Tuesday 1 November 2016

Silas the Tiny (and Blue)

Travelling First Class - Silas arrives in Sue's car.
"Holy Apostle", Silas you may recall from your Sunday School days, was one of Paul's merry men from the adventures preaching to assorted Thessalonians, Corinthians, Antioch and the like. Or you can look him up in Google, the same way I had to! Well, to us, now, he is much more recent and way less holy - Silas is this year's 'tup' or ram-lamb, staying here for 5 weeks or so while he works his way round our 4 ewes getting them all into lamb. Possibly. I say 'possibly' because the lad is still rather small. The name comes from a white cross on his face when he was a young one.

Larruping the gooey blue 'raddle' grease onto Silas's chest
Born this year he has not grown anything like as fast as our lambs and was about a month later coming into the world. His size is probably something to do with the fact that he was an orphan or 'sock' lamb and had to be hand-reared with no real ewe's milk to go at. No matter, we are going to give him a try out and he will no doubt enjoy the practise this year and whether or not he 'scores' we are fairly relaxed about how many lambs we get in 2017. We will have him back next year (all being well) as an 18 month old, bigger and more experienced chap.

Sue leads Silas out to meet his new 'women'
Because we want to know if and when he does manage to mount the ewes (so that we can do the 5-month calculation on the calendar), we have 'raddled' him; in this case bright blue. For the uninitiated, raddle is a coloured oily mess you slap onto and massage into his chest and lower neck so that, when he mounts the ewe he cannot avoid 'painting' her rump with the stuff. You buy it as a tub of 450 g of blue (or other colours) "chalk" powder and mix it to a sloppy paste with ordinary vegetable oil. You can, if you prefer, and have more money than we do, buy it as a fancy wax 'crayon' which fits into a leather harness which holds it in position under the boy's chest. You can even buy it in 'hot weather' and 'cold weather' versions to adjust its 'painting ability' to the frost and sunshine. Yeah right.

Please don't leave me behind.....
We had Sue deliver him while he was still wearing his head collar and lead, so that she could keep a hold of him while I smeared him blue and then lead him in to meet the ladies. He was a bit nervous when faced with these 4 bigger sheep and none of us could shake off the impression that he was a small child being taken to 'big school' by his Mum on that first day. He clung to Sue a bit and didn't really want to be left behind.

It's only vegetable oil - it washes off (I was relieved to find!)
Our biggest and possibly 'alpha' ewe Myfanwy came over and gave him a good sniffing including that lift-the-upper-lip thing they do when chatting each other up. We took that as a good sign. Myf' also gave him a couple of play butts just to make sure he knew she was boss and our new this year ewe-lamb (Rosie) also showed an interest. So, there he was. He's in there now and looks OK. He certainly has a strong appetite for our good grass and fiercely defends his corner of the breakfast (crunch) trough. As of tonight he has not 'scored' yet (no blue rumps, so far) but that would be normal. The ewes would expect to come into heat in the presence of a male, and may take some days. They may not have been anywhere near ready, living in the ladies-only flock as they were up till yesterday. Patience is the thing.

An interesting use for left over Dabinette cider apples. Liz
made this apple, lemon and star-anise jelly. 
In an amusingly related story, I was over in Sligo yesterday morning helping K-Dub build another stone wall when an old boy pulled up outside in a lovely vintage red MF tractor which was, in turn, pulling an equally vintage stock trailer. We didn't know the fella - he was just "generic weather-beaten, leathery Sligo farmer bloke". He strolled over and asked did 'we' have a Billy Goat (presumably knowing full well that 'we' (actually Charlotte) did - you can see the goats from the road. He had his Nanny goat in the trailer, he said, and she was on heat, so might he put her to the Billy.

The new calendars start to leave the country
We called C out from the house and she, obviously amused, took man and goat out to meet the boy. Billy was well up for any action and came racing down the field but our (human) ladies could immediately tell that the goat was nothing like on heat (no swollen vulva, no tail wagging) so there was to be no mounting and Sligo-farmer had to lead his charge off un-impregnated. C found out that he wants the goat 'in-kid' so that she comes into milk and he can put orphan lambs to her. The Billy he normally uses is locked in a "cage" he said on a farm where you can never get hold of the farmer. It is in a cage because it is "so fierce!", he said. C has invited him to try again next week and has also put in a bid for the goat-kid(s) which he presumably disposes of if he's feeding the nanny-milk to his lambs. The tractor, he protested, is not some lovingly restored 'vintage' machine - just his own, long-loved work-a-day farm machine.

Then there was Hallowe'en. We are not sure very much Hallowe'en happened down this lane before we arrived, there not being many kiddies down here of the right age. We arrived fresh from the UK and also filled with enthusiasm gained by association with the Silverwoods crowd and the mad party of armies of Estate children, squillions of Euro spent on sweeties and more still on dry ice, special effects, electronic ghosties and ghoulies and sound effects. In our first year we decided to put a rather tentative pumpkin lantern on the gate pier down in the lane and a few more small lights up the drive, bought ourselves a modest stash of chocs and wondered whether our 'advert' (open for business, up for some Trick-or-Treat kids?) would attract anyone.

We got one family, as I recall - near neighbours. Mum in Hi-viz and driving people carrier. Kids all costumed up. We've done it ever since. In the 2nd year it was lashing rain and I think we got no-one, but since then the word seems to have been spreading that you can go to 'that place down the lane'. This year we had a visit from K-Dub and co (OK, I admit I had invited them) but then in quick succession 4 very nice families finishing up with a crowd of 8 or so which included the little ones from 4 years ago. They descended upon our sweeties like a plague of locusts, 16 little hands scrabbling for the chocs and lollipops. They cleaned us out. They had lovely costumes - there was even a Donald Trump!

It was late enough by then, though, that we decided we could safely shut up shop to save having to disappoint any other families, so I whizzed round retrieving the pumpkins and blowing out lanterns. I'm not sure what the going rate is for the 'Trick' part of Trick or Treat - what happens to you if you cannot give the kids any sweets (or you just don't). I hear some houses get 'egged' (fresh raw eggs thrown at the front door). Our local kids do not seem to be that cynical and are, anyway, being driven round by parents, so I'd hope do not run to those Hallowe'en horrors. We got away with it anyway. One of the Dads told me today that he had hidden himself in a field while the children came up to our door and then sneaked along the lane behind them in the field before jumping out of the hedge at them in the dark, scaring them half to death before giving them a bucket of sweets.  Good Night Kiddies. Don't have nightmares now! See you next year. I will have to buy more sweeties.

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