Monthly Archives: May 2010

Somethings that I’m enjoying…

I made this list the other day whilst I was waiting for the kettle to boil while trying to work out were to start on my work load and it made me feel much better. Possibly a little bit of a cheesy list but once I’d started I couldn’t write fast enough.

May Blossom - 26th of May 2010

  • Salad with french dressing, avocado and beetroot

  • New shoots growing and the days when a tray of seeds starts as some bumpy compost and by evening is a tray of little plants opening their leaves for the first time

  • Evenings on the allotment
  • Chance sightings of new-born lambs taking their first steps all over the ‘common’
  • Watching birds in amongst the sheep collecting nesting material
  • Finding pieces of small blue egg shells on the paths and lanes from newly hatched chicks
  • Corner-eye glimpses of deer with their changing colours 
  • The heavy scent of Bluebells and May Blossom on the sunnyest days
  • Watching the Elderflowers creeping closer whilst driving across the county each week for work

RIP Flat Lamb

Last week was not a good week sheep wise, the end of it especially.    

At the start of the week Briony’s black ram lamb got knocked down and killed, Briony has done so well with her triplets. They have all grown well and she hasn’t spent the whole time leaving one or two on their own all over the place like Cobweb, the other ewe who has had triplets, does.    

Flattie out on the common with her lambs - 28th March 2010

 Then early on Thursday morning we got a call that one of the ewes had impaled herself on a fence and was in a bad way. We jumped in the car and raced off to see what could be done, we thought that we would arrive to find it was either Briony or Lupin as it was the area that those two almost exclusively haunt with the rest of the flock prefering the grazing nearer the house and the other side of the village. It was a complete shock to find that it was Flat Lamb.    

Flat Lamb is a much more ‘human’ sheep, she seems to have an understanding that even if she couldn’t see any good in what we were doing it would work out for the best for her, her lambs or the rest of the flock. She also had a more daring personality, often being one of the ring leaders in leading the rest of the flock off into trouble or areas they are not meant to be. This time she had tried to jump through a garden gate, the space between the bars didn’t look nearly big enough for her to fit and god only knows why she thought she could make it through. Half way up the gate there was a bar across the middle with spikes coming up off it, it was one of these that she had impaled herself on when she tried to jump through.    

The house is a holiday cottage and the people staying there, together with a neighbour who use to keep sheep, had very carefully got her back through the gate bars and off the spike. When we got there they were holding her flat on her side so as she couldn’t harm herself anymore but she had a small wound on her belly and her insides were coming out.    

It looked terrible.    

There wasn’t any phone signal so I rushed straight off to call the vet out, it was still early in the morning so it was still the on call service which meant I had to wait for them to phone back. The nine minutes it took them to call back felt like forever. I explained what had happened and arranged for the vet to meet me by the local church as she wasn’t outside our house or near one of our fields so he didn’t know where he was going. I went back down to Flat Lamb and arranged that my brother would meet the vet so as I could stay with her and mother.    

Mother was holding her by now so as she couldn’t stand or do anymore harm, and after sitting with her it didn’t all seem as hopeless as it had first looked. Yes, she had a very nasty wound and yes some of her insides were on the outside but she was very bright and after having a look it didn’t look like she had done any damage other than the wound on her stomach.     

I wasn’t glad that it had happened to Flattie but I was very grateful that it hadn’t been any of the other sheep, out of all of them she stood the best chance of recovering from this whereas I am sure any of the others would have gone into shock by this time.   

The wait for the vet was long, my brother had gone to the wrong place to meet him and so after waiting for ten minutes the vet had decided that where we were couldn’t be that big a place and asked directions in a shop. Our vets are amazing and have never treated anything we bring to them as ‘just a sheep’, etc. unlike some vets we have had.   

After having a quick look he agreed that there wasn’t any noticable damage to her insides that would stop her recovery and so they just needed to be put back in. He gave her a local anaesthetic and a course of antibiotics when he had finished and explained that the biggest risk was that her gut would go into shock and shut down. If this happened there was nothing they could do as even with cats and dogs who have much smaller guts they rarely recover and with sheep’s guts there is too much of them to be able to keep them clean enough, even in a sterile veterinary surgery.   

We took her home and put her in a shed with her lambs, to encourage her to live. She spent the day looking uncomfortable, which is understandable and was looking a little more uncomfortable, but not in pain, during the evening and at bedtime but that may well have been the anaesthetic wearing off. She died during the night though.  

