Friday 9 September 2016

Four by Four (or Twos and Fives)

I made it 45 swallows on the wires this afternoon, 46 if you
include the one just left of the pole. 
As our very wet August does its drippy 'segue' into soggy September (and I have my usual debate with myself whether that should be pronounced 'segway' or 'seeg') we start to give up on Summer and look down the barrel of Autumn. Today is a particularly wet example - it is doing that rain which I have only ever experienced here in Ireland. It is 'heavy' in the sense that there is a lot coming down but the drops are like big drizzle falling slowly and landing without drama. There is no roar of hammering raindrops bouncing off the tarmac but you get wet very fast because of the density of the drops. It is surely this kind of rain that was first described as a 'soft' day.

The half-feathered 2nd batch of Hubbard chickens at 4 weeks
looking at their most "velociraptor"
I feel a bit like 'Lady Muck' going round the village distributing cakes to the poor peasants when I am doing my livestock rounds. The sheep and pigs are fine and probably sheltering in their lean-to or ark but the birds are all either young, so I like to give them food under cover, or holed up in various places around the farm sheltering from the rain - under the trailer, in the car-port, in the sheds and coops, under the bottom shelf of the log store and so on.

This hedgehog called by one evening and I came upon
him unsuspecting with dogs, hence he is curled up in a ball.
I take the appropriate feed for the groups round in 1 litre yogurt tubs and slide a portion in onto their dry ground without worrying them into getting to their feet and sprinting out into the rain to avoid me. The geese and ducks, of course, have no problem and show every sign of loving the warm shower. They will happily hoover up wet food from the rain soaked ground. The chickens, Guineas and (now) turkeys (of which more later) all hate to get their feet wet and will not eat wet food.

Mr/Mrs Tiggy Winkle uncurls and sets off after the doggie
It must be time for a livestock round up; I know some of the readers like to hear the latest moves and worry if they have not heard from xxx for a while. Pigs are good and ever bigger. We have had no repeats of the belly-ache wobble by Somerville which scared me to death last week. I must measure them again for a weight estimate. I may do that tonight if I can 'borrow' Liz's dress-making (soft) tape measure again. I will let you know. Our current thoughts are to 'finish' them in late October.

Chip with his damaged pupil. It seems to not be able to close
from the right side of his face but he manages. 
We are now down to our 'ground zero' on the sheep flock with the last two lambs-for-meat being away at the butchers hanging for their week before they get cut up in our presence next Monday. The 4 keeper 'yows' going in 'steps and stairs' in ages down from 7 year old Lily, 5 year old Polly, through 3 year old Myfanwy and now this year's 'replacement' Rosie. We will probably stick with 4 as that gives us potentially more than enough lambs but you may recall that we have offered to rehome a couple of 'geriatrics' for our Mayo breeder friend who may be coming out of sheep.

Firing on all cylinders - 100% hit rate from the ducks, all be it
one is still sneaking out the smaller 'first' eggs
('fairy' eggs or 'witch' eggs).
The ducks amazed us by all coming into lay - we got 4 eggs from 4 females. Admittedly one of these was one of the small 'fairy' or 'witch' eggs which new birds do as they stutter their pipework into action. These eggs usually have no yolk or a funny, embryonic squiggle of 'germ'. You can eat them (though I prefer to discard the squiggle!) but the birds quickly come on line properly with a normal size egg after a couple of days. These are young ducks only hatched in March, so I assumed they'd not come into lay till spring. Their '4 x 4' productivity out-does anything we have ever managed from the chickens (or the geese for that matter) where I think our best was 9 eggs from (then) 11 likely hens.

I was getting a bit carried away with my flavoured goats
cheeses. Here left to right, chive and garlic, parsley and marigold
and then honey and paprika. Great fun. 
No such excitement from the hens of similar age to the ducks, the 'Corporal' and his 3 ladies. Not a one egg yet there. The other adult chooks are bimbling along disappointingly rarely giving even 3 eggs per day (from 7 eligible grown ups); I am excluding the 3 Buffs who are currently tied up rearing youngsters, the Corp's lot and the 2 month old Marans.

Badge of Honour? You've not lived till you have been snotted
on the left man-boob by 60 kg of hungry pig.
Our two most recent broodies (briefly here as "Dustbin Lady and Crate Lady" if you look back a few posts) have delighted us by forming a nice little family group looking like a pair of London Nannies taking their charges out to the park each day. Both Mums share the job and the 5 babies seem to happily interchange between the two 'parents'. They are so close now that I call them the "Two and Fives". The five chicks are all thriving, with little buff coloured true feathers coming on their wings between the chick-fluff.

There is always paperwork.
The other 'former broody' is way further forward with her little 'Araucana' chicks (the 'black babies'). These guys were hatched in late June so are 11 weeks old and should probably have left home by now, off to University or earning their own wages. It may be that they are little 'bantam' sized things and Mum thinks they are still 'her babies' but we still see her with them, minding them. Being Araucanas (or at least A x game) they are tricky to sex - both sexes have the fancy top-knot and an erect tail so we may have to wait till they reach 'point of lay' (21 weeks?) as we did for the white silkies in Kent, to see do they lay an egg or shout cock-a-doodle-dooooo!

Turkey Poults
This week we took delivery (Thanks Sue) of our three handsome turkey poults, settled them in for a day and then let them go free range. Up to now they had lived under cover in a shed and (said Sue) were long overdue for some sunshine and freedom. They spent settling in day out in a small triangular run in our yard, gazing up at the sky and the passing poultry. Yesterday they went free and had a good old explore of the site. Today, in the rain they were back indoors looking a bit less impressed but at least they are under cover voluntarily so it still might count as an improvement.

Free range turkeys.
The three is made up of 2 bigger (older) birds and a youngster. The bigger ones may even be children of our own late lamented Tom and Barbara who gave us some eggs in spring prior to Barbara going off to do her suicide-nest in the fields. I passed these to Sue for hatching but I have no idea whether those eggs became these particular birds. It would be nice to think that the DNA is carrying on but these birds are for Christmas so any boys will be 'gone' before they turn into  red-pyjama-hating, Liz-attacking, kick-boxing hooligans.

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