Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Weathering Storms

Shooting season is over. It was a bittersweet ending. I put on Mike's slippers one last time to greet the guns in the morning and outline the day's shoot. The slippers were a practical joke given to Mike by the guns. They all have matching slippers except Mike who just took off his boots at the door and wore his socks to greet them. Mike accepted the slippers with good humour though he confided in me later that they cost more than his day's wages. He never took them home and always left them tucked away under a chest for shoot days.

The slippers were huge on me and I slopped about in them, curling my toes inside them to hold them on. I couldn't fill them literally or figuratively. But, like wearing his yellow shoot socks, I wore his slippers and hoped that, like talismans, they would help me do his job.

I have left the slippers in the same spot for the new head keeper.

I was relieved when the formal days were finished. I think I held it together to see the season through, but they were some of the hardest days for me emotionally. I had to muster up all my reserves to face each one. Grieving is a personal tragedy; clients do not want to see it or deal with it. Nor should they. But it's hard to put grief on hold. Like I said, I think I managed OK but only just.

I have since heard that three local head keepers have been made redundant at the end of their seasons. They will now have their own grief to attend to, and my heart goes out to them.

Gamekeeping is a precarious life built on the capriciousness of sporting guns and estates. A perfectly run season can still end in shoot closures and job losses for any number of valid reasons. So the gamekeeper has to find new work, move his home, family (including kids in school) and learn new ground and what his new bosses want, and care for pheasants, all within a few months' time frame, before he's expected to deliver good shooting days. All this, with the Sword of Damocles in the form of shoot closure, always hanging over his head.

There is the Gamekeepers Welfare Trust set up to help guide keepers though the rough parts of the job, but suicides are still too common. Wet winters like the one we've just had (and are still having) increase the pressure.

Man, I'm a Debbie Downer, aren't I? Here's some nice farm photos to cheer you up-

Seven dogs loaded up and ready for a woodland walk - on a rare sunny day! 

The Welsh black x Duroc piggies enjoying a trough full of goats milk - a real treat!

Normally Mike and I would look forward to the end of the shoot season and our two week holiday, which only ever lasted a few days as Mike got bored quickly. I have embraced the whole fortnight and thrown myself into therapeutic (slightly compulsive) jigsaw puzzling and reading. I love reading about Arctic and Antarctic exploration, though the closest I get to adventure is tasting the whiskey allegedly drunk by the 1907 British Antarctic Expedition.

Farm chores still demand attention. The wet winter means hay is at a premium. Again. I made my own hay this year but with Mike's illness I didn't find time to move it indoors and half of the hay has spoiled from the rain. My neighbours kindly sold and delivered some large bales on their tractor and that's helped me through the worst of the hungry months. Now I'm back to picking through and salvaging the best small bales to feed to the sheep and goats.

The goats are ravenous and eat most of the hay. I made a decision to cull the oldest nanny, and the two goatlings from last year: the boy and the girl with the withered leg. The old nanny and the boy went to market together and made a good price (which will be spent on animal feed!). The female with the withered leg couldn't go to market. For welfare reasons, the rule is that any animal going to market must be able to put all four feet on the ground. Not easy when you only have three and a half legs to start with!

Our deer stalker kindly offered to shoot her in the field for me. If I tried to do it, she would have come too close looking for food and brought the rest of the herd with her. And, I would have kept putting off the job if it was left to me.

Ready to hang in the chiller for a few days

I butchered her today. There is enough to share with my Jamaican neighbour, and I minced a lot of the meat to make burgers this time. There's also a big pot of  bones stewing on the Rayburn for the dogs in the morning. It makes their kibble a bit more interesting. Plus, you know, waste not want not and all that.

I also sent Horned Ram and the last entire ram lamb to market. Horned ram recovered from an infected scrotum but the vets couldn't guarantee that he would be fertile again, so I couldn't sell him on in good faith as a breeding ram. Thankfully I have his genetics in my flock, but it was sad to let such a handsome, quiet lad go. I only have two rams now: Aled the new Dorset ram I bought and Bertram the Friesian ram.

The sheep trade is so good and the grazing is so tight that I've decided to sell nearly half my flock, including all the hybrid Bertram lambs. I will keep 25 or so of my core breeders (and yes Grumpy's lamb is definitely staying!) and build up the numbers again when I feel able. Turning this commodity into money when the market is high is sensible, especially when you can literally make more stock and build up your future reserves again.

There is no way I am conceding the farm or my future farming plans.

