Tuesday 30 December 2014

Polly and Lily

In a shed, awaiting collection.
At last I get the phone call from Mayo Liz to say that my ewes are ready, separated from the flock, shut into their shed and waiting for collection. The original plan had been to collect them back in early December but this plan was scuppered by Mayo-Liz having to put in some extra pre-Christmas shifts and the husband and son(s) who had been about to help handle the sheep and separate off my two were always 'on a roof' (one son is a roofer) or 'taken to his bed' (which can mean ANYthing in Ireland).

The shepherds outnumber the sheep here - 4 people help
to 'gently' load the precious and delicate cargo.
We had to wait through Christmas in a sheep-less condition and I was beginning to despair of getting them before New Year. On our trip down to Silverwood's to do our present exchange, Christmas visit and consumption of a superb roast beef rib lunch laid on my Steak Lady, I had taken to jokingly shout "I want my sheeps!" which just had Liz helpfully pointing out all the fields of sheep on the 2 hour drive... "Look! He's got HIS sheep.... and so has he!" etc.

Safely home to Co Roscommon, Polly on the left, Lily
on the right. 
Today I was happily going about other business - actually doing a bit of logging in the 'apiary' (bee hive paddock) taking advantage of the frost to keep the bees hunkered down in the winter cluster and not keen to come out and investigate the buzz and bark of the chain saw. They stayed put as I was 95% sure they would, but when you are using a chain saw it is best to have 100% concentration on not chopping your leg off, not 95% watching for that and 5% keeping an eye on the hive entrance to see if anyone sticks an antenna out. We survived anyway.

Sad wet slew of Buff Orp feathers.
There was one other drama before the call - I spotted a sorry tuft of buff coloured feathers in the East Field and rushed to count my 'Baker's Dozen' young buffs, already down to 12 after a natural-causes death. Only Ten! Liz came out and helped me do a search and she found a suspicious animal track through the frost diagonally across to the eastern fence, where a sad wet slew of more feathers told the tale, Brer Fox had snatched at least one but I have to admit to not having counted them in or out last night, so I cannot say whether this was yesterday or the day before. I then took the dogs for a walk and when nearly home saw a big dog fox on McG's lawn (neighbour) which then nipped through a hedge, crossed the lane in front of us (the dogs were trying to dislocate my arm by then!) and loped off down to the lough. This in broad daylight at roughly mid day. Later, Bob told us he had also seen a fox yesterday and he could clearly see something pale in its mouth, which he thought was a hare but could well have been our other missing young hen. We think that these birds may have been snatched on separate days and possibly both in the East Field where at least the chooks will not now be able to go with the sheep gate closed but we will be upping the patrols and outdoor activity and double checking the evening lock-downs. I will also wait till full daylight before releasing the birds in the morning, I've been letting them out at 08:30 when it is still fairly gloomy here. These things happen, I guess, in a fully free range system. Annoyingly, it is 2 hen birds that our red bushy-tail chum has taken - why couldn't he grab a young cockerel? - they are coming up to the age where we need to cull them out anyway!

Lily takes off down the field.
Anyway, we got our call, I fired up Charlotte of the Mini-Horses (who wanted to go with us), and we headed for Mayo Liz's place with the trailer. We had a nice long chat, tea and biscuits, did all the paperwork and reversed the trailer up to the shed. You have to be gentle with these pregnant ones, they told us, so we stood back a bit and let the 'experts' at it. This looked to involve a rugby scrum with 2 bodies hanging onto and steering each ewe - they weren't going ANYWHERE but my trailer. We bade each other farewell and very gently drove home before unloading the sheep into our field - no man handling this time - we dropped the ramp and stood back blocking exits while the ewes slowly and warily explored the ramp and then the field entrance. We gently swung the gate shut behind them and there we were. I have since nipped in to photograph the new girls and we will now leave them to settle. The names, Polly (for the darker, Jacob x Hampshire Down) and Lily (for the pale, Suffolk x Hampshire) were provided by a literary chum of Liz's. When we were buying them and needing names back in October, she spotted that it was the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas (27th Oct 1914) so decided we should name them for the entertaining "leading ladies" in 'Under Milk Wood', Polly Garter and Lily Smalls. We wanted names evocative of fecund female good health, appetite for... um.... loving, and easy production of babies. Polly and Lily it is then, Good Luck ladies, may you by now be successfully in lamb and 'cooking' ready to lamb in late March or early April.

No comments: