The picture above is Eirlys, our Welsh Black / Solair cross. Her calf, the black one at her heal, is called Eira (welsh for snow, it was snowing when she was born). The cows are all out of the cowshed now and enjoying the fresh new pasture. The hedgerows and the whitethorn are in flower, all the birds a busy finding food for their new chicks, It’s a great time to be on the farm. A pair of red kites are frequent visitors these days and a sparrow hawk made a brief appearance in our back garden on Tuesday. An impressive sight, but not good news for the young chicks perhaps.
I suspect there’s more new growth on the Oak than the Ash trees at the moment. ‘Oak before Ash only a splash’ would have us believe that it should be a dry summer. The weather this week has certainly been glorious.
I finally pulled myself together and thinned out my seedlings. Leaving only the lucky ones which happened to be the 6″ apart dictated on the seed packet. I suspect I should have done this weeks ago. The packet clearly stipulated, ‘pick out the weaker seedlings’. But they all looked so healthy to me, surely they all deserved a chance. But with a heavy heart the deed has now been done.
I’ve also had a go at putting a small selection of the spinach, and lettuce out into the raised beds just to see how they fare.
We have 17 calves in the barn at the moment all under 2 months old. They tend to cuddle up together of an evening to sleep. Very cute. But the weather is finally warming up a little, the swallows are back and nesting in the barn but no sound of the cookoo as yet. The warmer weather means it wont be long until the cows will be able to leave the cowshed for good and stretch their legs on the fresh new pasture.
Things haven’t gone well this week. Another stray sheep has eaten all my budding strawberries. They’re quite clinical in their munching. Not a single fruit or flower is left. A sharp frost has affected some of my seedlings, I guess I might have to think about running some power to the greenhouse for next year. And on top of all that I dropped a tray of plants when moving them yesterday. Young aubergine plants and compost all over the place. Nightmare!
The greenhouse is looking quite green at the moment. Louise was getting a little fed up of my propagator on the kitchen windowsill so I’ve now transplanted most of my seedlings into individual pots in the greenhouse. They include aubergines, chilly peppers, sweet peppers, sprouts and tomatoes. The only ones who suffered from this are the cucumbers. They drooped a bit after transplanting, but my new bible ‘The Vegetable and Heb Expert’ did warn me that might happen. I’ve also learnt to favor Thompson & Morgan for seeds. All their seeds seem to sprout without exception which also means I need to learn to sow a little more thinly in future.
We’ve been busy lambing again. It’s been a bit cold and wet for the lambs again this year, but they’re a hardy bunch and seam to be doing ok. The sheep tend to wander a bit more when they have lambs to feed so unfortunately the tulips have already been eaten by some athletic ewes who are able to leap the cattle grid at the end of our lane. I wonder if we could enter them into the Beijing Olympics.
I can wait no longer. Despite the continuing cold weather I’ve decided to plant my first ever vegetable seeds. I’m going for the traditional sprouts and tomatoes as well as some chilly peppers and sweet peppers. Because i like them as much as anything. I’ve bought some seeding compost, which I feel a little guilty about, as I’m trying to be as self sufficient as possible. But my home made compost just didn’t look fine and crumbly enough. So the ‘root training’ box bought for my at Christmas (not quite the Playstation3 I was hopeing for) is now pride of place on the kitchen window sill. I can almost taste those sprouts already.
Iâ€™ve read that when training a young dog itâ€™s useful to have some sheep which are comfortable with staying at the shepherdâ€™s feet. Our welsh mountain sheep are the opposite of this so Iâ€™ve penned six old ewes in the ‘gadlas’ (a small field used to monitor sick animals) and started to give them some dried food every morning. Hopefully theyâ€™ll get a little calmer near me and a little more used to having a dog in the field.
I’ve created a bit of a problem by using the ducks to train Del as she now stalks them almost continuously when I’m not around. I have to say, Will (the drake) doesn’t help as he seems to seek out Del and challenge her to a fight on occasion. If I rap on the window for example Del will sit obediently facing me but the duck will continue to peck away at the back of her head. I’m at a bit of a loss what to do.
Weâ€™ve been muck spreading in the fields near the house. Itâ€™s not the nicest job on the farm, but we try and do it before the holiday season starts to spare our guests the somewhat pungent aroma. But as far as the fields are concerned the smellier the better and it certainly helps reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
So Del and I have been working on some basic obedience training. She sits and stays on command pretty well and comes back to me when called. We’re having a bit of a problem with her chewing everything however. Do date weâ€™re one pair of slippers, one pair of childâ€™s school shoes and numerous toilet rolls down. She also pines a little at night despite doing all I can to make the shed outside as comfy as possible.
Every body has advised me that I shouldnâ€™t introduce Del to sheep until she is at least 6 months old. She may get bullied by the sheep whilst small and be permanently but off apparently. So, being as impatient as ever, Iâ€™ve been trying to teach Del to round up our two Indian Runner ducks in a small fenced off area next to the house. She seems to be doing ok, and certainly has the right body position so Iâ€™m encouraged.