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.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Clicking Day for the Flock

The sheep were not impressed today.
They did not want to go into a pen on such a hot day,
They were far too happy grazing out on the salt marsh.
But it is now fly strike season and for their own protection they need to be treated against this.
So, after a fashion, we got (most) of them in and treated.
All apart from the boys who are due to go (because of the meat withdrawal period) and those who are still needing their fleeces off (I had dropped my sharpening stone at home, doh!). I only treat during the high risk period and after the fleeces have been removed so that there is almost a full year for it to wear out of the fleece. Arran, above, will be staying with me :o)
This year I used Click which protects for 16 weeks and will give me much needed peace of mind. The sheep do not seem to have been picking up any ticks so at least that it one worry less than in Argyll.
Another job done, the next thing will be to load up the boys. I can't imagine that they will cooperate...
but I don't really blame them!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Trekking around Grizedale

Today was glorious sunshine and Chris's cousin Jane and her son Cameron brought their horse Harley up to visit Danny and have a long ride out around Grizedale.
Harley is only a youngster and hasn't yet done a lot of longer distance treks where he has to cope with lots of stony tracks, hills, streams and bogs, but you wouldn't know it as he coped admirably. Because we only had two horses between three of us, we took it in turns to use a mountain bike as a third mount! It was a very hot day and occasionally little lizards scuttled off the track in front of us.
We stopped for lunch overlooking Coniston Water where there was a breeze to keep some of the pesky flies at bay. A few sailing boats glided across the surface and I imagined what a blissful day it would be on the sparkling water. One thing missing from this ride was a cooling dip for both horses and riders; perhaps I could find a way to build this in next time!
The horses had a good munch on the lovely wild grasses and a drink from a stream while we enjoyed the view and some butties.
Then it was time to mount up again and follow the dusty tracks through the forest. The extremely dry weather this year means that the tracks are very hard and we had to limit ourselves to walking most of the time.
It was so hot that none of us felt overly speedy anyway and the horses stepped out smartly, covering the ground with ease despite our thinking that they might lack a bit of fitness, so that there was no need to push them on.
We were very pleasantly surprised at how fit Danny and Harley are. In the end we were out for five hours and they both looked fresh as little daisies on arriving back at the farm. Things are looking good for some more adventures this summer!