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1st: We opened the gate to our bottom three acre to give the goats access to loads more browsing. It has only taken them THREE days to find it - they were still munching at ten o'clock this evening!! Gotta love free food!!
And in other news, the legacy of the cows lives on as this afternoon we spread muck from the old cow compost heap onto the peas, beans and sprouts bed. It will supress the weeds, retain moistuire and add much needed organic matter to the soil!!
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2nd: And then there were five! Today we sold the last of our available turket poults leaving us with just five: two possible pure Bourbon Reds, a Black/Crowlizter cross and two Bronze/ Black crosses. Hopefully one at least will be a male and so be the new 'daddy' for next year and then depending in how the rest turn out, we may keep an extra female or two as well. It has been a great year for turkeys: 60 hatched from 65 fertile eggs, 52 survived and 47 sold. It has bought a few bags of feed for sure. We are going to miss having so many youngsters around mind you!!
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3rd: We get a huge amount of pleasure from watching our animals grazing and enjoying being outside. The goats in particular give us a lift as they really are a very setttled and harmonious herd now. Coriander is very much back in her rightful place: below Pebbles and Garlic in the pecking order, but above the three yearlings. Sorrel is in the best health we have ever seen her and is more confident and sweet natured with it: she has been the first to start to accept Barrington and Bruno and they now sleep near each other most nights!!! We are so looking forward to kidding next year!!
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4th-5th: The left hand picture kind of sums up everything we love about smallholding: the simplicity and beauty of grazing animals against a backdrop of english countryside, blue skies and ever changing cloud formations. Yesterday was truly vile: dull, damp and cold; today spirits have been lifted and the reasons we live this way of life now appear blindingly obvious! And the picture on the left captures the moment when we shepherded the rhea back into the bottom 3-acre field from the far 2-acre. This truly is their field: large enough for masses of running, tall grass hosting a myriad of potential food sources and best of all, we now get to spy on them with our binoculars from the study windows!!!
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6th: These two are just adorable - and so chilled. This is them laying in the middle of the top 3-acre whilst the rest of the herd graze around them!!
In other news Jupiter is NOT good - his swollen joints seem to be getting worse, walking is tricky and he is lying down a lot, Gito (the vet) fears it is rickets and we are not entirely sure there is a way of making things better for him!!
Taragon's lameness on the other hand is improving, although we are worried about how twisted his spine may now be. We have an animal physio coming out to see him on Wednesday!!
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7th: We are slowly, slowly starting to make the most of our wool and fibre. This is the beginnings of our first peg loom rug - around 20 rows now complete and starting to look like it could actually be a something useful. We are using carded wool as it is softer and less full of debris than using wool straight from the shorn fleece and by using the 'diz' we feel we are able to get fairly even rovings too.
David is going on a spinning course tomorrow and a rather smart loom is due to arrive by the end of the month. We are also pretty sure that we will, for the moment, be keeping all of this years' lambs in order to make the most of their fleeces next year!
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8th: Clare and Dave Hunter Siemens were over today to treat Taragon. They were utterly amazing: Dave is a world reknown animal chiropractor and Clare a canine and equine Bowen specialist. Between them they began to 'straighten' out Taragon, to get his joints more mobile and to try to aid the recovery of his damaged leg/hip. They concluded that he had taken a very nasty fall or knock and that it will be a slow road to full (or maybe slightly short of full) mobility again. By the end of the session, his pelvis was straight!!!
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9th: We do adore the ducklings - these faces are pretty mega cute. They are such socialable creatures, they love to free range, to talk, to fly. They come in all sorts of amazing colours and they make great mums (and dads). They also grow really really fast and so make fab meat birds. However, as we find ourselves eating less meat and coping even less with the whole abbatoir/ dispatching processing, we are pretty sure that we are going to stop breeding the Muscovies and just keep our five females and the wonderful Grape, our faithful drake who must now be a good seven years old...
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10th: Today we fashioned a run out of scaffolding netting and hurdles in order to give the rhea access to the outside and crucially, more space to run around and strengthen those leg muscles, Seeing them in the long grass, snapping away at seed heads and flying insects as just beautiful!!! We love these guys and selling them is going to be hard!!!
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11th: We don't mind too much about having mole hills on our land. Moles aerate the soil and their tunnels may well help with drainage. AND our animals just love mole hills as they thoroughly enjoy having a good roll in them. For chickens and turkeys they help get rid of any lurking parasites that are hiding in their feathers, and for goats and alpacas they probably do a similar job as well as clean their skin and fur.
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13th: After lots more consultation with Gito, blood tests that showed correct calcium/phosphorus levels/ratios (i.e. indicating NO rickets) and pain relief that seemed pretty ineffective, today we took the heart-breaking decision to euthanaze Jupiter. Walking was so hard for him, his joints clicked, he wobbled and when the other alpacas moved away, his distress at not being able to keep up was so obvious! The vets concluded he may have either a tumor or the onset of early arthritus - neither of which would be easily fixable, if at all!! It's the end of an era!! We are so grateful to have known Jupiter and are indebted to him for all his fox guarding, lamb watching and for generally for being a perfect smallholding custodian.
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14th: Classic IS - waiting at the gate, hoping it will be opened soon so they can go and chase those pesky swallows again!!!
