Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Gallery: Green

This week's theme for Tara's The Gallery is green. There are so many green things to choose from here at the moment. The polytunnel is full of green seedlings thrusting out of the soil, the grass is almost visibly growing and there are bright green brand new leaves on all the trees.

Instead I've chose this huge leaf from hothouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Such a glorious leaf like a big green umbrella and it looks as if it has been hand-painted.

Why not pop on over to Sticky Fingers and have a look at the other entries.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

I spy with my little eye...

...something beginning with E.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Awards and new blogger friends

I have been the fortunate recipient of a few awards recently and am very embarrassed to admit that I thought 'how lovely' and then promptly forgot to do anything about them (like a blog, for example, doh!)

The first comes from the very lovely Lou of The Archers at the Larches, a wonderfully funny blog currently stuffed with gorgeous fluffy chicks. She nominated me for this lovely thing:

Thanks! Apparently I now need to tell you seven things about me you didn't know and then nominate some lovely stylish blogs to receive the award.

So seven things you (perhaps) didn't know about me:
  1. I'm painfully shy (you might already know this but it bears repeating because some days I'm too shy even to talk to myself). Some days I'm not at all shy. It's very confusing.
  2. I only wear Fitflops (boots winter, sandals summer) except when I'm wearing my Hunter wellies or my slippers.
  3. I'm brilliant at growing cucumbers.
  4. I won my posh Felco secateurs in a Gardener's World magazine prize draw. They arrived on my 30th birthday and they will be 15 years old this August.
  5. On days like today I miss my motorbike and my big horses.
  6. I'm about to get a second, much bigger, polytunnel. I can't wait! (Room for more cucumbers!)
  7. I get RSI-type pain on the first joint of my index finger. I wear gloves most of the time because warmth helps and this is why you might find me - on cold days - dunking the end of my finger in my coffee.
Then I was awarded a Kreative blogger award by Working London Mummy and the rules for this are to link to 10 blogs, tell them and share ten fact about myself.

Well you've already had seven, so here's another three:

  1. I have written three novels. I sent the first out to agents and had enough rejections to make me think I should take another look at it before I send it again.
  2. I'm currently writing a book about my daughters' imaginary friend. They're growing out of him now but we're all so fond of him I'd hate for him to be lost in the mists of time.
  3. My ultimate ambition is to design and build my own house.

Then I was the recipient of another award (which reminded me of the others!) this time a Liebster Award via the blog In All My Bron Days, a lovely blog from rural Norfolk. This is an award designed for small blogs to spread the blog love and get them out to a wider audience.
For this one I have to choose some other small blogs to link to and revel in the blog love!

So I hereby officially nominate all the blogs in my BMB comment group for these three awards. This is a group of six British Mummy Bloggers who were 'blind dated' to each other to visit and comment on each other's blogs for the month of April, to discover new blogs and make new blogging friends.

The Real Supermum blog. Emma is a mum of six who provides a network of support for mums and mums-to-be. Her blog covers a wide range of parenting topics and personal stories.

Inside the Wendy House. Wendy is a mum of five and writes a lovely friendly blog about her family and product reviews.

Working London Mummy. This doctor, academic and mum works and lives in a city and has a love of food and cooking (WLM is married to a French former chef). I'm loving the tales of the food they're preparing for Munchkin.

Little Green Blog. I can lose hours wandering around this blog. I wonder how I never found it before! Masses of ideas and advice about green-living and thoroughly thought-provoking.

Craft and Nappies. A tartan Kiwi in Christchurch, New Zealand, which thrilled my nine-year-old as she has been studying the country this term. I'm particularly fond of Tea Towel Tuesdays and the regular 'I'm loving...' posts.

Mummy Manda. Mum to a girl and boy and married to her soul mate. Brand new to blogging this year with lovely posts about her family and life.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Easter holidays - week one

We've had one week of the school holidays. Both H9 and R7 have had a cold/flu bug which knocked them off their feet for 24 hours. In between that the days have stretched long and impossibly sunny. The lambs grow fat in the field, wrens sing in the trees and the swallows have come home.
The tulips reach their long necks towards the sky.
Blackthorn bursts into blossom like snow.
I work in the garden as much as I can, sowing, potting on, planting out. This is one quarter of the polytunnel - the other three-quarters are equally packed.
I've cleared this border too. Note that the home made sweet pea wigwam from last year has sprouted leaves.
All the hard work is so I can see my most favourite flower - the diminutive dodecatheon.
I planted out three-quarters of the sweet peas and moved three lychnis. It's going to be a bold and brilliant border (or gaudy if I've got the combinations wrong!) Time will tell.
We cleared the Moor vegetable garden. I should have taken a 'before' photograph - the weeds were knee deep. In the foreground we have the remnants of the winter salads and kales, then white onions, fallow, garlic, maincrop potatoes, second early potatoes with broad beans, fallow and finally autumn raspberries at the far end. This is the second of the two vegetable gardens. The other has the rhubarb, soft fruit, hens, first early potatoes, red onions, herbs, spring salads and the polytunnel.
Huge clumps of king cups are in brilliant bloom on the Moor. They love the wet conditions.
Dandelion clocks are such beautiful structures.
Nico wonders if toes are food for lambs...
... and then shows just how cute he is. He's in the yard with his mum and another elderly ewe. They spend their days cropping the grass at the far end of the yard while Nico grows big and strong on his mother's milk and top up bottle feeds.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The F1 lambs #3

Here we are, the final instalment of F1 lambs - well 20 out of 21 have lambed anyway and we don't have high hopes for number 21.

Number 16 is Buemi. Single, uncomplicated and with a mother who is feeding him like there are six of him. He won't be this small for long.

Number 17 are the twins Pedro and De La Rosa. These are a very bouncy duo and were almost impossible to photograph. I failed to get them both facing the same way at the same time. Pedro here was trying to eat the camera while De La Rosa tests out his shock absorbers in the background.

Number 18 - Heidfeld is a single ewe lamb. Small, quiet, but efficient and didn't cause any problems or anxiety.

Number 19 - The twins Torro and Rosso (sorry but we found Jaime and Alguersuari too much of a mouthful and couldn't tell from F1 TV team or Radio Five Live commentators what the correct pronunciation is, so we took the easy option.) They're a bit quiet here because they've just had their ear tags put in (a legal requirement) and they were a bit shocked. The yellow stains on Torro's wool are from the iodine we use to prevent naval infections.

Number 20 - Last but by no means least, Heikki. A pretty lamb, straight onto its feet. Another one being fed handsomely with no siblings to share the milk bar with. You can almost see Heikki grow.

And finally - an update on little Nico. Most of my late nights have been to feed this little chap. We had been so worried about him because he couldn't walk. If he tried to stand up, he fell flat on his face (with an indignant bleat).

When we lifted him out of the pen and stood him on a flat surface he shook violently. We persevered and every time we attempted to feed him we balanced him on his tiny hooves and encouraged him to walk. He hated the bottled milk we were offering him and his chances seemed pretty slim.

But despite everything his shaky little steps slowly grew stronger. Then one night he wouldn't drink anything from the bottle I was offering and both Nico and his mum seemed to be taking great offence that I was even trying. He got to his feet, wobbled over to his helpful mum and suckled from her udder.

His mum gave me a look which said: "You are not needed now. Go away." I went away gladly with my redundant bottle of lamb milk.

Sometimes you think they are going to make it and they don't. Sometimes you think they aren't going to make it and they do. Little Nico continues to defy all the odds.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

What was I thinking?

Well really was was I thinking? It seemed such a good idea, back in February, to enter a 10k race in April just before Easter when the possibility of a nice day for it was highly probable.

What I forgot was that it would be directly after lambing when I wouldn't have been to bed before midnight for a month, a month during which I had 'flu for the first time in ages (real proper 'go to bed and hope for the merciful release of an early death' type flu) and encountered medical concern over the state of my thyroid (not my sanity, they don't know about that...)

By last Friday there was no way on earth I would make the race on Sunday and I was making excuses for myself. But then I had a thoroughly good day at fabulous Folly Farm yesterday (I gate crashed a seven-year-old's birthday party because my own seven-year-old had slammed her fingers in a door and wouldn't go without me. I went on the bumper cars and everything. Fantastic! Anyway...) I started feeling better. So I thought I would go, armed with the idea of being prepared for being last.

