Monday, April 19, 2010

New arrivals on our smallholding

We’ve got a string of new arrivals to announce. First up, this year’s piggies, a trio of Tamworth/Bayeux ladies. Our latest volunteer, boat-building-qualified Chris, had the necessary woodworking skills to make running repairs to our pigs ark, which were fraying about the edges after three years of service.
The pigs have come direct from a sty, so we built an enclosure out of wooden pallets around the ark to provide them with a reassuring sense of security for the first few days in their new home.

Two days later, we removed one corner of the pallet fence to allow them to explore the wider world in their own time. A further two days of walking about under the sun and we now have the new smallholding pleasure of rubbing suntan cream into scorched pigs ears! The same day, our final lamb arrived—another girl, making two of each this year. As usual, I had a quick look over the lamb, then tipped mum onto her backside to have a squeeze of her teats. There is a (strangely) blue waxy plug to keep the teats hermetically sealed and a couple of tugs was enough to jet a stream of milk and reassure me that all was well downunder. The first milk, the colostrum, is essential to give the lamb the antibodies it needs.

Her eldest brother, Valentin, was born back on 14th February and is quite a big chap now, so, for the first time, I decided to isolate mum and lamb for the first twelve hours to make sure mum got a fair share of sheep nuts and the pair of them were spared the inquisitive noses of the other ewes and lambs.

Five days later, we took the afternoon off to go fishing. The pond at the end of our horizontal plant filter grey water treatment system has been established for six months now and is home to a variety of watery wildlife that has turned up of its own accord, such as newts, diving beetles and daphnia and it was high time we added some fish. Christophe, who dug the pond and installed the plant filter, invited us over to his place to catch some common roach, in Latin, rutilus rutilus (so good, they named it twice!) and gardon in French.

We borrowed a couple of rods from friends Ian and Caroline, helped ourselves to a few worms from the compost heap and headed over to Christophe's. It was easy fishing and we soon had six healthy fish in our lidded bucket.

They are silver fish with red fins and stick together in a shoal, so make a beautiful and engaging addition to our pond. So I read, roach easily adapt to local circumstances and have a great tolerance for organic pollution, a useful attribute as although our water is clear, remember that it is the outlet of our grey water treatment system. And as I was wondering whether they’d have enough to eat, I learn that they adapt to scarcity by growing slowly and staying slim! They’re a great addition to our livestock and we both now pause when walking by the pond to see if we can spot our small silvery shoal.

And we're not the only ones!