Sunday, 28 December 2008

Boxing Day Stroll

Chris and I joined my parents for a lovely Boxing Day walk to burn off at least some of that Christmas dinner.

We called in on the girls first to make sure that they are all enjoying their new field. Since the hay rack was full and untouched, I'll assume that to be a good sign. They all look very well and Barney seems to have lost interest so hopefully this means that lambs are on the way!
We decided to visit Craggy Wood which has beautiful views of the fells and fabulous old beech trees.

These woods are steep and rocky in places, but the dogs had a wonderful time exploring.

The view from the top was well worth the climb.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Fleecy Presents

What with moving house in the new year and the car in for its MOT, we're being a touch careful with the pennies this Christmas. However, that doesn't mean that folk have to miss out on pressies when our sheep generously provide the raw materials for us. These are made out of the odds and ends that I rescued from the scrap pile (I sold the main parts of the fleece): all those skirted bits that I picked through to salvage what I could.

I'm not an expert fleecy person like some on here, but I'm trying to learn. I washed and carded the odds and ends and then needle felted bits into bracelets and little balls, which were then threaded onto silver memory wire.

Ta daa... Christmas pressies that really are from me and my flock :o)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Snow photos as promised!

I have to admit to being a little distracted from my blogging activities these last few days. However, I did say that I would post photos of us and the dogs enjoying the snow, so here we all are!
What you up to Dad?

Chris makes tracks!Ha haa, job done :o)

Never mind making snow men, has anyone seen any sheep?
Woo hooo! Forget the sheep... This white stuff is great!!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The big interview!

I've been keeping this a bit quiet but now that it looks as though it is happening, I can't hold it in any longer, it's just too exciting!

On Thursday I hopped on a very early train to Edinburgh. I had a knot of butterflies in my stomach and every five minutes flicked through a pile of papers, desperately practising a presentation and ensuring that I knew as many facts as possible about reintroducing species and community involvement in conservation projects.

I had managed to get an interview for the position of Knapdale Beaver Field Trial Officer. Funnily enough, I'd had an odd gut instinct about this job ever since I saw it advertised, but I tried to force myself to see reason: I was up against some very strong competition!

The interview was held at Edinburgh Zoo in their mansion house. It is a big old hall with real atmosphere. I was left to wait in a lounge that could have been straight out of a Jane Austin novel. After what seemed like an age, I was shown through to a rather imposing interview room, complete with huge dark wood table and wall to wall shelves of ancient tomes.

I shan't go into the detail of the interview here. Bits of it went well, but I was so nervous that I felt that I rambled in places and walked out kicking myself for missing out loads of important information that I'd hoped to get across. Too late now though, all I could do was wait.

At 9.30 the next morning I got the phone call. "Oh wow!" Was the first thing to leave my mouth.

Chris and I will be moving up at the end of January and I'm hoping to secure some sheep grazing as quickly as possible.

What a week!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Roving Reporter Fox

Fox's friend Scout has signed him up as a roving reporter!
Scout is a hard working News Hound (actually he's a Border Collie, but News Hound has a rather nice ring to it!) and has recruited Fox to report on wildlife for his blogs. Scout is a busy chap and writes for lots of publications including the Westmorland Gazette and the Kennel Club's Discover Dogs. Take a look at Fox's introduction here.

Monday, 8 December 2008

In the grip of winter

Over the last week it got colder and frostier day by day until at last Chris and I woke last Thursday to a winter wonderland. I thought I'd share some photos of our fun in the frost... snow photos coming soon! We really love the cold :o)
Whisper finds a frosty stick. The field was blanketed in an icy fog. Temp -5
Haw frost on a thistle...and on sycamore keys.

Even the dogs themselves were frosty! Look at their ears and whiskers!

A red squirrel braves the cold to visit the feeder outside my office.

Guerilla Gardening

With the arrival of the frosts at last, Chris also decided that the spot of guerilla gardening that we've had planned for the village could safely go ahead. We had to wait until the heavy rains had stopped because we were worried about the seeds getting washed away.

Chris set to work (I had to go into the office) sowing a mix of native wild flower seeds into the rough areas of the village green. He used plenty of yellow rattle seed which will partially parasitise the rank grasses, weakening them enough that other plant species can compete.

Some of the villagers wandered out to see what he was up to and were quite pleasantly surprised when the plan was revealed. Chris was rewarded with a well earned mug of coffee at our friend Gary's house which overlooks the green.

Now we just have to watch and wait. Hopefully it will look something like this next year!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Bye bye Herdwicks!

It was very sad, but had to be done. I sold my three escape artist Herdwicks at auction. I simply couldn't keep them in and they certainly weren't doing their job helping me to train Fox and Whisper. I confess to feeling a tad sad and guilty but it had to be done.

I've never gone through the whole process of selling sheep this way before so it was a useful experience, though I was glad to have my friend and Lowther Farm Manager Richard there to guide me and put in a good word with the buyers.

