The good life

And then there were four.

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I’m heartbroken this morning. A fox got one of our ducks in the night.  Whilst we constantly worry about losing lambs to foxes, we feel pretty secure about the fowl as they are locked away each night in a high walled ‘fort’ almost impossible for a fox to breach.  But this morning I found one of our beautiful Pekins headless in the garden, still warm.  The latch on a little side gate to the run, which we never use, must have been loosened over time by the wind and had blown open, so Brer Fox had easy access to a pen full of geese and ducks.  Incredibly the four remaining ducks and all the geese were unharmed, though highly stressed.   Luckily I had let Sam out earlier than usual this morning so he must have frightened the fox before anymore damage was done. We’ve had our five Pekin ducks for years and they move about the garden and ponds as a unit, travelling everywhere together in a comical little regiment.  So it’s particularly distressing to lose a member of this tight knit group.  But that is life on the farm.  It’s all of us against the blasted foxes.  As I walked back from feeding everyone and cleaning up after the kill, I saw the culprit in the distance – as bold as brass.  But even though my father taught me how to handle a gun, I couldn’t bring myself to shoot anything.  Not even a fox.

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On a brighter note, we had 2 more lambs born yesterday, strong and robust and already playing together in the paddock. I’m hoping our little pack of donkeys will help keep them safe from the foxes.

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Above: This is Nigel.  His leg was broken in a fight, years ago when he was a lamb and though he’s quite lame, he manages to get around the paddock perfectly well so has been kept as a pet.  He loves lambing time and every Spring is very protective of everyone,  like an old uncle.  This morning he was greeting one of our new arrivals.

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Baby Phoebe peering over the Ha Ha and hoping for a little snack. We built the Ha Ha years ago so there would be no fence to ruin the view.  It’s a wonderful thing as at certain angles it appears that the animals are actually in the garden.  It’s too high to jump so they are separated from the gardens by a barrier, invisible from the house.

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Peas in a pod.  Phoebe and mother Clementine.

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Seeing the dams this low is worrying.  We are desperate for some good rains.

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Calling for mother.

 

 

 

 

 

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First lamb.

Good morning from The Potting Shed.  Good grief.  I knew it had been a long time since my last letter but I see from the Joe Vinks story below, that it was June 25 since my last post!  I’m sorry for my absence, but such a lot has been happening at The Potting Shed as we prepare for Spring.  Truckloads of new products have been arriving, lots of special orders to fill, obelisks and espalier frames to be made, gardens and pots to be planted up for Tulip Time  … and so the days quickly turn into weeks and then into months.  I’ve been putting off writing my blog, unable to think where to start.  Or start again, in my case.  Anyway, nature always gives me solutions to every problem.  And this very frosty morning (minus 3 when I awoke!)  after my breakfast and once the sun had burned away the mist, I strode out to survey our flock of Suffolk ewes to see if lambing had begun.  Usually I’m confident about the lambing dates but this year, our rascally ram George broke through the gate to be with his girls and my planning rather went out the window!   But I knew we were likely to see some action this week so I’ve been careful to watch everyone.  Out I went into the freezing, frosty morning and the first thing I saw was a spectacular flock of sulphur crested cockatoos in the vegetable garden.  Actually a grouping of parrots is referred to as ‘a company‘ or birds in general are a flock if on the ground and a flight if in the air.  Not sure what you call them if they are sitting on posts in a vegetable garden!  Anyway, I love them.  They are so playful and naughty. They love showing off and strangely this morning  it was as if they were trying to show me something.  They all took flight in a blur of white and sulphur, and swooped out over the garden to the fields beyond. And as my eye followed them, I spotted our first lamb of spring.  Tiny and black like a little spider wobbling over the frosty grass, there she was.  Perfect.  It’s a miracle how these little babies born in freezing temperatures get quickly up to have their first feed and then imitate their mothers and begin to try and graze.  Suffolk lambs are all born black and then eventually turn white retaining only the black face and legs.  We love them and lambing always marks the turn from winter to spring.  This year we’ve put the donkeys in with the flock to help protect the lambs from foxes … which, I see from Wikipedia, are known, when in packs as a leash, a skulk, or an earth.  We learn something new every day.  Anyway, we have five donkeys, including baby Phoebe who was born just before Christmas, so I’m hoping her mother Clementine, father Digby, along with Annie and  Ned Devine  will all be aggressive towards foxes to protect her.  It’s always an anxious time as the foxes are hungry and needing to feed their young and every year we have losses. All heartbreaking.  So, though I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed at how on earth I’m going to manage lambing on top of everything else at the moment … this first arrival set my heart soaring and I now can’t wait to see a paddock full of lambs gambolling about in the spring sunshine.  I’ll just get up a little earlier each day to fit it all in.  After all, nothing wonderful is ever achieved without a bit of extra effort.  Is it?  Have a lovely day.  M x x x 

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About a pig.