The next morning was just as bad, with Flat Lamb’s dying just adding to it. Mother was up shortly after 5am to do the morning checks and found wool all along one of the lanes, Cobweb had been attached by a dog. The trail to her was at least a mile long and although bitten and swollen around the neck is ok after being treated for shock. Normally dog attacks have signs of bits and injuries around the back legs as the dogs catch up as they run away but she doesn’t so we think she turned round and attacked the dog back to protect her lambs, who are both fine.  

Flat Lamb’s accident wouldn’t have happened if our sheep weren’t freeroaming but I think in Cobwebs case it saved her, and the others, as she was able to get away and wasn’t just trapped in a field.  

I hate writing about things that have gone wrong and sometimes it feels like I spend far too much time writing about things that have died, but if I didn’t then this blog wouldn’t be a true reflection of keeping animals or growing vegetables, it isn’t easy and unless it is something you really want then it would be so easy to give up trying. I think because no one in this country really needs to keep animals or grow their own food to survive, many people really don’t understand, especially when I am so angry about a dog attacking sheep (and that’s any sheep not just ours) or I am upset that Flat Lamb died when I know her lambs are intended for meat at the end of the year.  

It is so hard to explain, hence the title ‘A Life Less Simple’.

The Vanishing of the Bees

Back in January I went to watch The Vanishing of the Bees (thank you to Nip it in the Bud for letting me know it was on.) The film was really interesting and anyone who gets the chance to go and see it should, after the film there was a talk by someone from The Global Bee Project which is a charity whose sole aim is to educate people about bees and their importance. The charity is a locally based one but this was the first time I had heard of them and the talk was invaluable for putting the film into context.

The Vanishing of the Bees focuses on just one type of bee, the European honey bee, which is the specie of bee that is most commonly farmed for pollination and honey, however it is far from being the only species of bee with 20,000 bee species world-wide, more than birds and mammals combined, and 256 species of bee in the UK. The oldest bee found is 18 million years old, they are evolved from wasps with bees being vegetarian and having body hair, wasps will eat meat and are without hair.

As well as the European Honey Bee there are 500 other species of bee that produce ‘honey’ but only the ‘honey’ from the European bee can be sold as honey. 80% of bees are solitary and honeybees are descended from solitary bees. Solitary bees are actually better pollinators as they eat pollen but the European bee is easier to farm in large numbers and so travels for anything up to a week at a time to pollinate crops around the world.

The number of honey bees has doubled in the last 50 years because of the increase in demand of ‘luxury” foods such as strawberries which are pollinated by bees. Bees also pollinate cotton and 80% of the amazon trees are pollinated by bees so it is not just food production that is reliant on them. 25% of all species rely on a bee specie for their survival other than the honey bee (I think that is what my notes say?) however the Australian government wiped out all the wild bees in the country so as they could not spread disease to the European bee when it was first imported.


The European honey bee is native to the UK, which is possibly why Colony Collapse Disorder has not yet been seen on the same scale as in the U.S. which is now importing bees from Australia to cope with the demand for bee pollination of crops with the reduced bee population there.

The film suggests a strong link between Colony Collapse Disorder and the use of a pesticide called Gaucho, something which sadly doesn’t seem to be taken seriously by the British government, but the whole way bees are treated, with colonies being shipped backwards and forwards around countries, fed on poor quality food replacements, completely horrified me.

The picture of beekeepers I have in my head are people like my granddad, who had a few hives in his garden in the middle of Cambridgeshire or one of mothers best friends who had a hive just because she liked having bees around. A far cry from the warehouse like buildings where pallet loads of bee hives wrapped in plastic were being loaded by forklifts onto refrigerated lorries and then driven in convoy across states and then back again just weeks later. It is not natural for 20, 50, 100 hives and more to be in the same place and there can only ever be enough feed for this amount of colonies if humans provide it. From the way it was depicted in the film modern bee keeping is not any different from battery hen farming.

A patch of wild flowers humming with insect life in the evening sun (does anyone know what these flowers are?) - 14th May 2010

The Co-op funded the film and has taken the step of banning all fruit and vegetables that are treated with pesticides that are linked to bee deaths, which is a pretty impressive step. Research has shown that the lose between crops that have been treated with pesticides and not is still about the same, as some of a crop will always be lost.

