Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Mystery of Barbara - Revealed!

This week has been all about death and poop - not mine, I assure you. I warn you now that there is no happy ending, so feel free to skip the visuals, or ignore this post altogether and make up your own happy ending.

I posted recently about Barbara, our missing (presumed dead) silkie hen. She hasn't been home in over a week. Because of all the fox activity and her propensity to go broody in fox-accessible places, I assumed she had simply been a late-night vulpine snack. But, I hadn't found any feathers which was unusual - considering she was a white chicken - as any traces of her would stand out.

This week we found Barbara. She went broody just behind the house, tucked up in a bale of straw. The same bale of straw which the lambs used as a day bed. The lambs must have piled on top of her to have a nap, and either crushed or suffocated her while she sat on her nest.

Poor Barbara - you can just see her head

I suppose chicken smothered in Lamb could be a recipe. Chicken smothered by lamb is only a recipe for disaster. Barbara went to the Big Sleep because of some small sheep.

Wanted for crimes against poultry

My murderous lambs have now graduated from their bijou back garden pen to the acre-sized paddock at the bottom of the driveway. They have been weaned at the same time, and they are objecting about it loudly and at all hours of the day and night. Between a kennelful of dogs, crowing cockerels and now protesting lambs, we are officially the worst neighbours ever. I will try and atone with gifts - a joint of lamb or venison for each household (eggs and jam for the vegetarians), and ten Hail Marys for good measure.

The paddock was vacant after a trip with the boys to the abattoir, or "Summer Camp" as I've renamed it. I loaded them into the trailer easily and we were on the road by 6.30am. I'm only the driver now, Mike unloads and gets them settled in. I don't get out of the truck. There were no tears this time, but that could have just been the Valium I took before we set off, as extra insurance. Don't tell Mike, he thinks I'm a stouthearted farmer now.

Actually, the carcases look really good this time. Not so much excess fat, but still well-covered, and each killed out at 33kgs -

Now I just have to find time to butcher one hundred kilos of lamb by Saturday.

Eunice didn't go the Summer Camp with her brothers. She's rejoined the Ewe's co-operative on the laying field, turning grass into new lambs and sheep shit. Eunice is only producing the latter this year, as she won't see the ram until next spring. But there was a problem with the poop: scours. The ram lambs were fine but three of the ewes, including Eunice, had very messy bottoms.

Being newly stouthearted and immune to poop, I collected samples for the vets then scrubbed their wool clean to prevent flies laying their eggs on the dirty wool. I've spared you (and my pride) photos of the undertaking.

The vet sent the sample to their labs and the worm count was horrifying. My worming program hasn't been working. The lab made a special call to the vets rather than wait for the results to arrive by post, that's how bad it is. The sheep - or more specifically, their worms - are resistant to the wormers I used. I had to crate each sheep and give her an injection. Fly maggots are trying to eat them from the outside, and worms are trying to devour them from the inside. And I'm trying to save them so at some point I can devour their offspring.

In comparison, being squashed in straw doesn't seem like such a bad way to go.


Poppy Cottage said...

Blimey!!! Life just gets better!!

Meant to ask, have you still got your Lily with you or has she gone to her new home full time?

Jasper picks up Whinnie in 10 days time, not that I am counting or anything. Jut have to be mighty careful as she still has one home to find...........

C xx

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Poor old Barbara. I will remember her fondly.

But now who's going to tell you the weather?

Also sorry about your med-resistant worms. After all that effort you put into worming, it must be disheartening to find results bad enough that the lab had to call the vet.

It just never bloody ends, does it?

Maria said...

!! Sorry to hear about your worm counts, that is a pain.

On the other hand, your butchered lambs look very fine and should keep you in meat for some time. Are you selling /giving any away, or keeping it all for your freezer to make a change from venison?

Peruby said...

Oh, you poor thing! It sounds dreadful. Hoping better days are coming your way.

Anonymous said...

Poor Barbara. I was rooting for her return.

In other news, this worms thing is interesting, and the fly maggots. I don't know where my newly developed interest in livestock is coming from, but I think it has to do with a love of all things woolly. Anyway, I love that you write about all this death and poop with a sense of humor.

Sara said...

Summer camp, valium, resistant worms, death and disease... just think how much easier you're life would be if you and Mike were vegetarians. Ha! As if! Well, your vigilance might pay off if you can treat the lambs successfully. Good luck. Though maybe there's some poultry that are smugly wishing for the worst.

Btw, I'm on a 2 week visit to New England and am loving every minute. It's euphoric to be back, slight culture-shock from Texas.

Paula said...

Wasn't Raj Patel the guy who wrote the other thing (for which I haven't found time lately, she writes with a certain sense of guilt)?

Sorry about Barbara. Nuts.

So you live out in the country- shouldn't you have the right to farm?

My girls (at least one of them) has loose stools, and as I've had them on the coccidiastat on and off a few times, I don't know what to do. I'm guessing that dealing with animals is largely about dealing with poop. Tonight Ethel pecked me hard enough to bruise me. That chicken sure has a one track mind.

Congratulations on your date with the lambs. Quite a change from last year.

You must be becoming British with that stiff upper lip.