Results for category "Animal Care"

Doris and Dot’s Big Day Out

The sun shone brightly over Maddocks Farm as we made our way to the raised beds, five of which were indicated for clearing. Later there would be an opportunity to care for the sheep, but early Thursday morning was all about weeding. So, as the sun danced it’s way across the sky, leaving long winter shadows in it’s wake and prompting increased song and general merriment from the birds, we set to work.

Raised beds have a number of benefits: they help to extend the planting season, reduce weeds and the need to use poor native soil. Since there is no need to walk on raised beds, the soil is not compacted and the roots have an easier time growing. The close plant spacing and the use of compost generally result in higher yields in comparison to conventional gardening.

The first three of the beds cleared easily, consisting of small and shallow-rooted lettuce plants with only very manageable and fairly sporadic weeds. However, the fourth bed we set about clearing broke this happy trend. Here, coriander was planted, with roots between 6 and 18 inches down into the soil spreading in many directions. As the day darkened, it took well over an hour and several passes, digging deeply with forks to locate the majority of the roots that infiltrated the small space. As we started on the last of the five beds, clearing it of the heavy growth of chickweed, we received a call from across the courtyard – time to prepare Doris and Dot for their big day!

Doris and Dot were to be meeting a ram that afternoon and it was time to help the girls look their best before being transported to the nearby farm. But before we could entertain any thoughts of a pedicure, the sheep would need to be caught. With a fairly large field in which to roam, this, we were told, had not always been particularly straightforward. Bearing this in mind, Stuart and Jan had called up reinforcements to ensure the wily old sheep could be caught and tended. So now we joined Jan, Stuart and Mandy (part-time worker) ready to herd, with Jan’s Mum and the chickens looking on and offering support from the sidelines.

The first victory was ours. Between the five of us, it wan’t long before the sheep were in the small enclosure and the gate closed to the larger field. Now the “fun” really began – time to catch and inspect them. First up was to be Dot (full name Spotty Dotty). With her years of experience, she put up a good fight, dodging into impossible gaps, ducking, diving and weaving through our line with mesmerising grace. However, after tiring herself out, she was cornered by K and Stuart and eventually we were able to hold and look her over.

The main concern was the hooves. Sheep had evolved to spend time, especially the winter, on rocky higher ground which would wear down the hooves naturally. However, nowadays at least, a domestic sheep will spend their time grazing in fields so the hooves grow too long. If not trimmed, they can cause cuts in the animal’s flesh and dirt trapped there may cause infection. Dotty certainly needed a hoof trim, so we set about carefully cutting them back. We also put on some antiseptic spray (a very attractive shade of blue) as the front hooves may have been slightly infected. Once all trimmed up and the antiseptic spray applied, Dotty was next ushered into the trailer, pretty blue hooves and all.

Next up, Doris. Having watched the whole event, the younger Doris was not at all keen to join in on the festivities. It took a lot of chasing about and what she may have lacked in experience, she certainly made up for in youthful vigor, as she left a trail of missed tackles behind her. Finally, Mandy dove onto poor Doris and ended up sitting right down onto Doris like a horse. After looking her over, it was easy enough to lead Doris into the trailer, close the gate and cover it up, pulling the trailer into the field for safe keeping while we broke for lunch.

As we tucked into cheese sandwiches and salad, Jan rang up the owner of the ram to notify him the girls would be on route that afternoon. Unfortunately, though, the ram was out on another visit. The owner offered his apologies to Doris and Dotty and agreed that the visit would be rescheduled for a few weeks time, this time with the ram coming to Maddocks to spend the winter. So, once lunch passed, we let Dotty and Doris back into their field and explained the news to them. They were quite obviously devastated, but put a brave face on it as they munched their grass.

With the holiday cottage rented for the weekend, Stuart had been working to prepare it for the guests and asked us to help by picking the remaining apples that had fallen on the ground so that he could mow the grass there. Once this task was complete, our WWOOF work day also came to an end and we cleaned up our tools and put everything safely away before retreating to our annex.

After enjoying a longer walk of our lanes and a variation of our pasta and veggie fare, we enjoyed a film in the evening, resting well with the end of the week almost upon us.

Friday began chilly, the sky saturated with a fine, persistent rain. We made our way out to the heavily-rooted coriander bed for one last pass for residuals and then finished the chickweed clearing in the fifth bed. Next, we headed back over to the mint and fennel beds we had maintained earlier in the week to add a layer of dung to each. After twelve wheelbarrows full, the beds were both prepared for the winter.

Jan had stopped by whilst we were weeding and informed us that we didn’t need to be outside in such conditions and could spend the time looking over her website. WWOOF hosts often seek certain skills from their WWOOFers, such as, ability to work a chainsaw, carpentry skills, or in our case, IT and business skills.

Maddocks had been looking forward to our time with them as much as us with them, with them being keen on our assistance with website updating and general internet marketing guidance. So, we spent the last couple of WWOOF hours for our week researching the current website, social media pages, competitor websites and in discussion with Jan about what she does and doesn’t like about the current setup, so that we could begin to formulate a plan to create a new electronic face for Maddocks.

In the afternoon, after working through some web tasks of our own, we ventured out to the same lanes for our nightly wander before enjoying another pasta and veggie creation and settling in for our weekend off, making our plans for both our day out and our day in.

Loving Simplicity