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IMG_4550If you walk south from our house, across the lawn, under the Chinese Elms, past the pond and through the hedge to the orchard, you come to Pigley’s House.  There she lives in luxury with the 6 Boer goats we bought to keep her company – Leisl, Gretel, Scarlett, Evie, Fleur, and Matilda.  All is usually happiness and bliss in this part of the world, but recently Pigley split one of her hooves and has been limping, so the vet has been called and she will be sedated in order for a manicure to be conducted!   Not easy to trim the toenails of a 150kg pig and to keep her still for the procedure lots of sedative is required, so the lovely girl at the surgery explained.  At great expense I might add, but what can one do?  A lame pig is not a happy sight.   So before leaving for work yesterday morning, like a guilty mother over-compensating for a sick child, I gave her a treat to take her mind off her sore toe. In the pantry I had spotted a packaged pavlova (I know, I know!) which had been invaded by ants …  and this, added to a large bowl of porridge, was delivered to the patient.  Blissful grunting and groaning followed as Pigley gulped her way through the delicious treat.  Then last night after work, still worried about her wellbeing, I raced over to see how she was coping and took with me the remains of a tub of ice cream I had spied in the freezer, past its prime and with Pigley’s name on it.  She trotted swiftly over (lameness momentarily forgotten) and the still evening air was split by the joyful smacking of lips and gleeful mutterings as her giant snout licked hungrily for ages at the remains of the tub.  She is a big pig with a big personality.  
Pigley  was sold to us as a ‘miniature’ pig and from the moment we carried her home from the Burrawang Markets she owned us … never the other way around.   We were conned.  Nothing miniature about this Berkshire piglet.  And, no-one bothered to explain the bit about bottle feeding her every 15 minutes … for 3 months!  If food wasn’t instantly forthcoming she would squeal at the top of her lungs until she got action. I had to take her everywhere, even to Sydney in a little carry crate. Eventually I rigged up a bottle on a chair on the deck so she could feed on demand. We called it the ‘piglet cafe’. She adopted our sheepdog Sam as a surrogate mother and snuggled up each night beside him.  She grew and grew and grew and grew. Soon, too big for the house, we moved her out to live with the chickens and she had a lovely little kennel of her own.  This she quickly outgrew and a bigger kennel was found.  Again, she soon became wedged in the opening. So a new shed was built in the house paddock and she was  transferred over to live with the sheep.  But she hated it and there was no doubt she was quite lonely on her own … she never related to the sheep and was friendless and upset.  Around about then a notice at  the local produce store advertised Boer goats so a call was made and they arrived as cute as buttons on a little truck.  Instantly they bonded with Pigley and a love affair began.  They all sleep together in a large mass of white and tan and black bodies snuggled in Pigley’s giant straw bed.  
This morning I delivered another large bowl of porridge as a last little snack before fasting begins tonight prior to sedation.   I’m incredibly anxious about the whole procedure … what if something goes wrong? I can’t bear to think about it. Instead I must just think about how much happier she’ll be when her feet are in order. Until you’ve known (owned) a pig, you cannot understand their compelling personality and extraordinary intellect, which is ranked second only to dolphins in the animal kingdom.  Winston Churchill knew about pigs. He famously said:    ‘Always remember, a cat looks down on man, a dog looks up to man, but a pig will look man right in the eye and see his equal.’     
I’ll keep you posted about the pedicure. 
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Thought for the day.

IMG_9254“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”
-William Morris

We never tire of the simple pleasure to be found in the morning ritual of walking the dogs  … and taking our wonderful pig,  ‘Pigley’ for a wander down to the pond for a wallow.  She loves a chat and relishes the company. Have a lovely weekend.  And remember to look for the beauty in everyday things. M x