Thursday, 31 December 2009

Farewell 2009!

Here's goodbye to 2009. For the most part you were an exhausting and stressfull period of change littered with sad episodes. However, thank you for my beautiful lambs, and for our new home in Argyll. Thank you for our families and for the love that we all share. Thank you for mine and Chris's continued joy and support of eachother. Thank you for Fox and Whisper coming to love their new home and growing into such pleasant adult dogs. Thank you for all of our friends, old and new who have been such fun and such a comfort. Thank you for the quick recovery of my ankle (although I still can't wear heels!). And thank you of course for my amazing new job which, though the source of much stress and exhaustion, I am still so proud to be part of and still excites and motivates me. Roll on 2010!

Today I enjoyed Brendfield's annual New Year's Eve Clay Pigeon Shoot...

Followed by feeding the sheep and watching the sunset/moon-rise....

It's an amazing full moon to see out the year by!

Tonight Chris and I have decided not to go out! We popped to the pub, but now we are home, just us and the dogs. We could be out in town, or at various house parties, or at a big ball on a nearby estate... but you know what? We just want to be us and our dogs tonight. Hope you're all having fun wherever you are xxx

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Shetland Sheep in Snowy Silence

Ok So those aren't Shetland Sheep and now I'm not silent... bear with me!


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Yuletide Greetings

A very happy Yule to you all!

To celebrate the beginning of this ancient festival yesterday, we got together with our friends Charlie, Celia and Diane and their children Rufus and Hannah, to light a bonfire, toast the season, gaze at the stars and feast on foods from the garden and forest

We sang "In the Bleak Midwinter" "Here we go a Wassailing" and "The Holly and the Ivy" while standing around the fire with a glass of wine. It ought to have been mulled wine, but someone forgot the spice... oops!

Yule is a most ancient tradition: it begins with Winter Solstice, for it is the longest night of the year, and much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her ready to bear forth new life from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb. Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider.

Christmas is a Pagan holiday that was around long before Christianity or Judaism but was adopted and re-named. As with other adopted Pagan festivals however, such as Easter, many of the traditions remain. If you have ever decorated a Christmas tree, hung mistletoe or decked the halls with boughs of holly, you have enjoyed traditional Yule celebrations.

The Norse in Scandinavia celebrated Yule from December 21st through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons brought home large logs and would set on fire. A large single log was kept burning for 12 days and each day a different sacrifice was offered to Jul in the fire. The people would also feast until the log burned out on the 12th day. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year (I'll be hoping for lambs!). Yuletide is the period of those twelve days and is also where we get the 12 days of Christmas. "Yuletide Greetings" or "Yuletide Carols" is actually the tradition of sending greetings or song in the name of the Scandinavian fertility god and his festival.

 But if Yule begins on the 21st, how come I still celebrate on the 25th? On December 22nd the sun makes it to the lowest point in the sky and stops traveling south. During the three darkest days of the year (22nd, 23rd, 24th) the sun does not travel south or north and appears to stand still as if it had died for the three days. On December 25th the sun starts moving north again foreshadowing longer days and the ‘coming back to life’ notion of spring. From this came many pagan legends of savior Sun gods being born and reborn on December 25th.

There are many variations described from different countries throughout history and of course many ideas and traditions have developed since. However and for whatever reason you celebrate at this time of year, I wish much joy to you and your kin. Jenny x

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Snowy Dogs!

We woke this morning to find the frost of the last week or so replaced with a sparkling white blanket of snow.
Chris and I are like kids when it snows and we wasted little time in getting out to enjoy it. We headed up the track that leads from our house up into the forest. A few folk had ventured out before us, but their tracks soon peetered out until the way ahead was completly clear: a perfect canvas for tracking wildlife.
We soon found however that not even the wild animals, save a lone fox probably heading home in the early hours of this morning, had beaten us to exploring the fresh and wintery world and so we simply enjoyed the views and the beauty of the icing sugar coated twigs.

Fox and Whisper looked so joyful as they bounded about and are now curled up fast asleep. Fox beside me on the sofa and Whisper in "her" armchair.

 Here's what they got up to...
Fox led the way, but made sure that we were all keeping up!
He took time to survey his kingdom...
And allowed his princess to admire the view with him.
Chris attempted to make snowballs from the very powdery snow. It didn't work very well and the dogs were not terribly impressed!
What's that? We're going home already?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Frosty Dogs

This week has been freezing! Thick frost has been coating every blade of grass, every withered leaf and every russet frond of bracken. The thin ice creeping across the surface of the lochs can be heard tinkling, cracking and creaking as, in her limited hours, the winter sun attempts to bring warmth back to the world.

