Thursday, 22 April 2010

Birth, death, rarity and regeneration

Good news.  Lambing is well underway now.  With all its associated thrills and spills.  Farmer is out of doors from early dawn until dark, checking his stock.   Walking the hill, and along the coast where a large number of the ewes live, between the Haunn gate and the bottom of the zig zag path below Crackaig.   And regularly at other times, through the fields for the older ewes, more likely to have twins.

Lamb news.  Last night a hungry newborn lamb was brought in to the fireside; only one eye, swelling round the mouth, bleating and with further wounds around its stumpy horns. Attacked by ravens or black-backed gulls most likely.  It is so cruel.  The poor lamb.  Anyway Daughter came to rescue and took on role of foster mother aided and abetted by Meg, the old Beardie.  Bottle feeds and warm cosy box for the night.  Given the name Blackster.   By afternoon he was following Daughter like a shadow.

This morning Farmer brought in another lamb - a twin he found, whose mother had walked away from it.  They do do this - they wander off in search of grass and leave lambs in sheltered places but this one took one lamb with her and, later on, Farmer returned to check up, but the ewe and the one lamb had disappeared for good.  Named Brian.  He was given colostrum and latched on to his surrogate mother pretty quickly, though Brian will be fostered onto another ewe if we find one soon that has lots of milk but no lamb.   Take it from me, these lambs are being well loved by Meg - see above!  Tonight both lambs have been tucked up in the warmth of the heating container, next to the woodchip boiler.

Bad news.  With every day that passes gradually more births, mostly happy ones - simple and natural, perfectly bonded lambs to attentive protective mothers.  But sadly one or two deaths and not such happy conclusions.  On Friday Farmer found two ewes dead, in the same spot, at the bottom of a cliff - one of them with nasty wounds around its throat.  As if attacked by something.    A horrible scary death for both of them, and a loss to the Farmer of the unborn lambs inside them as well as the ewes themselves.  We can't know for certain what happened, but sheep will run at the sight of a dog at any time of year and even more so when they are heavily in lamb or with their young.   With a very popular path (Treshnish Headland walk) following several miles of stunning coastline through our best 'rough' grazing, dogs and their walkers inevitably come into contact with the sheep.  Quite often Farmer sees dogs off at some distance from their owners and the tell tale signs of ewes running at speed in the other direction towards the dramatic cliffs of the grassy raised beaches. 

Other news.  A cold north wind today chilled the brilliant sunshine, but in sheltered spots it was lovely and warm.  As I walked along the farm track through the (natural regeneration) wood this afternoon I noticed lots of young birch trees coming into leaf.  Fresh luminous leaves unfurl, standing out from last year's yellowed dead grasses, around thin perfectly formed tree outlines.  Stock has been excluded and deer fenced out of this wood for about 4 years now, and the perfect self seeded hazels and birches are encouraging to see creeping out slowly from the wood into the open spaces.  And Prasad is finding lots of traces of Hazel Gloves fungus in several different places on the farm too which is very exciting.     

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