Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Macaroni Downs

Time continues to whiz past towards the inevitable… Just over a month of freedom left!

Since the last blog we have spent some time in Bristol getting the allotment ship shape and, er, Bristol fashion I suppose! Spring is officially in the air. The new half has been released from its plastic restraints, beaten into shape and given lots of lovely manure. The pond has been re-laid with new liner – so hopefully no leaks this time. And various things have been popped into the ground; a new strawberry patch now reigns where our compost used to sit, potatoes have been planted optimistically early and covered in a blankety bed of fleece, onion sets, parsnip seeds, a second sowing of broad beans all in and raring to grow. The hungry gap is closing at last.

For the last week we have been at Macaroni Downs Farm in Gloucestershire, helping Martin Squire with preparations for lambing to begin. We’ve been feeding sheep, building pens and fences and doing a spot of dry stone walling. Non-sheep related activities have included some tractor driving and bedding down the cows on a daily basis.

We have had lots of visitors already - Parents, Aunts and Uncles, and we’ve just had a great weekend with Natalia, Phil and Kelly paying us a visit from Bristol, cooking up the most delicious food and helping us finish a few bottles of wine!

The first few lambkins are now starting to arrive, I think at the time of writing we’ve had about a fifteen or so. Martin has around 200 pregnant ewes so soon there will be a lot more. We’ve had a go at applying castration rings to the boy lambs, something that we will be getting a lot more practice at over the next few weeks (and we need it!). We’ve also started doing late night patrols of the field and are gearing up to bringing the sheep all into the barns. Sunday evening we got our first taste of blood and juices as we helped Martin deliver a couple of awkwardly positioned lambs. And Monday night our patrol ended rather late as we spotted a ewe in distress – with a little head poking out of her back end… After much trouble catching her (eventually with four of us in pursuit) as she was surprisingly fit and managed to wind-up the whole flock too - finally on Tuesday morning at 12.30am we had her cornered and both of us got properly involved and successfully delivered the twins (one each!) that needed a bit of help in finding the right position to pop out of their womb (the juices are lovely and warm in case you were wondering!).

Our twins with mother relaxing after their late night ordeal!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Monday, 7 March 2011

Scilly days

Our last week in Scilly flew past, as a few work days were rained off though we weren’t denied our usual Fri-‘moving cows in the rain’-day!

Thursday faired a little better and we managed to get out for a last day of rat-baiting, unfortunately not to Annett as hoped but back to the first uninhabited island we visited, Tean.

In the week we got to meet up with Avril and Martin (Matt’s aunt and uncle) who came over for a few days, we had a table tennis championship with Jaclyn and Tristran and we had dinner round at Darren and Penelope’s, thanks all!

At the weekend we added some more islands to the tally, visiting Bryher

and St Martin’s

By the end our tally had reached 26 islands (admittedly, some were rather small!). After these two trips we could also add to our fascinating tally of dead sea-life: 1 dolphin, 1 squid, 2 puffins and 3 seals.

Of course we saw many more alive things!

We left a week ago today having had a fantastic six weeks in Scilly and were surprised to find it still wintry on the mainland. We have since done sheepy things in Shropshire: made the field lamb proof; cut away brambles which the sheep seem to treat as curlers, twisting them round their woolly locks; and moved the 4 from one corner of the field to the opposite corner, which took longer than anticipated. They are starting to look quite round now, there could be tiny lambs bouncing around in under 4 weeks!

Right now we are at Pauline and Roger’s (another aunt and uncle of Matt’s) house, dog-sitting for Harvey, Sally and Mac (aka Big Dog).