Friday 12 January 2018

John Downie

Father-to-be, Pedro?
Friends of the Blog may recall that back in August last year I posted that I had seen signs of affection between new ram-lamb 'Pedro' and our mature ewe 'Lily'.

Onto the calendar for 5 months later (Jan 25th 2018) went my note saying "poss lambing date, Lily" and we all relaxed while nature took its course. She was likely to be our first at the lambing. You cannot hurry these things, after all. Mother Nature knows best.

Apologies for the technically bad and not
very edifying pic but it does show very
clearly the enlargement of Lily's udder,
called "bagging up" in the trade. 
Coming through Christmas I have therefore been keeping half an eye on Lily particularly, but not really expecting any signs for a week or more yet. Yesterday, though, I could see that she was suddenly 'bagging up', her udder which is normally invisible from behind clearly visible. I apologise for the picture which also shows that she is a bit 'dagged' up and needs some tidying.

Larch logs
Bagging up can be several days or even a few weeks prior to lambing so she still might hit the 25th (or even over-shoot) but we will be watching anxiously over the next mornings for our other favourite signs; declining breakfast, lying down in some far flung corner of the field a long way from all other sheep. Our girls never miss a breakfast, so when there is one missing from the feast you know something serious is happening. Wish us luck. This is a tense and anxious time.

New kids on the block, these 2 year old
crab apple whips. 
In other news, I have finally scored a couple of 'John Downie' crab apple trees, these from top Irish fruit tree supplier, Future Forests (www.futureforests.IE). In every garden we make, Liz and I always seem to pull in plants, offspring, cuttings or varieties from other gardens we have been involved in. Like old familiar friends, we seem to gravitate towards those varieties if we are contemplating buying or 'getting' anything from that broader group. John Downie is the variety of crab apple which in my memory has always grown in my Mother's garden in Hastings.

Mum's tree is now quite a landmark, being huge and visible from either end of the street. I am sure we three bothers used to climb it as young boys, and certainly made a load of wine from its fruit (sometimes wind-falls) as teenagers, while Mum, throughout has been making crab-apple jelly, sending us boys out to harvest its red fruits. When we first laid out the orchard here, the only crab I could find was 'Golden Hornet' variety, which has done very well but this year I was determined to fill 2 gaps with John Downie and this I have now done.

More protection than tree for now. They
should get away nicely. 
The tiny whips look more 'protection' than actual tree for now, ringed around with weld-mesh to keep the geese from ring-barking their tender trunks but, as I say hopefully when I plant anything, "They should get away nicely" (Geoff Hamilton!), and will soon out-grow the geese.

One of last year's babies comes up to 'point of lay' and goes for
a sit down. 
In the poultry department, we are happy to report that we are now well through the egg-drought and now starting to get sensible amounts of eggs per day - recent record days have been an 8 and then a 9.

I love the gentle range of colours of our eggs. 
Some of the new hens, hatched in Spring 2017, are now coming on line. They generally start with a few tiny, yolkless eggs, mis-shapes, double yolkers or shell-less soft 'bags' but quickly get into the proper groove and give us a decent egg most days. I love the range of gentle colours we produce, from almost white (actual white for the ducks, of course) to rich dark chocolate brown from the Marans girls.

2nd job for chickens in the morning after a quick scrabble for
breakfast seed - to the 'watering hole' for a drink. In this case
the duckling's paddling pool. 
I think that's about it for tonight. News on the lambing in a post soon, I hope.

Red Sky in the Morning, Shepherd's Warning. I do so hope not!
All the best.

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