Me at the start checking I'm starting alongside normal people not the ultra fast ones that look like knotted string.
So this morning I ummed and ahhed a bit about going or not while watching the Chinese Grand Prix but eventually dragged myself out in running gear for the first time in three weeks and drove to the National Botanic Garden of Wales for the race. It was a small field with a very relaxed atmosphere. Nothing high-tech like chip timing, kilometre markers, marshals or manned water stations (actually the water station had a man but he wasn't there when I was).

It was a big looping circuit around the outside of the Botanic Gardens site, almost passing Paxton's Tower which provides incredible views of Carmarthenshire on account of the fact that it is at the top of a huge, long, steep hill. Which we ran up. Great.

The terrain surrounding the botanic gardens is Very Hilly Indeed. I can vouch for that. After a few weeks of not feeling quite well my running batteries were a little flat and when I pressed the accelerator pedal nothing happened. So I plodded along, mostly on my own, quite happily listening to birds and admiring the views of the great glasshouse in the distance, wondering if I would live to see it and how long my husband and kids would wait before giving up on me and going home.

In actual fact I arrived back at the finish line after an hour and ten minutes which is about my time for a relaxed hilly 10k here at home. I wasn't last either, which was nice, and I got a new T-shirt for my efforts.

Water? Yes please!
Yes it was fun although in parts (the hill up towards the turning to Paxton's Tower was one of those parts) I again doubted my sanity. I'm glad I did it and much awe, humongous congratulations and big well dones to everyone who ran the London marathon today too.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Who lives in a house like this?

Who lives in a house like this?
Cosy shavings inside.
Snuggly nest box for making nests in.
Whose house is it?

I can report that guinea pigs 'roost' much, much earlier than the hens (who are ridiculously fond of late nights) but they haven't laid any eggs in the nest box yet.

Monday, 11 April 2011

F1 lambs #3

It's about time I caught up with the naming of the F1 lambs.

Number Seven. Nico was part of twins, but Rosberg was small and cold and we just couldn't keep her alive. Nico is being kept in for additional attention and bottled top-ups. He does 'asleep' so well it looks like 'dead' so I keep having to check he's breathing. We're bottle feeding him at regular intervals. He's perfecting the art of peeing on us.

Number Eight - Kubica arrived without fuss while we were worrying about Nico and Rosberg. Absolutely no trouble at all. A nice friendly lamb. His mother is totally devoted to her little chap and spends all day cuddling him.

Number Nine - Schumacher - is a big Teutonic lamb with little personality but will undoubtedly do well. He's not much to look at (neither is his mother really) just a solid, dependable pair.

Number 10 Barrichello. This was the one born with an underdeveloped cerebellum and had to be euthanased. No picture. I spent too much time with this lamb. Despite the problem with his neck he was a real cutie.

Number 11 Sutil. Put inside the skin of Barrichello and offered to the number 10 ewe. This didn't work (admittedly it was a long shot). Little mouse-sized Sutil was being bottle fed every two hours but was very small and weak. She died on Saturday, despite our best efforts.

Number 12 - The twins that caused all the trouble on Thursday. Sadly one died during birth but Kamui is a big, strong enthusiastic lamb and has already recovered from the drama of his arrival into the world. His face got a bit squished so his eyes were lopsided but things are slowly getting into their proper shape.

Number 13 - Vitaly and Petrov or should that be Vitalia and Petrova as they are both girls. I have such a soft spot for these two. They're lovely big white happy lambs with a calm, sensible mother. They are utterly charming and were springing around in the lambing pen just hours after being born. These two will be kept in the flock so you won't be able to buy these (or Hamilton) as Welsh organic lamb chops in Sainsbury's.

Number 14. Hulk(enberg). My what a big lamb! He spends all day eating and bouncing. A fine lamb.

Number 15. Vitantonio. Another whopper. This one can reach its mum's udder from a sitting position and when standing up he has to bend his knees and reach down to get to the milk bar.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Things could only get better

I was feeling quite despondent when I wrote yesterday's post. Lambing does that to you sometimes but as well as the downs there are ups and the day improved as it went on.

