Thursday, 11 June 2015

Rattle and Hum

Polly a little better shorn than Lily was.
When I signed off for the last post, I left you with the impression that our sheep might never get sheared properly, what with the inept, beginner fumblings of my attempt to shear Lily. This post is by way of a post-script to that one, improving on the  shearing ability as well as the mood. Having struggled more than I thought should be right even for a beginner, I had gone off to re-read the instructions that came with the shears, translated from (possibly) Chinese into English and decided that the lack of smooth sweeping cut ability from the hand-piece, might be down to tension in the blade. When I ran the shears free in my hand and turned up the tension I could hear the change which was described as "muffled", the change from the rattle of a blade-pair vibrating too loosely together, to the hum of the pair pushed closely enough one upon the other. Carloyn had also given me some advice on how to hold the blade (and clean the equipment afterwards). I was sure when I tried this on Polly I might have a whole new result and some smooth sweeping "blows". This did, in fact, prove to be the case.

With 4 inches of mountain-proof, Jacobs
fleece taken off all over, Polly is not much
bigger now than her twin lambs.
As it happened, the Polly job was delayed by the (welcome) interuption of a visit from our new friends, Sue and Rob, but it was a hot, sunny day and the sheep would not be enjoying waiting on the concrete of the cattle race so, having shown the visitors round the place, I let Liz take them indoors for tea and cakes and decided to get on with it alone with Polly. Polly is bigger and tougher than Lily so it was a bit of a wrestling match, but as soon as I turned on the shears I could tell that this was going to be a whole better 'fight' than I had had with Lily. I swooped through the 'brisket' wool and down the belly. out along the hind legs, with the fleece peeling back like orange-peel. Yes, the task still took 45 minutes and there were still two rests for breathers (Polly as well as me), but the fleece was off in 3 pieces instead of the jig-saw puzzle of Lily's fleece and I was back indoors doing a 'happy dance' before the guests had finished their tea and cake.

Polly's fleece. Very little 'shoddy' this time
Now that I have more idea what I'm at, I need to go back and tidy up the too-long stuff I left on Lily, but I have decided that rather than wrestle her onto her rump again, I will train her to accept a halter rope and then tether her to the gate standing upright (which she will much prefer) so that I can do back and sides (where all the long stuff is) without stressing her out too much.

Lupins do really well in our climate.
Meanwhile Carolyn has bought herself a new spinning wheel and put her name down for our fleeces so that she can try out the processes of washing, carding and spinning. Apparently you must wash all the lanolin oil out of the wool but you have to do this in cold or luke-warm water; a hot wash and the agitation of the machine would reduce your lovely fleece to a football sized wad of felt. I saw some of Lily's wool post wash today and it does look nice and white. You could believe in a garment knitted out of it.

Sorry about the poor pic but you may just be able to see 2 bees
at the entrance hole to the swarm box. 
On the bees, big excitement today when I spotted that the swarm lure-box was receiving attention from 30+ bees. These would be, we guess, scout-bees spreading out from someone else's lost swarm, house-hunting. We read that these scouts, if they are impressed enough by the 'cavity' as a possible nest site and new home, zoom back and perform waggle dances over the outside of the swarm-cluster, attracting more scouts to their find and away from competing possible homes. After a day or two the swarm as a whole makes a democratic decision to go with one of the possibles (we hope it is ours) and the whole swarm gets airborne and makes its way to the new site. We think we are mid-point on that process, and hope that we are chosen by this swarm - we would then get that lovely  'gift', a bonus of a free bee colony. Things are looking hopeful.

A stash of 12 eggs including 6 Guinea Fowl eggs (the small,
pointier, spotty ones)
As I said, this is a bit of a PS to the last post. Our decision to build the secure run around the 'Elderberry Buff' has displaced the egg laying of a couple of the other hens, so that we are now finding stashes of eggs in new places under the hedges. Most recently I found a stash of 12 further along the bank which included 6 Guinea Fowl eggs - we had had no idea she was actually laying as she is quite secretive. Meanwhile our fears of the turkeys being brother-sister, seem to be unfounded as Sue has started her hatch and the chicks have all been sound of limb and joint. As we still have the borrowed incubator, we have set another 5 turkey eggs in it, for a second attempt.


Anne Wilson said...

What are you feeding the Turkeys, they require a higher protein than hens and four times the amount of calcium,.

Matt Care said...

Currently the grown ups are on a turkey "finisher" pellet in their house, and then whatever seed wheat, milled barley and layers pellets they can find whilst free ranging. The babies are not a week old so they are on (broiler) chick crumb (20%)and finely mashed hard boiled egg (with shell). The bag says to move them onto turkey finisher at 4 weeks. Does that sound OK to you?

Anne Wilson said...

That sounds fine Matt apart from the barley, sheep can digest it, poultry cant. Regarding the poor hatch, eggs for hatching should be stored pointy end down but at a slight angle, tip them once a day before you set them, must be stored in a cool not cold place. Chicks failing to hatch or deformed, improper egg setting position or insufficient turning during incubation, should be turned three times a day until three days before hatch.
An addled egg is caused by an infection.
We got three goslings from your eggs, they arrived four days early, where were they stored? Geese eggs can stop and start incubation! Of the ones that failed to hatch, one was clear, the others were perfectly formed but failed to hatch. The three that hatched are lovely and we also hatched a Muscovy at the same time, it thinks it's a goose, they are outside now but they have the electric hen in their house.

Anne Wilson said...

Should have mentioned, turkey will need to stay on heat for at least a month.

Matt Care said...

Thanks as ever for all that. Happy with that news on the geese. Before you had them, they were just stored in the kitchen here - we didn't know they'd be for anything other than eating! 2 would have been point-down (in the espresso mugs (!)) but the rest just in the wire basket. They would all have had laid dates scratched onto them in pencil, so that would have told you how fresh they were going into the incubator, I suspect none more than a few days because we only had that 6 when you took them.

Re turkeys, yes we knew about the heat. 35 degrees at least for 2 weeks, then gradually reducing. They look good so far and I am amazed by the feather growth compared to chickens!