Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ins and Outs

The first 'out' was the Teaser (see previous post). He has hopefully done his job at getting the girls in 'the mood' and now it is the turn of the Rams. The breeding ewes have been separated into flocks of Jacobs and Beulahs and their handsome rams have joined if they do the job right, lambing should start about 11th April next year:)

Below is a picture of the Breeding Beulahs (whoops...just re-read sounds a bit offensive if you say it fast:)) They are being herded down a big hill to their fresh pasture, a lush field that in spring and summer is a mass of wild herbs and flowers.

A lot of our work is keeping stock securely fenced in but on a recent stock move to Cuddington near Banstead Surrey, we were putting up electric fencing to keep the sheep out. This is because part of the field is rich in Kidney Vetch which is the food plant of the larvae of the Small Blue butterfly. Small Blues are very dependent on there being a good number of Kidney Vetch flowers close by as they will rarely travel very far from their colony. They usually only lay one egg per flower as the caterpillars can be cannibalistic so they need lots of flower heads for successful breeding. When one considers it can take 2 to 5 years for a new Kidney Vetch plant to start flowering, one can understand why it is so important that the sheep are prevented from eating them.

Included in the area we fenced off from the sheep are some man made scrapes as Kidney vetch can easily be out competed by grass and other plants...

The edges of the scrape are already covered with new Kidney Vetch plants...

In another sheep move to an area in Woldingham, Surrey we have been putting up electric fencing to keep the sheep in. This is a very small piece of important chalk grassland on a steep hill making it difficult to fence especially in the pouring rain. It is a nice little area which is also a good place for reptiles with a reasonable population of adders.

Before these recent moves the Herdwick sheep had been grazing an area called Chapel Bank, near the town of New Addington, Surrey, that had previously been a rather popular place for dumping rubbish. Before the sheep were put on the site we removed lots of rubbish but must have missed a bit as when these Herdwicks had their feet trimmed before going to their new conservation grazing site...

...we came across one wearing a rather unusual bracelet on its sheepy wrist. Somehow he had managed to get this ring of black plastic over his hoof...

We weren't sure if he thought himself very trendy with his man jewellery or if he was plain upset and embarrassed because the other sheep had been calling him girly names like Eunice (Ewe..nice) and Julia (J..ewe..lia)...sorry but I thought it was funny:))))))))

Today there was again a beautiful sunny start to the autumnal day, just too good to stay in. So armed with camera and binoculars I climbed over the field fence behind us and was immediately immersed in the absolute beauty of the countryside; the golden trees shone out through the lifting mist, a group of five crows flew lazily around and across the valley the Buzzards and Pheasants were calling. Blanketing the fields were masses of spider webs covered in millions of dewdrops with the sun glinting off of them. It was just sooooooo beautiful. On these sort of days I would like to just keep on walking and never go home.

Unfortunately we still have masses of work to do at home (the new bathroom suite is still in the living room as my husband ended up having to replace part of the ceiling and he still has to replace the rotten joist where the bath will go and only 5 weeks until the family descends on us for Christmas!) so we had to make it a fairly short walk just down to the Saltbox SSSI.

I was just climbing back into the garden, which is precarious as it involves climbing up a wobbly step ladder, then carefully stepping over the barbed wire fence, on to a wobbly bench. Just at the moment I was negotiating the barbed wire, something in the woodpile next to the fence moved which made me jump and I nearly ended up impaled on a spike. The culprit was my tame pheasant waiting for some breakfast... she is such a lovely bird and I immediately felt better to be home again, especially as, by that time, the valley was echoing with the sounds of gun shots as the mentally insane got going in their Sunday ritual of destroying wouldn't be so bad if they shot them dead but we have often found them injured and unable to move just left to suffer a long lingering death over several days:(

How could anyone shoot a beautiful bird like this for fun!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Teaser

I love the Autmun but am I the only one as everyone seems so glum that the summer is over? To me Autumn is a lovely peaceful season as if nature, after its frenzy of summer growth, followed by the spreading of its precious seeds, nuts and berries, is happy at a good job done and ready to take a well earned rest. One of my favourite quotes is, 'Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.' by William Cullen Bryant.

This year it has been spectacular around here for Autumn colour. The picture below shows the view over the valley and Saltbox SSSI from my living room...each time I look out the colours seem to have changed a bit more. How can that not make one feel good:)

There are also so many signs of things to come next year...berries, seeds and nuts are everywhere just waiting for the right time and place to germinate. I sometimes feel the seeds and berries of Autumn are just as beautiful as the Spring flowers but even more magical because they hold so much potential.

It is also at this time of year that thoughts turn to next year's lambs. As mentioned in a previous post, the breeding ewes have been chosen and put on good pasture. The next thing is to introduce 'The Teaser'. He, basically, is a ram that has matured sexually but then had a vasectomy so although he will mount the ewes it will not result in a pregnancy. He evidently is a sheepy hunk and gets the ewes in the 'mood for love xxxx' ready for when the rams are put in.

Last week the Downland Project's, very feisty teaser, was rounded up by Jack, the project's sheep dog, and duly caught by the Grazing Officer.

To begin with The Teaser was not very happy at being removed from his male buddies and threatened to headbutt anyone that came close but once he had been taken over to the ewes field in the trailer and got the whiff of female sheep his mood changed and he bounced out of the trailer with a smile on his face.

He then positively strutted his way across the field to where the raunchy ewes were waiting to mob him with desire.

The next photos were 'X' rated...but The Teaser definitely agrees with me that Autumn is a good time of year:))