Friday 5 April 2013

So I decided to blog...

You never know, I might even make a habit of it again!

It's lambing time again. Gosh how the years tick by. This year we are lambing alongside our friends Tracy and Tony on their land. The have 16 North Country Cheviots and Black Welsh Mountains to lamb, half of which went to our Shetland tup Smali Bramble who sadly died mysteriously this winter.

We have 16 Shetland ewes to lamb, including our friend Danielle's ewe Ecclesmachan Gloria who produced twins yesterday to Smali Bramble; his legacy lives on :-)

Gloria's lambs are chalk and cheese! Sorry I don't have a better photo of them yet. She has a very bold inquisitive grey blettet ewe lamb with a furry lamb coat, and a quiet fine fleeced fawn katmoget tup lamb. We even suspect that Arran may have jumped in and fathered the male lamb! Unless twins are identical then it is perfectly possible for them to be fathered by different tups. We shall study the pedigrees.

So far, of my own ewes, there are five lambs to four ewes.

First Smali Kate lambed very early but produced a cracking tup lamb who we named Derwent after the lake, Derwent Water, here in the Lake District. Derwent is very bold, fit and active. He has the "look at me" quality of his father Arran.

Two weeks later, Ruthwell Nisbet, who I bought at the sales in September, produced this stunning tup lamb Smali Dominic. He is our "dressage lamb" because he struts about the field with his four white socks and looks stunning. His fleece is a different type to that I've had before in the flock. I get plenty of "tight skinned" fine fleeced lambs, but his has more luster, like his dam; like little twists of silk. I'm hoping that he will combine Nisbet's luster and length with Arran's density and crimp... well I'm allowed to dream!

Next came Bartistown Rosie's grey katmoget twins Dot and Dalton. Dot has a spot on the back of her neck while Dalton has a very slight krunet marking (which will disappear as he grows up) and a dorsal stripe. They are naughty and always up to mischief already.

Smali Bryony presented me with little Daffodil in the early hours of yesterday morning. She is a striking little lady and beautifully put together.

Now we could do with a few more girls and a few more twins!

Thursday 14 June 2012

Lambs of 2012

Time has moved on and this blog is missing lamb photos. So here are some to keep you all occupied until I sit down to write... which may well be in the next couple of days since the forecast is terrible!

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Poor Cuthbert: a sheep with an abscess

My poor tup Cuthbert has been in the wars these last few months and on Sunday I found that he has a big abscess on his jaw.

When I fetched him home from his wanderings, he had a puncture wound on his jaw which was infected but I treated it and it healed over... or so it appeared. On  Sunday it was suddenly huge and hot to touch. Poor Cuthbert had rubbed all of the wool off it.

Luckily with some help from my friend Elle and some Animalintex, I was able to put a poultice on it and bandage him up. Now I just have to keep replacing with clean dressings and wait for the poultice to work its magic. In the meantime, I'm not sure that Cuthbert is convinced about his new look!

Sunday 5 February 2012

A Fleecy Experiment

Since these February days are cold and dark still, I decided that I would use my indoor time productively by doing something with my fleeces which have been safely stashed away but rather neglected.

I decided to use Sheilhope Girlsta's beautiful moorit fleece and took it home from the stables to process it. It looked lovely spread out on the driveway and I started by taking a quarter of it, washing and drying it before sitting down to decide how to use it.

I was about to card Girlsta's fleece when my mam, who was sitting nearby said, "won't you loose all of those lovely sun bleached twizzly bits if you card it?"

I stopped and looked at the wool. Shetland wool naturally forms little spiraled tips at the end of each "staple" which is the name given to a lock of fleece. It was really beautiful varying from rich chocolate brown at the root to bleached blond at the tips, but the staple formation is also very technical and is key to the Shetland sheep being able to survive on those wet windswept islands. Rain falling on a Shetland sheep is wicked to the ends of the staples and drips off the twizzly tips and in this way is kept away from the sheep's skin, leaving it warm and dry. It would be a shame to loose such a characteristic feature of my sheep's wool.

"Could you spin your wool so that those little twizzly bits stick out?" Asked mam. I could try this but I'm not the greatest spinner nor knitter sadly. Much more practicing to do.For now I decided to stick with what I know: needle-felting jewellery.

First I had to pull out all of the nicest twizzly staples.

Then I carded the remainder.

I made a bracelet as usual but then needle-felted the twizzly staples around the outside. I'm rather pleased with the result, perhaps I'll make a load more and sell them!

Thursday 19 January 2012


In the last year, I've made a very special friend and in a short space of time we've had some excellent adventures together and really enjoyed feeding off each other's knowledge and passion for the great outdoors, animals generally and horses in particular.
Danni (Elle) Metcalf is an equine psychologist who is about to open her own riding centre at Bowkerstead, Grizedale, where Chris and I had our wedding reception last year. Elle has been travelling around finding horses for her riding school. Being without a bottomless pit of money to purchase her trusty herd of steeds, Elle has been rather canny in her methods of selecting horses and has had to draw on her experience, knowledge and ability to pick out a diamond in the rough and turn it into a safe and reliable trekking horse.
I wanted to share with you Tizzy's story because the transformation in this animal has been so rapid and it makes me so proud and happy to see Elle's talent so evident.

Tizzy's background is little known to us; there are a lot of previous owners on her passport. She is a 20 yr old Hanovarian x TB. Her shape suggests that she has had a few foals and she has had a big injury in the past. Elle was asked to take her on because the young man who had her could no longer afford to look after her.

She did not look great when we went to visit her but we put her in the horse box along with her pal Teeto, a little unbroken Section A Welsh.
The first time I rode her she was quiet and felt like a bag of bones. We didn't go far but we wanted to bring her back into work to pick her up, get her muscles developing and give her some interest in life.

After just a week she was beginning to look better, but Elle there was still a lot to do.
Three months on and Tizzy is a different horse. She is far more positive in her outlook (despite being a very stroppy mare in the stable) and is really becoming quite forward.

When I rode her a couple of days ago for Elle's new website photo shoot, she was really quite strong and excitable and at times I struggled to settle her down! Ignore the dropped rein please, I'd just ducked under a low branch when she shot off!

She is clearly feeling good and I'm looking forward to getting to know her better as we build up her stamina and give her some more experience of longer trails. Well done Elle!

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!