have to gently pull her up and keep a hold of her. They can abort their lambs if they get stressed so we have to be really careful. John gets the quad bike and trailer to take her to the yard and put her in the shed with the others. We notice that one of the sheep in the shed is about to lamb. John thinks maybe he can take one of the triplets from the mum with only one teat and let the new mum have it. She was only scanned for a single so could manage another one. John put the smallest of the triplet lambs under the lambing sheep and helps the new lamb out. The reason for this is to get the ewe’s birthing fluid onto the foster lamb so it smells like hers. The new lamb is born and John wipes as much fluid as he can over the foster lamb. We leave them to it and go in the house for breakfast.

9am – John’s dad comes to help.  They go off to pick up some sheep as they need moving to new pasture. I stay in the house and package up soaps for a wholesale order. I clean the kitchen, do the dishes, hang up the washing and put another load of washing on. Back outside to see how John and his dad are. They’d noticed that there was a dead lamb in one of the fields. We need to move the ewes and lambs from that filed anyway so I go with John’s dad. We feed the sheep and lambs in the Long Meadow field and check they all look ok. No problems so we go to The Ridden. We are moving them to the top field in The Park so we only have to lead them through one gate. They all come through easily, happy for some food and there was very little grass left. We pick up the dead lamb. A badger must have had it because there is no head at all and it’s sides are ripped off so we can’t tell which lamb it is.

Back at the farm I go with John in the pick up and trailer to move the sheep that they picked up earlier. These are my Teeswater and Castlemilk Moorit lambs from the year before, plus Brian, my pet lamb from two years ago that I can’t part with! We drop them off in their new field and notice four fell sheep in the woods. We don’t have a dog with us so we will have to try and round them up another day.

1pm – A quick lunch of scrambled eggs. We have so many eggs so most days we have eggs in some form or another! A few household chores and checking emails etc.

2pm – Check all the sheep again. The triplet lamb that was given to the new mum has been drinking from her so that all seems fine. I bring the other five lambs some extra milk which they all seem happy about. I check water and silage. I make up milk for the four pet lambs and feed them. I notice two of them are beginning to develop orf (like a coldsore) so I treat that with a squirt of some antibiotic spray.

We keep the ewes and lambs in for a minimum of 24 hours to make sure all is well before letting them out of the shed and into the fields. We check the they are getting enough milk, the mum likes them and won’t abandon them when they go outside and that they are doing sticky, yellow poos. We have six ewes and lambs ready to go out today. We put bands on the lambs’ tails and bands to castrate any boys we don’t want to keep as tups (rams). The lambs don’t like it much and squirm a bit so we let them settle down and have a cup of tea. When we go back out all the lambs seem fine and so are ready to go outside with their mum.

We let one pen of the pregnant ewes out into the yard to feed them and bed them up with clean straw. I bed up all the empty individual pens with clean straw, ready for new mums and lambs. We do the same with the other big pen. We then bed up the cows and calves, the pen with the young bullocks (after they have been weaned so all around 10 months old) and the pen with the weaned heifers. John then puts some fresh silage in for both pens of sheep and for the bullocks as they were running low. While he puts the silage in the ring feeders with the tractor , I have to stand guard around the feeders incase the bale of silage drops on anyones head. It happened once to a calf and it was lucky to survive so we never take the risk now.

6pm – I take the dogs out for a walk in the woods. Back at home I put the oven on and peel potatoes for dinner. We have some left-over venison pie so that will go in the oven too and at the end a tray of kale. A simple dinner so while that’s cooking, I am writing this blog post. After dinner, I will check the sheep again and before I go to bed, feed the lambs and lock up the hens, ducks and geese for the night. I feed the dogs and cats. In bed I think of all the things I didn’t get done and hope I can get done tomorrow. I sleep for a few hours, then out at midnight and then again and 3am and it all starts again……