I will start back on gamekeeping duties next week. I will trod Mike's well worn February path: taking stock of inventory, making repairs, having the incubators and hatchers serviced. The boys are feeding the catchers, ready to set in a couple weeks' time. We are all trying to make the transition for the new head keeper as seamless as possible.

All of us can only embrace hope that the weather will improve, spring will come and grass will grow. Lambs will be born (eventually!) and pheasant chicks will hatch. Even when so much is against us now.

The back of my whiskey bottle has a quote from Ernest Shakleton: "I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown." I'm not trekking 1700 miles to the South Pole or even climbing an active Antarctic volcano. But I climb out of bed every morning and face the unknown. That is a start for me.

Monday, 13 January 2020

The End of The Season

Thank you to everyone for your kind messages after my last post.

The farm is still here. I am still here. I have good days and bad days. It's to be expected.

Mike's funeral was cathartic. So many people came that the church and a marquee outside were full, standing room only.

The family who employ Mike took care of everything for me. Mrs C even did the flower arranging using greenery from the woods and beautiful Narcissus from Cornwall, Mike's home county. 

Mr C drove the coffin in the back of the gun bus, a old Land Rover 101. Mike's old underkeepers, all now head keepers on their own shoots, rode in the back with Mike and me. They reminded me of all the happy, irritating, crazy Mike stories we'd been a part of together. 

There was a lot of laughter in the back of the old gun bus and Mike was at the centre of it as usual. The boys carried the coffin into the crematorium reminding me that Mike always said he should get a discount if he was ever cremated as he'd done half the job himself already in the gas explosion.

Apologies for the gallows humour but it is a good coping mechanism.

The family that employed and knew Mike for many years threw him a wonderful wake in the old barn where we meet for shoot days. No black was allowed, only tweeds and comfortable clothes.

I wish I could remember more of the day. The most I could manage was to hold it together and speak to people. So many kind words, cards, and flowers were sent to us. More importantly over £2000 was raised for Macmillan Cancer Support by everyone who attended. That would make Mike very happy.

His legacy, besides being a good husband, is all the young people he trained to become game keepers with respect for the countryside. There's 9 of us here, if you include me. Mike used to say that I was his longest serving apprentice.

He was so very proud of "his boys" as he called them.

My sister and my father took it in turns to stay here and keep me company during this time, over Christmas and into the new year. I'm lucky to have such a great family.

And to add more sadness to this post, I had to have Mike's old spaniel Dulcie put to sleep this morning. She was 16 and enjoying retirement but suffered a stroke last night. I like to think Mike and Dulcie are together now. I have 3 sleeping dogs around me cosying up to the Rayburn while I write, and the wind and rain howl outside. The dogs are by far the most comforting thing in my life.

OK, no more talk of death for now, I promise.

It's a shoot day tomorrow so I'm cooking stew for the beaters. The underkeepers are in the butchery readying some birds for orders this week. I'll go and join them in a while. I have six more shoot days to run as acting head keeper. I will keep working on the shoot until a permanent head keeper is found.

I have to move from this house but the estate has offered me a lovely little cottage just down the road, with a garden and lots of dog walking paths. I've happily accepted this stop gap for at least a year while I find the strength to go forward again. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

A Long Winter Ahead

It's taken two glasses of wine to get this far.

I haven't posted for awhile because Mike was diagnosed with cancer in August and we've been working hard to fight it with chemotherapy and a positive attitude.

Sadly, the cancer advanced quickly. My husband passed away in the early hours of Monday morning. He went peacefully in his sleep with family around him, which was a blessing.

I'm lost and broken and I miss him terribly.

The shoot season has to go on. I began filling in as Head Keeper when Mike got too poorly to come out. But I had his guidance and experience to help me. Now I'm on my own with two inexperienced young lads, who themselves need guidance. I put Mike's tweeds on and do my best to run the day, manage the clients. and support the underkeepers. Mike always joked that I was his longest serving apprentice, but it feels almost impossible to go on without him.

This winter is going to be the longest and the hardest to endure.

The livestock and the dogs give me a reason to get off the couch, and I'm comforted being around them. Even that damn goat who still keeps getting his head stuck in the fence.

Mike and I were in the process of buying a farm together. I don't know exactly what the future holds but we will still have our farm together, me in practice and him in spirit.

There's a lot of grieving ahead. Those of us left behind have to figure out how to go on. I will write more when I can, when the grief allows me to see a way out of this.

