Life in the Countryside

A Month off blogging

So at the beginning of October it was both my and my daughter’s birthday. Then we were away for the weekend and life just got in the way for five minutes. I knew I hadn’t blogged for a couple of weeks although I’d started to write a couple of posts but never finished them so I decided instead of trying to catch up that I would have a month off blogging. I did post the odd picture on instagram but I stayed away from my blog. And do you know what? It did me the world of good. Let me explain what I mean. I started my blog back in April for two reasons. Firstly I wanted to have somewhere to record the work we were doing in our cottage as I had been taking loads of photos but not really actually doing anything with them apart from just keeping them on my phone. My second reason was as a way to share with friends and family who don’t live nearby what we were up to. I found I was becoming a bit of a bore with updates every time I saw or spoke to people. I’ve really enjoyed writing on my blog but it had sometimes got to the point that I was feeling every time we did something I had to immediately write up about it. Which is a bit silly really as the blog was supposed to be enjoyable and not a burden. So instead I’m going to try and write once or twice a week and not try and talk about everything we do. But first, here’s a quick summary of what we’ve been up to this past month.

Birthdays

Both C and I had our birthdays, she was three and I was 32 (again, I decided that I liked the age 32 so have decided to stay there for a while). C was so much more aware this year about her birthday and was ridiculously excited in the build up to it. Her actual birthday was on a Tuesday and she had her party the Saturday before which actually worked really well as it meant we could spread out the present opening. And boy she really got excited about presents this year. And I have to confess that I did too as she’s reached the age of Playmobil and Sylvanian families and Disney princesses, all the toys that I remember fondly from my childhood. As her party was a pottery painting party I did a multi-coloured layer cake covered in pink icing. I’ve started writing a post about it but for now here’s a sneak preview.


Sheds

We are now the proud owners of three sheds which fit nicely onto our concrete slab next to the garage. Currently they are fairly empty but the plan is that when we do our big house rennovation next year we will use them to store our house contents in. Though they may not be to everyone’s taste as they are plastic, they suit us perfectly as they need no maintenance at all.


The caravan

So we’ve spent our first weekend away in the caravan and I have to say we have, thankfully, made the right choice. It was lovely to have all our stuff already packed in it, with food in the fridge and cupboards ready for the weekend. Although I played no part in the actual hooking up of the van once we arrived at the campsite (that was all J’s role) it was a relatively quick process and it really felt like a home from home. I’m not naive enough to think that it’ll be a breeze living in it, but I think it will be manageable with the added bonus of having a take along holiday home when the house work is done. 


The animals

We have the sheep back in the field and they are living in relative harmony with the chickens (although I think that’s mainly down to the electric fence). We do have one of the chickens currently not laying but as it’s one of the ‘normal coloured’ egg layers then we don’t know which one it is and we don’t really know what to do about it. They all seem fairly healthy so we’re just letting them get on with things as normal and are hoping that it resolves itself in time. Jessie is getting on fairly well with the other animals. That it she doesn’t try to chase them too much although she has been very curious about the sheep. She’s going through a phase of wanting to chew everything as she’s losing her baby teeth (we haven’t found any yet but I think she’s eating them) and is a right old scamp when it comes to helping in the garden – she loves racing around the recreation area and jumping in the raised beds. 


Holiday

We have just come back from a week away in Rhodes, our first time going away in October half term, and it was just what we needed. We stayed at an all inclusive resort on the south of the island in a lovely suite with a private pool and were blessed with weather that was very warm but not too hot and we all had a relaxing time. I’ll do a write up soon about our trip and suggestions for anyone thinking about visiting Rhodes but for now here are some sneaky pictures.


There are lots of other things that have happened over the last month which I’ve probably forgotten, but for now that’s it. The cottage garden trio are still here and still surviving life in the countryside slowly working on creating our dream family home.

The field

The sheep are gone…

…but they will be back. The farmer came today to take them to be sheared and for the lambs to be wormed etc. Some of them, but not all of them, will be back in a couple of weeks for a while longer. As they are growing bigger the field isn’t going to be enough grass for all of them, hence the reduced number. It will be interesting to see how quickly the grass springs back up in their absence. But for today here are some photos of the sheepdog doing a good job of rounding up the girls into the sheep trailer. 

The field

Feeding the sheep

So, apart from the sheep escaping escapades of the past week, the sheep have been fairly low maintenance. They also haven’t really interacted with us at all. C has been really keen to try and play with them but they have tended to bolt whenever we come near them. However, we now have at least one on our side. I have nicknamed her ‘Bluey’ as she is the only sheep with a blue marking. The farmer has given all the sheep numbers to help match up mums and babies. Those who were twins were marked in red, and those for whom it was a single birth, in blue. We only have one single birth and hence ‘Bluey’ is quite easy to distinguish. The feeding started by C insisting we take weeds/hedge trimmings to the field with us on our jaunts as special treats for the sheep. The other day we finally managed to coax Bluey to try some and now that is it. Every time we go into the field she comes up to us desperate for treats. 

