Tuesday 30 April 2013

Of Liz and Buck, Romeo and Ginger.

Liz is safely back among those present - I collect her from Knock Airport on Monday 29th afternoon. She's had a lovely (mainly) Girly Weekend among all the old chums from Darkest Kent and further afield (Aberdeen and Hamburg!), Diamond, Mazy and co, eaten and drunk in some lovely pubs and restaurants, chatted, caught up on the gossip, and generally had a good ol' time. These boys and girls have been together for years and they call this annual get-together, their 'AGM'. The location rotates around where-ever one or more live, so it was just a coincidence that the 'Kent Lot' got it just after we moved away. It gave Liz a nice chance to go visit and, while she was there, look up our former neighbours, Angel B and Jim.

 We have mentioned before that we have made some new friends in this townland (village), namely Carolyn and Keiran and that we have now done the all important mutual you-show-me-your (small holding) if I show you ours. On visiting 'theirs' we also got to meet 18 year old daughter Charlotte and 'new' (14 months) baby Henry as well as meeting all the livestock (including the pigs who we may end up doing half-carcass swapsies with for one of our lambs this year) and the horses. They are a great bunch and we hope we have made some firm friends. Keiran is also a carpenter so we may be using him soon on out-building doors.

For quite some time we found ourselves chatting to Charlotte who has a happy, friendly way about her and an accent which veers between local (Roscommon), Dublin (Dad) and Manchester (Mum). She has obviously grown up in the small holding environment and is very well versed in all things goose, pig, duck and, particularly rabbit (she has 18 at present) and horse (she has three miniatures and a Welsh Cob). Our chat around rabbits ended up by us offering her our Buck Rogers whom we had bought last year to mate with Ginny and Padfoot but who, we thought, might be too young or small; anyway, no babies materialised.

Charlotte's three miniature horses were used for showing around agricultural shows and in some cases in pony/trap driving competitions. What they do not have on their holding, however, is any winter grass for the horses to graze, so the 4 are kept in a sandy-floored yard and fed expensive hay and other proprietary feeds. All around here the farmers have been struggling with supplies of silage and fodder for cattle, and Carolyn has not yet been able to get agreement from the farmer who usually lets the horses graze his land. They are a bit stuck so Liz and I decided we might be able to help. We are about to have our 1.5 acre East Field fenced with sheep (and therefore horse) proof fence and will not actually need it for sheep till August or September, so why not let these horses have our grass. Horses are also good at grazing when tethered, so we could use them to keep the lawn and other bits down, saving me having to mow. Also in this mix is that the horses have grown a bit fat and lazy over the winter and Charlotte would like to get them fitter and leaner during the summer.

To cut a long story short we offered Charlotte the buck rabbit but told her she had to come and collect him in the pony and trap. That way we could try to reproduce our circa 1900 picture of the house with the ponies and traps queued up along the front which I have included in an earlier post. The lucky horse would also get to eat some genuine grass while we wrangled rabbits and drank tea. The horse Charlotte chose to bring was one called Romeo who is actually an International Champion horse. He is of the breed 'Falabella' but he is a cross with a Miniature English horse (sorry, didn't write this down so I am not sure what breed) and he is a gelding. The other two are a pure bred Falabella stallion and a miniature Shetland (I think). So we were honoured to have the impeccably behaved Romeo on our lawn.

Meanwhile, Charlotte wanted to get a good look round our rabbits. Buck Rogers proved to be an in-season female! That at least explains why he never got very far mating with Ginny and Padfoot. Because SHE is a pale brown, Liz promptly renamed HER 'Ginger Rogers' and Charlotte said she'd love to take her anyway. She then grabbed up both Ginny and Padfoot, found that Ginny is also on heat and offered to take all three rabbits home with her to put with her 'proper' buck(s) and see if we couldn't get both of them pregnant this time. Concerned that her Mum would be wondering where she'd got to after all this chatting, rabbit wrangling and horse photography, she loaded all the rabbits onto the cart, hopped back aboard, Hyaa!'d Romeo into an easy trot and set off back down the drive and the lane home. Brilliant! We were all grinning like loons!

Last but not least we come to our geese who, contrary to my last report now both seem to have gone broody. Here, I am rather ashamed to admit, we have been guilty of some appallingly bad husbandry and failed to take on board the generous and freely given advice of Mentor Anne and Simon. They warned us that we'd need to separate the geese or risk nest robbing and egg-snaffling between the girls so that you'd never know who was still laying or whose eggs were whose, or whether those eggs had all gone the full 28-35 days of being brooded. This has indeed happened.

We tried, when we realised both were involved, to give them a hay box each, with a 6 foot gap between, but the 2nd box and any eggs we put in it, were ignored. With the two boxes next to each other at least both get sat on but who ever is sitting while the other one goes out to poo and freshen up, seems to then snaffle all the eggs into her own nest. A couple of days ago Goocie was definitely on 15 in the left hand box. Yesterday she is on all 15 (or maybe 16) in the right hand box. We do not like to get in and upset everyone by forcibly moving geese or eggs, so we are just going to let this one play out and when both geese have done their times, if we get any goslings we will be happy with that. We will try to get more organised next year. Our first possible hatching date for any of these 15 eggs is Wednesday 22nd May. The one thing in our favour is that the two females have always been inseparable and seem to be best of mates, so there is no fighting or arguing over eggs and, we hope, no disputing over any successful goslings. Wish us luck. Poor Gander is currently a bit lost and lonely with no ladies to parade around, so he spends his day hanging around with William the rooster or by Broody Betty and her chicks in the run.

Finally, last time Sparks was here he commented that it must be strange as well as nice, to wake up and then decide what 'work' you are going to do today. Well, for the first time in ages I know this one in advance. Our fencing guy, Paul M came by today to drop off all the straining posts and barbed wire for our fencing job on the East Field. Tomorrow I will therefore be lugging posts about, handling reels of barbed wire, monkey-strainers, staples, hammers and crow bars. I hope it's another lovely day like today. Finally-finally, Broody Betty and the 8 chicks are thriving. It's looking very promising.

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