Keep us all in your thoughts.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

A Beginner's Guide to the Cow

Our neighbour is a cattle farmer, but he's in hospital with back spasms. For sure an occupational hazard in farming, made worse by the ageing process that affects us all. He will be fine, but not in time for today's vet visit to PD (pregnancy diagnose) his herd of 85 cows. He has a very capable farmhand called Ed to do the technical cow type stuff, but today they needed a scribe, someone to write down 1) the cow's ID number and 2) their pregnancy status, shouted out by the vet as he scanned each cow.

Fact number one: Cows are unbelievably noisy when you separate them from their calves.

Before the vet arrived, I helped (or tried to help) Ed separate the cows from the calves. It saves time for the vet, and it saves space in the handling yard. I was on gate duty (open / close as needed) and as a sort of cow speedbump, to stop them running through the gaps. But then I had to leave a gap to let their calves out. But not the cows. Cows in, calves out. While preventing the cows you put in from coming out again.  I could hear the Benny Hill theme song playing in my head as I moved back and forth, waving hands, being still, and waving hands again.

We got there in the end. Ed was almost impossibly patient with me and with the cows.

Fact number two: Cows can be as idiotic as sheep.

This calf ran the opposite way and got stuck between the feed bars. Ed and I tried to move her in, then out, but she was stuck fast.

Ed never said a word but walked calmly off, and came back a few minutes later with an angle grinder.

He cut the bar and tried to push it open. It still wouldn't budge. He walked off calmly in the other direction and came back with a big hammer. A couple of hits shifted the bar to widen the gap. I pushed the calf's butt, he pulled the front end. Freed calf.

Ed never once swore, or lost his temper. He's as calm as his bovine charges. Mike and I can't even move sheep together without nearly starting divorce proceedings. Ed simply picked up where he left off, moving calves one way and cows the other.

I might have to hire Ed as my part time shepherd. It's cheaper than a divorce.

Due to some confusion, the vet was 2 hours late but the farmer's wife plied us with tea and cake so we were content to wait.

The vet arrived and kitted himself out in a neck-to-ankle plastic gown and two sets of armpit-length gloves, ready to insert the scanner and read the finding though his super-neato computer glasses.

Fact number three: Cows poop A LOT.

The vet inserts the scanner into the cow's rectum and reads the findings from above the uterus. He shouts out (above the din of blaring calves and bellowing cows) his findings, i.e. how pregnant is this cow, from empty (no calf), to  25 days pregnant, to 2 1/2 months, 4 months, etc. I write his findings next to the ID number, on paper with a pencil, in the rain, to be tallied by the farmer later. The tested cow leaves the "crush", which is a big crate that immobilises the head so the vet can do his work. A lever opens the crush, but I can only push the level high enough if I stand on my tiptoes. Ed did smile at this. My shortness amuses him.

Did I mention that cows poop a lot? It's also nearly liquid grass and after a few hours in the yard testing cattle, they pooped enough that a literal lake of poop was up to my ankles. And I got off easy. The vet, being right-handed, was covered in poop all along his right side from the neck down, after inserting his scanner into 85 cow butts.

And, when cows poop liquid grass, they poop right onto their tail. Which they flick about. I had a few cow poop beauty marks on my face before we finished.

It was only a few hours' work and I loved every minute of it. Maybe some sunshine and less poop would make it better, but it was fascinating work. And Monty the collie - my favourite farm dog - kept me company throughout.

Monty in action - he's quicker on the cows and more help than me!

I'm wearing a rubber suit so it's fine that Monty comes in for full-body cuddles, covered in....you guessed it...cow poops.

I was happy to be able to help my neighbour as he has so often helped me when I have been short of winter grass or when I needed somewhere to put my horses temporarily. He can peruse my notes on his pregnant cows when he gets home, although the paper is pretty damp and there are some suspicious stains on the paper. I bet you can guess what that's from.

Friday, 6 September 2019

The County Fair and Autumn's coming

In August it was our estate's turn to host the County Fair. It's a lot of work for the staff - estate owners want everything to look its best for the public so fences are repaired, fields are mowed, potholes in stone tracks are patched. It's an added expense for the owners, but a chance for an estate to effect repairs and rejuvenation projects mostly ignored for the rest of the agricultural year.  After two years, another estate takes over the responsibility of hosting the show and the burden is shared out.

