6am – 10pm…

Some people who complain about working 9-5 should try farming some day!

We got up at 6am and popped 14 Hubbards in to their crate for the quick 10 minute drive to the local poultry abattoir, then it was home for a quick coffee then out to do the animals (feeding, watering, letting out the poultry, giving everyone some straw bedding). I had a hospital appointment with my Dad and when I got back I took the dogs for a big run through the sheep fields and a splash down at the stream. Seeing a van parked at our pig shed I rushed back, it was one of our feed suppliers unloading a load of poultry feed….I was starting to feel tired from the early start and run about with the dogs but felt obliged to muck in and unload the 25kg sacks! I then spent an hour replying to emails, writing letters and sorting out customers invoices. Another quick coffee (note no lunch!!!) and it was time to do the animals once more and lock up all the birds.

Yesterday we moved the livestock trailer in to the pigs field where we have the last three of our our original sows who are no longer productive. The trailer was left open, full of straw and our hope was that one of the sows (probably Spot) would settle in there by herself and therefore nominate herself for the journey to Wishaw abattoir early on Thursday (tomorrow) morning. After finishing the animals for the night we peeked in the trailer and found Spot fast asleep we suddenly realised we had two options…hope she was still there at 6am in the morning or go and try and find out if the abattoir would accept her tonight. We didn’t think they’d be much point in trying the abattoir as everyone would have been home hours ago so we tried to remember which of our friends use Wishaw in the hope they’d know if you can drop a sow off the night before. Somehow I found myself dialing the abattoir’s number in the hope there might be a night watchman and couldn’t believe it when one of the ladies who works in the office answered (apparently she was waiting for an engineer to fix the alarm…lucky us!). She confirmed that we could drop off tonight and gave us instructions on where to put Spot, how to lock up and where to switch off the lights!

We rushed outside to check Spot was still in the trailer and quickly closed it up and headed out in to the cold night to Wishaw (wrapped up in several layers as our Land Rover Defender is so draughty and cold!). Everything went smoothly and Spot was delivered to a large pen with lots of straw and she quickly started to settle down for the night. We got home exhausted at 10pm and after feeding the dogs and cat, we crawled up to bed around 11pm (note no dinner!!!)

Sooooo tired!

Bye Bye Emma…

Our darling old bearded collie Emma had to be put to sleep today just short of her 17th birthday. We made the heartbreaking decision yesterday after a week of sad diagnosis and quickly failing health. She really was a wonderful companion, so happy and affectionate and we’ll miss her dearly.

The photo above shows Emma in a local pet store almost exactly a year ago, when her first diagnosis was made. She spent a happy hour in store watching the rabbits, guinea pigs and mice. We bought lots of treats and a fabulous furry, non-slip mat to sleep on and give her a helping hand on our slippy, stone floors

Sad day at the vets…

Emma, our 16 year old bearded collie has had a few small health problems over the last year but nothing could have prepared me for what I discovered today – a huge firm “mass” stretching from inside her back hip all along her body and reaching the front of her chest. Her walking and getting up and down from the floor had been getting worse recently but this mass was no where to be seen a couple of days ago when I was lying next to her on the floor rubbing her all over. Even the vet seemed shocked and eventually diagnosed a problem with her lymphatic system. Anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers were prescribed but I was urged to consider her future and “cherish her”. The vet did though add that they expected the drugs to work and for the swelling and hardness to go right down, so we’ll make sure she takes her medicines, spoil her and make a fuss of her….and we’ll have a serious talk about what now needs to be done and when. So sad!!!

Catch up!

Wow, I don’t know where the time is going! Days, weeks and months are just flying past. It only seems like last week when our first lamb arrived when in fact it’s been 2 months!

The weather has been absolutely horrible and I’ve been shocked to see on the news how other farmers (and their livestock – see picture above) have suffered with the snow….it’s so, so sad! We’ve been so lucky to be able to bring all but our largest pigs indoors and we managed to convert part of the pig barn to accommodate the sheep too. We were on hand to catch all ewes and lambs as they lambed and bring them straight indoors – most stayed inside for over a week allowing us to make sure the lambs were feeding well and strong enough for the elements. It also gave us the opportunity to give the ewes an ‘MOT’ and pedicure 🙂 and make sure all was well with them. Once back outside they have had full access to their large straw filled field shelter and at nights they all (sensibly) pack inside. Their bales of hay, energy licks and troughs for feed were all in this area, right beside a field gate making checking and feeding them each day much easier for us.

