Tuesday 7 March 2017

This Little Piggy...

The huge bulk of Iris alongside the five
tiny new-borns
Nice progress in the 2017 piggy project. I hear today from breeder, Adrian, that Iris has done her thing and given birth to 5 lovely plump piglets. Pigs are born tiny - about the size of a guinea pig and cannot be sexed just yet but they all look so cute and baby-ish that we don't mind. Obviously, no-one is relaxing just yet - they are also very vulnerable at this age to all manner of  harm and ailments but we are happy that they are now on the road to weaning and we wish them 8 weeks of drinking loads of Mum's milk, staying warm and safe and not getting into harm's way.

Only hours old here. 
As to sex, with only 5 in the litter we, and Sue and Rob would be lucky to come out with our preferred 2-females-each result but if we get boys this year then we'd be happy with that. Adrian gets all his non-breeder boars castrated anyway so no danger of any brother/sister shenanigans or of the elusive and frequently doubted but much feared boar-taint in the meat. Adrian has said we can come and visit in a couple of weeks when first time Mum Iris will have got over her stresses and the gang have started exploring beyond the birth nest. We will then, all being well, be able to collect our piglets at the end of April, 8 weeks old and weaned.

Some first primroses at our eastern boundary.
Progress too in the task of introducing young birds to their adult equivalent. We were going to do chicken-poults into the main 'grown up' coop at the same time as the young ducks met the 'parent birds' and all got herded in there together. It didn't go well and we relented on the poults for now, while the new 5-duck group has a few evenings to get into the routine. Once the ducks are cool and calm, we will call in the removal men for the poults. Then I can put 2 rabbit runs back into dry store.

The scarlet elf-cup fungi are much bigger than usual this year
- see biro for scale. I wonder if all the rain is responsible. 
Nothing else to report except an archery failure - we all made a complete Horlicks of organising our session on Sunday and failed spectacularly to shoot at all. I'd had a busy morning and after looking into the computer first thing and finding no notice of the meeting, I hadn't got back in. I was fully expecting the usual "Start at 13:45" post and made sure I was ready accordingly, racing through the jobs in order to be able to leave here at 13:30. I had to nip down for milk for a neighbour who is currently without transport, walk the dogs and scurry over to Sligo to collect an offered bucket of frog spawn (of which more later).

Doris's tree starts to fill the log store.  
Our roofer-guy turned up at that stage to replace the jackdaw pots but I left him to it while I snatched a lunchtime sandwich. At that point my mobile phone battery also died. Liz, meanwhile had generously knocked up a batch of fruit scones for the archers. If I'd wait around till 13:27 I could take them, still cooling, in a Tupperware box, along with butter and jam. I was just packing those and my bow and arrows into the car when another visitor showed up but he mainly wanted Liz, so I was free to shout a welcome in passing as I leapt into the car.

Much-travelled scones.
So when I arrived at The Hub, I was surprised to find the place choc-a-block with boxers and their cars, parents etc. All the Hub carparks were full and all the surrounding roads and neighbouring hard-standing too. There were track-suited boxing club logo'd lads everywhere, even practise sparring in the corridors, so that you had to creep by carefully and hope that they were fairly accurate with the flying fists. Obviously, there was some sort of tournament on. Our hall and bits were all locked up, dark and abandoned and there was not a single archer to be seen. I waited around for a while but in the end, decided that there must have been some kind of cancellation post on Facebook, which I had not seen and, phoneless, I could not call anyone to check. So I bailed and took my lovely scones back home.

We had seen enough mud trailed into
the house. All the dogs got their 'skirts'
leg 'feathering' shaved off and a good
bath. Poppea is Not Happy here. 
The story, I am told, went like this. There had, in fact been a post, telling us the start time of 2pm by which time the coach had turned up and one other guy arrived at 3 minutes past 2. But the owner of the Hub who was supposed to leave us the key had gone off with it in his pocket, hence all locked up and dark. The hapless archers who did show also had to admit defeat and they left at half past 2 promising to get it together more successfully next week. An all round dog's breakfast. At least I got the scones. I hope the boxers had a successful time beating the cr*p out of each other.

Our cheating, import Sligo frog spawn
The frog spawn? The best eco-advice is that all this business of bringing frog spawn home to your new pond to 'help' is BAD. You are meant to leave your new pond alone to go through a NATURAL succession, gradually building up an eco system by species of plant through what arrives naturally.

No sneaking off to your garden centre and buying water lilies and aquatics for that 'instant gratification' make-over effect. The reasons for this are partly about moving disease and undesirable (invasive) species about but more importantly about giving the slower natural colonisers their share of the cake. Their 15 minutes of fame. If you 'leapfrog' (ooops pun) over these simpler species and fast-forward to the bigger herbivores, carnivores and more complex plants the early-adopters never get a chance to do their thing.

We have had the pond now for 4 years and we have seen a few frogs come and go and even (last year) got a few small clumps of spawn laid in naturally, but all the taddies were eaten by the water-beetles, dragon fly nymphs and even chickens and we have never seen a population start to build. In theory we are happy to have our newts and we know that newts, too, will eat tadpoles, but it would still be nice to have a patch of thick vegetation where frogs would thrive. I was offered some spawn from Sligo where the water-filled tractor-rut in which the spawn had been laid, was being drained, so I reckon we were OK breaking the rules this time. We are 'rescuing' this spawn, re-homing it to keep it safe. Forgive us.  

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