Monthly Archives: April 2011

First Successful Soay Lamb

The first Soay lamb was born last night. Becs and I managed to see the final stages through binoculars, but it was dark, so we could only really see the outlines. We set our alarm really early this morning, to go out and check progress,and also to ear tag the lamb. The lamb is a little tup (boy). Becs has just looked upsome more things about what to expect. The lamb will be pretty slow and stationary for the first few days, feeding occasionally. Then more bouncy after about 3 days. As long as he is up on his feet and close to mum we have nothing to worry about.

Both Ewe and lamb are doing really well.

5 hours after it was born

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First Soay Lambs

The 23rd of April is Becky’s birthday, and unfortunately it didn’t bring the happy news we have been waiting for. We woke up and went out on the plot to do our normal morning rounds, to find one of the ewes lying down and next to her were two dead new-born lambs (twins). I presume they were still-born. They were entirely fine to look at, normal size ( I am guessing), she had clearly cleaned round both of their mouths, but the rest of their bodies were still in the sacks. When we went down to investigate, she got up and has been totally fine ever since. (A little bit of calling to them, but she is quickly distracted). She seems to be in good health.

I have no idea why the two lambs died (or were born dead). She is in good condition, and was all the way through the winter. The night was very mild and the electric netting had not been breached. Everything else looked normal. I am hoping that whatever has caused this will not affect the other ewes, as we are still waiting on 3 others.

If anyone reading this has any ideas at all as to what might have caused this problem, please add your thoughts to the comments, I have found lots of different ideas by reading forums etc, but nothing definitive.


Helena the wonder ‘goose’

I crept out after dark tonight, to candle the 4 goose eggs that our giant Naked neck chicken Helena is sitting on. Guess what!!! It loks like 3 out of the 4 are developing. I will check again in a few days, but it all looks pretty hopeful. Helena is a fantastic broody and is worth her weight in gold (which is a lot, as she is so heavy). The weather continues to be wonderful, my farmer tan is getting more and more ridiculous (brown face and t-shirt arms).


Espalier Trees

We’ve decided to use the good fence between the orchard and the veg plots for espalier fruit trees and I have taken it upon myself to spearhead this particular project. I will be setting up a working group to gather relevant information, laying out an implementation and design plan and instructing a task and finish group to complete the project.

It appears that I am the only member of the working group and so far I have set the following parameters for the trees that I would like to plant in this area:

1. Must be a heritage variety

2. Must all work together pollination wise (i.e. from the same or neighbouring pollination groups)

3. Must be a mix of cooking and eating fruits

4. Must be suitable for slightly heavy and a little bit damp soil

5. Must be spur bearing not tip bearing as this is better for espalier training

6. Varieties must ideally include some (if not all) varieties that are suitable for storage

So, after a bit of research I’ve decided to stick with apples, because frankly, they seem the easiest and the most useful overall. I found a great website that lists all of the varieties that originated in Leicestershire as figured that as heritage varieties go it was probably sensible to start in the local vicinity.

The long and the short of it is, that I think these varieties will do the job. I think (although I need to check out rootstock options and the actual amount of space we have) we may be able to get five in there.

http://www.orangepippin.com/apples/annie-elizabeth This is a cooker that originated just down the road in Knighton. (Pollination Group E)

http://www.keepers-nursery.co.uk/product.aspx?id=BELSEE&v=4 This is also a cooker and originated at Belvoir castle (PG D)

http://www.keepers-nursery.co.uk/product.aspx?id=STAILR&v=4 This is an eater, not actually sure where from, but Leic somewhere (PG C)

http://www.orangepippin.com/apples/red-devil This is another eater and it comes from Kent, which isn’t Leicestershire but does have a link to the plot as Z was born there. It has white flesh which is infused with the red pigmant from the skin, sounds good. (PG C)

http://www.keepers-nursery.co.uk/product.aspx?id=COCPIP&v=4 And this is the last eater which I’ve put in to even it up a bit really as it’s from Surrey and that’s where I was born :-). It’s a bit russety apparently but stores well. (PG C)

Having had a look around I don’t think buying root balled stock is an option so we’ll need to wait for the bare rooted stock to be available for order in May time for planting in November. That was the implementation plan. Task and Finish group to resume in May.


Downshifting and TV

http://learnersedgeinc.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/tv-turnoff-week/ I just really enjoyed reading this bog entry, it got me thinking about our TV usage.  

From mid March onwards we are watching about 2 to 3 hours of TV a week. This is mostly due to the light nights meaning more time on the plot, late night dog walks and plotting and scheming the summer planting. Early mornings also mean earlier nights. In the winter we watch more TV as the nights are dark and we can’t be outside as easily, the wood burner creates a different focal point for the room and even in the winter we are turning it on less and less.

I have toyed with getting rid of the TV on a number of occasions, but haven’t ever managed to go through with it.  I’m increasingly unimpressed with the entertainment that is beamed into my home, I find it depressing, consumerist and unrepresentative. Maybe one day I will save myself £145.50 a year and put that into an indoor projects fund. Imagine how many craft materials and board games you could buy with that money.


Bird Hide

I’ll explain more when I have time for a proper write up, but here is my bird hide. It took me a day to build out of salvaged timber


Grass Snake

BEEEEUTIFUL weather this weekend. We spent the whole time out on the plot watching wildlife and making progress on various projects. I did a bit more stock fencing round by the river in the forest garden and saw a grass snake. I heard a rustle, and then saw its tail disapear into the river.

I can’t be sure it was a grass snake, but it seems pretty likely after reading this link about the habitat they like. http://www.wildlifebritain.com/britishsnakes.php

It was pretty big, as fat as a 50pence piece and at least 40 cm long if the bit I saw is in proportion.

We also saw a green woodpecker. The wildlife on the plot just keeps getting better and better, we are working hard to maintain a wildlife fringe around the edge of the stock netting, and resist the anti-permaculture mancured approach.

We have got 13 days off in a row starting on Wednesday this week, I am so looking forward to developing the plot and spending time with our animals.