While we were dealing with the little lamb in its Astrakhan coat and milking the increasingly reluctant ewe I looked up and saw this:
(This is why I always have my camera in my pocket.) Another lamb being born - the 13th ewe. Who says number 13 is unlucky? She's an experienced ewe and had things very well organised.

We finished annoying the ewe by milking it and I went around the corner and found this:
Twins! She's also got an assistant who enthusiastically cleaned up the lambs and acted as a helper. This sometimes happens with ewes who are about to lamb themselves. The helper was furious when we moved the mum and babies out to an individual pen and shouted at us all day, standing on her hind legs with her feet on the hurdle looking in to the lambing pens at the twins. (When I went out to check them at 11pm she'd had a lovely big single ram lamb and a very proud mum she is too. Funnily enough she also had an enthusiastic helper who lambed this morning.)

Meanwhile, as it was a truly lovely spring day, it was the perfect time to put the eldest lambs out in the field.

Off they go... well, the ewes and two of the lambs...
What about us...? The ewes, with their eyes on the spring grass, seem to have forgotten something.
One comes back for hers, we deliver the others, sorting out ensues.
By the afternoon, everyone's happy.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Mother love: Birth, death and the whole damn thing

The theme for this week's Gallery at Sticky Fingers is mother love. I'm still knee deep in this year's lambing so my post can only have a sheep flavour.

Most of our ewes are wonderful mothers. This one is Patch, is no exception but things haven't gone as well for her this year as she would have wished. She's letting us know about it. Loudly.

Her lamb was born yesterday morning and straight away it was obvious something was not right. It couldn't lift its head. That's disastrous for a lamb - it couldn't reach up to its mum to get milk. My mum milked the thankfully amenable ewe and we spent considerable chunks of yesterday getting the poor thing to drink it.

Late last night when I should have been snuggled in the comforts of my bed I was sitting with the lamb on my lap feeding it a bottle of milk, knowing my efforts were probably futile.

This morning when the vet was here to assist with a difficult lambing she had a look and said it looked as if the lamb's cerebellum was not developed.

"Shall I...?" said the vet reluctantly. She did.

Patch, meanwhile, was desperately calling for her baby. My long suffering and fortunately widely skilled husband had the task of skinning the lamb and slipping its coat, like over big pyjamas, on to another lamb born yesterday to an elderly ewe that has no milk.

Patch got this oddment back - a scrap of a thing in another lamb's clothing. Will she transfer her motherly love to this one? Watch this space.

Meanwhile the other mother, the one the vet had attended to, was lying exhausted in her pen. Her lambs - huge twins - had tried to be born side by side and failed. The vet went in to sort them out but it was too late for one of them. Mother love? It's tough when you're a sheep.

All this happened before breakfast as the sun rose on an exquisite misty morning. The birds sang in the trees and more blossom bloomed in the early spring sunshine.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dear weather...

... please stop raining. We're wet enough now.

Monday, 4 April 2011


The hens have turned into big feathery show-offs:

Small, medium, large, show-off
 We're now getting an egg a day from each hen. That's eight per day, 56 eggs per week.

You get your money's worth with this one.
We've also had the biggest egg in the world from one of the Bluebells. She was rather proud of herself.

Well, what did you expect?
Of course it was a double-yolker. We ate it as part of scrambled egg for lunch. It may be omelettes for dinner, coddled eggs for breakfast... then more scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, fried eggs, poached eggs...

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The F1 lambs #2

After the initial rush the F1 lambs put the brakes on a little. Next to arrive was:

Jenson and Button. Cool and very laid-back, these two have been no trouble at all. They're very sociable and love to have their photograph taken.

Little Felipe arrived this morning. He was very slow to get going. Smaller than the others, he looks a little weak by comparison. The top five are leaving him behind at the moment.

Numbers one to five have grown up enough to be moved out of the lambing pens and into the stable. Here they learn about being in a small group before they all go out in the field together.

Mark heading across the yard with Rosie. Mark and Webber settled down after their noisy, restless first day and are now happy and very friendly little chaps.

Webber with his mum in hot pursuit.

Fernando gets a lift with Hannah.

The ewes sorting out who's who and what's where.

Finally a short bit of film of the ewes and the first five sets of F1 lambs in the stable. The lambs use the extra space to test their springs and suspension.