Sunday, 31 August 2014

End of Summer

The final day of August gave us the glory that is Orkney in sunshine with light wind - plus a smattering of midges, but it's a small price to pay for days like this.

I thought I'd do a photo-census of the 'beasties' as we move from summer to autumn.  The nights are noticeably drawing in now; it's not yet 9pm but I'd need a torch if I went out now.

So let me introduce you to the current inhabitants of the farm, starting with the bantams who have each hatched and raised a clutch of chicks.  Sadly too keen on the grain to pose for the camera - they are Anne, Emma, Harriet and Medusa.  Not forgetting Andrew the Pekin cockerel who fails dismally on the fertilising eggs bit.  He just falls off on the few occasions when he tries.  So sadly no bantam chicks this year.

Then we have Gertie and Gloria who are two year old geese.  They just graze on the lawns and let us know when anyone comes to the house.  Their enthusiasm for hissing is greater than their desire to get friendly with me, but they're pretty easy to be around as geese go.  They did amuse us for a number of weeks with the 'incubating broken crockery' event, but that deserves a blog post of its own.

 Next we have Albert and his harem of 7 ducks.  They provide endless amusement and some rather good eggs.  They even lay in a nest they make every night in the duck house rather than just dropping their eggs randomly on the ground.
 Time to move onto the chickens.  George still rules his roost but with some Marans added to his Light Sussex girls.  They've been doing a good job with eating sheep parasites during the year.  Faecal testing on the sheep has been consistently negative for fluke and only minor levels of other nasties.

George is moulting at the moment so he's not looking his best.  There are chickens in each of the fields and the chicken house on the moorland field is where we keep the surplus cockerels.  Fighting is kept to a minimum by not having any hens with them, but any sign of aggression is a swift move up to the top of the roast/casserole list.  Free range, foraging cockerels of at least 8 months age are totally delicious and quite unlike what you buy in supermarkets.  Plus knowing they've had a fantastic life and a very stress-free, quick end only improves the feel-good feeling about our home grown meat.  Sadly the current inhabitants on the moor were deep in the heather and camera shy this afternoon.  I did allow some of them a little holiday with groups of hens, so not all of these chicks below that we've hatched under broodies are from George.

This is the oldest group above - some of these boys will soon be moving to enjoy many months on the moor.

The two most recent hatchings are still with their broody mums on the lawn, protected from Hen Harriers, Hoodies (the crow variety) and the larger seagulls.  The Maran hatched 10, which was a lovely end to a summer of looking after broody hens.

The black chicks are from our group of Black Rock hens, and these young chicks were fathered by a new cockerel, Gandhi, who is a cross between a Black Orpington and Jersey Giant.  He's also a lovely gentle cockerel, so hopefully that characteristic will be passed to his sons.

I also put some duck eggs under a broody and had 2 hatch - they are now living in the area where we try and grow edible stuff in the hope they will keep the slugs down.   The Saxony, Cherry Valley cross has produced very attractive, large ducks.  These are just 8 weeks old.

So what about the Boreray Boys?  Well they now number 8, the original 5 having been joined last November by a ram lamb of a different blood line and two older wethers, William and Wesley.  The ram was named by my 'darling' children.......... Bollocks.  Well, it had to be a 'B' name since he was born in 2013.
 Bollocks is on the left of the photo above - note his splayed horns which come from his English father.  Rams from the Scottish bloodlines have tighter horns like Boris.  William is the grey sheep just to the right of Bollocks.

All the Boys are looking very smart in their summer fleeces - I'll post more photos another time of their glorious winter fleeces, now all rooed or blade-sheared off.
 Here they are following me up the hill - in front is greedy William, then Bollocks and Bertie, Boris behind them, and the 3 in the back from left to right are Wesley, Bilbo and Brookes.  Broder is just out of the shot, but here he is below with Brookes, both hoping I'll hand feed them a little treat.  These 2 twin brothers are my tamest sheep.
Many of you will know that Boris fathered twin ewe lambs from a lovely Shetland ewe we had.  I will blog about her story, but if you can't wait then Sue shared her story here.  Warning - you may need a tissue.

Here are the lambs with Zena shortly after their birth on 14 April.

 Penny is on the left, Tuppence on the right.

Here they are today, 4 1/2 months old and around 2 feet high at the shoulder.  Too heavy for me to pick up now.  Affectionately known as the Heffalumps due to their size and large rear ends.........

In both photos Tuppence is on the left and Penny on the right.  They will be getting friendly with Bollocks in late 2015 in the hope that motherhood will settle them down a little.  Early signs are that both have some degree of their mother's gorgeous fleece.

So now we start getting ready for winter - lots of things to tidy up and tie down outside before the September gales start.  The 'beasties' are all enjoying the glorious sunshine while we have it.  For around 6 weeks in mid winter the sun won't make it high enough above this hill to the south of us to shine on the house or any of our fields.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Golden Dawn

One of those clear cold bright early mornings when everything is turned to gold.

 It was a little difficult to spot the lambs in this field until one of them saw me and bleated.