Walking to the County Fair

County fairs are traditional events. They're usually quite small compared to the Royal (national) shows. Still, there are showjumping competitions, arts and crafts tents, artisan gin and ciders makers, local food served from the back of converted horse trailers, falconry demonstrations and gun dog competitions. Essentially the county fair exists to showcase all the craft and talent available in the community. I don't class myself as talented but I did make some training toys to sell, made from my felted sheep's fleece, and my dogs are big fans of my work.

Prototype. Molly claimed this one as her own.

I also got the opportunity to cross something off my bucket list: racing a camel. 

No, camel racing is not a common sight in the Hereford countryside but it was a special attraction at this year's show. A team of professional camel handlers allowed a few volunteers to race alongside them. I couldn't believe that they were struggling for volunteers to race ride a camel. I begged for a chance. It seemed people willingly gave up their spaces for me, relieved to be off the hook and camel-free. 

I borrowed a traditional Arab dishdasha (like a long tunic) from the big house as, unsurprisingly, I don't personally own any camel riding clothing. Apparently the estate does. I used my scarf as a belt, and tucked in the spare material to keep from tripping over the hem. I put my comfy training jodphurs on underneath, so no one had to see my underpants. Plus, you know, chafing.

And I won a race!
Bertram the camel 

OK, I lost two other races, but honestly it was the highlight of my year.

Anyhoo, back to daily life.

All our pheasants are now in their woodland pens. The birds like to come off roost and wander in the morning, especially now the wheat fields are cut and they can glean wheat berries as they go. Our first job of the day is taking dogs to round them up, move them off the lanes and back towards home. As jobs go it's a pretty good one. The dogs love it. Mike takes Cheyenne and Biscuit, I take Gertie. Gertie seems to understand the difference between "shoo" the birds and picking up season, and performs both jobs well. She especially loves cooling down in a puddle when we're done.

All the other dogs are fine. Dulcie continues to have mini-strokes (AKA Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome)  but still enjoys life, she just falls over every now and then. We have Oldies Afternoons in the garden with Dulcie, Podge, and Pip. They can mooch, chew bones, and sniff about without getting knocked over or bumped by rambunctious play from the youngsters. Molly is on cage rest as she pulled a muscle, but she's on the mend. Miss Betty had an emergency hysterectomy (early signs of pyometra)  but she's recovered too. 

The sheep are not doing so well. The flock contracted haemonchus worm shortly after lambing. I lost four ewes in total, even after calling the vets to post-mortem the first dead ewe and starting immediate treatment. 

I lost Grumpy ewe. 

I was upset at her passing, even though I can recall numerous times I would have throttled her with my bare hands (if I could have caught her!). Grumpy's one and only ewe lamb is still doing well which is a small consolation. 

Losing ewes meant I had to bottle feed some of the orphans, just to keep them topped up while they grew into eating grass and hard feed (what I call "sheep chow"). My neighbour James who farms dairy goats came though for me as usual. After he sent his milk away for cheesemaking, he let me have what was left in the tank. I filled up a 20 litres water can with goat's milk. It kept us going, and the goat's milk is much better for the lambs than powdered formula.

Each lamb's daily allowance 

The last poorly lamb not responding to treatment died this morning. This year, the vet bills will outweigh the cheques from the livestock market. With the vet's help I've since adapted my flock management program for next season and I hope this will prevent such a poor post-partum lambing result next year.

But there's no time to worry about the past season. I have to look forward with hope toward next season's lambs. It's tupping time again. I've put the rams and ewes on good fresh grass, to "flush" the ewes and make sure the rams are in top condition for tupping. The rams will go in with the ewes at the end of September. Lambs will be born the end of February through early March..

Mike is taking the boys to Dorset tomorrow as it's underkeeper Ian's first day running his own shoot. They are there to shake a stick at pheasants and lend moral support. I'm staying behind to chase the wandering pheasants here and make sure my butchery records are up to date. We're being audited for the British Game Alliance Assurance Scheme on Tuesday. The audit ensures we're producing game birds to the highest welfare standards and that the meat has traceable provenance. The BGA purports to help find new markets for our game meat, including China.

I cut the laying and rearing fields with the tractor over the past few days, so our fields will look tidy for the audit. It also gets rid of old grass and encourages new shoots, which will give me more winter grazing for my sheep. 

It's so satisfying to mow those old weeds down

I still haven't replaced the tractor window I smashed with the tree branch because the tractor cab is much cooler without it. I'll get it repaired in time for winter, when we take off the mower attachment and put on the hydraulic wood splitter. 

