Friday 27 July 2018

Home! (...but Deefer's in the Dog House)

Home in time for the pea harvest
Back home then to a rapturous welcome from the three dogs. I just fall to my knees and let them all have at me at once, sniffing and nuzzling, rather than stand, bent over while all three try to jump up for a fuss at once. They were delighted to have me back but Elizabeth had tipped me off that #1 daughter (Deefer) was in SERIOUS TROUBLE having killed our last turkey poult. Silly girl. The Woman of the House was hopping mad (she did it in front of Elizabeth despite a warning shout) and is now still "doing time" for it. If Deefer was in the Military, she'd be doing "jankers", scrubbing the toilet floor with a toothbrush or something. I know better than to undermine that by trying to do "Good Cop", so she stayed on punishment detail till late that night.

Opening up this year's "Parma" ham.
I don't know what it is about turkeys specifically - Deefer does not have a problem any more with tiny hen-chicks, ducks or goslings. Maybe it is the high pitched whistle-cheep triggering some kind of 'vermin' response rather than a 'valuable baby bird' one. She immediately goes all tense and twitchy with prey-focus, like a good sheep dog. There is no talking to her. A quick snap and bye bye poult. She has now killed all three leaving the (chicken) hen that we put them under to brood and who had since been rearing them, totally distraught. We will never trust her with turkey poults again, that's for sure.

However, I promised you a livestock round-up in this post, and quite a story it is. At Elizabeth's visits to the hospital, I must have been focusing a bit too much on the fox-attack stories. I was worried that I'd have to get home a bit quick while we still had some hens. No need to worry. We have plenty of hens and plenty of young 'followers' coming on behind. I think it was only the one we lost while I was away. When Elizabeth made the feed rounds that evening, which she does by broadcasting the grain in the yard, surrounded by chickens of all ages, turkeys, ducks, Guinea fowl, and geese and goslings, she seems to be knee-deep in birds. It is a pleasure to watch! I will try to find the photo.

In no particular order then.......

The pigs have come on well. The big female (left) is ready.
Bees: The main colony is still going strong and the swarm which I spotted had invaded the lure box is still active. Regular readers will probably know that Summer bees in Ireland, only live about 6 weeks each, dying worn out by all that hard foraging. If you get a swarm and it lasts beyond 6 weeks, then you have hit the Jackpot and snatched a viable, queen-right one. She will have been laying eggs from days of arrival (as soon as the wax-loaded workers drew her out some comb) and these new bees will be able to take over after the 6 weeks to keep the colony going. I will have to check my dates, to see if our 6 weeks are up.

Elizabeth doing 'shepherd'. She has no fear. She knows the
sheep will follow so she strides off with her bucket and, of course,
all the flock trot along behind.
Pigs: The pigs have come on leaps and bounds under the new management and the female, who was always a bit bigger than the boys, is now ready to go on that final journey. The boys we will hold back another month or so, if mainly due to lack of freezer space. We have booked her in on the Tuesday, so we now need to do all that trailer-familiarisation training thing that we do, over the weekend. It will be fun. We only want her in the trailer, but all three are likely to get enthusiastic at once. Watch this space. The freezers are completely devoid of pork now except for a small tray of (3?) trotters, so it will be nice to get some meat back in there.

The big ram lamb is on the left here. 
Sheep: Here too, two of the lambs are now good and ready and one of these, the ram lamb is also starting to mature and to 'jump' anything that moves. We dare not risk him getting the ladies pregnant, so he and one other lamb are also booked in, this time on Monday. We have decided, in the light of the uncertain health of the staff(?) to ease things a bit this winter and to try something new. The remaining 2 lambs (both ewes) will stay with us round till next Summer and then be killed as "hogget" rather than lamb. Hogget, the half-way stage from lamb to mutton, is supposed to be very tasty. We will not bring a ram in this winter, so we will not be 'doing' lambs next Spring. The girls can have a year's rest.

Young poults roosting where ever you look.
Birds: Plenty birds about, as I said, though not many eggs forthcoming. Too many birds are sitting eggs, or rearing babies, or they are babies themselves. There are 2 currently AWOL, the female Guinea fowl, and a white Sussex hen, 'Connie', we hope well hidden up from the fox, brooding eggs. We have no idea where. We see Connie occasionally, so we know she is still alive. We are knee deep in young poults, most of whom I lost track of which 'Mum' they came with while I was away.

Not ducklings any more. Silver Appleyards
I am very taken with the 'new' ducks. These, you may recall, were just a rag-bag purchase in a hurry when we needed ducks to replace the females killed by the fox. Mike the Cows had a family of Mum and 5 half grown ducklings of the "Silver Appleyard" variety. These youngsters have done really well and almost caught up with Mum in size, making it quite tricky to tell which actually is Mum. They have bonded well with our original drake, a Khaki Campbell, and now move round as a tight group of 7.

They have also taken over the pond, which they head for the centre of, as soon as danger or an intruder looms, or a dog gets too close. This good news may well be the reason why (touch wood) we have not lost any to the fox yet. I am delighted and amazed. They spend their time between the pond and the safety of the yard, sprinting between the two in a waddling 'crocodile'. They never stray out to the perimeter where Mr Fox might lurk in the long stuff. Long may it continue.

Emma and Flora start on the jungle formerly known as
"raised flower bed"
Humans: I finally got to meet the two latest Help-X lasses, Emma and Flora. I was worried I might miss them all together if the hospital stay continued into a 3rd week. They are pure delight, full of youthful vigour, happy, relaxed, and keen to work. Elizabeth had been 'minding' them and setting them their tasks, but she handed me that job as soon as I was back.

Trying out the 'chimenea' - could be quite
handy as the evenings start to cool. A lovely
gift from Steak Lady.
I have had them out cutting briars in the East Field, cleaning out the duck house and now, clearing the valuable plants from the weed-bed formerly known as "raised flower bed". This space had become so weedy that it really was simpler to dig out the good plants and start again. The plan is to dig it all clean over, then cover in weed-proof membrane and gravel, planting the (cleaned) good plants back through this, like we did to the front rose bed.

Crocosmia (Lucifer) giving us great colour
at this time of year.
That is surely enough for this one. Anything I missed, I will try to rope in for the next post.

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