Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Of Mighty Trees and Hungry Lambs

Three mighty Black Spruce trees loom over the
 house but perhaps not for long. 
In our front lawn stand 3 mighty trees, black spruces more than 60 years old (maybe even 100) which are, we estimate at least 60 feet high and a good six feet round the trunks at chest-height. Regular readers will know that we have many such trees but these three are 'special' because they are due SSW from the house (right in the line of the most common named-storm winds) and are only about 35 feet from the house. Also because we could "easily" get them down without needing to miss overhead wires, fences, buildings, the drive and so on, They would fall right across the blank lawn. My picture is taken so that there is no tricky perspective - the trees and the house are equi-distant from the camera. If these trees blew down they really would smack the house with BIG pieces of trunk and big side branches.

Ebony and Ivory at a week old.
Most of the time, we are happy that the trees are well glued to the ground and would probably go another hundred years with no problem. We have even been advised of this by our friend Aerial-Keith, who came and de-limbed a tree for us a while back. But those named storms come rocking through and the tops  of these guys are whipping about, you can see that massive thickness of trunk arching and you can feel the shudders through the trunk at ground level and you know it has been raining solidly for months. Then you get to remembering the 'hurricane' which hit SE England in 1987 and the scene of devastation which greeted us that morning, the roads blocked with trees and villages like Three Oaks and towns like Sevenoaks wondering if they'd need a new name and you don't feel quite so safe and serene.

You can imagine that felling them would need to be done by a pro with big machinery and insurance - it is hardly a DIY job for me with my weeny 16 inch cut chain saw - and not cheap. We have been avoiding doing anything about the trees so far but step forward a generous benefactor with an offer of possible help. Thank you GB, you know who you are. Also step forward a likely 'pro' who we spotted doing just such a task for a near neighbour and who I asked same for contact details of. I have now got this fella coming round to look at the job and quote me a price. The job will include slicing up those trunks into 16" thick rounds which I can split for 'logs', and the shredding of all the trash (sneddings). We can use the shredded stuff on the garden. I can cut up the small stuff (branches and tops of trunks) myself. Watch this space and listen out for shouts of 'Timberrrrrr!!!!!!'

Whose is that zippy looking red buzz bomb of a hot hatch-back
parked out front.? That'll be the Mum in Law come to stay!
While thinking about these entertainments, we have been playing host to Mum-in-Law, 'Steak Lady' currently gadding about in a very pretty red buzz-bomb, a tweaked up shiny Skoda hatch-back. She came for 5 days (4 nights) and enjoyed a good old show around of this place and some 'farming', plus some trips to local attractions, a bit of shopping and, of course our own home-grown food and a few drinks. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and we were quite sorry to fill the lady with an excellent breakfast (goose-egg omelettes with ham and cheese), set up her sat-nav and bid her adieu.

The trailer gets some more abuse. It just takes 15 bales with the
'top down'. Here, straw for a neighbour. 
Among the 'farming' we laid on for her were chances to join me on my feed rounds, to round up the various stock at 'bedtime' and a visit to the Roscommon Poultry Sale on Sunday morning where we were looking for Muscovy ducks. No ducks, unfortunately (only a few rather sad looking Khaki Campbell drakes) so Liz got tempted by a dozen Khaki-Campbell 'hatching eggs' which are now in Sue and Rob's incubator. We may yet be in the duck game in 28 days or so. More on this when things happen. She also got involved with bottle feeding our lamb.

Lucy gets a first dose in the dark of Sunday night.
"Bottle feeding?" I hear you exclaim, "Why so?" Long story, but if you have the patience, read on. We had been worried for a few days that our problem-child, 'Lily' to whom we have had the vet a couple of times now seemed to be only milking out of one teat and we had only seen the bigger of her twins, Rosie, doing any suckling. The weaker of the two (Lucy) seemed to be struggling and we had seen her standing with back arched; which we thought (from last year) might be another unformed anus problem, her straining unsuccessfully to poo.

