Thursday, 29 December 2011

Something old, something new...

I should imagine that anyone who has pondered over my lack of blogging will have come up with three options: either I am too lazy to blog, I have nothing happening in my life, or life is so busy that I don't have a lot of time to blog. I'm blaming mobile technology mostly. My old phone used to send posts direct to my blog. I liked this and bought a Blackberry thinking that this would be an even more slick way to blog on the move. However, it has not worked like that. My Blackberry and my Blog are not good friends, not in the way that Blackberry, Fackbook and Twitter are at least!

Now that the days are dark I seem to get up, do the animals, do some work, do the animals, have some food and go to sleep! I haven't even wished you all many Yuletide Greetings! But I hope that you all know that they were beaming out all over the world to you all wherever you are.

The good news is that Cuthbert, my wayward tup, has turned up again. Goodness knows where he was but he was gone for almost a month!
He is hat-rack thin, had an abscess on his jaw, has a lesion around his foot as though he has had wire wrapped around it and bald patches (intriguingly as though he has been wearing a raddle!)  but he is alive and bright and improving slowly.

The fields on the other hand are doing the opposite of improving. The mud is horrendous! We have had nothing but mild weather and rain for weeks. It's horrible! If you look at the photo of the new fence in the previous post, you will see grass. No longer!! That area is now all deep sloppy mud where sheep and horses have been puddling up and down to the stables.
The horses managed to break into the haylage bales twice so that they are now ae big tubs that I was initially using to stop the girls from trampling their hay into the mud!
As well as the usual suspects, we have some new arrivals to keep us busy, but at least they pay their way! We're getting three or four eggs per day!
This seems to be working better than the big tubs that I was initially using to stop the girls from trampling their hay into the mud!
As well as the usual suspects, we have some new arrivals to keep us busy, but at least they pay their way! We're getting three or four eggs per day!
George and his five girls arrived a few weeks ago and are lovely to watch, and listen to, as they forage around the field. George likes to stand on top of the muck heap and crow loudly in the morning. He competes with the neighbour's cockerel... boy are we going to be popular in the summer!!

Monday, 21 November 2011

They're not sheep...

They are Mountain Goats!!!

I have been thoroughly given the run-around by my flock in the last week.
First the boys, who I thought were secure and safely out of the way down on a nature reserve, found a gap in a fence after our neighbouring farmer moved his flock of commercial ewes in next door. So they were returned to me by the (thankfully laid back) farmer in a quad bike trailer.
I couldn't put them back on the nature reserve without doing some fencing there, so I took them to my new fields where the girls are... and they created havoc by finding a way around any fence put in their way. Shetlands don't see boundaries; they merely see obstacles to be overcome!

At last Chris and I, with some help from my friend Elle, got the little bleaters contained... for a while...

In the meantime, Rivendell Cuthbert, my new tup, decided that he'd covered all of his new girls and that he would move on to pastures new. Previously he was working a much bigger flock and clearly he thought himself short-changed with his 13 ewes at my spot and gone off on the pull in neighbouring fields.We're now been looking for him for three days, following tufts of ginger wool along the hedgerows, but as yet we have not located him. The neighbouring farmers and the police are all on the look-out.
Today, after another fruitless Cuthbert search, we got back to sorting out the unruly younger tups, who were blocked into one of our horse paddocks which unfortunately had very little graze.

Chris and Elle set to work building a new fence (I had to take my Mam to the doctor's) and when I joined them it was looking very smart! They had fenced so that there was an overhang at the riverside that couldn't possibly be sneaked round, and everything was looking tight and sheep proof. We released the boys into their new pasture only to find ourselves under attack from all angles: Balthazar and Brian took flying leaps across the river while Blitzen and Biff climbed up the muck heap, dropped down behind the stable and trotted out into the girl's paddock!

It was dark before we left the field and we'll have to be back first thing again to see whether we have won the battle... or not!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Belated Update

I am a slack blogger. Sorry folks, there is no excuse for it. However, things have been moving apace in the Holden-Wilde household.

Chris and I have our business off the ground and our website can be found HERE. This is a temporary site while the main one is being built by Chris's wonderful cousin Karen. Thanks Karen, you're a star xx

Chris's photography is coming on in leaps and bounds and very soon there will be a gallery to admire on the website.