We have tried and failed to adopt Stinky Pete (a triplet who’s mother rejected it) on to other sheep so after a few weeks at home with us he now lives in the pig shed being pampered!!!

The outside pigs have all stayed within their straw filled arks most of the time, sometimes even being fed in there. All of the piglets have thrived apart from one little runt we’ve called Crusty. We realised early on that Crusty was losing condition and took her home for some TLC where we realised she was unable to suckle….a bit of training later and she was finishing her bottles of warm goats milk with ease and is now back with the rest of her family. She escapes daily when she hears us arrive so we give her some mashed banana and pig nuts in the shed where she can get a bit of piece to eat (her siblings are all four times larger than her!) and this is followed with a warm bottle and a cuddle….she’s quite a character! Most of these piglets have now been reserved for other smallholders who will rear them during the nicer months and kill them before the weather gets horrible in the Winter.

Our ducklings and Hubbard chicks are now around 2 months old and will soon be ready to kill. The ducklings are such characters, noisily quacking to us every time we walk past them. The Hubbards are (as they often do) getting a little aggressive towards us which is fine….there’ll be no tears shed when we take them to the poultry abattoir 😉

Moss our puppy is now over 1 year old and seems to have tired of eating her way through all of our vehicles….the damage she has cost makes her one of our most expensive purchases according to David!

The chickens and older ducks (the keepers) are all back in to the swing of laying eggs daily following the long dark winter with short days and now that the clocks have changed the days are lighter and longer and, dare I say it, I think Spring has arrived!

There will be plenty of updates this year as we get in to our second proper year of trading professionally. We’ll be trying new things at the farm. And of course the house will be getting built which will mean we can do even more hear at the farm!

Moss the puppy got her ears pierced…

…well just the one….by Emma!

We had been enjoying a rare piece of ‘family time’ by having a barbeque at my parent’s house. The dogs were pretty excitable as my parent’s and sister’s dogs were also there. There was a bit of showing off, but Moss appeared to take things too far and Emma had had enough. One sharp snap was all it took to put a large V shaped hole in one of Moss’s ears and for blood to gush over just about everything nearby!!!

You couldn’t really scold Emma for what she did, that puppy pushes everyone to near breaking point 🙂 Once the bleeding stopped Moss was fine…I’m not sure if such a large whole will ever fully close up so I might just have to buy her a little sparkly earring to utilise it (not!!!)

I’m sure my parents were glad to see the back of us and get their garden back in order!!!

Panic stations!!!!

I, once more, took the pigs to the abattoir all by myself today. I feel fine now about going as we couldn’t have a better abattoir than Dunblane and the men who work there are really compassionate and kind to the animals – the pigs genuinely have no idea of what’s ahead of them when they calmly (sometimes playfully) enter the building and everything is done so quickly. The men who work there are aware that for a softy like me it is never going to be the easiest thing to do, so they are always more than happy to help me out. Today was one of those times…and having had some upsetting news about my Dad’s health this morning I was a touch more emotional than usual 🙁

“Skull” (a wonderful guy with a scary name) surprised me by moving the trailer ’round to the back’, reversing and unloading the pigs while I was in the office doing the paperwork. I came out and after a quick panic wondering “Where’s my Land Rover?” I peeked round the corner and saw it being unloaded. I waited for a minute or two and then headed round to close it up and head off. I got back in to the car and turned to “talk” to the dogs…”Are you ok Emma (our 11 year old collie), will we head home now?”…”What about you Moss (our new Collie pup), are you ok?….Moss?….MOSS!!!”

I looked everywhere in the car – under the seats, in the pick up bit at the back, behind the spare wheel – no Moss!! I rushed back to the office to find out if anyone had the puppy or had saw it and within minutes every member of staff was out looking for Moss.

The abattoir is tucked away between a busy “A” road, a railway line and a steep slope leading down to a fast flowing river!!! Could it have been any worse 🙁 One hour later, hoarse with calling her name, scratched by branches and brambles and pretty hysterical I went back to the car park where David had arrived to join in the search. We’ve only had Moss for two weeks but already she is a part of the family and had made her mark on both of us (we adore her) and I was by now convinced she was going to turn up by the railway track or washed up by the river. I felt so helpless and unable to do any more to locate her. I hugged David and began to cry…..and then my eye caught something….I thought I was seeing things, but sitting at my feet was a puppy trying to look like nothing had happened! Oh my goodness, I nearly squeezed the life out of her with my hugs!