Liz and Lucy getting a bit more professional by Monday morning
However she had the required orifice and was pooing OK so we looked further (Google is your friend!) and found that she was actually standing the the classic "hungry lamb" position, back arched, knees almost touching elbows and all 4 legs and feet almost together (see pic). We sought advice from our experts (Charlotte and Carolyn!) and realised that we needed to rapidly become competent in supplementary feeding - bottle feeding!. This, though, was Sunday evening so we had to find a DIY solution. Liz found a reasonable sounding mix of cow milk and beaten egg on the internet and (oh so luckily!) Charlotte remembered that among her 'stuff' being stored in our spare room while they move house, would be a box labelled "Charlotte's bits and bobs". This might contain the one lamb-sized bottle-teat which she had kept as a souvenir from her own teenager sheep/lamb rearing days.

Lucy in what we now know is classic 'hungry lamb' stance,
elbows and knees almost touching, back arched and tail
pulled in tight between the legs. 
A bit of 'bucket chemistry', the teat successfully located and a washed out beer bottle and we were away. Out in the dark by head-torch we managed to find the lamb and then get the teat into her mouth, all be it, getting her face and front and Liz's gloves and coat liberally sprayed with milk in the process. We really felt like beginners and were worried that we'd not be able to help the girl because of our incompetence. Lucy was trying her hardest to co-operate though and we soon had her suckling away and got a half inch or so of bottle-depth into her.

Lucy's breakfast, dinner and tea for a few weeks. 
We have got a lot more proficient since then and on Monday morning we were able to get hold of some proper lamb-milk (Lamlac) formula and some better sized teats. We are now getting decent quantities of the warm goodness into her , though nowhere near the 1 litre a day you'd do if that was her ONLY food. We suspect that it is not - she is also starting to wean now (3 weeks old) so we see her grazing and stealing some of the adults' 'crunch' mix, plus she may be getting some milk from Mum and also from 'Aunt' Myfanwy. The Lamlac milk, though, has quickly started to put some weight on her and we both think she is plumper, warmer to hold, more lively and a lot less 'hunched up' looking. It is 8 pm as I write this, so I have actually just been out to do the last feed (today) and she was going well even when interupted by her sister (Rosie) who was curious at all these shlurrrping noises and wanted to try out this new thing. We have the vet called to Lily, obviously, as she may have mastitis or some other problem which is causing the milk not to flow from her left side. More on all this as things develop.

In through the side of the mouth seems to do the trick!
On the archery story, I have been down now to my first beginner-training session and I am bubbling over to anyone who will listen at how enjoyable and good it was. The coach, 'Con', is by way of being a former army weapons trainer (among other things) so I guess I should have expected my Silverwood's taster-session technique to be completely trashed so that I could start again with better foundation but I thoroughly enjoyed the process. There are 3 of us beginners but, by chance, my 2 colleagues were unable to come that day, so I enjoyed some one-to-one tuition.

The Mum in Law gives the bottle feeding a try.
I ask "Is this the first time you have fed a lamb?"
She says "It's the first time I've been near
enough to one to touch it!"
Con started by barring my Crocs (shoes) from future sessions and went on from there, changing my 'sidedness' ( I now shoot holding the bow in my  left hand and drawing the string with my right even though I am left-eye dominant), and then ripping into my stance (hips, belly, head, you name it) but in a good way. This was not a 'boot camp' and he kept saying "hope you don't mind a good slagging!" so that we both had a good laugh about it. He was impressed by my consistency, however, so that my groupings of arrows were good and tight throughout. When I do it wrong, at least I do it wrong the same every time, which, apparently, makes me a lot easier to work on.

Not one of ours - I just love Herefords!
That's about enough for this rather long and rambling post but I will just close with the fact that as well as the duck eggs sitting in Sue's big incubator over at her place, I have set 13 chicken eggs (mainly pure bred Buff Orpington) in the little incubator we borrow each year from the currently away-at-college Charlotte (Thanks, C!). This was going to happen anyway but we did it today so that Mum in Law could see the start of the thing. She may come back in 21 days hopeful to see some hatching. That City Girl is definitely starting to get 'infected' with all the goats, lambs, geese and other birdies.


Care Towers said...

It'd be a pity to lose those front trees, but the photo shows the risk well, and if that's the predominant wind direction, you do fear how far up the alphabet of storms you might get before disaster struck! Still, should keep you in firewood for a while...

Matt Care said...

There are plenty of other trees, Mark. From the front gate it would look a bit more open with trees only to the left of the drive and behind and to the right of the house, but from any other direction you'd barely notice the change. It's the safety thing that's driving us. A mahousive tree trunk not that welcome in the marital bed!