The French Government also took the step of banning the use of Gaucho on crops when French beekeepers first suspected a link between the pesticide and Colony Collapse Disorder over ten years ago. French beekeepers filmed bees on treated sunflowers and non-treated sunflowers, the bees on the treated sunflowers behaviour in an disoriented manner, often dropping to the ground and manically trying to clean the pollen from themselves, where as the bees on non-treated flowers followed an orderly pattern over the flower head and then flew on.   

The Vanishing of the Bees is mostly based in the U.S. which is a shame as I would have liked to have known more about what is happening in England, and where I can made a difference. Interestingly, but sadly not surprisingly, most of the money for research into Colony Collapse Disorder is coming from the very companies that produce the pesticides that are possibly responsible, which begs the question is research funded by them really going to find that their product is cause great harm to all living kind? Part of me has faith that they would if they are bothering to fund the research, but another part is more sceptical.

If you have not been lucky enough to be able to go and see this film locally then I think I have found a way to get it for FREE! A friend who is fundraising for a research expedition in Malawi sent me a link to this site (, if you sign up then LoveFilm are offering a free trial membership and they also donate £5 to the research trip. I have looked through their website and they do have The Vanishing of the Bees available in their shop so I am guessing that they will have it in their rental selection (although I have not way of checking this without first signing myself) just remember to cancel your membership before the free offer runs out if you do not wish to stay a member*

* I can in no way be held responsible for memberships that are taken out with either or any of the links on their website, I am just trying to share a worthy film with as many people as possible. I do not gain anything from this

Maude kids

Maude finally kidded yesterday, a little boy who weights 3.7kg. He is very strong and lively and has already learnt how to get in with the older goat kids.

Maude's kid - 14th May 2010

Asleep on my lap - 14th May 2010

There are some more photo on my Flickr stream

No holding still…

The goat kids are all ten weeks old now, Betsy and Bramble on Saturday and Bella and Briony on Monday. 

I had planned to mark the occasion with some nice photos of them looking cute and goat like, how stupid I was. They are ten week old goat kids and a camera is just too interesting a thing not to investigate, so the following photo is the best one I managed to get, taken before they have realised I had something in my had: 

Bella and Briony, ten weeks old - 12th May 2010

A short catch up

Well, I have now finished my course and handed in my final essay and am just awaiting the results before I decide what to do next. Fingers crossed they will be good, I got 72% on my first one so am holding out hope that they will be. 

Whilst I’ve been busy with my course lots of little things have happened that I have wanted to blog about but not had time to, things like our TB tests went clear about six weeks ago which was a big relief after our last test. Chloe was disbudded at the same time and hardly even seemed to notice. 

I have been away twice last month, once to Rhys’s brothers wedding and then away for a weekend to mark my birthday. Both weekends were lovely but my birthday weekend especially, we camped near to a beach in South Wales and spent the whole of my birthday walking along the coast in glorious sunshine, with quite literally not a cloud in the sky, then cooked Mexican wraps on a BBQ. I got some lovely presents, almost all of them were off of my wish list so I am now the proud owner of a number of cloches, a head torch and a lovely wax jacket (which I still haven’t had any need to wear yet, but winter will be here all to soon I’m sure.) 

Last years leek bed with what was left - 3rd of May 2010


At the end of the day; weeded and planted with onion sets - 3rd May 2010

I spent the Bank holiday at the allotment which is going along slowly but getting there, I turned one of the beds from this (left) to this (right).

Other than the onions, garlic and carrots there is not much planted up there, other than the potatoes that still haven’t appeared but are still there as I dug down to find one to check they hadn’t rotted, but at home there are leeks, parsnips, red and green cabbages, red and green sprouts, broccoli, two types of squashes, sweetcorn, tomatoes, sweet peppers, french and runner beans.
The weather is looking good for Sunday so I’m planning on spending a couple of hours up there. I made some soft cheese out of the milk from the freezer the other evening and I’m hoping to make a cheesecake out of it over the weekend too.

A freezer full of meat

On Wednesday the pigs and four sheep, one hogget and three mutton, went off to the butchers. It was an early start but pretty uneventful really as it all went fine. 

Frosty supplies of Elderflower cordial - 30th April 2010

Yesterday the meat came back, and it was a lot of meat. Rhys and mother did the cutting with some friends which in itself took a large part of the day to do. Then it was time to try to fit it all into the freezers.

There is now most of an upright freezer, half a small chest freezer and a large chest freezer full. The sorting did mean we found some interesting things hidden away, including lots of cows milk from when Primrose was in full milk, a few different kinds of fruit and two liters of Elder flower cordial.