Saturday, 6 March 2010

The herbivore's dilemma

I'm going to visit my sister in San Francisco next week. It's only for 10 days but you would be surprised how much food our small menagerie can get through in that time. Partly to be helpful and partly to assuage my guilt about leaving Mike behind to do all the chores, I did a mega-animal feed shop today. Dog food, pony chaff, wheat for the chickens. I topped up the bird feeders and the chicken feeders, and rotated all the food in our feed store. I dropped off some wheat to our neighbor farmer, and "borrowed" a bag of his haylage for the lambs.

I've started the weaning process, and the lambs are protesting. Loudly. They have started to eat lamb creep, which is a concentrated pellet with the all vitamins and minerals they need to grow. They are investigating the grass but they don't seem thrilled at the prospect of being herbivores. Not when there's warm milk to be had.

We've gone from bottle feeding 5 times a day, to 3 times a day. While I'm away, I expect Mike will reduce that to 2 bottles a day. Which is great for me, because I won't be here to hear their woeful bleatings and feel sorry for them.

To help Mike out, I'm introducing them to haylage - a very palatable and nutritious form of dried grass. You can easily make a hay net out of an old feed sack with a couple of holes cut out at lamb height. They weren't sure what to make of my jury-rigged contraption when I put it in their pen:
I'm not gonna try it...YOU try it....

Their natural curiosity seemed to prevail in the end and they gingerly sampled this new offering:

If you think THIS is gonna make up for the milk, you got another thing coming

It's a start. I didn't realise that with orphans, you really need to introduce them to different foodstuffs early or they won't recognise them as such when they're mature. I made this mistake with Big and Little lamb, who turned their noses up at stubble turnips and hay, and demanded concentrates. This not only made them unsociable, as they bleated like babies for their twice-a-day food hit but it also added to their, shall we say generous, layer of fat.

Hay and haylage is the way forward for these ladies. A fat ewe is not a healthy ewe, and it makes their future lambing difficult if not dangerous.

Speaking of fat, I thought I would work off some of mine by taking the busiest spaniels on a long walk. I was reminded of how much fun fossil hunting is when Mike brought me home that ammonite the other day. I walked along the river bed while the dogs ran amok, and I found these:

L to R: a fossil bivalve, relative of the clam; small complete ammonite; lg outer ring of ammonite and small inner one.

The nature table has expanded to include the nature windowsill. I will keep my eyes peeled and hope to add more finds soon. As you can imagine, the days just fly by in rural England. I only hope San Franciso is this exciting.


Poppy Cottage said...

If I don't see you before you go have a lovely time with your Sister.

Me xx

Patti said...

I'm sure that we could find you an orphaned lamb or calf that you could care for while in SF, if you would like. Welcome to our part of the world! If you want to watch some dog work, or see some US pheasant club hunting, let me know!

Paula said...

Something else we have in common: I have a sister living in San Francisco as well.

It will be a different kind of exciting, and the food will be good. You have that to look forward to.

That and a messy lamb-formula kitchen when you get back. Too bad you couldn't get them completely weaned before you left. Poor Mike.

Enjoy the city!

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - If it's knitting group on Tues, I'll be there. I'm having pattern interpretation issues and want to check with the oracle

Patti & Paula - As much as I love what we do, I'm happy to leave it behind for a short break. And to see new things - I've never been to California. I also plan to eat my bodyweight in ethnic cuisine.

Patti, if time allows I would be thrilled to see some dog work & see the US phesant hunting club. Please get in touch with me by email. I'll be checking it while I'm there.