Thursday, 25 September 2008

Preparing For Winter 2

Well, some of what I hoped to do yesterday happened. I did get the pump field mown although it took much longer than you would think from the size of it due to the deep ruts left from where I got bogged down in it at the beginning of the year.

The wood arrived too but isn’t yet cut. We off-loaded it into the barn and I will start cutting it when the weather breaks, this spell of good weather is far to valuable to waste on cutting wood inside a dry barn.

So yesterday afternoon I continued with the pottager a
nd also lifted the last 3 metres of potatoes.

Today it was back out again to the pottager. It’s slow work but I am making progress and the pile of weeds for burning is getting bigger and bigger; I’m just waiting for a breezeless evening to get that done. The weeds are mainly seed heads with a lot of couch grass and lesser bindweed r
oots, none of which I want on the compost heap.

I’ve also started lifting and drying the gladioluses. I didn’t do this last year and as a result lost all of one variety and a few of the others. Those that have survived look pretty good though and have produced lots of little bulblets for growing on.

The cabbages haven’t fared so well though, something has been eating them from the top down – don’t you just love slugs and looking at the outer leaves it looks like the caterpillars or something have had a feast on the leaves too leaving just the lacy veins. Part of tonight’s ‘work’ will be finding recipes to deal with a dozen cabbages.
Sto Lat here I come!

Sick Chick – do not read on if squeamish

At the start of September I noticed that one of my hens was looking decidedly dejected. Dejected enough that I could easily catch her and pick her up and the first thing I noticed was that she smelt. Then I noticed the maggots – ugh I hate maggots but I couldn’t let them eat her alive. So it was off to the Internet, as my chicken books don’t mention anything about maggots.

I was lucky and found someone who had posted about her chicken having the same problem. Sadly she had to put the chicken down but her blogging about it meant that someone else who had dealt with the same problem successfully contacted her and she passed on the information; blogging at its best.

So I sat said chicken in a bath of warm water with some betadine/iodine scrub. Iodine doesn’t kill maggots but they don’t seem to like it and very quickly I could see loads of maggots floating in the water.

Having suitably gloved my hands I picked what I could out of the water with tweezers and then, after lifting out the hen, disposed of the remaining ones in the bowl. I repeated the iodine bath and got a couple more out, by then the hen was totally bored with being immersed in water and had had enough. I turned her upside down and saw a large hole beneath her vent. Filling this with the neat iodine solution brought a couple of embedded maggots to the surface where I quickly caught them with the tweezers.

I kept her in isolation for a few days and repeated the iodine treatment and thankfully there were no more maggots and the hole started to heal. I then realised what the smell had been, it was the same as when the abscess on one of the cats had burst, so I surmise that she had injured herself and the abscess had formed.

After a good week she seemed fine and I let her back out with the other hens, then yesterday I saw she was sitting with the two broody hens and when I picked her up, there was that smell again and a few maggots.

So the last couple of days have been a repeat of the iodine treatment. She’s perked up a lot faster than last time but I’m not sure the hole is going to ever heal properly although it is a lot smaller than last time. So this could be an ongoing occurrence with me having to catch her regularly and check for infection or maggots.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Glow-worm Time

Back in the UK I used to think of glow-worm time as being the beginning of June and sure enough I saw them here around then. They disappeared around July and I thought that would be it until next year. Then to my surprise, one appeared on the corner of the patio on the 30th of August. Again sadly my camera doesn’t do close-ups at all well and had rather a lot of difficulty focusing in the dark but you can just make out the lady glow bug. She had 3 rings glowing and was there for a couple of nights.

My Winnings

Back in the mists of time I mentioned that I won a prize on the raffle at a trip to Eymet for the wine and oyster fair there. Here are my winnings: -

Boy am I looking forward to these.

Preparing For Winter

Although the weather is still pleasant with day temperatures in the mis 20’s there is a general feeling of summer being over. The leaves are falling at an increasing rate and the morning dew is taking longer and longer to dissipate.

Having been spurred on my Sue’s efforts in the pottager, I’ve also been tidying up the rest of the farm. Basically if it can be mowed it is being mown. The new alpaca fields have been topped of all their sow thistles, the wheat field has been mown ready to finish ploughing it and today I mowed the garden extension, the field where the wood is and the hay field.

