The Archers at The Larches


A preview image life in rural UK.... real life, occasionally funnier...


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Lambing 2015.. Almost half way

The Archers at The Larches Homes and Garden Products, naturally. Gifts for your homes from our Shropshire smallholding.

So, we have had the cades for 18 days now and though one or two were a likkle ikky for a day or so, I stood for no nonsense and everyone is now fit and well and looking like sumo wrestlers. We have found a need to put prison bars across the stable door where they all live; trying to escape from the little horrors after fueling them, was like a Keystone Cops movie; one in, two out, one between your legs etc. All 8 are eating creep (hard food) and drinking well from the milk bucket, though there is the occasional punch up for the best teat! As soon as I've finished lambing we'll get these ladies out to a paddock during the day, though I'll bring them in at night for warmth.

As you will see from the pic below, these cute lambs are savage. Peoples' coats, jackets, hair are  nibbled viciously and our wellies with the fasteners on the side, are the best chew toys on the market.

The Archers at The Larches Homes and Garden Products, naturally. Gifts for your homes from our Shropshire smallholding.
Vicious creatures....
Have I mentioned that Hubby is a genius? This year we have night vision CTV in the barn that links to an app on the iPad..... (I almost don't know what I said there but it has made life so wonderful.) There are 4 shots of the barn, all covering the various birthing stables. We can sit in front of the fire, even watching TV, only venturing out into the chill or rain to potter to the barn when there is a change in behaviour. It's wonderful.

At day 16 of the cades' life, our pregnant ewes decided to add to the baby ratio. Cocoa, a first-time mum, was first to birth, delivering 3 healthy good-sized lambs, albeit at shift change at 2am. I had to help a little as she presented the first with a head and just one leg. I almost called my neighbour, who is so kind to us, but in the end I trusted my instincts and delivered the lamb safely myself. I helped again with lamb 2, fearing it was dead. After clearing airways and giving it a bit of a swing, it gave a big cough and was with us in the world. Baby 3 was half in and half out when Cocoa decided to go for a walkabout. I held the lamb and out she came. In the end Cocoa had two girls and a boy. She nickered and licked and prodded them towards her milk. An instinctive, loving mum instantly.

The Archers at The Larches Homes and Garden Products, naturally. Gifts for your homes from our Shropshire smallholding.
Cocoa and Triplets 2015

Not so Bino, also a first-time mum, also of triplets. She birthed the first lamb and licked it clean, and as I lashed off to get a coffee, leaving the under-birther (12yo) in charge, Bino instantly expelled a tiny, weeny thing. The under-birther leapt the barrier and cleared the baby's passage way, checked it was OK and then bolted (she's fast) to the house to manically ring the front door bell - our emergency signal.

The tiny lamb was only about 1.5lbs and it was clear that even if she could stand she wouldn't be able to reach the teats. I whipped her up in my arms and looked about for something to wrap her in. 'Open your jacket and fleece' I said to the 12yo. She obliged and we popped the chilly, damp lamb into the warm pouch.

I'm very proud of both of our children, they are brave and kind and it's not many pre-teens who want a soggy, birthing juicy lamb down their jumper. Eventually baby lamb and girl moved inside to the sitting room and fire.

The Archers at The Larches Homes and Garden Products, naturally. Gifts for your homes from our Shropshire smallholding.
Intensive care
It was touch and go with this tiny baby but the 12yo had a steely look in her eye and assured me it would live. We milked mum of colostrum and fed it to all her babies.

In the end, Bino rejected baby number 2, preferring to raise just 1 lamb this first season! A week on and they are all are doing well. Mums and babies are in the field, rejected babies are thriving in the barn. We had to take one of the triplets from Cocoa before we turned her out, as her body conditioning wasn't good enough to care for 3, so now we have three new cades who will join our breeding ewes and live at The Larches full time.

Shrimp, as we've called the tiny one, Bee, her sister and Flopsy, Cocoa's triplet, are all doing well. A friend donated a doggie coat for Shrimp and I'm sorely tempted to get dressed up, pop her into one of those doggie carry bags and take her to lunch, just as the movie/pop stars do with their mini dogs. [I promise I won't.]

The Archers at The Larches Homes and Garden Products, naturally. Gifts for your homes from our Shropshire smallholding.

The Archers at The Larches Homes and Garden Products, naturally. Gifts for your homes from our Shropshire smallholding.
Shrimp and Bee
This morning another set of twins were born at 4am and 5am... I was surplus to need I'm pleased to say. That makes 8 babies, just 1 boy among them. Wish I had that ratio with chickens! I'm tired but happy and there are just four more ewes to go. Fingers crossed.

The Archers at The Larches Homes and Garden Products, naturally. Gifts for your homes from our Shropshire smallholding.

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Raising the Baaaaa......

I got the call and immediately mobilized. My friends, proper farmers, had located some cade ewe lambs for me to raise by bottle.