The cold hasn't stopped our beavers being active however, and the dogs kept me company yesterday as I recorded the latest field signs around the lochs. Fox and Whisper didn't seem to mind at all as they chased and through the frosty undergrowth and splashed into the icy water.

Fox always seems to be in high spirits in wintery weather and gives up trying to be all grown up to play manic games with Whisper. Perhaps it's to keep warm!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Wanderer Returned

I've had a very naughty tup lamb giving me the run around for the last week. After electric fencing failed to contain him and a gate was left open, Braeface disappeared into Knapdale forest. Despite hours and miles of searching and shouting and rattling a bucker, I was beginning to fear that we'd never get him back. Luckily there are some lovely new friends and neighbours around here who, when they saw a Shetland sheep grazing on the roadside, shut him in a field and called me right away. He had gone around 3 miles and returned to Braeface Farm where he was born. Some feat considering he was moved from there in July to another spot 6 miles on the other side of the forest!

Yesterday I was in Edinburgh so the task fell to Chris to fetch him back. This turned out to be an easy task since he is actually very tame. Chris said that he travelled fine behind the dog guard in the back of the car!

Chris took me some lovely photos of him back with the other two boys. He looks a bit sheepish here!

These three tup lambs are doing some conservation grazing for Scottish Natural Heritage.

The grass on this Marsh Fritillary site has been undergrazed and allowed to get rather long and rank, which means that the flowers on which these extremely rare butterflies lay their eggs will be choked out. Hopefully, Basil, Braeface and Carlin will help to impreve the condition of the site.

Baz is very fond of his new look out point. They can see all the way over the sea to Jura from up there!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Galtress Ptolemy

It has been a very long week; thank goodness it's Saturday and for once I don't have to do anything beaver related!

Unfortunately, as is the way of things with my life this year, Chris and I had to spend half the day looking for a missing tup lamb because someone left the gate open. How is anyone stupid enough to leave a gate open when sheep are inside? We didn't find him so tomorrow will be more of the same. We had to abandon the search eventually because I also had to go and see the girls and Ptolomy while I had light left to do so.

Seeing the rest of the flock really cheered me up and I actually took the time to sit down in the field and enjoy watching them for once. I'm pretty exhaused from working 16 hour days (and nights until 3.30 am) catching beavers this week. I think that the sheep were pleased to see me too!

The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that the ewe lambs Kate and Lunde are in there. They were split off, but had other ideas and after they had broken in two days in a row, despite being two fields away, I decided to let them stay (Tolly was running round after them both when I arrived so chances are that they are tupped anyway!) In doing this I am of course going against everything I've always said about breeding from gimmers. Oh well, they are well grown and fit, and I know plenty of other folk who breed from gimmers. I'll see how we get on and monitor closely. If they don't hold this year then that's fine!

I'm very pleased with Tolly, he is ever such a friendly little chap and came over for a chin scratch. The girls seem to like him too.

On looking at him today, he most likely is a grey spotted katmoget, but a very patterned one. The thing that puts me off him being katmoget is his face. My other spotted kat, Robina, is yuglet but the pattern still shows. Margaret thoughtfully gave me a photo of him as a lamb which I'll have to scan in because it shows his amazing bersugget markings and they're beautiful. You can still find the various shades of grey if you part his fleece in different places.

He was far to busy to stand around for fleece shots today though!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sheep scrum

The sheep have plenty of grazing to go at and I'm not giving much in the way of extras, other than mineral licks. Last week the girls didn't all even bother coming when I took a bucket up to them. It's amazing what a bit of frost does!
Today feeding time could only be described as a scrum. I had to provide feed on the side for poor Gletness who I had to cut out of a briar patch when I arrived. It is awful to think that she could have been stuck on those brambles for hours. Thank goodness I decided to go and visit them early. She looked a bit sunk in when I found her but I made sure that she got a good ration or feed and she didn't seem to be ailing in any way. There were signs that several of them have been in the brambles, probably because the grass in the middle will be the most lush.
Gruna didn't see why Gletness ought to be getting special treatment and persisted on trying to stick her nose in!
I wish Ruby would put weight on like everyone else. She has always been the thinnest of the ewes and it doesn't seem to matter what I do. I'm getting the grass and soil testing results for the land soon so perhaps I'll discover some mineral deficiency that they're lacking.