The unexpected snow at the end of last week meant that extra rations were required for the chocolate sheep, and they certainly weren't slow to run up the field when they saw said rations arriving... The short video clip below shows the general melee as everyone tries to work out which tub holds the tastiest morsel (they all contain exactly the same, of course, but try telling Socks, Pipsqueak, Pickle and their friends that!!!).
Having a FarmerBruv is very useful at times such as this, as his Timothy Hay Blox go down a treat with our woolly jumpers :-) They also have the additional benefit (if you happen to have to go out to work in 'decent' clothes afterwards) of being extremely quick and easy to distribute. I've been known to stand at the edge of the paddock and practise my 'shot putt' skills to ensure they land on a mud-free area of the grass.
The other benefit is that they don't blow away in the wind as hay and chop tend to do. It would take a pretty hefty gale to move these 1 kg blocks. And talking of their weight, that's the other advantage of the Blox: you know exactly how much you are feeding every day, whereas with a hay net you need to use scales to be sure (with hay being very variable in its weight per 'wad').
The snow has disappeared very quickly, though that's meant two extremely soggy paddocks for now... The garden and the garage here at The Sparrowholding have been similarly affected. HunterGatherer hardly dares venture into the garage in case he finds something too awful!! Roll on the spring...
Despite the odd few days of frost and snow here and there, we've had a fairly mild winter here in Kinross-shire, and the plants which are still growing around the garden are looking well for this time of the year. Of course, the only slight concern is that a plethora of pesky horticultural pests that might have been killed off by prolonged periods of frost will instead have survived the winter and are currently lurking in wait under a pile of leaves, intent on munching their way through our produce very soon!
The bay leaf plant is HG's pride and joy!
HunterGatherer hauled the big red tubs he's been using as giant planters (in his war against chickweed) out of the polytunnel over for the winter. The bay leaf is looking particularly bright-eyed at the moment, and the rosemary is also in rude health. Our last red cabbage is waiting to be cut for supper very soon, and we've been enjoying curly purple kale right through the winter.
Meanwhile, on the animal front, Ivan the Shetland tup (or 'ram', depending on which part of the country you live in) spent a happy eight weeks amid his fleecy harem in the hill paddock over the winter, but last week - no doubt much to Romeo's grand chagrin - the seven ewes were put back into the front paddock.
We'll have far fewer ladies lambing this spring, as we sold half a dozen of our ewes (as well as almost all of our lambs) this year. We did, however, keep four of our own female lambs and have bought in two 'full pedigree' newbie ewes - the alliteratively named Juno and Jinja.
Fortunately for us, Farmerbruv's horse feed Blox are equally popular with our woolly jumpers. They have tried out all the different types and their favourites are definitely the Timothy Hay Blox and the JustGrass ones. When it's blowing a hoolie outside, it's great just to be able to nip outside quickly and throw a few Blox into the field from the fenceside, knowing that (unlike the loose hay) it's not going to disappear, airborne, into the Kingdom of Fife within a matter of minutes.
On Saturday morning, I was on a midge-killing mission, having witnessed the distress of FatHorse and the chocolate sheep the previous evening at the hands (or mouths) of the massed midge swarms that were filling every last cm of the night-time air here at the Sparrowholding.
Judging by the number of the wee blighters that were flying around, there must have been heaps of hatchings – possibly due to the one uncharacteristically hot day (also known as ‘summer’ in these parts) earlier in the week. Whatever the reason, the biting beasties were making life extremely uncomfortable for our girls, and I was determined to find something to thwart them.
The slight problem, in the pony’s case, is that she has a huge aversion to the smell of one of the ingredients that seems to be used in almost every insect repellent known to man: the unmistakably lemon scent of citronella. At some point in her past, she’s obviously been sprayed with citronella and it’s given her a fright, because if I even venture to the side of the fence bearing a rag that has the faintest whiff of the substance, our normally placid Highland gentlewoman is transformed into a rearing, runaway wreck.
This being the case, I was desperately seeking a substance that smelt different and worked my way painstakingly along the shelf, sniffing surreptitiously at the nozzle or lid of each bottle or jar – indeed, if I’ve been caught on CCTV, I’ll probably be on my way to an institution for deranged stockwomen as you are reading this.
Eventually, I found a couple of flying-insect repellents that didn’t seem to exude too much lemoniness, and marched purposefully towards the till. However, as I was stomping in my wellies (the one-day summer having giving way to relentless rain) past the sheep and cattle aisle, my eye was caught by an array of showing-related lotions and potions of all colours and persuasions.
I stopped and stared in awe. Lined up for what seemed to be miles along each shelf were a panoply of pampering products with names that promised tantalising transformation.
If I were a Cheviot sheep, I could make my fleece radiant with powders of virtually any shade under the (now non-existent) sun.
Or if my hair was “unmanageable” – which it often is, according to Farmpa – there was a spray that could fix that, too.
The cornucopia of sheep spa and bovine beauty products was simply breath-taking. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the Scottish agricultural show season is currently in full swing, and indeed it’s only a couple of weeks until the wonderful Kinross Show takes place just along the road at the RSPB’s Vane Farm nature reserve. If you live in or around Kinross-shire, hope to see you there. And you can bet my hair is going to be looking gooooood…
PS: Just to whet your appetite for show day, read this blog post about my visit to Kinross Show last year – complete with photographs of ferrets!