It's not that I specifically want to give myself the added expense in time and finance to raise baby lambs, it's just that by raising lambs by hand, you really bond with them. You get to know quirky personality traits and they get to know you, which seriously helps when they grow up and you need to move or manipulate them. My current ewes were all raised this way and they are the most biddable, loving, want-to-be-petted-like-dogs, creatures ever. It doesn't make commercial sense but it makes sense to me, (and saves me time in the long run.)

My 'big' girls were all raised by bottle and are so easy to manage. I don't have a sheep dog to round my ewes up, so, standing by a gate, I merely call them and they come running from three fields away. I'm the Barbara Woodhouse of sheep!

Dog crate in the boot of my car, my friend and I drove to a commercial farm where barns and sheds, and even a huge wedding marquee, housed extensive sheep maternity wards. Hundreds of sheep, hundreds and hundreds of lambs. In specially created hot boxes, (intensive care) we saw some tiny tiddlers, most seemed to be perking up and the commercial farmer assured us that most would survive to be raised by bottle. My lamb-dealer shook her head and we were off to shop for perkier lambs.

In hay filled pens, cades, (3rd and 4th sibling lambs or orphan lambs,) huddled together in the straw. Some of the long-term inmates, brave individuals, pottered over to sniff us through the bars of the hurdles. Suddenly a lamb was handed to me, then another.... then another. We were urged to follow the farmer who went pen to pen, handing us suitable babies, most taken from their mums who already had two healthy lambs to feed. All looked fit and well, all had clearly had an initial feed of colostrum, the essential protection for any baby.

We made mini trips to the car to pop warm, bleating lambs into the dog crate. I felt sad to have pulled them from their mums but also assured that they were due to be pulled anyway and besides, I'm a lovely mummy too and they were coming to a lovely home.

And so I've decided, in terms of shopping; lamb shopping is the best. You can keep your shoe shopping, the Manolo Blahniks etc and clothes shopping, you can even keep your make-up and jewellry style shopping, lamb shopping is the best.

Fourteen days on, approximately 672 feeds later, (1344 to go) and all 8 babies are drinking happily from the bottle, most have sussed that there is also milk in the free-feed bucket that is bolted to the wall.

Clockwise: Sproglet1, Smudge, Spots and Noche

It's not easy feeding 8 hungry lambs, fortunately I have had a multitude of volunteers and some who didn't volunteer (sorry Spanish guests!) It may not be easy but it is lots of snuggly fun.

As these baby girls will join our other breeding ewes in two years time, we have named them. (Also not very commercial) There is Una, Smudge, Blanca, Squeek, Nibble, Lady, Noche and Spots.  They join our original ewes: Snowy, Moon, Pink, Oreo, Bourbon, Cocoa and Bino.

Our proper lambing from our own ewes begins tomorrow for the next two weeks.... goodbye bed, hello night-shift!

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Posh Pasta Purloined....

Benny the panther

I'm reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It is fan-bloody-tastic. (Now my second favourite book after The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx.) The honesty of Wild smacks you right on the nose and while I have few tales to match such a cathartic adventure, I have decided to bear my soul today and hang the consequences: (Probably no guests to the house ever again....)

This morning, after seeing to all the outdoor creatures, trudging through the snow with feed and water, my hat pulled down against the icy wind, I was very happy to be back in my kitchen. The log burner took the edge off the sharp day and a steaming cup of coffee soon had me toasty inside.

Unusually I listened to silence, no Radio 4, no podcast in my ears. That's why I heard the cracking sound.

At first I thought the broken window [daughter's football antics last summer!] in the dairy (the walk-in larder), 'mended' by Hubby, had become 'unmended;' the plastic sheeting crackling in the gale, but no. This noise was intermittent: teeth cracking on something hard?

I rushed to find a cat.

Back at the dairy door with a sleepy Benny, I waited to see if the noise was still a feature. Two seconds later and Benny was out of my arms, pushing the dairy door ajar. He was at once transformed into a panther. I slipped into the room behind him and closed the door.

We worked as a team, he searched an area, looking at me to move a shelf, box or tin. I noticed that a brand new packet of posh pasta, purchased in France and saved for a special occasion, was now open, a hole gnawed in its shiny wrapper. This was war. I slowly pulled out each drawer of the tall, wooden apple store and Benny and I were rewarded with the sight of a long, slender tail disappearing behind a small shelf.

By emptying the shelf of foods and then slowly tipping it towards me, I created a gap. Benny leapt into the void and after a second or two of invisible scrabbling, appeared holding a fat house mouse, its head engulfed within Benny's dark mouth. Jumping to the floor Benny stood by the dairy door. My task as doorman complete, the panther exited into the kitchen proudly, disappearing with his catch through the cat-flap.

Poor mouse but hey-ho, nobody but me gets to open the posh pasta!

To those invited to stay over/to dinner etc any time soon....

  1. I understand if you cancel 
  2. I can promise that we're not having the remains of that pasta for dinner..... mind you, with lots of salted, boiling water..... snigger... 
So, though not as Wild as Cheryl, I feel like a slovenly housewife and that's all I'm revealing for now... 

Saved by a cat. Yay!

Another catch brought in by Benny (from outside this time) in 2010.... ughhh!

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