Down On The Farm, Out In The Rain...

5 July, 2007.

Hi everyone,

As you will have seen on our House and Garden page, the work on the extension is proceeding smartly as weather permits. On Friday the scaffolding went up. The next step is to put the roof on, if the rain ever lets up.

The construction work and the purchase of 2 new chickens (Brown Shavers) has inspired me to make some modifications to the chook pen to give them a sheltered area to roost in. I have been quite impressed that the 2 new girls (Sugar and Spice) have continued to lay despite being taken out of a large dry barn and moved to a small wet pen, but I thought they'd be happier with more shelter and maybe it would inspire the other chickens to start laying again. I'm not sure if it's the cold weather, the fact that they're so inbred, or the possibility that they were frightened off laying by the neighbours reducing our rooster population with a shotgun while we were away (with our blessing), but I haven't seen an egg from our girls since we got back from Hawaii.

Anyway, using only materials scrounged from around the property and castoffs from the building site, I made a new nesting box, an access door for putting the food in (lovely pink, don'tcha think?), and an area approx. 4'x4' with walls on 3 sides and a corrugated iron roof. For some reason it always rained once I began working. The day after I finished they laid no eggs at all. Go figure.

As the grass grows slowly this time of year, I have been letting the sheep into the gully to graze, which means shutting the front gate as there are no fences as yet to keep them in there. As you will have seen on Edwin's webpage, this lead to finding one of the new Suffolk ewes up to her shoulders in the creek last week. So I had to strip down to my T-shirt and underwear and jump into the icy cold creek among the blackberry runners, to lift her out. Jonathan was lifting the front end so no photos, sorry! Let me tell you, a wet inert sheep weighs a lot.

I sat there and held her in the rain while Edwin went for towels, Merinda for sheep comestibles and Jonathan for the ride-on mower. She began shivering soon after we got her out, which was good sign. I'm sure she would have drowned if she'd been in overnight. I dread finding a drowned sheep or lamb. We fed her molasses and warm milk and wrung as much water out of her fleece with towels as we could, then using a towel as a sling we lifted her into the mower trailer and took her up to the garage to dry off. It wasn't long until she was up on her feet (albeit unsteadily) and eating sheep pellets, so after about an hour when she seemed completely recovered we let her out into the paddock again. Any hopes that this bonding experience may have made her trust me more were quickly dashed the next day, if anything she seems more nervous of me than ever!

Then a few days ago I got a call from our neighbours, Betty and Moss, to say that 2 of our sheep were in their garden eating their strawberry plants. Turned out to be those 2 naughty boys, Splatter and Dodge. After several games of "round and round the garden", I managed to get them back home by dint of forcibly dragging Splatter the last few hundred feet up Moss' driveway and into our own, and then chasing Dodge out onto the road, up the road (2 eighteen wheelers coming from each direction - one kindly stopped for me!), back down the road, and into our gate. The fencing man's coming tomorrow. So is the butcher. I'll let you know how Dodge sausages turn out (ram is reputed to be rather gamey), and the Dodge floor rug....

Soggily yours,

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