Friday, 26 February 2016

Keeping us Waiting

Twin lambs tonight for Polly, both boys.
More good news and relief in the sheep department after the curing of Lily by vet Aoife. This time it is Polly's turn to supply the story and she had us sweating on it a bit. I knew she was 'on' when she refused breakfast and spent the day displaying 3 other good clues of imminent lamb-exit; going off on her own for a lie down away from the 'flock', 'pawing' at the ground with a front hoof and looking very uncomfortable so that she restlessly sat down, stood up, moved around and sat down again.

I had agreed to head out for Sligo to help K-Dub to tip a van load (64 panels) of plaster board sheets and walk them all indoors, plus some bags of bonding, beading and other bits. I judged (correctly, I am pleased to say) that Polly would easily go 2 hours without needing help so I flew over there at 9 and headed back at 11 when the unloading was done. When I got back I found that there had been no progress and Polly was still sitting out in the far corner of the field but had been worryingly joined by the 3rd ewe (Myfanwy) who was sitting in a copy-cat stance and, to my mind, seemed very pink about the vulva. Were to have two lambings today?

A close inspection of Myf's back end told me that this was a false alarm and she was not yet bagged up at all, so maybe she was enjoying the wind-up potential. Polly then, kept me on tenter-hooks all day and only started to 'move' (passing a mucus plug and some amniotic sac) at around 5pm. This was so long after breakfast that Charlotte (who we keep standing-by on these occasions) advised an extra careful watch as she may have been in labour "all day". I contacted the vet, Aoife, to confirm that she would be available if needed and she was a bit more relaxed about the 'all day'; happy to think of "things" starting only at 5 pm.

Wetting the babies' heads. One dark and one light. It seemed
only fair.
Well, I am happy to report that "things" did indeed crack on a-pace from that point and Polly whooshed out both twins while we had nipped in for supper at 18:30. Both were out, up and suckling by 19:00 and I decided to leave them where they were for washing and bonding for half an hour before we gathered the family indoors. It was pitch dark but I could keep an eye using my rather dim head-torch and my presence would stop any sneaky foxes creeping up on Polly to steal the newborns. At one point Soldier the cat wandered over all curious and got himself charged and nearly stomped on for his pains by the ewe, so I suspect even a fox might have thought twice. Ah well, they are safe in the Tígín now, warm and dry on new straw and it has all gone quiet so I hope that signifies bellies nicely full of colostrum (and some 'crunch' and a welcome drink of water for Mum).

Rosie - one of Lily's lambs. These ladies are nearly 2 weeks old
A new experience today for me, that of voting properly in an Irish General Election using the 'single transferable vote' system. My British readers may not know that here we do not use the 'put an X in the box', winner-takes-all, one MP per constituency method. Instead the constituencies can put more than one 'TD' into the parliament (up to 5, I think) so our voting sheets can have dozens of candidates on them and you vote by stating 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc preferences by putting numbers in the boxes; all the boxes if you like.

I will not try to explain the counting system here (though I do sort of understand it) but suffice to say that the winners get enough '1st preference' votes to make a quota, or hope to make quota by having themself as people's 2nd preference, or 3rd or whatever. Yes, I know. It actually works very well and is quite user friendly. I voted as far as my 6th preference. I am wary of trying to pretend to be expert in this and I usually avoid politics in this blog but here goes.

My problem is not the complexity of it all, but trying to work out who stands for what. In the UK you 'knew' that Labour stood for the working classes, the Tories for the management and affluent farmers, and the Libs were somewhere in between. Nothing so clear cut here. The two BIG parties, Fine Gael (FG) and Fianna Fáil (FF) are almost identical and the local wisdom is that you choose between them depending on how you stood in the Irish Civil War in the 20's. Were you 'pro-treaty' (i.e. were you in favour of accepting independence but with the 6 Northern Ireland counties partitioned off and left as British) or were you anti (i.e. you wanted the whole island to be independent).

A 'boreen'. One of this week's Lisacul 365 pics.
This was hugely contentious and split the country, communities, villages and even households, with father 'fighting' son and brother battling brother. A lot of that emnity and tension simmers on so it is a tricky subject to discuss but results in people voting for FF because "my Father did before me and my Grandfather before that" etc. I have asked many people and none of them can tell me, an incomer, why I should favour FG or possibly FF. One tongue-in-cheek view has it that they are all corrupt anyway but we like them that way and we ask them how they can help US specifically before we decide. More recently people seem to vote more on who last messed up the economy or depending upon who was 'on watch' when that hospital got closed.

Ash Bark
Throw into this mix the many and various minor parties and a wealth of independent (non-party) candidates to blur the lines even more and you have a confusing situation for a newcomer. There was one saving grace this time - a new website (MatchCandidate.IE) which asked you 30+ questions about all manner of contentious issues (the new water charges, legalising abortion, healthcare and so on) but then also asked all the candidates the same questions. The site compares your answers with the answers of the potential TDs and finds a best match (and next best etc). You can then drill down to find out WHERE you matched and decide from that whether to assign your 1,2,3 etc.

Anyway, suffice to say, I went armed with a list of 6 likely choices and only adjusted my list a bit at the crucial stage, pen in hand, in the booth. By now (22:12 pm) it is all over bar the counting (and then the negotiations between the parties which 'nearly won' to form a coalition (we rarely get anyone with an overall majority)). The count starts tomorrow at 09:00. History will tell you the rest. I am going back to being a non-political shepherd and off for a last check on Polly and the new babies


Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

I don't know if you can remember me Paul form the bog, i asked you about the details for you vet. Would you be able to send me here details please. I have seen you out walking the dogs driving past you while i was going to Loughglynn to see my goats.
I know you keep bee's and i may have a spare/free nuc/swam for you when ready if you want them to build up you stock. ( Native Irish )

My email is



Matt Care said...

No bother Paul. Yes of course I remember you. Will email you the vet details and yes, of course I would love a spare nuc. Who wouldn't?