Tuesday 1 March 2016

Baba Marta Day

Happy Baba Marta Day! This is a 'Martenitsi'
A long time ago in the early years of our togetherness, when we were a bit younger and fitter than now, we were mad keen on ski-ing and went for a few years to Borovets in Bulgaria to get at some real snow in between the dry-slope training sessions in the Medway Towns. Out there we got quite friendly with our instructor (Oggi) and eventually his wife (Zana) and family. We are still in touch with Zana (Hi Zana!) through social media and today we learned of a nice Bulgarian/Balkan tradition, Baba Marta Day, the 1st March. This is another pagan one unrelated to St David, where they celebrate the mythical figure of Baba Marta, or "Grandma March" who comes round bringing the end to a cold Winter and the start of Spring. People exchange and wear cords, wrist bands and little figurines made of red and white twine called 'martenitsi'. More of this later.

The last post brought you the arrival of our own latest signs of Spring, the birth of Polly's twins. These were both ram-lambs, one black and one white, so have been named Ebony and Ivory at the suggestion of one of our internet friends - (Thank you, Ianthe C). These last week's days have been sunny and dry, if a bit chilly, but that gave us a chance to put all 4 lambs onto the front lawn and get some lovely cute pictures. We did not expect the third ewe, Myfanwy to do anything just yet as she was not, from what I could see, 'bagging up' or showing any of our other 'pet' symptoms.

2 more twins, these for Myfanwy. We are now all lambed out.
Well, that just shows how much I know, doesn't it?! We chugged through leap year day half expecting the biggest news to come in human form, with two of our unmarried chums (no names no pack drill) hinting that the lady might do the Leap Year thing of proposing to her man but to no avail this time. Maybe in 2020, you guys? We woke up to a lovely surprise this morning at the end of a very wet, rainy night, the sight of our 3rd ewe, Myfanwy lying down contentedly at one end of the field shelter with a little lamb curled up next to her on either side.

My quick check told me that these were both females, both warm and dry and with nicely full bellies - the contentment was apparently due to an comfortable birth in the dry straw and some quick and efficient suckling of the vital early milk, colostrum. Clever girl(s). Myfanwy had presumably also passed the afterbirth because there was no sign of any hanging around her back end. The lambs are, once again, one dark and one light - we do not seem to be able to do 'proper' white lambs.

Hi-rise nesting for these two chooks, who are
currently laying their eggs 5 feet up my straw
stack. At least they are safe from sheep hooves
I quickly nipped back indoors to wake poor Lizzie with a rather early cup of tea and presented my news. She'd want to know but could then easily drift off back to sleep till a sensible time. How she suffers!

So, we now have 3 ewes and 3 sets of twins - two sets of ewes and one of ram lambs. 9 sheep. It is beginning to look like a flock. We are fortunate that it is not any bigger as we are decidedly short of grass so we are having to supplement feed with the lamb 'crunch' (a mix of grains and molasses) and hay. This has led us to a decision to bring the whole operation round a few months LATER next winter. We will not get the ram in till November, so that we can lamb in April/May rather than Feb/March, by which time, we hope, the grass will have started to move.

Mini-horse Bob
In honour of the day, these two babies have been named Baba and Marta (Baba is the lighter one). My sheep news is, though, not all as happy or good. Remember the small infection which Lily 'caught' after her lambing due, we think, to some small ammount of retained afterbirth? We thought we had cured it with various injections from Vet Aoife and Lily had been as right as rain since, always baa-ing the loudest for food and leading the charge.

Good vigorous ferment still going in the 'hedgerow' wine.
Well this morning she was back in the Doldrums, refusing breakfast and looking downright miserable. She walked OK to the front lawn field with her thriving babies but then spent the day standing, shifting her weight from foot to foot and looking a bit hunched up and not grazing. There was nothing for it but to get back onto the vet who confirmed that Lily still apparently has a bit of that infection and had better receive 2 more doses of the antibiotic, one today and one Friday. Although these are intra-muscular, I now do these myself after Aoife showed me how, so she only has to leave the meds out for me and I collect them.

 (Half) Leg of Dylan
So, this evening, we had a bit of a marathon job shepherding; by our own standards, obviously, not compared to the 'real' shepherds. The weather is forecast to be a bit wild, windy, wet and cold. We had to gather Myfanwy and the new babies up into the hurdle-pen and Polly and her recent twins into the Tígín. All 4 of those babies are still too small to be safe outside. Lily's babies are over 2 weeks old and should, normally, be outside now but with Lily being sick and needing a jab, it was easier to round her up too into the Tígín where Liz could get a firm hold on her shoulders while I stuck a needle into her thigh muscle. I will keep you posted as to how these various dramas play out.

Six inches of good compost goes over the potatoes in the
poly-tunnel raised beds. Feed the soil and the soil will.....
Meanwhile in other news we are suddenly over-run with eggs. We went through early Feb with the girls laying sometimes 1 or two, even no eggs a day. Our poorest week was only 7 eggs. Lots of different chickens, but only one egg each that week. Suddenly everybody came back into lay all at once, often laying in bizarre new places. Some lay on top of a stack of straw bales 5 feet up, one in the pig ark (currently Billy goat house), some in straw down under my tool boxes and workbench and one in the rabbit 'Maternity Unit' (as was).

A batch of 'hedgerow' wine we started was coming up as possibly finished ferment after 3 weeks but must have been chilled because although it is fermenting vigorously now, it is still way too full of sugar to think about 'killing' (stabilizing) it. We will leave that for a few more weeks before we check again. Liz has been asked to help out with another village 'project' but I have been sworn to secrecy as the calling may or may not be the result of someone possibly dropping out. More on this when we know more and when the press 'gag' is lifted.

I have now made contact with the local archery club (Roscommon Archers) and have signed up for a ten week beginner's training course. I am very much looking forward to it, my appetite whetted by pictures in Facebook of the Silverwoods getting on so well down in their club that they have all been out taking part in an outdoor competition and, in some case, have come back with medals for class wins and thirds. More on this, too, when it happens.

Ah well, wish Lily a 'get well soon' and happy thriving growth to all the little kindergarten members. Health too, to the Mums.

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