My squirrel traps are shut down now, until next spring. My trapping total for this year is 843 grey squirrels. I'm happy to have a break from running my daily trapping route. There are autumn jobs on the horizon. The pear and apple trees are fruiting well and I will make all our chutney and canned fruit for next year from the harvest. The boys shoot a deer a week so there's always something for me to butcher and put in the freezer, or give away.

We have no wood stacked for winter and we will need to start logging and splitting downed trees that we've earmarked after storms or old age put them on the ground. Because of a disease called Ash Dieback, all the ash trees on the estate need to come out over time. Ash is great burning wood and can be burned green. Mike has his eye on a dead oak that's ready for logging. Oak burns longer so it's a good wood to have in your pile.

For now, I'm going to put a cake in the oven so there's something to send down to Ian for his first day. It will be hectic and stressful for him, but he can keep cake in his truck and snack when he needs a sugar high. All keepers live on baked goods. I've just wormed the goats this morning, so I'll check on them too, before I walk the dogs. 

I'll let you know how we get on with our audit.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

June's Work

Summer has finally arrived and brought not just warm, dry days but many of them in a row. It makes it easier to plan big jobs like getting pheasants out to wood or hay cut which require a spell of good weather.

Last Tuesday was our last hatch of the season. The incubators and hatchers are all scrubbed down and closed up for the season. I will turn the hatching room back into the butchery over the coming months, ready for shooting season.

Mike, with a lot of help from beaters and staff, managed to get almost half of our birds to wood. Beaters - like Andy here - catch pheasant poults in the sheds, crate the poults and stack the crates on a buggy, ready for their short trip to the woods -

The crates are stacked 4 high so each trip carries 8 crates. We run two buggies in tandem, so we're always loading or unloading and can keep the process moving. I'm following Mike -

We pass our neighbour's herd of Hereford suckler cows, i.e. calves that are born and stay with their mothers in a small herd, out on pasture, free to suckle and graze and enjoy the views. The cattle look so well, healthy and content. I can see his hay field behind is cut and on the ground, soon to be baled.

Hey it's not just the cows that want to enjoy the views. I love admiring good stockmanship.

When we get to the woodland pen, I check and make sure feed and water stations are full and working-

Then I can open the crate doors and let the pheasants out -

They come out in their own time. The brave ones take flight, but the cautious ones stand on the edge of the buggy and check out their surroundings first. I stand back and watch. Way back, as the pheasants inevitably poo when they fly so it's best to be out of target range.

When my crates are empty, I drive back to the sheds to swap my empty crates for full ones and the process repeats until the woodland pen is full or the sheds are empty. I have to keep a tally of how many crates (15 birds to a crate) that I release. I have a perfectly good phone that has apps I could use to keep track but no, I do this -

It's only slightly better than Mike's system of scratching marks in the mud inside his buggy -

Honestly, you think we would embrace the modern conveniences in our pockets.

The birds are embracing their new outdoor lifestyle and settled in well, finding food and a place to perch up high from predators. We surround the wood with 8ft wire and a strand of electric wire at ground level, just to help protect them while they adapt to living outside. Both will be lifted in due time.

Now we have to bring food to the woods to feed the pheasants. About this much a week -

It's delivered to the house on Mondays and the guys have to feed every bag by hand. It is hard work.

Speaking of animal feed, I've made my own hay this year. This is only because I rented a field and didn't graze it soon enough. The grass got so long, making hay was the only option.

I hired a contractor to cut and ted (spin the hay to dry it out) my grass. His tedder broke down and rain was coming. I called my neighbour Margaret for help  She's runs a feed store and knows everyone. Margaret sent her husband with his old tedder and a friend with even older baler to get me out of trouble -

You can see the rain clouds amassing behind us.

They left the bales on the field for me to pick up. I rushed out of bed early the next morning to bring them home and stack them. In total it took 4 trips with the trailer. Mike met me to help after I finished the first load. He even brought coffee - the whole pot, sloshing around the floor of the Land Rover, and a couple of mugs on the front seat with Molly. Typical Mike catering, but most welcome even with the dust and dog hair in it. .

Yes I am still in my pyjamas but I managed to beat the rain! Here's my haul: 125 bales of meadow hay which cost me 50p each for the baling, and a nice bottle of Malbec for Margaret's husband.

Last month during lambing I was paying up to £7 a bale!

I have put tarps over the stack and will leave it for a month or so. Hay can heat up and even burst into flames when it's first baled (same concept as the heating up of your compost pile) so I will wait to store it in the barn until autumn.

