Thursday 20 June 2013

All Change

It's all go locally as the farmers try to rattle in a first cut of silage in this hot spell, with some rain forecast for tomorrow. They try to mow one day, leave the cut grass to wilt overnight and then bale and wrap the next day. These are big heavy round bales, so the old boys like our own John Deere Bob and their lightweight tractors take a back seat on this one and the young lads with their big contractor kit do the honours. Bob's contractor used a big 4WD, 6 tonne, 110 HP Case IH tractor with a serious baler hitched on and we could hear the roar of the diesel and the bass thump and clang for each completed bale from here. Bob has around 80 bales now but will need to take a 2nd cut in 8 weeks to get his 130 or so together that he needs to see him though this winter.

I am sorry to only have poor pictures so far but today is day 18 for the baby rabbits born to Ginny and Padfoot. They are active enough now to have started to emerge from the 'bedroom' by hopping over the low 'wall' I installed, so it's time to remove the wall and let them start to explore the grass of the run. We think these Mums each have about 5 kittens but until they start to explore properly you cannot really count them - the nest is a ball of hay and belly-fluff with random bunny bottoms, heads, ears and legs protruding, too tangled up to count.

All change in the poultry section. We have been a bit anxious about doing this, but we have wanted to swap the geese from the calf house, with the chickens from the milking shed. This would involve a certain amount of carpentry and fixing up of chicken wire, a lot of 'mucking out' and, we thought, some hassle at bed time where nobody (we predicted) would want to go to their new sleeping accommodation and confusion would reign. The woodwork was mainly about making a pop-hole in the new door of the calf house and constructing a perch-ladder in there. The chooks have been used to flapping up to a perch 7 feet up via a couple of staging posts. Now they would have a 'ladder' at 45 degrees with perches at 21 inch intervals so nice and easy. The nest boxes would also be moved along with the feeder and drinker. The geese are basically getting the floor area of the former chicken house, now cleared of perches and cleaned up. The young chickens will also be persuaded to use the new chicken house and to merge in with the old chickens (including their 'mother'!) but we will do that as a separate change later, planned for tomorrow.

[Horse Chestnut grown from seed]

It all proved to be a whole lot easier than we'd expected. During the 'woodworking' one of the hens had shown up obviously looking for the nest boxes in order to lay an egg. She recognised the boxes but these were currently sitting outside in the cattle race while we cleaned up. I put them in the new quarters, grabbed her and put her in one of them where she settled happily to her egg laying, unperturbed by the fact she was in 'the goose house'. We bribed the 'Young Ones' into their old familiar run and closed them in. We bribed the horses into their field and turned off the electric fence which currently runs close to the new goose house. We were on.

['Million Trees' Mountain ash]

The geese proved to be a doddle to steer into their new quarters. It seemed that it was a familiar looking door into a familiar building so they just went with it once they'd spotted Liz lurking in their normal path. They paddled in onto the clean wood shavings and accepted a supper of wheat and rolled barley. Seemingly quite unconcerned that this was not their normal end.

The chickens, we were sure we'd have some fun with - chooks are far less steerable and tend to panic and scatter as soon as they sense they  are being cornered. But at around half six they happened to have gathered near the new space. We opened the calf house door so that they could see the hen sitting on the nest box and the rooster and 2 hens just wandered in out of curiosity. I went to close the door behind them but 'Baldy' spotted my intention and bolted back out. This might have been a problem, but we sensed that she was still very interested in getting into the building where her 4 chums now were. Liz hovered near the pop hole to stop the captured birds from coming back out but Baldy was then heading for the ramp to the pop hole, so we both stepped back, holding our breaths to see would she use the ramp and go in, the first bird so to do? Bless Her - she did, with barely a hesitation. We now had all the birds where they needed to be for the night, so we shut the pop-hole and retreated to let them settle.

My other two pictures are examples of our tree-planting successes. The horse chestnuts (conkers) were collected from below a tree in Gravesend (Kent) last Autumn while I was staying on the Sailing Barge Cambria moored there. I have three successful seedlings from 4 conkers. The mountain ash is a 'Million Trees' sapling, most of which are doing very well and putting out lots of new leaves. We are pleased to be having tree successes and will look to carry this on, planting more each year.

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