Lesson learned – this puppy can slip out of any car behind you without you even noticing. I have now started edging out of the car with one hand waving about behind my rear!

I don’t think I let go of her all day!

Just like Swap Shop!

Yeah! The snow melted and so we were off to Aviemore with Glynis’s pigs! We managed to lock them in the trailer where they were still asleep from last night which is soooo much easier than chasing them round a field then bribing them with food to get in the trailer 🙂 They didn’t even stir, so we got on with quickly feeding everyone else and then left our friend Neil to finish off. The girls got a quick breakfast in bed followed by some water and we were off – waving goodbye to Muffin who did actually look a little sad being left all alone.

The sat-nav said it would take 3 hours but with a heavy Landrover and trailer we knew we were in for a much longer journey. We stopped several times to check on the girls who it would appear slept the whole way snuggled up together in their deep bed of straw….as for us the further North we went the colder we got! Landrovers are not renowned for their excellent heating or being very airtight….but the heated seats were a small comfort!!! 😀 It was indeed a long drive and all I can say is “that route needs more service stations”…..there were none beyond Perth!!! Nearing Kingussie, we returned to Glynis’s excellent instructions and we were there within minutes.

Glynis met us at the gate and she and her gorgeous children were soon inside the trailer scratching tummies and trying to come up with names for their new girls…I believe one is definately to be called Ruby! 🙂 Her husband Neil was busy with the vets delivering a calf so we headed inside to meet the family and enjoy some absolutely delicious home made scones straight from the oven (yummy!) The men were enjoying watching Celtic pick up the football title on the TV and the rest of us were talking pigs and rescue animals with one of the ladies of the family who is an RSPCA officer. A rescued rabbit was bouncing around the living room and I was told there was a sick bird somewhere too….my sort of house! 😀 

Neil (a well known Highland Shepherd) arrived and we headed off to transfer the girls from our trailer in to theirs for the short ‘off road’ trip to their new home. Glynis and Neil were talking about the history of the farm and the 1,500+ sheep their team of trained sheepdogs manage. We learnt the do daily sheepdog shows in the summer months…you can visit their website here and I’ve also found this clip of Neil at work.

Throughout our visit there was a constant ‘presence’ of a curious and very well behaved young pup! It walked to heal following Neil with a look of ‘purpose’ about it in it’s movements. It seemed to want to please and was happy to be picked up and cuddled. Neil’s mum came out to join us and jokingly said those magic words…”do you want to buy a puppy?…!!! Well, I have made no secret of the fact for months that I was in the market for a new sheepdog, one we could actually train to ‘work’, but also be company for our 11 year old bearded collie cross, Emma…my sister even gave me a gift box with puppy food, collar, lead, waterproof mac(!) and some cash to put towards a puppy for my 40th birthday last year! I turned to David….who gave me a look 🙁 but I persevered and honestly, David was smitten by her too, but there was one factor that would make or break the deal (apart from the price 😉 )….Emma!

Emma is, it has to be said, getting a little grumpy in her senior years and is used to being the centre of attention. So, it was almost with resignation that we would not be taking a puppy home, that I got Emma out to say ‘Hello’! I half expected Emma to pounce on her and was standing by ready to rescue the pup, but no, they had a sniff of each other and headed off to play happily together….it’s been a while since I’ve seen Emma so active! Occassionally she did bore of the pup’s constant stream of attention but a firm grown and a snap put pup in it’s place. The puppy Neil said would instinctively give Emma respect and cower down to her…which is exactly what she seemed to be doing. After some serious deliberation with David we came to a unanimous decision and the chequebook was out! 🙂

Glynis and Neil were full of great advice and it was such a fun afternoon with them – they, so excited by their new pigs and us equally excited by our new puppy!

We headed home trying to decide on a name (that made the journey fly in) with puppy on my lap asleep for most of the journey. I’m not sure if it had ever been in a car before, it had definately never been away from the farm but she was just perfect. Ive got a good feeling thatw e have just become owners of a fantastic little sheepdog in the making! 😀