So, to recap (because I love reminding myself it's all done...) ---

Our hatches are finished,
Half the birds are to wood,
The sheep are all sheared and the fleece sold,
Lambing is done (042 never produced, she was just fat!),
And the hay is in!

It's been a productive month.

On the down side, my vegetable garden is pathetic. The rabbits ate my runner bean plants and kale, so I will be eating rabbits instead of greens. The crows are still stealing my chicken eggs if I don't collect them quick enough. The window on the tractor is still waiting to be fixed, along with belts on the mower and an oil leak on the telehandler.

And finally, we did not buy the farmhouse and 11 acres. Sadly, we couldn't get the funding in place in time for the auction. But our pheasant vet and her husband bought it, so that's good news. There are plenty of good places out there and we will keep looking until we find ours.

There's no time to sit on our June accomplishments. Next on the list is the County Fair being held here at the estate, so I have a lot of tractor mowing to do to make everything tidy. My horse field is going to be used as the gun dog arena so I need to get that in shape next. And now that the butchery will be back on line, I can spend a few evenings in a high seat and bag myself a muntjac deer or two to save for beaters' lunches.

I might even have a day off.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

An Indoor Day. Mostly.

It's still raining so I've decided to have an office day indoors. Well, mostly indoors; I will have to spend a few hours outside checking my trap lines and walking dogs.

And there's no point going in the garden. The vegetable garden is shocking this year. My beans and squash are way behind. My only good harvest this season may be tomatoes and cucumbers from the greenhouse and fruit from the orchard. Only the weeds are flourishing and it's too wet to walk on the soil and sort them out. It happens like that some years.

Molly likes having office days too -

She "doesn't do rain".

We just finished taking off this morning's hatch of partridge and pheasants. My job (and it's my favourite!) is helping stragglers out of their shells. Here's a short video showing a partridge needing a little help -

I'm only doing it one-handed because I have to hold the camera

In an average hatch, we probably help out about 100 live pheasant and partridge chicks. About half of those survive, so over 12 hatches that's about 600 extra live chicks. Partridge chicks, though smaller, are tougher than pheasant chicks and more of them get up on their feet.

Not a lot of hatcheries do this. Some even feel that it's pointless to rear anything but the strongest chicks. We have to pull out and box all the chicks at a fixed time, so some of the chicks, although strong, are just late.

Mike usually gives these chicks, which we call "wets", to youngsters who like to raise a few for themselves or to young keepers starting out who can do with an extra few free chicks (each chick costs about 70p to buy normally).

When I help the late chicks out of the shell, I try and leave a bit of eggshell on the bottom. This encourages the chick to kick off the shell and help strengthen its legs and straighten out its body after being curled up inside the egg -

The wets go back in the warm hatchers for a few hours together to dry off and gather their strength while we clean down, disinfect and prepare the other chicks for shipment. It gives the wets a bit of extra time to recover.

Other babies this week include two healthy ewe lambs from Friendly ewe -

This one's for your Janice!

Friendly ewe has mastitis in one side, so she's short of milk to feed twins. I bottle feed the lambs a couple times a day to top them up, but they stay with mum for everything else. 

I looked back in my breeding records and see that I noted both ewe 0007 and Friendly ewe had mastitis previously, hence they've both lost one teat (the teat is hard and won't produce milk again). I gave them a free pass from ice camp because 0007's fleece is excellent and Friendly ewe is, well, friendly. Still, they both gave me 3 new ewe lambs in total so it's worth a bit of bottle feeding on my part. 

Ewe 0042 is still left to lamb. I turfed her out in the field a few weeks ago but it looks like she's getting ready to lamb. Finally. I'll bring her back in to the barn and hopefully by the end of the week I will be done with lambs. I will not lamb this late again, if I can help it.

The other reason for having an office day is organise my paperwork for my accountant. Yes, I have hired a farm accountant now, which is a good sign of progress. 

I'm also meeting with the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation tomorrow, to see if I can get a loan in principle against Milkweed & Teasel, our farmland in Dorset. We have found a farmhouse and 11 acres locally that we're going to make an offer on when it goes to auction in July. We may be quickly outbid which is fine, but Mike and I are now concentrating on selling our land in Dorset and buying a farmhouse with land as our final home, here in Wales. The search may take a year or two, which is also fine. 

Of course, I will keep you posted. Until then I will keep expanding our small farming operation here. And paying taxes I hope!