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15th: Oh my word, they have arrived. Our mare and foal are now here and Jack is not too ashamed to admit she shed a tear or two as they walked off the ramp...
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15th/ cont: The grey filly is still not back to full health and so needs to stay with Jo Ellis a bit longer till she is fit to travel. In the meantime we will spend time with these two, establishing routines, teaching them that we are not scary and gradually taming them. We have an incredibly exciting journey ahead!!!
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16th: One of our new chickens laid her first egg today and we are still in love with ponies (as they are with each other)!!
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17th: We are mega chuffed to announce that we have managed to hatch all four of the next set of fertile rhea eggs, two needed some help, two were fine on their own; one is white and the rest are grey. We now have 10 of these amazing chicks running around and zillions more eggs in the incubator!!
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18th: The ponies are voting with their feet and have decided they rather like their shed. It's a place to escape the flies and also the heat! LIttle did we realise when we designed this set up for the cows over three years ago, how ideal it was going to be for these guys too!!
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19th: We bought this ball for the goats several years ago (who were either way too scared or totally disinterested LOL). This young fella is however, very, very happy with his new toy!! Here he is doing is best bubble gum impersonation as he carefully holds the whole ball up by his front teeth!!!
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20th: We bought a dozen hatching eggs from a friend three weeks ago, a mixture of cross breeds from brown, blue, green and white eggs. Ten eggs were fertile and nine have now hatched. As well as some pretty egg layers, we are also hoping for an interesting new cockerel from them too. As ever, young chicks are very cute!
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21st: The rhea love their run and today we put the latest chicks out with the older six ones. Watching them eat their lettuce together always makes us smile. We never see any bullying or pecking and 'new' additions are accepted without any fuss at all. Tonight all ten birds were snuggled up together under the heat lamp!! Sooo sweet!!!
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22nd: A third session for Tarragon with Clare and Dave.. He is making progress, he weight bears more and has no problem keeping up with the rest of the herd BUT he is still limping and maybe will for some time, although we haven't given him pain relief for a while as he seems not to need it. We will now see how the next few weeks go!!
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23rd: Our mini herd is complete as the grey filly arrived today! We had a bit of 'pushing and shoving' as the three of them reminded themselves they were actually still friends and then to celebrate, we opened up the two acre field so they could have a good run and then chomp their way through the night!!! Just the small matter of names now.
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24th: These stunners are from Nigel Retallack at Carpalla Alpacas - as is usual with Nigel when we are after new alpacas, we ask for non-breeding stock and he sells us pregnant females - seriously, once again he has done us proud, these are four beautiful animals (and only one is pregnant), with gorgeous colours 'and' they are a mixture of Suri and Huacaya which is perfect for our weaving/ spinning plans. As usual, it is always interesting introducing new stock (after a short quarantine period of course). Alpacas seem to be the most accepting of all the animals we keep - a bit of sniffing, ears back and forth a bit and that's kind of it!!!! (would love it if goats were so understanding about newbies in their herd!! 🤓). It was also fascinating to observe that when we walked the dogs through their field, our existing trio 'circled' their new friends, keeping them firmly on the 'inside' - their protective behaviours kicking in straight away. It was as though they were saying: 'it's okay, we know these creatures, they won't hurt you but we look after you just in case!!' Amazing!!! Thanks Nigel!!!
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25th: We went for our 'we-should-be-working-but-we-really-need-to-go-and-check-the-animals' mid-pm check... and despite the fact it was raining, a lot, everything and everywhere looked fab. Animals that needed to be in, were inside and dry with fresh straw; those that were happy to be out, were happily grazing with cover should they need it. We returned to our desks very happy!!!!
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26th: This evening, David explained to Roxy what a whelping box is and how to use it - we cannot fault her listening skills!!! #DueAWeekToday - eeeek!!
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27th: In order to be fair!!! Roxy gets a great big whelping box and so the others get a blitz of the dog room and brand new fluffy vet beds!!! Dragonfly looks so cozy!!!
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29th: Mike and Ellie Paddock came over today to teach and demonstrate how best to start the process of getting Luna more handleable and halter trained! They are an amazing couple and we watched in awe as they properly demonstrated the whole natural horsemanship/ 'pressure and release' way of training. Later in the afternoon, Jack got Luna in the shed again and had a fabulous half hour session that built on the morning sucesses and saw Luna standing calmly and with acceptance whilst Jack touched her head, neck, back and shoulders!! And to make it all even more perfect, we were able to pay Mike and Ellie in ducks as they took away all of Pear's 18 ducklings (6 weeks old)!! A brilliant way to do business!!!
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30th: Yet more successes on the rhea front as over the last few days the latest set of eggs (x3) have all hatched. We had to help one out that externally pipped but then got no further, the other two managed all by themselves. This set has given us two whites and a grey, bringing our total to 12: eight greys, four whites and of course Rescue rhea.
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31st: Roxy (Marshmoor Purple Velvet) had her wicked way with Gloria's Marshmoor Black Jack on Monday 1st June and today, Friday 31st July and a mere 60 days later, she has given us TEN puppies, five boys and five girls (thus satisfying our slight obsession for symmetry and equal numbers!).
Read all about here...
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