The field

Stuck lamb

To be honest I think the pictures say it all today, when walking to the field J and I encountered a lamb with her head stuck trying to sneak into the fenced off area we have in the corner of the field. We headed towards her but she managed to wiggle herself free and run off before we got there. Thankfully not before I’d managed to snap a couple of pictures!

Professionals · The field

The field

So I’ve probably already mentioned the field, it’s where we put our lazy beds, but I thought I’d divulge a little bit more about it. Having a field sounds very impressive and like quite an exciting thing to own but when you think about it what would you do with a field. The obvious answer would be to rent it out to someone to use, where we live there are always people looking for someone to keep their horses. But for some strange (read stupid) reason we just don’t want to. Last August when we just moved in I discovered that the hedges that border the field were heaving with blackberries and C and I spent many an hour wandering round and picking them and I don’t want to not do this. 

J and I have bandied about ideas for what to do with the field for some time and I don’t think we’ve settled on a long term plan yet but we have a short term solution at least. The grass on the field needs to be kept down and it seems ridiculous to either pay someone to mow it weekly or for J to spend every Saturday mowing it. So we’re having sheep on it. They aren’t our sheep as we know even less about sheep than chickens and we just don’t have the time to commit to learning how to look after them. Whatever we were going to do, the field needed a bit of prep work doing to it as it had been left unattended for a while. Cue calling in the professionals to help us out.

So in January J organised for an old school friend of his to do some big outdoor works for us. So in the coldest couple of weeks of the year we had the hedges circumventing the field cut right back and then post and rail fencing put round it so it kept any animals we had where they should be. We’ve also had a corner of the field fenced off separately (where the lazy beds are and where the caravan will go eventually, but more on that later), new secure metal gates put in and a couple of mounds of earth removed. There was an old pig shed in the field which had to be knocked down and a diseased ash tree which had to come down before it ended up collapsing on our new fencing. It was a massive load of work but they did an amazing job, I would highly recommend them. So the field is now sheep ready. I’ve put some pictures of the work in process below to give an idea of the scale of the work. 

The field

Lambs

I figured you might like an update on what it’s been like having sheep in the field. Well, it has been fine. We’ve had to make sure that the water is topped up which has been a daily thing whilst the weather has been nice but as we would have had to head up to the field to water the potatoes (which show no sign of growth by the way) it isn’t too much of a chore. And as a bonus we get to see how excitable young lambs are. I’ve noticed that there is a little gang of about four or five that hang out together. They tear around the field together and try to explore the fire (which is still going after a week but is well fenced off) and the mound of rubble that we haven’t disposed of yet.

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They also keep trying to climb up the tree in the corner of the field and climb over their poor mothers. Occasionally they get a little too eager and a call from a mother soon gets them back in line. Some of the others are still staying closer to their mums and only rarely joining in the others fun.

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Now I’ve learnt some very interesting things from the sheep man. Firstly that we can expect their tails to fall off as they have been banded (known as docking). The reason behind this is to keep them a bit cleaner down the bum end and make it easier to detect potential problems. When they arrived a number of the lambs  had obvious bands around their tails, hence the sheep man explained what it was all about. So we have been warned we may see a tail drop off. And we apparently also need to watch for their balls to drop off. Yes that’s right. We need to watch out for stray testicles in the field. Apparently the male lambs have also had their balls banded to castrate them. The reasons behind this are to prevent them getting a bit too randy with their siblings. Hopefully we won’t actually get to see that as I don’t fancy trying to explain that one to C.

 

 

The field

Sheep

So today the sheep have arrived. We have spent the past couple of days ensuring that the field is ready for them, clear of as much debris as possible and with a hose up there ready to supply water. We’ve also fenced off where the latest fire was as it is still slowly burning and we don’t want them to have a mishap. These are not our sheep, which works well for us as it means that we don’t have total responsibility for them. Rather they belong to a local farmer who breeds them for slaughter and puts them on local land for a period of time to graze. This is a win win situation really for us. We get our grass kept trimmed, we still have full access to our field and can have the sheep removed If required. And as a bonus we get to have some of the products of our mowers when the time comes (we get some free lamb). So this morning we had 9 sheep and their 16 lambs arrive.

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We had been explaining to C for a couple of days that we were going to be getting sheep but this morning, when we’d had the heads up that they were on route, and asked her if we should get some sheep and her response was “No, I don’t like it”. This was not going as planned. It was a proper battle to persuade her to come outside with us. However, this all changed when we heard the sheep trailer arrive and she started asking what that was when she heard the sheep bleating. The look on her face when they all tumbled out into the field was priceless. She was so excited. She kept trying to follow them around and feed them grass. It did end up leading to a few life lessons though, she was fascinated by the lambs feeding from their mothers. I tried to explain that the sheep ate the grass and then it went into their tummy and made milk for the baby sheep. Not sure she quite got it but she adores them nonetheless. We’ll have to keep an eye on her with them for the next few days until they’re properly settled in, especially as the mothers can be quite territorial and protective until they realise you’re not a threat. So for now we’ll have to watch from a distance and save our cuddles for later.

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