My horse Danny and the sheep have moved house again and are now in a village I know very well from my childhood: a little place called Gleaston on the Furness Peninsula.

The girls have a new boyfriend called Rivendell Cuthbert! He's a handsome moorit lad originally from David and Joy Trotter's flock.

Down the road, the boys are chilling out down at Ireleth on the the salt marsh still. With no girls close by they are a proper lazy bachelor group, not a scrappy bunch as they were last year with the girls the other side of the fence!

Since the summer shows we have had an awful lot of calls about the flock and could have easily sold all of the girls three times over. Smali Archie, Smali Buttons and Smali Arrow have all gone off to new homes to work as flock sires and Galtress Ptolemy has a new home too with my friend Philip. Philip and his brother run the Wadley flock in Northumberland where Arrow, Tolly and ten of our girls are now living. Seven of the girls are out on loan and will come back to us probably next year once they have added some new members to the Wadley flock.

Smali Arran is growing into a very handsome lad. I took him along to a Shetland Sheep Society Ram Inspection day last weekend and I am proud to say that he has passed his assessment and is now an Approved Ram! I was so chuffed to get such positive feedback about him and his fleece in particular. I'll be very interested to see how his first lambs turn out next year!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Trotting Along Nicely

It's great being self-employed (even if the winter is seeming a little scary and uncertain at the moment!). I can organise my own time and do the boring desk stuff when it's raining or in the evening leaving the daylight and sunny weather for doing the surveying and doing the things that I enjoy, like going out with the dogs, spending time with the flock and riding Danny.

Luckily I have friends who are also self-employed or work funny hours and can usually squeeze in a ride.

My friend Danni (very confusing having a horse and a horsey friend with the same name!!) has moved her horse Blade into the same field as Danny for a little while and we ride out together most days. Danny and Blade are great pals and very evenly paced which makes hacking out easy and fun.

Our boys are a constant source of amusement to us as we explore, often at speed, the forest tracks. Both are sure footed and fit enough to enjoy the challenging tracks and love to leap ridiculously high over small fallen logs! However, they are also both thoroughbred crossed and a bit highly strung and spooky. They find all kinds of things to be terrified of.

When excited Danny tends to turn into a giraffe with his ears pricked right forward and nostrils flared, while Blade arches his neck low, takes hold of the bit and prances along pretending to be very grand but refusing to accept the bit and work properly. They perfectly demonstrate "above" and "below" the bit! Danni and I are working on improving their outlines!

I've bought Danny a convertible head collar/bridle for hacking out in. It's great to be able to give him a proper break on a day ride by un-clipping the bit and letting him graze while I eat a snack. I don't worry about it getting damaged if we get a drenching either. He looks rather smart in it too!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Westmorland Show Success!

What a busy time we've been having. There's so much that I ought to be blogging about, but I had to post about how proud I am of Arran.
My little fawn krunet brandet sokket katmoget tup lamb got more and more handsome as he got older.
Boy did he grow? His mother Sheilhope Gletness looked after him extremely well and he was king of the castle in the boys field last winter.
Unlike hi father, Arran has never shown signs of agression. He is a nice lad.
His first show outing was the local North Lonsdale a few weeks ago where he was placed second in Primitive Breed Ram (see post below).
Last week I took him to the Westmorland County Show which was a whole different ball game because it is a much bigger show with specialist Shetland Classes and plenty of respected breeders attending. 
These show photos are from Dominic McEwen-King's Web Album. Dom has been taking great photos of their super Galtress flock at the shows.

Smali Arran was placed first in Shearling Ram!!

He went on to take the Reserve Champion Shetland!!
I'm so proud of him. Champion Shetland went to Robin and Margaret McEwen-King's lovely white ewe.
Arran's dad is Galtress Ptolomy, so Robin and Margaret (who are Tolly's breeders) were very happy to see their bloodlines passed down and doing well.
 Todhill Robina and Smali Bryony both took fourth in their classes and my group of three (one tup and two ewes: Arran, Robin and Bryony) were placed first. In the group of three the judge looks for uniformity of a group of good Shetlands. I think it was brought in to allow breeders to show that good type and health is consistent in their flock.
What a good day for the Smali Flock!

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Now who could this be?

