Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Wildlife and Wild Boys

After nine weeks without a home internet connection, we are finally back on-line. Via satellite. It was our only option as we're too rural to reach any broadband connections. I've just finished a two hour cyber-binge, looking up all those random questions that come to me during the day. Nine weeks' worth. I now know what the Dover devil is, a good recipe for soap, current market prices for lambs, and who played Mrs Kotter in the 1970's show Welcome Back Kotter. (183.4p avg and Marcia Strassman respectively). Some of the answers are more vital than others, I give you that.

By looking at online photos of birds and birds' eggs, I also confirmed that a spotted flycatcher has hatched a brood of chicks in a tree hollow in our orchard.

It's at eye level so I can peek inside when the mother is out, presumably looking for flies to catch. Two of the three eggs hatched a few days ago-

The chicks are only the size of my thumbnail, 

This apple tree happens to be one of the trees that holds up my washing line -

While the flycatcher family has been in residence, I've been drying our laundry in the dryer or on an airer in the sun room, to keep from disturbing mother flycatcher.

The wood stove door remains open too. We still have at least a bird a day coming down the chimney, both fledglings and adults. It's school holidays so maybe the sparrows - it's always sparrows - treat it as a fun slide. Their activities are dislodging lots of creosote build-up in the flue. At this rate, they will have swept my chimney clean by winter.

The farm animals, on the other hand, are testing my patience. I split the ram lambs from the ewes and ewe lambs now. I only hope it was soon enough and there are no surprise babies in the dead of winter. (I'm already 1-nil with goats and surprise babies.). I normally castrate the male lambs at birth and, as I watched a youngster sniff and court an old ewe, I tried hard to remember why I decided not to cut them this year. Something about growing faster, less fat I think. An experiment.

So what happens when you separate pubescent ram lambs from their mothers, and put them in a field on their own, unsupervised by sensible old ewes? Imagine a playground full of 13 year olds with no adults around. Oh, and add a weak fence to that scenario, and "cool stuff" the other side.

Every damn morning those boys are the wrong side, in the neighbours' field, hanging out with horses (aka the bigger boys). The neighbours are great about it, and say there is plenty of grass to go around. I'm horrified and drive the delinquents back to their own paddock with my crook and some harsh words. You can see for yourself how many ways I've patched the fence -

Hurdles, cable ties, baling twine, logs, and an old hay rack wired into the fence. And while I'm patching the day's new hole and cursing like a drunk sailor, this is what I see -

They are just waiting for me to leave so they can start testing the fence for the weak spots, and push back through to the neighbours and the horses. Delinquents and recidivists. 

I'm moving them tonight to a field with a good fence. I will get in touch with the estate as they are responsible for fencing, and ask them to renew the boundary fence. The new field also has really good grass, so these boys can fatten up and go off to market. Ram lambs are too vexing with their testicles left on!

Pumpkin the wether (front) and horned ram lamb born January, to stay as my breeding tup. 
Both are good sensible boys. 


Hazel said...

My mum had a spotted flycatcher best under her window at work :)

Our fence looked like that when we had pigs and I'd still turn up and find one looking in remorseful on the wrong side of the fence!

Glad you're reconnected but... What is a dover devil?? I googled it but no luck!

Jennifer Montero said...

Hazel - At least your pigs had the decency to look remorseful! My rams know I don't want them in there but do it anyway. B*stards. Oh, and I added a link to the Dover Devil (or demon) so you can check it out. I was listening to a podcast about a mythology of elf-like creatures that many cultures seem to share and you know, one thing led to another....

Hazel said...

Ha! Typo- it was supposed to say unremorseful, so pigs have no better manners than rams :) And they'd then make a new hole in the fence when enticed back in with food- never through the hole they made to exit.

Thank you for the link, I'll follow it with interest. I end up down rabbit holes like that far too regularly!

And I've just seen I wrote best instead of nest. I think I may have commented on my phone, which may explain the terrible typing.

Anonymous said...

I think The Edwardian Farm showed that birds were used to clean chimneys in the past? Unless they were jesting? They did use a different method in the episode, not to offend any viewers I suppose...but you seem to have volunteers :-)


Jennifer Montero said...

KJ- I loved that historic farm series! i must have missed the episode about birds and chimney cleaning, but that's interesting. I will have to thank my "volunteers" for their good work!

Anonymous said...

I am thinking it was the very first episode - that should "spare" you for "having" to watch it all again... We have gone through the Victorian Farm, the Tudor Farm (less interesting) and the War Time Farm - I am beginning to think my daughter and I have a crush on Ruth Goodman and the team...

Jennifer Montero said...

KJ- I'm Team Ruth all the way!! She's a great role model for daughters everywhere.

Hazel said...

I love Ruth Goodman! Have you seen tales from the green valley? They made it before Victorian farm so it's a slightly different style but my daughter and I love that too. It's set in the Stewart period.

Christine said...

Funnily enough, my husband works on a farm in Dover, Massachusetts. I'll ask him to keep an eye out for the Dover Devil. And then I'll snicker to myself the whole day.

Best of luck with the fencing! I hope the estate is responsive when it comes to these types of requests.

Paula said...

Me too on Edwardian Farm and Victorian Farm! I've made my husband watch them with me twice now, which is quite feat.

So has your experiment taught you anything?

Maybe a good old fashioned hedge is in order...I saw that in England they drive hazel posts into the ground, and then cut hedge plants part of the way through the stem or trunk with a billhook, and then bend and weave the plants around the hazel posts. You leave them partially connected so that they continue to live and grow into a very tight living fence. I thought it was so cool that I want to try it some day.

Incidentally, I read some years ago about a study that found that you can tell how may hundreds of years old a hedge is by the number of different species in a ten foot section. They evidently correlate.

Well, that's enough useless information. Good luck with your rams and fences!

Jennifer Montero said...

Paula - The British hedge is a thing of beauty, and lots of them are stock-proof. I know how to lay a young hedge but have never had to do more than make repairs or re-lay thin areas. Mostly I'm lazy and stick a sheep hurdle in the gap and tie it with baler twine to adjoining stumps.

It is true that you can tell the age of a hedge by the species, and also how/where it's placed. The beauty of a hedge is that it's trimmed by tractor once a year which keeps the bottom thick and keeps the woody plants young.

Ruth Goodman would be proud of your knowledge!!