Friday, 5 August 2016

As Fed as Mice

As fed as mice? Our 3 remaining lambs
and one of the ewes (left).
I chug along here playing 'small holder' and beginning to feel nicely integrated when I am brought up short by a local expression which I have not met before. A local near-neighbour and friend, a beef farmer has called round on an unrelated errand and says to me that "Those sheep out there... they're as fed as mice!" I must have looked at him a bit shocked, thinking that he might be being rude about them ( - mice - small - underfed? ) because he looks at me a bit anxiously and hurries to reassure me that "You can tell when they are nearly ready - the grease (he says it "grace") starts to rise in their wool"

At least it is wearing its seat-belt. Another load of stock feed
Local lore has it that when lambs start to turn yellow with the lanolin starting to rise up through the fleece, they are fattened up nicely. Also, presumably, the local mice are very well fed, plump little things; no "sleekit timorous cowering" rodents this side of the Irish Sea.

Footie with a water melon....... naaah. We'll sniff it a bit then
ignore it. 
While I'm on stock, feeding of, I had read somewhere that it would be amusing to try the pigs out on a water melon. The local supermarket had them at a sensible price, so I picked one up. The theory was that the pigs had great fun playing a rather frustrating game of football while they worked out how to get into this unidentified, new food item. I grabbed the camera and went a-visiting.

Rip it to bits.
Well, my two know that when I arrive un-announced midday, this can sometimes mean an unscheduled food treat, but they had not read the book about the football game potential of water melons. I can only assume that an intact 'closed' water melon does not smell or taste at all interesting. Both pigs raced over to the thing, gave it a quick sniff and an exploratory nudge but then looked back at me as if to say "OK - funny green round item which we might look at later but where's the food?"

They raced back to me and started the usual round of nuzzling my wellies, trying to mouth my ankles and feet, rubbing the backs of their heads and necks on my legs as if I was a scratching post. They are like puppies or cats only they weigh in excess of 50 kg a-piece, so there's a good chance they would trip you or knock you off balance. If I cannot make them cop that this is a fruit which might be nice inside, I have to 'dink' the thing gently on a fence post to make a crack in it which will leak juice, smell and taste.

This year's Buffs at 5 months.
Straight way then, of course, we are away. Both snouts start to bully the melon open and both sets of teeth start to rip and crunch, both tongues slurping delightedly at the sweet, juicy contents. The girls soon have the thing ripped in half and then chopped up completely and emptied of its red lusciousness. I stay with them about 20 minutes and when I return an while later with their proper evening meal I note that every scrap of water melon is gone, green skin and all. Great fun had by all even if there was no 'footie'.

Spot the gosling! The young one is getting increasingly hard
to tell apart from his parents, aunts and Dad.
Meanwhile the birds are also eating well and growing up fast. Our gosling is now very difficult to tell apart from the adults - he is fully feathered and has lost most of his gosling fluff. Because we had to cull out one of the 'aunts' this year when she lost the use of her legs, we have decided that the gosling can stay all the time 'he' does not mature into a gander and cause problems with George, our existing 'alpha'.

The Marans half dozen are feathering up well
at just over 3 weeks old.
This year's crop of Buff Orps are now 5 months old and have decided to be a rooster and 3 hens. 2 of the hens are, we think, pure Buff Orp (along with the rooster) but one is a darker bird with some dark (black) tail feathers. She may have some Sussex Ponte or "mini-Buff" in her - we have one remaining hybrid buff from gifted eggs a couple of years back. Possibly even some Hubbard. This is quite a handy situation because the roo might be able to be our replacement 'alpha' if the 'Colonel' goes sick again next year. This year, if you recall, he went sick and got himself beaten up by our then #2, "The Captain". This youngster has been named "The Corporal", sticking to the naming system. He's looking good so far.

As all these young birds come of age, of course, they start to think about getting hitched and finding out about the birds and the bees. The Corporal and some of the Hubbard roosters have all been amusing us by trying out a bit of 'Cock-a-Doodle-Doo' -ing. Liz amused me a couple of days back by describing one 'crow' as sounding as if the bird was doing it through a kazoo.

Purple loosestrife by the pond.
No such vocalising for the ducks who are also 5 months old - they seem to have gone straight to adulthood without passing 'Go' or collecting £200. I saw them all heading for the small pond in the orchard yesterday and then in a flurry of splashing and quacking, one mounted another while the 4 others raced round in excited circles flapping their wings. It was confusing and fast and I cannot now swear who jumped on whom, but they were definitely going for it despite their lack of obvious sexual differentiation (curly upper tail feathers etc).

This neatly stacked barn caught my eye when I was out 365-ing
That is enough for now. I need to head for the kitchen and gaze meaningfully at some food, see what can be done about supper. Have a good weekend.

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