A new arrival? In July? Smali Amber must have been cavorting with the tups in February! A very pretty, strong and healthy ewe lamb... but I shan't register her as I'm not in to line breeding! Amber is a very proud Mum though and won't let anyone near this little lady; including me!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

North Lonsdale Show

It has been a while since I've done any showing with my Shetland Sheep, but I couldn't resist taking them along to our local agricultural show yesterday.
There was only one other Shetland breeder, Mr and Mrs Watson from Ravenglass, but they had very good animals and it was a pleasure chatting sheep with them. Because this is a small show, there were no separate breed classes for the rarer types and so in the classes I entered there were also North Ronaldsay, Manx Loughton, Wiltshire Horn and Wensleydale.
I took four sheep along this time; one for each class. I made things easy for myself by taking Smali Arran, who is reasonably quiet to handle; Todhill Robina and her twins Smali Byron and Bryony, so no separating ewes and lambs or having to take lots of extras!
First up was Arran in the Primitive Minority Breed Ram. The judge put Arran and Mr and Mrs Watson's Shetland ram side by side and deliberated for ages going through their fleeces right down their bodies. In the end he plumped for the Watson's animal, placing Arran second, but he said that it was a difficult decision and that there was not a lot in it. I'm not usually a fan of white Shetlands, but this was a nice little chap; very typical of the sheep you would find on the Shetland Islands, so I can't argue with that!
Robina was up next and horror or horrors, I realised as she walked into the ring her back foot looked over grown because she had split a hoof in the trailer. She wasn't lame (or I'd have noticed straight away) but there was a flake hanging off and I ought to have trimmed it off. The judge noticed of course and placed her third, telling me that she ought to have been first placed! Doh!! Well you live and learn: always give your stock a thorough going over BEFORE going into the show ring!
The Waton's ewe who was placed first was a lovely animal with a beautiful consistent fleece and looking in great condition. She went on to get Best of Breed.
The lambs were not keen on being shown at all. "Standing still while some stranger prods and pokes us? Are you kidding us?" However, despite my joke to the judge about points being knocked off for bad behaviour, Byron was placed first in Minority Ram Lamb and Bryony first in Minority Ewe Lamb. What clever little bleaters!
It was a very hot and sunny but happily successful day for the flock. Can't wait for the next show now, I must be getting the bug again.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Mullein on the Railway Line

Usually in hot weather we like to take the dogs to the beach, or along a river, or to a lake for their daily strolls. They love nothing better than splashing about and swimming. The other day however, I reapplied their Spot On after finding a few ticks attached to them, so swimming was out, much to their annoyance.
Instead we took them through the fields and along the disused railway close to Roudsea Wood, opposite Greenodd, just a few miles away from where we live in Ulverston.
It was a scorching day and, in the absence of water to play in, the dogs found long grass to cool them off.
It didn't stop either of them from dashing about after a ball and playing at rounding each other up:
actually it is Whisper who is really into the stalking game!
Along what I think is an old disused railway track we found some fabulous big Mullein plants.
Their impressive spikes of yellow flowers are at their best at this time of year and the old stems from last year are still standing tall and are well dried out.
My good friend Hugh Woods tells me that the plant was known as "Poor Man's Torch" or "Candle-Wick" due to the fact that a dried stems of the flower spike burn extremely well. It has thick hairy leaves and apparently is known as "Cowboy's Toilet Paper" in the Western United States!
I know that Mullein has been an extremely useful plant in the past in medicine and also that the flowers can be used to make yellow and green dyes. I didn't know that the seeds have been used to produce a poison for fishing!

The Wikipedia entry says...
Great Mullein has been used since ancient times as a remedy for skin, throat and breathing ailments. It has long had a medicinal reputation, especially as an astringent and emollient, as it contains mucilage, several saponinscoumarin and glycosidesDioscorides recommended it for diseases of the lung and it is now widely available in health and herbal stores. Non-medical uses have included dyeing and making torches.

So now we know where to go next time we have a cough! Hugh has given us one of these plants as a gift and we're hoping to harvest plenty of seeds from it. They only grow where the seeds can germinate on bare ground and so an old railway track suits them very well.

When we'd had enough of the baking heat of the open country, we retreated to the cooling depths of the woodland and enjoyed a little peace in the company of trees.