The hay field is being done for two reasons; firstly the hay cut left the grass very uneven and a lot of coarse grass was growing and secondly because about a third of the field was being taken over by blackberries as I mentioned back in August.
I’ve cut back most of them in the hay field and reclaimed a 4 by 50 metre strip. Over winter I’ll remove and burn what I can of them but I can now see where by boundary is and my neighbours field begins.

Tomorrow I’m getting another delivery of plum wood from Ann and Regis so the afternoon will be spent cutting and stacking that but in the morning I hope to cut the weeds back in the pump field and will have another go at ploughing that if time permits after I’ve finished the wheat field.

Monday, 22 September 2008

A Stressful Day

Today was a day I’ve been putting off for some time; it was the day I administered the worming injections for the alpacas. Up to now I’ve been a wimp and got the vet to do them or used an oral version (for one of the 3 doses per year) but I’d decided that this time round I’d better get on and do it myself.

I’d been preparing the alpacas by getting them used to being caught and haltered using the CamelidDynamics technique I mentioned back in December. The training sessions stopped over the winter, as the ground was far too wet and have been sporadic over the summer but the alpacas remember well.

Even Dartagnan who was spitting all the time when he arrived allowed me to catch and put fly-repellent on him without fuss the second time I had to catch him.

Today was the day I could procrastinate no longer; the weather was warm but not too hot, there was no wind and the alpacas were really calm. Then the combine harvester arrived in a neighbouring field. I waited about half an hour and by then they were accustomed to the noise and in fact the general background noise masked anything else. I was also fortunate that the French air force were not out on one of their training sortie – they turn somewhere just passed me on their low level flights.
So with catch rope and wand, Dectomax, needle and syringe and a handful of granules to lure them into the catch pen, I took a deep breath and set off for the alpacas.

The granules did the trick and they were quickly shut into the catch pen and the first one caught. The Dectomax was to de given subcutaneously and the books all describe taking a pinch of flesh and lifting it away from the animal in order to make a tent into which you place the needle. So far so good, fleece parted to find clean flesh but could I get the skin to pinch into a tent … no I could not.

After about 5 minutes I eventually found an area where I could get the needle in and number one was done. And so it was with all the others, finding a tent of flesh was nigh on impossible but eventually I found somewhere on each that was flesh and not fleece. On the whole they were really calm, Dior decided to couch which made her easier to deal with as once on the ground she wasn’t going anywhere and Dartagnan made a bit of a fuss but he is small enough that I could hold him in place with my knee.

It took an hour to inject and check over the 6 of them but they were all really calm throughout more than could be said for me but it was actually much easier than I’d envisaged. Yes some blood was spilt but fear not, no alpacas were hurt in the process it was just mine. I managed to stab myself twice with the needle while trying to get the safety cap off – well at least I should be worm free for a few weeks.

The Pottager Emerges

While Sue was here last week she bravely set to work on the pottager, it had just about disappeared under a covering of weeds this summer. I’d asked her to weed the saffron crocus bed, which she did and then like the energizer bunny, she just kept going.

I made a start on lifting the potatoes, more of which will be in a later post, and manned the bonfire to get rid of the perennial weeds.
Sue made such a difference to the area it has really spurred me on to getting it fully cleared over the next month and ready for planting.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

It’s Autumn!

Another season is officially here and the last of my summer visitors has departed for the UK so it’s time to play catch-up with the blog.

Last Thursday was celebration day, it was Snowy’s 12th birthday and while Sue and I has a glass of wine, the cats celebrated with some tuna.

And talking of pets that brings me round to Cheep Cheep; he’s been growing fast. This photo was taken around the time G made the outside run for him.

About a week later he was too big for the box we were keeping him in and we moved him to the segregated area in the hen house. After a week there we let him mix with the other hens but put him in the separate run in the chicken enclosure. Eventually he was getting a bit big for that and had learnt to keep out of the way of the other chickens really well so he is now running round on the edge of the flock – being the smallest he is at the bottom of the pecking order.

This photo was taken a short while before G and M left and you can see just how much Cheep Cheep has grown.

Looking at his feathers we think Cheep Cheep is a male. He’s still very tame and will sit on my arm to eat the wheat when I feed the chickens. His friendliness is a good thing on his part, he is now in line for reserve cockerel while the cockerel from the earlier hatching has therefore been renamed Coq au Vin.

Many thanks to M for the pictures of Cheep Cheep.