As they entered the ring, Richard ushered me in with them. "They'll sell better that way," he said, "These are very special sheep!" he announced to the room. I got the same price for them as I bought them for and was complimented on their excellent condition by some of the farmers watching. Getting £25 per head doesn't sound great but it is pretty good for ageing Herdwick ewes in the current climate. I still wish I hadn't had to sell them though.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Blogging Friends Forever Award

Nancy K. at BLUFF COUNTRY SHETLANDS has nominated my little blog for the Blogging Friends Forever Award!

I have been a fan of Nancy's blog A Shepherd's Voice and of her beautiful HST Shetlands for a while (especially Dreamer), so am very chuffed that she likes my blog too!

Now I have the difficult task of choosing which of the many lovely blogs that I follow to pass this on to... this is anything but easy because I follow many wonderful blogs which keep me sitting and reading a computer screen for far too long most nights! So basically, if there's a link to your blog down the side bar of mine, consider yourself rewarded :o)

I do however have a few ideas of who deserves a special mention...

The Rules: As these things go, there are rules, and now I must follow them:

(1) Only five people are allowed
(2) Four have to be followers of your blog
(3) One has to be someone new to your blog or live in another part of the world
(4) You must link back to whoever gave you the award.


First has to be Michelle at Boulderneigh.
Michelle was the first person to comment on my blog and welcome to this odd world of on-line diaries that we hope folk will read! She also happens to have some very lovely Shetland sheep. Thanks Michelle, here's to many more years of great reading and blogging :o)

Then there's Rayna at North Star Shetlands & Friends. I really enjoy the variety of critters who share Rayna's life; gotta love those rat pups and beautiful horses!

Louise Amos's Sheepblog always has great tales of sheepy antics. I enjoy reading about the dogs and their training, especially since some of them are from the same characterful breeding lines as Fox, and about a job that I would really fancy myself! It's always nice when Louise calls in on her travels and we get to talk dogs and training.

I've really enjoyed the great stories and photos on Wrensong Farm, even if emus do occasionally feature! Jasmine the donkey however is welcome over here any time she likes. The images on this blog are simply superb.

Last but certainly not least is my friend Cally's blog. Cally and I now have several links: we met when I taught her class at uni; then my Chris joined the degree so they were class mates and went to Gambia together; following her graduation Cally came to work for me as a Water Vole surveyor for the summer and she has now found an interest in training sheepdogs and helping with the sheep. Cally is new to blogging, so go say hi :o)

So there we go, awards handed out... now I can go back to my usual border collie and sheep talk. Fox thinks it's about time we talked more about him!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Smali Flock family planning

Today was glorious again and I woke up in the happy knowledge that I could spend all of it with my flock. As I drove down the farm track I watched for the girls coming running to the fence, but there was no sign of them. I got out and spotted them all sunning themselves on a little grassy hill. Barney (AKA Todhill Immortal Memory) was asleep in the middle of them all. I hoped that this sleepiness was due to a rather "active" time in the earlier hours!

My friend Ruth had hung up the leftovers in her horse Willis's hay net for them, but they didn't touch it until I shouted them over with a bit of feed. They're not on extra rations yet (though they soon will be to ensure they stay in tip top condition) but I wanted to get a close look at them all.

The girls enjoyed the novelty of hay for a while, but presumably they are not that hungry since they wandered off to graze without finishing it. Barney took the opportunity for an inspection!

Rosie was flirting with Barney, nibbling his horns and rubbing her cheek against his. Her persuasion soon paid off and hopefully she will now be due around the 12th April next spring! I'm really hoping for patterned grey lambs from this pairing.

I'll have to do some more swatting up on genetics!

I took a couple of fleece photos for those who like that kind of thing! Barney's fleece (top) is extremely fine and crimpy. Rosie's quite so fine but has a lovely luster and crimp. Please forgive blue fingers, I had to treat Barney's front foot. He was a real gent about it: let me put a halter on and pick up each foot in turn to check and treat him.

I must say that I felt rather proud of my flock today. They are looking rather fit, although Rebecca and Rachel still have a bit of catching up to do after being sheared so late. Even Ruby, who has been inclined to be on the skinny side for much of the summer, has put on weight and looks very well. She assures me that all that hay will come out of her fleece easily!

Gula says "don't worry, all this moss and gorse will come out easily too!"
Yea right! Looks like shearing will turn my fingers into pin cushions again next year!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Picture Perfect

While the sun was shining, I thought that it might be nice to have a photo of me with Fox and Whisper... easy eh? Just get one dog either side et voilĂ !
"Come on Whisper, come up here with us...
OK Fox, now you squidge in...

Bit closer and sit down...

No you two, SIT DOWN...
WHISPER!OK, now just look at the camera...

Friday, 14 November 2008

Tree Chair

The sun came out and Chris and I took our two little horrors out for a stroll. The light was really beautiful and the colours of the autumn trees were simply glowing. Under one of these trees we found something rather odd...

Someone had left a computer chair under one of the big old trees. Fox investigated...

"I think it's here to help me reach the Squirrels Mam!"

"There's one..."


Hmmm, nice find Fox, but it is perhaps more likely that someone was drawing this beautiful canopy!